Friday, August 31, 2007

Seattle As Best I Remember It

The Space Needle is a living, latter day zen riddle. How do you make an overpriced and uninspired restaurant successful? By making it really difficult to get to.

Your mind is now blank, you may seek after enlightenment.

But when I say "difficult to get to", I don't mean "out in the middle of nowhere" or "down some odd back alley." That would be making the restaurant difficult to find. The secret of the overpriced eatery, apparently, is to be completely visible, just a huge pain to physically get into, and here the Space Needle excels. It rests a startling 60 stories up, far above the Seattle streets. Well, I say that, but the restaurant is the first stop on the Space Needle's elevator, so it's technically only the second story with a 500 foot crawlspace between floors.

And that's another remarkable thing, the Space Needle restaurant isn't just on the top floor of some office building, where professionals would frequent it for business lunches and late dinners. Instead, it sits atop a structure that serves no other purpose but to keep it away from everyone. Yet the place is packed year round, because something about that inconvenience makes it irresistible. You're looking at it all the way up there, and those elevators are taking a long time to reach it, and suddenly you really want to pay twenty dollars for a chicken sandwich.

And that's why the Space Needle is the symbol of Seattle, because like the city, it's a place that thrives for no good reason . The weather in Seattle is livable for only two months out of the year, and even during those months the sky is clear for about one of every three days. The local government is of the sort that's convinced a monorail will solve everything. (Bonus points to those of you who are now quoting lines from the "monorail" episode of the Simpsons. Did you know Conan O'brein wrote that?) And the city's feature attractions, aside from the bad restaurant on a stick, include a place where you can see guys throw fish around*, and Bruce Lee's grave.

And yet the area is a haven for major technology companies. It's home to the biggest coffee chain in the country (not surprising when you consider the weather). And best of all, it gave us Jimi Hendrix.

I just don't see how it's possible.

Oh, and they have Slurpee's there, too.

*I have to admit that the guys throwing fish around are entirely awesome.

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