We arrived in the outskirts of Seattle some time late at night. It was raining, as you’d expect. We stopped at a red streetlight, a car came rushing up behind us, crossing the red light for no obvious reason. A car from the oncoming traffic crashed into the speeding car. It was a horrid sight. Blood all over the windscreens. The bonnets of both cars wracked. I pulled out my phone and called 911 and tried to describe where we were. Close to some WalMart in the north of Seattle. We got out of our van and walked over to the scene. There was nothing we could do. I remember the blank stare. Death had taken hold of the bodies and had already worked its black magic through them. We waited until the cops arrived, we told them what had happened and then drove into the parking lot of the WalMart, not saying a word.
We walked aimlessly around the superstore, open 24/7 for all the ghosts and their earthly needs. We were ghosts, too. Pale and for the moment bereft of purpose. But longing to return to the world of the living.
WalMarts are a strange occurrence. They allow you to camp on their parking lots for free. Anything you need and don’t need is there for you to buy, and they even have bathrooms and shower rooms. After having destroyed thousands of downtowns of American small towns that is perhaps the least they can do. We bought a twenty pack of light American beer and started drinking outside the van. The rain had stopped, so we sat down outside on our folding chairs and looked at the stars. We got reasonably drunk after what we had just witnessed and tried not to talk about it by making plans for the next couple of days. Tomorrow we would be in Seattle for the day, we might stay longer, depending what would happen and who we’d meet.
I saw a racoon rummaged around the parking lot. The little fella looked at us and a few days later I thought I understood what he tried to tell us. What is all this doing here?!
Let me try to explain. After we had been in Seattle for a few days, it occurred to me how new this settlement was. There are massive trees everywhere, trees you wouldn’t see in Western Europe. Old, beautiful wild trees. Seattle was founded in the mid 19thcentury, but began to grow into a proper city only some time around 1900. The city is really just a 100 years old, but in terms of scope and industry it is far ahead of many European cities that have been around for 1000 or even 2000 years. The look on the racoon’s face tried to tell me that all this is new and had no business being there. The weirdest thing about Seattle is the typical American attempt at having a perfect geometric grid of roads. But when you look at the region of Seattle you realise it’s near impossible to build a grid there. And still they did it. Where rocks used to fall into the unknown depths of the Pacific, skyscrapers are now holding the landscape back from and try to maintain the appearance of what the American eye is used to.
We hit town Friday afternoon. Went all about Downtown, the Pike Market, and went up to Capitol Hill. Where we met Jake and his opiate smile. But that story is for another day.