Hello, Seattle

Skyrocket in flight.


I had never been on a business trip before.  Unless you count deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan as “business.”  So, armed with an itinerary, an American Express card, and a brand new iPhone, I was dropped off at the airport to take my first-ever exotic trip to a work conference in Seattle, Washington.

So, yeah, no sandy beaches or resorts, but lots of rain, Starbucks, and the sad reminder that the Twilight series originates from there.  However, it was new to me, as I’d never been to Seattle, and although I’d be spending my days at the conference, I knew that I had the evenings open for exploration.

Once at the airport, my travelling companion approached me, called Bud, who worked my same job at another location.  The only real connection we had was transportation, as I was put in charge of the rental car.  This worked well for me, because I couldn’t imagine a more depressing state than being subjected to someone else’s whim for destinations.  I wanted to explore and it’s tough to do that when you have to ask someone to drive you around.

In that case, he was screwed.  Because I intended to drive everywhere.

Fortunately, he was pretty chill and somewhat low maintenance.  The flight out was not even close to being full, so I was able to have a row all to myself, which is comparable in feeling to winning twenty bucks on a scratch off lotto ticket.    It’s not the jackpot, but it’s still pretty nice.

I always fumble with what to do on the plane.  I brought my laptop, iPhone, iPod, sketchbook, novel, snacks, water, and headphones.  With all of these items at hand, it’s so easy to get overwhelmed.  Being trapped in a small space on a large aircraft only affords so much for you to do within those confines, but the choices are still vast and it always leaves me with my head spinning.

I decide against getting the laptop out and can’t muster up the desire to read, so I simply settle in and play with my new toy, the iPhone.  People have been using the phone for years now, but I had just entered the fray and played with it nearly the whole ride in.  They play some Jennifer Anniston movie that takes place in Seattle, which strikes me as ironic and I start to wonder if there’s a message in there somewhere.

Not that I expected to meet and/or have sex with Jennifer Anniston in Seattle, but one should pay attention to these things.

Our rental car.

It’s a prolonged affair getting our bags and securing the rental car, but eventually we’re free of the airport and on our way to the hotel.  The rental car is a blue Toyota Corolla and it has a spoiler that reminds me of the Fast and the Furious cars.  I suddenly feel out of touch as I don’t have enough tattoos or a big enough criminal record to sport such a vehicle, but I make do.

Bud is short, which makes me think he will have short man’s complex, which is usually equated with a loud, screaming, ill-tempered little man.  He has a full beard and dresses business casual.  We make small talk on the ride to the hotel.  I champion my iPhone, letting him know I have plotted our journey to the hotel through the GPS and I begin to follow the prompts.  We make small talk, which revolves around just enough and too much information, scattered with a healthy number of uncomfortable silences.

We check in to a glistening and wondrous Holiday Inn.  I am hungry and need to eat something, but Bud is reserved to his room.  I am secretly ecstatic about this, because I really just wanted to start driving around and find some food on my own.  I have always been extremely independent and am very selective on who I take with me on my journeys, even if it’s just to a Jack in the Box for a greasy chicken sandwich.

I pass a Hustler megastore, neatly settled between a Lowe’s and a bank.  I start wondering how you could combine a trip to each store in a row to make them all related.  The possibilities are endless.

After a very short ride, I return to the hotel with my overpriced greasy food and explore the room a bit.  The bed is huge and there’s a flat panel TV, which I’m not used to in hotels.  I guess everyone is making the switch now, but I don’t stay in hotel’s enough to be monitoring upgrades.  I set up my laptop, call my wife, eat my food and eventually make it to bed, iPhone in hand, trying to set the alarm clock on it.  As I lie there, I feel an overwhelming sense of being disconnected and free.  I am alone, in an unfamiliar area, with only a backpack full of my personal items.  There is something to be said for that.

At home, everything is there.  My family, my home, my truck, my job, and everything else that is familiar.  Here though, in Seattle, I am away from it all, a visitor, a stranger, yet still the same person.  I look out the window and can’t help but feel a surge of excitement.  Outside that window is a world unknown to me, unexplored and untouched by my experience.  The orange-ish glow of the outside lights slightly illuminates my darkened room and I close my eyes and stretch my body on the oversized bed, feeling peaceful and electric.

