Thursday, July 10, 2008

Five things I want from a city

I was driving back to Seattle yesterday from the job my friend got me in Issaquah, which is a suburb to the southeast, when I found myself thinking about what I need from Seattle in order to decide to move here. I think it comes down to five things - I need to be able to work in a job I don't hate, design shows, go dancing, ride my bikes and go skiing. The first three I already have in New York. The last two, though, I find frustrating and nearly impossible respectively.

So far, I'm already working as a stagehand. It doesn't mean all that much - my friend got me the job - but it suggests that there's a decent amount of work to be had. There are also a couple of employment options I haven't had time to pursue, since I've been working, and the union, which sounds like it's relatively easy to get into, at least as a general stagehand. My friend was grousing about their apprentice program today, so maybe advancing within the union is tricky right now. I'm not too concerned about that, because being a stagehand is just a job, so as long as it pays I'm happy.

The next thing is that I want to do is design shows. That's not just a job - I love telling stories, although I don't necessarily feel like I have any stories of my own to tell yet. Design is a way of helping someone to tell a story, and I think that absent telling my own, that's pretty cool. This area bears further investigation. Since I've been caught up in having a job, trying to secure housing, etc. etc. I haven't looked at it as much. However, Seattle is supposed to have a huge independent theatre scene with production values roughly in between Off-off-Broadway and Off-Broadway. Since in New York, Off-off usually can't afford me and Off is looking for a more experienced lighting designer, this could be perfect. Of course Seattle also has the larger regional theatre appropriate to a city of its size, so it's not like there'd be nowhere to grow as I design more shows and want to take on bigger challenges.

Going dancing has already happened by accident, which ended up being a very fun evening. On the principle that people who are any good at partnering are at least somewhat hooked into the swing scene, I asked around and found the local calendar web site (every city with a swing dance scene has one and only one.) So in that area as well, more dancing awaits. I've heard that the blues scene in this city is awesome too.

All that leaves the two areas where living in New York has been very disappointing. One of the reasons I think I need to actually move to a city where the access to skiing is better is that I think that it gets in the way of building the career I want if I leave the city for months at a time to go skiing. Two years ago, when I spent five months in Lake Tahoe and collected 90 days of skiing and snowboarding, I didn't do anything about trying to design more shows while I was away. That's a pretty big problem since spring is a big season for openings and it's also the time to be looking for summer work. Essentially I left myself the summer to look for something to do in the fall before leaving. I did luck into a show, and it's one of the better ones I've done, but if I lived in one place year round I think I'd be better able to create the career I want. I want skiing to be something that I can go and do on random days off during the week, for a week at a time a few times a season, maybe after work sometimes, but not something that takes me away from my "real life."

Last season was an experiment in having a less disruptive season in terms of being able to work, and I'd say it was moderately successful - I was back in New York in time for Fashion Week, and when those paychecks came in I stopped being broke from spending a lot of time in Tahoe working for ridiculously low pay. People I worked for hadn't forgotten I exist, so even without Fashion Week, getting back into my regular work load wasn't too hard. However, I was still away for a really big chunk of time rather than promoting myself and it also wasn't as many ski days as I'd have liked to do. I filled out my season with some family trips (thanks, Mom!) and some day trips but it wasn't like my 90 day season either.

My theory about the winter is that if I do the appropriate coursework to be a ski patroller and join National Ski Patrol at one of the local resorts, I'll be committed to a certain number of on-hill days doing that and between the season pass at that resort and visiting privileges at others I'll be able to add all the days I can fit into my schedule. Given the drive times, I may still spend a fair amount on hotels, but at least that's lift and plane tickets out of my ski budget. More importantly, I'll still be living full-time in Seattle so aside from my commitment to NSP, I'll be able to make myself available for work and production meetings and promote myself as those opportunities come up.

While I haven't been able to properly explore cycling here in Seattle yet, I get the impression that it's a really great place to do it. My LeMond recently and I got to ride it yestoday. The trail that everyone talks about is nice and long, which is cool, and supposedly leads into some nice, long road loops. I'm looking forward to exploring that further. I did a little riding when I'd just arrived on my friend's hybrid and found the city very friendly to cyclists. There are bike lanes all over the place, and drivers are accustomed to sharing the road. There are also nice, big hills and mountains all over the place and the local mountain bike advocacy group has secured access to lots of them. In New York, I spend at least as much time getting to where I want to ride as riding, and I would prefer to have more fun with the sport.

I guess I'm not that solid as to whether or not Seattle has everything I want. But then, no city will ever be completely perfect for me or any other individual. I'm over New York, so I figured I'd probably get an idea very quickly as to whether or not Seattle would work for me, and so far it's very appealing.

No comments: