Master of the Impromptu

In the end, the only area of human activity where I truly excel is in the organization of impromptu adventures while traveling. And there is no more fertile ground for this skill than the awkward night shoehorned between a late arrival in a new city and a following day of planned activities.

Arriving in Seattle from Portland on the 3:30 p.m. train as we did today was a prime example of this: all other things being equal we could have simply checked into our hotel, found a place to have supper, and then retired early after a day that was sedentary but somehow also exhausting.

But that is not my style.

So here’s what we did instead.

We did, indeed, take a cab to our hotel, a return engagement at the same Palihotel where we stayed on Tuesday night.

After dropping our bags and feeding and watering Ethan the Dog, we walked up the street to the Seattle showroom for the Tuft & Needle mattress-in-a-box company. I am confounded by mattress purchasing, and haunted by the memory of too much time spent in the basement at Leon’s being overwhelmed by choice and unable to get a true sense for how any given mattress will perform under daily use.

The mattress-in-a-box industry has a not unpleasant “we’re shaking things up and taking down Big Mattress” quality to it, but not being able to take their wares for a ride makes it similarly impossible to get a sense of whether their mattresses are actually any good for my body.

Enter the aforementioned showroom, which consists simply of four neo-rooms formed out of semi-transparent gauze, each outfitted with a mattress on which one is free to lay about and, relative to Leon’s et al, simulate day-to-day life. Tuft & Needle doesn’t ship to Canada, so the experiment was moot for our particular purposes, but it was pleasant to see things done differently, and the comfort of their beds gave me some hope that the made-in-Canada equivalent mattresses might work for me.

Thus-sated, we called an Uber and headed for Northwest Film Forum, in Capitol Hill, where I’d secured us tickets for Astra Taylor’s film What is Democracy?, a film that ticked our interests in both documentaries and politics.

We arrived with about an hour to spare, and so looked around the neighbourhood to see what we could see.

Oliver’s eagle eyes spotted a hair salon directly across the street that was, oddly, still open on a Sunday at 6:00 p.m. We poked our head in the door and found that they did, indeed, have a slot available for Oliver. And so he got his hair cut.

Twenty minutes later and freshly-shorn, we went looking for a place to eat and found a Poké Bar just up the street where we enjoyed bowls of rice, fish and seasonings along with iced jasmine tea.

We finished up supper just in time to walk across the street to the cinema, and got two seats in the second row, with a nook for Ethan to curl into right in front of us.

Northwest Film Forum is an interesting institution, equal parts film exhibition space and film school; the promos that ran during the pre-show revealed a collection of screenings and courses that would have made me comfortable renting an apartment nearby and dropping by every day.

What is Democracy?, as the title suggests, is an extended rumination on democracy. It is neither a class in civics nor a polemic, but rather a holding up of the sphere of democracy to the light, through the eyes of everyone from Cornell West to Miami school students to Syrian refugees living on the docks in Greece. It was heady stuff, and made all the more heady by a fellow audience member who started to yell out dissenting views early on and, when shushed by others, became militantly anti-social and was expelled from the theatre while yelling a series of epithets about how we who remained were sheep-like white people being lured into a cult.

The irony of the interruption in the context of the subject matter was not lost, but there was a significant collective sigh of relief when calm returned, as things could have easily gone further sideways.

The film was followed by a brief Q&A with the director, who was engaging and thoughtful.

When it was all done we piled into another Uber and were back in our hotel by 9:45 p.m., ready for bed and anticipating a final day of vacation adventuring in Seattle tomorrow.


Todd Gallant's picture
Todd Gallant on March 26, 2019 - 06:42 Permalink

Always enjoy reading your March Break missives.

Re: Canadian-made mattresses, I can highly recommend Hamuq. We ordered a single for our spare room, and I’ve had opportunity to sleep comfortably and soundly on nights when my snoring disrupts my wife’s much needed sleep.

It’s one of only a few spring/foam hybrid mattresses available in the mattress-in-a-box format.