George Cassidy Payne recently returned from a four day trip to Olympic National Park and Seattle, Washington.
At night, what you see is a city, because all you see is lights. By day, it doesn’t look like a city at all. The trees outnumber the houses. And that’s completely typical of Seattle. You can’t quite tell: is it a city, is it a suburb, is the forest growing back?
My one day visit to Seattle came at a time when the city was still reeling from the depressing news about beloved Mariner Edgar Martinez. Once again, the prolific hitter of Seattle’s baseball franchise had failed to garner the votes needed to be elected to the Hall of Fame. As a baseball fan, I could sense an unresolved gloom.
That said, my initial impression of Seattle began with the sensation that it did not really matter if Martinez got in or not, the city would still have this damp, overcast, edgy and contemplative feeling. Grunge started here for a reason.
The big stereotypes seem to be mostly true. Yes, Seattle is fog-soaked, slower than San Francisco, laid back and cerebral. Yes, there is a Starbucks around every corner. Yes, marijuana is ubiquitous and almost entirely self-regulated. Yes, the Pubic Market rocks.
Seattle is the kind of city that looks forward to transcendental meditation facilitated by Bob Roth and David Lynch. The kind of city that gets excited about Robert Reich’s new book Economics in Wonderland. The people are introverted yet friendly, and essentially dominated by a work force of 20 somethings: it is athletic, future oriented, unveiled, and politically conscious.
After just 12 hours of exposure, here is what I think Seattle is. Seattle is a cute blonde wearing pajama pants and a flannel; she reads Popular Science and orders a stout in a microbrewery by the harbor.
Seattle is living in the shadow of an active volcano; she possesses energetic forces operating below a stable, steadfast and non impressionable surface. Seattle is the Indian Wars, the Chinese Riots, the Timber Strikes, the Spotted Owls Wars, and the World Trade Organization protests. Seattle can erupt at anytime.
The European settlement was moved to the eastern shore of Elliot Bay and named “Seattle” in 1852, after Chief Si’ahl of the local Duwamish and Suquamish tribes. Once a rugged, dangerous place ruled by mountaineers, miners, and gamblers, Seattle is now the dominion of software engineers, social media advertisers, business executives, and artists.