Wednesday, April 9, 2008

West and back...

May 2007

Hi hi hi! No, we haven’t fallen down a rabbit hole or been washed out to sea. Spring has left us both busier than ever...

Speaking of spring weather, B. and I headed out to Seattle and Portland last week for a visit with family and many old friends. Here we are in the car, ridiculously pleased to be driving to the airport.

After Asheville’s late snow and subsequent burn of all the young trees and flowers, the Pacific Northwest was stunning in its lush greens and incredible spring colors. We flew into Seattle on Wednesday to visit his Grandpa Bud and Cokie who stay in a beautiful spot right on Lake Washington, which you can see here.

Grandpa Bud took us to see Seattle’s new Sculpture Park, where we puzzled over the enormous typewriter eraser, climbed around in large woven hanging pods, and pronounced Richard Serra’s enormous piece ”Wake” our favorite of the bunch. We also turned Bud into a zombie, but fortunately he returned to normal before we took him home to Cokie…

That same evening we headed over to see B.’s aunt Betsy, his cousin Gordon, and Betsy’s sweetie Mark. B. and I played some tunes for everyone, Grandpa Bud made me a martini that left me in giggles, and Gordon outed himself as a soon to be banjo rockstar. Dinner was right down on the water and included alder planked salmon, not to be missed on any Seattle adventure.

The next morning we headed out to the Japanese Gardens where we arrived before opening and thus wandered starry-eyed in the azalea and rhododendron gardens. Seriously, I have never seen rhododendrons like these, and the West Virginia state flower is the rhododendron. Blooms of every color, bushes of enormous height. Does everything in the Pacific Northwest grow bigger and faster there? Yes.

After the gardens we headed over to the Asian Art Museum where the paper exhibit knocked our socks off. They had frame after frame of paper stencils used in katazome style of textile dyeing for kimono fabric. They were so stunning, both for their incredible design as well as the tiny precision of the stencils. After wandering the museum, we then headed over to Tamarind Tree for Vietnamese food that was everything I had been dreaming of and more (Asheville does not have any Vietnamese restaurants. Yet. Hope springs eternal.). Lemongrass beef, a tofu and mung bean crepe (served with the largest mount of basil, mint, and lettuce I have ever seen accompanying one of these), and a chicken clay pot. Yum. They sat us by the fire, which banished the chill we were wearing from a drizzly Seattle day, and we sat there marveling at the food until our waiter came by and commented on how much of it we’d eaten. We had been eying the black sesame ice cream, but after our savory explorations there was absolutely no way to eat a bite more. We walked out into a far less drizzly afternoon and decided to play tunes at the Pike Place Market. B. charmed the tulip farmers into loaning us two buckets to sit on, and we plunked ourselves down on the corner with the cheese shop and proceeded to play tunes for fifteen minutes before a Pike Place Lady came up and informed us that we really needed a Permit and besides that, we could only play in Designated Busking Spots marked by a big red music note on the pavement. When she heard that we were from out of town she softened and sent us over to Music Note Number Three where we were instructed to tell anyone else who bothered us that Marlene Said We Could Play. Oh Seattle. We made a chunk of travel change and charmed all the humans under three feet for miles. Dinner that night was with Betsy and Mark at Mesob for Ethiopian food, which B. had been dreaming about for weeks. The place looks like the food might kill you, but don’t be fooled – sit in the back, be prepared for seats that have seen many a fine rear before yours, and food to die for.

Next morning we were off for Portland, where we drove out of grey days into much needed sunshine. We met up with Arcana, one of B.’s old college friends who proceeded to walk us until we had shaken off our travel lazies. He also gave us a cozy bed, serenaded us with old frontier songs on the accordion, and cooked us a mushroom risotto that reminded me how long it had been since I’d eaten risotto done right.

The rest of the trip included playing my freshly finished banjo (made by a Mister Brooks Masten, it’s gorgeous, it sounds fantastic, and I can hardly wait for the mailman to deliver it), hiking up Mt. Tabor with my old friend Bir, the requisite wander around Powell’s Books, and a scrumptious dinner at Lovely Hula Hands (where we were waited on by a bevy of gorgeous Portland ladies and given free dessert for no good reason at all). Oh yeah. This is a vacation.

On Monday we parted with Arcana, packed up our bags, and drove back to Seattle to catch our flight. We said goodbye to our ridiculous rental car that we had grown inexplicably fond of (it quickly earned the nickname The Tank and caused me no end of embarrassment due to the honking security system), shuttled our way to the airport, and before long we were pulling into the driveway amid vows to return soon and for longer. The end, by Heather.

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