SEA change

Year Two

[Sunset from my balcony]

Year Two? Already? And I wrote only three entries in that entire time.

To be honest, I forgot about this site. I don’t link it to any of my other projects, so it’s a bit out of sight, out of mind.

There have been a few times I thought, “I really ought to log this thing I’m doing right now somewhere,” and I would remember this blog. But by the time I would be near a computer to post anything, the moment had gone. And I was back to living.

But it was good to let go of this need to document. I’ve been writing online for close to two decades now, and I’m all too familiar with the tail wagging the dog. I needed some time to get some living done without thinking about how I could turn it into something for publishing.

As 2013 concluded, I thought about what to do for a New Year’s Resolution. What have I not been doing that I ought to be doing?

Writing was the immediate answer.

I did a lot of stuff with music in 2013 — performed in front of people, relaunched the home studio and record label, even put out a bunch of releases. I also rekindled a love for vinyl records that got me to explore more of Seattle than I did in 2012.

But I did that all that at the expense of writing. Something had to give, and the act of personal blogging in a world of Twitter and Facebook just seemed so 2007.

But I missed it.

I missed going back to something I’d written months earlier to gauge my progress — had I improved or slacked off? Did things work out or did they go to pot?

Of course, I forget that this here act of stringing together thoughts into a something more than 140 characters is taxing. As much as I love the limitations of a character limit, such restrictions don’t invite detail or introspection.

So for 2014, I aim to get back to staring lovingly and contemplatively at my navel, then dumping the results of all that meditation onto this here site. I hope to post at least once a month, more if possible.

I’m setting the expectations pretty low because I still want to budget my time for, well, living.

2013: A personal review

This attempt is my cheap way to jump-start this blog.

  1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?
    I tried to learn how to play shamisen. I played three open mics, and I learned how to swim.
  2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
    Last year, I set a goal to become more of a performing musician. That got sidetracked by a cold, then by the closure of the nearby venue where I did those open mics. Instead, I remixed a whole bunch of songs and put out 9 releases on my relaunched label.
  3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
  4. Did anyone close to you die?
  5. What countries did you visit?
  6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?
  7. What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
    I can’t really choose because there were a number of really cool things that happened this year.
  8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
    Learning to swim.
  9. What was your biggest failure?
    Becoming a performing musician.
  10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
    Two colds.
  11. What was the best thing you bought?
    Swimming goggles.
  12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
    The legislatures of Hawai`i and Illinois, plus the courts of New Mexico and Utah.
  13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
    Yet again, the Republican Party.
  14. Where did most of your money go?
    Paying down loans.
  15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
    Vinyl records.
  16. What song will always remind you of 2013?
    Anything off of Jarell Perry’s debut album.
  17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
    a. happier or sadder
    b. thinner or fatter
    c. richer or poorer?

    a. Happier b. Fatter, bleah. c. Same, but change is in store for 2014
  18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
  19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
    Eating carbs
  20. How will you be spending/did you spend Christmas?
    At home, posting videos of Eponymous 4 tracks to YouTube.
  21. Did you fall in love in 2013?
  22. How many one-night stands?
  23. What was your favorite TV program?
  24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
  25. What was the best book you read?
    Sam Kean, The Disappearing Spoon
  26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
    Jarell Perry
  27. What did you want and get?
    A raise.
  28. What did you want and not get?
  29. What was your favorite film of this year?
    The only movies I saw in the theaters this year were Star Trek Insurrection and Gravity.
  30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
    I turned 41, and I went to a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.
  31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
  32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?
    New jeans and more fleece.
  33. What kept you sane?
    Swimming and vinyl records.
  34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
    Ryan Stout.
  35. What political issue stirred you the most?
    The striking down of the Defense of Marriage Act.
  36. Who did you miss?
  37. Who was the best new person you met?
  38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.
    I can’t sit seiza.
  39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
    “All the strippers think you’re odd, but you give the biggest tips.” — Patty Griffin.


There is no try

I hadn’t intended this blog to have a shelf life of one year, but when you’re busy doing, it’s tough to stop to write about all that doing.

And I’ve been doing quite a lot.

Right now, I’m in the middle of relaunching Observant Records with a pretty big project — the simultaneous release of four albums, four EPs and one compilation.

But let’s rewind to the start of the year.

Back in February and March, I performed at three open mics. I got sick immediately before the third one, and I haven’t done another one since. But it did break down this notion that I would exclusively be a bedroom studio musician. If I want my stuff heard, I have to go perform it. How else am I going to collect performance royalties?

The whole notion of performing an open mic resulted from a decision not to write any new material for Eponymous 4. That is, I wouldn’t fight the writer’s block that has plagued me for the last five years. I felt I needed to perform other people’s work to internalize more voices that the ones I usually rely on. If I want to rip off Neutral Milk Hotel, I have to famliarize myself with how Neutral Milk Hotel songs work.

