Saturday, January 10, 2004

SEATTLE SIGHTINGS


the long road to where?


I realized this some time ago that outside of New York, Seattle is the one city that I have visited the most yet have never lived. I'm not sure why this is - surely Seattle's proximity to my current Bay Area denizens offers a financial incentive but mostly, I think it's a series of unintended coincidences and circumstances, like the time my parents wanted to visit Seattle and Vancouver for the holidays (bad choice, us not having realized that Northwest winters can be as bitingly cold as Northeastern ones, sans the debilitating visitations of blizzards) or my most recent trip to help plan for this year's Experience Music Project conference. (I won't elaborate on the conference too long here - the link above will supply you with some relevant info, or you can read the New Yorker's smarmy, sneering piece on the 2003 conference).

Seattle is, without a doubt in mind, one of the smallest big cities in America, by which I mean that my expectations of it are bigger than its reality can support. It neither announces its greatness in metropolitan brashness in contrast to New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. Nor does it have the neighborhood charm of its southern cousin, Portland. The city it reminds me most of is Washington D.C., not because they remotely look alike, but because I find both disappointingly inactive for cities with such cosmopolitan reputations. (In all fairness, one could probably say much the same about San Francisco and especially Oakland but we have better weather and record stores so I don't despair as much).

I will say this much about Seattle though - it is, unquestionably, one of the most beautiful cities I have ever known. The integration between sea, air, land, development and commerce exceeds that of even my beloved Bay Area - the main difference being that the Bay is epic in its urban grandeur while Seattle offers more accessible access to its charms. I don't know why I think this but Seattle always strikes me as a more blue collar version of the Bay and there's some strange quality reminiscent of New England to it too. I never fail to appreciate the city's beauty when I'm driving through it, nor especially when I

Whenever I have come to Seattle for the EMP, I have always stayed at the Courtyard Marriot by Lake Union which is the closest hotel to the EMP museum itself. And whenever I look out the front door, or in this case, my recent hotel morning, I am always greeted with the view posted above. There's a major, elevated road - it might even be Interstate 5 but truly, I don't even know - that runs alongside the opposite side of the lake and I am utterly taken with it. You can see part of it above - the bridge that spans the center is part of it. I've struggled to figure out what it is about this road that impresses upon me so much and I have yet to come up with a suitable answer. All I know is that it manages to tap into me emotionally. Whenever I am here, with this vantage, I find myself staring at the road that flanks this lake, watching the traffic slide by, wondering where everyone is head yet knowing that I'll never know.