Friday, October 20, 2017

My Sister's Birthday!

Yesterday, Inkwell and I set off across the mountains to visit my family in the ancestral home in Renton. My sister's birthday is today, and I planned to spend it with her.

As many of you know, Inkwell the cat does not travel willingly, and he got a little suspicious on Wednesday when I cleaned up and closed off the guest room, then packed a bag. On Thursday he hid for a bit until I fed him, then tried to keep an eye on me while being ready to hide as I got ready to travel. I quietly closed all the doors upstairs to cut off his potential hiding spaces, and when I got out the carrier he did what I expected and bolted for the stairs - only to find the bedrooms and the nice hiding places under the beds cut off. I caught him as he came back down the stairs, and the look he gave me is not one I will soon forget.

He settled down quickly once in the car, especially after I pulled the towel over his carrier. Along the way I only stopped twice to rest, and checked on him both times. A little unsettled, but he wasn't too upset. Once at our destination he almost couldn't wait to get out of the carrier, throwing my balance off as I hauled him up the hill to my parents' front door. Once inside, I opened the carrier immediately and he darted out, pleased to find himself in the big house he loves.

My sister arrived home later that night from a work site in Oregon, and we had dinner together and caught up. Her first choice of destination for her birthday turned out to be closed for the winter, so she suggested the Underground Tour in Seattle, and I enthusiastically agreed, since I have lived in the Seattle area most of my life but had never been on the tour.

The next morning we got ready to go and Inkwell hid, afraid to be caught and stuffed back into his carrier. He was still a bit worried when Lisa and I left.

We got downtown before 11 a.m. and parked in a garage, then as we started the walk to Pioneer Square we spotted a fellow selling the Real Change newspaper and pulled out the $2 to buy one. He looked at us and said, "Wait, you're sisters, right?" We nodded, and he looked back and forth between us, carefully, then pointed at Lisa and said, "You're the younger one!" We laughed and confirmed it, then I said, "Yeah, and it's her birthday!" Immediately he said he had a gift, and sang a beautiful rendition of "Happy Birthday" for her, right there on the sidewalk. It was great.

We thanked him and headed down to the tour, with Lisa quickly learning that I cannot walk quite as fast as she can. Once there, we learned the 11 am tour was sold out and they were selling tickets to the noon tour. We bought them, and, with about 45 minutes to spare, headed out to first get some Cow Chip Cookies, then visited Magic Mouse Toys, a place my husband worked at some years ago, while he was still in high school.

We got back to the Tour spot a little early and I read Real Change while waiting for the tour to start. We were called down to the theater and listened to a nifty 15 minute tale of the early days of Seattle to start the tour.

Now, I knew most of the information in the tour. Like I said, I've lived in Seattle a long time, and I paid attention to the history because, frankly, it's hilarious. But there were some great tidbits I didn't know for sure. Like Yesler becoming mayor and suing the city over his taxes, then settling out of court with himself. And everyone who grew up here knows about the Denny regrade, but I didn't realize just how they did it to not cover the sidewalks. In short, it was fun, punny and informative.

Then we split into smaller groups to go on the tour itself. There were a lot of people in each group. It turned out that there was a cruise in town and a lot of people from the cruise were doing the tour.

I hadn't realized that the tour goes outside and aboveground, then heads down into different sections. I think we went up or down stairs at least 10 times, maybe more, and crossed a lot of heavily trafficked streets. Each time we emerged it was wonderful to come up into cool air - by the end of the tour I'd taken off my coat and didn't need it at all walking back to the car.

The tour group looks at an old photo of Seattle before the fire and learns about the dangers of flushing toilets at high tide.

The tour started in a small gallery with a photo of Seattle before the fire, when the toilets were such a big problem that a person was almost risking their life if they flushed at high tide. The group then moved to a corner spot underneath a set of purple tiles, which we learned were original skylights that had kept the underground usable in a time before electric lights were practical. The tour guide actually turned out the lights so we could see how much light the now grungy tiles provided, and it was actually quite nice.


The tour guide also told us about the teller's ghost in that area - a young man shot in his teller's cage while reaching to for the keys to give them to the robbers so he wouldn't get shot. They apparently misinterpreted his move as reaching for a gun. The guide said he'd never seen a ghost in all the time he'd been working in the Underground, and he's been there since 1879. That is, indeed, the level of the jokes on the tour.

The ghost of a man shot inside the teller's cage is said to haunt this area.

The city was originally built on what were basically tide flats, and flooded frequently. Particularly the sewage pipes. The problems were bad and getting worse when the city burned down. Most businesses wanted to immediately rebuild, for obvious reasons, but were told to have entrances on the second floor of the building. But for a time, folks still used the ground floor of the buildings - and because the sewage problems were no better, the toilets were usually up on platforms.

A crapper device on a platform in the underground.

The guide also showed us an image of the building we were in, and showed how the building originally looked, before the streets were all raised to the second story and filled with dirt from Denny Hill.

Our guide Thad shows where the street is now on the Korn Building

After the streets were raised, people were still using the sidewalks that were now, sort of, below ground. This is because the city owned the streets while the sidewalks belonged to the buildings. The city provided ladders for people to climb up at each corner to get up to street level to cross streets. As you can imagine, this was not an ideal situation. Eventually, the sidewalks were covered with a series of Roman arches supported at the base with metal beams.

Roman arches supported by I-beams covered the "sunken" sidewalks.

The beams and the arches have withstood earthquakes and such better than the upper levels of Pioneer Square.

The underground sidewalks remained in use until an explosion of the rat population encouraged the city to shut them down and seal them off. Of course, not everything got sealed - some businesses continued to use their areas. And the sidewalks no longer connect around every block as they once did. In the 1960s, Bill Speidel started a crusade to save the underground part of Seattle's history and created the tour we went on. My mother apparently went on the tour only a couple of years after it opened.

The tour lasted about 90 minutes, and Lisa and I were tired from all the walking. We headed to her office to pick up a couple of things she needs when she heads back to her work site, and then headed back to Renton, stopping only long enough to get a light meal from Taco Time. Once home, Inkwell greeted us with much sniffing of the shoes and cautious optimism that he didn't have to deal with any travel. We had a family meal with four of the seven siblings and a spouse along with my mother and father, making us seven around the table. Inkwell was overwhelmed with all the scary, loud humans.

After dinner and cake, Lisa and I started to work on a puzzle. Then she went out with our brother-in-law to catch Pokemon while I came up here to write this...

...and now I think I will get a nice glass of chocolate milk and head to bed, since I'm wiped - yet again.