A Brief History of Where You Are
First there were Native Americans. The city is named after one of them. Then white guys landed in West Seattle, chopped down trees, and turned them into money. Then the United States needed a bunch of bombers to drop explosives on German and Japanese schoolchildren during the 1940s, and those bombers were made here, by Boeing, making the city richer. Then the Space Needle was built for the 1962 World's Fair. Then a local young man named Jimi Hendrix did a bunch of acid, made up a bunch of songs, and choked to death on his own vomit. Then Microsoft started. Then a local young man named Kurt Cobain did a bunch of heroin, shouted a bunch, and shot himself, which made Sub Pop, Nirvana's first label, rich. Then other business concerns that started here around that time went on to be Fortune 500 companies, including Amazon, Starbucks, and The Stranger. Then you showed up.
Major Neighbohoods In a Nutshell
Seattle's neighborhoods are a mess. There are damn near 100 of them, and there's no discernable boundary between, say, Sunset Hill, Seaview, or Adams, which are all actually part of Ballard. It's really fucking stupid and we're sorry. Still, here's a crash course in Seattle's hoods:
Capitol Hill. That big hill northeast of downtown. Once a gay-friendly enclave, now full of annoying hipsters wearing ludicrously tight jeans and other crap previously sitting in a thrift-store basement for 20 years. That said, Capitol Hill has some of the best bars, restaurants, and music venues in town; it's the densest, most diverse neighborhood in the city.
First Hill. The southern part of Capitol Hill. Lots of hospitals. Aka Pill Hill.
University District. Lots of bookstores and movie theaters that play crazy Japanese robot chop-socky flicks and experimental German films about death. Named for UW.
Ballard. Formerly filled with old, drunk Norwegians. Now a hip, condo-filled yuppie hole. Has a nice beach called Golden Gardens.
Fremont. Ballard's stinky hippie sibling that so desperately wants to be loved.
Wallingford. Where people from Fremont move when they have kids. Dave Matthews is constantly shopping at the QFC.
Queen Anne. That big hill northwest of downtown. Yuppies as far as the eye can see. After that, rich old people. The neighborhood at its base is Lower Queen Anne, home of the only sit-down Dick's.
West Seattle. Nothing to see here (except for Alki Beach). These assholes tried to secede a few years ago. We should have let them.
Neighborhoods to the south. Beacon Hill, Georgetown, the Central District, and South Park are like Seattle's awkward kid brothers. Nobody really pays attention to them, but they just hit puberty and are totally going to be hot in, like, a year or two. And they're worth exploring. As soon as you're old enough to get into a bar, get thee to the 9 Lb. Hammer in Georgetown.
How to Make Sense of the Confusing Streets
Seattle's street system is confounding to newcomers, a fact that you can blame on both geography and design. Seattle encompasses two large bodies of water, Lake Union and Green Lake, and is divided into northern and southern halves by a man-made ship canal—all of which make it nearly impossible to head north or south without using one of five arterial streets and highways that cross the canal, many of which, to add to the confusion, change names depending on which side of the canal you're on. (Until you're used to it, we recommend taking a GPS/iPhone/map with you at all times.) On top of this, Seattle streets get their names from the area of the city they're in; thus you have 15th Avenue West, but also 15th Avenue East, 15th Avenue, 15th Avenue Northwest, and so on. There's really no way to make sense of this except generally; for example, if the streets say "northwest," you're in Ballard; if they say "south," you're in South Seattle; if they say "east," you're in Capitol Hill/Montlake, and so on. (Also, most of the bridges across the canal open periodically to let boats through, so don't be alarmed if you have to wait a while to cross.)
As for design: The downtown street grid, such as it is, is actually two street grids laid on top of one another. Blame that on Seattle's city fathers, who laid down one grid based on strict compass directions (the off-kilter streets of the International District and Pioneer Square on the south end of downtown), thought better of it, and added a completely separate grid that follows the shoreline.
