Friday, September 11, 2009

Seattle summary

As usual, I’m overdue for an update as I have been settling back in to life in Nashville, TN. Before too much time elapses I want to summarize my overall impressions of our month-long stay in the Pacific Northwest. We enjoyed fantastic weather throughout the month with few exceptions (we never got rained on although it did rain a few times, mostly during the night or morning hours; the highest temp was in the mid-80’s and the lowest in the mid-50’s; the majority of days were sunny & mild; only disappointment was Mt Rainier was enveloped by clouds during our day trip to the park). We missed the record-breaking heat wave by only a couple of days and the day we departed was the only time the fog rolled in and engulfed the entire city until mid-day. The temperate conditions we experienced would be enough to make a more fool-hardy person jump at the chance to move there, but wiser residents & visitors know that the rest of the year is much more predictable in another way -- cool, damp and overcast. Another wonderful aspect of living in the area is the easy access, by inexpensive public transportation, around the cities or to the surrounding regions. True, we rented a car for three side trips (Mt Rainier, San Juan Island, and the Columbia River Gorge & Mt Hood), but even those trips were doable if we had wanted to book a bus tour, or in the case of the San Juan’s, to rent a bike or hitch a ride with one of the friendly locals. Price was another positive. Our last minute high season monthly rental of a studio w/kitchenette (with 24/7 reception, gym, laundry facilities, roof deck, etc.) in an ideal location in lower Queen Anne was only $1500. Compare this to prices in comparably-sized cities in the other parts of the U.S. and I think you’d have to pay a lot more for similar amenities and conveniences. As I’ve also already written about in some detail, we were pleasantly surprised with the very reasonable cost of food & drinks, especially at happy hour. And you can’t beat the lack of sales tax in Portland! Of course, along these lines, I also have to mention the wonderful variety of craft beers, fresh seafood, and vegetables (at this time of year anyway!) available as well as the diversity of ethnic eateries in all the places we visited. I do have to include one negative observation however. In every city we visited, particularly Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, there is a very apparent and highly numbered homeless population. And while they are definitely concentrated in certain areas more than others, they were on every bus ride we took, and seemed to be panhandling on every street and congregating in every park. In New York City, where I lived off & on for the past 10 years, I certainly observed countless numbers of homeless people on the sidewalks and in the parks. But in contrast to the unruly, loud and disrespectful behavior that we witnessed in the Northwest, as well as what appeared to be a significant number of mentally ill people roaming the streets shouting and threatening, the NYC population has a less obvious presence, possibly due to more frequent, although questionably effective, roundups by local police. I do not presume to have any answers, and in fact read in numerous publications that the city of Seattle has over 30 homeless shelters as well as centrally located job placement, healthcare, counseling and other services available to those who need them. The question is simply how to better manage the more disruptive and truly threatening members of the homeless population. The bottom line is that we had a wonderful trip (maybe Greg will add his reflections after I post this), which ultimately served as a nice way for me to wrap up another chapter in my life. As of last Friday, I have officially ended my employment with Nokia. As most of you already know, this was in my plans all along. Of course, it is always difficult to leave such wonderful friends & coworkers, not to mention NYC. But often to pursue your dreams you have to take deliberate steps and substantial risks in hopes of discovering a more fulfilling path in life. As I turn another page, I hope you will follow along with me on this journey of discovery. Next stop, Eastern Europe.

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