emerald state of mind

Let’s just get this out of the way right now: My right eye is dry and I am going to be thirty. Both of these things are extremely upsetting.

I just got back from Seattle, a city that smells like lavender and seems singularly engineered to lure people like me — people who own entirely too much flannel for their demographic — into early retirement.

Picture it: The year is 1994. I am a four-year-old obsessed with The Wizard of Oz. I want to be Dorothy so bad, I can’t walk past a fireplace without curtsying. This explains my love of gingham. But whenever people ask me what I want to be when I grow up, I say, “a teenager.”

Teenagers in 1994 wear flannel.

I guess I’ve achieved that dream. Twice over, in fact (blech!). But here’s the kicker: I had heard about this place on the west coast called The Emerald City that was, like, a living museum of 90s nostalgia, and I knew I had to go. Weeks shy of my 30th birthday, I did, and I am gratified to now report that it was exactly that. But it was a lot of other things, too. I mean, sure, it wasn’t long before I’d found a carnie-themed bar that only played Hole, but I also found a coffee shop that only played Patti Smith B-sides, a technical bookshop with a regular karaoke crowd, a mall that only sold vintage items, a really chill version of Punderdome that didn’t go on for three hours, a smoked fish pastry shaped like a fish, nature, and the single biggest unisex bathroom I have ever seen.

Capitol Hill, the most 90s neighborhood in the most 90s city, where I found zines and live music.

Capitol Hill, the most 90s neighborhood in the most 90s city, where I found zines and live music.

Nothing says “grunge” like picnicking on the site of a decommissioned gasification plant.

Nothing says “grunge” like picnicking on the site of a decommissioned gasification plant.

This fish from Piroshky Piroshky was full of fish.

This fish from Piroshky Piroshky was full of fish.

I bought two zines at the Elliott Bay Book Company: Louise Leong’s Hardened by Retail and Kelly Froh’s Senior Time. Both are very good.

I bought a crop top. But it’s a long crop top. I can wear it with high-waisted jeans without anyone ever knowing that it’s a crop top. I win.

I did not buy this at Fremont Vintage Mall. Instead, a bought a laminated pin commemorating a Jerry Lewis telethon.

I did not buy this at Fremont Vintage Mall. Instead, a bought a laminated pin commemorating a Jerry Lewis telethon.

There’s so much to love about Seattle. At the same time, I also encountered the sort of weirdness that happens when a critical mass of white people don’t hear the words “you’re wrong” often enough. I’m talking about flyers advertising clubs against “PC culture,” xenophobic resentment toward tech workers, sexism masked as edgy iconoclasm (just give The Stranger to Lindy West already), etc etc. I guess I shouldn’t generalize after having only been there six days, but it did make me wonder if I wasn’t maybe fetishizing the city so much that I began to lose sight of its flaws. Then again, you have these kinds of dipshits in NYC too. For that matter, you have every kind of dipshit in NYC. They’re just easier to ignore. It seems unfair to judge a city by a few unsavory encounters, just as it’s unfair to judge NYC by a few dead rats and a presidential candidate.

The tables at Ada’s Technical Books are full of retro tech and the Sunday night customers have the voices of angels.

The tables at Ada’s Technical Books are full of retro tech and the Sunday night customers have the voices of angels.

Did I mention I watched “About a Son”? I think he had ulcerative colitis. I will take this to reddit if I have to. The thing is, romanticizing a famous person’s pain serves no one; it’s so much better to demystify the pain. Because pain is bad and nobody needs it.

I’m not sure “would Seattle make me happy” is even the correct question. The question I am really asking is, would being part of Gen X have made me happy?

Probably not.

Millennials are the ones who brought Winona back after men in every other generation treated her shittily. Millennials! Why us? Why are we the only nice people? It’s the mystery that will baffle historians in 30 years, if we still have historians by then.

Remember that scene in “San Junipero” where Kelly goes back to 2002, her favorite place to spend time alone? And how Yorkie’s reaction to her soulmate’s unspeakably awful taste is shock and disbelief?

Yorkie was right.

I don’t know why we grew up in a vast cultural wasteland. Maybe 9/11 had something to do with it. Maybe we were all experiencing a collective depression. I don’t know. For sure, though, I think it’s why we’re all so hopelessly nostalgic for eras we weren’t alive to experience. We spent our formative years yearning for substance and meaning, and all we got was the CW. There were no endearing coming-of-age stories, ever, anywhere, so people just wrote Harry Potter fanfic until YouTube came around and they got to finally watch movies and shows meant for other generations. It was a very strange, very uncomfortable way to grow up, where everything good seemed to have just missed us.

So yeah, for the most part, I loved Seattle. It felt a bit like walking through somebody else’s memories.

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