How to Ride the Bus
If you must ride the bus—and odds are, if you don't have a car, you'll get pretty sick of the six falafel stands and greasy-pizza joints that congregate around campuses—the single best thing to do is adopt an attitude of detachment. Who cares if you get there on time? Why does it matter that the guy next to you is muttering incoherently and drooling on his shoes? Why worry about all the germs you're being exposed to by people who don't cover their mouths and noses when they cough and sneeze, or don't wash their hands before they grab the handrails? Planning your trip in advance is a good idea, of course (tripplanner.metrokc.gov), but don't get too attached to the idea that your trip will go as smoothly or as quickly as the computer says it will. Metro's motto is "We'll Get You There"; they don't say anything about when.
How to Ride a Bike
First of all, we're assuming you know how to ride a bike. The real question is, how do you ride a bike in Seattle without killing yourself or getting killed? Fortunately, it's not that tricky. The main thing is to be aware, wear a helmet, and assume that if they're driving a car (or truck, or SUV, or bus) they don't see you. Unfortunately for your thrill-seeking self, that means going slowly down hills—Seattle's hills are a blast to bomb down, but pretty much impossible to stop on when a car veers into your way. (This is doubly true for brakeless fixed gears—if you're going to be a hipster, at least get a brake.) The same thing goes for cars that are parked; assume that car doors will swing open at random into your path, and stay well out of the "door zone"—a three-foot-wide area beside parked cars. Finally, learn the least hilly route toward every destination—you don't want to take Denny Way up Capitol Hill when much less steep routes, like Pike and Pine streets, are available just a few blocks away.
All You Need to Know About City Politics
The city makes all kind of decisions that can and do affect you people—from deciding where and when clubs can hold all-ages concerts, to cracking down on bars that sell to minors, to passing policies that make rents more affordable, to making sure the park you like to hang out in doesn't turn into an open-air crack market. So pay attention: The city is governed by a city council and a mayor, each of which, in theory, has equal authority. In practice, the council (whose nine members are elected citywide, with terms that last four years) has in recent years been usurped by Mayor Greg Nickels, who has convinced them to sign off on most of his prodensity, probusiness, prodeveloper agenda. Although every elected official in Seattle is de facto liberal, Seattle's elected officials are polarized between those who want more development and business activity in the city and those who prioritize more human services and housing for lower-income people. Additionally, Seattle's political establishment was long dominated by a group of people who wanted to keep Seattle just as it was in the 1970s—a suburban-style enclave of single-family houses, with poor people and students concentrated in areas where those establishment leaders wouldn't have to see them. Fortunately, as those leaders die or descend into irrelevance, that era is slowly ending.
All You Need to Know About State Politics
State politics happens largely in Olympia, a city about an hour south of Seattle. There, in the Capitol Building, state legislators (you, like every resident of Seattle, have two—who they are depends on which legislative district you live in) spend part of every year bickering over, thwarting, and sometimes adopting laws. Seattle and the other cities west of the Cascade Mountains tend to produce liberal Democratic legislators; everywhere east of the mountains, except Spokane, is Republican country. The Democrats currently hold both houses of the state legislature and the governor's mansion; however, the Democratic governor, Chris Gregoire, is threatened this year by the same Republican challenger, Dino Rossi, who almost beat her four years ago. To find out who your legislators are, go to www.leg.wa.gov/legislature.
Where to Get Food on the Ave
Wide swaths of Seattle should be considered Inedible Zones. Just try to find good food downtown after 6:00 p.m. without spending a month's worth of drinking money. The University District has more students in it than any other neighborhood and dozens of restaurant options, but many of them are charnel pits of gamy teriyaki and wallpaper paste disguised as curries. Here are a few of the good, cheap ones: Guanaco's Tacos (4106 Brooklyn Ave NE, 547-2369) serves delicious pupusas (a thick corn pancake stuffed with filling, from El Salvador) for under two bucks. Thai Tom (4543 University Way NE, 548-9548) is a classic Ave eatery where cartoon-tornado chefs splash fire everywhere and dish up cheap, spicy platefuls of heaven. Another perennial is Schultzy's Sausage (4114 University Way NE, 548-9461), which for 20 years has filled the empty stomachs of desperate students with sizzling sausages and beer. If you don't have $10 to blow on a brat and fries, Pizza Brava (4222 University Way NE, 548-9354) has giant, piping-hot slices of gooey Italian love for two bucks a pop. There's also Pagliacci (see below). Food from three continents, open late and affordable. Suck it, downtown.
