Wednesday, August 17, 2011

... in seattle. meh.

i think that maybe it was built up a bit too much in my head. maybe that was it. i honestly can't think of why else i would be so disappointed with the place. you can't throw a stone without hitting a starbucks (which i find vexing in itself) and everyone wanders around like their dog just died. in portland you seem able to smile at just about anyone on the street and they'll smile back. unless someone here is already smiling, i haven't seen that many people - markedly few - return a smile.

something else i've noticed is this weird, "i might be moving slowly but i'm actually in a rush" attitude people seem to have. if they're behind someone on the street they seem very keen to pass them, only to move no more swiftly than they had prior to passing the slower person. drivers seem particularly prone to this, as well as ignoring people in crosswalks.

i think i could probably live in america for the rest of my life and never master the art of the crosswalk. cars are able to turn right at red lights but seem quite content to do so while there are already people using the crosswalk. crosswalks in the middle of a block (not at a corner) seem to be unnoticed for drivers unless someone steps out in faith, assuming that once they're using the crosswalk, people will stop, while trying to cross at a corner can mean someone who thinks you might want to cross (and someone looking up and turning in a circle would be someone who i thought clearly didn't know what they were going to do next) will stop a good car length from the line at the corner where they need to stop anyway and hold up a dozen cars behind them while you decided if you're going to cross or not.

my trip from astoria to seattle yesterday actually went off with nary a hitch. i was on the bus from astoria just after 10h05 and the ride over the astoria-megler bridge was actually pretty cool. the local transit connections from astoria were astoria-south bend, south bend-raymond, raymond-aberdeen, and it turned out that they weren't separate connecting buses, merely different route numbers for different legs of the one journey of a particular bus. that made things a lot more relaxed for me.

we stopped in raymond and the bus had to make a side loop so the driver effectively turfed us off the bus (there was a couple heading up to port angeles who were taking a similar approach as me). i used a nearby restroom, terrified i was going to propositioned for something, anything and relieved that i didn't see another soul until i returned to the bus stop.

raymond, were it not so creepy in a "last gas for sixty miles" kind of way, actually seems to have quite the burgeoning folk art community and the town has a tremendous variety of these rusted silhouette statues of people and pets all over the place. i snapped a pic of one standing beside my bus stop - she was even holding her purse behind her back in one hand...

the connection from aberdeen had a thirty-minute wait and the woman working the info booth at the transit centre was super-helpful, not only providing change for my fare (you need exact change everywhere on the bus) but also letting me put my gear in a bike locker while i ducked up the road to jack-in-the-box for lunch.

this was my first (!) encounter with sales tax. i picked out a particular combo (grilled chicken tenders, fries and drink) that was $5.99 and ended up paying $6.49. the sales tax, it turned out, was 9.25% but i later learned that it varies not only from state to state (oregon has no sales tax) but also from city to city. argh.

i can honestly say that the sales tax thing alone is enough to make me gald i'm only staying in seattle for a short time. once i've sorted out my amtrak ticket back to portland i'll be a lot happier. i was thinking i might actually go further down the rail line to sacramento but i've had so many people talk sacramento down to me that my thinking about my 50-20 quest is becoming rather bleak.

it's ironic that the seattle skyline is absolutely cloudless today. i took a photo, because it seems to be such a unique prospect. everyone's out wearing jeans or suits or dresses made chiefly from scarves and spaghetti straps. for such a sunny day, people seem singularly un-sunny. the longest conversation i had today was with another tourist.

the stop in aberdeen continued untroubled and the connection to olympia happened very smoothly. the transit in olympia was a bit longer - closer to fifty-five minutes and the cafe recommended to me by the transit centre, while providing delicious food, had lousy service, either relying on the food and drink for return business or caring for neither in equal measure.

olympia-tacoma was fine although the bus was chock-full of local government workers commuting to the bedroom communities around tacoma. the transit at tacoma went very smoothly and i enjoyed a long conversation with a couple who were on their way into seattle to see the seattle mariners play the toronto blue jays (baseball). bud (the husband) is something of a jazz musician and promised to put my name on the door of a gig this week but i forget which gig and when they got off the bus they farewelled me as "david". it's a mystery to me why i have a name at all, sometimes.

alighting the bus in seattle was easy as pie and the stop was a hair over a block away from the hostel. i've been walking around seattle today - right now i'm looking at an advert on the side of a bus which has a golfer (fred couples) on it and some grafitti artist has given him a toothbrush moustache. disturbing. the couple on the bus to seattle described seattle as a hilly portland. it feels more sydney. maybe that's why i don't like it very much.

i caught a cold in astoria and i'm now dosing myself up in equal measure with drugs, water and sunshine, and i'm going to sign off now and hoof it up-and-down to the hostel.

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