Staying Awake in Seattle

Staying Awake in Seattle, Day 21: Home, sweet home base

I do likes me a grand finale. Yes, I do.

For mine, I pulled off a 60-minute presentation with nothing but my bare hands and a stack of index cards. You shoulda been there. (Well, some of you were. Hi! It was kinda fun, huh? Just rolling with it?)

Somewhere along the line, I taught myself how to improvise. Some of it was intentional; some of it was...well...not. But it really is all good.

Every piece of goodness and weirdness and what-the-hell-is-this-ness can move forward with us to inform the next thing. Do your work. Prepare like a motherfucker. Then let the hell go.

Because as one who's planned a wedding and a career path and countless other Virgo-type Things with Outcomes, I'll tell you flat-out: you cannot control what will happen.

The restaurateur will use your carefully thought-out seating plan as a coaster and set up whatever two-, six- and 12-tops his people feel like. You will be waved onto the express lane for success and find the speeds make you carsick.

Thank god. The good stuff is what happens in the in-between spaces. The stuff you plan for, not the stuff you plan.

Three weeks of so much unexpected good stuff. Months (I hope) of unpacking ahead of me.

Thank you, Seattle. Thank you everyone along the way, and here and there, and everywhere, who came along for the ride.

Let's see what kind of trouble we can stir up on our respective home fronts, shall we?

xxx c

Staying Away in Seattle, Day 20: Home, sick

This is the mug that stares back at me every time I pick up my phone.

It never fails to cheer, but for the past few days, it's also filled me with homesick longing.

There's no question about it: Seattle is a great town. It feels about as warm and welcoming as a place could be. I've made scads of new acquaintances, reconnected with old ones and even run into a few random L.A. types also up here escaping the desert heat.

And this trip itself has been wildly invigorating and deeply gratifying. I'd come hoping for some perspective and was rewarded not only with that (and in spades), but absolute confirmation that direction I've come out of this year of wandering with is the right one.

No wonder this place has started to feel like home.

Today, though, for the first time, the pull to go home-home felt stronger than the desire to stay here. I don't doubt that The BF having to cancel his plans to fly up, hang out, and drive back has something to do with it. We've been apart for a month today, and that's too long for people who have some kind of choice in the matter.

I'm also fairly sure that actual sickness has something to do with it. I went to bed last night feeling not-great and woke up feeling even worse: a return of the exact same symptoms I had before starting this trip. That kind of symmetry I can do without.

When you're physically low, a little sick, a little tired, a little cold, a little hot, whatever small thing you might be going through seems magnified. And when you're a little homesick and a little sick into the mix? You miss your babies something fierce. Technically, I don't have to vacate the Fabulous (Temporary) Bachelorette Pad until Monday. But given the circumstances, I'm cutting it short by a couple of days and heading back Saturday.

Wave to me on the I-5.

Oh, and wish me luck on my last day at home before I go home...

xxx c

Staying Awake in Seattle, Day 19: Putting it together

Sometimes, the only way you get stuff done is just to commit to it and make a leap of faith.

Like this presentation I'm giving on Friday.

Hell, like this entire trip, while we're at it.

You form an intention, you get as organized and prepared as you can, and then...

You jump.

It's what I'll be talking about on Friday, when I share what I've learned about connecting with people online with a bunch of people in the Actual Real World. Am I the king-god-be-all of Internet fabulosity? Please.

On the other hand, I went in with the vaguest of intentions, to develop my voice, to share what I knew, and made it work, so I figure that if these people have some clear objectives and can fold in the stuff I've learned? Soufflé time, baby.

Right now, the chef's gotta get back to the kitchen.

More soon...

xxx c

Staying Awake in Seattle, Day 18: Into every life, a little rain must fall

I suppose it's a sign of how fantastically, beyond-my-wildest-dreams awesome this trip has been that the little bit of rain I got sprinkled with today so thoroughly dampened my spirits.

Truth be told, I didn't have too many dreams coming up here. Expectations, either. I suspected that this would be a trip that would give me some perspective, and it has. I suspected that it would force me out of the rut I'd gotten into, and it has: in a thousand tiny ways, I've been forced out of my comfort zone.

In a thousand other ways, though, I've felt myself slipping back in.

Witness the red* card in the picture above.

I've been here, in Seattle, for 18 days now. Hawk-eyed viewers will note there are 12 punches on the card; I turned it in today for my 13th cup, free. That's 13 cups of coffee at the same place 18 days.

Yes, I've sampled coffee in lots of other Seattle establishments. A couple of Portland ones, too. That's still 13** cups of coffee in one place, in a town that's lousy with exceptional coffee.

I've eaten at proportionally more places, but have still managed to eat the same (fantastic) Greek salad topped with gyros from the same neighborhood restaurant three times now***.

The forces of habit are, shall we say, exceptionally forceful. You can run from them, but you cannot hide; they run faster, and I'm pretty sure they all have GPS. So it was with a sick sense of recognition that I felt fury rise in me this afternoon when confronted with what is, in the face of all the horrific shit going down in the world today, a ridiculously small disappointment: The BF has to cancel his trip up here.

