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Beautiful Day (Part 4)

We stood at a crossroads. If we walked straight, we could window shop along Seattle’s Fifth Avenue. If we turned right, we could walk down to the waterfront.

Who wants to look through windows when you can walk yourself closer to the water?

We went right. On the nine-block descent water-ward, we passed Fisher Plaza, which houses our local ABC news station. We passed a construction site, and railroad tracks, and the Old Spaghetti Factory. With every step, Puget Sound and Pier 70 came closer.

I wish I could describe the smells that tag along on such a walk. I wish I could post a link to those salty portals, those swirls of restaurant essence, and that peculiar freshness that occurs only when air has been scrubbed by a swift trip across Puget Sound. It’s not possible … so come visit me, and we’ll go on a sniff walk together.

When we hit the walkway in front of Pier 70, we turned left and walked in search of fish. Yes, we’d only just dined on Dick’s deluxe burgers, fries and shakes, but all the cheering, screaming and clapping we’d done at the Arena seemed to have consumed all that fuel. And when you’re hungry, and walking along Seattle’s waterfront, the only logical food choice is seafood.

Along the four-block route, we passed a cruise ship business, and had a brief, “We really should book a day trip to Victoria” discussion. I believe we had a similar, “We really should bring the kids down here for dinner” talk when we had passed the Old Spaghetti Factory, too. It’s just the sort of companionable prattle you expect on that kind of stroll.

Ivar’s seemed to have disappeared, but we found an Anthony’s in its place. Though I didn’t know what I wanted before we stepped inside, and despite the fact that I’m always the last to order because I debate my top five choices right up until the second the server turns to me, for some reason, I knew exactly what I wanted as soon as my eyes landed on that line of the overhead menu: Bay shrimp Caesar salad. Dave ordered fish & chips.

We took a seat near the window. While Dave watched scenes from Canadian football on the wall-mounted TV, I alternated between watching joggers pass the front windows, and the surprisingly swift motions of a ferry boat out the back window.

When the ferry passed out of sight, I turned my attention to the boats docked just below the restaurant decking. Several sported Christmas lights, which began to shiver in the growing wind. From the door of one two-decker, an old man emerged. He shuffled to the back of the boat and fiddled with something mechanical-looking. I watched his movements and wondered, as I stared, if this man had waited a long lifetime to land on this boat; wondered if he’d saved and dreamed until he made his ambition a reality.

In the midst of my pondering, the server brought our food. Oh, again for the technology to give you a taste! Just a small one, mind you. The shrimp was that-minute-fresh. The lettuce was crisp and green; the croutons garlicky and perfect. And I can’t remember when I’ve had Caesar dressing that good. Little slivers of parmesan hid among the greenery, and two lemon wedges tucked to the side made my mouth water with anticipation. I squeezed one all over my salad and used one for my water. It was bliss, I tell you … pure bliss. I could eat a salad like that every day for the rest of my life.

We lingered a long time, just enjoying the scenery and each other. We talked about things you don’t get to in the normal flow of a day. Only when we noticed a couple huddling close on the walkway outside and saw the reason for their hunched over bodies — big gusts and tiny pellets of rain — did we stand reluctantly and put our coats back on.

rainy night in seattleThe sky had been a beautiful gray when we’d made our walk down, but now the color had deepened to an ominous hue. To me, it was just as beautiful. We pulled hoods on and started back, only this time, we opted for a fresh route. We crossed the street and climbed two levels of stairs until we came to a landing between two high-rise buildings. Before continuing east, we paused for a moment and took in the view from a tucked-away sitting area off to one side. From that vantage point, we could see the burgeoning storm off-coast, and the flickering lights from a thousand boats, and the lights of the Seattle skyline. And as we turned to take our leave, a gust of wind brought a swirl of smoked salmon scent wafting upwards. I stopped in my tracks and pulled in the biggest lungful I could manage, memorizing the scent, the skyline, and the angle of the frenzied stoplights, pulled nearly horizontal by the strength of the wind. I can visit that moment again, any time I want to.

A few blocks east, we passed a Thai restaurant. As we neared, someone opened the door and released the smell of ginger chicken. We went a bit further and passed the along a hoppin’ Mexican restaurant. Inside, a live band belted out traditional music. Just outside the door, little fingers of fajita scent beckoned.

As we continued walking, I warmed up to law-breaking. Though I’m a strict, follow-the-rules kind of girl, as in “We don’t sample grapes at the grocery store,” I quickly saw the wisdom of jaywalking. By the time we’d traveled six blocks in the rain, I was a seasoned criminal. It made me laugh, therefore, when we passed the Space Needle and I watched a teenage boy trying to get his girlfriend to cross against the light, and heard her protest, “You have to wait! We can’t cross yet!” I pictured her caving in within minutes, and actually taking the lead before long.

It rained just enough that you could say you got to walk in the rain. (It’s very good for your hair, you know.) I didn’t mind it on my face, or bouncing off my windbreaker. It only added to the mood of the day.

Before I knew it, we’d reached the grounds of the Seattle Center again. We’d been a world away … but we still had an hour to ourselves.

Header Photo by Inge Johnsson

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