Back to the Future

Knute Berger Says There's Only One Way to Look at Seattle: Backward

Comments

1
Barnett, I hate to inform you that Berger's book does not sound half-bad. As a Bellevue resident I can perhaps connect a little more strongly, as the city (which I love) is expanding in ways I don't much care for, taking down the past which I did not live but may still enjoy the collective memories of (and make memories of my own). There is a certain charm in the older places where the forefront of urban growth and development have not yet touched, even moreso in the in-between places, on the verge but not quite swallowed up, like a fleeting glimpse of something long gone. Berger may be a "mossback," (has a shittier name for something from the Northwest ever been invented? I argue that no, there has not, and I strongly advise giving a good throat-punch to anyone with half a mind to use it in anything more than a satirical way) but I feel his pain, in the half-assed way that only Bellevuites and the people who love them can.

Come to think of it, Bellevue would probably be far more interested in Berger's writings than Seattle, if it were only directed at us instead of our bloated old neighbor. Considering the fact that the biggest news to hit Bellevue in a long time is the obvious downtown boom (three decades in the making but just picking up, really), shittifying Bellevue and encroaching on the buildings that I have grown up in. It's a lot of downtown expansion bullshit and if I pulled the strings, I would have none of it. Sorry, Seattle. It's too late and you've become too bloated for me to start caring.
2
Wow... bitter much?
3
As characterized anyway, Berger's point remains a mystery to me. Let's see, growth is bad and making an effort to retain some semblance of urban functionality and sustainability is bad too, since it promotes growth.

It seems to me growth isn't a choice. Anyone notice the population projections for the West Coast? And why do people come here specifically? It probably has a lot less to do with things like infrastructure upgrades, town house densification and transit buildout, than that it's a spectacular part of the world.

Yeah, it sucks right now that the way things are we can't live without growth---but can't live with it either. What's a mossback to do?

4
1. Knute Berger is the latest version of Emmett Watson, a decidedly curmudgeonly non-inclusive local who later came to depend on the appetites of tourists. Never cared for Emmet, and am becoming less amused by Knute.

2. It's obvious I'm not from around here by my skin color, and I used to get nervous in the pubs when the locals, i.e. white people, around me loudly complained to each other about newcomers who earn more than minimum wage. Now when this happens I like to stand up and glare at the biggest blowhard. The topic of conversation always changes without fail.

2. Carpooling refers to a group of car owners who take turns driving their cars and carrying the other drivers as passengers. Ride sharing refers to drivers who carry passengers. My non-car owning friends like to use the terms carpooling or ride sharing as well and are masters at bringing the conversation around to where I am expected to extend a gracious invitation to drive them. Passive aggressiveness will always be the true identifying mark of the native Seattleite.
5
Loved this book review.
6
L.A.'s building subways and light rail, reviving its amazing and long-neglected downtown, becoming a Latin American city (translation: lively), has nearly eliminated its air pollution problem, and the weather is great. Come on down!

7
Really? Someone who actually likes Bellevue? I guess if you're a stuffed shirt you might like a cookie cutter city. They almost have enough: art, night life, culture, and cuisine, to float a cork. What's funny is in 25 years more people will live in Bellevue than Seattle. Thankfully it will be mostly fakes, frauds, and weasels that would have otherwise lived in Seattle.
8
I take offense that people without cars are manipulating car owners into getting a ride. I don't have a car, can walk everywhere I need, or take a bus. I never ask for rides. Yes, sometimes I take a taxi, but that doesn't count, does it?
9
You beat me to it, Eric. As I was reading, I was thinking, is this more of that Lesser Seattle crap that Watson wrote column after column about?
10
Wow. Yeah, bitter. I am a 23 year-old seattleite and I agree with the mossback theory. even from what I can remember seattle used to have more color and more life than it does now. I cant go anywhere anymore without being swallowed by a mob of tourists or nearly ran over by a careless biciclist.
The garbage every where too is amazing for a supposedly green city. I know that alot of people are trying hard to recycle and keep things clean but there isnt really anything green left in the city. Where have all of the trees gone? Why dosnt anyone care? And its only getting worse. What used to be a funky and charming little off-beat city has been overtaken by people who cant even appreciate it, and while we are too buisy arguing about how cool and beatnik we all still are its being turned into just another grey cookie cutter urban wasteland.
11
I also take offense to the 'non-car owners mooch off of car owners' comment. If I borrow a friend's car or ride along with to the mountains/store/bar, I always either provide food or gas money. How is that mooching?
12
it is amazing how much the comments above on population growth, overabundance of tourists and urbanization echo the sentiments of the manhattenites.

welcome, seattle, to being a city and not a town.
13
Oh, thanks for this. I've been trying to put my finger on why I left Seattle & came back to SF.
There's an episode of Six Feet Under where Nate goes back to Seattle from LA to retrieve a body. The dead man's last name? Mossback. If only this kind of xenophobic parochialism were dead!
The last straw for me was the defeat of rapid transit in a town that kowtows to a man who gets a light rail between his buildings at the snap of a finger, as well as, not one, but two side-by-side stadiums despite what the voters thought.
San Franciscans are at least as vocal about change, but no one here seems as city-hating, and hence self-hating, as Seattlites. Take your unobstructed views and bite me.
14
Hey sadlittleorangething...


