Looking Back on a Massive Change

Five years ago today, I arrived in Seattle, knowing no one. I’d never been here before. I knew nothing about the place. I may as well have landed on the moon. The very first thing I did was sit in a public park with my dogs. I felt very overwhelmed. I remember thinking, “Now what?” But I was also excited about the possibilities. Hanging on to that feeling is what saw me through the more challenging times.

I had spent the bulk of my life in the conservative South, where I always felt like a liberal turd in a republican punchbowl, so to say that Seattle was a culture shock was putting it mildly. I didn’t know my way around. I hadn’t even heard of the Seattle Freeze yet, so I had no idea about all the extra hurdles I’d have to jump through to make friends. (I must confess that I struggle with that to this day. I find many people out here to be flakey, unreliable, standoffish, and confusing. It takes a lot of effort to find the gems amongst the unyielding rocks, but that tends to enhance their value.)

At one point, an obnoxious distant relative accused me of running away. I wrote a furious blog post about that. Starting fresh is not always a massive avoidance scenario. Sometimes you have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. But on that first day, I had no idea what the gains, if any, would be.

Every time I pass that park where I first sat, I wish I could go back and hug that girl and tell her everything will turn out okay. My, my, how time does fly. I can now say with complete confidence that moving here was the best decision I ever made. For the first time in my life, I’m relatively financially stable. More often than not, I love my job. I purchased a house. I’ve had a lot of adventures, the greatest of which was finding love and getting married. I’m exactly where I should be.

Sometimes you have to take a leap and hope the net will appear. That’s what I did. Thank goodness it turned out well. I could have just as easily landed with a massive, irreparable splat. So three cheers for nets!

Incidentally, if you’d like to read about my epic journey across the continent, start here. And if you’d like to read other posts about my transition, do a search within my categories section for My Jacksonville to Seattle Do Over. (That category includes the epic journey, but contains many other posts as well.)

me cross country

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The Best Part of Philanthropy

Yesterday I talked about The Darker Side of Philanthropy, so today I thought I should discuss the good stuff. Fair’s fair.

As I wrote this post, a virtually endless stream of cyclists from Seattle’s annual Obliteride to obliterate cancer were rolling over my bridge in the rain. Many of them have committed to raise as much as $1000.00 to participate in this event, and as of my last viewing of the Obliteride website, they have raised 2.5 million dollars for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center so far. Good on them!

Obliteride
Obliteride, as seen from my drawbridge.

I happen to love the kind of philanthropy that stems from the larger community. I love microloan organizations such as Kiva.org. I love crowdfunding sites in general.

I also love supporting those organizations that promote the dignity of the people who will receive the assistance, such as Heifer International, which donates farm animals to people, teaches them how to raise and breed them, and encourages them to pass on these benefits to their neighbors.

I am particularly fond of those who may not have money to give, but who are generous with their time. Volunteers are awesome. People who donate blood or hair or kidneys or bone marrow are, too.

And I may be biased, but I’m crazy about people who build Little Free Libraries and keep them stocked for their community.

As a young adult, I once participated in a March of Dimes fundraiser in which I got people to pledge a penny for every mile I walked. I walked 12 miles for all those pennies, and couldn’t walk for days afterward. I admire that kind of effort a lot more than some rich person who throws a million dollars at a cause and doesn’t even feel its loss. The sacrifice and the commitment is the thing.

There really are a lot of people out there who want to do good. We are all in this together. That realization is why I haven’t lost all hope.

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A Celebration of Light

One of the things I’ll never get used to here in the Pacific Northwest is that there is nearly 8 hours less sunlight per day in the winter than there is in the summer. In Florida, the difference is only 4 hours. But that means that people here really appreciate the daylight when they have it. It can’t be taken for granted. There is a definite morale change from summer to winter, and with it comes a lifestyle change. People seem to hibernate here in the wintertime.

Therefore, it doesn’t surprise me that Vancouver, Canada, our neighbor to the north, has a three day celebration of light each summer. The funny thing is, this celebration takes place at night. That’s because it is a fireworks competition.

Each year, three countries are chosen to put on a fireworks display over English Bay on three separate evenings. These displays are set to music, and they’re judged. They’re always spectacular. The event comes with food trucks, too, and usually draws about 400,000 people per night.

This year, India, Canada, and Croatia competed. Canada, the home team so to speak, won. Croatia won the people’s choice award. (Click on the country names to see full Youtube videos of the events. They’re incredible.)

I was lucky enough to experience Canada’s effort, and I must say that it was, without a doubt, the best fireworks display I’ve ever seen in my life. I saw at least 5 types of fireworks that I’d never seen bfore. They were wonderfully creative, surprising, and delightful.

