Malcolm Smith

It's true—you know everything.

You've never known more about life than you know right now, and yet you're smart enough to recognize that you still have things to learn. That's one of the things you know. It's why you're going to college.

Actually, the real reason you're going to college is a mix of things: wanting to get away from home, wanting to start over, wanting to fuck as many people as possible, wanting to stay up as late as you want, wanting to experiment with drugs and alcohol and orifices, and wanting to be in the city. This city.

The adults in your life have probably been talking to you about college nonstop—where you're going to apply, where you applied, where you were accepted, which school you chose, what classes you're going to take, when the fall quarter starts. What, why, how, when, who? It's as if your going to college is the only thing anyone's been thinking about. Truth is, no one gives a rip about your college career except your parents, and they only care because they want you to pile up enough sweet, green cash that you can buy them an English-speaking live-in nurse, HBO, and morphine to enjoy when they're old enough to start wearing diapers again.

Now that you've arrived—now that you're at school and have seen what your living conditions are going to be like for the next few years and are starting to meet the people who are going to be your friends, friends-with-benefits, frenemies, and college sweethearts—you're ready to begin contending with life as an adult. We're here to help you get started.

You may feel like you don't know what you're doing. Well, odds are good that you don't. You may feel like you chose the wrong college. Odds are good that you did—everyone does. You may feel lonely, empty, and panicked. You should—but just a little, just enough to motivate you. Rest assured that no one—not your parents, not your professors, not all those adults who were giving you advice about college—knew what they're doing in college or knows what they're doing now. Adulthood is loneliness, emptiness, and panic. Surprise! Welcome to the party. Make yourself a drink. Sit anywhere.

Now for the good news. You didn't choose the wrong city; you chose just about the best city in the country.

A brief history of where you are: Native Americans lived here at least as far back as 3,000 years ago, and then in 1851 a bunch of Europeans landed in West Seattle on a beach you'll surely end up on at a bonfire party sometime. In no time, these white guys and their children's children were getting rich chopping down trees and selling them, and then there were hookers, and then there was a gold rush, and then there were more hookers, and then a shipbuilding boom, and still there were hookers, and then there was World War II, which is really the reason you and me and this newspaper you're reading are here at all (because Boeing built the bombers), and there were still more hookers, some of them male.

And then there was a World's Fair, which is why we have the Space Needle, and then a black kid from Seattle named Jimi Hendrix picked up a guitar and did a bunch of drugs and choked to death on his own vomit, and then a white kid from Seattle named Bill started this company called Microsoft on the other side of Lake Washington, and then a white kid in a rock band called Nirvana wrote some angry songs and did a bunch of drugs and shot himself in the head, which was a huge boon to Sup Pop, the Seattle label that put out Nirvana's first album, and goes some way toward explaining why Seattle has a big-deal music scene to this day.

And hookers, there are still hookers.

Now that you're up to speed, people are going to stop asking about your where-are-you-going-to-college plans and more about your what-are-you-going-to-do-with-your-life plans, and you're going to have to get good at some sort of answer. Reading Virginia Woolf books and talking about meaning in a classroom full of people who've never experienced anything only gets you so far. You're going to have to start, you know, living your life—doing things, seeing things, eating things, drinking things, fucking things.

And that's where The Stranger's Secret Student Handbook comes in. We're here to help—because, c'mon, you don't know shit. We have advice about everything from the places you'll go (Vancouver, underage clubs) to the drugs you'll do (yes to pot, no to meth) to the abortions you'll get (if you're careless) to the books you'll read (if you're stupid) to the food you'll eat (if you're cheap). The education you'll get from the city is just as—if not more—important than the education you'll get in your classes.

What's in it for us, you ask? Getting you up to speed as quickly as possible isn't a purely altruistic act. New arrivals to the area—from the first white settlers through successive waves of Californians to each year's crop of new students—tend to annoy people that were here before. No one who's been in Seattle for longer than six months wants to stand behind a recent arrival in line for coffee, or listen to you mispronounce "Alki," or wait for you to come out of your very obvious closet, or watch you descend into teenage pregnancy, meth addiction, or Scientology.

So getting new students up to speed—limiting the amount of times you hear, "What are you, new?"—isn't a favor we're doing just for you. It's something we do for ourselves.

Welcome to Seattle—let's get started. recommended