It means no BF until I get back, and very little of him before he heads to the Midwest for his selfless volunteer tour of duty as Driver-of-Early-Voters-to-the-Polls-in-a-Swing-State (plus seeing his kids who, let's face it, really need to see him much more than we need to see each other.)

It means the happy pictures I'd painted of us tromping around Seattle for a couple of days are melting away like so many (fairly elaborate, but still) chalk paintings on the sidewalk. It means being apart on his birthday. It means driving the 1,100 miles back home alone.

It means things changed, just like things change all the time. Just like things have changed moment to moment, day to day on my entire trip. Only instead of rolling with the changes like I've been doing so far, turning into them to see what new fabulosity lies around the corner, I have, for some reason, clung stubbornly to my vision of how things were supposed to be.

Supposed to be? Nothing on this trip so far has unfolded like it was supposed to: that is what's made it so fantastic.

The good news here (among much other good news received today, including the speedier-than-expected recovery of a dear friend from a serious surgery, while we're putting things into perspective) is that I was able to deploy my ninja skillz of bullshit-dispelling to great effect, with relative ease. I leaned into the disappointment hard, then took my sorry, self-pitying ass for a vigorous, uphill walk. By the time I'd reached the top of the hill and headed back, I had things back in their proper perspective. Well, pretty much.

I still don't know what will happen next, but I know I will not cling to what I believed might happen before.

It is harder to be in flow than you think.

It is easier to get back in than you give yourself credit for.

It's good to remember both of those things.

xxx c

*Which, shot as it was with the world's greatest handheld computational device, admittedly looks more orange than red. The iPhone makes a much better computational device than it does a camera.

**Maybe more. I had a several cups at this place before I discovered they had punch cards, and while I did ask for a few retroactive punches, I was too embarrassed to ask for all of them. Junkies get defensive and shit.

***And have the ill-fitting pants to prove it.

Staying Awake in Seattle, Day 17: Other people's omelet pans

You know you have made yourself at home when...

...the coffee people start making your order as you walk in.

...people on the street ask you for directions.

...you finally coax a Los Angeles omelet from your friend's Seattle stovetop.

Two weeks down; one week to go.

Here.

And then?

The rest of my life, just like here.

"Here" being "wherever it takes me"...

xxx c

Staying Awake in Seattle, Days 16: PDX, PDQ, Part the second

The whole of the Pacific Northwest is pretty beautiful, and the bits around Seattle especially so, but there's something about Portland that says "home" to me.

It may be because of its size: Seattle is smaller than New York, Chicago or Los Angeles, but it still feels like a big city.

It's also a little fancier than its sister to the South. Okay, a lot fancier. It's not formal, by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a little more decked out, a little less grubby. Fancy.

Portland, on the other hand, reminds a great deal of Chicago, specifically, the tiny, homey Chicago of my childhood. 1960s Chicago, when we had three good restaurants and the Loop and a big, fat chip on our collective Big Shoulder because we weren't New York. Only Portland doesn't feel like it has a chip. It feels a little working class, a little crunchy, a little fanatical (hello, foodies! hello, bikers! I'm talkin' to you!) and okay with it. My pal, Robert, who's lived there for some time now, says it's really just a grimy old port town that got classed up. So is Seattle, for that matter, but I guess there's a lot more money up here, because there's a lot more visible class.

Anyway, if it felt incredibly wrong to blow by Portland on my way up the I-5, it felt truly thrilling to take a little side trip back down there in the middle of my stay up here.

First, there's the middling-longish drive there: three hours each way. Yeah, I'm a lousy citizen, burning extra dinosaur bones rather than hitting it on the way up or back, but I haven't found the thing yet that jogs stuff loose in my brain like a middling-longish drive.

And after a couple of weeks of doing new stuff here, believe it or not, I'd fallen into a groove. It felt good to jump out of it, and really good to jump back into PDX to change it up. I stayed in the same hotel, walked the same streets, went to the same restaurant (sweet baby jeebus, that place is good), shopped in the same bookstore. I did meet one new former imaginary Internet friend, but hung out with two old ones, including my first shrink/astrologer. I talked change with my shrink, who has known me over 20 years now; I talked shop with Havi, whom I've known for about 20 weeks, I think. (I talked about everything from sex to writing to money with Robert, but we are weird.)

More than anything, I'm realizing this an idea-collecting trip. Or maybe an idea-coalescing trip. Or maybe both. I needed this distance from my L.A. surroundings and routine to start seeing how all these pieces of things I've been toying with for the past 12 months fit together. I'll be heading back in about a week, but it will be a back that's forward.

New business plan. New project order. New excitement for life in general.

Backwards to go forwards. Or just stopping, so you can go, period.