My Addiction Warehouse

A full service breakfast bar is set up in the morning, complete with bacon, biscuits and gravy, cinnamon rolls, cereals, eggs, etc.  All you could want.  However, it’s Seattle, and I have a coffee habit, so I locate the nearest Starbucks on my iPhone, and it directs me to a short jaunt down the street.  I hop in my Fast and Furious rental ride and zoom down to the Starbucks and order my morning smack addiction and return to the hotel for breakfast.  Bud shows up right at eight o’clock and is ready to go.

The drive to the conference is relatively quick and we get there with very little hassle.  It’s dry and boring, interspersed with interesting tidbits.  We sit on uncomfortable, bleacher style seats, and suffer through countless slideshows, then break for a catered lunch, which is pulled pork and cole slaw.  Not bad.

As interesting as some of the information was, it was all a haze, a dizzying blast of technical jargon that really didn’t serve much of anything to us.  Because of our integrity, we would stay for the whole conference, all three days, cutting out only a few hours early on the last day.  The whole thing could easily have been a paid vacation had we chosen not to attend after the first day.  There was no accountability, other than what we held ourselves to.

I wondered if people who regularly attended these types of things ducked out after making their initial appearance.  I would wager that they did, but I was a cherry, a virgin in this realm, so I played nice and did the “right,” thing, although I felt that an even “righter” thing would be to blow this whole thing off and venture into the city.

I saved the energy for our inevitable release, though.  Bud wanted nothing more than to buy some beer and go back to the hotel, sit in his “fat pants” and watch reality TV.  I wanted to change my clothes and hit the road.  It created a strange riff.  Bud would no doubt like for me to hang out, both of us downing six packs and high fiving each other with every tackle on Cops, while relaxing in our fat pants, but there was no way in hell I was going to spend the one and possibly only time I ever went to Seattle holed up in a Holiday Inn.  I gave Bud the invite to venture out with me and was once again exceptionally relieved at his declination.

Bud was already rockin’ his fat pants, adorned with Budweiser logos.  Two empty beer bottles sat on the counter.  It had been only fifteen minutes since we arrived back to the hotel.  He had moved the sitting chair to the center of the room, directly facing the TV, World’s Wildest Police Chases blaring loudly from it.  He was right at home.

I had planned to go to Red Mill Burgers, which I saw on the TV show Man vs. Food.  In the show, the host, Adam Richman, goes to all the famous eateries from state to state and takes on the food challenges there.  Watching the show is like torture at times, creating hunger pangs of immeasurable length.  I didn’t plan on taking on a challenge, but at least to try some good food and say I went somewhere cool.

I plotted the location on the GPS on my phone and set forth.  I revved the engine for good measure and had a little mischievous laugh at the mere though of my voyage.  Seattle is known for its incessant rainfall and it didn’t disappoint on this evening.  It was pouring buckets and the visibility was for shit.  I anticipated about a forty-minute drive to Red Mill Burgers, as it was just outside the city.  My GPS talked me through it, her sweet, yet curt, female voice ensuring my every turn.

My heart rate jumped a bit and the excitement and nervousness of jaunting into the unknown began to fill my veins with an exploratory jolt.  My senses were overly alert, as I had no clue as to where I was going, but followed the directions diligently.  However, the one thing I had forgotten to do was make sure my phone was properly charged.  I got a twenty percent battery warning about thirty minutes into my trip.  This was not good.

I had no charger, so I was screwed on that end, but figured I could find one at a store somewhere and I’d be all-good.  However, even in a city like Seattle, there were bound to be ins and outs, where one wrong turn could send you on a long journey where cell phone car chargers were not the main thing being sold.  I had to be alert.

I came around a bend and saw the brilliant city lights of Seattle at night, like a hundred giant lit Christmas trees staring back at me.  I used to live in Chicago and it didn’t matter how many times you visited the city, it was always amazing.  The strength and awe of a skyscraper-laden city is something to behold.  Set aside the cynicism and sarcasm and you could feast your eyes on something beautiful.

