by Angela Garbes
People, it's the first week of November. This is not the time to be upset about rain, cold, and gray skies. (That time is five months from now, when the rest of the country is experiencing the sunny, triumphant spring, and we're drowning.) If you think this is bad, you're in for a very long winter. Now is the time to toughen up. Or, as I like to do this time of year, get totally soft.As I type this, I am wearing my beloved L.L. Bean shearling slipper booties, my toesies warm and happy, with a heavy Korean blanket pulled up to my chin. There's a pot of soup on the stove, burbling away and perfuming the entire house. I am resisting the urge to binge-watch television. (Have you seen FX's The Americans? The main characters, married Russian KGB agents living undercover in the United States, are so complex and fascinating. Also, it's about the Cold War, so technically the show is seasonally appropriate.)
In my house, this is the season for making soup—long-simmered goodness that warms you up from the inside out. You don't need to leave the house to make decent soup. If you have onions, carrots, celery, and water, you're already halfway there. Got potatoes? Even better.
Start by sautéing the vegetables in a big pot. If you don't have any stock, let the vegetables cook a little longer so they get a little brown and caramelized. Then add water, lots of salt and pepper, a bay leaf if you've got it, maybe a few splashes of white wine. Bring it up to a boil, then lower the heat and let it simmer. That's pretty much it. My husband and I are the reigning king and queen of Refrigerator Soup, which we make with whatever happens to be in the fridge and in our cupboards.
You can make a great vegetable soup by adding any or all of the following to the mix: a can of tomatoes, frozen peas, shredded cabbage, Parmesan cheese, corn, a can of garbanzo beans, a few handfuls of pasta or rice. Let it all simmer until everything is cooked through. The main ingredient in soup is time—all soup tastes better the next day.
My current favorite soup is one that I accidentally made up last winter right after our daughter was born. I started making the basic soup I described above and then began poking around the kitchen. We had dried shiitake mushrooms, so I soaked them in hot water. When they were nice and soft, I sliced them and put them (along with the liquid they steeped in, which added even more flavor) into the pot. I also added pieces of leftover roast chicken, a diced jalapeño, one bunch of very sad, wilted cilantro, coriander seeds, a little soy sauce, and white rice. I crave it regularly. It reminds me of our first days together as a family when we were overwhelmed and exhausted but happy.
You Can Take a Tropical Vacation in the Middle of Seattle
by Kathleen Richards
The first time I visited the Pacific Science Center's Tropical Butterfly House was last winter. It had been raining—and it wasn't just wet, but also cold. My boyfriend and I had parked nearby, and we were sitting in his car waiting for a shower to pass so we wouldn't get completely drenched while walking the block and a half to the science center. We considered skipping it. How great could this butterfly garden really be?
I had first read about the butterfly garden in the pages of this newspaper, as an activity to do in the dead of winter, when all hope of remembering warmth and sunlight is nearly lost. Although last winter in Seattle wasn't as gloomy as in prior years, it was SAD-inducing to this former Californian. So I was willing to part with $20 for some respite.
The Pacific Science Center is not all that interesting, sadly. It's clearly fascinating to kids, but adults just get in the way.
We wound our way through the animatronic dinosaurs and tide-pool simulators and insect tanks full of creepy-crawlies to the butterfly garden. We weren't the only ones. There was a line to get in, and when we got to the front, we were instructed to leave our jackets and belongings outside (cubbies are provided).
It's clear why once you step inside the 4,000-square-foot glass enclosure, where it's a balmy 80 degrees, with 60 to 70 percent humidity, year-round. Amid tropical plants and tall ceilings, all manner of butterflies from around the world float, flutter, and hang out, sometimes on you.
Because only a limited number of people are allowed inside the butterfly garden at once, it feels selfish to stay in there for too long, to deprive all those on the other side of the glass of this magical transporting experience, even though you really want to. In all that warmth and light (supplemental light, as well as heat, is provided), you suddenly feel very much awake and alive (and sweaty). At one point, my boyfriend and I looked at each other and decided we had to go on a tropical vacation, as soon as possible.
Until then, there's always the Tropical Butterfly House.
Fighting Water with Water at Banya 5
by Rich Smith
When the mono-cloud settles in and begins to spray its aggressive drizzle all over the damn place, I take the masochist's approach: add more water. The best water I know is at Banya 5, a coed Russian bathhouse in South Lake Union. True to its name, the spa features five ways to bathe. There's the eucalyptus steam room, a parilka (dry sauna), an ice bath, a tepid pool filled with salt water, and a hot tub. There's also warm and very cold showers, various massage options, and a nap room. That's right, a nap room. All yours for the price of admission: $40 gets you in for the day.
Sweating the sadness out in a parilka and then shocking the body to life by jumping in freezing water is an ancient Russian tradition, a way of enduring the harshness of the subarctic climates of the north country. It's serenity through torture, purity through pain. The quasi-scientific idea is that the extreme heat of the dry sauna (200 degrees to 240 degrees, depending on where you sit—heat rises) pushes the blood out to the very ends of your capillaries, out to your fingertips and toes. Jumping in the ice bath thereafter sends all the blood rushing to your core to protect the vital organs. This activity circulates the blood in a real way, and it's supposedly just as good for you as working out.
