Rosie and Me: Day 9. U of W and Teatro Zinzanni

Well of course Day 9 started with a long walk and coffee! Do you even need to ask now?

Bird on a Wire was the site of my doppio espresso and sparkling water stop for the morning, followed by Elizabeth’s hosted walk to the local community garden, a very cool little place that boasted flowers, veggies, sculpture, arches, and all manner of coolness. My pictures do it better justice than my words could, so here you go.

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Day 9 also included a trip to the campus of the University of Washington, home of the Huskies, sort of DAWG wannabes, if you will. Not that the football team could even match the extreme awesomeness of the BullDAWGS of the University of Georgia, but the campus was indeed beautiful. Oh, okay, okay, props for beating the stink out of California 31-7.

Again, pictures are worth a thousand words, so here you go.

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Of course, just down from the U of W campus is what is considered by most to be the oldest coffee shop in Seattle, Cafe Allegro. We had to stop in there for a moment off our feet, and I tried not coffee (surprise, surprise) but hot apple cider. It was excellent!

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Next stop on Day 9 was the downtown area around the Space Needle (alas, we did not have to time to ride to the top, but that will get checked off the list the next visit west) and the absolutely stunning Chihuly Garden and Glass installation. Wow, the color and the imagination and the stunning design of these pieces was just incredible. Please enjoy just a part of what we saw there.

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Now, what visit to any major city is complete without seeing some kind of show, right? Especially a dinner theater show that is full of zaniness, comedy, juggling, high wire acts and an aerial tango that will leave you speechless. This was Teatro Zinzanni, something that Elizabeth told me was a must-see while I was in town. Saturday night was capped off by this wonderful, funny, very enjoyable experience.

Sis claims that she did not arrange this on purpose, but we ended up sitting at the VIP table with none other than the founder, artistic director, president and CEO of the Teatro, Mr. Norman Langill. What a treat! He was gracious, as was his friend, and they asked us several times about our experience, our enjoyment of the show, etc. It was a great way to cap a super first visit to Seattle that will definitely not be my last. Elizabeth and I grabbed a picture with two of the very funny stars of the show afterwards. (I’m not at all sure how this guy managed to walk in those high heels, much less perform in them!)

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What a wonderful day it was. What a lovely city to visit. Again, I cannot thank my friend Elizabeth enough for taking the time away from work and family to show me the city that she obviously loves very much. If you have a chance to get to Seattle, check out these places!

On to Portland! The Day 10 post will be forthcoming later today. See you back here tonight.

Rosie and Me: Day 8. (Not) Sleeping in Seattle

Okay, for those of you following along at home, this is actually Day 11 of this round the country magical mystery tour. Do not adjust your set. Just know that I am way behind on posting my thoughts and reviews for your viewing pleasure. I will attempt to rectify that this morning. I am sitting in Ristretto Roasters in downtown Portland, Oregon, in the shadow of the iconic bridge, just out of view of Mt. Hood. I’m savoring a fig scone and drinking an excellent Americano, Costa Rican specifically, and feeling more than just a little awesome.

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Now, how can I describe Day 8?

First of all, the day started with a visit to my now favorite little sister, Elizabeth, in Seattle. We had known each other for about a year and change online, and we had talked on the phone a few times, but we had never met in person before this trip to Seattle. This was super. It is so much fun to walk up to the house, knock on the door, and suddenly be friends, “real” friends, with someone you feel like you’ve known for years, not months.

Elizabeth then proceeded, in true little sister fashion, to kick my butt. She took me on her usual walk route, with a few more hills thrown in I think, just for kicks, and showed me Lincoln Park, the ferry docks,

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the islands in the distance (she told me they were there, like the mountains, but I’m still not sure because there was so much freakin’ FOG in Seattle, you know?) and assured me that Mt. Ranier did indeed exist. (Yep, FOG, clouds, grayness) This was a good walk unspoiled, a nice, damp, green, lush, talk-about-the-problems-of-the-world walk. A get-to-know-who-you-really-are-and-now-I’m-sure-I-like-you walk. A boy-am-I-glad-I-finally-got-to-meet-you-in-person-and-you’re-awesome walk.

