Features Jul 13, 2011 at 4:00 am

Alien Buildings, Barking Men, Talkative Robots, Giant Flyswatters Resting on Bushes—Living in Columbia City Is Living in the Urban Future

The battle for the soul of the hoi polloi. ROB DEVOR


What the hell. Seattle needs to get is white head out of its even whiter behind. You assume because a man is pissed off on the bus that he is hiding out from a gang, in debt, got his car repo'd... because he is black. What a lame-ass stereotype. "Deranged Arab"!!! I can't believe that the Stranger would publish this racist garbage.
I agree with RKBK -- that paragraph was ignorant and racist. "One of dem days?" Meeting with his parole officer? Gang? Does The Stranger have no other image of black people? I don't care if the writer was African -- he's clearly got a weird view of black Americans.
Previous 2 comments apparently don't get that one: this is Mudede, he brings up race in just about ever article he writes. And two: the racist perspectives were what he believed the 2 white chicks were thinking, not his own perspective.

Nevermind that they might have just been worried that a crazy person was on board, or perhaps annoyed that the bus was being delayed.

If I was smug asshole I'd be lamenting the lack of reading skills of our country, but let's be honest. Most of us are too fucking dumb or impatient to read anything.
Wow, never though I'd hear Charles get accused of anti-Black racism. Challenges to White privilege that are read as "reverse racism", sure, but hating Black people?

@2: Why is a transliteration of AAVE into 'standard' English orthography racist ("One of dem days?")? Dose this hold true for other dialects ("Y'all dun pissed 'im off!" or "Ohmigod, like, what is wr-ONG with you?")?

@1, 2: Finally, do you guys get that not everything every character in a story says or thinks is necessarily directly representative of the author's personal views? I mean, here we have the author describing the potential thoughts (using "maybe" for each one) of two characters, including a brief description of the social-historical context that's informing them. I mean, the first comment looks like it's maybe just trolling, but the second is more cogent; how are you reading racism into this? Do you seriously think that any characterization of a Black person in a negatively-stereotyped role, including a description of what a character might be thinking, in the explicitly-mentioned context of a racist culture/cultural history, in a story with a wide variety of images of persons of color (some of whom would also be read or identify as Black, some not), qualifies as "The Stranger [having] no other image of black people"? Did you just stop reading at that point, or did you somehow manage the ridiculously complex mental gymnastics of simplification that projected the sentiment "Black men are always criminals or gang members" into the article, discarded its entire text, and ignored the context of its writing and publication? The phrase "a deranged Arab" is describing a mural, a mural that may well have a swarthy fellow wearing traditionally-Arab garb and a deranged countenance (or could simply be sardonically invoking the Orientalist stereotype). Is reading racism into this piece a conscious act on your parts?

Crazy-good storytelling Charles, though it looks like it might be mis-connecting with some of your audience.
fuuuuuucking hell this is ridiculous.
What is pissing everyone off but can't figure it out is that Mudede is a white man in a black body.....dude is such a rip off of V. Hugo its gone beyond funny: its just downright corny. I say like SNL changes up the token black comedian every year or so, the stranger needs to do the same.
Dear The Stranger:
Please keep to Capitol Hill, we do not want you polluting the rest of the city.
This is some of the most confusing shit ever published in America's most confusing newspaper...
Having lived in Columbia City, I loved this. Fun to read about my old neighborhood.
I'm with @1 & @2.
Come on, Charles Mudede!
Racism from any side we don't need.
If you are on a bus, and you can't figure out who the crazy person is, than you are Mudede.
Thanks for the write-up neighbor. I liked it. You get one generation, maybe 2 to live in a place like this. Then something happens - maybe it's gentrification, maybe it's redevelopment, maybe retrenchment, maybe simple profit-taking or loss-cutting as part of some other, grander, phenomenon that a neighborhood can do nothing about.

I grew up for part of my youth in a neighborhood in Portland something like this. It was Portland, so it was pretty white, but every house held something different and wonderful or scary or boring. In some ways I hope that I've found it again. In other ways I know too much of the world has changed for the comparison to stand.

Anyway, here's to living in the laboratory.
I have lived in the south end for 4 years now, and have always boasted the benefits. I was excited for the Stranger to give Columbia City its due, but I wasn't expecting 5 pages of dreamy drivel.

Someone needs a wake-up call.
@#3: "the racist perspectives were what he believed the 2 white chicks were thinking, not his own perspective." So either Mudede can read people's minds, or he just ASSUMES that's what they are thinking. Because, of course, all white people think like that. Right? And it's OK because they are white and he's not. Right? And (according to you) everything he writes is about race. So it's all OK, right? So it's racist of the two white girls to act and think the way they did (if that is actually what they thought), but NOT racist for Mudede to assign them these thoughts (I'm still working under the assumption that he is NOT psychic)? Lame. And I'm sure that if the crazy guy on the bus had been white those two girls would have jumped up to help him, one looking for the cause while the other gave him a massage.