What city are you living in? All kind of fun shit going on in this city, you just have to go out and find it. And yes, sometimes that means riding a bus to Colombia city, or somewhere up north. Spend a day at the Georgetown music fest and tell me this is a cookie cutter city. Get the fuck out and about.

I grew up in NYC. You know what I did when the city got boring for me? I moved.

Quit bitching and go do something fun this weekend.
15
To explore some roads that lead us away from these narrowly-conceived conflicts (for example, that the "past is lost" and the future is condemned to either replicate it or refuse it), spend some time at www.suddenly.org and consider reading the book Where We Live Now.
16
Of course ECB hates this book. She's exactly the type of person Berger complains about, and exactly the type of transplant this city doesn't need. Being a newcomer, she doesn't understand why the natives are angry -- she never experienced any of the things Berger (and others) are so nostalgic for. What's worse is that she makes no attempt to understand the city's recent history.
17
'Knute "Skip" Berger, a former editor at Seattle Weekly (where, full disclosure, he was my boss for about six months)' .... so THAT explains why you can't STFU about him.
18
Natives and wannabe-natives are so *cute* when they get all wanky about premodern Seattle.

And it's even cuter when Bellevue folk do it.
19
The problem is rooted in American culture, and that's something that won't change. Americans feel the right to move wherever they want to, buy land wherever they want to, and do whatever they want to do w/ it. It's what the Puritans did, its what the Homesteaders did, its manifest destiny right here & now. It won't change until America fundamentally changes.

And just a sidenote, for all you youngsters: Seattle in the 70's sucked. Big time. I hated going to the Pike Place market because it was so depressing. Even on weekends, most of the market stalls were empty, and you'd always see a few folks who were selling whatever they had w/ the look like if you didn't buy their stuff, they'd starve that night. I'm not exaggerating. If you think Belltown is bad now, then try removing the nice apartment buildings & shops, keep the drug dealers, beggars, muggers & drunks, and then put it around the city, (especially on Capital Hill) and that's what Seattle was like back then. It sucked, big time.

The funny thing is, Seattle isn't a real cosmopolitan city, although it pretends to be.
20
We are not going to stop coming to this city.
Get used to it.
21
Mossback is just a kinder name for old men who think being cranky is adorable. I think back in the day bloviating old fools passed for entertainment. Like Uncle Charlie on "My Three Sons". It's the only explanation for the Emmett Watson phenom. The man is an abomination.
Where I work we call these guys 'Chesters', as in "I got a fucking Chester on the phone and he wants a supervisor."
Big money gets what it wants in America, and nobody knows that better than Seattle. They've been dropping their pants for the big corporations since the 1870's with the railroads. It's what we are. Seattle is a city of eager merchants… not radicals. Well, not where it counts anyway.
But I share Berger's sadness. I miss the gentle old town too. My sweet Seattle… gone... all gone.
22
How easily Berger forgets that Seattle has always been the nanniest of nanny-states! Prohibition was voted in and instituted in Washinton a year before the rest of the nation. Washington led the pack when it came to suing big tobacco. The Wobblies tried to create a Socialist paradise in Washington. It goes on and on. Nannyism is the seattle world-view, Berger chooses to ignore that so he can grumble like his apparent hero, Andy Rooney.
23
I am nostalgic for certain things about Seattle, but I know that "you can't go home again", and that change - if not progress - is inevitable.

I think the things I miss are mostly the things that made the Seattle streetscape unique: Local names like The Bon Marche and Frederick & Nelson, for instance. I also miss some of the just plain fun, campy, yet practical stuff that died from poor business decisions and not for want of business - like the downtown Woolworth's.

When I was working in Ballard, it was sad to see so many perfectly fine single family homes being demolished for more dense housing, but that was more a regret at seeing well constructed, perfectly habitable homes being demolished when so many people lack decent housing - and when so much of the new housing was of such poor quality and ugly aesthetics. At least to me, but I'm the one who loved the Ballard Denny's.

I don't begrudge the increasing density of Seattle, and I think that anyone who would argue that the Seattle "nanny state" is a recent development doesn't know their NW history. Recycling was started in Seattle in the 70's, as was Metro (as in the sewage treatment component that forced people to stop dumping their boat's old oil into Lake Washington and throwing their garbage into the sound.) I also regret the idea that these are considered "bad" ideas: After all, a nanny usually has the best interest of her charges at heart, and I don't think that the hypothetical "Seattle Nanny" has done anything overly intrusive or damaging to the citizenry.

Before that, we were one of the earliest states to have prohibition, and used to really freak out when people spat in the sidewalks (justifiably so, since we had a horrible TB problem)

While it's fun to remember when Seattle was full of bowling alleys and thrift shops, and I'm glad I lived here when it was fun and funky, I know it's futile to hope for anything to stay in a vacuum like that. Plus, new people and new things help keep the city interesting. I just wish it were more affordable for the young kids that come here looking to start a life.
24
Knute is not our Andy Rooney or Emmett Watson. He's our Paul Harvey. Delusionally stoned on nostalgia and applejack he occassionally comes up for air long enough to write something lucid if predictable.

