(Most of this was about a short trip taken nearly two months ago.)
On Tuesday, February 7, Myeong-Seon got the idea from her circle of “ajumma” classmates to go on a trip to Seattle, of all places, due to an upcoming vacation from school. She sprang it on me that very day at her apartment. I decisively refused — I had no such money nor interest. Money? It’d be her treat, she said. My decisive refusal began to totter on its remaining leg, and eventually toppled. We didn’t want to waste time or money by spending only 4 days (enough to go and come back), and her school responsibilities returned after 5 days, so we chose to come back on the 5th day, February 12th. We planned out the cheapest expense, with rental car and food from home. We mapped the route… and then drove to my house for an early-morning departure.
On Wednesday the 8th, I left in the morning to bus to the airport for my 11:00 rental pick-up. As always, it was a nice visit, but I had little time to wander around. On the parking-side of the drop-off road, across from the first terminal, at ground level, is a neatly tucked row of rental car counters. Our was Advantage, at the end of the hall, just before an exit. It had a few more customers in line than the others; by the time I was through with it, it still had about ten waiting in line, each annoyed, while all the other stalls were virtually vacant. That wasn’t my doing; it was some short Chinese guy, another guy with an Asian wife, and two white parties before them who were all demanding their human rights of “I’m the centre of the universe” service. I assumed they were all having emergencies… Or maybe, like me, there were just some clashes against weird policy.
There was a $300-deposit for the cheap rental. I had cash; they demanded credit. After a few phone calls and a much-longer wait in line, I had $300 (from my mom) in my account. Whoops — then was the car price itself, also credit! My wary mom wouldn’t help me again (she’d riskily gotten the money from Dave’s account, and suggested that I cancel or delay the trip). After a long, second wait in line and more disappointment, I left that ridiculous counter and wandered away, thinking of how I had no way to salvage a timely Wednesday departure. I was about to give up the whole trip and save M.S.’s money; I headed out to the bus back to town, and boarded it… but right as it was about to leave, I thought again of poor Myeong-Seon and her boring let-down of a friend, who has no money and never goes on trips with her… and jumped off the bus as it started to leave. Back on the rental web-page (I had my portable computer with me), I found another vehicle from another company, Fox Rental.
It was off-site, with an 8-minute shuttle to their place. They had a $400 deposit for a $153.39 car (I always buy insurance, constituting nearly two thirds of that price), but they would take my card on it all. At length, I figured out I could just convince M.S. to bus down to my credit union and put money into my account. She did so, and at about 1 p.m., I drove off — first, to adjust my account (that first $300 had gone into the wrong account, and I actually still had to transfer more over).
We packed at home and finally hit the road at 2:45.
Then came a long drive, up through Idaho and into the corner of Oregon. We stopped now and then for fuel and food; by our fourth stop, it was late, and we found a place to park and sleep: a hospital called St. Anthony’s in Pendleton.
On Thursday the 9th, we woke up slowly and then left in a hurry at 7:00 to evade any possible parking illegality we’d committed. Once on the highway, we soon realised our direction (east), turned around, and came back through Pendleton westward, stopping there again for gas.
Our next stop was all the way up in Kennewick, Washington, at 9:10 in the morning. We sight-saw M.S.’ old neighbourhood, where she’d lived the year before for about six months, attempting school while recuperating from her travel-related injury.
She’d stayed with the Waid family (whose office is at home), currently away on their project in Bangladesh (Bangla Hope). We met one of the three secretaries, Kitty. Asking about my intentions as an English-teacher, she mentioned an Adventist school around there (an erstwhile and future workplace of hers), which we decided to drop by.
We left at about 12:30 after lunching in the car.
On our way up to North Pasco, where that school was, we passed by Columbia Basin College, where M.S. had momentarily studied before succumbing to her frailty. We gave it a visit, then headed north again. The school was way up amidst enormous corn and other fields, and orchards… It was my first good view of the marvelous agricultural capacity of the area. The school itself, we found, was a high-school-level academy for SDA youth (Country Haven Academy). The environment was lovely, and it seemed very interesting of an agricultural-based programme, but there were presently no foreign students there studying English, as I’d assumed. We again heard its providential re-founding story.
We left at 3:10, eager to get moving. As it turned out, though, there was a hotel at the edge of the road back into Pasco, and fatigue convinced me to nap there in the car till 5:00, when we really left.