And to Charles Mudede, keep telling yourself that you got light rail first because south Seattle is "a laboratory". Riiiiiiight. THAT'S why. Suuuure. did R2D2 tell you that in the dream?
Jesus Fucking Christ man! What the fuck is all this jibberish? CM blathers on for over half of the fucking thing like he is nodding on crack - which is no longer fucking available at the dairy - and then wraps the shit up with hypnopompic horseshit? I can't even wipe my ass with this blather. I agree with ABS this time. Wake all the way up douchebag. Tim BFH
I live in between Mt. Baker and Columbia City, right near that Darigold plant. I too had a huge refrigerator-like condo go up right next to our little cottage, and I did mind--I hated how close they were to us, and how the architecture clashed with the rest of the street. But I just didn't put up a big fight about it--I had other things to deal with (working, raising a toddler, trying to find some free time). I suspect this is more akin to how most South Seattle residents feel. Maybe our lack of protest isn't a cultural difference so much as a result of cascading priorities. Also, I believe the mural depicts a Japanese woman holding a raccoon. Curious about this, I did some research and found out this is actually an animal called a Tanuki that is known for having ginormous balls. Fitting?
"On my street, there are the plain homes of immigrants (they do the best they can)"

WTF does that mean?

CM writes like he thinks he's a much better writer than he actually is.
Was the dead rat black or white?
Ha ha! Right on 1,2, and 8. YOu guys rock my world.
Thanks, Charles! I too will never consider moving back to North Seattle, it would seem a little like deathly retirement.

The forest you speak of forebodingly (Cheasty Greenspace - Mountainview) is actually becoming quite a lovely, human-friendly spot. Not a park yet, but the good work of volunteers and a bunch of grants is transforming it into a pretty nice, open system of trails, a nice green asset for Columbia City.
And another thing, they got beer goggles and friends, like, to say, are you sure you want to do this? I can't imagine any review passing this bullshit along. My mind just can't help flying back to the beginning where this shit would just pass unnoticed in CM's journal. Peace and milk indeed.
I tried to read this article really hard. I really truly did, but come on! I was cringing by the end of the first paragraph, gasping for air by the second and third, and about to puke by the end of the fourth. "One of dem days" ??! Really? Ugh, awful writing. Awful even if it was actually written by an eleven year old trying to sound deep, which is exactly how it reads.
Whites only go to CC to buy rock.

Stay home, your kind isn't wanted here.
Cool piece, Charles.
It is fucking weird down here, but at least we have sidewalks. And light rail. And the Viet-Wah.
Is it so bad to speak of race though your unfiltered id? Isn't it more honest and interesting than finding the narrow path that pretends we are all the same?
In that vein, since Charles M. is not an American Black in the way that his character on the bus is, it makes sense that he would empathize with the girls on the bus since he may have more in common with them than the "drunkish middle-aged black American man"--like education and propriety and sobriety and pity for a race with a stolen past.
Another good one, Charles. Love the poetic editorial style.
I nearly hit a raccoon once - on my bike - while passing the Darigold plant. Very early in the morning.

Charles forgot about the lions all over the southeast corners of the station.

My guess is he only exits via the north end.
I too have had many uncomfortable moments on the bus. Not the least of which was one where I fell asleep on the 48 only to wake up with Charles sitting beside me with his index finger 3/4 of the way up my bum.
Mr. Mudede, you are the only reason I read The Stranger.
Best thing I've read in the Stranger in some time, Charles. (Also, the lamest trash-bin of complainer comments; get a freaking life, people!)
A very perverse part of me wants to encounter Barking Man. Truly surreal.
Come to the Ell-Cee, Charles: Lake City is also a lab, only it's going down, not up. Nonetheless, the Afro-Cuban jazz band ROCKING the house behind my apts last night gives a ray of hope.
Also, if you think QA is conformist, you've obviously missed far west Magnolia (they sincerely hope so).
Not sure what this article actually accomplishes (although there are some nice, poetic moments) except for confirming that Mudede hasn't lived in the neighborhood long enough to accurately know it.

