Third Date

I have been very candid about my month-long love affair with Seattle dating back to January of this year. We had a rocky start, though. It was a Seattle rain storm that took from me a favourite hat and an umbrella, but we soon made up and I embarked on a whirlwind romance with the city. I loved its restaurants and vistas, its culture and its people. I was smitten.

We had a brief fling in April – 6 days of five-star luxury while Ben attended a conference. We flirted, Seattle and I. I dressed pretty, I let the sunny days kiss my nose, and we drank each other in. Brief, yet passionate.

Now I am back, and this visit is a little like a third date. Now I know I am moving here, Seattle is starting to let its guard down, and I am seeing sides of it I haven’t seen before. Some are delicious, like the nooks and crannies of the Pike Place markets, where Ben and I bought aromatic oils and spices the other day, and some a little too revealing this early into our relationship.

I went for a run yesterday, and waited patiently for the pedestrian signal to change from red to green. The roads are wide thoroughfares – 6 lanes – so this took a while. I didn’t mind. It was a sunny day and I was in Seattle, working out new running routes for when I move here. I eventually crossed and started running at a warm-up pace. I got about two blocks before signs indicated that the ‘sidewalk’ (I read American) was closed and I would have to cross to the other side. SIGH. I hit the signal button, then waited, and waited, and waited. The light did inevitably turn green, and a couple dozen cars waited impatiently – or patiently – I couldn’t really tell as I jogged across the street. Of course, now I was back on the wrong side. And I was in ‘Butt-crack America’.

This is my affectionate term for those parts of the states – here in Seattle, or anywhere – that do not exactly show the country off at its best. That stretch of road, just three blocks from home, with its cracked pavements and warehouses, its homeless wanderers and youthful loiterers, is almost certainly the butt-crack of Seattle. I kept looking ahead to see where the pedestrian bridge Ben had promised was.

Like a beacon in the distance it stood proud and beautifully constructed, unaware that it was in the midst of decay and mess. I hit my third little round button of the day, and waited, and waited, and waited. “Oh, come the F@*k on!” I was losing patience. So far my run had consisted of two sprints and a lot of waiting. FINALLY the light turned. I headed up and over the bridge which traverses the railroad tracks, and started my ‘run proper’.

It is hard to marry the waterfront parkland with the street parallel, because they couldn’t be more different. On the other side of the bridge are tracks for pedestrians and cyclists, lush green grass, and park benches. On clear days you can see across Puget Sound to the Olympic mountain range in the west. The frightfully large seagulls of the northwest, duck and weave along the shoreline, and fishermen lazily dangle their lines in the water.

Once I actually started running along the waterfront, my tetchiness eased and I hit my rhythm. The air was salty and clean, and the sun hot on my shoulders. I glanced at the scattered few who were lying on the grass and soaking up the late-season sun. They had the distinctive look of ‘locals’ – comfortable enough in their environs to casually lounge around in public. I wondered when I will start to feel like that, but this being only my third date with Seattle, that is a little way off yet.

I hit a natural ‘turn-around’ point, and started running back towards the footbridge. I had already decided to overshoot it and find another way home. I knew that if I kept running and passed the apartment, I would get to another crossover closer to downtown.

Running back towards the city lends a spectacular view. The skyline has its distinctive icons, but there is so much I have yet to explore I wandered with my eyes, taking in as much as possible. I am starting to place myself within this city. I am learning street names, shortcuts and landmarks.

Just before the crossover to the other side of the tracks, there is an outdoor sculpture gallery. It is a favourite spot in Seattle, because it is a junction of sorts. The waterfront, downtown and our neighbourhood converge there. It is 5 minutes from the apartment, 5 minutes from Ben’s work, and right on the waterfront, where cafes and storefronts jut out over the water. Oh, and the sculptures are kind of cool too.

Not long afterwards, I made it back to the apartment with the sense of satisfaction I have after a long run, but also with something else. I am getting to know this city, much in the same way I got to know Sydney when I first moved there and discovered its many delights and frustrations.

At the moment I straddle two cities. I curse the Sydney traffic as I crawl along each afternoon, and think about living in a city where traffic is much lighter, and ostensibly we will likely live without a car. However, I know I will miss the coastal walk between Coogee and Bondi beaches, because there are few views in the world more beautiful. I will enjoy living in a city where there are literally 100 restaurants serving the cuisines of the world, but am mindful that the minor frustrations will reveal themselves soon enough.

No place is perfect to live in, but there is always more to learn about, more to appreciate and more to love. I think I am ready to ‘go all the way’ with Seattle.

P.S. Check out Ben’s FLICKR page for some more recent shots, including views from our roof.

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