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My Great Northwestern Adventure: Part 5

Of course, no trip to the pacific northwest would be complete without at least a drive-by assessment of the great state of Oregon. Because of time restraints and nostalgia priorities, all of my knowledge of Oregon is therefore made up entirely of Goonies filming locations.

View from the highway on the way to Astoria.

Our self-guided tour of everything Goonies took us to the picturesque town of Astoria and then to Cannon Beach, home of Haystack Rock. Almost everything looks exactly as it did in the movie. It’s like Astoria has been locked in a time capsule since 1985—and this is not a complaint. I fell head-over-heels in love with the seascape and the old Victorian homes, especially the Flavel House, which stands next to one of the single largest trees I’ve ever seen.

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The historic Flavel House. Can I please live here?

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Check out the size of this epic tree! It’s actually a 115-year-old giant sequoia. According to the museum, Captain Flavel collected trees from his trips across the world.

Being from Illinois, I was right at home with the bone-chilling, Chicago-esque weather conditions during our stay. It didn’t seem like Astoria was used to getting much snow, as the hilly streets were laden with cat litter to keep cars from slip-sliding into one another. The weather made the trek to the Goonies house near the top of the hill a bit perilous. I’d brought my all-weather, come-at-me-bro North Face parka, but didn’t think my snow boots would be necessary. Wrong.

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Have fun walking up this snowy lane in skater shoes or Chucks!

Unlike most movie locations, the owners of the Goonies house actually welcome fans. They don’t give tours, but they have a cute little sign outside their house welcoming you to the “Goondocks.” So you can totally stand outside and take pictures and perform the truffle shuffle without feeling like a creeper. If you go, remember it’s a private residence, so don’t be weird and knock on their door to regale them about the time Michael Jackson used your bathroom.

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The Goonies house proudly overlooks the town of Astoria.

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Goondocks sign–how cool are these people?

One good thing about the crummy weather is it eliminated any trace of tourists. We had full run of the beaches and the adorable downtown. As luck would have it, Astoria even has an independent record store. While it’s not exactly Vintage Vinyl, the place scored points in my book by hosting some furry residents—it’s actually a record store/animal rescue. So when I found the reissue of Temple of the Dog in stock, I had to give the place business. Because I was sort of literally in a temple for dogs. Get it? Besides a huge room packed with used DVDs, CDs, and cassettes, I was really surprised they had so many new vinyl releases. (It’s coming back, y’all, whether you like it or not!) I hope this place stays in business, because animals and vinyl are two of my favorite things.

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The gorgeous Liberty Theatre in downtown Astoria.

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Street 14 Coffee in an old hotel. So cute I can hardly stand it.

I have to take a moment to give props to one more independent business in Astoria, Geno’s Pizza and Burgers. There was zero expectation of finding decent pizza in Oregon, and I was immediately impressed by the fact they offered fresh basil as a topping. You know your pizza experience is about to be elevated when fresh basil is an option. But the pies! Their pies were half a foot tall! (Not the pizza pies, the dessert kind.) Be forewarned: the peanut butter pie will send you straight into a sugar coma. Perhaps best of all, Geno’s was full of locals. There was even a textbook cliché Old Man of the Sea in there with his grandson. It was almost like walking into a Jack London novel, except without the wolves. Sometimes, it’s all about the atmosphere.

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View from the bluff over Cannon Beach. You need a spyglass to see it up close, but Haystack Rock is the big rock poking out of the surf just before the horizon.

While Astoria was like walking into a Norman Rockwell snow globe, Cannon Beach has the look of a vacation destination for summer travelers. Though it’s a lot more spruced up and less-dedicated to preserving its historic buildings, the town is worth a visit for Ecola State Park, which includes the beach, forest, and look-out point over ocean. Remember when the Goonies peered through the pirate medallion to line up the rocks on the beach? That was shot on the bluff. And if you turn 180 degrees, you can see where the Fratellis’ restaurant was built for the movie. Taking a gander around, it’s easy to see why the filmmakers chose Cannon Beach for their pirate-themed adventure movie. It’s a natural wonderland, and only part of it is revealed in the film. I can’t wait to come back and explore all it has to offer. Hopefully next time I can leave the parka at home.

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Beach view of Haystack Rock from the opposite side. There’s a tiny cave inside it!

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What trip to Goonies territory would be complete without stumbling upon an old ship? Here are the remains of the Peter Iredale, which ran aground in 1906.

There was one more irresistible filming location I had to hit on the way back to Seattle. Racing to beat the sunset, we stopped through Tacoma, Washington and found the high school and house from 10 Things I Hate About You. Stadium High School is not only a crazy-impressive looking building, like a castle overlooking the bay, it features that iconic bowl football field where Heath Ledger evaded campus police whilst singing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” to Julia Stiles. Visiting both movie locations in one day was a double blast of childhood nostalgia and gave me an excuse to visit places I wouldn’t have otherwise thought to check out.

