Italian pizza ought to be followed by a warm cannoli. Greek pizza, however, should be seconded by a pair of baklava triangles. West Seattle’s Alki Beach, facing Puget Sound, reminded me of Revere Beach north of Boston (a grand family tradition). The beach goes on longer than you’d want to walk and the water is probably colder than you’d want to swim in.
But, the pizza and the sunshine is worth the time spent hunting for parking. In Alki Beach’s defense, the baklava at Christo’s, is worth waiting for.
My father and I sat in the plastic-seated booth for some time. An older Greek woman poured us water before retreating to a booth with her friends to chat. Having spent my afternoon waiting for a train than never came in Carkeek Park, I was thirsty and downed the water immediately.
The woman came back a few minutes later.
“The girl come by yet?”
“Nope,” we answered.
Another glass of water and a few more minutes later our server emerged from the back, all smiles. It did not take long before we had a magnificent pizza steaming before us–pepperoni under the cheese and a perfect pan crust.
The beauty of summer is that the days stretch on for hours, glorious days even more so. We were never going to make it to sunset on Alki Beach so we made our way back around the peninsula to Seacrest Park to see the skyline.
Beneath the immense empty sky and beside the gently shifting sound, the city looks like a miniature of itself. When you’re driving through the city the buildings loom above you, the alleys seem to pull close together and highway 99 rumbles overhead. From across the harbor, it seems small and distant. The Space Needle, over to the north of downtown proper no longer dominates the skyline, except in uniqueness of shape.
Though Seattle’s skyline is diminutive, this is only because the sky is bigger and the water bluer out west. It may be officially nicknamed the Emerald City but from West Seattle the town looks nothing like an emerald and everything like the flicker of light trapped in a sapphire.
Nine miles from downtown Seattle, Carkeek Park sits amid the suburban mess. You can only get to the park if you know where to turn. It’s worth risking the twists and having a try at the strange tiny roundabout to reach the slice of wilderness just out of the earshot of the city.
The park’s 220 acres gather around Piper Creek. The parks central field was filled with what looked like a thousand summer campers setting up tents, tugging on kite-strings, and walking on coffee-can stilts. when my father and I arrived.
Carkeek’s rocky beach stretches along Puget Sound across the railroad tracks a short walk from the open field at the heart of the park. The pebbles of the beach are smooth, turned over a million times by the gentle waves, but not enough to be pulverized into sand just yet. We ventured to the water’s edge but soon relinquished the beach to children. Let them ponder the pebbles.
We retreated to the bridge which crosses over the train tracks dividing the rest of the park from the beach.
My father and I leaned against the railing on the beach side at the top of the stairs. A couple of young women, leading younger girls across the bridge, came by some time after we’d paused there, waiting for a train we weren’t sure would come by.
“You have to get across before a train comes,” one of the young women was saying, her tone conspiratorial as she gently pushed the girls along. “Once someone died up here! The train came by and blew its smoke and he suffocated!”
The girls hurried across and down the stairs to the beach.
Across the water, Bainbridge Island cowers beneath the shadow of the even more distant Olympic Mountains. A few far-off snowcaps matched the whitecaps on the water, the tiny crashing waves. The sound lapped at the shore, we waited. The train never came.
This peach is absolutely delicious, want to try it?
Well, when you put it like that…
Want to buy a hundred delicious peaches?
I wish I could.
Remembering a Conversation in Pike Place Market, Seattle | July 2014
There’s an alleyway in Seattle covered in used gum.
In Post Alley, below the famous Pike Place Market, thousands of globules of used chewing gum dot a brick wall across from the box office to the Market Theater. Some pieces shine brightly–pink and blue and minty green–newly deposited and still gleaming with spit. Other pieces have dulled in the sun, hardened in the shade. The heat and human hands have stretched and pulled some of the gum downward. It hangs from a window sill, a grimy reminder of gravity.
I got close, disturbingly close, to the wall before realizing how close I really was to chewed, used, spat-out gum. Suddenly I felt surrounded. The alley is narrow. The gum climbs the face of an entire wall, fully covering the brick. It seems to drip toward you. Sunlight peeking through the building set a span of gummed-wall ablaze. It smelled, but not badly.
My father moved through the alley with mild disgust. I kept looking at the wall. I’d go a few steps and then turn back. Every second I saw something new.
In one spot a double bubble wrapper is experiencing an existential crisis–where the gum is on the outside. A hundred dollars worth of pennies are probably stuck to that wall, glued in place by Spearmint and Big Red. There are Dentyne love notes. Bubble yum curses.
It was disgusting, but beautiful.
Up here it is easy to see the rhapsody in blue.
Seattle, Washington | July 2014