From the Top

Our cautious approach to ambulation worked for my friend and I yesterday, even if we did look like a couple of chubby zombies headed for the center of Seattle. Baby steps, as a course of action across Denny, was the right way to go.

We purchased our “night and day” passes for the Space Needle so that we could see everything later, after dusk. With our ride up the escalator, we were treated to a 41-second tour of the facility and surrounding area. There is a lot one can articulate in 41 seconds, I learned. We looked out at Elliot Bay and walked around the observation deck, two-thirds of which was enjoyable, and one-third of which chilled me right down to my DNA strands.

The day before, Seattle took on about 4 inches of snow, and if there were ever cause for 550,000 people to look at the sky like a Busby Berkeley version of Chicken Little, this, apparently, was it. The end of days! Time is nigh! Quick, load up that DVD copy of Left Behind! Everyone! Run to QFC and buy five gallons of water, a package of paraffin candles, and every battery you can find!

Stricken with abject terror, commuters raced to their cars so that they could spend the next 2.5 hours sitting in the middle of every intersection on their way, ensuring that nobody got anywhere. It was wishful thinking behavior en masse, if the wish were to sit idling and listening to Rhianna on the radio. So much for the green, ecological leanings of the Pacific Northwest set.

With temperatures not expected to break the mid-20s the next day, Emerald City was a ghost town. Michael and I had our run of the observation deck and the kitschy gift store. They told us when we bought the night pass that we should come early because the Needle would close before its 11PM usual time, probably around 9:30, due to the snow and ice. We made our mental note.

We crawled across the road, figuring that if we were close to the ground, we wouldn’t have far to fall when we slipped. I’d noticed that parking was easy; half a block away and I’d found street parking, which is a little unheard of around these parts.

Next up we went to Vivace in my neighborhood, and for 3PM on a Tuesday, it didn’t seem significantly less busy to me, except there is usually a line for espresso, and on this day it never got much longer than two or three people. I wanted to show my friend a home wares store nearby, and was shocked at the sign on the door: closed for inclement weather. Seriously? I looked at the roads. The side streets weren’t great, but the main roads were clear. What was the big deal, anyway? Isn’t Seattle on the northern border of the United States next to Canada? It’s not like 4 inches hit Miami. We shrugged and combed through REI’s flagship store instead. Michael was aghast that anyone would spend $229.99 on a climbing axe, much less two of them.

“This is white people’s shit,” he said, and we laughed. I took interest in the small, impossibly bright fluorescent camp lights. Why hadn’t these all been bought up yesterday in the Snowpocalypse of December ’10? Wandering around, we were a little amazed at the broad spectrum of products focused on Those Who Camp and Those Who Dance with Mountains. There is a whole lot of stuff to procure just to commune with nature.

Sun had set, so we drove back over to the Space Needle and spent 6.2 minutes looking at the pretty twinkling lights of the many miles around us. In the dark, the cold was brutish, and we couldn’t stand it for long. We took pictures, hoping at least one of them would turn out. Silly $300 camera, pix are for kids!

Next, off to dinner. I’d made reservations online with Open Table for Flying Fish, which I’d heard many times was the premiere seafood restaurant in a city full of seafood restaurants. Our jaws dropped as we pulled into the naked strip of street parking spots.

The restaurant was closed. Another hand-scribbled sign in the door.


I grumbled, pissed because I don’t get to eat fish that often with a partner who is severely allergic to fish. We knew we had to go to Whole Foods for a few Thanksgiving items, so I swung the car around on the empty thoroughfare and pulled up next to the elevator in the parking garage. Now this was just plain weird. But not to worry, there was still a long line at the checkout counter! Whew!

Just upstairs from the grocery is another seafood restaurant—they’re almost as popular as coffee houses—so we walked up to the doors to look at the menu. A Zagat’s Guide boasted that this, right here, was the Number One Ranked seafood establishment in all of Seattle. Serendipity? Or careless review methodology? We would soon find out.

A cup of Dungeness crab and corn bisque later, and I was grinning. Zagat’s, way to go. I sank into my sea scallops with black truffle and creamy garlic sauce, and savored every buttery, party-in-my-mouth bite. Somehow we’d hit a home run on dinner.

I drove my friend to his hotel and crashed at home, having no more energy for panoramic views, Vibrex shoes, or seafood. Happy holidays, everyone!

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