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Dating In The New Millennium

Is everyone back? Rested? Refreshed after a few days off, an aperitivo, and the one-time showing of Apocalypse Not?

Well, it's January and thus it's time to get back to the old new routines, tackle all those things you put off until "After," and abandon your resolutions; all right, maybe you'll keep one. Even if you didn't use the millennium to completely rework your life, it's natural to feel little slate-cleaning urges about now. Little "Okay, this year..." compulsions that are separate from your solemn (and doomed) vow to rise at 5 a.m. for Power Yoga.

In the spirit of "noble is good; doable is better," here's a simple resolution from the Big To Do that you can really get behind:

This year, you're going to have way more fun.

This means you. Girls, guys, pets, everybody. All right, we admit this may be a teensy-weensy bit self-serving, since we're about to tell you how the Big To Do will be indispensable in your quest... but we do mean it in the BEST possible way. And, most importantly, it's totally doable.

The Big To Do has always brought you great ideas for getting out... and getting "out there." BTD2K will be taking this idea to a new level ("eleven," actually) by giving you the bright ideas and brainstorms you'll need not only to fill the next vacant Saturday night, but actually to transform your social life into the mythic Giddy Whirlwind to which we all aspire.

We'll be bringing you the inside dish on the best and brightest romantic stratagems from across the country and across the International Dateline. We'll show you how you can apply these techniques to your own bad self for fun and... more fun.

Naturally, we need your help for this whole interactive medium thing to work. So be sure to let us know when you come across inventive or intriguing methods of meeting PSOs - potentially significant others. It's been said before (not far from here): communication is good. Thanks, by the way, to everyone who wrote in re: Seattle. Which officially brings us to the next millennium of the Big To Do.

Starting, then -- like every good story -- in the upper left-hand corner...

Welcome to The Emerald City!
Re-Reinventing The New Northwest

by Colin Lingle

Seattle has done a lot of growing up in the last ten years. Once upon a time it was a laid-back burg in a far-off corner of the country. For a brief hot spell in the early 90s, Grunge became the prime export. When the dust cleared, the city was identified as ground zero for the Starbucks virus and wacky Microsoft Millionaires. Most recently, Seattle made headlines as the political flashpoint of cultural activism -- and very tense police officers -- during the WTO. And through it all, there's the rain. Not a very sexy tourism video, is it?

Wherever we happen to be, it's always easy to blame the general lameness of our dating prospects on the city itself. For example, it would be easy enough to say of Seattle, "Oh, the music scene is dead and the neighborhoods are completely yuppified and forget about it being a nice town anymore." And -- to a point -- you'd be right.

In fact, amidst the SUV traffic jams and skyrocketing real estate prices (and the Californians blamed for both), Seattle has still fostered some of the country's most quirky, hip, and independent-minded social networks. It's simply a matter of applying one's creativity to find, join, and (ahem) take advantage of them. Once you start digging, you'll realize that "meeting people" isn't really the problem you thought it was.

Action: Jet City on Film

Seattle has well-deserved reputation, among buffs and "industry people," as a great movie town. In addition to the usual suspects, Seattle cinephiles can choose from a number of arthouse networks, independent movie houses, festivals (classic and cutting edge), and what just might be the finest theater in the world.

But you're probably not counting on running into Mr./Ms. Right waiting in line for the 8:40 "Stuart Little." For a more compelling venue - and a much more interesting audience - try the monthly Independent Exposure, a showcase of avant-garde short films from around the world. It's anything but but your typical night at movies, so just be careful if you're on a first date.

Or maybe you want to up the ante and get a little cinematic yourself. In Seattle, you can get behind the camera any number of ways. Wiggly World Studios, for example, offers technical workshops where you might meet your smooth (camera) operator. For classes, screenings and special programs, just call 911 Media Arts Center, the famed center of the city's media scene. Or you can go directly to the future of the visual image and find out what's up at Microcinema.com. (NB: Based on the Web, this last link can be a starting point for any online artistes of the visual variety.)

Whether in 3-D or through the wire, the most important thing is to go where the people are. Once you've cast yourself in one of these scenes, you're almost destined to stumble into a romantic plotline.

Get Political, Get a Phone Number

A few weeks ago, you'd have thought Seattle was having its own mini-apocalypse. But the World Trade Organization meeting - and the peaceful and violent protests that ensued - are over. Finally, the city can get back to its rich tradition of local and community activism, the non-teargas-and-riot-gear kind.

Allied Arts is the patron saint of public arts projects in the area, and has a storied past that includes protecting and preserving the historic Pike Place Market. Finding an organization that's active in the community not only gets you involved, it also gives you access to the people who make decisions and the phone numbers that go with them.

If you really want to make a difference, it doesn't take much research to find a group like Real Change that offers a creative way to give homeless people a voice. And there are any number of neighborhood-based organizations that need people's time, energy, and attention. Heck, some of them, like Seattle Works, are practically singles groups wrapped up in volunteer opportunities (clever, clever marketing).

And as if being a good person (and meeting other good people) wasn't enough, just think: it'll make a fantastic story to tell the kids someday.

The Great Outdoors: Why Go Solo?

More than any other distinguishing feature, Seattle is inextricably linked to the beautiful land and water that surround it. With the Olympic Mountains to the West, the mighty Cascades to the East, and majestic Mount Rainier to the South, you get the sense that Northwesterners aren't necessarily satisfied with just another bed-and-breakfast. They like their adventures like they like their coffee: big, bracing, and so beautiful it's almost scary.

The creme de la creme of local outdoor sporting resources is REI. This hometown company is now an international name in the field and augments its comprehensive lines of gear with some decidedly human touches. First, you could probably take classes for the rest of your life there and never grow tired of a) learning stuff and b) meeting people. And, if you already have an itch to travel, they'll happily hook you up with like-minded sojourners from anywhere in the country (and elsewhere in the world). Or, you can you can just leave the planning to them and see who ends up trekking through the Andes with you. Who knows? It's called "wanderlust" for a reason, right?

It's "two if by sea" as the saying goes, so perhaps you'd rather slip into something a little more aquatic. Seattle residents are about as apt to own a kayak as some other (inland) folks are to own a bicycle. In typical Northwest fashion, it's a highly social event and you can rent single or double kayaks by the hour at locations around the city. Whether you're in town, on a river, or taming the open sea, you'll never lack for guides, gear, or great scenery.

And this is just scratching the surface of Seattle. If you're not from the Emerald City or planning a trip there, just steal one of these ideas and do a little investigating where you live. Find out what's going on and how to get involved behind the scenes. We guarantee that with a little ingenuity, you can turn some of that free time into something worth writing home about.

Good luck!

Colin Lingle lived in Seattle for eight years. He loves it there, and he still has rust.

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