This is the city where I was born. It's not a view of it that you see much, but I wanted to share it because it reveals a couple of things about Seattle, Washington. What you see here in the entire downtown from the foot of Queen Anne hill to the left, to the industrial district or "SODO" (South of the Dome) to the right. You could walk from one end to the other in about a half an hour. It's a mid-sized American city for all intents and purposes.
I used to work in architecture (not as an architect) and I could name most of the buildings downtown - I did some photography and was lucky enough to get into and even on top of a lot of the skyline in the late 1980s. But the city has grown and changed like all cities do and that place is gone now, the landmarks of my youth torn down and replaced by some shiny box to house the next Amazon spin off I suppose.
I was downtown again the last time I was out and what struck me was how small Seattle is. Narrow downtown streets, narrow sidewalks...not many people to be seen, quiet after dark. The other thing that really struck me was how the character of the city has changed. I used to think we Seattleites were nice and genteel, sophisticated, worldly...But life in Toronto has exposed that in general, while a very liberal town, it is also a very "provincial" town with all the NIMBY suspicions you'd expect to find in small-town America. The tech millionaires go home to their protected communities and their exclusive lifestyles in their BMWs while all over the city transients live in run-down mobile homes, or under the freeways in tents and everyone's angry about it and no one wants to own the problem, let alone attempt a compassionate solution.
I really only come home for parents, other family and a few friends that remain here. But a lot of them are looking to get out. They don't recognize Seattle anymore either. What's complicated is that this isn't a change that's come about because of immigration or some external force. The change in Seattle is one brought on by the success and wealth and greed of Americans and it is duplicating itself in cities like San Francisco and New York. These places are becoming the shimmering bastions of the elite, and just like in days of old, outside their castle walls, the peasants eek out a living on the scraps left behind.
In my youth, I helped build a city where artists and workers and intellectuals could all do their thing, but that city is gone now. It's shell is prettier than ever, but it is hollow inside. Goodbye Seattle.