Urban hunting is easier than you think: A squirrel trap, available at most hardware stores, plus peanut butter and a backyard equals an infinite supply of fresh meat—if you're willing to eat squirrels. (They taste gamy.) You can catch one of the rabbits infesting Woodland Park—and decimating its greenery—with a cardboard box and some lettuce. (Do the killing and gutting at home, in the bathtub, for easy cleanup and minimum trauma to passersby. They taste musky.) You can catch pigeons in any vacant lot with some seed and a big fishing net. (They taste like the dark meat of a turkey.) Take your dip net to the Arboretum with some bread crumbs to snare a duck or goose. Twist their heads to break their necks. (A Stranger writer once tried to hunt and eat a goose—after successfully hunting and eating a squirrel, a rabbit, and a pigeon in the ways described above—but couldn't bring himself to do it. It was too beautiful.)
For urban fishing, visit Linc's Fishing Tackle & Honda (501 Rainier Ave S, 324-7600). The owners can tell you where, how, and when to catch squid in Elliott Bay, alongside the old Vietnamese and Chinese folks. Linc's can also advise on catching trout in Green Lake (though the high concentration of goose poop is a little gross) or bass, perch, and even salmon in Lake Washington (fish from a dock or rent a canoe from the UW boathouse).
If worse comes to worst, you can always eat slugs: Soak them in hot water and vinegar to get the slime off, then boil them thoroughly in water to kill any parasites, then sauté them with tons of butter. Garnish with parsley. Pretend they're escargot.
In the past two years, the number of people in Washington who receive food stamps jumped from 550,000 to nearly 700,000. Members of the state's Basic Food program get a nifty card that can be swiped like a credit card at grocery stores to buy fresh and nonperishable food—but not tobacco, alcohol, or anything fun. But getting food stamps is a challenge: You've got to call the Department of Social and Health Services or fill out a complex online form (877-514-FOOD or foodhelp.wa.gov), and the wait for benefits can exceed a week. Even then, the benefits are meager—as low as $14 a month—unless you are really down-and-out poor. But if you make nothing, one person can collect $176 a month.
If you don't qualify for food stamps—or your food-stamp benefits have run out—and you don't know what to do, don't fret: Seattle has about 30 food banks that help all comers. "If people present themselves in need, that's all the proof we need," says Trish Twomey, who staffs the Seattle Food Committee, a coalition of food banks around the city. Food banks generally serve folks residing in the same zip code, so bring your identification to show your address. Look up the food-bank directory and schedule at www.seattle.gov/humanservices/emergencyservices/emergencyfood.htm.
We've limited this list to programs that serve meals more than once a week, are not restricted by age or ethnicity, and don't require you to attend church services, but you can get a complete list of every place in Seattle offering free meals at www.seattle.gov/humanservices/emergencyservices/hotmealresourcedirectory.pdf.
• Food Not Bombs serves a vegetarian meal every Sunday in Occidental Park in Pioneer Square (around 6 pm) and the first three Saturdays of the month at Westlake Park downtown (around 2:30 pm). The last Saturday of the month, they serve meals at the Really Really Free Market in Pratt Park (1800 S Main St, around 2:30 pm).
• The Union Gospel Mission (318 Second Ave Ext S) serves free breakfast daily (7–8:30 am), $2 lunch Monday through Saturday (12:15–1 pm), and $2 dinner every day except the last Thursday of each month (5–6 pm).
• The Millionair Club Charity (2515 Western Ave) serves free breakfast Monday through Friday (6:15–7:30 am) and free lunch (noon–1:30 pm).
• Angeline's Day Center (2025 Third Ave) serves meals to women—breakfast (7:30–8:30 am), lunch (11:30 am–12:30 pm), and snacks (3:30 pm)—seven days a week.
• The Phinney Neighborhood Soup Kitchen serves free meals on Tuesdays (5–6 pm) and on Wednesdays (noon–1 pm) at St. John's Lutheran Church (5515 Phinney Ave N).
• The Seattle Indian Center (611 12th Ave S, Ste 300) serves free lunch on weekdays (11:45–12:45 pm).
