At four in the morning, on a Tuesday much like any other, a teenage girl and her father were being driven to LAX to board a 7:30 am flight to Seattle, WA.
They watched the sky turn a lighter shade of black from the seats of a speeding blue Kia, and talked loudly about hockey and all the things they would do and see and eat once they got to their destination.
After three hours of a drive, a smothering security line, and some dark chocolate-covered almonds eaten in uncomfortable airport seats, they boarded their flight and sat 35,000 feet in the air, the girl tracing the plane on the flight tracker screen, the father watching a movie, which he would never finish because he picked it out far too late into the flight and immediately forgot the title.
At 10:27am, the pair touched down in Seattle, stepped off of the plane, and booked it across the airport, realizing they had booked a Lyft while being two miles opposite of the pickup location.
Good Morning, Seattle.
Part One: Tuesday, April 26th
The second we stepped out of the car and into the hotel lobby, we entered a staring contest with a Seattle Kraken flag that was dangling from the ceiling. It was big and bright and sent a message we would soon come to note as our favorite thing about Seattle:
We are all Kraken.
This was both funny and terrifying, because we, as stupid and proud Kings fans who are from a place where people don’t even know of your team’s existence, were standing there, bags in hand, Kings hats on heads.
We stared at the flag, looked at each other, nervously laughed, and turned to a concierge who greeted us with, “What brings you guys into town?” and a glimpse at the tops of both our heads.
The elevator couldn’t come fast enough.
After we dropped our bags off, I found a breakfast place that ended up not actually being a breakfast place at all, but a vegan lunch and dinner place that served really good cheddar broccoli soup and even better chai tea. We laughed about the rain that we had already been met with, however small and short in size and occurrence. We marveled over gas still being under five dollars “over here” and we talked in excited and hushed tones about the Kings-Kraken game we had come to see the following day, well aware that we were the only people in the restaurant.
Once I had managed to scrape the last germ of quinoa out of my dish and get the final drop of soup on my tongue, we went out into the drizzling rain and began the mile trek toward the Public Market.
“At least I get to go home and say I experienced Seattle in its fullest form,” my dad said as he squinted through rain that wasn’t more than an ocean spray’s worth of wind and water.
“I’m not sure this qualifies as Seattle rain, but I guess we don’t have to tell anyone it’s this light,” I said back. Then, almost in response to my quip, the rain stopped and the clouds parted, and our “true Seattle experience” was no more.
Now, because of my “Los Angeles born and raised” personal status, I’m not exactly a walker unless it’s a hike. And even then, my abilities as a hiker are essentially non-existent, despite my desperate desire to be one of those girls who take themselves and their dogs up and down mountains every morning at eight to grab cute pictures and an iced coffee.
But beginning just then, and lasting the rest of the three-day trip, I was a superb athlete with a love for morning runs and mid-afternoon walks.
And you know how the bastards got me?
Seattle is nothing if not a rainy-day-aesthetic hoe’s wet dream.
And I am a proud and certified rainy-day-aesthetic hoe.
I turned my dad and I’s twenty-minute mile walk into a forty-five-minute self-guided photo tour of Seattle’s most infamous city sidewalk cracks and gated grass fields. Stopping every five seconds to get a new angle on every building or streetlight we passed annoyed him for the first few minutes, until he realized that this was an apple-doesn’t-fall-too-far type of deal and that he is also a certified rainy-day-aesthetic hoe.
We walked like that for an entire mile, taking a moment between each set of five steps to twist and twirl around in our Kings hats and thick jackets, our phones death-gripped with the camera app open at eye level.
Sometime between a picture of a “No peeing, be respectful” sign for dog owners and a photo of the Space Needle nestled in between nondescript buildings, we reached the Public Market.
It wasn’t filled with the hustle and bustle we were accustomed to, but people strolling in a pace and fashion that best-suited parasols and long-sleeved Victorian gowns.
My dad and I stepped in stride with them, taking our time as we eyed each stall for something we wanted to buy. I passed many a flower shop that, had our trip been longer, I may have visited properly to buy a bouquet from. There were leather-bound notebooks and silk-screened tote bags, all piquing my interest but not long enough to distract me from our destination:
The Pike Place Fish Market.
We watched and we waited until, finally, they chanted and they sang and they flung those fish into the air and across their counters. Back and forth, they launched the fish, seeming to barely catch it each time, though their confidence never wavered.
Everybody stopped and stared, cameras out, my dad just an onlooker with a lopsided, open-mouthed grin, because I had my camera out for him.