I did have to contend with the return of spring allergies, something I thought I beat since moving away from Austin. But I’m glad to report the allergens here aren’t out to kill you the way they do in Central Texas.

I spent a month learning how to play the shamisen. I gave up because I don’t have the stamina for seiza.

I bought a new set of stereo speakers as a “business expense”, but now I’m buying up a whole bunch of old vinyl because it sounds good on the new speakers.

I drove around Mount Ranier with Andy. We also visited the Tacoma Art Museum.

I saw Camper Van Beethoven and Sam Amidon live. I’ll be seeing Cody ChesnuTT in September. I got to hear Steve Reich’s Different Trains performed live, and I’ll hear Dmitri Shostakovich’s Eighth Quartet in July. So too Samuel Barber’s String Quartet, from whence came the Adagio for Strings. Kronos Quartet is coming back in November for their 40th anniversary.

I’ve been trying to date. No real luck, but I did meet a guy through Manhunt. We didn’t have sex.

At work, I’ve been stepping gradually into the .NET/C# world, a big contrast to the LAMP stack which has defined my career for the past decade.

So yeah, it’s no surprise six months should separate entries on this blog. I hope another six months won’t go by before I update again.

I really won’t consider the SEA change complete till maybe next year.

Year One

Well, folks,  I made it.

I’ve been in Seattle for a full year now.

I drove into town at approximately 2 p.m. on Jan. 9, 2012 after a four-day drive that took me from Austin, Texas, across New Mexico and Arizona, through Los Angeles and Portland to the place I currently call home.

I’ve gone through an entire year up-ending the whole structure of my life.

I wear waterproof boots. I have an expanded warm-weather wardrobe. I take public transportation and sort my trash. I voted to legalize same-sex marriage and to decriminalize possession of marijuana.

I haven’t eaten barbecue in a year. And while I miss the prickly pear margaritas of Azul Tequila, I’ve got dozens of choices for phở, pad thai and teriyaki.

When I want to get Japanese music, I can special order it from a Japanese bookstore, one that happens to be attached to an Asian grocery store that sells Portuguese sausage and frozen meals from Zippy’s.

I live in a neighborhood where I can launch Grindr and find guys less than 100 feet away from me. If I wanted to, I could walk 900 feet to the closest gay bar.

I’ve put gas in my car a fewer than 10 times since moving to Seattle. It would have been fewer if I hadn’t traveled to Portland and Vancouver, British Columbia.

I subscribe to the symphony. And I got to see Wayne Horvitz perform live with Pigpen.

I anticipated feeling some angst over leaving Austin, the way I felt angst over leaving Honolulu. I underestimated how resilient I’ve become with age. Or perhaps I just needed to find that midpoint between the two.

I don’t badmouth Honolulu as much as I did when I was a dumb young punk. At the same time, I recognize that it can never really be the place to provide me all I want out of life.

I haven’t reached that point with Austin. Part of me is wondering whether it was a 14-year mistake. But Austin was a great distance both physically and mentally from Honolulu, and I needed that extreme to make me realize that, no, I’m not entirely a banana (or a coconut.) I’m just not that white.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this transition was the fact that it went pretty smoothly. The homesickness I was bracing myself for didn’t materialize. Or rather, it wasn’t as intense as previous bouts. There are still entire swaths of Seattle to which I have no mental map — although the same could be said of my time in Austin as well — but I’ve pretty much nailed the regular haunts of my immediate surroundings.

I still need to work on the social part of it, but I figure that’s what Year Two and beyond is for.

Soon to be in the aeroplane over the sea …

I’m killing time at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport as I type this sentence.

In approximately 15 minutes, boarding will start for my first flight to Honolulu since moving to Seattle. (In fact, 11 months ago today, I drove out of Austin.)

It’s pretty monumental for me because this flight marks the first time in 14 years where I can travel directly from where I live to Honolulu. There is no such thing as a direct flight between Austin, Texas and Honolulu, Hawai`i. Every time I visited the family, I would need to deal with at least two airports. Deity forbid I ever have to connect to a different airline at LAX.

But today, I’ll board a plane, and when it lands six hours later, I’ll be in Hawaii. No connecting flights. No layovers. No rushing between gates.

I like this idea of mitigating my time in airports.

The Visitor’s Guide to Seattle Music Stores

When I moved from Austin to Seattle, I was concerned about whether the music stores in Seattle could compare to Waterloo Records. What I’ve since discovered is collectively, the best Seattle record shops equal, and in some ways surpass, Waterloo.

Seattle has a lot of music shops, but the four that get mentioned the most are Easy Street Records, Sonic Boom Records, Everyday Music and Silver Platters.

