I’ve been thinking about us, trying to understand what happened. Why did I leave you?
I’m sorry if it seemed sudden, but things hadn’t been the same between us for a while. I want you to know that I still love you. But mostly I’ve outgrown you, or you’ve outgrown me.
When we first met, Seattle, it was love at first sight. I never really loved a place before I fell in love with you. I hopped around, between states on the East Coast, never happy, never satisfied. When I first saw you, I decided that you were perfect. You had the water, the mountains, the gentle summer breezes and the counterculture that I craved. Only back then, it wasn’t a counterculture. In Seattle, all that was weird and isolating anywhere on the East Coast was accepted and celebrated here. I felt like I belonged.
Rents were cheap back then. I moved from a junkie little New Jersey town, where I lived in a run-down attic to a beautiful Ballard apartment, with two decks, hardwood floors, and large windows. I was paying less for it back then than I paid for that depressing, cockroach-ridden shit hole in Jersey.
Back then I was tired of Jersey’s “tough love.” I was tired of having to run red lights in the worst towns because when I stopped, people tried getting in my car. I was tired of every park I had access to being full of hypodermic needles. I had a little daughter then and wanted her to play on the swings without being offered crack.
When I met you, Seattle, you were full of kind, laid-back people. You had tofu in the every grocery store. You had many beautiful and wild parks where my daughter could safely play. You valued nature and you valued people. Before I met you, I didn’t know anything about the Japanese internment camps (didn’t seem important enough, I guess, to be a part of the curriculum in Florida’s schools). Before I met you I didn’t know any Japanese people or Filipino people and not very many black people. Not because there weren’t any black people on the East Coast! But because blacks and whites didn’t really mingle or interact with each other in any way. There were black neighborhoods where white people didn’t go and white neighborhoods where black people didn’t go. Seattle, you were different. (I know, I know, you can be self-critical and say that the reason you never had any real black neighborhoods is that you never had enough black people to make up an entire neighborhood, but your people always interacted with one another and I liked that.)
Seattle, you were politically correct before being politically correct became trendy. I liked that about you because racist jokes and derogatory terms are not about keeping it real. They’re about fostering a culture of prejudice and intolerance. You kept your prejudices in check. For that I thank you.
We were together for a long time, Seattle. I loved you and defended you every time anyone dared to try and tarnish your name. They said you were rainy (to better water the gardens, I said), that you were passive-aggressive (still better than aggressive-aggressive, I said), that you were the epicenter of the Seattle Freeze (BS, I said. I have met the warmest, most welcoming people in Seattle), that you weren’t diverse enough (98118 is one of the most diverse zip codes in the country, I said), and on and on…
At some point, things started to change. I’m not sure when exactly, but first, it was the Southern Californians that started to have their eye on you. They started to sell their super expensive real estate near LA and buying the super affordable real estate in Seattle. Then more and more tech industry began to move in. Everyone likes to blame Amazon, but it wasn’t just Amazon. Google set up camp in Kirkland, as did Expedia in Bellevue and Facebook. Microsoft, of course, already had a huge campus. Tech bros moved in and started to call Capital Hill (The Hill, if you must) Cap Hill. It was the beginning of the end.
Traffic became unbearable. Housing prices skyrocketed. The homeless population blew up. During this year’s count, the number clocked in at over 11,600 homeless in King County (most of this is on you, Seattle).
You still indulged in the Initiatives on the ballot, like that was any way to govern. Should we increase spending for schools? Vote yes! Should we increase taxes? Vote no, of course! Expand public transport? Yes! Really, you want to spend money on public transport (I mean, people love their cars. It’s like their living-room away from home)? No, of course not.
You are now one of the wealthiest cities in the country. Granted, you still have the decency to mostly hide your wealth. No one in this part of the country ever liked a bragger. Seattle’s rich show up in fine restaurants in jeans worn three days in a row and an American Apparel hoodies. Your millionaires still wear Birkenstocks with socks and smile at the wait staff. Which is good. If you must have millionaires (who pay no State income tax; although you just approved a new income tax on your wealthiest residents, a whopping 2.25%,), that’s fine. But what about the beggers? Can one walk a block downtown without some old lady telling the passers-by she’s hungry? Have you seen women with their pack of children parked on corners asking for a handout? What about the guys with diabetes? The vets? The junkies? The crazies? During my short trip (less than two weeks), I managed to see one woman riding the bus with a cardboard box on her head and another woman on the train yelling at the top of her lungs “let me out!”, somewhere before an actual stop.
Also, where do the 11 and a half thousand homeless people go to the bathroom? Why can’t you provide decent public restrooms? You smell like pee, Seattle. (FYI, there is a huge pile of human feces next to the bus stop on I-90 and Rainier.)
I loved you once, and I still love you, but things have changed. I love that you have pokè and really good craft cocktails. I love the murals and the gum wall. I love your “punch a Nazi in the face” attitude. There are still things about you that I love. But man… I am no longer in love with you.