Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pacific Northwest - Seeing the Sunlight Behind the Raindrops

Kee Kee and Janine at Seattle's original Starbucks
Okay.  I confess.  There was a small (fine, big) part of me that was initially using this road trip as a way to run away from the crumbled mess that my life has become.  Everything in my life seemed broken and I didn't know how to fix any part of it, so it just seemed easier to leave it all behind.  Not only has my career fallen to pieces, but I've also been nursing wounds from misleading and broken promises from "friends."  The latter is commonplace in LA.  It's a city that breeds a certain "bright shiny object" mentality.  Many people are BFFs with whomever can get them somewhere.  One minute they profess undying loyalty FOREVER to you, but then when it is clear that someone else (aka the new bright shiny object) can actually get them further ahead, that promise of loyalty is conveniently forgotten.  It's these types of broken promises that stab the deepest and leave the most permanent scars on my back.  I've never been able to wear the necessary armor to protect myself.  Nor do I really want to because the hometown Wisconsin girl in me still wants to believe there is an innate goodness in people. 

Blackberries at freeway rest stop
My time in the Pacific Northwest really helped to begin to center me again.  Despite the fact that it rained every day but one the entire time I was there, people are genuinely nice, helpful and optimistic. 

Picnic tables & hiking at freeway rest stop
Seriously, even the freeway rest stops are happy places.  My standard routine at the rest stops was to grab a free coffee, snack on a handful of wild blackberries, and then have a short hike with Yoda on the well groomed trails through the pines.

Portland street:  I love fall colors!
Portland in particular really stole my heart.  I've never seen so many people on bikes in a city - and they are doing it in the rain!  If it rains in Southern California things pretty much shut down.  Southern Californians don't know how to deal with weather because we never have it.  Portland was also a dog's paradise. It seems that everyone and his uncle carries dog treats in their pockets.  Yoda was constantly having his fill of everything from smoked salmon, to leftover filet mignon to Milk-Bone dog biscuits.
Kee Kee & Josh - it's been over 20 years!

I had my fill too - of friends old and new.  And with that, a bit of travel serendipity came into play.  My Monday lunch with Josh, a high school friend whom is now a professor at Portland State, led to a meeting with a headhunter, which led to a meet and greet interview with a cutting edge company that may be hiring in January.

Ted & his dog Jack
Portland's food trucks

Time was also spent with my friend Ted, with whom I've worked on too many movies to count.  Ted has figured out the winning formula for survival in the film business:  live in Portland and work on location when producing movies.  Ted gave me a mini tour of the city, ending with a snack at one of the many food truck pods for which Portland is famous. 
Sweet Pea's Brulee food truck

We chose Sweet Pea's Brulee and ordered tiny, melt-in-your-mouth creme brulees.  It turns out we were their very first customers.  So, not only did I take a picture of them to commemorate the occasion, but they also took a picture of us for the same reason.  Perhaps my favorite part of Portland were my new friends Alison and Thomas, who generously opened up their home to Yoda and me for two nights.  Alison and Thomas are lovely, warm, interesting, athletic and grounded.  They make me want to move to Portland just to be able to hang out with them all the time. 
Alison & Thomas with traveling bottle of wine

Yoda and I also spent a couple days in Seattle with my friend Janine, with whom I formed a sisterly connection this past summer while backpacking through Italy.  The wet drive from Portland to Seattle was terrifying white knuckle driving.  The rain at times was pounding so hard that I couldn't see the car in front of me.  At several points I pulled off at those magnificently friendly rest stops just to collect myself before continuing the drive.  The mentally exhausting drive was worth it because the next day we were blessed with one of those few and far between crystal clear Seattle autumn days.  We had sparkling views of snow capped Mount Rainer, the volcanic Cascade range, and the Olympic mountain range.
Pike Place throwing of fish
  After a photo opp at the original Starbucks (which opened its doors in 1971), we wandered around Pike Place Market, the nation's oldest farmers market.  Pike Place offers everything from fresh seafood (make sure you see the throwing of the fish at Pike Place Fish), to produce and cheese to fine arts and crafts. 
Flowers at Pike Place Market
A bit of a fish and chips junkie, I squealed with delight when I discovered Spud Fish and Chips, which offers freshly caught fish with fast food service and prices.  Yum. 

Seattle's Spud Fish & Chips
Now that I've left the Pacific Northwest to continue on my road trip, I'm beginning to realize I'm no longer running away from my life. More often than not I'm hit with a powerful feeling that I'm running towards something.  I'm not sure what that something is, but it's whispering my name and I'm beginning to listen.

Janine with traveling bottle of wine
Pike Place Market

Pike Place produce


  1. It was a long wait for this post, but so worth it! The wonderful people you are meeting, the beautiful scenery, the peace you are finding - something terrific will come of this trip. Can't wait to find out what it is!!!

  2. no snow but nice sunny skies ahead.

  3. I love that you love the PNW so much. It's so good that you were able to break free of LA and loosen its grip, flap your wings, meet new people, explore new landscapes, try on different towns to see how they fit. When I went on my big road trip in 2001 -- the trip that led to meeting my husband -- I met a man who ran a youth hostel on the Oregon coast. When I told him I was searching for something more out of life he said, "Let it find you." Wonderful, wise words that have stuck with me ever since. Keep listening, Christine. And let "it" find you.

  4. My dearest girl!
    I laughed when I thought of one of our conversations in Italy. I said I had heard that Seattle was like a bad boyfriend. Simply rotten weather sometimes, but then there is that one day so beautiful, suspended like a dangling carrot there, and you stay--and you learn to orient yourself to the best parts of it. Healthy? Maybe not always, but constantly introspective. What the PNW does have is the healing power of nature everywhere. I'm glad you heard its call.

    Here is a bit of inspiration for you:

    T. S. Eliot -
    - We shall not cease from our exploration
    And at the end of all our exploring
    Will be to arrive where we started
    And know the place for the first time.

  5. Oh, all of these comments touch me so deeply. Thank you everyone for sharing your love and wisdom with me (and to mom and dad for instilling my love of nature!)