Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Hiking Serene Lake and Bridal Veil Falls

My plan to make my friends' friends my friends, and then mine them for more friends, seems to be working!  Vanessa (think Chicago, Vietnam and Rennes) introduced me to Ruth, a friend of hers who recently moved to Seattle from Germany to start a new job at the Jungle, and then Ruth invited me to join her and three other recent Seattle transplants (a Russian financial planner, a Sri Lankan software engineer, and an American MBA) on a hike through Rugged Nature.

More specifically, she proposed a hike up Mount Index to see the Bridal Veil Falls and Lake Serene.  It would be a 7-mile round-trip hike with a 2,000-foot ascent through dense forest.  We'd pass the falls about a third of the way up the mountain and then essentially climb straight up a 2,000-foot slope to a tiny glacier lake nestled at the base of imposing granite cliffs.  The reviews online were all positive, so we decided to give it a go.

We left Seattle early (just after 8am) and got to the trailhead about an hour later.  Despite forecasts to the contrary, a light rain was falling, so we broke out the rain jackets right away.  Once properly shielded from the elements, we set off down the muddy trail through the lush green forest.

It was a beautiful hike!  The forest looked like something out of a calendar, with stately fir trees rising out of a thick undergrowth of ferns and flowering brambles.  Tree trunks and boulders alike were covered in vivid green mosses and little parasitic ferns.  During the occasional sunbursts between rainclouds, the light shining through and on all those greens gave me the feeling of standing inside a living emerald.

It was also a decently challenging hike.  The sign at the trailhead described it as "strenuous" -- which, after my experiences with allegedly "strenuous" hikes in Virginia, made me chuckle (in six years in Virginia I never encountered a single trail that I thought was truly strenuous).  But this trail turned out to be a legitimate hike.  The first mile or so was flat and easy enough, but the climb up to the lake was steep and unrelenting to the point that I actually broke a sweat.  If it hadn't been so wet and chilly (and if I hadn't been with the slower walking group), it would have been fun to see just how fast I could get up to the top.

Most importantly, though, the hike was a good way to get to know the folks in the group.  People who know about these things say that the best way to build friendships is through extended contact in relatively unstructured environments (that's why college dorms are so good for that).  Well, hiking for hours through a rainy forest with four near-strangers is a pretty unstructured environment, and it lent itself well to talking and becoming acquainted.  We were all new arrivals to Seattle, and all looking to make friends and explore.  It felt like a good start to be out discovering nature and also each other.  If nothing else, at least I know there's a group of people who I can invite for the next hike!

And now for some photos of the hike, in what should be chronological order:







The sign said there was a toilet.
For some reason I expected there'd be an outhouse to go with it...





Lunch!  (Hypothermia!)
Prasad, Ruth, Marisa, me

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Don't Rain on My Parade

Memorial Day weekend!  The unofficial start to summer!  Time for beach and sun and humidity!

Oh wait.  I live in Seattle now, where it's in the low sixties and rainy.  I've been warned/assured by exactly everyone I've met that summer starts on July 4.

But still -- summer or no summer, it's a holiday weekend and that should count for something.

I considered venturing out into the city, which is celebrating its "Folk Life Festival" only a couple of blocks from where I live.  But after seeing the swarms of hippies and punks wandering to and fro on their way to said festival, I decided I'd seen enough "folk life" and focused on other pursuits.

For example, yesterday morning I killed two birds with one stone by trying out a new diner for breakfast and researching how to climb Mount Fuji later this summer.

Eggs Benedict with ham, pulled pork and bacon, with tomatoes
at The Lucky Diner

And last night I met up with a coworker and a couple of her friends for dinner at Cascina Spinasse, which turned out to be a charming and delicious Italian restaurant.  Sadly, I have no photos -- I figured I needed to lure these people into being friends with me before busting out the camera and blog on them.  I will say, though, that the gnocchi with snails and mint/pesto sauce was amazing.  As were the puff pastries filled with rabbit pate.  I have no doubt I'll be going back . . . .