A few stops and a treacherous, snowy mountain pass later, we penetrated the outskirts of Seattle…
It was about 9:00, and the sky was dark (it may’ve been an hour earlier; I don’t remember whether I changed the clock). Anyway… what a rush it was, to coast down through those woods into the city. I caught a strange scent almost immediately, and had to roll down the windows for the rest of our descent… It was… salt. The sea. Ocean water! I hadn’t come down into quite such a humid smell since my first landing in Hong Kong. I dodged the barrage of memories in order to keep my eyes on the road, but it was a lovely moment… Soon we adjusted, and the smell was gone. Still, with us unwittingly barrelling toward the unseen inlet, it was thrilling to catch sight again of trees intertwining t
he freeway, plants spilling over commercial balconies, and other such paradisiacal expressions that infatuate us Utahns.
The signs did nothing but disorient us, and we altered course at will. We lost ourselves on the intervening island, then circled back to the bridge we’d missed. We could tell when we were going over water, and winding through the confusing but gorgeous downtown with its night-time shimmer, but we otherwise had no conception of where we were, except “Seattle”.
Myeong-Seon started worrying about accomodations, and at length, we visited some hotels on a certain road, but found them a bit shoddy in atmosphere and clientele. We did manage to score some city maps, and I wasted no time finding Chinatown, where I decided to visit next, after trying to loop around the “needle” and check out a few more lodging venues.
One of the hotels made quite an impression… basically obliterating our earlier exuberance toward the city. Curious about a certain Best Western Loyal Inn (Denny Way and Dexter Avenue), and with no parking to be seen elsewhere, we discovered that the back lot of the hotel had no proscriptions visible while entering from the back (which is how we entered, due to the slightly perverted intersection there), so we were quick to claim a spot. On our way out from asking prices, we saw a Korean-named place (Shilla) across the street, and ran over to find out that it was Japanese-run. A second hotel was down the road a little, with a third hotel-like structure back across the street, making the four buildings into a square. We checked the none-cheaper second hotel (La Quinta), and didn’t like the looks of the third one (couldn’t even find the sign for it). We soon returned to our parking lot, noting a prohibitive sign on that side of the Best Western that we were grateful hadn’t been posted at the back side where we were.
…But, too bad for us, it HAD been posted on the opposite end, right up on the wall, at a difficult angle for us. It blended in well in the dull light fixture (wisely installed just far enough beside it to not illuminate the sign), and due to our accustomisation with free-standing parking signs rather than disguised, high-up ones, we’d never had a chance of spotting it. After our five- or six-minute absence, we returned to find our car ticketted.
It was from Imperial Parking, or ImPark, a spiteful and predatorial company of people infamous in that region, who, like the rest of us, will answer for their sins either through repentance or misery. On this earth, they should rightly be hated and shunned for having abused the innocent, as my research has told me they have habitually done. A week later, I would end up arguing with three of them on the phone, warning legal defense, writing as scathing of an e-letter as I possibly could……. and then, right before sending it, FINALLY looking at my own picture evidence minutely enough to actually spot that camouflaged parking sign, which rendered my firm defense an unheard plea of pity. The ticket was paid (already automatically deducted from its stated $48-within-7-da
ys to the whiner’s price of $41-within-9-days, in a futile effort to make me think they didn’t just rob me for no reason). Sorry, ImPark — you’re still thieves, for stealing $41 dollars by hiding a difficult-to-notice sign at a hard-to-see angle, not even adjacent to a particular lot that it applied to. There’s the chance that it was Best Western’s fault, but the parking maggots have the worse reputation. To be safe, I denounce them both.
We were both ticked off — mostly I, in my vowing to ignore that ticket — as we carried on to Chinatown.
I was chagrined to find it was no San Francisco. It was crumbling to pieces (well, that’s not necessarily inauthentic). Almost all the shops were locked up, and rather than any trace of Asians, the place was pulsating with homeless men, in small groups or wandering rogue. We parked in a somewhat less unsafe-looking spot and strolled around for a couple of minutes. As I crossed a road, some tall, wild-looking black guy with frizzy hair lurched and then came straight in my direction. I met his gaze and answered his sudden query with a wary expectation of unwanted behaviour, but he slowed his approach and seemed to soften right as I answered, asking if I had a “pipe” or something connoting it. I apologized; I didn’t; good luck.
Just ahead was a Chinese place still open. An older, troublingly clad, but peaceful-looking black guy was waiting outside for his woman, ordering indoors. I went in and checked the menu, looking for signs of Cantonism. I asked the guy at the counter, but he mistook my request about people for an inquiry of cooking style. He was too serious for me to want to say anything else. The black woman’s food was ready; bags in hand, she nudged me as she passed by, complimenting the restaurant. Something askance or crooked in her demeanor and gait, I assumed possible impairment, but she gave me a perfectly lucid and polite twenty seconds of conversation. She and hers met outside and pleasantly walked away.
