Peggy Sturdivant
Charles Josi and Spencer Noble with teakettle.

At Large In Ballard: New Bachelors of Ballard

By Peggy Sturdivant

Spencer needs a dining table and chairs, an iron, a toaster, and he’d love to have a girlfriend. Spencer’s mother is visiting from the Bay Area for the weekend to help him furnish his first home. So far they’ve found wineglasses, ordered a recliner and laid claim to the extra ironing board in my basement. Mom could probably help with the girlfriend too, if she was staying past Monday.

I’ve known Spencer (or of him) since before he was born. On the morning of my first wedding in 1989 the groom’s best friend puzzled over her inexplicable lack of desire for coffee. It made sense well before nine months had passed. All his life Spencer has been teased as the “surprise.” I hadn’t seen Spencer since he was just old enough to start babysitting.

Now the California boy has already graduated from college, and worked his way up in sales for a national tool company. He’s been in Seattle for several years but we never connected because I wasn’t in town when his parents visited. Now he’s moved to Ballard and he and his mom, my friend Cami, came to our door even before she saw his new house. Suddenly, we’re neighbors.

When Spencer started looking to own, after renting on Capitol Hill and Fremont, he looked exclusively in the Fremont/Ballard area, because that’s where all his friends either live or socialize. He managed to buy in Ballard, and now a friend from college has moved north from Portland to be a roommate. Welcome to the new bachelors of Ballard.

Over dinner with the new household I slipped into interviewing mode, prompting my husband to ask if I was writing personal ads or a column.

Spencer knows his way around, especially if it involves a good brunch or Ballard Avenue nightlife. I learned to describe a venue by its closest restaurant. He doesn’t have a Seattle Public Library card yet, but knew the library was where he took his ballot, and that it was by Skillet. His dating problem is that he travels almost constantly for work and that has put a strain on any potential relationships. When in town he has the gym, pick-up basketball, and many favorite spots in Ballard, from the Smoke Shop to Sunset Tavern. His first home purchase was a flat screen television that will likely stay tuned on ESPN. But mostly when home, “All I want to do is relax and watch movies.”

His other core roommate, Charles, has been in Ballard all of “three nights and two days.” However Charles had already found his way to Caffe Umbria and was seeking out independent bookstores. A Political Science major at the U of O he likes to do a lot of reading in coffee shops, saying he’s less distracted than at home. He’ll be working in the tech field, in downtown Seattle. He’d already found a running route to Golden Gardens.

On paper they seem like near opposites but the young men banter; Charles joining Spencer’s mother in dissing her son’s current mustache. What the new housemates share is a desire to make more connections, in a way that’s been lacking since college graduation. They would each like to be in a relationship, and look forward to having families one day.

As much as they like to go out, especially Spencer, they agree that if they meet someone it’s not likely to be in a bar. “Everybody is there to blow off steam, and it usually involves alcohol…” Charles said, concluding, “If it’s after 10 p.m. nothing good happens.”

Spencer says he’s met all his buddies through work, without the time to connect otherwise. “We’re all displaced people,” he said. “None of us are from here so we don’t meet people through families. And the Seattle chill is real.”

The next day Spencer’s mom and I go to Classic Consignment, Value Village, Goodwill and Ballard Consignment. Cami buys the household a used toaster, a wine aerator and says to the barista at Preserve & Gather, “You’re really pretty. Are you single?” (She was in a relationship already).

Over the years I’ve done oral histories with first- and second-generation immigrants, with those who met future partners at Friday night dances and social clubs. I’ve heard of high school sweethearts and second time around matches like that of Doug Owens and Elizabeth Denison at St. Luke’s. It shouldn’t be a surprise that those coming of age now want what human beings have always wanted, to make a strong connection with someone else. In that way the original bachelors of Ballard are not so different from the new bachelors of Ballard. In this case starting with a teakettle and a toaster.

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