• The Bread of Life Mission (97 S Main) gives out a sack lunch Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday (noon–1 pm) and serves a hot lunch on Tuesdays (12:30 pm).
• The Central Lutheran Church (1710 11th Ave) serves lunch on Tuesdays and Fridays (noon–1 pm).
• El Centro de la Raza (2524 16th Ave S) serves lunch every weekday (noon–1 pm).
• Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church (508 Broadway Ave) serves a light meal every day except Monday (9–11 am).
• Sacred Heart Church (232 Warren Ave N, Ste B) serves a sack lunch every weekday (8:30–11 am).
Well, you can't exactly eat well on grocery-store samples alone. But you can get some hella good snacks. Grocery-store samples are so free, but so fickle. Sometimes you'll find a tender slice of pot roast; other days it's a small mountain of cubic cheese fossils, fondled by who knows how many hands before yours. (Eat the cheese anyway. Eat it.) Trader Joe's is probably your most reliable, hearty, and consistently tasty bet: They have samples all day, every day—little plastic cups filled with things like gooey enchilada, or a wondrous meatball, or cheese blintzes with fruit. No obligation to buy! Hella good! When do other grocery stores put out samples? The heavily accented and deeply sarcastic woman who answered the phone in the QFC deli department did not enjoy this exchange with what she clearly regarded as a crazy person: "Hi, do you guys put out samples throughout the day? Like, cheese... and... crackers?" "Um, yaaaaaaahhh?" "Is there any kind of schedule for when you put new samples out?" "Um, not really. I mean, if they get empty, we put some more." "So they're just out all the time?" "Um, yeaaaaaah?" However, Whole Foods' friendly customer-service lady delivered some fascinating news: "There's not really a schedule, it's kind of just when each department has time—but did you know you can sample any item in the store? Just find someone with an apron, and they'll open it up for you." Think of the possibilities! Think of the cookies!
Get your hands on a six- to eight-quart heavy pot with a lid. (What qualifies as a heavy pot: cast iron, enamel, Pyrex, or ceramic. "Ovenproof" is key.) Consult the oracle, that is, Google: Type in the words "new york times speedy no knead bread." Read the recipe all the way through, get the ingredients at the store, and follow the directions. This bread is so easy to make, some call it the Moron Bread. Just be careful not to burn yourself, moron. That pot is hot! Your bread will be unbelievably delicious, and it will cost about one-fourth the price of comparable store- or bakery-bought bread. Eat some with butter while it's still warm.
Yes, friends, there is such a thing as a free snack—in fact, Seattle is home to four happy hours that serve 100 percent complimentary food, from their warming trays to your gaping maw. At Morton's The Steakhouse (1511 Sixth Ave, 223-0550), unbelievably, no purchase is required (and vegetarians are out of luck). That is correct, sir or madam: From 5:00 to 6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, you may order water in the bar of this posh chain steak house and eat as many mini steak sandwiches as humanly possible, absolutely free. (Should you choose to help keep the wheels of capitalism turning, beer, wine, and spirits specials start at $4.) The lounge at Il Fornaio (600 Pine St, 264-0994) likewise beneficently welcomes freeloaders for gratis snacks such as pizza, chicken wings, and bruschetta from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, with no drink minimum. (Re: wheels, turning, capitalism: Draft beer is $3, wine $4.) At Oliver's Lounge in the Mayflower Park Hotel (405 Olive Way, 623-8700), a purchase of some sort, any sort, is required to partake of a similar selection of free foods (e.g., spinach dip and pita, pot stickers) available from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. every day. The drinks at Oliver's are expensive—the award-winning martini will set you back $9.75—but there's always soda water. And at the 1970s/medieval-themed Bernard's in the basement of the Hotel Seattle (315 Seneca St, 623-5110), the no-cost snackage to be found from 4:30 to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, might be taquitos, mozzarella sticks, or the like. It is not going to sit well with the staff at Bernard's if you do not order a beverage, but strong well drinks are a mere $2. The free food you find at these places may be less than outstanding and/or your diet may be less than balanced, but it's free. A final thought: If you avail yourself of this hospitality and do not bring an extra buck or two for a tip, you are a grade-A asshat.
