If you’ve read these columns for any length of time, you may be surprised to learn I don’t care for the vast majority of U.S. cities, including celebrated centers like Baltimore, Houston, Minneapolis and Miami. I absolutely detest Los Angeles and Phoenix.
Be that as it may, I’m very fond of New York City, which you probably realize – if you’ve read these columns for any length of time. Specifically, Manhattan. Make no mistake, this wayward columnist simply adores Manhattan.
There are a few other cities I’m rather fond of. Places like Richmond, Va., San Francisco and New Orleans. The “Big Easy” is generally just another polluted, congested, urban mess, except for the French Quarter – a 20-block district in the immediate downtown area – which is one of the most wonderful places I’ve ever lived. Closer to home, I also like Seattle. For the last 40-plus years, I’ve spent a great deal of time there; I can trace the evolution of my mind and personality through various scenes, sites and taverns scattered about the Emerald City, from the hippie trip in the Blue Moon through the disco days in Pioneer Square to the grunge thing in Belltown. Then, of course, there’s the Pike Place Market, which is quite simply one of the most splendid inner-city districts in America. Other cities boast their farmers’ markets, but most of these are only feeble copies of Seattle’s and have no real history behind them.
I used to live in an old wino hotel directly across from the market. (This was a long time ago; pre-gentrification, so to speak.) It was a marvelous place to live. I shared morning coffee with the fishermen and flower people and watched the bustling scene come to life around me.
Relative to other urban centers, there’s an enormous amount of money in Seattle and this never hurts. Two of the richest people on the planet live there and it’s home to some of the most profitable, cutting-edge corporations in the world; i.e., Boeing, Microsoft and Amazon, to name a few. Consequently, while many cities are on the brink of economic disaster or are literally dying – for instance, Detroit and Newark – Seattle’s financial base is pretty sound. Construction work and the labor force it commands are plowing ahead. They’ll soon start boring a new freeway under the viaduct which, of course, will be torn down, thereby opening and connecting the city’s retail and financial centers directly to the waterfront – and what a glorious improvement that will be.
Under the guidance of Microsoft and Amazon and Paul Allen, the South Lake Union area is going through a major renaissance, tripling the region’s population and throwing up highrise office buildings and condos at an astounding rate. And how about those new, upscale towers that are sprouting all over Belltown? The post-punk, grunge mutants are being forced off their “home turf.” The city’s unemployment rate is relatively low. Housing construction is picking up and home prices are rising as are real-estate prices in general.
The future of Seattle looks bright. So, if you’re one of those outta step fellows or gals who can’t seem to find yourself on the farms or in the suburbs, give city life a whirl. And try Seattle. It isn’t in the same league as San Francisco and New York, but it’s a good place to start.