If you have a few days to kill, and you don't mind spending two of them traveling, you might want to add Seattle to your list of places to visit before you die. Put it right after Denver, Colo., but before Elberton.
My wife and I spent a couple of days in the gem of the Pacific Northwest last week, combining business with pleasure -- my business, her pleasure. Just kidding. I actually found some time to see the sights, and my wife's fun was mitigated somewhat by the stresses of air travel.
We found it especially frustrating to be reminded that we couldn't take a water bottle through security, because as everyone knows, 12 ounces of Dasani constitute a threat to the entire free world. It turned out not to be a big deal, though. Once on our concourse, we were able to purchase another bottle for only $6.95.
But I digress. I was talking about Seattle, which, if you've ever been to San Francisco, might strike you as a smaller, more laid-back version of the City by the Bay. Seattle even has a bay of its own, although they call it a "sound." (Don't know why. Seemed pretty quiet to me.)
Like San Francisco, Seattle has an artsy-folksy district down by its bay, called the Pike Street Market. It reminded me a lot of Fisherman's Wharf, mostly because it smelled overwhelmingly of fish, although that might have just been the grunge rockers.
Another similarity is that, in Seattle, the main tourist attraction is the Space Needle, which goes straight up. In San Francisco, the main attractions are the street cars, which also go straight up.
(Actually, Seattle is almost as hilly as San Francisco, although I don't believe an episode of "Monk" has ever been filmed there.)
The main difference between the two cities is that, as I mentioned, Seattle is much smaller. You'd need at least a week, and perhaps some hallucinogens, to do everything there is to do in San Francisco, whereas in Seattle we found two days to be more than adequate. No hallucinogens required.
Another difference is that we saw a lot more homeless people in Seattle, or at least we think we did. To be honest, many Seattlites are so casual in their dress and, er, grooming that it was sometimes difficult to tell the homeless people from the rest of the population.
(To be fair, this has recently become a problem in downtown Atlanta, too. It used to be, when you saw some guy wondering around muttering to himself, you could assume he was mentally ill and probably homeless. Nowadays, with the advent of Bluetooth technology, he might be a Coca-Cola exec.)
Anyway, if you ever get a chance to visit Seattle, take advantage of the opportunity. It might not be San Francisco, but it sure as heck isn't Elberton, either.
Rob Jenkins is associate professor of English and director of The Writers Institute at Georgia Perimeter College. E-mail him at email@example.com.