Life in Seattle

The other day, I spotted a notification in my Facebook feed that had nothing to do with me. By that, I mean that it wasn’t written by anyone I knew about any conversation we’d had, and I hadn’t commented on it or been tagged or anything else. The only things tying me to this person’s post were two of my friends, who had liked it, and the subject matter, which was Seattle, which is where I live.

(And this is why my profile is set to private, by the way. I don’t need friends of my friends seeing what I say and blabbing about it like some people might.)

I don’t want to share this person’s post here (because again, I don’t know them), but I’ve been thinking about it pretty regularly for the past two days. I cannot get this post out of my head, and I think it’s because while I agree with its basic point so hard that I feel like going out and burning down the nearest condo (and here in Ballard there are many to choose from), I’m also super annoyed with the rest of the post, or perhaps I’m just super annoyed by that uniquely Seattle-ish passive-aggressive tendency to complain about shit without a) knowing much about it or b) doing anything about it.

I still have to give a little background on this person’s post, although again, without sharing it or quoting it. Because again, I do agree with the basic point, but as I don’t know them, I think taking them to task directly would be rude.

The person began with complaining about the cost to rent a house in Seattle. And I absolutely agree – the cost of living in this town is exhorbitant, and depending on where you choose to stay (ahem, Capitol Hill comes to mind), you could very well be looking at $1200 a month for a studio. A studio apartment. One room. This is insanity, especially considering that you’re not getting a luxury space for that. You’re getting a pretty bland apartment in a big building filled with other people’s smells and probably no parking spot.

So. This person and I agree.

But then the post begins to veer away from me. In it, the person writes that Seattle just ain’t what it used to be (true, but what is?), that a lot of old favorite hangouts for old favorite Seattleites have closed (again, true, but this isn’t exactly news), and how Amazon is to blame (kind of true, but also a really convenient scapegoat, which is a point I’ll reach in a minute).

The person goes on to cite Seattle’s status as the nation’s fastest-growing big city, and complains that this growth, presumptuously the result of an influx of Amazon employees, is creating – okay sorry, I have to quote here – “a huge sterile, corporate wasteland full of awkward tech geeks” whose employment driving the median income up and, with it, housing prices, traffic problems, and shitty bars. Because of this, service industry employees (a caste this person implies are the only true Seattleites) are being priced out of the city and into…well, she doesn’t say. I assume it’s the suburbs but this is never said explicitly, and once more, I’ll reach that point in a minute.

According to this person, this problem could be easily remedied by getting rid of jobs in Seattle. How do we do this? Well, we kick the big, evil corporations out and truck them to a struggling city like Detroit and then we can all – fuck, I can’t stop quoting – “watch that city come back to life.” But this is a bad thing, apparently, because all the crumbling, abandoned buildings will be torn down (she calls them “artfully desperate,” which seems less like those structures that anchored once vibrant neighborhoods filled with actual human beings representing an American tragedy, and more like some fucking poser art project) to build condos.

And I just…guys? I can’t stand this kind of shit.

I can’t stand people with no real grasp of economics or social trends taking to their pulpits and spewing absolute fucking nonsense that really just boils down to they don’t feel as rich or as cool as they want to feel. I’m no capitalist, but I’m also no fool, and I know that people go where the money goes. Yeah, it sucks that entire blocks of Capitol Hill are being sold to condo developers because independent business owners’ rent doesn’t match up to huge property sale payoffs, but the transformation on the Hill now doesn’t seem so fucking different from the transformation it underwent 20 years ago when, according to the owner of gay bar The Pony, it became “…what Pioneer Square was a few years ago. It has become so overwhelmingly popular with young straight 20-somethings…They have this ‘attack, dominate’ mentality, and they don’t even necessarily know what this place is. It’s just yet another stop on this drunken bar crawl.”

See? People liked partying on the Hill, so they moved into the Hill, and now they’re stymied when other people follow (as if waves in population are anything new) and that independent video store they haven’t patronized in years (if ever) gets sold and they take to the Internet to complain.

It sucks that South Lake Union has become a glittering shopping mall I sneeringly refer to as “Amazonland,” crawling with people who spend entire weekends ducking in and out of Crate and Barrel and Whole Foods and are implicit in that laughably moronic “Life In Seattle” recruiting video (and indirectly responsible for its parodies), but at the same time, do I feel safer getting on a bus there (or in increasingly-minted Belltown, where I work for a tech company) than I might in a neighborhood that’s not so moneyed and not so trafficked? Well yes, I do.

And it sucks to watch Seattle erupt in glass and steel and assholes driving Teslas while watching your hometowns of Detroit, St. Louis, and Baltimore crumble into rust from a distance. But it sucks more to live in those cities and know that businesses have tried to relocate there but can’t because there’s no infrastructure or financial incentive to build any, because idiotic politicians would rather fund a new stadium than assist an actual job-creating enterprise.

And it sucks that it is really, really hard to find an affordable place here that isn’t a closet, and it’s fucking impossible to do that if you refuse to branch out to what old Capitol Hill residents claim are the suburbs, that is, the very much located-in-the-city neighborhoods of Fremont, Ballard, and Greenwood, or (gasp!) the actual suburbs, because it’s so much easier to turn your nose up at them than to open your fucking eyes and realize that this exodus of poors relocating from ever-richer Seattle may have created interesting, artistic communities in Shoreline or even White Center (not an actual suburb, but it might as well be to these people) when you weren’t looking.

And it sucks when your favorite bars close, especially when you put so much stock in name-checking a place where you once barfed into the bathroom sink and didn’t bother to clean it up because this is when you were young and reckless and awesome and never once thought of how the management was likely blowing all the money on coke, thus leaving the future of the business open to predators like real estate developers (as is often the case people ignore when misplaced nostalgia is more convenient).

And it sucks to feel like the city you’ve claimed as yours isn’t your own anymore, because that’s basically like loving a person who won’t love you back. But also, implying that refilling water glasses is somehow more inherently noble than coding software is just fucking stupid, because if you really would like to see all of those corporations (and the people who work for them) kicked out of Seattle, let’s see who has the money to come to your restaurant and tip you because you provided assiduous service to their table.

Mostly, for me, it sucks to see people complain about something like this, because for so many people who are new or new-ish to Seattle, this place is a fucking paradise. It’s safer that our hometowns. It’s cleaner. It’s beautiful and fun and you can find a job and what’s the fucking problem? It’s too nice? You want it to be shitty?

Yeah, I worry about the cost of living here. I roll my eyes at the newest condo some former frat bro will move into with his girlfriend and her tiny boutique dog. But as someone who came from a city rife with decay, mismanagement, crime and apathy born from decades of disappointment, I choose Seattle every single day that I’m here, and not once have I let the idea that it’s not as cool as it used to be change my mind.

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About erineph

I'm Erin. I have tattoos and more than one cat. I am an office drone, a music writer, and an erstwhile bartender. I am a cook in the bedroom and a whore in the kitchen. Things I enjoy include but are not limited to zombies, burritos, Cthulhu, Kurt Vonnegut, Keith Richards, accordions, perfumery, and wearing fat pants in the privacy of my own home.
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