Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Seahawks Won!!

As a prelude to the game on Saturday, there was a little Washington v. Washington sniping. Sometimes, in addition to wishing I had a Ph.D. in Marine Mammal Biology, I wish I had a Ph. D. in Cultural Anthropology or Sociology. But, I don't, so I must rely on my monumentally unscientific observations about this Puget Sound/ Seattle culture that I live in. And I rely on newspaper articles.

My daughter and I were having a discussion in the car (which actually was my son's Jeep with its derogatory bumper stickers) while driving in the rain along with many other cars with similar and even identical bumper stickers. Since I had watched most of the Seahawks game and my daughter did not, I told her it was raining nicely and visibly on national TV---pouring enough to squelch any ideas of people across the country thinking of moving here. Thank goodness TV viewers did not notice that the Seattle fans in the stadium were not the least bit bothered by the rain because of all of the Gore-tex. In addition, I told her that one of the announcers commented on some of our good players and that they are relatively unknown nationwide because we are isolated up in this geographic corner.

Kaley and I decided that we do indeed have a rather strong cultural identity here that is perhaps unique in the country. We are two million inhabitants squished geographically together in a small area between water, more water and mountains and volcanoes. Furthermore, we are too far from any other major American city to be influenced. Believe me, it takes forever to drive to San Francisco--and that is northern California. Forget Los Angeles. Vancouver B.C. is only 120 miles away but the fact it is a different country negates major influence though there are similarities. Portland is too small to overwhelm us as is Spokane. Beyond that, we are talking about Salt Lake City or Minneapolis/St. Paul. So here we are, bound together with some peculiar characteristics.

Montana is unique as well but again geography plays with the culture. Montana is the fourth biggest state behind California, Alaska, and Texas. Less than a million people are spread over that huge area so I would say there isn't the cohesiveness there as here. Ranch folks are different that the city folks. Ski bum Bozeman is different than hippie-vegan Missoula is different than political Helena is different than oil industry Billings is different than.....Butte. Add to that mix the hundreds of tiny towns and roadside bars in the middle of nowhere with access only to satellite TV.

Seattle has three major local TV stations with news and weather anchors who are native Seattleites and have been for the whole 27 years we have lived here. Oh sure, we get a few new folks sprinkled here and there but you can tell instantly they do not belong--especially if they have blonde hair, tan skin and cannot say Puyallup. Our rain streak caused us to be noticed a little nationally and so have our Seahawks. An article appeared in the Washington Post about us--but that was before our Seahawks beat their.....(typical Seattle response) cringe....cringe...before I type...Redskins.....Ewwwww!

"In Seattle, the Hostile Crowd Is All Smiles"
By Blaine HardenWashington Post Staff WriterFriday, January 13, 2006

This article contains some interesting anecdotes so I will quote and comment:

Indeed. Drivers rarely honk in this town, though traffic is horrible. Jaywalking is viewed as evidence of low moral character. It is not at all remarkable to see pedestrians standing at an intersection in pouring rain in the middle of the night -- with no cars visible in any direction -- waiting dutifully for a "walk" sign.

We like to follow the rules, ok? This has caused me problems in our travels--especially in New York City as we were left standing alone while an entire crowd, horror of horrors, jaywalked.

Extremism in the pursuit of high-minded behavior is a source of civic pride in Seattle. Per capita opera attendance leads the nation. Nine out of 10 women claim to exercise at least once a week. The city claims to have the best-attended arts and lecture series in the country. Seattle is the nation's most literate city, based on a national survey. It has more bookshops, more residents with college degrees and more coffee shops than any other city its size. The city's one great vice -- massive consumption of overpriced caffeine drinks -- keeps people alert so they can read, recycle, go to the gym, scowl at jaywalkers, keep their hands off strippers and repress the urge to honk.

Blaine, are you being nice or polite.... or critical? Perhaps you are jealous. At least we don't bribe people or take bribes.

Goody-two-shoes behavior is endemic and appears to be spreading -- by order of law. A new city ordinance requires lap dancers to keep four feet from patrons. [Can't invade the Seattle bubble! Even with strippers.] A new no-smoking law requires smokers to move at least 25 feet from the doors, windows or vents of a public building or workplace before lighting up. Starting this month, there's a $50 fine for residents who improperly mix their recyclable garbage. [I thought the smoking rule was 40 feet]

He [local author, J. Raban] added: "Liberals like to think they are on the side of liberty, but actually they are on the side of authority."
Mayor Nickels does not see it that way. He says Seattleites obey laws and are civil with one another out of "respect for the community."

I agree with Nickels. We tend to be community minded and we do not like selfish people who do not like to pay taxes for the common good. Tim Eyman, need I say more? And we do not like people who are self-serving and try to get ahead at other people's expense. If you do become filthy rich and say, you are the richest man in the whole world, the expectation is you will share for the benefit of the entire world. Bill and Melinda have fulfilled that expectation nicely. By the way, just try cutting in one of our ferry lines to get ahead--just try it.

Whatever its historical, cultural and political origins, there is widespread agreement among the city's many new residents that civic politeness is as infectious as it is pervasive.

Consider how it infected Erik Blachford, who moved to Seattle in the mid-1990s and who until last year was chief executive of Expedia.com, the online travel agency based in the Seattle area.
When Blachford moved six years ago to a house atop Seattle's Queen Anne Hill, he noticed that his downhill neighbor had just planted a large tree and that it obstructed the splendid view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains that could be seen from the first floor of his house.
Blachford complained cautiously to his neighbor that first year but has not mentioned it since -- even though the tree has grown and now obstructs the view from the second floor of his house.

[Yes, trees do grow that fast]

Having grown up in Montreal and lived for several years in New York, Blachford is not by nature a milquetoast and says he can be as hard-charging as any business executive. Still, as a Seattle resident, he says he simply cannot force himself into a full-blown rant.
"It doesn't feel like that is how things work here," he said. "In other places I have lived, this sort of thing gets brought up quicker. But because this is a tree -- and this is such an environmentally sensitive place -- you feel strange asking somebody to cut down a tree to improve your view."

Uh, Erik, some advice. You are absolutely correct to leave it alone. We "politely" complained about a couple of trees in our neighborhood and we are backed up by view covenants that support our position. You would have thought we were asking people to throw their first born children and all of their pets into the bubbling cauldren of Mt. St. Helens. I am a tree hugger, too, but people really really love their trees--until they fall on their house. And even then, there are those who would mourn the loss of the tree over the house. "The house can always be rebuilt....but that tree was 500 years old and can never be replaced. (Tears)"

So we continue to drink our Starbuck's and cheer on our Seahawks even though the coach admitted to voting republican. It is ok because his wife did not. At meetings at my church, we are having a tough time figuring out how to welcome new people. We can't be too nice or we scare them. Polite is ok but, oh my gosh, the worst thing in the world would be to offer to visit with them one on one. Can't get too intimate! At our wine tasting group, we make fun of California (sorry Susans). My investment club is heavily into Microsoft and Starbucks and we spent most of the meeting last Friday discussing how a 120 foot tree sliced through one of our member's brand new house in Mukilteo on Christmas day. She was more upset about the house than the tree, though.

And me, I walk in the rain most everyday in my new purple rain shoes....without an umbrella! With my puppy who is named after a Seattle Olympic Sports Star!