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.

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.

I Didn’t Buy It On Amazon

Amazon stickerI just moved across the country and into a tiny little studio that I share with my fella. We didn’t have anything except some clothes and a few kitchen items when we got here so we had to buy everything else. A rug. A duvet cover. A table and two folding chairs. A mattress (foam) and finally, a bed frame. We didn’t buy all of these things at the same time. And we didn’t buy them on Amazon.

Unless you’ve been living with your head in the sand for the past few weeks, you know that Amazon is (finally) in some hot water over their sleazy business practices. They are having a dispute with a publisher (Hachette) and they aren’t playing very nice. Amazon is demanding that Hachette sell their ebooks to Amazon at a lower price than Hachette thinks is fair. So Amazon is responding the only way a business like Amazon can: bullying.

Purchasing any Hachette title next to impossible, or not available at all. Through Amazon, that is. You can walk into just about any bookstore and walk out with whatever book you want. Live and in person. You don’t have to wait 24 hours, or 3-4 weeks if you wanted a JK Rowling book. Amazon has even gone as for as limiting your choices. They won’t let you buy certain books. Amazon recommends other titles (from other publishers) that will make them more money. Amazon cherry picks the publishers and titles they promote giving the consumer a false sense of satisfaction. You bought something, so who cares if it isn’t exactly what you wanted? And this isn’t the first time. They’ve been doing this type of thing for years. You just didn’t notice and Amazon prefers it that way.

But it’s more than just shitty business practices. Amazon is hurting the way we live. Folks here in Seattle have turned a blind eye to the slippery dealings of Amazon because they like the convenience of having everything they can think of delivered to their door step. It’s mostly just lazy. If you can’t be bothered to go to the store and pick out your own veggies, then maybe you need to reevaluate your situation. And what if your grocery store all of the sudden decided that you can’t have apples? You walk in and they say, “Oh, we have apples, but they won’t be available to you for at least 3-4 weeks. How about some nice pears instead?” You’d be pissed. And rightly so.

So why aren’t you pissed that Amazon is using sneaky business tactics to control what you read and how you shop? Folks here in Seattle love to talk about “Shopping Local” and “being Green”, but I challenge them to put their money where their bumper stickers are. You don’t get to call yourself “green” and “community minded” when you order everything from cilantro to slip covers in just a few clicks from one web site. You are NOT supporting local businesses. And you certainly are not Green. And do you know what Amazon pays the nice folks who work in their warehouses? You should.

Shopping for your food (or books!) in person gives you a connection to what you buy. When you walk into my bookstore and ask ANY bookseller for a recommendation, you’ll get one. We love to tell people what to read. We live for it. The recommendations you get from Amazon are computer generated and based on what Amazon wants to sell to you. Not what you actually want to buy. The only difference between shopping with Amazon and shopping with Wal-mart is perception. Wal-mart has been outed. We know how they operate. Hopefully the veil on Amazon is being lifted and we will all be able to see that the man behind the curtain isn’t a wizard at all. Just a greedy little man with a nation full of minions.

Get Out!

vintage_opels_summer49It’s summer! Time for cold beverages, hot dogs, and sunshine. Time to get your friends in the car and head out to nature. Here in Seattle we are in the midst of a nice dose of summer sun. The city is outside en masse and slowly simmeringAll the pale bodies walking around make me a little homesick for Prague, but that ends right about the time I look out and see Puget Sound. It’s beautiful here. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. And it isn’t even a little bit landlocked.

In honor of Summer and beautiful Seattle, here is a list of things to do outside.

1. Go for a walk in a new park or neighborhood. Change things up a bit!

2. Make “nature mobiles” with things that you find and hang them from the trees. It gives people something to Instagram.

3. Bury a time capsule with a note or story to go with it. I like to bury a single key in a plastic bottle and leave a random set of numbers.

4. Start a garden. If you are like me and live in a tiny flat, try looking for a neighborhood garden. I’ve seen a dozen in Seattle.

5. Lay on the grass and watch the clouds roll by.  

tumblr_m1po18ok6o1rqd5coo1_5006. Build a tree house or fort. When you are finished you can invite people to your fort. You can even have beer there. It’ll be awesome.

