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spring 2006 / elsewhere :: email this story to a friend

How I Stopped Listening to People Bitch About the Rain and Learned to Love Seattle
By Athima Chansanchai

Yeah, it rains in Seattle.
A lot.
27 days in a row this past winter.

But you know what? I'll still take it any day over the ice and snow I had to deal with on the East coast — Baltimore and New York City — for almost a decade.

I've just passed my first year in Seattle and almost from day one, this place had me hooked. Love at first sight: First at the UNITY Journalists of Color convention in 1999, then at a friend's wedding a few years later, then for a professional program after that. I kept on coming back to Seattle until a job finally brought me out here last year.

And that's when I found out how much the Pacific Northwest (the Pac NW for locals) suits me. Like hand in glove.

Mt. Rainier First: Natural beauty surrounds you every day. Mile-high evergreens, lush snow-capped mountains (including the ever-present Mt. Rainier) and water (Puget Sound, and Lakes Union and Washington) make for daily breathtaking. And then there's the man-made beauty of the Craftsman bungalows, the sailboats that dot the water during season and honestly, Seattleites are their own aesthetic (even in fleece).

Next: Music.
I went to a concert — sometimes two — every week. Music is not only plentiful, it's accessible. Local bands are abundant, but Seattle is also a must-stop on most tours. Memorable nights and discoveries: Tullycraft, Visqueen, Slender Means, The Arcade Fire, The Decemberists, and that list could go on all day. All bands I'd never even heard of before I moved here and before I tuned in the best radio station ever: KEXP and 90.3 FM locally. Bumbershoot also won me over. This annual, multi-day festival over Labor Day weekend features hundreds of performances. I saw 16 over three days. That comes out to about $4 a band, AND I got to see Death Cab for Cutie perform a surprise show with Sarah Vowell and Dave Eggers.

And another thing: All the Kerry/Edwards stickers. It's a glass half-full/half-empty thing. I see all the anti-Bush/ pro-failed Dems signs as one of the few bastions of rebel liberalness left in America. Having lived in mainstream and middle America, where they take President Bush's word as gospel, it's nice to be in a place that is equally as skeptical as I am of those words and actions.

Last: Quality of life.
It's a little nuts sometimes that everyone here seems to think extreme physical stamina is normal, if not expected, but you get with the general healthy, happy vibe. The RAMROD (Ride Around Mt. Rainier in One Day) — 154 miles — is not for me, but certainly getting in better shape in a variety of sports and enjoying bright, sunny, NON-HUMID, perfect sky summers? Wouldn't trade that for anything. The darkness of the winter only adds to the appreciation of those perfect, perfect, perfect days.

For all the gloominess of those rainy days — this year's long run was unusual, despite the city's rep — the spring and summer balance it out. I went sailing at 5 p.m. and caught the most glorious sunset. I discovered trails and Green Lake walks. I found out how easy it was to eat healthy and heartily.

I also found out another thing: you'll probably be happy anywhere so long as you're happy in your job, and mine allows me to scour the city in search of its more interesting denizens and scenes, from roller-derby girls to in-house emerging religious communities, a Joan Jett cover band (fronted by a guy) to female wrestlers.

So people who complain about the rain and the gloom? That's your prerogative. Me? I see the beauty in even those days (obviously it's easier during the summer) and find myself grateful for every day in the fog because it's another day in paradise for me. After more than a decade of nomadic life, renting from place to place, I bought a house, furnished it, painted it and am prepping it for a life of entertaining and housing visitors from much less appealing places.

Seattle, I am home.

Athima Chansanchai is a staff writer for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

© 2006 The Commonspace