Monday, August 31, 2009

Cup o' Joe Monday: Installment II

8 oz. Bauhaus Cappuccino - smooth & delicious

This week, I took an UrbanSpoon recommendation and trekked across town to the local favorite Bauhaus Books and Coffee on Pine Street. Upon arriving there, I instantly felt a strong sense of deja vu that made me wonder if I'd been there before...anyone who was with me on the Seattle journalism conference trip in 2005 remember this place?

Bauhaus features one of my favorite traits that a coffee shop can sport: a lofted, indoor balcony-esque second floor. Although the second floor windows leave something to be desired (tall, narrow panes that give off a bit of an old garage/prison feel, versus the huge, completely open windows below them), the view afforded is fantastic. Bauhaus sits right between Capitol Hill and downtown, so you get a little bit of everything: a view of the Space Needle (which drifted in and out of cloud cover all morning), a distinctly urban landscape of skyscrapers, people-watching on the sidewalk outside, and from the lofted second floor, a great aerial view of the coffee shop buzz below. I sat directly above the baristas' counter and could listen to the delightful whirr of the espresso machine, smell the aroma of the coffee beans all day long from my vantage spot.

A ten-tiered bookcase spans the entire eastern wall, left to right, top to bottom, filled with old books - Encyclopedia Brittanica sets, World Book sets and the likes on the upper shelves, and dusty volumes of photography, art history, literature, etc. available for easy browsing.

In true great-independent-coffeeshop style, the line was out the door when I arrived (circa 9:30 a.m.) This meant a little bit of a wait to get my coffee, but there was fun music (think early 2000's radio play: Eve, Shaggy, etc.) and atmosphere to keep me company, along with a tantalizing display case of croissants, scones, muffins and some of the biggest snickerdoodles I've ever seen. + They sell Kool-Aid. Free wi-fi and treats for your dog if you've got one. Definitely will be a place I return to in the future!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Will play outdoors.

Ah, I've failed to post since my last Cup o' Joe Monday - and there *will* be a new post tomorrow, so I'm determined to squeeze one in before then so I can address everything else that's happened this past week.

By the numbers:
55 miles biked
30 hours worked at new job
28 miles run
1 swim in Lake Washington

So, the weather continues to be astounding. It's impossible to stay inside. I woke up this morning with a full day off ahead of me and tried a variety of projects - reading, working on my website, writing, catching up on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" episodes, etc. - before gazing longingly out the window at the sunshine and the mountaintops and feeling entirely dull about my attempt to do things indoors. Silliness, on a day like this, when all I'm hearing from the seasoned Seattleites is "Muahahaha you just wait until your first winter up here..." I have to take advantage of the sun before he goes into hibernation!

The outdoors are great. Getting to work in a place that promotes them is even better. Making friends in new places is always a slow process, but I really, really like a lot of the people I've met here so far - many of whom are just as new to the area as myself. And some who aren't! Seyeon and I are planning a camping trip with a few friends in the next couple weeks that should be a real blast. In the meantime, I'm getting a kick out of all the end-of-summer festivities:

Tug-of-war between rival bike shops in the Seattle area

Pick up football with friends! Guess who scored not one, but TWO, touchdowns?! :)

Taking time to enjoy the scenery

Biking and running alike continue to be incredible ways for me to learn my way around the city and familiarize myself with its green spaces, trails, scenic hot spots, coffeeshops to potentially review on Mondays, and cute restaurants at which I'll someday be able to afford/enjoy a meal! I'm still not really comfortable biking in Seattle's traffic, nor on its insanely killer hills, but I'm sure I'll get there. I can already feel how much stronger my legs have gotten in running up it's nice to have hill-conquering goals to work toward on my bike as well. Goals are good.

Yup, I love this city.