Walking into the baths for the first time can be overwhelming. Some tips:
• Start with the steam room. It warms you up, preparing you for the real heat to come. Sometimes steam fills the room so densely that you can't see people even two feet away. Overhearing other peoples' delirious steam chatter is one of the great pleasures of the room.
• Drink a lot of water. "They" say drinking water cools down your internal body temperature, which is supposedly bad because the point of banya is to raise your internal body temperature, but fuck 'em. If you don't drink water, you'll get an awful headache due to dehydration.
• Listen to your body. Only spend as much time in the dry sauna as is comfortable. Like anything else, you'll get used to it the more you go, and you'll want to be in there for longer. Wrap your head in a towel to protect it from the extreme heat. If your head feels too hot, then dump cold water on it.
• Go early on Saturday, around 10 a.m. is best. There's a "bather count" on the website, so you can help plan your trip that way. Lots of bathers is a more social experience, fewer is more Zen. To see how many bathers are at Banya 5 right now, go to banya5.com/bather-count.
• There are some strange social components to banya. Lots of people are there on a state-imposed or self-imposed detox—and for some reason, both kinds of people are anxious to tell you about it. There's also the phenomenon of "spa spreading," wherein beefy dudes bathe extra-vigorously, splash all around, and make strange grunting noises. Always going with a friend or two will help avoid some of these problems. They won't save you from the spa spreaders, but at least you can shoot eyes at each other in commiseration.
• After a few rounds of the parilka/ice-bath combo, wrap yourself in towels and head upstairs. There's lemon water, complex tea in a samovar, and jam in a little jar. Put the jam in the tea. Play chess with a friend or relax with the paper. And did I mention the nap room? This nonwater part of the day is one of my favorite parts of the banya experience. Lots of great silver light. Feels domestic and clean. Like a Sunday.
A Musical Playlist to Get You Through the Winter Darkness
by Dave Segal
This is the time of the year when the Walker Brothers' "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore)" seems like prophecy. It's just so passive-aggressively bleak—damp and cold, but not cold enough to kill you. I seek sanctuary in music. Here are some tracks I've found have the power to banish the harshest climate-induced bummers.
• La Monte Young & Marian Zazeela's The Tamburas of Pandit Pran Nath. This 74-minute piece sounds like a benevolent deity inhaling and exhaling tamboura-blessed air into your soul. It's a drone supreme for your om, sweet om.
• Popol Vuh's Letzte Tage-Letzte Nächte. Werner Herzog's favorite German rock group offers their most accessible yet spiritual dose of kosmische songcraft. Few things from Deutschland have radiated more profound beauty and spirituality than this 1976 album. It'll elevate you out of your doldrums and slay your seasonal nihilism via Daniel Fichelscher's majestically chiming guitars and Renate Knaup and Djong Yun's holy vocal cords.
• Alice Coltrane's Journey in Satchidananda. Every organism who's heard this astral-jazz classic has been converted into a worshipful Alice acolyte. This music is imbued with supernatural grace and pulchritude, but Coltrane's harp especially has the power to turn atheists into true believers. It's beyond the beyond.
• Terry Riley's A Rainbow in Curved Air. All of Terry Riley's music = peace, but this one is the most immediate conduit to that blessed mind state. The title track is a cascade of ecstatically effervescent electric organ, electric harpsichord, and rocksichord; if it doesn't make you feel as if you're floating on angelic bubbles to whatever your idea of heaven is, you probably have bigger problems than SAD.
• Jon Hassell/Brian Eno's Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics. You may have sussed that this list's prevalent underlying themes are escapism and transcendence. Fourth World whisks you away to avant-garde trumpeter Hassell's imaginary planet of alien tonalities and hypnotic sidewinder rhythms. It takes a while to acclimate to the record's humid, surreal milieu, but when you do, you'll feel strangely invigorated—and basking in a fantastical land far from Seattle's rain matrix.
• Noel Brass Jr.'s Soundcloud page. The keyboardist for Seattle's psychedelically inclined soul-jazz group Afrocop, Brass is also a solo artist who feeds his Soundcloud page on an almost daily basis. Head over there and feast on his synthesized celestial odes that convince you the universe is a loving, eternally chill opium den.
Honorable mentions: Pentangle's Basket of Light, Laraaji's Ambient 3: Day of Radiance, Boredoms' Vision Creation Newsun, Fripp & Eno's Evening Star, Rotary Connection's Aladdin.
I Stay Warm by Playing Soccer—Even in the Rain (Especially in the Rain)
by Ansel Herz
It may sound counterintuitive: Who wants to be kicking at a ball on a slippery field when it's cold and wet out?
