Oct 12, 2014

Final Fantasy VI

I'm not sure what inspired me to do it, but a few days ago I hunted down the Final Fantasy VI original soundtrack buried deep within my music collection, dragged it onto my player, and gave it a listen while driving around for work. I must admit, the moment I heard the first few notes of the second track, "The Mines of Narshe," memories suddenly came bubbling to the surface, and I was embraced by a familiar warm tingle of nostalgia.

Final Fantasy VI (known as Final Fantasy III in the U.S.) is one of those rare games from my childhood that left an indelible impression on me as a child and stirred the deepest reaches of my soul. The overwhelming majority of such games to have such a powerful impact on me were RPG's/fantasy adventure games for the Super Nintendo, such as The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past, Chrono Trigger, Illusion of Gaia, and Secret of Mana. But I think out of all those masterpieces, Final Fantasy VI drew me in and inspired me the most, affecting my emotions in ways no other game has been able to do. Not even its exalted successor, FFVII, went that far, in spite of its greatness.

Here we have what appears to be, at first glance, a typical RPG for its day: top-down perspective following little midget characters through towns, caves, and overworlds, a sophisticated leveling up system, a slew of dialogue boxes, and random enemy attacks (an element that I HATED when I first rented and played it, but later on adjusted to). What makes this one such a unique, unforgettable experience for me? The musical score, for starters, is not a single notch below superb. Beautifully orchestrated numbers grace the game from beginning to end. Some tracks from the game, such as "Mt. Kolts" and "The Phantom Forest," stuck with me almost constantly for years after hearing them just a few times, and I found they would simply start playing in my head whenever I was in a certain situations. My real life wanderings through an enchanting moonlit forest by the coast at night, for instance, easily brought "Phantom Forest" to the forefront of my mental jukebox, only enhancing the effect of my beautiful surroundings on me. 20 years later, the soundtrack still sounds just as grandiose.

Besides the gripping storyline and character depth alike, the lush environments in the game really pulled me in and deeply inspired my imagination. In spite of the graphical limitations imposed by the technology of its day, the richness of the background art in battle scenes and top-down mode is impressive, to say the least. It is part of the reason I became so immersed in the game I lost all track of time, back when school day afternoons and weekends were full of nothing but spare time. I shouldn't neglect to mention all the secrets in the game, from the wealth of hidden treasures and side quests to discover and accomplish later on, when the game really sets the player free to wander around at their leisure.

I will unabashedly acknowledge that my gushing over this game is largely fueled by nostalgia. As I stated, it made a major impression on me in my middle school days, a rough time in my life plagued by depression and self-doubt, naturally. When I broke my foot after the first day of school in 6th grade, we had to travel the two hours to Hilo to have a cast put on, and I was taken to the mall afterwards to pick out a video game in a local comic book shop. There I spotted the game box featuring the much beloved Mog. Having rented it at least six or seven different times prior, I decided on the spot that I had to finally own it, so I would never have to give it up again. So I used all my allowance money and my dad lovingly pitched in to cover the rest of the cool $59.99 asking price. The game, box, instruction manual, and maps are all still safely in my possession... and probably worth some dough. Though, in a tough spot, I'd sooner beg for change on the street than let it all go.

I became caught up in the game for months. Every afternoon following a particularly rough or average day at school, I headed into the den to lose myself in the majesty of the experience. I distinctly recall when I first secured the first airship, exclaiming out loud that, "this is the most amazing fucking thing ever!" It inspired many dreams of mine later on, as did so many other memorable moments from the game. I even experienced a couple terrifying nightmares taking place in the decaying city of Zozo, that I could still describe sequence by sequence even though they happened when I was a child.

I think it's simultaneously astonishing and fantastic that a game has the ability to permeate the core of my being the way Final Fantasy VI has. It's always been a fascinating thing to ponder, how certain attachments from one's childhood are nigh impossible to forget, or not be moved by later on in life. In any case, this game certainly deserves my personal tribute.

I have half a mind to turn off all the lights downstairs and start a brand new game tonight, if it wasn't for feeling so drained and unable to concentrate on much due to being sick. I'm surprised I even managed to finish this. Maybe tomorrow.

Sep 18, 2014

A Very Green Day.

