By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty
I took the Amtrak Cascades service from Portland to Seattle, a lovely trip. The scenery grew increasingly beautiful as the train traveled north, eventually hugging the shore of Puget Sound for forty miles until pulling in at the station in Seattle.
Train travel was central to the development and expansion of the west, and I was pleased to travel in the same way visitors to the Pacific Northwest have done since the late 19th century. I boarded the train at Portland’s Union station, which looks much like it did when it opened in 1896.
Upon arriving in Seattle, I had to hustle to drop my bags and change for the Sea Fair Torchlight parade, a yearly spectacle celebrating the cultures of the Pacific Northwest, sponsored by Alaskan Airlines. The sponsorship results in a terrific group of dancing flight attendants sashaying down Fourth Avenue, pulling their ubiquitous roll-aboard luggage behind them. Additional featured performers included countless marching bands, a considerable military presence (thanks to local bases) and two bands of bagpipes. A wide variety of ethnicities was represented with flags and traditional costumes, Chinese, Tibetan, and Philippine being among the most memorable. Since the parade takes place at night, many of the floats are gaudily illuminated, a rainbow of wackiness that included a float sponsored by the local utility company sporting an enormous faucet and a giant mock toilet strung with twinkle lights.
After the family-friendly fun of the parade, I woke the next morning with the sun, eager to visit Pike Place market. Urged to go early to avoid the crowds, I may have arrived prematurely, at 8:00am on Sunday morning, as half of the stalls were not yet open, and even the famous fish mongers were still in the process of stocking the displays with crushed ice and the daily catch. Undeterred, I sought out the Three Girls Bakery, and wisely asked for a recommendation. I trusted the man behind the counter, and his suggestion, pistachio cranberry shortbread cookie, far surpassed the pain au chocolat I had selected. The rest of my purchases included remarkably fresh fruit.
From the market, I meandered to the Olympic Sculpture garden, a positively beautiful garden overlooking extraordinary views of the water, with Mount Rainer visible in the distance. The garden features striking sculptures along a sloping gravel path. “Mary’s Invitation—A Place to Regard Beauty” seeks to reinforce the connection between the art and the audience. The whole space resonates with this intention: chairs are available throughout, inviting even the most hurried sightseer to stay a while. I found a chair near Alexander Calder’s “Eagle” and sat, looking out into the endless blue.
My Seattle sightseeing thus accomplished, I returned to the apartment where I was staying in the trendy Capitol Hill area. Here, I had plans to spend the afternoon with former students, two young men who relocated to Seattle after graduating from Columbia College Chicago just a few years ago. The day was an absolutely beauty, so the three of us and their significant others spent the afternoon drinking Rainier beer on a back patio of a bar aptly named The Lookout; the Space Needle, Lake Union, and Puget Sound were visible through the surrounding trees.
One of the truly fantastic aspects of my life is the quality of people whom I am fortunate enough to call my friends. Chas and Chris are bright young men, driven and creative, loving and good. They are doing so well! Chris’ first feature-length film, In Bloom garnered excellent reviews; Chas is also busy working artist, currently designing for Sur la Table. Spending a few hours in their good company made my trip immeasurably more worthwhile.
The next day concluded my trip, details forthcoming in Boho Hobo part 3