Seattle: You Beautiful, Passive Aggressive Bastard

img_2119I’ve lived in the Emerald City for two years now, and that’s long enough for me to form some qualified opinions. Hopefully the people of Seattle will handle criticism a little better than the folks of Austin!  Because, who am I? Why get pissed at some girl and her blog? This is just my opinion. I’m  writing from my  personal experience. That experience may be different from your own. And, I hate having to even say this, but there is always some asshole who has to comment, “Not ALL ______ are _____.” No shit. It’s called a generalization and it takes into consideration that, of course not every person in Seattle will be like I describe. But, there. I’ve said it. Feel free to give up now if you don’t like reading criticism of things which you might not agree. 

The Nature: You can’t get a greener, more beautiful city than Seattle. It’s the first thing you notice when you get here. There are trees everywhere! Green spaces all over the city. And there is the bay! Most days you can see Mt. Rainer in the distance. Even grey, cloudy days are beautiful here. And you still get all of the seasons, more or less. As I type this, I can feel Fall on the horizon. People here genuinely love to be outdoors, and there are plenty of places within city limits to do just that. Whether you love being on the water, hiking in the mountains, or just taking the long way to brunch – you’ll fit in here. Seattle prides itself on its green spaces and dedication to being a Green City. And it is on a large-scale. It’s when you get down to the personal level that it gets fuzzy. For example I see people getting their groceries delivered by Amazon (as well as everything else) and then drive to work in their SUV plastered with an SHOP LOCAL bumper sticker. When I worked in a bookstore, people would tell me how much they detested Amazon…until the book they “had to have right now” wasn’t available. Seattle can’t put its money where it’s mouth is.

This is a dog loving, baby loving, cat on a leash loving, chickens in your back yard loving, bike loving city. If you happen to be a Bike person, you will love it here. There are tons of Bike trails for you and your dog and baby to cruise down. There are bike lanes all over the city which go unused because this city has no clue how to drive anything. Cars. Bikes. Strollers all seem too overwhelming to the Seattleite. The Seattleite in control of a vehicle is an oxymoron. They are not in control. The Seattle Driver will stop at any given moment to let you, a pigeon, or a stray dog cross the street. But if there is a Stop sign, they’ll ignore it. The only city in the world responsible for its own traffic.

Weather and StuffThe weather here is awesome! I loathe heat and humidity, so the cool bay breeziness of Seattle is perfect. It gets hot here in the summer (90-95 F) but it only lasts a few days at a time. It rains here, but not as much as movies and TV would make you think. I like it here. I often leave my flat and say, “Man! It’s beautiful today!” Sun and clouds. It’s usually not too hot, and not too cold. YAY! img_0193
I don’t drive here. I donated my car to charity a few years back  and I feel free! Seattle is FOR SURE, a walkable city. You do not need a car to get around here. There is public transit (bus, tram, metro) and it’s pretty good towards getting better. Not as good as Europe, but way better than L.A. or Texas. Traffic is a real thing here, but I never deal with it.

As far as Culture and stuff – Seattle is awesome. There are tons of museums and galleries here at different price points. So if you can’t make it to see art and shit, that’s on you. The EMP Museum, The SAM and the Asian Art Museum are awesome, and that’s just scratching the surface. It’s like San Francisco here in that, what ever you are into – you can indulge it here. For example, I happen to love Drag Queens. Seattle is a fantastic place to love Drag. Or all things Gay. Or Food. Or sports. (Which is HUGE here, but I loathe sports so I ant gonna write about it.) Or tech. Or Dance. Whatever “Lifestyle” you identify with is welcome here. Seattle prides itself on being welcoming. And it is. To an extent. (See PEOPLE, below)

Food: What ever you want, you can get it in Seattle. Seattle is not only a Foodie paradise, but a Chef’s Haven as well. Seattle not only has some of the best restaurants in the country, but also some of the best available ingredients in the world. Fish, produce, meat, artisan ice-cream … whatever you want you can find it here. And unlike Austin, the finest food isn’t reserved for the rich. You can get a really good meal here for $10 or less if you know where to go. From food trucks to pizza to fine dining, you can’t beat Seattle for food. People here like to eat and take pictures of their food and talk about it. You could go into any neighborhood and get a good meal. That is something.

img_2177Seattle is a BRUNCH and HAPPY HOUR city. It LOVES Brunch. It LOVES Happy Hour. But be careful. Not all Happy Hour and Brunch menus are created equal. You might end up paying an arm and a leg just to be in a cool place with shitty food. But, that’s also part of Seattle. For the Seattleite getting a pretty picture of the food is almost better than the food tasting good.

Cost of Living: If you are reading this hoping for statistics and facts, you should stop now. The following is based solely on my personal opinion and experience living here and there. So that being said… Is Seattle expensive? Yes. I mean, I guess. It’s like a slightly less expensive San Francisco. You get everything you could want in a city: diversity, culture, night life, boozygoodtimes, live music venues, and all the other things people look for in a cool city. But it’s not unlike any other major US city. It depends on where you live. I happen to live in a small studio with my boyfriend. We split rent. It’s a little cramped, but it’s alright. We are walking distance from work and fun so it evens out.