Today was even colder and rainier than yesterday, so after driving out to church I thought I'd just spend the rest of the day reading and napping like I've so often wished I could do on a Sunday afternoon.  That lasted about an hour before I got bored.  Bored and convinced that I was being lazy and unproductive.  So I got up and started working through a stack of mail and bills and stuff.  That's when I rediscovered a page that I'd torn from a theatre program from a few weeks ago.  It was an ad for a website called Encore Arts Seattle and my first reaction on seeing it was basically where have you been all my life?  I mean, seriously, the website consolidates in one place information about all of the performing arts events in the city -- exactly the sort of thing I'd been wishing that DC had for the past six years!  (Notch a win for Seattle.)

One doesn't stumble upon Aladdin's lamp without giving it a rub, so I ran a search for what was happening tonight:  I had a choice between Little Shop of Horrors and Funny Girl.  I've seen Little Shop plenty of times, but never Funny Girl.  I knew the play had been Barbra Streisand's big ticket to fame back in 1964, and it's been a great way for the writers on Glee to showcase Lea Michele's talent.  The production got okay reviews and the tickets weren't too expensive, so I bought a ticket and then started Googling where the theater was.

The Village Theatre turned out to be in Issaquah, a small suburb of Seattle about twenty miles east of where I live.  I drove out through the rain and was happy to see a familiar sight . . .

(The first Five Guys I've seen in Washington)

and to discover that the theater was a cute little building full of old people (why am I always the only person under 65 at these things?) on a tiny "Main Street" brimming with old timey charm.

The Village Theater

The play was okay.  It's the (heavily fictionalized) story of Fanny Brice, who rose to stardom in Vaudeville during the early 20th Century as part of the Ziegfeld Follies.  Having now seen it, I agree with the critics that it's not the best written play out there.  Some of the songs are amazing (especially "People" and "Don't Rain on My Parade"), but this is one instance where, from a writing perspective, the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

To have any chance of succeeding at all, you've got to have a dynamite performer in the part of Fanny.  The woman who played Fanny in the production was about 85% of what I'd hoped she would be (granted, I was hoping for a Barbra or a Lea Michele).  She had terrific comedic timing and a knack for the physical humor in the part.  But she wasn't a Broadway belter, and she never quite conveyed the intensity, drive and irrepressible energy that Fanny should have.  Fanny should feel like a force of nature; this one was something less than that.  (I kept wanting to have the woman who played Mama Rose in Signature Theatre's Gypsy come and show us how to do force of nature.)

The rest of the ensemble was of varying proficiency.  I'm used to fully professional ensembles, so I'm still adjusting to these regional theaters that bring in the Equity professionals for the leads and key ensemble roles and then fill up the rest with local non-Equity actors.  I'm not totally opposed to giving the non-Equity actors opportunities, but there's a noticeable difference in the level of polish and professionalism.

Still, shortcomings notwithstanding, I enjoyed the performance.  Live theatre is fun and exciting, and I liked the themes in this play of ambition and relationships.  Like Fanny, I want to be a star, and I don't want anything to rain on my parade -- but I also think that Fanny is right when she sings that "people who need people are the luckiest people in the world."  I'm pretty good at the ambition part, but I'm not very good at needing people -- and when I'm feeling most ambitious is when I'm the worst at needing people.  Come to think of it, that's a lot of what I'm hoping to fix in the long run with this new job and move to Seattle.  Here's hoping I can make it work.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Lunch at the Armory

I've been in Seattle for two whole weeks and I've done basically nothing other than work and unpack and join a Crossfit gym.  So this afternoon, when the weather surprised everyone with warm sunny skies, I decided to go exploring.

My apartment is only a couple of blocks from the Seattle Center, a 74-acre complex originally built for the 1962 World's Fair and now a center for arts, athletics and other entertainment.  It's got the famous Space Needle, several theaters and other performing arts spaces, at least two stadiums, a science center, the monorail, and the Chihuly glass museum.  I'm sure there's even more that I don't know about.


