Silence Will Fall

I’m not really writing anymore. I mean, I am writing, I’m just not writing anything that gets posted here. Half of what I write for here gets deleted on purpose before I ever complete the editing process, and half of what I’m going to write for here just…disappears, I guess, either because it’s not important or not funny or I decided that 140 characters or less worked better and I posted it on Twitter.

While there is still a part of me that feels bad about not writing here and that’s the part that overachieves and feels a bone-deep fear at the idea that people might think I’m lazy or not smart enough to come up with anything, I’m also kind of okay about it for a few reasons.

First, nobody even reads blogs anymore. Back when I was writing every day (and got bristly messages from friends and strangers alike if I didn’t), blogs were the thing. I don’t even think Twitter existed back when I started blogging. Even when I leapt from the MySpace platform (I told you it was a long time ago) to Blog City, blogs were still a big deal and I was generating and average of something like 1,600 original views a day. But sometime around Blog City’s shutdown and the move to WordPress, blogs stopped being a thing people did and started being a subject of ridicule. I mean, they were already a subject of ridicule a little bit, and in the ridiculers’ defense, blogs did morph from a daily diary of sorts for interesting, introspective people into a “here’s my yearlong project that I’m only doing to get a book deal” and/or “THEEEEEEEMES!” So I don’t blame anyone for viewing them derisively. Within the last few years, my views have gone from that 1,600 per day average to something like 60. And that’s fine, I know that’s actually a lot compared to old bones blogs like mine, but if I take a hard look at my stats, it’s almost all non-repeaters. Non-readers. People who find me by following absurd search terms and just as quickly disappear. All that’s left are my friends (who I’m always happy to see) and stalkers (less so).

Second, writing here has become a chore. It’s become a thing I have to work at doing. I’m not sure if I lost my voice or my priorities have shifted or, most likely, a combination of the two, but all those things I used to rail about don’t concern me much anymore, and even if they do, I’ve already railed about them. Finding time to rail about new things is surprisingly difficult for someone with no kids or real hobbies but who still has a job and pets and a relationship that she tries to maintain for those two days a week when she actually gets to see the person she’s been dating for nearly a decade.

Third, Twitter, you guys. Come on. You’re not allowed to make fun of Twitter anymore. All those things you think are funny on Facebook or Tumblr or Snapchat? They were stolen from Twitter. It’s not a minute-by-minute update of the life of the most boring person you know. It could be if you’re not willing to figure it out, but mostly, it’s full of incredibly witty and unbelievably crude people and like most things, according to our parents, you get out of it what you put into it. I’ve likened starting out on Twitter to screaming bad jokes into an empty room, but eventually, if you’re funny and can engage with people, it’s worth your time. But please stop retweeting corporate accounts. So lame.

So that’s mostly why I don’t plan on trying to keep up with this anymore, as half-assed as my trying has been lately. It feels like work when it never did before, and I can only write so many entries about weather and the bus before I start to hate myself (even more). I’m not shutting it down for good – I do have the domain name for about a year longer – but there may be a couple of weeks between posts at times. If you get bored, find me elsewhere. God knows there’s plenty of Internet out there that’s better than this.

Posted in The Internet is My Boyfriend, Writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

I Came, I Saw, I Said Fuck This, I’m Outta Here

I was supposed to go to a happy hour tonight. I’m supposed to be there now, but instead I’m sitting at my desk at home in a pair of yoga pants with a decent beer next to me. I was going to go to the work happy hour. It was held for another Erin in my department, and this Erin also happens to be from Missouri. Plus she’s pretty nice, so after work I killed about an hour at a different bar by myself and then walked down to the happy hour bar where I assumed people would be hanging out.

What I did not remember, apparently, is that out here, when someone says that something starts at 5pm, they mean that you should probably show up a little closer to 6pm. Even in public, even when the bar is across the street from work, even when the bar isn’t even a bar, but more like a TGI Friday’s-Shenanigans House of Bullshittery where there’s a bunch of tables but no real barstools.