But there's no better way to stay warm during the winter than to play a serious bit of soccer. Last winter, my coed team had a game up in Bothell on a stupefyingly cold, damp night. As we came off the field, after a hard-fought game, a teammate noticed plumes of mist billowing from my upper body. The plumes rose a few feet into the air above my head. I was literally steaming, like vegetables in a pot. I felt hot. And yet I was in shorts and a T-shirt in freezing temperatures. I had generated an enormous amount of heat over the course of the 90-minute game, and I'd already stripped off all my layers of long-sleeved clothing.
My teammate pointed at my steaming head and laughed at me.
You don't have to have played soccer most of your life in order to partake. There are lots of opportunities for players of all levels. If you're a beginner, join a Co-Rec league (co-recsoccer.com). There are more than a dozen divisions corresponding to different difficulty levels, there are coed and single-sex leagues, and the rules in lower divisions are designed to prevent injuries (no slide tackling or even challenging for the ball from behind). If you don't want to pay $100 or so per season to play on a team, get started with pickup games at Cal Anderson Park. They're almost every night at 7 p.m., provided it's not raining, on the fringes of the field. These games are also a great way to meet new people from a diversity of social strata.
If I go more than a week without playing soccer, I begin to feel stifled and unbalanced. Curling a shot into the far corner of the goal or carefully stroking an inch-perfect pass for someone to latch on to is how I express the part of myself that has to lie low during long hours hunched over a laptop for work. There's a sense of openness and freedom when I step onto the field that I don't feel anywhere else, and this becomes all the more desirable during our long, dark winters.
I Recommend Drinking at the Movies
by Charles Mudede
It is dark again, and it will be this way for six months. You will go to work at night and leave work at night. And the short day in between will seem as substantial as a dream. Your mood will match the weather—the pissy rain, the low clouds, the leafless trees. If you are like me, you will drink more and more. But drinking at home only makes one sadder and sadder, and drinking at a bar is not always ideal because there is often really nothing to do there but drink to the bottom of a glass. This is why drinking at a movie theater offers an excellent way to cope with the long, somber season.
One of the best things to happen in the University District was the 2013 transformation and renaming of the former Metro Cinemas (an 1980s-era 10-theater multiplex) into Sundance Cinemas. This theater has four key virtues: the design of the lobby, bar, and halls is so eccentric that it's festive; the stadium seats in the theaters are really, really comfortable; the theaters have assigned seating and you select your seat online in advance (no frantic scrambling to find a good spot); and you can buy wine by the bottle at the bar.
On a recent rainy and windy night, I visited the multiplex to watch The Martian, and I bought a bottle of pinot grigio by Spectre ($32), a Yakima Valley winery. This wine, which was properly chilled (there's nothing worse than a less-than-cold pinot grigio), began a bit fruity, went dry in the middle, and finished with a spike of grape. The bottle stood comfortable on the roomy table between the seats. The man sitting next to me downed three Alaskan Ambers. He and I and all the others in the theater sat and watched the movie like dignitaries in the first-class section of a jumbo jet.
My mood was improved by the movie, the shared luxury, and the buzz of the booze. We must remember that sadness is as physical as a broken leg, but what is fractured is not a part of the body but our connection with others, with society. One of the best ways to soothe or heal sadness is not just to be with others but to share an experience, a pleasant distraction with others. The Martian has a happy ending.
Wait! Forget All That! I Just Drove to Bothell to Go to the Brand-New McMenamins Anderson School, and I Recommend That Instead
by Kathleen RichardsUm, I know I said earlier to spend $20 to walk among a bunch of butterflies, and Ansel said to kick a soccer ball in the freezing rain, and Rich said to go to Banya 5, and Charles said to get drunk while watching movies with strangers (really, Charles?), but scratch all that. There's a brand-new McMenamins in Bothell that has a bar and a pool, and since I remember being able to drink while swimming in a pool at the McMenamins in Portland, I drove up there the night before this article went to the printer to check it out.
There's nothing like soaking in a giant 91-degree bathtub to beat the winter doldrums. (Bonus: No "spa spreading"!)
It's a short drive from downtown Seattle. The sprawling Anderson School compound includes a hotel, multiple restaurants and bars, a movie theater, a brewery, an event hall, and the "North Shore Lagoon"—a steamy, not-too-hot, indoor saltwater pool that can be enjoyed daily, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., for a mere $8 ($6 for kids under age 11, free for Bothell residents).
Unlike the McMenamins in Portland, this pool is indoors and you're not allowed to drink while you're in it (blame Washington State law). But! There is a restaurant and bar overlooking the pool. I went swimming first, but the moment I got in the pool, I wished I'd stopped by the bar first. The whole place has a tiki/Jurassic Park vibe: surf music on constant rotation, tropical ferns and plants everywhere, giant chandeliers overhead, and perpetual steam rising off the water to engulf everyone in a dreamy haze. Once you step into the warm, soothing water, you won't want to get out—ever. The pool itself is quite shallow, only 4 feet 10 inches at its deepest, but you can still swim laps, or just float around aimlessly.
After you rinse off in the locker room, step outside into the crisp night air and pull up a chair to one of the fire pits, where a waiter will bring you a refreshing glass of cider and keep your fire going for you. You'll feel very much like you're in Washington in the middle of winter, and you'll be so happy.