Where to Get the Best Pizza
Pagliacci is a local chain that's been making high-quality, consistently tasty pizza of the thin-crust variety since before you were born. Pagliacci delivers almost everywhere in the city. The phone number is 726-1717. The name Pagliacci comes from an Italian opera that involves a clown love triangle and a double murder; the famous aria sung by the pizzeria's clown namesake is about wanting to die but being a goddamn clown instead. If you're on Capitol Hill, Hot Mama's has good slices, while the slices at Piecora's are a travesty due to the post-pizza-baking application of toppings. Piecora's whole pies are good, however. The various branches of Via Tribunali serve Neapolitan-style pizza that is quite expensive for the volume of sustenance provided; the various branches of Tutta Bella offer similar pie that's a better value (though still suboptimal if you're just looking to stuff your face—if this is the case, and you have access to an oven, Trader Joe's frozen pizzas are worth exploration). Domino's does not reflect well on you, the orderer, either tastewise or politically, as (a) it is gross, and (b) one of the founders is a pro-life fundamentalist a-hole. Pizza Hut: also gross, and also a giant corporate chain, which is bad.
How to Eat Food in a Vietnamese or Ethiopian Restaurant
Vietnamese food is the delicious result of France invading a Buddhist nation. The staple at most local Vietnamese restaurants is pho, a craterlike bowl of rice-noodle soup and thin slices of steak in aromatic beef broth. Once it arrives, add basil, sprouts, chili paste, and hoisin sauce to your liking. You can get veggie or chicken pho, too. Pronounce it "fUh," as in that's "pho'kin' great soup." This is Seattle's soul food.
As for Ethiopian food, the centerpiece of your meal will be injera, a massive sourdough pancake. Tear off a piece of the bread and use it to scoop up mounds of savory veggie and meat stews—all served on top of the bread. This is some of the best food imaginable, and it comes from a nation we generally associate with famine.
One Nice (and Foolproof) Dinner You Can Make to Impress Someone Cute
You don't know how to make spaghetti? It's simple, and if you're trying to impress someone, it's easy (and much more delicious) to make from scratch. Buy an onion, a head of garlic, one large can of crushed tomatoes, olive oil, oregano, salt, and pepper. Grab some fresh basil if you really like this person. You'll also need a deep pot, a large pan, a knife, a strainer, and a cutting board. Go to a thrift store if you don't have any of these things.
Peel and chop the onion and garlic, drizzle a little oil in a pan over low heat, throw in the onion and oregano. Stir until onions are soft and translucent, about five minutes, then add the garlic. After a minute, toss in the tomatoes and the basil. If you want to go crazy, add a couple of glugs of wine to the sauce. Let the sauce cook over low heat while you boil water for the pasta—add a handful of salt to the boiling water. Cook the pasta, testing it for doneness. Strain. Return to pot. Toss with the sauce. Serve. Reenact scene from Lady and the Tramp. You're the tramp.
If all else fails, you can buy sauce in a jar.
Where to Get an Abortion
If you're pregnant, and if you decide you want to get an abortion, Seattle is a large, liberal urban area with many options for you to choose from. You can generally expect to pay between $300 and $500 if you're in your first trimester, or between $500 and $5,000 if you're in your second. Some clinics provide payment plans that let you pay for an abortion in installments. Are you a minor? Washington, unlike many states, does not have a parental-notification law, so you won't have to tell your parents if you don't want to.
Your early options are medical abortion—two pills that together cause a miscarriage—or surgical abortion, which ranges from a five-minute procedure (in early stages of pregnancy) to a more complicated operation that requires you to come to the doctor twice. The earlier you make your decision to have an abortion, the less complicated—and unpleasant—the procedure will be.