P.S. Oberlin Run-in of the Week: Seeing a couple of lovely fellow 09-ers whom I met in my first week or two at Oberlin - this time of year, four years ago, really - as they were trying on shoes at REI over the weekend! And only to find out we live just a few blocks away from each other...awesome. Love the small world.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Introducing: Cup o' Joe Mondays

Chai latte, 15th Ave Coffee & Tea

On my last run, I probably passed at least two dozen coffeeshops in the course of my hour and a half out - and an idea that's been percolating in my head transformed itself into something I can no longer imagine not doing.

Sunday morning solitude and sunrise over Seattle

Once a week, I will try out a new Seattle coffeeshop I've never been to before and blog about it here. Hence: Cup o' Joe Mondays. Expect an entry every Monday from now until I get sensible and stop shelling out big bucks for overpriced beverages, complete with photos and reviews on the atmosphere, the amenities, the coffee itself...

I'm sure it's been done before, but...not by me! So, dear readers, we'll kill two birds with one stone - give you a feel for the multifaceted coffee atmosphere of Seattle, and get me out into new neighborhoods and learn my way around. So, for my first Cup o' Joe Monday...

My Starbucks > Your Starbucks

"Inspired by Starbucks" is a bit of a stretch of the truth. It is a Starbucks...just a carefully revamped one to battle the rage of the local-coffee-enthusiasts who shun all things corporate. Despite an incredible marketing plan and beautiful interior decor, many of the locals still all but spit on the place as they pass it on the street. Starbucks has an odd presence in this city; it's everywhere, but generally despised, with greater anathema than anywhere I've been before.

Sliding sales in the ailing economy caused this particular Starbucks to close down and revamp its entire atmosphere, in hopes of reclaiming some of the local clientele so devoted to independently owned coffeehouses on Capitol Hill. It reopened as "15th Avenue Coffee & Tea" a week after I got to Seattle. The espresso menu is still the same, but they also boast a bunch of full-leaf teas, bottled local microbrews and fun snacks like cheese and salmon plates. One wall is entirely wallpapered in pages of Socratic dialogues, another in huge stunning photos and paintings in wooden frames...the place has a very rustic cabin type feel, with big wood tables, vases of fresh unusual flowers, light displays made of clothespins, chalkboard menus and ceramic bowls full of coffee beans and tea leaves.

An incredibly friendly bunch of baristas, decent music to work to, free wireless you can pick up from the neighbors (Starbucks itself uses AT&T wi-fi, which costs $$), little molasses cookies for all, an outdoor terrace when the weather's nice and complementary coffee or tea tastings every day at 10 a.m.!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Hallelujah! (Warning: self-indulgent celebration)

The job search is over! Several thousand miles and nine time zones away, my mother is having ice cream and a glass of wine at this moment to mark the occasion. So...

The Numbers:
43 Word documents in the "Job Search" folder on my computer (cover letters, tweaked resumes, writing samples, etc.)
22 job applications
7 interviews

The Gigs:

REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.) - Sales Associate

REI ranked 12th in 2009 on FORTUNE magazine's list of The 100 Best Companies to Work For. Health insurance for everybody, plus unbelievable perks, ranging from FREE equipment rentals to discounts on weekend adventure trips, from 50% discounts on REI gear to partially subsidized bus passes and gym memberships, from personal athletic event sponsorship to free chocolate. Plus a 65-foot climbing wall, 25+ hours of paid training and 300 like-minded Seattleites to befriend! + Walking/biking distance from my house. Basically, I get to work at Disney World for Grownups.
Check it out>>>

Kaplan Test Prep - SAT/ACT Tutor
Intense job application process! Online application + initial teaching "audition" in front of a Kaplan representative and a group of peers + taking the new SAT Writing test to score qualify + second interview with Kaplan representative. My writing score actually took a ten-point dip from when I took the SAT II: Writing test at 17 (putting that $200K creative writing degree to work! Haha.) Never would have guessed my standardized scores would win me a job opportunity, but now I can work totally flexible, set-my-own-schedule hours helping people learn and pursue their dreams...what a job!
Check it out>>>

