A travel journal
to Seattle by El Gallo
Quote: Residents have a different view that tourists get popping in for a few days. If tours and "must sees" don't do it for you, savor a little of "real" (or "surreal") Seattle.
Attraction | "Troll o ween and Solstice Parade"
Fremont is getting yuppified, but it still has a lot of artists and locos, and just that Fremont attitude. These people LIVE to make a bunch of costumes and campy sets and get weird for the hell of it.
The Solstice Parade is the Fremont Street Fair's main event and a grander, sloppier, more user-friendly event you'll never see. Ornate floats like you've never seen (some following themes so esoteric the artists themselves don't have a clue--that's why they live in Fremont) alternate with little kids camping it up or looking dazed, bizarre bands ranging from Samba to the Executive Briefcase Drill Team, 'Dykes on Bikes' left over from the Gay Pride parade, and pretty much whoever wants to get out there and make a spectacle of themselves. The parade has gotten famous for the streakers--by now an unregulated and unhassled tradition of naked bicyclists who proceed the parade and zip around 'waving' to the crowd. And remember--if you want to YOU can get an old bike, get naked, maybe paint yourself blue, and ride around in the open air in front of God, everybody and the huge bronze statue of Lenin that stumbled into town and never found it's way out--nakedness to the people.
If the Solstice doings are essentially family fun (nobody seems to mind the pernicious effects of your occasinal bare penis trying not to get wracked on a bicycle seat), the Troll o ween is something else again. This is no trick-or-treat affair, and you won't see any K-Mart Power Ranger costumes. This is a celebration of what Halloween has always been--creepiness, scariness, Evil, and crazy clothes. It starts up at the Troll sculpture under the Aurora bridge--the huge concrete monster munching on a real Volkswagen he's evidently snatched off the bridge. There is music, pageantry (none of which makes any sense at all), merriment, waving banners and lanterns, HUNDREDS of drummers, THOUSANDS of people in extremely creative costumes. When everybody gets whipped into a frenzy, the whole event moves down through downtown Fremont, where the paraders flaunt themselves in the windows of the bars and eateries, and ends up in the parking lot, where bands and light shows continue until everybody has scared themselves to death.
Sometimes there is also a parade along the canal, where various art projects, such as fire dances and burning men are held. All to the pulse of hundreds of drums and the swirling canvas of images from horrific to sublime to insane. Screw Mardi Gras, this is my kind of party.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 4, 2000
Troll o ween & Solstice Parade
Before Grunge came along, 'Seattle' and 'Music' pretty much meant Jimi Hendrix. And now he lies just south of town in Renton. (Greenwood Memorial Park, 350 Monroe Ave NE, Renton, tel: (206) 255-1511). There's no great monument--though there probably should be, and although the Hendrix Museum project failed, it also mutated into the Experience Music Project that MicroMillionaire Paul Allen built at the Seattle Center--a lot of Hendrix memorabilia there. Just a simple, flat stone with a guitar and the words 'Forever in our hearts.'
To drive out there, take Interstate 405 south to Exit 4. At Northeast Third Street (the first traffic light), turn left. Follow Third up the hill for about one mile; it will become Northeast Fourth Street. The cemetery is at the corner of Northeast Fourth Street and Monroe Avenue Northeast; turn left into the parking lot.
It's odd that Bruce Lee should be buried here, but he had very strong Seattle ties. Both he and his son Brandon (who also died in odd manner while doing a film) are buried at Lake View Cemetery, just north of Volunteer Park on Capitol Hill, along with the grave of his son Brandon. It's a major pilgrimage site, with people from all over the world stopping by with flowers and respect. Easy to get to from downtown Seattle--the 1 or 10 bus go right there. It's a beautiful place with a wonderful view (see photo) and right next door to Volunteer Park, with many attractions of its own.
Curt Cobain's remains have no fixed resting place. He was cremated and the ashes scattered in a coastal river. So the pilgrims have gone to the little park next to the house where he lived with Courtney Love. This is not a popular activity with the neighborhood, and please be aware that Love sold the mansion itself and the greenhouse where Curt killed himself has been razed. The little park next door, where Courtney came out to talk to the vigil, is there, but hard to find or give directions to. It's called Viretta Park, and is a little offshoot of Denny Blaine Park on Lakeview Drive (corner of 39th Ave E.. You can get to the park easily on a 27 route bus. In the lower tier of the park is a bench where Cobain used to sit, and this is where there are grafitti and tributes. If you can't find a shrine site or whatever will satisfy your homage, just look out at the Lake and meditate on the fact that it's better to be alive than dead.
Cobain was very interested in the tragic life of Seattle film star Frances Farmer, and even wrote a song called "Frances Farmer Will Have Revenge Over Seattle". Her family house still stands at 2636 47th Ave SW (in West Seattle).
Located at 2323 N 45th St, at the east edge of the nice, walkable Wallingford gentrification. Take the 44 bus, get off at Sunnyside. Or call the suggestive 545-6969.