"Sound Flowers"
This sculpture has solar panels on the tops of the flowers to generate energy to allow the
intermittent playing of "music" and nighttime illumination.
It's kind of a weird place, actually.  Having been built in the early 1960s, much of it was designed to feel very futuristic, only now it just feels very dated in a kind of embarrassing way.  The International Fountain, for example, could use a good facelift from the guys who did the fountains at the Bellagio.



One of the less obvious attractions is the Armory.  Having been built in 1939, it predates the rest of the Seattle Center and was originally used as an actual armory.  Apparently it housed tanks and field artillery back in the day.  For the World's Fair it was turned into a vertical shopping mall.  Today it's used as an exhibition and performance space, and it has a bunch of restaurants around the edges.  I was hungry, so I went in to see what they had.

The Armory
Inside the Armory
Gyro sandwich from a Greek kabob place
Sea salt and caramel apple pie from "It's Time for Pie"
I took my pie outside and ate it in the sun on a terrace overlooking a great green lawn and the distant International Fountain.

The terrace was a great place for reading and eating and making phone calls -- at least until a rock band set up on one of the neighboring lawns and started playing covers of Journey songs in support of Cystic Fibrosis.  When I couldn't hear myself think, I packed up my things and walked down toward the fountain and discovered that, right below me, under the terrace where I had been sitting, the Seattle Symphony was performing!

It was a joint effort with some high schoolers.
The acoustics were surprisingly good, and the sound carried nicely over the lawn outside.
Clouds rolled in as I listened to the orchestra, and once the sun was gone the air was too chilly for my shorts and t-shirt.  So I headed home to do laundry and get some blogging done . . . .

Two weeks down

I've been at the Jungle for two weeks now -- imagine that!  I'm still at the very bottom of my new-hire learning curve; every day I come away feeling like the number of things I don't know is greater than it was the day before.  But I'm not worried.  Instead I focus on little things, like arranging my office furniture . . .

I like the simple "door" desk (an homage to the early days of the
company, when the founder couldn't afford any desk other than a door
 laid over two trestles).  But oh, I miss my view of Pennsylvania Avenue!
. . . and trying to figure out how many days before I can take down the welcome poster without hurting feelings.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the gesture!
But fluorescent yellow has never been my favorite accent color.
The comforting thing is that I've discovered that it's not the legal stuff I need to worry about.  Once I learn enough about the business to understand what's going on, the legal work is familiar (which is not the same thing as easy) and I know how to handle it.  For example, on my third day of work I went with my manager to a meeting with some of the key business leaders we support.  They were wrestling with a particular problem and, once I figured out what all the words and acronyms meant, I realized I could see a solution that no one else had mentioned yet.  So I raised my hand and offered my views; the business team loved it and ran with it.  Later, when I saw the woman who ran the meeting, I began to reintroduce myself and she said, "I know who you are. You're the guy who had the smart fix in our meeting the other day."  

That made me happy for a lot of reasons.  Partly because this woman strikes me as one of the smartest and most competent people I've met so far at the company.  She's definitely someone whose good opinion I want.  Also because the transition from being a high-performer in a major law firm to being an unknown newbie in a giant corporation is a little unsettling, and it was nice to get some positive feedback (however insignificant) so early on.  

Getting known as the "smart" guy also felt like a step in the right direction from a repetitional perspective.  Obviously it's good to be well regarded under any circumstances, but I've learned that I'm being measured against some pretty high expectations.  I'm told by the higher ups that I came very highly recommended by some of the partners at my old law firm (who I had no idea were talking about me to the Jungle).  And my peers seem to be impressed and/or intimidated by the fact that I've got a lot of really cool and very directly relevant legal experience (by contrast, many of them didn't get into this type of work until they got to the Jungle, having spent their time in their prior law firms doing more general corporate work).  I won't say that I'm not flattered and pleased by this nascent reputation, but I also recognize that I need to be careful not to disappoint.  I want to hit the ground running and basically be a super-star from the beginning, and it's hard to feel like I'm doing that when I spend most of each day trying to figure out where the elevators are and how to log onto my computer.  So any hint of having contributed something of value is very welcome.