And I for one would love to change the name of Seattle to COSMOPOLIS. That would be awesome.

25
This is great. As a onetime Seattle resident (sigh) I always hated the mentality of the Bergers who felt Seattle should be a walled utopia, impervious to those nasty outsiders who come in, muck everything up and drive up the property values. Barnett is right: Growth is inevitable. What's not inevitable is how you handle it. Sprawl is dumb. Density, with an emphasis on improving transit, seems the best way to go, especially in a geographically limited space like Seattle. It's a city with a rich and wonderful heritage, no question; and that heritage shouldn't be bulldozed over in the name of progress. So the smart thing is to find ways to manage growth that keep the character of the city and its neighborhoods. Oh, and if Mr. Berger's biggest complaints include idiot bicyclists, I suggest he spend a few years in Reading, Pa., where they have to deal with minor issues like rampant violence, pervasive poverty a city government in financial distress and overcrowded schools where almost no one wants to send their kids. But at least the annoying bicyclists are kept to a minimum.
26
Knute Berger's argument sounds suspiciously like that of the stereotypical old man who is pissed off about kids playing on his lawn or skateboarding on his sidewalk.

I grew up here and there are a lot of things that have changed for the worse in my opinion. But I don't mistake my personal nostalgia for a coherent argument against (inevitable) growth.
27
Clearly people need to read up a bit more about the real history of Seattle. No one would recognize the Seattle of the 60's and 70's; it was a culteral, econmical, sociological wasteland. It was ugly, boring, and rapidly degenerating. Everything revolved around Boeing and when that started to fall, so fell Seattle. If that's the sort of 'charm' people like Knute want to revert back to, he can move to Detroit.

"What used to be a funky and charming little off-beat city..." When was Seattle a funky, off-beat little city? Because I assure you, 30 years ago it was not. It became that way in the mid / late 80's and only intensified in the 90's when people from the rest of the world actually started to pay attention.

And seriously, anyone who claims Bellevue has lost it's "charm" is a severely misinformed or dilisional liar. Bellevue did not exist 50 years ago and it would not be here if it weren't for Seattle. Bellevue has been and always will be a condo-paradise for the Microsofties. That's exactly what it was built for.
28
"Like many well-to-do white men..."

Berger is no more well to do than you, Erica. I agree with you that most of Berger's targets are phantoms. The only person in Seattle I'm aware of that embodies the insufferable, over-reaching, liberal ideologue he likes to complain about is ironically, you.
29
This "review" is very similar to Charles Mudede's half-assed denunciation last year of Clark Humphrey's book; Vanishing Belltown.

It is central to the myth that The Stranger holds are its central truth; nothing existed in Seattle before the Stranger. Maybe a few old hippies living in caves along the slopes of Freemont and Wallingford, and a lonely drag queen wandering Capitol Hill, but nothing worth talking abt.

Interest in things that occurred before 1991 are to be denounced as loudly as possible. I believe it has to do with The Stranger staff's general insecurity, and their lack of a point or focus in their lives and culture.

I also think it is abt Boomers v Children of the Boomers (The Stranger). It's that classic thing where anything their parents say, they are stalwartly against it. No Matter; just be against it.

What Seattle has lost is it's nooks and crannies, the odd whatnots. Because this last building boom (say since the late 1980s) has been so hyper, such a manic bubble, it has done much much more to effect the cityscape then previoous booms. In times past, things would get built, then more, then more, and these pieces would fit together to create the city. Now, it's just block after block of featureless, vinyl and glass-sided cubes. Very Stalinistic in the architecture. In a city of many layers, and nooks, and crannies, there is more room for non-mainstream people to exist. Where as now we are essentially living in a playground for the ecoyuppies, young white hipsters (the new White Trash) and corporate wigs and suits.

Seattle has gone from being a working and middle class city, to being a city of the nouveau riche cakesniffers.

And I say this not generally being a fan of Berger's Clintonite centrism.

And as far as Barnett's comments abt Seattle being flat and ugly before 1991, and using the pic that is used. You lack the knowledge or imagination to see that the city before this boom was more of a human-scaled city. If you look at old photos of Seattle you see a great deal more of the sky, and you see lots and lots of buildings built on a scale for human use. Rather than barffy monumentlaism (the Koolhas, user-unfriendly downtown library), or endless array of six story vinyl crapshacks.

And again, I have to say I am no fan of Berger, generally. Too conservative.
30
As a native, I'm with Catalina, Moto, XBallardite, AND Manthony. Well put, fellow citizens.
31
Oh Victor, you big storyteller, Seattle wasn't that bad. You make it sound like Omaha.

We've always had the water and the mountains, and that's kept even our ugly parts from being too ugly. We've always had creative people, thanks to the many universities.

We WERE too dependent on Boeing, I'll give you that - but the good thing to come out of the "Boeing Bust" was that a lot of the city was preserved a lot longer than other cities. Up until the late 80's when a lot of the skyscrapers started to go in, this town was pretty much a picture of 1973.

