Feb 15

Hiking, Softies, and Searching for Mr. Pointy

Earlier this month I had the chance to visit my college pal Judy in Seattle. Right around this time last year, I went to Seattle for AWP and saw Judy all too briefly. This time, we got to hang out for a whole long weekend.

Rain, Softies, and fry bread

The great thing about Seattle is that the flight from San Francisco is so short: just two hours. Even better when you have an aisle seat in the exit row with no one in the middle (except for my seatmate’s jacket and backapck, go right ahead) and on Virgin. Aw yeah!

I spent the whole time listening to downloads of my new obsession, the Stuff You Should Know podcast (which deserves its own post), and playing Shanghai Mahjong, and before I knew it we were there.

Of course it was raining, but not too much, and Judy was kind enough to pick me up at the airport. The moment we met up, it was non-stop talking. We had a lot to catch up on. Back at her lovely house, we snacked and chatted some more before heading out to nearby Kirkland.

I should say Judy doesn’t live in Seattle itself but a suburb highly populated by “Softies,” or people who work for Microsoft. In my short visit there, I found that Seattle and the surrounding area had a very different tech feeling than the Bay Area. Less start-uppy and more old-school Big Tech. But I could be totally wrong.

It was drizzling as we walked around, but again not too bad. It wasn’t even worth the effort to use an umbrella. Kirkland has a lovely lakefront that was still lovely even in the cloudiness and mist.

For dinner we ended up at a Mexican place, where I tried Native American fry bread for the first time. However, there was so much stuff on it, I couldn’t really tell what it was like. My drink was definitely yummy: a combo of some kind of liquor, ginger beer, and lime.

I can’t remember when we got back. No later than 10, but I had gotten up early that morning, and between the flying and the drink, I was ready to conk out.

The search for Mr. Pointy

We spent the next day walking around downtown Seattle. We did a tiny bit of shopping, then for lunch we had delicious pho, which was perfect for the damp and chilly day. Unfortunately I can’t remember the name of the restaurant. I know: I’m useless.

Then we were off to the EMP/Science Fiction Museum. I’ve been there before but that first time somehow missed the whole science fiction part of it. Needless to say, this time around I was nerding out pretty hard, especially because of the Star Wars costumes exhibit.

But before that there was the “fantasy” section, which included stuff from The Wizard of Oz, The Lord of the Rings, and The Game of Thrones:

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

And of course the Star Wars exhibit was great.

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

But what I was really on the search for was Mr. Pointy. I saw it advertised outside, along with other “horror artifacts.” Obviously the vampire-killing stake Buffy inherited from Kendra wasn’t going to be in the Star Wars section. I walked around the fantasy section twice before poking my head out and asking the young hipster guard, “Is it in here that I would find Mr. Pointy?”

He stared at me blankly.

“You know from Buffy,” I said. Then it hit me. “You have no idea what I’m talking about do you?”

He admitted that he didn’t, and that he had only seen the movie. Then he said that besides the music section, there was just fantasy and Star Wars, and I have to say I was a wee bit disappointed.

Judy and I were walking out when I saw the sign again about the horror exhibit. I had seen signs for it inside too, but for the life of me couldn’t find it.

Judy was kind enough to accompany my obsessed ass back in (although she opted for the museum store instead), and the guard was kind enough to believe me when I said I had just left (having the receipt helped) but completely missed the horror. He gave me a new sticker and pointed me in the right direction.

I love fantasy and SF, but I love horror even more. When I saw that the exhibit was rated PG-13, I was even happier.

I saw the alien from Aliens

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— this guy —

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and — duh duh duh duuuh! — Mr. Pointy:

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

Yup, it’s a stick. But Buffy fans will get the importance of this stick.

I also enjoyed a short video about Ringu and The Exorcist. Eli Roth talked about how when he was six, he was about to watch some scary movie (I forget which), and his father said, “You want to see a scary movie?” and showed him The Exorcist.

“That messed me up for years,” Roth said.

When I was nine, I had a similar experience, which I’ve tried writing about before but not yet to my satisfaction. Maybe it’s time to try it again.

After I was done, I found Judy in the cafe, and after downing a refreshing apple soda, we headed back.

That night we had dinner at home, then checked out a winery not too far away. We thought it was going to be a wine tasting, but it wasn’t. It was just wine, bad music, and worse dancing.

I kind of wished I had Mr. Pointy then.


The next day we went hiking, which was super-fun.

