After four days in Seattle I am here to say I like it here. I've had more fun here than anyplace else on the tour, things have sort of coalesced, people are nice, the hotel is gorgeous, I've actually made/reconnected with friends. Seattle, I have a crush on you
Requisite touristy Grey's Anatomy shots (for my sister).
Before I plunge full-on into a discussion of why Seattle is much cooler than I remembered, I need to tell you that Radio Shack -- a store for which I have a small amount of disdain because it feels irrelevant in this day, a store that arrogantly calls itself "America's Technology Store" but still sells large full-size cassette recorders like I had in 1980 -- is the place where you can find a cable for you digital camera should you have forgotten to pack it. You can get that cable at Radio Shack, so anyway, sorry 'Shack, I shouldn't have judged you so harshly.
This, of course, means that I can post my photos from Minneapolis. Which consist of precisely two Minneapolean (Minneapolitan? Minneapolosian?) landmarks:
Mary Tyler Moore statue
Murray's Cocktail Lounge. I have no idea either.
Okay, onward. Seattle.
Thursday A passel of morning shows, then a cocktail party (for me!) at the W Hotel. This was beyond fun. I was charmed to learn that the advertised "no-host bar" did not, as I had assumed, mean "open bar." There was indeed a host, a very kind bartender, and I was informed that "no-host" is what we Yankees call a "cash bar," as in "no one is hosting this bar for you, you pay cash." Oops. I had a lemon drop (very sweet) and some dry Chardonnay and met two smart women who edit the paper at Seattle University; some wacky radio hosts; the amazing Kim Ricketts and Kirsten Graham, who organized the party; Kim's daughter Whitney and her friend Drew; the vice-president of W Hotels; and a bunch of other fun, funny women. My old friend Liz Jones, formerly of NYC, now of Seattle, came with her friend Elizabeth.
I was interviewed by the super-cool Maggie Dutton who writes a column called "Search and Distill" for the Seattle Weekly (and has a super blog called The Wine Offensive that you must check out). Many of the questions from the audience had to do with tipping (most vexing to me, still, is do you tip the owner of the salon even though you're technically not supposed to, but you know everyone else does -- comments please). One woman asked if she should take an offered cocktail from a man in a bar she has no intention of sleeping with. All in all, fascinating, and I got to talk about myself, which is never a terrible thing. I mean, it's easier than trying to come up with a "presentation." I think I'm rather good at the Q&A format, if I do say so myself (which, Q.E.D., I do).
What was fairly amazing about the event overall was how generous and open everyone was. When they found out I would be in Seattle for the weekend, strangers invited me to join them on various adventures, which was surprising and flattering and made me love Seattle all the more.
Friday I met Maggie for tea at my hotel, the very gorgeous Sorrento where everything smells like grapefruit. She's so cool and laid-back and funny, I think if I lived here, which I've sort of been dreaming about, we might be pals.
Tea at the Sorrento
After tea, I had another eye-opening Seattle experience. I was invited to go to this wacky "underground restaurant" (more on that) to which I was told to bring $35 cash and a bottle of wine. A bottle of wine, not hard to find, you just go to the nearest liquor store and pick up something tasteful, right? Um, not in Washington. I called the concierge and asked where the nearest liquor store was, was put on hold for a long time, and then told to head for 2nd Avenue and Seneca. Maggie tried to explain to me what I'd find there, but I wasn't really prepared. Washington's liquor trade is controlled by the state, and the only places that are allowed to sell spirits are these state-run stores that are terribly depressing and feel like prisons and make you feel slightly dirty and maybe like a criminal. I didn't know that wine stores are a completely separate entity from liquor stores, that no one buys wine at liquor stores, and when I called the hotel's taxi to come get me in the rain, the concierge laughed out loud when I told him I was down at the liquor store. I felt like the boozy New Yorker, stocking her room with jugs of bourbon, when really all I wanted was a nice bottle of wine. Which I didn't really find, I found a wine of debatable niceness and stood at the door of the DMV-esque liquor store, feeling like a felon, waiting for my car. Remember, in Seattle, no-host bar means cash bar, liquor store means sad scary government agency.