When you look at movies shot in Seattle at the time (Harry in your pocket, Cinderella Liberty, McQ) Seattle does tend to look sinister, but it certainly wasn't as grim as you portray it.

But then again, I was used to Omaha. Anything looks good compared to that.
32
Berger may have good qualities, but when it comes to judgement as to what to be afraid of and what to expect, he's a total fucking retard.

After Katrina he wrote this:
http://www.seattleweekly.com/2005-09-07/…

In which, he informs us that Mt. Ranier might just explode one of these days (not true), and that the city might be flattened by an earthquake (true, but extremely unlikely and not really worth worrying about).

One sentence really reveals something borderline insane about the way this guy's mind works:

"We ought to be able to anticipate and deal with the fallout of a nuclear attack on an American city, much less major storms."

He doesn't go into how in the name of fuck that's supposed to be possible. He doesn't see a need to. A rational adult telling you to be prepared for something, would have some idea in mind for how that could be done. And such a person thinking for a few seconds about nuclear explosions would quickly realize that there's absolutely nothing you can do to prepare for one without living in a bunker. He even mentions duck and cover drills as being inadequate. What would be adequate? It doesn't even seem to occur to him to ask that question. That's someone else's problem. His job is to throw a fit and expect some grownup somewhere to make it better.
33
That's the mossback in him. Back in the 60's, City Light built a power control center that had lead-lined walls, and was supposed to be able to withstand the effects of a nuclear shock wave.

Of course, all of the infrastructure of the distribution and transmission systems would be either fried or outright destroyed (along with, in all probability, the power control center) but dammit! It would have survived that shock wave.

It's that Boeing influence. That's why there are thousands of homes in this town that have bomb shelters.

The old power control center is still standing, by the way - it's that fabulously Dr. Strangelove structure just north of the Seattle Center. It's no longer used for anything, which is too bad - I'd love to have my office there.
34
i'm all for density but when you replace interesting old buildings, local stores and restaurants with banal condo towers and banana republic clones, you lose the urban feel of the city and the reason people migrated here in the first place. density is a net benefit if it comes with proper planning and design review to make sure the new architecture to house new seattleites is innovative and interesting and appropriate to the neighborhood in which it is being built.

historic buildings are the fabric of a city and their small spaces and lower rent help small businesses flourish, allow artists to afford studios in the city center, add character, and tearing down existing buildings is terrible for the environment ... adaptive re-use is a viable, exciting concept that works well in other cities and it is high time seattle try it on a larger scale. new density should be focused where parking lots exist today (north pioneer square, SODO and Denny Triangle, which still has room for growth.) I think berger agrees with all of this although he sometimes exaggerates to make a point. he certainly is a great columnist, certainly the best in seattle. i look forward to checking out his book (and I am not in the demographic group you assume is his only audience). Thanks for the debate, which is valuable.
35
Catalina is smart. Knute Berger is dumb. I don't think he really understands what was valuable about old Seattle, and he sure as hell doesn't understand anything about new Seattle. I think he's playing a role, "the new Emmett Watson", because he's too unimaginative to think of anything else to write about.
36
My Mom recalls during the 70s how incredibly poor everyone was. Sure the cute bungalows were cheap but no one had any money or credit to buy them. People were losing their homes left and right and people were just walking away from their homes and leaving town.
She still had a fun time and she said it was a fun city to be young in. And she misses certain buildings, businesses and institutions., but I don't think she misses the economic despair.
And change is always going to be part of the landscape of a city. My family has been here since before it was a state so we have seen a lot of things go away. Sure it can be a bit sad to recall certain things but if a city is going to survive there needs to be some growth. (hopefully not more endless sprawl, irritating traffic and antiquated transit systems that don't help move people about)
37
I work in Philly. I had to go to Seattle for a conference. Didn't want to go. Didn't care about Seattle. I visited in late June of 2007. I was shocked at how beautiful the city was. I especially fell in love with the Space Needle. I flew back to Philly after 4 days in Seattle. I surfaced from the train around 10th and Market St. Philly was just dirty, trashy, people had fowl mouths and the air just wasn't fresh. Things may be changing in Seattle, but it still has something other cities just don't have.
I did visit in February of 2008 and was surprised at how much construction had gone on in such a short time.
38
Hey Cogswell: You may be right on those few points, but LA still blows.
39
Oh Fnarf. I blush. If you keep complimenting me, I shall have to go to Verna Beaver's Designer Coiffures* to get a hairdo that will mask my big head!


*How's THAT for an obscure Seattle reference?
40
Cities change over time and history buries the past. I think both views of Seattle presented are simplistic and overreaching. That picture of Seattle doesn't look flat or ugly to me- it looks like a smallish city surrounded by water, lush forests and mountains. The photo itself might be ugly, but that's because the film stock or the color saturation during development.

I'm sure the Seattle of yore was a mixed bag: smallish, more working class, unglamorous, with plenty of interesting people to meet and adventures to be had. The Seattle of today is not the same city- it has many new problems and many new advantages, which is what you would expect with population growth.

