Friday, July 11, 2014. A day that will live forever in my mind as one of the best of my life. Honestly, I had to look up the date in Apple Photo. I didn’t remember the exact date, but I certainly remember the events. It was my first trip to Seattle to visit my brother, who moved there in March of 2013. Getting away from home with three kids under the age of 7 was not an easy task, but after 17 months I was finally able to manage a four-day weekend in the Pacific Northwest.
I woke up alone on a luxurious air mattress in the “servant’s quarters” (closet) of a small apartment Andy had in the city. You could walk anywhere in the city from there, including the Starbucks headquarters where Andy was at work that morning. He was taking the afternoon off, so I had a few hours to kill. It was about a 45 minute walk from Andy’s to Sbux so I decided to walk to meet him at work so we could determine our next move.
After an obligatory stop for my daily poison (Diet Dew) at a corner store, I wandered across the city, stopping anywhere I found interesting. Every store that looked like it might have Seattle Supersonics apparel. The Ebbets Field Flannels store, which is a mandatory stop for amazing t-shirts at some point during every Seattle trip. There was a fascinating kilt store and I realized quickly that it was no joke. CenturyLink Field was surprisingly wide open to foot traffic. Safeco Field featured a larger-than-life Corey Hart plastered on its side. Corey was a favorite Brewer of mine and it saddened me to see him smiling at me in his Mariners uniform.
I finally arrived at the mothership shortly after 11:00. After some waiting in a Starbucks downstairs (of course there’s a Starbucks inside of the Starbucks office building) I was taken on an abbreviated tour of Andy’s workplace. During our quick lunch stop we had an important decision on our hands. As I remember it, we had three options from safest to riskiest: 1. A short drive to a reliable but unspectacular nearby trail Andy had been to many times for a hike. 2. A slightly longer drive to Mount Rainier where Andy had been before and has (obviously) amazing views, but also a lot of people. 3. A ferry ride across The Sound to Bainbridge Island, then a long drive west to the Olympic Peninsula and Hurricane Ridge. Andy hadn’t been there yet, but heard good things. Of course we chose #3.
A brief but beautiful trip on the ferry dropped us somewhere on what I believe to be the western shore of Puget Sound. I’ve never been 100% clear on what Puget Sound exactly is. There are islands, jagged shorelines, and a lot of water. Is all of that water Puget Sound? For the purposes of this story, it is. We de-ferried(?) at Bainbridge Island. From there the rugged, reliable Subaru that had gotten us everywhere – including Super Bowl XLV in Dallas – took us north to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the towns of Sequim and Port Angeles. Being from northeast Wisconsin, I expected a Door County-esque experience. Maybe even something like Cape Cod, where my wife and I honeymooned. Beautiful waterfront views with little tourist towns covered in antique stores and boutiques. I was half right.
While the mountains and water provided the kind of scenery I had anticipated the peninsula towns were borderline depressing. Unlike Door County, apparently everyone with money in Chicago (or in this case, Seattle) isn’t snatching up prime waterfront property for 8,000 square foot “cottages”. It didn’t matter to us. We weren’t there for shopping or antiquing. It was Friday afternoon and Olympic National Park was on the horizon.
Hurricane Ridge was amazing. Snowcapped mountains to the east, west, and south. The Strait and the Canadian shore to the north. The nearby hills were dotted with blacktail deer, a rare find in North America and something I’d only seen on TV. We spent time walking the nearby trails and encountered multiple goats.
The goats seemed harmless enough. Other hikers were far too comfortable walking up to them and taking pictures. I recall saying something to Andy along the lines of, “Call me a bitch, but I’m not messing with a wild goat.” The picture you see above was closer than I was comfortable with and it turns out I wasn’t wrong. Within a week Andy was sending me links to newspaper articles about people getting too friendly with goats, only to be rammed, knocked off the trails, and killed by them. Glad we didn’t partake in any goat interactions that day.
