Apologies for the brief writing hiatus. It’s taken all I have the past two weeks to balance a plethora of social activity with an already hectic work schedule, all kicking off with a Paul McCartney concert two Sundays ago which was absolutely amazing. I nerded out and watched as a crowd of all ages danced and sang to the closest they will ever get to seeing the Beatles in real life. Maybe I basically sold my first born to get tickets, but if you ask me it was completely worth while, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Then my friend Katie came for a visit, and we crammed as much into a trip as humanly possible for the five days we had to spend time together. Katie was one of my college roommates. While I’ve spent the time since we finished undergrad traveling around from place to place and job to job, Katie has spent her days steadfastly in med school, spending all of her free time studying so she can spend her life helping other people. So I was grateful that when she finally did get some time, she managed to make a quick trip out to visit me.
I picked her up in the evening from the airport, giving her one of two decisions as we grabbed a quick bite at a taco stand: go back to my apartment and take it easy with a bottle of wine after the flight, or rush through dinner, try to adjust to her three hour time change, and go on the underground tour about prostitutes and the seedy underbelly of Seattle in the Underground Tour.
As I’d expect most of my close friends to do, she picked the latter, and soon we found ourselves on the bus to downtown Seattle’s underground. It’s one of my favorite touristy Seattle things to do, and it doesn’t get old for me to take people on the tours of the original streets of Seattle that exists quietly underneath all of the hustle and bustle of the city.
The tour guide asked where she was from, and she explained that she was visiting me for a few days. He asked how long she had left in town, and she said that she had only been here for a few hours, and he turned around to look at me quizzically. I shrugged and said, “I figured what better welcome than a tour about prostitution and drugs.”
I forget how much I enjoy spending time with Katie. Like when I point out the picture of the guy in a dress at the end of the underground tour, proud of myself for knowing that fact and expecting her to be shocked. She looked at the picture and said, “I don’t get it.”
“The woman in the black dress is really a man,” I explained.
“Yea, I get that. But they all look pretty man-ish in that picture don’t they. That should be the shocking part about it. Even the women look manly.”
I started laughing, realizing that I would now never be able to show this picture at the end of the tour without that comment running through my head.
As we rode the bus home, I secretly hoped that she saw some of the craziness around the city that I see on a near daily basis. I wondered if we only did touristy things, if she would get to see any of weirdness that exists out here.
My worries about her witnessing the freak show were quickly pacified when the bus had to stop and traffic had to go around a couple who was fighting in the middle of the street downtown. Then a woman got on the bus wearing a live cat on her shoulders as if it was a scarf. Katie looked at me as if in reassurance that this was real while I wondered why I had been so concerned that this wouldn’t be a part of her trip.
We drove up to Renton to see Jimi Hendrix grave, when Katie was navigating and one of my BBC new alerts went off on my phone, causing her to yell, “Oh NO! This is really going to upset you.”
That’s how we ended up in the parking lot of the graveyard Jimi Hendrix is buried, reading the news about how Prince had died. I didn’t feel like I properly gave Jimi’s memorial the right amount of attention because I was preoccupied with my shock about the information about Prince.
After our grave site visit, I shamelessly stopped at Costco to get the essentials: bulk toilet paper and vodka, as Katie stood shaking her head behind me as if nothing had changed since college. I talked to the checkout clerk to see if he had heard about Prince’s death. He looked at my purchase, likely wondering what weird mourning ritual I had.
From there we hit the ground running. We meandered through downtown, hitting up the Chihuly Museum and Pike’s Place Market. We ate at some great restaurants and tried pho for the first time.
We road tripped to Canada for the day, exploring Stanley Park in Vancouver before it started raining. I drove as we utilized a map we bought from a seedy gas station before we crossed the border and put our phones on airplane mode. It is weird how dependent we are on technology, even if only for a day.
It was a set of challenges unto itself getting into the country. We got a little lost without the GPS finding our way to Stanley Park, but we will call that “taking the scenic route,” but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t expect that to happen to us.
Getting back into the United States was a different set of challenges entirely. We sat in the customs line for an hour and a half, with my pea sized bladder about to explode. I contemplated out loud if I ran to the grass median and peed if that would be enough to get me arrested in a foreign country. The way I saw it, the other option was trying to run across the border so I was peeing on US soil, also getting me into trouble, but maybe I wouldn’t have a foreign criminal record for public urination, and I’d be able to travel back to Canada.
Katie and I downed a bag of Milanos while we discussed how she was to bail me out of jail should I get arrested for peeing in plain view of a long line of cars. My only other option was wetting my pants in a rental car, which I didn’t think was a better idea. As most conversations with us tend to go, this quickly got out of hand, with me losing faith that Katie would actually be willing to bail me out of jail, so I threatened to tell the security guy that she was a heroin mule and needed a full body cavity search if she backed down.
As we laughed it off, all being in good fun of course, we finally got up to the gate where cameras snapped our picture, surely capturing me looking pained and dumbfounded while Katie was laughing. I thought to myself, “Great, now we definitely will be getting questioned.”
Katie could not stop laughing about the drug mule joke, and I realized I had crossed a line. I told her to pull her shit together before we got up to the border agent who would not find it amusing when she was explaining why she could not get herself together.
Needless to say he loved us within seconds, and let us pass through in under a minute. I didn’t know what all of those other suckers were doing wrong, but I didn’t have time to question it before driving off to find a bathroom.
Our trip ended with my birthday celebration culminating in her meeting some of my newfound Seattle friends and attending a Prince Tribute dance party in Capitol Hill (perfect for people watching). Katie requested a purple boa from one of my friends who was picking me up some purple attire for the party. I warned her that if she didn’t really want to wear it, she shouldn’t ask for it.
My friend showed up not only with a purple boa, but one she found in a sex shop. I watched Katie put in on, and then suggested that maybe my friend bought it for half price in the returned section of the sex shop to try and get a rise out of Katie’s germaphobic side. When we ran into a man in the street wearing the exact same boa, it turned into an episode of “Who Wore It Best.”
We joke around a lot, but most people will go their whole lives and genuinely not have a friend as great as Katie, so I consider myself pretty lucky to be able to pick up exactly where we left off years ago as if no time had passed at all. After all, as an avid traveler, I depend on friends like that to keep me grounded and to help me maintain my sanity.