Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ridin' the Train

Today, we took the new commuter train (Sound Transit) down to the Market. 

As I may have mentioned before, this was not our first attempt to check out what the new train system is like. But since it doesn't run as far as Kent--at least not now, in its earliest phase--we had to drive to the nearest station (Tukwila). The last time we tried this, the park & ride was so much  more than full that after ten minutes or so of futile circling we gave it up as a bad job and decided to try again another day. Later we realized that there must have been a game or something that day. So, this weekend we decided not to try for it on Saturday (when we heard there were not one but two games downtown), as had been the original plan, but instead to shoot for Sunday.

The plan worked. The friendly, helpful guard at Tukwila Station wasn't able to show us how to buy an Orca card apiece (a re-usable rail pass you simply keep charging up) from the vending machine,  so we eventually just bought normal round-trip tickets instead. The train, which runs every fifteen minutes, had a fair number of people on it (this would have been about two in the afternoon) but wasn't crowded. I thought I might have some bad moments, since where we got on it's very much an elevated train, running along raised tracks a good two-three stories in the air (the reason I've never ridden the monorail), but it wasn't as bad as I expected. And soon it worked its way down to the valley floor, running not along I-5 but pretty much parallel to Martin Luther King drive for most of the way, until it turned west in order to pass near the stadiums and then back north to reach downtown. 

We got off at the end of the line, Westlake Station, and walked the few remaining blocks west to reach Pike Place Market.  Our first stop was by Mesker's Maps, where I looked at their spyglass as a possible replacement for the monocular (verdict: v. neat, but the magnification seemed to be less than what I had already). It'd been a while since we were down here, so we most hit the usual suspects: a stop by Market Spice for me to stock up on Northwest Breakfast tea, along with trying three others (one we'd had before, the other two experiments); Janice bought a salt cellar. From there we went to the chocolate shop just south of the main market to buy some sugar-free chocolate. Then it was on to the cheese shop (Quality Cheese), where I picked up seven different cheeses, mostly English (Wensleydale, Cheshire, Double Gloucester, Cotswold, Red Leicester, that 'five shires' cheese, and a little Camembert). A final stop by the nearby vegetable & fruit stands completed our business, but we stopped in at a little bookstore for a poke as well. 

After that, it was a short walk back (uphill this time, though) to Westlake Station, then a short wait for the train, then a pleasant ride back to the carpark. All highly satisfactory. I imagine once they complete the next link, so that the train runs all the way from downtown to the airport, business will pick up considerably. Now if they'll just run a line out to SouthCenter Mall, and another one up to the University District, we'll really be in business.

So: public transport that doesn't take up space on the highway. It's kind of like 19th century trolley technology come again. Hooray. 

P.S.:  The Market wouldn't be The Market without folks selling Real Change, an always-interesting glimpse into how the other half lives (it's sold by the homeless so they can earn money rather than panhandling); the topic of the month, not surprisingly, seems to be the health care debate (i.e., why do we have the thirtieth best health care system in the world, not the best?*). But I also picked up another free paper from a stack in the market, the September 09 issue of NEW SPIRIT JOURNAL, and skimmed its article on angelology, from which I 'learned' that in addition to familiar archangels such as Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, folks are now claiming to have contacted Purlimiek, archangel of Nature, and Fhelyai, the archangel "who looks after the animal kingdom" -- the reason being that "Our frequency has become faster and . . . we can [now] tune into the faster frequency angels". Well, that explains that. 

Finally, there's always a variety of buskers at the Market; I had to give a little to the guy in the fez playing "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter". To play Herman's Hermits, on a ukulele, in a fez, in public: now there's chutzpah.

*I suspect the answer will be simple: we're not willing to spend enough money to have the best when thirtieth best will do.

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