I’ve started to read an anthology of writing about Seattle. The fiction is set here, the writers live here. It’s called Writing Seattle: The City in Prose (edited by Peter Donahue & John Trombold, 2004). I’m enjoying it so far, and it’s got me thinking about the reputations that places get, and how rumors about a place add up to a skewed reality.
What did I know about Seattle before I moved here? Before I started my research I knew very little. I knew that it supposedly rained a lot. I’ve found the amount of precipitation to be an exaggeration, and I often wish that Seattle was as damp as its reputation. I love rain, and I revel in the showers we do get.
I’d also seen Frasier, Sleepless in Seattle, and a few other films about the city, from which I learned that Seattleites love their coffee (true), their bodies of water (also true), and their trendy restaurants (so true that it’s almost bizarre).
Research told me more, but it was a fractured tale. The guidebooks mentioned Seattle’s all-night diners. Raised in New York on 24-hour Greek diners, I was disappointed to find that an all-night diner in Seattle tends to be a cave-like dive bar that happens to serve food. All-night diners here make me sad. I’d rather go to IHOP. At least the drunks there are well-lit and some civility is enforced by the overworked staff.
The guidebooks also don’t mention Seattle’s pervasive lived-in look, its glorious urban decay. That was a pleasant surprise for me. I like it when neighborhoods show a sense of history. Very little in Seattle feels prefabricated, and that gives this town character. I love that in a place.
I’ve learned a lot more about Seattle since moving here, and some of it has been a culture shock. They love their dogs almost to the point of madness, and I’ve learned that a lot of businesses allow them in even when they shouldn’t. On the other hand, there are fewer children here than other places. Perhaps this is due to the fact that our gay population is second only to San Francisco. I don’t know what causes it, but as I’m not fond of the little ones, I appreciate that part of the culture.
I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the anthology and seeing how my experience compares to the written word. I love this city, but I don’t completely understand it. Maybe one of these writers can explain it to me. I look forward to finding out.
Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
161. What kind of reputation does your town have in the wider world? How accurate do you think it is?