I spent last week in the Pacific Northwest visiting the Gates Foundation, PATH and the Nike Foundation, and more importantly, some good friends and family in Seattle and Portland respectively. More on that later…
I grew up in Seattle from 1980 to 1987. My family moved there right after St. Helen’s blew its top. Seattle was so different back then. Grungy, jenky, and totally unknown. It was a unique place to live. I didn’t completely finish high school there, left after sophmore year. But those times, especially in high school, really stand out for me. A lot of self deprecating discovery and rebellion, all punctuated with a little rainy misery, took place during those precious years. I went to a private catholic high school, JF Kennedy High, never a good idea if you are miserable, rebellious, and wanting to get into trouble. My family certainly wasn’t wealthy, but many who went to JFK were. Nothing like the combination of bored Pacific Northwestern kids who are semi-depressed from all the rain, with some extra spending money. Recipe for alotta trouble.
Those were fun days though. I had my hair cut short and black, listened to the Smiths, and made a lifelong friend, named Tracy, who up until this day, to me, is the same mischievous Tracy who likes to gossip, laugh at humanity and explore the world, twenty five years later and counting. Oh what her mom and my mom put up with in those days…
On this trip, we spent some time together at her place on lovely Vashon Island. We were looking at old year books of Kennedy High. We read what I had written in her year book right before I moved to Arizona. It was really strange to read myself, as a 15 year old. No, it wasn’t “stay sweet, don’t change, let’s see each other this summer FOR SURE.” Oh the things I wrote in my “manifesto” – I was a snarky little shit – very critical of people, very sarcastic, a pot stirrer. And so boy crazy. Geesh. I wouldn’t have wanted to be my friend, no less my enemy. But Tracy put up with me. In the end of my entry though, I did write how much Tracy meant to me. And it is exactly what I would write now. Although a little brat, I did have my head on straight for what it meant to have such a close friend, and how special she was and still is.
When on Vashon, we went to a “self service” farmers market. Farms keep vegetables, eggs, milk etc available in a little room, with refrigerators. You just take what you want, write it down and drop your money in a bucket. Go figure.
It was really good to be back but strange too. I have this strange feeling of comfort when I am there – like its in my bones. In my shells…Seattle, in a way, hasn’t changed a bit. It still has its jenk factor, but at the same time, it is just so beautiful. The Puget Sound, great seafood (clams) with a landscape that is so unique. Tracy and I went out to some good restaurants, one being the Walrus and the Carpenter. Excellent seafood, especially the oysters, and the clams…The night we ate there, some celebrity chef and the host of Top Chef was sitting next to us. I had no idea who they were, but everyone else did. I think the owner of the restaurant brought them every dish on the menu. Bastards.
I swear to god, I am so obsessed with clams. I enjoy my “vongole” here in Italy, but no one makes better steamed clams basted in broth, wine, and a little butter, than Seattle. Had them twice, and still dreaming about it.
Meetings at the Gates were interesting and intellectually engaging. Not sure what it would be like to work there, but nonetheless, the building itself is probably an inspirational place to work (see photos below). When you think about how much Bill and Melinda Gates are investing in global health, agriculture, education and development, you wonder the pressure officers working there have to deliver results and returns on investment. But they do it their way right? We all have to fly half way around the world to go see them. Besides, PATH, who else is in Seattle working on development? You have the University of Washington, but it is a long way to go (18 hours from Rome) to visit Bill. Well, I may fly 18 hours for the steamed clams.
Portland has its own thing going, especially on the food side. I visited my sister and her husband who recently moved there, and love it. We went to a cool ale house, called McMenamins, which had some great microbrews and gourmet hamburgers. They even make their own gin. Drank good coffee from Stumptown. Portland has come into its own and reminds me of Austin in a lot of ways. But something in the way Seattle moves me. Or maybe its just the clams.