Chairman Bao is a Shih Tzu. We travel a lot. I drive. He watches. We've logged at least 10,000 miles and he's never once said, Sweetheart, don't you think you should stop and ask someone?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Underground, in Seattle.

This is where it all began, the second time around. (Seattle was founded in 1851, but the buildings were made of wood and they all burned down in 1889 so they rebuilt it) And therein, as they say, lies a tale.

The original city (the one that burned down) had been built at sea level, and flooded twice a day. The pot-holes in the streets -- caused by wagons getting bogged in the mud -- were so deep that a child actually drowned in one of them. So after the fire, they decided to build sea-walls and fill the spaces between with dirt, thus raising the site of the city. It was a good idea, but they knew it would take months to move all that earth -- so they decided to rebuild the city first, and raise the ground-level afterwards.

I kid you not. They built the buildings, and then buried the ground floors and created new, second-storey entrances. The ground floors that had now become underground cellars became storage space. And that worked pretty well until some of the cellars were turned into granaries. This attracted rats, and after a plague epidemic in 1907, all the cellars were sealed off. Today, it's Underground Seattle and you can do a walking tour of it.

Above ground, today's Seattle is one big construction site. Jack hammers, cranes, mess and confusion everywhere. Standing at my window, I can count seven cranes. Shades of Shanghai! People assure me that it'll be lovely when it's finished. But given that they began building it over 100 years ago, one wonders just when that will be.

I should add that the restaurants are very, very good.


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