Living in Seattle is insane and, if you already do, you should seriously have your head examined because there are far better places to waste the short time you have on this planet.
Our primary reason for visiting the Pacific Northwest clearly wasn’t the climate. Some of our friends from the Mid-West were visiting Washington’s capital city during May so we took the opportunity to meet them up with them. We took the opportunity to stock up on Gore-Tex® coats and water-proof boots, but luckily, the weather was decent and didn’t require us to build an ark or anything.
When visiting Seattle, bring an umbrella.
As you may have heard, Seattle has a relatively high number of days per year with precipitation (158), compared to such places as New York (119), Boston (127), and Nashville (119). So it’s pretty much constantly depressing and overcast with sporadic happiness-dampening drizzles from October through March (aka, the suicide season).
Weirdly, Seattle gets almost no rain from April through September. I mean, it’s still overcast and oppressive, just not all that rainy. Basically, the sun hardly ever makes an appearance in Seattle — when it finally does, it’s only to say, “Psyche!” before flying back to Los Angeles.
In terms of water quantity, however, Miami gets a lot more rain every year than Seattle (58” vs. 38” respectively). The important difference, however, is that no one minds when it rains in Miami because the outside air temperature is like 80F degrees. Conversely, when Seattle gets rain, the outside air temperature is more like 45F degrees, so it quickly causes hypothermia and brain death — at least that’s what it feels like.
Water in Seattle doesn’t just fall as rain.
No matter where you go in Seattle, there’s simply no escaping H2O. If you’re outdoors, it’s falling from the sky. If you’re indoors, it’s being poured into a glass with a lime wedge — I guess what I’m saying is that the stuff is everywhere.
Outside of the city, there’s even a place called Snoqualmie Falls. It’s a 270 foot high waterfall that’s self-billed as “one of Washington’s premier sightseeing, hiking and wedding destinations.” Not the best, mind you — just one of them. It’s almost like they want you to go somewhere else. Yet, to our eyes, the waterfall was first-rate and well worth seeing. We really couldn’t understand where all that sightseeing insecurity was coming from — maybe the falls had a rough childhood or something.
Welcome to Seattle, give us all your money.
At first blush, Seattle seems like a very livable place to live — that is, unless you want to do that living inside a house, an apartment, or any other place that’s not under a bridge. Thanks to its booming tech industry and Amazon.com’s white-collar sweatshops, Seattle now has some of the higher priced real estate in America, right up alongside San Francisco. (Welcome to the club!)
Like San Francisco, Seattle is quickly becoming a playground for the rich, a city split between two types of people: The have-a-place-to-lives, and the moving-back-in-with-their-parents-until-they-get-kicked-outs. Yet people still flock here because of Seattle culture, cuisine, and cosmopolia. It’s a modern, first-world city with lots of amazing restaurants, cocktail bars, and indoor activities to do when the sun isn’t out (which is all the time).
Where to stay in Seattle (if you plan on drinking).
We stayed downtown near Pike Place and the famous Public Market. We chose our hotel, the “Inn at the Market,” for its proximity to the aforementioned collection of restaurants and bars so that getting home after a night of drunken debauchery would be a walking proposition.
That decision turned out to be a good one because we drank our weight in beer at Kell’s, an Irish pub on the first night there. On another night, we ate and drank too much at The Pink Door, a romantic Italian restaurant basically across the street from our hotel. For breakfast (again, after a night of overindulgence), we stumbled across the nearby Biscuit Bitch and had really good, heart-stopping southern food. The one lunch we remembered having required walking about 30 paces from the hotel to El Borracho, a Mexican place which served amazing Tacos de Puerto con Pipian Rojo and (of course) tequila. In the end, our driver’s licenses were certainly undamaged by our intemperance, but the same couldn’t be said for our livers.
Sadly, not everything we wanted to do in Seattle was nearby — case in point, the Plum Bistro. We were a soberingly long hike from this highly rated restaurant (and yet we didn’t take Uber for some reason). By the time we walked there, we were so hungry we could’ve eaten almost anything and, as it turned out, that was good because the Plum Bistro doesn’t serve any actual meat. Instead, they serve Tofu (made from soybeans), Tempeh (made from fermented soybeans), and Seitan (made from textured wheat protein, mmm)! Thankfully, however, they also serve alcohol. TIP: Drinking the latter helped immensely with eating the former.
Seattle was settled by a bunch of morons.
When originally founded, Seattle was built in a part of Washington that the native inhabitants referred to as “a swamp.” Needless to say, the muddy, unstable ground was less than ideal for building structures meant to be used for anything at all, or even to remain standing for any period of time. But as I said, these founders weren’t the brightest flames in the candelabra.
Luckily, a city-wide fire burned the whole place to the ground affording the city father’s a chance to try again. So naturally, they rebuilt Seattle higher up. Not further uphill, away from the swampy part, mind you — no, just “higher up” as in directly on top of the old city. That’s right. Rather than letting their idiotic past sink beneath the waves of time (and mud), the settlers left the festering remains of their failed porto-Seattle where they were and just built on top of them.
In a testament to mankind’s limitless laziness and dangerously short memory, the bustling new city of Seattle v2.0 quickly developed up, over, and all around its secret and shameful past. Of course, when Seattle’s history of questionable land surveying and shoddy construction technique was later brought to light, someone quickly turned the underground city into a toxin-rife and mold-ridden tourist attraction that we obviously had to go see.
Seattle’s secret underground is no secret anymore.
Despite our numerous misgivings about this attraction’s structural safety and tetanus-free status, we nonetheless found Seattle’s “Underground” to be genuinely interesting. As we walked beneath the city — trying desperately not to breathe the fetid air — our tour guide regaled us with stories of Seattle’s early settlers and all the prostitutes their elected officials had sex with. By the end, we’d gotten a good long look at the incompetently built foundations which would’ve inevitably doomed the city even if the fire hadn’t utterly consumed it first.