Anyway. I walked into this happy hour bar, saw zero familiar faces, and immediately turned around and started making my way to the bus stop. I can hang out in bars by myself – I’d just done it for an hour, albeit in a very good bar with terrific happy hour pricing and staff that isn’t required to wear matching polo shirts – but I refuse to wait around for the chronically late in a lame tourist hole where I can’t even get a stool.

I anticipate that I will catch shit for not showing up, and probably even more shit for telling people what actually happened. I did show up, no one was there yet, and the idea of waiting around made me deeply uncomfortable to the point of nausea. I doubt that I’ll tell anyone that last part, partially because it’s none of their business and partially because most people don’t understand it, anyway. Once you’ve tried telling people that you actually prefer to sit at home with books and Netflix and your cats, they think you’re crazy (probably true, but in the really real way that most people incorrectly think you can just “snap out” of) or a loser (again, true, but who the fuck cares?). So if telling them that is difficult enough, imagine what it’s like to tell them about how crowds of people you don’t know in places you don’t like make you feel sick to your stomach, and that spending even ten more minutes in a situation like that requires about an hour (or more) of time spent curled up in an immobile ball on your bed at home, staring at the wall with eyes that barely even blink and lungs that can’t quite catch a normal breath because your body can’t figure out how to take the edge off. I’m not an agoraphobe and I think the words “my anxiety” get used as a shitty excuse for a lot of dumb things, but I am 32 and I know what makes me feel okay and that situation was not it. When I say that I’m uncomfortable, I don’t mean like I’ve got a rock in my shoe. I mean that I’m having what feels like a bone-deep reaction to something I can’t control and every single impulse in my body is telling me to run for it.

And, I mean, who shows up late at a place like that in the first place? What am I supposed to do, ask for a giant table? Or wait it out at a tiny one? And make small talk with the server and smell fryer grease the whole time? Gross. Not into it.

But like I said, I won’t tell the people at work everything. They neither need nor would likely want to know. I won’t tell them that I’m not like that all the time (most of the time yes, all of the time not really), and that in situations where I feel okay, I’m fine. Charming, even. I have friends and I go places and tourists from other countries seem to enjoy asking me questions (Tokyo hipster dudes in Fremont tasting their first Seattle coffee are adorable, btw). But I do not want to sit at Rooty Tooty McMegaturds to hang out with a bunch of people from work whenever they feel like showing up.

I have a desk and some beer of my own, and that makes me happy enough.

Posted in I Just Can't | 1 Comment

One Month in the Land of Startups

An infamous date this past week marked one month since I started my new job. While I’m not fully confident that I’ve got my bearings – typically that takes six months for me, which means I’m either a perfectionist or an idiot – I think I’m doing pretty well. I haven’t been yelled yet, nor have I cost the company millions of dollars on a stupid mistake (that I know of, anyway).

I realize that this too early to come to any solid realizations, but so far, there are some things I like and others I don’t like about my new job, so if you ever ask me and my answer is “it’s okay,” here’s what I really mean.

What I Like About My New Job:

Although there are over 1,500 employees in my city alone and the company is kiiiiind of a big deal, it’s still technically a startup, which means that no matter how long you’ve been there, everyone’s learning and growing at basically the same pace. The normal growing pains means that no one stays entirely comfortable, new systems and applications are being developed every day, and what you think you know will likely change once someone figures out a better, faster, less expensive ways to do something Which happens, like, once a week. This can be a little troubling if you’re just trying to learn your job to start with, but it’s also weirdly comforting because no one else is very far from where you are now.

Because it’s a startup, it tends to attract the kind of people who are “self-starters,” which until now was just a dumb buzzword on a job listing and not even the HR people knew what it meant. But when you work at a startup, you have to know how to light your own fire and get the fuck moving. You have to learn fast, come up with ideas, and think on your feet. I’ve only been there for a month, but I have yet to encounter one of those people whose primary job description seems to be “taking up space behind a desk and just riding it out until retirement.” Which was nearly everyone at my old company, so this place is pretty refreshing.

