Notes on Seattle, November 28, 2008, Part II - The Path Includes Mole Sauce and Zombie Finger Puppets

While the intent straight upon leaving Fantagraphics was to get some food, after Chris and I wander around Georgetown before finding out Chelsea is already back in the car, we each declared that a restroom was to be called for immediately. We drive to the International District and stop at the Uwajimaya Market, not just for some easy bladder relief, but so that the Eel and I can look at the section of Japanese toys, hoping for some swell kaiju-related items. About a year back or so, I was taken on my first visit to a 99 Ranch Market store, a rather large Asian-based superstore which has several locations in our area. (Raw Meat and I stocked up on tasty and often smelly snacks, which we snuck into a showing of Satoshi Kon's Paprika.) Uwajimaya reminded me of a larger, more hopping version of 99 Ranch, and indeed, "larger" includes its own parking garage, a bank, numerous other services, a food court with about nine different specialty counters and an entire apartment complex. The place is huge, bright and busy as hell. Walking past the butcher area, I can't help but start singing "Oh, I wish I were Uwajimaya wiener!" to myself (and then I do so again when I walk past an especially cute counter girl... it's childish but true. I am a man of brutal honesty, especially about myself).

The Eel and I dig through several shelves of toy boxes, but it almost seems that all of the ones we want to get are the ones no longer for sale, but still teasingly displayed in a locked case next to the toy section. Japanese toy-wise these days, all I care for are giant monsters, so the bulk of Pokemon / Digimon / Whatever-mon / Bleach crap is lost on me. Luckily, we find two separate runs of Ultraman toys, and so I grab a box of each, while Eel just buys the smaller box. I also grab an iced green tea drink, which I will turn out to like not at all, but I am of this opinion on most iced tea drinks of any color. (Apparently, I prefer my tea hot or at least lukewarm.) Regardless, I choke it down out of extreme thirst. Extreme hunger, too, wears on our minds, but we choose to skip the food court in favor of heading to the Ballard district, as Chelsea has expressed a desire to introduce me to La Carta de Oaxaca.

She tells me the mole at La Carta de Oaxaca is to die for, and within about fifteen minutes of ordering (after about thirty minutes of waiting in the not well attended, tiny bar area of this particularly crammed but engaging restaurant), I am digging into their chicken mole with considerable earnestness. The place is loud enough from the rattle of the customers that my din vertigo starts to set off -- with the crew at the next table being particularly annoying -- and I beg Chris and Chelz to start talking so I can focus on something. Luckily, the food arrives quickly, and once that mole hits my taste buds (at just about the time the neighboring table clears out), there is only one thing I could possibly focus on anyway. I also order the empanadas with mushrooms instead of chicken, to give a little variety to my side of the table, and also to maintain my need to discover places for my little vegetarian Jen to eat when I next drag her up to this neck of the woods. The times on this trip that I miss Jen the most, it turns out, are when I go to restaurants. The comic shops, the toy shops, the book shops -- these I can do on my own, and they are not her bent anyway. But part of our relationship revolves around the struggle to find decent places for her to find sustenance of the non-slaughter order. And thus I will spend part of each restaurant visit scanning the menus thoroughly for veggie options, if not ordering them outright, which I do in the case of Oaxaca.

When we leave, it is suggested to me that Archie McPhee is nearby, and I need no further prodding. I have wanted to go to Archie McPhee for numerous years, but had never quite made it through the doors. Now that I have, I don't ever need to again (unless I lived down the street or something). Nothing against the place, but its reputation as a swell spot for novelties and toys far outweighs its actual usefulness as such a store, unless you have a great and fervent need to purchase squirrel underpants -- and by that, I mean underpants that will fit a squirrel. I do have such a need, but that is beside the point. Novelty stores make their living almost purely off of the impulse buy -- the sort of stuff that you grab for the birthday party of someone you either don't know very well or that someone that you know far too well -- and I will certainly spend around five bucks myself at Archie's grabbing a bag of rubbery zombie and monster finger puppets. But I spend most of my time searching, searching, searching for anything that would fall into the category of "Something that I simply cannot live without." The giant medical urinal jar almost falls into that category, and there is certainly a lot in stock there that I would love to add to my own junkpile at home, if my own junkpile at home weren't already of such a size that I could open my own Archie McPhee outlet already. All told, while digging through all of the junk holds a certain joy in itself, purchase-wise, Archie McPhee is a washout, and the second half of their store across the parking lot (who knew?) reveals even less that I wish to get (except the giant, 4-foot, hard plastic iguana). But I have now made the trip, though I will spend the remainder of my Seattle visit finding the same toys in nearly every other shop I visit.

(To be continued...)

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