April Update: Seattle Trip (and a little rant about PAMF)

A little late this time, but here’s my update for April.

April was a good month, I think. For the most part anyways. Aside from the usual Drawing Meats meetups and errands, I actually took a trip outside of California this time!

I went to Seattle for 4 days, an opportunity that I snatched up on short notice and then took advantage of by using the time to visit old friends and say hi to the people I miss.

I didn’t do much visiting of tourist sites since I’ve seen most of them multiple times from living there, which is one of the nice things for people living in Seattle. The tourist attractions aren’t just for tourists. Cultural festivals happen frequently by the Space Needle. Pike Place Market is an actual functioning marketplace frequented by locals for groceries, hip food stops, and random artsy finds in its lower floors (I’m personally a fan of Storyville Coffee. While not my favorite cup of brew in the whole of Seattle (that still goes to Caffe Ladro, and then that one special barista at Aura Bakery in Kirkland), I love the “secretiveness” of the shop itself, and the ambiance of the cafe’s interior. If you’re in Pike Place Market, a block outside of the main marketplace building, find the small circular sign of a boy playing with a toy airplane. The coffee shop is upstairs). You don’t need to drive or hike far to see those special natural scenic wonders (like waterfalls). Seattle is small enough that its tourist attractions are really just part of its daily life.

Now the downside to Seattle is its traffic. And perhaps its urban planning in general. If you ever do the underground tour, it helps to explain why the streets are so weird (urban planning seems to be summed up as a “oh… I guess we should have done it that way” afterthought and then a “let’s just build on top of it” solution). Seattle traffic is like LA traffic; What looks like a short distance on a map will take twice as long to get there due to street layout, road conditions, and backups. Seattle is a city that has grown far faster than its infrastructure can handle, and it seems its increase in population and urban planning needs still surprises its leadership every year. As a result, there’s always construction. Not to mention in spite of being in a climate that does see snow every year, they do not salt the roads, which leads to water expansion damage, so the roads are continuously in disrepair in spite of their heavy amount of construction zones (to be fair though, the non-salting of roads is due to their proximity to the large body of fresh water that is Lake Washington. Hey, at least Seattle is very conscious of its environmental impact). Construction plans seems random too, or uncoordinated. Random streets will be one-way or be split in two by a railway pillar, making it extremely dangerous to merge lanes. It’s a Seattle residential “thing” to have a circle with a tree planted in the middle of intersections, turning them in to mini round-abouts. Oh and the busses use the same tunnel as the light rail! Did I mention that their 2 busiest bridges actually have hours where they are down for boat crossing? And the 520 tends to be down for full weekends b/c they’ve spent the last 3+ years working on it to expand the bridge by 1 lane. The traffic in Seattle always reminds me why we pay income taxes in California. Highway 101 may be congested on most weekday commutes, but at least the culprit is singular (a lot of people) and the infrastructure tries to mitigate it.

Not that the Bay Area doesn’t have its commuting issues (like the Caltrain being above-ground and crosses roads in some pretty dangerous-looking intersections for a train system that’s so actively used), but I don’t know… perhaps it’s geography that colors my opinions of driving in these two different areas.


I stayed at the WAC this time (Washington Athletic Club). I didn’t know my hotel stay included access to the athletic club facilities… I think I would have liked to check out the women’s floor with the pool and hot tub (^_^!), but likely would not have had time. The hotel itself is very…. elitist? Not really my cup of tea. It felt like their luxury was based on a culture of exclusivity, not necessarily elegance. Oh well. Clean and quiet. That’s all I really need.

I did manage to visit the Starbucks Reserve, which has a convenient Serious Pie located inside! So good. 🙂 I didn’t drink any coffee (I can’t! The acid doesn’t play well with my stomach), but the aromas were awesome. And the atmosphere. And the pizza. 🙂

Otherwise, my entire time was visiting friends, grabbing food with them, and just catching up!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to really eat much in a lot of those cases. While in Seattle, my health problems jumped back up in intensity again, but with a pile of medications to dull the symptoms I was able to get through the weekend in relatively decent shape. So I bided my time and enjoyed the company until I got home to see my doctor. Which…

I feel like I could dedicate a whole post to the anger and hatred I feel for Palo Alto Medical Foundation, but I don’t want to turn this update in to a big rant. Just know that PAMF, in spite of its shiny buildings and centralized locations of doctors, labs, surgery centers, and specialists, is first and foremost… a business.

I found another facility that’s local to me with a relatively well-reviewed doctor. I’m going to be trying them soon.

In the meantime, recouping from the trip, getting back to my routine. Working. On to the next month!

Starbucks reserve exterior
Starbucks tasting room in Seattle. Very fancy inside.

Ok… so the rant…

PAMF is first and foremost a business. And while some of the doctors may be legit and very good at what they do in their fields, PAMF the business’ objective, like all businesses (though perhaps a bit more noticeable in this medical facility), is to increase the revenue of PAMF. Meaning they will not help you outside their centralized circle, will be more concerned with preventing lawsuits as opposed to actually treating you, and push you to only go to PAMF specialists and PAMF facilities even if they are booked out for months and are an hour’s drive away when there are plenty of local privately-run specialists deserving of referral in the area. And they will imply through their conversations that there aren’t any other facilities in the area that can help you and they are the only ones available. That last one in particular, is the biggest frustration because when you have patients suffering on a daily basis, telling them to wait over a month for the next available appointment is asking too much. Basically, you need to be in critical condition to be seen.

But that’s like saying… we won’t give you an antidote unless we can verify that this lethal poison is indeed killing you.

Actually, it’s more like saying… we won’t check to see if the poison is killing you unless you are about to die from poisoning. Then we will see if the antidote is worth giving to you, since we’re not sure it will still be effective on you b/c you’re already in the late stages of being poisoned.

What’s frustrating is that there are doctors who can see if you’re poisoned. They have the time and the ability to diagnose and treat! But you will never know of them because they aren’t wearing the same PAMF badge.

I’m sure others can relate to that. I mean… health insurance coverage alone can make this all very frustrating.

Are these issues the same outside of the US? Finding available doctors. And competent ones. Or is this a sign of how seriously messed up American medicine is?

Author: Ting Chen

Artist and Author. Owner of TingChen.net

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