Ben Gibbard called it a “depression sandwich,” but for me, it was more of a going away party.
I’ve written before about that Bumbershoot, in a different context. Some nights are forgettable, while others persist for the rest of your life, their context shifting, even though the memory never fades. The show, the roof, the feeling of farewell.
But a part of that story I left out the last time was of the first band of the night, United State of Electronica. A local party band arising out of the indie rock scene, they felt out of place conceptually, placed before the navelgazing of Death Cab for Cutie and the nerdery of the Presidents of the United States of America. I was skeptical when they took the stage in Memorial Stadium, a skepticism that lasted for seconds, at best.
This past Friday, I marked 14 years since I moved to Seattle, and, as I wandered up to Kerry Park to take a picture of the iconic view, I thought back to not only my arrival, but my temporary departure, those many years ago. To U.S.E., to “Emerald City,” a love letter to the city that I heard for the first time at the beginning of what was potentially my final weekend of residence here, and how it no longer seems to resonate.
As I walked from downtown to the slope of Queen Anne, I asked myself where it all went awry, even as I walked past some of the places that served to answer the question. The record shop, now a bank. The burger place next door to the great karaoke bar, now a construction pit. The amphitheater where I went on my first date with the only woman who ever felt right, and the bus stop where I used to say goodbye to her after mornings spent at her place. We met the day before my ninth Seattle anniversary, which made the corresponding weekend the following year a grand celebration of all that was right in the world: Seattle, us, and Weezer’s first two albums.
Listening to “Emerald City” on my walk, I passed through the shadow of the Needle right at the point where the lyrics list neighborhoods—”Belltown! We love it!/Capitol Hill! We love it!/Queen Anne! We love it!/We love it! We love it!”—and silently disagreed with all three assessments. The video for the song, ancient enough to be shot in standard definition, reminded me of the source of my discontent, as it’s filled with shots from music venues long gone, or at least long ago gutted. Watching it reminded me that both places I ate on the day of my arrival are long gone as well. In fact, now that I really think about it, it’s entirely possible the only thing I retain from that day of pre-dorm shopping is my phone number, eight associated phones later.
But that song. That song, still hiding in a corner of my phone, feels more ancient than any of those thoughts. It’s an idealized version of mid-2000s Seattle, an embrace of an artsy utopia that failed due to its own success. While everything that I bought those many years ago is long since gone, the places I bought them remain: the two-story Target, where my mom was wowed by cart escalators, and the Best Buy below.
Everything is temporary, except for consumerism.
Emerald City, Emerald City.