M.S., lingering behind, and I were tiring of the place. Our car was unmolested, which made us feel lucky right then, with some youngish guys eyeing us while loitering across the street. We drove in a few circles, wondering if we should try to eat or not, or if there were any real Korean places…
I tried asking around for a Koreatown. One Chinese lady at least tried to listen, but didn’t know of any. I parked and took to the street, immediately sympathising with the beggars as I approached a Filipina with her friend. I kept my distance, initiating my question from perhaps 12 feet away. She stopped to understand and then help, signalling a cop passing by and introducing me to him. He also parked, right in the road, and got out to ascertain my problem; the girl rejoined her friend and left.
This cop was half Viet and half Chinese, from Vietnam, Hwang by name (tone “nang”). Not tall and very earnest for a cop, perhaps not quite my age, he friendlily answered all the touristy questions I came up with. I was parked right there, across the road, and M.S. was sitting in the car. As I talked with young Officer Hwang, some other tall black guy (surely not the same one…?) found his way over to our car to harrass/beg Myeong-Seon for who knows what. She ignored him, not yet shaken. He started tapping on the car and window and hollering something, which startled us. He clearly wasn’t quite right, and Officer Hwang sprang into action, shouting “Hey!” at the guy as he approached him. I didn’t want it going that way, so I also hurried over, waving to the drunken guy and calling, “Oops, that’s my car… Sorry… Oh, that’s o.k….” and maybe another disconnected phrase to him, who had by then sensed the need to withdraw. Hwang immediately cooled down and continued mentoring me about Asian areas. He concluded that there ought to be a Koreatown down in Tacoma, but not around here.
Back in the car, we gave up the idea of Korean or any other food, the hour having grown late. We drove back up into the city to seek a safer spot to lodge, where people were walking somewhere instead of nowhere. Finding a narrow road between apartments seemingly full of college kids, we backed into a rare gap in the cars, and made our bed. It was about 11:30; we got up and took off around 8:15.
On Friday the 10th, our disappointment over the ticket had begun to subside, but we were disappointment again not only by a near vacuum of gas stations no matter how much we criss-crossed the city, but, once we finally found one, by it’s horribly stringent parking time-limit of 15 minutes, when we were in need of facilities for at least that long. We held it, preferring the gas.
Then was time for sightseeing. We toured Queen Anne, up to the northwest — more particularly, East Queen Anne. It was a quaint place; we drove up a sort of bumpy hill (on Queen Anne Avenue, I suppose) with interesting-looking stores. Our spirits soured as we reached the top and turned rightward into the neighbourhood of our dreams… The flora were perfect, and the houses adorable. There was a sort of canyon going under a short bridge at one point, with excellent, tall, jungly trees growing up, covered in moss.
It was undisturbed, isolated, at that hilltop. We parked and walked around in the cool morning, then kept driving. There was a certain road, McGraw, which stopped at the edge of the hill and provided a perfect view of Lake Union to the east.
A car-retaining wall defended the road’s terminal end, which we hopped over to finally relieve ourselves behind respective trees. Eventually I got nervous of the residents there and we relocated to an equally likeable spot: Lynn Street and 5th avenue, a block down. There was a nice patio overlook there where we sat, ate, and fed some crows. At length, we headed back down, reattached to the city in spite of devious ImPark.
Next was the needle. We found a tidbit of free parking and were jealously overpunctual about it. This prevented our doing anything at the park there — not that we would squander money on the place anyway, especially going up that pricy tower, nearly costing a hotel room’s worth. We basically walked around and took pictures. It had a nice garden.
From there, we went down to the piers at the waterfront. Aquatic life? Costly. Ferry? Death-defyingly expensive, but also a bit long in duration. We instead stayed deck-side and got some pictures, also exploring a little antique shop.
Afterward, we headed back to Chinatown and, freshly aware of parking strictures, hovered around in search of legitimate parking, eventually settling at a spot close to where we’d parked the night before. We visited a small park, but found nothing else of interest.
We chose an eatery up the road called Jade Garden Restaurant (7th Avenue, King Street); it was my only chance the whole trip to get in a few words Cantonese-wise, and I found myself rusty. Still, the workers had a joke over it. The food there was palatable. M.S. got a little fussy when I blocked her plate-snatch of something of mine.