This next week should provide some additional opportunities to make a contribution.  My manager and one of my other colleagues are away on vacation, which means that I'll be fielding pretty much everything that they handle on my own.  I'm crossing my fingers that there aren't any fire drills and that we get through the week more or less in one piece... 

Camping no more

So my last post from almost TWO WEEKS AGO left you with a pretty bleak picture:  Yours truly coming home from a crazy new job to an empty apartment, where I had nothing but a sleeping bag and a bicycle to protect me from the bitter elements, and where the lack of Internet and lamps and all things 21st Century forced me to read an actual physical book and then go to bed when it got dark.  It's like I'd time-traveled back to the Middle Ages or the 1970s or something.  And apparently ever since then everyone who hasn't been keeping up with the Kardashians and/or solving the Ukrainian crisis has been sitting with bated breath wondering where the heck I've been.

Sorry about that.  Part of me wants to say I was distracted from blogging when I met a met a bunch of hot vampires and had to fight Dakota Fanning to save their mutant baby, but that would mean I was a character in a Stephanie Meyer novel and would end up getting played by a weirdly unattractive B-list actor in a Kristin Stewart movie -- and we can't have that.  So instead I'll just give the plain old truth.

First thing that happened was the movers came on schedule after all.  After phoning on Monday night to tell me that they wouldn't be coming on Tuesday morning, I got a call on Tuesday morning (right as I was leaving for work) saying that they were on their way after all and was I still available for delivery?  Apparently they had lost the paperwork for my shipment (hence the original cancellation) and had only just discovered that all of my things were on the verge of getting shipped to Kansas or someplace totally inappropriate.  In the nick of time some inspired soul discovered all the paperwork stuffed inside one of the crates that held my things and was able to get things back on track.  Not wanting to risk any more such shenanigans, I told them that I was still available for delivery (and then called my boss to say that I wouldn't be coming in that day after all).

So the movers came and unloaded everything in a more or less orderly manner; I seized the moment and called Comcast so that they could send a guy to hook up the Internet.  Between the newly unpacked bed and having in-home access to WiFi, I felt like I had finally returned to civilization.

This is the second weekend since then, and I think I'm as moved in as I'm going to be.  I'm hoping to move again in the next few months, assuming I can find someplace to buy, so I left a lot of my things packed in a storage closet down stairs.  It feels homey enough to be comfortable and functional, but also lighter and more pared down than if I'd unpacked everything.  Makes me appreciate just how much stuff I have, and just how little it actually contributes to the quality of my daily life.  Perhaps I'll end up getting rid of most of it permanently when the time comes to move again.

The size of the rooms and the angles make it tough to get good photos, but here are a few shots to give you a sense of what it looks like now that I'm settled in:

I have to say, while I'd prefer a more modern style of furniture,
I'm very pleased with the colors.
The movers broke one of my end tables, so I'm relying on boxes of books...
This corner looks more spare than it really feels; it's perfect as a desk or dining table.
I plan to keep a tall vase of cut flowers on the table (just need to find the right vase).
Moroccan pottery over the sink
The bedroom is so small I can barely fit around the bed!
Sequins everywhere!  No risk of the evil eye here...
(the backlighting makes it impossible to get a good photo at this angle)
My view from bed at 6:30am. LOVE IT!!
My view from bed at 11:30pm.  ALSO LOVE IT!!
Fortunately I kept my rug and towels from a few bathrooms ago.
This color scheme works better here than what I had in Virginia.
Makes me wish I had left the rug it's original length!
The "landing pad" in the entryway.  

One of the things I am absolutely loving about Seattle is the abundance of fresh flowers.  I realize it's kind of Edith Wharton of me, but I think fresh flowers are a must.  If I could afford it, I would have a bunch in every room.

It's peony season right now, and these pink ones are AMAZING.
Jeff understand my thing for fresh flowers -- he sent these as a house-warming gift
so that they were waiting for me even before the movers arrived.