Seattle Freeze

by Caitlin Sussman | Layout & Design

One of the first things I was warned about when I told everyone I knew that I was leaving sunny San Diego to move to Washington where I have exactly three friends was to beware the “Seattle Freeze.” “People up there just aren’t friendly,” I was told. “It’s hard as heck to meet them, and then once you meet them they’re still kind of cold.” (I was also being told that Seattle was “much more your vibe” and I’d “fit right in;” speculation continues as to whether my friends were trying to call me a jerk.) It was discouraging, though my childhood dreams of starving alone in a leaky garret were looking more attainable than ever. And like a true artist, I was not about to let my complete lack of social connection or sense of direction hold me back from enjoying what the city had to offer.

My first weekend out alone was an unmitigated disaster. I’d found out that singer-songwriter Alela Diane was going to be playing in a place called Fremont with a few other folky-type artists, and as her latest album had been serving as soundtrack to my emotional displacement, I thought it fate.

I had no idea where Fremont was, and the friend I’d thought was a huge fan turned out not to know who Diane was or why I’d want her to leave her apartment on the relative insanity of a Friday night. I was forty minutes late and I perched on a stool in the sixth and final row of the Fremont Arts Abbey with my notebook on my knee. I scribbled frantically through three full sets (the Portland band Joseph, in particular, is well worth seeking out). The girl next to me kept looking over, I thought at me, but when I finally attempted eye contact midway through Diane’s encore I found she’d actually been watching the door. She was already there with a friend, but something kept her looking for more.

The following night found me alone (again) at the Harvard Exit’s midnight showing of The Wall, and the rest of that weekend is an angsty blur. “What were you expecting?” Boyfriend asked, when I related my shell-shocked conviction that I was existing only in a void. “I mean seriously. The Wall.” But I was determined to be self-sufficient.

So this last weekend I prepared. I wore a plain t-shirt and minimal makeup. I brought my notebook in my purse and when I got to the Crocodile, I planted myself firmly against the bar and glared pointedly at the empty stage. And not two minutes later, I had a friend. Not a real friend, perhaps – we didn’t exchange contact info – but I had someone to talk to between sets, and it felt like a massive coup.

And then the walk home.

“Are you lost?” It’s a loaded question, especially from an older man to a younger woman who is walking by herself at night. I paused.

“’Cause that there’s the 7, and you could hop that up to the Hill. Hang on! You know who I am? I’m on YouTube.”

And I made my second friend of the evening: Seattle fixture Glen Pops Freeman, whose offer of a song was immediately accepted. His voice was clear and brilliant, but the joy in my mind wasn’t just from the music.

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