The law passed making the minimum wage here $15.oo and weed is legal. Like You can go to pot stores. Or have it delivered like I do. A bag of Peet’s Coffee will set you back about $8.00 at the market. Don’t ask me how much Starbucks is because I’m not an asshole and I don’t spend money there.

The People: Anyone will tell you that the folks of Seattle, WA are nice. And that’s true. They are. Excessively. Seattleites will happily stop what they are doing to give you directions or say hi. It is a friendly city. On the surface. Which is to say that friendly is surface level only. If you wanna make friends with a Seattleite, good luck. Welcome to the land of Passive Aggressive.

img_1933It’s called The Seattle Freeze. Basically it’s a nice way of saying that everyone here is so far up their own ass that they don’t want to make new friends, but they are too passive aggressive to just say so. Nobody wants to offend here so they lie instead. If you Google the term SEATTLE FREEZE, you will get this: refers to a belief that it is especially difficult to make new friends (particularly for transplants from other cities) in the city of Seattle, Washington. According to KUOW radio, a 2005 Seattle Times article was the oldest reference to the term found. 

That shit is real. Two years in and have like three actual friends. I’ve made friends all over the world, easy! But Seattle? Sorry girl. Not here. The free paper here, The Stranger, wrote an article last year which basically blames YOU for Seattleites bad behavior. Honestly. YOU should smile. YOU should get out there! The article says, if a Seattleite bails on plans you should do the following. “Rather than mope about how this person let you down by not doing what they said they would do in a hastily sketched conversation days or even weeks before, try to empathize with them. People are busy, and it’s impossible to fulfill every potential social commitment. Pretend for a moment it’s possible that they might have something more important on their calendar than you.” Did you notice how full of excuses that was? Like its hard to pick up the goddamn phone and cancel. Be a grown up.

img_0175And that’s Seattle in a nutshell. It expects you to make excuses for its bad behavior. If you get stood up, that’s your fault for expecting people to do what they say. I don’t give a shit where you are from, or what excuses you have all packed up,  don’t be a dick. Don’t make plans you don’t expect to follow through on. And don’t expect ME to be the guy who fills in lulls in conversations. Why can’t YOU help? Stop blaming everyone who isn’t from Seattle for your shortcomings. You guys aren’t perfect.
For starters, learn to be direct. I grew up in L.A. and it’s hard for me to deal with people who are not direct. People who are not direct come across as self-indulgent, time-wasting jerks. How hard is it to ask for what you want? How hard is it to say what you mean? I worked at Seattle’s Snobbiest Bookstore for two years and endured people taking ten minutes to ask where the goddamn bathroom was. Here is a typical conversation: “Um, excuse me? Um…Hi. Um. Do you work here? Okay good. I was wondering if you happen to know if there might be a place  for me to use the bathroom around here.” Are you fucking kidding me? Try this: “Where’s the bathroom?”

So. There it is. The good and the bad. In a nutshell – Seattle is a fantastic place to live. It’s pretty. The food is great. There is a ton of fun stuff happening here year round. Theatre, Dance, Burlesque, Karaoke, Festivals, Live music – Seattle has it all. And, If you get along well with passive aggressive people who don’t think they are passive aggressive, then you’ll be ahead of the game.

 

Essay: Becoming Seattle

SN859177I awoke today with a mission: Retrieve a package from the Fed Ex office up on Broadway, and go to a drug store for assorted stuff and things. Before walking out the door I looked in the mirror and was shocked. I looked like a Seattle native. There she was, staring at me in her worn out black pea coat, dirty old sneakers and skinny jeans. Her knit yellow hat that didn’t match her green scarf, the size of which could have fit her and ten of her closest friends. But this was not native looking back at me. It was me! The California girl! (The girl who didn’t walk anywhere because that song is right, nobody walks in L.A.) Seeing that dingy yellow hat reminded me. I’m not a native. Not really. That hat saw Texas, The Grand Canyon, and The California Redwoods long before it saw Seattle. And now it gave me the look of any local who comes in the store looking for Infinite Jest. When did this happen?

I set out on my mission walking fast. I developed my City Walk in the winding streets of San Francisco and I’m as good as any native New Yorker at dodging, avoiding, ignoring and moving in general. I’m like Jason Bourne meets James Bond. But my City Walk is a liability here in Seattle. A city who collectively meanders. A city who will wait their turn when no one else is around. A city who is so polite it causes traffic and incurs rage in an L.A. native like myself. (L.A.: A city where wait your turn means go)

I adjusted my speed, but kept my pace fast enough not to be bothered by, or knocked over by anyone. I passed slow-moving people heavily engaged with the palms of their hands, not watching where they are going. A young woman was so engaged in her own hand that she tripped over a dog. That made me smile. I quite enjoy running errands. I felt the same way in Prague and San Francisco. Places where just stepping out your front door could result in a hilarious story for later.

