I’ve lived in the Phoenix, Arizona area all my life. Aside from four years of living in Flagstaff for university, which is just over 100 miles north of Phoenix, I’ve spent my whole life evaporating away in this hellscape of a desert. So doing the math, that’s a grand total of 25 years of being roasted alive by how much the sun spites us, here. Plus side? I’m still alive, so take that, Mother Nature.
Where I live was never much of a thought in my life until I started getting closer to 30, feeling the desire to create more stable connections, and feel like I have roots in the place I want to call home. I always knew Phoenix wouldn’t be home forever, but the thoughts of leaving became too loud to ignore when I moved to an area in the city where I thought I’d be happier, and I’m still…not happy. Don’t get me wrong, I love the friends I’ve made here, and the family members (that I still talk to) that still live here. However, I can’t shake the feeling that I don’t have a foundation, here. I’ve had to fight tooth and nail to feel like I even have some sort of tie to this city, and even then, most days, I feel incredibly isolated.
“But Jeff, have you tried-” yes, I have. “Okay but why don’t you-” yep, already did that. “Have you considered that-” dear reader, I’ve tried it all. Even my therapist said something along the lines of “I’ve watched you try so hard to fit in here and none of it has gone the way you want it to.” I’m not here to justify why leaving my hometown is the correct choice, and I’m not here to (entirely) talk crap about where I grew up. This city is gorgeous in all its own ways, but I’m not here to explain to anyone why it’s no longer for me.
I’m here to talk about Seattle.
The first time I had heard about Seattle was from an ex, so you can only imagine that the idea of living there didn’t sit well, at first. I always did think about how he said that it was much, much more queer than Arizona, though, and as time went on, it felt like more and more of my queer friends were either moving there, or thinking about it. No matter who I talked to about it, people had nothing but nice things to say, and if these reviews were on Yelp, they’d all be five stars with the comment “I was wet the whole time but I loved everything about it.” Considering it had so much praise, and I only had pictures and testimonials to go off of, the next step was to visit this magical location I’d only heard about. Plus, one of my closest friends, another friend I’ve had for about 15 years, and several people I’ve met through streaming on Twitch live there, so checking it out just felt correct.
Y’all, I think the best choice I’ve made all year was to visit.
The Airbnb I rented was in the gayborhood of Seattle, good ol’ Capitol Hill. My first impression of it was that it was a more laid back, greener version of Downtown Phoenix with way less places to park (we’re not going to talk about how much money I paid to legally park the rental car, which I got for reasons I’ll explain later). After meeting up with a friend for dinner, getting to walk around the area for a bit, and make a quick dispensary stop, plus a little dessert for later (shoutout to Pie Bar, those pies gave me an irreplaceable amount of pleasure) I saw that this city was spunky and quirky in a way I’ve never seen. I was already over the moon, high in my Airbnb while looking for things to do the next day, setting an incredible precedent for how the rest of the trip would go.
The next day was so, so beautiful, as I had plans with a friend of 15 years to check out Pike Place Market. We started with a breakfast that I can still very vividly taste, from none other than Biscuit Bitch.
Any time I mentioned that I would be going to Biscuit Bitch, or said that I ate there to locals, their response was that it’s such a classic Seattle restaurant, and that it’s also incredible. And they would be right. I don’t think I’ve ever had a biscuit that had such a nice, buttery crust, while also melting right in my mouth. The sandwich I got was a hot link and egg sandwich, and out of the two days I got breakfast out during my trip, that one was definitely the favorite, for me.
We toured Pike Place after that, which very quickly became my favorite place in all of Seattle. It was booths upon booths of handcrafted jewelry, wooden art pieces, leather-bound journals, as well as a whole dang fish market, florists, fruit and veggie stands, and more restaurants and local boutiques than you could even try in a whole day (I mean, you could if you REALLY wanted to, and in that case, more power to you!)
I mean, this place even had a cute little comic book store in the floors below the market for the nerds like me. This place truly had everything that could ever make me happy.
Even the infamous gum wall, on some level, was a delight. It was definitely gross, and there was a faint smell of old bubblegum in the air near it, but the idea of a whole wall being filled with a scattered rainbow of chewed gum was just bonkers enough to put a smile on my face.
It was hard to ignore that it was…so much gum…but at the same time, cute!
We visited the MoPOP (Museum of Pop Culture, what a cute freakin’ acronym) which I figured I would enjoy, but there were so many exhibits there that were more exciting than I imagined. They had one for indie games, fantasy, hip hop, sci fi, and even a whole horror exhibit. I was LIVING for all of it, but what I think was really neat about the museum overall was…I guess that it even existed in the first place? If that makes sense?
I don’t feel like I’ve seen museums that focus on media consumption, and how genres, music, and even gaming have influenced the masses, and how they rose to fame. Considering how a lot of what they showcased in the MoPOP, especially the fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and indie video game exhibits, It felt validating to have a museum dedicated to a lot of my interests.