I am treated like a professional, grown human being. This shouldn’t be such a big deal and maybe it sounds odd to some of you, but when you once spent 8 years toiling in the kind of place where your bosses treated almost everyone like a thieving fuckup or a mentally incompetent child (and you developed migraines and ulcers as a result), it’s remarkable to find yourself in a place where management assumes that you know how to do your job, you’ll ask for help if you don’t, and you’re working for the good of the company (ahem, your stock options). Essentially, the company expects and trusts me to know my shit. As they should, because I am an adult with a job. And while that was terrifying at first – I was shocked that I was allowed to work on my own so soon after being hired – it’s actually kind of liberating to realize that I’m not under the yoke of psychopaths who actively seek to undermine and belittle me every step of the way.

I am no longer leashed to a phone. I don’t even have to deal with customers. I mean, yes, I still have what’s basically a client list of adults who need constant prodding and hand-holding to get their fucking jobs done in accordance with their contracts, but if I need to step away from my desk to go to the bathroom, get coffee, or run to the store for another bottle of ibuprofen? Done, and I don’t have to beg anyone to let me do it.

I don’t have to drive to work anymore. I mean, I could drive to work if I wanted to sit in bridge traffic and spend $9.00 a day for parking (and that’s at a cheap lot six blocks away from my building), and maybe I will on a day when I’m running late and its pissing rain. But for now, there are express buses to and from work each day, and my schedule is flexible enough that I can usually catch whatever one of them can (almost) guarantee that I’ll get a seat. While I once spent over an hour each day in my car, I now spend about 45 minutes reading a book or checking Twitter. Plus the environment, saving on gas, etc.

My view. I’ve been meaning to take a photo but I haven’t yet, so unfortunately, I’m not able to show you exactly what I get to look at every day from my desk. So I found one from the Internet, and all you have to do is imagine that instead of seeing this from the top of the Space Needle, you are on the 4th floor of a building that looks towards the Olympic Mountains and sits between the piers on the bottom left side of the photo.

awesome-view-of-puget

I KNOW, RIGHT?!

The only thing separating my building from Elliott Bay is a train track, a street, and the piers. And speaking of piers, my desk is directly across from Pier 69, which cracks me up every single day.

What I Don’t Like About My New Job:

One downfall of being trusted to know how to do my job is living in constant fear of fucking it up. Maybe it’s just me, maybe I just have a fatalistic personality (just kidding, I totally do), maybe it’s those 8 years of being treated like a fucking idiot that have conditioned me to suspect that I actually am one, but I am pretty much always afraid that the next thing I do will break everything.

Although a startup’s culture is constantly moving, learning, and developing new processes and technologies (and this is great), it tends to fall flat when it comes to training the new people who come on board. The company simply hasn’t been around long enough or stayed still long enough to have developed standard procedures that a new person can reference or learn from, or seasoned employees that know how to teach their jobs to someone else in a way that isn’t “uhhh, I guess this is how I do it?” And that makes former honor roll kids like me bonkers, because it’s one thing to be expected to do something that I don’t know how to do, and an even worse thing to be given the completely wrong answer by someone who’s supposed to know better.

Because of the startup and creative nature of the company, quite a lot of the people who work there are young. In my immediate department there are maybe four people who are older than me, and another small handful of people who are near my age (although usually one to two years younger). Everyone else is in their mid-20s, and for most of those people, this is their first full-time, corporate job. It’s not really a generation gap because it’s not like any of these people could be my children, but there’s definitely an age difference and that age difference is definitely underscored by a massive cultural and economic gap between my age group/background and theirs.

Theirs was raised in a time of general economic prosperity, and in parts of the country that weren’t dying Rust Belt cities riddled with crime. Theirs was presented with higher education as a guarantee rather than an option restricted by zero money and zero advisement on how to get it. Theirs was told that a college education guaranteed things like good jobs, frequent vacations, comprehensive benefits, and the ability to pay off student loans within a couple of years. Theirs is sloooooowly learning that this isn’t always the way the world works, and they can be a little bitchy about it.

They don’t yet know what it’s like to be laid off. They’ve never had to survive periods when it’s necessary to have two or even three jobs to simply get by. Their age group isn’t ashamed to move back in with their parents or take money from them. They are incensed at the idea of having to work on weekends, even though it’s only once a quarter and you’re only “on call,” meaning you stay home and just check your e-mail once an hour before logging off at 5pm and you get the next Friday off. They don’t know how lucky they are, basically, which my boss and I have discussed as a sense of entitlement and I think of as just not being old enough to have had your soul sufficiently crushed.