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Entrance of Stadium High School, as seen in the movie 10 Things I Hate About You.

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Stadium Football Field overlooking the bay. “IIII love youu baaaby…”

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Though the pole with the loudspeaker is now gone, (Maybe installed by the filmmakers) this is the place Heath slid down into the bowl.

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Kat’s (Julia Stiles) house in 10 Things.

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My Great Northwestern Adventure: Part 1

I stayed up almost until midnight waiting for the email. There was no guarantee it would arrive with good news—there was a 50/50 chance I would go to bed disappointed. I watched Twitter as fan after fan announced the arrival of their Ten Club email, my nerves bent to the point of frenzy. I’d only put in for one set of tickets for a single show, but I wasn’t sitting on the edge of my seat because I was desperate to see Pearl Jam. Getting the tickets meant I was going to Seattle for the first time.

Finally, anxiety weighing down my eyelids, my iPhone lit up with an email notification from the Ten Club. I dove for my phone and flicked open the email. It was a congratulations—the tickets were mine.

I screamed. I flew practically into the ceiling. My tears mingled with nut house laughter.

I was going to motherfucking Seattle.

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If you’re going to do urban exploring right, you have to spend more than a measly weekend there. This was grunge Mecca. To be able to appreciate Seattle like it deserved, I was going to turn it inside-out. I’m all about discovery on my trips, hunting down historical locations to expose a fuller picture of what really happened. I don’t mind ratting around in back alleys and on abandoned roads to find a place where one little event helped shape history. That’s where the real color is, after all. So I did a little research, made some lists, and prepared to immerse myself. It was destined to be the ultimate grunge tour.

To keep this blog from running away into a book-length manifesto, I will have to gloss over some bits of my 10-day trip. Trust me when I say there were, in fact, too many epic moments to describe each in exact detail. Not only was there the Pearl Jam concert itself, but theater tours, coffee, a trip to Aberdeen, a number of record store raids, seeing a rainforest in the snow, more coffee, doing the truffle shuffle in front of the Goonies house, attending a secret Mudhoney show, a Singles tour, and randomly meeting a guy who used to pay Kurt Cobain to sweep floors.

Thursday, December 5th

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Perfect coffee and coffee house dog.

Ironically, the first coffee shop I ever visited in Seattle turned out to be the best one. The hubs and I started off the day in West Seattle at a little house called C&P Coffee Company. Dogs were flopped all over the floor and the coffee was rich and strong. Everything had to live up to that experience, which was kind of unfair. The only thing that would’ve made it better was if Mr. Vedder himself had walked in and plunked on the couch between us with his ukulele.

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Unbelievable rarities at Easy Street Records in West Seattle.

Immediately after, we visited Easy Street Records and picked up a couple CDs before grabbing lunch there. Yes, they sell food, and it is delicious. Namely, the Alejandro quesadilla. What’s up Seattle? How do you make such a tasty quesadilla? Hola. I wanted to be sure to check out the merchandise truck over at the Key Arena since it opened a day early, so we zipped over there next.

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Accidentally stalking Pearl Jam. Oops.

Somehow, we ended up right in the middle of a train of tour buses turning into the Key Arena. It seemed we had arrived at the concert venue the same time as the band and their entourage. As the buses slipped behind the iron gates to their private parking lot, we hung back to make sure Mike McCready and Co. wasn’t hopping out to say hello. They weren’t, and that’s okay, because it was about 30 degrees and I was freezing and wasn’t really keen on the idea of standing out in the cold any longer than I had to. That was the weird thing about my trip to Seattle. Apparently, it’s not normally sunny and 30 degrees with snow covering the ground; not even in the winter. It was basically like being in Chicago with mountains and the ocean flanking you on either side.

LOL Great joke, guys. But seriously, where's the Seattle poster? What? Oh.

LOL Nice one, guys. But seriously, where’s the Seattle poster? What? Oh.

The merch truck was parked in Seattle Center, and my jaw kind of dropped when I saw the line draped across the grassy park for a quarter of a mile or so. Thanks to Twitter, I’d gotten a sneak peek at Seattle’s poster, and it was ugly as sin, so I had no intention of purchasing one. All I wanted was a tour t-shirt, which I could buy at the show, so there was no point in hanging around.

This is kind of when my epic grunge tour began. The hubs and I decided to go check out Discovery Park, where Temple of the Dog’s music video for “Hunger Strike” was shot. The thing about the park is, you have to take about a mile hike to get to the beach and the lighthouse. There’s a treatment plant on the other side of the park, and you’re not supposed to park there without a special pass. Since we didn’t have enough daylight to do the whole hike, I bolted out of the idling car and snapped a few shots for the time being.

