We all like a romantic tale. Man loses woman, man goes on national radio and makes bold statement about his loss, man declares he is looking for someone new. Hundreds of single women respond to mans plea on live radio. Man eventually finds woman to love in the form of ‘Annie’
All ends happily ever after.
My story of Seattle is something quiet different, there’s no Tom Hanks, no Meg Ryan and I won’t be going on live radio anytime soon. I didn’t find my true love here and unlike the character of Sam Baldwin in the film Sleepless in Seattle, I do in fact know what ‘tiramisu’ is. Just incase you didn’t, here’s what it is
Tiramisu is a popular coffee-flavoured Italian custard dessert. It is made of ladyfingers dipped in coffee, layered with a whipped mixture of eggs, sugar, and mascarpone cheese, flavoured with cocoa
(Description: Wikipedia) Tiramisu
When I think of Seattle I always think of the same few thing, Frasier the popular 90’s TV sitcom, Starbucks, the birth place of the mega coffee chain who continue to misspell my name on their cups and the constant drizzle of rain. Not forgetting of course that namesake film half the nation fell in love with and the film that I’ve been told if you continue to mention it in Seattle, you’ll probably get kicked out.
I’ll stay quiet.
First on my list was Frasier, I had looked up to Dr Crane for most of my childhood, he was a voice of sitcom reason. Filmed and based in Seattle … wait no! Only one episode of Frasier was shot in Seattle, Hence, that one is pretty accurate… Otherwise, this series is an accurate depiction of any big US city radio presenter who lives with his dad. My source of Seattle knowledge had let me down and I was heartbroken.
However, after spending a few days here in late March I realised theres a lot more to Seattle than meets the eye. A lot more than the stigma of that film. More than just a quick coffee and go, more than Dr Frasier Crane and his dog.
Seattle is a city full of addicts, addicts of all ages and all variations, the drug of choice however, comes in the form of Java, and its main dealer Starbucks. Obviously it’s an easy city to stay hooked up to the good stuff, wifi surrounds the city thanks to the multitude of Starbucks and other houses that offer it completely free of charge. It’s a way of life here, you simply can’t escape it, it’s a destination for the day ahead.
The coffee culture in Seattle is one of the biggest across the USA, it started back in the 1960’s university district. This was a popular place for artist, poets, writers and people alike. Years later in 1971 three coffee addicts realised there was a gap in the market for something bigger in the coffee world. Today, we know this gap as Starbucks. Of course though there are two sides to every caffeine related story.
In the early 90’s the city fought back against the mass produced morning kick. More independent houses started to pop up favouring speciality coffees, a better bean and quality over quantity.
Today, half of the city are perpetual Starbucks fans, preferring the mass chain for its reliability, quick hit and familiar logo. The other niche half are in favour of the local, independent variety. Mainly for the quality of the bean and a less ‘in your face’ coffee break.
I visited both whilst here, and after my brief encounter with a resident Starbucks fan ( more like me grilling him for answers) I found that most of the people who prefer Starbucks were not from Seattle but had resided her for work or other reasons.
I entered a Starbucks just off the corner of Pike Place market, expecting to be greeted by a mass of green caped baristas, a haze filled room and a Jack Johnson acoustic sound playing. Instead a hand full of baristas where all busy making much in demand coffees to the sound of Mariah Carey’s Heart Breaker, unusually loud for 9am. Strangely welcoming though. I noticed at least 10 or more people singing along to Maria’s number 1 hit, not including the staff or myself. I will agree though, it made the coffee taste better.
It took about 10 minutes for the barista to understand what I wanted due to my overly British accent. ‘you sound so formal’ he said.
I’ll let him off though, they spelt my name correctly.
I sat myself next to a man in the window whilst having my coffee hoping he wouldn’t start a conversation, I was still heavily jet lagged and it’s sometimes difficult to maintain a worthwhile conversation in this state.
He looked up at me, smiled and apologised for having his laptop and magazines directly in front of me. After a few seconds of awkward conversation, basically me trying to explain that I didn’t mind where he put his stuff, he too realised from the accent that Dorothy wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Id been fairly coherent and polite so I knew this was my chance to ask, what was it about Seattle, that really made it different from the stigma involved.
I found out he had moved her from California in a bid to escape lala land and grow up. Well, that’s what he told me, along with the property prices being much lower than the Silicone Valley I assumed. We had a 30 minute exchange of opinions about why he had moved from California to Seattle, explaining to me that he often took the Californian weather for granted so the drizzle and grey appearance didn’t bother him. He was however wearing a pair of sunglasses on his head. Hoping for some sun maybe?
Don’t be put off by the mysterious layer of fog early in the morning along with the constant drizzle of rain he said. We are not in Forks, this is Seattle. It has less rainfall than New York and Boston.
Surely that can’t be right?
I observed that nobody carried an umbrella, so it can’t be that bad? however it’s probably the coldest I’ve been for about 2 months.
I had asked him what he thought of people who where originally from Seattle? His reply. ‘ I’m not sure I know any’ Very few exist in the city. He’d told me he got a frosty reception when he first arrived, but not to worry as the people of Seattle soon thaw out. I had hoped he was correct.
Seattle is a free city, the streets are filled with liberal thinking artists. Seatalites fight for what they believe in, they protest often and are people who have a real love for their city.
It was the first major city to elect a female mayor, Bertha Knight Landes back in 1926 and remaining true to its beliefs in equal rights, I’m happy to say that during the recent election they too were ‘with her’.
It’s a proud city, the streets are clean and well looked after. People are polite and clearly well educated. I got an over the top ‘good morning m’am, how are you today?’ from the security guard who opened the door for me at Barnes and Noble. Could these people get any more polite? It almost made me jealous of how conscious they are of each other’s feelings. No body gives a shit in London!
It’s a fact that taking care of the community is a priority here in Seattle. You get a hefty fine for jaywalking and motorists refrain from using their horn. Local police have been known to ticket people who feel the need to honk unnecessarily, all contributing to making Seattle the 4th safest city across the USA. I can’t deny that I saw a few cops arresting people and throwing on the cuffs whilst here. Maybe they had Jaywalked? I don’t know? you draw your own conclusion if you think it’s safe or not?!
Seattle has adopted a zero net emissions by 2050′ goal set by the City Council. The urge to recycle, conserve water and drive less followed not long after. Seattle being one of the first few city’s to push for this kind of ethical policy, San Francisco being the first. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all have this mentality?
So what is it that makes Seattle great? Apart from the coffee, speaking of which, if I don’t see a Starbucks cup for at least a week, I’ll be a happy girl. Well on the surface, the architecture, the history, the celebrity are all the fundamentals of a great city, but really, here it’s the people. There is more than just rain and romantic films, wether born here or not, you are part of the infrastructure that make it what it is.
Next time you have your coffee, make it your destination for the day, think about listening to Mariah Carey and maybe you’ll get that caring Seattle mentality in you, maybe think about suppressing the road rage in you and not honking your horn, because you don’t really need to. Maybe think about the environment and walk instead, who knows what would happen?
From a far too much coffee an a pleasantly surprised April x