Due to my iPhone being dead during this part of the journey, there are no pictures to go along with it.

My iPhone popped up a ten percent battery warning and as it began to lose all life as I found the last street to my final destination.  It died completely, like a lost navigator on a journey out to sea.  I followed the road and came upon Red Mill Burgers.  It was a humble little place and I pulled in to park, ready to partake in their “legendary” burgers.  However, I was suddenly rattled due to the loss of life in my phone.  I had no charger at the moment (and no watch to boot) and was completely unsure of how to get back to the hotel after all the twists and turns I’d taken on the near hour-long journey I had just taken to get here.

It did not deter me from getting some grub, tough.  Red Mill was like a mini-diner, and they had their menu written on a black chalkboard.  A few customers milled around waiting on orders.  I ventured forth and ordered a modest burger and joined the wait.  The joint was staffed by teenagers, which led me to stereotype that I would likely not have the best experience.

The food was okay.  It wasn’t Man vs. Food delicious, at least not as good as Adam Richman made it look.  I felt kind of duped and instead of viewing Richman as a genuine guy on a food odyssey, I started to feel that he was just another actor playing to the audience in his shows.  We all “know” we shouldn’t trust the people inside the glowing box, but sometimes we do anyways, and when it all comes crashing down on our heads we feel like assholes.  And so, I felt like an A to the s-s-h-o-l-e.

I had just spent an hour driving through unfamiliar territory for an average burger at an overhyped joint, had a dead phone, and no sense of where the fuck I was or how to get back.  The only answer was to get in Fast and Furious (its new name) and start paddling.

I got on a main road and just drove, looking for any kind of place that would sell a car charger for an iPhone.  I figured a Wal-Mart or something of the like would carry such a thing, but wasn’t sure.  I had actually never had a car charger for a phone before.  I’d never had a threesome, either.  Time to rearrange the Bucket List.

To be an adult and find yourself lost in an unknown area is a humbling experience, albeit a somewhat exciting one, depending on your personality.  Losing your sense of direction, your familiarity, is a real test of an individual.  If you think about it, we generally like predictability and familiarity.  We pretend that we want sweeping adventures that take us to all kinds of unfamiliar and wild places, without any kind of destination, but the reality is that we only want those things in short spurts.  This is why we take vacations and not endless adventures.

We take cruises or visit other countries or drive to another state with one simple idea in the back of our minds; Get in, have fun, get out, get back.  It’s not; Get in, figure it out, get lost, come back whenever.  We always have an end-state goal for all our little trips and vacations and that’s to get back to our familiarity, no matter how much (or little) fun we have.  Now, certainly there are a few people who grab a backpack and just roam.  We call them hobos.  And often they end up in places like a magic bus in Alaska without any food or proper supplies and die a cold and lonely death.

I drive for a long time until I convince myself that it’s time to go “old school.”  When I was eighteen I had a long-distance relationship with a girl named Sarah.  I lived in Virginia and she lived in Illinois.  I drove to see her on three separate occasions before we finally broke up and on each occasion I used a map.  That’s right, one of those big, foldout maps that may as well be something used in a Pirate movie by today’s standards.  I would gauge where I currently was, find it on the map and plot my course, Parrot placed firmly on my shoulder and telescopic lens fully extended, cutlass sheathed.

So, based on my prior experience I decide to use this underused knowledge and buy a map and find my way back to the hotel.  I see a smiling, familiar place in the form of a 7-11.  Soda, magazines, lukewarm hot dogs, twelve-dollar band-aids, and, of course, maps.  These are thing things you can count on with a 7-11.  Unfortunately, the other thing you can count on is an attendant who barely speaks English, and since my Pashto is a little rusty, I am unable to find a map in the 7-11.

I start to wonder if the world has gotten so reliant on technology that they simply don’t sell maps in convenience stores anymore.  It’s like asking for oil for your lantern.  Or an AOL installation CD.  I’m suddenly Marty McFly from Back to the Future ordering a Pepsi Free from a 1950’s diner; only I’m from the past, not the future.  I opt for the second option, which is a gas station.  Surely, they have carried on the tradition of carrying a real map.  I pull into the next one and this attendant speaks slightly better English and I’m able to find a map.  A super glossy laminated one, with all the ins and outs of Seattle.