Outdoors NW - Freelancer, Intern
Well, this one's kind of informal, but I'm working out different ways I can collaborate with the magazine - writing stories, small editorial projects, learning more of the sales/marketing ropes of the publication business. My first official print bylines will be out in the upcoming Sept/Oct issue, and I'm downright thrilled to be working with a magazine that's so in line with my passions.
Check it out>>>

That's a sunrise over downtown Bellevue, as seen from Seattle

I even got to be picky enough to cancel future interviews I'd set up and reject job offers. Initially, I was thrown by the sense that all my efforts and carefully crafted cover letters were just disappearing into a dark, empty abyss. I thought I couldn't be picky, that I'd have to take whatever scraps of opportunity anybody threw me. Nope, absolutely not. It may be an employers' market, but I refused to settle. The result is that I feel absolutely fantastic about what's actually worked out, and though a couple months of unemployment and two cross-country road trips has wreaked absolute havoc on my bank account, I am more content than ever.'s taken more energy and positive focus than I can articulate. A dig back into a journal entry from several months ago can vouch for that:

May 14, 2009

Wow.! I feel unbelievably good in this moment. Nothing has fallen into place whatsoever - Reed fell through, didn't get the Communications fellowship either, backed down a bit on the summer scholars internship in Oberlin, flat out ignored job offers with the Oberlin City School district, and my home base in Kansas is disappearing - but I feel better and more settled in this moment than ever. I am going to Seattle. I just decided, today. It's as good as done in my mind, and I am so happy. There is so much pulling me out there, it's crazy.

I sense so much "right"ness about not getting these jobs, because something, some force in the universe, is pulling me to Seattle. I was talking to Jason at work a few days ago about the job frustrations, and he went a little into preacher mode, but I really did find comfort in his message - something to the effect of "God's closing doors on you for a reason, because he's got got much bigger plans for you. You just can't see them yet." He went on to say, "You're a smart girl, Yitka. Things will work out for you. Just have faith that they will." And that I can certainly have faith in. Rejection stings, but with the Watson, Reed and the Communications job all under my belt, it's getting better. It hurts less each time, makes me feel more confident each time that I'll be better equipped to deal with rejection in the future. Nobody became successful without getting rejected a thousand times along the way. As Sid nailed into my head, all success is really just a product of persistence. I CAN DO THIS.

I know the job market's going to be awful once I'm out there - Zephyr confirmed thus today on the phone - but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. Thank you, Universe, for closing the necessary doors now and opening (I hope!) the right one, somewhere on the horizon...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"Meow" is cat-speak for I Love the Northwest

Well, I absolutely failed to blog along the way - so now I'm left to the grandiose task of cramming an entire week of adventure into a single blog entry. Incidentally, it's also my birthday today...and it's been a good one so far! Some lovely calls, texts, emails, etc...some happily unexpected. I had the pleasure of waking up this morning to a blazing sun poking over the Cascades through my bedroom window. Got up super early for cappuccinos and pastries at my favorite neighborhood coffeeshop with Seyeon and Alan, before Alan had to leave to start work at his new over-the-road job out here with Landstar. Both protested, but I demanded a Polaroid of the two of them as a birthday favor:

But let's rewind. Kansas City was a good time. Just a couple relaxing days to detox from the job search business (and I think I'm finally within an entry or two's reach of being able to write about the work I'll be doing from now on in Seattle!), spend some nice time with my dad not having to toil like crazy on the house, have several birthday dinners with various family and friends, partake in a delicious homemade ice cream cake courtesy of my dad's girlfriend, etc...good things. Alan arrived on Friday, and we got to kick back a bit, too, before hitting the road again Saturday morning with the rest of my life in boxes in a 16' rental truck, my cat Chloe and Alan's car in tow.

Yes, Aseem, those are jean shorts. Deal with it.

