Our big adventure started last Saturday morning at 5:45 a.m. when I boarded the train for Seattle. I had never been on a train in my life....so I figured, what the heck, it will save me from driving to a hellfire far away place and paying all that money for parking, and perhaps might give me an anecdote to share with you all.
Well, it didn't occur to me that I would have to share my personal space with a complete stranger. It further did not occur to me that said stranger would have his long scraggly hair in a bun like a little old lady. And finally, it did not occur to me that he would undo said bun and fling his locks about like a really, really homely-looking Christie Brinkley in a Breck commercial. I went to a mental happy place for quite a while.
I arrived in Seattle and found my way to my hotel, and was pleasantly surprised that I could check in. I immediately headed for Starbucks, because it was comfortable and familiar to me, in this strange new land of multi-story buildings and umbrellas. I had a little digital voice recorder with me, so I pretended like I was somebody really important, writing an uber-fascinating expose' on the city. I attracted the attention of absolutely no one....as usual.
After a sleepless, OH-MY-LANTA-TOMORROW-IS-THE-FRICKIN-CLIMB night, I hit the Columbia Tower around 7:30 a.m. Here's what it looks like:
Yeah, I know, right?
And because you know it wouldn't be a post without a bullet list, I present to you:
Kat's Observations of the Seattle Stair Climb
- The EMS guy on duty "entertained" us in the espresso line with a story of how someone "arrested" at last year's climb. I was mortified; the firefighter behind me said, "Cool!"
- There were lots of vendors, and most of the booths were staffed by young, attractive women. Can't imagine why.
- Marion County Fire District No. 1, which is just west of Salem, OR gets the prize for being the first group to let me interview them. Woot woot to you all.
- Rick and Brian from Cornelius, OR were absolutely adorable. By the time I got done with Brian, with the help of some egging on by Rick, he had committed to a time of 10:50 (which is pretty close to last year's fastest time). Out of my affection for you, Brian, I didn't check your actual time; I'm just going to assume that you did it!
- I spent quite a while talking to the vendor from Municipal Emergency Services Inc., who had a little Scott Air Pak bottle which weighs 8 lbs and has 30 minutes of air. I stopped short of asking him if I could try it on....coward that I am. But I really, really wanted to.
- The level of camaraderie among the different groups was really something...it was like one big family reunion. And that family has a lot of fine looking brothers.
- Under the heading "I wanted to take this one home with me", is "Nick" from Klamath Basin Fire. A first-timer, he predicted that his time would be 16:22 and he was an outrageous flirt.
- I tried to focus my energies on "first-timers" and was surprised to see that many of them were, how shall I say it, a little more mature than the average participant. Kudos to Mike - honey, I forgot to write down your fire house, I really suck at this - a first-timer who promised to eat a plate of chili fries before the climb so I could tend to him in the recovery room.
- I found some of my homies:
- So the participants are grouped into "battalions", numbering 1-40. Basically, the more money you raise, the earlier you climb; also, first-timers are put in the last few battalions because they are most likely to be the no-shows.
- Once the first battalion is called, the entire building electrifies and everyone is immediately on task. It's way cool exciting, but then nobody is really in the mood to talk to Kat, so that part was a little sucky.
- My camera died. Of all days, yes, today...my camera died. Wouldn't even turn on. Doesn't that freakin' figure.
- So, anyway - the participants line up, go up 3 flights on an escalator, then hit the stairs for 69 stories. My buddy Keith was in the third battalion, so I made sure to be right up next to the escalator when he was called so I could wish him well. Turns out he spotted me before I saw him, but we had one of those "sending my sailor off to war" moments, only without the actual war. And he's not a sailor. But you get the idea.
- Check this out:
Yup, that's me and my dad on Craig's helmet. Add him to the "I want to take this one home" list. He was so flippin' young and adorable, I just wanted to put him in my pocket, take him home, and make him some lasagna. He talked to me for quite a while about how things work at the climb, about how he trained, about his wife....sigh. I already had mentally married him off to my youngest daughter.
Speaking of which, (Craig, not my youngest daughter), he was one of my Stevens County boys. I have no idea why - but I was really possessive of these guys. I wanted to watch them all go up the escalator, and I did for a few anyway, until it was my time to work. I hovered around their area, and since most of them had no idea who I was, it had a bit of a stalker vibe - but these were my boys, and I wanted to see them off. Here's me in front of their banner:
- You may recall that I was completely freakin' stoked to be in the "recovery room", where I was doing to have the arduous chore of disrobing 1500 firefighters after the climb. Well, guess what. There was a plethora of volunteers, and I got bumped down to the third floor "rehab" table, which means I was standing behind a table and handing out water bottles and orange slices to re-robed firefighters. Sigh. I was there with 2 other women who were a lot prettier than me, but joy of joys, they knew each other and so they stood there and chatted the whole time - leaving me with all the attention. They left early (nice ladies, I was so sad), leaving me with a table of water and a lot of thirsty men. I immediately skeedaddled out in front of the table and started holding out water bottles like some sexy water girl at the Tour de France. That's when it got fun. Within 15 minutes I was shoving water bottles and vitamin water into the pants pockets of grateful men with full hands. The things I do for charity, I swear. The energy level waned as the day wore on, and my goal was to make the last guy off the stairwell feel as appreciated as the first guy. I hope I succeeded.
- Since my life is now consumed by cancer and firefighting (the cancer connection is a post for a later date, and you'll want to read that one), I assumed I would get more emotional about the "cancer" aspect of the climb. After all, when all the interviews, back-slapping, stair-climbing and after-party is over with, we had all assembled there for one reason- to raise money for, and awareness of, the fight against blood cancers. And yes, there were speeches about those who had been lost in the battle, and men like Tim from Skapoose who were climbing in honor of friends and family who had fought the battle. But what I didn't anticipate was the 9/11 connection. I don't know what it was, exactly - my heightened sense of 9/11 patriotism; the "343"s that seem to be embroidered or stamped on so many shirts and helmets; the really big building full of so many young, valiant men and women. I honestly thought it was just me being Kat as I made my way to my volunteer station. One of the ladies I worked with turned to me at one point with a shudder and said, "this makes me think of 9/11." I was grateful to know that, not only was I still sane, but that other civvies could feel that vibe and appreciate its effect as well.
- And since I know you will ask - YES, HF was there, and YES, I did talk to him. We are friends, and that ship has soooo sailed. But it was still nice to see him, and YES, he did look good. But then again, so did I. Eat your heart out, HF.
So there you have it, dearest reader, in a bullet-ridden nutshell. I have so much more to tell you on other topics, but that will wait for another day. Please know that donations are still being taken for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through the 30th; you can use the link at the top right corner.