Lawrence Hosken: Departures: Larry Visits the Land of Grunge Redux

So I went to Seattle again, but this time I didn't return with a slew of anecdotes. This journey was quite relaxed. I've decided that Seattle is my idea of a perfect resort town. Other folks like the idea of going to Waikiki and sitting on the beach all day. My idea of a fun vacation is to spend most of the time hopping between cafes and bookstores and walking around a new urban landscape. Preferably with grey weather. Seattle fit the bill in this respect admirably.

So I don't have good stories about this vacation. I'm keeping some notes here so that I can remember what happened when I reread this document; I'm not sure that other people will be so interested. If you want travel tips, like how the Longshoreman's Daughter restaurant in the Fremont district is a great place to get breakfast, skip down a bit.

So I had a nice, relaxing vacation with few worries. Which is all very nice except that it makes for a boring trip report. Which is too bad. I was all set up to take major notes this trip. I brought along my "Zoomer" hand-held pen computer. During quiet moments I scribbled notes furiously, so that no detail would be forgotten. Which is all very well, except that there weren't that many details worth passing on.

I mean, the first page of notes I took concerns the TV I was watching at 4am. There was an early flight, so that I had to be awake by 5am. I was so anxious about making sure that I was awake by 5am that I had woken up an hour early. I was sort of awake. Just about awake enough to watch the news on TV. Do you care that the news at 4am is kind of jokey, with the anchorfolk kidding around a lot? Does it make for an interesting anecdote? I don't think so.

I mean, I took a note to remind myself that Christine gave us (DLoft, Veronica and I) a ride to the airport at 5am. There's no amusing anecdote there; I just took the note to remind myself that I owed Christine a favor. So later on, when I helped Ketan and Christine move into their new apartment, I figured I was repaying a favor.

I didn't take a note that I figured I owed DLoft and Veronica a favor, though by the end of the trip I figured I did. But it wasn't for anything specific they did. My dad was going in to surgery on the Monday after this weekend excursion. I was getting pretty nervous about it. I was considering cancelling out of the trip to be with my folks for the weekend. On the other hand, the surgery was going to be minor. There wasn't really any logical reason for me to be nervous; I just was. But if I'd been hanging out with my mom that weekend, I'm sure that we would have made each other really nervous, caught in a vicious feedback loop. So I went to Seattle with D&V, two of the calmer people I know. And I stayed calm most of the time. It helped a lot. So I helped them move, too.

There was just one time when I freaked out worrying about my dad. We were trying to figure out what to do next and I suggested the Elliott Bay bookstore/cafe again (we spent a lot of time there). I went through the bookstore looking for books to keep my dad amused for the time he was going to spend stuck in a hospital bed after the operation. My heart hammered the whole time. It felt like such a little thing to do. Could I trust the doctors? Eventually I calmed down a little.

Would you consider the following an amusing anecdote? I think it's borderline at best:

A few months ago, the editorial board of the then-unnamed Geoworks ISV newsletter were looking for a name for said newsletter. So we sponsored a contest. Anyone in the company could suggest a name. We'd pick the best name. Whoever suggested the name would get a $20 Zachary's gift certificate. The winner of the contest with the suggestion "Geoworks Developer Journal", was Skarpi, one of the Seattle engineers.

I sent Skarpi some e-mail saying that since he didn't live in the SF bay area, he might not want a Zachary's gift certificate. Would he like a gift certificate at some Seattle eatery? A $20 check? John, Skarpi's manager, sent me some e-mail that he was interested how this would turn out since he had never seen Skarpi eat. Skarpi wrote back to me and said I shouldn't send him anything; he'd be coming to the bay area in a few months to see some of the World Cup '94 soccer games. When he was in town, I could buy him a sandwich. Okay by me.

The world cup had come and gone with no Skarpi. So on this Seattle trip, I was determined to give this guy twenty bucks so I could cross him off of my TODO list. Our first day in Seattle, we visit the Geoworks Seattle office. Between conversations with various folks, I sought out Skarpi. I asked him if he remembered the contest. Oh yeah, he did, sorta. I asked him if he remembered that he had some prize money coming. Oh yeah, he did, sorta. I dug a twenty dollar bill out of my pocket. Congratulations, I said, here, take it. Skarpi looked at me funny. Take it, I said. Take it, take it, take it. I shoved the bill at him. He took it. Jeez. That was a lot tougher than I expected.

I don't think that's an especially amusing anecdote. If I knew Skarpi better, I might consider it to be illustrative, a perfect example of how his behavior is ruled by some personality quirk. But really, this is pretty much the only contact I've had with him.

I could try comparing the $20 Skarpi incident to the trouble DLoft had giving money to a young panhandler. This kid asked us for money. DLoft said just a second and fished in his pockets for change. The kid, not realizing what was going on, turned away from us and went back to chatting with his friends. DLoft had to say Hey to get the kid's attention and hand him some change. Is there a parallel?