Bringing the cat was a bit of a last minute decision, thanks to my friend Kyle who's living in Olympia and has graciously agreed to take care of Chloe for awhile until I live somewhere that I can take her back in. Chloe's already been a road trip superstar with me on the drive from Oberlin to Kansas last December. She fared well again this time, even in the cramped quarters of a truck howling/crying/mewing, no nausea, no accidents, just a curious interest in the scenery and peaceful enjoyment of Alan's lap and mine.

The cat + storms + time pressure = no camping after all. We had to be a little sneaky getting Chloe into our room at the first motel we stayed at in South Dakota, but she was a brilliant little accomplice, and ready for more bright and early the next morning. The scenery, again, was generally stunning:

We made good time, arriving in Seattle after about two and a half days on the road. Highlights along the way included: breakfast and huckleberry ice cream at the infamous Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota, a night of spectacular lightning storms on the horizon, XM radio fun, the humor of Chloe's whims and antics, Yitka after a little too much caffeine, a great deal of hearty laughter, a couple brilliant views of Mount Rainier, which Alan and I are committed to climbing at some point in the near(ish) future, and my personal favorite: the billboard along I-90 in South Dakota for an auto body/repair shop with a tagline: "24 Hour Toe Service." After trying to find the possible pun in it, we concluded that it must be a typo - but what an awesome one! And an oft blogged-and-tweeted-about one, apparently, I learned after conducting a simple Google search in hopes of finding a photo of the thing to post here. (No luck.) Around-the-clock pedicures, anyone?

P.S. I love Montana mountain towns. If I ever derail from the creative nonfiction train I've been riding these past couple years and start writing novels again, my next will undoubtedly take place in Montana. I am absolutely convinced that it is a magical state.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Road Trip Redux


In case anybody is bored with my Seattle raves already and nostalgic for the life-on-the-road entries that dominated this blog in its fledgling days...fear not! I'm making the whole drive again this week! (Crazy, right?)

Granted, there will be some key differences. Let's count 'em:
Last Time
In my Passat
Via I-80, mostly
Over the course of 6 days
Staying w/ friends
This Time
With Alan
In a 16' moving truck
Via I-90, mostly
Over 3 days
Camping along the way

In other words, a general improvement. (Though all those hikes last time were nice!) There's something epic and momentous about a solo cross country road trip in my trusty little car with everything I could jam inside of it...but it's something else entirely to really, truly be moving my entire life and worldly possessions out here with me.

Beautiful cross-country roads, I'm coming back for more!

Alan and I, somewhat foolishly but in good humor and silliness, made a bet awhile back (incidentally, while I was driving through Wyoming last time, almost a month ago now) about what people from Wyoming are called. Wyomingans? (My guess.) Wyomingers? (His.) The stake was radio rights in the state of Wyoming on our August road trip together.

The correct answer, curiously enough, is Wyomingites. Who knew? Obviously, neither of us. Fortunately, though, MapQuest tells me we'll hardly be in Wyoming anyway this time around, since we'll be taking an entirely different route than the way I came up before. Depending on the wi-fi situations in whatever obscure campgrounds we wind up crashing in deep in the Black Hills of South Dakota and the depths of rural Montana, I may or may not be able to update the blog as we go. But for the record, I'm flying back to Kansas City tomorrow, and the epic road trip redux will commence on Saturday morning. (Probably at least another blogpost here before we hit the road...)

I'm going to be gone less than a week - and gosh, I already feel a little like a kid clutching desperately to a parent's leg on the first day of kindergarten...I'm not ready to be left alone without my beloved Northwest landscape and 65-degree weather!

(P.S. I hope you enjoyed the above table of side-by-side comparisons. Formatting courtesy of my HTML brush-up this past week. Be ready for a super awesome Yitka website to emerge sometime in the next month or so.)

