What the hell happened to my key chain?

I remember leaving leaving San Francisco in October and noticing my key chain; I had just returned the 7 keys it took to get into my ex’s apartment and all I had on my ring was a car key and two keys for my storage locker. It felt indicative of where I was in my life–lone and transient.

But nowadays? My key chain is full: house key to my lovely burner household, two for work, one to the apartment of a super cute boy, one for my dad/sister’s house, a gifted rocket keychain, a Fred Meyer club card paired with my mom’s account, no storage key but one to the club for my car reminiscent of it being stolen, and of course–my car, ever the constant. Every time I fumble through them I am consciously thankful for friends, family, love, and work. How are keys such an indication of life?

The Ultimate Fear

Am I becoming boring?

Ugh. Dear god I hope not.

I feel conflicted with my current state of stability. Overall life is good, my days are happy. I’ve got a job I’m pleased with, dig my home life, enjoy time with my family, am smitten with my new boyfriend, and have a bustling social life. But that kind of routine happiness makes for boring stories.

My conversation topics have become more tame, and I hate it. I want intrigue, drama, honesty, stimulation! Nowadays my mental and emotional focus is largely on professional challenges and the private, sappy joys of a new relationship. But no one wants to hear about those, right? Back to old reliable small talk. I’ve even started chiming in about traffic; mortifyingly mundane.

In a land that supposedly values freedom so much, why the hell are we so rigid about time in America? Why do we leave ourselves spent? I long for the lazy days in Caye Calker and the “go slow” lifestyle. I yearn for freedom of time to do what you want, when you want. The time to socialize, write, play, adventure, and rest. The time to indulge and recover. Now I feel tired often, fatigue creeping into my bones from trying to do too much. Naps are key to living a rock n’ roll lifestyle.

I was reminded in the nicest way possible recently that it’s been a year since I landed in Utila. Unbelievable. I have the simultaneous urge to buy myself a plane ticket and leave TONIGHT, yet also while away my time pleasantly in Seattle. The weather *is* turning beautiful, and oh won’t the fall be lovely…

I’m happy, and it’s driving me crazy.

Is this the final stage of culture shock? Does it ever go away? Or is this the perpetual plight of a traveler, no longer moving?

Erin’s car gets stolen

A week ago, I walked outside my house to go to work and found my car was gone. I looked around to make sure I wasn’t crazy, left a note for the neighbors, called the primary Seattle tow company, then the police. Within an hour an officer was in my living room filing a stolen car report. When I told him the make and model he nodded; late 90’s Hondas are notoriously easy to steal. Thieves break in in under a minute and start the car with a screwdriver. Great, now they tell me! So, what are my chances, officer? He said stolen cars are recovered “more often than not, and more often than not are drivable”. In fact, 85% of stolen cars in Seattle are recovered, indeed most in driving condition. I already felt on the bad side of luck, but was hopeful.

There isn’t a lot you can do when you car gets stolen, but I took a few extra steps. My housemate posted on our neighborhood watch board. I recruited the garbage and mail men to keep an eye out on their routes. My sister canvassed my neighborhood with me for over an hour looking for my car the day it disappeared. As I scanned cars we passed, she pontificated on car modification techniques she would perform to disguise a stolen car and measures she would take to not get caught. I pshawed. They weren’t that tricky, right?

I spent a week wondering, keeping an eye out everywhere I went. My supervisor and friend at my part-time job was incredibly generous and trusting to loan me his mother’s car for a few days. I received emotional support and disbelief from my friends and co-workers. I shared my stolen saga with a friend and he mentioned there might be a stolen car dumped in his neighborhood. (Something I never would think about–if a car looks abandoned, it’s worth giving the police a heads up just in case it’s stolen!) He notified the police, they picked it up, and he sent me his car karma. But chances of recovery statistically dwindled by the day. After a week, I started believing poor little Ginger was gone for good and began planning longer term transportation options.

Then, after dinner with my housemates at about 10pm, I received a voicemail from an unknown number. The sheriff! He told me to get down to Dearborn and 5th, by the stadiums: they found my car. My housemates and I raced to the scene. Unexpectedly, we found my car at a gas station surrounded by sheriff cars with their lights on. They had apprehended the thieves while they were driving my car. This was no joy ride theft (the most common scenario); the thieves had been planning to keep it. They swapped my plates with those from another another stolen car, removed the roof rack and other identifying features, just as my sister would have. They even decorated the rear view mirror with good luck tchotchkes. I anti-identified the tweaker driver (“nope, don’t know him and did not give permission to drive my car”) who was in custody.

