The dust had barely settled behind us at the California-Oregon border when our tire popped, leaving us stranded in a small Oregon city (if you can call it that) in the middle of the widest gray sky I’ve ever seen in my life while men with heavy country accents replaced all our tires. I thought it a bad omen and grumpily urged my boyfriend to drive us back to LA, already missing its sun and its big city conveniences.
Until then, I was blissfully unaware that the span of land between California and the outskirts of Seattle was mostly quiet farmland so it was utterly unsettling to learn the glaring truth – that besides the colorful character that is Portland, there’s nothing but farmland there. And that didn’t sit well with me, since I’m used to and very much comfortable with the hustle and bustle of the big city. So I thought that it wouldn’t have been much of a tragedy if we drove back to good ol’ LA right then.
Save perhaps a magical photo shoot in the middle of the Olympic Rainforest, which unfortunately never happened since there wasn’t enough time, I had almost zero expectations when we set out for Seattle. After all, I’ve heard the horror stories about its endlessly gray, often rainy weather and I wasn’t at all excited about that.
Don’t get me wrong, I was really excited to go and see the legendary Emerald City; but it was more of an opportunity really for a much-needed time away from LA. I needed to get out of town, be somewhere new, and my boyfriend, who lived in Seattle for three years, presented the opportunity, as he’s been wanting to visit his friends there.
I certainly didn’t expect to find anything significant there. But as soon as I set foot in the city I was happy that we didn’t turn back, because I did find something significant there. What I found appealed to me so much that I immediately decided that I would be moving there very soon, with my boyfriend and my son in tow.
Sure there are a few things that I found wanting in Seattle — the blue skies in the wintertime, the abundance of genuine non-TexMex taco trucks and ramen restaurants, the golden beaches and the dramatic cliffs, and even the Spanish-speaking population, all of which are very much available in LA. But there are a lot of things about it that I wish we had in LA.
The parks, for example, are ever so green, the massive daffodils run wild, and the neighborhoods are lined with attractive Victorian-style houses and cherry blossoms.
Really though, it’s the people and the atmosphere that drew me in. There, people are friendlier and smile at you on the streets. When you walk into a bar in Seattle, strangers actually talk to you and even push you in front of the crowd so that you can have your turn at experiencing up close the energy pulsating from the funk band playing on stage. There is hardly ever any pretense there, no nonchalant boasting of one’s achievements nor loud arguments about the best movies of the year nor arrogant aspiring hiphop artists trying to scam you to buy their CDs. There’s a good balance between the normal life and the creative one, most people there have both; so unlike LA where there’s almost no compromise — you either have to be a creative and work as a creative or just be a normal person working a 9-to-5.
Of course, I won’t be moving there anytime soon. It’s a big step that requires a lot of planning and negotiations, mostly with my boyfriend who, because he works in the music industry, feels compelled to stay in LA. Also, there’s a number of things that’s keeping me in LA; after all, my personality literally is LA. But it was definitely a pleasant surprise to realize that this city I’ve often made fun of in the past for its coffee snobbery and go-green attitude is a city that I could definitely belong in.
So it will happen, if not now then someday. Because I feel like that easy-going and unpretentious attitude of Seattle is what I need to ground me.
Also, their coffee really is damn good.
All photographs taken by Michelle Rae. She lives, breathes, and haunts in the City of Angeles.