About halfway through October I went up to Seattle to visit shaterri and quarrel for a long weekend, which involved visiting a few Seattle neighborhoods, walking around downtown, and visiting Vancouver and Granville Island. And—unsurprisingly, given that Shaterri is at least as much of a foodie as I am—various restaurants, from Poppy to Spur. I spent some time at Zig Zag Cafe, home of the quasi-famous (and terrific) bartender Murray, and tried Carpica Antica vermouth for the first time, and Victoria Gin, made—I think—up in Vancouver.
Shaterri talks up Seattle so regularly that one wonders if the Visitors’ Bureau is paying him (and if not, why not). But it’s an area that seems eminently worthy of accolades: many walkable neighborhoods, a great culture (by which I personally mean “coffee shops, brewpubs and restaurants”), and very, very green. Yes, it’s rainier and a little cooler than I’d personally prefer, but I suspect if I were offered a job in any major American city of my choice, that’d be the one I’d choose.
Of course, I’ve just started a job in the closest American city to me, San Francisco. This is the first time since I’ve been out here (seven years, as of next month) that I’ve worked in the city, and at least so far I’m really liking it. My commute is the longest that I’ve had time-wise, but ironically one of the easiest: I drive to the Millbrae Transit Station, which is usually about 20 minutes with traffic, then take BART into the city, about a 35-minute ride. Since Millbrae is the start of the BART line, I always have a seat in the morning; I usually start standing on the way home but get a seat before we’ve left downtown.
The office building I’m in is One Market Plaza; this puts me within a few blocks not only of the bay itself, but an amazing array of lunch choices. There’s a food court in the building itself and another one in Rincon Center, the next block over. And a row of restaurants and cafes along Steuart Street. And the Ferry Building sits right across the Embarcadero, with its array of permanent food stands and cafes, and a farmers’ market on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I’m used to taking long lunch breaks to go find interesting places to eat—but now I’m surrounded by them. (I see coworkers bringing their microwave lunches to work and I want to shake them and scream, “You are in one of the best food cities in the world and you are having goddamn Stouffer’s?”)
I’ve written before about my feelings of being tugged toward both urban life and—well, less rural than a particular kind of suburban life, the kind of place where you can see a lot of stars at night but you’re not isolated, where there are homes around but it’s not modern tract housing, and where urban life isn’t more than an hour or so away when you want to spend time experiencing it. (Shaterri’s place is actually pretty close to this ideal.) This job is the most exposure to true urban living that I’ve had—even though I go home to a very suburban community every night.
Yet I think I don’t really want to live in a big city. There are urban places that might tempt me: the Fremont area in Seattle, and I’ve mentioned the Rockridge neighborhood in Oakland before. But San Francisco? Probably not. There’s not much greenspace in SF except in small pockets (and one huge one), it’s very expensive, and even in “nice” areas there’s litter in the streets. That last one is very striking comparing it to Seattle or Vancouver, but it’s not too hard to see even comparing it to other Bay Area cities.
But for now that’s not much of a concern; I don’t expect to move any time soon (I’m about to sign a lease here for another year). I don’t know if this contract will last the full six months—I’ve grown to assume that plans collapse on short notice—nor if I’ll be able to go permanent, but just going the full six months will help my finances considerably.
I’ve been considering trying to make a more concerted effort to write something in this journal at least weekly because, frankly, I need the mental exercise. This is a recurring promise I recurrently break, so no promises, but I’ll try.