Ode to coffee and overcast skies

Well, the rain has finally arrived. A couple overcast days in a row here - still comfortably in the sixties, but brisk, a little wind coming off the water, and the drizzly faucet of the Seattle sky let loose. It's funny how much different kinds of weather affect different people. Seyeon's mom, Andrea, and I both thrive in this kind of climate - cold enough to drink tea and wear fleece around the house. It's heat and humidity that suck energy out of me - if it's hot, I tend to think, Well damn, I'm uncomfortable; what can I possibly do today but sit still in front of my fan and be miserable? But the cold makes me feel alive. It gets me moving, if for nothing else but to keep myself warm, my blood moving. My mind is more alert.

And the overcast sky! It's obviously far too early in the game to lay claim to total enjoyment of it, but for now, I don't mind it at all. It's an enabling condition for two of my favorite activities: writing and running.


Often times, if I stay inside to write, I feel guilty for not doing all the other things I could be doing with my day, outside in the sunshine like normal people. Staying in with a laptop feels antisocial. But not here. It's no surprise to me that so many of the great business leaders, computer programmers, writers and artists have thrived in Seattle. With a host of coffeeshops to hole up in during the long, gray days and work away at, it's easy to slog away and get things done here. I have taken on the challenge of building myself a rockin website from scratch, and despite the tedium of teaching myself code and implementing it, it's been a blast to get swept up in the nose-to-the-grindstone-but-in-a-creative-way vibe of Seattle's coffeeshops.

I told myself I wasn't going to repeat any cafes for at least my first few months here. There are so many to explore, there's really no excuse to repeat. Each place has its own ambience and vibe...its own aromas, couches, freshly baked pastries, artwork on the exposed brick walls, script on the chalkboard menus. Nevertheless, I've failed miserably, having discovered a small local place that I absolutely adore, and can't seem to break out of the habit of frequenting in the mornings to write, work on my website and conduct my job search.

Cappuccino: the price of productivity.


Cool, overcast weather is absolutely ideal running weather to me. Again, the sun drains me - so with it safely behind the clouds, I feel like I can run forever. There's an entire blog entry in my discovering the joys of urban running, but for now, suffice to say that I've had several amazing runs around the city - exploring residential and commercial districts alike (though the two are often deeply intertwined in Seattle), getting lost here and there (I actually ran several days ago with a printed Mapquest map clenched in my hand; the ink wound up getting wet from sweat, leaking all over my palm and dissolving into complete illegibility by the end of my run), but thus learning how all the neighborhoods connect. It seems near impossible to run more than ten minutes in any direction before running into a huge, sprawling park with trees and trails and solitude - before emerging again on city streets, and running across bridges over scenic stretches of the bay, with stunning views of the mountains, the Space Needle, the downtown skyline and all the lush, green hills that surround it. Beautiful! I did 13.1 miles yesterday, running from my doorstep through Interlaken Park, across the University Bridge, along the Burke-Gilman Trail, to Gas Works Park, then up a 2-mile stretch of gradual uphill to arrive at Seattle's runners' paradise: Green Lake! And then back home again to stretch out my unbelievably tight calf muscles!

And finally, bonus of the weekend: Zephyr calling me with an extra ticket to go see Othello at the Intiman Theater near the Seattle Center - an absolutely fabulous performance.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Anima Sana In Corpore Sano

This city, undoubtedly, is going to whip me into shape. Part of it is the (free 24-day pass for now) gym membership to the nicest gym facility I've ever worked out at - hundreds and hundreds of shiny new machines, full lap pool, free group exercise classes around the clock - and part of it is the commute there. It's always said of those record-smashing marathoners from Kenya and Ethiopia that their talent stems from their childhoods in Africa, running six, eight, ten miles every day to get to school. The whole explanation for Kenyan speed and ungodly endurance has become a bit of a cliche in the marathoning world, but if there's any truth to it, my legs sure are cashing in on it on my 24-block commute to the gym.

