Our June

When it isn’t summer, I always think of it as a magical time, but can’t always recall why. Sure, the weather is better, but does that really lend so much to my experiences? Last month we moved back to Seattle after 2 years away. It’s bliss. This is some of why.

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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.

C. M-H R.I.P.

This week, I resumed my reading of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, from a new copy I picked up at Elliot Bay Book Company, having left behind the Tübingen Library's copy in Germany, at...the...Tübingen Library.  For a bookmark, I am using a postcard from the Linda Hodges Gallery here in Seattle that was an advert for a painting show by Christopher Martin Hoff.  

Every day this week, when I picked up the book to start reading, I glanced at the reproduction and said to my wife, "we really have to buy this painting; this guy is amazing." Yesterday, I found out that the artist died this year, quite young, but apparently of natural causes.  It was sad to hear not only because he'd been, weirdly, on my mind all week, but because his work was so good, and because he was apparently a thoroughly decent human being. The city was better for his being here. 

On the Town

My wife and I were missing our hometown (Seattle) the other day, as we are exiled and adventuring abroad for the year, and counting its many glories, not least among which is the thriving theater scene.  "Remember that one play?" she'd say, and I: "that was great; remember this other one?"  Suddenly it seemed like we'd seen a lot of plays during the last two years.  Suddenly it seemed we should try to make a list of those we remembered particularly.  

Comedy of Errors

dir. George Mount for

Seattle Shakespeare Company

: we saw this Shakespeare-in-the-park production twice, once at the show's open, and again at its close, as a treat for our out-of-town wedding guests.  

Julius Caesar

: Another Shakespeare-in-the-Park, this time at Seward, and a season before. 

Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World

 dir. Anita Montgomery for 


: Staring my good friend Carol Roscoe in a breakout role. 

The Tempest

at Seattle Shakespeare Company: featuring, on the night we went, live music by

Jesse Sykes

, composed especially for the show.

Crime and Punishment

Intiman Theater

: one of the only competent productions I've seen at this beleaguered, (since closed) regional playhouse more concerned with furthering a sociological agenda than with making good art. 


Intiman: Officially the worst play I've ever seen, despite (because of?) the cast's having been shipped in from New York, to the understandable pique of Seattle's own talented acting pool; we walked out at half-time and were dismayed for weeks. 

On the Town (a musical)

at 5th Ave: the actress/singer/personality Sara Rudinoff enlivens everything she touches.

39 Steps

Seattle Repertory Theater: disarmingly charming and British.

Jude the Obscure

Erikson Theater: My own entry in Book-it's Novel Workshop Series; actors reading from stools on stage hasn't been so entertaining since Dylan Thomas' reading of

Under Milkwood

in New York, which I unfortunately missed, having been born forty years too late for the premier. 

The Cider-House Rules

(parts 1 and 2): an epic production full of moving performances, which addressed, I think, social problems we're not really having.  It made terrific sense when they staged it 15 years earlier, to general acclaim. 

Great Expectations

Book-it Repertory Theater

: Unbelievable directing, a terrific supporting cast, and Jane Jones (as both Havisham and Betsy) in a performance I think I'll always remember.

Oh Lovely Glowworm

dir. Roger Benington for

New Century Theater

: A flawless production of a flawed but terribly-inspiring play.  Magical in nearly-every way: this was one of those rare (for me) pieces of art that made me want to do everything differently.

Hunter Gathers


: This tiny theater is (was) the most important thing happening in the Northwest for the last decade. The ambition and level of artistry on evidence was just stupefying.  Then, they lost most of their ensemble, artistic directors, and lighting designers either to New York or to theaters with bigger budgets, and have since become a gay teen youth center that sometimes does plays.  

Twelfth Night

Seattle Shakes: A Christmas production! So fun and Dickensian!

Two Gentlemen of Verona

: A mod-production that used technology in a smart way: characters texted each other and we could read their screens via subtle projections. Sounds fishy, but it wasn't.  Definitely the coolest production I've ever seen of this play.  


: This was kind of a play, but mostly a vehicle for the emoting of its female lead Marya Kaminsky.  She's a phenomenal actress, but it was unsettling to basically watch someone hurt for two hours straight; like watching

Passion of the Christ

, that. 

Those were the big ones anyway.  Added to the concerts (notably, the XX, Sunny Day Real Estate, Rufus Wainwright, and Mark Kozalek) and dance shows (importantly Nacho Duato,

Hubbard Street Dance

--which may be the single best thing I've ever seen--Pacific Northwest Ballet's

Romeo &Juliet

and year-end


, Seattle Opera's

Don Quichotte

, and the powerful modern company Sonia Dawkins' Prism Dance Theater), well, we were busy.  Still, what a city. 

Things I'm Happy About: King Street Station

King Street Station in Seattle’s once-glorious and much-neglected Pioneer Sqaure, is a beautiful, classic train stop whose clock tower is modeled on San Marco in Venice.  It was grand and lovely until the 1950’s, when, in a misguided attempt to modernize, they put in a drop-ceiling, covering the height, windows, and terra cotta carvings on the ceiling.  Instantly, the place felt like a bus depot: a cramped and criminal bin for only the most-desperate travelers.  Ridership dropped to a trickle.  Thanks to some heroic Democratic legislators, spending political capital, and standing up to virulent, inchoate, spittle-flecked, rage-driven opposition, we’re getting the money to update the station, bringing some decency and grace to an area that badly needs it, some jobs to a town that does likewise, and some future-planning to a region that could use it.

This update came out today from the department of transportation.