For a good couple hours on Thursday, I felt pretty damn Irish.

Shortly after changing from my work shirt into my lime green Guinness tee, I parked again a little ways down the road, only to open my door and find a lucky penny waiting for me on the ground. It gets better, though. When I made my way down the hill to the shoreline, I walked along the railroad track a little ways and came across a nifty little staircase leading down to a small pebbly cove. There I found a couple unopened bottles of Sierra Nevada IPA, cool and glistening from the rain. I took one and popped it open, leaving the other for the next wanderer, or myself if it remains undiscovered until my next visit. As if finding free beer on a secluded beach wasn't enough, I could have also counted my lucky charms that it was a lovely, damp, cool, altogether grey, drizzly, Irish-feeling day.

You see, I find it really comfortable up here between fall and spring, for all the damp, grey, dreary weather that regularly persists throughout that duration delights me. It must run through my Irish blood, really. Not only is the dampness on my skin and the chilly Pacific breeze refreshing beyond compare, the atmosphere it creates could never become tiresome. Everything felt very peaceful; I could hear little but the call of nearby seagulls over rustling of rust-colored leaves as they shook off large water droplets, hitting their already fallen brethren scattered upon the ground. And of course, nobody else was anywhere remotely around to ruin the magic. Apparently, the blissful grey skies keep the vast majority of mundanes inside, which could be at least half the reason I favor such days.

I just think of summertime up here in the PNW as an obnoxious, overly extroverted older brother coming up to stay with you for a three month visit. Whether you want him around or not, he rarely goes away and leaves you alone. Most of the time, he's up in your face, taunting you, staring you down, challenging your patience and tolerance, and very little is able to stand in his way. He leaves me feeling easily frustrated, drained, and overheated, because it seems he's simply determined to beat up on me all day long. And he doesn't even go to bed until 9:00! As if all that wasn't bad enough, he is, for whatever inexplicable reason, also very popular, and attracts hordes of admirers... worshipers, even! They come from near and far, and are out and about in droves whenever he's around, taking over the outdoors, tying up traffic, dimishing whatever acceptable level of peace, quiet, and sense of solitude that should exist in a wooded park or sandy pocket of beach. Ugh. In case it isn't already obvious, this analogy is referring to the summer sun.

I think I've effectively made my point on this subject in so many entries (enough to beat [off] a dead horse, but the venting has helped). I hope to not have to do it again until next June. I'd feel even luckier than I already do.

O ye fellow Children of the Shade, rejoice, for Autumn is mercifully nearly upon us.

Sep 1, 2014

At least I know where I belong.

This Saturday, I put in a few hours at work, then we took off south to Seattle for a concert, hoping to make it to the venue by around 7 in the evening. We didn't even come close, as it turns out. We ended up sitting on the freeway for over an hour waiting for emergency responders to clear up an accident about a mile ahead of us, and we still had a ways to go after that. Our destination was on the outskirts of an Indian reservation, seemingly so, so far away. The time was approaching 8:30 by the time we got the chance to park, hike all the way to the front gate, then wait in line again to submit our tickets and be frisked. We did manage to arrive within view of the stage to catch the last three or four songs of Soundgarden, at least, and all of the closing act, Nine Inch Nails. Granted, we saw NIN live in Seattle just a few months prior, but if you adore an artist enough, there's no such thing as too many times. And they put on an excellent show, again. I was just slightly disappointed I didn't hear anything from my favorite album, The Fragile. I was blown away when they had played "Even Deeper" at their previous Seattle show... that song is me.

That said, I found the experience as a whole to be... strangely unfulfilling. I didn't feel very moved, but rather beside myself. Perhaps I was simply too drained from all the hours of driving stress before I even arrived. I tried to forget about it all and lose myself in the music and the moment, but my attempts were ineffective for the most part. I also happened to take notice of how lethargic the entire crowd was, from start to finish... hardly any movement even in the front rows. This wasn't James Taylor featuring Prince Valium, this was fucking Nine Inch Nails.