"I'm goin' hungrryyyyyyy..."

“I’m goin’ hungrryyyyyyy…”

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Alice in Chains at Gas Works Park

Then we got lost and I spotted the red steampunk pillars of Gas Works Park, and we made a two wheel turn into the place for a mostly private visit. In case you’re not familiar with it, Gas Works Park is an abandoned gasification plant that used to make gas out of coal. It sits right on the edge of Lake Union, looking out on a spectacular view of the city. Not only did Gas Works Park serve as background for several band photo shoots, it was the original location for Pearl Jam’s free live show, Drop in the Park. The show was cancelled and moved to Magnuson Park out of fear of the overwhelming amount of kids that might show up to a free Pearl Jam show. It’s a shame, because the site is breathtaking.

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Still from 10 Things I Hate About You

Gas Works Park was the setting for a couple of movie locations, however. Not only was it featured in Cameron Crowe’s movie Singles, it was in the paintball scene in 10 Things I Hate About You. (For fans of this movie, I visited more filming locations from 10 Things later on my trip.) Can you say bonus? Even if it didn’t have all these connections, it’s just a really cool place to take pictures.

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Gas Works Park – front view between the chain links

Friday: December 6, 2013

Show day! The hubs and I grabbed lunch and an apple cinnamon roll at Pike Place Market before heading into Belltown to see a few more sites.

Not only am I musically obsessive, I am a huge fan of classic architecture; especially old theaters. It only made sense to start off our grunge tour by checking out a couple of the clubs and concert venues made famous by the likes of Pearl Jam and Nirvana. Our jumping off point went by neighborhood, picking the venues we knew had good coffee within walking distance. (Because of course.)

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The Croc from the street.

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Check out these amazing door handles!

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Front entrance. Love all the little crocodile accents!

 The first club we went to was the Crocodile, formerly the Crocodile Café. It opened in the spring of 1991, right before the “Seattle scene” exploded into a phenomenon. Its first show featured The Posies and Love Battery. One of its more infamous shows was when an unknown band called Pen Cap Chew opened for Mudhoney on October 4, 1992. Imagine the surprise of the club-sized crowd when Nirvana, who were just about the biggest band in the world at that time, walked out on stage.

Kurt Cobain joins Mudhoney on stage for their encore at the Crocodile Cafe in 1992

Kurt Cobain joins Mudhoney on stage for their encore at the Crocodile Cafe in 1992

Next we headed over to the Moore, Seattle’s oldest continuously-operating theater. The sight of several huge shows from the early 90s, it might be best known to Pearl Jam fans as the theater where the music video for “Even Flow” was shot. I only got to see the exterior of it at this time, but luck would later land me inside in the middle of a private tour.

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The Moore Theatre

Pick-up time for Ten Club ticketholders begun at 2:30 at the Key Arena box office, so we headed over a little early to check out the merch line situation. By the time we got there, the line for the merch truck had turned absolutely preposterous. But what was worse was the fan club ticket line. I know what you’re thinking… “if you already paid for your tickets, why would there be a huge line at will call?” This is why the ensuing two hours was utter ridiculousness.

Honestly, there was no reason to show up at the designated time to pick up my will call tickets. I could’ve waited a few more hours and more than likely avoided the line entirely. But anxiety always wins, and I figured it was better to suffer the unnecessary line than find out in a few hours they’d lost my tickets or the box office had burned down or Pearl Jam had issued a restraining order against me. Because you never know, do you?

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And here you will see absolutely no one with last names beginning with the letters A-L.

So I stood in the will call line in the freezing cold for an hour to pick up tickets I’d already purchased, all the while marveling at the sheer brainlessness of the line shepherds as they failed to organize people alphabetically at the ticket windows. Each window was designated with a different chunk of the alphabet to avoid the exact state of clusterfuckery in which the line existed, but the line was funneling into the last half of the alphabet because nobody was telling people about the different lines. On top of that, some people from the Ticketmaster line had wandered into the fan club line like lost sheep and were plugging up progress. The whole thing was kind of hilarious in a pathetic, society-is-fucked kind of way.

Once I finally made it to the front and claimed my tickets, I booked it back to the car to revive the feeling in my toes. An hour before doors opened for the show, I made one last trek to the merch truck behind the Key Arena to see if I could avoid long lines inside. Lo and behold, someone had come up with the brilliant idea of forming two lines at the truck, since there were at least two cashiers inside. We met a couple of fans in line who had a good sense of humor about the line situation, which made the twenty minutes move faster. The truck had sold out of stickers, and as it happened, the only size they had left in the shirt I wanted was my exact size. I held onto my tour t-shirt like some sort of battle coup.

