Adventures in Optimism Episode 2


This is a strange, strange place.

The children here… they act … like children. I see them riding bikes and walking to the corner store and playing what appear to be completely unorganized sports with groups of their friends. They even mostly dress like children, rather than like miniature supermodels.

I remember this from my own childhood, I’ve seen it in other countries, and I’ve read about it even in modern media, but it’s my first real experience of it in many, many years.

Maybe it’s just that kids can go outside here without bursting into flame, unlike in the southern desert regions I’ve mostly inhabited, but it is kind of heartwarming to see children out of doors, and even frequently looking at and talking to EACH OTHER rather than staring at cell phones. It is especially odd because this is a fairly good sized city and I’m in a fairly affluent part of it – the last two places I’d expect kids to be kids!

Then there is the fact you CAN go outside in June without bursting into flames!

I know I’ll get used to it, but it’s a work in progress.  A friend mentioned yesterday that it was 7pm and 97 degrees at his home. MUCH more what I’m used to. Here it is cloudy many mornings EVEN in June, and on the weekend I’m headed for an area that is still regularly in the mid 60s for temperature! IN JUNE! Now JULY!!

Of course that’s why I’m here testing this place to begin with, but it still astounds me. My native friends are appalled at the recent heat, since even here climate change is visible and the current US heat wave is shoving its nose in, but from my desert perspective this is pretty darn good!

Tidbits from the Journey So Far

For sale by owner.  I have never seen so many houses for sale by owner before. I don’t know if they have odd realty laws here, or a dearth of realtors, or what, but I’m not just talking tin-and-cardboard shacks – there is a neighbourhood near my hotel with $600,000 homes in it and two of those babies are For Sale By Owner too!

UL campus. Okay, I am a dork, I know it. That is the only excuse I have. I am staying about 5 miles from the UnderWriters Laboratories campus and I just think that is SO COOL. It’s also quite a campus. Looks like a very high end park from the street. They have signs up all over that it’s private property, but no fences and it’s hard for me to believe that all the people I’ve seen using it as a lush walking space are UL employees.

The not-100s. This has probably already come through, but I just have to give it its own space. While I’d rather it were fall or winter or spring, to be outdoors in SUMMER and not miserable from the heat is SO EXCITING !!

Quiet. Not in my hotel at 5am, alas, but on the streets it’s QUIET here. People hardly ever blast their stereos in their cars, they seem to mostly keep their dogs in line, they even sort of speak quietly.  After years of sensory overload in Ca, I’ve really enjoyed the quiet.

Distance. I have lived the last ten years in California. Most of them in a county that is larger than several states and a number of countries. Washington is so … small. Now, to be clear, when I say ‘Washington’ I mean only land from the Cascades to the ocean, so we’re not talking the state’s longest diagonal, but the simple fact that I could drive from the Oregon border to the Canadian border in a very, very, reasonable day’s trip is amazing to me.  You can spend more time in traffic on a southern Ca commute than that trip takes!

Sense and reason. Because I’m in this extended stay place the housekeeping folks only tend to my room once per week. Last Friday was to be my first ‘housekeeping’ day, and I waited, and waited, and waited. Finally they knocked on my door, long after I had assumed they forgot me, and said that they had been completely slammed so they couldn’t get to me that day, and could we reschedule? I work in an organisation where people apologise for taking an hour to get to your email on a Sunday while sitting at their father’s deathbed, so I found it completely heartwarming that someone would say ‘We simply can’t get everything done, I’m sorry.’ And it wasn’t even as if they were neglecting me! They STILL took my trash and my used bath linens and offered me any other things I needed.

But not from Google Maps. Google Maps is NOT sensible here. I started off thinking maybe they had a lot of one way streets or construction blocks or something. No. Google Maps just has a twitch here. It will happily take me half a mile out of my way to avoid a simple left hand turn at a minor traffic light. Thankfully I am getting a feel for the area and starting to note probable ‘more sensible routes’ on the map before I start out.

Grit. I met a girl who lives – with her nine-year-old son – in a studio apartment she is pretty sure is smaller than the hotel studio I’m in right now. (And she cleans the hotel studios such as I’m in for a living, so she has a pretty good feel for their size.) Her kitchen she is certain is smaller than my hotel kitchen (and trust me, I’m not staying in a penthouse palace here) and only fits a mini fridge with one of those semi-freezers that doesn’t really freeze enough to be safe. “But at least we can’t keep ice cream around” she said happily, “so that is good for us. If we want ice cream we have to walk to the corner store to get it!”.  This girl is tougher than I’ll ever be, and she has a much better disposition!
Now of course grit is not unique to here; I just like to celebrate it whenever I find it.

All in all it’s been a good week.

The poor sleep is taking a toll, but it’s still manageable, the abject terror is fading, thank God, and so far none of my research has revealed hopeless failure.

This weekend I’ll take a trip to the most distant areas I am contemplating, and then I shall be ready to start making some decisions and narrowing my focus – God willing.



Be well. 

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