My very first coffee shop visit in Seattle was at Bird on a Wire, Elizabeth’s neighborhood shop, and it was of course wonderful.

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I met the barista, and later on (at another visit) was even privy to the Christmas Tree story. I cannot relate it here, for fear that at my next visit she might intentionally overcaffeinate me, but it was awesome too.

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Before I go on, I’ll tell you that I like to shoot for six thousand steps a day at home, unless I’m working a sixteen hour day and just can’t get that much exercise in. On Friday, Elizabeth, my new sister, tried to kill me. We walked 19,088 steps, 318% of my usual goal.

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Oh, we did not stop at one coffee shop. Heavens no. We visited Cafe Umbria, Cherry Street Pioneer, and several others during this visit.

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You know how much I love coffee and coffee shops and the whole culture that involves, so this part of the country is a little piece of heaven.

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There was shopping at the Pike Place Market, a wonderful place that hosts the very first Starbucks coffee location, wonderful flower vendors and of course fresh fruit and vegetable stands and fish markets. We bought four Dungeness crabs for the Seafood Fest that night with friends, and these were processed and cleaned on the spot for us. Cool!

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There was shopping for the grand kiddies at a wonderful toy store, shopping and looking at other stores all around town. The day is not complete without being a little wild and crazy at Magic Mouse Toys.

Of course, one of the highlights of the young visit to Seattle was the Seafood Extravaganza at Elizabeth, John and Zoey’s house on Friday night. This was a mini-reunion for me, Vickie Vanlandingham Stoddard, and Steve Stallings, along with his wife Darlene. I had not seen these guys in almost four decades! Elizabeth went way over the top in the good hostess category, cooking and baking and helping Vickie and me celebrate our upcoming birthdays this month. It is always fun to be with friends, but there’s something very special about seeing old friends and making new ones all at the same time, and just enjoying each other’s company. It was a special night. As I know you’re reading this, Sis, I have to thank you publicly again for making that dinner party so very special and fun for us all. Thanks to Zoey for singing for us too. What a treat!

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Yes, Day 8 of this cross-country trip was a special one. New friends, old friends, walking, shopping, eating, coffee, singing, celebrating. It makes me very humble and grateful to think how much friends and experiences with them make up the fabric of our lives, and how much we need them to be happy.

Thank you guys, for making this leg of my October journey so much fun.

Rosie and Me: Days 8 and 9

Yes, dear readers, I’m still here!

Haven’t fallen into a crab tank or slipped off the Space Needle or climbed Mount Ranier yet (can’t even see it yet because of Seattle’s signature clouds and fog)

I’m just having a blast with my friends Elizabeth and John and Zoey and Steve and Darlene and Vickie, eating way too much, walking miles to offset the eating (I hope!), buying gifts for grandkiddies and a few others and drinking a lot of good Seattle coffee.

Elizabeth has me out walking again at eight AM today, then it’s off to the university, more coffee and who knows what. A dinner theater show will cap the day and this wonderful visit to a lovely city.

My friend Ruth has planned another chock-full day in Portland tomorrow.

Don’t worry, the Field Notes notebook is full of scribbles and cards and receipts, and I’ll fill you in on all the details soon. I just may have to reach a hotel in Boise before they let me sit down long enough to write.

In the meantime, enjoy these glimpses into the fun with friends in Seattle.

Oh, and scandal be dammed.

GO DAWGS. Beat Mizzou!

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Rosie and Me: Day 7

I rolled up to the light behind a dozen other cars, and there he stood.

