Mother has been on my heels about this kindergarten classmate of mine who just moved to Seattle for a job.

“His mother has always been talking about him, how great he is, and she was so proud of him.” Then my mother would give me this look to make me feel nothing but extremely guilty.

Granted, I almost feel sorry for him moving to the States – what a lonely world for a young Chinese man to get himself into.  But apparently he likes it, the slow life (mind you? super slow by my standard), at least for now, suits him quite well.

“You make any plans to visit Seattle?” Then my mother would follow up with me.  Hmmm… mom, I haven’t seen this guy for some odd 20 years, now you expect me to just fly over across the country to visit him….

But I could go visit him, for better or for worse.  I want to assess the situation first. Plus, Hui is in Seattle and I’ve always wanted to visit the newly wed couple since I missed their wedding due to my grandmother’s last episode in the emergency room.  Dutifully, I carefully planned Seattle on my returning trip to China.

I was fortunate to land this northern city in one of its more beautiful evenings. Hui picked me up, amid our excitement about the plans for the coming day, I decided to visit touristy parts of downtown while she’s at work.

Again, my first target is not the space needle, but the EMP (Experience Music Project).  Since EMP is right next to the needle, it was extremely easy to find just by looking at one of the tallest, and the only alien looking building standing by itself from the other, more regular Seattle skylines.

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Skyline of EMP and Space Needle

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and the man himself.  In all of its jagged outlines, this strange building is suppose to symbolize a smashed guitar.  Though it seemed that a very limited space is used after all of its undertakings.

However, Seattle’s monorail – another touristy thing to do – fits right under the strangely shaped building.

The entrance of this artistic building contains a juxtapose of different arts.

and a guitar-made Christmas tree.

each guitar on this tree is different from the others.

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Visiting Jimmy Henrick’s exhibit

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The long Nirvana memorial hall

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Model for the cover of In Utero

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The smashed guitar, the first of its kind.  Nirvana started the smashing guitar culture after just another one of its concerts. The guitarist smashed the guitar and then the rest was history.

Next to Nirvana was the hall of guitars, displaying all sorts of funny guitars from all sorts of age and occasions

Like this triangle guitar…

Or a guitar made out of a board.

Tiny guitars

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Themed guitars

On the top floor was a Sound lab, where visitors could try different instruments by themselves.2013-06-06 038

A couple individual rooms with electric guitar and keyboard setups where people could try out electric guitars and drums.

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I got my first halibut in years during lunch with Hui at a restaurant right around her office.

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Hui suggested me to take Seattle Underground tour.  After lunch, she dropped me off at the tour and went off to close her newly bought house.  The tour, as it seemed, was no small business in this prosperous city, as nearly 100 visitors showed up within the hour.

The tour office sits in an stylish historical office building in one of the busiest section of downtown.  Stepping into its spaciousness tainted with the smell of oak from its wooden furniture, I was immediately drawn to its sign leading to its exhibit downstairs. There I found these interesting arcane instruments, among numerous paintings, books, and souvenirs.

Old sewing machine, just like the one in my grandma’s house, with books on prostitution in old Seattle.

And probably the most beautiful toilet in United States of America.

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We were eventually split into group of 20, and my group started with a rather inconspicuous underground tunnel right next to an high-end historical apartment building.

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Upon entering the tunnel, we were welcomed by  a lonely old photograph amid the cool air.  There the tour guide started the tale of how Seattle started – everything was founded at this level of the city before the city was burned down and elevated.

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What used to be the old street of Seattle

I was wondering what those glass sections while walking through downtown Seattle – they turned out to be skylights for the abandoned streets downstairs.  These small glass squares are purple because they contain manganese for additional hardness in the glass.  They usually don’t take long to make, but with Satellite’s speed, it took them 14 years.

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wooden sign indicating building not forgotten

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Part of the abandoned tunnel used for film scenes.

Wooden signs pointing out the original streets, a dark contrast with the same, but busy and glamorous streets above.

Our tour group

The former meat market was originally at the level of our visitor platform, but sank over time because of decomposing sawdust fill.

Since it’s right along the west coast tectonic fault, Seattle sustained a few earthquakes. Soon its government found this space an ideal place to deposit all the debris produced from the earthquakes.

A rather interesting juxtaposition of old furniture left here right before we enter the Underground Tour office’s underground entrance.

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Among them, an old cash register lay in its rust….

Old mannequin in an abandoned wooden phone booth.

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Picture of the old Seattle underground tunnel formation as the city trying to level itself up from the sea level.

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I met up my childhood classmate Yang after the tour. Since we were in the historical part of the town, I decided to give the oldest Starbucks another try – nope, still a huge line….

Since Starbucks was full, we decided to eat around the Seafood market right across, where I came across this bear made of gummy bears.

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We then dinnered with Hui and her husband at a fine sushi restaurant in downtown Seattle.

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Spiciest sushi ever, which sent Hui into a panic.

Two days ago was Hui’s birthday, and the restaurant sent her a free green tea cake.

I’ve always wanted to visit the Space Needle in Seattle, but I don’t want bore Hui since she has been up there a gazillion times already.  Now with her on a business trip to San Francisco, I finally got my chance.2013-06-06 114

The viewing platform

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My first view.

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Olympus mountain range creates a fine backdrop on the water and the city

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You could also see a huge dock and factory along the coast

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Another part of the platform I found two giant spiders on the building right under the Needle.

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and the Experience Music Project building shaped like a smashed guitar (could you tell?)

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The building with a little globe on the top is actually a local newspaper agency.

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The ferries wheel seemed like Seattle’s newest attraction.  Thank god it’s not Eye of Seattle, like how China like to name its wheels after London’s Eye of London.  This is Seattle’s Great Wheel.

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Mount Rainier in the horizon

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plastic coin bank at the coffee shop on the viewing platform


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Ever since I have printed my plane ticket out, I’ve been looking forward to board into my first Bombardier -makes me think of fighter jets…. I would imagine this is a tiny non-jet aircraft that makes short trips like this Seattle – Vancouver one.2013-06-06 182_stitch

One of the most interesting landscapes to see from a plane, we literally flew over hundreds of these little islands dotted along the coast from Seattle to Vancouver.