As Jonathan Raban, the grumpy British dude who lives in and loves Seattle, writes, "To live in a city is to live in a community of people who are strangers to each other." I'm only a little bit British (my great-great-grandmother loved them white boys) and only half as grumpy as Raban, but I love living among strangers.
And I love strangers most passionately when they choose to remain strangers. Compassionate strangers, yes, but strangers nonetheless.
I grew up inside the cultural intimacy of an Indian reservation and I often hated it. During a sixth-grade class project, we did a family tree and discovered that all of us were related. Including our teacher. They were proud, as in, "Hey, we're all Spokane Indians and everybody else is not!"
But I thought it stank like inertia. So I busted ass out of there 16 months later.
South Lake Union is beginning to feel like a reservation. The bulletin boards are filled with calls to gather and proclaim your South Lake Unionism. It feels self-congratulatory, as in, "Yeah, you and I can afford the rent and everybody else can't!"
Here, in the neighborhood where I work but do not live, folks are desperately trying to turn a big city into a small town. And I'm a small-town boy who asks, "Why the fuck would you want to do that?"