Why I'm Leaving Seattle

My wife wrote a much more moving elegy about our time in Seattle here, but we deal with loss differently, and my mode has a touch of the grape fox.


I've never loved a city the way I love Seattle. I read books about it, most of them excellent, like those below (to name just a very few). I buy her music; I read her poets, I patronize her theaters and I tell everyone I know how great she is. And she is. But I'm leaving. Here's why:

My friends left

Not all of them, mind you, but ones I liked having around. Weirdly,

  • Nancy
  • Matt
  • Brian
  • Amber
  • Jeff
  • Nhadira, and
  • Devorah

all left within a year of one another. There are some super people still here, obviously, but this exodus really took something out of my social circle.

We had the best bookstore in the world and now we don't

The closure of the Elliot Bay Book Company ripped the heart right out of the city for me. Sure, it moved to Capitol Hill, and has spearheaded a revival of that already-flourishing area, but not only is the new location not the same, it's not as good. Gone are the meandering paths, the human-scaled rooms. Gone the sense of discovery. It is still a very well-curated bookstore, but the building isn't half so winsome, the neighborhood not so fun to walk around, the used book section removed, the reading room louder, and on and on, ad nauseum.

Sure, we still have Wessel and Lieberman (now the best bookstore in the city, for my money) but it too has shrunk from it's original light-filled space on First Avenue to the hind quarters of same. And we'll always have the Magus, headquarters of the surly, dismissive help, and even little places I love like Mercer Street Books, but the Mecca, the flagship, the anchor of civic literary culture dried up all but completely.

My favorite coffee shops changed hands

Muse. There and not.

Muse. There and not.

I used to know the owner of the place I frequented most (in walking distance to my house), the Muse Coffee Co. He was friendly and cool and made great coffee. It was a neighborhood joint, and one of my de facto offices. About two years ago, he sold it to a guy who had never worked in coffee before. I was there when the previous owner showed the new owner how to make an espresso for the first time. He's probably a good guy, but he doesn't seem to like people much. It's a depressing place to be anymore: nearly always empty, and always glum. The coffee isn't anywhere near as good and neither is the atmosphere.

One year later, the same thing happened at my second-most-frequented place: Cafe Zingaro. The previous owner, who was a joy to be around and who made everyone feel at home, left. With her, half the patrons left too, who don't appreciate shouted from the till a corporate, overly-theatrical "How can I help you?" upon entry.

And now my bet for Best Coffee in the City, Bauhaus is closing and re-opening somehwere else. Whatever.

The record store in my neighborhood became a Chase bank

R.I.P. Easy Street Records. You were one of my favorite places in the world.

The city cancelled my bus route

It now seriously takes me one hour door-to-door to traverse the 5.5 miles to the University of Washington on the newly created route #31. That is insane, especially given that an express (the #45), which only ran three times in the morning and therefore couldn't have cost the city much, used to make the trip in 15 minutes flat.

My church exploded

This I won't say much about, because I disapprove of many people's new favorite pasttime: Hating on Churches, but I used to belong to an edgy church that met in a warehouse and had great music. Now it is a multi-site conglomerate of 15 campuses across 5 states, that runs on video simulcasts, which I think is terrible aesthetically, but also socially, since there are so many people ready and willing to serve as leaders of those churches instead.

That's all for now, not because I'm out of reasons, but because I'm tired of typing. Also because I have to pack. I'm sailing on.