Seattle - a travelogue
In 1999, my friend Sumanth Vepa (hereafter referred to as `Vepa') left Morgan Stanley, and went to Seattle to join amazon.com, in search of greener pastures. As soon as he joined amazon, the pastures there started turning a dull green, and then turned a dull yellow, and have since burnt down to a sad, darkish shade of brown. All that is left there are a few random weeds, and a bunch of software engineers milling around, hoping that the rains will arrive any day now.
When he was with Morgan, Vepa lived in New York, and he and I used to be regulars at the $3 movie theater in midtown. After the movie, we would always go to John's Pizzeria for dinner. Since he left for Seattle, the $3 movie theater has been closed down. And John's shut its doors a few months ago. So perhaps it is time for me to move on as well.
Anyhow, he'd been inviting me to visit Seattle since he moved, in particular promising that we would go to Mount St Helens when I came. As I understand it, it has become mandatory for him to take every visitor to Mount St Helens. It's a permanent feature on the Sumanth Vepa Guided Tour of Seattle. I took him up on his offer, and so it was that May 24th found me on a JetBlue flight, relaxing on a nice leather seat, watching satellite TV, on my way to Seattle. My flight got in at about 11:30pm.
Vepa's wife, Tushyati, was arriving from Cincinnati at the about the same time as me. Tushyati and I met in the baggage claim area, and Vepa came by a little while later. We had dinner and the local Denny's, and then went home.
The next day, Tushyati stayed home and did some homework she'd brought, while Vepa and I drove around the Olympic peninsula. I took some photos, which are randomly distributed on this page. Vepa took some photos too, which will be showing up on his web page any day now. (Our itinerary included a stop at Ruby Beach, where I took some photos, but decided not to include any on this page after seeing Philip Greenspun's photo of the place.) Our trip was fun; we saw some great sights, and it kept intermittently raining, in classic Seattle fashion. We had a late lunch, at a Chinese restaurant in Port Angeles. Vepa tells me that the restaurant is also becoming part of his regular Seattle area tour. By the time we got back home, it was 8pm.
When it came to choosing a place for dinner, Tushyati suggested Cajun/Creole food, and I heartily supported the idea. (My New Orleans travelogue is full of praise for that kind of food.) We did a web search and found a place called New Orleans Creole, on Washington Avenue, right downtown. As soon as we got there, however, it became apparent that it was not the kind of place we were hoping it would be.
First of all, there was a cover charge of $10 to enter the restaurant. You know your restaurant isn't too fancy when it there is a cover charge. And true enough, it wasn't. In fact, it reminded me of Bourbon Street in New Orleans: tourists, loud young people, and loud jazz music. There was a live band playing, very loudly, and most of the diners were expressing their support of the band, also very loudly. The website for the restaurant says: "You'd propably have to go to New Orleans to find another place like it." Other than the spelling mistake, I would agree. We got a table in the back, and sat down on folding chairs.
The food wasn't bad. It had a sort of rugged quality to it, as did our waitress. Tushyati had a hurricane, which she quite enjoyed, and I bravely ordered a drink called "Swamp Water," which tasted just like it sounds. After the dinner, we decided to find dessert elsewhere, and quickly left. We enjoyed a quiet walk by the waterfront, then strolled around downtown for a bit, and then came home.
Most of the second day (Sunday) was spent in Mount St Helens, and that page has the story and pictures.
By the time we got back from Mount St Helens, it was already 8:30pm. First, we stopped by Vepa's office, because I insisted on seeing the office of the world's most famous internet retailer. The office decor in amazon is best described as "Under Construction." It looked like construction workers left before completing their work, or that they did finish the work, but the office was recently attacked by crazed wolverines who left it in shambles.
Naturally, I assumed that I was witnessing the aftermath of the earthquake of 2001, and they hadn't gotten around to cleaning up the mess. But Vepa assured me that this "look" was intentional. I guess this was the decor equivalent of the "bedhead" hairstyle that was so fashionable in the late 90s. For those not familiar with this hairstyle, this was the one where the guy looked like he had just rolled out of bed, perhaps a bed where eggs were placed under his head and broke open in the night, making the hair stick together while being simultaneously disheveled. But I'm digressing from the point: we were in amazon's office, and while we were there, we did a web search to find a place to eat.
The place picked for tonight was a Pan Asian restaurant called Wild Ginger, which had a food rating of 26 (out of 28) in the Zagat guide. Vepa claimed to have gone there before, and we decided to try it. When we got there, Vepa took one look at the place and realized that this was not the place where he had been. But it looked good, and we were too tired to go looking for another restaurant, so we went and sat down. It contrasted in every way from the place we ate the night before: this place was elegant, quiet, and the food was superb. My duck entreé (which came with a plum sauce) was glorious, and the Lichi Martini was a triumph. The quiet, relaxing ambiance provided just what we needed after an incredibly hectic afternoon and evening. It was the perfect end to a great day. The next time I come to Seattle, I'm so going back to Wild Ginger.
On Monday morning, Tushyati left pretty early, whereas my flight wasn't until midnight. So Vepa and I spent the day first going to Snoqualmie Falls, and then to downtown, where the Northwest folklife festival was happening. There were hundreds of folk musicians and street performers, but what was more interesting was that pretty much every person that was not actually performing was handing out flyers supporting some cause or other. It was a huge gathering of people who believe in things.
In the evening, Vepa and I watched some Jeeves and Wooster videos, and had dinner at Isabella's, an Italian place downtown, where the food was good, and the service was comforting. I also had them pack me food for my flight. Then Vepa dropped me off at the airport. It was a relaxing end to a hectic but very very fun trip.