As I cogitate on a post I have in draft about the Hell we experienced last Fall (that continued for 9 long months), I hesitate on how -or when- I would revive my personal blog. For now, I’ll jump ahead in my timeline and bring you to my present day: Living in Seattle.
Strangers in a Strange (New) Land
Our adventure in the PNW feels like a new country. While we speak the same language, we really don’t know anyone. Tucked up in the corner of the lower 48, Seattle has been able to remain autonomous and progressive. Seattle feels very much like a Canadian city and because Toronto is a city where I’ve spent the most time -partly because I was born and raised in Michigan- it has that same clean feel to the streets and buildings. When I met Andrew, we’d regularly visit his extended family surrounding Toronto and of course, that included a much-needed trip the local LCBO.
After months of considering renting a house in different neighborhoods within Emerald City, we chose to rent an apt in one of the most creative sections in Seattle. Because we moved here without any ties (no jobs, no family -well, I do have a cousin and he sorta kinda counts 😺 ) we felt we had to immerse ourselves as quickly as possible to find our tribe.
This is the second time in my life where I was told that I was either brave or stupid.
To that, I reply that we have one life people, one life. Take it by the damn horns and wag the dog.
Our plan is to explore the neighborhood, understand the culture, and find full-time jobs. I so look forward to boundaries, building my retirement nest egg, and taking a vacation now and again. We haven’t had one in 8 years. OMFG.
Oh! I have a couple of tips when it comes to exploring your new city:
- When considering a new city to set roots, take a 3 hour tour the first day to get an overall view/feel of the city, then
- Dedicate a day or so and take the bus into neighborhoods -it’s a smart way for everyone to look around without the fear of hitting someone with your rental car.
Although I’ve met folks on Facebook and through a national woman’s professional organization who live here, obviously that’s not really the same. Conversational nuances will be able to round out the 1-on-1 exchange and I’m nervous that they won’t accept my irreverence. While I’m finding that many folks here enjoy my humor, I’m still a bit apprehensive.
Now that I’ve completely disenfranchised myself from the SE, I’ve come to realize something important: Like the Interwebs, the SE completely lacks humor. I thrive on humor -it’s the only thing that gets me through my day. Irreverent, sarcastic, dark, silly, it is rebel in me that needs to be expressed. My chosen friends however (read: not natives), have humor -an abundance of it. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see each other that much.
For transplants, there remains an underlying hostility from the Southern natives. They will ask you 3 questions: Did you grow up here? Attend school here? Or Attend church? If no was your answer, you didn’t belong. You never would. That was made clear to me on upon my fresh arrival in 1992. Like many rules, I ignored it believing I’d make my own way, make friends, and thrive.
I have never been so wrong.
As I greeted people in my shop, I would watch them explore our handcrafted goodness. Minutes later, I’d begin a conversation that would include asking them if they were local or visiting. The ratio of out of town visitors to locals was 4:1. Many of the locals weeded themselves out early but not before vetting me with those 3 questions above.
My heart sank every time.
Many of the visitors were loquacious and I learned much from them. Perspective was a major influence as I sat anchored to my shop like an albatross. One visiting gent who installed toll booths was on his way out to live in NH. He had just spent 5 years in Raleigh and 5 years in Austin prior. He mentioned that Raleigh was so far behind the times that when comparing it to Austin, it would take yet another 15 just to catch up to the rest of the World.
- civil liberties are being challenged and rewritten,
- The state is revoking municipalities and cities from self-governing,
- Business licenses have been nullified to exempt big business from paying tax to the state, and
- The legislation has just reinforced hate and discrimination across the land with McCrory’s House Bill 2.
NC is finding that from large businesses to super star events, they’re withdrawing from the landscape to send a message: If you can’t resolve your hatred for humankind, then we don’t need to give you our money.
Why the Hell would I remain here?
I, for one, am tired of fighting. I have spent my life savings on this entrepreneurial dream, only to have it die like a boiled frog. Originally, I thought that if I was going to starve and be homeless, I would do it where it was warm. I wasn’t enjoying life as much as I thought I would living in the SE.
I thought I loved NC, but why hang around like a beaten dog if NC does’t love me back?
I didn’t find many activities to savor and being self-employed didn’t give me much time to ‘invent’ an activity and work to build it. I was growing bored of working like an orc for days making leather goods, only to peek up like a groundhog when I had time to take a breath and not find anything to do. My friends would be away from the city and because my window of play time was so short, it would turn into a movie/food fest for just my husband and I.
And because I couldn’t keep Andrew busy making tech bags for us -very few folks in Raleigh supported our business- he continued looking for work in corporate ‘murica. Many, if not all the jobs he’s qualified for have evaporated from the Eastern side of the US. So, it was time to make a change.
spending wasting 25 years in the Raleigh area, I need a change.
Seattle, A New Country
As I mentioned above, the Emerald City feels like a country adjacent to the lower 48. It is sheltered by mountains, preventing any easy passage by car from adjoining states. It does happen, or so I’m told. 😺 Because the city doesn’t have much influence from other cities/states, it has the capacity to govern with a progressive voice. This I love.
Our first visits last Fall were met with quiet invitations that spoke of humanity, dignity, and support. Now, those same invitations are now reminders. I love this. Drug addiction isn’t met with criminal charges, it’s met with courtesy and warmth. The city isn’t perfect, but it isn’t 15 years behind every other state fighting a mid-century revolution.
Another term we quickly learned was The Seattle Freeze. The freeze is where upon you meet someone and they’re friendly, very friendly. They’ll help you get to your next destination, slam their brakes and urge you to walk across the street, and offer other extremely considerate gestures. When that moment is done, so is the relationship. It is an arms length gesture that quickly dries up to prevent blurring the interpersonal boundary or opportunistic moments.
