All posts by Ben


Last week: air conditioner required, all night. (Thank goodness the apartment happened to come with one.)

This week: blanket required.

None of Seattle’s gradual seasons here. Winter is going to feel like a real novelty.


When I moved to New York, it seemed like my office was eerily silent … because half of my team went to Burning Man. Then I saw this movie about a professor in his 80′s who decided to go and loved it. Then I was at a cookout today and it seemed like half the people there had just come back from Burning Man.

Maybe I should go to Burning Man.

13 years

I never imagined that I would live to see an anniversary of 9/11 that went unremarked.

It so happens that my team at work, like millions of other office workers, faces the Lower Manhattan skyline, which is again dominated by the World Trade Center. And yet, at the end of the day yesterday, I realized that I hadn’t heard one mention of it.

Of the people I happened to be spending time with yesterday, most were not living in the US thirteen years ago, and perhaps none but me were even vaguely in the New York area. The papers were filled with anniversary commentaries, of course. My acquaintances and coworkers may not be a representative microcosm of New York City. Even so, it seemed remarkable to me, and I reminded my remaining teammates as we were packing up.

History recedes gradually, at different rates in different places and by different measures. In my little sphere, measuring by remembered anniversaries, the age of 9/11 lasted for 13 years.

High Line

I went to the High Line for the first time this afternoon, for a brief picnic lunch with colleagues. We ate at the 10th avenue amphitheatre at 17th St., which was built directly over the Avenue, with seating and windows facing straight down to the vanishing point. In person, the canyon-like depth of perspective is remarkable.

The High Line’s concrete walkway was packed, even on a cloudy Thursday afternoon, but there was enough room on the amphitheatre steps for us to eat and chat. While eating we were joined by a mouse, who edged out from under the bench to snatch a fallen morsel, and then hid under the floorboards, reaching up from underneath for a crumb that had gotten wedged between the planks.

The mouse’s gaze exceeded its grasp, and the crumb stayed put, until one of us took pity on the mouse and dislodged the crumb, which was quickly devoured.


I thought I was getting a heck of a deal on this apartment, but now I’m not so sure. I just visited a friend in her new place on the Upper West Side … and in her (much more sought-after) neighborhood, she’s paying about the same rent as I am in proportion to floorspace. Her apartment is just 60% larger.

I think that means that she got the 50% extra ceiling height for free.



I arrived in New York after 4 relaxing days in the Green Mountains, and went straight to my new desk. For the first two weeks I stayed at a friend’s place in Williamsburg, and got free housing in return for watering his sunflowers. I also got a good chance to look at the tattooed, bearded, extravagantly dressed and coiffed denizens of Williamsburg. It seemed quite a bit like Capitol Hill in Seattle, but five times as crowded, and with richer people yet somehow a poorer neighborhood.

I spent the first weekend visiting friends in New Jersey and Boston (in one day!) and the second renting a van and roping childhood friends into carrying all the extra furniture from my parents’ jam-packed basement into my tiny jam-packed Manhattan apartment on the most humid day of the summer. (We got it all inside just as the skies opened up and Niagara Falls poured out.)

Now I’m very nearly set up here in Hamilton Heights, a majority-minority neighborhood with as many signs in Spanish as English, and a crowd of all ages out on the stoops every evening. My grandfather (a Massachusetts resident since 1950 and a lifelong New Yorker) was appalled. When I told him how far North I’d be living, he said “That’s not New York. That’s New England!”.

It’s not so bad. Today I bicycled to work and back, 15 miles round-trip and almost entirely on the perfectly flat, picturesque segregated bikeway that runs along (and occasionally out over) the Hudson River.

It’s a good start.

The Return of [...]

It’s back! Hooray!

It’s been just about a month since the last post. So much has happened … I hardly know where to start. “What’s the last thing you remember?”…

I decided to move by selling everything that I couldn’t reasonably ship by FedEx, and carrying everything I could ship by hand two blocks (I counted 300 steps, thankfully downhill) to the FedEx store. I packed it all myself, except for the dishes, which I figured were better handled by a professional. (It might have been cheaper to drop the dishes out my 14th story window and buy identical ones in New York … oh well.)

Some bits of furniture proved harder to sell than others. The worst was the dining room table and chairs. Eventually I just had to give them away for free on Craigslist, to the first taker, who turned out to be a very nice postdoc who’d just moved from Boston.

My last day at work was a Wednesday. My team walked over to a sushi place for a sendoff lunch, but otherwise it was just like any other Wednesday. I even stayed for the weekly game night (and lost terribly at Ticket to Ride, as usual), then took the bus home.

I packed my very last, biggest box, with whatever remained that seemed possibly shippable, and rolled it down to FedEx on a borrowed dolly with 10 minutes to spare before closing time. Then I dragged my luggage down to the lobby, along with a box containing all the possibly-edible contents of my kitchen. I hailed a Lyft, then grabbed the food and dashed out the door in the direction of 9th and Pike, where there are always homeless people camping on the street. I handed off the box to the first one I found, who was reasonably pleased to have it, and then jogged back in time to catch the cab for my 12:45 AM flight.

The next morning I was in Connecticut, and by afternoon I was at a relaxing, drizzly family reunion in Stowe, VT. In the midst of the most hectic few weeks in recent memory, it was a perfect 4 day interlude.

The Lake

It’s my last week in Seattle, and until today I hadn’t crossed water under human power anywhere in Washington State: no swimming, rowing, canoeing, kayaking, etc. I set out to rectify this deficit by arranging a canoe picnic today. Five of us rented two canoes from the UW boat rental place and set out in no particular direction on Lake Washington. After making an excellent approximation of a random walk for half an hour or so, we checked our smartphones and selected a destination none of us had heard of: the Madison Park Beach.

The park turned out to be a narrow strip of grass, increasingly dense with sunbathers, and an even narrower strip of sand, maybe 50 meters long. As beaches go, it was a very humble affair, with a strip of uncomfortable rocks just offshore, but the city had gone to great pains to make it into a really wonderful little spot. The beach has a roped off swimming area, complete with a swim raft just offshore, and an extra lifeguard keeping station next to it in a rowboat. The swim raft even has a pair of diving boards that were in use nonstop.

The water was just perfect.

After swimming we ate baked goods, toasted to Seattle, and canoed back to UW.

I managed to get a lobsterian sunburn on one thigh thanks to the unexpected yoga pose required to sit in the middle of a canoe, but I can’t really complain about that.

One thing I can complain about: Wikipedia doesn’t have an article on swimming rafts! New article time…

Good investments

3 or 4 years ago, a summer intern was staying in a very spare room in my apartment, just for a few months, not long enough to buy furniture if you’re a 19-year-old college boy. I agreed to provide him with an air mattress, and so before he arrived I bought a double-height, queen size Coleman air mattress with electric pump, for about $90.

As it turned out, it’s been one of my best investments ever. I’ve used it over and over when hosting guests (often my parents) in Boston and Seattle. I’ve also occasionally slept on it myself … most recently this morning. Having an air mattress allowed me to sell my bed(!) last week, and still be able to survive the remainder of my time in Seattle in very reasonable comfort.

For members of the new mobile class, a good air mattress is an essential tool.


Today was my last performance with Seatown Sound. We sang a few songs at a Neighborhood Night Out event in the U District promoting public space, bicycle commuting, and similar thoughtful-yuppie lifestyle things. (Zipcar had a tent, despite attendance measured in dozen.)

As usual, it was a warm, clear, beautiful evening. After two years, we’re still singing the first song we learned … and by now we really do sound pretty good.