A love letter to Seattle

I remember when I arrived to Seattle, February of 2008, exhausted and happy from a two week cross-country jaunt from Bloomington. It was the first place I ever felt at home. It’s the first place I didn’t get lost in, constantly. About a month after arriving, I was still wondering at how easy it was to be here.

Tonight I walked home from the club alone, violins and poetry in my ears (aren’t they often the same thing?).
Capital Hill and I had a moment, the sort of moment you share with a good friend or a lover in the morning, feet cozy under their legs, tea or coffee in hand, when you know the day is in front of you but more important is the Now.
I feel at peace here more than I ever have.

image by Andi Dean

image by Andi Dean

This is the first place I moved to of my own accord, not because someone I cared about deeply had requested my presence. And after eking out space for myself, Libby came. And Chris. Petra was near, and Annie and Bergen were already here but unknown to me. Later, Vivian and Noah came out. Tiny Matt would visit regularly. Our chosen family grew, and deepened. There were magical summers and warm spots in winter. I worked for a year in a law office, donning a wig every day, and training parkour in Freeway Park on my lunch breaks, some sort of punk super hero, bleeding on office papers from my scuffs and tumbles. Whitechapel kept me sane. And I learned about myself, and how to love other people, and how to let them love me. This is my home, but it’s also taught me that I can have many homes. Here, I have learned to wait.

And then I found purpose, combatting that persistent feeling in the back of my head that I had power, I just didn’t know what to point it at. The Transhumanist thought scapes I had carried from Virginia to Bloomington started to grow into tangible things. From Baron, I learned about hackerspaces and this group I admire so much, count myself lucky to be a part of, that now takes so much of my focus. I learned what it is to choose to commit to something, and what it is to decide who you love and how you love them. This has been my city, not only in that it’s where my heart is, but in that it is here I learned what a heart even is. This is where my robot love is.

I’m moving my stuff to Somerville to spend most of my days in Cambridge. Apparently people in the Boston area care about these geographical differences. Or at least the streets do. My belongings boil down to books, and clothes, and art. And more books. And comics. I’ll be working with the Center for Civic Media, and the Berkman Center if they’ll have me. While I leave the 29th of this month, I first go to San Francisco for #everyonehacks. And when I do go, I don’t go straight to Boston. I go to Port-au-Prince first, and then to DC, and then I’m in Boston. For a few days. Before I go to Paso Robles for Camp Roberts, and then Philly for family. Towards the middle of February, I arrive in earnest for a whole few weeks. March I bounce around a bit (either Seattle and San Francisco or an entirely other adventure) with time in Boston. April is only half overseas. But! May and June will be in Boston for sure. And July is.. overseas. And August is partially in Black Rock City. But the rest of the year. Seriously. Boston. I’ve already passed up a bunch of potential things to go to, speak at. Those booked engagements will get pruned as much as possible. I need to be where I am.

So I’ve been framing my art to prevent it getting crushed in the move, and saying tender farewells. This is a place I have loved. And you should love some of my favorite places and things, too. Here are some places that I have always felt comfortable, always at home.

  • Crumpet Shop : Just my favorite place in Seattle. Always happy. Always delicious. Non presumptuous.
  • Parkour Visions : Solid people. They helped me feel at home. And they teach you how to use your body and your environment.
  • Ada’s Technical Books : It’s a hackerspace, but with books. Good talks every week, good people, and mate!
  • Techbound : If you’re into this sort of thing, these are the folk to learn from. (NSFW)
  • Odd Fellows : Just a great coffee shop to hang out in. Does all meals, coffee, booze, solid wifi, etc.
  • Hot House : Naked lady spa. Seriously helped keep me sane.
  • Six Arms : Sure, it’s a McMenamin’s, but I sure do heart it. Good booze, and the staff leaves you alone. Perk if you’re working, not if you’re dining people.
  • Remedy Teas : 150 loose-leaf teas, and themed with science. Usually bustling without feeling overwhelming. Also the staff is super cute.
  • Row House : Again, with the all meals, decent coffee, solid wifi. They do flights of whiskey and sometimes of strange meats. You can work from here all day.