For me a twenty-minute walk to the post is a journey across the world and a tango down memory lane. I walk by Annapurna (here in Seattle) and the rich, vibrant smells of chicken tiki masala and warm naan remind me of the delicious meals I’ve shared with friends in Berkeley and London. I’m suddenly transported to Brick Lane, eating warm spicy curry in a crowded restaurant then getting fresh-baked doughnuts from the bakery next door. I’m sitting in a restaurant in Berkeley with my friends and their one year old happily eating spicy food, proving once and for all that babies can handle their spice. Each step I take is a new memory. A new place to revisit.

I keep moving. I pass a bar with a familiar neon sign. “The Alley”, it says. I smile and think about Oakland and how much I loved living there. How much I love singing at The Alley. Rod Dibble on piano. Song books available, just ask. Blue Moon you saw me standing alone. Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man. Cigarette stained business cards tacked to the walls. Stapled. Pined. Taped. Decades worth of ghosts listening to the drunk and out of tune sing the songs of yesteryear. Over and over. Night after night. The Alley. Oakland. The first city to steal my heart. But not the last.

I passed a tiny dog barking at a pigeon the size of a small house cat. I passed small groups of students in front of the City College. One group in a heated debate about how many selfies constitute “too many” on FB. Another group laughing about a girl named Jenny and whether she should be pursuing a career as a metal drummer if she’s never even heard of Metalica. I thought of my years at PCC and the similar debates I had with friends. Who’s better Barbara or Liza? Fosse or Sondheim? I know I don’t need anymore literature classes, but do you think I should just take one for fun? Discovering poetry and learning to write it. Learning to write. Buster’s Coffee shop and Vroman’s Bookstore. PCC Flea Market and MTW. The good old days in Pasadena, not my home town but damn well close. Literally.

I know some folks look at the way I’ve lived my life and say I’ve wasted it. I know this because folks tell me. The internet is great for that. Strangers actually write to me just to tell me that I have wasted my life. I have nothing to show for my forty-one years on the planet. And maybe they are right. I don’t have any THING to show for it. I’ve had cars but I sold them. I don’t own property and I don’t have kids. I don’t have a fancy job or fancy clothes. If the accumulation of things is the sign of a life well lived, then you’d be correct in saying I’ve totally wasted my life.

But I don’t feel that way. I feel lucky. I’m lucky because for me, a trip to the post office is trip around the world. It’s fun, not a chore. I pass a Phò place and think about the little place near JZP in Prague, and the twenty amazing places in London. I smile. If I had never left southern California I wouldn’t have a cache of memories that are with me wherever I go. Even if it’s just to the post office.  

And now every day is an adventure. I looked out over the water today and thought about The Charles Bridge in Prague, but also how much I love the scenery here in Seattle just as much now. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Hell, I wouldn’t even trade Austin. I met some fine people there and now have a deeper understanding as to why the rest of the world thinks Texas is full of crazy people. (Hint: Because Texas is full of crazy people)

By the time I returned home to my little studio here in Capitol Hill I had been through London, Oakland, Prague, Mexico, L.A. and Texas. I was exhausted but oddly happy. And isn’t that the greatest measure of a life well lived? Happiness? If I can return home from the Fed Ex office, three drug stores and the QFC, all while carrying a package and bundled up like a tick about to pop, I’d say I’m doing something right. My travels have made me adaptable to my surroundings.

As long as my surroundings are not in Texas.

A Map of My Life

SN859272Every month I am honored to be a contributor over at gumshoeblog.org – It’s a fun place. “Gumshoe features a collection of writers who are full of curiosity and are armed with an adventurous spirit. A gumshoe is a cultural curator who is looking for what is unexpected, beautiful, frustrating, and inspiring. A gumshoe digs deeper to attempt to understand how art and culture live and interact in our world. Gumshoes love the act of discovery and sharing.” Rad, huh?

So, this month we writers were tasked to make a map… of anything. I was a little dumfounded at the idea because I never like to put effort into anything that I believe will end up being ordinary. If I make a map I want it to be spectacular! So after ditching a few maps to fantasy realms, I decided to make a “map” of my life… with drawings.

The idea here is to show where I have lived over the past couple of decades. I travelled a lot over the years, but this little map shows where I have lived. Where I have planted myself. Where I have earned a living, paid taxes, etc. I’ve moved around a lot and I don’t regret it.

SN859274I started in So. Cal and then moved to San Francisco. From there I moved to Oakland, and then back to L.A. for a few months before moving to Prague. I stayed in Prague for about three years before moving to Mexico where it was ridiculously hot and I got paid very little. So… back to Prague for another four years. When I got tired of the Czech lifestyle, I moved with my partner to Texas, his home. We lived in Houston and Austin, but mostly Austin. I did not care for Texas. We left Texas in January of this year and packed our little car with everything we own. What didn’t fit didn’t come. (Now that’s a minimalist lifestyle!) We drove to Ratna Ling Buddhist Retreat Center. (I wrote a series of pieces about my time there. This was the last one) It was supposed to be a six month commitment, but they asked me to leave after one month. From there we drove back to Berkeley where we stayed with an awesome couple, their one year old and three legged dog. They were kind enough to let us stay and recoup before we repacked the car and headed to Seattle. And that’s where I am now.

