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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Blowing zeros and other happenings during 90 days sober

When a reporter asks at the end of The Untouchables what he’ll do once prohibition is repealed, Eliot Ness responds, “I think I’ll have a drink.”

My own prohibition was repealed just last week. September 22 marked the end of my three-month commitment to sobriety. For 90 days – including 70 on the road to Seattle and back – I limited myself to a single beer per day in a journey for spiritual clarity and awareness.

Now that I’ve reached my destination, a good reporter might ask: What’s next?

Well, I’m not exactly popping the champagne to celebrate.

I may have one beer. And that’s about it. It turns out that I’ve kinda liked my return to sober living.

The Departure

breathalyzer blowing zero

Mark it zero, dude!

When I departed on this journey back in June, I wasn’t looking for big answers. I simply wanted greater clarity and awareness – of my self and my surroundings – so that I could live in tighter alignment with my values. That’s integrity, Holmes.

As I said back then, alcohol and I have an unhealthy relationship. With alcohol in my life, I have less clarity and less serenity and less sensitivity to my emotions. I’m more likely to get confused, to bottle up my feelings until they boil over, and to just generally make mistakes.

I’m not talking about the dumb things we do when we’re drunk. I’m talking about the way regular exposure to alcohol and other chemicals affects you over time. It turns out that regularly pumping a depressant into your system fucks you up a bit. Who knew?

A 90-Day Journey

Sobriety led to one of the more memorable episodes of this third Meander.

After a day of rafting at North Cascades National Park, I volunteered to drive our van back to camp. When rangers at our campground spotted an open bottle of tequila in the passenger seat, I had to pass a Breahtlayzer to avoid a ticket. I blew zero (of course) and the rangers were cool enough to let me immortalize the moment with a photo.

It wasn’t until about 60 days into my Meander that sobriety really began to affect me. Fortunately, there weren’t huge emotional swings like on my first Meander when I despaired over crushing a duckling with my Subaru.

But there was emotion nonetheless.

On the drive from Mt Shasta to Lassen Volcanic National Park, I cried at the mariachi version of Mumford & Sons’ I Will Wait. I had listened to this song repeatedly while watching my nephews watch in Seattle, so I intuitively knew it’d cause a reaction.

Spontaneously, I found the song on Spotify and played it. My heart knew that I needed an emotional laxative.

After that, throughout the two-week trip from Lassen to Tempe, my emotions were heightened. But the peaks were flatter and the valleys were shallower. I experienced low-level loneliness at times. I looked joyfully forward to my return home. I was far too ecstatic about the twists and turns of Survivor reruns.

Again, this wasn’t the dramatic emotional roller coaster of the first Meander or my seemingly endless depression following my eruption seven years ago. And, you know what, I prefer this calmer, steadier manner of feeling.

Emotions good.

Chaotic mood swings bad.

My Companions on the Journey

To be honest, making it 90 days wasn’t all that tough. For the most part, people were supportive of my mission. I got zero peer pressure from old friends on a brewery crawl in Ballard. The ASU Alumni Association’s annual booze cruise in Seattle was a little dicier, but I expected it to be so.

After all, we’re Sun Devils, man!

Big thanks to Joe for serving as my accountability partner, to Stephanie, Astara, Wendy, and others for listening, and to my Seattle peeps for understanding why I wasn’t drinking around the campfire.

Henry David Thoreau said, “I believe that water is the only drink for a wise man.”

I don’t quite agree with that. I’ll continue to enjoy a beer from time to time.

But more than one? No thanks.

After 90 days of sobriety, I’ve decided that water – or a single glass of beer – is the only drink for a wise Matt.


Just coffee for me. Thanks.

After 100 days on the road, I’m restless in Seattle

Seattle greeted me with open arms when I arrived on July 5. In my first 48 hours in the city, I reacquainted with my cousin and her family, found a great yoga studio, and saw two concerts including Robert Plant. What a reception!

No city could keep up that pace. Two years ago, I was ready to move to Seattle. Today, I’m ready to go home. I’m very aware of missing things like my Tempe Leadership class’s first reunion, two of my closest friends’ last nights in Arizona, and the start of Camp Tontozona.

Desert rat in snow at Mt Baker

There’s gotta be a desert here somewhere …

Of course, I’m making the most of my time here. I absolutely love this area! I’ve seen the Seattle sights with my mom, camped twice in the North Cascades, and enjoyed quiet time connecting with my cousin’s family and doing a ton of yoga.

I know what some of you are thinking. Boo frickin’ hoo.

Most of you are sweltering in triple-digit temperatures. You’re reading this post while sitting in your cubicle. You quite understandably think that I’m on a hella long vacation.

I totally get that. It’s hard to define this experience in terms I’d have recognized six months ago. I mean, what the hell is a sabbatical anyway? As I approach my 100th day on the road, it’s quite clear that it is not a vacation. It’s a lifestyle – and not one that I’d choose to live long-term.

No girl. No gig. Just the road. That mantra carried me through an action-packed, spiritually-charged, growth-fostering, two-month drive from San Diego to Seattle. But now? Meh.

No gig? Ha! I love my career. Breakfast with a former coworker in Portland reminded me how much I miss wrapping my mind around a good puzzle.

No girl? Well, I really really dug a girl in Phoenix. Goodbye was a prerequisite for this trip and all the benefits it’s delivered. But goodbye was NOT easy.

Now, after nearly 100 days on the road, it’s time to get back to the gig. And the girl. And ASU football. And my favorite city in the world. And my own bed and kitchen. And all of you.

I’m leaving Seattle on August 26 for a week in the Olympics followed by a short layover in Central Washington. I’ll be at Glacier National Park in Montana by September 8 and Yellowstone in Wyoming by September 15. From there, I’m heading straight down the Colorado-Utah border toward Tempe (with short stops at Dinosaur National Monument and Arches).

That means no Denver and Rocky Mountain National Park. No Salt Lake City and Bryce Canyon and Zion.

Estimated date of arrival: September 28. Right in time to watch my Sun Devils trounce Southern Cal. Right in time for Tempe to wake from its summer slumber.

Until then, I’m stuck on sabbatical. But, if you gotta be stuck somewhere, sabbatical is the place to be. After all, the weather and the views are fantastic!

seattle skyline from kerry park

A decent view until I get home …