Seattle's Best (Part I)

By Glenn 

Seattle is arguably the most beautiful city in America. Imprisoned on one side by the Pacific Ocean and the other by the Cascade Mountains, it symbolizes the Pacific Northwest better than its bastard cousin Portland ever could. While I'll always hate the latter for stealing two best friends from me (and costing me several hundred dollars as I basically funded their moves), I love the former because it doesn't take, only gives. It gave the world Nirvana, Pearl Jam, US Interior Secretary Gary Locke and Seattle's Best coffee. Along with Tully's and Starbucks, it was one of the three big coffee places to start here but is now almost out of business from too much coffee competition. There is an analogy to be drawn from this and through this article we will find it.

The reaction from my last travelogue, Talkin' New York, was muted yet intense. I received a letter from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, announcing he was going to spend over $100 million of his personal fortune in a quest to "defeat" One Year in Texas. My friend Scott reenlisted in the Army to become one of "Obama's Veterans" from the war in Afghanistan. Hundreds of Mets fans threw batteries at the visiting Houston Astros.

My review of Seattle will be a little different because I have more access to pictures. This will allow you to form a stronger emotional connection to my trip, in the same way seeing the pictures from Abu Ghraib made us think the US treatment of prisoners was wrong even though much worse acts had been and will be committed against Muslims across the world before our country collapses in 2015. They were just never photographed.

My trip actually began with a similar emotional connection to a young woman sitting next to me on the plane. We discussed the Catholic sex scandal, my idolization of Peter Krause, and why I didn't believe in god. The conversation ended with us both pledging to convert to each other's religion for one year. Aside from the time I sat next to a Qatari diplomat, it was the best plane conversation I'd ever had and kicked the trip off righter than it should have been considering I missed my original flight and once again had to get a full cavity search by airport security.

Stepping off the plane, I again broke my leg - the plane hadn't connected to the terminal yet - but what felt even more intense than that pain was the beautiful landscape surrounding me. Seattle is surrounded by mountains even more beautiful than those of West Virginia whose mountaintops have been removed in a polite desire for coal. The air was brisk and instead of being surrounded by people of Spanish descent in California, it is Asian Americans whose smiles permeate the cityscape.

I took the light link rail from the airport to Keelin's house in South Beacon Hill. Though prevalent amongst many West Coast cities, this was my first time ever on this Little Metro That Could, powered not by West Virginian dirty coal but the cleanest electricity that can be transmitted through cables above the rail. The fact that I missed the stop to Keelin's house and ended up traveling all the way into downtown Seattle should not be taken as an indictment of electric rail but rather a testimony to the entrancing quality of Julian Casablancas's solo album "Phrazes for the Young."

Keelin's house is in a neighborhood full of Somali immigrants and owned by her brother. They both live there. What's up with adult siblings living together? It's the new college graduates moving back in with their parents, minus the curfews and groundings. Keelin's brother Matt bought a house in this neighborhood because Somali immigrants are immune from deportation (he is an officer for ICE) and she moved back to Seattle after getting mugged one too many times in the mean streets of Washington DC. I first met her on the internet and Facebook, but we became real life friends once I found out she loved the Kindle as much as I do. She turned that love into a career, working in downtown Seattle for Amazon.

Friday night was the much anticipated Spoon concert at the Moore Theatre and I spent most of the day listening to the new Spoon album Transference in preparation. Keelin was upset because I didn't do any exploring in Little Mogadishu while she was at work, but I didn't feel like dragging myself through the streets and none of these neighbors were about to do it for me. I did however manage to ride a city bus (also powered via electrical lines) all the way into downtown. My last bus ride in Los Angeles ended with a giant bus/airplane explosion, but the only disturbance here was a rowdy group of teens and working class people. The driver pulled over and said if they couldn't quiet down she would not move the bus one inch further. This was a comforting reminder that racial minorities in Seattle are no different than white children from small town Illinois.

