A little backstory: Three short years ago Joel was tending bar in Davis, CA. Ironically it’s a place that felt a long distance to visit at the time, but a spot that I now travel daily as my morning commute.
Things were going relatively well for him. He was plugged into the scene, enjoying the “college life” that he missed out on during his 5 year stint in the navy, and looking for the next opportunity to get ahead. Still, the grind of the restaurant lifestyle was beginning to take its toll. Nothing an adventure couldn’t remedy.
One winter day in ’09, he let the family in on his new plan. He announced he’d sell everything, save up, and spend a year working in and traveling through Australia. I was overjoyed for him, a little nervous, and a of course jealous :)
The planning and follow-through that this feat required was tremendous, but he was up to the task. Visa-in-hand, he departed Sept 11, 2010 for the yearlong excursion. Looking back, none of us knew how dramatically this trip would change his life.
During his time away, our conversations were sporadic, but among the colorful stories and entertaining anecdotes was an undeniable theme of growth. Continually pushing past his comfort zone, he was building new relationships, securing new jobs, and jumping into the next venue just as he’d become familiar with the last. Often, he was down to his last dollar, but completely committed to the effort, he never once asked for a hand. He worked on scuba cruises, manned the front desk of local hostels, lived lean, experienced, and learned.
A Chance Conversation.
One day, Joel found himself in a conversation with a business traveler. The new acquaintance was there on assignment. His job, Joel discovered, was to use special sonar equipped robots to analyze and evaluate the integrity of heavy equipment across the globe. When he heard this, Joel’s ears perked up.
He’d specialized in sonar throughout his Navy career and longed to continue his world travels. This could be perfect. Through their common interest, they became fast friends and Joel dedicated the remainder of his trip to researching this new career opportunity.
In the past, Joel and I had taken part in many career discussions, but this carried a different weight. Joel researched the new field diligently. Graduating quickly from Google queries to chats with headhunters, program research, and eventually skype interviews, things came to a head quickly. The months dedicated to this career search were filled with highs and lows, promise and uncertainty, but as his year overseas came to an end Joel’s perseverance paid off. He landed the job just in time to return to the continent.
A new home.
When it came time to depart the island, Joel was bound for an entirely new adventure, a new career, a new city, and a new life altogether. His new job was paying his way to relocate to Seattle and he was up for the change of venue. Since then, he’s traveled more places than I can count and found his way up the ladder, always looking for ways to prove himself.
Though he’d been back home to CA for visits several times, this past weekend was my first opportunity to visit Joel up north and it was a blast. His new home is a condo with a stunning view overlooking Puget Sound, Pier 66 and Olympic Sculpture Park. Just down the street, Pike’s Market offers fresh fish, fruits, veggies and culture. Just behind his building, the Space Needle pierces the skyline.
While there, it was just like old times. He picked me up from the airport and the fun began:
The pick up: First, he surprised me with a welcome sign fashioned loving from a black sharpie and some leftover cardboard. When I saw it couldn’t help but crack up. It read “Hermano” and was proudly displayed right out the top of his sunroof as he pulled in to the arrivals section the airport.
A Tour of The Office: From the airport we went straight to his office. That was too cool. A true grand tour, he showed me through everything there was to see and I’m pretty sure I met everyone but the janitor. He’s got a great setup there and quite a community. From the technicians, to the engineers, to a sweet and slightly eccentric “office mom”, everyone lit up as we made the rounds. I got to see the robots they use, the labs they test them in, and even the massive test facility that Joel hand built in his early days there. Up until this point, it had all been descriptions. This helped to really anchor a lot of image in my mind. Quite a treat.
Supplies: After taking a moment for lunch and talking about life, we were off to pick up supplies (several fancy beers & absurd party attire). Yes, on the agenda for the evening, a “white party”. NO, this isn’t something awful, just theme party where everyone wears white. So where do you go to prepare for such an event? Kohl’s! Yes, they were well prepared to help us dress up like a couple of miami vice extras. Joel snagged the last white fedora hat while I marveled at their selection of white blazers. After an 80’s movie montage worth of a shopping event, we were well prepped for a night out.
Party Going: Regardless of the funny theme, this party was popular. Every spot on the pier was sold out as we were joined by roughly 2,500 of our closest friends just blocks away from Joel’s place and there was plenty to see. Armed with a couple of liquor store cigars and some questionable white wine (pretty much all they were serving) we strolled in past the red carpet entrance/photo screen, a techno viking look-a-like, and found our place to post up and take the night in. Laughing and hanging out with Joel’s friends was a blast and when we’d had our fill of the party, we all relocated back to Joel’s place for a couple rooftop drinks, videogames, and late night snacks.
Touristy Stuff: It had been forever since I’d been to Seattle so the next morning I was ready to see the sights. However, to do this properly we’d require a breakfast burrito and a couple cups of coffee to shake off the rust from the night before. Fortunately, a quick walk down to the Bang Bang! Cafe got the wheels turning. The burrito there had to be one of the biggest I’d put down in a while and it was amazing. Half red sauce, half green was the perfect combo to soak up the fun from the night before and set us out on our way. Through the day we hit up Pike’s Market, a famous troll living under a bridge, green lake, the original Starbucks and more.
Thrift Shoppin’: By the afternoon, we’d taken in enough of the sights so it was time to grab a snack and do some thrift shopping. Laughing hysterically over some options for condo decor (Steve Urkell Doll, a stuffed badger with a backpack, etc…), Joel found a fun sign for his kitchen advertising a potential opening for a dishwasher (room & board available). Mission accomplished! With that we packed it up and prepped for debatably the most important part of the trip.
Hanging Out: There was only one stop left to make on the way home. Red Box. Yes, it was time to get a quality couch session going and mob on some videogames. After carefully studying the options on the screen, we opted for “The Walking Dead” vid game — an excellent choice. Powering the xbox on in the late hours of the afternoon, we completely immersed ourselves in the rented game until the early hours of the morning. Taking turns snoozing toward the end, we nearly played through the entire story. I hadn’t done this in ages. It was a delight.
Coffee & A View: The next morning we woke to a gorgeous day full of sunny sky. It was the perfect opportunity to fill the coffee mugs and go for a walk along the water. For this final leg of sight seeing, we popped across the street to olympic park to get a good look at the art exhibits and continue down the bike trails that span the shore. It was the perfect way to end the trip. For over an hour we walked and chatted, debated on the best place to fish, watched the fireboats show off with their cannons, and generally relaxed.
As is typical, the weekend was too short. I was excited to get home and see the fam, but I could have spent far longer just hanging out with my bro. We hadn’t had any real one-on-one time in a long time and we certainly made up for it. Catching a glimpse of my brother’s new life and a better feel for his profession was a treat. Seeing the relationships he’d built with his co-workers and friends was cool. Partying, relaxing and playing video games was decadent. And having a few days to catch up was special. This trip was one of the best times I’ve had with my brother and I’m already looking forward to the next hangout sesh. Next time we’ll get Jess and Ben up there and enjoy an entirely new experience altogether.