Remind me of this when I'm home, would you?

xxx c

Staying Awake in Seattle, Day 15: PDX, PDQ, Part the first

I'm an extreme creature of habit, part of the reason for my current Shake Things Up in '08 Tour. so when I decided to take a side trip to Portland, I pretty much resigned myself to staying where The BF and I stayed last year, the ultra-groovy Jupiter Hotel, with its Hipster Seal of Approvalâ„¢.

I say "resigned" because as a certified Cranky Old Lady, I had a few problems with the Jupiter the first time we stayed there. Like the room that was so small, I could touch the door and the window/wall from the bed by pointing my toes and stretching. Like the party vibe, college dorm fraternizing vibe and noise levels. To be fair, they warn that it's a "high energy" hotel, but until you have to be peeled off the ceiling at 3am by your boyfriend because a drunk, albeit friendly hipster with a 12-pack of PBRs who doesn't realize that the party is not, in fact, in your room or that his very loud knock mere millimeters from your head sounded like a home invasion, you have no idea. Really.

Still, in true Adult Child of an Alcoholic fashion, the devil you know is better than the devil you don't. Plus, I was going to be having dinner with my former shrink/astrologer at the awesome Le Pigeon (foie gras profiteroles! lamb heart flatbread!), right across the street. Plus, I knew how to get there from the freeway. Er, sort of.

So I logged onto their website and booked me an expensive, fancy motel room. And then, stung a bit by sticker shock (it was definitely cheaper when we booked last year, by a lot), I made the fatal mistake of searching for better rates on a few travel sites, and discovered one for NINE DOLLARS LESS!

I do not take these things lying down anymore, so I immediately dashed off a sweet plea to Whom It May Concern at Jupiter:

I just booked through your site and then saw on Kayak.com that I could have saved a whopping NINE BUCKS on the room. Which ain't the end of the world and you're nice and all, but really, these are hard times and nine bucks is nine bucks.

So do you think you could just throw in parking for that one night, and we'll call it even? (Happy to give you the extra buck.) Seems much easier than cancelling the reso and rebooking.

Thanks!

xxx c

P.S. Stayed here last year, if that gets me anything. Probably not, but what the hell.

Imagine my surprise when, just a few minutes later, I received this lovely, accommodating email from on Al Munguia, the Actual General Manager of the Joint!

you got it.. free parking.. and i'll throw in a bottle of voss water as well.

Figuring I might as well go for the Full Monty and leverage my incredible popularity as a Blogger of Creative Nonfiction, I fired off one more email:

Upgrade this old bag to a room that the drunk hipsters will steer clear of and there's a sweet blog post in it for you. (We had an, um, interesting 3am visitor last time. It was like getting the EMT paddles, boy howdy.)

Unfortunately, I did not hear back from my pal, Al, so I started girding my loins for the inevitable 3am visit from one of my Higher Energy fellow hotel guests, figuring that was that.

How delighted was I, then, upon my arrival to find that not only had my parking been comped, but that I'd been upgraded to a bigger room! This one had a desk, a closet area and a sleeping area all in different quadrants, and there was an actual walk from the bed to the door. SCORE!

I'd never had an issue with the taste level of the place or the niceness level of the employees. They are all super-great, and the place is about ninety times cooler than any home of mine will ever be. They have groovy amenities like free apples and coffee, if you are old and cranky, and the ultra-fab Doug Fir Lounge, host to many hipster musical acts, if you are not. The beds are extra-comfy with good mattresses and nice bedding: I slept like a log in my Bed that Was A Walk From the Door, although I took the preventive measure of (free) earplugs this time, too; you can see them, here, in the desk drawer, alongside the in-room copy of The Four Agreements, which I call the world's most genius hipster replacement for the Gideon bible.

For all I like to knock the noise, the Jupiter puts the same level of care and attention to detail into your experience as the Four Seasons does, albeit with funkier style and at a (much) lower price point. Eco-cool toiletries, great copy on everything from the website to the guest feedback card, Muppet-skin slipcover on the bolster.

So it's kind of baffling when they hand you your impeccably designed Windshield Parking Pass that they don't explain the tiny garage will most likely be full, and that you can park in an overflow lot across the street from it. (The nice girl explained that part to me when I checked out.) Or that, since there were no spots, you tell them, and you parked on the street, they offered to take the parking charge off your bill which had been comped when you checked in. (Huh?)

Or, for that matter, the lack of a TV remote. Looked up and down for that sucker; maybe hipsters like their TV old skool.

But I quibble. If you're 30 or under and aren't from the Bible Belt (on purpose, anyway), you'll probably love it. A young 30 to 40? Ditto.

40+? Well, The BF loved it. He is a young almost-46. I was an old 26, so I'm probably not the best judge.

I am, despite all signs that I might not be, a fan. Al, I'll be back.

Although next time, I really, really want one of those parking spaces...

xxx c

Staying Awake in Seattle, Day 14: Seeing things clearly

After a morning's worth of work that was weak by any yardstick, I threw my hands in the air (like I just didn't care) and trundled myself down to yet another fabulous eatery* to meet Cuz, my benefactrix for this stay.

