Saturday, December 27, 2014

See, saw Seattle

Seattle by night
Seattle by gray

Portland, they say, is the place young people go to retire, Seattle is the place young people go to work themselves to death. Fortunately Portland is just down the coast.  If these young Seattle people can survive a few years of well paid 100 plus-hour work weeks, they may be able to comfortably retire there or anywhere. Seattle is the home to Microsoft, Amazon, and Real Networks and Dwellable* which generate annual revenue of $13.6 billion and account for 188,860 information and communications positions. One of my son's best friends just became number 188,861.

He graduated  with a double major in math and computer sciences in three years and was "signed" by Microsoft with a bonus, just like a star athlete. He moved to Seattle in August. It is a blessing and a curse to be thus gifted. He is only 21 and nearly everyone else in the company is 30 something. It is hard to make friends. He works all the time. He has two roommates similarly afflicted, they live the life of Microsoft Monks. On a "normal" work night they order a pizza at 7:16 p.m., they play a video game until 7:36 p.m. when one of them walks down the street to pick up the dinner. They eat, they sleep, they get up early and wait at the convenient Microsoft bus stop to take that hour long ride to Redmond, WA HQ of MS. Lather, rinse, repeat.

He took me to a charming coffee house in Fremont, an "edgy" neighborhood where many young people congregate and occasionally sleep. My latte swirl was designed as a perfect flower. Before he picked me up, I asked if I should wear a raincoat with a hood to protect my hair. [As any regular reader of my blog will know, I am a big fan of the Dry Bar where I pay to have my hair washed, blown out and flat ironed.] He was right on top of the radar and said the rain was coming later in the day. As he saw me struggling to walk down his street in heels opened an umbrella for me when it started to drizzle he said: "In Seattle no one wears heels because of all of the hills and no one cares about their hair."

How did he like Seattle? He looked outside at the gray day and grimaced. "Well, when the sun is out it is one of the most spectacularly beautiful places in the world." Apparently Seattle is surrounded by water, lakes, streams, the Puget Sound and two breathtaking mountain ranges the Olympics and the Cascades;  with Mount Rainier "in full view" according to the fact sheet produced by the City of Seattle. I saw none of these things.

Seattle is gray. Seattle needs to go see my hairdresser Blaise.They say in Ireland you never realized there were so many shades of green. Not so the grays of Seattle. It's just one gray.

My Hotel

I was there on business, and I stayed at the Grand Hyatt Seattle on a Federal government rate. There is a note in the office travel records which was made by my boss' s former assistant, who left the job about a decade ago. It states a preference for handicapped accessible rooms. Although neither my boss nor I are disabled, the assistant was convinced that this would guarantee us a more spacious rooms. When the desk clerk told me that my handicapped accessible room was ready, I  told her I had no need for that type of room. She said that it was stated clearly in my record as a preference. As many times as we have tried to purge this "request" we have not succeeded. When I arrived on the 14th floor the housekeeper dropped  what she was doing and came running to me to help me with my briefcase, unlock my room, turn on the lights and in every possible way be solicitous of my needs.  I cannot say I objected to this. The room was spacious and there was one very groovy feature, a switch by the bed that allowed me to raise the blinds. Since I stayed on East Coast time (going to bed at 9 p.m. and getting up at 3:30 or 4 a.m.) I was able to stay in bed, flip this switch and get a gorgeous view of downtown Seattle aglow from my ADA aerie.

Grand HyattSeattle

The Grand Hyatt Seattle has the old fashioned solution for triskaidekaphobia by eliminating floor 13. But a clever person can decipher that floor 14  really is floor 13.  Doesn't it seem an odd  choice then to make this the floor for persons with disabilities? Some disabilities are invisible. Take head injury for example, or epilepsy, or...triskaidekaphobia.

City view comes right up
Huge marks for excellent service: I had to call for regular coffee pods in the middle of the night (between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. when neither room service nor housekeeping are open) and the staff member in charge of insomnia came running. I had to have housekeeping fix my clock and an engineer determiSne the source of a banging sound, After waiting for hours to be able to order food, my breakfast in bed couldn't have been more nicely presented or served. I had to ask the bellman for directions and requested the fastest, easiest route. He deadpanned that he prefers to give long and convoluted, confusing directions instead. Irreverence in the bellman! Extra points.
Flip the switch

Any breakfast in bed tastes good, but particularly the one you anticipate for three hours

The only flaw, my dear Grand Hyatt Seattle, is claiming to have a spa, Elaia. There is even an Elaia Spa button on the phone to line up your services. But, snap, the spa is NOT ON SITE. The spa is at the "Hyatt at Olive 8," about a block and a half away. You know what this means? Dressing up, walking outside, risking more hair frizz,and then making the long return. Not right.

Per Google maps: One minute/.1 mile from Grant Hyatt. Who has that kind of time?

Sweeping generalizations

All the [young] people in Seattle wear big black framed glasses. How many of the glasses are providing any correction is anyone's guess.They also all wear those hats that have two braided strings in front so that they look like Heidi or Heidhim.

They really drink coffee  all the time. The line in the Starbucks near my hotel was as long as any I've been in. And it's understandable there, it is damp and cold and gray and everyone is working overtime. But just think of the gift this led to the rest of the country when *$ started spreading its way East.

Street Protest

Sunday night as I was walking down Pike, I saw a street protest and then a "lie-in"  (I am not sure if they are called "lie-in's" or "die-ins, but I am ecstatic that they are not called "lay-ins."  There were hundreds of people gathered at a major intersection, first some speeches about racism and then the massive lying on the street closing this intersection to traffic,  There was a jumble of black framed glasses and braidy hats, North Face jackets and sensible shoes.

Lying, not laying in

The Original Nordstrom-The Grand Finale

It had been a long work week, I was tired,but when I walked into that store at 7 p.m., I felt as if I had just downed a 5 Hour Energy Drink. All you have to do there is exist and someone will help you. First the Christian Dior makeup salesman swept me away to purchase several items. He tied a ribbon bow on my bag handle just for that special ON (Original Nordstrom)  touch.There was a saleswoman in the shoe department who was dressed like a character from the Wizard of Oz. I remember a riotous combination of neon colors, orange top, green skirt, bright yellow tights and dazzling dyed red hair. She went on break before I could get her photo.  My buying burn rate  per floor was cut in half by a phone call from home. Probably just as well, I have two college tuitions this year.

Moments from  my hotel

I have a friend who was planning to move to Seattle and bought her house in July, a month of little rain, abundant sunshine and spectacular vistas. But she couldn't move there until December. A classic bait and switch move. "You know you are  here during the worst time of year," she said.

Nothing stopped me from enjoying Seattle -- not the fog, not the gray, not the bad hair day, the difficult walking in heels. I saw what people see in Seattle and I liked it.

* Shameless cross promotion for vacation rental blog that has invited my guest submissions.