The old-timers like Berger don't understand that growth and development are essential to healthy cities, even if that means having to reset and start over occasionally. If Seattle had stayed the same, it wouldn't be here anymore. It would be a dead or dying city.

At the same time though, it's simplistic and condescending to dismiss the anxieties of people who have lived here their whole lives and no longer recognize the city they once loved. Yes, things change, but you can't expect everyone to adjust. When you're young it's easier to start over and create a new life or identity. When you're older and locked into a place, it's much harder to adjust or change. I think falling back on class and race is too easy for both sides of the debate, whether that means blaming yuppies, gays and blacks for ruining a white working class city, or assuming that any one nostalgic for the past is a white male Neanderthal who can't just get with the times.

A lack of class diversity in this city is just as bad as a lack of racial diversity. Erica seems to be okay with living in city too expensive for most people to live, but that's not an asset, it's a weakness. I'm not so sure that a higher quality of life cancels out the harm sacrificing affordability does to the urban dynamic over time. Seattle offers a lot to the young and affluent now, but what good is this to older people who have lived here their whole lives, many who have been forced out of the city by rising housing costs? Or young people and immigrants who want to start a new life but find places like Seattle prohibitively expensive?

Both old and new Seattle had their advantages and disadvantages, and its too simplistic to draw these cut and dry pictures of the past and the present. The fact is, there are reasons to both mourn and celebrate the passing of the old Seattle into the historical graveyard. I moved to Seattle for the things the new post-nineties Seattle offers to my socioeconomic class and age group. But that doesn't mean that older residents should just embrace what we consider new, fresh and hip, and consign themselves and their experiences to the dustbin of history.

I actually find Erica's faux progressivism, which seems to be founded on little more than sub-feminist identity politics and condescending bourgeois-green class politics, to be as offensive as the rantings of angry white males, at least insofar as it touches on this city.
41
Cities change over time and history buries the past. I think both views of Seattle presented are simplistic and overreaching. That picture of Seattle doesn't look flat or ugly to me- it looks like a smallish city surrounded by water, lush forests and mountains. The photo itself might be ugly, but that's because the film stock or the color saturation during development.

I'm sure the Seattle of yore was a mixed bag: smallish, more working class, unglamorous, with plenty of interesting people to meet and adventures to be had. The Seattle of today is not the same city- it has many new problems and many new advantages, which is what you would expect with population growth.

The old-timers like Berger don't understand that growth and development are essential to healthy cities, even if that means having to reset and start over occasionally. If Seattle had stayed the same, it wouldn't be here anymore. It would be a dead or dying city.

At the same time though, it's simplistic and condescending to dismiss the anxieties of people who have lived here their whole lives and no longer recognize the city they once loved. Yes, things change, but you can't expect everyone to adjust. When you're young it's easier to start over and create a new life or identity. When you're older and locked into a place, it's much harder to adjust or change. I think falling back on class and race is too easy for both sides of the debate, whether that means blaming yuppies, gays and blacks for ruining a white working class city, or assuming that any one nostalgic for the past is a white male Neanderthal who can't just get with the times.

A lack of class diversity in this city is just as bad as a lack of racial diversity. Erica seems to be okay with living in city too expensive for most people to live, but that's not an asset, it's a weakness. I'm not so sure that a higher quality of life cancels out the harm sacrificing affordability does to the urban dynamic over time. Seattle offers a lot to the young and affluent now, but what good is this to older people who have lived here their whole lives, many who have been forced out of the city by rising housing costs? Or young people and immigrants who want to start a new life but find places like Seattle prohibitively expensive?

Both old and new Seattle had their advantages and disadvantages, and its too simplistic to draw these cut and dry pictures of the past and the present. The fact is, there are reasons to both mourn and celebrate the passing of the old Seattle into the historical graveyard. I moved to Seattle for the things the new post-nineties Seattle offers to my socioeconomic class and age group. But that doesn't mean that older residents should just embrace what we consider new, fresh and hip, and consign themselves and their experiences to the dustbin of history.

I actually find Erica's faux progressivism, which seems to be founded on little more than sub-feminist identity politics and condescending bourgeois-green class politics, to be as offensive as the rantings of angry white males, at least insofar as it touches on this city.
42
Kudos to you, JMS. This comment:

A lack of class diversity in this city is just as bad as a lack of racial diversity. Erica seems to be okay with living in city too expensive for most people to live, but that's not an asset, it's a weakness. I'm not so sure that a higher quality of life cancels out the harm sacrificing affordability does to the urban dynamic over time. Seattle offers a lot to the young and affluent now, but what good is this to older people who have lived here their whole lives, many who have been forced out of the city by rising housing costs? Or young people and immigrants who want to start a new life but find places like Seattle prohibitively expensive?


And this comment:

I actually find Erica's faux progressivism, which seems to be founded on little more than sub-feminist identity politics and condescending bourgeois-green class politics, to be as offensive as the rantings of angry white males, at least insofar as it touches on this city.


Are the two single best comments in this thread.

Both Knute and ECB personify the self-centered extremism I have seen in my 42-plus years here, from opposite ends of the spectrum -- "I'm younger and newer in town and smarter and hipper than you," and "I was born here so you can't possibly know shit."