For me, it’s a simple reflex to keep people from jabbing stuff into your food, or clutching at the morsel you’re about to eat. For her, it’s a horrible insult. She was frowny the rest of the meal. Our car was unticketted when we got back (I’d already run out and down a few streets to check during the meal).
We enjoyed two more stops. “Hiawatha Park”, up the hill in in North Admiral, was a wonderfully treed place adjacent to a school yard. We sat there and finished our carried-out Chinese stuff, then met a very kind lady parent over on the school track.
Then, with some directions from a jogger determined to be helpful, we went straight down the hillside to the beach front, “Alki Beach Park”, where we wandered around in rain and clear for about an hour, till 8:00, when it got dark. I gathered some sea shells for my sister, as she’d asked when she first found out we were leaving (by ourselves). She enjoys the West Coast.
With our limited hotel maps and daylight faded, the remainder of our departure from Seattle was spent in confusion. We first looped around the shore point and realised we were going back up north, then went all the way down till Lowman Beach Park, ultimately climbing the hill inland and delving into the twisty neighbourhood roads on our convoluted way to Highway 509. Maybe it was Shorewood or beyond where we connected.
It had been at that Hiawatha Park, I think, where we settled our plan to not spend another night in Seattle but to make for the border, in order to shave a few hours off our Sunday return. We raced south against the clock, merging with Interstate 5, passing with some regret through Tacoma with its presumed Koreatown, stopping at Lakewood and again at Chehalis, nodding off at the wheel, and finally surrendering the evening “at the next stop”, which happened to be Castle Rock, at roughly 11:00 p.m..
Three hotels were in a stand-off on the east side of the highway. One was nice; one was for truckers, and also fine; and the third gave us a cheaper room: Timberland Inn. In fact, it was the nicest of the three. The front of the building was L-shaped with two levels, but the road to the back parking lot slanted up, and the back row was just single-levelled, and faced out into a terrific forest view down in the back yard. It was heavenly in the morning rain.
The proprietor had been an Indian woman, Myeong-Seon said. Hindu, that is. Reaching our room at 11:15 p.m., we took longer to unpack than we did to fall asleep. It was a splendidly clean little room that I would happily revisit.
Sleeping in on Saturday the 11th, we enjoyed our shrinking but sufficient supplies for breakfast, then set out at 11:55 a.m., glad for the restfulness of our boarding. It wasn’t long before we crossed the border. Unfortunately failing to recognise the switch to I-205, we leaked back some of the time we’d saved as we kept down I-5 right into the very heart of Portland (again, hotel maps). We’d kind of expected to pass through there anyway. Queerly threaded through by a river, the city’s stylistic differences perforated its greater, cousinly similarity with Seattle. The ubiquitous black coats and jackets of Seattle were varied here. Businessy people and occasional pairs and threesomes of disturbingly mal-coloured and mis-covered youth ornamented the streets. Some old lady with a blue wig stumbled crazily along. The buildings were sharp. It was a bright day, and we felt at home within the towering city. We stopped to get directions and gas; meanwhile, M.S. ordered snacks from a Korean stall, finally sating (or at least delaying) her racial and physiological urge. A very nice man gave me detailed directions back to I-84, though a neighbourhood he’d earlier lived in. We took a slight detour through some more East-Asian decorations, Portland’s Chinatown. Sadly, we didn’t have time to stop.
From there, it was straight through, all day. The river scenery was spectacular, as usual. I saw two groups of mountain rams; M.S. missed them.
We kept on I-84 when it turned down. Somewhere past Boardman, a tree farm appeared; the older ones were first, then younger sections down the road. M.S. had suggested stopping some time before and running up the hill-side (just to get some exercise), so this time, I was impelled to pull off the road for a visit.
We had to carefully overstep a stomach/chest-high barbed fence first, during which act I got honked at by a passing pick-up truck that didn’t stop, but that struck me with enough anxiety that we limited our visit to under fifteen minutes. We ran inward a short ways; there were many acres of trees that we could’ve easily wasted our whole day on, and even our whole lives, given our low supplies. Instead, we stayed somewhere near the road, refraining from truly getting lost. Rows and rows of straight trees… we got a few pictures before turning back. The fence gave us no incident on the way back, and soon we were anonymously back on the freeway. (Up ahead, a few miles later, I saw a similar-looking white pick-up truck speeding back westward on a road inside the tree farm property. I couldn’t help but feel relieved.) Soon after, we stopped for gas and continued.
The drive dragged on. East of Pendleton, the road gets loopy as it goes around a mountain bend. There was a very impressive look-out spot there, where we took a short break. Then our road went up through the mountains, just as the sun was setting.