So the underground restaurant. It's a series of dinners called One Pot. I still don't entirely understand what is going on here, but I'm pretty sure there's nothing like it in NYC. I heard the tale of its origin many times over the evening: This chef, Michael Hebberoy, was a big deal in Portland, OR. He had a bunch of well received restaurants with his wife, whom he left, along with the restaurant empire, and moved to Seattle, where he is determined to reinvent the way people eat, he's writing a book called Kill the Restaurant.
So he's got this roving restaurant situation that you get invited to via email. The dinner's at a different location each time -- this time it was in a giant warehouse on the outskirts of town. They built a kitchen (everything is cooked, I think, in one pot), set up a big, very elegant table whose tablecloth was bubble wrap, and served some amazingly delicious dinner: salad with pickled beets, something described as "pockets of pork love," and cupcakes. Kirsten and Kim (who organized the cocktail party) brought me, along with Whitney, Kim's daughter, whose girlfriend works for One Pot. I found it all totally fun and whimsical and brilliant.
Kim and cupcakes.
I'm not sure if it's legal or not to operate a restaurant in this way, but Maggie said that lots of people are doing similar things in Seattle now; she wrote a blog post called "Kill the Underground Restaurant" that details her own frustration with the whole phenomenon. As an outsider, I could only marvel at the ingeniousness of it all. I loved the food, I loved talking with Kim, who's truly a visionary when it comes to getting people to read books. I like that there's something "underground" anywhere, because I love secret anything, even secret things that aren't really secret and are written up in Daily Candy.
Saturday Jogging in the gym at the hotel, I was moved inexplicably to sprint a full extra mile, fueled by the accidental addition of "Rosanna" by Toto on my running playlist. I ask you not to judge me.
I walked to Capitol Hill, where Liz & Anthony, formerly of New York, live. Liz sat next to me at Oxygen during the Final Days, and is now reporter for public radio in Seattle, which is so cool I can hardly stand it. Anthony works on the website for The Stranger, also inestimably cool. We hung out in their lovely condo and talked about cults and Scientology (again with secrets, I love anything secret, but even typing the word Scientology may get me assassinated, which makes me fearful to delve any further into that particular secretive organization). Liz and I went out for wine and snacks and talked about the olden days. It's amazing how many people/places/websites I've forgotten even existed from the early days at Oxygen.
Liz and Anthony seem to belong here, in the very way I imagined they would when they were Seattle transplants living in New York. There is indeed a different mentality on the east coast, people are more easygoing here, there's space, there's room to breathe, I don't get the sense that Liz is dying to be someplace else or feeling competitive or squeezed out or less than, which is the sense you get from so many people in New York. Liz and I were work friends in New York, and getting to spend fully social time with her in Seattle was fantastic -- another thing about New York, people don't have time to make friends, or they don't actively pursue friends, after they've lived there a long time.
I was also invited to go dancing and to a Mariners game, which frankly proves that one can have more of a social life in a town where she barely knows anyone than she does in her hometown. I know it's a circumstantial thing, that I happen to have a long stay in Seattle, that I was lucky enough to meet outgoing, interesting people here who have a lot going on, and that if I lived here I'd probably be just as strangely hermetic, ambivalent/fixated on writing and running in the same way I am in NYC, but I'd have more space, and I might be a person who wears a Patagonia fleece vest to a fancy restaurant. Okay, I'd never be that person. But it bears noting that I have, in both Minneapolis and Seattle, found myself accidentally wearing a jean jacket and jeans (as in dungarees). So I'm walking around in jeans tip-to-toe, kind of like a cowboy, and not really caring.
Is this the beginning of the end?
PS I walked to Maggie's favorite cafe, Bauhaus, this morning, where I now sit typing this before I have to pack for my 30 second flight to Portland.
It's very lovely here -- there's even a big photo of Walter Gropius on the wall -- except for one thing. My beverage/vessel rule is being violated flagrantly.
Hot beverage cold drinking glass = very sad. Sigh.