We stood there for all of ten minutes, staring until it was over, clapping when they were done, and taking my picture with the “golden pig” my hockey-twitter friend, Liz, had mentioned when I had asked the group chat to drop their Seattle recommendations, before heading back to the hotel to relax.
Jet lagged and walked out, we passed out the moment we got back and didn’t wake up until the Dallas-VGK game was halfway through the first period.
Typically, as Los Angeles Kings die-hards, my dad and I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about a game between the Dallas Stars and the Vegas Golden Knights.
But if the Stars won this game, the Kings would claim a playoff berth, and I would get to put that stupid little x at the very front of my Twitter display name. So my dad and I, eyes still puffy and brains barely conscious, scoured the hotel tv channels for the game, settled for the NHL network’s lagging recaps, and watched the game on my dad’s phone.
Just as the San Jose Sharks had put on a show with the chance of knocking out the VGK a few days before, so did the Dallas Stars. Exactly like that game, a goal in the final three minutes of the third period tied it up and brought it to long-lasting over time.
But eventually, the Stars won, knocking the VGK out of the playoffs for the first time in a very short franchise history, and gifting the Kings a playoff spot against the Edmonton Oilers, the first sight of the playoffs the team had seen since getting swept by the Knights in the first round of the playoffs in 2018.
We went out for dinner seconds after it was over, the internet and the streets of Seattle vibrant and alive with the news: The Wicked Vegas Golden Knights of the West were dead!
Pt. 2: Wednesday, April 27th
The morning started with a jump that Santos Family mornings usually don’t start with: a full breakfast.
It’s not for lack of food or effort that we don’t make the most important meal of the day a priority, but time. I’m sure if we went to bed early and woke up at five, we could have full three-course meals in the morning and be sent to school and work and errands with a smile and a calm and ready disposition.
But what fun is that when you can wake up thirty minutes before you have to leave because you had to work on a project until two in the morning, spill your coffee on the way out without being bothered to go back and waste time to make another, and getting to your destination with more than enough time that you regret not remaking that coffee?
Needless to say, the waffles and the eggs were a nice change for a couple of microwaved-breakfast-sandwich patterned people.
An hour and two full stomachs later, my dad was back to sleep and I was walking out on my own, for the first time in a new city.
I’m a person who craves independence, and my parents prepared me well for it. But I lack real-life experience on my resume, and I figured this trip would be a great jumping-off point in convincing my mom I could do Seattle on my own come the Lizzo concert in November.
I ran and jumped and played (figuratively, of course…I’m an adult) for about three hours, making the mile back to the same places I had with my dad the day before. Except, this time, I lost a damn nail and had to stop at Target to buy another set of press-ons.
I sat at a bar-top table and glued them on, getting stares from other people each time they caught a glimpse of what I was working on or receiving a glare for every laugh I let out because of the podcast I was listening to.
Thanks, Sarah Avampato.
Eventually, my phone rang and my dad was awake and waiting at the base of the Space Needle. I hopped off my stool with a fresh set of nails, stuffed the remaining tools in my backpack, and walked my way to concluding my Gap Year sidequest with a bang.
I’ve been a hater of heights since I climbed my dresser drawers at age three and ended up with them on top of me.
Over the years, as I’ve grown into bravery and gotten more and more embarrassed about the inabilities it allowed me, my fear of heights developed its own list of requirements and limitations. For instance, a roller coaster moving at forty miles an hour or a plane almost forty thousand feet up in the air, I have no problem with. But a slow-moving, thousand-foot glass elevator or free-falling amusement park ride was an absolute and immediate, no.
Since I turned eighteen and started my gap year, though, I had decided that it was time for me to overcome my fears and my insecurities before they overcame me.
Hence, me making my way up to a fifty-year-old standing death trap made of glass and metal and decaying wires, mid-day, my dad beside me for moral support. Because, unlike me, he is “not afraid” of heights.
The elevator ride up was more brutal than the act of being up there. Because on the way up, it was so quiet and nerve-wracking, every foot we went up felt like a second closer to death, and every second closer to death was a beat skipped by our hearts.
Eventually, the doors opened onto the viewing floor and my heart started again. Then, as we exited out of the elevator, my heart wasn’t the only sound I could hear anymore, and I found the sense to step out onto the deck and practically forced myself to press my nose to the glass walls.
I stood outside for as long as I could bear it, and then some. I sat on the plexiglass benches that were slanted against their partnered walls and took a few deep breaths. Up here, with clear air and buzzing laughter surrounding me, I started to think that maybe heights weren’t all that bad.
Then I stood up and tripped over my own foot and had to catch myself on one of the completely clear walls, and declared heights as my official arch-nemesis, war never to be ceased between our two households.