Before the concert, we had dinner at a fancy restaurant downtown. I was able to find a vegetarian offering of Potato Gnocchi for $16, but unable to find a way to trick people thinking into I knew how to pronounce it. Keelin and I were joined by another friend Kika (the best friend of a best friend) and two of her entourage. During the dinner discussion I found out a lot more about the "real" Seattle from its natives - the kind of history you won't see on the city's website. For instance, did you know that Green River killer Gary Ridgeway started the first grunge band - even before Temple of the Dog? Much like the beautiful music Charles Manson made with the Beach Boys, this is swept under the rug like a proverbial dead prostitute or teenage runaway.

The most disturbing part of the dinner besides Kika's revelation that she never had a Bat Mitzvah was when I found out that the Moore Theatre was a seated venue. In a list of crimes against humanity, seated rock concerts are at least in the top one or two million. With the exception of lo-fi bands like Iron & Wine or Mindless Self Indulgence, I do not go to my rock concerts to sit and listen. I go to sing along and, if allowed in that particular Christian-dominated locale, dance. A seated concert prohibits both of these and destroys the energy of rock and roll more than Richard Nixon ever could.

We took our seats as Deerhunter began their set. If you aren't familiar with them, you're just like me. I had heard good things but was in no way prepared for their set or the closing song - a bizarre, extended ode to Kurt Cobain. For you see, the day we were watching them perform was sixteen years to the day Kurt Cobain was found dead at his Seattle home from a gunshot wound to the head. Deerhunter's front man gave an extended soliloquy about how he cried upon hearing the news at age twelve, how he had wished so badly for Cobain to come down from heaven with a flaming guitar to smite his bullies and how he was now here in front of us at age 27 on this morbid anniversary. "I never thought I'd be 27" he spoke to haunting background of guitars drums, keyboards and theremins - not unlike what you'd hear at a Brian Wilson show covering Nirvana. If you're wondering why the math doesn't add up - age 12 plus sixteen years equals 28 not 27 - leave it alone. The evidence for Cobain's suicide never added up either but we all let Courtney Love walk among us anyway.
Kurt Cobain's House, present day

After Deerhunter finished Spoon took the stage standing up. After two songs, the audience - in a mass uprising so beautiful it reminded me of the Vietnam Moratorium of October 15, 1969 - joined them. Initially a small group of forty people in front of us remained sitting while the rest of the theatre stood in honor of Spoon. They no doubt considered themselves some sort of silent majority, in opposition to the loud youths who spat on everything they believed in. But just like in 1969 they were wrong -- and killed by the Weather Underground. The concert itself was great but not quite spectacular, just like Spoon's newest record. I'm just thankful I was able to stand and sing during it.

Thus ends Part I. Check out part II tomorrow where I meet Keelin's father and Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard!


  1. You call the light rail "the little metro that could," which is the same nickname I gave you!

    This was another great article, Glenn. Unlike my articles, this one is founded in reality. Plus, you know the names of more serial killers than I do, so I probably should stick to fantastic tales of ICP and Circuit City.

  2. I assure you, Jake, this article is no more than 40% reality. Plus you left out all the sexually explicit parts of that Dearhunter singer's rant!!

  3. AND all of the sexually explicit parts of that dinner! That gnocchi looks delicious!! Did you really see Kurt Cobain's house!!! I love Glennz tripz articles, he is the OYIT generation's Bill Bryson. I'm glad you had such a good time in Seattle so that I may have one vicariously. I can't wait to hear about Stone Gossard and the mysterious murder in part II!!!!

  4. did you know peter krause was born in alexandria, mn? it's 100 miles east of fargo on i-94. the town has a nice caribou coffee, which is probably the reason seattle's best is doing so poorly.

  5. Seattle, Seattle, here come the cattle.

  6. these travel renditions are informative and enjoyable. so much so that i've canceled my platinum subscription to conde nast in hopes of more to come. but not so much that i could ever cancel my disney cruise.

  7. Did Portland really steal your friends away? Or did you run them off with your overbearing, smothering, jealous nature? You can't keep forcing your closest friends to call you every 5 minutes when they just want some time alone. BACK OFF!

  8. i would kill the lady sitting netx to me on this airplane right now for that gnocchi. she already thinks i'm creepy cos i laughed out loud a few times when reading this.


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