(Can you tell which exhibit I enjoyed the most?)
I love an art museum, or a cultural museum, but I feel like it’s so rare to find a museum like this one.
Later we made our way down to the International District, where my friend showed me Kinokuniya, their favorite bookstore, before we ate mochi donuts in the market attached to it. I don’t even want to talk about how much money I spent, there. (It was…a lot). However, that bookstore will forever live in my head rent free. There were so many books to choose from, so many graphic novels that caught my eye, and even some gaming memorabilia that I couldn’t just leave there without purchasing. So. Here we are.
After popping back over to my Airbnb for a bit, I went out with another friend to grab ramen at Ooink, which was very tasty, before we decided to have a bit of a night on the town.
He showed me so many fun, even some being cozy, bars in the area, such as Raygun, a loungy arcade bar, Unicorn, a very colorful, circus-themed bar, and later we met up with a friend that took us to Pony, which felt so much like bars I had been to in Phoenix that I liked (I visited a few more the next night, but we’ll get there when we get there.) It was nice to feel like the nightlife in Seattle felt closer to what I actually enjoyed in a venue, whereas in Phoenix, I could just never feel at home in any of them. Lots of drinks and conversations with friends later, and I had a night that really felt like it pushed me to want to live there.
The next morning, I had a plan to drive around some areas south of the city, as my friend Bran had told me that’s probably where I’d enjoy living best. After a soyrizo crepe and a honey hazelnut latte from a creperie right across the street from my apartment (both of which were spectacular), I was off to see if these places could be my next home.
And uh…wow. I almost cried, picturing myself living in these neighborhoods.
Everything felt so serene. The plant life was green, and I mean like, actually green (Phoenix’s shades of green still feel weirdly desaturated), the homes and storefronts had beautiful pops of color, and I felt the vibe of these towns welcoming me with a gentle, more hydrated breeze.
I mean, even just finding a coffee shop to sit at in Columbia City and staring out the window for a bit made me feel like I was living a whole new, more exciting life than I have in Phoenix. This could really just be a testament to how long I’ve let my hometown dry me out, but coffee tasted better in Seattle. Walking was more exciting, in Seattle.
Hell, people later that night in Seattle even made me feel hotter than people do, in Phoenix. It may have simply been that I was in the right place at the right time, but I’m going to hold onto as many serendipitous moments as I can possibly handle.
Once I got back to the city, I met up with my friend Bran to get coffee, who I just have to give a quick shoutout to for being so excited to have me there, that he almost tackled me when we first met up. He made time for me each day I was visiting, despite two of those days being days he had to ride a ferry for an hour to get to the city. Not only that, but he was excited to do so, and he made sure that the time that we spent together was time seeing things about the city that he loved, so that maybe I could love it, too. I just think he’s rad.
After we had some coffee and spilled some tea about our previous night (let’s just say that boys are dumb and we rolled our eyes a lot), we went out on another exploration journey, hitting up a bookstore he loved, having dinner at a Mexican restaurant that honestly held its own to the several incredible Mexican restaurants we have in Phoenix, and visited Madison Pub and Cuff, two more queer establishments to add to my roster of places I know I’d go back to.
Even though there were situations about that night that weren’t ideal (mostly some people we ended up with, but hey, c’est la vie) I just remember having the best time. I even almost puked in an IHOP bathroom later that night, and I still wouldn’t have changed a thing about that night. (Okay maybe one thing, but that’ll be a secret for friends only.)
All in all, I knew my trip to Seattle was successful and gave me what I needed, not only for the copious amounts of reasons listed above, but for the simple fact that I was miserable the moment I got home. After the incredible trip I had, I had to come back to this dump?
Okay, that was harsh. Let’s dial that back: I had to come back to this place that takes a fat, non-consensual dump on me almost daily? Unacceptable. I would have gone back to Seattle for good in a heartbeat.
So in my attempts to be out of here before the end of August, the trip I had to Seattle was everything I needed to see to know I want to live there. I still have a potential trip planned to Denver in June, a city I’ve also heard incredible things about, but I know I’m only keeping Denver as an option because it’s more cost effective, and because people tell me it’s a fun city. Much like I knew before visiting Seattle, there’s the potential that I go there and think it’s not for me whatsoever, but there’s also the potential of me falling more or less in love with it compared to Seattle. I’m kind of excited by that prospect, but realistically, it feels like I have just a few more reasons to be in the Pacific Northwest compared to being surrounded by mountains.
I think the greatest gift Seattle gave me was just to be excited about living life, again. I’ve been so uninspired, feeling so stagnant in Phoenix. There’s nothing else I can do here to make a big enough change to warrant even a drop of excitement about living here, which means it’s time to be somewhere else. Thinking about what I’ve already seen thus far, it seems like that will become a reality very soon.