Seattle has always been home to the weird. Other cities may have their water follies, but it was in Seattle where Led Zeppelin performed on a raft in a man-made lake in a residential neighborhood. Then we had the pranks of seafood maven Ivar Hagland, who told the city he had installed underwater billboards for the time when submarine travel would become a common mode of transport in the Puget Sound area.
In 1949, 275-pound pugilist 2–Ton Tony was matched against a 75-pound octopus in a salt-water tank on Seattle’s waterfront, and in 1968, hundreds of people ventured north to Duvall to witness a piano being dropped from a helicopter.
Here are just a few current examples of Seattle getting its weird on.
While it makes some kind of sense for Bibles to be available in hotel rooms, it is inexplicable why anybody would want to receive one with the purchase of a vacuum cleaner.
At The Vac Shop in Georgetown, you might even be able to score a Bible without buying a vacuum. Owner Dave James is the ultimate authority on his product, and his mission is to lead the customer to He who is the ultimate authority on everything.
God brings in the customers, and James leads the customers back to God. In business, this is what they call a win-win situation, although in the real world, it is simply weird.
I walked past this contraption many times without finding it that strange. The thing is, I thought it was part of a skate park, not an object d’art. Now I can’t stop wondering what this thing is doing beneath the University Bridge.
Unlike the Aurora Bridge’s Troll, it doesn’t attract tourists. Nobody wants to be photographed beside it.
The Seattle Arts Commission paid Canadian sculptors Mowry and Colin Baden $100,000 for it, then hid it beneath the University Bridge.
There is something creepy and ominous about running into this thing while strolling or biking along the Burke-Gilman Trail. It neither represents nor means anything, but it sticks with you, like a fortune-teller’s curse.
The Seattle Annual Manual 2012-2013
Some tourists visit the Pike Place Market to see the Starbucks logo, the fish-throwers or a location for “Sleepless in Seattle,” but more and more are there looking for the Gum Wall, immortalized in the lesser-known movie, “Love Happens.”
This wall started getting plastered with chewed pieces of gum when people in line at the Market Theater started sticking their chewing gum to the wall while waiting to buy a ticket. The wall, now thick with gum, is an official tourist attraction, and the unlikely site for wedding photographs.
It is Seattle’s version of Rome’s Trevi Fountain, but instead of throwing good luck coins into water, tourists stick their chewed gum into a living (with bacteria) work of art.
Nothing is stagnant in Fremont. It is the birthplace of new holidays, both national and regional. Nude bicyclists might not parade down the streets of Anytown, U. S. A., but zombies are having their day in cities across the nation.
Zombie Walks had been happening since 2001, but it took Fremont to make a convention out of it.
Unfortunately, finances have forced the ZomBCom to leave its point of origin this year — what a loss for the city.
But the one thing that will not go away are the nude bicyclists who precede the Solstice Parade every summer. After many battles with the city to allow public nudity on this special occasion, the nudists have won the right to ride their bicycles down North 34th Street on the summer solstice, proving that when people want to do something badly enough, there is no stopping them.
There is plenty of culinary weirdness in Seattle, but for a total experience, nothing beats a visit to Beth’s Café (7311 Aurora Ave. N.) after the bars close on a Saturday night.
When the server comes around to take your order, ask for a 12-egg omelet. Be prepared: It may take 12 cups of coffee to wash it down, and dawn may break before you clean your plate.
You might ask why anyone would order a 12-egg omelet, and what is such a thing doing on the menu in the first place? Well, for people who ask such questions, Beth’s offers an alternative, six-egg omelet, and for an extra buck and a half, it’ll throw in an extra plate so you can share it with a friend.
Is there another city in the United States that sports a parody of a piece of city-sponsored public art? Outside the University District’s Blue Moon Tavern, “Hammered Man” mocks the Seattle Art Museum’s “Hammering Man.”
While the latter is a throwback to Ayn Rand’s idealization of heroic industrialism, the former is a testament to the inebriation of modern man, seeking an escape from the age of anxiety through the trusted brew.
For those who appreciate the fine art of painting on black velvet, the ethereal delights of big-eyed children and their card-playing pets, and the modern miracle of painting by numbers, Seattle’s Official Bad Art Museum of Art (OBAMA) — housed within Café Racer on Roosevelt Way — will be a source of inspiration and edification.
And, if you go on a Friday afternoon, you can mingle with former denizens of the fabled Last Exit on Brooklyn, who sometimes meet there to reminisce about the days when weirdness was not just a top-10 list, but an infrastructure for a generation of Seattleites who found the ordinary world too strange to countenance.