I mean, it’s fine. It is. They’ll learn eventually, and I can keep on with my older, soul-deadened-er person work ethic. It’ll be fine. Just don’t be surprised if you ask me about my job and my first reaction is shaking my fist and muttering “kids today…”

Posted in Paychecks Are Important | Leave a comment

The Greatest Pop Song of All Time

I have a theory.

Before I share this theory, I should disclose that I am neither a mathematician, a scientist, nor a musician. I don’t really understand statistics and only barely do I grasp the scientific method (I mean, I get it, but I don’t ever use it unless I’m trying to figure out why my cat sometimes barfs a lot). I am in no way qualified to form theories at all, let alone to be so convinced that this one is correct.

Except I know that it is.

My theory is this:

“Thunder Road” is the greatest pop song of all time.

I know I might be in the minority here. There are plenty of people who would point to the Beatles, Michael Jackson, or whatever contrarian hipstery shit they forgot they learned from High Fidelity. There are a few idiots who would try to convince the world that modern pop is more transcendent and swear on their Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Britney concert special/autobiography/attempts at humanization DVDs.

But those people are wrong. Everyone else is wrong. “Thunder Road” is the greatest pop song of all time, followed by Queen’s “Somebody to Love,” which is followed by Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” which is followed by every track on the Rolling Stones’ “Exile on Main Street.” Which is then followed by roughly ¼ of T. Rex’s “Electric Warrior.” Give or take. Maybe I just adore that album.

“Thunder Road” is also the opening track on the best Springsteen album of all time. I know everyone else loves “Born in the USA,” but from the content to the cover photo to the absolute brilliance of this dude’s third fucking album that’s stood solidly up since 1975, “Born to Run” captures Bruce Springsteen in a rare moment, one in which he was establishing himself as an icon but didn’t even know it yet.

I mean, look at this guy. Lookit him! What a minstrel! What a rogue! What an adorably gifted genius who probably struck this pose a thousand times in a thousand bars up and down the dive circuit. And then he did it for the album, and even though Clarence Clemons only appeared on the inner cover, the respect and familiarity are still there. Damn. I mean goddamn.

born to run cover precrop

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band were relatively small time in 1975, hanging on with the Jersey crowd but not yet widely popular or commercially viable. Still, record contracts being a holy compassionate relic compared to what they are now, “Born to Run” got made and from its piano-and-harmonica intro that sounds more like America to me than anyone’s rendition of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” to the impossibly beautiful poetry of the lyrics to that glorious, rapturous bridge that is well overdue to take over the air drum solos inspired by “In the Air Tonight,” which isn’t even good because Phil Fucking Collins? He Phil Fucking Sucks.

What I’m saying is that if “Thunder Road” was my prom theme, I probably would have put out that night. Because if anyone involved with my youth had any sense at all, they would have taken a cue from “Born to Run,” opening with “Thunder Road” and closing with “Jungleland” and I would probably still be guaranteed to die happy.

Posted in I Heart, The Pop Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Threats and Broken Harbour

I recently read Tana French’s book “Broken Harbour,” part of something called the Dublin Murder Squad series. It’s the fourth book in the series but the only one I’ve read, I think because I heard it was the best and the other ones weren’t yet available for downloading from the library. I still haven’t read the previous three (because they’re still not fucking available, please get your shit together, fellow Seattle library patrons), but I liked “Broken Harbor” very much and am only a little concerned that it’s messing up the way I read other books.

Let me explain.

While I am a moderate in many ways – food, alcohol, TV, etc. – when it comes to books, I am a binger. A bender-goer, so to speak, in that when I find an author or genre or character I like, I tend to stick with them (or it) for as long as I can, until eventually I get sick of it (or them) and start forswearing things. Which is a terrible way to read and I’m not doing anyone any favors, but at least I’ve come to realize this as I get older and understand more about thinking critically.