Both of them think they know it all, and neither of them know jack. ECB will be Knute in 30 years, bet on it. We can dismiss them both, right to their "faces" for the world to see. Imagine trying to do that 40 years ago to Ross Cunningham. Your letter would never see print, much less be available to the world.

This town has changed so much for the better since I came here in 1966 that it isn't funny. In the next 20 years it will be even better, because the action will be in the neighborhoods.

If we can maintain low-income and workforce housing in the neighborhoods, Seattle will have succeeded beyond certainly MY wildest dreams.

The "nannyism" is real, and yes, it is a pain in the ass. But then again, the possibilities for ridicule are limitless.
43
I'm always waiting for nostalgic cranks like Knute to get to the part of the story where they contributed to building whatever it was they miss so much. As far as I can tell, they always sat on the consumer end of things, enjoying what was good at the time, but deserving none of the credit for making it happen. And that's why they feel blameless for when it disappeared, since it had so little to do with them.

Maybe that explains all the fear and victimhood: impotence then, and impotence now.

(I, too, would like to hear more of what Catalina has to say about all this.)
44
I know Verna Beaver's. On Madison, First Hill, near Vito's. Mrs. Fnarf has a picture of the sign in her photostream somewhere. That's the old Seattle I respect, not Berger's faux version.
45
What about young black ladies, like my sister-in-law, who share the views of Mr Berger?
46
you are perzackly right, ivan. i find them both incredibly short-sighted and ignorant. i see this attitude ("I'm younger and newer in town and smarter and hipper than you") a lot in the stranger, which is quite entertaining.

i, too, fnarf, am nostalgic for the old seattle: that pizza place on 6th and pike, rosellini's 410, jack mcgovern's music hall, the coliseum and blue mouse theater, the cable car across the seattle center, the flight to mars, nielsen's pastries on third avenue, and the lunch counter in the basement at frederick and nelson's. le sigh.
47
I'm not that nostalgic, Scary. Things change. The seventies aren't just gone here, they're gone around the world, and that's mostly a good thing.
48
I miss parts of the old Seattle, too, scary. I miss Warshal's and Ben Paris, and Jack Rohrer's Swap Shop in Ballard, and the old Shorey's at 3rd and Marion. I loved them all, and I miss them still, but they are dead doornail dead.

But wait! Along the much-maligned Aurora Avenue North are super-great places like the Five Seasons Grill, which serves some serious Bun Bo Hue, pork blood and all, and the Continental Grocery, with its range of Indian spices and pickles.

There's damn good Asian food in Ballard, where a mixed marriage used to be between a Swede and a Norwegian. There's stuff here now that we couldn't have dreamed of 40 years ago, and it's just as cool in its own way as the stuff that was cool back then.

It's death and rebirth, crucifixion and resurrection. The good old days are right now, and the best is yet to come.
49
Christ wept--have none of you "MY CITY IS GONE!!!" old-timer whiners never lived (or read about) anywhere else? Cities either grow and change, or stay the same then wither and die.

Life is an on-going, bitter struggle, and if you sit back too long, you will be passed by and run over by all the people who are either struggling to improve their life or by those who are trying to get the fuck off a sinking ship of a town. If you lack ambition and/or luck, you will end up fucked pretty much anywhere in the world.

Tune in next week for: Mossback Upset That He Is Aging And Will Die
50
Yeah and those people moving hyur cant even spell, there too buisy arguing.

They cant appreciate it here. They chose to move here, I didn't, my grandparents chose to move here and these people who move here from somewhere else they did exactly what my grandparents did -- so that makes me mad at them.
And where did all the trees go in Ballard? They had 5 foot dimater trees until 1991 tharabouts, then these people overtook it, and cut down all them trees. They cant appreciate it. Where did all the trees go?
51
Wow, thoughtful comments on the Slog in more than one-digit quantities.

Yes, Doug, LA blows, but so does almost all the rest of this Protestant-Corporate, colonized continent where for the most part real interaction has been replaced by electronic media and natural movement through the real world supplanted by the channel-surfing-through-space experience behind the wheel. OK, enough old news. What was hoped for was something better.

It still shocks the hell out of me, as someone who fell in love with the Seattle of the early 80s, that some of the people with the loudest affection for a cheaper, less traffic-congested, cleaner, friendlier, more honest/blue collar/pick-your-meaning town with orcas and salmon and woods within a short drive are the very ones who have successfully abetted the destruction of those qualities by opposing mass transit (monorail) and lobbying for freeways (viaduct) and in favor of more suburbanizing stadia with huge parking lots on the public dime. 'Let me drive - get outta my way' - that is Knute's cri-de-coeur.

