What We Talk About When We Talk About Seattle

Seattle is the Emerald City, where It Rains All The Time, and where The Space Needle is, and where Kurt Cobain shot himself. Seattle is a place for Hipsters, and a place for lots of suicides (because of the rain). Every city’s got its stereotypes – here are a few for your reading pleasure.

The Space Needle

The Space Needle – a disappointment. Aside from physics, I can’t really figure out why it’s still there. No one goes there (except those that can afford the ride up and the restaurant at the top). Yes, the Space Needle does serve in some capacity – its function is limited to ‘being an iconic element of the Seattle skyline,’ but, jesus. The Space Needle is excruciatingly boring. Fuck the Space Needle.

Bike Messengers

The bike messengers of Seattle are intimidating, and when we talk about bike messengers in Seattle, we talk about a sub-genre of Hipster who (like Seattle baristas) glean vast portions of their identities from their jobs, which is, basically, riding a bike around in the cold eight hours a day for near minimum wage. We also talk about, of course, the bike messenger aesthetic, which seems to be so powerful here that one is forced to conform upon getting ‘jumped into’ the bike messenger job/ gang.

Suicide/ The Rain/ Nirvana

No one from Seattle actually talks about The Rain, the high suicide rate allegedly caused by The Rain, or Nirvana. No – other people talk about those things. People that aren’t from Seattle.


Everyone who Sold Out works at Microsoft. Working at Microsoft is inherently weird and childlike, as if one employed there had never left elementary school – Microsoft’s busses pick employees up in the morning and take them home after work every day. Employees are curiously aware of their office employee stigma, but have most likely assessed that a decent salary, benefits and the comfort of working on “campus” every day (Microsoft calls its grounds a “campus”) are worth the soul-sucking nature of business casual, daily team meetings and performance reviews by 60-year-old managerial controllers.

The Downtown Public Library

The Downtown Public Library is a day spa for Seattle’s homeless population. SPL has actually changed its tagline to “Seattle Public Library: A Day Spa for the Homeless and Disenfranchised.” I’m just kidding. But seriously, I don’t get it – where do homeless people get those cool little portable DVD players they’re always sleeping in front of? And how do they afford the laptops I always see them on?

Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill is where The Gays and The Hipsters live. Capitol Hill is also Being Gentrified, which just means all the broke white kids in Capitol Hill grew up and got tired of being broke and got jobs and started shopping at American Apparel and drinking $4 lattes at Vivace.

Queen Anne

Queen Anne is a boring neighborhood that no one seems to go to. When I think about Upper Queen Anne I actually don’t see anything. My brain just turns off. When we in Seattle talk about Queen Anne, we’re either referring to the Seattle Center or, maybe, the Queen Anne Café Ladro. I feel bad for Queen Anne because it sucks so bad.

The Central District

The Central District is for Black People. When we think of the Central District, we think of Black People. I can’t tell if that’s racist or not – whatever. But, it’s true, the Central District is, undeniably, for Black People. For example – Grocery Outlet. I hesitate to connect the fact that Seattle thinks the Central District is for Black People to the popular nickname for the Central District – “The Seedy C.D.,” – but, alas, I have only heard white people call it as such, and White People are historically afraid of Black People, so I will make that connection (we will ignore the fact that this line of reasoning may be invalid because I only have one black friend). It is possible that other minorities live in the Central District, but Seattle thinks the Central District is for Black People.

The Stranger

The Stranger is, well, for white people, but only for specific white people: they must either be in high school, college, a twenty-something, or a left-leaning, self-righteous middle-aged start-up enthusiast who can be found at Vivace on the weekends displaying an uncomfortable amount of conversational interest in the barista that’s making his skinny latte. Or the people need to be gay. But it cannot be said that “being for certain types of white people” is The Stranger’s defining attribute. No – I think its defining attribute is that it’s not afraid to use swear words and talk about now-marginally subversive behavior such as doing coke and having some kind of sexual fetish. As such, The Stranger has become a cultural flag for Seattlelites to wave around in the effort of communicating “Hey!! We’re ‘cultured’ too!! We have a porn film festival!!”

Seattle Weekly

Seattle Weekly is embarrassing.

Public Transportation

Like the Seattle Weekly – Seattle’s public transportation is embarrassing. Example: in Seattle, we have this thing called the ‘bus tunnel,’ and it exists because the city was trying to build a subway tunnel but fucked up and got the size wrong. That’s what I heard, at least. And so now we have this thing called the bus tunnel, and what happens in the bus tunnel is that busses drive through it. It goes underneath downtown and has reduced traffic perhaps 1-3%. Like the Monorail, it’s retarded.


Dick’s are everywhere in Seattle, but they’re not the kind getting jacked off by all The Gays on Capitol Hill. Dick’s – it’s that fast food restaurant at which people inexplicably continue to binge eat. It’s entirely beyond me why/how people even eat fast food anymore, but I did see this one funny thing outside of Dicks on Broadway, once. This street kid was begging for change, and he says “Hey y’all, wanna help me get a big bag of greasy Dick’s?”


Coffee is great. And people in Seattle know how to make it the correct (i.e. the Italian) way to such an extent that, despite being, basically, the same as working fast food, being a barista makes you into a sort of cultural icon, especially if you’re working on the Hill and can make the floral pattern in lattes. Anyways, back to baristas basically being the same as fast food employees. They totally are! Either way, the coffee here is really good.

