So for the first leg of my trip, I made my way to The Rainy City, Seattle. Famously the home of grunge, the first ever Starbucks, and weather that makes Salford feel like the Costa del Sol. The purpose of my visit here? Well, I suppose it was a convenient place to start a trip down the west, given that it is very much the top of the west coast. “Why not also pay a visit over the border to Canada?” you may ask, and that is easily explained away by not being willing to go through the level of difficulty I went through getting into the country for the second time.
I arrived late in Seattle, not greeted by the rain so often associated with the city but rather with darkness. The trip from the airport into the city was fairly seamless and the metro system was basic but efficient. Filled with excitement, I decided I needed to get a move on and get over to the hostel. My home for the duration of the visit here was a hostel in the Belltown district. The dorm was as is to be expected from a hostel, pretty basic, but the rest of the hostel is kitted out with a cinema room and a basement so dingy and industrial it wouldn’t surprise me if that was where grunge was originally born.
On my first night, I feared that I would spend my three days here being completely sleepless in Seattle, walking into the dorm like being hit with a wall of heat – soundtracked by a chorus of snores and sirens. I thought I was going to go crazy like Barton Fink but fortunately, I didn’t meet a maniac played by John Goodman.
That first day, the sun shone brightly in Seattle. I got to experience the area I was staying in by light, and I must say that the homeless and the tweakers that inhabit the area are certainly a little bit friendlier before sunset. Exploring the city alone, I basically just spoke to myself. Whilst this was entertaining for a while, I began to feel lonely – surrounded by a sea of people but ultimately alone.
There was enough to do in my own company though. I made my way to the iconic Dick’s Drive-In where I ate a burger which was incredible in both quality and price. Speaking of dicks, I also went to an erotic art exhibition that did make me laugh (not the intention of the artist, I am sure). Pike Market was electric and offered the sea views to complement the taste of pierogi.
I found it fascinating though, that in this tourist hotbed if you looked beneath the surface (or rather, under the bridge on which the market stands) you would notice the vast number of tents pitched playing home to hundreds of those who have nowhere else to go. With thousands passing through visiting with their money, blowing it on overpriced coffee and taking pictures of the sign atop the market, the disparity between the haves and the have-nots has never appeared so extreme to me.
For a whole two days, I basically walked around by myself. Whilst this isn’t exactly the most social thing, you do certainly get to know the city. Downtown prides itself on being Seattle’s “original district”, and they brag so much about having the first Starbucks. Well, my question to Seattle is this: if your sole selling point is being the first to do something, is that not a signal that you have been unable to keep up with the times? Unable to challenge those that came along later in the day?
Regardless of the answer to that, I did have some company in the evenings. I befriended a guy in my room, a military veteran not much older than myself. For someone who fought for his country, he didn’t seem the least bit interested in its current affairs and had never even been to a baseball game. Naturally, I took it upon myself to correct that and we had a few beers and enjoyed (well, for the most part at least) Seattle get battered 7-1 by reigning champions Houston. As good as it was to get some company, I would have preferred it to be someone that wasn’t either hooked on meth or just wanting to talk about girls and sports.
Seattle is a place that certainly tells two sides of a story. It tells the story of the past and the present (although mainly the past). The story of the haves and the have-nots. This is a city more focused on the idea of itself than it is with its reality – repeating tales of grunge, of pioneering coffee houses and coming up with a self-deprecating nickname rather than realising that their main tourist attraction is actually just a bit shit. I mean, it’s called the Space Needle and it isn’t even as big as most buildings in every other city in the world.
That said, it’s a fun enough place to visit. The market is incredible, and in Belltown at least there is a littering of dive bars worthy of your time. Perhaps if I was in better company than those sleeping rough and the human equivalent of Nuts Magazine, I would have enjoyed Seattle a little more. However, I felt that after just three days I had seen enough of Seattle and it was time to move along to my next destination: Portland.