I just bought a house and it's allllmost not in Seattle, but I pulled it off, I stayed in town. Even in this economy! I know, right? I was maybe even overly intent on honoring this invisible civic Rubicon between Seattle and (in my case) Shoreline, about preserving the claim to semantic authenticity when I say "I live in Seattle." With my home town, I always append suburban caveats. I mean, I like the baroque paths that get carved into the conversational landscape over dozens of tellings of one's story, and how you refine them a little over time to best reflect the newest narrative ("it's about 60 miles north of San Francisco, about an hour's drive" "yes, exactly, where the fires were" "no, my mom didn't end up having to evacuate, but many of her friends lost their homes" "it's really kind of you to ask"), but at the same time I love that when people ask where am I from and I say "Seattle" they almost always, even in Madrid or Tel Aviv or Copenhagen, know where that is, or they figure they will or would know if they paused long enough to rifle through their mental card catalogue to retrieve a reference that's probably pretty close to relevant (Nirvana? Frasier? Oh, coffee, right?). I like that I can just say "yes, exactly." I like that narrative efficiency. If you ask me where I live, and if we're talking about a geographical location with a civic boundary, well, one word is going to get us most of the way there. Identity politics play into it, too. I get a thrill out of living in the city, however super-mega subjective that idea may be (Lake City:Belltown:Seattle:NYC?), of living somewhere that is stuffed to bursting with things I love to do, a literal embarrassment of riches for an absurdly privileged reasonably frugal middle-classer with some disposable income. I love it here.
I moved to Seattle in 1999, just before the WTO riots that I missed entirely, living in Renton and working in Kirkland and feeling petulant that I was this close to living in the city without quite getting there because when I moved there I hadn't realized that Renton was its own town, not a neighborhood. I read the map but misunderstood the scale. After a few months I took a split-level in Fremont that I adored. I walked my dog and took guitar lessons and had a silly summer tryst and took up swing dancing and got pretty good, and once I tried smoking weed and had a paranoid episode so startling that I called 911 to ask if they could please make sure I wasn't going insane and/or talk me down. The fire fighters who came to my rescue were amused. After about a year the owners kicked me out so they could knock the place down and turn it into a townhome. So I bought a house Beacon Hill, a quirky little thing from the 1910s that made little sense architecturally and that I sold a few years later so I could get married and move to a house in Wedgwood that was big enough to have as many kids as I could get away with before the clock ran out. The marriage ran out before the clock. The house was too big and too expensive and too full of that marriage, so my kids and I moved to a smaller rental up the street. I'd been in Wedgwood for 14 years all told by the time my finances recovered enough to look at buying again, and I had to make a call about where to go next because I planned to stay put for a while.
I struggled with it. I worried a lot about limiting my options unnecessarily, but I worried a lot more about losing the community I'd so painstakingly crafted over the last decade plus. I suck at asking for help and though I know how to be gracious and grateful and truly touched when it's offered, I also suck at accepting it. Even as I believe in all of my deep neural network that people are filled with light and beauty and the capacity for overwhelming generosity, I tend to stick myself in this little mobius-shaped loophole of illogical exemption, as if there's an asterisk by my name in the roll call: "*they don't mean you." It's so dumb, I know, but I wrestle with it. I try to exercise my help-accepting muscles like I'm in a Rocky montage, and I've gotten a lot better, but the thought of starting over with a new community, new schools, new friends, new common understandings, not to mention new bus lines and new dry cleaners and new yoga studios and other such first world problems, well, it would have to be a hell of a house to make it worth it. So I got a map of Seattle and I drew boundary lines for all of the middle schools and high schools, all the bus lines to that go to Microsoft (who is bankrolling this whole operation in exchange for the use of my big giant brain), and where the Light Rail stops are going in. And I made a list of all the things I want in a house. And then I ranked them in order of importance and noted which ones were contingent on which others, and which ones I'd be willing to compromise on provided the house allowed for their possible addition in the future. Lists are the best, right? I love lists. So in conclusion:
Things I Love about Seattle
Driving in pea soup fog and then rounding a bend into sparkling clear sunlight
P-patches & dog parks
Water water everywhere! Such a stupid place to put a city, on top of a handfull of large interconnected bodies of water, but it's so lush and gorgeous and all of the lakes and sounds are stunning and glorious
Molly Moon's ice cream
Lopez Island. Close enough.
That so many other people also hate the things I hate about Seattle (rampant homelessness predicated on regressive tax structures among other things, lack of intersectionality in social justice, systemic racism in the police force) and are working really fucking hard to change them
The quality of light
The rain. Yeah, I said it.
Things I Love About My House
So much light
A room for my mom to come and stay as long as she wants as often as she wants
A wee forest tucked into the back of my back yard like the kind that'd be in a dream where you forget you had a whole part of your house but it really is there
It's quiet and peaceful and serene but walk a few steps and you're in a bustling urban neighborhood
There's a spot for my sewing machines
The inspectors were quite confident that the basement wouldn't flood even if there's a biblical rainstorm
There's a perfect wall for this painting I bought before I bought the house and that's not a coincidence, it's one of the reasons I knew this house was right
Just a short walk to the Burke-Gillman I KNOW RIGHT?
Room for all my books
My kids sleep well here
I sleep well here