Sunday, February 15, 2015

Seattle Valentine's Day Getaway

I love Vancouver.  It’s truly a beautiful city in a grand location.  People from all over the world come to visit every year.  Every tourist I speak to loves Vancouver. So where do you go when you live in Vancouver?  Seattle, of course.
In British Columbia there’s Harrison Hotsprings, Squamish, White Rock and Whistler to consider.  They’re the outdoorsy places I like to go to any other time of the year. But if you want to go to a world class city for a romantic luxurious weekend getaway on Valentine’s Day, where do you go?  Seattle.  And yes it’s expensive.
The Canadian dollar isn’t fairing well against the American dollar yet American prices for whatever reason are usually a whole lot less than Canadian.  It balances.
I had my new Nexus card to try out too.  I got the Nexus (trusted traveller) card mainly because the Nexus lines can be used at the airports now.  I’m really getting to be too old to be taking off my shoes and belt then trying to put them on while everyone is angrily hurrying me to move along the security lines.  I have enough trouble bending down to get my shoes on and off I certainly wouldn’t plant a bomb in them.
Laura is my Valentine though my dog Gilbert would argue that he’s her Valentine.  She hasn’t a Nexus card yet.  I thought I could drop her and her bag off at the border and she’d walk through while I’d go through the Nexus check point and pick her up on the other side.  When we arrived at the border in my little black Mazda Miata there were empty non nexus lines  but nowhere to drop her and her bag off.  So I waited in the slower Nexus lane and told the border crossing agent that this was my first time using my new Nexus. I gave him my card and Laura’s passport saying, “I didn’t know where to drop her and her bag off so I could pick her up.”   Well, I was wrong.
The M1A1 Battle Tank that immediately appeared out of nowhere followed by a Harrier jet with rockets pointed at my little Miata. If there was any doubt it was put to rest as the Marines rappelled from helicopters and we were surrounded by kevlar jacketed men with rocket launchers.  All the while the armed border guard was very confident and pleasant informing me I was a ‘Nexus Violator’ and would have to go inside.
“In the Nexus agreement you signed you agreed not to use your Nexus card to assist anyone else’s or their luggage’s transit across the border. This includes dropping someone at the border and picking them up on the other side."
Admittedly I’d read it and signed it but I didn’t remember or register the idea of dropping someone at the border and picking them and their luggage up on the other side because I couldn’t conceive how that would be any different than were they to arrive separately. Rules are rules though and Nexus is a privilege not a right.  So I considered all the computer upgrades I sign yearly and ‘agree’ to and all the myriads and reams of legal writing that come with every paper clip and how frankly any manner of material could be hidden in the last paragraphs.
“You accept that upon accepting this computer program update you agree that the supplier is not accountable for whatever it is you might want this silly app for and (20 pages later scrolled down, last paragraph - you also admit that you have abused goats when no one was watching"
Laura as usual was frightened and upset.  She saw herself getting mug shot as an international criminal.  I love the US and have worked and lived there and have countless friends in America.  Indeed I’ve been in fights defending the US from all those who envy the big guy.  I personally am thankful for their keeping the world safe from terrorism and know we’re privileged to have them as our principal trading partner.  But mostly having travelled to so very many countries over the years I was just thankful that Americans had learned how to speak English.  I am convinced that at various border crossings the men are talking about me while looking at their computer screens saying, “Apple and Microsoft say he agrees he has had relations with goats but otherwise is okay.”
Inside the building there were long lines of people with orange slips of paper, some of which we saw read ‘violator’ too.  Laura took comfort in the idea that we were not alone.  But border crossings are no man’s lands where all power is given to the agents who really do have to worry about terrorists and drug traffickers on a daily or hourly basis.  Not a job I’d want.  No man’s land.
Eventually our agent took our violater paper, my Nexus card and Laura’s passport.  Laura, a pretty petite blond  grandmother definitely looks like a terrorist. The agent politely asked us to wait.
“I hope you’re still enjoying Valentine’s,” I said.
“I feel like I’m in the principal’s office.” she said.
I wondered if my white beard and grey hair would help me or not.  In my life time, I’d lived, studied and worked in the US, had medical credentials,  Iprobably spent a million or more dollars there.   Meanwhile Laura was saying she was glad that she had clean underwear on if they were going to strip search her.  I was thinking how I  really should have called someone to ask the protocol rather than just winging it like I so commonly do on these spur of the moment travel plans.  We’d only decided to leave that morning.  However, Americans really liked visitors and treated them the best.  Quite reasonably they didn’t want terrorists and drug dealers crossing the borders. Canada had a bad track record to date of vetting it’s more nefarious citizens to the detriment of the US.  However now that BC and Washington were both smoking dope no one was likely to remember anything of the past in the decades to come.  I wondered if being an Addiction Medicine specialist who helped get people off drugs made me desirable or undesirable.  I’ve always been stigmatized as a psychiatrist but being a physician has usually been seen as a positive attribute.
The pleasant agent explained the rules as the first fellow had giving us back our documents and wishing us well on our journey.  Laura was visibly relieved.  Personally at my age being strip searched might have been exciting.
“I’m getting my Nexus card.  I have to renew my passport too, “ said Laura.
Back in the car , Gilbert was ecstatic to be reunited and we all headed down the I5.  Listening to the radio we heard that Canada and the US had back downed from war our border faux pas.  Our Inuit rangers carrying their 303 bolt action rifles had headed south on the dog sled transport to face off against the American Battletanks and Jets on our behalf. They were told they could go turn around  to continue defending Canada from the Russians.  They were visibly relieved because there was doubt that Ottawa’s military bureaucracy would have agreed to the requisitioning of baby coach wheels to make their  their dog sleds functional  in the south .
“Are you enjoying your Valentine’s so far."
“Its much better now,” Laura said as we passed the Skaggit Harley Davidson. On the many times we’d come down to Seattle on my Harley Electraglide we’d enjoyed stopping at HD stores.
This time we stopped at the Tulalip Cabelas store..  I got the most skookum rubber souled leather woodsman slippers while Laura picked up a Cabelas outfitter t shirt.  Gilbert got  bacon jerky and a new ball.
It was night as we came into Seattle taking the first turn for the city centre. I only had to stop once to check the GPS  to find Pine and head up to 8.  The Hyatt On 8th Street was really easy to access.  The Valet took my key while Laura and Gilbert  headed in.
Angel, my new assistant,  had checked my Scotia Bank Awards Points and found this excellent weekend  dog friendly Hyatt Package. I’d told her.  The front desk  welcomed us warmly. Everyone loved Gilbert.  We were given a room on the 17th floor.  Laura loved the furnishings and  the view.  Gilbert simply loves hotel rooms.  I’m happy if they’re happy.   I also love room service.
I took Gilbert for a walk then settled down for a great evening in bed.  Laura was already in lounge wear.  Using the remote and tv we picked our dinner, steaks, since Gilbert loves to share.  45 minutes later a delightful young man wheeled in a table of delicious.  We ate to our hearts content while watching Bruce Willis in Vice and later Interstellar. They were both great movies followed by a great sleep.  
Next day it was sleep in.  Well it could have been if Gilbert didn’t wake me standing on my chest and licking my face. My little fur alarm clock doest differentiate weekends from weekdays so every day at 7 am is wake up time for me. After taking him for a multiple pee, two dump brisk walk I was able to come  back, climb  into bed to read and nap.  Laura loves bed. Gilbert thinks this is the best of times.  He brings the ball for us to throw for him, fairly ensuring we each have equal turns.
By noon we’d washed and got dressed for walking about Seattle.  A truly lovely architectural city.
Normally I stay in the Alexis with Gilbert which is closer to Pike Market and more downtown.  Some times I stay on the hill by the university where the Sorrento is dog friendly as well.
The Hyatt is more uptown.  A lovely hotel and location.  We walked out the door and a block away was the Convention Centre. Then we came on Barnes and Noble and Nordstroms.  At Macy’s we got Laura a Spring jacket.  We found her some Valentine’s perfume, Lalique, from Naseems.  At Homa I bought a hand made rug from Afghanistan at a terrific price just right as a runner for my sailboat.  Gilbert peed on every post in Seattle.  He now owns the city. The sun was out. Everyone was dressed pretty well. More fashionable than Vancouver. But still north american slob compared to Europe. The spring weather had people out in shirt sleeves.  Women actually wear shoes instead of sneakers here  and fat ladies don’t wear lulu lemon yoga pants.  The men looked mostly the same though there were more of the young military looking guys.   Tough characters, older before their time.  They are often with the pregnant ladies who adore them.  Laura got me a Harley Davidson mug from their boutique store by Pike Market.  We loved the young bagpiper on the streets playing “Scots whae hey where Wallace bled!"

