Seattle as Seen by a Hayseed Part One -- Fremont
Saturday, January 18, 2014
So, I've been living here for about three months, but to be honest I've been remarkably busy with taking care of selling our old house, getting our drivers' licenses and all sorts of logistical issues squared away. Not to mention a lot of overtime at work while I get trained and complete my first project. I haven't had much time to explore my new home. So, I made a resolution this year to at least get out and see some of it. These posts will catalog my adventures in Seattle.
The first thing I'll bring up is the title of this post: I didn't know a better term for someone who has lived in rural areas for a majority of their life. I'm not a redneck -- I don't really engage in a lot of Nascar, Tractor Pulls, or jumping the General Lee off a closed bridge. I'm also not a rancher kid: I don't even own a pair of cowboy boots or a cowboy hat. Full disclosure: I did spend at least fifteen years of my life riding and taking care of horses, but I was usually wearing jeans and a T-shirt. I spent one weekend a month from the age of 12 to 16 camping in a relatively "hardcore" fashion: only eating what you cooked on a campfire and sleeping in a two-person tent thanks to Boy Scouts. In most cases it was in heavily forested regions in Oklahoma or Midwest/West Texas, so it was pretty flat, usually fairly dry, and all kinds of crazy weather (below freezing or several days of consecutive hundred-degree weather).
So all things considered, living in a very dense urban environment is a huge change for me. The biggest change I had previously experienced was living in a town where I graduated 8th in my class of 42 (Prosper, TX) to one of the biggest colleges in one of the biggest states in the country (University of North Texas). But this move was significantly bigger of a deal: even in those times "going into town" was a concept, as even when I lived in an urban area it took a car ride of no less than 10 minutes through areas with little to no public transit to get to most stores. I just don't have a word for whatever that makes me, so hayseed will work for now.
Obervations about Seattle
This is the first in a multi-part series of observations about various places in the city, so in general it's going to paint pictures of the city one place at a time. But as I'm starting out, it occurs to me that I really need to establish some thoughts to give some more context on who I am in order to make sense of my observations.
There's a lot to say about Seattle in general from a variety of perspectives. I've heard it referred to as a "Big, Clean San Francisco," a "Small, Friendly New York" and "The Hippie Jewel of a Conservative State." The last one was always interesting to me, especially coming from Texas, which has Austin, Denton, and many other places I'd lived/visited that were contrary to the general cultural/ideological makeup of their surroundings. I'll be honest: it's actually been a little bit of all of those things.
In general, there's a lot of little things that are surprising to ME, but you have to understand it's coming from a very rural (suburban at the most) perspective. But being "different" from the region from whence it comes (the Pacific Northwest) is a pretty poor examination. I think it's safe to say it's got its own identity, and I'd like to explain some of that.
I heard people really liked to recycle, that the overall feel of the city was very "green." This is the understatement of the century. Words like "carbon footprint" are common knowledge to children, and I regularly see people in very expensive clothes picking up aluminum cans out of the top of the trash can and throwing them in the recycling. Almost every store, restaurant, apartment building, and public space have divided refuse bins. I did see this in Denver, but not nearly to this degree: I see them EVERYWHERE, and almost every single place has compost, recycling, and landfill. Sometimes the types of recycling are separated (at the apartment, glass has its own can, but everything else is the general recycling bin). Also, the fact that the trash specifically says "landfill" is a pretty good example of the general mental state here: they want you to be sure you know whatever you put in there is going to end up in a huge freaking pile.
The bus system is mostly a dual-power type, or what some people would call a "trolleybus" or "cable bus." Basically, it's electrically powered bus systems that connect to the power cables above the street. They also function on various forms of alternate fuels when they're not connected to the main grid: biodiesel, e85, etc. I know a lot of people might argue about the efficacy of that, if you're hooked up to the grid you're burning whatever the grid burns. In Texas, that means mostly coal and some nuclear (although increasingly wind and solar imported from West Texas). Up here, however, that mostly means hydroelectricity. Which also means that the power provided to our homes is mostly from that, so living in Seattle proper, our energy is actually remarkably inexpensive.
Another interesting aspect of living up here from an energy perspective is that the weather is much more convenient than anywhere I've ever lived. I've never had to turn on the AC, which is great, because there is none in my building. I can count on one hand the number of times that I've had to turn on the heater. Don't get me wrong, it's pretty often too hot or too cold in the apartment, but we have a great way to solve it: we open or close the window. Living in Texas, AKA the mosquito capital of the universe, that's a very refreshing experience for me.
I've heard about Fremont a lot of times before even visiting up here. The Fremont bridge troll, that Fremont was the "center of the universe," and more. Once we came up here to interview and find places to live, we went on a tour. It was then that we learned about the term "Fremonsters" for residents of the area, and that there is an annual bike parade on the Summer Solstice in which all the riders ride naked. All of these things are facts. But opinion is more interesting so lemme get into that.
I freaking love Fremont. A colleague of mine from UNT pointed out it reminded him a lot of Denton. I've actually heard some other friends tell me that, which I think is interesting. It's "weird" in the way that Austin is, as a frame of reference on my part.
There is public art everywhere. It's pretty high concept stuff in most cases. There's a huge statue of Lenin, which I didn't bother to take a picture of because there are infinite pictures of them on the internet already. But there there are spheres and rockets and all sorts of weird public shapes all over the place.
Not to mention all the cool stuff people actually do themselves and place in random places... possibly illegally.
Speaking of illegal, this sign is obscured completely, I can only assume this is not normally allowable by law.
Although some are quirky little advertisements for things that people are selling (like carpets).
A cool cultural aspect is that there are a lot of co-working places and sort of shared spaces to get things done. You see this a lot in bigger cities but the big thing I'm seeing here is that they are increasingly affordable. The cost of rent or usage fees are a fraction of the ones in NYC, even scaled for cost of living. Might be because space is not at the premium it is there (yet).
Going back to art, there are some cool art studios that crop up all over the place.
There are a lot of little shops all over the place that I honestly haven't seen anywhere else... like a cobbler.
The fact he chose "cobbler" is telling. Although cordwainer would have been cool to see too, though that usually indicates someone specializes in soft leather shoes, and this guy had a ton of things advertising his ability to repair running shoes.
And my personal favorite was Dusty's String shop, home of this very awesome harp.
They have all manner of string instruments in there. I wanted to take pictures, but par for the course of the "weird" city, a fellow with very apparent psychological issues politely asked me not to take pictures anywhere near him as he spoke to himself in a variety of tones.
When it comes to individual businesses, you'll see what you might expect, there are a ton of little indie booksellers.
But another interesting aspect of the culture is that there are actually a good deal of public services, like libraries.
These are definitely contrasted by a variety of businesses that you'll see which sell other forms of entertainment. I actually got pictures of about ten different bar signs but these were my favorites:
So anyway, there's a lot of depth to go into regarding the feel and look of the place, but to be honest I don't know how to go into it, and each picture says way more than I could have explained anyway. I'll give a little more depth of observation about Seattle in general and Fremont's particular relevance to that in the next post.