The Swanky Seattle Trip, part 1
Let me get this out before I lose it and before I go on for thousands of words about the last week and all that's gone on:
Being happy, I'm finding, takes a lot of work.
I always imagined being happy was lying on this large expanse of clear surf, with the soft sand underneath you and waves lapping up against your solid-gold yacht, the clouds passing by lazily, because when you're truly happy, the world slows down for you like an obedient chauffeur.
The truth, I'm discovering, is that happiness is busy. Happiness barely leaves you room for breath. It comes into your bed late at night and shakes you awake, telling you there's more to do; that you haven't spent enough time with your friends, or been striving to attain the goal you promised yourself you'd hit. It's what drives you to make the most of your allotted minutes.
Happiness is a lot of fucking work.
But it's also amazingly fulfilling.
Seattle. I've been back for three days, and already it feels mythic, a place I couldn't possibly have visited, because I don't remember mountains or flannel or drinking Starbucks. (Incidentally, there is a fucking Starbucks on every corner, but I amazed myself by not succumbing to its acidic charms; instead I hit just about every coffee stand outside the 'Bucks, up to and including McDonald's coffee, which is "Seattle's Best" brand boiled to about 14,000 degrees.)
When I travel, I usually go alone. I get on a plane by myself, wishing my ride goodbye. I get there, I do business or hook up with friends, then, I come back for the lonely ride home.
This time, it was five in the morning and I was with my LCP buds. We were doing it. We were leaving the state together for the first time to take our show on the road. We'd had rehearsals, mostly fun, some frustrating, but right now it didn't matter. It was just such a huge accomplishment to even leave the city as a unit. We were going to perform in front of a bunch of other sketch comedy troupes, mostly white we were guessing, and see if what we do in our little 'hood here would actually translate halfway across the country.
I'm in line at the airport, standing with Adrian. He's brought his huge oversized keyboard in a flappy, loose cardboard contraption that he'll tape up to hold it together. It's hilarious, and with it being 5 in the morning, I get giddy and giggly about it. This keyboard, I kid you not, is so big that even Herbie Hancock is like, "Damn, Adrian, I wrote 'Rockit' on something half that size and that's including all the robots that wore pants and were all kicking over and over again in the video!"
We finally get ourselves together and onto the plane, and the whole way, we're completely cracking each other up and annoying every other passenger on board, I'm sure. John decided that the guy in the safety video was getting way too much enjoyment out of blowing up the emergency life vest tube. Adrian and I talked a lot about sketch comedy. I did a little bit of recapping on the plane with the small bits of video I was able to scrounge online of the latest Smallville episode. (New recap of "Heat" is up, by the way.)
Traveling with your friends, or even people you do work with is such a different experience than flying alone. All the little thoughts and jokes I usually just file away in my head or jot down, I could share. I began to see the people in the troupe not as fellow troupe members, but as friends again. When you're in the middle of rehearsals, it's easy to forget why you work so well together; that there's a chemistry and dynamic in the group not unlike a dysfunctional family. You work together well sometimes because of the tension and personality conflicts that inevitably erupt.
On this trip, though, I was beginning to see them as individuals again, as people with distinct personalities, annoyances, joys, fetishes, styles of humor.
We stopped in Dallas, then took another Delta plane to Seattle. The second flight was great because there was hardly anyone on board. We each took an aisle to ourselves and kicked back, slappy pimp style.
Oh, they played a cruel trick on me: I asked if there was any possibility of a power outlet on board so I could plug in and keep working on my laptop. My laptop is fantastic in every way except its battery life. It drains rapidly, like an old man's weak bowels. A flight attendant told me there's a power outlet beneath every seat! I got all happy. I got on all fours. I got to see the outlet itself.
It wasn't a two-prong wall-type outlet. And it wasn't even like a car-lighter hole, because I even had the foresight to bring one of those kinds of adapters in case we got stuck in a rental car for a long period of time.
No, it was this weird, little round, proprietary hole. They didn't have adapters for it on the flight and told me I should hit Radio Shack if I want to use their crap little electrical supply that nobody can access through normal human means.
Fine. I just get really stir-crazy on flights, wanting to write and answer e-mail and stuff, and it just seems insane. Okay, fine. Let's move on.
Seattle itself: We get there after some wildly delayed shuttle bus routes, and I see enough of the city to instantly liken it to Boston. It had that same smart, old feel to it. Maybe I just don't hang out up north often enough, but I like cities by water. They have this feeling of being easily escapable. Things got you down? Hop on a boat and escape to another continent!