The last time I went hiking was in college or high school. We were on a family trip in Yosemite. It was me, my dad, and my brother (my mother wisely decided to opt out), and it was August. In other words, hot. For some reason Greg had all the water, and since he was on cross country, effortlessly jogged all the way up to the top. He met me and my father — sweating and huffing and puffing — on the way down, and at that point we gave up.

This hike was much easier, partly because I’m in better shape but also because it was cloudy and cool, and I had plenty of water and snacks.

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on


A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

The hike was about four miles total, and was actually easier than my walk back from the grocery store at home. In that case I’m carrying up to 10 pounds of groceries uphill in the sun. Doing that a few times a month for several months has been good practice.

After our hike, we had a delicious barbecue lunch at a place nearby called Rhodies Smoking BBQ.

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After we got back, we pretty much just bummed around for the rest of the day. Had leftovers for dinner, then started to watch a movie. But neither of us were too into it, and I was pretty tired. The next morning I flew back to San Francisco.

I may visit Seattle again before my move back to the east coast. It’s so close and the flight prices don’t seem to change much. Plus I’d love to go hiking — and eat barbecue — again.

Mar 14

AWP 2014 Index

And I’m back from yet another AWP! While this year doesn’t compare to the blast I had last year, I still had a good time. Plus I got to see Seattle!

  • Number of hours my flights were delayed compared number of hours I was in the air: 2.5 : 3
  • Number of hours I was in the airport compared to number of hours I was int he air: 6.5 : 3
  • Number of times I was in the very back of the plane compared to number of flights: 2 : 2
  • Number of “preferred guest” rooms I received because I got to the hotel so late and all the regular rooms were taken: 1 (yay!)

The view from my hotel.

  • Number of hours of sleep I got that first night: 3
  • Number of runs I got in over 2 days: 2 (four and three miles, respectively)
  • Number of hours I spent in my room compared with number of hours I spent at the conference on that first day (not including sleeping hours): 8 : 4
  • Number of old writing teachers I saw and almost didn’t say hi to but then I did and I’m so glad: 1
  • Number of times I forgot said writing teacher had blurbed my memoir: 1 (I’m such a dumbass)
  • Number of online friends I met in real life for the first time: 2
  • Number of three-minute stories I wrote on an old manual typewriter: 1
  • Number of times I avoided eye contact with book fair participants: 100
  • Number of hours I lasted at the book fair: 1

Tweeting the live-tweet of someone tweeting a panel about tweeting.

  • Hours last week I spent looking for a new outfit for my reading: 2
  • Number of new outfits I bought: 0
  • Number of cute outfits I forgot already had: 1 (cute little black jacket, white button up blouse, jeans, boots, cool necklace, in case you were wondering)
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how nervous I was for my reading: 11
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how fun the reading turned out to be: 10
  • Number of taco salads I inhaled after my reading: 1

Post-reading taco salad.

  • Number of sips of straight whiskey I was able to handle at the book fair: 3
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy I was to visit the Seattle Public Library: 11

Hammering Man at the Seattle Art Museum.

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy I was to run into the Gourmet Dog Japon cart: 11 (I got the Samurai)

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy I was to have some alone time in my room with my Samurai dog (don’t be dirty) and some stupid TV: 1,000,000
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy I was to have brunch with an old college friend: 1,000,000
  • Out of five stars, how yummy the food at Steelhead Diner was: 5+
  • Number of days it rained out of 1.5: .5 (It was beautiful but chilly on Friday, and only a little drizzly, though cold, Saturday)
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy I was when I was finally back home: 1,000,000
  • Number of hours it will take this introvert to recover from all the socializing: 24



Sep 10


MB and I had a great time in Seattle last weekend.

We flew out Saturday afternoon and got in around 5:30.  After checking into the hotel, we went out and walked around.  MB lived in the Seattle area years ago, so he was excited to show me where he used to hang out.  He loved this West African restaurant, but unfortunately it closed down, so we made do with Pan Africa near Pike’s Place.  The food is more Ehtiopian, and usually I don’t like Ethiopian, but what I had – the chicken groundnut stew – was freaking good.

By early evening it had started to rain, and I was getting grouchy.  At first we will all gung ho about going to listen to some live music, but then decided we were too tired and saw a movie instead, which, by the way, was one of the most ridiculous pieces of cinema I’ve seen in a long time.