Very few bars in Seattle are open early, but in the pre-noon hours at the Baranof in Greenwood (8549 Greenwood Ave N, 782-9260), you'll usually find a dozen old-timers huddled around the dark bar watching the news and pulling pull tabs. It's a prime spot for unemployed construction workers, waiters, and journalists. ("You're late," one regular barked to another the other morning. "For what?" was the reply. "To pick on the help," the first guy said.) Across town, the Eastlake Zoo Tavern (2301 Eastlake Ave E, 329-3277) is another option. The deceptively large (cash-only) bar has pool, Big Buck Hunter, and cheap beer. One bar patron, Jesse—recently laid off from a restaurant job—was found hanging out at the Zoo after taking the day off from his new temp job working on foreclosures. "The only business that's still open is the one that shits on people," he bitterly grumbled.
Last year, the King County Library System reported a 20 percent increase in checked-out materials over 2007. Which isn't really a surprise: The library can satisfy a whole bunch of your pricey desires. You can basically replace Netflix (thousands of DVDs are available at the library, with new movies arriving every week) and double or triple the size of your iTunes (CDs by just about every major-label artist you can think of) for the low, low cost of absolutely free. If you request any of these books, movies, or CDs online at spl.org, the library will ship them to the branch nearest you and then send you an e-mail when the item arrives. There's almost no way to make the process easier. Getting a card is ridiculously easy and always free—you just have to bring a photo ID and a piece of mail with your name and address on it to your branch—and there are more benefits than you probably realize. The library has a rapidly expanding collection of e-books, and, if you're feeling especially helpless right now, there are free seminars and classes for desperate job-hunters. Added bonus: This town is crawling with sexy librarians of both sexes.
The Frye Art Museum (704 Terry Ave, 622-9250) is always free. Admission to Seattle Art Museum and Seattle Asian Art Museum (1300 First Ave, 344-5275; 1400 E Prospect St, 654-3206, respectively) is by suggested donation. You never have to pay more than you think it's worth to see their permanent collections. (Special exhibitions are sometimes, though not always, an exception.) The Olympic Sculpture Park: also free. And retail galleries—all of them!—are free. Painting, sculpture, photography, installation: There's several days' worth of looking to be done entirely without the burden of a wallet. Don't know where to go? Here's a tip: Find a gallery you like (hip and contemporary: Lawrimore Project, 831 Airport Way S, 501-1231; established and blue-chip: Greg Kucera Gallery, 212 Third Ave S, 624-0770; glass art: Traver Gallery, 110 Union St #200, 587-6501; young and fun: Crawl Space, 504 E Denny Way #1, 201-2441) and ask there where else you should go. A good dealer will always help you figure out where to look next, whether you're buying or not. Plus, they're not selling much these days, so they have plenty of time to chat.
Most theaters sell cheap rush tickets half an hour before showtime and steeply discounted tickets to young persons. A few examples: Seattle Repertory Theatre ($20 rush tickets, $10 for people 25 and under), On the Boards ($12 rush tickets, $12 for people under 25), and ACT Theatre (half-off rush tickets, $15 for people 25 and under). Most productions also have pay-what-you-want previews before their official opening nights.
Only a few bars in town offer up live music for no cover—the Skylark in West Seattle always has free live music, the Blue Moon in the University District has a free show every Sunday night, and the Comet Tavern on Capitol Hill has free shows Monday and Tuesday evenings—but in-store performances at local record stores are always 100 percent free. Sonic Boom Records (Capitol Hill and Ballard), Easy Street Records (Queen Anne and West Seattle), Silver Platters (Northgate and Queen Anne), Wall of Sound (Capitol Hill), and Bop Street Records (Ballard) all host live music throughout the year, and the talent ain't bad—a lot of times it's touring national acts doing a little extra promotion while they're in town. The Stranger's music listings—this week's start on page 65 and are fully searchable at thestranger.com/music—always include upcoming in-store events (for example, Loving Thunder are playing Saturday March 21 at Bop Street). Also worth marking on your calendar now: National Record Store Day is April 18, meaning just about every indie music shop in the city will be celebrating with a day of great sales, free performances, and giveaways.
