“Man, what’s the deal with your blog?”
I was not prepared for this question. It sounded hostile when it came out of his mouth, but I was sure that I had misunderstood the tone. After all, I am Seattle Rex, and if there is one thing on which everyone agrees, it is that Seattle Rex is universally loved throughout the Pacific Northwest.
“Um, what do you mean?”, I asked, hoping to clarify what he meant (did I choose the right words or what?).
“You know, I drop by that thing a couple times a week, and every time I do, I just shake my head. What’s up with the pictures of the mountains and the water and the skyline … don’t we have enough fucking Californians here as it is?”
Now before I go any further, I should probably put this conversation into context.
This weekend, I met a friend of mine (David) for lunch in Greenwood. David is 43 years old, and he has lived in Seattle every, single, solitary day of those 43 years. He was born in Ballard, and lived there for 28 years before moving to the Greenwood/Phinney area.
David took a plane ride once … to Spokane … and the furthest south he has ever been is San Francisco. Once. He’s rarely left Seattle because he has never needed to, and he’s never owned either a car or a credit card, again, because he has never needed to.
His mother was a popular local politician in the 70’s and 80’s, and his father a well-known shop owner on the north side. David’s last name alone is good enough for a free beer at any bar in Ballard … a benefit he takes advantage of frequently. David works in a local metal shop, and ventures below the cut only rarely because “that place hasn’t been Seattle since the bastards took it over!”.
Who are the bastards, you ask?
You are, most likely.
Since I first arrived in Seattle in the 80’s in the back of a van with nothing more than a beat up stratocaster and the clothes on my back, David gives me a pass, but some of his family he tells me … wouldn’t. You were either born here or you weren’t, period, end of story.
Most of his, and their ire, however, is reserved for a very specific group of Seattle transplants.
“Did you know that my mother bought her house in 1974 for forty seven thousand dollars”, he tells me with a scowl, “then, those rat bastard, motherfuckers from California came in here and bought everything up, and now it’s valued at $500,000!”
David rents these days, as home ownership in Seattle is now out of reach for the blue-collar worker. The very demographic that kept the city alive for 130 years. The city has been turned into a commodity, he tells me, bought and sold like a life-sized game of Monopoly — where wealthy carpet-bagging developers trade plots of land before constructing giant plastic buildings on them.
This is no longer Seattle, he tells me. At least not the real one. It’s one big reality show with a cast of inauthentic actors paid ridiculous sums of money to play the role of “Seattleites”, and the entire production has been bankrolled by moneyed Californians who, not content to screw up their own state, have cast their eyes upwards with designs on turning the great northwest into their next failed experiment.
I can hear the blind hatred when the word comes out of his mouth. It’s not good-natured hostility, either. It’s not a friendly rivalry. His, and those of his friends and neighbors, is a vitriol reserved elsewhere in the country for the likes of Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein.
“I’ve never knowingly broken bread with or rendered any kind of aid or assistance to someone from California, and I never would”, David once told me.
On this particular day, Dave had a new source of anger, though, and that source was me.
I sat and listened for a solid 20 minutes as he literally read me the riot act.
“… and what is this ‘it hardly ever rains in Seattle shit’”? You think we don’t know that? Of course we know it, we don’t want them to know it, though! When people call and ask me if it’s raining, I say of course it’s raining. It’s always raining. It’s raining right now, isn’t it?”
I looked out the window at the clear blue sky and said “Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh ….. yes?”
“You’re goddamn right it’s raining! It rained yesterday, it rained today, and the weatherman says it’s going to rain tomorrow! This town went to almighty shit as soon as people figured out they could check weather forecasts from across the country on the damn Internet. It’s your job to counter that. It’s your job to make each and every sunny day seem like a goddamn unicorn! The rarest thing you’ve ever seen in your fucking life!”
David was really, honestly, and genuinely worked up about this.
Finally, he calmed down, and began speaking in a more serious, yet firm voice.
“Rex, let me explain something to you, and I want you to give it some thought. Seattle doesn’t need any more writers or photographers peering through camera lenses and yanking their dicks every time Rainier comes out. Do you know what we need?”
“What’s that?”, I asked, sure that “your suicide” would be the response.
“We need to get a couple of shovels and go dig up the rotting corpse of Emmett Watson. Do you know who that is, Rex … Emmett Watson?”
For those who are not aware, years ago, there was a local Seattle journalist named Emmett Watson. He was an adherent of “three dot journalism” … a style that is actually very similar to my own. I’ve been separating my thoughts with three dots since elementary school, a practice that earned me constant rebukes by teachers and readers alike, but a style that I could never abandon.
