America the beautiful

Here in Seattle. At a mall. Where the fat people are. Having a Starbucks coffee which is not as crap as some would have you believe, but not as great as a coffee from Merlo or Pearl, or the Brown Dog, or that place on Southbank that used to be called Denim. Bought a Pulitzer Prize-winning book, snob that I am: the Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz. Books are really cheap in the US.

Tipping is tricky but not too much. Tip waiting staff at all restaurants, except over the counter paying restaurants. The wait staff are great too, very courteous but not too intrusive. I wish Brisbane staff were this good.

I feel like I’m in Australia, mostly. It translates well to the States. People are polite. They say Sir, and Ma’am. They are pretty well dressed. Seattle seems pretty wealthy – at least, the University zone residents seem so.

The girl at the Barnes and Noble book counter was a guy dressed as a girl. Red lipstick and a big guy nose. Hair was not great. He/she had “bangs” and a fairly lank wavy do centre-parted down the sides of her face. Breasts sitting perky on her chest too close together, too high. Wrong. Red lipstick on thin lips and a clear five o’clock shadow above it, despite make-up. But he/she was neat. She wanted to know if I was a Barnes and Noble member. I said I was not, and there was no point, as there is no Barnes and Noble in Australia. Only Borders. Now, sitting in Barnes and Noble, I wish Borders were not in Australia and Barnes and Noble were. The store seems nicer somehow. Neater, less crowded aisles, larger spaces. Borders crams too much in. Barnes and Nobles’s colours are good: cream, brown and racing green. Typical American classiness. It seems pretty classy here in Seattle. Very beautiful here, too. Trees are gorgeous firs, oaks and cold climate trees. The University of Washington is a very large red brick university not unlike Otago University. Rather lovely. A bit lonely without the students. Curious that, even in summer, UQ seems a hive of activity. Here – and it is a Saturday – the uni feels mostly deserted. A wedding party, some visitors like me wandering the campus.

University Village is the local shopping mall. Very neat, very pretty and very chic. Barnes and Noble, 3 Starbucks (no competition?), Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn, Banana Republic, Madewell, and Tiffany’s and Co are the usual suspects. Cleaner and prettier than Australian malls, but not overly so. Plenty of outside walking space. Trees. Chic tables and chairs.

Each store I’ve entered seems to be a pinup for the most fabulous American taste I’ve ever seen. I’ve decided I like Pottery Barn decor colours: all lovely earthy colours mixed with cream and dark wood furniture. It’s not country cottage, nor is it modern Starke minimalism. It’s somewhere in between. You know, if you saw a movie with Meryl Streep in it as a middle aged house wife, such as “It’s Complicated”, you’d come to Pottery Barn for the stuff. Which they probably did. If I only had Pottery Barn to decorate my house with, I would not complain. I have to acknowledge my preference for this American stuff. I feel like I’m standing in a Martha Stewart world here in University Village. The wealth of even the building design is obvious.

And now I’ve finally seen the fat people. Why do they always congregate at malls? And when they are fat, they are VERY fat. Not degrees of fat. There is thin here, fit, normal, then FAT. We’re missing a few degrees here, such as well rounded, or chubby, or voluptuous. Fat people here are truly, remarkably fat. But there are less of them here than at, say, Carindale, in Brisbane. Why is this? Because, I have to admit it, Queensland has the world’s fattest people. My son would agree with me. It’s so hot up here, though, that I think I understand why they are so fat. It’s too hot to move much. And our food can be pretty crappy.

This northwestern town feels everything like an Australian city so far. Plenty of well dressed, neat individuals, plus the usual motley crew of goths, rastas and student types. No islanders here, but a small latino population cleaning the rooms. Few black Americans here but plenty of other races – lots of Asian, and some mixed race couples wandering around. There is also the typical middle-upper class blond haired pony tailed 30 – 40 something gym-fit mothers, tanned and slim. I saw an individual wearing Birkenstocks and socks (male). Scotty would be so proud.

Each time I pay for something I get a little shock – tax is added after the purchase price and is not generally stated on the object itself, nor anywhere in the stores. Not a killer tax – about 10%, but added on everything, so I have to remind myself that tax is always extra, as is the tipping thing. I think I prefer the Australian method of stating the tax upfront. My only quibble so far about this lovely American way of life.

I ate Vietnamese for dinner – trying to up my fresh food intake after a killer day in transit. Tasty, zingy meal from what looks to be a Vietnamese franchise. I thought it was Zagames at first – similar decor, but no.

Food here in Seattle is very good, reasonably priced, plenty of it. I’m upset that I did not wake up until 2pm, because I’ve now slept for 16 hours (which of course means I slept until about 7.00am Aus time), which will make sleeping tonight an interesting proposition. I wandered round the Uni campus for a bit, trying to get my bearings, and then wandered round the mall, as that is all I’ve now had time for. I’m disappointed in myself.

Tomorrow I plan to get downtown to central Seattle, as there is some sort of Pike St fresh food farmer’s market there, plus lots of other fun stuff to do, such as the Needle, and the EMP, and lots of museums etc. Won’t have time for that much sightseeing on my trip this time – no car, no travel, and I’m lonely without my man.

A brief edit. Americans do burgers really well. I just had one, and it was good. Oh! and they do a pretty good pinot noir as well. I ate just now at a place called Rams, which apparently serves food and bevvies until 1.30am. Considering I wandered in at 10ish, I was very impressed by the food, service and general STUFF.

I’m going to try and get some sleep in a while, now, although I’m pretty awake, but I figure I can sleep for a few hours after 1am and it will be ok if I only get 5 hours or so, considering I managed to sleep so long today. I’m sleep “cashed up”.

I read a book today that started out so promisingly, and then turned into a God book. SIGH. Why is it that Americans, when they become alcoholics, have to find God in order to find salvation from drink? Hmm? What a waste of good book.


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