Friday, August 31, 2012

Seattle: Fresh Faces

One Face began in 2009 shortly after moving to upstate NY as a resolution to meet new people and blog about the experience.  By nature I'm better at being a close friend to a few than a social butterfly, so within 6 months or so my social circle was pretty much fixed.  Consequently, I began to write about a conglomeration of other things, like nutrition and our trip to Haiti.

The winds of change are gusting again.  Ever since we visited the land of rain and coffee 5 years ago, we've hoped to someday relocate to the northwest.  The rabbit trail that is my career took us from Texas to Arkansas to upstate NY, but I have finally transferred to Seattle. . . where there are a lot of fresh faces and places to write about.

Big cities can be truly depressing.  Loneliness is magnified when you are surrounded by thousands and thousands of people, but still feel a nagging sense of alienation.  As an introvert,  "breaking the ice" with a stranger doesn't come naturally.  Having moved 5 times and lived in 3 states over the last 8 years, I'm getting better at it.  It's amazing how much another lonely soul will say if you simply take the initiative and start a conversation with an offhand remark or question.

Today was my first "day off" after starting at my new post on Monday, and I tried to make the most of it. I'm renting a room for the time being, and sharing a kitchen with two recovered alcoholics, so I couldn't bring any home-brew with me.  I moved ahead of my wife-  most of last week was spent driving across the continent, so my aim was frugality, moderation, and integration.

There is a lively mix of coffee shops, pubs, and restaurants clustered in an area here in West Seattle called The Junction, where Alaska and California intersect.  In this area, near Oregon & California lies a shop called The Beer Junction, where a tasting was to be held this afternoon.  Fremont was the grandstanding brewery.  Most of their ales were a bit bitter for my taste, but the Dark Star Oatmeal Stout with a raspberry infusion was a winner.

I happened to strike up a conversation with an interesting fellow named Boaz.  Bo, a portly character, wore a hippy-crafted tank top with wide horizontal aquamarine and navy-blue stripes.  A seashell hung around his neck by a chord.  The solid black frame enclosing the rectangular lenses of his glasses screamed "artsy" and whispered "geek."  Stiffly-gelled short blonde curls clashed with a red goatee that came to a sharp point just beneath his chin.  If an art museum ever needed a devil for a mascot,  Boaz would fit the bill.

He told me that he used to sell wine, and we had an interesting conversation regarding pairings and varieties.  Before long I learned that he was still recovering from jet-lag, having been married in Hawaii just days earlier by a "holyman,"  and he showed me pictures on his Iphone of he and his bride hurling coconuts into the sunset over the sea--  apparently a ceremonial norm in the islands.  By the time we parted ways, he'd given me his business card.  It was obviously a glossless, no-frills freebie from Vistaprint..  He's got his own gutter-cleaning and moss-clearing business now. . . more power to him!

I was only there for a taste, and soon moseyed on down California Ave to the next stop on my itinerary- The Beveridge Place, where the "Iron Brewer Challenge Match" was underway.  TBP picks a couple of ingredients, two breweries in the area use them to craft a brew, and customers choose the winner.  In this matchup, Seven Seas was pitted against Silver City to see who could make the best brew using saffron and watermelon.  Hanging my nose over one snifter took me back to 105-degree days in rural East Texas at the Watermelon Festival, and it tasted like it smelled!  The other tasted like someone ran over the melon with a tractor before squeezing it into a blend of Coors and pond water.

It was no contest in my book, and that's what I mentioned to the fellow next to me at the bar.  Soon Jeff and I were chatting away.  He was a fit fellow with a small frame-  like a guy you would expect to see stepping out of a Formula 1 race car, or maybe a jockey if he were an inch or four shorter.  His nose could probably pop a balloon with little pressure, but his bright hazel eyes were even sharper. 

Having lived here for a while now, working as a bartender at a hotel downtown,  Jeff hails from the more laid-back side of Chicago.  He gave me the lowdown on the challenges he faced trying to integrate here.  In his opinion Satellites aren't very gracious in regard to giving outsiders a chance to prove themselves.  He said that for some time most of his friends here were also from the Midwest.

And there you have it.

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