I met J at the airport (she landed a half hour after me) and we just hugged and smoked a cigarette and amazed at the temperature, which was warmer than it had been in Melbourne when i left. I was standing outside in Canada in February wearing just jeans and a tank. Crazy. The weather kept on being awesome the whole time we were there - 10 to 15 degrees (50-60F) during the day, close to freezing at night, but nothing worse than Melbourne's winter. J and i clicked straight off the bat, no awkwardness, we just kept on chatting like we did online, talked about everything, laughed, just enjoyed being with each other.
Canada is a funny country. It's kind of like America Lite, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Hoodies, hockey and beer, eh? Very laid-back, people just kinda mind their own business and seem quite happy with their lives. Or perhaps it's just Vancouver; every second step you get a whiff of cigarette smoke that isn't completely tobacco (that's on the steps in between tripping over homeless dudes). But really, who wouldn't be happy (besides the homeless dudes)? The city is surrounded by snow-topped mountains, the ocean comes right into downtown with beaches on one side and marinas on the other, there's a huge park with tree-lined paths, squirrels jumping around, interesting sculptures... If you can't chill out in Vancouver you can't chill out anywhere. It's a beautiful city.
It's also a very slow city. People don't wake up till after noon, it seems like. I'm not even sure there's a rush hour. Even on Saturday afternoon you barely need to get out the way of anyone on the sidewalk. We sat on the beach one weekend. Sun beaming, hotdog vendors selling their "tube steaks", palm trees (!) swaying in the breeze, friends playing petanque, a couple sitting on the rocks... We sat on a log and it just felt like we'd lived there all our lives. I could totally see living there. Or perhaps retiring or raising kids. It's just that sort of place. Mellow. Homey.
In the second week we hit the bus to Seattle. J wasn't too excited about the trip and to be honest i wasn't expecting much either - i just wanted to get my America fix. Hitting the border got me my fix. I started tearing up when i saw those familiar interstate signs, when we passed the Blaine and Bellingham strip malls - JCPenney, Sears, Macy's, Best Buy, Costco... You know i fucking hate malls to shop in, but i love them to look at. The Chevy dealerships with more flags than the UN, the towering 76 balls, Dennys on the exit sign, Jack in the Box, cinema multiplexes... It's just so iconic. It's this essential American culture that people who live there don't get because it's just part of their everyday humdrum existence. Coming over a bridge on I-5 with the Seattle skyline up ahead, Space Needle and all, was breathtaking. It's one of those places i wanted to visit since i was a kid and though i'd set my expectations low... well there i was.
Walking around in Seattle was striking after Vancouver. The sidewalks were almost clean of trash, barely a single homeless dude, yet oddly the place was a lot busier and more urban-feeling. There is definitely a rush hour, and there are definitely people at work in the city. Suits scurry between the hundreds of coffee shops (literally several per block) and the buses are packed. But around the coffee shops and office blocks and fantastic innercity shopping there are sculptures out the ass, a beautiful market full of antiques, Americana and fresh food, sly side alleys with bars and microbreweries, sleek restaurants and cocktail joints. We walked down to Pioneer Square (old district) one day and were surrounded by beautiful old buildings, amazon.com nerds getting lunch from the most delightful little Soup Nazi mom'n'pop joints, corner pubs and one fabulously homoerotic firefighter statue. I had a better shwarma there than any i've found in Melbourne.
Hell, barring Chinese, the food i ate everywhere was better than Australia. I'd been here too long to remember how good it is up there. Real sushi with real fish. Burgers with juicy patties, creamy cheese, crispy bacon... Real hotdogs! I ate my first Reuben, and though my belly didn't agree (though that might have been the influence of the many beers consumed alongside), my mouth danced. Poutine! Philly cheesesteak! I even found a Malaysian joint in Vancouver that cooked a mean nasi lemak. Nasi lemak, you may recall, is my new favorite food in absence of decent burritos down here. Well first day in Seattle we hit The Cheesecake Factory and i got an ungodly huge motherfucking burrito. Eating that monster reminded me of why burritos are my favoritest food in the world. The salsa verde, the guacomole, the sour cream, the beans, the rice, the chicken, the cilantro, the lime, oh my! I have a very funny photo of me looking completely crazed with glee with this giant burrito in front of me.
So Seattle was amazing. The arts scene there looks ridiculous. Picking up the street press there was page after page of honestly funny articles, tons of gigs, local bands, DJs, guys who never come to Australia doing intimate gigs... I wish we'd been there longer to experience more of it.
And meanwhile i'm doing all this with a pretty girl who is doing it all with me - and enjoying it as much as i am! Are you kidding? What more could you fucking want on a vacation? It was perfect. Dude. I went to a baseball field tour and it was incredible. I've never watched a baseball game in my life, barely know the rules, but i was in America and we did something quintessentially American. We got to go down on the field and stand in the dugout. We went to the Experience Music Project and learned about popular music and jammed on their gear. I drank a bottle of vitamin-enriched Diet Coke and smuggled back two bottles of Tapatio hot sauce. Seriously. Could it get any better?
Well, yes, it could. Neither J or i wanted to do the long distance bullshit so we figured hey let's just make this happen. She already has a working holiday visa for Australia so she booked a plane ticket for Easter weekend. I might be back in Melbourne and back at work now, and i might be here for another year, but in two weeks i'm gonna start sharing that year with an amazing chick and who knows where things will go from there. It's a new start in my life, another chapter to write, and i can't wait. I'm feeling really good. Whatever happens, wherever life takes me, i've had this, i've had these wonderful experiences that noone can ever take away.