I have my own preferences, but each have their individual strengths. I mention classical music in these reviews because a store that sweats the details of its classical section usually takes care good care of the rest of the store.

Easy Street Records

In terms of square footage, stock and overall feel, I would say Easy Street Records on Mercer St. and 1st Avenue is the most analogous store to Waterloo in Austin or Amoeba in San Francisco. I knew I would like the place when I saw modern classical music separated from the common period. In the rock section, local and regional artists get a different-colored placards. Another plus is air-conditioning. Most places in Seattle don’t have A/C because it’s really not needed during the very temperate summer months. But there are a few days out of the year where that lack of A/C gets mighty inconvenient even for someone who has lived through triple-digit heat (admittedly with A/C.)

Update: The Queen Anne location of Easy Street closed on Jan. 18, 2013, squeezed out by high rent. The West Seattle store is still open, and I have yet to visit that location.

Silver Platters

Silver Platters on 5th Avenue and Valley St. was the former location of a Tower Records, and remnants of that legacy remain. In fact, the classical music section uses Tower’s system of organization. It’s there in the placards. A lot of the stock in the popular music section is used, but given the square footage of the place, it means you might find something that’s been long out of print and probably not remembered by anyone but you. I was also impressed by the Asian music portion of the World Music section. Someone on staff actually knows enough Japanese to file some of the pop acts correctly. I took a trip to Canada and couldn’t find a store that sold a recording by the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, but I come back to Seattle, and there it is at Silver Platters.

Update: Similar to Easy Street, Silver Platters is also being squeezed out of  Queen Anne. The store reopens  in SoDo near the Starbucks headquarters in June 2013. I went from three nearby record stores to one.

Everyday Music

Everyday Music is an Oregon chain, but it’s also the store to which I can get easily by foot. The Capitol Hill location on 10th Avenue has about the same square footage of Cheapo Discs in Austin (which will close at the end of 2012.) Everyday Music stocks a smattering of unopened releases, but its main emphasis is on used CDs. Everyday Music gives more bin space to classical music, although it doesn’t separate the modern releases from the common period. During the summer, the store lifts up its garage door entrance, giving the interior a very different feel.

Sonic Boom Records

Sonic Boom is my least visited store due to distance. It’s located in Ballard, whereas Easy Street, Silver Platters and Everyday Music are located within two miles of my apartment in Capitol Hill. The square footage is slightly smaller than Easy Street, and the classical section is very basic. I can’t say there’s enough to compel me to take a 45-minute bus ride to visit often, but if you live in Ballard and don’t want to trek to the outskirts of downtown Seattle, Sonic Boom should be your first stop. The stock is comparable to Easy Street, and it’s a nice, intimate space.

Kinokuniya Bookstore

Yes, it’s a bookstore, but the upper level has a CD section for J-pop junkies such as myself. Compared to the San Francisco and New York stores, the stock in the Seattle store feels a bit musty, and the vertical shelving isn’t very conducive to browsing. If your taste in J-pop sticks mainly to popular artists such as Hamasaki Ayumi or Utada Hikaru, the Seattle Kinokuniya might be sufficient. My tastes are decidedly more indie, so it’s not a place to go for NUMBER GIRL or MO’SOME TONEBENDER. But Kinokuniya does take special orders, which is how I got ZAZEN BOYS’ Stories.

First holidays

I can’t be certain at what point it became routine, but when the holidays came around, there was no question where I would spend them — Andy’s house.

There have been exceptions, such as 2003, when my sister got married so close to Christmas, I was pretty much compelled to stay for the holidays. And there’s 2010, when my dad’s health was so questionable, I went back home for Thanksgiving. He died the following Sunday.

But for many years — perhaps even an entire decade — I would call her up and ask, “What am I bringing?” And I would show up with some Filipino food concoction — adobo, bibinka, lumpia.

This year would mark the first holidays that I will not be going to her house. Not for Thanksgiving, not for Christmas.

I’m not going home for the holidays either — rather I’ll be visiting for my mom’s birthday, which is earlier in December.

I’m not sentimental where the holidays are concerned. Not once since I moved out have I put up a Christmas tree. I can barely be bothered to head out for New Year’s Eve.

But I’ll admit it does feel weird knowing my holiday safety net for the past 10~ years is now roughly 1,700 miles away.

So, like everything else with this relocation, I’m back at square one. What will become the new tradition?

I think for this first year, I’ll probably use the time off to do what I normally do — work on projects. Given my excessively independent nature, I probably won’t blink the entire time I’m head down in the mixer or the word processor or whatever.

The big difference would be figuring out what to make for dinner.


