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The Great Northwest

[Editor’s note: This story is the first of the regional rants that will follow this article about a sense of home. Please send me stories that introduce me to your corner of the world, as I unfortunately don’t know good writers in every region.]

I go to my job in Lakewood, Wash. This city lies on the outskirts of Tacoma and is only 45 minutes from Seattle. My nicknames at work are Sunshine, Flower Girl, Barbie and Sparkle. Yes, I am one of those annoyingly happy people. The retail store pipes music over the intercom after hours to keep the nocturnal workers happy.

For some inexplicable reason, the powers that be decide to leave the music on a country station, something never done in the nearly year and a half I have been an employee. I manage to hold myself together.

The next day is the same station. Each twang agitates me like having a sore throat with a constant need to swallow. In the fifth hour of day two, I snapped. I began ranting, “This is the Northwest, we listen to rock! If we were in the South then my ears would be acclimated to this music, but this is not the South! I live in the birthplace of grunge! It’s my heritage to listen to alternative music!”

Since that day, I have been discovering my Northwest heritage and have realized how my personality is enhanced by the environment I grew up in. I admit I have a small complex about the whole issue of heritage because I don’t feel like I have much. I am of European descent with a hint of Native American. Okay, so I am only 1/32 part Native American, and I can’t seem to get a straight answer from my relatives on what tribe we are part of, but I hold on to that tiny slice because it represents culture. I am jealous at my friend who is bi-racial with exotic looks. I am average height, not fat and not thin, not blond and not brunette, and from an average place, or so I thought. I ache for diversity, but this is my lot.

The only thing the Northwest is famous for is the rain. I can’t build my heritage on rain. The early days of the Northwest were mostly full of men cutting down trees. I guess once enough space was cleared, they built houses and moved the women and children in. And that brings us to the present. I grew up in a place that was growing along with me. The Northwest is a fairly new region with old houses dating back to the 1950s. The region is an accentless group. As a child I called it the “movie star accent.” I always thought of the Northwest as a giant, boring suburbia.

I am now proud that I am from the Northwest. Yes it rains, but this rain produces gorgeous trees. And yes, I’ve hugged a few. I can’t help it, they beg for me to check and see if I can wrap my arms all the way around the trunks. I love that the people here are into the environment so much so that they are willing to live in trees for years at a time in order to save a few.

I also love to hike. Maybe it is Lewis and Clark that inspires us to explore. I’m not sure, but when many Northwesterner’s find a path, they need to go down it. Is it normal to look at mountain peaks and wonder if any human has ever hiked to the top of them?

We wear layers of clothing not because of fashion, but because we never know what the weather will be each moment and adjust accordingly. Most days I wear a tank top, shirt, sweater and jacket. Often I am holding my jacket, but I am glad I have it when caught in the rain and strip off that outer layer once inside.

I love fruit smoothies and crisp vegetables. I don’t quite understand the need to cook, fry, salt, bacon and butter vegetables. Extreme heat takes all the nutrients out so why bother eating vegetables at all? Steamed or raw is the way to go. Organic is better for us; and it’s socially responsible, even if it is more expensive. I smile at the recycling bins in Eugene, Ore., that read: Milk/Juice/Soy Containers. Soy really is the future.

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I like coffee and how my complicated order doesn’t phase the barista. I know what a quad shot is, and I’ve ordered one before. It tickles me that there are six various half-pound bags of coffee beans in the kitchen.

I am an hour away from the ocean, even if it is too cold to go most of the time and an hour away from a mountain and a couple hours from an active volcano that blew up on a friend’s fourth birthday.

My cousin visited from Arizona and remarked on all the different colored houses. We are individuals and express ourselves overtly. When I visit Phoenix, I notice every building is the same pinky/brownish color.

When food companies come up with a new product, they try it out on us because apparently we are more open to new things.

What I am trying to convey is that I have nice flavoring that comes from growing up in the Northwest. Perhaps I am not recognizable by the accent that I have, but rather the layers of clothing I sport. And so maybe my perky personality comes from too much caffeine, but I’m okay with that. I am a progressive, laid back, creative, practical, granola-head, and I like it.

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