Join me at Row House on the 26th of January from 16:00 to 20:00 if you’d care to say hello, goodbye, or whatever. I shall be reading and taking quiet time, welcoming company.

My roots grew here. But even as I write this, I know that people are postgeographic in my brain, but Seattle is like a family chest, full of fond memories. You can take it wherever you go. I will return to the people who are my chosen family, who are always with me.

Moving Your Makerspace

Jigsaw Renaissance is a learning and making community based out of Seattle, WA. It was founded in 2009 out of a Transhumanist Discussion Group.

Tiny Victory! Jigsaw 3.1 is complete. Its third location in 2.5 years of existence, each one better than the last. Jigsaw started out in the upper floor of a Quonset Hut Burner workshop in a super-shady part of Seattle beneath an in-process off-ramp. The next move was into a storefront on First Hill – high foot traffic and higher rents. On one side was a convenience shop with .99 beer, on the other was a money-advancement place.

Jigsaw’s new home is Inscape, the rennovated Immigrant Detention Center of Seattle, now full of artist lofts and robots. Jigsaw was in a temporary space for several months while they removed the questionable chemicals and did a custom build-out for the permanent home. And here it is – all sealed concrete floors and freshly painted walls. There is a huge classroom, a seperate space for the loud and dirty activities, and a shared workspace. There are still some improvements to make, but it’s ours and it’s home. You can come check it out February 11th for our house warming if you find yourself in Sunny Seattle.

Moving your Hacker/Maker Space is a Big Undertaking

Here are some things you should think about:

Do you need to move?
We sometimes think changing location will solve some issues which are actually cultural. Too much clutter? While the fresh start of changing location is a nice time to purge, why not just throw a party to do the same thing? Way less hassle. Good reasons to move are finding a better location, with more reasonable cost. It takes a fair amount of money to move – you have a gap between regaining your deposits and placing ones on new rent. The paperwork involved with swapping locations on electric, internet, insurance, and the like, is also a fair amount of overhead. Do you reallywant/need to move?

Choosing where to move

  • Landlord. The landlord is sometimes the most important component of this. Do they understand what you are up to, or are they at least amicably ignorant? Either is fine, but having someone you are beholden to who doesn’t understand means a lot of hassle later.
  • Location and zoning. Consider how much you want to get away with (Explosions? Fire? Or a MakerBot and some movie nights?) and what sorts of transportation access you want. Close to a public transit line? Easy walking distance? Accessible parking? It’s a rare find for something that is easy to get to and allows Things On Fire. While amazing, don’t stall out or put yourself under too much stress waiting for something that won’t come. A holding pattern can be more exhausting than moving ahead on something that isn’t quite perfect so you can get going.
  • Affording rent – how many members do you have? How much can they throw in a month? How many new members per month do you think you can gain? Don’t care! Go with what you’ve got, move in six months if you fill up. Don’t count your eggs before they’re laid, as they told me back in the midwest.

The moving process

  • Purge. No really. This is the best time to throw everything out. Yes, we know it might be useful at some point. Some tips: if it’s not slated for a specific project, toss it. Is the object of high value? Calculate your cost/sqft of space, including utilities. Is it worth the space it takes up?
  • Layout. Have an idea of where things go – this will help you with your purging process.
  • Insurance. Just like your landlord, find an insurance agent who “gets it” or at least gives you a confused smile. Talk to them about why you do what you do. Use terms like “community workshop” and “clubhouse for geeks.” Words like “hacker,” “fire,” “high voltage” might set them running. And yes, you do need insurance.
  • Permits. At the very least you need an occupancy permit. Is this covered by the building itself (check your lease)? Is it your responsibility? I’ve found calling up the fire marshall (or local Burning Man friend) to walk you through and let you know what you might need before inspection is powerful, and it makes a good impression for when they come by.
  • Throw a party. The more the merrier, and the easier the process! Have pizza! Music! Hold dolly races!

What have your experiences been? Add them in the comments!

Thanks to Michael Park, Jigsaw blogger extraordinaire, for the lovely images.