I took one final appreciative look at the view, finally snapped a few pictures, and headed back inside to grab my dad, who had been sitting inside after doing one stuck-to-stucco walk of the deck. We walked over to the elevators that would lead to the gift shop, and I spotted my last and final fear-factor task, sure to absolve myself of all limits and anxieties.
I forced myself to stand on the glass for thirty seconds; I absolutely sh*t my pants, and held onto a bartop counter the entire time.
The gift shop had many a treasure, and I came home with a coaster, mug, zip-up, and Bigfoot-on-a-bike sticker to show for it.
We stopped for lunch before heading back to the hotel to hang out and get ready for the game we had tickets to later on that day. Wings and boba finished, we started toward the room before stopping to stare and wonder at the outside concourse of the Climate Pledge Arena. I decided that I wanted to stay there awhile, sitting by the fountain just outside, and my dad went back alone.
I pulled on my Kings beanie and started to read, smiling at passing joggers who laughed at my hat and making friends with a really loud seagull before deciding it was time to leave.
A few hours later, my dad and I sat as I drank water and he munched on breadsticks, at a table just beside another family of Kings fans who seemed to have come in from out of town to see the game just as we had.
My dad and I walked to the Climate Pledge Arena, and after following a million wrong directions given by the arena staff (you guys almost got us in trouble, you suck!) we were finally at the glass and watching the players warm up.
Our seats were a few rows closer than we would have been at Crypto, and just behind what would be Philipp Grubauer’s net for two periods.
Because of the Star’s win over the VGK the night before, this game didn’t have as much pressure as it was expected to. If the Stars had lost, the Kings would have needed this game to make it to the playoffs. But now, they were a position-clinched team, and they were playing like it.
They were all smiles at warm-ups and pure play during the game. They ended the sixty minutes with an empty-netter from AA and a final score of 5-3. My dad and I ventured home smiling bigger than we ever had after a game this season.
The smiles weren’t rid of sadness for too long, though.
Pt. 3: Thursday, April 28th
After a morning run, I met up with my dad for breakfast and a final walk around the Public Market.
We ate and then circled back to a bench just outside the Space Needle gift shop, where I opened Twitter with a gasp.
“Dustin Brown announces his retirement after a stellar 18-year career.”
I looked at my dad expectedly, like he had read it with me. But he looked at me confused, and I realized that I would have to break the news that his favorite player, a man who played his first NHL game just six days before I was born, was calling it quits after this playoff run.
He tried not to act too sad about it, but I could see how much it meant to him. He was a player my dad had raved about my whole life, and deservedly so.
Dustin Brown is the Captain that brought the Stanley Cup to Los Angeles. Twice. A player of the core four, whose retirement meant that there were now just three players left of the original Stanley Cup-winning Kings teams of 2012 and 2014 actively playing for the franchise.
“I knew it was coming,” he said without quite looking me in the eye. “That’s why I bought so many of the bobbleheads,” he concluded with a dry chuckle, reminding me of the three Dustin Brown Boba Fett bobbleheads we had sitting at home.
We sat for a little and let it sink in. I had never known a world where Dustin Brown was not a King, and my dad had just become a father when Dustin Brown started his career. Now I’m eighteen, starting my own life and trying to get it together, just like both my dad and Dustin were eighteen years ago.
It sounds ridiculous to compare them like that, I know. But it doesn’t feel ridiculous.
They were just kids in 2003, and now I’m “just a kid” as I see them each retire and get promoted.
Growing up kind of sucks. Realizing you’re growing up while it’s happening sucks even more.
My dad was the first to break the silence.
“You know Quickie’s next right?” He had asked it with a mischievous smile.
I punched him in the arm.
Heading back to the hotel for the last time, we did the same thing we had when we first arrived. Every five steps was a picture, until we were back at the hotel and grabbing our bags, to enter yet another Lyft.
Unlike last time, this guy was talkative.
He pumped us full of stories that my dad and I were both sure were 90% fable, before dropping us off at the terminal and wishing us well on our flight home.
Where, from a different set of uncomfortable airport seats, we watched the “Thank you, Brownie” montages that everyone was playing just before the game. I started to tear up, and my dad did too, and then the game started abruptly and we rushed to wipe our tears before they got in the way of us being able to watch the players pass the puck.
Thanks to flight delays and, eventually, flight cancellations, we got to watch a lot more of the game than we had expected to. We still missed the ending of it, but learning about the loss once we landed didn’t hurt as bad once we remembered that, for the first time in a long time, we had something to feel for the Kings that no one expected to feel at the end of this season.
We had hope.