Travel: Bainbridge Island

Seattle skyline from ferry

Seattle skyline from ferry

So here is the truth. I tend to mole. (MOLE: When you hide in your flat, shades drawn, nose in a book, binge watching every episode of The Amazing Race Canada because you convince yourself it’s pretty much field work now that you live so close to Canada and you know actual Canadians – and thus don’t set foot outside of your flat until you are forced out due to work.) I like being a mole. Sometimes. It’s a constant struggle that is going on inside me. On the one hand, I have the mole – content to read, sip coffee, watch old movies and just relax. That’s what days off are for! And on the other hand I have the adventurer – wanting to explore new places, taste new food, and see new things. In order to appease the Adventurer in me I try to allocate a few days off a month to do something new. Yesterday my fella and I traveled by ferry to Bainbridge Island.

SN859211It’s part of the Puget Sound, and was voted the second best place to live IN AMERICA, back in 2005. It is just a short 35 minute ferry ride, and the views are incredible.From the ferry you can see the awesome Seattle skyline, including the Space Needle. Once the ferry docks it is a short walk uphill to the main street, Winslow Way. The Island has that quaint New England vibe to it, and we even saw a couple of drunk old timers hollering in the streets. It felt authentic.

There is plenty to see and do on the Island. We spent a good amount of time walking the nature trails that weaved in and out of the shoreline. We found a cute little footbridge and a hidden basketball court. Out on the main drag there are a variety of stores and restaurants, wine tasting rooms and bakeries, and even a little independent bookstore called Eagle Harbor Books. We ate lunch at a sandwich deli and then wandered the streets some more. Ice cream at Mora was pretty awesome after all of that walking.

Jenny Anderson

Jenny Anderson

The highlight of the day was the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art. It is a small, modern museum that is dedicated to local art and artists. And it is free, as ALL museums should be. I found a new artist to become obsessed with: Jenny Anderson. She is a native of Seattle and does work in pottery, sculpture, wood and raku. My favorite works of hers were these whimsical wood and ceramic pieces – forest creatures in robes carrying small, detailed faces in their hands and packs. My mind went into overdrive thinking of stories for these detailed, lifelike creatures. I couldn’t get enough. The museum also showed a short movie about her, the huge dragon of a kiln she uses, and how she makes her art. It was pretty inspiring.

SN859230I also very much enjoyed the collection of stuff which artist Max Grover put together. He uses his own collection of things (Hula girls, Luchadors, wedding cake toppers) as inspirations for his paintings and collages. I’ll admit that I found the actual paintings to be a little childlike and easy. But I absolutely adored looking at the collections of things he had. It was kind of cool for me to look at a collection of snow globes and think to myself, I used to have a collection of snow globes twice this size. I gave the collection away when I decided to move abroad. I don’t miss it. Even a little bit. It’s fun to look at someones elses collection of old junk knowing that I don’t have to live with it, house it, dust it, or make room for it. Feels like freedom.

SN859214If you live in Seattle or take a holiday here, Bainbridge Island is definitely worth the short trip. And it wasn’t expensive. We used Orca Cards to get to the island ($8 roundtrip) and we shared lunch and ice cream. All in all it was an affordable fun day for a little Mole like me. The Adventurer inside of me felt like she had a full day – riding the ferry, hiking the island, taking pictures and swinging on the swings. And I’m glad she got her fill. Because when the Mole comes back asking to relax and just chill, I won’t feel bad saying yes.

Travel: Troll Hunting in Seattle

BeFunky_IMG_2532.jpgYesterday my sweetie and I went troll hunting. We had heard of a rather large troll who lived under the George Washington Bridge, so we put on our walking shoes and set forth on an adventure. We walked from our little pad in Capitol Hill to the Fremont district of Seattle. We walked something close to four miles. It felt good to get out and walk the city. Something we were never able (or willing) to do in “Holy Shit It’s Hot Here!” Austin. We walked through Downtown, through the Marina and alongside Lake Union. It was beautiful, hot, and peaceful.

We walked through Lake Union Park and saw the Museum of Industry (Currently having a CHOCOLATE EXHIBITION! I will have to go back for that) and we saw The Center for Wooden Boats. The park was big and surprisingly not crowded for such a beautiful day. I guess that is the bonus of having weekdays as my days off. No crowds at the park, movies, or anywhere else. SN859028You can rent small-scale wooden boats and sail them in a pool, or you can just chill out on the docks and watch as seaplanes take off and land. Across the marina we had great views of Gasworks Park, the Space Needle, and beautiful Mt. Rainer. We cruised past  adorable houseboats and quickly decided we needed to live on one.