We genuinely liked the Underground City, but if you’re claustrophobic (or over 6’ tall), you might want to skip the tour and save yourself the pain of cracking your brain basket on overhead pipes every five minutes. Instead, you could park your keister inside one of the city’s many painfully hip, independent coffee spots. There, while Seattle’s frigid rain incessantly pours down outside, you can enjoy a cup of hot java and flip through Facebook images of your friends in sunnier places like Hawaii, Mexico, or maybe Bali.
The Pike Place Fish Market is a public market.
We spent one of our many, many, many rainy days in Seattle wandering the long halls of the famous Pike Place Fish Market perusing tacky tee-shirts and tourist tchotchkes. Internationally known as “that place in Seattle where guys in aprons throw fish,” the Pike Place Fish Market truly lived up to its reputation as a tourist trap.
Yet the fish-throwing aspect of the market is, while certainly unique, not the 24/7 fish-a-palooza entertainment-fest you might expect. To see the magic of a fish-monger heaving a 20 lb. fish through the air to another guy, someone first actually has to buy a fish. As a result, you might never see them throw a fish because most tourists aren’t thrilled about cramming a fresh Halibut in their carry-on luggage.
Nonetheless, it’s still a popular attraction and people line up and hang around on the odd chance that they’ll get to see these guys throw and catch a large, dead fish. I found the activity a very odd practice for a business and I doubt that this blatant disregard for the merchandise would fly (pun intended) at a Costco or Starbucks. (“Mocha Latte for Janice!” “AAIIEEEE! MY EYES!”)
Getting high in Seattle.
Just to be different, we didn’t go up in the world-famous Seattle Space Needle. Frankly, it was a lot more expensive than the much taller Columbia Center skyscraper over on 5th Avenue. While this 943,000 foot tall skyscraper isn’t round and doesn’t rotate, the floor-to-ceiling windows of the Sky View Observatory give spectators a far better view of the entire city. From the 73rd floor, you could even see all of Seattle’s diverse weather patterns passing by — including rainfall, showers, and even precipitation.
Getting the other kind of high in Seattle. The drug kind, I mean.
For the record, I am not a pothead and never have been. I don’t enjoy the Grateful Dead at all, and I detest tie-dye clothing. So, even though smoking weed is legal in Washington state — and I firmly believe it should be everywhere — I avoided the tempting call of refer madness by quaffing expensive artisan cocktails instead. You know, like a respectable adult.
Yet despite marijuana being totally legal all over the state, parts of Seattle’s downtown area still suffered from a fair amount of drug dealing and associated crime. In fact, a structure near our hotel had to be torn down by the city because it blocked the street lights in the area, hiding a lot of drug dealing in its shadow. To be fair, the only reason we knew about the problem was because we’d read an article on it in the local newspaper. Otherwise, the worst drug problem in Seattle is deciding which dispensary to use.
The waterfront will look better one day.
Seattle’s sudden deluges frequently impacted our plans and, on one particular day, rain forced us to run into a temporary office space displaying Seattle’s new waterfront architectural project. Friends Of Waterfront Seattle is a big civic project to transform the 2-mile stretch between Pioneer Square and Belltown into a 20-acre public park. While drying off inside, we pretended to be interested in what the lovely folks manning the display had to say about the project. But when the rain stopped, we left. Sadly, I kinda got the impression that most of their visitors stopped in for the same reason.
Microsoft doesn’t understand human beings.
The biggest tech company in Seattle is Microsoft and its influence is everywhere, and that’s unfortunate. As founder of that horrible company, Paul Allen had enough ill-gotten gains to open the EMP Museum in Seattle, a sort of half-Museum and half-Hands-On Music Studio/Experience Center.
In 1999, Microsoft was found guilty of engaging in monopolistic and abusive practices contrary to the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act.
Frankly, the museum felt like visiting a crazy rich person’s junk room. Sure, the contents were nice enough and the place looked fine, but the presentation of the contents was a letdown (like all of Microsoft’s terrible products). There seemed to be no method or logic to anything’s placement or location. Frankly, I shouldn’t have been surprised since it was designed by the same genius who put the Windows Start menu on the bottom of the screen. During our visit, we TWICE had to ask someone who worked there where to find a major exhibition only to be told that we’d already passed it both times.
However, the Seattle Seahawks can totally suck it.
I used to like the Seahawks back when they lost most of the time. I felt bad for them and often rooted for the Seahawks against the other teams I hate (Dallas, Panthers, Giants, etc). Sadly, the Seahawks are no longer cellar-dwellers. In fact, they now frequently decimate the teams I love, too. So now I can crap on them without feeling bad about it. So suck it, Seattle! Your blue-green color scheme is tacky and ugly.
Honestly, I don’t know why design and user-interaction is so difficult for Microsoft. Museum designers — even “geniuses” like Frank O. Gehry — should just take a page from the folks at Ikea. In most Ikea stores, visitors are immediately escalated to the absolute top floor and then allowed to wander down. When they’ve descended all the way to the ground floor, they know they’ve seen everything — it’s simple and brilliant.
In the final analysis, Seattle is a great Pacific Northwestern city to visit…well, during the Summer anyway. Still, I can easily see why people who like salmon, coffee, and pasty white skin really like it there. Seattle’s got stark and spectacular scenery, a mess of cultural crap, and it’s reasonably walk-able when the rain isn’t sweeping you off your feet down into drainage ditches. And since global warming will only increase the city’s appeal, in another hundred years or so, maybe we’ll be back.