Here are your abortion service options in and around Seattle, listed by location. Downtown: Seattle Medical & Wellness Clinic, 1325 Fourth Ave, Suite 1240, 625-0202, www.smawc.com. Capitol Hill/First Hill: Aurora Medical Services, 1001 Broadway, Suite 320, 957-0990, www.auroramedicalservices.com; Planned Parenthood of Western Washington, 2001 E Madison St, 328-7734, www.ppww.org. Renton: Cedar River Clinics, 4300 Talbot Road S, Suite 403, 425-255-0471, www.riverclinics.org/pages/clinicrenton.html. Tacoma: All Women's Health, 3711 Pacific Ave, Suite 200, 253-471-3464, www.allwomenshealth.net; Cedar River Clinics, 1401A Martin Luther King Jr. Way, 253-473-6031, www.cedarriverclinics.org/pages/clinictacoma.html. Lacey (near Olympia): Sound Choice Health Center, 8617 Martin Way E Suite 101, Lacey, 360-456-0291.
Where to Get Food If You're Stoned and It's the Middle of the Night
Calm down, dude. You've got options: Dick's, Seattle's deliciously greasy hamburger chain, is open daily until 2:00 a.m. There's one in Wallingford on 45th Street, one on Capitol Hill on Broadway, and one on Queen Anne Avenue in Lower Queen Anne. Nothing cures the munchies like a bag full of cheeseburgers. Pizza Ragazzi in the U-District delivers into the wee hours of the morning. It's not great pizza, but it'll do. If you want to get fancy and sit down somewhere, the 5 Point Cafe, Beth's, and the Hurricane—all divey diners—are open 24 hours. So is the new and horribly named Whym and the 13 Coins (which is a rip-off). If you can't will yourself to travel more than a few blocks, 7-Eleven has pepperoni sticks and Hostess cupcakes.
The Best Jobs to Have While You're a Student
Every great career begins with waiting tables (or stripping). The tips are considerably more lucrative than most hourly-wage jobs, and the hours are flexible. Every time you think "Fuck these people" as you're schlepping glassware or getting an extra side of ranch for a horrible person, stop to remember you're making $20 (or more) an hour. Find shifts that finish by midnight and politely decline your coworkers' repeated offers of cocaine.
That said, landing a job in a field related to what you're actually studying may give you an edge on a career. Like, if you're studying computer programming and can intern for Microsoft to make you more attractive to Google later on, great. But many low-rung internships pay minimum wage (or, in some places, nothing at all) and gobble up homework time. Nobody should fail college for working long hours at shitty pay. If your gainful employment looks like a loss, see above.
The Best Dumpsters to Dive in When You Can't Afford Food
You'll need a bike, a flashlight, and a large bag. Wear nasty clothes. Go around midnight. The dour warehouse district around the two stadia south of downtown is your proverbial cornucopia. What can you find? Naked/Odwalla juices by the boxful (if the bottles seem bloated, skip them). Entire flats of bruised produce. Prepackaged supermarket sushi (stick with the veggie rolls). Bread! So much bread. Other places to raid: The health-food warehouse on Sixth Ave South and Massachusetts Street that often has tofu, any large distribution bakery like Essential Baking Company, all Trader Joe's locations. Trader Joe's is the best place to start if you are easily skeeved—everything there comes in sealed packages with expiration dates. The rules: Don't make a mess; don't take more than you will actually use; no seafood, meat, or dairy except eggs, which you should cook all the way through. The trash you get out of the Dumpster will probably be more delicious than the garbage you could afford.