During said lunch (and an unplanned stop afterward for not-to-be-missed Honey-Lavender ice cream), the real work of the day began.

Surprise, surprise.

I will not knock hard work. Hard, focused work. Because without stretches of Hard, Focused Work, nothing of real importance gets made: books; buildings; the perfect recipe for Honey-Lavender ice cream.

Maybe, though, we could ease up on ourselves for the times when we're not working hard. (At least, those of us in the Overachiever Club.) (Of course, the rest of you don't read this blog.)

Cuz and I, as it turns out, work the same way. (Work-work, I mean, the kind where, at the end of a stretch of it, you can point to a bunch of stuff and say "I made this!", just like the boy at the end of the show.) Like hell on wheels, then barely at all.

Only as it turns out, during the not-Work time I'm still working. When I go for a long walk to give my brain a break and my body some exercise, I'm working, because I'm processing. When I spend time with people, old friends, new acquaintances, my shrink (ahem), I'm working, because I'm getting feedback, exchanging information. When I step back and muse, reviewing my past week or planning my next one, I'm working, because I'm giving myself better lenses through which to view, so I can make sure I'm working efficiently.

Part of what I'm beginning to get is my Whack Job Savant Freak Superpower is to see stuff. Where things are broken, where things could be clarified, where things can be tossed. I can see what needs to change so people can communicate their messages more clearly, well, really well, with other people; not quite as clearly with myself.

But I'm getting there. Day by "unproductive" day, week by not-as-planned week.

And soon, I hope, I'll be able to tell you how you can get there, too.

xxx c

*Seriously, do you Seattleites have any bad restaurants?

Staying Awake in Seattle, Day 13: Driving rain

For a place that's been about 75% sunny and blue-skied since I've been here, people squawk an awful lot about rain.

I'm happy with it, and even happy going out in it, provided I've got the appropriate footwear and rain gear. Relentless sunshine ain't all it's cracked up to be, either. (Come on: you've never read Day of the Locust? You should, dammit.)

It was off-and-on sunny/cloudy/drizzly today, which as I understand it, is how things work most days here. It's cool. For some reason, I was unable to get my motor running today. Less cool, but yesterday was a big People Day, and while I love my People Days, they do wear me out.

So outside of what has become my daily pilgrimage to see Matt & Co. for my daily caffeine fix, I holed up and did a lot of puttery bidness. I'd have been happy to continue on into the evening in this fashion, just me, some Greek takeout and the cable. (Mmm...cable...)

But tonight, my Hostess with the Mostess, a.k.a. my local benefactrix, was flying in. And, well, when someone gives you use of her phat bachelorette pad for a month AND makes you hand-drawn maps, you must step up where needed, even if you're not asked to. Which, for the record, I was not. She's my cousin, though. By marriage, and in a wackadoo way, but it adds up.

Anyway, a long day of emailing and texting back and forth about routes and flights and plans would have made most people more ready, not less. I, however, am not most people. I am a neurotic nutjob who is really, really good at the thin slice of things she's good at (writing, performing, helping people get their shit together) and Olympic-level suck at everything else.

Driving inclusive. Driving in the rain at dusk with middle-age eyesight in a strange city? Fuggedaboutit.

I left plenty of time. I wrote out instructions. I printed out, by hand, as I've no printer locally, her instructions, mapped it on the Google two ways, and triangulated all three. I talked myself there, literally*.

I made it to the Cell Phone Waiting Area and cooled my heels there, obsessively playing Wurdle. For...a long time: I was early; her plane was late; her bag was really, really late.

There was a brief respite when Cuz finally got in the car. I still drove, but she was there riding shotgun to distract and direct me. We had some complex maneuvering having to do with picking up cars and dropping them off in various parts of the dark, wet city. The whole time, me clocking stuff, or trying to, so I could find my way back. Never mind that I was in a major U.S. city with the world's finest handheld navigational device: I am NOT a pioneer. If the West had been depending on me, it would still be scrub and desert. Anyone could drink my milkshake.

I found my way back to the apartment, simple, I suppose, just like Cuz had said.

A weird sort of glow started building when I recognized those last few turns, including the Super-Secret Batcave Entrance.

I parked in a space I now recognized, used a key that had become familiar to climb a flight of stairs I knew, and let myself back into the apartment that I have come to call home. And it felt like home: as much as any home I've lived in. With my three black sweaters and three pairs of jeans, my funky table that's my new office, my fresh pile of laundry, the second, since I've been here, ready to be put away.

Time and people and pushing my boundaries just a bit have made this place feel like the best kind of home I've ever known. Imperfectly perfect. Sanctuary.

And, like the commercials say: knowing that with enough time and effort, I can make anyplace feel like home?

Priceless...

xxx c

*Is it just me, or is everyone talking to themselves a lot more as we go careening downhill towards our collective doom. My god, the aisles at Target are getting to be like the stairwells threading through the tower of Babylon.

