Only the elite, high speed, squared away freedom fighters get to choose locations like Honolulu and Seattle for their Reserves/Guard active duty days. And since I finagled my way into just such an arrangement, someone in Washington must think me an elite, high speed, squared away freedom fighter. I can’t argue.
After flying from NYC to Atlanta at the conclusion of BlogHer, I came home for 3 hours before flying from Atlanta to Seattle for a week of training at the joint Army/Air Force installation about 30 minutes south of the airport. After the first day of what service members call “death by powerpoint,” I headed north to pick up Dave from Blogography and meet Whit Honea at Pike’s Place Market in Seattle. Having missed Whit at BlogHer this year, I was happy to see him again. As for Dave? I just saw him in Atlanta, but hey, he’s good company regardless.
Seattle isn’t very touristy, but we did ride the monorail to the Space Needle, and we stopped in at Starbucks’ “alpha chapter” for a drink after dinner at Ivar’s and before drinks at Von’s.
Dinner was a bit scary. Apparently, the local fowl don’t take too kindly to strangers or children.
Whit and Dave seemed to think this amusing, but I didn’t particularly enjoy having this white warrior staring at my neck during the entire meal. Look at his friend divebombing the ducking, running child. Is this what y’all call entertaining? Sick sons of bitches.
The Needle was cool…good views and a military discount. Need I request more?
And who wouldn’t be excited about seeing the first Starbucks (which I can now add to my list of “first of the chains” along with KFC and Chick-fil-A)?
The second night, Dave and I went to Ray’s for a bromantic dinner and stroll along Alki beach.
One would have to be made of lead to not feel the love that night. ‘Cause it was strong. Strong like the smell inside my black 325i that July day in 1998 when I left a bag of garbage in the trunk all day, and it sat in an uncovered blacktop parking lot outside IBM for 8 hours.
On Wednesday night, I decided I should take advantage of our close proximity to Oregon and visit Portland, so that I could drop then number of states I haven’t visited to 5 (MN, NH, VT, RI, CT). I made the mistake of mentioning my plan to drive 2.5 hours south to the Lieutenant from my base who’d flown out there with me, and he invited himself along.
Dinner was at Salty’s. It was not bromantic. In fact, it was annoying. The loquacious Lieutenant did not shut the fuck up for more than 30 seconds from the time we left base through the time we sat down to eat. His soliloquies included such scintillating monologues as this:
Lt: Look at that orange truck, man. That’s crazy!
Me: Uh huh.
Lt: Look at that convertible, man. That’s crazy!
Lt: Look at that bridge, man. That’s crazy!
Me: I reckon.
Lt: Look at that sign for Mount St. Helens–that’s the tallest mountain in North America, right? Let’s pull over and see it!
Me: I think losing its top pretty much nullified whatever its height used to be, don’t you think?
Lt: What? Oh look at that motorcycle, man. That’s crazy!
Over and over I thought to myself, “Why didn’t I lie and just say I had more client meetings in Seattle tonight. Why?”
We pulled over to see Mt St Helens, only to learn that one has to drive another 40-something miles to get close enough to really see it.
Can you see the blood dripping out of my ears? It’s there.
I actually captured on film a few seconds of silence. See? Here it is …
“Have another drink!” I kept saying.
After dinner and beers from an Irish pub, we got some Voodoo Doughnuts. I chose a doughnut with crushed Oreos and peanut butter on top. It was awesome like freedom is awesome to a recent parolee.
Someone in line told the Lt that Portland leads the country in strip clubs, so the next hour went like this:
Lt: Hey look, a strip club–let’s go in there!
Lt: C’mon…most in the nation! That’s crazy.
Me: Atlanta has strip clubs. Why don’t you just go when we’re home?
Lt: Look at that one–it’s upstairs and says ‘exotic’. That’s crazy!
Me: Go in, then. I’ll wait for you.
Lt: Man, I’m from Barnesville, Georgia. I can’t go into a strip club in Portland by myself. That’s crazy!
Me: I think you can. Go.
Lt: Oh man.
He wouldn’t go. Finally, around 12:30am, we headed north. I spent most of the drive slapping myself so I’d stay awake. At one point, I pulled over at a state-sponsored rest stop advertising free coffee. Thank you, State of Washington. You saved my life.
Thursday evening, the group who was up for military classes went out together for dinner. On the way back to base, a few of us pulled into a casino. In two hours of playing $5 per hand blackjack, I won over $200. I won 12 hands in a row at one point. At least 15 folks gathered around to watch me play the last 30 minutes or so. It was glorious.
Under the “surreal” category, I met–again–the guy who replaced me in July 2003 in Iraq: i.e., his arrival meant my going home. At that point in my life, I’d never been happier to see someone get off a plane as I was when he arrived. When we realized whom we were staring at, he said,
Him: Wow. You look really different.
Me: When you last saw me, I was in my 20s, had a shaved head, had no children, exercised every day, tanned every day, and had yet to start practicing law. I was a completely different person.
I enjoyed hearing about how his 4-month rotation went after my team left.
Finally, Friday came, and I went to the airport. I breezed through returning my rental car, went up to the baggage drop (after checking in online), and begged to go out on an earlier flight…and sit next to occupied seats. I got it–front row in coach on a plane leaving an hour before my scheduled one.
I texted the Lt: lucky me! got bumped to an earlier flight. see you next month.
He wrote back: that’s crazy!
No, not crazy. Smart and proactive. See how a week of military powerpoint slides made me a better officer?