Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Moving to the Country, Going to Eat a lot of Peaches

Well, I didn't actually move to the country, it just sort of feels like it.

Until two weeks ago, I had (for four years) lived in a neighborhood of Seattle called Capitol Hill. It got that name a century and change ago, when Washington Territory was changing into a state and they had to pick a a state capitol (as you do) and Seattle, being the biggest, bestest city in the Territory, thought it should get the nod. Seattle thought that so strongly that it picked a place for the government buildings, gave it a name, and then one day woke up to find out that the rest of the Territory kind of hated Seattle (and still kind of does) and had decided on a muddy little town called Olympia for the domes and legislatures and all that sort of thing. So there was just a hill, still mostly wooded, with a new name: Capitol Hill.

Anyway, flash forward about 125 years, and it's a trendy, urban destination, formerly beloved of car dealerships, then of gentrifying homosexuals, then of tattooed band sorts, nowadays of hipsters with kids. It's also very full of people, bars, limited parking, the homeless, junkies, construction sites, street festivals and all the fun that comes of being a popular place.

After four years, The Husband and I hated it there. You can only find a random, different-every-day dude camped out behind your building so many times in a week before you start to not want to be there. So we decided to move. But we don't have a ton of income, and so our choices were, we thought, kind of limited.

Seattle has a strange little appendage, kind of the Staten Island of the city: a leftover of older times, a portion of the metropolis that time has slightly forgotten, as if its name was on the tip of time's tongue but not quite there. That's West Seattle, which is across the river from the rest of the city. I actually grew up in West Seattle, and it was a strange experience, because it really is like a Hollywood small town that just happens to be within a big city's limits. It's changed some (there's construction here, too: Seattle is all about growth), but in essence, it remains small and quiet. Not all that small; there's about 60000 people in West Seattle, give or take a few. But it feels small, because all the major services are across the bridges, in the city proper. West Seattle has its little urban areas: the Alaska Junction is nice, for instance, four blocks or so of shops and restaurants, bars and services. But it's four dense blocks and then it's done. For the rest, it's a lot of single family homes on huge lots that, on Capitol Hill (where there are single family homes, if you're quite wealthy) would have held three or four houses. Apartment buildings dot the scenery, but they're mostly smaller, six or twelve or twenty units. People say "Hello" and ask how you're doing when you pass them in stores; the streets get very quiet at night.

I can't say yet what the total impact will be of moving to a quiet place like we have, but I can say this right away: I am vastly less stressed. My shoulders don't tense up automatically when I go outside. I'm less cranky and angry. It's amazing what a change of setting can do for you, and I wouldn't have believed it could be such a big deal if it hadn't just happened to me. I have to unlearn some things, probably: I'm too closed off because of being in a place of constant agitation; I don't smile or say hello to random passerby because they didn't do so to me, and often they were exceptionally sketchy creatures. And I don't yet trust that I can do what it's clear I can do, which is just assume that in general nothing bad will happen if I turn away from my satchel for three seconds; that no one will just steal anything I leave lying around unattended for so much as an eyeblink; that the guy at the bus stop at 11 pm is probably actually just waiting for a late bus, not hanging out there because he has no where to go/is trying to sell me drugs. I'm sure there's some of all that, of course; even Mayberry had cops, and for a reason. But it's so much calmer and quieter and more serene.

So we did move kind of to the country. And, as a clarification, I have in fact eaten a good number of peaches here.

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