While I live in Seattle now, I’m originally from a small city in New England. I recently went back East to see my family where I had a wonderful trip. We went camping, hiking, and tubing in Vermont, toured the Maine Coast, and partied with friends in Central Massachusetts in a gorgeous old farm house older than anything in Seattle by decades. Great food (LOBSTER ROLLS!), great company, and beautiful scenery. I couldn’t really figure out why this one particular trip was so much better than ones I’ve taken in the past. It was the first time most of my family has met our son but that wasn’t it. The weather was oddly gorgeous and free of humidity but even that wasn’t it. No, there was something else, something far more important which pains me even to write…
We spent as little time as possible in the city I grew up in. Now that I no longer have any family living there, I only go back to see friends or family of friends. But the little time I did go there made me realize some really sad realities. I have many fond memories in the place I grew up in but the city, like many smaller industrial cities back East, have fallen into complete disrepair and neglect. Detroit on a smaller scale.
Aside from a damn amazing Chinese restaurant, (lots of love to ya Singapore), it was a city filled with burned out lots, shockingly high crime, and a truly ugly urban landscape that ignored some of the beautiful older buildings, many of which sat vacant and ignored.
- the chicken wings will change your life
I heard from someone that only recently had the City moved some money around and turned the street lights back on. Soak that in. For years, the city functioned like early World War II Britain and functioned without street lights in most locations. Do you know that in the first months of World War II vastly more people were killed in Britain from traffic accidents caused by dark intersections than were killed on the front line (to be fair, Britain didn’t do much of any fighting in the first 6 months of the war)? And somehow this was seen as a brilliant move to save some money. I left not only sad but mortified. How could a city get so….SAD? There are a zillion reasons, some within the control of the city leaders and others vastly out of their control. What I really left with was a profound feeling of pride. Pride?
Yup. I’ve lived now in Seattle for over 12 years. While the rest of the country thinks we live in a rain-soaked episode of Frasier, the reality is we live in a place where people are damn happy to be here. I never hear the things I heard growing up, “I can’t wait to get out of here”. Instead I hear exciting chatter about how people are going to invest in a new bar to better their neighborhood or how they’re going to get involved with their community in one way or the other. It is truly an amazing feeling living in such a place where people have such pride of ownership.
I have thought long and hard about how to help the place I grew up in. Years ago we debated buying some downtown property and making a great space that people wanted to congregate. I think it might just be too late for that. I hope I’m wrong and I hope that the people I love who still live there help rally the troops and change things. At this point though the choice between sitting on a sinking (sunk?) ship and residing in a place with hope and promise is pretty clear to me.
So while I’m sad that someone literally turned off the lights in the place I grew up, I’m grateful that the place I made my home not only has the lights turned on for me but has everyone else building new and better ways to make the lights even more awesome. I love ya Seattle. I hope I can make your homes, stores, businesses, and neighborhoods just a little bit better with the work we do.