Travelogue: Seattle

11/17/2011 09:02 am ET
  • Ken Levine Emmy-Winning Writer/Director/Producer, MLB Announcer

The Seattle Mariners graciously invited me to fill-in for a couple of nights on their radio broadcast, reuniting me with one of the most picturesque, romantic cities in all the world -- Tacoma. But Seattle's pretty keen too.

I arrived Wednesday during a record heat wave. 100 degrees. Who gets sunstroke in Seattle? It was like Tucson with ferries.

Seattle has only two things going against it -- relentless rain in the winter and that God awful Perry Como song.

Stayed at the Silver Cloud Inn. I know it sounds like the name of every character Iron Eyes Cody ever played but it was an excellent hotel. Rooms so comfortable you can sleep right through the freight trains going by all night. For whatever reason I always get the room by the elevator, or ice machine, or train.

Hey, they have Starbucks in Seattle too! Who knew??

As I do every trip to the "Emerald City", I hit Elliott's Oyster House on Pier 56 for their amazing chilled cracked crab. Although with the heat, people were ordering them to put on their heads and down their pants.

The plan was for me to fill-in for beloved Mariner broadcaster, Dave Niehaus. For M's fans that's like going to see a play and learning that Marlon Brando's part would be played by the understudy.

I was to do play-by-play for three innings on radio. But on Thursday morning one of their other announcers came down with laryngitis and I wound up doing half the game alone on radio and the other half on TV. This particular telecast was also carried nationwide on Direct TV and worldwide on AFRTS. I hadn't done a television game in ten years so there was already an arctic breeze blowing up my sphincter. As expected, my first half inning featured a freak play that no one had ever seen including the longest tenured umpire in the history of baseball. It involved four runners, three missed tags, a missed base, three runs, a bad call, an appeal, all hell breaking loose, everyone scrambling for their rule books, and me calling it live. My FIRST half inning! I may be the only announcer to ever go to commercial break saying, "And the score after five -- your guess is as good as mine."

Next night's game was much better. I did radio only and got a foul ball. It came into the booth, crushed our crowd mic and almost killed our engineer but I got the ball so that's the important thing.

It is worth a trip to Seattle just to see Safeco Field. It's an architectural marvel -- old time charm, modern amenities, spectacular views of the skyline and mountains, and a retractable roof. Players are begging to be traded to the Mariners instead of from. Traditionalists will enjoy the hot dogs, Crackerjacks, and Shiskaberrys (chocolate covered strawberries on a stick just like Ty Cobb used to eat). All that's missing are vendors going up the aisles yelling, "Lattes here!! Get your caramel machiatos!"

My wife thinks Safeco Field should be renamed "Coffee Grounds". City appropriate but I vote for "Niehaus Field" in honor of their great announcer Dave Niehaus. Or simply the "Haus that DaveNie built".

The musical of YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN has its tryout in Seattle next month. Instead of spending $475 for a ticket to see it on Broadway, take $400, fly roundtrip to Seattle, pay $75 for the same ticket and have a nice weekend in the Pacific Northwest.

See the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. They have Captain Kirk's command chair and ET. It's like having dinner at Faye Dunaway's house.

My wife, Debby arrived for the weekend and the temperature went from 100 to 75. This is one of the many reasons why I travel with her.

"The bluest skies you've ever seen are in Seattle." Damn, I can't get that idiotic Perry Como song out of my head!

There's a local Ford dealer that features the "No dicker, sticker". Much better was the Minneapolis car dealer who once had the slogan, "Bring your wife so we can dicker".

Got my daughter, Annie a nice souvenir. She's into pirates so we got her a t-shirt that says "Seattle", and shows a skull & crossbones with the caption: "The beatings will continue until morale improves".

If you ever have to use the bathroom in Seattle, stop by the Icon Grill. In the men's room there are three TV sets with videos of rushing waters -- rivers, waterfalls, floods, dams bursting -- accompanied by the "Ride of the Valkyries". Who needs Flomax? For you ladies there's an old high school health film warning of the dangers of inappropriate thoughts and evil deeds. Not that your date will be in the mood after going like a racehorse for twenty minutes.

Radio in Seattle has gone to crap since Frasier Crane left the airways.

I didn't have a car. Was hoping Ichiro would let me use the Chevy Tahoe SUV he had just won as MVP of the All-Star game but he declined, claiming he had no idea who the hell I was. So it just sat there.

Being a Mac guy I felt like I was behind enemy lines. But every store and gallery seemed to have an Apple computer. Bill Gates is not taking this lying down. A kid in Western Washington was hit by lightening listening to his iPod. Let that be a warning to you, Seattle!

Was going to go coho salmon fishing but they wouldn't let me clean the fish in my hotel room.

Also, didn't get down to the Tacoma Dome to see "Walking with Dinosaurs" -- a stage show featuring 15 life size dinosaurs (45 feet high, 75 feet long) making its US debut after trampling through Europe. Finally a cast that Robin Williams can't upstage!

But I did get to Utilikilts in Pioneer Square for some new summer kilts. Yes, they're expensive but I save a lot of money on underwear.

Also in Pioneer Square, there's the State Hotel with a neon sign that boasts "Rooms 75 cents". But check with Expedia, you might get a deal.

The Space Needle has a rotating restaurant on top so tourists may hurl while viewing any of Seattle's stunning attractions.

The bearded sea captain with Popeye hat look is still in. As are tattooed Joni Mitchells.

Stopped by Pikes Place Market, where the fish fly and the tourists buy. Did not go to the Adult Superstore right across the street. I did that once when I broadcasting fulltime for the Mariners. Was with a friend, just browsing, and as I held up an Ass Master, wondering just what the hell it did, it occurred to me -- I'm on television every night. This is probably not a place I should be seen in.

The 520 floating bridge was closed all weekend for annual maintenance. So to get from Seattle to Bellevue you could only take the 90 bridge. A faster alternate route was just to go around the world.

Special thanks to the Mariners, Dave Niehaus, Rick Rizz, Kevin Cremin, Randy Adamack, Chuck Armstrong, Dave Sims, Marcy Waldman, KOMO radio, FSN Northwest, and Adrian Beltre for a great week in the great Northwest.

And okay, yeah, well...the bluest skies I've ever seen ARE in Seattle.

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