As I leave the city, riding an Amtrak train through picturesque hills and by placid waters, I cannot help but reflect on what was the sum, in my mind, of Seattle on my first, brief visit. Seattle is a quirky, progressive city. I cannot quite call it trendy, though some people and areas were. There are so many random influences here, which have all seemed to leave indelible marks: Native American, Alaskan, Pioneers, Chinese Rail Workers, Sea Culture, Tech and Nerdy Culture, Industrialism, Make-it-Work Grittiness, Gold Miners, adventurous business men and a booming skid row sex industry that built the city, along with later creating a climate where drug, crime, and general skeevy-ness was rampant.
It’s not quite tech enough to rival cities like Tokyo, not quite large and bohemian enough to rival New York or London, not quite planned enough to feel a definite theme. Yeah, I’m not sure I truly understand the culture here. It is disordered, to say the least. It probably shouldn’t work, but all-together, it does; and it seems to be doing quite well for itself.
The people seem rather fit and active. Somehow it seems that the people are pretty laid back and get along. I cannot tell whether or not the city feels like it’s progressing or fading away. Like Epcot at Disney World, it somehow has a distinct 90s feel. It’s something about the simple, clean lines of white pastel buildings set on the waterfront or the low-fi, doc-Martin, slightly vapid, slightly dressed-up utilitarianism.
It’s not like Counting Crows, Nirvana, or Jeff Buckley 90s, where there’s a sense of heady, emotional-ness (like you might find in a city like Portland). Seattle is like REM, Cranberries, and Live 90s. Though two sides of the same coin, Seattle just seems slightly more unemotional and European, perhaps. I think their message -whatever that might be at a given time- speaks louder in some respects, because they possess a certain hardness. Like if both Portland and Seattle were depressed, Seattle’s depression would look more like anger and it would accomplish something; and Portland’s depression, on the other hand, would be pure sadness and withdrawal. It would be more emo and result in a quirky, emotional outcry for attention.
Seattle is a city for trendy older folks, progressive 50-60 something’s. For me, it is fundamentally lacking a pulse for which I crave in cities, a feeling of bloody, emotional rawness. About the only thing raw about the city, was the sheer number of bums, drug-addicted street people, and all other variations of this. To say the least, it was overbearing and annoying, and rather sad -both in the plight of the people and the cultural epidemic that allows for it. I think it’s a great city with many small inlets of coolness, like Capitol Hill and even Belltown. But it’s like a city of drifters and no clear residents, where there is a hint of many things, but no distinct flavor.
But maybe it’s just not for me or either I should see it as a local to know the real city. Either way, I’m now moving on. If I have an occasion to come back through Seattle, I hope to see some different things and perhaps rethink my conclusions.