If you’re ever in the Vancouver area in late July, early August, don’t miss the Celebration of Light. But please don’t bring your dog. If I lived in Vancouver, I’d probably take my dogs and leave town during this event. War veterans might want to give it a pass, too.

But everyone else… wow. Just wow. Three cheers for light!

Celebration of Light 2019

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Vancouver for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

I just love Vancouver, Canada! I’ve visited once a year since I moved over to this side of the continent, and I suspect that will be a long-standing tradition for me. It’s a ridiculously short drive from Seattle, and it feels familiar and exotic at the same time.

It’s such a vibrant big city, full of art and quirkiness, and you hear so many different languages on the street that you genuinely feel that you’re at a cultural crossroads. Each neighborhood has a different style and personality, which makes it a great deal of fun to explore. And the food… My God, the food…

I’ve been a visitor in this fair city enough times to have discovered several dining favorites. What follows are my picks for all three meals of the day.

Breakfast:

Le Petit Belge. I stumbled upon this little restaurant because it was a short walk from my hotel. It got quite a few bonus points for also serving delicious food in a delightful setting. This place makes very light, flavorful Belgian waffles, and offers a variety of toppings. I tend toward the sweet toppings, such as strawberries, whipped cream, chocolate, mixed fruit, or ice cream. But they also offer savory toppings such as prosciutto, asparagus, salmon, avocado, cheese, and bacon. In addition, they serve other breakfast fare such as eggs, omelets and breakfast bowls. And you get to eat these delectable things while sitting in their cute little dining room and watching the city’s denizens walk by. A great Vancouver experience.

Lunch

For lunch, I suggest two possibilities.

If you’re looking for a casual and filling meal, and are not averse to fried seafood, then you absolutely have to check out Go Fish. It’s a little outdoor establishment on the banks of False Creek. Their menu is simple. Eat your crispy cod, salmon or halibut, fresh off the dock, with the delicious fries, or try their Tacones, all while gazing at Granville Island, just across the way. The only down sides are that they are closed on Mondays, and since the seating is outdoors, you’ll want good weather for this dining experience.

If you’d prefer something healthier, I highly recommend the Granville Island Public Market, which is open 7 days a week. You’ll be overwhelmed by the variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, and your mouth will water when you contemplate the abundance of desserts. You can also pick up fresh baked bread, cheeses, and meats, and create your own picnic, right on the spot. Or if you’re feeling lazy and want someone else to do the food prep for you, there’s an international food court with some wonderful options. After you’ve eaten, you can shop for unique gifts amongst the stalls that are overflowing with handcrafted art.

VancouverFood

Dinner

I discovered this restaurant on my most recent visit. Since Vancouver is known for its seafood and Asian cuisine, and since I had enjoyed Go Fish for lunch, I asked my hotel concierge for his recommendation for a Chinese restaurant. Without hesitation, he recommended Peaceful Restaurant on Seymour Street. (They have several locations. That just happened to be the nearest one.)

Oh. My. God. This turned out to be the best Chinese food I’ve ever eaten. It made me want to move to Vancouver, just so I could eat there once a week. Specializing in very flavorful Northern Chinese cuisine, this place has gotten several awards.

I was anxious to try one of their noodle dishes. You have a choice of “hand-pulled” noodles which are thick and round, or the “knife-bladed” which are, of course, flat. I had the stir fried beef and veggies with hand-pulled noodles, and my goal in life is to fill my above ground swimming pool with the stuff, and just dive in every night at around 5pm. Dear husband had the Peaceful House Stir fried noodles with spicy seafood and pork. The menu is extensive at this place, and the Dim Sum gets raves as well, but we didn’t try it this time around.

At the end of the meal, dear husband practically had to peel my fingers off the door frame and carry me away, kicking and screaming in protest.

Incidentally, they have franchising information on their website. If someone in Seattle takes them up on this opportunity, I will kiss that person on the lips, on camera, at the top of the space needle.

I have no idea why I left Vancouver. Please remind me.

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The Death of America’s First Mall

Wow. I had no idea that when I first moved to the Seattle area, I was living not far from a piece of American history. According to this article, the Northgate Mall was the first shopping center in the country to be designated as a mall. I went there a few times, but only to go to the movies.

I hate malls now for the same reasons I loved them when I was a teenager. The crowds. The endless walking. The opportunities to spend your money on a whole host of stuff that you don’t really need. Malls suck the energy out of my fugal, lazy, introverted soul.

Nowadays, on the rare occasion that I visit an old-style indoor mall, it feels more like a ghost town. Instead of the crowds these places were made for, I’m often the only person walking the halls, and there’s this “I’ve given up on life” vibe that I find extremely depressing. Malls are now where retailers go to die.