Capitol Hill, the neighborhood where I'm living now, contains half of Seattle's dozen steepest hills. Aptly named, it looms over downtown, and connects to it with an epic bridge over Interstate 5 that has quickly become my favorite hill in all of Seattle to run. The almost entirely uphill blocks that follow it on my run home are fairly epic, too, but there's something special about that bridge - the roar of traffic below, the city, the water, the Space needle behind me, my new home ahead, and the inevitable passerby or two who shoot me a scornful look as if to say, What the hell is wrong with you?

I love being that crazy person drenched in sweat, water bottle in hand, arms pumping, legs pumping, eyes steadfast...I used to look at those people - the midday summer runners going uphill, that is - and feel a bittersweet mix of disgust and envy. I like that in a few short weeks, this city has made me the object of such gazes.

Living in the Midwest my whole life has allowed me to be a runner without ever having to touch a hill if I didn't feel like it. Which, surprise surprise, I never did. Now I have no choice, and the awful hills I thought I'd dread have become my coaches, my trainers yelling at me to keep going, push harder, not give up...conquer! There's something distinctly empowering about hills, and the more I do them, the stronger I feel the next time.

That, in conjunction with battling motorized boat waves and wakes while swimming in open water, and going to hardcore 60-minute spinning (cycling) classes at the gym several times a week, and walk-commuting everywhere I need to go, has already made my heart feel so much stronger than it was a month ago. My body's happy. And as the ASICS motto goes: Sound mind in a sound body. (Translated from the Latin in the title of this post...)

Days in Seattle with no rain yet: 21

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Brewskis, beaches and bargains

So, the big event of last weekend was a barbecue that Seyeon and I hosted for her co-workers at Gregg's Cycle. A bunch of them rolled up to the house on two wheels throughout the evening for burgers and brewskis and bike talk - it was neat to meet all of them and enjoy good food and great summer night weather.

The past week has been a lot more of the job searching business (again, scared to jinx things by blogging about specifics - but hopefully soon I'll have something for sure to show for all this agonizing waiting?), learning my way around more, getting together with Lucinda (yay!) from high school, doing a couple writing assignments for the magazine and house/dogsitting for a wonderful flat-coated retriever named Xochi who's quickly become my best doggy friend in this city...

We've taken to going swimming together in the mornings or evenings in Lake Washington - a beautiful, tiny rock beach tucked away in a residential neighborhood nearby. He's a great swimmer and takes immense joy in paddling around me in tight circles with his tennis ball. I've also gotten to know many of the neighbors with dogs at the local park, and had some nice talks with locals and other Seattle transplants who, like me, visited here once upon a time and were convinced they wanted to live here. Anyway, the swimming hole is beautiful, with great views of the mountains and downtown Bellevue - hopefully I can post some pictures soon!

In other sporty news, Seyeon and her mom and their 86-year-old neighbor Millie and I all went kayaking on Monday. We paddled for several hours, riding the wakes of passing tugboats and stopping in the shade to snack on Rainier cherries - hands down, the tastiest cherries I've ever eaten! It was a blast.

Lastly, this morning, I got together with a guy named Kam whom I met at the Oberlin alumni picnic last week. He graduated back in the eighties and we'd had a great time comparing notes on Oberlin and exchanging stories at the picnic - so today, he took me around in his fantastic little '86 Fiat convertible to cruise yard sales all morning in Seattle's different neighborhoods.

I passed on the 1-dollar bra box...

...but for $8.50, (Mama, again, are you reading this? Alan told me I had to write about all this on my blog because he knew it would make my mother proud!) I procured the following: a set of brand new, adorable espresso cups and saucers, an unopened Cranium game, an unopened 1,000-piece puzzle, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, a beautiful ornate candle holder, three bottles of bubbles and bubble-blowing paraphernalia, three bars of French soap, a package of incense from India, and probably the most exciting useless purchase of all: a set of holographic-cat-and-dog playing cards. + A Saturday morning well spent with a new friend, cruising sunny, tree-lined Seattle with the roof down and the wind in my hair!

Days in Seattle with no rain yet: 17