I wouldn't go so far as to say it felt like a waste of money or time, even though it certainly consumed plenty of both, between the tickets, gas, $35 concert shirts, and sitting in traffic for what felt like several hundred miles each way. I just didn't enjoy myself nearly as much as I feel like I should have, and if I had known that beforehand, I most likely would have opted to save that money for something else. I got to thinking, mid-song, that while concerts and such can be fun, these sorts of entertainment options just don't bring me the sorts of thrills that they would have maybe 10 years ago. It's similar to the whole bar hopping thing, getting smashed and being an idiot in front of perfect strangers may have been fun and exciting in one's college years (I never cared for it at all), but when they're older, not so much. Likewise, I hardly give a damn anymore about seeing a movie in the theater when I can just download it and watch it at home for free. While in my 20's, I would go and see movies at least once or twice per month, as well as spend plenty of time cruising around shopping malls, not so much because I was shopping for anything in particular, but I actually found it fun. Nowadays, I can barely stand to set foot in a mall.

I'm guessing this is a part of getting older and greyer (haha, how can I get much greyer?). Things like once seemed so exciting and novel and rebellious in high school or college, like staying up all night, getting totally pissed, looking fashionably dark and brooding in front of Hot Topic, and sneaking weed into shows now seem pretty mundane, things I've come to feel pretty damn blasé towards. Then again, having grown up on in the country on a remote Hawaiian island, I never really had access to concerts or many other urban activities anyway. I grew up filling my time with nature rather than musical or theatrical performances, and I think that also factors into it strongly. This Saturday night, I would have felt more moved by a stroll along a moonlit beach beside the crashing waves. I would have gladly taken that over being stranded on the interstate, coughing on second hand smoke, and being stuck amongst mobs of human beings for hours.

Another interesting thing to note is that one of the reasons I chose to move from Hawaii to the Pacific Northwest is the much greater availability of such entertainment options: performances, festivals, museums, cultural events, etc. I will say that since we've moved here, we've attended a ton of fun events, but I've been increasingly left with this odd feeling that there is much left to be desired. At this point, I feel like it's a matter of wanting to fill the void with entertainment options available to us, but there shouldn't be such a void to begin with. Not even Nine Inch Nails was enough to fill it this time, which is a bit saddening to say.

It would be easiest to attribute this sense of lassitude and detachment with homesickness, for that would be a most obvious cause. I need no further evidence than my daily dreams that I already sorely miss my homeland, in some ways that defy description. It's often at the forefront of my conscious thoughts as well, for hardly an hour goes by that I don't at least briefly daydream of being back on the island somewhere, back in my element. I'm not convinced I will ever feel as wholesome and complete away from the only land that fills me with such spiritual energy and strength of character. Highly doubtful. I feel like a bit of a shell of myself, partially asleep, soul dormant, waiting to be roused by something truly beautiful and inspiring. Well, we know there's hardly shit in the depressing, banal state of popular culture these days to do the job, so... back to nature has to be the answer.

The next thing I'm really looking forward to is Rainfurrest at the end of September. I hope that a furry con will be enough to rekindle that wolven spirit that should be burning much brighter than it is, even if lasts only for the few days of its duration. It would be quite a lousy feeling if I found myself experiencing similar disinterest in such a setting... but it's hard to picture that happening. The warmth and positivity and like-mindedness in that setting permeates the atmosphere so much, I can't imagine it's possible to stay gloomy. I would dare say that of all the things I would be likely to miss about living here after we move, I would miss the fur cons and fur meets the most. I really doubt I'd miss much else.

That's not to say it's impossible we could have furry meets on a much, much smaller scale on the Big Island. It's already happened before...

Aug 27, 2014

Silence rings true

Went to a "nature preserve" a few miles out of town late last night, seeking a quiet, unpopulated place to just roam around with my thoughts again. Well, I certainly found solitude, near silence, and lots of big trees. I imagined the place would be just as appealing on a rainy day, or perhaps more so, since more of the beauty would be visible to me during the light of day.

Other than the occasional hoot of an owl, and a more frequent guttural droning of a frog ensconsed in some nearby marsh, all was silent. Too quiet, even. It made me start to wonder how many humans still get to hear absolute silence, or how often they even give themselves the opportunity to experience such a thing. The most complete, perfect silence I've ever heard was when I would journey deep into caves or lava tubes, turn off the light, and hold my breath for awhile. Save for the faint calls of woodland wildlife puncturing the silence every few moments, this wasn't far off. As I laid back against the wooden planks of a narrow footbridge and looked up at the starry sky through the narrow opening of the fir tree canopy, I found the silence more unsettling than ever.