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On to line at the doors, which were inevitably late to open. The bizarre lines notwithstanding, I really enjoyed the Key Arena, the Seattle Center, and the surrounding area. Especially in the wintertime, when the trees are dressed up in twinkly white lights, it’s a fuzzy, happy place. The Space Needle is just a stone’s throw away and hovers over the Center like a lantern guiding you home. It’s a beautiful place, which eases the memory of the crowd of fans who gathered there in 1994 to remember Kurt Cobain after his death.

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Ticket stubs: SO PURDY.

Once doors opened, we found our seats inside. Even though I was higher up than I preferred, it was better than finding my seat was a bucket behind the stage, which I had almost expected given my high Ten Club number. My vantage point was great, looking at the stage from left center, on Mike McCready’s side. A couple of fans showed up in our section carrying an enormous banner that read “LET STONE SING,” but they couldn’t find a place to hang it that wouldn’t be obscured once everybody stood up. I took a picture of it for them and posted it on Twitter so Pearl Jam might still see it. One of the guys said, “I really don’t want to hear him sing. I’m just assisting.” I hear ya, dude. “Mankind” isn’t exactly on my song wish list, either. But I applaud the effort.

The friendly "LET STONE SING" dudes.

The friendly “LET STONE SING” dudes.

Truth be told, I was almost more excited to see Mudhoney than Pearl Jam. Almost. I mean, we were seeing a throwback show. Seattle, the forefathers of grunge—it really didn’t get much better than that. Well, unless there was a Temple of the Dog reunion, which wasn’t destined to happen thanks to Chris Cornell being on tour elsewhere. Nice timing, Chris.

Mudhoney was impossibly rocking. Their energetic, tight set was the perfect kick-off for an epic night. Mark Arm seriously knows how to command a stage, gesticulating around like some kind of punk rock Baptist minister. All those people who skipped Mudhoney should be fitted with a Cone of Shame; I’m sure Eddie kept tabs on you, so you’d better watch yourselves. What a performance you missed. As good as they were, seeing them at the Key Arena only made me want to see them again in a smaller setting. Mudhoney’s sound was made to live in darkly-lit, grimy clubs with electric bodies thrashing in appreciation. I had no clue my wish would be granted several days later.

There was about an hour between Mudhoney and Pearl Jam’s sets, so I used that time to venture to the other side of the arena to meet a couple of Twitter pals, Andee and Kate. We chatted just long enough to get hit on by some gross drunk guy. Way to spoil our brief time together, creepo. Still, it was great to finally meet a couple of gals I’d only talked to online about our shared appreciation in music.

Finally, it was time for Pearl Jam! They began with my favorite song off of their new album, “Pendulum,” which is kind of a weird choice for a show opener, as it’s a somber song about depression and suffering the dark times in life. (It’s also probably a weird song to also call your favorite, but I’m just a special kind sunbeam, OK, peaches?) From there, the show continued to build until it escalated like a volcanic eruption around the extended solo in “Betterman,” when Eddie and Mike leaned back-to-back and shredded guitars until they were nearly lying on the stage. And then, in their first encore, they pulled out a string of nostalgia, beginning with “Chloe Dancer” and sending the crowd into an absolute tailspin of bliss with “Crown of Thorns,” “Breath,” “State of Love and Trust,” and “Porch.” The timewarp sent Eddie into vintage Vedder mode, and he climbed up one of the hanging lanterns some twenty feet up in the air. Maybe it was the enormous bottle of wine he kept chugging, but Eddie seemed in good spirits this night. (Pun not intended, but I’m totally leaving it there anyway.)

Woohoo! Shitty faraway concert picture!

Woohoo! Shitty faraway concert picture!

Pearl Jam brought Mark Arm and Steve Turner from Mudhoney back on stage during their second encore for “Kick Out the Jams” with special guest Kim Thayil from Soundgarden. So close to a Temple of the Dog reunion it hurt. Watching Eddie and Mark take turns frontmanning was one of the highlights of the whole show. It was a sparring match with the microphone, like they were trying to out-rock each other. There was so much awesome going down on that stage, if I’d been in the GA, I probably would’ve spontaneously combusted. Then Eddie tripped and fell on stage for about the fiftieth time that night, and Mark Arm started crawling under everyone’s legs because he’s Mark Fucking Arm. Truly rock ‘n roll madness at its finest. But Mike McCready, y’all—are we sure this guy is human? Somewhere in the middle of his solo cover of Van Halen’s “Eruption,” I swear he levitated out of his body and floated over the crowd like some force of nature. The Key Arena shook. Angels wept. All while this guy sitting behind me lay passed out from a drinking binge.

For their grand finale, the band played “Yellow Ledbetter;” it was their 37th song that night, but I would’ve stayed for plenty more. For Pearl Jam, it marked the end of their first North American tour in several years. For me, the show was a hint of what was to come in an epic Northwest adventure.

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