Seattle is Better Than Your City

Seattle is slabs of concrete splitting and sinking into the soft, potent Earth. Seattle is tulips and weeds and cedar saplings sprouting through the cracks. Seattle is turning your face up to the low sky and closing your eyes — is it raining? It’s hard to tell, but it also doesn’t matter too much: in Seattle, you’re wearing your rain jacket because you wouldn’t be caught dead opening an umbrella in public.

Seattle is a high school kids’ climate strike in the park, mustering their strength before they march on city hall. One moment they’re clowning around to an elegant new LIV beat or a cheeky Tacocat anthem, the next they’re earnestly discussing the future livability of our small blue home. In Seattle, the old folks have pushed last summer’s wildfire smoke from their memory, but the kids remember.

Tahoma and the Duwamish River. 

Seattle is grey-haired women coaxing camelias out of the ground and waging war on the squirrels. Seattle is craft beer and craft cannabis: “I find the Freaky Juicy to be a cerebral creativity booster, while the Sludgehammer Diesel is more of a couch potato body high.”

Seattle is a gorgeous snowy owl taking up residence on the roof of a Queen Anne house. Seattle is the crowd of locals who drop by to see the owl on their daily walk. And Seattle is the residents of the owl-hosting house erecting a sign to sternly ask that you don’t disturb the owl —before listing out a dizzying array of owl facts.

An entirely different owl I saw in an entirely different part of the city. 

Seattle is your local maple tree — a fresh-faced youngster compared to the mossy ancients you’ve seen while backpacking on the Olympic peninsula — with a fresh new cloak of neon green. Seattle is Larry Mizell, Jr. turning your Tuesday afternoon drive into a dance party. Seattle is the dulcet tones of Johnny Horn telling you “that was Ruth Brown’s Love Contest released on Atlantic Records in 1954. It’s Sunday morning and you’re on Preaching The Blues, Seattle’s favorite hangover show…”

It is the city of Blue Scholars and Brandi Carlile and Eddie Vedder and the legendary Clinton Fearon. It is sticker art and polite graffiti and playing peek-a-boo with mighty Tahoma — dubbed “Mount Rainier” by Anglo colonists — who could, if she wanted, smite us all with a belch from her volcanic belly. It is also streets of sagging RV homes and battered tents on the median strip, red-pilled cops and wildfire smoke and Macklemore’s unfortunate line of golf apparel.

Seattle is the immortal Woogie D shrieking and moaning into his microphone as he kicks out a killer beat at the Seamonster Lounge, every Friday night on funky 45th Street. It is his greasy horn section doing the two-step, dabbing sweat from their brows as Roc Phizzle hooks into an almighty solo on the keys.

Seattle is a brass band playing circus tunes by the troll who lives under the Aurora Avenue bridge. Seattle is the salmon run, when the city’s waterways become a pulsing highway of fish making their life-ending and life-giving journey back to the Cascades. Seattle is encountering a crowd of corgis dressed in spooky costumes: the annual “A Very Corgi Howloween” walk. Seattle is cycling on the Burke-Gilman Trail beside the ship canal, thinking about summer and stringing up a hammock between the trees to watch the boats motoring down to the locks.
Puget Sound and the Olympic peninsula, viewed from Alki Beach. 

Summer in Seattle: paradise. Endless picnics around Green Lake or along Alki Beach, a cultural kaleidoscope. Mexican families, Eritrean families, Black families, Anglo families, Vietnamese families: all of them furiously picnicking. Gas Works fire twirlers putting their arms around a companion who’s had a bad week. Later, they agree to cameo in the background of a rapper’s music video. Streaks of sunlight reflected in the chromatic surface of Puget Sound, or Lake Union, or Lake Washington. Summer in Seattle is rolling back into town late on Sunday afternoon, your car smelling of a dirty tent and fetid hiking boots, and seeing that the city has been enjoying itself in your absence. Kayakers in the canals, highliners in the trees, seaplanes picking a landing spot on crowded Lake Union. Happy moss soaking in the drizzle, glowing against gray skies and the scarred concrete. Douglas firs and red cedars, tall and round with arms outstretched, basking in the sunlight.

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2 thoughts on “Seattle is Better Than Your City”

  1. Wow. What a beautiful ode to Seattle. “who could, if she wanted, smite us all with a belch from her volcanic belly”…love that personification:)

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