Sunday, December 13, 2015

It Is a Small World

I recently returned to the Pacific Northwest after more than forty years in Ohio. Essentially my entire adult life was spent in the Buckeye state, with respites to various parts of the globe. I came from a mobile family, and the longest we stayed in one spot was five years. We lived overseas for a spell, and I came back to my home country a Third Culture Kid- one who was not fully American anymore. I had seen too much of the world and met people from various backgrounds to fully buy into the American ideal.

Yet somehow I ended up smack in the middle of the US. I took two of my three degrees in Ohio, and split the forty years in the state living and working in Columbus and Zanesville.

Then I retired, and could go anywhere the wind takes me. So why did I choose to disrupt my life and move Seattle?

A few years before I retired from teaching I tinkered with living in Arizona, where its sunny all year. But I know almost no one there. Cleveland and Chicago were on the list. We lived in the windy city when I was a kid, and I know my way around Cleveland and have friends there. Both cities are adjacent to water, are rife with culture, and have good public transit.  But their winters are too cold. I’m done with snow.

Florida is too humid and home to too many bugs. Besides, I’ve lived in the tropics; it’s called Ohio in July and August.

If I had barrels of money I’d move to the even-keeled warm climate of Hawaii. Trade winds keep the temperatures around seventy degrees, it's surrounded by ocean, and the vibe is laid back. But it also costs a king’s ransom to live there, you can't get in the car and drive to another state, and after awhile the pleasant weather becomes a little tedious.

As a joke, I’ll say, “for the bookstores.” Yet there is an element of truth behind that statement. I’m a bibliophile, and living within a few miles of access to physical books is akin to surfers needing to live near the coast. (I also live fairly near several bodies of water here, so you can call that reason number two.)

The weather is far from paradise. Winters are dark and drizzly, and I learned a couple of climate surprises: freezing fog and sun breaks. The cost of housing is outrageous and traffic is horrendous.  The New Yorker has predicted we will face a devastating 9.0 earthquake any time now. Nobody sane would move here, but those who know me well use other adjectives to describe me.

I retired from teaching but I continue my work as a writer. Even though writers are loners, I need to be in proximity of writers. On those isolated occasions when I socialize, I like talking shop with writers. Normal people don’t chat about their imaginary friends the way fiction writers do. And there are bookstores here, so on any given day I can go listen to an author read from his or her work.

Seattle is weird. Weird in a way a perennial-new-kid-book-nerd-last-kid-for-the-picked-for-teams-way-fits-in. On the bus traveling downtown I’m only among a handful of native English speakers. It’s as if I am back in Hong Kong, Bangkok, or London. A stranger in a strange land that feels familiar. I am a French, African, Chinese, Hawaiian, Mexican, Canadian, Italian, English, Pakistani.

If I had any money I can buy anything I want. There’s an entire store for Root Beer in Shoreline, and near Pike Place Market is a shop just for maps and globes. There are numerous spice markets, and a coffee shop every few feet

Ultimately I chose Seattle because of family. I am now a twenty minute drive from a cousin, and, on a rare day when traffic actually flows, a three and a half drive from my brother and his family. Before moving from Ohio I made an annual trip out here, which meant seven hours or more of air travel. I have seen my relatives more in the past few months than collectively in the last decade.

I miss my wonderful friends, and face to face contact is best, but social networking reduces the distance. In the old days it sometimes took two weeks for a letter from a friend or family member to arrive. Now I can instantly learn status updates, see photos of their antics, and share cat videos.

Several friends have already threatened promised to come stay with me. Hardly anyone visited me in Zanesville, but Seattle is a great place to visit. I’m learning my way around, so stop in for a visit and I’ll give you a tour.

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