Days before we made it, my wife predicted that our move to a house in Greenlake from our Crack Alley apartment on Capitol Hill would fundamentally change our lives for the better. Life-long, knee-jerk pessimist that I am, I’m still inclined to agree. Though only a few fast miles away, the difference between the two digs is like living in another country.
I got nothing against Capitol Hill per se - hell, I lived there for five blissful bachelor years in the 90’s — but the particular block we were on, the heretofore monikered “Crack Alley”, has got to be one of the 10 worst in the city. The summer brings out bangers hawking crack, crank, horse and what-have-you on literally all four corners of an intersection. The handful of half-way houses and itinerate hotels on this single stretch of Summit Avenue creates such an eclectic mix of crazies, junkies and out-and-out thugs, that it really keeps you guessing whether you’re going to get jumped for your wallet, your perceived stash, or for absolutely no reason at all. Back when I was a stay-at-home dad I caught an Oprah (I know, I know, it’s embarrassing; really I’m much more of a Dr. Phil man), which featured a story on child molesters. Toward the end, Oprah told how you could go on line and see if there were any released sexual offenders in your neighborhood. Out of a morbid curiosity and base-line nagging fear for my then 14-month old, I went to the website and plugged in my zip code. I could feel the blood rush to my face when I saw that within my zip there were 63 convicted sex offenders, 10 of whom lived on my block! Numb panic thumped in my chest. I didn’t know what to do. All I could think of was to swear to myself not to tell my wife until we had found new place. I kept the secret a solid six months until we found our Greenlake cottage. I know some of you reading this will be thinking, “Sexual predators can strike anywhere, even in the nicest of neighborhoods.” And you know what? You’re right. But I’ll bet you anything that not a single parent out there doesn’t understand how I felt knowing that there was a good chance that a given person I passed on the sidewalk, my toddler's tiny hand gripping my finger, would happily harm him for their own compelling pleasure.
Anyway, we’re out of that hole. And Seattle seems to be finally opening up to me again. I got a job interview at a major charity foundation. I got a play reading at ACT in April. A full production at the Empty Space space in June. My wife’s auditioning for Camelot and H.M.S. Pinafore and is beaming to have a home to put her nesting energies into. My kid has a small backyard he can play in while I sip beers and listen to the M’s on the radio in the late Northwest summer twilight.
It was like this fourteen years ago, the first time I moved here. Aloof Nordic beauty that she is, cloaked in gray most of the time, sporting sensible shoes, Seattle takes way too long to warm up to you. It was well over a year before I found my feet, felt comfortable. Then and only then did this strange city strip naked and open her drop-dead legs for me (still wearing those damned Birkenstocks!) Everyone says it takes a year to really dig living in New York or Los Angeles, but I’ve moved to Manhattan twice and didn’t find this to be the case at all. If you hit the New York pavement running, you’re usually up to speed in no time; and Angelino’s only love you for the first six months you’re there; after that, you’re old news. Seattle, she's shy and stubborn and completely worth the wait. (Kinda like my wife, come to think of it.)
I’ll let you know if my she's wrong (my wife) about our lives changing, but I doubt it. I got an inkling. And it doesn’t feel like hope, adolescently ardent and vulnerable, but rather like a gentle intimation of better, easier, less stressful times to come.