What’s it like to move to West Seattle? A writer who recently arrived from elsewhere shares a few vignettes.
(Peninsula, looking north from Sea-Tac Airport – photo by Gatewood resident Long Nguyen)
By Marika Malaea
Special to West Seattle Blog
We were driving the last of our stuff over the West Seattle Bridge when reality finally hit: We were moved! I bounced in my seat, riding a wave of anticipation. “We’re almost there!” I said in a rush, anxiously euphoric. We came around the bend and I saw the welcome sign. “Look,” I cried, “we’re official!”
I shielded my eyes from the sun, trying to read the whole thing. “It says ‘Welcome to West Sea….’I trailed off, confused. I leaned forward to peer out the window, blinking several times – then turned to stare at my boyfriend, unsure of what to say. “Why are there half-naked metal children leaping onto the freeway?” I asked.
“Welcome to West Seattle,” he said, laughing at me.
I saw an ad on Craigslist for a vintage industrial desk, and I had to have it, despite the message attached: “First come, first serve. No, I won’t hold it for you, I’m not your mother. U-HAUL, I’m not going to help. If I ignore your email, it’s gone so don’t email me again. No flakes.”
I sent the guy a message, noting the desk was in West Seattle and that soon we would be residents. Would he be willing to hold it until the next morning, just seven short hours away?
The response I received did not reflect the ad’s original tone.
“Hey, I can hold this for future West Seattleites! You will NOT be sorry you moved here! They don’t call it God’s Country for nothing! I’ll just put your name on it and you can get it whenever. Good luck with your move, and welcome to West Seattle!” Four puzzling exclamation points later, I was happy the desk was mine.
“That was weird and awesome,” I said to a friend, pulling up the email. “You’ll drink the Kool-Aid soon enough,” he smirked at future me.
Being close to Alki, I thought a change in diet would complement what I imagined would be hours of enjoyable exercise, forgetting for a moment that my body rejects both diet and exercise equally.
I envisioned walks on Alki with visiting friends, strolling tours of Lincoln Park, window-shopping on California, and buying fresh crab for a salad at home. Instead, a curious pattern began to emerge: Bakery Nouveau, Cupcake Royale, Sugar Rush Baking Co., Little Prague European Bakery, Original Bakery, Alki Bakery, Little Rae’s Bakery, and Bernie’s Place, which sounds like a bar – but no, it’s a bakery.
I blame diabetic shock for my poor decision-making.
“It’s not the dive into healthy living I thought it would be,” I told my friend through a mouthful of cupcake, mere minutes after powering through a donut. “At least you have good restaurants and diverse food options,” she said, licking purple frosting from the cupcake liner. “My neighborhood has these two things: fast food, and unhealthy hookers.” I wondered how she was qualified to make this medical assessment, working at a bank near Lake City Way. “West Seattle has been great so far,” I grinned into my cupcake, “in that I haven’t seen a hooker yet – in poor health or otherwise.”
When I announced on Facebook we were moving to West Seattle, I received 23 e-mails from 23 people with roughly the same message: ‘OH MY GOD! WEST SEATTLE! BEST PLACE EVER! YOU WILL LOVE IT!’ An impressive 14 people told us we would never leave, in that non-joking, Kathy-Bates-in-Misery sort of way.
The e-mails read like love letters to their old flame, West Seattle. Friends recounted happy memories and shared their former lives. ‘You know I proposed to Katie during a Lincoln Park sunset?’ wrote one; another remembered a breakfast club from thirty years back. One recounted his best blind date, which began at The Rocky Horror Picture Show; a friend recalled streaking with friends on Alki as a teen.
Two weeks after moving, the natives started checking in. ‘Is West Seattle treating you okay? Have you tried that place we suggested for dinner? Are you meeting good people here? Is there anything we can do?’
I was genuinely touched by their messages, and shared them with my boyfriend. “We’ve moved into a cult,” I announced over dinner. He nodded his head in agreement. “It’s cool,” he replied.
Since moving to West Seattle, I’ve become a reluctant expert – one might say hostage, depending on the day – to the life of Eddie Vedder. While partially responsible for an ill-advised flannel phase, Pearl Jam gets full credit for widening my gaze from pop-music tunnel vision to the greater world beyond. Ninth grade with them made me seriously regret eighth grade with Paula Abdul. But no, I will not stalk this rocker with you.
“Where does Eddie Vedder live? Do you know him, have you met? Is he close to your house? Does he live in your neighborhood, or down the street? Did you know he has kids? And that the song ‘Alive’ is about the deceased father he never met? And that he did the whole soundtrack for Into the Wild? Let’s drive around and look for his house this week! Let’s dress in all-black and investigate!” The thought of two women, driving around Alki in matching thief outfits and staking out the house of a guy who plays guitar just doesn’t appeal, for some odd reason.
Besides, knowing where he lives isn’t necessary. When showing friends around, I just pick a random house and say, “Don’t tell anyone, but Eddie Vedder lives there.”
The ultimate reward for moving here was revealed to us last month.
One afternoon, my friend and I were driving through The Junction. “There’s something important you need to see,” he said ambiguously. We drove past the Sunday Farmers Market, and turned into a lot. “Voila!” he cried with a wave of his hand. I looked around, confused. “I grew up in a small town,” I said defensively, “but that doesn’t mean I haven’t seen a parking lot before.” He laughed, and pointed to a sign outside – it was the something important I had to see:
‘FREE PARKING – THE JUNCTION: THREE HOUR LIMIT.’
This kind of news was one degree higher than winning the actual Lottery! I leaped from the car and broke into song as rainbows shot from my eyeballs. Goodbye, stupid parking fines and surly meter maids! I thought.
When I arrived home, there was a white envelope stuck to the windshield of our car. “Expired tabs, I guess,” my friend read from the ticket. I sighed, pathetically, and shook my head. “A future without parking tickets felt so achievable,” I complained to the cat next door.
There’s something about West Seattle that turns your friends into superheroes and the bridge into kryptonite. “Say goodbye to your pals,” said a long-time resident. “Just plan on making new ones,” suggested another.
I protested that my friends were awesome – and above all, loyal – so there would be no need to restructure my entire social group. Then I started inviting people over to my house.
“Goodbye forever,” lamented a friend who lives eight minutes away. “Let’s be honest: I will probably never make it Out West,” stated another. “Well, not with that covered wagon attitude,” I rolled my eyes at him.
A few friends explained they would come on the weekend, because of the journey and all. “A journey is something that Hobbits sign up for when trying to save Middle Earth,” I reasoned. They waited until the weekend.
My friend had never been to West Seattle, so she drove me home one day. We shielded our eyes as we rounded the bend, and she spotted the roadside children.
“What in God’s name are those?” she gasped and pointed out the window.
That’s our half-dressed, log-leaping, Prozac-happy welcome committee, I thought to myself with pride. I laughed out loud, and said to her, “Welcome to West Seattle.”