I love the rain. I look forward to cloudy, drizzly, misty days where trees seem especially green and cars look especially shiny. I love walking through a downpour without a hat and feeling the droplets smack into my cheeks and nose.
I’m not from here. In Denver, Colo., rain is really rare. We have to water our lawns to keep them alive. Moss is confusing. There are a whole bunch of reasons why I wound up in this particularly far-flung corner of these United States, but one was the promise of nearly constant rain.
The irony came when I arrived in September for cross country pre-season training to spend a month of sunny days watching on TV as my home state nearly floated away in flood water. Of course, all is right with the world now. It’s 50 degrees and clear in Denver and 37 degrees with sleeting rain here.
And no, Washingtonians, I don’t feel disdain for the rain yet. More than anything, I’ve learned that there is way more to the cultural makeup of the Northwest than rain, coffee and marijuana.
A big part of why I am here is running. I was a good high school runner. Not phenomenal, but good enough that I knew I had a shot at continuing my career. During the spring of my senior year, I flew out here with my dad to meet the coaches and the team, and check out this odd town called Bellingham. My first run with the team, I met my captain. He wore a carefully waxed handlebar mustache, an old Joe Camel cigarettes hat (backwards) and socks for gloves. I was sold.
Running is massive here. This is the land of Brooks and Nike, of Steve Prefontaine and Hayward Field. You can’t spit in Bellingham without hitting a runner. Or, more likely, you can’t walk a foot in Bellingham without stepping in a runner’s spit.
In Colorado, we do tend to lay claim to the title as the most healthy, outdoorsy, adventurous people in the country. I’m not ready to give that up yet. But I will at least admit that there are plenty of people in Washington who share this spirit. The closest thing I’ve seen to a football game at Western was the showing of “Into the Mind,” the ski documentary shown at the Performing Arts Center in October. The roar of that crowd was absurd and beautiful.
What I will not dispute is this state’s love for its football team. The Seahawks pervade every inch of campus. And I have never been on a more silent, sad, angry run than the 13-miler my fellow runners and I did after the loss to the Colts. It’s a cult-like devotion, especially when it comes to Russell Wilson [who, I might mention, the Colorado Rockies drafted to play baseball. I guess he made the right call].
Then there’s Macklemore. And Pearl Jam and Nirvana and Death Cab and everyone else, but right now, it’s Macklemore. Having now met Garfield High graduates who said he played one of their school dances and other kids who saw him for $5 at some tiny venue in Seattle, I can admit to a strong jealousy of the music scene up here. Even better than the aforementioned big guns of Washington music are the extremely high quality local outfits like Hot Damn Scandal, Knowmads and I’m sure plenty of others who I haven’t heard of yet.
Most importantly, one is not immediately and angrily labeled a hipster for searching out really good semi-obscure music here. Yes, there are plenty of so called hipsters in this part of the world, but it’s almost so pervasive that it’s not enough just to wear skinny jeans and a flannel anymore. You have to actually live sustainably or create cool art in order to stand out. In the end, if you push beyond the sea of white girls in yoga pants, Uggs, and North Face jackets listening to Maroon 5, (believe me, that same sea exists in Colorado) the Northwest offers an extremely dynamic and fertile creative atmosphere.
It wasn’t an easy choice to come this far from home for school. There is no one else from my high school here and I don’t have any family in the state. But I’m here because of the people. The friends I’ve made, my teammates and the professors who call this place home are my kind of people. This isn’t home for me yet, but when I look up at the trees, down at the slugs writhing on the pavement (no, we don’t have those in Colorado) and around at these smiling - if rather pale and clammy - faces, I think it’s a pretty rad place to be.