Even in Seattle, there’s no escape from the Sun.
Throughout this entire trip it’s been hot everywhere I traveled. I’ve basically given up wearing sunscreen, my once pasty-white complexion has morphed into a dry rugged leather, by the end of this journey I’ll basically be a human raisin. But I at least expected Seattle to have tolerable weather; summers here, as I recall, are cool and dry and vivacious (but really, at this point I would have settled for the damp, drizzly Seattle). So imagine my chagrin when I arrive and begin to hear weather reports of record heat.
There’s only one conclusion to draw: the demons of hell are chasing after me, taunting and molesting me with their deathly inferno, determined to stop me before I reach that mythical (read: bullshit) Kerouacian nirvana.
Speaking of Nirvana, I spent most of today doing stereotypical “Seattle-y” things. Traveling almost exclusively by foot I covered Belltown, Pike’s Place Market, the Riverfront, Pioneer Square and the International District. These are largely the most touristy parts of the city, haunts I’ve traversed many a time, but I just couldn’t help myself. The tall downtown buildings shaded me from the sun, and the atmosphere was ripe for people-watching, not to mention tasty pictures.
Like most days, I spent the majority of my time simply wandering from one place to another. If I found a shady spot I’d stop to read a book or check my phone. It was busy everywhere as people were desperate to beat the heat (something like half of homes in Seattle don’t have air conditioning). I was never at a loss for stimuli; when I wasn’t feasting my eyes on the tourists and the bums and the happy gay couples with tiny dogs I stopped to admire the many examples of street art, graffiti, and general visual oddities that litter this colorful city.
When wandering the city streets like a vagabond is your business, there are certain things of which one ought to be mindful. Perhaps the biggest one is money. With so many outlets for entertainment constantly clamoring for your attention it can be easy to blow through your funds in a matter of hours, so set a strict budget and stick to it. Allow yourself one big expenditure a day; a movie, a museum, a nice meal, and forage for the rest. There’s plenty of free entertainment out there if one knows how to look.
Two other major preoccupations of mine have been 1.) keeping my cell phone from dying and 2.) keeping my bladder from exploding. Fortunately I’m usually able to kill those two birds with one stone, and that stone’s name is Starbucks.
As a longtime barista and coffee aficionado, I do kind of feel guilty about constantly patronizing Starbucks at the expense of local, independently-owned cafes (although I’ve frequented plenty of those as well). But there are several advantages to choosing the Green Monster as well. For one, you’re virtually guaranteed to find one in any city, and I’ve never seen a Starbucks that’s poorly maintained. More relevant to my purposes, they always have free Wifi and outlets. And most importantly, I happen to have a few Starbucks gift cards saved up, which I’ve been slowly stretching out over the course of this trip.
But yet again the highlights of my day came from real human conversation. I had two different meetups with friends, both female, both roughly my age, and both incidentally having undergone recent changes in their careers. Both conversations were deep and passionate and real, and in each case I left with the feeling that the desire to transform, the search for one’s true calling is not a juvenile whimsy but the serious stuff of true enlightenment.
I don’t claim to have any greater understanding of life as a result of this past week, nor will I by the time this is over, but it strikes me as a self-evident truth that you have to listen to your own feelings and consider happiness as the true measure of success. So many Millenials I know seem to be making this realization; forsaking the path of fortune for the path of passion. I hope I’m not wrong; I hope this is more than a case of confirmation bias. I would love it if our generation really challenged the way we were taught to live, the things we were told to value.
Or maybe the sun has just fried a few too many of my brain cells.
Stay cool, ghostlings!