I get back to Fast and Furious and start to fold out the map, squinting at the nearest street sign to get a name.  It’s dark, the map is huge and chopped up in sections and I find that I am too impatient to sit and study this map to get my bearings.  Wouldn’t it be easier to just get a charger?  Why hurt my brain?  I shamefully put the car into gear and start driving again.  I have become a slave to technology.  I set the map aside and know that it will become nothing more than a memento of this journey.

I eventually come into a bustling area of commerce, complete with Casinos, grocery stores, and lingerie shops (Seattle is full of them, apparently.  Note to guys looking for girls who are into lingerie; move to Seattle).  I am enlightened with hope.  Somewhere, on this street is a store that sells car chargers for an iPhone.  All I had to do was find it.  It was a matter of time at this point.  As I turn into a parking lot, like a ray of light from Heaven, I see a small building with the words “Radio Shack” staring back at me.

Radio Shack is kind of a joke these days.  It is kind of amazing that they’re still open.  With all the competition and advancement of technology and chain stores, Radio Shack still stands.  And it is a blessing.  I deviate to them, ready to shell out my plastic, for I know with utmost certainty that they will have what I need.  I walk in.  It’s bright, really bright.  Everything is turned on, as if all the products in the store were alive and at a Poison concert.  I am immediately asked if I need help.  I ask for what I need.  It is placed in my hand.  I hand over the plastic.  I am given back a receipt.  I walk out.  This all happens in less than four minutes.

The car charger is emplaced and my iPhone needs a few minutes to wake up.  We’re back on the road and my iPhone finally rubs its eyes, yawns, stretches, has its coffee, and is ready to go.  I’m back on the highway and plotting my course back to the hotel, suddenly victorious.

I am elated and relaxed now, wishing that I had felt this calm when I was eating my Red Mill Burger.  Perhaps it would have been better.  I had effectively gotten lost and found my way again, something that we all do in life, sometimes in bigger and smaller ways.  It is, for all intents and purposes, the human journey.  We find ourselves on one path and are suddenly diverted, then lose our way, in unknown territory, but through perseverance, we find our way again and set forth on our ultimate path, we move toward-

-Whoa.  Was that a Krispy Kreme I just passed?  I am suddenly Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious, I whip a bitch and skid into the drive thru, onlookers looking at me like some common thug.  A thug trying to get some doughnuts.  I give a cool-guy nod.  Yeah, that’s right.  I’m here for fat pill goodness.

What were we talking about?  Oh yeah, the human journey and all that.  This was it.  And occasionally you run into a Krispy Kreme and make a pit stop and it is so-effing-worth-it.

Seattle adventure booty

Back at the hotel I am fully relaxed, wearing my own “fat pants” and eating doughnuts.  I am strangely proud of myself, but realize it would be a miniscule and laughable victory if I were to tell someone of it (so, does that mean you’re laughing right now?).  Either way, it’s a victory.  I got lost, found my way, and didn’t get shot or raped.  Or shot and raped.  Or pulled over for speeding, which also sucks.

The next morning I do my Biggest Loser DVD workout from memory.  I didn’t bring the disc, but need to workout, so I walk myself through it on pure recollection.  Wait, did I just admit that out loud, on paper?  I should delete that.

After another long day of techno jargon, I drop Bud off at the hotel to jump into his fat pants/reality TV nirvana and prep for more adventure in the big city.  I decide to go to the Tacoma Mall, which is by no means a sexy venture, but I wasn’t about to go on a nature hike, so I was stuck primarily to the eating/shopping attractions of the area.  The mall was not really impressive, kind of cold, and nothing I’d never seen before.

I was in need of some new clothes, so I went into American Eagle, which is a contemporary young adult store.  It’s kind of ridiculous that I buy a lot of my clothes there, but they fit my body type well.  Whatever the fuck that means.

I am again confronted by the age gap as I walk in, teenagers greeting me and asking if they can help me find anything.  I always want to say something smart-elecky, like “Yeah, the meaning of life,” or “Sure, the female orgasm,” but I am polite and courteous, giving the usual, “Nope, just looking, thanks.”

