Tuesday, May 18, 2010

2004 Train Trip – Part 14 – 11/5/04


We woke up entering the Cascades and went through a six-mile tunnel, then along the Columbia River, which was gorgeous and rich with greenery, and had banks of fog wafting through it.  It made me think of the atmosphere that most theme parks try to make when one is on a log-ride.  We then entered much thicker fog; so think that the conductor was constantly sounding the train’s horn.

On this trip so far, I have read the following:  The script, “The Inquisitor,” the book, “Black Butte,” and “I shot Andy Warhol.”  I’m also finishing the creative writing book, “If You Want To Write.” 

We arrived at the Alexis Hotel.  The cab ride was fast because this part of downtown is not very large.  We went into the hotel, which at first I thought was too small looking from the outside, but as we walked in, we could see that we had gone in via a peripheral entrance.  We checked in and it was very comfortable.  We immediately suited up for the outside and went walking toward Pike’s Fish Market. 

Brenda and I realized right away that there were much fewer people and cars than we had been used to in Chicago.  In retrospect, we had felt the say way arriving in Chicago after being in New York.  Each city to the West was feeling more like a ghost town than it’s predecessor. 

We got Pike’s Fish Market and we saw that there were loads and loads of little stores that had signs for produce, seafood, touristy nick-knacks and post cards.  The market was built in levels.  The top level matched the main street, while the other levels went down toward Puget Sound.  There were little hallways and rooms such as in Monterey’s canneries, which had been turned into shops.

There were restaurants and bars along one cobblestone alley that made me think of old London.  Pike’s Fish market’s shops seemed too numerous for the few people wandering its empty oak-floor halls, but then again, it was a weekday.  Maybe this place got busy during the weekends.

Brenda and I bought thirteen postcards and a cd from some musicians.  We then went to the “Underground City Tour.”  Our tour guide was really funny.  She did a 20-minute intro, which consisted of an historical talk, which was followed by the tour itself.  We walked through three areas of the city underground, which had been covered over by floods and fire at different times as I recall. It basically felt like we were just walking in basements.  So we had to keep thinking to ourselves that this had been ground level at one point in the past.  It was also not unlike the catacombs in downtown Los Angeles; another early Oakwood tour we did while studying the Chinese in 2nd grade. 

A few not so wise settlers who didn’t know any better had built the city of Seattle on mud sludge, and when the great Seattle fire arrived, they had to rebuild the city on a higher layer.  But to compensate for now having to match the 2nd stories of all of the buildings, the city people funneled mud from the nearby cliffs into the streets to raise these streets another 16 feet to equal 33 feet above where they had once been.  At first, to cross the street, you had to climb up a ladder, then down another ladder.  Imagine if you will, the women shoppers of the day, climbing up and down with their turn of the century dresses and high-heeled boots carrying their packages and hat boxes  

Finally, the business owners started using their 2nd floors as their ground floor while their original ground floors because unused spaces until the gold rush brought in enough business to keep the bottom floors busy.  Eventually, gambling, prostitution and speak-easies during prohibition, and finally a small outbreak of Bubonic Plague caused the 1st floor areas to be considered unfit until such time that the rat populations could be made to leave.  This expulsion of rats was done by pouring cement under the wooden floors on the 1st levels.  This was a common site during our tour; big slabs of not so carefully poured cement that had markings of wood slabs on their surfaces, many of which are beginning to sink and tilt in odd positions. That’s the short and long of the underground city anyways. 

Brenda and I then walked to Chinatown, which was in a bad part of town as far as I could tell.  We wanted to leave immediately.  We took the rail trolley to the waterfront, visited inside a Russian submarine, took a ferry to Bremerton Peninsula, and then saw the Imax film on the eruption of Mount Saint Helens.

We walked back to Pike’s Fish Market in the dead of night, and then walked to 1st street and found the original Starbucks Coffee House.  We then walked to Pine Street and Pike Street.  We went back to our hotel and I started on some post cards and mailed them off at a nearby mailbox.  Obviously, this was before I was aware of blogging!