In wisdom gathered over time, I have found that every experience is a form of exploration.
– Ansel Adams, American photographer and environmentalist
From Austin, I was supposed to head to Los Angeles and then Seattle on my five-city business trip, but I didn’t end up going to the last two destinations because of rescheduling issues. Still, since David and the kids were slated to join me this past weekend, we decided to stick with our original travel plans, and we flew just for the weekend to visit with good friends of ours, John and Kris. John and David have been friends since nursery school, and John was one of the groomsmen at our wedding. It’s a testament to their enduring friendship, though we haven’t seen them in two years and it’s been several years since we have traveled to the Pacific Northwest to visit them.
I’ve been to Seattle seven times. When I was on assignment in Seattle and Portland to cover an article on venture capitalism (VC) in the Pacific Northwest many years ago, I was able to conduct research on my novel. My father, his cousins, and many of his fellow compatriots traveled by steamship from Manila and entered the United States at the Port of Seattle. If the Filipinos didn’t have relatives already in the States to pick them up, most of them stayed in hotels in the International District, home of the citySeattle’s Chinatown, only to be conned by foremen into signing away their lives to migrant farm work. After my VC interviews, I was lucky enough to be in that area of town and found a couple of the infamous hotels where the men were given room until they were carted off to various parts of the country to pick whatever fruit or vegetable that was currently in harvest.
Atop the Space Needle
In all the times I’ve been to Seattle, I’ve never been to the Space Needle (400 Broad Street, 206.905.2111). It’s something you do, though, when you have kids, and after the fact, I’m glad that we went. I knew that it was built for the 1962 World’s Fair and celebrated the young city’s vision for its and the country’s future in space exploration, but that’s pretty much the extent of my knowledge of the iconic symbol of Seattle.
Of course, once there, I learned more. The theme of the World’s Fair was Century 21. This was the time of the Cold War, and the U.S. was in a race with the Soviet Union to determine who would dominate the space program. President Kennedy was supposed to attend the closing ceremony on October 21, 1962, but canceled due to a “cold,” which later turned out to be a cover for his having to handle the Cuban Missile Crisis.
After several attempts at finding the right centerpiece that would define the city long after the event was over – in the same way the Eiffel Tower did for Paris after the 1889 World’s Fair – Edward Carlson, president of Western International Hotels and chairman of the fair, found inspiration in the Stuttgart Tower in Germany. Several architects and versions of drawings later, as a result of trying to make the model structurally sound, the Space Needle’s current form came to be. Finding a location and financing – at a cost of $4.5 million – became the next obstacles. Both were obtained, and the Space Needle was constructed in just 13 months – just in time for the opening of the World’s Fair.
Every day nearly 20,000 people took the elevator to the top of the Space Needle, for a total of 2.3 million visitors for the duration of the fair. The Space Needle paid for itself in short order, and continues to be Seattle’s number one attraction. It takes 41 seconds to reach the top via the elevator, and your stomach definitely drops during both the ascent and descent. The 360-degree view of the city is wonderful. While we didn’t go to any of the other venues in the area such as the Pacific Science Center and the Experience Music Project (though we did go to the Chihuly Garden, which I’ll highlight in Wednesday’s blog entry), you could easily spend a day in the area.
Wandering through Pike Place Market
After a late lunch, we headed over to Pike Place Market, which has always been a destination every time I’ve come to Seattle. I enjoy walking up and down the stalls, sampling the jellies and other goodies and admiring the various goods crafted by local artisans. We also returned in the morning after Sunday brunch and were entertained by two street musicians, Whitney Monge and Morrison Boomer, whom we really enjoyed. Monge has a soulful voice, and the band had a kick to their music.
We picked up a salve that is supposed to clear up eczema, which my daughter has, and skin irritation, which David has, so we’ll see if the product by the Fay Farm – “handcrafted natural body products” – works (913 Tomchuck Lane, Greenbak, WA 98253, 360.222.3036, firstname.lastname@example.org). Claudia Rice Kelly (Claudia Kelly’s Collection, 1916 Pike Place #12-341, Studio 253.941.2665) made some beautiful scarves, bow ties, and velvet jackets made of silk and velvet. Micks Peppourri (P.O. Box 8324, Yakima, WA 98908, 800.204.5679) had an overwhelming number of tasty pepper jellies, namely lime, pomegranate, and the cabernet. David and the kids went crazy over the Woodring Northwest Specialties spicy pickles and pepper and specialty jellies.
As usual, the weekend was too short, but John and Kris let us know there is plenty more to Seattle we’ve yet to see, including the Boeing Museum. So that just means we have to come back, which is always a good reason to me.
One thing I’ve embraced is that wherever I go, especially if I’ve been there before, I want to find something new to see, appreciate, and learn about. Whether it’s a vintage shop or a historical landmark or a novel destination – a hidden gem – suggested by a local or a visitor, find something new. It makes the usual special again and our world ever more expansive.