They give me their name and assurance that they are there to help if I do find myself needing something.  I quickly say thanks, whip out my phone and start typing their name into my contacts.  I ask for their number so I can call them in case I get lost or need assistance.  This is usually where shit gets weird, but if you roll with it, it’s a good way to pick up chicks when it works.  Then, for good measure, ask if they would ever consider joining your pyramid scheme.

I get hungry and want to eat somewhere that I can’t eat back home.  There are too many familiar places, though, so it’s a bit of a struggle to find somewhere new.  I pass an Olive Garden and take a picture with my iPhone and post it to my Facebook page for my wife to see.  She hates Olive Garden with a passion so I decide to share this with her.  The iPhone has certainly proven its worth.  We used to send postcards.  Now, we instantly upload the images from our trip to the Internet.

I settle on Famous Dave’s barbecue.  It has some good reviews and I’ve never been to one before, so I commit.  Once inside I head to the bar, which is like the kid’s table at a wedding, reserved for travelling businessmen like myself, and the lonely, middle-aged or older men who are either single or escaping their wives for a night to drink beer and watch sports on the big screen, while hitting on the way-too-young-for-them waitress, who encourages it to get big tips.  It all makes sense, and is both depressing and fitting.

The Lonely Beer.

There are some small, two-seater tables on the outside of the bar and I grab one.  I order a beer and a pork sandwich with mac and cheese.  It is lonely, though, and I suddenly realize why men on the road typically stray, not just from wives and children, but from their very lives.  Everything that they had built, the familiar life in a familiar location, was suddenly becoming less and less like home.

This was a very short trip, certainly not one that would cause me to violate the sanctity of what I had at home, but for the first time, I could see how these things could happen over time.  I didn’t condone it, I simply understood it.  I finished eating.  I paid.  I left.  There was no great conversation over dinner, so plans made, no memories recollected.  Just a boring, lonely dinner with myself, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.  I enjoyed my solitude, but not to the point that I wanted it at every turn.

I retired early with the intent of getting rested up for the final day of my trip.  I had thus far been up until about two a.m. each night, unable to settle my mind within the confines of my new environment.  Back home I would have been in bed no later that midnight, but here I just couldn’t get to sleep.

The last day of the conference was a slew of boredom, and we luckily got out early.  It was only a few hours early, but there was nothing else for us to soak in.  The conference wasn’t a bust, but it wasn’t anything that couldn’t have been done through a large e-mail.

Bud decided to join me on our final night in Seattle, which I was on the fence about.  I mean, I couldn’t tell the guy “no.”  That would be both weird and rude.  Perhaps it would be nice having a companion for the journey, someone to bounce off the sites with.  The problem is that we simply didn’t know each other well enough to gauge each other’s mindsets.  Usually, when you hang out with a friend you are pretty in-tuned to how they’ll feel about most things, like where they’ll want to go, how long they’ll want to stay, what time they need to turn in.

With Bud, I had no idea what his intentions were.  We were strangers, heading into the city together, with no idea what we were getting each other into.  In that sense, the entire night’s journey would be somewhat displaced.  We didn’t necessarily hit it off with one another, nor did we absolutely despise each other.  We were just two guys stuck with one another, a ten-year age gap and an exceptional upbringing difference.

Nevertheless, this was happening.  Bud met me at the car and, once inside, pulled out a sheet of paper with a number of addresses on it.  “So, I found some strip clubs.  There’s a couple of ‘em in the city…”

I looked at the sheet and was kind of shocked, but tried not to show it.  I had jokingly mentioned earlier that I planned on hitting all the strip clubs tonight when he had asked what my plans were.  It’s not that I was opposed to strip clubs; it just wasn’t on my agenda.  I like strip clubs, but don’t usually make it a habit of going.  I had hoped that Bud would forget about it after we saw all the tourist stuff, but again, I didn’t know him well enough to gauge either way.

From the Space Needle...obviously.

