48 Hours in Seattle (Not Your Typical City Guide)

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Two unexpected things happened while Joe and I were in Seattle: We visited a store called Uncle Ike’s Pot Shop, and I enjoyed watching a football game.

Quick backstory – January was a pretty stressful month. My mom’s health is in rough shape, and on New Year’s Eve she took a bad fall in her apartment (her third fall in a month) and was admitted to the hospital, where she spent two weeks recovering from an infection and undergoing tests and physical therapy. A few days before she was discharged, a specialist told her she likely has one of two rare neurological disorders causing her balance issues, but that there is no definitive test for diagnosis, because neurology is “the black hole of medicine.”

Since my mom is in Victoria and I’m in Portland, I had several phone conversations during her hospital stay with nurses, a hospitalist, a social worker, her assisted living coordinator, her psychiatrist, and her mental health case manager, some of which were helpful, most of which were frustrating. I didn’t want to ruin our Seattle trip by feeling tense and edgy the whole time, so I got my butt to yoga class the morning before we left, and had a skype with my best friend Melissa that afternoon. You know when you realize you’re not just crying as your friend listens, but sob-crying? Like, so loudly it startles her baby? That was me.

So when Joe and I walked into a vintage shop in Seattle’s Capitol Hill the next day, which turned out to be full of weird taxidermied ducks and was run by an old bearded dude who smelled like weed, I thought, hmmm…weed. That would be nice.

I mentioned the thought to Joe, who said, “We’re in Washington. It’s legal here.”

Realizing you suddenly feel like smoking a joint in a city where you don’t know anyone is typically followed by tedious logistics such as ‘how’ and ‘where’ and ‘is it worth the mission’? But in Seattle, you just ask your lunch server at Saint John’s Bar & Eatery, who will say something like, “Uncle Ike’s is the closest,” and then proceed to write down directions while you sip on a Bloody Mary.

The food at Saint John’s, too, was good: we shared a plate of goat-cheese stuffed dates and a bowl of sweet potato curry soup. Joe drank a bourbon cocktail called Les Boissons with lemon, sugar, and bitters and we flipped through The Stranger, Seattle’s alternative weekly, which featured a column called ‘The High List: Recommended Events for Stoners’. (Along with suggestions such as the Seattle Art Museum’s exhibit on contemporary art in India, which features a “full-size glistening red Gandhi delighted by his iPod”, the article included a ‘Nearby Snack’ for every stop.)

While we ate, I pictured our next destination. I mean, when a store is called ‘Uncle Ike’s Pot Shop’, what do you imagine? Ike would be there, of course, a long-haired, gravelly-voiced guy surrounded by bongs. The shop’s walls would be decorated with vintage posters and sarongs; it would have the cramped, cluttered feel of your grandparent’s basement. I should know better than to subscribe to stereotypes, but this is the mental image that appeared.

The reality was totally different. Uncle Ike’s is a small box-shaped building with a bouncer at the door who checks your ID. The inside looks like a cell phone store. The aesthetic is completely generic, no tie-dyed anything, no Uncle named Ike.

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But the service is amazing. After waiting in line for a few minutes, we were greeted by a cheerful dark-haired girl in her early 20s (she was one of about five sales staff) who seemed the opposite of stoned. When she asked what we were looking for, I said I wanted to relax, but still feel energetic enough for our 9:45 pm dinner reservation. “I know exactly what you need,” she said. “I’m not sure how else to put this, but we get a lot of housewives who come in, and they always get the Chocolope. It makes them focus. They’re like, ‘I can get my to-do list done three times as fast!'”

Completing a to-do list while baked? This definitely wasn’t a part of my past experience. The focus part sounded good, but I wondered about options that were slightly more chill. “People love Snoop’s Dream,” she said. “It’s half indica, half sativa. I think of it as the perfect Netflix-watching companion.”

Then she showed us one more strain, a sort of  “combination of the two” called Cinex. “You should just get all three!” she said. “Then you can see what you like best.”

Hard to argue with that logic, right? We walked out with two pre-rolled joints, a gram, and a complimentary “Uncle Ike’s” lighter…

IMG_1600and shared a little of the Chocolope that afternoon. For me, it was as described on the package: “Calming, mentally positive, and uplifting.” Joe got a bit quiet, while I became more talkative. We’d brought a nice bottle of Cabernet for the trip, so I poured a couple glasses and tuned up the guitar I saw hanging on the wall of our friends Josh and Melinda’s place, where we were staying.

