Saturday, April 6, 2013

Emerald City musings

It’s a little dreary here in Seattle today, but last weekend was chock full of sunshine and warmth. When that happens, the Emerald City morphs from a mumbling, passive aggressive, eye-contact-avoiding bunch to a hoard of happy people seemingly chasing tabs of Ecstasy with Prozac infused water. The difference is so noticeable that we've invented a term for it: sun drunk.

I'm guilty of it myself. It's not that I'm not friendly. I like saying hi to strangers and getting to know my neighbors. I'm just normally lost in my thoughts when I'm strolling through the city streets. Also, it’s tough to decipher between an unwashed hipster and a homeless person about to ask me for money, so I just avoid interaction. But when the sun is out, everyone becomes my best friend and everything they say is instantly hilarious.

The other day I laughed as I caught my reflection in a store window: black skinny pants tucked into my super-stylish rain boots, trench coat tied around my waist, scarf wrapped like a pro around my neck, Starbucks cup in hand. I was on my way to a local bookstore (no corporate chains!) to pick up the latest book for my feminist book club.

Could I BE any more Seattle right now?  I thought.

As of mid-March, I have been an official Seattle resident for two years. And while I still feel like a newb in some ways, there's no mistaking it: I have taken on some new habits and tendencies common of the local folk. For example:

  I can navigate my car through rush hour traffic on I 5 like it’s nothing. Insane traffic build-up by the on ramp? No problem, I will work my way in. Even my new Nissan Rogue, which has crazy blind spots, doesn’t deter me from jumping on the freeway if it gets me where I need to be.

·         I am busy… like, really crazy busy. I am busier than I have ever been in my life. A typical week for me involves dragging myself out of bed early enough to cram in a quick workout before I head to work, at which time I pack every possible thing into my evening before going to bed to do it all again. Happy hours, poetry readings, shows, art gallery openings and girls’ nights seem to happen constantly. During my limited downtime I work on creative writing and look for more writing opportunities. And I love it. I haven’t been bored for one single second since moving here. Not one.

·         I am officially a coffee snob. Though I defend Starbucks with my highest honor, I am well aware it’s far from the best stuff, especially in this city. And one cup is no longer enough to satisfy my daily caffeine craving. I can drink it well into the afternoon and still sleep like a baby that night. That’s definitely new. And don’t even get me started on how much of a food snob I’ve become. I cannot even fathom why Applebee’s exists.

But sometimes, even as I’m dressed like a Seattleite discussing the latest Capitol Hill bar happenings, my inner country girl returns with a vengeance. For example:

·         Instead of white guilt, I have pedestrian guilt. I know how tough driving here can be, especially in my neighborhood, and I refuse to be the asshole that sloooowly saunters across the street or screws a person out of making a left turn in time. I pay careful attention to the cars and anticipate their next move. If drivers do wave me over, I do a very awkward run. I believe this is good karma that returns to me, as more often than not I am blessed with pedestrians that hustle through crosswalks when I’m behind the wheel.

·         I hate… hate… horn honks. I understand they are necessary, but people in this city are entirely too honk-happy and it drives me insane. My nerves are permanently frazzled from being jerked out of a state of zen from a loud BEEP because some asshole decided the car in front of him isn’t going through a green light fast enough. I do use my horn when someone invades my lane or something, but very rarely will I honk out of anger. The other day a dude honked his horn because that was how he chose to tell me he thought I was pretty. I actually screamed. I hate horn honks.

·         I still hate getting rained on. I have come to accept the rain. I love the way it smells and I love the sound of it on my window. But I hate walking in it. The slightest drizzle makes me bust out my umbrella, which is considered a sign of weakness here. People look at me like I must be from out of town. Well, I am, and my hair is frizzy as hell, so I just smile back and strut down the street under my little cover.

I like this little blend of urban life with suburban tendencies I’ve got going on. As I enter my third year here in the city, I’ve come to realize there’s something really special about living here as an adult who didn’t grow up in the area. As transplants, we can appreciate our fresh perspectives while still remembering where we came from. But whether we’ve lived here for five minutes or fifty years, every Seattleite can agree on one thing… when returning to the city after time away, the first glimpse of the skyline takes our breath away. 


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