I grew up in Seattle. Well, not in Seattle. Near Seattle, in Lynnwood. But if you tell someone, Lynnwood you get either a shrug or pity. To avoid both, I’d just say I was from Seattle. It made things easier.
The Seattle I remember was before the whole Grunge thing, before the whole Starbucks thing, and the whole Microsoft thing. Long, even, before the whole Amazon thing. My father was a fisherman, and he often worked on boats that were docked either in Ballard or in the shipyards south of the Kingdome. The Seattle I remember was a nightmare of disrepair—a wasteland of shuttered industrial warehouses, forbidding and grumpy. It was also huge, and full of secrets.
Seattle has no more secrets. Even the shadiest of corners have their own Yelp reviews.
I don’t despair for Seattle’s new incarnation. It is what it is. I’m more mystified by its transformation than anything. Mystified by the price of beer, by the condos and the difference a glut of cash can have on an entire city.
Recently, on a whim, we got in the car and drove to Seattle. It was fun, playing tourist, in my old hometown, driving the incredible hills I used to navigate with a gummy stick-shift, passing by the old restaurants that facilitated all my best underage drinking (now prohibitive). Even after our short trip, the city sits with me still. Like a chewy movie, I’ve been considering Seattle: its twists and turns, its sad and glamorous transformation in the short time since we first became friends.
Alaskan Way Viaduct
Opened on April, 1953, the Alaskan Way Viaduct—a conduit of Highway 99, and arguably, the most picturesque drive one can drive through Seattle—work on demolishing this horrible beauty began on Friday, January 11, 2019. It will replaced with a very long Olive Garden.
Sometimes, there’s a leak, right out in the open. I found this one, in the middle of a sidewalk. You can see, through the leak, to the underworld below. I stopped to wonder if, on the other side, a bizarro me is looking through the same leak, into this world?
The Seattle Space Needle
Originally built for the 1962 World’s Fair, the Seattle Space Needle is super cool. Not many people know, the construction of the Space Needle finished months ahead of schedule and hundreds of thousands of dollars under budget when, to everyone’s astonishment, a flying saucer landed on top of the unfinished base. Original plans for the top—a much less exciting, just-observation deck—were scrapped and the UFO was retrofitted to the base. What luck! That is, of course, until the top of the Space Needle just flew away, coincidentally on the very morning we returned to the Seattle Center to get some daytime pictures.
It’s true, in Seattle’s early days, firehoses were used to level the hills of Seattle—not because it worked, but because people are just assholes. Either because of boredom, scurvy or rampant venereal diseases (or a combination of all three) people just needed to blow off a lot of steam. I suppose it’s better they aimed their stupid hoses at a big goddamn hill rather than at someone who could get hurt. The effectiveness of these marvelously inept engineers is evident in Seattle’s variety of breathtaking hills, upon which even car tires can barely find purchase.
After its completion, in 1914, Smith Tower, was the tallest building in Seattle and, the 38-story, 484 ft (148 m) building was the tallest outside of New York City. Since other, taller buildings have been built, Smith tower ceased to be the tallest building in Seattle. Now, the tallest building in Seattle is the tallest one, standing above all the other buildings in the city.
I stopped here to ‘use the bathroom.’ I didn’t really have to use the bathroom, I just wanted to take a picture of these alcoholics bathed in stunning colors.
The next time I travel, I should travel with a pair of clippers and a yellow vest, and maybe a hard hat. The clippers are to clip off all the love locks I see anywhere I go. The yellow vest and hard hat would be my ‘municipal employee’ costume. If anyone gave me shit for removing those dumbass locks, I would simply tell them it was my job and if they pressed the issue any further I could use the clippers to remove a finger. (They obv had it coming.)
It seems every city is experiencing a crisis of affordable housing. But here, I was able to find plenty of places—along the waterfront with a stunning view!
This Orange Van
Look at it.
Hallway – Best Western, Pioneer Square
If you’ve ever seen Barton Fink, you’d know why every hotel hallway takes my breath away.
Alaskan Way Viaduct
The Alaskan Way Viaduct is a work of art. Lethal, yes, but beautiful. If you think of how many lives passed through these hardened arteries—bored and amazed, commuting and traveling—you can’t help but think, upon its demolition, America will be losing a limb. Maybe a very small limb, like that toenail you cut waaaay too short, that’ll remind you for the next couple weeks. But like all injuries, like all great works of art lost (and soon forgotten), we seem to move on tidily. Goodbye you lovely, god awful, dear soul. Thank shit The Earthquake didn’t take you first!
In 1906, Vladimir (Lenin) Ilyich Ulyanov founded Fremont, Seattle. Fremonters are notoriously proud of their hamlet’s heritage. They will leap at the opportunity to correct anyone who mistakenly refers to Fremont as “part of Seattle.” They’ll point out, Fremont is a free state. It may be located within the city limits of Seattle, but it is not Seattle. That’s as good a time as any to remind Fremont they are literally surrounded and all Seattle City Council has to do is cut off food and water and shut down Highway 99 and the surface streets (not easy, but do-able) and bide their time. Eventually, Fremonters will be forced to turn to cannibalism and then, ultimately, starve to death. Those who’ve miraculously held on will be easy pickings for the demolition crews who will level Fremont and replace it with something useful, like another Olive Garden. Man, Olive Garden sounds good right now.
Fremont Vintage Mall
The Fremont Vintage Mall is my favorite shopping in Seattle, (aside from Archie McPhee's). At least, it was my favorite place to shop. Now, it’s my favorite place to loiter. Everything here is just expensive. It’s cool, but expensive af. I am not offended by the prices at the Fremont Vintage Mall. To the contrary—more power to the mall’s vendors. I applaud any antiquarian who is able to price a teacup for $25 and actually sell it. All they’re doing is relieving rich people (who don’t and can’t understand the real value of money) of their money. Kudos to the sellers at the Fremont Vintage Mall: curators to the stars. You’re performing a public service for which we should all be grateful.
Fishing for squid
It was very late at night, I happened across a large group of fisherpeople fishing for squid. I joined them, even though I was not invited (I was the only person under sixty years old, and not Asian). It was an imposition, I know, but I was eager to see them fishing since, one time, long ago, in Edmonds, Washington, I happened across a similar group fishing for squid off the Edmonds Fishing Pier. What I saw then was incredible. The fisherpeople were simply dropping their lines in the water, baitless, and jerking the lines upwards and then reeling in one, or sometimes three squid they'd snagged (by chance) from the water. This group was far less lucky. I never actually saw a single squid pulled from the water. Although, they could have just been waiting for me to leave. And that's fair.
Washington drivers are notoriously vindictive, left-lane campers. If you plan on getting anywhere in a reasonable amount of time, do yourself a favor and drive in the far right lane. It’s dreamy.