And we were off.  It was sunny and nice for the drive out this time and we again made small talk of nothing in particular or significant, just filler for the prolonged silence.  It wasn’t necessarily

The first stop was the Space Needle.  A rather low-on-the-totem-pole kind of landmark.  I won’t recount any history of it here because I simply don’t remember any.  It was seventeen bucks to ride the elevator up and I won’t say it’s the best seventeen bucks I ever spent, because that would be a lie.  At first it seems very exciting and cool as

you ride up the elevator and watch the city recede beneath you.  Then you get to the top and you walk around a few times and snap a few shots and that’s it.  In the end, it’s like a roller coaster that gets you up to the top, just before the big drop, the payoff, the ride, and it just stops.  You get out, take a look, snap a shot, and go home.

Most landmarks are like this.  The Washington Monument, The St. Louis Arch, The Statue of Liberty.  All tremendous and historic monuments to the Nation, but the ride to the top is more nostalgic than rewarding.  It’s a place to go just to say you’ve been.

Eating utensils...

I find out that Bud has radar, which was alluded to earlier.  Beer radar.  Bud needs beer at every turn.  It is his lifeblood.  Me, I can do with or without.  It’s not a necessity, but for Bud it’s like my morning coffee, only needed throughout the day.  He could probably sniff out beer in a Build-A-Bear store.  He was that serious about it.  And so, we shared a beer atop the Space Needle and sat silently.  After about ten minutes we agreed to take the elevator down and hit destination two.

Destination two was a restaurant called The Crab Pot, which is another place I saw on Man vs. Food.  The draw here was that they bring your food in a big aluminum pail and dumb it directly onto the table.  Then they give you a mallet and a bib.  And you eat like a barbarian sailor on the dock, only you’re in a restaurant with a server.  Bud and me order “The Alaskan,” which is the biggest thing they have.  We also order beers.  Of course we order beers.  Duh.

When “The Alaskan” is finally dumped on our table we are impressed and dive in.  I never use the mallet, as it’s really not necessary.  But, I do use the bib, even though it’s not necessary either.  We mow through crab legs, head-on shrimp, sausage, corn, potatoes, and mussels.  It’s quite good, but again doesn’t live up to the hype of that fucking TV show.  I decide I need to do more research for places to eat next time, instead of letting the Travel Channel be my only source.

...meet eats.

Satiated, we leave.  We get a little turned around and drive up and down the streets for a bit.  The hills in the city surprised the hell out of me.  It was like San Francisco-style hills, nearly a straight drop in some places.  Not the place for bad brakes.  The other thing that surprised me about the city was how clean it was.  Nary a shred of trash or a homeless person slumming on the corner.  And yes, I view the presence of homeless people begging on street corners as dirty.  If you prefer homeless people as nice decorations then I’d like to see you get one for the living room or driveway and see if you still feel the same way.

Anyway, I finally steered Fast and Furious back onto the highway and headed back to the hotel.  It was getting close to ten p.m. at this point and traffic was a mess.  I felt it best to just move on.  We’d seen a good slice.  Maybe next time I’d see the whole pie.  It was enough for now.

Outside "The Crab Pot"

The drive back was unusually quiet, mostly because I think there were two trains of thought going on.  I was busy trying to completely ignore Bud’s address of strip clubs and he was busy stewing over why I had blown off his whole plan.  We were mostly silent on the way back until he finally spoke up.  “So, we gonna hit a strip club or what?”

Fuck me.  I had truly hoped he’d forget, but now I was in a position.  I could try and take a moral standing and say it’s not for me, but that would be bullshit anyways.  I liked naked girls and that was that.  One of the strangest facts about my strip club experiences is that I’ve been to more of them with my father-in-law than anyone else, as he found extreme comfort there.  And he rarely got lap dances.  He just sat with a slight smirk and sipped his water.

Night life

I decided that since I monopolized Fast and Furious the whole time that I owed it to Bud to take him to look at naked girls.  I know, you’re thinking I’m full of shit and I’m just making it all up so I don’t look like it was always on my agenda.  You’ll just have to take my word for it.  Unless we travel together someday you’ll never really know, so put down the gavel, judge judgerson.

We weren’t about to drive back into the city so I busted out the trusty iPhone and found us a local club not a mile away from the hotel.  I had no cash though, and I knew there would be a cover charge.  That charge wouldn’t look so hot on my American Express Corporate Card when I did my expense report, so I pulled out forty bucks and we navigated towards the boobies.

