Leftist commentary from a mouthy bitch
My love affair with Seattle began long before grunge. In the early to mid 1980s, Seattle was typically the closest to Boise, ID that any of the bands I wanted to see ever got. I’d watch the lists of concert dates for bands like Duran Duran, Adam Ant, Roxy Music, and wish, wish, wish I lived in Seattle so I could see some decent concerts. Seattle seemed like a mythical land of culture and entertainment compared to Boise. I wrote stores about how how cool it would be to live there. Desperate stories, with no grasp of geography or reality.
When Queensryche and Alice in Chains started getting press in metal magazines like Circus and Cream, long before Nirvana were out of high school, it reinforced my view of Seattle as my personal Mecca.
We left Boise in 1987, just after my 16th birthday to move to Ohio, 2 hours from my birthplace in Michigan, and further than ever from my beloved Seattle.
Columbus, OH could have been great, if I’d had a car, or a friend with a car, or parents who weren’t convinced that going downtown at night for concerts would end in my imminent demise. I mean, the Headbanger’s Ball tour played there (the first, good, one) and guess who didn’t get to go?
Nine months later word came that a company from Seattle wanted to hire my dad, for about double what he was making in Ohio. So we packed up and went. The fact that I had just gotten serious with my boyfriend dampened my enthusiasm somewhat, but SEATTLE!
The first month we lived here, it rained every fucking day. We were out in the suburbs and my parents still had their innate terror of “urban” areas born of having lived in Detroit’s shadow during the race riots of the 1960s. Seattle seemed set to be a giant disappointment.
Then I made friends with other weird, freak children, with cars! And we would roll on over the 520 Bridge to the
Last Exit on Brooklyn, to sip overstrong espresso with college kids and the poets, artists and singers that infested the place. We went over to see art films at the Neptune and the Varsity.
In the middle of my senior year, I got into a Rocky Horror cast, and they introduced me to the Gay scene in Seattle. We spent hours sipping illicit beers in the Roasters in Broadway Market because my best friend (male) was dating one of the waiters. In the summer, we’d sit on the balcony, and people watch, it’s where I developed my taste for Heffeweizen with lime in it instead of lemon. In those days Capital Hill was the gay ghetto, populated with glorious freaks of all stripes. It felt like home. We shopped at Bailey Coy and Beyond the Closet, the two most popular queer bookstores. We had endless rounds of coffee at Charlie’s.
As I got older, and spent some time in Eastern Washington, then came back married to a boy from Wenatchee who had also grown up in love with Seattle (in fact we talked about this the other night, and he remembers the Queensryche ads in the metal magazines, too). We worked in a legendary (not kidding) dance club called the Vogue. If you watch any documentary about grunge, that Mother Lovebone graffitti? That’s the Vogue. We started at the original location on First Ave and watched the character of that neighborhood, Beltown, quashed by the yuppies moving into the fancy, high-priced, high-rise condos built after tearing down cool older buildings. Then after we moved to a location on Capital Hill, we got to watch it happen all over again.
We watched the people who made those neighborhoods great pushed out by gentrification and ever rising rents. The locally owned businesses died, one by one, replaced by chains like World Wrapps. The theater at the corner of Broadway and Olive, got turned into a Rite-Aid. The Broadway Market, a big building with lots of small quirky shops in it, gutted and filled with a QFC with Hot Topic and Urban Outfitters in the outside spots. Beyond the Closet, Bailey Coy, gone. Charlie’s is still plugging along, but I heard from a friend that worked there that they had a 99 year lease on the place. The Chinese restaurant where, if we came in with the sniffles, the little old lady who owned it would make us ginger tea with the admonition to drink it before it cooled for best effect.
Now when we venture up on the Hill for the occasional party or show, we don’t see anyone or anything we recognize. There was a time when I couldn’t go more than a few blocks without running into five, ten, fifteen people I knew. Now it’s a sea of cleancut hipster kids, living in Seattle’s “hip, Capital Hill neighborhood.” Even the Pride Parade’s moved on, as the new residents agreed with the city that it would just be better to have it downtown.
And it’s still happening. Just this October Seattle lost one of it’s most colorful venues, the Funhouse, to developers who bought the land and want to put in more high-priced condos with boutique spaces on the ground floor. Like the hundreds of them already built that no one can afford here already.
Gentrification kills neighborhoods. It drives up rents, it kills the small businesses that thrived there. Those neighborhoods were quirky, and artsy, and “fun” because quirky, artsy, fun people don’t have a lot of money, so they gravitated to where they could afford to live. Gentrification drives those people out and leaves those neighborhoods just as sterile as the suburbs the hipsters are fleeing.
Fuck your Gentrification.
I miss the Seattle I fell in love with. But if I want to visit it, I guess I can always drive down to Portland.