by Mary Sanford

I am having dinner tonight in Fremont (a Seattle neighborhood nicknamed “the Center of the Universe”) at the 35th Street Bistro with a group of local forty-something singles.

I order the fresh halibut, which comes topped with a stunning rhubarb concoction and a side of fresh asparagus spears. Our group sits at beautiful wooden tables in the space formerly occupied by the late, great, hippie-granola, organically-inclined Still Life in Fremont Café (sniff!)

The early evening light continues to pour in through the ceiling-high windows, a gray drizzle on the way, and I pinch myself to make sure this wasn’t a dream. Stunning food. Fine company. The charming setting.
How did I get so lucky?

After dinner, I drive the car a couple of blocks to my new hangout, Postmark Gelato, located on a tiny
triangle of a plaza, sandwitched between a fifty-foot statute of Lenin and a Taco Del Mar shop. The old
fountain out front still gurgled in the rain. The sidewalks on the plaza are studded like a modern-day mosaic
with all manner of found objects, from old keys to beach glass to bottle caps to Cracker Jack prizes. Lenin’s
got his back to the whole scene—but tonight, he’s decked out in a dashing pink boa, cowboy hat, and pink
and orange posies. (Seattlites have this funny habit of dressing up their public statutes, perhaps as protection
against the drizzle.) Lenin looks adorable in his bright attire.

I order the most amazing gelato in this world from this tiny blip of a shop, which is barely a year old. I try four varieties before settling on my old standby, strawberry, which tastes like fresh smashed berries. The wait staff is patient—no attitude, happy to oblige. Finding a spare buck in my purse, I decide to upgrade to the medium cone, two scoops. I choose an amazingly delicious caramel-almond mix. I feel full of love for my adopted city.

I take Route 99 for the drive back home in Columbia City. Traffic is light in the steady drizzle. Tonight, Sunday, the air is a soothing, soft grey, and the city is draped in a light fog. From the bridge, I spot a streetcar below, moving along the waterfront, illuminated. I see the docks and the ferries and again remind myself how lucky I am.

Back in 1989, when I moved here from New York, I felt stunned when I realized how far I had moved from home and family. Seattle is 3,000 miles from my hometown.

These days, the shock is of a different sort. I catch myself savoring all of the good Seattle has to offer—the parks, food, landscape, the rain (I love it!), the cityscape, the people. Now I am simply stunned with gratitude to live in a place this wonderful. Because after sixteen years of living here, my romance with Seattle is still going strong.

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The Insiders Guide to Surviving Seattle—How not to Look Like a Tourist, Even Though You are One, by Mary Sanford

1. City buses downtown are free and the bus drivers really want to help you. For the most part they are smart, cordial people. Be nice to them; express appreciation and they will be nice to you.

2. Lost or need transportation help? Call Metro (t 206.553.3000), the centralized bus-service number for in Seattle’s King County. You can call with questions like, “I am at Third and Pike and I want to get to the
Ravenna neighborhood.” Metro will guide you through the process of which bus to take where, and when.

3. Seattle is a very civilized place, so be polite! Tip when service is good (generally sixteen percent) and complain gently when it’s not.

4. Wait at crosswalks until the light changes, even if there is no one in sight. Otherwise, you risk getting ticketed.

5. Be extremely crossing the street. If on foot, it’s a good idea to try to make eye contact with the driver—and always make sure no one is whipping through another lane. If diving, stop before the crosswalk. Most pedestrians will give you a wave of thanks.

6. Bring or buy a Gortex jacket and skip the umbrella. It’s not that it rains hard in Seattle—it’s more of a steady drip or light drizzle, and especially in the spring. Gortex is a miracle, waterproof fabric—perfect for this climate. I own three Gortex jackets and i am always looking for more. While not cheap—a Gortex jacket will set you back around $100 to $150—this item is worth the price, and it lasts forever. Lots of companies make knockoffs, though: as long as the fabric is waterproof and breathable, you’ll do fine.

7. On overcast days in the high sixties (typically during late June) wear sunglasses for the glare.

8. Recycle.

9. Dance is real big here in the northwest and many places offer hour-long lessons before the doors open. So don’t be shy! Swing, waltz, cajun, Zydeco, contra, square—they’re all here.

10. Dogs are hugely popular in Seattle. Over fifty thousand live in the the city. Have a dog and visiting the city? Bring plastic bags and pick up after the sweetie—or risk a fine. Owners who have their dogs on any Seattle beach, on the lakes or Puget Sound, are also subject to a five-hundred-dollar fine.

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Mary Sanford is a community college professor and local writer. She makes her home in Southeast Seattle.

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