What there was once in Seattle - and don't tell me I'm just a complaining old fogey at 41 because WHERE are the young people anymore? they can't afford to live in Seattle - was a situation where people taking time to explore and expand the world through art and creative living and political activism had time aside from making a living for those things, where a future that would turn away from the ruinous course of the last fifty years (roads, parking lots, unwalkable strip mall streets, poisonous runoff, smog, banal suburbia) seemed not only possible, but lined up and ready to bloom. In fact, what turned out to actually happen was that Seattle's power-brokers would behave (under the cover of their Ds) in an even more ignorant manner than their counterparts in the rest of the country, and ignore the will of a progressive electorate, building their public stadia by fiat, harassing the monorail agency until it went up in flames of self-preservation panic, ignoring the rejection of a tunnel replacement for the viaduct.

So, the people who once gave a shit are long worn-out. (Has anyone but big lobbying organizations and highway-loving 'business interests' sponsored a city initiative since the monorail died? Remember how many there were every summer ten years ago?) And the new towers go up (yes, density!) expensive as all get-out and with giant garages (eesh), the astronomical rents mean that brilliant gay kid from Boise or the musician from Anchorage don't show up to do their thing anymore, and the locals continue to go to the suburbs to raise their children.

Yes, LA is mired in planned suckiness. In 1928 they voted under pressure of developers to widen the streets (WAY pre-freeway) instead of building fast transit, so instead of development concentrating, it got spread far and wide. But people get now that it's a mess: they're not planning to replace any aging freeways with ones that will carry more capacity, or building tunnels without diamond lanes, or believing that the mistakes of the past should be repeated in the future. THAT is an improvement, and its existence makes the spiritual quality of the city in the present moment one of hope. All over LA people are discovering the place they live that has been so long ignored by its citizens from their cars. You can get around, fast, on the bus and subway (if you don't spread your life out ridiculously).

And you know what else? It's sunny. Here's where I partially accept the curmudgeonly 'we like the rain, you didn't grow up with it, you can't take it' accusations of the classic mossback (except I DID grow up with it). Nine months of overcast makes you depressed, (too) inward-looking, and unfriendly: essentially psycho. That was once a cheap price to pay for living in a vibrant, affordable city that gave so much reason for hope. But without it, why pay so much to remain? I'm sure that plenty of people are happy I'm gone. Enjoy your stay.

52
Wow, I'm so old I can remember when nobody had ever used the term 'mossback'.

And, A at the top of the thread- the Bellevue you're living in destroyed the Bellevue I lived in.

But lay off Emmet Watson, folks- it was a joke. Sheesh.

Yes, it's painful that 90% of us can't afford to live anywhere close to downtown anymore. But it's supergood that I can come into town and try to score some great bud, and Hempfest gets bigger every year.

You gotta keep your priorities straight.
53
sorry, but every person who supported or still holds a candle for the monorail is a fucking idiot. the monorail was a stupid idea. i'd say that's the best thing the people of seattle have done for the city in the 20 years i've been here.
54
Huh. I wonder what the crotchety old farts back in the 70s were saying about Seattle's Good Olde Days in the 30s and 40s.

Twas ever thus, I suppose. Every generation has some old man bitching about the kids these days.
55
Of course; the real "irony" regarding Berger complaining abt how Seattle has turned out, is that The Seattle Weekly (way back in the day, the early-mid '80s) was THE mouthpiece for promoting gentrification and Seattle's "world-classness". And now, it's turned out not so pretty, now that Berger generation has been passed on by their kids.

It is ironic, I swear, I know you all were still in "pull ups" or diapers, then, but it's still ironic -- if you were here and could read.
56
I'm no fan of Skip "When-I-Was-Your-Age" Berger, who is so boring and tired that people wouldn't even pick up his column when it was in a free newspaper on the floor of the bus. But this review tells me more about Erica C. Barnett than it does about Berger's book. So, Erica, when Berger writes something you agree with, he's "pellucid and a joy to read." And as soon as he says something you don't agree with, he's a "scolding elderly relative?"
57
Mossbacks and their ilk = people haters. Intolerant little sh*ts who wet themselves when confronted with anything new. 50 years ago it would have been blacks moving into Seattle they would have been fighting against. 100 years ago they were down attacking the Chinese.

Ignore the bigots. They'll eventually move away.
58
Totally agree, Erica. Berger is not just anti-density, he's anti-growth.

But he doesn't get that people will come here no matter how much he bitches and the influx of people need to live somewhere.

He also doesn't get that prices in the urban areas are high BECAUSE people like him work to block density.





59
Berger is a faux-progressive. He wants everything to stay the way it never was. How tedious. Berger and his conservative pals pretend to be lefty and thoughtful. Instead they are conservative and closed-minded. No vision. No goals. Just lame. They seem to get a platform not because they have something insightful to say, but because they keep giving each other jobs. Yawn.
60
Ballard Man is right. The Seattle Berger pines for is the all-white Seattle, the Seattle with no unsightly taco trucks or steamy-windowed pho joints or Ethiopian restaurants.

It's funny hearing some of the young old-timers hearkening back to the good old days of the 80s and 90s, because the destruction of the Good Old Seattle I knew was already largely done by then. Change is forever, and comes in waves.

