Labor Day in Seattle

For Labor Day weekend, Rob and I ventured north to Seattle. We hadn’t spent time in Seattle for about a year, and it always proves the perfect little getaway, and Brent and Dan decided to join us. We had five objectives for the weekend:

See Young Frankenstein
See the Olympic Sculpture Park

A little shopping goes a long way toward achieving that out-of-town feel, and even though Seattle has mostly the same stores as Portland (plus the added sales tax), still it just feels more exotic and satisfying to shop in Seattle. We arrived downtown on Saturday morning (much better than leaving on Friday night with all the traffic!) and we hit the usual spots – Macy’s, Nordstrom, Banana Republic. Each of us picked up a few things to complement our summer-to-fall wardrobe.

Young Frankenstein was Saturday night, and Brent and I decided to take our boys to dinner at a great spot we liked – The Crow in Queen Anne. This is a smallish chic restaurant with a big open kitchen, reasonable prices and a small but nicely varied menu – pork chops to lasagna, fish to steak, everything is perfectly delicious. We had a nice leisurely 2 hour meal before heading down to the Paramount … I’ll review the great time we had at the show separately.

Our chateau for the weekend was Cindy’s house in Maplewood, a funny little 1950s development under the flightpath from Boeing Field. We remarked throughout the weekend that it would be a cute little neighborhood if they applied some Better Homes and Gardens techniques, but instead of manicured lawns these abodes had dandelions. Where there might be flowerbeds, there were tireless cars sitting on blocks. And unfortunately the neighborhood amenities were few and far between – the “supermarket” down the street was actually a dirty, nasty warehouse of Vietnamese wares and stinky foods. Dan wondered why we wouldn’t go into the store with him when he wanted a Coke, but the look on his face when he came out of the market (sans cola) confirmed what we already suspected to be true – this wasn’t a place you wanted to shop. Now Cindy, being more of a quaint neighborhood with urban amenities sort of gal, she said she never quite felt at home here (it was nothing like her previous digs in Columbia City), well maybe this situation was the last straw for her, and it would only be a matter of a few more weeks before she quit the Rep, took a job in Portland, and came back home.

Still, we were delighted to have had a place to stay for two nights that didn’t cost a dime, provided us with the company of Cindy’s two pet cats, and a pleasant little back yard for sitting in during the mild morning and evenings. All that and a dead possum on Monday morning -- it’s all the adventure a person could wish for!

We enjoyed our Sunday breakfast at another favorite spot – the St. Cloud Inn in Madrona, after which we toured the most lovely homes in the Madrona neighborhood. It’s like Portland’s West Hills times a thousand. And then below it the Leshi neighborhood, with some spiffy lakefront properties, cozy little yacht clubs, and splendid views of Bellevue and Mercer Island. Very nice.

In the afternoon we headed north of downtown to explore Seattle’s amazing new Olympic Sculpture Park. I’d been wanting to see this amazing accomplishment of urban design ever since seeing pictures of its debut in February (several months behind schedule and over budget, but hey, when you’ve got the Gates and Paul Allen as your major benefactors, no worries – and it just goes to show that sometimes the extra cost is worth it.). I mean it, this park is truly amazing – all the more so for a City like Seattle which has had inexplicable difficulty establishing modern urban amenities like parks and transportation systems for the past several decades. But this one project seems to sweep away neatly what had until now been a dearth of urban greenspace in the emerald city.

It’s a park with calming grasses and soothing views of the sound. It’s a trail over a clanking railroad and bustling highway, but somehow within the park these city noises just disappear. It’s a field and a garden, punctuated with a series of interesting public artworks, large and small, each and everyone complimenting and accentuating their natural surroundings rather remarkably. It’s easily the most astonishing and wonderful thing about Seattle.

Then to Ballard for some “neighborhood time.” We often confine ourselves to Seattle’s downtown core, and we had vowed to NOT spend any time in tired old Capitol Hill this time around, so Ballard seemed like a good neighborhood to check out. Years ago Rob used to make fun of the bumper sicker that read “Visualize Ballard,” but Ballard really has done something with itself in the past several years. Its downtown streets are quaint and artistic, and we strolled through a farmers-and-crafts market before Brent and Dan eyed a vintage furniture store where – voila!—they found two chairs that would look great in some new home with a great room and fireplace. Sort of an asian low-profile look with textured grandma-green fabric. Brent and Dan bought the chairs on the spot, arranged to have them delivered, and what do you know, a few weeks later they bought a fantastic new house to go with them.

Sunday evening we met up with these same friends (and some other friends) at a crazy little piano-diner, which started out fine enough but things got more peculiar as the evening went on. Each person who straddled up to the piano to sing their favorite Sinatra song got louder and more unusual until one lady decided she didn’t need to get up at all. No, she just stayed seated with a jolly look on her face, twirling her spaghetti and sipping on her wine while she oversang five selections from Oklahoma. At first everyone thought she must have been mic’ed, but no, she’s just got one of those crazy operatic voices that carry for miles. We had a few giggles while we downed our martinis and decided to go dancing, but the evening only got worse when we bounced over to The Cuff. Why do we still go to this place? Why were they playing only cheesy disco songs from the 60s? What happen to Seattle’s night scene? Where do people go to dance anymore? We decided we’d have more fun going back to Cindy’s and watching The Devil Wears Prada.

Monday morning (the morning of the dead possum) we decided it would be most relaxing to just fetch some breakfast and head home for a relaxing afternoon before having to return to work on Tuesday. However, little did we know that finding a decent breakfast on a Monday – a holiday Monday – would be next to impossible. We went to Columbia City. Columbia City was closed. We decided just to go back to St. Cloud’s. St. Cloud’s was closed. Driving back into town, nothing of interest was open. Queen Anne? Nothing. About an hour after we started, our notion of a lovely breakfast turned to “let’s just fine something to eat,” so we stopped at a 50s chic doughnut spot under the Monorail, grabbed some juice and sandwiches, called it good and proceeded home. Despite this slightly disappointing ending, all in all Seattle proved to be a very successful getaway.

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