Notes on Seattle, November 29, 2008, Pt. I - Robot Talking All Day Long

Mind wakes up at 4:30, and I can definitely tell the gin is still soaking my system. Didn't have a crazy amount of it last night, but it was more than Thanksgiving night -- Chris made my first G&T especially heavy on it, and my last drink I downed half of it in a slug instead of sipping, and it was right before bedtime. Slept better because of this, but still my unusual amount (and I say "unusual" because it contains the word "usual," meaning the amount sufficed for my own precious self, but would be "un-" for nearly everybody else in my realm of existence). I laid in bed for another hour though, trying to shut down the thought processes long enough to catch a bit of a doze, but it doesn't work, and I arise just after 5:30. Within minutes, I have popped open a giant bottle of Pellegrino to try and flood the gin out of my blood cells, and have started writing on the Maakie (that is my term of endearment for the MacBook Pro I have liberated from the office for this trip).

The bulk of the next three hours or so is spent in writing up my notes for the trip and digging through Chris and Chelz' CD collection, grabbing more than a few tunes from it along the way. Many, many tunes from it, as it were. It's strange how they seem to fill in the gaps in my record collection in much the same way that my collection would more than fill in much of theirs. I am in a very peaceful state, slugging down the Pellegrino and eventually swiping a Vitamin Water from their fridge, before Chris gets up and drink some tea. Once Chelz arises and everyone is showered, we head out to grab some breakfast at a mysterious (to my ears) place in The Junk called Bakery Nouveau.

I kick myself over this, but I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the astonishingly delicious croissant laden with egg and cheese and ham that I devour almost without blinking upon finally reaching the counter at Bakery Nouveau. It doesn't even have to have a name. All I know is that it is the best thing I have had for breakfast since that time Dad and I drove through the upper reaches of Canada and stopped at that roadside diner and, against all odds, had the tastiest omelette of my life. And now I am sitting at a small table on the street outside the bakery with Chris, waiting for Chelz to get her coffee, and I cannot think past my mouth, and the amazing combination of ingredients that are sliding down my gullet. I want another one straight off, and I swear to myself that I would crawl over every single body in Hades to get another one of these in my hands. That, or dish out another five bucks for one inside Bakery Nouveau. But I don't want cardiac arrest, and I certainly don't want to go to the hospital on this visit, not with my still having outstanding doctor bills from earlier in the year. So, I hold back, knowing that there will be more food to come later in the day. After we eat, we wander through a furniture store, checking out Xmas items on the way, before we take Chelz back to the house so Chris and I can head downtown to hit the Experience Music Project and the Science Fiction Museum.

I had been inside the EMP several years before, but only in the gift shop, and well before I even had an iota there was to be a museum devoted to the history of science fiction attached (of which I am sure Mr. Ellison would dispute much of the content inside). But let's look past what constitutes a legitimate attempt at defining the term "science fiction" (such as those who would claim that Star Wars does not truly belong in such a place) and look blankly at the museum itself. My initial sense is one of disappointment: the Frank Gehry design of the building is, in my mind, so wrapped up with the EMP and not the museum to such an extent that, while its design is so wackily futuristic seeming (personally, I see a mutated whale) so as to connect with the passer-by as being just the sort of place, were one lost, where there just had to be a museum devoted to science-fiction inside, because I only knew it as the EMP previously, the museum seems like a misbegotten transplant to me. This might be entirely appropriate if one is wishing to develop a sense of a Frankensteinian architect running amok in Seattle, slapping on public appendages to buildings willy-nilly, but the outer entrance to the museum doesn't convey such an operation, appearing as bland as nearly any entrance to a public library.

