One of my major confusions in life has always been understanding why people get stuck. And by stuck, I actually mean stuck in anything really. Jobs they can’t stand. Cities they’d rather not live in. Relationships that don’t work.
The best way I can explain how I’ve explained this when explaining it to myself (wrap your ahead around that terribly written sentence), is that fear mixed with comfort is a dangerous quicksand.
And most of the world lives in that quicksand.
For Sara and I, this trip was about getting out of our self-created quicksand and seeing an incredibly untouched part of our West coast. What you find when you live in California is that the enchantment of this place isn’t confined to populated cities, expensive resorts, or running into some random celebrity in Beverly Hills (that never happens).
It’s what (most) people never bother to see that’s most captivating.
For Christmas, 2014, we journeyed almost 2,000 miles down the Coast – from Seattle to San Diego – to see just what we’ve been missing…
Space Needle, Seattle, Washington
There’s nothing worse than tourists. When you live in So-Cal, just using the word tourist is basically swearing. Typically, you can spot the people wearing socks and New Balance’s, pristinely white visors, or actually waiting for the little man on the crosswalk to tell them they’re allowed to cross the street.
… Well, on our first day, we were Mr. and Mrs. Tourist.
“Honey, do we turn left or right to park for the Space Needle?”
“Babe, did you remember to bring the camera, our tickets, and the parking stub?”
“Do we walk in these doors, or are we around the back?”
Yep. Our lives had done a 180. We were now the annoying ones causing traffic and turning down one-way streets (that didn’t happen, but it could have and I wouldn’t have known it). Fortunately for us, the Space Needle is the incumbent tourist destination in all of Seattle, so we were surrounded by plenty of family vacationers and hundreds of illegal immigrants.
I mean legal immigrants, since illegal immigrants are now actually legal immigrants… or something like that.
After parking ($15, because we didn’t know any better), we braved the intense clouds and freezing, sub-60 degree temperatures to the space needle. After a quick Welcome to the Space Needle picture and ensuing argument about how stupid I look when I have coffee in my hand for pictures, we hopped in the elevator and took the 45-second ride to the top.
We spent about 45 minutes inside taking in the views (of the clouds), while also trying to block out the noise of multiple foreign languages being yelled by children. After finding someone who knew how to take a photo with an iPhone, we circled the interior a few (dozen) times and finally decided to jump off the balcony to our deaths.
(I just wanted to make sure you were still paying attention.)
The Space Needle is exactly what you expect it to be – super touristy, pretty decent views (on a clear day), and dramatically overpriced. I’d recommend visiting if (a) you have a bunch of kids (so, basically, everyone I know), or (b) you just want to say you’ve done it (nobody will know if you’re lying).
If you’re not in either category, keep going. And that’s exactly what we did…
If you live in the Midwest, you probably think Starbucks is high-end coffee. It’s okay, I spent years believing a NFCM (Non-Fat Carmel Machiatto) from Starbies was a clear sign that Jesus loved me, and wanted me to have good things.
When I moved to L.A., and then down to San Diego, I discovered at-least two chains (Peet’s, Coffee Bean) and dozens of single-location coffee shops that make Starbucks coffee taste like a burning tire.
Having said that, Starbucks Reserve is going to change the coffee game. The coffee is very good, the presentation is even better, and the ambiance is the best thing about the venue.
Think upscale, Manhattan wine bar meets… upscale Manhattan wine bar that serves coffee. If regular ole’ Starbucks is for aspiring screenplay writers wearing fake glasses and submitting headshots to L.A. Casting, Starbucks Reserve is for people that already wrote the screenplay, sold it to Sony (I mean Universal), and locked in Channing Tatum as the lead.
If you’re ever in Seattle… or anywhere within a couple light years, you should make it a point to swing by the corner of Pike and Melrose in Capital Hill for an extravagent, pretentious cup of coffee.
But who’s counting?
Pike Place Market
Continuing our annoying tourist theme, we drove right into the heart of Pike Place Market, just a few minutes from Starbucks Reserve. Keep in mind, it’s Christmas Eve, so of course, there weren’t any people to go with a surplus of parking spots.
Or the exact opposite.
We spent a solid half-hour driving the same 1-mile radius ironically complaining about all the annoying tourists who were exactly like us.
“Psh! How dare other people come here when we’re here! Who do they think they are?”
After many missed parking opportunities and a small outlash of road rage, I backed halfway up a populated street into a seemingly safe parking spot.
A lot more on this later.
The real story of this experience had nothing to do with the Fish Market itself – which was extremely busy, but uniquely cool at the same time. It also has nothing to do with our visit to the very first Starbucks ever (1st and Pike) – which was as bustling and commercial as you’d expect it to be.
It had everything to do with what we found when we returned to our car…
Turns out, we were just one of half a dozen car prowls reported in the area that evening. Fortunately, our car jacker wasn’t exactly Steve Jobs, because he left a $1,500 camera sitting under the front seat, along with all our luggage in the trunk. He/she did get my new MacBook Pro, but to this day, hasn’t powered it on yet. In his/her defense, those buttons can get confusing sometimes.
We spent a short eternity on the phone with the car rental company, my insurance company, and waiting (in the rain) for the Police to come and write up a report. Had this been a murder, in the time it took for the Seattle PD to show up, the killer could have thoroughly cleaned up the scene, buried me in Albuquerque (which is basically a graveyard anyway), and vanished just before Lester Holt showed up to chronicle the whole thing.
Several hours, a return trip to the airport, and a new car later, we were (finally) on our way South to Tacoma, WA.
Anytime you get car jacked on Christmas Eve, you can’t help but feel like maybe you angered God somewhere along the way.
Maybe it was the time I secretly wished the Boston Celtics team plane would crash.
Or skipped Church to watch the NFL playoffs.
… Or came to Church, and checked my fantasy stats the entire sermon.
Whatever the case, I knew exactly where God would be hanging out in Tacoma on Christmas Eve: A Candelight Service at Central Lutheran Church.
After checking into a charming Bed & Breakfast – The Villa Bed & Breakfast (read our review here) – just a few blocks away, we skipped dinner and attended the 8pm Candlelight Service. Worst case scenario, if God brought up the whole Celtics or NFL thing, I could at-least say, “Look, I’m starving, but I skipped dinner to be here. That atones for at-least one of those things, right?”
We enjoyed the service, grabbed a couple (or, maybe a dozen) pastries on the way out the door, and went back to our B&B for a night of relaxation, home-cooked dinner, and a glass of wine by the fireplace.
If I had to sum up the entire day in one sentence, it would be: All is well that ends well…