Note: If I misquote you, do not stab me; I am, in fact, a Republic-I mean, Democrat.
Welcome to Seattle.
I knew I had arrived into a different world – the air outside rich with sea breeze, stars and stripes floating from the flagpoles of every building; the vagrants, rummaging through garbage hauls, are mostly minorities here. The cabbie makes light conversation but does not carry enough change for even a twenty. I do not feel the same rush of excitement as I did with Victoria, rather a sense of anxious curiosity, a feeling that is new to me.
In contrast to the historical-modern feel of the neighboring Garden City, the concrete spires of this urban playground resemble Vancouver, the only difference being that they seemed taller and more numerous. I did not see the ma and pa shops, the vintage collector’s or the remote delis – the city had in their stead the presence of franchise lines and corporate coffee chains, the American image of consumerism. The drizzle in the week prior had left the asphalt curbs with a depressing gray sheen which seemed to reflect against the orange-white streetlights.
The closest hotel brought back a reminder of the Garden City and while not remotely close to the vibe it possessed, the sleek wooden flooring and floral pattern cream colored walls made it all the more forgivable. While the rates were steep, I decided to check in regardless – better than to sleep out in the street, no? The concierge gives off a professional smile rather than a courteous one, the kind that disappears when they turn their backs. At every corner of the staircase and hallways are cameras watching my every move.
Each and every door to the hotel rooms have the no smoking signs on them. The prices to the vending machines are a dollar each compared to the toonies and a quarter cost. While much smaller than my previous lodging, the room I stay has a functioning bathroom and a large queen sized bed aligned with soft sheets. When I kick off my shoes and flop on the mattress, I nearly fall asleep without warning and only barely manage to find the will to get up again. Time to examine my luggage.
Apparently I’m missing a large bundle of disposable travel socks. Bastards.
My keyring had been broken during their search I imagine so I had to be resourceful again, digging up a spare one from inside my backpack attachments and attaching it to my wallet. I realize the officers had taken my red comb trinket after having asked if I was a surfer (I left that part out).
Travel documents intact. I check the other most important part of my belongings: a tiny white box. Inside this tiny white box are what I call good luck charms – a traveler’s rock from a friend, a pair of ‘laugh’ and ‘dream’ stones from two play partners, and a little green star I collected off Bunny Foo Foo at Domlander. So far, so good.
All my toys are where they should be and thank God, I dread to imagine the loss of a leather flogger or my collection of hemp rope. It pains me to inform that the manuals I brought along have been bent slightly, each of the pages clinging together (not from what you might think), possibly from my own backpacking or the search previous. At least my bathroom kit remained intact and the pack of condoms inside.
The hotel room was air conditioned though I much preferred the ambiance of an open window. Pulling back the curtains slowly, I dim the lights and opened the windowsill, peering outside. A large construction site sat between the hotel and another building, a large faded advertisement spread along the surface, and to the side there were the sights of the underpass and the highway bridge above. Cars continued to speed along at all hours in the night. I watch two vagrants yell and argue with one another.
Hungry, I venture out into the streets, and between the places I scoured there came the temptation of glancing at the window menus. The American food prices are incredibly cheap and affordable – sandwiches with soup for $6.75, unlimited coffee for $2.25 and daily specials for $5 only. Some of the closing store owners cast a wary look at me whenever I peer inside. They share the same tired look of the cabbie and the concierge themselves.
Most of the people on the streets have a strong vibe to them that clearly said they did not wish to be disturbed. The occasional eye contact is quickly broken especially with the colored folk. One by one, the neon signs hanging off the sides of shops and restaurants flickered and dimmed, but somehow I make it into a burrito shop. The man behind the counter does not say hello, instead barking sharply at what I wanted and how much I had to pay. He works fast, focused, and as soon as I walk out the door he locks it behind me. Adjacent to the store, a burly restaurant owner with a thick accent nods his head at me but also with a narrowed brow, never allowing me to leave his sight.
While empty at night, the occasional pedestrian cars and cop cruisers drift by, handfuls of commuters roaming the streets. A group of young adults near the hotels, dressed in mismatched colors and faux leather jackets, berets and thick rimmed glasses, gossip to one another with beer bottles in their hands. They remark on my Canadian pin attached above my left breast. “Welcome to Seattle.” one of them says. Greetings from Canada, if the fucking politeness doesn’t tell you I’m not from around here. They laugh, “That’s alright. You need a light?”
“Seattle is pretty safe,” a young woman chimes in. “Just avoid the south east part of town.” That or use common sense (as Miss Brock said). “Its mostly just the homeless here. They might ask you for change.” A young man asks, jokingly, “How’s the weather?” As cold and wet as it is in Seattle. “Makes sense.”
“They give you a hard time about smoking dope?” Well, mostly they drill you about possession and make you put it out. “Seriously?” The young man asks, surprised. “I thought Canadians were more tolerant about it.” I thought so too, I say, cops generally don’t bother you much about it. Of course, if said cop turns out to have a bias or a bad day – God help you. “Amen to that, brother.” We tap knuckles.
“You want any?” He asks, offering a joint. I politely decline. “And you’re a Canadian?” He asks sarcastically, resulting in the joined laughter of his friends. Sure am. “You don’t smoke dope?” Not around strangers I don’t. “Fair enough.” We shake hands. “Nice to meet you. Enjoy your visit.”
I return to my room, wolf down my burritos, and immediately set about on a search for hotels. Most of the bookings are full and downtown Seattle is exorbitant. My inquiries with the concierge are directed towards a tourist agent though they do offer me the potential of staying at a hostel. After checking my e-mails, Facebook and making a posting on Fetlife, I set up writing my blog. The American cable channels while numerous are riddled with commercials, dubbing where swear words should be (“You mother frogger!”), and uncontrolled amounts of sensationalist media on gun control and religious dogma. I turn it off before I develop a brain tumor.
No data packages down here. That meant I had to make getting an American SIM card my next major priority lest I come across an emergency. I check the map distribution of the hotels and find myself increasingly confused, the scale of this metropolis being quite complex. For some time, perched against the windowsill with one leg dangling out (there was a rampart a story below), I listened to my music and watched the city streets. Comforting to say the least but even that couldn’t get me tired, so I make my way downstairs.
Next Update: The Fabulous Adonis Hour