Thursday, August 1, 2013

In My Little Town

I've always been a city person, loving the rush and color and excitement of urban streets. Now if I want that adrenaline surge, I go to another country. It doesn't have to be on another continent--Vancouver B.C. works just fine.

In my city, the streets are hazardous. I used to love walking downtown. Now I'm always on the lookout so I don't step in human excrement. How did this come to pass?

When I borrow books from the library, I bring them home and pop them into my little freezer compartment for three days. When they come back out, they go in a ziplock bag when I'm not reading them. Below-freezing temperatures kill bedbugs after three days, a librarian at the University of Washington was quoted as saying. The eggs live on until a second freezing period takes place--that's why I use a ziplock bag.

We have a world-famous library downtown. I rarely go there anymore. It's a hangout for people who have nowhere else to go; they fill computer stations and tables and reading areas on every floor. While I'm glad they have a place to go, they make me sad and when I'm browsing the stacks on upper levels, they make me uneasy. I go to my little neighborhood library instead, requesting that books from other branches be transferred there. If you think I'm exaggerating, do a google search for the illuminating article about the Rem Koolhas-designed public library that was published in the Atlantic shortly after I returned to Seattle almost two years ago. Things haven't changed a bit since 2011; in fact they are worse.

A bus ride on the King County Metro system is something few people experience unless they have to. I've never owned a car or even a driver's licence, but after being on the same bus as a naked man wrapped only in a blanket, or with a man who vomited in front of the driver instead of presenting his fare, or having a man profusely bleeding from the face argue vociferously for his right to embark, or sitting beside countless pitbulls, I'm beginning to wish I could afford a chauffeur.

My neighborhood has its share of indigent people with personality disorders, and the sidewalks are cracked and uneven. Even so the concrete is clean and all kinds of people walk on it--it's a pedestrian's area. Few people panhandle or sit on the sidewalks with their bags and their dogs and their cardboard signs. I rarely leave the boundaries of Chinatown--unless I go to another country.

Seattle is supposed to be one of America's most livable cities--if you live in a buffered version of it. Otherwise find a neighborhood you love and stay there.