My friends needed a lullaby to sing to their child
Said friends are in the business of making food and starting a distillery, and are raising their child in San Francisco. This seemed the most appropriate song, terrible rhyme structure notwithstanding.
TACOS FOR YOU, BURRITOS FOR ME
Who’s got a craving for cilantro?
Who wants to get something to go?
It’s true the enchilada is tex-mex food,
so are burritos, but they’re still good!
Let’s eat something from South of the Slot
No one calls it that but I still like it—a lot!
Tacos for you, burritos for me
Chiles are hot, curtido’s spicy!
It may not be from Mexico but it’s like home,
tacos and burritos and tortas, ho-hum.
We could get pupusas, chapulines, mole—
or maybe some menudo? Oh, no!
Sometimes you want something simple and right,
something you could eat and eat all night!
Tacos for you, burritos for me
Chiles are spicy, curtido’s spicy!
It may not be like Mexico but it tastes like home,
tacos, burritos, tortas oh yum!
How far I am from the food that I love,
feels even further from friends I often think of,
but when I find my favorite food I could swear it’s just like home.
Oh give me simple food instead of molecular uni-cider foam!
Q:I love your narrative blog. Your voice is very warm and comforting. I recently moved to Seattle and am interested in the stories of fellow transplants. It's been nearly a year and I'm finding it very difficult to make friends. What has your experience with that been?
You are sweet, here’s hoping the warmth isn’t so much a smothering blanket as a nice cuppa. I’d be just as curious whether you had strong reasons to move, as I felt I did when it became abundantly clear that my life had drifted toward paying for the privilege of being miserable, decent coffee and a not-bad commute notwithstanding.
I find it helpful to think about what I had to lose and why I did it still.
- Friends, who are my family. We are, to some extent, able to keep in touch. When a friend moved to Italy years ago, I found our relationship improved. I’m hoping the same happens with all those folks I couldn’t see because I was too tired from work, disinclined toward a long bus ride that seems a fraction of what I travel now.
- My art, because so much of what I did, and to some extent, still do, is formed by the type of city in which I resided. I am still working on this, because my where existed in my head as much as in real life. I want to give Seattle a chance. I’ve certainly had time to be disappointed in it, so it sure feels as though we’re in a committed relationship. I’ve visited at least once a year off and on for the last 7 or 8 years, and some of my regulars have been ousted for condos, and I was upset—not even my city at the time!—at the loss. The skyline is dominated by glass towers, and old cottages are turning into Borg-like structures. Yet I know that not building results in impossible situations (hello, SF). Still, what is the point in living in a place if it looks like everywhere else? At that point, ought we not move to where the good bagels are?
- Proximity. Don’t underestimate the pleasure of being able to walk, bus, or ride your bike across a city in a day. Although I once walked from I.D. to Fremont, just to see what was on the way. I chose the least scenic route, as it turns out. Do not recommend it.
- Knowing what the hell I was doing. Which leads to:
Living in the same place for 15 years, that’s more than enough time in which to grow stagnant. I had done so much of what I wanted to do, from writing for other people to crazy opportunities that came about thanks to some great bosses. I did things I couldn’t have imagined doing. To a preternaturally lazy person, this meant a lot.
Leaving meant that I would have a chance to make new friends, and do I have close friends now? No, not by any means, and I’ll be coming up on a year here in a few months. The people I see on a semi-regular basis are neighbors, and luckily they seem to be the sort I’d socialize with, happily. I’ve yet to find close confidants, and don’t know when I will, but expect it to take a long time. I’d like to think that if I were working steadily outside of my house, that would be one place to make friends, but I don’t count on that (hire me, friendly people, I’m not that lazy). Meeting people in a bar has limited appeal, and occasionally I manage to text the one person I met in this fashion.
"We really should get a beer," we text.
Each of us has good intentions. That has been going on since May or so, beerlessly.
I wonder if you find the people you meet to be friendly on the whole—or if you’re the recipient of some reserved Scandinavian politesse. When in Minnesota, I found this to be true, and given the makeup of Seattle, there is a correlation. It’s not you, it’s them. Then again, our Swedish neighbors are quite dear, so there goes that theory.
I still find it odd that I don’t have nearly as many bus conversations as I did once, but there’s something to everyone sticking to themselves—perhaps we are missing our opportunity to become crazy bus-talking people?
As you’ve gathered by now, place for me is as much about friendship as anything, and so it feels like this city and I are still feeling each other out. Older and nary wiser, I don’t think it can be conquered—I shouldn’t want to do that—but I am painfully aware of what I don’t know, and wish to use this to my advantage.
Allow yourself to be surprised, and patient. I don’t know you, so forgive if this is forward, but in me, it’s all I want: the need to be surprised, but mixed with terrible insatiability of wanting to have all that knowledge. It takes time, and that’s the hard part. It won’t be sudden, but you won’t even know what the trouble was. Spring will be here, and then summer, when everyone comes out hungry for human contact.
You and me and all of us other-y types will make it, we just have to.
Or we’ll all just get cats.
I am a non-native species.
Let’s say you’re having a fine time chatting with a total stranger, discussing the local sports team’s foibles, or engaging in the fine art of talking about nothing, when it comes up that you’re, you know, not from around here. Nothing special about that, really, given that cities are the great aggregators of people from elsewhere. From the beginnings of civilization, cities in the Western tradition acted much as they do now, brain-draining the small towns or less ideal places where one might toil and die. In other cases, cities were made out to be the great corrupters, where one’s guile could either lead to riches or one’s head on a pike.
A friend’s Greek grandmother never made it more than 15 meters from her stove after she was married, but for the rest of us, we like to get around. What’s more, an over-stayed residency in one locale is apt to result in concentric circles of ex-friends, ex-bosses, and capital-E exes. So many rings are what turn big cities small.
California is third largest state in the union, famously possessing a GDP that beats out that of countries. It is also the state most likely to raise bile in those born and bred in the Pacific Northwest. To what do we owe the pleasure? Perhaps it is derived from a perceived cultural hegemony, one that suggests eternal sun and endless beaches: yes, that is a reason to hate, says the Washingtonian shivering next to his fire.
But even this picture is conjecture: summers in Seattle are as legendarily warm as San Francisco’s are chilly. It must be more, but more natives to the Northwest have mentioned that Californians don’t have fireplaces and expect everyone of us to know how to surf.
Received ideas are often false but frankly, no one has the energy to discover how wrong they may be. It always rains in Seattle, and from La Jolla to Yreka, California is a flat plane of easy living. It smacks of another small-town rivalry, between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and in much the same fashion, the former held no animosity for the latter. High school stuff, really, something you’re supposed to do because it is what is done.
When I was working in books, one of the good Lonely Planet people gave me a bumper sticker that soapboxed an important point:
"Do something great for your country. Leave."
I do not dare to ask something so large for those whom I have encountered, who think Californians bumbling blondes, laid back to the point of coma. All I ask is that you leave us to know that we can open our fireplace dampers, and that we are unlikely to melt in rain, either out of fear or confusion.