Seattle, Tempe, and Me: A Torrid Love Triangle

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Well, it’s about that time. At ASU, the students have moved in and football season is imminent. Tempe Leadership’s new class reports in less than three weeks. My besties are texting to ask when I’ll be home.

Meanwhile, in Seattle, it hasn’t started raining yet but the mornings are getting chillier and chillier.

And, yet, I have zero motivation to pack up my Subaru and meander south for winter. I’m having a great time – from Shakespeare, music, and movies in Seattle’s parks to amazing camping on the rivers of the Cascade Mountains and the beaches of Olympic National Park.

Still, winter is coming which leaves me in a quandary. I’m in love with this damn place. I’m also in love with my home.

As I imagine may occur with a torrid love triangle, the relationship can get a bit complicated – and perhaps never so much so as this summer.

How Seattle Became My Side Piece

I fell in love with Seattle during my first visit back in 2011. I was so enamored that on the final day of my trip, I asked my cousin back home how much she thought I could rent my house for.

Seattle seemed to offer a life that I couldn’t have in Tempe.

I didn’t follow through. Bulbstorm was at its peak and I wasn’t ready to give up on what we were building.

When I returned on my first Meander in 2013, the city once again greeted me with open arms.

Alas, I’d never been outside Maricopa County for more than 11 consecutive days. By the time I had arrived in Seattle, I had been on the road for two months. By the time I’d hit my 100th day, I was restless in Seattle and ready to get home.

I returned in 2014 with my heart open to making Seattle home. I even rented an apartment. When my grandfather went on hospice in mid-September, I knew it was time once again to return to Tempe.

How I Rekindled My Flame for Tempe

After my initial tryst with Seattle in 2011, my counselor gave me some awesome advice. If I think there’s a certain life I’d have in Seattle, start building a similar life in Tempe now in case I never actually move.

The Eclipse reached 98 percent totality at Olympic National Park.

Over the next few years, I joined Tempe Leadership, co-founded PHX Startup Week, helped scale #yesphx, and joined the Humane Society’s Arizona leadership team. I worked to find ‘Zonies who wanted to camp, or see live music, or play board games. I invested in key relationships and organized movie clubs, house parties, and cabin trips.

On my Meanders in 2014 and 2015, it never occurred to me to settle down in Seattle. They were just short flings with an old lover. I was committed to building my relationship with home.

This year was different. With my relationship with Tempe rekindled, I once again opened my heart to Seattle. I arrived in early July and rented an apartment through mid-September.

It’s felt great to be back in the arms of my lost love … even if it’s meant cheating on Tempe.

Two Cities at the Same Time, Man

But, yeah, winter. A few weeks ago, I booked a flight home to attend to time-sensitive business before returning to Seattle to begin a slow Meander south.

When I looked at my atlas, though, I wasn’t inspired. I could push past 80 National Park Service units with a swing through Idaho. I could do a more remote park like Great Basin in Nevada. Nothing got me excited.

Eventually, I decided against the back-and-forth flights and slower Meander south. I leave Seattle on Saturday. I should be in Tempe within a week.

It’s not that I don’t want to go home. I just don’t want to drive there. I don’t have wanderlust. I don’t want to be everywhere. I just want to be with Seattle … and with Tempe … basically at the same time.

When asked what he would do if he had a million dollars, Office Space’s Lawrence replied: “I’ll tell you what I’d do, man. Two chicks at the same time, man.”

Well, I don’t have a million dollars. Fortunately, I don’t need that much.

Maybe I’m not cheating on Tempe or on Seattle. Maybe they’re both just a little freaky like me. Maybe I just need to make them an offer.

I don’t know the exact pronunciation but I believe it’s: Ménage à trois.

Think they’d be into it?

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Obituary for a great man at the end of the road

My first project of my first week back in Arizona was for the Eloy Enterprise. I hadn’t planned to be back in the desert so soon. And I certainly hadn’t planned to write my grandfather’s obituary.

For reasons I’ll outline in a future blog post, my second meander was far different from my first. This time, I was outside Arizona for 85 days but on the road for just 17 of them. The vast majority of the time was spent based out of Seattle. Not too shabby.

The plan called for at least a few more weeks on the road. Unfortunately, grandpa’s health didn’t allow it. After his second hospital visit this summer, I decided to meander home via the short (ahem, boring) road back through Idaho and Nevada.

Just 15 minutes from the turn toward Nevada’s desolate Great Basin National Park, my mom called. Grandpa had gone on hospice. An hour later and I may not have received the call.

That ended the meandering. I put aside Great Basin and headed south. Less than 24 hours later, I was home. The next day, I saw grandpa one last time. That weekend, he passed. And on Monday morning, I sat at my computer and cranked out his obituary.

Celebrating a life

Bud Kee obituaryThe assignment came with plenty of questions … and Google offered little help.

The obituary is a traditional vehicle with a very formal structure. It doesn’t leave a lot of room for creativity. But Bud Kee was more than a resume and a list of survivors. I remember him as a World Way II veteran, civic leader, family man, gardener, and hardcore Sun Devil. I imagine my mom remembers him differently.

How do you celebrate what made him him? How do you honor a man who was loved not only by his family but by an entire town? How do you inform the audience (the people of Eloy) while meeting the needs of family members, each of whom has her own stories and memories?

In the end, I played it safe. I followed the traditional format, but I cheated a bit. I lifted the first mention of his family above the chronological rundown of life events. I peppered in a few personal notes about his hobbies and his love of ASU and Santa Cruz High School sports. And I concluded with a thank you to the people of Eloy for their outpouring of love for our family on Facebook and elsewhere.

Saying goodbye

The funeral was on a hot Thursday morning in Eloy. I could feel the Arizona sun burning through my black golf shirt. This was definitely not Seattle. I found my eyes drawn to the prominent and impressive Picacho Mountains that loom over the tiny town grandpa called home since the 1930s.

When it came to writing an obituary, I was a rookie. When it came to delivering a eulogy, this priest was a pro.

I made note of a few key thoughts from the eulogy. My grandfather was a man of service. He was humble and always content. He looked after the community’s children and knew his neighbors. He understood creation and appreciated it, as seen in his love of animals.

These thoughts shook me. Am I being of service to my fellows and making a difference in my communities? Am I remaining humble and content, or am I yearning for more? Am I appreciating the beauty all around me, or am I rushing through life?

As I looked out at the Picacho Mountains, I lost a few tears. I haven’t quite recovered. I learned last year that returning home from a long journey is jarring. This year, the effect is compounded by a funeral – and some lesser disappointments that seem trivial by comparison.

I want to climb into those beautiful mountains and have a nice long think. I need another Meander to get my head on straight.


Roses at Sun Devil Stadium

Roses from grandpa’s funeral in grandpa’s old seats. RIP Show Papa. And go Devils!