Staying Awake in Seattle, Day 12: Hump day

yummy salmon

Believe it or not (and I barely can), I'm halfway through my trip up north. In this much time again, I'll be back in the E-Z-Bake Oven, although I hope it's cooled off by then. With The BF. And the Little Boy in a Dog Suit.

I miss them both terribly; I was kind of unprepared for how much. I've missed Significant Others before, but this is my first long time away from a family dog, and while I always missed my Samela, you kind of knew a cat didn't give much of a rat's ass about you being there or not, provided he was provided for. At least, Sam didn't. (That's what happens to foster beings who are shunted from place to place: wherever they end up, they end up wary.)

On the other hand, I'm already a little wistful about heading back. On the downward slope, time rolls by faster. It's harder when you're acclimating; you note every awkward moment, every wrong turn, every minor bit of discomfort induced by newness.

I think I learn things more deeply when I'm challenged, as well. A bit out of my element, I notice more, perhaps. I take more care, I take less for granted. I wonder, will I learn as much or as truly in this next couple of weeks as I did during the first?

The good news is that I've done some amazing processing on this trip so far. I've shrugged off a goodly amount of old stuff I've been carrying for some time, and am starting to feel comfortable in my newly exposed skin. It feels crazy-wild, liberating and free. It feels awesome.

The bad news is...

Well, there's not much in the way of bad news. For me, personally, anyway. The world could use a little help right now, but it probably always did, and again, I'm only uncomfortable enough now to notice.

So if you would, please wish me luck going into the second half. I have a great deal of work to do, and not what I thought I'd have on my plate. It's all good; I just need to focus.

And while you're at it, maybe wish the world well, too. In whatever your chosen form: reaching out to a grumpy-pants, watering a flower, holding back from spewing venom-in-kind. It's easy to spew, no matter which side of the divide you're standing on. But it's bridge-building we need now.

We will all of us get over the hump. Let go and breathe. Be good to yourself and to the person sitting next to you. Slow down. Or speed up, depending.

Let's none of us flip out on this downward slope. Let's just keep ourselves just a little bit uncomfortable, and awake, and aware of the people around us.

I will if you will...

xxx
c

Staying Awake in Seattle, Day 11: Coffee and crumpets

You take for granted that it will be sunny every day when you live in a place like Los Angeles.

You take as a given that you will never, ever build up the kind of network in a new town that you've built over 16 years in the same town.

And then...you come to Seattle.

Don't get me wrong: I appreciate living in L.A. As The BF says, one appreciates it even more when one is forced to spend a little time in a place like rural Indiana, or Orlando, Florida, or anywhere in Texas but Austin. It ain't that there ain't natural beauty in these places; it's achingly beautiful in Southern Indiana, and I'm fond of the scrubby terrain in Texas. (Orlando? Well. Two outta three ain't bad.)

I like being in places where people like me. Or at least, don't dislike me automatically because I'm a little weird or a little Jewish. Yeah, I can pass (kind of) for a normal lady or a Good Christian*, but it's like wearing a really gnarly bra or Spanx all day: at some point, you just wanna pop off the harness, unhitch the top button of your pants and let you be you be you.

So.

I come here, to a place that purports to freeze out newcomers and am greeted with nothing all around but the most warm and splendid of welcomes. So much so that I'm almost overwhelmed, and I'm certainly not getting as much writing done as I'd thought I would. Back in sunny L.A., I envisioned day after day of me, holed up in my writer's getaway. Sneaking moody, vaguely lonely glances out the window at an emerald city cloaked in wet gray. Taking an hour's break in the afternoon to trudge uphill through the mists for a good, strong cup of coffee to get me through the rest of the day.

I had no idea I'd end up with a busier social schedule than I ever have in my 16-year home base of L.A.

As one of my new-non-imaginary friends, Dave Hardwick** said today, "It probably wouldn't have happened, though, without the blog." And he's right: it's all this time online that has enriched my Actual Real Life these past 10 days. It's enriched my Actual Real Life for the past four years, putting me in touch with all kinds of like-minded souls who, for myriad reasons, would never have walked through any of the theater doors that introduced me to my older (and still excellent) tribe***. Not to mention The BF. (Getting us together is what I like to think of as the last great act of the now dubious Spring Street Networks.)

The weather thing? Well, that kind of blindsided me. You'd think that a gal who suffers constant sunshine would be able to pass it up. But just a few days of gray and I get why everyone here heads outside when it's not. This? Would be a tough thing to overcome.

I spent a good, long time talking to Dave because frankly, the time flew by. And then I spent a good, long time walking back to the Temporary Bachelorette Pad, longer than needed, for sure.

But I'm not especially worried. This is not a time for worry, not about this, anyway. Worry about the world, worry about all of us going to hell in a handbasket made in China that we can't begin to pay for, but never worry about spending time with people you really, really dig when the opportunity presents itself. It may not again, soon. (It may, but it may not.)

Besides, on your deathbed, you will never regret the time you spent with coffee and crumpets.

xxx c

*And I'll say right here that the most Christian-like person I've ever known was my sweet, sweet Gram. She loved everyone, to hell with color or creed. Especially babies. And the favorite slogan of this little Jewish lady born in Des Moines, Iowa at the turn of the previous century? "Mix it up! Black, white, Chinese, mix it up!" Wise woman.

