PAX 2012 Day 1 The Calm before the Con

Skybridge from the Parking Lot to the Metro Link

Day 1 Pre-PAX

Jordan and I arrived in Seattle on Thursday at 9:00am.  We were the first of our group to arrive, the trail blazers.  Our check-in at the Westin was not until 3:00pm but they allowed us to check-in early as I had hoped they would.  After settling our goods in the hotel we walked up 5th in the direction of the Space Needle to the Experience Music Project at the Seattle Center.  Along the way we stopped at Top Pot doughnuts for confections and to admire their floor to second-story ceiling shelving and open air architecture.

We decided to hold off on having a full meal and wait for the others to arrive.  This was something of a motif for the day.  And like any motif it bears repeating.

The air was brisk and the sun was shining.  We were hot in our N7 jackets by the time we arrived at our destination.

The EMP is essentially a museum with tons of interactive exhibits, some of which teach you how to play instruments and others inform you about local music history.  Being that this is Seattle/the Pacific Northwest, many would claim that their greatest time of musical significance was the birthplace of “grunge” music in the early 90’s.  Many of the exhibits stressed how unintentional the genre was and concentrated on how the Pacific Northwest’s isolation from major media capitals New York and Los Angeles allowed for a fresh voice to percolate.  This new sound was disenfranchised with the established order of music at the time and expressed their discontent in their own personal way.

There was also a gallery of guitars showing the early versions that evolved from Spanish guitars, to the early electrics, to the modern day electric/acoustic versions.  It’s amazing to think how people just tinkering in workshops with some basic fabrication tools were able to revolutionize music with their creations.  It reminds me of how I’ve heard that the synthesis of Hip Hop was achieved due to a high number of unemployed electricians and other technical professionals in the ghetto that figured out how to connect their cobbled-together audio equipment to the public power sources to have outdoor parties which spread the culture they were creating.

The first room you see upon entering the museum from 5th street has an enormous theater screen and high-quality audio system that shows various music videos.  This enormous theater was inspired by Jimmy Hendrix’s desire to gather people together to enjoy music.  Jordan saw the entirety of Michael Jackson and Vincent Price’s “Thriller” music video for the first time.  If that was the only thing we saw there it might have been worth it.  There was also a giant exhibit upstairs commemorating AC/DC and a smaller more intimate exhibit showing Jimmy Hendrix’s journey from Seattle and still another for Kurt Cobain and Nirvana’s rise from garageband to stardom.

Exterminate! Exterminate!

I don’t consider myself a music aficionado, particularly of grunge or rock music so I found the sci-fi section of the museum to be wholly more interesting.  The bottom floor of the EMP houses a choice collection of sci-fi memorabilia; things like the original prosthetic worn by Sebastian Shaw in Vader’s redemptive last moments of Return of the Jedi or the White Supreme Dalek from the Dr. Who series.  There are various stations that pay homage to many of the pillars of science fiction from from Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun series to Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game.

Eventually Heidi and Mikko arrive and we thought we would grab a snack with them but as soon as we’re back at the hotel with them Kelly and Broc arrive so we decide to wait for them and by the time they get to the hotel Jason and Raymond arrive so we decide to wait for them.  Motifs bear repeating.

We choose a Vietnamese pho place out in Capitol Hill (the local Seattle hip young gayborhood) which is less than a mile walk from the Westin but uphill feels a little over a mile.  The walls of the restaurant are stark white and generally unadorned.  On a walk to the restroom I discover that the hallways are oddly wide which implies it was previously some kind of community center or office building before being converted into a restaurant.

I have yet to have bad pho in my life.  This pho was good, it did not blow me away, I do think I’ve had better.  But so far pho has followed the pizza rule:  Even when pizza is bad, it’s still pretty good.

We reconvene in our room and wait for the train hopper Gwen to arrive.  Thirty-five hours on a train without a bed.  I think that would require an endurance check.  Before she arrives I joke that her train has to stop every time a cow is on the tracks.  “That’s what planes are for Gwen!”  Jordan says, “But what about the sky-cows?!”  And we all know that’s where turbulence comes from.

We have a second (real) dinner at a place that has become our local favorite.  The Hurricane is a dated hole in the wall joint with old arcade machines, worn tile flooring, and serves the hot water for its tea in what looks like a science lab beaker.  It’s open 24 Hours (a saviour when you miscalculate when you’ll arrive by car and get to Seattle at 2am with nowhere to sleep) and it serves breakfast (like a crispy waffle) at all hours.  In short, it’s a perfect restaurant.

In the hotel room each occupant carves out their space out of the rock that is valuable corner cubbies.  We discuss the plan of attack for PAX.  Which panels we want to attend, which games we want to try playing, which booths we want to see.  We’ve been here before.  We were ready.

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