So when I read the above-mentioned article and learned of Northgate’s demise, I wasn’t particularly surprised. But I am also not waxing nostalgic for it as many people on social media seem to be. I won’t miss malls any more than I’ll miss that desperate search for a payphone when my car broke down in the pouring rain in the 80’s. It’s the end of an era, and it’s not how I live my life anymore. I wouldn’t want to turn back the clock. Not everything in the past is worth clinging to.

Northgate Mall will be turned into business offices, residential units, and an NHL training center by 2021. Until then, you can watch the few remaining stores disappear one by one, after desperately trying to sell everything that they have, even the mannequins, at insanely low prices.

In no time, nothing will be left except the echoes of the past.

18763869469_bbd2eafbee_n

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Reclaiming the Day

Have you ever had one of those days? A day of traffic snarls, annoying errands, clerical stupidity, unwanted expenditures, stupid people and disappointing friends. I was tired, hungry, I had to pee, and I was annoyed at the world. That’s never a good feeling. Even while it’s happening, I realize that that is not a headspace for making major life decisions.

When I’m in that state of mind, I have awful thoughts. People suck. Why on earth did I move out here? I don’t belong in Seattle. I don’t understand people out here. Nobody likes me. They don’t give a sh** about me. I hated Florida with its horrible politics and its oppressive heat, but at least there things made sense, and people could be counted on. There are too many people here. I feel like I’m suffocating. I want to go home.

I felt like crying.

Instead, I text-vented to a good friend in Florida, who had the sense to just listen and not try to talk me out of it. He knew I already knew I needed to pee, eat, and be around the one person I can count on out here: dear husband.

And sure enough, Hubby was on his way. And he had some idea what he was driving into. Storm clouds on my horizon.

There’s a reason I chose Always Look on the Bright Side of Life as his ring tone. That man could put a positive slant on the four horses of the apocalypse. And he does it in such a charming and sincere way that you can’t even get annoyed. He also does that “I’m a guy, so I’m supposed to solve stuff” thing. Which must be upsetting from his perspective, because not everything can be solved.

But in this case, he handled my mood with aplomb. He drove up, wearing a bright, sunny, yellow shirt, and had my favorite Jason Mraz album playing on the radio. “Hey there, Sunshine!” He said. “Let’s find you a bathroom.”

After accomplishing that mission, he took me out for seafood. He made me feel special. He made me feel heard.

I could see what an effort he was making to be positive, and that naturally made me want to be positive, too. So I started saying things like, “What lovely weather we’re having,” and “Look at those beautiful flowers.” All while grumbling inside. But I was trying.

Your attitude impacts your outlook. If I had continued in “people suck” mode, the evening would have gone completely down the drain. Instead, I decided to follow his positive lead, rather than make his day as awful as mine had been up to his arrival.

After that, we went to see Wings Over Washington, which was so much fun it got a blog post of its own. And then we went home, watched Handmaid’s Tale, hugged the dogs, and went to sleep smiling.

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, we resurrected the day. And that made me realize that looking at days as a solid unit can be a mistake. A day doesn’t have to be all bad, from beginning to end. It’s possible to live in the moment. It’s possible to turn things around.

I hope I remember that. If I don’t, I have someone walking beside me who will remind me by example. And that’s pretty darned amazing.

Moon Phoenix

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Wings Over Washington

It can be a lot of fun to be a tourist in your own town, especially when you’ve only lived there for 5 years and still kind of feel like a baby fawn just learning to walk. So it was when dear husband took me to the Seattle waterfront to experience Wings Over Washington.

You can’t really miss the place. It’s right by the Seattle Great Wheel. Tickets for this ride cost 17 dollars plus tax for adults, and it’s worth it. It’s great fun. It kind of made me nostalgic for Disney World.

The first room you enter reminded me of Disney’s Country Bear Jamboree with its animatronic bears. In this case, though, it’s animatronic Pacific Northwest totems that you experience. It was kind of corny, but it made me smile.

The next room is the ride itself. Try to sit in the back row. And if you’re afraid of heights, brace yourself. The floor will drop out beneath you, and the huge screen with Washington state footage on it, with all its peaks and valleys and waterfalls, will leave you convinced that you’re hundreds of feet in the air. It’s quite an adventure.

I left Wings Over Washington feeling proud that I live in such a gorgeous state. It also made me want to take a lot more road trips. I’ll be bringing all my out of state visitors here, if they’re up for the challenge.

Now, if you don’t think you’ll ever find yourself in Seattle (poor you), or if you’re financially unable to partake of this ride, or if you’re too afraid of heights, here’s a little cheat for you: You are not supposed to video this ride, but someone did. This link takes you two minutes into the bootleg video, because the first minutes are a blurry, messy, waste of time. But the rest gives you an idea of what you’d see. Only, it’s just a small idea. The ride is 1000 times better. You have to be there, with the big screen and the moving seats, to really feel like you’re flying.

Bottom line: Wings Over Washington—highly recommended!

Wings Over Washington

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