We walked alongside the water for a while and then began trekking uphill. Or shall I say, hills. Seattle is full of secret stairways and hills to climb. You don’t even need to leave the city. There are so many different stairs hidden around that you might need a book to find them all. And there is one! I’ve looked through the book at work, but it wasn’t until I actually saw all of the hidden stairways that I understood the need. Locals, check out the webpage. The climbs were a little tough but worth it. The views are incredible. From the top of the hill (where the Fremont Troll resides) you can see all the way to the water. SN859021As we descended the hill we walked under the bridge and caught Mt. Rainer looming behind the city. It was an awesome sight. We were also treated to a lift bridge right as it began to lift. As we waited for the bridge to come back, we looked out over the water as we listened to P Funk blasting from the dude on a bike next to us. Doesn’t get better than that.

The troll itself is an art installation that was funded by a city grant in 1989. It was the winning design in a contest for the use of the space. He is made from made from rebar, steel, wire and two tons of messy ferro-concrete. The Troll  took about seven weeks to complete, and was made by four local artists. He guards the bridge from any straying goats or cars that happen along. He is clutching a red VW Beetle. Drivers beware. The Troll is an interactive sculpture. Visitors are encouraged to climb onto his bony fingers, pose picking his gigantic nose, or poke at his one good eye with a stick. He measures 18 feet, and weighs 13,000 pounds. He’s a big boy.

SN859006We also happened past another strange Seattle sculpture called Waiting for the Interurban. It’s a group of six figures waiting for the next bus. They are all cast aluminum (including the dog) and are subject to constant humiliation and costume changes. Which is great since this type of public art is so self-aware that it almost asks for it. Built in 1979, it has become part of the Fremont art scene, and a tourist destination. It is always decorated for a birthday or wedding, or in festive attire for any upcoming or just past holiday. When we saw it yesterday, they were all wearing creepy masks and holding a sign that said, “Happy Birthday, Baby”. I’m glad it isn’t my birthday. I’d have to lock the doors and keep a knife under my bed.

10347709_10152239223207496_2720645507684949035_nWe had a hamburger and then a frozen custard from Old School (so yummy!) before going home. We walked up some more stairs and caught the bus back to our neck of the woods. It was a great day. It made me happy that I decided to move here. It’s easy to get stuck in routine or forget that there is adventure just outside your door. All you have to do is be brave enough to find it. By the time we got home we had a little sunburn and we had seen: One troll, three billy goats gruff, a gnome holding a sausage, a flock of geese bigger than I had ever seen, and Brazilians crying on the tele.

It was a good day.

Tom Robbins in Seattle: It’s All Cosmic Theatre

Tom Robbins, Seattle 2014

Tom Robbins, Seattle 2014

Last night I was fortunate enough to hear Tom Robbins read from his new book Tibetan Peach Pie, at Town Hall here in Seattle. The event sold out months ago. I worked selling his books so that I could have a front row seat and finally meet him. I would have worked for free. Tom Robbins is one of my favorite humans. Ever. Definitely one of my favorite Toms. (Having already met Tom Waits, Robbins was the final Tom on my list.)

There were a few hundred people in attendance. The 82-year-old author read stories from his life and from his latest, and probably his last book. The hall was silent and respectful as he spoke. Heads nodded in agreement and understanding, and faces were plastered with smiles. These were my people. We all came out to sit in the glow of the man who had written our collective favorite books. Robbins wore exactly what you would expect – standard dark sunglasses, jacket, green sneakers and blue jeans. Nothing about his presence said, “I’m 82 years old!”. He was funny, charming, flirtatious and cool. Just like you’d expect.

He spoke at length about Seattle and its past. Smart guy. Seattleites love to talk about Seattle. One woman asked, Do you think Seattle has lost its soul? She had to repeat the question a few times. Robbins paused before saying he didn’t think Seattle was ever a very soulful city. It has a lot of heart, but soul? Not so much. If anyone else had said that?They would have been drawn and quartered. But it was Tom Robbins. Little Tommy Rotten. He gets to say what he wants.

Tom Robbins - June 26, 2014

Tom Robbins – June 26, 2014

He talked a little bit about his process. He doesn’t do multiple drafts. Just one. (That’s what do! I rarely tell folks that because it isn’t normal. But nothing about being a writer is normal. Normal people don’t lock themselves away with blank pages and agonize over them for hours on end.) Robbins says he tries to write about two pages a day, correcting and changing as he writes. ‘When it’s done, it’s done.” He said. Amen.

There were a lot of aspiring, struggling, or otherwise stumbling writers in the audience. One young lady in a Cat T-shirt asked, When did you stop being afraid of your writing? Robbins walked away from his podium and approached Cat Shirt. I guess he didn’t hear her, or he found the question so ridiculous he had to get a good look at who was asking. Cat Shirt repeated the question, touched his green shoes, and backed away almost blushing. Tom Robbins returned to the mic and told the audience he had never been afraid of his writing. Why would someone be afraid of their own writing? Afraid? Silly.

