Drummond & Son, in the October 7 ish of the New Yorker, spins a sodden tale of my town, and I thought it was nailed. The geography is right, for example; and while Mr. D’Ambrosio locates his typewriter shop in Belltown, there was just such a shop about four blocks from where I live, that’s now become a fine drinking establishment specializing in European beers.
I read the story in my living room, on the couch, as a fine fall rainstorm lowered our famous clouds above, a down comforter. I should have shouldered into a tweed and stepped outside, just to get the smell right as I read.
While I did not note any specific pop-culture clues to the time-setting of the story, I’d guess it was just about the time I moved here or a couple of years after. The city felt like the story feels – isolate, wet, distant, a reserved neighborliness – even chilliness – in the place of the yammering aggression that fuels most American cities.
If our recession stays the course, that’s something that might return, I hope. I liked it here then. I liked the fact that buses were expected to be a part of the middle-class landscape and that poets and musicians could bump into one another in used book stores. Maybe that city’s still out there.
Our air is noticeably fouler now than it was five years ago. As I’ve written here before, our governmental apparatus is in a state of paralysis, preferring to close libraries and launch smear campagns at various wings of themeselves than to support good ideas and execute them well in the public interest. Perhaps that listless stupidity is, as the story implies, Seattle’s child. I hope not.
Mr. D’Ambrosio is interviewed here. Oh, look. A quote:
“Writing about the Pacific Northwest is a funny phenomenon, particularly being from Seattle. The Seattle that I have an allegiance to was a desperately unhappy place. It’s not the Seattle that over the last ten years has evolved to become a place that, at least in the States, has a kind of national prominence. Particularly grunge music has focused attention on the place. It’s really the Seattle of the 70’s that I grew up in which had the highest unemployment rate in the country; it was a dump. There was a big sign above the freeway saying, “Will the last person leaving Seattle please turn out the lights.” People were leaving in droves. Boeing [airplane manufacturer] had laid off a huge amount of people and the real estate market was totally depressed. Nothing was going on. And that’s the city that I actually still look for in a way, even though it has become hidden by the coffee shops. ”
UPDATE, Father’s Day, 2016. Fixed bitrotted NYer link.