May Visit

Seattle, USA
May 6, 2014

I'm back in Seattle. I'll be staying in town over most of the month of May. It seems impossible that it's been nearly a year-and-a-half since I last came to call on family and friends.

Though it has been such a long, long while, I have made visits back so regularly over the past decade that I've perfected the formula for how to best rotate around town and see everybody I care about:

Before arrival, I invariably ask Greg whether I can both start and end my time with a stay at his family home in Mt. Baker. On top of allowing ample time to see his family, his basement is where the majority of my posessions have been in storage since I left Seattle in 2003. It's perfect to be able to drop off what things I've come into town with that I'll have no immediate use for. It's then twice-perfect to have Chez Greg as my last point of departure before I leave Seattle to once again take what I can use on the road ahead and leave behind what I don't need before I say goodbye to this city.

Between visits at Greg's, I rotate visits among family and friends. I usually limit my stays to a block of three nights so as not to wear out my welcome--though that's not always a hard-and-fast rule. Sometimes I'll visit a bit longer or a bit shorter depending on just who-all I'm catching up with. Then, the times I need to focus on my own affairs I can almost always break up visits with family or friends with the occasional solo cat- or housesit. There's always some friend or neighbor-of-a-sibling who will be out of town. That permits me a little time on my own to attend to other, personal obligations (mostly school-related, these days) and not make me feel like I'm being a bad guest by ignoring my host.

Greg's Home: Dad, Myhanh,
Greg, Mai Linh, and Tai
Over this visit my first three days staying at Greg's were great for seeing where the family has come since I was last here over Christmas 2012. He and my sister-in-law Louise seem to be steadily advancing their professional careers (practicing law and teaching high school) while raising their family. Their eldest, Myhanh, is now attending the very same middle school that I went to decades ago. As I did when I went there she too plays violin in the school orchestra. However, she's additionally active on the school track team: there weren't any organized athletic activities back in my day. Mai Linh, (pictured in the photo at the top of the entry) is still playing piano. Tai, the youngest, has surprisingly abandoned the drums to play the trumpet.

I was charmed that, grown as they have, the nephlings immediate response to seeing "Uncle Dave" every time I return is still to ask whether I'll twirl them around through the air up above my head. This has been our ritual for as long as I can remember. They get to choose whether they lie face-up or face-down and whether I grasp them by their arms, their legs, or one of each.

I was further charmed to see how they were all so proud to show off their abilities solving the Rubik's Cube. That's another fad I remember both being popular and personally obsessing on myself back in my own middle-school days. I guess life really is cyclical.

However... this stay with Greg's family hasn't been without incident. A month or two ago they took in a dog-in-need, a two year-old mutt whom they've rechristened "Georgia" after the state from where she came. Though I'd be the first to confess harboring cat-bias I did think their new dog was fairly likeable--until she bit me. Standing in the kitchen chatting with my sister-in-law one afternoon ended with an immediate dog-bite on my thigh as soon as we each turned our backs.

I wondered if perhaps their new dog's attack came from some instinctive sense of my preference for cats--until another incident a few days later. Georgia evidently "nipped" Uncle Alan under similar circumstances just days after she bit me. I'm hoping she'll be better-trained when I come back around at the end of the month--though don't know how easily such traits are lost in dogs of her age.

Michael and David
After visiting with Greg's family my next stay was with Mike. As with when I stayed Greg's family, re-connecting with my friend from high school was a view into how settled his life has become. It's clearly been years since the days when we were traipsing about the globe, together. He's now content to be staying here in Seattle working at a company that writes software for legal firms. His focus is no longer on crossing continents but on raising his children.

The first two nights of my visit his mother cooked up elaborate dinners over which we all caught up. The final night of my stay I happened to have other dinner plans. When I returned there was a hand-written note on the door:

Dave, At ER for minor medical emergency. Kids at neighbors. Back soon.

It turned out that Michael had bought a new bicycle earlier that same day. He'd previously been regularly riding in to work on another bike, a 90-minute ride in each direction. He was hoping that a newer model might shave some time off that journey. But, whether his upgrade makes for a better ride won't be known for some weeks out. The unfamiliar cycle turned too tightly then slipped out from underneath him. Something sharp cut into his Achilles' tendon. He came back from the emergency room later that evening with with his left leg stitched up and bound in a cast. Ouch.

Uncle Philip Works
on Basement Kitchen
Me, I've continued to ride my bike to get around Seattle though it's no longer as pleasant an experience as it was when I arrived. I rolled in to record-high temperatures which were beautiful and sunny. These days, that's devolved into a more typical cold, grey, and overcast Seattle sky.

Though I've been bouncing around enjoying staying in homes of friends and family, I've been consumed with another project: helping repair my father's house. To address some long-neglected basic repairs, the greater family has bonded together to take tons upon tons of waste to the dump. Old printed matter that had piled up over the years formed the bulk. That was a good thing: disposing of papers as recycling is without cost. There were also runs of sheer trash that we did have to pay for. Thankfully, the Seattle Wongs have had the benefit of a concerted cleanup initiative spearheaded and backed by Dad's brothers: chiefly my Uncle Philip.

Uncle Philip flew out from New York to spend the first week-and-a-half of May actively repairing and fixing up the homestead. Uncle Joseph followed on from Los Angeles soon thereafter. It's been wonderful to have not just their drive and energy in making Dad's home that much better, but them putting their money where their mouths are to pay for expenses like dump runs and vehicle rentals.

Siblings: Greg, Alan, David, Ben,
and Jen Toast with Safeway Pop
Devoting myself to schlepping recycling and basic household repairs immediately upon return has had me doubly stressed out. I still have a 20-page paper outstanding for my Chinese Brushwork course back at McGill! I do know just what I want to write about and have started with the initial pages. But, to get the bulk of it finally written... why do I always, always procrastinate so?

More home improvement, more paper writing, and more calls on loved ones all to be written about in my next entry. In most current news, I arrived at Alan and Devon's Capitol Hill apartment yesterday. I'll be here for some days and then--as hoped for--have another cat-sitting gig lined up.

Next Stop: Cat-sitting across town