He said he only has a vague idea when he begins a novel. He knows the effects he wants to leave the reader with, but not much more than that. He does a lot of research, educates himself, takes what he knows and sets out to write… like a canoe on open water. Let’s see where this baby takes us! He said that John Irving works the other way. Irving doesn’t begin a novel until he has every detail in place, until he knows everything that will happen down to the final line. Two great writers. Two completely different ways of writing. (I loved hearing that! John Irving wrote my other favorite novel, A Prayer For Owen Meany.) As a writer I think it is important to understand that there is no right or wrong way to write. You can read as many books about writing as you want, but it won’t teach you how to write. All you can do is read. And write. Every day.

“It’s all cosmic theatre,” he said. Tom Robbins has indeed lived an imaginative life. His life and his books have influenced my life choices. I told him that when I finally got to meet him. I’ve been waiting close to thirty years to say thank you to the man who changed the way I see the world and the way I see language. I read Still Life with Woodpecker and it changed everything. Language suddenly came alive for me and I was hungry for it. I didn’t know books like that existed. Books filled with outlaws and women who said fuck. Books with talking inanimate objects and recipes for homemade bombs.

SN858950Tom Robbins opened my eyes to a new way of living and a new way of thinking. He wrote books about people who didn’t just accept society as it was and lived life on their own terms. He wrote books about the falsity of religion and the transitory nature of love. He wrote books that spoke to me and for that I am forever grateful.

“Who knows how to make love stay?

1. Tell love you are going to Junior’s Deli on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn to pick up a cheesecake, and if loves stays, it can have half. It will stay.

2. Tell love you want a memento of it and obtain a lock of its hair. Burn the hair in a dime-store incense burner with yin/yang symbols on three sides. Face southwest. Talk fast over the burning hair in a convincingly exotic language. Remove the ashes of the burnt hair and use them to paint a moustache on your face. Find love. Tell it you are someone new. It will stay.

3. Wake love up in the middle of the night. Tell it the world is on fire. Dash to the bedroom window and pee out of it. Casually return to bed and assure love that everything is going to be all right. Fall asleep. Love will be there in the morning.”

Thanks again, Tom Robbins. I love ya.

Travel: Seattle

SN858760I’ve only been in Seattle for a month and a few days and I already love it here. I’ve found a job doing something I love doing, and we are close to having our own flat. I’m excited! Seattle is great. Sure it rains, but that only matters if you don’t like rain and I don’t mind it so much. When it’s not raining the skies are blue, the sun is shining and people walk around with smiles on their faces. The people here are nice, and everyone is fit. For reals. The folks here don’t just talk the talk (Ahem, Austin) they literally walk the walk. Or bike the bike. No matter what the weather, the good people of Seattle are outside walking, riding, gardening or chatting on the corner. This city thrives on being healthy. It also thrives on Happy Hour. You can find a “Happy Hour” anytime of day or night, and every day of the week. Some places have better prices than others, but there is one on every corner so no worries.

Here are a couple of my favorite Seattle spots. So far. I’ll try not to make it all food. And I won’t mention any of the places that weren’t up to snuff. I’ll get to that later. It’s more fun to talk about the great things.

Pike Street Fish Fry – 925 E Pike St, Seattle

The fish and chips here rival London’s best. Light and crispy batter on your choice of fish and a basket of well seasoned, fresh-cut fries finished with coarse sea salt. I would have taken a picture but I ate my food too fast. It’s a small, street side place designed for takeout or fast meals. The music was loud and all the cooks there looked like they were in the same band, but it worked. The vibe was cool and the food was badass. \m/

Seattle Library Central – 1000 4th Ave

SN858730Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and former Seattleite Joshua Ramus designed the 10 story building, and it’s pretty awesome. The Central Library has a capacity for more than 1.45 million books and materials, and currently there are 1 million items in the collection “and 9,906 shelves devoted to books. All of those books move around the building in a high-tech book-handling system that operates for the most part out of public view.” My fella and I spent a Saturday exploring the place and three hours later, we still weren’t finished. It’s ten stories tall and the views are pretty great from up there. The 4th floor boasts a Red Hall and it certainly is. I highly recommend going there for a free and fun place to check out. 

lThe Honey Hole – 703 E Pike St, Seattle

Again, I didn’t take any pictures of the food because I was too busy eating it. They do sandwiches and they do them really, really well. We’ve eaten there twice and I expect it will be more since it is near my work and our future home. The tagline is “Damn! That’s a good sandwich!” and it fits. Honestly one of the best sandwiches I’ve eaten that I didn’t make. You get to order a hot or cold sandwich, or even a burger. They have Happy Hour (of course. Drinks only) and it gets crowded on a Friday after work. Cocktails and good food accompany the cool vibe of the place. Prints of actors and rock gods adorn the walls, and a framed photo of Scott Baio hangs next to a booth so that you can look at Chachi while you eat one. They name sandwiches after famous characters like The Gooch, The Dude, Chachi or The Corleone. So. Damn. Good.

1458583_10152043785722496_310531287_nRavenna Park

Ravenna Park is a ½ mile wooded ravine which connects two picnic areas just north of the University District. It’s a great spot for hiking, jogging, picnics and various activities with four-legged friends. It’s not a Dog Park, but there are many dogs running this way and that. The park has a play area for kids, a wading pool, ball field, trails, and tennis courts. And did I mention it’s beautiful and free? It is! It is 49.9 acers, so there are plenty of trails to explore. And it’s GREEN. One of the best things about all of the rain in Seattle is the beautiful green that results. After a year and a half in the land of brown and flat, it is so nice to see snowcapped mountains and vivid green trees in the same view.

