We just flew back from a week in Seattle, where my writing goal was to take simple setting notes, in case I ever want to set a book there.
Did I accomplish that? No.
I was alone with two toddlers almost the whole week. The goal was unrealistic to begin with.
We had a great time doing kid stuff, seeing the 1960's neon lights of Pike Place and waving to the grungsters, fishmongers and folk artists. Now, back on the East Coast, I'm reflecting on what it meant to be in a place I've always dreamed of visiting: The Great Pacific Northwest.
For starters, we didn't do this trip right. The way to visit the Northwest is to go hiking. We spent the whole time in downtown Seattle. A situation that frustrated me.
But the views? Even from the city? Breathtaking. The cloud formations could spur a million-word masterpiece alone, not to mention the sweeping landscapes of Puget Sound and Mount Rainier that can be taken in from Seattle, a city much steeper than I expected. Steep like San Francisco.
And the food was awesome. Everything is so much fresher on the West coast.
Many on my Facebook feed observe that “The Left Coast is the Best Coast.” I believe that sentiment refers to the views combined with the laid-back attitudes. But I found myself getting frustrated with the laid-backness, and halfway through a short trip I was longing for the East Coast again.
Where people “Get stuff done.”
Five out of five mornings at the W Hotel, the coffee urn wasn't full, or the cups weren't stocked, or their were no lids or creamer or sugar, and the beautiful receptionists were standing there five feet away doing F-all about it. Five out of five days I walked up to an establishment to find it randomly closed during normal business hours.
Here is my observation: laid-backness is a great asset in the human condition. It makes for more vibrant, artsy societies. I adore the fervor in their commitment to let themselves, and you, be exactly who you want to be.
When you combine that fleeting quality with a mind for business it becomes an unrivaled combination. Microsoft. Google. Apple. Starbucks. Hollywood.
But when laid-backness becomes an excuse for laziness, that is not okay.
People are affected by their surroundings. The West Coast seems to be a place where city battles the need for wilderness to overcome, with mountains looming over you in every direction, as opposed to East Coast cities that have beaten down the wild until it bent to their warped desires.
I think most of us agree the wild is better out there. I also think it's fair to observe West Coasters have grown up with a constant sense that a lot of what goes on in their country goes on three thousand miles away. How that has shaped psychology and mentality of the people is endlessly fascinating to me.
Just an aside: I'm not discounting the importance nor beauty of the Mid-West, I just haven't spent a lot of time there.
Regarding the West coasters and their distinctive attitudes: Be a hipster, but do your job. You work at a hotel in the service industry. Better yet, come up with a new system so you're not running out of coffee supplies every ten minutes. I will say no more about the coffee situation at the W.
But for me this begged the question: Could I live on the West Coast? The place I have dreamt about, longed for, lusted after for much of my life? (When I first moved from Boston to London I found it surreal and ironic that I always thought I'd be making the opposite migration, rather than East>Further East.)
I am not sure. The lack of service-mindedness is one of the things I find most difficult about living in Europe. Just try asking for a glass of ice water in a non-Michelin-starred restaurant. Seriously, just give it a try. But in Europe, the fact you live in “a living museum” makes up for a lot. The history on every corner lends perspective about our modern cumpulsion for instant gratification. Plus, the fact that I walk on borrowed land makes my expectations suitably leaner.
I love nothing more than comparing the psychology of various cultures and the pros and cons of living in different lands.
Maybe I'd need to live in Alaska to get the real West Coast experience of which I've often dreamed. Or perhaps California's Lost Coast. But, then the weather....
Shall we just sum this discussion up by saying the grass is always greener. But in the Pacific Northwest (as in Ireland), thanks to that frustrating wet weather, it truly is.