My mom is coming to visit next weekend. I think partially because she wants to and partially because I recently threw half a tantrum over no one in my immediate family having any plans to visit Seattle for reasons involving money, time, etc., even though I’ve visited St. Louis twice already and those burdens were on me. But the important part is that she’s visiting, and she’s staying in a hotel here in Ballard on what is perhaps one of the best streets in America (please remember that I am biased).
She gets in on Friday night and is leaving Monday, so it’s more of an extended weekend than an actual vacation. And I have no idea what we’re supposed to do, although I guess I should leave that up to her. My idea of a good day in Seattle is taking the bus or walking wherever and not doing much of anything, and as long as I’m not getting rained on (even though we need the rain) or getting shouted at by a crazy homeless person (although we also need those, apparently), I’m just fine.
I guess Graham is working later on Saturday so he can make lunch with us then, and maybe if it’s a sunny day I’ll take her over to Seattle Center. Not for the Space Needle, though; remember, we are St. Louisans. We have our own history of paying money to go up in pointlessly tall monuments and then realize it’s good for a field trip and that’s about it. But it’s a nice park, and the fountain is one of the most hilarious pieces of entertainment if you like watching giddily terrified children, and both Five Point Café and Lake Union are near-ish. Although I might have to reconsider my estimation of “near-ish” as no one walks anywhere in St. Louis and so far everyone has been less than pleased with me about my insistence on self-ambulatory travel. But I’ll take her to get coffee, and we’ll hit up the chocolatier, and we’ll walk along the Burke Gilman and probably cross over the Locks. I kind of want to keep it a Ballard-centric visit, actually, because like I said, it’s not really a vacation. I want her to see where I live. And outside of work and work-adjacent activities, I don’t really leave Ballard all that often. Why would I?
It’s funny to me – I’ve lived in Seattle for nearly three years but I still don’t feel like that’s long enough. It’s sort of like when you start dating someone and you get a little bit jealous of their ex. Not because they used to sleep with the person you’re with, but because of their history. Because they know them better. You have all this catching up to do and there’s someone out there who beat you to it. But that’s how Seattle feels to me. I’ve been here for three years and am intensely jealous of those who have been here longer, to the point where I constantly feel like I have to prove myself as a Seattleite. Which is pointless because a) I am a library card-holding, condo-griping, registered voter Seattleite and b) I already passed the two-year Seattle Freeze mark so as far as everyone else is concerned, I belong. But I think that’s why I was so driven to figure out the neighborhoods and bus schedules and weird little quirks (guys, quit saying “bag” like it rhymes with “vague,” please).
Tourists don’t know the difference. See, I like to think that I’ve developed my own brand of disaffection that is common here in the Pacific Northwest, but there must be something still Midwestern and earnest about my face, because even when I assiduously avoid eye contact (like a true Seattleite), the tourists seek me out for directions and general conversation. And I really do think that hotels should start briefing visitors about this, because it really freaks us out. It’s like having a sign at the zoo that asks people to please don’t startle the animals. We can’t handle that kind of thing here.
But because I am a native Midwesterner and being thought of as impolite by a stranger is just unacceptable no matter where I am, I give them directions. Good ones, too, ones that make sense to someone who doesn’t live here, not the shrugged and confused directions common with many people who don’t look up from their phones while walking or riding the bus. I answer their questions. I try to keep my responses short but I will play along for a bit when they suddenly open up with a piece of their life story. And they do. Because no matter how many times people have told me that the look on my face is cold and unapproachable, a person with a camera slung around their neck and some baggy khaki shorts at their waist will invariably find me wildly attractive.