After a few hours enjoying Hurricane Ridge we were confronted with another question: Could we make it to the Pacific Coast before sunset? It wasn’t even really a question. I had never seen the Pacific Ocean and wanted to try. Hell yes we were going for it. We thought it would be cool to head for the northwest tip of the peninsula where the strait meets the ocean. In order to do so, we believed we needed to take State Highway 112…a decision we would immediately regret. After a few winding miles it became obvious we were getting nowhere. A brief bit of internet research (when I could get cell signal) showed that there was really nothing to see at the very northwest corner of the lower 48. Provincetown, MA, does not have a sister city on the Olympic Peninsula. To add to the obstacles we were now facing, the extreme elevation changes and zig-zagging of the road combined with my phone research had triggered a serious case of car sickness. As Andy changed course and hauled ass for our new destination – LaPush – I opened the window and inhaled as much fresh air as I could to counter the roiling in my guts. At least Andy’s phone had enough signal to stream the night’s Brewer game. The sound of Bob Uecker’s voice improved my mindstate if not my stomach.
After long stretches of certainty that I was going to vomit on the Subaru floormats (Andy: “Do you need me to stop?” Me: “Just go, man.”), we arrived in LaPush, Washington, with about 15 minutes to spare before the sun disappeared over the ocean. It was worth it.
We spent the too-brief period of dwindling daylight taking pictures and scouring the shoreline for seashells for our grandma. I also spent it enjoying the much-needed break from the moving car. Still queasy and now surrounded by darkness we encountered yet another decision: Find a place to stay or make a run for the last ferry back to Seattle? Continuing south around the mountains to Olympia, then Tacoma, was a long drive we weren’t willing to make at that point. Finding a place to stay on the Pacific Coast on a Friday night in the summer seemed unlikely. The best and most adventurous option seemed like a race back to the ferry. Did I mention it was after 9:00 PM and we hadn’t eaten anything since noon?
The only option for food was a tiny convenience store, so a bottle of water and a bag of potato chips would be our dinner that night. We buckled ourselves in and prepared for our dash back. 10:00 PM was nearing and we were 142 miles of winding mountain highway from the Bainbridge Island Ferry. If we didn’t make it back in time for the 1:00 AM we were likely spending the night in the Subaru. Stakes were high.
A nighttime ride through the mountains needs a soundtrack. The Brewer game was over. We needed music and I had just the answer. At the time my obsession was Childish Gambino’s Because the Internet. Not only did the vibe of that album seem appropriate for the occasion, I was certain Andy would like it. The trippy second half of that album along with the full moon lighting up the mountains against a perfectly clear sky made for an amazing ride. Then Andy went ahead and topped me.
Just when I thought my Childish Gambino album was the ultimate soundtrack to the drive Andy introduced me to Tame Impala. He played Lonerism and it was a music listening experience like few I’d ever had. One of those “holy shit” moments that you remember forever. It happened for me the first time I heard Reachin’ by Digable Planets. I can tell you exactly where I was and what was happening the first time I heard Brown Sugar and Voodoo by D’Angelo. The first time I heard Malibu by Anderson .Paak I was driving west down Mason Street watching the sunset on my way to some nightmarish all-night network downtime at work. I’ll never forget my first Tame Impala experience.
At one point during our drive we reached a beautiful body of water that seemed infinite. Remember, we took a different route back. This water was not there on the trip west. I swear there was none of that legal Washington mary jane involved. It was a combination of motion sickness, malnutrition, and trippy Tame Impala music. We were certainly driving around a circular lake. Just continuously winding through the mountains with a lake on our immediate left for what felt like an hour. We were in an episode of the Twilight Zone. Would we ever find our way out of this circle? Turns out it was just Lake Crescent. True to its name, it’s a massive crescent shaped lake neither of us had heard of until then. Andy has visited since and sent pictures. It’s as beautiful during the day as I imagined.