There was snow up in the mountains. We had two more gas stops, crossing the border, and then finally had to quit at a trucker’s rest stop just short of Twin Falls. We arrived at 11:00, slept, and woke at 7:05 to leave.
Sunday the 12th was our final (half) day with the car. Under an hour later we gassed at Burley, and then made our final approach to Utah. In Snowville, past the border, it cutely started snowing. At length we reached Tremonton and then Ogden. I made a stressful mistake in Ogden of trusting the direction of I-84 instead of switching to I-15. Before the mountains, I turned right and took a more pedestrian kind of road till I got back on I-15. (I thought the delay would cost me at the rental place, but it was excused in the end.)
Very soon, we were coming back into Salt Lake, and then… home. We breathed that horrible sigh of “finishedness”, and quickly unpacked. I wasn’t exactly sure what my due time was for the car; the girl had extended me till 1:00 p.m. since that was when I had finally gotten everything resolved and was given the keys, but the contract time had originally been earlier. After cleaning out the car, we went together down to Fox Rental. Scheduling agreement forgotten, we had surpassed the 12-something deadline, but the girl, soon remembering why I’d taken the car late, showed mercy a second time by reinventing the first agreement and waiving our hour of lateness, which I was fine with. We took the shuttle to the airport and then the 550 city bus that I’d been frustrated about missing four mornings ago (it’d shown up a little late) back to the train. We stopped by Temple Square for a while before heading home for good.
Other than basking in the previous week’s hypermobility, the rest of the week was spent, as I mentioned, fretting and then forgetting about that awful ticket; it was paid on Thursday. On Friday, my birthday, M.S. and I had a fight, and I almost invited her to leave. She went to the bus stop until I collected her back. The family ate at home, then I took my mom’s vehicle to visit the Itos’ house, Dan having invited me. Mai and Juan were there, Mai with a cake. It wasn’t such a bad time, despite Juan’s mania for Lating dancing.
I may as well keep going…
Juan himself had a birthday on the 10th of this month, which M.S. and I also attended at the Itos’ — Juan, too well befriended for us, had been playing down in Provo, though. He finally showed up later.
On Sunday the 11th, I and Myeong-Seon went walking in the later afternoon. Fortune happened to be with us: right past the S-curve, we stopped to read that historical rock marker. A guy in a white shirt was wandering around the yard behind it. We started walking down that road (Evergreen Avenue) toward 23rd East, and the guy came out of the front walk of that house to ask us whether we’d seen his beagle. We determined to help look for him. He got in his car with his daughter (?) and drove around, while we continued going by foot. We skipped the next road on the right (Oakwood, going north; the owners had just driven down it) and took the second road (Crestbrook). M.S. was immediately tired of the search, and stopped there to rest; I went on down that road, following it to where it turned to connect with Oakwood — its only outlet. (This is where M.S. and I had spotted about six deer, some bucks, while driving around on a recent night.) My hopes weren’t high, but as I turned onto that road, I saw a little white thing running and sniffing around. It was the beagle…
We had a blur of a race; I let him go when he was too fast, and chased when he was close. He clearly outmanoeuvred me in the open, but he was spending his strength. He went into a few people’s yards, I following. He headed out toward 33rd South but then turned back, luckily. At one point, he backed himself into a corner by running down a fenced-in driveway. One neighbour guy came and offered me a leash, which I accepted. I got closer, and the dog made several dodges and feints, but couldn’t get around me in the narrow space. Finally he calmed down, and I lured him in with a tangerine peel I happened to have on me. I patted him, and he made no move when I finally took and collared him. From then on, we were friends. I think his name was Eddie.
At that point, I struggled to remember the directions his owner had hastily given me earlier, back to their house. I went right back up that road, Evergreen Avenue, for some distance. I failed to turn when Eddie was trying to turn, which cost me another ten minutes as I looped around a road further east and came back down (Millcreek Canyon Road). The house was near the end, much closer to where Eddie had wanted to turn. I rang the bell and handed the dog over to his suprised owner, the daughter from the car. (I had misanalyzed her as his wife, and told her at the door that I hoped her husband hadn’t been too worried; mid-sentence, I changed it to, “…or your dad, or whatever”. She had said ‘thank you’ but was looking at me strangely, so I quickly left. It took a while to walk back down and return that guy his leash, and after that, M.S. was angry for several minutes over having been abandoned. Other than that, I had a great time with it. It’s rare for me to actually find dogs when they go missing, especially on a Sunday.
Well, it’s getting hard to type. I’d wanted to add pictures…
[3/30 – pictures added]