Saturday, July 23, 2016

30 Days of Blogging, Day 18: Top 5...Favorite Corners of the World

If you ask me what is my favorite place in the world--where do I feel the safest, the most reflective, at peace--in my brain I would say, "Duh, my couch with my cat and my beautiful TV." Out loud I would probably say something pretentious, like the Piazza Campo de Fiori in Rome on a warm autumn night. I mean, it's great, and I went there a couple times, but I think we know who the real winner is here.

Couch love rights are civil rights. 
Love is love.

I'm the type of person who really values their alone time. Don't get me wrong, I love being around smart, funny, amazing people--but when I'm tapped out, I need a significant amount of me time. I need a place where I can disappear or blend in to the scenery and watch how real people interact.

This is my top five favorite corners of the world. 

#5 A cafe in Athens
They had a pretty limited menu. Mostly just..stone.

Okay, maybe one pretentious answer. 

In fairness, there was never an intention of pretension when I found this cafe on a quiet street at the foot of the hill that leads up to the Acropolis. I was alone on my honeymoon, and I was hungry.

To my wife-of-the-moment's defense, she had contracted norovirus on our fantastic honeymoon cruise around the Mediterranean. After spending some time in the ship's medical clinic the day before she was told she had to be in quarantine for at least 24 hours--the day we were supposed to be in Athens. 

She insisted that I don't miss Athens because she was sick, and luckily years before she had spent a significant amount of time there, so she was able to direct me to the train that would take me to the Acropolis.

That morning I said goodbye to her and apprehensively set out into the city, armed with a few Grecian greetings, a city map and a Rick Steves travel book.

The hike up the hill to see the Acropolis was fucking hard. I knew it was going to be, and I was anxiety ridden about it the whole train ride to the center of the city. 

As I hiked up to the top of the hill I quietly cheered for myself for every ancient stop I conquered--and for not puking. 

I wandered around taking in the ruins, snapping selfies of myself standing far enough away to get the Parthenon in the background. Some dude offered to take a picture of me, and while it was kind, he just didn't know my angles!

After I strolled to the bottom I sat at the foot of the hill and watched tourists wander by, locals peddling their wares. and little old Greek ladies tearing at the heartstrings of Americans with beautiful lace table cloths. (I wish I had taken that table cloth when we divorced 5 month later)

I took a walk on the narrow streets, starving and having a hard time deciding which tasty smelling restaurant to eat. 

I chose the quietest one with an outdoor patio that faced the Acropolis. I order a lot of food. My waiter was the owner and he loved my appetite. He gave me a free order of baklava to take back to the boat. 

The city was busy with tourists and locals, but this tiny street was so quiet. I read a book I picked up from the airport, took in the scenery, and smiled at locals as they passed me by. 

I thought about the fight we had poolside two nights before. I made the mistake of asking when she wants to have children. She got mad I couldn't be in the moment and just enjoy what we have. I got mad that she got mad and couldn't just fantasize about having a family. I cried poolside on my honeymoon. I knew this was a bad sign. 

I enjoyed the peace and the feeling of independence--almost what it felt like to be single again. 

#4 My Secret Spot
What did you think I meant by Secret Spot?

I cannot disclose the actual location of my secret spot. I will tell you that it's somewhere near where I used to live in Castle Rock, and I'm so happy that it's not been bulldozed for more carbon-copy homes.

I was a chubby kid but I was actually pretty active. I was always going out on little adventures on my own my bike, looking for private places that nobody knows about to play pretend. 

My secret spot  was a hike off of a bike trail in the covenant community where we lived. I would hide my bike underneath a bridge and hike down a rocky hillside to a little glen nestled in the trees. A tiny little trickle-of a creek flowed down the rocks. The scene looked like an ideal setting for A Midsummer Night's Dream of dancing fairies.

I would dance up and down the rocks, sing, make up plays in my head. I showed a friend my secret place once. When I told her what I liked to do down there she teased me. I never told anyone else about it again. 

Some secrets should stay secrets.