I’ve written before that it took me a very long time to learn that I simply won’t like some books. Not necessarily because the books are bad (except when they are), but there are just some stories that will not speak to me, that cannot engage the pleasure and fascination centers of my brain. I used to think that these books were too challenging, because, I don’t know, when you grow up Catholic and are forced to make honor roll, you carry with you a certain expectation of misery and blame when you fail something (even though it is actually failing you, because you can’t fucking tell the difference). But eventually, I figured out that when it comes to literature, sometimes them’s the breaks, kid, and it’s sometimes likely that neither mine nor the author’s abilities are at fault.

Also as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned what it is to read critically. By that, I mean that it’s not always imperative to simply enjoy the story, but that sometimes additional enjoyment is experienced through understanding how and why the story is written. What makes an author pick this word instead of that word? Why did they eschew a more traditional structure? When they go backwards and forwards in time or switch narrators, are these transitions supposed to be organic or is my perception supposed to be challenged? What was the intent, and was the expression of it successful, and yeah, was it any good? It’s the same with music and films and food, I guess, and for me, it begs the question of the creator: “what exactly are you trying to accomplish here?” Asking this question helps me to understand not only if I liked something or why I did or didn’t like it, but it also causes me to continue thinking about a story long after it’s ended. I’m not a devourer of books. Not really, not anymore. I prefer to chew on them for awhile, to keep them in my craw, running my tongue over their textures and deciding if they’ve become old enough for me to spit out yet.

So when I read “Broken Harbour,” I spent awhile afterwards continuing to think about it, and when the next book I got from the library – “Threats” by Amelia Gray – was not the same kind of story and did not cause me to approach the characters or plot in the same way, I felt a little confused. I mean, probably this is because it was supposed to be similar. That’s what the Internet told me. But the main point is that initially, I was let down by “Threats.” I suppose I still am, but not for the initial reasons.

At first, “Threats” bothered me because, after the tightly wound and precisely sewn up “Broken Harbor,” it seemed a little too loose and maybe lazy. To me, the scenes in “Threats” appear as if on the other side of a mosquito net screen. They’re indefinite and unreliable, partially because half of the characters are crazy and partially because I can’t even tell if any of it is actually happening in the story to begin with. I couldn’t tell if Gray had a bigger plan for the story, and as I progressed through the book, this question didn’t get answered and I got more and more frustrated that I couldn’t figure out her motives.

By the middle of “Threats,” I decided that the author wasn’t intentionally obscuring her scenes and was in fact making them as explicit as possible, but that she was doing it in such an odd, quirky way that I imagined the writing of “Threats” to be akin to arranging butterflies in shadow boxes without damaging their wings. It was a very delicate way of telling a story, but I wasn’t convinced that it was the best way for a reader to experience it.

By the end of “Threats,” I was no longer irritated by the story or by Gray’s technique, but I wasn’t completely satisfied, either, and I’m worried that my own head is to blame. See, it’s entirely possible that I still don’t know if my dissatisfaction with “Threats” was due to my brain remaining trained on the “here’s a murder and these are the clues and here’s the process and then it’s concluded” pattern of a murder mystery/crime thriller like “Broken Harbor,” or if it’s because I suspect Gray couldn’t commit to her concept – either everyone is crazy or one person is crazy, because both of those things being true just doesn’t add up. Of course, again, the problem might be that I need for everything to add up, and maybe that wasn’t the point of “Threats.” I can’t tell, and this is what bothers me the most.

This is why I’ve decided to cool down. No murder mysteries, no surrealism. No “The Goldfinch,” not just yet, because even though it’s on my Kindle already, I can’t dive straight from this kind of frustration into a Pulitzer Prize winner. Wouldn’t be fair. Instead, I’m sticking with something that I’m almost certain I’ll like with no disturbing shifts required of my personal perspective, something I can read while lounging at home on the weekend and on the bus home from work. Not that it’s supposed to be wholly unchallenging, I just think that I need to focus on enjoyment for awhile instead of criticism.

I just downloaded “Queen of Kings” by Maria Dahvana Headley from the library because Neil Gaiman blurbed it in the very good story collection “Unnatural Creatures.” It’s a vampire book, basically, but with grownups instead of teenagers and the context is historical and weird instead of super fucking lame.

