Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Goodbye, Seattle

I love Seattle. I've said that before, while living here and while abroad. I've spent most of my life in this city. I spent a few years of my childhood in neighboring towns and cities, and had that amazing year in Singapore recently, but I have never left Seattle without knowing I'd be back some day.

This time, that's an uncertain thing. I have friends here, of course, plenty of people I care about. There are a bunch of people I'm really going to miss. But my immediate family is moving to Texas, so I won't have the "home base" in Seattle that I've had for most of my life.

This time, I'm leaving for real.

I love Seattle. I grew up here, in West Seattle, before it became the land of condominiums. I knew a time when they sold butterhorns and chocolate chip banana muffins at the Starbucks on Alki that you could devour as the salty wind whipped your raincoat into a flapping frenzy. I was one of the kids that frequented the California junction every weekend, before the arrival of Trader Joe's and that Starbucks on the corner. My sisters, friends and I went to Husky Deli to spend our allowance on European chocolates with the prices stamped on little stickers affixed to the packages. We perused the 3$ book table outside Pegasus and thought buying CDs at Easy Street made us the coolest. Movies were rarely watched new but came at us secondhand in the chilly, huge theaters of the Admiral.

The elementary school I attended has since been abandoned and relocated. My middle school was razed and turned into a playground/athletic complex. The city has always been changing, even as I've lived and grown within it- just look at what's happening with the waterfront, or the weirdly bulbous new Amazon offices being built by South Lake Union- but it's strange to know that this time, instead of being a part of it, I'll only notice the change if/when I return.

Which is good, really- as much as I love the city I've begun feeling trapped here, like I know everything and have seen it all. I know I haven't, but I don't like how it's started to feel like I'm living in a small town, where there are few things left to explore and few city secrets I'm unaware of. I can navigate from Burien through West Seattle, every edge of it, into downtown, where I can wander through the ID and Pioneer Square, roam around the waterfront, head up to Capitol Hill and hang out there for a bit. I can take you from there back towards Lake Union, then head North. We can go over Queen Anne towards Pier 91, the cruise ship terminal, or pass by that and head to Fremont, Ballard, and way up towards Phinney Ridge and into Shoreline.

Though it might take a while, I could do this all on foot. That's how well I know this city. And I love it, I love being able to point tourists in the right direction and recommend where they dine for their evening in the city (waterfront dining- Etta's fresh pasta is to die for; romance- Le Pichet is open late, candelit and serves the most delectable French cuisine; if you're in need of breakfast/hangover food at any time of day- Beth's 24 hour cafe on Aurora). It's great to be able to know what's going on around here at any given time of year- farmer's markets, outdoor concerts and movie screenings, festivals like Folklife and Bumbershoot...

But I'm ready to go. I've gotten my fingernails deep into this waterfront town, explored alleys lit with golden string bulbs and decorated with old paintings, danced in the rain with tendrils of soggy hair whipping my face, I've climbed up into places you're probably not supposed to, walked on the edge of the train tracks too many times to count, I've adventured in depth here, and I'm excited to find new places to explore. But I will miss this city, and my god are there some great things to miss.

There's the old architecture and brickwork in our historic Pioneer Square, the dramatic beauty of the  ivy growing around black iron fire escapes, like Audrey Hepurn's Breakfast at Tiffany's New York. In the ID there are dozeons of little eateries that remind me of my Chinese classmates' favorite haunts in Chongqing, As touristy as it may seem, Pike Place (one of my favorite haunts in the city) and the waterfront symbolize so much of Seattle to me. The water, the community of the marketplace, the mixture of cultures and artwork, the mesh of tourists and locals.

Even the sky here is amazing every day, whether it's magenta and cloud-covered after a rain or displaying a bright and brilliant sun. People don't expect that here, but Seattle is often a city of surprises, if you keep your eyes open, There are hidden trails, waterfall parks and terraced gardens, bars where you enter through a door in an alley and head upstairs, quirky bookstores and too many unique coffee houses to count...

I could go on. I could tell you the best place to get tamales near Burien, advise you to order the tacos with chopped sweet potatoes and cactus salad at Agua Verde, I could point you to the best shore to start with if you want to go stand-up paddleboarding in the Sound, and tell you that if you're going to spend the money, Colombia Tower will get you a way more breathtaking view of the city than the Space Needle or the Ferris Wheel (though climbing the tower at Volunteer Park is more fun, and if you're looking for the best view of the Sound you should walk the bluff trail at Discovery Park).

I guess what I'm trying to say here is a great big thank you and goodbye to the city that raised me. Seattle taught me to shop local and buy coffee pretty much anywhere other than Starbucks. It enticed me to seek out the sweet spots hidden beneath gritty exteriors, to appreciate utter weirdness and a little bit of pretentiousness alike. It taught me to love city life, to appreciate green space... Most importantly, it's showed me how much you can find in one place if you keep unfolding the edges, keep lifting up the corners.

Seattle has shown me that you'll be rewarded if every day, you look up and ask the world one question.

"All right. What have you got to show me today?"

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