When this was first explained to me, they wanted me to know that it wasn’t me and that it wasn’t meant to hurt my feelings. Of course, I did the effusive eyeball roll. Not because of the curt situation, but because my reply was, “Hell, I’ve been ignored for 25 years in the SE, this is nothing!”
We learned what a walk score is: Neighborhood walkability.
Imagine having everything, absolutely everything with a 6 block walking distance. While our neighborhood of Ballard has an impressive walk score of 88, our apartment complex has a walk score of 98. Beat that!
A grocery store is right around the corner, a movie theater 4 blocks down, a highly rated veterinarian is across the street, my new doctor & hospital are 5 blocks down, pharmacy downstairs (not that medical is of huge importance to us, but we are aging. Gasp!), 3 bus stops are within one block, bicycle lanes/trails are everywhere. It’s amazing.
Oh, tons of restaurants, craft breweries, specialty shops, boutiques are overwhelmingly abundant.
Accessible and easy, grabbing a bus to connect to the light rail to connect to a ferry is awesome. As everyone does in Manhattan, everyone rides the buses, trains, light rails, and ferries. Everyone.
And its quiet. Nearly everything is electric, including taxis. It’s amazing how quiet the city is when you think about it. It’s definitely something you have to experience.
Transit tunnels are beautiful in that an electric bus and light link rail can share the same path (shown below).
In the newly installed bus stops, one can find LED signs that indicate schedules and whether the bus you’re waiting on is late -and keeps virtual track. If there isn’t an electric sign, I just refer to my OneBusAway app.
Clean and well-maintained, there is security everywhere to help, assist, and mitigate whenever possible. I know I’ve asked for help and readily got it with ease. Believe it or not, they’re even forgiving!
We sold both of our cars because of the well-designed transportation system. We bought one and are putting off purchasing a 2nd vehicle as long as possible. Many of the Seattleites aren’t quite happy with (the lack of) parking as the city decided to only dedicate one space per household so that they could coerce people to use public transportation. For me that’s a win. I’d much rather read or daydream while watching the landmarks pass me by as someone else drives.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loooooove driving my new Subaru Outback. But there are many days I’d rather be catching up then dedicate 30 minutes or more behind the wheel.
Sidebar: In Raleigh, no one takes advantage of the bus system. Why? Unfortunately, it’s cultural. As in, “only the blacks ride the bus, whites don’t.” This attitude has prevented any kind of progress in the South.
Citizens also waste as much gas running errands because they don’t like walking. I’ve seen many a people park their car in front of a store, go into that store, return to their car, drive it down the block and go into that store. People refuse to explore, look up from their cell phones, or walk less than a block away. This is also why diabetes is out of control in the SE.
It’s cultural. Bless your little hearts.
Also: Water. Glorious water.
We’re surrounded by water and have generous access to it.
Several bridges that cross over the canal (built by Army Corp of Engineers) that separates downtown Seattle from Ballard and many other neighborhoods. We can forever enjoy any shoreline with a leisurely walk, rent paddleboats, bike along the Burke-Gilman trail adjacent to the canal,
or just sitting on the gorgeous beach at Golden Gates Park just 2 miles away from my front door. I know that’s where I’ll be on the evening of my birthday watching the sunset on one of the longest days of the year.
Our apartment views the canal shipyards (Deadliest Catch Boats park here off season) and the various levels of topography are breath taking.
We watch catamarans, yachts, sailboats, and a variety of motorboats cruise along the canal toward the Ballard Locks.
Sure, NC has a lovely coast with a few light houses situated on the outer banks. Unfortunately, as two forks in a microwave, we never could never afford the copious time away to visit the beach located at least 90 minutes away.
In Emerald City, I get to look out at any time and watch the suns rays dance on the moving water. You just can’t beat that.
Nationwide, we’re all familiar with meetups.com. Raleigh had a few safe meetups -yawn. Here, in Emerald City, the meetups abound with a variety of interests and activities.
Upon one of my first days in the apartment, sitting on a pillow for a week until my husband and furniture joined us (God, my ass ached), I skimmed the special interest groups (SIG) to find something that tickled me. It didn’t take long to find a few groups that based their core on 2 essentials: Drinking and Drawing. This I can do.
When Andrew joined us, I introduced him to the meetup site and he found a ton of interesting groups to join. I’m thrilled for him as he is more of an introvert than I am. For him, it takes a special kind of step to reach out and introduce himself. For us, these are large steps, but they’re also small steps due to the merry-go-round lifestyle change that took a 180* -and we’re still hanging on for dear life!
I’ve always had a romantic notion about living in Napa Valley –in wine country. One of the first trips to Seattle, we rented a car one day and drove to Woodinville. Upon seeing the undulating hills and vineyards, it took my breath away. It wasn’t that the scenery was spectacular (yes, it’s nice) it was the mere fact that ‘We’re going to be living in wine country!!!!”
Wow. To have wine country so close to where we live is glorious.
TIP: I have another tip for those of you who want to take a weeks time to enjoy the region:
- Every other day we rented a car to travel distances that would otherwise take us hours by bus.
- We had only daily rentals because parking overnight is astronomical.
- Rent every other day to switch hit between city life and excursions.
What I do know now: I shall never be bored.
OMG This is going to be extraordinary!
If you live in the Seattle area and enjoy irreverent humor (read: sarcastic but respectful), wine, sci-fi, pets, steampunk, and perhaps a game of Cards Against Humanity, ring me up.
Oh, and TMO! That’s Seattle lingo for ‘The Mountain is Out!’