It's likely that my discomfort with the silence, and perhaps even the pitch darkness to a lesser degree, merely reflects the inner turmoil that has been weighing upon my soul. Yet, I'm certain that if I went out and tried to enjoy myself in a crowded park in the middle of the day with the blinding sun sneering at me, my blood would begin to boil, and I would find that situation infinitely more uncomfortable, likely intolerable. When I'm feeling alone and in the dark, it feels much more apropos to be alone in the dark.

It's much too different. I'm accustomed to hearing the wind constantly whisper through the trees, becoming more of a low roar whenever a stronger gust stirs the branches. Feeling the wind swirl about, animating the grass and foliage all around me, displacing harsh, cold silence with the sweet, pleasing ambience of atmospheric motion. I'm used to crickets in the brush and their pleasant symphony of background noise. And the ocean that roars, tumbles, and crashes against the shore; again, a body in constant motion, ensuring against any possible sense of stagnation until the end of time. Then I think of the coqui frogs, widely loathed for their high-pitched, continuous nocturnal chirping by those who lack the ability or willingness to live in harmony with nature, but cherished and adored by myself. Their call is simply the sound of returning home to my ears.

It's no wonder then that my spirit continues to feel as displaced as it does, and no one is ever going to fully understand that as well as myself. It feels like there is simply too much missing, too much necessary nourishment for my soul is absent from the landscape. My rational side still finds that difficult to justify, but what I feel deep inside rings true. I need the island to really be at home and at peace.

I suppose this begs the question, "what are we going to do about it?" Well, I don't want to spend the rest of my time here being a frowny, grumpy wolf. As much as I have a natural affinity for the dark side, when it comes to music, art, and the macabre, I don't particularly relish feeling sour most of the time. I'm not ready to jump in a jet and fly straight back to Hawaii, either. There is still much left for us to experience and accomplish here in the great northwest, and jumping the gun like that isn't even a consideration.

When September finally gives summer the boot, and things start mercifully going back to the way they should be after Labor Day, I have reason to believe my overall mood will respond accordingly. I definitely hope so. I would also take great pleasure in getting the hell out of this apartment and into a proper house, allowing us more room, more personal space and privacy, and a more substantial feeling of "homie-ness." Hopefully that will be allowed to happen sometime within the next month. I ordered a good set of weights, as I'm all too eager to get back into the lifting routine. The regular workouts truly help on a physical and mental level, especially in contrast to just laying about most of the day hiding from the disgusting summer weather. I suspect all that idleness and inactivity, which I know has led to a great deal of restlessness, has been a significant cause of depression over the past many weeks.

While I do anticipate progress, setbacks are inevitable, even if most of them are emotional ones. I just happened upon an article today, during the process of writing this, stating that Washington State officials just approved aerial shooting of wolves to protect sheep herds. I almost didn't even want to know that. Leadership is so corrupt and priorities are so fucking backwards in this country for this to even be allowed to happen. Fuck you.

In any case, Shadow's got his surrounding wilderness to escape into, Rjayan has his endless supply of dark music for tormented souls, and I've got my mate and family, and my handy human disguise to help keep from getting shot and killed. We'll make it, even through a reality as fucked up as yours.

Aug 25, 2014

We're here, we're queer, even we belong somewhere

On Saturday, we made the drive down to Kenmore Lanes, a bowling alley in suburban Seattle. While the venue is nothing special in its own right, it happens to be the location of choice for the quarterly Seattle Furlife group bowling meetup... and that makes it entirely worth the commute. It draws enough furries from around Seattle and surrounding areas to feel like a miniature convention; usually 150-200 of us show up. The attendance seemed a little down this time around, but I believe that was due to BronyCan being held in Vancouver the same day, as well as all the other late summer events happening around the city. Still, we had a good turn-out, and got to welcome quite a few new fuzzy faces to the group. This was our third Furlife bowling meet (we missed the last one), and it seems I only have more fun every time we go. It's good to see a few more familiar faces each time, both in and out of suit.

