Now that Super Bowl Day has dawned, I thought this was a good time to exercise a little local pride. You may recall that I’m not a football fan and still get majorly creeped out by the fans who refer to their favorite team’s accomplishments in the collective (“we had a really good game,” or “we couldn’t believe we didn’t get that call”), but I am still a Seattleite, and as such, I’m cheering for the Seahawks today.
There’s a part of Tina Fey’s book “Bossypants” where she writes about inviting her husband’s family to spend Christmas in New York. Her husband’s family is from (and still lives in) rural Pennsylvania, so although Tina and her husband anticipated a bit of culture shock, they assumed that the magic of the holidays in New York would win everyone over.
This did not happen. She said that everyone was game and polite, but they were also a bit overwhelmed, and that having out-of-towners visit you in your city really reveals the things you choose to ignore every day in order to live there. The ranting crazy bums, the dog poop on the sidewalk, the reek of garbage on certain days. But it also makes you want to justify your choice to live there that much more, because doesn’t it say something that you’re somehow able to just block all of the gross stuff out?
Graham’s mom and aunt flew home yesterday after visiting this past week. I think we all had a very good time and enjoyed one another’s company, and it occurred to me while tromping through a rainforest together that they are my commonlaw in-laws, and this thought did not bother me at all. So, I mean, if you thought this was going to be where I complained about how awful everything was, you were sorely mistaken.
For one thing, I think it showed a lot of chutzpah for them to visit in January, as winter is not the most hospitable of months in Seattle. It hasn’t been affected by the polar vortex, but still, it’s usually pretty gray, damp, and lacking in things like mountain views or an absence of bone-chilling fog. I warn everyone against visiting in winter – “wait until summer,” I insist, “that’s when I’ll be able to trick you into moving here” – but I am aware that not everyone gets a completely customizable travel schedule and hey, I visited in December and that made me want to move here.
For another, it seems gauche and insensitive to warn people about the three things that (I’ve found) seem to disturb out-of-towners most, particularly those of the Midwestern variety, particularly particularly, the ones of the Midwestern variety who live in cities and not rural hellholes where everyone’s leaking meth snot out of the their eyeballs. Because nothing could be worse or upsetting after that.
Thing One: everything in Seattle is expensive. This is a huge shock to people from St. Louis, partially because everything in St. Louis is either insanely cheap or free. This is one of the reasons I tell people that they should visit St. Louis, actually. Most of St. Louis’ world-class tourist attractions are absolutely free to the public, and even if you have to pay to park (in a city where parking is plentiful), you’re not forking over more than $10 for, like, the whole day.
Seattle does not have parking. I mean, it does, but it’s either extremely hard to find or extremely costly, to the point where paying for an Uber both ways is cheaper than parking downtown for a few hours. Seattle also doesn’t have a whole lot of other free options. The art museum, the zoo, the arboretums, the Space Needle; everything costs money and none of these fees are very reasonable. Well, maybe they are, but it can be hard to defend the reasons – functional infrastructure, clean downtown, relatively safe city – to people who don’t get to live here and reap those benefits on a daily basis.
The cost to be a tourist in Seattle is why a lot of people who live here prefer free or cheap entertainment. We walk, we go to parks, we see shows. It’s tacky to talk about money and how much things cost, but when it comes to trying to enjoy an expensive city, at the very least, just know that for every dollar you spend to visit here, I am paying cripplingly more on rent every month.
Thing Two: somewhat related to Thing One, parking is so difficult to find and so expensive to obtain and traffic here is so bad that I always recommend taking the bus. Personally, I love taking the bus. It’s cheap, it’s dependable, and someone else gets to do the driving while I get to look out of the window. But I didn’t love taking the bus until I moved to Seattle, and that’s because the bus in St. Louis is a godforsaken piece of garbage full of garbage people and the city doesn’t give a shit about improving it. So I get it, St. Louisans, I get your hesitation when I recommend public transportation. But trust me one this one. It actually works in Seattle, and it can even be enjoyable. Also, walking. Prepare to do a lot of walking. A few miles isn’t going to kill anyone. Wear comfortable shoes.
Thing Three: it may rain a lot in Seattle, but overall, the climate is fairly temperate, and this makes it appealing to people who are homeless. And the homeless are everywhere. I understand that, if you don’t live in an area where there are so many homeless people, this can be frightening to you. Or, alternatively, if you live in an area that is not so hospitable to the indigent population and as a result, many of the indigent population you do encounter frequently are crazy or aggressive. And I KNOW that it’s insensitive for me to say that here the homeless are simply part of the landscape, but I LIVE HERE and you don’t and when you offer people food and they don’t accept it because an apple is somehow insulting and this kind of shit happens all the time, perhaps you’ll understand where I’m coming from.
There are a lot of homeless people here, and as Dan Savage once said, the streets of Seattle are practically paved with heroin, so there are a lot of junkies, too. But hey, there’s an upside! Remember how I told you to take the bus? Well, if you sit in the back of the bus – the heroin end of the bus, as I like to call it – your ride will be quieter because you will be surrounded by sleepy people the whole way. Also, if we’re standing outside of my house and you hear scream-singing coming from only a few doors down, do not fear. It’s just one of the dudes who panhandles outside of the store and gets a little turnt in the evenings, but he’s actually very nice and based on the volume, I’m pretty sure he’s settled into his favorite stairwell for the night.
And hey, when Craig visited, we saw two bums (because as you’ll see, they were bums) fighting each other with chains. Like this was The Warriors or some shit. It was scary for about three seconds but then turned into “Dude, it’s a hobo fight with CHAINS!” and I’m certain that it was one of the most memorable parts of Craig’s trip.
So there it is. I had a terrific time with my commonlaw in-laws, my pride in Seattle was renewed, and I remembered a few points for anyone who is gracious enough to come visit me.