7. Go to the park and play bocce, wiffleball, frisbee, or if you must, hacky sack. Every park needs a group of people playing an odd sport.

8. Build a swing. I only suggest this if you own a home. Don’t go hanging swings off neighbors trees without asking first. Some people are touchy.

9. Take your pet for an adventure. Yeah, anybody can take the dog for a walk, but only you can take him on an adventure! Find a cool new park for you and Ol’ Yeller to explore. Maybe you are on the trail of a spy, or better yet running from one.

10. Meditate. Find your inner you. If the inner you can’t sit still and wants to do something involving a screen, resist. Take a deep breath and be the nature.

11. Take a nap. I suggest a hammock. Hammock naps are the best.

bp2412. Find an outdoor cinema. Many cities have a movie in the park after dark thing. Even better? Have one in your own back yard! Make popcorn, light some lanterns, and put up a sheet.  It’s cheap and you’ll be the badass in the neighborhood.

13. Build a weird bird house and hang it in a distant neighborhood.

14. Make a pin wheel.  

15. Lay out a blanket and read in the sun. Or take a towel to the pool and read there. Reading outdoors is the best.

16. Make sidewalk art. Get a set of outdoor chalk and start your career as the next Banksy.

17. Set up a treasure hunt. Leave clues around the neighborhood. Keep checking back to see if anyone was savvy enough to follow your breadcrumbs. Slowly realize everyone walks while texting and nobody will ever notice.

18. Take bubbles to the park. Sit near kids. Kids love bubbles.battle1_Renewal_06

19. Fly a Kite.

20. Watch LARPers. LARP is Live Action Role-Playing. It’s the folks who dress up in armor and swing swords at each other in the park. I caught sight of a gaggle of them at Gasworks Park a few weeks ago. It was epic.

21. Roast marshmallows! Make S’mores. Try putting Nutella or peanut butter in those sweet, sweet treats if you want to kick it up a notch.

22. Find a water park and go on a waterside. Make a slip and Slide. Actually, don’t. Those things are super dangerous.

23. Go camping!

24. Take a hike. A real hike, not a hike to  Happy Hour.

25. Make a Treasure Trade. Just make a sign that says “Treasure Trade” and put a basket under the sign. Put a few odds and ends in the basket and watch what happens. I traded a Happy Meal Furby for a plastic Weinermobile whistle. #Winning

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.

I, Bookseller

CT CT Egan_Jennifer.jpg“The most damning revelation you can make about yourself is that you do not know what is interesting and what is not…”  Kurt Vonnegut

Independent Bookstores are special places. The folks who work at these stores are hand selected because they like to read and they like to talk about what they read. I am one of these people. I wasn’t sure before, but now working for my third Independent Bookstore, I’m pretty sure I qualify.

Working for an Indie bookstore is part selling books, and part creating community. We build relationships with customers and we know how to talk about books. We are called Booksellers because it defines what we do. Literally. But I have an issue with calling myself a Bookseller. It seems pretentious. I feel like I should be wearing black skinny jeans and glasses I don’t need. I feel like I need to have a copy of The Stranger in my messenger bag next to my gluten free sandwich, which is wrapped in recycled plastic. I just don’t like titles. Especially fluffy titles designed to make people feel more important.

I don’t take myself, or my job that seriously. I don’t feel comfortable injecting who I am as a person with the job I am paid to do. In my mind the two should remain separate, like church and state. Fish and cheese. Cats and sweaters. I’ve never called myself a teacher, or a bookseller, or an executive assistant. I’ve been all of those things, but those are just job titles. It doesn’t speak to who I am, just what I do.

But the Bookseller is a different animal. The Bookseller is someone who likes books more than people. The Bookseller is someone who knows that what you say you read and what you actually read are two different things. The Bookseller encounters people who are normally annoying, but find new opportunities when in a bookstore. The Bookseller is someone with definite opinions and those opinions are usually correct. The Bookseller takes pride when writing a Shelf Talker or a review for Booknotes, because it is their reputation on the line. For the Bookseller, the Staff Recs wall isn’t something to be taken lightly. It is something to think long and hard about. Unless you just want to win. If you want to win just put up Gone Girl and laugh about how easy it was. Like lambs to the slaughter.