I was shocked to get my car back, I really thought she was gone for good. The good news was she was certainly drivable, but the inside was a mess. All my possessions–save my ice scraper and a pair of shoes in the trunk that went undetected–had been thrown out and replaced with criminal crap. It reeked of cigarette smoke. We found various spills throughout, including tapioca pearls all over the center console and unidentified green goo on the passenger side. The police provided us with trash bags to cover the seats, plastic gloves, and anti-bacterial wipes. We rolled the windows down and drove off.

 Trash, messes, and crack.

Back at home we inventoried the car. The cops didn’t want any of the stuff as evidence so tasked us with disposal. Time to loot. Highlights of the haul include shaved keys, bolt cutters, crowbars, other heavy duty tools, crack pipe, bowie knife, ski masks, many pairs of gloves, two prepaid cell phones, sugary cereals, watermelon, fast food trash stuffed in every corner, a Wii, computer accessories, and a shit ton of ramen noodles. As my friend Wendy said “Also: mouthwash. Because you don’t want your breath to smell like meth and Trix.” 😛

While the car was missing, I didn’t have an emotional reaction to it being stolen. People who I told were often more outraged than me. But I felt like a victim once it was returned. I’m in the process of getting the car cleaned and road-worthy, and notice small reminders of violation constantly. They adjusted my steering column angle. There’s a burn hole in the driver’s door from a cigarette; they used many surfaces as ash trays. The passenger’s visor is now busted. They superglued my AC button down (thanks guys, who needs fuel economy?). The plastic casing around my radio has been cut, even though the radio is in tact. All of my radio presets were changed to crappy pop music. Tonight I reset them all to the one station; I didn’t want to have any connection to the thieves, not even the music they listen to.

I’m very thankful to the police. It feels the same as when my tire blew out on the highway and the DOT Incident Response Team came to my rescue. There are so many people out there working to serve and protect who have your back if something bad happens. Feels really good we live in a society where that is the case. I heart public services.

I got new plates and registration, had the interior ultra detailed (super expensive!), and bought a club. I feel angry now. I want to do all in my control to make this guy regret stealing my car. I’m interested in the upcoming criminal proceedings and my options to participate. It’s difficult for me to understand blatant disregard for other people and property. Even if it’s stolen, why trash it? Fuckin’ jerk.

Seahawks FEVER!

Twelfth man represent!
Photo from http://seattletimes.com 
Seattle and I have SEAHAWKS FEVER!!!! I’m damn lucky to be back in Seattle to experience the Seahawks stellar 2013-14 season. We are in the Superbowl, baby! 
For those less familiar with Seattle sports history, let me spell it out for you: we need this. There has not been a championship of a major Seattle sports team (to me this means Mariners, Seahawks, Supersonics) in my lifetime. Seattle has won so few major championships ever:
  1. In 1917, the Seattle Metropolitans became the first American hockey team win the Stanley Cup.
  2. In 1979, the Seattle Supersonics made it all the way to win the NBA Championship. 
  3. The Seattle Storm won the WNBA championship twice, in 2004 and 2010, but I’m sorry (and I feel awful saying this, but it’s true…) does anyone *really* care about the WNBA?
All to say, now is the time! This year of all years, today of all days, our Seahawks can make it happen. And we the fans are psyched, we are ready, we are hungry. We are the 12th Man. We are the extra player beyond the eleven on the field, cheering our heads off, and kicking up the decibel level at the Clink with the loudest roaring fans in the league. The city has been lit up the with 12, 12th man flags fly high atop the Space Needle and in what seems like every window. But some local spirit that is baller? Boeing flight #12 flew a path over the state of Washington in true twelfth man spirit:
Look familiar? So freakin’ awesome! Image via flightaware.com
I like to represent too, in my own way. Laura and I had a craft day before the NFC Championship game: we made Seahawks themed feather hair pieces for us sisters. Oh yeah. Super stylish. Girls throughout the pub were jealous of mine. 😛
Don’t they look so lovely?
All the cultural institutions are getting in on the action. The Twitters are blowing up with smack talk and challenges. The Seattle Art Museum and the Denver Art Museum have placed a wager: whoever wins get to display on loan a piece from the loser’s museum representing their defeat. If Seattle wins, they get to show off the aptly titled “The Broncho Buster” by Frederic Remington. If we lose, Denver gets a screen print depicting a seahawk, “Sound of Waves”. The zoos have a similar wager. If Seattle wins, the Denver Zoo Curator of Birds will deliver a case of trout and feed it to the Woodland Park Zoo’s sea eagles while wearing a Seahawks jersey. The science museums and even the airports want a piece of the rivalry.
Sport in art. Images: Denver Art Museum, Seattle Art Museum
Photo courtesy of the Woodland Park Zoo.
Science burn!
The Space Needle of course is a center icon in displaying team pride, flying the 12th man flag every weekend. I love the energy of working the Space Needle before a big game, bantering with Hawks fans and whoever their visiting rivals are for the week (thank you playoff home field advantage!), and leading cheers in the elevators.
Seattle pride!
Photo by @rodmarphoto.
Before the last playoff game, Q13 Fox came to the Space Needle for a brief shoot. I got to work *just* after all the fun ended. Literally. I was the elevator operator who took the hostess and camera man all back down to the ground. Good lookin’ Space Needle bunch, hey? 😉 

