From the Birthplace of Grunge to the Capital of Unnecessary Consumption — Seattle

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Pike Place Market Photo © Milo Denison

I first moved to Seattle in the fall of 1997, right as the grunge movement was winding down along with the death of Kurt Cobain in 1994. Wanting to fit into my new city properly I got a job at a Starbucks as a Barista. My two new closest friends were both gay. And, I began to hang out at proper coffee shops like Vivace on Capitol Hill (formerly in a cool red brick building, now torn down for a light rail station), go to dance clubs like Neighbors, comedy clubs like Laughs in the U District, and date girls with tattoos and nipple rings. Seattle had the right balance of access to nature and water with the Cascades on one side and the Puget Sound on the other. It had cool movie venues like The Seven Gables (now closed) showing art house films that a young actor like myself wanted to be in. I started listening to obscure music before hipsters turned the love of obscure music into being a douchebag, and I fell in love with my new city.

A few years later my first computer with its slow dial-up internet connection gave me access to, the website I might order a book from if my local bookstore such as Elliott Bay Book company or one of the city’s many second hand bookshops didn’t have a copy of what I was after.

After living there long enough to become a native Seattleite (a joke true Seattleites would get), I got my corporate job, preferring a nice car, my own condo, and being able to afford a vacation over waking up before it was light out to go make lattes for the overly self-involved pretentious Starbucks customers. The ones who thought it was nice that the barista working could remember their 1/3rd decaf no foam latte, but really the barista only remembered it because they came in at the same time five days a week, and ordered the same drink.

That corporate job of mine lead me to work in the South Lake Union area; the part of Seattle that once housed the Navy Reserve Armory, next to my favorite place, the Wooden Boat Center where you could see the historic Wawona (demolished for lack of restoration funds). South Lake Union was full of old buildings such as the Seattle Times building built in 1931 and mostly demolished in 2017 for a condo complex. There were a few cool bars and some restaurants like 13 Coins which was open 24hrs and is now not open at all. And of course, a few homes that those without means were able to live in and still manage to afford while living in Seattle. Walking around South Lake Union was a joy for someone in love with places that have character and a story behind them. Sadly, I watched over the years as all the old brick buildings and warehouses got torn down to be replaced with cookie-cutter office buildings to house the Amazon employees working for the ever-expanding company. The affordable restaurants in the area were no longer needed as the company provided lunches for its employees, and they could afford the overpriced bars being built on the ground floor of each new building, so the rest of us had to move farther out of the city center for a reasonably priced microbrew.

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Schooner Wawona Photo © Milo Denison

The old wooden and brick homes that had been part of the neighborhood since the original seven hills of Seattle were dynamited away and flattened, have been demolished and replaced with eight-story buildings next to seven-story office buildings, next to nine-story condos so the Amazon employees don’t have far to walk each night after a long day in the office. Welcome to the new Bellevue.

The cost of living in Seattle has skyrocketed and now thanks to Seattle City council greed and Jeff Bezos desire to become a real-world Bond villain, the city I love has gone from the art house of the Pacific Northwest to the new Silicon Valley. Facebook, Google, and Expedia are all moving in, forcing out local landmarks like the Moore Theatre, The Highway 99 Blues Club, and the historic Showbox which is on life-support.

Seattle was known for Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam, but now is the place where you can see Bruce and Brandon Lees graves before hopping on the light rail to get yourself a meal at a hip yet soulless restaurant for lunch, where you can order a beyond meat burger with organic cheese on it for twenty dollars, because you are the new Seattle, and those who miss the soul and character of Seattle can enjoy a new life in a tent under I5.

Milo Denison is a former office monkey, a freelance writer, and his most recent book “How to Manage Your Manager” is out now

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