Back to the Future (of Seattle)

We rode the monorail today, a fifty-two year old transportation device that was meant to be as futuristic as flying cars and robot butlers. Monorails are something people get excited about again and again, in many different countries, and yet never seem to amount to much. In Seattle, it allows you to trundle along for a mile at an average of 30 miles per hour. In Shanghai, you get to travel at super speed on a mag-lev … until you have to stop ten miles from the centre of town and catch a taxi.

We were heading for the Space Needle, another glimpse perhaps of what the Sixties thought 2001 would be like.

The monorail itself is cheap and works well enough; the Space Needle is only 520 feet tall (such quaint Imperial measurements!) which, compared to other tall things I’ve ascended like Taipei 101, is almost a rounding error, but on a clear day like today, the wait for the lift and the high price are justified by being able to see all the way to Rainier, and in the other direction to Fremont and beyond. It felt like hardly anyone was taking in the view, because everyone was busily taking selfies (which, with the bright skies would mean you’d probably just get a silhouette of your head with a white background), but if you could cope with that, it wasn’t too aggravating.

Wife and child stayed at ground level, because there’s little excitement that a child of less than a year can glean from being slightly higher above the ground than normal. We went back down to meet them, then walked around the Chihuly Museum and Garden, adjacent to the Space Needle. Chihuly has done an awful lot of things with an awful lot of glass, all of which my daughter wanted to run towards, complaining bitterly when she wasn’t able to smash it all. I like quite a bit of it, but after a while all the tentacles and fronds and suckers make you wonder whether these things were really blown out of glass or produced by eldritch horrors from beyond time and space. If H P Lovecraft had been to the Chihuly Museum and Garden, I expect he would have got in a terrible snit.

We moved on from there to the Armory, a huge ex-military building (just like Discovery Park is ex-military – I wonder if it will turn out that the Westin where we’re staying is actually an ex-military missle silo) which is now an enormous food court, with a Children’s Museum in the middle of it. This is a much better place to eat than the cafe next to the Chihuly Museum (very expensive, hard to get a table) although when I went to a barbecue joint and paid for a barbecued mushroom, they took my money and then waited ten minutes before telling me I’d have to wait twenty minutes while they brought the mushroom upstairs. This made me sad, though not as sad as the thought of what kind of mushroom would be stored downstairs, in a giant metal container in a freezer, I would suppose. I got a refund, although I’d already dropped my change into their tip jar, so I felt rather bilked by this all, and it’s not like you can go diving through the jar to get your money back. Damn them all!

Thus in precis, what I’ve learned today is that monorails are not as exciting as one might hope, the Space Needle isn’t a massive rip-off, but even ostensibly cheap restaurants may be bad for your financial health. I’ll say nothing about my child’s swimming lesson, and instead just retreat once more to bed.

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