At Cafe Yum we sat outside eatting terrific turkey reubens.   Gilbert dog watched.  It was a perfect day.  We’d walked for hours.  I love walking around lovely cities enjoying architecture, people watching and window shopping.
Back in the room we had room service burgers and fries while watching the latest Hunger Games, Mockingjay saved by excellent performance of Donald Sutherland.  After that we watched Bad Teacher starring Camron Diaz on the regular tv.  We’d both seen this movie before but loved it even better the second time round. Diaz is simply hilarious!.  Another luxurious Hyat night.  Very restful.
In the morning another New York Times at the door. Another walk with Gilbert. I brought back breakfast sandwiches with coffee. Now Laura’s already showered  so I’ll have to get ready as check out time is soon.  A great Valentine’s Weekend.
IMG 8009IMG 8004 2IMG 7999
IMG 8007 2IMG 8010 2
IMG 8011 2IMG 8013
IMG 8015IMG 8019
IMG 8022IMG 8023
IMG 8025IMG 8028IMG 8030IMG 8033IMG 8036IMG 8037IMG 8045 2IMG 8048IMG 8049IMG 8050IMG 7995IMG 7996IMG 7994


Rupi said...

I had a very similar experience--also with a cute blond. But never worried about a strip search!

Anonymous said...

well, I have the Pace card and
the Nexus card

for 15 years

they have threaten to take it away

for your situation and much more

Your still going to have to take your shoes off

and the computers don't work so they put you in
the snail line anyway

also they close the airport nexus just for
the hell of it

agents call it the DRUG LINE