**Dave is just a spectacular guy, the kind of guy I'm sure I'd put on my "Regular See" list if I lived here (as is Karrie, my doppelganger, oy, whadda week so far!) And, from hearing about his wife and her writerly exploits, on the short list of Regular Couples Hangs as well. Hell, I he had me at his blog. He's a tech dude who writes about The Way In, just like I do, from a different angle. All roads lead to Rome, baby.

***I'm so charged up about the Internet and social media, I'm going to give a little sermon of praise for it before I leave. Come by, if you're here. It'll be fun!

Staying Awake in Seattle, Day 10: The bu-u-u-u-us

It's full-on Seattle weather, finally.

I celebrated by wearing wool socks, an undershirt and taking the bus. Or, as The BF calls it, "the bu-u-u-u-us."

Yes, I have my car here, but I am not much for driving, even in L.A. So when I am in a place with public transit that kinda-sorta works, I roll with it. Tonight's ride was one straight shot, no transfers, and a chance to look out the window at the rain-soaked city.

Well, okay, to peek at the rain-soaked city in between glimpses at the GPS on my iPhone. It's fun to watch the little dot that is you move across the map that is your route.

I had an amazing dinner at an amazing place (to be Yelped, soon) with an amazing Also-Newly-Non-Imaginary friend.

The Internet is great, but without real life attached to it, it loses much of its value. Like most tools, the Internet can be used or abused. (And for those of you abusing it in a particular way, that's your bidness, but keep it to yourself, yeah?)

Tonight I used my iPhone to help me get to dinner, to meet a new friend I met on the Internet. (Who, to neatly tie things up with a ribbon, eschews cell phones).

Technology in the service of connection. Rain. Dinner with friends.

All as it should be...

xxx c

Staying Awake in Seattle, Day 9: It's a dog's dog's dog's dog's world

I've met a lot of people thanks to the Internet. And packing myself off to Skedaddle, as one now-non-imaginary friend calls it, has allowed me to meet up with some of them, or remeet some of them, in the flesh.

But one of the nicest visits I've had was my trip out to my friend Joan's farm.

If my own trajectory (copywriter to actress to communicatrix) is mildly odd, Joan's defies description. She grew up around horses, out here in Seattle, and rode dressage as a girl. She trained as an actor, then acted, then wrote screenplays. Somewhere along the way, she started talking to animals, a skill she now leverages full-time, along with speaking and writing.

We met doing a play that was in many ways like doing time (as I understand it) or serving active duty in the military in wartime (ditto) or Catholic school (we, uh, both have experience with that one). Things were fraught, and that has a way of bonding you.

So when she moved from Los Angeles and we lost touch, I knew it was temporary, and it was. Every few years, we'll lose touch, and then pick up where we left off via some fortuitous re-meetup. (And for the record, Facebook is proving profoundly helpful in this area.)

When I got in touch this time and told her about my trip, she immediately invited me out to the farm. She lives an hour's drive from my little urban crash pad, in a place so staggeringly beautiful (and quiet, sweet Jesus!), you relax into it right away. We walked and hung and drank too much wine, and stayed up into the too-wee-for-me hours of the morning to do most of it.

We had us such a fine, full visit (and so much damned wine) that I had to miss out on two chances to hang with yet more Internet friends here on a visit (what is it with this town? Is everybody here?), and a fine, fine crew I'd long looked forward to meeting.

I have always liked having a choice of many good things, and have always hated having a choice of many good things. Decide to be an orthopedic surgeon, and it's not going to leave you a lot of time to pursue that dream of standup comedy.

In this case, I confess that there were two items in the farm column that tipped it, and their names are Isabella and Olivia.

Dogs will always tip it, especially if you have been away from yours for 12 long days. In the middle of a long visit from home, it is important to get you some good dog lovin'. And these ladies? Delivered in spades.

Rested and restored...

xxx c

Staying Awake in Seattle, Day 7: Shitty First Draft

There are a million websites, okay, a couple of hundred thousand, that will tell you to curtail your email time.

Your chat time.

Your surfing time.

Here's the thing: what they're really telling you to do is to limit the amount of time you spend on things that net you little-to-nothing, and max out the time you spend doing the stuff that nets you big-time.

You've got to keep body and soul together, yes.

You've got to keep Making Things, putting good things out there into the world that you make, yourself, out of sweat and twine and (your preferred medium).

But sometimes, the most productive thing you can do is to pick up the phone when it rings and talk to the (relative, soon-to-be-not) (and brave!) stranger on the other end.

Sometimes, the best use of your time is to reach out to a bunch of people you haven't connected with in a while and share a few words, regardless of how many (or few) people will read them.

Sometimes, it's just about...wandering. And seeing where the wandering will lead you.

We Virgos, we tend to forget that. We like forward motion, and checking things off lists. We like making a plan, and tend to think that deviation from it spells certain doom.

