Artist Scotty Rickard lives so close to Seattle's viaduct that sometimes he fantasizes about jumping out of his window and trying to grab on to it, action-movie-style. "It would have to be a pretty far jump," he says from the third floor of the OK Hotel, guessing the giant concrete monolith is about 12 feet away. "But I bet a person could do it." (The current world record for the long jump is 29 feet, 4.5 inches.)
Rickard, who played guitar in the Lashes, has lived at the OK Hotel for three years. This is the former home of the legendary rock club where Nirvana supposedly first performed "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Rickard has gotten used to traffic rumbling by at all hours. "Before I moved here, I always said I was going to get a viaduct tattoo," he says, smiling. "I like it. It's a buddy. There's a little clink in the road that makes this nice, consistent sound." A big truck growls by and we listen to the quick clink-clink of its tires rolling over a metal joint. When traffic is particularly heavy, Rickard says the reception on his TV and his phone get scrambled.
He has an up-close view of the moss growing on the side of the decades-old structure, along with the imprinted grain of the plywood that was used when the concrete was first poured. Sometimes, little chunks fly off and crack his windows. (The apartment building has installed an additional layer of what looks like a thick plastic outer window to protect the glass.) He says he wouldn't mind having a clear view of Puget Sound, but he's certain that if the viaduct comes down, he and the rest of the artists in the OK Hotel will get kicked out. "This will be prime real estate," he says. "Now it's a Section 8 zone." After watching the demolition of portions of the viaduct further south, he doubts his building would survive the process. "It was the most violent thing I've never seen," he says. "They got a big fucking jackhammer and just pounded on it—like the way a caveman would think about taking something down."
Residents of the OK Hotel wouldn't be the only people displaced by a viaduct demolition. More than a dozen men used to sleep on the ground below Rickard's window before the construction began, he says, but only a few still do. "There's one guy who sleeps against the viaduct every night. Leaning against it, every single night—if he wasn't there, I'd be worried about him."
For now, Rickard's westward-facing windows get good sunsets despite the concrete monument just outside. He can see where Bertha is stuck. Transportation officials have given up on predicting when it might start chewing away at the earth again. "It'll never get done," Rickard says. If he's right, that will be good news—at least for him and the other artists at the OK Hotel.