Berger's dream, ironically, IS Los Angeles, though he is too stupid to know it. Ugly condos and four-paks in Seattle neighborhoods specifically protect rural areas. If you keep Seattle stuck in 1970, you drive the population ever outwards. Seattle hasn't actually changed all that much from 1970, compared to places like Marysville and Puyallup. THAT'S where the horror is, not in town.
61
Bellevue in the 70s was actually a great place to live. Of course it was designed to be driven in, but as a kid, you could walk it or ride your bike. We also took the bus. The Bellevue Theatre was a great repertory movie houses that showed all sorts of European art flicks with semi-naked women; didn't have to go to Seattle for that. My dad worked in Seattle and would call every day at 5:00 to say he was on the way home, and there he was, 20 minutes later (every day). The best thing about Bellevue was that, as a suburb, there were lots of interesting, devious things happening in the basements of every house. From this came music (members of Mudhoney and a lot of other bands) and a lot of interesting people. I tend to think there's a little bit of early-70s Bellevue in Seattle, and the city is better for it.
62
It's sad when a man bearing a tattoo of the seal of the city of Seattle has to post internet comments explaining to the residents how terrible the city is. Unfortunately, Grant is right. After moving back here from New York I find this place to be a kind of horrible purgatory that forever misses the mark. Standing in line at Whole Foods I watched a man berating the clerk because the donation lunches you could buy to support local schools were packaged in a wooden box. Seattlites are so willfully misguided that they either don't know or won't acknowledge what the real issues even are. What about the fact that people here are proud to be politically correct and offended by the slightest slur, but that the black people in this city are essentially segregated to the CD/South Seattle? What about a city government who seems to simultaneously be incapable of coming to an agreement over a viaduct in imminent danger of falling down but is willing to sell the city out to any developer willing to contribute the maximum campaign contribution (not sure what it is anymore but it used to be 600 bucks, consider how pathetically little money that is). What about a city that has been talking about public transportation since the 80s but still has yet to implement it in any kind of reasonable fashion? I'm with Grant: fuck this place.
63
Berger is a dinosaur and living in a confused world where nothing that happens makes sense. When you deny density for as long as Seattle did, you create a backlog of demand for urban housing. But the housing you then get is rushed to meet this backlogged demand. Entire neighborhoods disappear or change completely because they are building in 2 or 3 years what should have grown organically over 20 or 30 years. Seattle neighborhoods have fought density and change for decades.

This is the city that voted down transit repeatedly in the 90s, only to approve a crappy, half-baked line from downtown to the airport after it was too late. Oh yeah, and they actually FUNDED that vote only YEARS later.

People complain that "perfectly good small houses" are being demolished. Reality check - in an URBAN center, land prices will outstrip the "tiny, quaint" structures appreciation and render housing of that size and scope moot UNLESS a community sees the writing on the wall and embraces organic, slow growth EARLY.

Seattle didn't do that, and now you have a bunch of small, quaint homes that sit on dirt that is worth more than double the house. That is the very definition of economically unsustainable. Where we don't have these, we have rushed, packed development without the infrastructure to support it.

These are all the hallmarks of a city that has, like Berger, denied and fended off inevitability to its own detriment.
64
Bellevue is a pretty horrid city, but I imagine a just few decades ago it wasn't a bad little town.

SadLittleOrangeThing: Have you ever been to another city? I've lived in several, and Seattle still out-greens them by 10 to 1. I first drove into Seattle four years ago in the spring time, and was mindblown by how green the city looked. Ever see Chicago?
65
Eric @ 3 - I think you are being a bit rough on old Emmett Watson. He was an institution - and a bit more progressive than you give him credit for.

Check out this overview:
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/2277…
66
Those mobs of tourists bring cash and buy things in your boutiques and DIY stores. They fill up restaurants and hotels and they go to shows. They wish they lived here and they might even be back some day. All that happens while you complain.

Folks, its a city. People want what it has, and in these tougher economic times, we will have more of what people want -- a reasonbly still thriving economy, hopefully -- which in turn will bring more people here, more of the brightest and best from around the country who are looking for what here has to offer -- a fresh start and a chance to work for a decent wage in a part of the country with breathtaking natural beauty as well as all kinds of nifty perks. Coffee joke.

So cry about it Knute, and all the other first and second generation folks. Seattle's on the world map, and it won't be leaving anytime soon.

I've lived here 18 years now since getting off the plane on a visit, looking around and saying "wow. This place is really something."

Some of us never lose that, even though the clog on I-5 is bad, even though the mayor is an idiot, even though theres asshats on bikes who run you down in crosswalks then laugh about it cause they are young and full of adrenaline and too dumb to realize one day they will be the guy walking and lookin around at 20 yrs ago and thinking holy mother of hell, why does this place suck so bad now, it used to be GREAT WHEN I WAS YOUNG.
67
Oh those bad white men. Go hang out on at 3rd and Pine at night so you can experience all the wonderful joys of divershitty. 37,460 white women raped by black men in only one year ought to make you feel better about yourself... especially when you compare that to less than ten black women raped by white men that same year (2005).
68
Go hang out at 3rd and Pine at night so you can experience all the wonderful benefits of divershitty if you hate whites so much, who knows, you will probably get raped too! So multicultural!
69
If Knute had his way Seattle would be just like Detroit and Pittsburgh: DEAD CITIES!