Emerald impressions

Seattle is more like the stereotype than I expected.

This has to be a good place to drive once you know your way around. Lights rarely hold you up for long, thanks to short cycles and intelligent sensors. Intersections are not cluttered needlessly with stops, and other drivers are generally polite and also interested in moving forward. This all adds up to no time whatsoever to inspect maps. At least I’m thankful for once to have an automatic–the hills around the central city would not be a good place to learn a new clutch.

Successful gardening requires only leaving your plants outside, so the “emerald city” is, indeed, awash in green. Contrary to how depressing the weather is supposed to be, the local architecture strongly tends towards open patios and balconies. Of course, the weather is presently gorgeous, which the locals insist is a fluke (that has apparently lasted for a few months).

I had some free time alone this evening, so I sought to get lost downtown and abandoned the rental (liberated that it is red and doesn’t scream “tourist in rental!”) to walk around for about four hours.

Downtown is almost unnervingly quiet. There was almost no truck traffic, and the large highways are fairly confined. No one blares their radios loud enough to disturb others, and I heard no loud exhaust notes. It all adds up to this disjointed stillness of noise amidst swarms of cars, busses, pedestrians, and cyclists.

There are enough quaint little bookstores to make me want to disconnect from the 'net and just consume wisdom and stories from age-stained pages for a while.

The stillness contributes to a general sense of innocence. Sure, there are panhandlers on the streets, but even they are polite and speak softly. I tried to find a bad neighborhood, walking by missions near bus stations with crowds of disheveled homeless, and was left with the impression that any number of them would have leapt to my rescue if I had walked blindly into traffic. I’m sure there is street crime here, but it sure doesn’t feel like it.

The city is innocent enough that the local scandals consist of espresso taxes and a city councilwoman’s past as a stripper. This leaves plenty of energy for debate about national and world issues.

The bay is beautiful. The distant mountains are beautiful. The hillsides are beautiful. Perhaps due to those hills, the populace is beautiful, in a rugged sort of way. Unexpectedly, the architecture is also beautiful. This may be a young city compared to St. Louis, but it’s clear they haven’t spent decades tearing down gems of history to make way for parking and green space.

It’s really, really easy to find a chai latte to keep me warm as the sundown brings a chill.

I’m not sure where my motivation to return home will come from.

I posted this in September 2003 during week 1541.

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