Admittedly, my depressive funk worsened severely on Friday, to the extent that I was essentially bedridden. I didn't know that I could actually sleep that much and still feel so exhausted. While in such a vulnerable state, the idea of subjecting myself to crowds and commotion and forcing myself to even appear social seemed utterly unappealing, so I strongly considered sitting out the next day's meetup. But with my mate expressing her eagerness to go, I didn't want to be a disappointing drag, so I thought better of canceling our RSVP. Besides, I reasoned, just spending another day moping around and hiding wasn't going to make me feel much better... especially with how much we had been looking forward to this event for weeks prior.

I've also got to admit that as soon as we showed up at the bowling alley, donned our furry gear, and got in line for registration, my mood began swinging in a much more positive direction. By the time we started our first game, the trials of the day before came a distant memory. Bowling may well be therapeutic, but not nearly so much as being surrounded by dozens of fellow furries. I've hardly been able to subject myself to the general public lately without feeling the need to raise my hackles, but the level of comfort and comradery I feel amongst my own kind always seems to take me by surprise when I haven't experienced it in so many months. It's really a heartwarming sense of belonging and acceptance that I doubt I could find in any other sort of group. Even as the general public typically greets us with bewildered stares, we really get each other, and I feel no reservations about lowering the shield and just being myself. The furry fandom is much more than just a hobby or pastime; it's a state of mind and being, a lifestyle, the highly specific social niche I feel most comfortable in by far. I can't imagine ever finding a reason to divorce myself from the fandom, for it has introduced so many kindred souls into my life, truly wonderful, genuine people that I otherwise never would have had the chance to meet. It also has much to offer otherwise, including the fantastically rich diversity of its artistic, musical, and theatrical talent.

The Furlife group in particular is in no way exclusive, but rather very welcoming, and I have yet to come across a single bad vibe or unsavory attitude from anyone. Everyone seems genuine, warm, friendly, primarily interested in just having a great time and making sure everyone around them does too. Furlife has proven to be one of my favorite things about living here. In spite of our living nearly a couple hours away from Seattle, I really would like to be able to attend a few of the other meetups they have going on throughout the year.


After just a few hours of being your true self with your own kind, it doesn't feel like such a shock when you have to say goodbye to everyone and suddenly force yourself back into the mundane real world. ...It still feels a little weird, unsettling, and altogether unnatural, but isn't too much of an adjustment to revert to your "publicly acceptable" side. After four straight days at a con, however, it's altogether disorienting. When the time finally comes for all the fun-loving fuzzies to disperse, the locale that had been transformed into a magnfiicent furry wonderland for so many days reverts to being just another hotel, and mundane reality is everywhere, encroaching. There is no gradual reintroduction to it; it just slaps you across the muzzle and rubs your nose in it the second you leave. And no longer being attached to my tail feels so wrong.

That unavoidable sense of PCD will never be nearly enough to dissuade me from looking forward to the next con, however... only one month to go until Rainfurrest! This year, we've got a room in the main hotel, so we shouldn't have to deal with nearly as many parking/transportation hassles as last time. It's the perfect way to celebrate summer's end.

Aug 21, 2014

Play ball... or don't.

Apparently, the Cubs had intended to resume a suspended game against the Giants this afternoon, finishing the remaining four and a half innings before playing another separate complete game, but now the first game that had been rained out two ago is in another rain delay due to strong thunderstorms in the area.

Jesus, Chicago, stop hoarding all the storms and send some my way. You guys could use some playing time and I could use some rain.

A Year in Review: Bellingham Edition

A year and most of a summer have passed since we made the great journey to Bellingham. A year of hard work, frugal living, and major life adjustments, as well as exciting new experiences, enchanting discoveries, and memorable fun.

Hard work is necessary to convert such a life change from a mere daydream to reality. Intensely motivated by our clearly conceived dream of the end result, and our primary goal of greatly improving the quality of our lives together, we were thoroughly dedicated toward putting in all the hard work involved in moving and integrating into a brand new community thousands of miles away. We arranged for a little place in town to move into before arriving here, but we certainly didn't attempt to find jobs beforehand, much to the chagrin of our parents, who seem to view that as a terribly unwise transgression. Well, we have effectively proven to a few naysayers and critics of ours that it can be done without sacrificing a tremendous amount of comfort. Two days after arriving here myself, I was hired into a decent job that I'm still doing to this date, and my mate had very little trouble finding something appropriate as well. Neither of us consider them to be ideal careers and know there is much room for improvement, but for the most part, our jobs have been working out for us.

