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.

 

Zen Habits: Letting Go of Negativity

87511717We’ve all had a friend, at one time or another who, try as they might, only see’s the negative. People take “their” parking spots, or cut them off. At parties he probably hates the food, or thinks the music is lame. Their Facebook posts are always about someone who done them wrong. You might have had the distinct displeasure of traveling with one of these people. Nothing is to their liking, they complain the whole time, and they just want to go home. These people are a real bummer. They might be awesome people most of the time, but once that negativity comes out it’s a downward spiral.

We all fall prey to the temptations of lingering on the negative. I know I have. It’s easy to wallow in self-pity, or make even the smallest thing into a huge drama. It gives us attention and sympathy. You know what they say, misery loves company. But, hanging out with the woman who is so insecure she constantly makes fun of other women gets old. You begin to feel uptight when you see her, or you downright dread it. It is exhausting being around a negative person because it makes YOU into a negative person.

Negativity breeds negativity. We all know that. I was in the break-room at work the other day and it only took one person to complain about the coffee before it turned into a six person symposium on everything wrong with our jobs. Even playful, silly negativity can be harmful to your psyche. I was in a good mood going into work, but I ended up having a rough day. Did that small conversation in the break room shift my inner gear shift into “Negative”? Maybe. Probably.

It starts with being present in thought and word. In order to push negative ideas out and replace them with positive thoughts takes being present in the now. Think about how often during the day you worry about something that cannot be attended to until “later”, or how often you dwell on something that happened yesterday, or last week, or last year. You cannot change the past and dwelling on it won’t help, so why waste your energy? It is just weighing you down. And the future is one big question mark no matter how well you plan. Constantly worrying about “later” will rob you of the joys of right now. Most problems exist only in your own mind, in imaginary situations you make up that you continuously think about. It has nothing to do with “right now” or what is actually happening in your life at that moment.

twomonks_02Eckhart Tolle says, Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.” He also says that negativity is totally unnatural. Nature (flowers, trees, animals) don’t have “self-esteem” issues and they are not stressed or depressed. Why? Because they live in the present moment.

Here are a couple of tips I use for staying positive, and letting go of that inner bitch who lives inside me.

  1. Realize that everything “bad” might not be – We all struggle with change and loss, some of more than others. It took me a very long time to realize that sometimes change or loss can feel bad and look bad, but it is actually making space in my life for something new, something positive. I view change like pruning a rose-bush: you have to cut off the flower for more to grow.
  2. Concentrate on the good – I know it might seem silly, but throughout my day I take moments to myself and think about the good things that have happened so far. I try to do this on days when I begin to feel hostile or angry over seemingly small things. I think of things that made me smile or things I laughed at. When doing this I realize that I am holding on to a resentment or an unresolved issue, and that I need to stop and refocus on “now”. It helps, and it works. My mood improves every time.
  3. Remember that negativity comes out of the ego – Tolle says, “…if there is any negativity involved, anger, resentment, irritation, then Ego is present there.” When you make a decision that is reactionary, it was probably made out of anger. The ego likes to be angry. It likes to prove how “right” it is. Your anger or resentment only reenforce the negative thoughts you are having. It feeds on itself. Once you recognize your own negativity for what it really is (ego), you can begin to change the way you react to anger. Instead of letting it control you, you can feel the emotion, observe it, and let it go.
  4. Don’t accumulate negativity – Whether it is a bad day, or a bad break-up, let it go. The longer you hold on to a negative thought, the more power you give it. Don’t tell your best friend, the grocery store clerk, and anyone else who will listen about “your story”. The more you tell “your story” the longer that emotion will linger. That anger will feel fresh and justified every time you talk about it. Your body believes it is happening again because your mind is sending it those signals. Your body doesn’t know the difference – it just tenses up. Instead of focusing on how right you are, or how slighted you feel, do something active. It will force you to focus on the present task (not falling over in yoga? Finishing that last mile?) and allow you to let go of the negativity.

I’ll leave you with this Buddhist story. I think of this story every time I start to dwell on something negative. It helps me to remember to stay in the present, and let go of my anger.

“Two traveling monks reached a river where they met a young woman. 
Wary of the current, she asked if they could carry her across. 
One of the monks hesitated, but the other quickly picked her up onto his shoulders, transported her across the water, and put her down on the other bank. She thanked him and departed.  
As the monks continued on their way, the one was brooding and preoccupied. Four hours later, unable to hold his silence, he spoke out.”Brother, our spiritual training teaches us to avoid any contact with women, but you picked that one up on your shoulders and carried her!”  
“Brother,” the second monk replied, “I set her down on the other side four hours ago. Why are you still carrying her?”