I believe Bud’s exact words were; “I mean, we got two choices, we can go sit in the hotel room and stare at the wall or we can go look at some boobies.  I’d rather look at some boobies.”

Boobies it was.

We arrived at the Déjà vu club and paid an eleven-dollar door charge.  It was alcohol free, but the drinks were bottomless.  A bottomless coke so you could look at bottomless girls.  I don’t know who came up with the formula, but it goes like this; boobs equal booze, vagina’s equal soda pop.  We could speculate all day on this.  I don’t have all day.

The club was clean, the girls attractive, the music obnoxiously loud.  The chairs were comfy and we settled in, leaned back and watched the girls strip to techno music.  Bud was like my father-in-law, only minus the smiles and charm.  He just sat back, expressionless.  When girls approached him to talk and finagle a dance out of him he quickly shoed them away.  He was not Mr. Personality with the ladies.

He had turned to say something to me when I felt the weight of two breasts plummet onto the top of my head.  This is how endowed strippers get your attention when sitting down.  The lady in question then removed her mammary’s from my head and turned to face me.  She was exceptionally tall and plump with blonde hair and a slightly upturned nose.  Not my description of the perfect stripper, but I wasn’t there to judge.  I don’t know what the fuck I was doing there, actually.

I'll miss you, my lovely...

She introduced herself as “Saga,” which I had to have her say again and again, eventually having her spell it for me.  Stripper names are so stupid.  I get it, but it’s stupid.  We made small talk.  She was from Iceland and was an aspiring comic book artist, just like me.  Only I’m not from Iceland.

We talk comics for a bit and I know where the whole thing is going.  Eventually one of the bar girls comes up and asks if I’ve ever been there before and explains how the dancers have to pay a hundred bucks a night just to dance there, but keep whatever they make over that.  She suggested that I buy “Saga” a drink, which basically meant, pay this girl or she’s moving on.

I didn’t really care if she moved on as I wasn’t really attracted to her anyway, but felt that since it was never my intention to come to this place that it didn’t matter.  I relented and bought her a drink and we yammered on over the music for another five minutes until she hit me with it.  The inevitable “do you want a dance?”

Oh, how I did not want a dance from her.  The bottom line is, no matter what you might think about someone who goes into a strip club, if you’re going to go into one you may as well pay for what you want.  I didn’t want “Saga,” but I didn’t really want to be insulting, either.  I also felt obligated at this point, since we had talked for as long as we did.  I didn’t want to hurt this girl’s feelings and imagined her seeing me get a “dance” from a skinnier, hotter girl and feeling slighted because of it.

I’m sure these girls have way tougher skin than that, but that was my neurotic side playing against me.  Sometimes I feel like Larry David in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, where I’m over thinking and overanalyzing every situation I’m in.  This was one of them.  If I were balding and Jewish I would have fit perfectly into the moment.

So, I agreed to get a “dance” from this girl, much to my own shock and dismay.  She led me to the back room where I sat in a chair and she sat on my lap.  She was not light, but I pretended it didn’t affect me.  Once the song began she did her thing, which was okay enough.  She smelled like sweat and body odor and the whole thing just didn’t work for me.  It wasn’t the most horrible thing in the world, but I remember Bud saying our other choice was to stare at the hotel wall and I suddenly preferred that.

When it was over, for the first time in my life, I was thankful.  Most guys would never complain about a half naked girl writhing on top of them.  However, sometimes it’s just not everything you imagine it should be.  I gave her twenty bucks and slinked back to my chair.  Bud sat there silently judging me for getting sucked into a dance with the fat chick.  I sulked a bit, but figured “what the fuck,” which we all do when trying to rationalize something we aren’t quite proud of, but won’t lose any sleep over.

We sat around for a while longer, Bud still entranced and expressionless.  I couple of times I thought about poking his arm to see if he was alive.  That’s just what I needed.  My travelling companion having a heart attack at a strip club on a business trip.  How the fuck do you explain that shit to the boss?  “You see, what happened was…”

Bud still had a pulse, though, and we vacated after about an hour.  It felt longer, but I hoped he had enough material to work with when he was alone in his hotel room again.  I just wanted to get back and take a shower.  I smelled like stripper perfume and had glitter all over my clothes and face.  I was the consistency of a smashed cosmetics counter.

