Tuesday, August 31, 2010

We Heart Seattle

We weren't supposed to fall in love with the city. Seattle was intended to serve as a means to an end. To Dominic and I, moving to Seattle was a haphazard response to some post-Peace Corps decision making. We knew we loved one another -- but we knew it in Armenia. How would things work in our own country? Where could we test out the relationship's strength on "neutral ground"?

I'm from Columbus, Ohio. Dominic is from Sacramento, California. We were not about to drag one another to our home turf after two years abroad. We needed to date like real Americans and we didn't want to be overwhelmed.*

For Dominic and I love was inevitable. For Sarah, Dominic and Seattle the love came as a surprise.

I'm nostalgic for the city where the sun really does shine and the neighbors know my name. So, here is a list of the loves I have for Seattle:

The views:
  • From Kerry Park: I would run from my house to Dominic's house while we were still dating, pausing for a minute to admire the early dawn at Kerry Park. I would stand there, feeling totally defeated by the recession, and pray that God would bless me with work in one of the offices that stand in the skyline from this viewpoint. He did.
  • From Pier 66: I didn't have to be leaving on a cruise to admire the view of the Sound (and the city skyline) from this pier. From the top of the stairs it was a perfect place to soak up the sun, admire the water, and peek through the free telescopes.
  • From the top of the Needle: Touristy? Definitely. But this landmark was a visit we saved for our last celebration in the city. From above, we could map out our routes to work, pick out our four-story apartment building, and admire the places that had somehow become perfectly familiar.
  • From the Alaskan Way Viaduct: No matter what your politics on the issue, driving in to downtown from 99-South as the sun sets in the evening is a beautiful scene. I can still remember arriving via the viaduct on my first day in Seattle. I couldn't believe how close I was to the water.

Dress Code
When Dominic began working he was teased and called the "office consultant" for wearing dress pants and a button down shirt with the sleeves rolled up. I ended up standing out in my office as well where jeans and t-shirts were the norm. Although it took some getting used to, Seattle fashion taught us about comfort (i.e. flats, Velcro if possible), function (i.e. Gortex -- it was often wet) and coordination (the more gray/black you wear to match the weather the better).

Salmon, butternut squash ravioli
It's not just the fish and flavors, it's the fact that the food in abundance here is the food I can't get enough of. Picking fresh berries from neighborhood parks, fishing out of the lakes and rivers, growing container gardens of fresh vegetables. What could be better?

The Institutions
  • Dominic and I might not get out a lot, but we built a mighty fine community at Bethany Presbyterian. We fell in love with the strong leadership, opportunities to gather with other Christians, and passionate outreach ministries.
  • I don't want to speak for Dom, but I am certain he loved every minute spent playing basketball on his club team last year. He would come home tired and frustrated but always pining to get back on the court the next week.
  • The Seattle Center: From outdoor plays and big screen movies to concerts, festivals and dance classes, living within walking distance of the Seattle Center was like having a free fairground in our backyard. Without a doubt we'll find plenty to keep us occupied in NY, but this space in Seattle was familiar, local, and a great meeting spot for mid-week lunch dates.
I think I'll skip the people we fell in love with or I might drip tears on my keyboard. To our friends and family in Seattle, we love you. Thank you for everything!

Without a doubt, Dominic and I will be loving New York City in no time. We will build our community, discover our favorite outings, and dine like royalty on the diverse ethnic cuisine of the city. According to Forbes.com, we're moving up from No. 3 to number one in the America's Coolest Cities ranking. Pretty soon you'll hear me singing "I heart NY".

*Interestingly enough, NYC was eliminated from the moving short list. Too expensive...

New York, New York

Dominic and I made "the big move announcement" a few months ago. At first, people were just congratulatory and excited, but as the date of departure approached I realized that Seattlites hold some serious opinions about the Big Apple.

People are funny. Despite the fact that this move was a certainty we had some reactions along the lines of:
  • "Do you own pepper spray?"
  • "Beware of the metro."
  • Literal humming (through the halls of a professional office) of the Law & Order theme song.
On the other hand, some people were blatantly jealous of the East coast adventure:
  • "The food is spectacular. If it's not good it won't survive in NY."
  • "Everyone is super nice! You'll make lifelong friends in a week."
  • "Oh the shows! The museums! The culture! You'll have so much to experience."
  • "The city is amazing year round. Six feet of snow? Who cares! You'll have Christmas window decorations to admire."
And then there were the more practical comments/questions:
  • "Will you be able to eat healthfully in the city?"
  • "It will be nice to travel about without a car." (I fully agree with this opinion)
  • "NY is close to many impressive cities: Philly, Boston and DC. It will be fun to explore."
I'll admit, I'm typing this from the boarding area at SEA/TAC airport. I haven't given this move much thought outside of how all our stuff will get there. Which of these opinions will be accurate? We'll just wait and see...

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Bronx

Well I (Dominic) arrived. After a longer than expected flight from Seattle to New York I made it to our apartment in the Bronx. Bedford Park more specifically, though I imagine that means little to any readers of this blog. The pod arrived two days later and I’m happy to report that, due to Sarah’s awesome packing skills there wasn’t a broken dish or otherwise ruined item in the move. I would definitely recommend the moving pod as a means of moving; especially across country.

My first few days were spent unpacking and attending the Fordham graduate school orientation. It was nice to finally meet my future classmates and learn more about Fordham’s history. The campus is a beautiful oasis in the middle of the teeming city surrounding it. This will definitely be a huge change from our lives in Seattle, and it is sure to be interesting. I’ve never lived in a city this large that bustles at such a fast pace.