10152525_10152073534187496_2550977964728250440_nRainbows – Everywhere!

Seattle boasts the best rainbows I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen beautiful rainbows in Prague, L.A., Mexico, and even Ireland, but I’ve never seen any that compare with Seattle’s. And surely none can come close in quantity. Just a few weeks ago we saw a DOUBLE RAINBOW over the cascades. And, both rainbows were full arc. Just like a five year old would draw. I had never seen anything like it. And there were two of them! And they would have made a full circle if the world hadn’t gotten in the way. The Emerald City. Indeed.

10168068_10152069907117496_6156378946509874960_nBimbo’s Cantina – 1013 E Pike St, Seattle

This is our go to spot for Happy Hour. It’s always pretty busy, but you’ll find seats if you venture downstairs to the Cha Cha Lounge. The place looks like a cross between a tiki bar and what an American thinks a Mexican Cantina might look like. There are black velvet paintings on the walls, and Luchadors painted on the tables. I loved it. The food was fantastic as well. We’ve had the happy hour nachos two times and burritos as well. All of it was good, and you get a bucket of chips and salsa for a buck. Can’t beat that. The margarita was pretty good, but I got a watered down version with my second order. It happens, so I switched to beer. Other than that, it was great. Again, it’s loud but worth it. And they played great music while we were in the Cha Cha lounge. You can’t beat Sergio Mendez while you eat nachos.

Travel: Why I Move

Welcome to Washington!

Welcome to Washington!

Leaving Prague after seven years was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I worked hard to make a life over there. I had to make new friends every two years since the life span of a Prague Expat is pretty short. I also had to endure the evil machine that is the Czech Foreign Police. Living there was fun, but it wasn’t exactly easy. People often think I was over there just drinking and partying for seven years, and while that might be true, it doesn’t paint a full picture of my life in Prague. So when I get asked “Why did you leave? Prague sounds awesome!” My usual reply is, “Well, everything gets old after a while. And there is a lot of the world I ain’t seen yet.”

I still love Prague, but I have finally decided that my decision to leave was the right one. Staying in one place for too long, even a place as beautiful as Prague, makes you complacent. A realization I made while living in Austin. I met so many people in Houston and Austin that had never left their home state. Never. Just like the dozens of Czechs who had never left the CR. They didn’t want to see America, Asia, or even or travel outside of the Czech Republic because “Everything I need is here and it is the best.” Texans were the same. I had a three-year old in Austin tell me that daddy said “travel is a waste of time and money since everything you need is right here in Texas.” Ugh.

I don’t share that opinion. I think Prague is awesome, but I’m pretty sure there are other awesome places in the world. The only way to find out is to see these places with my own eyes. Movies and TV shows and books are great, but nothing replaces a first hand experience. It’s not easy living this way, but the rewards are pretty amazing. If a place doesn’t feel right, then it isn’t home. People change as they get older and so do places. I was lucky to be in Prague at the perfect time in my life. Leaving was hard, but I was tired of trying. And honestly, there are only so many times you can hear stories about how wasted someone got last night. Been there. Done that.

My new city

My new city

So, here we are in beautiful Seattle ready to give it a try. We are prepared to settle down for a while, and possibly plant some roots here. If we like it. And all signs point to likeability. I’m a big fan of cold weather, and I love hiking and camping. Portland is just a train ride away, and Seattle boasts some great food, beer and coffee. I’m ready to dive in.

We had the opportunity to visit friends we made in our time in Europe on the way here, and that was pretty awesome. It made me really happy to see how great everyone is doing, and how happy they are. I saw people I hadn’t seen since they left Prague years ago. I am happy to report that all of my “Prague Family” is still kicking ass and taking life by the balls. We might have scattered in the winds, but we are all living the life we want.

And that’s what it’s really all about. Live the life you want, and be open to what other people are doing. I move because I am an explorer and because I want to know first hand what it’s like out there in the world. I don’t judge anyone who likes where they live and wants to stay there. I get it. Stability feels good, if I remember correctly. But don’t judge folks like me because we travel, or choose to live out of a backpack. The way I live my life is not a reflection on your life. Unless you make it one. Live and let live. That’s what I say. Well, me and Cole Porter.

 

Travel: The Road to Seattle

SN858419I know I’ve been missing for a few weeks, but I have a good excuse. I’m moving to Seattle!

My sweetie and I departed from Berkeley, CA and drove straight to the Coppola Winery. It was a beautiful, sunny day, just perfect for wine tasting. We tried a flight of wine before going to Rustic, the restaurant on premises. The food was delicious, and you can’t beat dining outside overlooking the vineyards. We saw a turkey walking around while we ate. It was pretty awesome. We also had the opportunity to see a good amount of Coppola movie memorabilia, which for a movie buff like me was almost better than the wine. I saw Coppola’s five Oscars from The Godfather, the Tucker car, The Godfather desk, Apocalypse Now stuff, and even a couple of costumes from his horrible vampire movie. There is a beautiful swimming pool complete with Boardwalk style changing rooms. All in all it was a fantastic thing to do on a Monday afternoon.

