I will take you to a time; a lifetime ago, it seems now, when I hitchhiked into Seattle Washington. I was riding with this guy and his dog that was drunk as hell. Errrr, the guy was drunk not the dog. I do remember wishing the dog had been driving, though. I am surprised that we made it there in one piece, and not plummeted off the side of some damn mountain or something. Geeze, there were places that the edge was so close to the highway, as we snaked our way up along the side and through the mountains, that you couldn’t help but be a bit nervous even under the best of conditions, and this guy was driving like a fool. Cripes!!
I started hitchhiking from Kenosha, Wisconsin some three or four weeks earlier. I’d been taking my time, and seeing a lot of things most tourists don’t get to see, back in the days when hitchhiking was cool, if there ever was such a time. I was not working, and just did not feel like it either. I went out for a party, and came back a different person. Not better, just different. That however, is a subject for an essay in psychology class, so I will not go into that here.
Anyway, I was relieved to get dropped off at a truck stop on the edge of town. It was getting late, and I was ready to find a place to set up camp and go to sleep. I found a little park at the edge of town with a nice stand of pine trees along the back. I dropped my backpack, and unrolled my sleeping bag under the starry night sky on a blanket of pine needles, the scent of Christmas filling my dreams that warm July evening.
I awoke that next morning with a cold shower, courtesy of the Seattle Washington Parks Department Automatic Sprinkler System. I learned that morning to be more aware of just where I bed myself down. I knew that park looked a little bit too green, and healthy. Now I know why.
I thought to myself, “Well now that I’m awake, I think I’ll go see the Space Needle”, the only real Seattle landmark I knew about. As I topped the hill, I could look down on this city and its bay in front of me, with the snow capped mountains behind me. I discovered just what a breathtaking city Seattle really is. It was still early enough in the morning that the shadow of the mountains behind me was casting its embrace onto parts of the city, but was reluctantly retreating under my feet taking the city lights with it. The last of the morning’s shadows met me at the bottom of the hill, and the morning breeze off the bay greeted me with its briny sea smells promising new adventures for this day.
The city was waking up, with the sounds of the morning rush to work mixing in with the cry of the seagulls. These sounds quickly became a background silence, compared to the view I was taking in. As I neared the Space Needle, I saw the huge crowd in the park already. There was a festival going on, or something. I never did find out. I did not want to deal with the crowds, so chose instead to check out the downtown area and see the bay up close. I finally found my way to the bay, and discovered the Farmers and Fish Market. Farmers were bringing in their new produce, and the fishermen were pouring ice on the neatly arranged rows of fish. A few of the local regulars were already out to see the new fish and vegetables, looking for the freshest bargain. Conversations grew, and laughter at some new joke heard the night before sounded, mixing with the din of the sea gulls until it was impossible to distinguish the man from the bird.
The smell of fish filled my head, as I strolled down the isles that proudly displayed the catch of the day. Every merchant had a smile, and the hopes of a good day of sales shining in their faces. The farmer’s vegetables added every color to the silvery iced covered fish along side, and really made me hungry.
There was a place in the side of the market that had some good smoked fish, and bread. With the money I made two days ago washing out the big walk-in freezer at that little family restaurant, I got my breakfast and made my way, with backpack slung high, to the edge of the market overlooking the vast wooden pier. When I looked over the edge of the pier, I could see hundreds of crabs covering the rocks some twenty feet below the surface of the crystal clear water. The rocks on the bottom seemed to shift, and roll with the life of the bay. A few fish swam back and forth across the scene adding to the visual impact. Very cool.
After I finished my breakfast, I picked up my pack, and simply wandered around for a couple hours soaking up the view. I found the coolest park right in the downtown area. It had monolithic trees, and the coolest man-made waterfall I have ever seen set up in the back. The park was a city block sized geometric garden with clean concrete walk ways and a few park benches, walled in by the city and held close to it’s heart like the cherished memories of life. I’m not sure how long I sat there. I was lost in the sound of that concrete waterfall, and the vegetation that surrounded me. The waterfall was so tall, that a mist covered the area from the cascading waters forming a natural air conditioning in this enclosed artificial sanctuary.
Some guy walked in, sat down on the bench across the path from me, and lit up a joint. He took a couple hits, and just stared at me with this goofy smile on his face. It was not a threatening sort of look. He was just some guy, out for a bit of fun. He took another hit, and finally busted out laughing, handed me the joint and said, “Dude! I think you need this more than I do. Hah hah!” Well, I took a few hits, and was quickly as happy as my goofy Samaritan was. He talked about his life and his home, and asked about mine. I told him about my trip up until now, and about some of the places, I have been to. I told him about the drunken ride through the mountains. I told him about my plans to go to California, and how I hoped to find my way. I took another hit, and laughed at his jokes, and he laughed at mine. After awhile he told me he had to go, and meet some friends about a thing. I told him, “Thanks for the stone.” He laughed, and said to me, “No problem, Dude. Have a good trip!” He left me the roach, and went on his way. After he was gone, I finished smoking the roach. There was no sense in saving it. There would be more. I stared at the waterfall, until I drifted off to sleep.
When I awoke, it was dark and a park department official was there to lock up the park. By the glow of the streetlights in a quiet city, I made my way to the old Worlds Fair Park to see the Space Needle. It was a very long walk, and I was wishing someone would drive by and pick up a hitchhiker.
Everybody had gone home, the day’s festivities having come to an end. The Needle stood there alone and dark like the last giant achievement of a world gone by. I dropped my backpack, and unrolled my sleeping bag under the starry night sky. As I lay there under the Space Needle, and looked up at its towering silhouette, I made my plans to continue on my way to California, and I reminded myself that I needed to get up early enough to avoid the Seattle Washington Parks Department Automatic Sprinkler System.