Seattle was not my first choice of City when planning my trip to the States. In fact, to begin with, it wasn’t a choice at all.
Me: “That’s the place with the… Space… thing, right?”
Mum: “Ooo Frasier!”
But then I got an offer from someone I’d never met before, saying I could stay at their friend’s apartment for the week. Was this the nefarious plot of a Seattle criminal mastermind, luring innocent British lesbians to their doom? Not exactly. Her name is Bree. I say I hadn’t met her before because, I suppose according to traditional thinking, I hadn’t.
Bree and I are “internet friends”; we met through watching each other’s YouTube videos back in late 2014 and have been talking to each other online ever since. Back in the early 2000s, when I was first venturing out onto the internet like a newborn giraffe with terrible taste in usernames, every piece of information given to me said this was BAD IDEA. People on the internet weren’t people! They were evil shadow creatures who had turned touch-typing and were coming for me.
But only a week ago I found myself walking off a plane at Seattle Airport, my snapchat blowing up with messages from Bree and her apartment-having-friend Jess, telling me they were eagerly waiting for me to land. And after a frantic baggage reclaim and catching the train to where they were waiting, we were grinning at each other and hugging like “real life friends”. Because, as the next week would prove, that’s exactly what we are.
Seattle quickly proved itself to be a City of gems, some hidden, and some old favourites. A quick walk from her apartment took us to the EMP (i.e. the Museum of my dreams) and their exhibitions on sci-fi, fantasy, horror and the costumes of the Star Wars universe. My tweets forlornly predicting a lack of non-plastic cheese on my trip meant Jess took me to Beecher’s in Pike Place so I could get their gorgeous Cheddar/Gruyere flagship cheese. A trip to Golden Gardens on a cloudy day turned into an afternoon making flower crowns next to a jubilant spiritual drum circle on the beach.
Seeming the most abundant type of store in Seattle were bookshops, although maybe that says more about the three of us than it does about the City. In Pike Place we ventured into the Anarchist Bookshop (complete with polite sign asking people not to take the books without paying pretty please); just down the road from the apartment was a shop full of second hand books, where I bought a copy of “Macbeth” and Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” for $3.50; in Capitol Hill we visited a Queer Library (and I cried a little inside that I couldn’t take any of the books away to read).
The queer presence in Seattle was also joyfully unavoidable; even the chain-owned grocery store across from Jess’ had a giant rainbow flag up for Pride Month. From the gloriously coloured rainbow crosswalks to the covert stickers in shop windows offering a safe space for LGBT customers, Seattle was the first City where I’ve felt totally visible and respected. London has its gay clubs, of course, but they mainly only cater for gay men wanting to go on a night out. The range of community activities and space for queer people outside of that alcohol and sex based environment was so special to see.
I made a little and totally self indulgent travel video while on the train travelling away from the City and my new friends and towards my next destination, and had a little cry when I watched the finished product. It felt a lot like saying goodbye over again, and it hit me that it is a very real possibility I might never see any of my Seattle squad again in person. Ever. In my whole life.