SN858479After we finished pretending to be a wealthy couple, we hopped back in the Honda Civic and headed north on the 101. The 101 North is probably the most beautiful highway in America. The Redwood forest is there! We drove along The Avenue of Giants and took the car through a living tree. We drove to a campground in the Redwood National Forest only to find that they don’t have any wood and they only accept cash. Needless to say we didn’t fit the requirements. We drove to a nearby town and got a hotel room. The heater didn’t work and frogs could be heard outside of the bathroom window all night, so it was almost like camping.

And that brings us to today. We drove from The Redwood forest to Eugene, Oregon. Today. It was a long day but we saw a lot of cool shit. We had lunch in Trinidad, California and walked on the beach. We saw the Paul Bunyan statue and I think I said, “Wow! It’s so pretty!” about seventy times, if I said it once. It’s been an incredible couple of days.

SN858525Tomorrow we are meeting an old friend of mine for lunch before we set out for Portland to visit with some more friends. We are visiting with friends I met in high school, and friends I met in Prague. I’m so excited to reconnect with some cool people I haven’t seen in far too long. I’m also excited to see Portland and hopefully do some Hipster Gazing. It will be the first time I’ll be able to view the Hipster in its natural habitat and I’m jazzed, to say the least.

After that it’s on to Seattle and I’ll fill you in once we get there.

Ratna Ling Week 4: Peace Out

SN858181Our month-long trial period doesn’t end for another week, but it looks like the end is nigh here at Ratna Ling. And it wasn’t for lack of trying. I did all I was asked of, and more. I worked. I cleaned. I took classes. I even stood quietly and humbly while the rest of the community chanted three times a day.

What I didn’t do, and what I seem to be unable to do pretty much ever, is keep my big mouth shut. When people ask me how I’m doing, I have a nasty habit of telling the truth. When they ask me how I like working in an unheated factory when it’s windy and rainy out, I tell them. And when they ask me how I like the food, they get an honest answer. So it came as no great shock to me when they said I wasn’t a good fit here. I pretty much agreed with them.

I’m not a good fit here for many reasons. The top reason is my age. I turned forty a couple of days before arriving to Ratna Ling. I know age ain’t nothin’ but a number, but sometimes that number is staggering evidence of your wisdom and experience. If I have done my job well as a human being I have already learned a lot of the “lessons” the work here is supposed to teach me. For example, patience is not a lesson I need to learn. I taught preschool and kindergarten in three countries. I have applied for a Visa in the Czech Republic. I took a bus into Mexico in the middle of the night. I have patience. Most of the people here are in their early to mid twenties, so they still have a great many things to learn about the world. I get that, and I wish them luck in doing so, but man is it exhausting listening to people talk about weather and dorm rooms. Maybe the reason old people seem so grumpy all the time is because they are tired of hearing the same mundane stories again and again, year in, year out.

Next, as I have noted previously, the food here is awful. There is absolutely no seasoning in anything. If you are going to serve vegetarian food unseasoned, then I am going to want to punch you in the face. Period. I’ve worked in restaurants before, and I know a lot of professional chefs and cooks. I know good food, and this isn’t it. I now know for a fact that there is nothing worse than unseasoned, partially cooked black beans and tofu.

And lastly, I never fit in here. From the moment we arrived, both my boyfriend and I felt judged. Bringing two new people into a community takes sensitivity and nurturing. We got neither. Instead we were thrown into the deep end with little to no guidance. Instead of explaining the chanting (what they are saying, why they do it, who exactly are they chanting to) they just judged us for not doing it. Tell me why you light incense and candles and tell me why you leave flower offerings. And don’t wait three weeks to do it! Tell me right away so that I can begin understanding. Don’t let me fumble my way through my day. Instead, give me the tools I need to feel successful and confident.

SN858183Before coming here I understood that skepticism is an important aspect of Tibetan Buddhism. It is supposed to encourage and promote your skillz concerning analytic meditation. “One should test the Buddha’s words as one would the quality of gold.” A Buddhist may study with a lama for decades before finally accepting him as his own guru. Me, I only got about three weeks to make a decision. Doesn’t really seem like a fair shake if you ask me.

So I take only partial blame in our being shunned from Buddhist Camp. I have a big personality. Some people have a hard time with my honesty. I don’t pretend to be happy when I’m not, and I’m not laughing if your joke wasn’t funny. Maybe I lived in Prague too long or maybe I’m just Czech at heart, but I just don’t do small talk. And I think it’s worth mentioning that they asked my boyfriend to stick around, just not me. So I guess I shouldn’t feel bad. That is pretty low class. But I’m not apologizing. I don’t need to. I tried and it just didn’t work out.

And hell, who else can say they got kicked out of Buddhist Camp?