May 6th, 2018


A shining city on a hill.

There was a chance, nearly 20 years ago, that Seattle would have been my home.

I seriously considered it. Back in 2000, I wanted to move from the small town of Hermiston to a larger town in the Northwest. I was thinking either Seattle/the Seattle area or Portland; I didn't consider Spokane or Boise, because I wanted to be closer to the Coast again. Eugene, as much as I'm fond of it, would have felt like a retread.

In April 2000, I took a week off from my newspaper job, drove diagonally across Washington state, and stayed at the home my cousin Max was renting in Central District, south of Capitol Hill. I visited her, I visited the city, and, since I was hoping to stay in media, I bought copies of newspapers and magazines published in Seattle and the region. Even a copy of the Vancouver Sun, because maybe there'd be a U.S. bureau, right?

Seattle is an amazing city. A weird, extreme one, kind of a North San Francisco in how it earned an eccentric reputation. Its most famous landmark is a giant tripod. The first big, and I mean big, commercial planes in the U.S. were tested there, and those planes' pilots did things like fly a Boeing 707 at a slower speed than freeway traffic or make a 707 do a barrel roll. (Yes, really.) The central library was designed to invoke the image of a stack of books. Seattle's also a city, like Portland or Boston, where when I first visited I felt deeply, bone-level comfortable, an I-could-live-here kind of comfortable. (Which I never felt about the Bay Area, as much as I love visiting it.)

Later in 2000 I decided on Portland, and that decision boiled down to this reason: I haven't enjoyed Portland enough yet. I still wonder sometimes what moving to Seattle would have been like for me. Completely different friend experience. Completely different work experience. A much different family experience, with my parents farther away but Max, one of my favorite cousins, nearby. (She and I are simpático; we particularly "get" each other.) WOULD I HAVE BEEN A SOUNDERS FAN. I would have been Me, but Me in a different context.

But I'm thinking of how maybe — and certainly to an extent, but how much? — Seattle is a construct in my mind that's come from not seeing it enough, and from not seeing it the way a resident, or native, would see the city. I read about its issues and growing pains, and how it's a tough city for many people who aren't rich. Max and her partner sold their more recent home (in Beacon Hill) and moved to a house they bought in Tukwila, down the road from the big city. I wonder if, had I moved to the area too, I would have been flat-out forced out of Seattle by now.

Would I have made Seattle work?

And, for now, a simpler question: when will I next visit? I was last there in 2010. It's been too long.