My new life philosophy is “just ask.”
When Elon Musk was a young man, he and his brother used to read the newspaper, looking for interesting people they wanted to meet. Then they’d call these people up and invite them to lunch. Surprisingly often, these people would agree. So Elon and his brother would ride the train to the city and have lunch with these interesting, successful people.
That impressed me, when I read about it. Who knows what people will agree to if you just ask them? As school secretary, I was amazed at the number of librarians, achievement test developers, zoo officials, etc who’d completely bend their rules and deadlines for me if I just gave them a phone call.
So I decided to try and meet the playwright Justin Huertas.
You see, last December the ladies in my family went to Seattle to see a musical adaptation of one of my favorite books, Howl’s Moving Castle. Afterwords I rooted around the internet looking for the soundtrack, but all I could find was the Facebook page of Justin Huertas, the composer. He’d posted a few songs from the musical, so I followed his page.
Now that I was following his page, I began to see updates about other plays he’d written. I was intrigued. I really love writing plays, but I’d never thought much about the fact that some people have a career of writing plays, and I could too. How does one become a playwright?
Justin would know, I thought. I set him a message asking if I could meet up with him and pick his brain. And he agreed!
So now I had to plan a trip to Seattle. Who else do I know in Seattle?
Well, two and a half years ago I met this girl named Micaela who was from Seattle. We only hung out for one weekend, but she seemed like a kindred spirit, and we followed each other on Instagram and such.
Again, I decided to just ask. “Can I crash on your couch for a night?”
She, too, agreed. Wonderful! I bought my Amtrak tickets.
This was my plan: I’d leave early in the morning on Friday, July 27, and get to Seattle around noon. I’d spend the whole afternoon exploring downtown Seattle on my own. Around dinner time, I’d take the bus to Micaela’s house. I’d hang out with her all evening, and spend the night there. The next day I’d take the bus back into downtown where I’d meet Justin at 11:00 am, and then maybe explore a wee bit more before catching the train home at 2:20 pm.
The rest of today’s blog post will be about exploring the city alone. Tomorrow, I will cover my time with Micaela and my meeting with Justin.
So. I got up early and caught the train in Albany. I settled into my seat, the conductor scanned my ticket, and then I trotted down to the cafe car, ordered some tea, and had a nice conversation with the guy behind the counter. Settling back into my comfy seat, I pulled out my laptop and got hours of writing done. The truly wealthy people take the train, I decided. The people who have both money and time.
Based on Google Maps, it seemed that if I headed north from the train station I’d hit downtown, the major tourist attractions, and the waterfront. I was so excited. Confession time: I love exploring alone. I get to go exactly where I want to go, nose into whatever corners I want to nose into, without any of this “what do you want to do next/are you done yet/no, you decide” frustrating time-wasting nonsense.
And oh! Here was a little bookstore, with stacks of books and sagging chairs and a rickety staircase.
And oh! Here was a little triangular park with a drinking fountain and tables. I was tremendously hungry, so I sat down and ate my chicken salad in the dappled sunlight under the trees, while a street musician sang like Frank Sinatra.
I went to the drinking fountain to fill my water bottle, and a couple men started talking to me. “That’s a nice smile!” said one. “You’re not just looking at your phone, like most people.”
“Maybe those people are just trying to figure out where they’re going,” I said. I mean, I’d been using google maps. No shame.
I started filling my water bottle. “Is that some sort of religious thing on your head?” the other man asked.
So I started doing the Mennonite explanation thing.
“So you’re basically Amish, except, you’re cool? I mean, you’re not so uptight?” he clarified.
“I see you have a missing tooth. Now, I can’t remember how I lost my tooth. Do you remember how you lost your tooth?”
“Yes,” I said, and told the story. Both of them had missing teeth. We talked about teeth for a surprisingly long time.
“Well, I should get going!” I said. “It was nice to meet you!”
I walked north again. Growing tired in the sun, I sat down to rest on a giant staircase, with fountains, that suddenly appeared to my right. I thought it led to a museum or something, but it really just led to the next street.
And in the middle of the staircase was an alley with some cool street art along the top of the wall.
And then the alley became a covered alley, called “Post Alley”…
AKA the “gum wall.”
I don’t know why it’s called the “gum wall” instead of the “gum alley” or the “gum tunnel.” In any case, it was way awesomer than I’d expected. Who’d have guessed that a bunch of gum stuck to some walls could look so cool and artsy? People wrote words in gum. Gum dripped off of arched doorways and windows. People took Polaroids in front of the gum wall, and then stuck them to the gum wall with gum. The whole place smelled vaguely of Juicy Fruit, and a bunch of friendly bees, apparently attracted by the odor, buzzed about happily.
There was a lot of cool street art in Seattle. But this was the best.
At the end of the gum wall was a sign that said “restrooms.” I needed a restroom. So I went round the corner and realized that I was more indoors than outdoors, now. Odd.
I was wearing leggings under my skirt, because it was chilly on the train, and now that I was alone in a bathroom stall I took the opportunity to peel them off and shove them in my backpack. I guess I shoved too hard.
My faithful denim backpack that I take with me everywhere! Nooooooooooooo!
I gathered everything up in my arms, exited the stall, washed my hands, and then tried to mend my backpack. Thankfully I had some safety pins along, and a kind lady waiting in line gave me another. Tip for other minimalists: there are some things that are so tiny and so useful that they are worth carrying with you at all times. One of these things is safety pins.
Exiting the bathroom, I realized that I was in Pike Place Market. I thought the market was outdoors, but apparently part of it was in this odd indoor space that you could wander into thinking it was still outdoors. I browsed this creepy second hand store and eavesdropped on the owner, who apparently had just become some bigwig in the governance of the whole Pike Place Market. And wandered through another bookstore.
But when you’re carrying your home on your back, you’re not exactly looking to buy more stuff.
I followed signs down to the water, and oh! It was a fun pier, with a Ferris Wheel and a Carosol and goofy expensive looking restaurants. But the smell! And the breeze blowing off the water! Glory be, it was beautiful. I sat down and soaked it all in for a while.
Presently, though, I wanted to keep exploring. My plan all along was to find a waterfront and jump in. As I couldn’t exactly leap off the pier, I headed even further north, where there seemed to be a proper park along the water.
Along the way I stopped by the sculpture garden, which is actually a really creative pedestrian walkway above the railroad tracks and highway.
By this time, the temperature was reaching mid 80’s, and there wasn’t much shade in the garden. So I didn’t explore all that much, and instead went down to the water. And yes! There was a nice pebbly beach!
Of course, duh! This was the Puget Sound, not a calm lake. Which meant it was freezing. But I dipped my toes in anyway.
And then, my energy finally deserting me, I fell asleep under the trees, while a cool breeze blew off the Sound, and a man on a park bench softly sang Jamaican music.
When I woke up, I had just enough time to do the last thing I wanted to do: find a coffee shop and get some more writing done. The shop I found was a little disappointing, to be honest. Ratty couches, and just not as sunny and arty as I’d like. but they made delicious peach blossom iced tea, which was very refreshing.
I wrote steady for half an hour, and then it was time to take the bus to Micaela’s house for dinner.
That, my friends, is the end of Part 1. Come back tomorrow for Part 2, when I reconnect with Micaela and her husband Hai, and meet Justin Huertas, the playwright.