Are You Ready?

The next morning I did my Biggest Loser workout from memory again (why do I keep telling you that?), showered, got my last coffee in Seattle, and ate my last breakfast at the Holiday Inn.  For some reason, I began to feel nostalgic, like I was going to miss this place.  How odd.  I had been there for a total of three and a half days, and yet we’d been through a decent amount of experiences together.  The room felt like “my” room.

I had established a Starbucks to frequent, cut my teeth on the city, visited some restaurants I’d never been to before, and even found a Krispy Kreme.  I had built something familiar out of something unknown.  I had ventured out into the big, bad world, once again, and found my way, moved forth in undiscovered territory.

I wasn’t going to break my arm patting myself on the back, but it felt like an achievement.  A notch on the belt of my life.  I sat and watched the old biddy’s sit around and mouse about their Holiday Inn breakfast and thought about all the people that came through there on a daily basis, sharing breakfast, if even by themselves, and then moving on.  Do they feel the same?  Or do some travel so much that they lose the ability to feel nostalgia in the face of a short trip?

On the way to the airport, my sweet, female GPS takes us on a detour to the backdoor entrance.  We literally drove alongside the highway, where a similar exit existed, yet our little off road journey took half as long.  I looked at my phone, wanting to see if there was a female image in there laughing at me.  I was waiting to arrive at the rental car place and have that GPS voice giggle and say, “I was just fuckin’ with ya, man!”

Whoever designs those things has a sick sense of humor.

Goodbye, Seattle.

We mill around the airport.  I visit shops, eventually buying an ugly doll plush toy for my son and a sock monkey night-light for my wife.  Man, people sell weird shit at the airport.  Even weirder people (like me) buy it.  In the last minutes before flying out, Bud and I exchange our last words, which are, “See you on the ground.”

However, we would not see each other on the ground.  I was quick to exit and quick to leave, never really caring if I said a proper good-bye to Bud.  We hadn’t exactly bonded.  We just made the best of being stuck together and that was that.  Hollywood won’t be turning our story into a movie anytime soon, but it was a moment, it existed, it happened, and now it will remain as snapshots in our memories, neither significant nor insignificant.  Just memories.

And that’s life, isn’t it?  A series of moments, however big or small, all slapped together on a reel of film, until it reaches the end, the picture going out with suddenness, the film slapping around the reel of a finished life.

I walk back into the cold Alaskan air and find my wife waiting for me.  I toss my bags in the car, smile at my son, and close the door.  “How was your flight?” she asks.

“It was fine,” I say, because it was.

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2 Responses to Hello, Seattle

  1. Lisa September 24, 2010 at 10:09 pm #

    Sometimes I wonder how Man vs. Food and Diners, Drive ins and Dives get their suggestions for places to go. I can tell you right now that there are several places in the greater Seattle area with burgers that are a hell of a lot better than Red Mill. Somehow that place seems to get the most press though. Obviously whoever runs the place has friends in high places.
    I’m sorry you ended up in a strip joint near Tacoma. I’m surprised that any of the girls in there were attractive. Tacoma is like the armpit of WA state. Although they do have Starbucks and apparently a halfway decent Holiday Inn.
    If you ever make it back here with your wonderful wife and kid then we will show you the good places to eat, and if you feel the need to go to a strip club we can point you in the direction of a few that might be better.

    • Paul Shirey September 24, 2010 at 10:14 pm #

      Yeah, it was rather underwhelming. Adam Richman is one hell of an acto–I mean, host. I enjoy the show, but either Richman is tripping on ‘shrooms and experiencing everything on his palate in a drug-induced dream state or he’s going for an Emmy.

      I tried to sell the wife on a trip back to Seattle, but it didn’t work out this year. We’ll make it sometime soon, though. I thought it was a cool place and would love to return. I need a worthy sequel to this blog. Plus, I need to get my son to a proper strip club.

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