Minimalist Living: Overcoming Sentimentality

snowglobesSo you have decided that you want to live with less “stuff”. You have decided that you need to get rid of all the “stuff” in your life – in your flat, your car, your closet – everywhere. You have decided to go room by room, and you have sorted things into piles: Keep, Throw away, and Give away. The only problem is that your “keep” pile is the biggest one. It seems impossible for you to get rid of those old notes from high school, or the collection of ceramic plates your grandmother gave to you. You have a sentimental attachment to your “stuff”.

We are taught at a young age to place value on our things, and to amass as many things as we can. I remember seeing tshirts in the 80’s that said, “He Who Dies With the Most Stuff Wins”. Ugh. I myself had a fantastic sticker collection. I was careful with each and every sticker, only “using” the ones I had two of. I collected pictures of Bruce Willis and didn’t stop until I had over 350 of them. Human beings are collectors of things with no inherent value. We collect comic books, dolls, bells, action figures, exercise equipment, and even beauty products. We are a nation of horders. What we fail to realize is that all of these “things” that we have placed so much value on are pretty much worthless, and we are wasting our time, space and money to keep them.

How many of you have a treadmill or weights taking up space in your life? How about hair and beauty products that you never use? What about all of that stuff in closets or the attic? Why are you keeping it all? How do you begin to get rid of it?

We all have that “stuff” we are holding on to for some reason. It might remind us of a person or place or time in our life that was special to us. These tangible things become replacements for our memories and we start to think, “These things tell my story. These things are my life. They tell who I am.” But, they are just things. If anyone else came upon that box of high school love notes, they wouldn’t think twice before throwing them away. And you shouldn’t either. They are just pieces of paper written on by someone you used to know.

That's a lot of tea pots

That’s a lot of tea pots

Your brain is a pretty awesome piece of equipment. It can hold a lot of information, a lot of memories. In fact, the human brain is so badass it has three different stages of memory that serve as a filter to protect us from the flood of information that we’re confronted with on a daily basis. Pretty neat. This means that we have the capacity to remember what a chocolate chip cookie looks like, and tastes like without actually seeing or tasting it. You might be holding on to all these “things” in your life as a connection to the past, but you don’t need it. In fact, having these things around just to “trigger” memories might just have the opposite effect. If you see those plates that Grandma gave you day in and day out, they will stop reminding you of Grandma and just become “plates”. You have a great connection to Grandma right there in your brain.

Moving is a great way to stop being sentimental about “stuff”. I have moved so many times (with very limited luggage) that I don’t get sentimental anymore. If it doesn’t fit in my suitcase – it goes. I know not everyone is able to do that, but it comes with practice. And guess what? Some of that stuff you are holding on to is actually holding on to you. That book your High School sweetheart gave you? The one that makes you think of him every time you open it? Get rid of it. Why do you need to be reminded of him anyway? Why don’t you make room for new memories, and new books? Holding on to the past, even by holding on to a book, isn’t living your life in the “now”. It doesn’t give you permission to be present, it only holds you hostage in the past. If you are living in a house full of memories, I challenge you to start living in the present and make new memories.

Like I said, it isn’t easy. And it takes practice. When you are going through that junk drawer, or closet, or your bedroom, try to look at your “stuff” objectively and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I NEED this? Is this thing actually serving a purpose, or is it just taking up space?
  2. What is significant about this object? Does it have genuine value, or just sentimental value? Might it be valued more in someone else’s home?

Sentimental clutter is like having a security blanket. It makes us feel normal and it makes us feel safe – things we should be able to feel without the use of Grandma’s plates. If you feel like you can’t do it alone, enlist a friend to come over and help. I promise, they will help. Invite a friend who you trust and who can stand up to you when you are begging him not to sell your childhood stuffed animal collection. You’ll be glad to have someone to talk to, and glad to have someone who can cut the cord.

And remember, you don’t need to keep everything – you can save ONE and ditch the rest. I had a vast collection of Snow Globes that I had spent years collecting. I adored them. I felt they told the world who I was. But they couldn’t come to the Czech Republic with me, that would be silly. I was sad that I had to leave them behind, but at the same time I felt a sense of freedom. I no longer needed these things to show the world where I have been, and where I wanted to go. I was going. I would be the tangible proof of my own life. I would be my own Snow Globe. Shake me up!