i have adventures (sometimes)

Monday, 1 October 2012

Come Here and Let Me Love You

Seattle, I am in you!

My adventures in Seattle started just about as soon as I got off the bus, looking like the easiest mark in the world, with my backpack and too much hand luggage and a notebook in my hand from which I was trying to understand the directions I'd written down from Google Maps.

It's the start of the directions I always have trouble with ("Continue in a cardinal direction you don't know in the direction of a street you won't know until you do or don't pass it"), so I had just picked a direction at semi-random, when a grubby-looking guy hailed me from where he was sitting on the pavement and asked if he could help me. I told him the intersection I was trying to get to, and he said he'd walk me to where I could catch a bus to take me there. Since it was broad daylight and with my backpack on I'd be too unwieldy to put in a bag and kidnap, I decided to accept his help. I realised I didn't have any American money, so he walked me to an ATM and stood back while I put in my PIN and withdrew cash, then gave me change (in fact, slightly more than the $20 note I'd given him to break) so I could pay for my bus ticket. He then saw me onto the bus and told me when I should get off, and that was that.

Throughout our whole interchange, I was wary, because unsurprisingly I just don't trust dirty strangers on the street who offer to help me. Torn between politeness and caution, I think I managed to be both slightly rude and far too trusting. But I still had my phone and my wallet and my camera afterwards, and the smaller change he gave me didn't seem to be fake, since the machine on the bus accepted it.

It took me a while to process it (and check my pockets), but at last I had to accept that I'd actually just met a really friendly and helpful stranger who had been kind to me with no apparent expectation of reward. So, Russ of Downtown Seattle, who has a sister who lives in Birmingham, thank you. I'm sorry if I was rude to you. You've made me want to be kinder to strangers.*

Catching my bus to meet my host was overwhelming, because I asked the driver if the ticket I already had would get me to the university, not realising that there was more than one university, and he said he wasn't going there. I was pretty sure I was on the right bus, because my host had told me to take it and I'd checked Google Maps, so I stood flustered and confused and blocking the doorway for a while, while several people and once shouted at me and/or tried to help me. I couldn't tell which. Which sums up my first experience of Seattle quite nicely. I genuinely can't decide if the people here are delightful or terrifying. Either way, I was overwhelmed, but fortunately a student at Seattle Pacific told me that he was getting off at the stop I wanted, so I followed him like a duckling. Except that we were both sitting on the bus, so I didn't need to. But I would have done if he'd moved anywhere.

I still don't understand how bus tickets work, but at least I made it, and no one seemed to shout at me any more.

My host met me shortly after I arrived, and took me back to her flat, where I felt a little stalky going through all her cupboards. In my defence, she had said I could eat her food. Within two hours of arriving in the country, I discovered vegan cookie dough in a tub and chocolate peanut butter.

America, come here and let me love you.
I spent yesterday in Fremont and the University District. Fremont thinks it's the centre of the universe. I doubt this claim, but to be fair I might be grumpy because I thought I followed the dinosaurs sign, but I didn't find any dinosaurs.

I spent a while in PCC, a great big (expensive) fancy and organic and vegan-friendly supermarket. The reason I spent a while there is that I was so overwhelmed by all the vegan cheese and vegan yoghurt and vegan meals and vegan confectionery that my brain totally shut down, and I just stood frozen in front of the bakery for what might have been days. At last, I had to tell myself that I could come back later and buy whatever I liked, and calmly escort myself to the door to take a few deep breaths.

But then I found a vegan bakery!

I think I'm just not used to having this many options any more - especially not in bakeries. But I managed not to panic, and chose everything a muffin after only a little agonising.

Pumpkin gingerbread muffin.
Calming down from the sudden and overwhelming onslaught of food options, I followed the sign to find the Fremont troll, who lives under the bridge. I was expecting a little homunculus I'd have to search to find. I was not correct.

Some kindly strangers offered to take my picture, and I paid it forward by taking a picture of the next people to come along. Another point for people here being delightful; no points for terrifying.

I spent a little more time exploring Fremont, then followed the Burke-Gilman trail to the University District, dragging my sore feet into Pizza Pi an hour later. I walked right past it at first, because it was so small and unassuming. Maybe I was expecting a flashing sign over the door saying "OMG VEGAN PIZZA", since that's how I'd advertise it. And not only did they have a million vegan pizzas to choose from (after a little more panic I settled on the BBQ Chicken), but they had alphabet magnets, which brought me great joy.

I will eat only this forever.
I even burnt my mouth on hot cheese. It's rare enough to be almost exciting (although mostly it's annoying and my mouth hurts now). There were three or four vegan places within two blocks of each other, but even I can only eat so much at a time, although I did wander into Sidecar for Pigs' Peace, the biggest all-vegan shop I've ever seen, for more open-mouthed awe. And chocolate chocolate chip cookie dough.

I walked back through the University District, and was struck again by that sense that the people here are friendly or terrifying or maybe both. I got several compliments from strangers - and I mean compliments, not street harassment, although there was a little of that too - about my hair and my scarf. One girl outside a bookshop I was going into yelled "You're beautiful!", and I turned to look and she turned out to be shouting at me. I was confused and gratified, and thanked her. More points to delightful. And a few more to terrifying, too.

On my way back, I climbed the hill in Gas Works Park to see the view before returning to the magical grocery shop to spend even more money on exciting vegan food.

And then I discovered that Amanda Palmer was going to be performing in Seattle on Sunday night, and  somehow, tickets weren't sold out! And I got one! And I did a little dance, and then had to explain to my host why I was so excited, and then kept dancing.

I'm still a bit overwhelmed by Seattle. But I think I like it.

*Or possibly steal things from them so subtly that they don't notice until much later and have already rhapsodised about the kindness of strangers on their blog. (I'm sorry. I'm from Jo'burg.)


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