TRAVEL Danny does (an unorthodox) Seattle

Chewing gum wall
A section of the Gum Wall, Seattle’s ‘most disgusting destination’.

Danny does (an unorthodox) Seattle

Danny does

Daniel Carey

IN 2009, the Blarney Stone was voted the world’s ‘germiest’ tourist attraction on the TripAdvisor website. I’ve never kissed the Blarney Stone, but I recently visited Seattle’s Gum Wall, which finished runner-up in that poll.
As the name suggests, the Gum Wall is a brick alleyway wall covered in used chewing gum. It styles itself “the most disgusting destination in Seattle”, but has become a popular photo op for sightseers and wedding snappers. The wall even includes small works of art made out of gum, though much of it is just a blobby mess.
The people of Seattle have fun in other unorthodox ways too. I overheard a man playing the xylophone explain his talent thus: “I used to play for five hours a night … ’cause I didn’t have cable.” Along the waterfront, I saw a guy using his arms and rain-jacket to simulate the wings of an aircraft.
Seattle is the city that gave the world Microsoft, Starbucks and Nirvana. It’s also home to the Space Needle, a 605-foot-high observation station with a revolving restaurant. I took a trip to the top and got a great view of the city at night. Unfortunately, I was 38 years late to see the streaker who, in 1974, circled the Needle in a private plane. “Patrons of the elevated restaurant applauded his arm-flapping and leg-waving as he appeared in the plane’s open door,” according to an account of the incident.
Back at ground level, I saw trees wearing clothes, and spotted a man on crutches fall while attempting to cross the road. I rushed onto the zebra crossing to help and went to grab his arm. Then he looked up and said: “Don’t worry buddy, I’m just playing a prank”. Whatever floats your boat, I guess.
David Hyde Pearce – who later played Niles in the Seattle-based comedy ‘Frasier’ – once told Meg Ryan: “It rains nine months a year in Seattle.” As it poured for four of my five days there, much of my time in America’s northwest was spent indoors. I rode the monorail, checked out a museum dedicated to the Klondike Gold Rush, and admired a cyclone-shaped sculpture made up of nearly 700 musical instruments.
With the heavens still open, my last day in Washington state was spent at the Seattle Art Museum. There I saw cars hanging from the ceiling with lights sticking out of them, a giant black mouse sitting on a sleeping man, and a coffin in the shape of a car. And on my way out, I nearly fell down the stairs while looking at a colourful artwork – which turned out to be called … ‘Distraction’. I kid you not.

Daniel Carey, a Mayo News reporter, has taken a year out to travel the world. His addiction to the keyboard remains, however, and this column will carry his reports from life on the outside.