April 14, 2009

From SFO to Seattle

R. and I were in Seattle. Click "read more" to see a bunch of pictures and words about it.     I last posted about seeing Bishop Allen in San Francisco. I was there on business. After a week and a half I moved from San Francisco (Palo Alto really) to Seattle for the second half of my business trip. While there, R. joined me for the week and half. I also had a chance to catch up with some old friends, and we caught two shows while out there. First up, proof that I was indeed in Seattle. The Space Needle and the Seattle Public Library are two Seattle architectural icons that are just great buildings. Amazingly, even though I've been in and out of Seattle many times (my family is from Washington State originally) I have never been on the Monorail. I would like to ride it sometime. R. took a ride on it when she visited the Space Needle and got a few nice shots. It looks like Seattle is building out a mass transit system though: they have these great tunnels that run downtown for the buses. They are supposed to be train stations, and will be when the light rail goes into service sometime this year, but now they are express bus stops. It is really great that you can ride free in the downtown zone during the day, which I think really encourages people to use public transport.

Dinner with friends

R. and I were able to meet up with some friends for dinner at various times. We had two or three nice dinners in Seattle, one at the Steam Head Diner with my old friend Jon Evans and his wife Lily and my friend Gerd from work, and another at the Palace Kitchen with friends from work. They were both quite nice. Palace Kitchen was a really fun place with tasty food and a nice atmosphere. We didn't have the best service at Steam Head Diner, but the food was good and the company was also. I think they were just a bit busy at the time, so I can forgive them.

Another nice dinner we had was at Vi Bacchus, a Japanese place. It is run by a Japanese couple and was pretty good. R. was interested in seeing what American sushi is like, so we went there because it was close to the concert we were going to and had good reviews. The interesting thing was that they had many, many types of rolls. We ordered Spider rolls (fried crab and stuff in a roll) and a Seattle roll (avocado and tuna.) Usually in Japan the rolls are pretty simple, and there isn't nearly the same variety. Tuns rolls, cucumber rolls, maybe California rolls (but probably not) and another kind of chopped tuna roll. They had a nice selection of Sake also, and R. overall gave it a positive review. I was hoping that the menu had things like "h j k l" or "esc : w q" on the menu, but no such luck. Next time I'm going to look for Emacs Bacchus. I think I would like that better - it is much more my style. A user-extensible menu, you can make your own sushi closures, and the menu is self-documenting. I hear the place is a lot bigger than Vi Bacchus, and unfortunately service is slower also.

Concerts

There were two concerts in town that we were able to catch. R. really also wanted to see the Los Campesitos concert, but we weren't able to make it due to other commitments. The two that we were able to see though were very good. I'm a fan of both Allens: Bishop and Lily. So when I checked and saw that she had a show while we were there, I got tickets for us, and our friends Jon and Lily joined us. The opening band, "Natalie Portman's Shaved Head" was absolutely awful. They had a total 80's vibe going, and I think were trying to ironically make fun of the music of the time, but they went too far and ended up just sucking, although conceptually I liked their idea. The implementation left a lot to be desired. Like, instead of a 40 minute show, a 10 minute show would have been pretty good. Maybe. Anyway, look them up for the train-wreck quality spectacle, but I don't think they are a group that I will follow in any way.

Lily Allen was very good. She was super cute, very personable, and had a good voice despite losing the low range due to sickness or fatigue. She also really worked the crowd. I was surprised at how young the crowd was: the place was full of tweens, like 12 year olds and up. Lots of women too. At any rate, it was a very enjoyable show. I bought her second album a day or two before, and while I don't like it as much as her first album (on an admittedly very small number of listens) it is a good album and will make the rotation. There are a few songs on it that come off as preachy, but better to have social activism in music than not to have any at all.

We also saw "Friendly Fires UK", a kind of dance / house band that R. likes. I thought they were pretty good for the genre, but I'm not a real house / dance guy myself. I did like the second act, "White Lies" quite a bit; they are more of a traditional rock group. Their stuff is a bit dark, but the lead vocal has a good, strong voice, and their music was pretty tight. I'll have to go back and check out some of the studio stuff when I get a chance.

I don't remember much about the opening act. They were unremarkable. They weren't bad though (see "Natalie Portman's Shaved Head" above - although I am positive that I will remember that group for much, much longer.)

Underground Tour

R. and I also went on the Seattle Underground tour together. I had done this once before as a kid, and hardly remembered anything about it. Actually, I mid-remembered and thought that there was an entire underground city under Seattle, and somehow I had confused it a bit with the Land of the Lost TV show and have vague memories of the Sarlacks (is that right?) running around down there. Actually, there is only one level of buildings down below the current Seattle, and the streets have been filled in, so basically you just have the area under the sidewalks to play around in, and much of the interconnects between buildings have been filled in. The skylights are really impressive. I think it would be cool if Seattle would renovate down there, and use the underground mall structure as a great way to avoid rain and the winter weather, but it isn't likely to happen.

Also, the story about how Seattle as a city shared one wooden pipe for all their sewage, cleverly elevated above ground, but below sea level when tide comes in, is an amusing story of how not to do city planning.

Other misc pictures

Yep, I went to the first Starbucks. They had coffee there, tasted like the same coffee I can get in the lobby of Cross Tower in Tokyo. But made with more love and cup-throwing.

We went to my friend Jon's place, which was cool. I lost my camera in Dallas (not cool! (but that means at some point I will have to get another one (cool! (but that is expensive (not cool!))))) so had to rely on R. to take pictures. I got about 40 pictures from her at Jon's place. This is the only one that is a picture of Jon. The others are all of the super-cute dog, Wicket. (What you say? That is not a picture of Jon? Well, close enough.)

I like Smith tower. It was at one point the 4Th largest building in the US. A long time ago. It looks ... very phallic. But it has a distinctive style that still looks impressive today. I am so bored of plain rectangular window towers. This shot was taken from the Columbia Center tower, which isn't a plain rectangular tower, but still isn't all that exciting. It is very tall though: the tallest in Seattle. And as someone who works in the building (for small enough values of work) I was able to get R. and myself up to the observation deck for free. Sweet!

So those are the highlights from the Seattle trip: good food, good friends (too bad my friend Micky moved from Seattle to Boston only a few weeks ago), good music (but the Bishop Allen concert in San Francisco still takes the cake) and fun tours. R. did a lot more tourist stuff than I did, since I was working all week, but I am really glad I at least got to do the underground tour with her.



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