I went to Berkeley, Calif. to see the touring production of Philip Glass’ Einstein on the Beach in late October. The last half decade of travel accrued enough airline miles to qualify for a free round-trip ticket. So I bought a ticket, booked a hotel and went to see the show.

I’ve been to the Bay Area twice before, and neither trip left me with a favorable impression of the place. I’ve since gone on record saying that I don’t really like San Francisco. Something changed this time around.

I think it’s the Seattle summer weather than permeated the weekend. Both previous times I’d been to San Francisco, it was cold, and in one case, extremely drafty and windy. When the weather doesn’t suck, the Bay Area really is beautiful.

I stayed close to downtown San Francisco on those trips, even within spitting distance of the Tenderloin. The homeless people in San Francisco make me fear for my life in a way that New York or Seattle homeless people don’t. This time, I stayed in Berkeley and rode the BART into San Francisco.

Perhaps the revelation of the trip was getting lost in the neighborhoods of San Francisco itself. On many occasions, I would get off on the wrong stop, forcing me to walk around residential areas that were clean, quiet and had tremendous views.

It was such a pleasant experience, I came away thinking I could just make living in the Bay Area work.

Having been trapped in Austin for double the amount of time I would have preferred makes me sensitive to the notion of mobility.

On one hand, I would like to have a go at living somewhere else — a return to New York City, or maybe a stab at the Bay Area. In terms of my own creative pursuits, New York City would align most closely to my interests. Good deity, I might even want to live in Brooklyn.

But I know another move would really be inconvenient at my age. It’s a Big Deal to uproot your locality and replant it thousands of miles away.

Realistically, I couldn’t even begin to think of another move for at least another five years.

Of course, I could just establish a home base here in Seattle and spend periods of time elsewhere. But I’d need to be earning bucket-loads of cash before I could entertain that idea.

Starter city

I’ll soon be entering Month Nine of my relocation from Austin to Seattle. Three more months will make Year One.

I’ve had a number of visitors stop by in the month of September, and it got me thinking about what I got out of my time in Austin.

I must still be in the honeymoon phase of my relocation — or perhaps that’s just the effect of a beautiful summer in the Pacific Northwest — because I haven’t really pined for Austin.

I wasn’t terribly envious of anyone going to SXSW. I’ve discovered Seattle has more than enough music shops to make up for the loss of Waterloo Records. I can get a pretty decent taco fix in my neighborhood, although barbecue is something I haven’t yet tried to find.

I was never much of a movie-goer, and the lack of an Alamo Drafthouse makes that ambivalence more pronounced.

For all that Austin offered — or for all that I cared to take from what Austin offered — Seattle has not left me wanting. If anything, I’ve probably gained more since moving here.

One thing I’ve said in the last few days is that Austin was a good starter city. It got me out of Honolulu at a distance far enough to force me to make it on my own. It had the kind of culture I couldn’t find in Honolulu. It provided opportunities to do the things I wanted to do, from learning how to program to working at a record store.

It allowed me to forge an identity, or else refine the one I already had.

But it was never my intention to settle in Austin. I had said as much to some friends many years back, before I ever entertained the notion of seriously moving away. One of them said, “I can totally picture you in a larger urban environment.”

Austin was definitely a good place to launch an adult life, but for me, it was not the place to establish roots. The last years I spent in Austin reminded me too much of the last years I spent in Honolulu. I felt a kind of claustrophobia in my day-to-day dealings with the city, a sense of suffocation. (During allergy season, it would be an actual suffocation.)

So I left for a place that, with any luck, will help me to grow, to continue.

Labor Day Weekend 2009

The very first time I visited Seattle was during Labor Day Weekend in 2009.

I had a feeling after that trip that I would eventually live here, but I never said outright that was my goal. I just knew at the time that I didn’t want to remain in Texas, and the trip clarified that position.

Then, as now, Bummershoot Festival was happening at Seattle Center. Oddly enough, so is the PAX Prime conference. I found out the hard way when I attempted to go to Blue C Sushi this evening only to find it overrun with PAX attendees.

It was a weird convergence for both events to coincide the way they did three years ago when I flew in for what I would dub the Relocation Scouting Tour. Then as now the weather was incredible, certainly a far cry from the soul-crushing heatwave that gripped Texas that year. I hung out with two friends who work for Microsoft. I walked around Pioneer Square and visited Kinokuniya. I even shot a music video.

Instinct told me I would eventually end up in Seattle, but I did my due diligence. I read up on Los Angeles and concluded I didn’t want to live in a city requiring a car. I visited San Francisco twice — once for a job interview, the other time for a conference — and the vibe of the town just didn’t suit me. San Francisco can teach Austin a few lessons about being weird, that’s for certain. Portland, unfortunately, didn’t afford any opportunities for scouting — very few job leads.

So eventually, I focused on Seattle, and here I am.

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