I’m sitting on the floor of my hotel room. The sliding glass door is wide open, the air swooping through the room, carrying with it the sounds and smells of the city I love. The sun is sinking away now, taking the blue sky with it and leaving soft, burnished beauty in its wake. There is an occasional call of a seagull as it careens between the skyscrapers before heading back out to Elliott Bay. Air brakes hiss. Music thumps. The air smells like food – Chinese, Thai, Mexican – sweet and spicy, but with a hint of salt.
Directly in front of me is the Space Needle. As I sit here and stare at it, I can see a camera flashes coming from the observation deck. One elevator races up the side, another races down. Behind it, the lights of Queen Anne hill blink on, one by one, as the residents settle into their homes, their evenings, their lives.
The breeze blows. The trees lining 4th Avenue ten stories below me rustle gently in response.
There’s a tall building going up. It wasn’t there last time I visited. A space that was just a squat building is now transforming into a towering structure made of glass, the telltale crane sitting atop it like a beacon of progress.
A garbage truck sits in an alley one block over, its lights flashing, as though it’s too early to really do anything other than sit and wait.
Voices mingle on the wind, climbing high until they reach me, 100 feet up. They’re talking about a train ride as they head down the street. One of them suggests they should ride it again. The other one laughs right before their voices fade and marry into the sound of city life.
A siren cuts through, blaring and echoing as the emergency vehicle heads towards its destination, people clearing a path. It could be just below me or even eight blocks away. It’s hard to tell because the buildings and hills act like a bowl, holding the sound close.
A slight turn of the head to the left and I’m staring at Elliott Bay, the Olympic mountain range rising behind it. The clouds make everything look mysterious and hazy. There are boats on the water. Ferries. Huge, transoceanic cargo ships. Tiny little trawlers. All of them, like the Southwest jet gliding above them on its way towards 35,000 feet, are going somewhere.
Helicopter blades chop through the night air. It’s here one minute and gone, moving out over the water, the next.
A float plane glides over the city slowly, heading towards Lake Union.
Again, a camera at the top of the Space Needle flashes.
I’m not the only one taking it all in tonight.