How to Find Out About Music Shows You Can Get into If You're Not 21 Yet
Not only is it really hard to score a legit- looking fake ID in Seattle, but the security staff at most clubs are really good at spotting even the decent ones. Worry not. Seattle is a good place to be an underage music fan. The Vera Project is a volunteer-run, all-ages venue in Seattle Center, which is that sprawling park thing at the base of the Space Needle. It hosts a few shows a week that span the genres, and it also offers a lot of interesting workshops on cool shit like silk-screening, podcasting, and running sound at a show. Go forth to www.theveraproject.org for more info. Seattle is also home to many DIY/basement shows who don't care if you're 15 or 50. Given the nature of those locations (people's private homes), those folks are generally anti-press and publicity, so hop on to www.SeattleDIY.com for a good crash course. A lot of the bars in town still let the underage crowd in for some shows—Showbox at the Market, Showbox Sodo, El Corazón, and Studio Seven (downtown), Neumos and Chop Suey (on Capitol Hill), and Skylark (in West Seattle) all consistently host all-ages action. Also, The Stranger publishes a column called Underage in the music section every week about the all-ages scene and upcoming all-ages shows.
How to Find Out About Music Shows/Movies/Art Shows/Theater/Book Readings
Read The Stranger. Along with all the columns and articles (many of them tied to events), there are calendars in each section. If you're on our website, roll your cursor over the category you're interested in—in the bar along the top—and a link to events listings, as well as a link to that section's articles and columns, will tumble out.
Parks You Should Know About
Volunteer Park on Capitol Hill—designed by the Olmsted brothers, sons of the man behind Central Park in Manhattan—has 48 acres of neatly grouped trees, gays with pets, straights with kids, and rolling meadows in which to discreetly sip Bloody Marys from your thermos. Don't go into the bushes at night unless you want to be raped. The Arboretum, on the east side of Capitol Hill, is jammed with flora and mud. Gas Works Park, at the north side of Lake Union, has a nice view of the city, a cartoon-steep hill to fly kites on, and radioactive soil. Magnuson Park, on Lake Washington (and the 75 bus line), exists for the 12 days of the year suitable for swimming. Discovery Park, in Magnolia, is the biggest park in Seattle and an untamed wilderness—perfect for getting stoned. And then getting lost in its 534 acres. While stoned. Take a survival kit.
Music Stores You Should Know About
You're in one of the richest music-retail ecosystems in America. Even as the music biz flounders, our city remains a stronghold of shops where fans can consume physical product and meet kindred sonic freaks. The big independents here—Easy Street (Queen Anne and West Seattle) and Sonic Boom (Capitol Hill and Ballard)—combine knowledgeable, mostly unsnarky staff with broad selections, plus they host in-store shows by local and national acts. Everyday Music (Capitol Hill) and Silver Platters (Queen Anne) are massive storehouses of all genres and literally tons of used CDs and vinyl. Your diligent digging will reap dividends. Used-wax connoisseurs also spend hours rifling through the treasure-laden bins at Jive Time (Fremont, and there's also some Jive Time stock at Atlas Clothing in Capitol Hill).
Budding DJs should hit up Platinum (Capitol Hill), which stocks vinyl for all of the major club styles, as well as essential gear (decks, 'phones, coke spoons [kidding], etc.). Decknicians of all stripes should also check the smaller Zion's Gate (Capitol Hill), whose reggae/dub and metal selections are unbeatable.
Finally, the tiny but expertly curated Wall of Sound (Capitol Hill) draws the region's—and world's (it's a tourist attraction)—most discerning heads to its esoteric gems, from ancient blues to futuristic electronica. Off the beaten track is Wall of Sound's middle of the road.
A Primer on Local Sports
Seattle's sports fans are notoriously fair-weather, so if you're new to town it won't be hard to fake it. Here's everything you need to know: Our baseball team, the Mariners, has been in a tailspin for, like, five years. Our football team, the Seahawks, came close to winning the Super Bowl in 2006, but didn't—if it comes up in conversation, the game was full of bullshit calls and the refs cheated us out of a win. And we just lost our basketball team, the Supersonics, to some rich asshole in Oklahoma (just about everyone in town blames the mayor). We still have a professional women's basketball team, the Seattle Storm—best known for their superfoxy six-foot-five forward Lauren Jackson—and apparently we have some new professional soccer team, the Seattle Sounders FC, but that's barely a sport, so whatever.