Indeed, as a young couple just starting out together, we have had to live rather frugally, at some times more than others. Still, when it comes to our financial status, I wouldn't use the term "poor" to describe us (my dad did recently). People that are poor would not be able to afford such luxuries as being able to attend concerts, take weekend excursions around the big city, or finance summer trips to Hawaii. We would be more comfortable if we had more in the bank, sure, and more than one working old car between us, and a more charming house in which to live, but what matters most to us is finally being together as a family, in a setting we can truly appreciate and enjoy. Financial wealth, while not something I'm averse to attaining sometime in the future, is not a priority - certainly not as important to me as this shamelessly materialistic society tries to convince everyone it should be. We work a decent amount without overworking so much we destroy our health and gradually kill ourselves. We live well enough, can afford what we really need, and even have some left over for fun on the side.

In terms of adjustments, a whole family living together for the first time in an apartment unit is certainly a major one. Two adults, two children, and three cats in a very limited space could be a recipe for disaster -- or at least, a great deal of hackle raising and fur bristling. But it hasn't been. In spite of the sparse accommodations, we've managed to get along with each other -- except for when one of the cats happens to brush by a little too close for another feline's liking. We've had more problems with neighbors being rude and inconsiderate with their noisemaking (young, immature college kid types are abundant here) and the apartment itself than we've had with each other. We dealt with a flea infestation that made our cats miserable last summer, then a leaking ceiling during the rainy seasons, and annoying shit like plugs falling out of worn-out electrical outlets. Truth is, the rental outfit we deal with are slumlords that apparently own most of the crappy, dilapidated dwellings in town and rent them out to unsuspecting young adults who don't have any push or power to get them to change their ways. Their advice to resolving the issue of a leaky roof is to put a bucket underneath the drip until it stops raining, so they obviously don't care much about maintaining their units.

We are hoping to get out of this apartment and into a house soon, by the end of the year if possible. Not only do we tire of paying a shitty property manager for such a mediocre accommodation, we would be significantly more comfortable if we had more space, and were considerably more distanced from neighbors. At the very least, it would be quite a bonus to no longer have to hear them through our own floorboards, and even *gasp* have a bit of grassy space to call our own. Unfortunately, finding a house rental that meets our necessary criteria in a good location for the price range we're seeking has proven to be a difficult task. Apartments, rooms, and small townhouses are easy to come by for less than $1000 per month, but in this college town, those are primarily meant for students and singles. From there, prices tend to jump up to around $1400 to $2000 for a larger, family-sized home in a decent neighborhood, with seemingly very little available in the $1000-$1200 range we're seeking. We're not even that picky. We just don't wish to live in a seedy area or be surrounded by fratboys, and we have three cats. The little monsters, it's amazing how few renters seem to be willing to even consider allowing cats.

...Perhaps Bellingham is one of those towns in which the middle class is vanishing at a much faster clip than average. We already know it's been happening all across this once great nation (i.e., before the white plague invaded it). The cost of living in Bellingham is, in fact, much higher than in any of the immediate surrounding towns. This town is full of wealthy residents with lavish lakefront homes and private docks, seaside palaces with exclusive coves, and mountainside retreats. On the opposite side of the spectrum, it's a university town, so thousands of students live in the abundant student accommodations near campus with little more in savings than a bag of Cheetos. But for those of us who are middle class families, or at least making the passive attempt to maintain a vestige of such, there simply isn't as much room in between. Many such families have been squeezed out to neighboring communities like Ferndale, home to the county's two major oil refineries and all sorts of other heavy industry, and Deming, which seems to be all about logging and chainsaw-wielding rednecks. It's just so much more affordable to live outside of Bellingham city limits, it seems. But even out there in the vast open acres of farm and dairy land, I haven't seen much reasonably close to town that looks like a good fit for us. And nothing I've seen quite compares to this town's unique setting against the densely forested mountains, surrounded by picturesque lakes and overlooking the bay. The livability factor is very high, so I guess we're spoiled.

