You have visitors from out of town. You are their tour guide for the time they're here. What do you do? Do you extol the beauty of Seattle and the Northwest, or do you slam the area, downplaying the experience by talking about all the clouds and rain we endure for nearly 10 months of the year?

That is the problem we faced recently when some newfound friends, next-door neighbors of my eldest son, Joey, came north from San Diego for a first-time visit to the Emerald City.

Joe (not my son but his neighbor) works for a large corporation; he came to Seattle for 10 days to train some folks, bringing his wife along.

My son, Joey (are you confused yet - Joey and Joe?) sent me an e-mail asking if we'd like to show Joe and his wife around when they had some time off in the evenings, and on the Labor Day weekend. We said sure.

We, like what seems to be 90 percent of the population of Puget Sound, migrated to Seattle nearly 30 years ago, drawn by the beauty of the area no matter which point of the compass you face. Seattle was the reason we came, not employment, or any other reason. As an aside, I should point out that we first came in December of 1974, arriving after about a 10-inch snowfall, and we still fell in love with Seattle, clouds, rains, snow; nothing could dampen our spirits - pun intended.

After all these years, we are no longer emigrants. We feel like we're pretty close to natives, and as such, we have the right to resent even more people calling Seattle their home.

And so, we faced our dilemma: do we oversell Seattle and our magnificent corner of the country, or do we focus on the negative?

It was impossible to hide our wonderful September weather, but we had the option of painting our friends a dreary picture of our dreary winters, and we may have done a little of that. But by and large we exalted the joys of living in the Northwest.

How can you not talk about our area? After three decades, we are still in awe of the city when we take a returning ferry from Bainbridge or Bremerton. We still go on like a bunch of tourists when we drive up to Port Townsend, or head for the San Juan Islands. If the majestic beauty of our patch of Earth does not move you, then I'm inclined to think you have a problem, or simply aren't paying attention.

So, we took our friends on the Lake Union and Elliot Bay Harbor Tour, to dinner several times, to the Art Walk in Pioneer Square, on a drive to Port Townsend and on a general driving tour of Seattle. And yes, they were duly impressed by everything they saw.

On the drive to Port Townsend, Joe couldn't help daydreaming just a little about having a few acres on the island with a log cabin, and living that simple life that often becomes more complicated than people imagine.

The next day, even though we'd worn them out, they drove over to Quinault to see the rainforest, having lunch at the lodge and giving the experience high marks.

We wound up their visit by re-visiting, at their request, Sorrentino Trattoria on Queen Anne for one last great Italian meal, an exchange of small gifts and a hug goodbye.

Yes, we probably oversold our city, although we did caution them a number of times that people have to spend a winter here when the sun rises at 7:30 a.m. and sets at 4:30 p.m. under gray skies, and a steady hair-frizzing drizzle, to see how they would adjust. We've known people who have hightailed it back to where they came from after one winter's experience.

So, I'll apologize for our chamber-of-commerce-like approach to showing our friends around. It's just that when you love something so much, be it a particular restaurant, play, movie or the area where you live, it's damned difficult to play it cool.

Being native San Diegans, these two might find our winters a bit hard to take, so I'm not sure they'd seriously consider relocating. But I'm convinced they would make a great addition to our already-lovely town. They just have to be sure they don't tell too many people our little secret about Seattle.

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