Here's the thing: I veered about as far off the proscribed list today as was possible. As in, I did not start Working until 1. Or so. Up until then, I spent my day talking and wandering and musing.

But then? I sat down and wrote me a big, Shitty First Draft of Chapter Something. Even smiled a few times while writing it. Oh, it'll all be thrown out, but it don't matter none. It's all in the doing.

Extend extend extend yourself.

Or oh, what you and the world might miss out on.

xxx c

Staying Awake in Seattle, Day 6: Unsticking yourself

Like most human messes, the process of shifting from one thing to another is not linear.

Two steps forward, one step back. (Oh, wait, that's a line.)

I want my growth to happen faster than it does, no matter how fast it happens. I want it to happen in a forward-ly direction, and only in that direction. I do not mind treading while I don't mind treading, but when I'm ready to move, I'm ready, dammit.

If you are in the thick of it, change can be a big, sticky mess. Once you are outside of it, it may still be big, but it is also fascinating.

The older I get, the more I see the gods, you know, the Greek and Roman ones, as metaphor. They're the part of us that sits outside of us. The part that gets to judge and pose and roll their big, fancy eyes.

What they don't get is to play. Like we do. Like I do. Every day.

Today I got to play, and maybe didn't own the field the way I wanted to.

Tomorrow, I get to play again.

xxx c

Staying Awake in Seattle, Day 5: Beware the luggage you didn't know you packed

You settle in more quickly than you know.

The apartment that seemed so strange becomes home (so much so, you relax into full-on slob mode). Within days, you have your grocery store, your coffee place, your routine.

You came up here with intention to try things differently (to get away, to try living elsewhere, to do some writing you'd been unable or unwilling to do at home) and before you know it, you've slipped into all kinds of same-old behavior. Is your life really so different, or did you just haul the same shit, or a subset of it, 1,100 miles north?

There are many great things about Method training for the actor. One of the greatest is learning one's patterns. Patterns are what keep us from being present; patterns are also a great part of what defines us as characters. Examine the patterns, hold them up to the excruciating light of truth, and maybe, maaaaaybe, you can start to break them.

And once you break them, you can start to illuminate them, so that maybe, maaaaaaybe, people around you can start to see theirs. The interested parties, of course.

You look at what you're doing. You look at it under a bright, bright light.

You tell everyone else what you see.

You wake up and try again.

xxx c

Staying Awake in Seattle, Day 4: Small is the new big

Whatever directions your circumstances take, expanding or contracting, growing or reducing, uptick or downward trending, you adjust.

I've adjusted upwards and downwards all my life. Up, up, up for years; then, a few years after my parents divorced, a sharp downturn when we relocated to Gloomy Manor, a.k.a. my maternal grandparents' house, where we lived with them and two uncles who were also in the throes of their own particular life changes.

Up again with Mom's second marriage; down and down and down with the demise of that. Although at that point, the downwards contractions were only visible on vacation visits to the homestead; my own path had diverged in its own upwards/downwards fashion, through various communal living experiences at college and in New York City, where I shared a series of shitty rooms and apartments with a series of interesting roommates. Mammals, most of them.

The move to L.A., back in 1992, was a big step up in comfort and convenience. Grouse all you want about L.A., we live the soft life there, with our cars and our endless free and/or cheap parking. Parts of Los Angeles are truly urban, and I have one intrepid friend who's managed a car-free life for her entire stay there, but for the most part, we are fat and lazy suburbanites in city people's clothing. In New York, you get tough; in L.A., you may become hard, but you get very, very soft.

My four days here have been sort of a revelation in terms of personal comfort. Don't get me wrong: I adore this lovely neighborhood, its walkable treasures, its spectacular views. Within a half-hour's walk I have all the great bookstores, markets, coffee shops and eateries a city girl could hope for. And I mean great, of the kind of exceptional quality that would have you driving all over L.A. and back again.

But the trade-off for truly civilized living, at least, among the commonfolk, is 7/8ths-scale everything else. A tiny apartment, with tiny closets and a microscopic kitchen. You? Maybe you're fine with the microscopic. Me? I'm a metaphorically fat, lazy American pig who's used to driving her car to the supermarket, buying in ridiculous quantities, and feeling vaguely guilty about the waste. And the E-Z-Bake Oven is not exactly a McMansion, either. But compared to my current digs, the full-size fridge, oven AND cooktop, and capacious cabinets feel positively suburban.

Truthfully? It feels good to scale back. I like literally weighing an item in my hand and deciding whether or not I want to hump it back to the crib. It feels good to be able to count on both hands the items of food and drink I have to eat and drink. Having to wash the previous meal's dish and cutlery before I eat again, because there's only one set? Is a good exercise for me.

Some of the good comes from things just being different. From being outside of the usual, and my comfort zone, so I'm forced to be thoughtful and attentive (and thankful! Let's not forget thankful!)

But part of the wonder of this trip is in literally scaling back. To the stuff I've brought with me. To the space allotted.