Should I mention that Veronica helped me to find a water-proof jacket that rolls up into a little ball? Is that interesting? What can I say about the shopping we did in snowboarding supply stores? If I had understood what some of the Japanese tourists were saying in one of the shops, I'm sure it would have been interesting, but I only understood their grammar, not their vocabulary.

What can I say about cruising the Pleasant Hill cemetary, wondering if it was the site of either the JHendrix or KCobain grave sites? About heading towards one part of the cemetary because we saw some young folk dressed in Alternative Duds(TM)? Only to find out that they weren't there to visit a grave, but were just glad to find such a wide open place to play hackysack? Playing hackysack in a graveyard isn't really an anecdote that stands on its own. You could mention it as part of something larger, but the incident wasn't part of something larger. We saw these people playing hackysack in the cemetary, and then we left. End of story.

We might have had someone else tell us an anecdote. We were in a junk shop in the Fremont district. The proprietor asked us where we were from. "Berkeley". "I got into trouble in Berkeley once," he said. This was a bit too weird for us. We took off and went a couple of doors down for dinner.

What can I say about our experiences with music tapes? The rental car had a tape player. We had one tape--someone had picked up a copy of some music magazine that came with a tape. The tape didn't have very many songs. "Cold Beverage" "Rotten Pinata" and "French Cruller". Those songs got old in a hurry. We decided to get more tapes. We had a tough time finding a music store until we got back to the U. district, where there were several. DLoft and I went on a combination music-finding and pool-playing venture. First we went to a place called Cellophane Squares which had very few tapes. Next, we went to Tower. I got a variety of stuff--two tapes by the Masters of Reality, a band which Bryan Clair had hooked me on, whose music I hadn't been able to find before; the soundtrack to Mystery Train; Peter Gabriel's new live album. The girl behind the counter at Tower smiled a lot; she laughed when she saw what I was buying. At the pool hall, music was provided by a boom box. DLoft asked if we could play one of our tapes. The management liked the idea. So he played a Veruca Salt album. It was great. We had that pool hall all to ourselves most of the time. And driving around sorta-lost in the West Seattle district with the music of Mystery Train playing struck a chord in me. I mean, Mystery train has a lot of scenes of characters wandering the streets of Memphis, sort of lost, with this music playing in the background.

I could talk about the Beeliner Diner and its Mojo Potatoes. I mean, the potatoes weren't that interesting--they were just fried slices of potato. But they have a cool name. So while I was on vacation, Dave Scarborough, exec of my department at Geoworks, called a meeting. At something like 10am in the morning. And he was disappointed that so few people showed up early enough to attend this meeting. So when I get back from vacation, I've got a piece of e-mail waiting for me telling me how disappointed Scarboro is in those of us who couldn't be there for the meeting. So I was able to write back and say (I'm reconstructing this from memory):

Had I not been on my previously-announced vacation in Seattle on Friday, wild horses could not have kept me from the Developer Relations dept. meeting.

However, I instead found myself in that city's Beeliner Diner, quivering in anticipation of their Mojo Potatoes.

My thoughts were with you always.

I think that's kind of interesting, but it's not really a travel anecdote. More of a travel-aftermath anecdote.

Should I mention the time when I went to a honey stand in the Pike Place market, trying to buy some beeswax in under ten minutes because I had to meet up with the rest of my group? And after muscling my way through the crowds of tourists to reach this honey stand, I find it clerkless, with a sign "I'll bee right back." How clever. I thought to myself "Fuuck you." I managed to find another honey store where I bought a big piece of beeswax.

In the Pioneer Square area, we saw a guy squirting a hose into the tops of some tall trees. DLoft questioned the man as to his intentions and found out that a flock of Canadian Starlings had moved into an abandoned candy factory in the area. They would fly around and were leaving a thick layer of guano covering the area. They were playing starling distress calls and this guy, a city employee, was squirting any birds he saw, trying to encourage them to migrate elsewhere.

Should I mention that when we were driving out of Roslyn, we saw trucks driving in with some huge cement I-beams? There's probably a story there, but I don't know what it is.

Should I mention that we went to Waterfall park a few times, generally just after they'd turned off the waterfall? So that we never actually got to see the waterfall operating?

That when it was snowing up in the mountains and so we couldn't go visit Mt. Ranier, and we were holing up in the Elliott Bay Bookstore trying to figure out what to do next, Fran Liebowitz just happened to be there giving a reading? So we had an amusing time? It would only be interesting if I could remember something she said. I remember that she said that this was a tough time to be a satirist, because the world was so weird already. Something like "In a country where Dan Quayle could be elected to office, Swift would have been stymied."

Do you want to understand the relaxed nature of this vacation? The evening I remember the most fondly was the one the three travellers spent watching Beavis and Butthead and MST3K on the tube. Jeez.

I have travel notes that I wanted to keep track of for subsequent Seattle jaunts:

Maybe my next visit will be more interesting.


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