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Last Meal

When Graham and I moved to this place, we decided to get cable. Well, we decided to get cable and Internet, like real Internet, not the increasingly spotty and idiotically-served Clear Internet we’d been using. Yes it was cheap, but we definitely got what we were paying for, and we figured we could pay more for Internet that actually worked all the time and maybe try out some TV while we were at it.

So far, our Internet is great. I can use it from anywhere in the house, which is a big change from our old place, where even sitting right next to the router didn’t guarantee a decent speed. And we have cable, which I thought would be terrific for getting drunk and yelling at the Food Network, but it turns out that Guy Fieri is just depressing and I’m never home for the Barefoot Contessa.

I still watch cable, just not as much as I thought I would. Netflix is still my primary source of entertainment, and instead of the Food Network, I’ve recently caught up on the new episodes of “The Mind of a Chef.” Season one had been good but I found myself really enjoying season two, particularly the Southern food heritage episodes and pretty much everything April Bloomfield does, ever.

Any time I watch (or read, or write, or think) anything about food, I start planning out my last meal. I’ve been doing this for a long time. And I mean a loooooooooong time. At least ten years. In the beginning, my last meal consisted of things I’d never tried before, and then it became the most luxurious things I could think of, and then it became every single thing I’d ever loved crammed into one impossible smorgasbord. Sometime in the past few years, though, my last meal has changed from all of the above to what I think is an ideal distillation of the foods that give me the greatest comfort and evoke the greatest memories. And this is the version of the meal that has stayed the longest, and that I hope is the best possible one, at least if I were to be forced to have it right now.

So if you ever receive an invitation from me that seems a bit out of the blue, or that carries with it a bit of urgency, please RSVP if you can. This is what we’ll be eating:

Served on my grandparents’ old backyard patio – or maybe a fantastical combination of both of the backyard patios of both of my grandparents! – in late summer or early fall in St. Louis. Still warm outside and everything’s still green, but there aren’t any more mosquitos and we can still play washers until late at night and listen to the cicadas dying out.

Peonies and irises to remind me of my childhood home. Roses and tomato vines to remind me of my grandparents.

Fried catfish tossed from the fryer onto tables lined with newspaper, served with lemon wedges, chunky tartar sauce, and (sorry!) a bottle of ketchup. Hush puppies because everyone else likes them but my own cornbread for me, plus some of the drop biscuits my mom makes that have uneven, crunchy tops and soft, floury insides. Butter and honey on the side.

Barbecued pork ribs that my dad makes, and ears of corn on the cob wrapped tightly with salted butter in foil and placed on the grill, then unwrapped and sprinkled with fresh chopped chives.

Handfuls of fat summer green beans, blanched until just tender and then tossed with some warm red wine vinaigrette with lots of shallot and Dijon mustard. Some roasted broccoli, sweet and nutty and just charred on the ends. Collard greens braised with bacon and onions, finished off with a splash of vinegar.

My own garlic mashed potatoes made with full-fat cream and lots of butter. Ice cold carrot sticks dipped in creamy Caesar dressing. A devilled egg dusted with paprika.

A cooler full of ice and bottles of Budweiser and Schlafly Pale Ale. Sun tea jars in the refrigerator full of tea, poured over lots of ice with some simple syrup for sweetening. Bottles of Mexican Coke. I’d probably only have half of one but they’re pretty good.

For dessert, an Oreo Blizzard from Dairy Queen. A big bowl of perfect strawberries with fresh whipped cream. A dark chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Even a cheap one from the grocery store is fine. A spoonful of crème brulee.

Grand Cuvèe Champagne.

A short macchiato.

Someone else cleans up.

Posted in I Eat | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Uff Da

I’ve been wrestling with a cold this week. I started to type “head cold,” but then I realized that it was only a head cold for part of that time, and while the unbelievable amounts of snot still coming out of my face are technically located in my head, my head is not what’s making me the most miserable. Whenever I’m sick or in pain or uncomfortable, I always tell myself that when I am better, I will be sure to fully appreciate how okay I feel. But then I always forget, because for some reason, despite years of evidence and education to the contrary, I have fooled myself into thinking that feeling good is normal and therefore not extraordinary enough to remember. So in a few days when I can suddenly breathe again without hacking some R’lyeh-style shit out of my chest, someone please remind me that I’ve got it good, okay?