The main level mostly sells produce and crafts, but you can start going downstairs and never stop. I mean, and find a lot of cool shops. Likewise in the arcades and alleys across Pike Place from the main Market. I won't get into restaurants or bars here. Okay, just a little bit. I never go through the area without stopping for a Hum Bow at the Mee Sum Bakery. These are huge humbows, filled with barbecued pork, curry, or chicken and mushroom--then BAKED to get rid of that pasty steamed dough look and give a golden brown outer layer. God, they're yummy. Just say Mee Sum, Too. And, in the aisle parallel to Pike St, between the Flying Salmon and the Newstand, is a little stall called Crepes de France, where a really good-looking woman is pouring crepes. I won't bother with details, just tell you to pull up a stool and try a crepe. Alors!
But to get back to the rarities and such, walking north on Pike Place, past Mee Sum, you run into the Totem Smokehouse. If you want a perfect souvenir, or a 'send home' package, this place rates a look-in. The big specialty is alder-smoked salmon packaged in all sorts of ways, from canned to airtight in foil to packed in cedar boxes with NW Coastal Indian designs. Salmon JERKY, they've got. And canned dungeness crab and local smoked oysters. Northwest cuisine since prehistory, with modern package technology.
A few more steps and you'll hit The Souk, purveyors or Near Eastern food stuffs, spices and whatnots. Where else are you going to find ghee? Or Indian tea? They have shelves of strange, exotic-smelling spices like Zahtar mix and Sjwain seeds. They have big sacks of cardoman. They have stuff you can't even figure out whether to eat or clean your clothes with. If you like this stuff and aren't afraid to use it, this is a unique spot to score.
Right on along Pike Place, by the way, is the World's First Starbucks. Feel free to give them the 'Number One' mudra with whatever finger seems appropriate.
Circulating down through the Market's rabbitt warren of passageways and shops will lead you to a lot of cool and unusual emporia, but let me mention a few that seem special. On the second layer down is the Viking Emporium, where they sell woolens. Angora sweaters, icelandic wools, llama pullovers, Norse cable knit sweaters. Great place to suit up for the local weather.
Also on that level, right around the corner, is F&J Western Trading, masters of the peculiar and inappropriate. You want old posters of NW events, bizarre weapons and body parts? Need metal street signs? Huge mounted Amazon insects? They have it and will part with it. Take a stroll, you are guaranteed to something you've never seen before, and something you just can't imagine.
Also on the Lower Level is the Pike Place Pipe Palace, a head shop. But for crissakes don't call it that. And don't call a bong a bong, either or, under Washington State laws, you will have to leave the shop and come back later. Which will teach you a lesson. Ask to see the 'water pipe.' Or the 'teensy little spoon.' Better yet, ask to see the mushroom growing kits, something you don't find in just any headshop--locally produced and guaranteed to produce silly siben. Highly recommended.
Down another level is another unique place, the Women's Hall of Fame. Billed as handling 'Women's history, past & present,' they mostly sell cool shirts, plaques and bric-a-brac. (A T-shirt proclaims, 'I speak Patriarchy (But it's not my mother tongue)'. It's not as lame and non-sequitur as the fish needing a bicycle crap, but it's fun. And that's probably what's so cool and unique about the Hall--it's feminist, but with a sense of humor. And they said it couldn't be done.
At some point in going down all those steps that eventually lead from the market down to the waterfront, you cross Western Avenue. Be sure to check out World Merchants at 1509 Western. This is the ultimate spice and tea shop. Seriously. They have teas I've never seen outside the Orient and chiles I've never seen North of the River. They have Anxi Oolong and Dragonwell and Golden Monkey and Gen Mai Cha--and instructions for brewing. A tea-fancier's paradise. They also have masalas and hard-to-find Indian spices, as well as seldom-seen arabic spices like Khnieri and Baharat. And Mexican goodies like powdered Habaneros, chipotle rubs, and Black Aji, with which you could make a Oaxacan black mole if you knew how. They have rubs, mixes, pure spices...a huge, incredible-smelling wave of taste. I can't truthfully say you couldn't find this stuff anywhere else in the country: you could dig it up in New York or some such. But not under one roof, and not without speaking Arabic and Hindi and Cantonese. A remarkable collection. Also, check out their website.
You don't have to trudge downhill to explore some of the Market's hidden pleasures, though. There are areas tucked in behind the Fish Market, and leading down into the Annex that runs down First Avenue. Most people see MarketSpice and accept it as a great place to get teas and spices. Which it is, but not compared to World Merchants. Their big fame comes from MarketSpice Tea, very popular with people who can stand cinnamon in tea. But behind them is a sort of alley leading back to Raven's Nest Treasure a personal favorite. This place is actually a sort of garage sale by the owner, and a hodge-podge of cool stuff. He has huge pieces of fossil ivory and delicate antique jewelry, carved amber and various bones and teeth for carving or keychains. He has a nice collection of Indian art, at good prices, and there is usually a talented Indian carver at work right there, making paddles and totels and plaques. It's the kind of place that's hard to see all at once. I go by once a month and am always spotting new goofs.
Past the Raven's Nest is a a ramp that runs up to Tenzing Momo, a 'herbal apothecary' that carries Chinese medicines, Tibetan statues, an amazing collection of very serious incense, bulk herbs and tinctures that tend towards the oriental and mystic. You've never smelled a place like this before, and I'll bet you a stone lingam that you've never been in a place as seriously into incense as Tenzing Momo. From there you can go down a stair to the annex, walking down towards Union Street past Tribal Art (see my Indian Art entry) and Lark in the Morning (see my music stores entry).
Monkey Junction, Afghanistan