Sleepless in Seattle

Sleepless in Seattle is that movie that takes place in Seattle. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are in it. It contains a disappointingly low amount of scenes where you can actually recognize anything as being in Seattle, but foreigners always seem to mention the film, anyways, upon hearing that you’re from Seattle. TC mark


More From Thought Catalog

  • http://twitter.com/rhodeislander rhodeislander

    Well, you nailed The Stranger's entire oeuvre dead to rights.

  • http://twitter.com/t_baugh Travis Baugh

    hmm, always thought BSG was from NYC…..

  • http://brianmcelmurry.blogspot.com/ Brian McElmurry

    Denver has a Capitol Hill full of gays and bohemians. And crack heads.

  • http://richardchiem.blogspot.com richard chiem

    I'm moving to Seattle by OCT 2011

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    • ZaneEatsWorld


    • http://stephentullydierks.blogspot.com stephen


  • Bmore2

    seattle sounds awful

    • Greg

      everywhere is awful…perspective duude..anyways this was great

  • http://profiles.google.com/frances.dinger frances dinger

    Seems accurate.

  • boop

    you forgot plaid!

    • sloppysoup

      it's called flannel.

      • bappada boopy

        well, excuuuuuuuuse me!

  • sloppysoup

    fucking hate dick's so hard it's not even funny. it's not good food and the fact that my nasty ass roomie enjoyed it probably made it that much worse. i actually don't mind the space needle. i have only gone up once, but i really dig the area around it. the empsfm is sick as hell and just a cool place to chill as is the huge ass fountain out behind it. seattle is wonderful and everyone loves to bitch about it, but i still love(d) the shit out of it.

  • karina

    are you sure this isn't just Seattle from the perspective of someone who actually wishes he were living in brooklyn.??

    • Brandon

      yeah pretty sure….

  • federico

    imagine if like instead of you fucking the space needle, the space needle fucked you

  • Chelsea

    Hmm…I guess people like Brandon hating on Queen Anne keeps it more rad for people like me.

  • Chelsea

    Hmm…I guess people like Brandon hating on Queen Anne keeps it more rad for people like me.

  • Guest

    Wow. This article is ridiculous. Have you ever lived in any other city? THEY ARE ALL THE SAME!!! I live in Chicago, and I could rewrite this article about Chicago and make it sound just as shitty, or worse. If you don't like Dick's don't go there. The Space Needle was build almost 60 years ago and it's history is great. It was the tallest building this side of the Mississippi when it was built. If you can't afford it/don't like it… don't go there. Bike culture in Chicago is exponentially worse than in Seattle, and the list goes on. Stop being such a blowhard and embrace where you live. And try venturing out of the city a little, because that area is one of the most beautiful in the country. Stop being such a whiney blow hard.

  • nancyb

    I seriously resent the equating of baristas to fast food employees. Both are food service industry workers but the similarities end there. Now, if you were more specific and wanted to say that Starbucks baristas are the same as fast food workers, that would be more acceptable. But really, we're all much more akin to drug dealers.

  • Wilf

    But.. but… Fremont and Ballard.

  • guest

    Washington is actually ranked 21st in the nation for suicide rates. Portland, Oregon, however, is ranked number 1. Just because a famouly depressed Musician killed himself here, doesn't mean everyone else is hatres the rain and their life.

  • .,

    how is being a barista basically the same as working fast food? being a barista demands knowledge, skill and passion about the product. Starbucks is not even remotely the same as speciality coffee.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HU4T4IOR7263FUICA75VJKFTCQ Jose

    spelled “busses” wrong – “buses”

  • eric

    You're not from there are you? It kind of comes out in the piece.

  • jennypenny

    You were trying to be playful and lighthearted but came off as bitter and definitely not funny.

  • Victor

    Ah, a love/hate story. The city that ate 17 years of my life. I get it.

    We all have them, folks. Try to laugh at yourself a little, now and then. You'll live longer and enjoy it better.

  • http://www.facebook.com/malspaugh Matthew Scott Alspaugh

    aw lighten up guys…gotta be able to laugh at yourselves. that being said – i would have loved to hear some shit on ballard

    • Victor

      Obviously they're just not that into Raymond Carver.

  • http://twitter.com/synthetictrees André Gooren

    apparently seattle is populated by, mostly, humorless dicks (many of whom, apparently, earn a living as humorless baristas). sweet article as usual. you keep me coming back to tc mr. gorrell.

  • sadface

    Ive spent a bit of time in seattle but never lived there. Most of your observations on Seattle may be right but i don't know.

    The one I know is wrong is your observation on coffee. I agree the coffee in seattle is some of the best in america, but it is still miles behind europe and most of the rest of the world. Being a good barista requires a bit more skill then the average McBurger employee. maybe you've never had a good coffee.

  • seanyc

    being from seattle, i was looking forward to laughing at jokes making fun of my beloved hometown … this couldn't have been more off. $4 for a latte from Vivace isn't a splurge for most, it's that good and people rarely get drip anywhere ( besides bauhaus). Dick's aren't really “everywhere” in seattle and it probably would have been more funny to make fun of how it's faster to walk than take the bus in Seattle bc it's so slow – who cares about the failed tunnel? The infrastructure of Seattle sucks, that's no secret. Saying that the Space Needle is boring is like saying the Empire State building is boring. They're iconic, clearly you don't get that. Do you hate the Eiffel Tower too? The majority of these bike messengers that you speak off, are actually just biking in their fancy fixed gears. It's a cultural thing. And yes, you do sound racist speaking of the CD. All kinds of hipster kids live and party down there, when the condos came in years ago – people just moved farther in. Anyhow, this article was neither funny or accurate. I will give you the rain comment though, that only people who don't live there talk about the rain, but then again – that was said on an episode of Grey's Anatomy.

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