#3 Kure Beach, NC
The last thing I want to see before I die.

I have many fond memories of spending the summer at Carolina Beach as a kid. Family fun in the sun and whatnot. Kure Beach is just a few steps down the road, and I spent the best few days of my life healing there.

Right after my divorce I retreated to North Carolina. My extended family on my mother's side live there. I had been planning to go with her there, but our break-up turned what was going to be a trip to show my new wife around the state where my family is descended from to a trip to lick my wounds. 

My Aunt Mandy, one of the greatest women I know and whom I adore, surprised me with a trip to the beach. It was the first week of May and still off-season. We got a condo on the beach for a steal. 

Every day I woke up, put on my swimsuit, grabbed a book I would never read, and flip-flopped down to the beach. My aunt and Uncle Matt would take turns rotating down to hang out with me and make sure I was wearing sunscreen. 

I loved that they still cared for my well-being the same way they did when I was 9 years old playing in the sand. 

I would stare at the water, occasionally force myself in and bounce in the waves, and collapse on my towel and remember what it felt like to feel good again.

The best part, however, were the locals. 

On Kure Beach, everyone is your friend. As folks would wander by they would strike up conversation. It would start with a hello and would quickly evolve into a conversation about our personal lives. 

I chatted with a gal who, on her days off, would come down to the beach with her husband to collect shark's teeth.

Another guy was taking a break from a construction job on a condo he was restoring.

The most interesting character was a dude who talked like The Dude. He was taking a walk before going to work and saw me bouncing up and down in the waves by myself. The beach was practically abandoned, and he loved how brave I was to go out into the water by myself, and how joyful I looked in the water. He looked exactly like Dr. Phil. He told me that he likes to go after midnight for a naked swim. He invited me to join him that night. I passed, but I appreciated the invite.

A friend told me that the friendliness of the people who lived there is fake--a cover to their menial lives. I don't agree. I miss the lack of rules and pretense--you don't have to be anybody but yourself.

I need to go back.

#2 Kerry Park, Seattle
Views should be free.

If someone comes to visit Seattle for the first time I always tell them to skip the Space Needle. What are you getting for the $22 it costs to go to the top of the Space Needle? A view--and you're not even getting the Space Needle in your pictures. 

Skip. It. 

Kerry Park is on the south slope of Queen Anne and has the most beautiful panoramic view of Seattle and the Puget sound, and--oh--the Space-freaking-Needle.

It's also a great place to take a seat on the bench and watch humanity roll by. 

Tourists snapping selfies, wedding parties getting their formal pictures, kids playing on the large scale art installment. If you're lucky you'll catch a flash mob or maybe eavesdrop on a sweet conversation between a new couple. 

Skip the stupid Needle.

#1 Oddfellow's Cafe
Yeah, I'm that guy.

Can you call yourself a writer if you don't have a cafe you can disappear into?

If it's a Sunday morning, I'm most likely walking into Oddfellow's Cafe on Capitol Hill and sweetly asking the adorable hip young man who is always hosting for a spot by a plug in the back. He never remembers my name, but he does remember me, and sometimes sneaks me to the top of the list. 

Tipping well matters, people.

I was introduced to Oddfellow's by my friend Jen shortly after I moved to Capitol Hill after my divorce. It was like being brought into the warm embrace of the city after spending my entire life in the suburbs. 

I sit in the back for hours. I always order the same thing--scrambled eggs and a biscuit with bacon on the side and house-made jam, and a drip coffee. For every refill I get on my coffee I add a dollar to the tip. My coffee refill record is 8, which lead to my hard rule--no more than 4. If my hands are shaking too hard to type, then I've had too much. 

For the amount of time I spend at Oddfellow's, I really don't spend nearly enough time writing than I do people watching. I like to write stories for the people sitting around me in my head while trying to avoid staring too long. 

Oddfellow's is my favorite place to disappear--my favorite corner of the world.

Your turn: what's your favorite corner of the world? 
Hit me in the comments.

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