Besides, we didn't move here because we fell in love with Old McDonald's Ferndale Farm. No other town north of Seattle would have stopped us in our tracks and made us say, "well, this seems like a great town... perfect size for us, plenty happening, the people generally seem cool..." The more we have gotten to take a good look at what other towns are up here, the more special Bellingham seems. We were seduced by Bellingham's stunningly beautiful natural surroundings, its cool downtown and charming neighborhoods, and its hip, liberal, environmentally conscious culture. I think it's one of the country's best kept secrets, and that has prevented it from being completely overdeveloped and ruined, a fate that has unfortunately befallen too many other seaside locales. Even Seattle has become a complete mess, with the amount of overdevelopment that has taken place within the city and its suburbs, leading to some of the worst traffic in the nation, as well as increasing crime rates. The damage done there is irreversible.

I hope Bellingham is spared a similar fate for at least a long time to come, and its "progress" will continue to be defined in the environmentally conscious sense. Beneficial progress, in my view, is the active cleanup of old industrial contamination sites, repurposing that land for green spaces, and creating more "green" economic opportunities. Bellingham's history is chock full of greedy entrepreneurs and shrewd businessmen coming in from afar in the 19th and early 20th centuries and stripping the region of its natural resources (most notably, massive fir trees) for tremendous financial benefit. We're still cleaning up their messes. Sadly, history continues to repeat itself, as a few rich millionaires are pushing to construct a huge coal export terminal near town, which would lead to a major influx of noisy trains carrying huge dirty loads of coal through the region on a daily basis. The community is fighting against it hard, and rightfully so.

Bellingham already has its "Anytown, USA" zone, a certain area of uptown dominated by a huge mall, national hotel chains, big box stores, and chain restaurants. The same sort of bullshit you see in any other freeway town, and in fact have to see all the way south down the I-5 clear past Olympia. I am loath to ever have to go through there, whether for work or a shopping trip, because it's a terrible eyesore and a blight on an otherwise lovely settlement. Oh yes, and the traffic's ridiculous.

The good news is, since the majority of that is concentrated in one corner of town, we can usually happily pretend it doesn't even exist. From where we live in town, we can walk to downtown in 10-15 minutes, and find all sorts of cool, completely northwest-local eating, drinking, and shopping establishments. Last week, while strolling through a residential neighborhood in one of the historic districts, we happened to come across an old grocery store that had operated there over the span of two centuries. About half of it had been converted into a dining area and kitchen of sorts, with some decent food available to order. That's the sort of thing I love to happen upon... completely local businesses like these are still allowed to thrive in the Pacific Northwest, whereas in many other places they have been almost entirely decimated by giant, faceless corporations. When you can go have breakfast in a cozy, authentic, homey, locally-owned-for-generations little neighborhood cafe, fuck Denny's.

Bellingham is full of my kind of people, too. Musicians and artists, thinkers and dreamers, and altogether open-minded and easy-going souls. I definitely notice a difference whenever we're back in a bigger city, or out in hick country. It just doesn't feel as comfortable in either extreme.

I'm just waiting for the dog days of summer to go dig their own hole and lie in it so I can dance on their grave. Summer is perhaps the one... downfall of this place, if there had to be one. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to be able to embrace it like just about everyone else, but I have tried, and I have failed. Until the reliable cloud cover and autumn coolness returns, and the flocks of tourists head home for the winter, and the "dreary" gloom drives most of the norms back indoors, I'm going to continue spending inordinate amounts of time in my bat cave, anticipating. If I had initially visited here this time of year, having seen it for the first time in this light (or being blinded by it), I never would have fallen in love with it. Thank you, inevitable changing of the seasons. (As an addendum, I will say it's been very pleasant after the sun goes down.)

Overall, I know we made the right decision to live here. Getting to experience life in the northwest had been a long-time dream of mine since I first visited Seattle so many years ago, and we've been having many great and memorable experiences here since. Even though I've since concluded that this can't ultimately be my true home, I'm glad we have been allowed the opportunity to call it home for at least a few years.