Inside the ticketing area, only a slightly undersized replica of Gort and a couple of movie posters gives one the sense of anything special at hand. The ticket attendant, who is wearing the sort of jumpsuit that one is supposedly to, through its repetitive use in movie after movie, imply some form of space attendant or cadet of lower rank, is polite and helpful, but the ticket taker at the interior gallery entrance is bored and rather gruff,. While I am a man of relative peace, that goes away the instant we are confronted by the ticket taker, and I immediately want to kick his smarmy, Alfred E. Neuman-style, gap-toothed face in. We are told more than once that there is to be no photography inside the galleries, as we are by Mr. Neuman, and while I understand the need for copyright protection and whatnot, it galls me to no end that I cannot at least take some decent overall images of the interior. After all, what I wanted to do was merely to promote and record my visit to this fascinating landmark... why couldn't I take a couple of commemorative photos.

Alas, it was not to be, though there were any number of teenage fiends flitting about brazenly capturing everything on their camera phones. I chose to follow the laws of the establishment for just this once, though even if I got a wild hair up my ass about it, I doubt anything would have come of it once I stepped inside the galleries themselves.

To say that I was immediately in awe of the collection is an understatement. Costumes, original copies of books, set design models, animation models of monsters and spaceships, posters, lobby cards, manuscripts, set-used weaponry... if I weren't already some giant form of space geek going into this place, I surely would have come out transformed! I even found samples from shows and movies I couldn't give a crap about (Independence Day; Stargate) fascinating, and lingered lovingly in front of every section. The nice part is that they didn't choose to go for the timeline approach, which is often the case in such museums, and it is definitely the easy way out. Nor did they group by individual film. Here, they chose to gather items together by categories, at first devoting a rather large gallery to each of the common tropes of sci-fi, or even emerging trends in the genre (nano-technology, etc.) At the end of the gallery lies a wall devoted to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame members, updated to include crystal images of the 2008 inductees. Surrounding this area were more window displays and artwork, and all the while, the visitor is well aware of the video imagery in the galleries, numerous television displays featuring movie clips, interviews and historical discussions of the section being viewed. Especially interesting was a section devoted to science fiction fandom, featuring Mssrs. Ackerman and Bradbury in their youth.

The next gallery, on a separate floor, was devoted mainly to costumes and weapons, before displaying an awesome video screen on which flitted about nearly two dozen famous spaceships throughout science fiction history. At first, Chris and I thought that clicking on the ship's image on one of the three computer screens available to guests would bring it flying into view. But after a couple of minutes, it became clear that the video of the ships, which is remarkably cool to watch as they flit back and forth, around and even through one another, is on a continuously loop, and that the visitor had zero effect on its movements or selection at all. Another giant screen showed future cities, but not nearly enough samples for my liking (where was Logan's Run or the city of the Planet of the Apes?) Mainly The Matrix, Blade Runner and The Jetsons. Nearby, I had to organize a vocal defense of David Brin's The Postman after a very nice couple started to mock the film version openly (and rightly so).

Chris and I listened to a few minutes of Welles' radio version of War of the Worlds on headphones (even though I own the broadcast and have heard it many, many times) and then we checked out the special exhibit devoted to robot toys. Our attention was focused mainly on finding Godzilla, Shogun Warrior and Micronaut toys, which there were in abundance, though I was more than a little peeved when the accompanying toy chart did not say Mechagodzilla on it (even though they used bookended giant photos of the character to promote the exhibit on the walls), instead referring to it as "Giant Robot Godzilla." We also notice that Ghidorah is in the exhibit, even though he is not actually a robot, merely a windup toy. But still, with a couple hundred of toys on display, it is pretty remarkable, though I can't help but think that the tin toy exhibit I saw at Epcot two months previously (at which I could take photos), was just a tad bit more impressive.

And that was it. We were done. A couple of hours, but the Science Fiction Museum was history for us. I knew I would be coming back again... (wait for it)... IN THE FUTURE!! But I also knew that there was so much more that could be done with it, such as a theatre that actually featured examples of these films, so that audiences to the place who may not normally get to do so could see the original versions of The Thing or The Day the Earth Stood Still, or at least clips from them. After we hit the gift store, which is also a tad disappointing (though I did buy a Pez Spaceman fridge magnet) -- I would have liked some form of program to the place -- we hit the bathrooms and meandered over to the Experience Music Project.

(To be continued...)

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