Thursday, 6 September 2018

Vancouver to Seattle

We arise really fucking early. Earlier than I would like to. By two hours. 4:30. Six hours, really, than I’d prefer to get up.

I asked the kids to come to my room at 4:45. The unreliable twats are three minutes late. I’ll be docking their pocket money for that. Or their gin ration, once we get home.

“Where the fuck have you been?”

“Chill out, dad. We’ve still more that 10 minutes until our taxi is due.”

We quickly check out and stand outside in the silent darkness. Where’s that taxi? It should have been here ten minutes ago. I’m starting to panic until Andrew says “There it is.”

“Thank the fucking fuck for that.” Little things like a non-appearing taxi can really bugger up a journey.

“You’re very sweary this morning, dad.” Andrew says.

“It must be this fucking ridiculously fucking early fucking start.”

“You’re getting as bad as Lexie.”

“But I only swear in one language. That’s less than half as much, really. As he swears in at least four languages.”

“That makes no sense, dad.”

The recommendation is to be at the station an hour, at least, before the 6:35 departure. Because of the US immigration procedure we have to undergo before boarding.

The station is already busy when we stumble in at 5:20. We join the pleb queue.

“Do you fancy any food or drink for the train?”

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

“I’ll get some stuff anyway. Sandwiches and drinks.”

I quickly nip into the shop and get sandwiches and cola. They’ll thank me later. And I may as well spend some of these Canadian dollars I have left.

We get the fingerprint treatment again. Just the four right fingers for me and Andrew. While Alexie gets both hands full.

“What’s Lexie been doing online, Andrew? He must be flagged in some security databases.”

Our fellow passengers are an international bunch. The two rows in front of the kids house Aussie pensioners.

The rear pair are two women. At a certain point one of them gets up and goes to a family with several small children sitting a few rows ahead.

“Can you keep your children quiet. We got up very early to catch this train. They’re old enough to read a book or play a game quietly.”

The father is remarkably calm and understanding. I’d have told her to fuck off. Old enough to read a book? One is only just about old enough to walk. Two of the others are under five. They’d been making a little noise, but they’re kids for fuck’s sake. It hasn’t been enough to keep me awake. Some people are just miserable twats. I really don’t get the hatred of children. Especially among some cat lovers.

The train ride is very scenic, mostly hugging the coast, but occasionally streaking across dead flat expanses of farmland. I say streak. Trundle would be more apt. It’s not exactly fast by European standards.

“It looks like polder, dad.” Now Alexei mentions it, it does. It really is dead flat. Though I can’t see the drainage ditches of a polder. Everywhere else is quite hilly. This must be reclaimed land.

I don’t pay as much attention to the view this time. I did the journey a couple of years ago. I’m more interested in catching up on my kip.

Seattle station is quite busy. It looks like another train has just pulled in. That’s probably the only two trains all day.

After the kids have a piss we grab a taxi. The traffic seems very slow for a Saturday.  Then we see the reason for the holdup. As we pass a handful of weirdly dressed men, our taxi driver says: “That’s the KKK.”  It’s an oddly tiny Alt Right demonstration. With an equally tiny counter protest.

Our hotel is in a downtown bit of town. We’re able to check into our rooms, even though it’s not yet noon. That’s good. It really gives us a full day in Seattle.

A maid shares our lift. “You boys are tall” she says. It’s been a recurring theme. What’s it going to be like when we’re in Japan next year?

My room, on the 14th floor (there is no 13th, so I guess this is really the 13th floor, though, if you count the floors the European way, it’s the 12th) has a good view of the motorway. Which is pretty busy, despite it being the weekend. There’s something hypnotising about heavy traffic. When you’re not init. And preferably several hundred metres away behind glass.

I think Alexei was feeling ill yesterday. That's why he was a bit aggressive. I've got the same cold. I could hardly talk this morning. My throat was so croaky. But that was at 5 AM.

For some reason we can't check in for tomorrow's flight. No idea why. Good reason to arrive early. Maybe Alexei has been flagged again.

After consulting my laptop, we head off for some brunch. On foot. It isn’t far. And I need to get some exercise every day at my age.

“The roads here are retarded. Who named them? Some autistic? 1st Avenue - what’s that? And there are too many junctions. You’re always waiting. Totally retarded.”

Alexei must be overheating again.

On the way to our brunch destination, there are some dodgy looking characters hanging around, shouting at each other. Lovely. Free street theatre. They aren’t even passing around a hat.

We brunch at Local 360, a sort of posh diner in Belltown. They sell beer from Belltown Brewing. “I’ll have an IPA.”

“Sorry, we’re out of that. We do have IPA in bottle.”

“I’ll take that then.”

