I was on Capitol Hill last Monday. And I was on a bit of a tirade.
With the light rail station set to open early next year and, to my surprise, street car test trains rolling through as I crossed Pine at Broadway, I had finally lost all patience with the popular refrain that the cool arts neighborhood had lost its soul.
With mass transit converging on the neighborhood, it's hard to imagine that Capitol Hill isn't, in fact, about to get a serious soul upgrade. The protected bike lanes, the incredible independent book store, the 24-hour diner, and the art nooks don't hurt either.
I had met up with a friend that Monday, and, as you can only do in a lively neighborhood, we simply let the city currents whisk us away, landing at one electric spot after another.
It's Sunday night now, and I'm right back in the thick of Capitol Hill's arts district. After standing in a line that stretched down 11th, I'm at a sold out show for a critically acclaimed weirdo hip hop act—live drum kit, funk bass, demented keys, and gay R&B rap crooner Syd tha Kid singing ballads about Ferguson.
Yes, the witchcraft bookstore on Pike is gone and Linda's is crammed in by condos and there are plenty of fancy foodie restaurants around now, but the idea that Pike/Pine isn't as inspiring and eclectic and thrumming as it used to be is a curmudgeon's delusion.
Is Capitol Hill growing? Yes. (More than a third of the 2,751 units built in the Pike/Pine corridor in the last 20 years were constructed in the last year and a half.) Is it more expensive? Yes. I've lived on Capitol Hill for nearly 17 years, and my rent has doubled—and I live in a much smaller apartment than I used to. But is there a diverse, bohemian, crowd jammed into Neumos on a Sunday night? Yes. Are there writers and artists jammed into the coffee shops and cafes just up the block? Yes. Are drinks being served to earnest confabulating know-it-alls at bars across the street? Yes. Are first dates lingering over food trucks? Yes.
Are the old days gone? By definition, yes. But despite the self righteous nostalgia, people are still getting whisked away into the city action.
I was going to keep this rant to myself. But an op/ed in yesterday's NYT trashing the standard sentiment that New York's East Village just isn't what it used to be resonated.
It includes these great paragraphs:
My theory is that the neighborhood hasn’t stopped being cool because it’s too expensive now; it stops being cool for each generation the second we stop feeling cool there. Any claim to objectivity is clouded by one’s former glory.
I know this well. As a teenage girl in the 1990s East Village, every door was open to me and my friends. There was no party we could not crash, no person we could not make out with and no intoxicant we would not be offered. The city was ours. In the pre-Giuliani era, a fellow East Village woman reminds me, “You could still piss on the street.” Having been a teenager in the East Village is like having been president. Whatever else you do, you can’t stop thinking about how you no longer run the world.
When I asked nostalgic people to name the street’s golden era, they cited a range of years — often falling between 1960 and 1982, but sometimes 1945, or 1958, or 2012. A Vassar student told me that St. Marks Place died with the fairly recent closing of the Starbucks at Cooper Union. “I came back from break,” he said, “and it was gone. We used to hang out there and get cups and fill them with strawberry champagne and feel glamorous. There’s no room for life to be lived there now.”
I began to notice a pattern: The years people said the city was at its best almost always coincided with when they themselves were at their hottest, typically in their late teens or early 20s. For me, too, the memories from my key teen years in the 1990s pop like a Technicolor movie alongside black-and-white snapshots. ...
Who understands the soul of any place? Who deserves to be here? Who is the interloper and who the interloped-upon? Who can say which drunk N.Y.U. student stumbling down St. Marks Place will wind up writing the next classic novel or making the next great album? It’s hubris to think you can tell by looking at them. The beloved artist Keith Haring, whose giant green sculpture now stands on the corner of St. Marks and Third Avenue, spray-painted “Clones Go Home” on the borders of the East Village in 1980 to try to protect it from invasion by some of the same people who now feel invaded.
Okay, I know you're not reading Fizz for my sociological analysis, so back to the awesome political gossip:
•Former mayor Mike McGinn held a fundraiser at his Greenwood home on Friday night for Kshama Sawant.
•In other campaign news: Turnout in Seattle was only at 15 percent as of Friday. That's a little low, but as people are more and more used to mail-in ballots, it's still likely turnout will match average off-year counts of 50 plus percent. The highest turnout so far is in districts Three (Capitol Hill), Six (Ballard), and Seven (Downtown), at 18 percent, 16 percent, and 16 percent respectively.
• Activists calling on the Gates Foundation to divest from fossil fuels have gotten 10 of this year's city council candidates to sign a letter calling on the foundation, along with the city's retirement fund, and the UW to divest.
The candidates are: Lisa Herbold in District One, Tammy Morales in District Two, Pamela Banks and Kshama Sawant in District Three, Rob Johnson and Micheal Maddux in District Four, Sandy Brown in District Five, Mike O'Brien in District Six, Jon Grant in Position Eight, and Bill Bradburd in Position Nine.