August 6th 1981

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 1
Seattle’s Space Needle

A wonderful night’s sleep, then up to a fine breakfast.  Then we packed the car and drove into Seattle.  The first job was to check out the ferry, so we drove down to the waterfront and parked.  Were able to discover that we’d be able to walk on the ferry quite easily in Prince Rupert, so we didn’t bother to book.   Returned to parking meter to install more money, then strolled down waterfront.  Not spectacular, but interesting, and far less touristy than Fisherman’s Wharf in SF.  Got as far as Pike’s market, which we looked around.  Lots of old second-hand shops – like English junk shops.  I was tempted by a bowling shirt, but Val wouldn’t let me have it.  Back to the car again, more money in the meter, then took our lunch to some picnic benches on the end of a pier, and had a pleasant meal.  By this time, we decided it was time to move on (especially as our meter time had run out.)

We drove to another meter near the Information Centre, got some leaflets from them, then loaded the money in to the limit and caught a bus to Pioneer Square, the sort of Greenwich village of Seattle.  It was funny catching the bus, because we thought we were in the free zone + tried to get on the bus, and the driver told us the free zone started 2 blocks further on, so we ran down there, and then got on his bus.  Pioneer Square was rather uninteresting tho’ we took a picture of a group of winos who asked us to, + then found a free museum about the gold rush.  They were showing a film, quite an old b + w one about a man’s boyhood recollections and the history of it all – it was good.  Then we caught a bus back to the car… except it wasn’t there.  Confusion + panic.  Called the police, who told us to call the towing co. first.  Sure enough, they had it, causing mixed emotions on our part.  Caught a bus over there, paid $28, and tried to drive it away, but discovered I had no Drive gear.  Ho hum.  The mechanic there came over and took a look, tried to adjust the transmission rod, and snapped a bolt.  Rum-ti-tum, especially as I’d just called Bill and arranged to meet him at the Space Needle, a Seattle landmark, in 30 mins or so.  When it looked as tho’ the job might take some time (the mechanic called on the radio for a replacement part.)  Val trotted over to the SN to meet Bill, while I stayed with the mechanic.  He was friendly enough, tho’ I’ll confess I was not in the mood for pleasantries.  The part arrived and was soon fitted, and so I sped off.  Admittedly, the car did splutter + stall just outside the towing yard, giving me something of a shock, but after that it seemed to be OK, so I drove over to meet Val + Bill as quickly as I could, considering I had no map – fortunately, it’s a very tall building.  Was able to park quite easily, then ran in to see them – but they weren’t there.  Eventually decided, after waiting some time, to go to fetch the address book to call Bill’s home, so ran both ways, then had all sorts of problems with the phone, losing 50c and having a row with the operator.  Tried another phone, this time got through to Bill’s home + his wife told me he was at the Space Needle meeting me.  I told her he wasn’t but I was wrong, because he saw me as I was leaving the booth.  He’d been driving back + forth between the tow yard + the Needle, but somehow we’d managed to miss each other.  Val was at the tow yard now, so I followed him over there first to pick her up, and then we followed him back to his place, about 10 miles south of the city.

I wasn’t sure what was in store for us, because the line to Bill earlier had been bad, but I thought I’d caught the idea that he couldn’t put us up.  When we got to his place – a nice place quite close to Lake Washington, in a suburban area – we met his wife Jeanne, and then spent the rest of the evening chatting + drinking beer.  We had 4 left from the night before when I’d bought them in doped stupor, + Jeanne bought 6 more.  They offered us a floor to sleep on – they were fixing up the house, and didn’t really even have a bedroom for themselves, but that was fine by us.  We sat + talked about theatre, and about impro, +  about San Francisco – a splendid evening, and then bed.  As it turned out, “the floor” meant a foam mattress… who could ask for anything more?

A long entry, but then it was quite an eventful day.  It was, of course, our own fault that the car got towed – we hadn’t read the time restrictions carefully enough.  Makes something of a change to focus this time on another aspect of the technology of the time – the phone system.  And public telephones in particular, with all the added difficulties they brought with them – finding one, having the right change, having more change.  Mind you, I am amazed that I was able to speak to an operator, making it more like the 50s than the 80s.

But it does also highlight the problems we had then of making contact while on the move – unthinkable now.

Oh, and had best clarify which Bill this is, as the diary does not do so.  This is Bill Bonham, the actor and friend of Jim Cranna; his home was in Seattle, though he spent a lot of time in SF because of the theatre and improv opportunities.  Very very funny on stage, but genuine and easy to talk to off – a splendid man.

  1. Pamela J Blair

    Ah, the problems of cars in cities. I remember being in Tehran and having my gas siphoned out one night. Lucky I had a 5-gallon can inside, filled with the stuff. I think traveling is full of potential dangers as well as potential delights, and each means (car, public transportation but not by air) offers a different experience. Looks like you’re about to leave the States! I can’t wait to see what happens to you in Canada.

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