Today’s the day. The one we’ve all been waiting for. Kick off is 3:30pm PST. Put on your best blue and green, and GO HAWKS!!!!

San Francisco and me are in a fight.

I was almost tricked. The drive down the North California coast was beautiful. Across the California border the air smelled enchantingly sweeter. I was surrounded by things about California I love: the color of the dry landscape and the feel of the sunshine and the scent of eucalyptus trees. Why don’t I live here anymore? Maybe I should move back…

The Route 1 coast north of San Francisco, as the sun goes down. Stunning.

Yeah, I appear in non-selfie pics occasionally.

But then I arrived in San Francisco. It took forty-five minutes to drive six miles through town from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Mission. I arrived at my dear friend Simran’s house irritated and ready to bitch. It’s a nightmare to drive anywhere, pedestrians and drivers alike are super jerks, the city lacks an effective thoroughfare, and there actually is no parking. Public transport (IMHO) sucks; BART only serves the Financial District, neglecting most of the city. Even when you’re not going anywhere, it’s still horrid; every time I go get my car off the street–which is every two hours to move it–I pray that it won’t have a ticket or its window smashed or both. In the first 36 hours, I got a $62 parking ticket because of freakin’ street cleaning. Street cleaning! I really aught to have known better; I did used to live here. But in Seattle we have something called rain, which means street cleaning and subsequent parking restrictions AREN’T A THING.

Double whammy–ticket and break-in, just around the corner from my car. Yikes.

This city is unfriendly to those without money. It is an economic system that assumes all the participants have lucrative tech jobs. The fight between “old” and “new” San Francisco is alive and well, just look at the protests against the Google busses that have raged over the past few weeks. Real estate is a particular problem. In 2013, San Francisco supplanted New York City as the least affordable housing market in the country. Any rent under $2,000/month (for a one bedroom or even a studio) is considered a steal. More people move to the city every day, but the city is resistant to changing to accommodate its growth. Seattle is held up as an example of adapting to the influx of new people, as for 2010-12 it experienced the same increase in residents (12,000) yet issued nearly three times the number of new housing permits (26,000 vs 10,000). Come of SF, admit you have a problem–make that, crisis–and do something about it!

It is no surprise that San Francisco’s cost of life is expensive given the continued economic boom of Silicon Valley, but reentry is a shock to my system. As a traveler on a shoestring budget, I feel constantly intimidated by prices and luxuries taken for granted. And I dig quality. I believe it’s worth it to pay more for a better, more responsible, healthier, etc product. But SF takes it to a whole new level. For instance, the new Big Thing hipster cuisine craze is $4 designer toast. A year ago I probably would have sampled many and had opinions. Now I feel it’s ludicrous. How did I used to think this type of thing was “normal”?!

I should be all about this, but instead I hate it.

Sim and I have been largely hunkering down in her apartment together and cooking. One night, we needed a red cabbage and head of cauliflower. If we had a bigger list I would have trekked to Safeway, but as it was only two things I went to nearby Bi-Rite, a famous local grocery known for high quality and prices to match. My two vegetables came to eight dollars. EIGHT DOLLARS. At the register, individual caramel candies–just like the sea salt ones I made as gifts for my couchsurfing hosts, about the size of a quarter–were priced at two dollars apiece. I made pretty kick-ass 50 candies from $4 worth of ingredients. I used to think Bi-Rite was crazy, but now I believe it is downright out of control.