In constraints lie the keys to expansion.

Here's to busting down more walls...

xxx c

Staying Awake in Seattle, Day 3: Wax on & serendipity

Anne Lamott says Mondays are bad for writing.

She goes so far as to say that one, "one" being you, the aspiring writer, should never endeavor to begin an important project on a December Monday, December being the Month of Mondays.

Perhaps.

She also speaks (kindly) to a lot of important concepts for the creatrix: the importance of the Shitty First Draft. The soundness of the Short Assignment. The eminently sensible principle of Not Beating Oneself Up, a.k.a. the Scourge of Perfectionism.

I did work today and I wrote today. Some okay work and a horrendous Shitty First Draft of a new Chapter One. Forgive me for not sharing all, I hate to be coy, but to fill you in on every last detail would be to spread my seed rather too thinly. And as the kind of gal who always half-wished she was a dude (the freedom! the equipment!), I'm excited enough to have seed to spread, period.

At some point today, when the slanting sun had crept high enough so as to make work in my otherwise otherworldly-perfect workspace unbearable, I crept out and up the hill for a coffee. While there, feasting on caffeinated beverages that only get this good because of fierce competition, I received a call from my gal, gelatobaby, who, coincidentally, is here tearing up the town...with her mother.

An invitation to dinner! From two ladies who know their culinary stuff far better than I can hope to in a thousand lifetimes! How could I say anything but "yes"?

We met, we supped, we plotted. They treated me to the finest dinner I've had in months (oh, god, the carpaccio! the mussels!) and dropped me on their way back down the hill. I hadn't the groceries I'd intended to get on my way up, but was fed better than I possibly could have been by my own hand and the Safeway.

Part of what I am here to do is what I planned. The rest? What just comes up.

In serendipity we trust. Good night, Seattle!

xxx c

Staying Awake in Seattle, Day 2: Tables and sharing

I will go to great lengths of accommodating discomfort in order to avoid Discomfort.

Case in point: I ate white-bread-and-cheese sandwiches for four days in London during my first visit there, at age 16, because I was too terrified to venture out beyond the first place I found that sold food. (I also missed my chance to see Elvis Costello in teeny-tiny concert, as well as the original cast of the Rocky Horror Show, for pretty much the same reason. Yes, I know.)

More proof? After three weeks of profound illness and several harrowing nights of 104º+ fever, I still had to be tricked into going to the hospital by my clever, clever sister. Because to hell with the idea I might die by staying away: the emergency room would have been a clear admission that something was seriously wrong with me.

I did what I could to prep for a good month away: clothes, plans, transpo, housing. It never occurred of me to ask my charming host about workspace arrangements. Hell, she was throwing extra sets of keys to an office to me; why would I think about it?

So when I threw open the door to my Home-and-Office Away from Home, imagine my surprise at finding exactly two clear horizontal surfaces above the floor: the bedside tables on either side of the Tempurpedic. Which, to be fair, is also a clear horizontal surface (and a scary-comfortable one, at that), but highly impractical for use as a computing workspace, which is what I was after.

I jury-rigged something out of one of the tables, the iMac box and a few pillows (for carpal tunnel-reduction). Within five minutes, it was clear that any notions of productivity I'd driven up here with were going to be dashed upon the rocks of half-assedness; there's only so much one can do with crap tools and a crap set-up, no matter what kind of raw material and will one is working with.

The BF said two words: Craig's List. Well, I guess that's one word, as far as the Internet is concerned. And it was a fine idea: people unload far costlier items than a beat-to-shit table on the "free" list every day.

But I knew that looking it up was only a small fraction of a complex equation, the rest of which was a snarl of potential issues that started with my giving up a parking spot in a neighborhood that places a premium on them, and ended with me sliced to ribbons in a culvert out back of a trailer park in some remote, exurban swath of Seattle. With a lot of narrowly-missed freeway exits in between. I could put up with the end table, couldn't I? For just a few weeks?

I couldn't. I came here to write, and I couldn't write shite perched on a futon couch, my knees wrapped around a bedside table, my mousing arm wobbly on a giant cardboard box. I found the perfectly priced, beat-to-shit table in a faraway suburb, took a deep breath, and emailed. Three hours later, my table was reassembled in the Temporary Pad, my car was parked in a new and equally deliciously located spot, and I was walking downtown for a celebratory Americano at my beloved Caffé Umbria.

They don't alter you overnight-and-forever, these little stabs at change. But they do have a way of making other things fall into place almost magically. A few hours later, I ran into a friend from Los Angeles who is here, performing in a play. Got invited to dinner with a couple of online friends who were gathering nearby. (Got to buy my idol, Dan Savage, a drink while I was there, too.)

On the cab ride over (did I mention the cab that magically appeared out of nowhere?), the driver and I talked about fear and petrification and how to manage the former to help stave off the latter. I think I may have convinced him of the rightness of taking a two-hour vacation, all by himself. As a start. As a gateway challenge.

Today? Was a good day.

xxx c