“I’ll have a Lager.” Andrew says.

It turns out to be a can, not a bottle. Of Crikey IPA.

The kids go for a farmer’s breakfast. I have corned beef hash. Not that I can finish it. Doggie bag time again.

We make a detour to a liquor store on the way back to the hotel. Alexei sits outside gazing at the Space Needle. While I get some Jim Beam and Andrew some Pabst Blue Ribbon. Whatever. He’s not snobby at all when it comes to beer.

“Look, dad, there’s one of those Amazon stores. Where they have no tills and you just walk out with stuff.”

“How do they know you aren’t just a shoplifter?”

“No idea.”

“There’s an interesting business model.”

“Is that “interesting” in the British sense, dad?”

“Yes. Obviously.”

Alexei is still getting annoyed at the street plan. “Kanker mongolen.” He repeats several times. His ability to be enraged by random stuff is quite impressive. No idea where he gets it from. I’m as even-tempered as Saint Francis on valium.

We chill in my hotel room for a while. After some cold medicine and a bourbon or two, I liven up.

“Where are we going to eat tonight?” Andrew asks.

“Have a look on my laptop to see what’s close.”

At first he suggests a craft beer and pizza place. Then he notices that there’s a Redhook place just a little further.

“That’ll do.” I say.

We leave Lexie in the room. He’s not feeling great. But has beer. That’s all the company I need.  I’m sure he’ll be fine. He didn’t fancy sitting and watching me and Andrew drink beer again.

Redhook Brewlab isn’t far. But all uphill.  I thought I’d seen the last of enormous hills when we left San Francisco. Fuck, this is steep. I need to pause for breath. I’m getting old.

“It didn’t look this steep on Streetview, dad.”

“At least it’ll be downhill on the way back.”

We sit at the bar. It’s quite busy already – at just 5 PM – and I like sitting at the bar. I guess it’s a habit I’ve acquired from often being in US pubs alone. Much more chance to chat, either with bar staff or fellow bar flies.

"Oh look - they've got a mash filter. That's very unusual for a craft brewery."

"I thought you didn't like the term craft?"

"Stop nitpicking. You know what I mean."

"Why is it so unusual, this filter thing?"

"They're mostly used by big brewers. And Belgians. Only a handful of breweries ever used one in Britain. I don't think there are any now."

I get an IPA and Andrew a Lager. He’s quite keen on this Lager stuff. Though he has drunk other types of beer – particularly Hefeweizen – and cider.

"Can you taste the evil in the beer, Andrew?"

"Why is it evil?"

"Because they sold out to someone."


"I can't remember. Some people who own some other breweries or something."

"That's just crap, dad."

"No, honestly, the minute a brewery sells out, evil immediately permeates their beer. You can taste it."

"Don't talk crap, dad. You know that's bollocks."

"No, it's true. I read it on the internet."

"Stop talking crap, dad."

It’s strange sitting at a bar with Andrew. I dragged him around so many pubs when he was small. And now, here we are, sitting at the bar. Talking as adults. And he isn’t trying to run off.

“Do you have a Stout?”

“We have two Porters. Do you want to try them?”


They’ve a standard and an Imperial. “I’ll have the ordinary one. Too early for the strong one.”

We order food. A burger for Andrew, pork belly bao for me.

“Did you notice that the beer menu has dollar signs and decimals in the prices, but the food one doesn’t”

“That’s weird, Andrew.”

“It’s psychological. It makes it seem less expensive.”

Alexei asked us to bring to over-order and bring back a doggie back for him. Which we do.

He’s sleeping when we return. But wakes up and gets stuck into the doggy bag. And some bourbon. I finish off my corned beef hash. Though it’s a bit tricky to eat without cutlery. I use one of the paper coffee cups to scoop it up.

We watch some crap TV, drink some beer and whisky and generally chill.

“What’s the plan for tomorrow, dad?”

“Just come down here any time after ten. We’ll hang around in the room until checkout time, dump our bags downstairs then get some brunch. Head off to the airport around 2 PM. So we’ve plenty of time. Probably a good idea as we couldn’t check in online.”

“OK, dad.”

I tumble into sleep down steps of bourbon.

Local 360
2234 1st Ave,
WA 98121.
Tel: +1 206-441-9360

Redhook Brewlab
Pike Motorworks Building,
714 E Pike St,
WA 98122.
Tel: +1 206-823-3026


Lisa Grimm (@lisagrimm) said...

I have yet to get to the BrewLab...but I hit the Amazon Go store almost daily. I suspect they want us to be on a scrip model. Glad you got to see more of the local color.

Barm said...

Tennent’s in Glasgow have a mash filter, as does WEST, but of course they are both mainly Lager breweries.