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They live in the lower level of a house on Phinney Ridge in Northwest Seattle, and have a huge picture window in their living room that overlooks the neighbourhood.

IMG_1607I played all the songs I could remember and then it was time for The Pink Door, an Italian-American restaurant that my friend Dianna (and several other people) recommended. The Pink Door’s website describes it as “a seductive netherworld fronted by a milky rose portal” where the “tides of reality wash away.”

It was awesome.

Pink Door

(photo via firstcomeslove)

The “milky rose portal” refers to the restaurant’s pale pink door/entrance, which is tucked away in a downtown alley, with no sign. Once inside, you walk down a steep staircase to the dining room, which has 20-foot ceilings, super dark lighting, and trapeze swings. (Apparently trapeze artists perform there on Sundays and Mondays while people are dining.)  We shared calamari, the mushroom pasta feature, and the white fish of the day, then peeked around the corner into the lounge for the tail end of a cabaret show, which happens every Saturday. If you visit Seattle, eat at the The Pink Door.

Other Saturday Highlights:

Joe showing off his breakfast skills…(the man is gifted with eggs)

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and wandering around Elliott Bay Book Co, a big, beautiful bookstore on 10th Avenue.

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Joe’s friend Steve, who he grew up with in Crystal Lake, Illinois, lives in Bellingham, so on Sunday, he drove to Seattle to meet us. It was game on. Not just for Joe, Steve, and I, who met at a pub called McCoy’s Firehouse near the stadium, but for the Seattle Seahawks, who were playing the conference championship game against the Green Bay Packers.

As some of you know, I’m not a football fan. I tried to learn the rules last year when I was visiting Joe’s family because they all love it (and were watching it on his parent’s flat-screen TV), but I quickly gave up. When I watch, all I see is dudes bashing into each other. Joe explains the downs and the yards and the role of the running back versus the receiver and my brain does the same thing it does when I watch 3o seconds of an action movie: it starts thinking about other things. Give me a puck flying across the ice on a third-period power play any day.

But this was a championship game, and the guys wanted to watch it. No problem, I thought. I’ll bring The Stranger with me and read it at the bar while the game’s on.

I’m an idiot. The pub was packed with Seahawks fans. The game was taking place at the stadium just blocks away. The winning team would be going to the Super Bowl. What was I thinking? There would be no reading.

I mean, look at these guys.

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And look at the crowd.

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This was a time for getting into it, fan or not.

What happened was, I got caught up in a variation of the phenomenon known as Collective Joy, when your experience is elevated by others who are celebrating/participating in the same event. Barriers dissipate on these occasions. The seven-foot tall dude in a Seahawks jersey who you’ve never met before is high fiving everyone at your table, who have suddenly become your friends. The 50-something man shouting “We all we need!” every time the Seahawks advance is hugging you when they score a touchdown. When they recover an onside kick (as Joe explains it) while down five points with two minutes left , the room explodes: fire alarms blare;  a chorus of “Sea! Hawwwwks!” erupts, a lone Packers fan stares at the screen in disbelief; your friend Steve starts kissing a girl he met that morning.

And then the Seahawks win. In overtime. A “come from behind” victory that looked impossible just minutes before. If you had seen me jumping up and down with the rest of the crowd, you would have thought I not only knew who Russell Wilson was (the quarterback, it turns out) but that I, too,  had spent my childhood Sundays gathered around the television snacking on chicken wings and yelling at missed tackles and game-changing interceptions.

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Seattle freaked out. My photos of the scene on the street are all too blurry to post, but picture crowds chanting, people hanging out of car windows and waving flags, bars packed with fans in jerseys toasting strangers. You might say our plan to ‘check out Pike Place Market after the game’ was intercepted…

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so we went for dinner instead, to List, a recommendation from Tracy, my former yoga teacher in Victoria. It has happy hour all day on Sundays and Mondays, with half price off a whole section of the menu. Steve, Joe, and I shared the flatbread with feta, cranberries, and pine nuts, gnocci with black truffle cream, fresh clams with chardonnay broth, and a bottle of their Italian house red. It was all delicious and an extremely good deal. Steve took this picture…

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and we headed home, where Snoop’s Dream was waiting.

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Seattle: We’ll be back.

Seahawks: I’m sorry you lost the Super Bowl two weeks later. Truly.

Josh and Melinda: Thank you, thank you for letting us stay in your home while you were on the other side of the world. It’s lovely.

Uncle Ike’s: Any chance you’ll be opening in Portland?

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