It would be easy to dismiss my memorable first Tame Impala experience and just say it had more to do with the Pacific Coast experience than it did the music. We were racing through the mountains in the moonlight. You could argue that anything I was listening to in that situation would be memorable. Maybe true, but that doesn’t explain why I keep going back to Tame Impala. Currents was still a year away and I’ve listened to that record more in the past three years than anything not performed by Anderson .Paak or Childish Gambino. Sure, every time I listen to “Enders Toi” my mind goes right back to the Subaru on Highway 101. However, “Let it Happen” was not the soundtrack to our road trip but I still can’t stop listening to that either. The point is, it wasn’t just the cool trip. Tame Impala is the shit.
About a month ago I was informed via Twitter that Tame Impala would be making their Saturday Night Live debut. Shortly after a new single titled “Patience” dropped. I had a brief moment of worry that it was a GnR cover. Then I clicked play and was immediately met with a big, beautiful piano loop. A funky drum line featuring bongos that feels slightly out of place but also somehow perfect simultaneously. Atmospheric keyboard notes that float back and forth from speaker to speaker. Kevin Parker’s heavenly voice echoing over the top of all of it. Tame Impala doesn’t just make music. They take you on a trip. It feels/sounds bigger than music. It envelops you. The best description I can muster is that this song feels like Parker stole some DNA from John Lennon, Nile Rodgers, and the people who makes the Stranger Things soundtrack, then decided to take all of it up in a spaceship for a month so he could write and record the song while orbiting the planet alone. If this is what we can expect from Tame Impala on a 2019 album that I assume is coming (and based on the release of a second single, “Borderline”, it is) then it looks like they are making another leap forward. Every Tame Impala album so far has felt like another step in an evolution and I’m enjoying all of it. If Tame Impala isn’t already a household name after the SNL performance earlier this month, they soon will be. A band this good can’t remain underground forever. I strongly urge you to join me on the bandwagon now.
Back to July 11, 2014. We made it to the ferry with 10 minutes to spare. I spent most of the ferry ride back trying to capture a decent picture of the gorgeous Seattle skyline at 1:00 AM. Not easy with a shitty camera on a fast-moving boat. You can see my best attempt above. One final anecdote about a topic that dominated our conversation for most of that weekend:
If you know anything about Seattle, you probably know the legendary Pike Place Fish Market…the place where they throw the fish. You’ve probably seen the PUBLIC MARKET CENTER sign pictured above. If you stand approximately where this picture was taken on the corner of Pike Street and 1st Avenue and do a 180 you probably didn’t know that there’s a very conspicuous adult male establishment called Showgirls. I was shocked and somewhat disheartened to see a giant strip club within shouting distance of an iconic market that I’d seen so many times in pictures and on TV.
The building has large digital signage on the exterior wall to advertise their upcoming specials and/or the person whose tits you could see that night…I don’t know. It also blew us away with this message that was repeated frequently:
Keep in mind, this was mid-July. SPRING FLASHIN’ SHOW! We marveled at the simple stupidity of it. Wouldn’t you love to have been a fly on the wall during that conversation? “Hang on, fellas. I’ve got it. This is perfect…SPRING FLASHIN’ SHOW. What? It’s July? Fuck it. This is too good to wait until next April. Get that shit on the side of the building ASAP!” It led to a long discussion about who came up with an idea that dumb and who ultimately approved it. Is there a committee? Is it a single employee? Is that his (I’m assuming it’s a guy) only job or is he also the DJ or the bouncer? Do they have an advertising team they pay to come up with this stuff? We decided we want that job because it seems incredibly easy. Just come up with a sleazy seasonal catchphrase for a titty bar that isn’t particularly clever or timely. No, seriously, try it. We couldn’t do it. We were so upset with ourselves because we couldn’t conjure up anything as perfectly idiotic as “spring flashin’ show”. Turns out, the guy is some kind of genius. A tip of the cap to him. If you come up with anything better, let me know. We couldn’t.
That’s how my first trip to the Pacific Ocean ended. With the two of us laughing our asses off at a corny strip club catchphrase. I’ve been back to Seattle a few more times, but haven’t gotten back to Hurricane Ridge, Port Angeles, La Push, Lake Crescent, or the luxuious Suquamish Casino since July 2014. Thankfully, Tame Impala takes me there every time I drop the needle on Lonerism.