SEATTLE IS AN AWKWARD, ZIT-FACED CITY. It is young--indeed, it's an insult to call it old--but it would prefer not to be reminded of that fact, thank you. It is energetic, but often has trouble focusing its energies (rapid-transit plan, Mayor's Arts Task Force). It would like to be more wise, sexy, and appealing than it truly is, and so it insecurely dolls itself up with overwrought monuments (Benaroya Hall) and delirious, self-congratulatory monologues (Bumbershoot, SIFF). It invariably turns green with envy when such "rivals" as Vancouver or Olympia seem to best it in any glamorous category (filmmaking, music). Uncomfortable in its own skin, Seattle is constantly trying to act more mature than it really is--it's embarrassing, really, and it has to stop.

The thing is, adolescence, if you give in to it, is great! Sure, it's got its downsides--but for sheer energy, for wanton conviction, for lust, for rabid experimentation, it can't be beat. And for all its sloppy energy, adolescence is the foundation for all true maturity; to try and skip over it or avoid it only assures that you'll wind up a zombie. No, you can only survive adolescence with your soul intact by embracing it, and living it out: Revel in its awkwardness, drink in its well-intentioned failures, applaud its half-baked, drug-addled experiments, and don't be so embarrassed by its inept lusts. More importantly, keep your heart open to its utter, withering, humbling sincerity, and very real beauty, skinny legs and all.

It's time for us to grow up and stop acting so mature. So here is The Stranger's Fall Arts Guide, non-objectively avoiding the big names, the inevitable favorites, the well-dressed delights, and the grown-up gratifications to wallow in the raw pleasure of the Adolescent Arts Scene. So go forth, act your age, and enjoy.