Walking along Valencia Street, everyone looks hip and rich. I feel I have to strut to keep up and express my own coolness. (Yeah, I’m rocking knee high boots with shorts, on purpose, right. It’s alternative.) Looking around, I realized lots of people wear hoodies in SF too–something I’ve come to see as a signature of Seattle–but here they’re brightly colored and expensive-looking or branded with a startup logo. I stopped into Betabrand–a creative hipster company I had seen online–and was immediately propositioned to take a picture with Bigfoot dangling from the ceiling. They handed me a compound bow, snapped a pic, put it up on their site, and emailed me a copy. Flash and dazzle, selling $200 hoodies. I’m ready to go back to Seattle, where people rock the same grey hoodie they’ve had for fifteen years. Legit.

This photo makes no sense…

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had an excellent trip here catching up with friends. There are some people in the Bay Area who I completely and utterly adore (you all know who you are! xoxo!). But how can San Francisco as a city, economy, and culture simultaneously have so much that I love and hate? I’m so frustrated.

The fundraiser in me reemerges: Help support my travels! :-)

I’ve been turning over in my head ways to generate a little income from my writing. I want to keep complete control over what I write and I want it to stay from the heart. I don’t like the feel of ads and don’t have the massive traffic to make them worthwhile. But still, some money would be incredibly helpful! So I’ve decided to return to my fundraising roots, and openly and gently ask my readers for their support: I just added a “Donate” button to this blog (see it all orange and lovely in the upper right corner above all my selfies?). 
If you have enjoyed my stories and want to help me make more of them, please consider tossing me a few bucks to cover a beer or a bus ticket or a new pair of socks. Think of me as Katniss and you as my live-saving sponsor. 😉 It’s super easy: click the orange Donate button or right here to kick in a little something via Paypal. I would so appreciate it; every bit helps, I promise! And my birthday is coming up… 🙂
Thank you everyone for reading about my adventures. I love sharing them with you. I look forward to many more in the year ahead!

Thus begins my Great Seattle Sandwich Hunt: Salumi

My happiness is best expressed with salami.
Photography by Decktor.

Oh Sandwiches. How is it possible for you to be so simple, yet so delicious? I love a good sandwich and will go to great lengths for an exceptional one. Favorites of mine dot the country: roast beef with peppers and cheese at Sam La Grassa in Boston (I laughed for *years* at their claim to be the World’s No. 1 Sandwich until I finally had one. Oh. My. God.), Jim Rome or Elvis Kieth at Ike’s Place in San Francisco, or pastrami at Katz’s Delicatessen in New York.

Two years ago, with a plus one coming with me to visit Seattle, I thought I’d branch out from my family and go out to eat. After a little research, I learned that Mario Batali’s family runs a salumeria and sandwich place in Seattle called Salumi. Say what?  How on earth did I miss out on that happening? I shared my discovery with my family but they all already knew, yet no one had told me. WTF family?! Three weeks later, my sister Laura sent me two Salumi salamis for my birthday. 🙂
Since then, I knew a pilgrimage to Salumi was in order. In the shadow of the Smith Tower, this small unassuming shop is known for tasty house-made meats and lines down the block. Their hours make it tricky if you don’t work down near Pioneer Square: Tuesday to Friday 11am-3:30pm, and many sandwiches sell out early (at my visit, the daily special was already gone at 11:45am).

Make-a mine with-a mott-zer-rellah!
Left, from http://www.salumicuredmeats.com. Right, photography by Decktor.

I was accompanied by a fellow sandwich devotee and my visual composer for the day. Standing outside in the bright January sun and feeling a little under the weather with a cold, I placed my hopes in the healing properties of pork. While waiting in line for about twenty minutes, we snacked on free slices of mole and spicy paprika salami and negotiated which sandwiches to order and split. Luckily we were on the same wavelength: Leonetta’s Meatball with mozzarella ($8.50) and Muffo (cotto salami, hot sopressata salami, provolone, and olive tapenade; $9.75).

Time to dig in!
Photography by Decktor.

I started with my half of the meatball sub; it was served hot, dripping with sweet tomato sauce, with sautéed peppers and onions on top and melty mozzarella underneath. The roll was just crispy enough on the outside, substantial enough to hold up to the drippy goodness, yet soft enough to eat easily. Pork meatballs broke apart softly with each bite. I found it all a lovely savory balance, the homey flavors hitting the spot.

Photography by Decktor.

I devoured my portion, licking sauce from my fingers. It completely filled me up, so I took my half Muffo back home for dinner with a cup of tomato soup. I crisped it in the toaster oven, partially melting the cheese. I really dug the olive tapenade and the overall flavor, but wished for an extra helping of salami! I’m still getting up the guts to try their other hot sandwiches: Porchetta (their tribute to pork; looks insane!) and Grilled Lamb. Always good to save something for the next trip.