I loved that it was 50 degrees and I could slip on a jacket. I'd just left insufferable 85-degree weather (October wasn't working out exactly as I'd planned, temperature-wise in Austin) and I was loving this change.
We got our stuff together and went straight to the theater we'd be performing at the next night. We weren't sure where the theater was exactly, but Nick was confident it was only about a mile away, so we grabbed all our essentials and ventured out to the street.
And fucking walked some more.
Oh, San Francisco? You guys need to file a police report because Seattle stole all your steep downtown hills. It's a crime.
We walked up more hills. We passed about 30 coffee shops. We walked across a highway overpass. We passed about 100 different kinds of freaks, slackers, punks and skaterdudes.
We hit the shopping district, which is full of funky little stores and restaurants, coffee shops, shoe shops, massage and acupuncture and chiropractor clinics. With as many chiropractor clinics out there, I'm guessing that all the coffee and steep hills just throw your backs out of whack.
Finally we make it to the theater and our stage manager, Laura, yells out immediately, "Hey, you're Omar! I read Terribly Happy!" She joked about being my stalker and I got all grinny about it.
Okay, here's the thing. I had a few people that had e-mailed me and said, "When you get to Seattle, let's go hang out, get a drink, whatever, after we see your show." Which was all well and good, because I was expecting that.
This person, I had never met or gotten e-mail from. She was part of the Sketchfest, and by total coincidence, had read here that I was coming.I got teased about it by my fellow LCPers, but what I didn't tell them was that this was the first time I'd been recognized out of the blue for this journal in any real-life kind of non-Journalcon situation. It was a strange feeling, not entirely unpleasant, but also a little oogy, ya know? Like my stomach felt queasy; it felt like I was walking in a dream, one where people who don't know you know you, and where everything around you seems familiar and foreign at the same time. I freaked out a bit, I guess.
I needn't have worried, though. Laura was great to us and was helpful and friendly getting us situation. So, hey, Laura, if you're reading, thanks!
That night, we got back to the hotel, then went back out immediately to a pre-part for the festival. It was held at a swanky little place called "Rosebud" that had a huge Citizen Kane poster and a sled tacked up on the wall. Everything was red and creamy, and the drinks were exotic and flavorful. We started meeting folks from other sketch troupes and all of them had already heard of us. "Oh, you're the Latinos!" was a common greeting. I told people that were happy to be performing near the Canadian border; as far as we're concerned, it's just another fence to climb.
We made friends quickly and chatted a lot. We were all getting various degrees of tipsy, trading war stories about performing in our hometowns. But before things could wind down completely, Patty (who, as Supermodel Pattí, is the official spokesmodel for all the Terribly Happy Moichandise) dragged Joaquin and I to a bar she'd heard about from her friends, a place called Cha Cha.
Cha Cha was even more red and glowy than Rosebud. It reminded me of Club De Ville in Austin. We found a booth and drank the local brew, "Olympia" (It's the Lone Star beer equivalent of Washington) and just chilled. We watched people come and go. I did a little drunk dialing.
It was getting late, so we grabbed a cab and headed back to the hotel.
But before we did, we stopped in at the bar across the street from our hotel, which was right underneath the Space Needle. We heard loud punk rock music and when we walked in, we weren't disappointed.
A quartet was ripping through Ramones-like songs. Here's the thing: There was no stage. They were playing on the floor and the audience was standing just inches from the band. You could reach out and grab the microphone. We got there just as people started taking huge swallows of beer and then spat the beer out at the lead singer, who was intensely playing his guitar and shaking his brunette head.
Then people started pouring entire pitchers of beer on his head as he continued to play his electric guitar. The guy loved it. He just kept playing song after song, soaked in beer. It was the most rock 'n' roll thing I've ever seen in my life.
I wish I'd had my camera. This guy was unbelievable.
We finally made it in about 3 a.m. and were ready for bed. We were all sharing rooms together, another spirited part of our mutual bonding experience. I settled in and thought about tomorrow. I was already running our set list in my head, wondering if I had all my props, if I hadn't left something behind in Austin.
Tomorrow. We were going to do it. We were going to perform here. This was going to be our town.
Continued next time...
Hey, look at this! Stuff to buy! Haaawwwt-Damn!
The only boat Bush is interested in sending to Iraq.