Today, the Crow talks to a cheese professional, a yoga teacher studying sustainable business and a man whose work has touched millions and millions of eyeballs. So, um, what cheese would you boff?
Is it always the same people?
No, it changes. I don’t even know most of the people by name — it’s all about the game.
So, there’s not much of a social aspect to it?
In a way, there is. Chess players have a sort of conversation through playing chess. You can figure out someone’s personality by how they play. But in most cases, don’t know what the other players do for a living, or where they’re from, or even their names.
That’s so interesting. I think I would be curious, and would want to find out more about my fellow players. Are you ever tempted to do that?
No, chess players rarely ask anything about each other’s personal lives. I’ve played chess all over the world, maybe in a hundred different countries. And everywhere, it’s the same. You don’t even have to speak the same language, or have the same background, religion, education, etc. You just play the game.
Based on your accent, I’m assuming you weren’t born in Seattle.
I’m originally from Gujarat, in India. You may know it as the hometown of Mohandas Gandhi. I came to this country 51 years ago, as a student. I’ve lived all over the country — after getting my M.S. at Purdue, I got my Ph.D. at Northwestern, then I lived in Texas, and many other states. I first moved to Seattle in 1983, and I’ve lived here on and off since that time.
What brought you to Seattle?
I’m retired now, but previously I worked for the world’s largest eye care company. I originally came here to start the Seattle operations for the company, but then I worked out of the Texas offices several years. My wife is a molecular biologist, also a Ph.D., so this was a good area for her to work, as well. Then, when we retired, we decided to move to Seattle full-time.
Usually, you hear about people retiring to sunny places, like Florida or Arizona. Why did you choose this area for your retirement?
I like the nature and culture, and Seattle has easy access to both Europe and Asia. I travel a great deal — not as much as before, but still quite a bit, so the location is very convenient.
May I ask what you did for the eye care company you worked for?
Among other things, I invented artificial intraocular lenses that are now in more than 50 million eyes.
Could you explain “intraocular lenses” in a way that English majors like myself can understand?
It’s usually, for people who have cataracts, but not always. Essentially, the artificial lens replaces the occluded natural lens, so the patient can see properly.
Wow! Do any of your fellow chess players know that you’re a famous inventor and scientist?
If they do, it is not because I have told them. As I said, we don’t talk very much when we are playing. I like to keep a bit of mystery in the game.
This is a great porch you have here. It’s kind of like a box seat in the Theater of Capitol Hill. Have you ever seen or heard anything crazy or unusual while sitting out here?
Oh, there are so many… I used to keep a list of “Things Overheard on the Porch.”
That would be a great Twitter feed. But if you had to pick just one…
One time, there was this cute, drunk hipster girl in her 20s, and she was talking to her friend and said, “I just wanna have sex with somebody I’m actually attracted to!” I just wanted to tell her, “Honey, it’s not that hard! You’re female. The odds are in your favor.”
How long have you lived on the Hill?
My husband and I moved here from New York City about six years ago.
I felt like I didn’t have enough rain in my life.
You’re in the right place. What do you do for a living?
I’m the owner and Head Cheese Vixen at The Calf & Kid, in Melrose Market.
Okay, then. Let’s play the Cheese Edition of “Marry, Boff, Kill.” Which cheese would you marry?
If I had to be monogamous with a cheese, I’d go with Montgomery’s Cheddar.
What cheese would you boff?
It’s a PG-13 word for “f—k.“
F—k, or f—k for?
That would have to be a raw Robluchon, like the one I have here. It’s illegal to sell it in this country because it’s unpasteurized; a friend brought it back from Paris for me.
Finally — what cheese would you kill?
I would say Velveeta, but that’s too obvious. No, I’d kill Sage Derby. It’s this shitty Irish cheese that has a disgusting green streak down the middle of it. It’s like a big green fart — it tastes awful. I have no idea what the point of that cheese is.
What do you like best about being “Head Cheese Vixen”? And do you get to put that on your tax returns?
No, but I should! The best thing about my job is the customers. Every day, someone will stop by and say how much they love the shop and what I’m doing. I love introducing people to new cheeses, and helping them find just the right cheese for their tastes.
So, you’re like a cheese Sherpa?
Basically! At my shop, people can taste cheeses before they buy them, so they know they’re going to like what they get. Also, we have cheese classes, which are a lot of fun. It took a while for the idea to take off, but now they almost always sell out.
Have you encountered any difficult customers?
Very few, most people are great. One time, though, a well-known local chef came in, and I Tweeted about it. A few days later, he came in and basically ripped me a new asshole for mentioning him. “You don’t understand,” he said, “I’m very important, and I can’t have people throwing my name around, or knowing where I am all the time.” I wanted to say, “People weren’t lined up outside with sleeping bags, waiting for you to come back,” but I didn’t. But all the other celebrity chefs who’ve come into the shop have been really cool.
You’re a food professional — what are some of your favorite foodie haunts on Capitol Hill?
If money were no object, I’d probably live at Sitka & Spruce in Melrose Market—their food is amazing. I also love Smith, Terra Plata, Altura, El Gaito, Crush, and Montana for drinks. Oh, and Spinasse.
If you had friend visiting Capitol Hill for one day, what would you suggest they do?
Go to Rancho Bravo and get a taco, and eat it with a beer in The Comet.
What do you think is the sexiest place on the Hill?
The roundabout at 14th and Thomas — it’s a great view; you can see the Space Needle from there, any time of day. Second sexiest? My porch!
That’s the one!
There’s also a flower called the linnea, named after him.
Are you a Seattle native?
Yep. Born and raised. Not far from here, actually.
Finally — a Seattle native. I knew there must be at least one of you!
Yeah, there aren’t a lot of us, especially on Capitol Hill, it seems.
You must’ve seen a lot of changes over the years. What do you think are the biggest ways that Capitol Hill has changed in your lifetime?
For one thing, all the construction — they’ve torn down a lot of the buildings that I remember from when I was a kid. And all the condos, of course. Most of these buildings, like the one we’re in now, weren’t around ten, or even five years ago. Also, this area has become a lot more artistic, and a lot more upscale. That wasn’t always the case.
What do you do for a living?
I’m a yoga teacher, and I’m also a student. I teach Vinyasa flow, and hot yoga.
You mean, like, Bikram Yoga?
No, that’s its own thing. I mostly do Vinyasa in a heated room. The heat helps your muscles relax, and you sweat out toxins.
Do you have any favorite haunts in on the Hill?
Well, here [at Healeo, 15th and Madison], for one! I come here at least a few times a week.
Everything here is vegan, I think. Are you?
No, but I like to eat healthy foods — the kind that give you energy, rather than taking it away.
I just had a wheatgrass shot. It tasted like ass, but I have to say, I feel great. I kind of feel the same way about hot yoga. I love the way I feel afterwards, but during…
You should come to one of my classes! Once you develop a regular practice, it gets a lot easier.
I’ll take your word on that. You mentioned you’re a student — what are you studying?
I’m studying Sustainable Business at Antioch.
How do you define “sustainable business”?
The core idea of behind my program is “planet, people, profits.” In other words, create businesses that use less waste and less energy, and that give back to the community.
Do you think the Capitol Hill area is doing a good job with creating sustainable businesses?
On the surface, this area seems to be doing a lot, but whether it really is or not is hard to say. But at least people are making an effort, and thinking and talking about sustainability, which is a start.
Previously from the CHS Crow: