Who knows what makes Seattle strange?
Maybe the city’s oddity is a function of mildewed brain cells, or the reflection of an over-caffeinated and routinely stoned populous. Perhaps the Space Needle is really a flying saucer that docked in the 60’s, discharging aliens that spawned a bizarre new race. Whatever the reason, let there be no doubt. Seattle is strange.
Here are Global Gallop’s picks for the 10 Best Stops on the Seattle Strange Tour:
1) Mark Your Territory: Try as they might, clean-up crews cannot thwart the public’s prolific deposits of sticky wads at Seattle’s tackiest attraction, the Gum Wall. Located in Post Alley, under Pike Place Market, the Gum Wall is a colorful, kooky, cootie-ridden place to leave your impression on Seattle.
2) See Freakish Footwear: Near the Gum Wall on the lower level of the Pike Place Market you will find Seattle’s Giant Shoe Museum. Fashioned like a peep show, for a couple of quarters you can spy on some colossal clodhoppers. The Giant Shoe Museum is a corny collection clearly concocted for the purpose of pulling your leg.
3) Contemplate the Meaning: Downtown Seattle is awash with curious abstract sculptures, including a giant squid bicycle rack and a huge inverted umbrella wind vane. No doubt the city’s most ironic Pop Art expression is the giant red Popsicle in Belltown. Yes, passersby have been observed stopping to lick the sculpture.
4) Buy Inane Kitsch: Archie McPhee is a novelty store chock full of everything you don’t need but oddly can’t resist. An inflatable unicorn horn for your cat? Got that. A glow in the dark zombie play set? Got that. Wasabi toothpaste? Got that. If you can walk out of Archie McPhee empty-handed, your inner child is probably posted on a milk carton somewhere.
5) Munch in a Makeover Café: The 5 Spot Café is a funky eatery with decor and menus that morph periodically according to different regional themes. At the time of our visit, the 5 Spot was festooned with Mardi Gras regalia and Big Easy staples were on order. But strap on your coconut bra and tune up your ukulele, because the chef was on scouting trip to Hawaii. There is one constant at the 5 Spot Café that is sure to prompt a double take. The huge coffee cup on the sign out front is, indeed, spouting real steam.
6) Embrace Bad Art: Seattle’s Official Bad Art Museum of Art (OBAMA) in the boho Café Racer has art anyone can appreciate. If you always suspected that Elvis was at the Last Supper, and believe that dogs can play poker, this is your place.
7) Cross If You Dare: Here is a site for anybody who was tortured as a child with fables about a wolf eating grandma and a troll consuming goats. In the funky Freemont neighborhood, under the Aurora Bridge, there is actually a huge, one-eyed, long-haired ogre clutching the remains of a Volkswagen Beetle. Thanks, Seattle, for standing ever ready to make our childhood nightmares come to life.
8) Just Say No: In Seattle’s otherwise pastoral Magnuson Park, the landscape is inexplicably blighted with the fins of 22 naval attack submarines. The fins were a gift to Seattle from the U.S. Navy. Some think the fins resemble a pod of Orca whales. Others think the fins represent a strong argument for re-gifting.
9) Seek a Spirited Soda: On a hardscrabble block of John Street in Capitol Hill, there is an eerie 70’s vintage soda vending machine that is reputably haunted. Despite a steady throng of curious customers, nobody has ever seen the machine restocked. All the buttons are labeled ‘Mystery’, so just like a box of chocolates; you never know what you will get. One thing is for sure, many folks embrace the vending enigma. Seattle’s Mystery Coke Machine has its own Facebook page, with over 20,000 ‘likes’.
10) Color Me Communist: Perhaps the best proof of Seattle’s determination to color outside the lines is the statue of Vladimir Lenin prominently displayed in Freemont. Relegated to a Czech scrapyard after the fall of the Soviet Union, the statue was purchased, imported and eventually installed at great expense in a busy Seattle intersection. Apparently communist trash is Seattle’s treasure. Go figure.