Anyway, Watson was a writer for the Seattle P.I. and the Seattle Times, and during the course of his career, he “created” fictional organizations known as “Lesser Seattle” and “Keep The Bastards Out”. These were organizations that sought to deter people from moving to Western Washington by any means necessary.
Emmett … David told me, was good for Seattle. I, on the other hand, have been bad. Very, very bad.
“You could be the next Emmett Watson. You could actually do some good with that self-indulgent shit. You’re the most cynical, depressive, nihilist bastard I know, but when I look at your blog, I feel like I’m watching an episode of Glee. ‘Look at this beautiful mountain, look at this beautiful water, look at this, look at that, oh by the way, did I mention how gorgeous the weather was today?’ What happened, man? Why can’t you do for us what you did for that shitty town in Nevada?”
David made reference to an article punctuating my 4 years in Las Vegas. An article which still claims Google’s #2 spot for ‘Living in Las Vegas’, and receives about 10,000 unique hits each and every month. An article which has resulted in AT LEAST one hundred emails from people telling me that it changed their mind about moving.
“That is what we need.”, he said, “something that when people search for information about moving to Seattle, would at least make them reconsider. We don’t need any more cheer-leading. We’re too big as it is.”
I sat, listened, and at the end … I apologized. I felt lousy. Truly lousy.
Could it be that I was, indeed, helping to destroy our beloved Seattle?
On my way home, I gave it some thought.
It has never been my intent to promote Seattle to outsiders in general, and Californians in particular. My site is tiny. Hardly a blip on the information superhighway.
It doesn’t need to be big to have an effect, though.
Last Spring, I went up in the Columbia Tower Observatory, and I posted a video. Over the months, that video has received a couple hundred views and only three comments, but I read the final one:
What if my photos or videos actually convince someone to move here? Certainly, that person has friends and family, and those people have friends and family, and so on and so on. I know how things like this get out of hand. I’ve seen the shampoo commercial.
Do I want to be responsible for a thousand Heather Locklears wandering the streets of Seattle?
Hell n … well, I guess a thousand Heather Locklears would be okay, but the rest of you would do nothing but further drive up the cost of living while increasing our already abysmal traffic. Please don’t take this personally, but I don’t want you here anymore than David does.
Is this a case of blatant hypocrisy? A narcissistic desire to pull up the drawbridge after I’ve already crossed?
You bet your ass it is. I’m probably more ethical than most folks, but I’m no Mother Teresa. I’m not above a little greedy self-interest. I’ll go one further and state that I wish half of you would move away.
I wasn’t born here, but I did arrive early enough to catch the tail end of when Seattle was still … Seattle. I remember the last days of disco, when the city still had blue collar sincerity, and you could drive from Downtown to Northgate in 15 minutes … during rush hour!
I remember when guys on Capitol Hill wore jeans that fit instead of swiping them from their sisters. I remember the unspoken yet undeniable “us vs. them” mentality that made the city feel like the largest small town on the planet. There were few absolute strangers. If you didn’t know someone directly, you at least knew their friend, or a friend of their friend.
A few weeks ago, I was driving up Pike Street, and a twenty-something girl stopped me and asked “Can you give me a ride to Neumos?”
“Sure”, I said, “hop in”.
“Who’s playing?”, I asked her as we made our way through traffic.
“The Devil Makes Three!”, she replied, “I’m so excited!”
“Cool. Mudhoney played Neumos last weekend”, I said, “did you catch that gig?”
“Who?”, she asked.
“Mudhoney”, I said.
“Never heard of ‘em”, she replied.
I was too depressed to even muster a half-hearted face palm.
“Of course you haven’t”, I said before adding, “they’re a three piece bluegrass outfit from Kentucky. The lead singer plays the spoons. You should see them sometime.”
“Oh, I don’t like country music”, she shot back.
And that was that.
Never even heard of Mudhoney. Trust me, there is no moat deep enough … no fence high enough that I would not support to prevent the rest of these people from reaching Seattle.
This being the case, I clearly have to make some changes. I have to come up with some ideas.
At some point, I think I might make some content visible only to registered users. Especially the overly-positive, beautiful stuff. I’ve looked around, and it actually is possible to show two different sites to two different “classes” of users.
Publicly, I’m going to focus on the downside more. Seattle is a visually stunning town, but it has many negatives. Not the least which is the dreadful California transplants. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to do my part to help conserve what limited resources we have left.
The voice of Emmett Watson is calling me from somewhere beyond the ether. It’s barely audible, but when I bend forward and listen closely, I can barely hear his plea.
“Rex … Rex”, it’s saying, “ … whatever you do … you must keep the bastards out … must … keep … bastards … out … they’ve never even heard of Mudhoney!”
I hear you, Emmett.
I hear you.