I am a bookseller.

ideal2I guess I should take pride in that. This is a job I am good at. I read a lot of books, and I read many different kinds of books. I feel at home being around books all day. I like working with people who are interested in what I am reading. I am old enough to understand that people have different tastes in literature, but I also understand that good writing is good writing. And that has nothing to do with taste.

Developing a discerning taste, especially in determining what is worth reading and what is not, is not something that you can do overnight. It takes years of practice. And that is where your local independent Bookseller comes in. We are like cheat sheets. We’ve read everything so you don’t have to. We’ll point out the best books because we’ve read everything and we enjoy telling people what to read. Seriously. We hardly make any money, but it’s worth it just to be able to tell people what to read.

imagesAnd the perks ain’t bad either. Free books! We get tons of ARCs or Galleys. These are advanced reading copies. Publishers send them out in hopes that bookstores will not only order them, but promote the book and the author attached. Getting to read the latest book by your favorite author BEFORE IT COMES OUT is an amazing feeling. Sometimes you find a first time author and just know they are about to become the next big thing. I remember reading an advanced copy of Life of Pi years ago and predicting it would become a classic. And a movie. I was right on both counts! I’m pretty sure I still have the ARC somewhere. It might be worth something in a bejillion years. We also get to meet authors and talk with publishers. I’ve met Octavia Butler, Donny Osmond, Brian Jaques, Howard Stern, and Julia Child. It might not sound exciting to you, but to us it’s like getting to meet Beyoncé. Or Nick Offerman.

Booksellers have good taste in literature. For the most part. But that’s the joy in it! Everyone has different tastes, and a good bookstore knows that. A good bookstore will hire a well rounded team of experienced, serious readers who can recommend the best in everything from Childrens to YA to History to Sex to Scifi to Business to Cooking… and so on.  I’m filling a niche that nobody else can because nobody else is me.

I’m a Bookseller. I know books. Tell me what you like and I’ll give you what you need. I’m your pusherman.

For books.

* All illustrations from My Ideal Bookshelf, by Thessaly La Force and Jane Mount

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.

 

Zen Habits: Life In-Between

roads-divergingNo matter what stage of life you are in, there are questions. You might be wondering, “What’s next?” or “What do I do now?” or even, “Is this it?” Maybe you just finished a big home project, or maybe, like me, you are in-between everything. I am so often in transition that it has become almost comfortable. Almost. I’ve been on the road since December 29, 2013 – that’s well over a month. I have a plan in place, but it’s a slow-moving, low-income, loose plan. It’s tough to be in-between a home and a job at the same time. Figuring out how to live in the “In-between” is difficult when you have money. It’s almost impossible when you don’t.

I’m in a unique position. I’m kind of stalled. My plan got derailed (as plans often do) and now I am left twisting in the wind. My fella and I had planned on heading to Seattle in June when we were finished at Buddhist Camp. I hadn’t planned on leaving early, but I did leave early. That means a new plan. I have feelers out in Seattle and folks willing to give us a place to flop, but jumping into the unknown with no money isn’t easy. It’s not impossible, just not easy. I have to look at this as an opportunity for us to be fighters; to look within ourselves and find that strength that we always knew was there. But after months of digging deep, who knows how much is left.

Transitions give us strength and builds real character. We discover who we are and what we want from life. We let go of our preconceptions and see clearly, maybe for the first time.

Each time I have found myself in a time of transition I try to seize the opportunities that life throws at me. I’m trying to enjoy the surprises that each day brings and accept all that life throws my way. Life is just one big experiment and there are no correct answers. There is only what you do, and what you choose not to do. All I can do is be fully present in the life I have chosen and take advantage of each stage, even the in-between ones. I have patience and I won’t let doubt get the better of me. I’m on a journey and I plan on enjoying every moment of it.

Hopefully one day in the not to distant future, my sweetheart and I will be able to look back on this In-Between time fondly and say, “Hell yeah! We nailed it!” I don’t know what’s next, but I do know I’m ready, willing, and able to kick its ass.