Day 2 (again)
Kyle, for it was he, and Neta drove me to the Greenlake suburb, to the north of the city. With the aid of mobile phone sat nav, they dropped me off outside Jane & George's clap-board house, surrounded by tarpaulin patches, as they are in the throws of having the roof replaced. Jane, a math teacher, treated me as if I was a long-lost relative and introduced me to her two chatty daughters, whose names elude me, and two dogs, Judy & Elmo. I was delighted by the politics they discussed, without any prompting. Seattle is largely democrat and so is much of Washington, except for the rural, eastern part. They were aghast by Sarah Palin's nomination, due to her lack of experience, anti-abortion stance and general far-rightedness. Jane popped out for a burger and asked me if I wanted one of this eatery's renowned milkshakes, to which I said yes and that she could surprise me with the flavour. She bought back a peanut butter one!
George, who runs a cinema, showed up later and the two of us played Scrabble on the kitchen table. There is one big difference in the rules over here and that is to do with challenging your opponent's words. In the UK you can query every single word that is played against you, whether it be CAT or QAT, COUGH or QOPH, and it is the other player who can forfeit their go (if it is an invalid play) and never you. If you challenge a bona fide play Stateside, YOU lose your next go! Luckily George explained this to me. However, as he said, there are competent players who play 'bullshit' words, knowing that a lesser player will not challenge them; or is it merely gamesmanship? Of course I forgot my ditty and played a few erroneous two-letters. I was very surprised that CLIT was unacceptable in the US – and I thought it was us Brits who were more reserved. Anyway, we played two games and the spoils were evenly divided. By this time, at 10pm (6 am by my body clock) I was zonked and hit the sack. I still woke up a couple of times, my head throbbed and I didn't sleep past 6.30 am.
Today, Tuesday, the first task was to reassemble my bike... It was going ominously smoothly until, yes, I reached an insurmountable object in the shape I of the front, which wouldn't go back between the forks like a good boy, as they had been squashed together in transit. Luckily George was handy, and using a block of wood, he helped me to get old Treky back on the road. I wasn't confident enough to start riding it into the boondocks though and wanted a mechanic to look over it.
So, while my host family were in their respective workplaces and schools, I got the lie of the land and did 'stuff' in local shops. First stop was a mobile phone shop, where I had to buy a new (well actually second-hand) phone and a flippin' charger as well, because the UK and US have different voltages. Or something like that. Then on to the bike shop (Gregg's to be precise). What a revelation this place was, compared to the ones I'm used to. British bike shops are usually tiny and cramped, whereas this one was enormous, with toilets and comfy seats! Mike tinkered, tightened, adjusted and pumped accordingly – and for no charge! He said he liked tourists. I did spend money in the store though, on a helmet (I've never worn a helmet in my life but need one here as it's a travel insurance requirement) and high energy snack bars (never had one of them before either). Then found a cafe with wi fi, where the waitress was quite happy for me to sit outside, using my laptop, even though I didn't buy anything. So, I was able to copy and paste what I'd written in a Word type document and put it in my blog. Phew! That means that I can type something every day even if it doesn't appear on the blog until several days later.
A fantastically delicious salami, pickle and white cheese panini from an Italian cafe for lunch, where the server gave me tasters of equally sublime gelati (a kind of ice cream). Here a customer asked where I was from and after a chat he invited me to stay at his place! He lived in Santa Fey, New Mexico, which is not on my route unfortunately. What a nice guy though! So far people have been utterly adorable. Not only this, but I like the feel of the small part of Seattle I've seen so far. It's relaxing, neither pretentious nor poor and the locals are mostly slim, active and attractive! There are so many cyclists, roller-skaters and joggers – including joggers with dogs and prams! I admit that my impression is slightly affected by the blue skies and warm temperature. I didn't even mind when I got a puncture (yeah, on the first day of riding, after a couple of miles!) It was actually an old patch that had come apart as a result of Mike pumping the tyres up super hard.
This evening Jane & George drove me to the Seattle Scrabble Club, where I had a choice of playing with a blue or white card. You choose the colour of the score-sheet depending on whether your average score is below or above 360. As mine is probably slightly higher, I fancied myself a white-collar worker. Four games and four losses later, I found out my true socio-economic status... I was often ahead in these matches, but Jane (my hostess), Steven, Daniel and Alice were all strategic players; they tracked the tiles played and seemed to know they were going to win even if they fell a hundred points behind. I felt like a mouse being toyed with by cats. I did win five bucks tonight though. Woo hoo! At this club they all play their games simultaneously (and always with clocks) and Rebecca ('The President' to give her official title) announces a theme each time. If you play a word that fits the theme you could win a prize if it is deemed the most pertinent. In the last game the theme was “what goes up” and I had played the word tax. It even got a laugh! In my first game Jane left me for dust with IONIZER (91 points) and I was challenged off the board when I suffixed an S to TEASING. I'm sure you could play it in Britain... I did manage to get a Q on a two-way scoring triple letter with SUQ/QI (67) at least. Steven also queried one of my words (ALOTTED) which I hoped would have two spellings out of sheer desperation. Daniel next, an anoraky type player, tall and gawky, sporting a “National Scrabble Championships” baseball cap. He complained when I didn't hold the letter bag high enough to draw my tiles, as you're supposed to hold it above eye-level, and someone had been kicked out this year when spotted looking in the bag. I don't like this kind of Scrabble and am more of a 'cardigany' type player. With my very first seven letters I was able to play TOURIST (66 – and how apposite) and managed another bingo a bit later to fly into the lead. However, it was not to last as my LAIRIEST and TEREPINS were removed from the board. OK, OK, I wanted to win. In the last bout Alice, a shrewd old soul, twice blocked my forthcoming bingos as if she could read my mind. Maybe she's a red-hot poker player too. I did manage INCHOATE (60), which I agonized over the spelling of, as I'd only seen it played against me once before. It was a tight game when I strained to produce another clearance with STRAINS (64) but then picked up the last of the letters and they were the goddamn awful ZQVMMDO. I had to play the Z and the Q for pitiful scores just to dump them, by which time Alice went out and I forfeited 13 points. Unlucky for me.
Jane & George left early as Jane needs to be up at 5.30, so Rebecca drove me back to her place, foisted lots of maps on me, as she is a fellow cyclist and has biked across the country, not once, but three or four times. She proudly displayed her bicycle, which I was surprised by the colour scheme of, especially given her gender. It was a pukey combination of egg yolk yellow, with banana mudguards and plum panniers. Then she drove me back to Greenlake, where I had another restless, headachey night.
In the morning I took my leave of this wonderful, warm family, who had left me to do exactly as I pleased and even left me alone in their house. Hopefully they will be the first of many such lovely people I meet along the highways and byways of this country.