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Tuesday, September 10, 2002

King of the Hill

“The game’s on in ten minutes. Want to watch it at Floyd’s?”

“Uh, that’s at the bottom of the hill. Why don’t you ride up to Hoyt’s? After the game all you have to do is coast down the hill.”

The game was the Mariners against the Texas Rangers, Hoyt’s is a bar, and the hill is the brutally steep Queen Anne hill. The guy riding up it would be me.

It rarely ever occurs to me to drive my car for short distances like this around town. Parking is a nightmare where I live and doesn’t improve around town. Anyway, it isn’t like I’m afraid to ride up a steep hill, that’s what I do for fun.

I had seven minutes before the first pitch and I wanted to watch Ichiro lead off. I just about blew out a lung huffing up Queen Anne. I passed two guys walking their bikes up the hill. It always seems like more work to walk your bike than ride but I wouldn’t think less of anyone bailing out on this particular hill. Looking up this hill from the bottom strikes terror into the hearts of even some hard-core cyclists. At one point the grade is 18%. Ay caramba.

I locked my bike in the rack in front of Hoyt’s and ran, panting, up to the bar. Too late, Ichiro has lead off with a home run and was followed by another by Desi Relaford. An auspicious beginning to a game in the clutch of play-off hopes.

Around the third inning the bartender turned on the Monday Night Football game and turned the volume up all over the bar. The Mariners’ game was still playing on one of the TV’s but the football broadcast was annoying. I should have noticed that the bartender was a football fan. All of the signs were obvious: protruding forehead, hairy hands, a slight bend in his posture, and the inability to master fire.

“Check, please.”

Between innings we rode over to an incongruously located blue-collar bar my friend calls Moe’s Tavern (for those of you from another planet Moe's Tavern is where Homer Simpson gets drunk). Moe’s is a vestigial part of Queen Anne’s former status as a modest neighborhood of working-class families. Now this neighborhood is strictly yuppie-ville and Moe’s is as out of place as it is unfashionable. Moe’s has a TV and beer so we sit down next to the other chain-smoking remnants from Queen Anne’s past to watch the last few innings.

The last few innings are a disaster for the Mariners’ and their hopes of playing in the post season. I leave after Alex Rodriguez’s second three-run home run. It is getting dark early these days (8pm) and riding in the dark is something I try to avoid unless it is really late and there is no traffic.

Moe’s lies a few blocks on the back of Queen Anne hill. I am racing against the failing light on this beautifully clear evening. People are out walking their dogs. The lights are starting to come on in the gorgeous Victorian homes that have all been restored to their former glory and then soome by the Seattle elite and those lucky enough to have bought into this neighborhood before it became fashionable and horribly expensive. No matter how much of a hurry I am in I can always find the time to ride past Kerry Park. Perched on the top of the hill, Kerry Park looks over the Seattle skyline with views of the Sound and Mount Rainier when weather permits. Weather on this evening is very much permitting. It doesn’t permit any better than this.

There is a crowd in this small patch of grass watching as the skyline lights up and the sun sets. The dormant volcano has only an apostrophe of a cloud above it. Camera shutters sound as I coast along the walk-way in the park. The view from Kerry Park on a clear late-summer evening is worth a stop--even if I have to ride home in the dark.

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