Search for the Soul of Seattle: Homecoming

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Homecoming — Photo by AV Eichenbaum
Homecoming — Photo by AV Eichenbaum

I flew home last weekend. I needed to get out of Seattle and clear my head, so I booked a last- minute flight to California and spent four days in Santa Cruz with the people I care about most. Thank God for pandemic pricing.

It had been over a year since I'd visited — partially for financial reasons, partially because I've been trying to escape who I used to be there: a walking nicotine addiction with a penchant for chaos, an explosion of paisley, absinthe, and broken hearts.

I loved every miserable moment of it.

But it was killing me.

So, in 2017, I moved to Seattle, a more subdued city. Largely, it was for love. But I have to admit now that I was running from my problems.

When I worked in Pike Place Market that first summer, a co-worker invited me to an underground poker tournament. To my own surprise and the joy of my partner at the time, I turned them down. Thus began my version of "the quiet life."

My life became my work and my relationship, each wearing me down in their own special way. I picked up writing for The Eastlake News about the joys of Little Free Libraries in a city where the sky bears down on you like a cement quilt, the same color as the buildings being constructed at increasingly claustrophobic intervals.

This may be news to some, but having no life outside of work and a romantic relationship gone sour is detrimental to one's health. That relationship of six-and-a-half years ended very recently, and I started to see the beauty in the Emerald City again. But it's not home.

Let me tell you some of the differences between Santa Cruz and Seattle. They're not good or bad. One's not better, objectively, than the other. Although I do like that the fog usually burns off in Santa Cruz around noon.

In Santa Cruz, I waved at a neighbor walking her dog. She smiled and said, "Good morning! Nice day!" It was so unnatural to me after years of Seattleites' confused glances that I could only stammer, "Uh, yeah! Wow! Hey!"

Her smile faded and she quickly jogged away. I'm roughly six feet tall, often with dark circles around my eyes and an unshaven face. So I don't blame her.

Also, there is a resilience to the Californian spirit. You have to have it when your home is often on fire, granted, but there's more to it than that. Santa Cruz is Surf City. There's a very basic philosophy that permeates the psyche: sometimes you're going to get pulled under the waves, but you can always get back on your board another time.

This is not the case in Seattle. My colleagues over the years try to keep a positive attitude, but there's always that sardonic sentiment at the back of everyone's mind: winter's just around the corner.

That's one thing that both places have in common, though: locals love to complain about the weather.

My entire trip, it was slightly cloudy and 65 degrees. My whole family kept apologizing for the terrible weather, and all I could do was laugh. We grew up spoiled.

I started this search for the soul of Seattle out of an ever-present sense of loneliness and some optimistic notion that maybe it's not as sad, deep down, as everyone keeps saying it is. There's so much life and wonder to be found here, after all.

The truth is, though, I'm a fish out of water. I know where I belong. It isn't here. Maybe I just haven't found the right pond yet.

Where would you like to see explored? Tweet suggestions @photondetective or contact me directly at aveichenbaum@gmail.com.