Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Seattle has been one of the sweetest experiences of my life. It’s also been isolating. I’m writing two pieces about my last year, one, a personal piece, the other work related.

I’ve come to learn that you can tell a local by the size of their calves. It doesn’t matter if you’re big, little or somewhere in between, if you walk the hills of Seattle everyday you have some calf muscles going on. And the bicyclists in this town are just sick.

Most of my time in Seattle has been spent, in my opinion, in one of the greatest neighborhoods in the country – Capital Hill. Most days and nights were like a fun filled “R” rated movie – loaded on caffeine and marijuana, coffee and art – street kids, tramps, do-gooder yuppies, and young people - a rowdy bunch at the very least.

Capital Hill is full of coffee houses like none you have ever experienced. People slamming espresso’s at all hours of the day and night is not uncommon. Trying to figure out who is on speed, and who had one shot to many is a little harder to navigate. The neighborhood is lined with hipster bars, clubs, and working class taverns.

My apartment was directly across from the City Market, and a gay karaoke bar on Bellevue and Olive. It wasn’t uncommon to go to bed at closing time to the sounds of Copacabana being sung by bar patrons. Listening to drunkards wandering home after closing time became nightly ritual. The story line was always the same. The ending just kept changing from night to night.

I made some great friends in the coffee houses on Capital Hill - the former Director of the ACLU of Texas, a wise older man with a bowl full of stories who has seen more than most. Young Microsoft guru’s my age making more money than you can shake a stick at, co-workers, and street people became friends - a collage of class and creativity. Seattle, like many of its west coast counterparts is a blend of the richest and the poorest people in the country.

And while Capital Hill is a great neighborhood, who could ignore the 1-bedroom apartments being converted into condo’s, and being sold for $750,000. Holy shit on a stick - $750,000. Who are these people?

JM who was in town for a year from Baltimore was my savior though. We waded out the record setting rainy season with Seahawks football, March Madness, political talk, microbrews, and other treats. Being in Seattle for the Super Bowl run was a great experience. In the midst of the rainy season this town came alive.

I also spent a lot of time in the International District, where a fluent Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and Cambodian population call home. There’s no better combination than a hot bowl of cheap pho, and some green tea bubble tea during long rainy days.

On visiting Seattle: If you come to visit Seattle once, ok, sure, Space Needle, Pike’s Place Market, the waterfront piers, the amazing public library, and the jam-packed streets of downtown. Come twice, and should be out in the kick ass neighborhoods of Seattle – Capital Hill, the International District, Fremont, Ballard, White Center, and West Seattle – this is where the freaks, geeks, gangsters, hipsters, bikers, factory and dockworkers, and young people call home. Things are happening all around, all of the time.

Of course, I can’t argue the fact that Seattle can be a cold, sexest, and overpriced town that makes you want to puke. The public transportation is sacked – not because of the bus system itself, but because a city this size needs trains, and trolleys, and lots of them. The Mayor has become known as Mayor Gridlock for his lack of innovation with public transportation.

The majority buses in and around downtown are ran on bio-diesel, or electric energy, and only San Francisco reproduces more of its waste for a city its size. The city has beaches, great public art, and a thriving music scene. Its ferry system is one of the best in the world, and you are only a hop, skip and jump from Vancouver, Victoria, Port Townsend, Olympia, the San Juan Islands, the Cascades, and the Olympic Mountains.

Seattle also has one of the most out of the box street fairs outside of New Orleans in the Fremont Fair, great bookstores, food, and people of color from all over the world. No doubt, the recipe for a lot of run-on sentences.

In May, I moved from Capital Hill to West Seattle to live with my good friend Damon, and his 8-year old son visiting from Galesburg, Illinois for the summer.

West Seattle is a happening place where the whities live, and White Center is a happening place where everyone else lives. I love them both. Most nights this summer have been spent at Alki Beach, or Lincoln Park, a park overlooking the Puget Sound to the West. It’s spectacular!

My Saturdays have been spent watching Ty for the day while Damon works. Mariner and Sounder games (sorry Timber fans), Gameworks, hanging out at the beach, playing baseball and soccer, and hanging out at the fountain at the Seattle Center have been our haunts. I underestimated what an 8-year old kid can do for your life. What a blast!

The last few weeks in Seattle have been sort of surreal, and they always are right before you are about to move to another place. Part of your mind is focused on the tasks at hand, while the other is focused on what’s coming up over the horizon.

I will be glad to finally be living in the same town as my good gal. We have spent nearly a year traveling back and forth from Portland in a long-distance relationship. My peeps at Real Change, and Street Roots have joked that that’s the real reason I’m jumping at the chance to come back to Portland. I’m looking forward to being back at Street Roots and pounding the pavement in Portland, like I have in the "Rat City" (and they are big) for the past year and half.

PS. While this recollection of Seattle leans more on the optimistic side, I could never forget the 33 days of straight rain, and starving for half the year on pasta and butter, still, it’s the good memories that pull you through. Forgive any spelling errors - Top Pot is closing and I've lost my wi-fi for the time being.

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