Our hotel was connected to a Seattle’s Best so the next morning I was down there early, guzzling down an Americano and scarfing down a scone.  We had a packed day ahead of us so MB got up shortly after I did, and we were off!

First stop, the Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum.  Lots of fun.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures because SOMEONE forgot to bring the camera battery that was charging before we left (MB, I’m looking at you).  But that’s okay.  Sometimes with pictures, you get so busy with your camera, you forget to enjoy the moment.

September 18 is the day that Jimi Hendrix died, and we went the day after.  I thought the place would be mobbed but it wasn’t too bad.  I think MB’s favorite were the mini “studios” where you could play instruments and do sound mixing.

“I could have stayed there all day!” he said.

Luckily for me, we had lunch plans with one of my college buddies.  I haven’t seen her in years and have never met her husband or baby so it was great to get together.  My friend had two places picked out for lunch, Cajun and Mexcian.  There was a bit of a wait at the Cajun place so we went to see about the Mexican one.  It was the strangest thing: there were four or five waitstaff just standing around at the front, elbows literally on the front desk, who completely ignored us.  When we finally got there attention –  “We have four with a baby” – none of them knew what to do.

“Party of four with a baby?” they kept saying over and over like they had never heard of such a thing.  They consulted first one person, then another, who looked around perplexedly.

What the fuck?

They did finally find a table, but by then MB and I were fed up.  “I don’t mind waiting,” I said, and so it was back to the Cajun place, where actually there was no wait after all, and the food was absolutely delicious and the service excellent.

The weather had cleared up by then so we took a walk in the nearby sculpture park, and then up to my friend’s workplace to pee and take in the view.  Finally, they were kind enough to drop us off at Pioneer Square, so that we could catch a late afternoon time slot of the Underground Tour.

It was totally fun.  In case you don’t know, present-day Seattle is built way above the original street-level from when the city was first settled.  A fire wiped it out, and when they rebuild, they decided to rebuilt on top of the original streets and buildings to avoid the twice-a-day flooding.  The tour took us down to the underground part, and it was really cool to see where businesses once stood and to hear the history.

Our guide said that one particular bank vault is supposedly haunted, and that TAPS from Ghosthunters even investigated it (and found nothing).  I really wanted to see something as we walked through, but of course: nada.

While we waited in an alley at one point, we saw a sign that said, “Don’t feed the rats!  Place garbage 20 feet away.”  I said, “Seattle has rats?”  Then a minute later I felt something brush my ankle.  I jumped but it just was MB fooling around.

Later I got him back though.  We were underground again in what used to be a bar.  Beyond the main room were some dark and closed off areas.  I looked back there, imagined seeing a ghost, and grabbed MB, gasping.

“What is it?” he gasped back, his eyes like saucers.

Haha! Gotcha.

After the tour we grabbed a late dinner at a nearby seafood place, which seems to be a chain.  Oh well.  It was still pretty good.

The next morning we took our time.  Check out was at 11 so we left our stuff and took a last walk around.  The farmer’s market at Pike’s Place was just as crowded as over the weekend but still fun to walk through.  We saw the fish throwing as well as the original Starbuck’s.  Then we took a walk out to the water.  It didn’t rain at all that day, and in fact I got a little sunburned.

Our final stop was the public library, which was right across from our hotel.  It’s really freaking cool, like a giant beehive, as my friend said.  There’s a spiraly walkway that winds up and down the library, as well as tons of space for people to read, study, hang out (of course there were lots of homeless).  I kept thinking that library must have a shit ton of money.

For our flight back, because our tickets were so cheap, we upgraded to first class.  It was awesome but kind of strange too to be already sitting there in the lap of luxury as everyone else crowded on board.  There’s an unbelievable amount of leg room.  MB was totally comfortable while I felt like I could do yoga in my space.  Plus there was free lunch: a half a hearty sandwich, and a medley of cheese and crackers.  Probably would have cost about $20 if we had paid for it.

Then we were home!  Yay!  No more traveling for a while.

My overall Seattle impression? Seems pretty clean, at least in compared to SF, and the population seems older, but that may have been just what I saw. Also the food is cheap and delicious! I would definitely go back and for a longer time. A boat ride out to Victoria sounds especially cool.

Today’s my first day at home in about a week. I turned in an article this morning, and I had plans to go to the gym and yoga but I so don’t want to. Instead I’ll run some errands I’ve been putting off and then put in a few hours this afternoon for my job. Maybe continue working on my next Nervous Breakdown piece as well.