I left the Seattle area in the spring of 1990, after a three year hitch stationed at Ft. Lewis, near Tacoma. I had no idea at the time that a couple of the firms in the local area were about to explode onto the national and international scene–Microsoft was swiftly cornering a monopolist’s share of the operating software industry and Starbucks would soon become more ubiquitous than McDonald’s. Did I “get in on the ground floor” of either one? Of course not. A few years later, I was in Austin, Texas, just as Dell Computer was making a big splash in the PC markets. Missed out on that one, too. It would be a sad tale, if I cared. But I don’t. I got from the Seattle and Austin excursions all that I was seeking. I never had a mind in life to getting rich. I just wanted to maybe figure it out a bit, and living in those places helped me along in that quest.
I remember there being a lot of coffee shops in the Seattle area. I attributed it to the weather. When the sky is relentlessly grey and cloudy six to eight straight months every year, with “sun breaks” coming only occasionally, if at all, coffee, or some other stimulant, is about the only way to brighten the outlook. Other places aren’t so gloomy as Seattle, but this post-modern era is suffused with a patina of despair of the sort that grey skies naturally compel, so I wasn’t surprised when Starbucks, one of many coffee houses in the city, was able to expand from its Seattle base. I think I drank a cup of coffee (not latte or cappuccino or whatever else passes for caffeinated coffee based beverages these days) at the original store. Or maybe it was just one of the original stores. I don’t know. It’s been a long time. But telling people I maybe did makes for a good story here in Alabama, even if I never go to Starbucks any more, and really can’t understand why anyone would.
I also remember there being a lot of bars. Not so many churches, but lots and lots of bars–pretty much one on every street corner or in every strip-mall parking lot. By the time the settlers made it to the Pacific Northwest, it seems they were not motivated by the same Puritanical ideas as the pilgrims on the Northeast coast. They came for something else than freedom from religious persecution.
At the time I was in the area, I think there were more bars than coffee shops, which to me makes sense, especially thinking about it now. Drinking intoxicating beverages in the company of others, even others whom you didn’t know before you started drinking with them, has always been a good way to banish gloom. It’s even better when done around a pool table or dart board. I never much got the coffee shop thing. There’s only the coffee and the laptop. It seems it would be as lonely as staying at home. Of course, there was no such thing as laptops when I was last in Seattle.
I’m making the trip back as something of a belated honeymoon/fiftieth birthday celebration for my wife. I have no real desire to see Seattle again. It’s a long airplane ride to visit what amounts to a city that’s sure to be pretty much like any other in the US, or really anywhere in the developed world. Globalization has really taken the edge off things. Coca Cola, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Apple, Starbucks–they’re pretty much everywhere. The colonization of the world by European capitalists (or capitalists of European ancestry) has got to be more or less complete by now. But the old developed world of which Seattle is a part will soon enough crumble, to be replaced by another shiny new one. I think my personality is better suited for the creation phase than the decrepit phase of the societal arc. I wish I’d been born about a hundred years earlier or a hundred years later. And I wish I weren’t going to Seattle to just idle away the time.
I might or might not post some thoughts while I’m there. I’m not much of a travel guide.