Anyway. I got the market, grocery shopping, and CSA-portioning done before noon today, which means that I now get to sit around and do not a lot of anything except be sick. Which is kind of a bummer. Normally I’m fine with staying at home by myself, but being sick makes me feel restless, and since we finally got some rain yesterday, I’m ready to appreciate the sun that’s currently poking out.

Plus I really like walking around my neighborhood. Actually, let’s refine that. Guys, I fucking LOVE my neighborhood. I love it so much that the only thing driving me to anxiety about it is that my landlord might decide to sell the building (or, more accurately, the land beneath the building) to condo developers and we’ll be out on our asses. We have no reason to believe this will happen, but since this is Seattle and condos flare up like herpes after spring break, Graham and I are both living in a kind of low-grade fear that the greatest place that ever happened to us will suddenly disappear after only a year.

We really, really hope that we get to stay here for more than a year. I really, really hope that I don’t have to pack up the house and start looking for places and charm property owners again, and that I can finally stop having these fucking dreams about moving. Do you know what it’s like to dream about moving every night? It’s fucking exhausting. And it’s fucking terrifying, as well, when the dreams are about moving back to St. Louis, because in every one of them I have the thought “why the fuck did I ever leave Seattle?!”

The only reason I can come up with that would ever drive us from Seattle is how much it costs to live here. Seattle is one of the most expensive cities in America, and although the cost of living is somewhat mitigated by the pay scale (although, ahem, I made more money and paid way less rent in St. Louis) and no state income tax, it’s going up all the time just as the spaces to live in are disappearing. Well. I suppose those spaces are being built if you want to use to condos as an example, but most of those are still partially empty because they’re overpriced even by Seattle standards. So we’ve discussed where we’d move if we ever got priced out. Back to St. Louis is not an option, so we’ve batted around Portland and Santa Fe. Portland would probably be the front-runner since it’s not too far from Seattle or our two favorite parts of the Pacific Northwest – mountains and water. It’s weird sometimes to reflect that I spent most of my life surrounded by relatively flat land and now feel…well, kind of incomplete if I don’t know the mountains and water are nearby.

That’s part of why I love Ballard so much. Historically, Ballard is a Scandinavian fishing village that was absorbed by the expanding city of Seattle in 1907, although to listen to lifelong Ballard residents tell it, it’s always been its own little city.

It maintains a lot of its old character, too, and not just in the way of those super annoying “FREE BALLARD” bumper stickers (um, congratulations on never leaving the same neighborhood for 30 years, ya fuckin’ loser?). In addition to Swedish and Norwegian flags hung right alongside American ones from front porches, the architecture is very Scandinavian in design. Lots of peaked roofs, lots of clapboard, and everything points to the water. Even the newer build in Ballard still leans heavily towards a seaside aesthetic, making it feel like a beachside community. And I guess it kind of is, since Shilshole Bay is a 5-minute walk down the street and the beach at Golden Gardens is less than a mile away.

Fishing is still a major operation for Ballard, with most of the salty old dudes in the salty old dude bars having worked on boats for most of their lives. Many of the boats from the show “The Deadliest Catch” dock in Ballard during the off-season, and my favorite part of my morning commute is reading the names from the hulls as the bus crosses over the Ballard Bridge.

While we pay a significant amount of money to live in Ballard, it’s comparable to most of Seattle (and still less than Capitol Hill, for god’s sake) and I’m aware that I’m buying myself a certain standard of living. It’s safe here. I can walk everywhere. The amount of trails, parks, cafés, bars, and terrific local businesses is well above and beyond anything I could have had in St. Louis, at least in terms of not having to drive or fear for my safety as I travel to and from them. Plus there’s an actual sense of community that I’d been worried about leaving behind in the Midwest. People in Ballard like being in Ballard. They like staying here and nurturing their community. And I’d rather pay more money for that and less money for things, any day, even on the ones where I’m stuck inside with my hacking and my snot and my self-pity.

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