My City for One More Year

Image by Busse

First, thanks to everyone who has purchased my new product, the Unconventional Guide to Working for Yourself. You guys are so great… but you know that already. Please make sure you’re on the list for free updates, and let me know if you don’t receive the download links .

And now, on to traveling life – or in this case, life at home.


After a lot of contemplation, Jolie and I recently decided to stay in Seattle for one more year. We originally came here for my graduate school program in 2006, and I finished that a few months ago. We looked at some other options, but finally decided that until we start a new adventure next summer, we’ll continue to base out of Seattle.

I’m working on the book contract and growing the readership for the site, and she is building an art portfolio so she can launch her career as a painter.

Having written previously about my inability to get around very well in my own city, I’ve decided I might as well start learning more. Here are a few of the people and places I’ve come to know well over the past two years of living here.

Aladdin Gyrocery and Deli - Seattle, Washington
Image by Travis
The Gryocery

The Gyrocery on University Way in the U-District has the best falafel sandwiches anywhere. And I don’t mean just anywhere in Seattle, I mean anywhere in the world.

When I went to Jordan for the first time in early 2007, I ended up eating falafel every day for about 10 days straight. I was a new vegetarian and had no Arabic, so falafel was pretty much all I knew how to order. The falafels in Jordan were decent, but when I came back home and revisited the Gyrocery, I decided they were a lot better over here.

I thought it was just me, but a few months ago I was back in Amman for a one-night layover. I met up with my friend Dimitar who was studying Arabic for a semester. Ironically, Dimitar and I used to go to the Gyrocery to eat lunch once in a while back at home, and there we were in Jordan. He took me to a nearby falafel place around 11pm, but before we went he warned me that it was “no Gyrocery.”

Indeed it wasn’t. The falafels were fine, but the Jordanian guys who run the Gyrocery have obviously improved on the original recipe. The only problem is that the falafels in Seattle are $5 and in Amman they are 50 cents, but the huge difference in quality justifies the price. Really.

I also know Samir up the street, who is from Beirut, Lebanon. I met him just before I went to his homeland. “Hey, aren’t you from Lebanon?” I asked him. “Yes!” he said, with a smile that turned to a frown. “But it is not good there right now. We can not go back because it is unsafe.”

“Oh,’” I said. “I’m going there next week.”

“In that case, you will have a great trip!” he said, and we both laughed.

(In the end it was completely safe while I was there, although unfortunately it wasn’t for other people a few days later.)

Image by Rakkadeer
Ly the Donut Man

Ly (pronounced Lee) runs a donut shop called, fittingly, Ly’s Donuts. It’s up on 45th and Roosevelt, and as far as I can tell, Ly works there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Most of the time I go there, he slowly rises from a big chair like a sleepwalker to greet me, so I got the impression from the beginning that he spends a lot of time behind the counter.

One time after several visits, I went in and someone else was there. I was disappointed not to see Ly, but glad that he finally got some help.

A couple weeks later I was back, and I mentioned to Ly that an employee had helped me on my last visit. I said that I hoped he had a good vacation, but Ly looked confused.

“The white guy helped you?” he asked.

“Yeah, the white guy,” I said. “Where were you?”

“I must have been sleeping in the back.”

Go and see him sometime; he’s virtually guaranteed to be there.

The Food Bank

Every Thursday when I’m in town, I visit the Food Bank near the Public Library in Wallingford. Before someone accuses me of stealing from homeless people, I should note that this particular food bank is for anyone who lives in certain zip codes. There is also plenty of surplus food to go around; you just have to wait a while for it sometimes.

Since I’ve made this discovery, I’ve tried to figure out whether it’s worth my time or not. On any given week I get at least $20 in free bread and usually anywhere from $10-50 in other groceries. On the low-end weeks, it’s probably not worth the 40 minutes it takes to walk up there, wait in line, get stuff, and walk back.

But on the high-end weeks, it’s basically free grocery shopping with a few nice surprises. I also think of like a food reality show. It might not always be good, but if I didn’t go one week, I’d worry about what I was missing.

Every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas, you can get a free ham or turkey in addition to the regular selection. Since neither of us eat hams or turkeys, I always decline the offer, but this creates a lot of nearby interest.

The first holiday week I was there, a fight almost broke out as three people simultaneously asked if they could have “my” turkey. I ended up giving it to a Vietnamese lady who was very excited. She offered a couple of onions to thank me for “regifting” the turkey.

Fights don’t break out that often, but there’s usually something interesting that happens each week at the food bank -- another good reason to make the Thursday afternoon trip. Last week, some guy asked the staff if they had any stuffed animals to give out. (They usually keep a few on hand for kids.)

The man at the desk said, “Sure, hold on.” As he picked one out of a nearby box, the guy said, “Thanks! My dog is really going to love this!”

To his credit, the man at the desk didn’t bat an eye. “I hope your dog has fun,” he said.

origami-guy - seattle, washington
Image by Bus Chick
The Origami Guy

An elderly Japanese-American man frequently rides the bus around our parts of the city, sitting in the front and making origami birds for other passengers out of old newspapers. He looks like Mr. Miyagi from the old Karate Kid movies, and whether you want to or not, he’ll try to involve you in making the origami.

Mr. Miyagi also shares a numbers of observations while he’s making his gifts. “Mechanics,” he says frequently, perhaps out of explanation. “Holy Spirit,” he says when he gives out the dove – a nice touch, I suppose.

He usually gives the origami presents to women—my theory is that they are less threatening to him, and more likely to be friendly—but sometimes he’ll give them to men as well. One time I saw a business guy (not that typical in Seattle) try to decline the gift. The origami guy just kept offering, and by the third time the business guy gave in and ended up holding the paper crane for the next few stops. When someone gives you origami on the bus, resistance is futile.

Update: Bus Chick, who writes for a Seattle newspaper, spotted the same guy and has a picture.

Overheard on the Bus

Speaking of the bus, there are some great Overheard sites out there—see here and here — and I could probably create my own from riding Seattle’s buses. One time, coming back from the airport on the local 174 (one of the city’s longest routes, which means a lot of interesting people ride it), we heard a woman behind us talking loudly on her cell phone.

“Yeah, the doctor sent me home from work. What’s that? Oh, it’s so I don’t have an episode… the last time that happened, the police had to come… no, I wasn’t fired… after I got out they let me come back.”

Another time someone was calling his pharmacy about medication of a more personal kind.

“I need a refill on my medication… Well, it’s not working very well… It’s a sex medication and I think it needs to be stronger…. I took three last night but nothing happened… ”


These notes about living in Seattle served as a break from some of my other writing. Next week, I’ll be back with regularly-scheduled programming: How to Do What You Really Want on Monday, and an analysis of the recent product launch on Wednesday.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


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