Also, most of what he describes is actually in Genessee and not Columbia City.
Yeah, this...this isn't very good. I think all the racial accusations among the commentariat are nonsense, but, um....this is actually a topic I'm kind of interested in and could not read two sentences in a row without my mind wandering. It's been a while since I flunked out of J school but I think that's bad.
Charles, my one problem with this essay (ok, second -- "deranged Arab"? Yike. But that was simply your impression of an image in a mural): where are the photos? Rarely does a written essay cry out so clearly to be complemented by a photo essay. Take a camera with you, will you?
Shh Charles. As a young, white person, I bought a house in Columbia City to avoid all the other young, white people. Now they hear "Culture" and they will come flocking. Soon CC will be another Fremont.
Seriously Charles, go back to posting pictures of garages on Slog.
I enjoyed it. But then a.) I live here, and b.) I will read anything. Seriously though: why fault the piece for what it is not (well-researched, balanced, careful) and enjoy what it is (personal, imagistic, loose). As for the neighborhood, I'd say it is more the latter than the former.
Oh, puhleease. Columbia City is a neighborhood that is mid gentrification, full of white people who convince themselves that by living here, they are somehow not racist gentrifiers (not saying they are racist, just gentrifiers) it is just a matter of time before all the people of color are gone except for the few black people who own their homes, and they will likely leave on their own. Keep congratulating yourself on how culturally open you are because your neighborhood is still rough around the edges. But Columbia City is already too expensive for anyone but upper income white people or those who fit into that world and make the money it brings.
What is the point of this idiotic article the headline seems intriguing then the writer is a moron who can't create a good article worth reading. They can't write a jounalistic article to save their insignificant life. It was so incorherent that I hope Columbia city upgrades itself soon and becomes an even cooler place to go and kicks this bozo out.
Love the writing, and I love the neighborhood. I especially love standing in front of the lovely old Carnegie library (one of the city's prettiest buildings, for me) and smelling the crazy strong delicious smell of pho from across the street.
Charles, why no mention of the pride of lions that live with the giant hoe at the Link station? One appears to have an orange crammed in his mouth; I would love to know why.
Yeah, never mentioned when the teens are Black. I think the area suffers from attack of us white people. Yeah the Stranger needs stick to what it knows, covering touchy-pheely land & leave the rest be.

But he dropped a big line letting know he got sit at the feet of KUOW's stammering Master of All Things Seattle: Stevie Boy Scher, Spokes"man" of the Seattle White People...I'm fuckin' impressed. Yes you dear writer could better serve us if you go fuck yourself.
"It's possible the bill collectors were calling his home."

Also possible he was riding the bus because a man with a tow truck repossessed his car.

And the Station? Broken glass everywhere, people pissing on the street like they just don't care.

The reason you got light rail first was because you're between downtown and the airport on a map, you ridiculous person. My God, for a paper as fascinated by transit planning as The Stranger is, you'd think you could get that little nugget of an idea through your skull...
@48, well I wonder why you got the monorail first.
Good read.
HA! as your neighbor and fellow public transit traveler, I loved this, props charles!
Yeah I kinda like Columbia City down there..a lot of my friends grew up there in the 70s and have inherited houses over the years. Some of them work at UW and what charles does not add is that is takes OVER an HOUR on 2-3 train or bus to get there. that's what sucks about living down there--its too far away from the rest of the city, even with the LR station there (which do not forget is several blocks away from the CC strip).

Until mass transit and traffic improves somehow (gas price increase, frequency of bus or train increase etc.) CC will always be stagnant and continue to be known as the realtors call it "...still up and coming!" Hell you can buy a house or rent in dumpish (but safe) newly hipster Madison Valley or in the area between Cherry and Yesler for less than CC. But the melting pot is still in effect in CC and will be that way for years. Retail district, good restaurants, yes. Diverse, yes. Safe after 11p, probably. double deadbolt your backdoors, definitely.
I enjoyed the article very much so, as I recently moved from NYC to Seattle and now reside in Columbia City.

Rather than be critical of the author and his writing, enjoy the piece of what it is, his perspective on life in the CC.
Since this comment wasn't aleady made.
98118 is not only Columbia City; way to be diverse by leaving out the rest of us Ranier Valley neighborhoods! To name a few other 'hoods or your neighbors there's Ranier Beach, Hillman City, Brighton, Holly Park (aka New Holly), Seward, parts of Beacon Hill, etc, etc. Interesting how the media has jumped on this and only points to Columbia City... most (white) folks have probably not been South of Orca St. Just saying.
First, the trashing of Seattle was caused by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, not by the Boeing layoff. In the years after the layoff, the King County Metro Area grew more than Seattle shrunk. Both white people and professional black people moved into the county.

The professional black people moved out because they could: red lining was ended. Why did the white people move out? Because the school board started cross town bussing to end de facto segregation in the C.D. and Rainier Valley. Seattle lost close to 100,000 people and the school district, 50,000 kids.

Seattle is second only to San Francisco for having the least number of children per capita. Half the children left in the city attend private schools or are home taught and the school district is still closing schools.

Second, "gentrification" means cleaning the (physical) trash out of a neighborhood and making it safe for white people. After The Valley was trashed by the Civil Rights Act, it was the Asian Vietnam War refugees who started buying land east of the freeway on So. Jackson and then pushed the white and black trash population out of the Valley. Only then did white people start moving back.
another self-righteous man trying to shed their white guilt by romanticizing "the other." seems to be a very hip theme here in seattle. stick to fishing and microbreweries, jerk.
Just re-read; our stats: black/white family; almost 25 years in CC. Remains one of our favorite reads about our community for your style and many spot-ons.

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