Break time in Seattle – Disappointment in Pike Place Market

Another Try

We’re going back home now, to the land of mountains, Puget Sound, and boiling hot summer days of 85 degrees. A trifle for us Carolinians. Grandma is older, and a best friend is sick. School starts in August, so we’ll dash West for a visit and then maybe drive South so I can scratch off another goal and pet a rhino. Will definitely posts that one.

This was written a couple years ago, on a trip home to Seattle. Not sure I want to go back. Not sure there is anything there for me anymore except long and steep bicycle hills. They excite me, but are no fun for the family.

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Flowers
Tubs of flowers at the Market

We had mixed feelings yesterday, visiting downtown Seattle. I grew up thirty miles South, near Tacoma, and have spent untold hours roaming the streets of the downtown, in and out of trouble. This time, we went for a fun family day and I was astounded  – flabbergasted – by the crowds. Driving down rolling hills to the water, I wondered if there was an event going on as nicely dressed families and grunged-up nineties hold-overs were practically sprinting down the sidewalks. We found parking a few blocks away and walked to the market. Once there, it was hard to go anywhere without shoving. The three places I wanted to see – Starbucks, Piroshky Piroshky, and Beecher’s Cheese – all had lines half a block long and I wasn’t interested enough to wait. Mal’s goal of a bag of goodies from Le Panier and flowers for the moms was easier to achieve. While we pushed through the crowds, I stopped and chatted up a girl selling wire jewelry who said that this was the usual Saturday crowd. Ugh.

I can’t say how many times I’ve made the drive to Seattle for a day of fun, but this wasn’t one of them. It was almost impossible to walk through the main floor of the market, and any stretch of grass was taken up with the homeless or hapless. Smells of weed and urine were everywhere. At one point, just as we were leaving, a greasy, shirtless man pushed his way through the crowds shouting, ‘get out of my way or I’ll kill a few of you fuckers!’ I talked later with a friend who spent Friday there. He said several people cleared out an area when some white guy started shadow-boxing on the walkway telling passers-by that, ‘today would be a great day to murder a few niggers!’ I love me some good fun and have been in my share of questionable situations on a late night Seattle excursion, but this is just no place for me and the kids.



What to do?

Seattle's Pike Place Market at NightI wonder how much heartache and hurt could be avoided with better mental health and addiction recovery programs? Or programs to help people keep homes and jobs? How many families are one or two lost paychecks away from losing their homes?  I’ve been there. I haven’t a clue about what is available, but I’m sure it’s not enough. We passed a couple tent-city areas on the way downtown and I was surprised at the number of apparently homeless living at the market. I don’t know what should be done and don’t know if anyone does. If they do, there’s no one doing it in any way that honors the people they purport to serve.  It creates a sad angst in me, thinking of how much sadness and loneliness must fill these people and their families. I’ve been haunted by this thought ever since reading Elena Gorokhova’s A Mountain of Crumbs about growing up in the Soviet Union. When young Elena announced that she was moving to America, her mother recoiled, asking “Why would you want to live in a place where they let their comrades live under bridges and die without health  care?” I don’t know.

On a happy note, we learned that Madi is a fan of raspberry croissants and discovered that Northwest Woodworkers Gallery has moved nearby so we enjoyed some gorgeous woodwork and furniture.


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