Stores are generally doling out less cash for your used CDs and vinyl. But if your goods are quality and/or rare, you can make out pretty well. Sonic Boom (Capitol Hill, Ballard) is very selective, but the clerks will give you one of the best rates per piece in town. Same goes for Jive Time Records (3506 Fremont Ave N, 632-5483), which favors vinyl over CDs. Easy Street Records (Queen Anne, West Seattle) and Everyday Music (1604 Broadway, 568-3321) will pretty much take everything you give them, but their payout rates have been declining over the last couple years. Wall of Sound (315 E Pine St, 441-9880) will give you a very fair rate for your used CDs and wax, but its stock consists mainly of underground artists, so don't bring your Cranberries discs and Boz Scaggs LPs. If you'd rather unload your music on the net, you can try ebay.com, half.com, or discogs.com (the latter is electronic-music oriented). The gratification isn't as instant as selling your stuff in a store, but the payoff is usually greater, provided you have the patience to scan cover art and describe and pack your merch.
Listen. The bitchez are probably going to give you a judgy face. Just be warned. And they'll probably reject almost everything you have to offer. But don't give up! Red Light (Capitol Hill, U-District) is really only interested in your hardcore vintage (or ironic) situations: a lime green '50s onesie, your uncle's cowboy boots from the '70s, maaaybe that hilarious T-shirt with a picture of Shawn Kemp dunking that's been in your drawer since '95. Buffalo Exchange (4530 University Way NE, 545-0175) and Crossroads Trading Co. (Capitol Hill, U-District) are a little more forgiving—they'll buy new stuff, depending on its condition and cuteness and the upcoming season (they don't want to buy your bathing suit in September, for instance). Whatever they don't take (and seriously, it'll be a lot—DO NOT CRY), leave it for donation and they'll get it to Goodwill for you, where some other New Economy shopper can buy it. The circle of life. Hakuna matata.
You can go the easy route and buy from places that have already done the digging for you (Red Light, Atlas Clothing, Private Screening, Sugartown) or, for real savings, head to Goodwill/Value Village/the Salvation Army and poke, poke, poke around until your dreams come true. It's not that hard, really. Just be patient. Oh, and WASH EVERYTHING before you wear it. One step even lower, cheaper, and funner is the Goodwill Outlet (1765 Sixth Ave S, 957-5516), aka the Bins, where clothes come out in gigantic tubs and shoppers maniacally dig through them like fucking Double Dare contestants looking for flags in the slime pit. Clothes at the Bins sell by the pound, which means they're almost free. It takes effort, but treasures abound. Also, sometimes diapers. But we don't talk about that.
What's the difference between getting your latte at Bauhaus (301 E Pine St, 625-1600) and getting your latte at McDonald's? Most economists will tell you that it's better for everyone to purchase the best goods at the best price—no matter where they come from. If the McDonald's lattes were potable, it would be better for the local economy (if not the community) if everyone bought them; the saved money could then go to goods that are legitimately better produced locally (wine, blackberries, computer operating systems, etc.). McDonald's can purchase, roast, and brew coffee in vast and uniform quantities. Bauhaus, theoretically, is inefficient—a waste when every penny should be counted.
Bullshit. Our present, postcollapse world is pretty damn far from the idealized world where the economists' theories roam, where the executives in charge of sprawling global enterprises receive perfect information and make the most rational decisions. To the executives running the huge conglomerates, customers and employees both can only be seen in aggregate. And the aggregate numbers are ugly and getting worse. Mix fallible human decision-makers in, and fear and panic are the only possible result—leading us off the cliff. Put your money into a McDonald's latte, and it'll go to pay down a vast pool of abstract corporate debt, to prop up falling share prices, or to pay for the laying off of employees.
In contrast, the owners of local coffee shops, record stores, clothing stores, and so on get to know their customers and employees as people, as faces with names, as complete stories in the world. When the numbers say panic, this dose of interpersonal reality calms. When you hand over your money to the person at Bauhaus—who knows you and sees you as an individual (an individual who sees the employees of Bauhaus as people as well)—you're generating a small sliver of reasoned calm in the raging sea threatening to swallow us all.