The city was already bustling, like any other American city. I’ve noticed that already in seven days of travel, in three thousand miles of movement over the landscape that is America the beautiful. Cities have their own personalities, their own skylines, but they wake up and go to sleep pretty much the same from one coast to the other. Oh, there are outliers, of course, like New York City. When I was there in May, going to the middle of Times Square in the middle of the night felt just as right as going there and waving to the cameras during the early morning shows. NYC never sleeps.

There he stood. He was tall, with long, matted dirty blond hair that fell about his shoulders and waved in the morning breeze. He had a beard and mustache, of course, a long beard that had not seen a trim in weeks, months. There was no gray in it. His face was streaked with the grime of street life. It was cool on its way to warmer, but cool, still and all. He was shirtless, which was odd in that it was cool, but also because he was standing beside this line of cars with drivers dressed and warm and coiffured and shaven. His dirty brown pants were color-matched to his tanned, streaked face, and the belt that held them up had seen better days.

He walked aimlessly back and forth, back and forth, covering a five or six foot path beside the line of cars parked there, drivers looking straight ahead, lost in thought or trying to find one that would distract them from the man to the left, pacing and long-haired and shirtless. He looked not at the drivers, for I’m sure he knew that he would find little solace there, but at the sky. Not at the sky, really, but toward the sky, out at it but not at it. His stare was vacant in every sense of the word. He was not focused. He was not hopeful.

He held a sign to his chest, as many often do as they stand silently at the corners of American cities. It was plain cardboard, torn at the edges, not neatly cut with scissors, tanned and smudged, and so it was fitting to hold it and have it match the rest of him. It summed things up for this man, I’m afraid. It described him without saying anything. It asked for what he needed to survive and it foretold what he was likely to get that day for his efforts. It told me, in a single glance, what he was thinking, what he was feeling, and what his dreams held.

It was blank.

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She came up to my table, no, bounced up, skipped up to it, with an energy that belied the hour.

“Good morning!” she offered, chipper and pert and full of the energy of youth.

She poured the coffee without even asking as I quickly saw was the custom in this wonderful little place. She had the local accent of course, different from what I was used to. Nice, short and clipped and neat and compact like she was. Her bright brown eyes sparkled. Her smile was quick and disarming.

She took my order efficiently, brought the food when it was time, kept the coffee cup filled and checked on me regularly. She knew her job and was very good at it.

She handed me the check, gave me time to look at it, then came back and finished the transaction at the table, fingers flying through the bills and change in her money belt.

Sweet. Nice. Efficient. Helpful.

Always tip breakfast waitresses generously.

I’m not sure where I first heard that, but I practice it wherever I go.

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I was getting close.

I had entered Washington state and was in sight of the Cascades, driving along through the largest hay baling and distributing section of the country that I’ve seen to date. I have never seen more hay bales in one place in my entire life.

Cruise control is a good thing in this part of the country. To paraphrase General Robert E. Lee, “It is good that speeding is so terrible, else we would grow too fond of it.” I was running smoothly over the flats and the hills, and then I topped a large one, cresting it and looking out over the valley below me, on to the range of greenish-brown mountains, some with gray rocky tops in the distance, that rose like a mirage several miles distant.

Then I saw it. Goosebumps rose on my arms and I felt a swelling in my chest that was totally unexpected.

I let out an audible gasp, followed by an “Ohhhhh…”

The snowcapped mountain rose like a beautiful behemoth over and above the range of peaks that I had already seen. It was nothing short of massive. It was clear as day, beautiful and huge and eternal. I thought at first that it must be an optical illusion of some sort, a trick of the light, a reflection of a lesser peak. I was still one hundred twenty five miles from Seattle, after all.

As I descended, it also retreated back behind the lesser peaks in front of it, finally disappearing from view. I knew it was still there, and that I would see it again when I made it through the mountains and arrived at my destination on the other side, nearer the coast. From what others had already told me, if the weather cooperated during my trip, and if the conditions were just right, “the mountain would be out” and I would be treated to that magnificent sight again before Rosie and I headed south for Portland.

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And that, my friends, is how I saw God today.

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