I’m sure we’ll have plenty to report on in the next few months as we settle into life in New York.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Seattle hospitality

If you are visiting Seattle -- or just someone looking for a good restaurant recommendation -- and you ask our friend Steve where to get the best food in the city, he will reply:
"At my house".
A former head chef at the Hilton (among many other things), Steve wouldn't be exaggerating. He is a great cook.

Dominic and I met Steve more than a year ago at Bethany's Wednesday Night dinner. He is a social butterfly and is always saving seats for his friends. He is stubborn, straight-forward, and he insists that I am too skinny.

We live across the street from Steve but not once did we have him over for a meal, or tea, or anything. I knew that I owed him at least one visit before I left for New York (see "lists" in previous post). It is something I had always wanted to do, but had never done. Why do those types of visits always seem to get pushed out of the way by other "stuff"?

Nonetheless, I went over tonight and Steve had a meal fit for a king on the stove: fried potatoes, mushrooms and a roasted chicken, salad and warm rolls. He taught me how to make gravy with the leftover chicken fat, soy sauce and cornmeal, he told me I needed to apologize less and relax more, and he sat me down at his newspaper-lined table. The newspaper is really an ingenious way to save on laundry. He takes the old community papers and uses them as place mats -- dirty one layer? There are plenty of pages left for the next meal!

Steve and I visited over the carefully planned meal. He told me I shouldn't ask why so much and I told him he should enjoy his view of downtown more often. We complimented the delicious food, discussed the similarities between Greek and Armenian culture (he was insisting I eat more to gain 10 pounds) and in the end started telling each other all the jokes we could remember.

I am certain I would never have met Steve if it weren't for Bethany. I am certain I would not have found Bethany if it weren't for Dominic. It is amazing how people come in and enrich our lives in ways we never knew possible.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Office of Compline

I suppose it happens to everyone when it is time to prepare for something new: lists appear.

Ok, if you're me then you make lists anyway, but I have a particularly high volume of lists floating around these days. Lists about what to take and what to pack, who to see and who to write, what to buy and what to sell... it's really quite out of hand. I'm also making mental lists of things that should be done. This weekend one of our friends asked what we wish we would have seen or experienced in the Pacific Northwest before we left. I have tons of items on that list (and it is always growing):

  • Touristy things like: The Underground Tour
  • Cities like: Portland, Coeur d'Alene
  • Outdoors: Glacier National Park, The Oregon coast, the Olympics, more San Juan Islands
So this weekend I began to consider things that I hadn't done that I still might be able to do. I remembered something my dear friend John from college had told me while he was visiting in June: "You live in downtown Seattle. I can't believe you haven't experienced Compline." Now, I'm not musically inclined, but for some reason I spent most of my college career with people who are. John was one of the most talented. He even played the organ for our wedding ceremony. That said, I had no idea what he was talking about.

St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral offers the office of compline every Sunday night at 9:30 p.m. According to a brochure I picked up on my way out, Compline is the final church service (or Office) of the day in the Christian tradition of canonical hours. The English word Compline (pronounced comp-lin) is derived from the Latin word completorium meaning completion. It makes sense -- Compline completes the liturgy of the day. In lay terms, Compline is a prayer for a quiet night and perfect end. Also, at least to me, it is a way to quiet down and focus before starting a new week.

Compline is a beautiful tradition. It dates back to the earliest practices of the monastic communities where Compline was offered when the day's work was ended and the quietness of evening had settled upon the hearts and minds of those gathered in thankfulness for the blessings of the day they had finished. Believe it or not, (ahem, you Zaengers) over time the popularity of Compline spawned a revival of interest in this service and now it is included in the prayer books of Lutheran and Episcopal denominations.

Although we entered and went straight to a pew close to the front, people were scattered everywhere throughout the sanctuary. There were people laying down, journaling, praying, and reclining on the alter. It was like we had missed the come-in-and-make-yourself-at-home memo. Soon, the choir began and we realized it was positioned at the back corner of the church -- meant to be listened to, not watched.

They chanted prayer, then Psalm 103. They sang comforting hymns and chanted both the Apostles Creed and the Lord's Prayer. There was even a time for the confession of sins. It was beautiful. It was calming. I wish I could have a Compline every night.*

As if the Compline wasn't beautiful enough, we were fortunate to hear a post-Compline organ concert. John's love of organ had left me curious so we stuck around for three pieces played by a talented musician who couldn't have been older than 20. This organ was build with serious music in mind: 58 stops, 79 ranks, and 3,944 pipes! It was spectacular.

It was a quiet night and perfect end.

*You don't have to be in Seattle to hear Compline. I found out that podcasts are available for download at www.complinechoir.org and the service is broadcast live on 98.1 KING-FM and online at www.king.org. Good news for a future NYC transplant.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

And we're off......

....well, almost. We haven't quite left for New York yet, but we did get everything packed. And the packing (surprisingly) warrants a blog post of its own. Who would'a thunk it.

After pricing out and weighing the options, we decided to go with a 6x7x8' moving pod. We figured we'd have to get rid of a lot of stuff due to size limitations, but we thought we were ready for those sacrifices. As the day approached we started becoming fearful about the size of the pod, even to the point where I was going to call and order a second. We were wrong. Very wrong.

***I was originally in this picture, but because my arms could touch both sides of the pod at once, we figured that Sarah made it look a bit bigger***

Sarah did a wonderful job of packing everything in an orderly way into uniform-sized boxes. And lo and behold.... We fit it all in. Everything (save for the two bikes we sold and the various cans of beans, beets and creamed corn that we all have in the back of our cupboards.) Not only did it all fit in, but there was room to spare!

So much room in fact that we figured we'd go to Ikea and load up on a mattress, room divider and desk just to top things off.

In the end, it all fit.
As of now I'm a huge proponent of pod moving (or ABF freight services in this case.)

I'll be sure to report back when all our stuff arrive in the bronx.