It was 20 Years Ago Today...
...that I first landed in Seattle: May 22, 1991. Let's just say things didn't go as planned.
I stayed with friends of my sister's in the Ravenna neighborhood, hoofed it around town looking for work, got a job filling in for the friend of a friend at the Chukar Cherry Stand in Pike Place Market, then lost it when the owner of the Chukar Cherry Stand came around and wondered who the hell this guy was selling his product. Hoofed it some more. Keep gravitating to bookstores. Look, books. I know those! Bad idea. I was impressed by the lush landscaping around the city and depressed by the weather: 50s and overcast. By mid-June I wondered if this damned city ever warmed up.
Found a place to live with a couple of art students in a dilapidated house in the University district ($120 a month for a basement room), and a job at the University Book Store nearby. Bought a word processor and wrote and wrote and wrote: short stories, novellas, essays. The personal essays got published on the back pages of Seattle Weekly. The first was about looking for a place to live:
[Shared-housing folks] seemed to be looking for someone who was self-confident but not overtly so, someone who would be involved in the house but not take it over; a clean person but not anal; a funny person but not crude; a person without eccentricities who would tolerate theirs.
I tried to review books at the Weekly, too, but the books editor there, after several months of silence, turned me down. “Your aggressively captious voice,” she wrote, “while it suits your personal essays, would, I feel, overwhelm a book review.” I had to look up “captious”: Overly argumentative. For a book reviewer? My intro to that kind of Seattle disconnect. “If you can't say anything nice...” Why so few people in Seattle ever say anything.
One of my new roommates got a cat who got fleas all over my futon. I went from part-time to full-time at the bookstore. I bought and read Paris Review. I kept re-reading A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I kept writing. I kept pressing my nose to the glass.
Anyway, that was 20 years ago today.
Like this, but darker, colder, more crowded, and I was a dude rather than a chick.