Punk Is Dead

By Shannon Stewart June 29, 2011

PubliCola asked a number of local personalities to answer the question: "How Has Seattle Changed?" It was an open-ended question. How has the city changed for better or worse; on a grand scale or on a personal scale; in the last 10 years; in the last 10 minutes? Today, we asked longtime local choreographer and Vera Project co-founder Shannon Stewart to weigh in.

I sent my friend Annie, who was visiting from San Francisco, this text message at 7:09pm:

“I’m writing about what has changed in Seattle in the last ten years. If you send me two things, I’ll be able to meet up with you sooner.”

Annie moved here in 1999 to go to school at the University of Washington and, in large part, to be one of the student activists who would shut the WTO down on November 30. In 2003 she moved away. I figured she had a good frame of reference for this short essay.

Annie writes back, “globe is gone. condos on cap hill and there is a freaking monorail! Call me when you are done.”

Annie more or less states the obvious (though you’ve confused the light rail with the monorail, Annie. What has happened to our fair monorail in the past ten years is that Frank Gehry designed the Experience Music Project around it. Then in 2005, the two monorail trains crashed into each other and caught fire in the midst of a heated public transportation debate about funding a citywide monorail service).

Her mention of the Globe Cafe (not the Seattle P-I Globe), however, took me back to when the Vera Project had weekly staff meetings over vegan biscuits swimming in yeasty gravy on Wednesdays at the Globe Cafe on Capitol Hill. Here, without fail, we would run into Annie and her anarchist affinity group having their book club get togethers. Ahhhhh, the Globe. My friend once had an earwig in his gravy and still we always went back.

Where does this activity live now, I wonder? Where can you eat a pile of vegan food for under $6, drink bottomless coffee with soy milk, and discuss Marxist politics while someone incoherently plays an out-of-tune piano?

I think most people would say the Georgetown neighborhood, and it’s true, every time I find myself in Gerogetown inevitably having a daytime meal at a bar, it feels not just like time travel, but like a homecoming. Looking around the neighborhood, it seems as like I have stumbled upon the folks that used to be all around me on Olive, Pike and Pine.

My neighborhood, Capitol Hill, is like a friend whom I’ve grown up with. When I look at how it’s changed, it’s like looking into a harsh mirror and viewing my own evolution. Gone are the afternoons spent flipping through every CD and album in the bins at Fallout Records, making the veggie scramble from the Green Cat Café last for two days of meals, stumbling into the Cha Cha at 1am to get free drinks from my bartender friend, and then dragging my ass to Michele Miller’s advanced Modern Dance Class at the Odd Fellows Building,  hair still wreaking of smoke (yeah, pre-smoking ban!). Gone are the days marching in or watching the Pride Parade start at the south end of Broadway and make its way toward Volunteer Park.

In 2011, I’m part of the yoga-mat-toting, thirty-something crowd, content to spend $5 on my dark chocolatey coffee with an apricot finish, another $17 on steak tartare, and go home to Netflix instead of frequenting one of the handful of independent theaters hanging on by a thread to their leases in this neighborhood. I too am hanging on by a thread to an affordable rental in this neighborhood and considering moving to Portland while watching my city get one big condo-fied facelift.

Maybe this is why I’ve been sentimental about the sidewalk at 10th and Pike outside the Comet, as of late. It smells disgusting there. Like the bottom of skunky kegs, a million old ashtrays, garbage and vomit. The gum sticking to the sidewalk could be from the '90s and I can’t stop long enough to read a poster in that vicinity before the smell of the Dumpsters makes my stomach turn.

Here, I have a glimmer of hope that in the process of growing into inevitably healthier, more materialistic, well-groomed, dog obsessed, sophisticated urban consumers, Capitol Hill and I will always have this corner---this place inside us that can’t change, can’t be co-opted, made pretty, and sold back to us. A place that can at best set up a hot dog stand and feed the masses of drunk show-goers stumbling around our streets.

Shannon Stewart is a choreographer, dancer and writer working in Seattle and Portland. She co-founded the Vera Project, the All-ages Movement Project, and wrote In Every Town, an All-Ages Music Manualfesto. In the Fall of 2011, Shannon will further explore memory and memory loss of neighborhoods in a three month Seattle Storefront Residency in collaboration with filmmaker Adam Sekuler.
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