Now we live in Seattle.
We arrived around midnight of May 23-24 after a cross-continent airplane ride with two cats in Sherpa carriers. They engaged in a back-and-forth, call-and-response symphony of meows and crankiness. It could have been worse, I suppose, but I was somewhat concerned when I noticed that one of them was foaming slightly at the mouth near the end of the trip.
All is well. The cats actually look very happy in the new place and seem to be digging the change in weather as much as I am.
Here are some initial observations based on a few weeks of living here. Of course, I reserve the right to change my tune after more time has passed and to deem all these as the naive observations of a new resident.
The "Nice" Factor
I can guess that Seattleites may be tired of hearing this all the time, but it is quite striking how personable, chatty and helpful people are to each other despite being complete strangers. I often find myself in that odd mental state where I am not certain if I am engaging with someone who has some ulterior motive and is about to con me or if I am being regaled with authentic good intentions. Luckily, L. works in the restaurant industry. She can handle these overtures much better than I - I tend to mumble, grumble and change colors to meld into the background...much like an octopus.
That said, I do appreciate this trend when it comes to dealing with, say, public transportation or city services. When the bus drivers wait for people to catch the bus even though they are 1/2 block away or will spend 2 minutes of their time giving directions or helping people figure out the transportation system, you know you are not in SEPTAland (Philly) anymore.
That said, I like this description of the "Seattle Nice" factor:
...a chilly Scandinavian undertow continues to tug at the soul of the city.
"Strangers when they first arrive say this is quite a friendly town," Raban said. "They don't realize that the good manners are usually more of a protective barrier than an invitation to intimacy."
Crosswalks and Cars
People obey the "Walk/Don't Walk" signals here. Apparently this is the result of actual enforcement of jaywalking laws and stiff fines; but it seems to stem from something more fundamental -- a respect for some kind of civic order.
In Philly, crossing the street (whether you had the right of way or not) always involves being sensitive to a matrix of observations, expectations and behavior. In other words, assume you will get run over no matter what. In Seattle, there have been dozens of times where we've done the pedestrian mambo with a car that is trying to turn a corner or coming out of some garage....
Look..shuffle a little...pause...Look...evaluate...shuffle a little...pause...Look...evaluate......
During this sequence, cars stay still and their drivers look at you with benevolence. Cars here will wait and not move until your pedestrian rights and privileges are exercised to their fullest. We must look like neurotic chipmunks.
Here, take a look at this article on the "Seattle Freeze" -- apparently this post is not that original and my newcomer's syndrome has already been pinned and mounted for study.
So far, it has been about 10-30 degrees cooler in Seattle than in Philly...I've been checking the weather reports...that's what I do. Combine this with maritime features that I love, and I'm abuzz with happy chemicals: breezy, quick moving and low altitude clouds, misty sprinkles, dark clouds that contrast with aquamarine colored skies....you get the picture.
Neighborhood and Seattle Growth
We live in Belltown -- this was an area that used to be a desolate extension of the downtown area that was filled with drug dealing and decrepit buildings. Over the decades, it evolved into a fringe area where artists and musicians emerged and shared the area with the drug culture and is now a condo-happy neighborhood with galleries, restaurants, nightclubs, etc. You know, the usual urban revitalization story...with some differences.
There are still drug dealers around and some kind of equilibrium has been reached between the better-off newer residents and the druggie/hobo presence. Well, there seems to be equilibrium on the streets, but there have been noises about "cleaning up the neighborhood" as more people of my general ilk move here.
Seattle (city) is expected to grow from ~570,000 to about ~600,000 in the next 5 years or so. That whopping growth rate has spurred condo developments all over town -- most notably in the South Lake Union area. At the moment, South Lake Union looks like Berlin in the early nineties -- construction cranes everywhere. Belltown and South Lake Union have managed to remain "low altitude" when it comes to construction. This allows, among other things, a clear view of the Space Needle. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next 5+ years. We'll probably be one of those sparking demand for such construction in the next few years.
OK, that's it for now. So much to write about but I do not want to create a wall of text.