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  • Writer's pictureAisling Salisbury

It's the vibe of the thing . . .

Updated: Feb 16, 2021

"Someone must be moving out, it seems everyone is abandoning the city" those were the words of one of my neighbours the other day whilst we waiting for the elevator. Our building is very efficient at moving people around but like a major arterial road, if a lane is blocked out then it grinds to a holt. So I knew exactly what she meant, on both points.

I first visited Seattle in 2014. Whilst doing my research before travelling I found and booked a Serviced Apartment. The booking was made via a "Corporate Rentals" company website. The apartment was a one-bedroom and was cheaper than most hotels in the Seattle area. I don't doubt that finding this company greatly attributed my love for Seattle. Immediately on arriving after three weeks on the road, I felt at home. What also contributed was that Seattle was exactly like my home town of Melbourne.

Like Melbourne, Seattle loves coffee, sport, shopping, amazing restaurants, bad traffic and has the reputation that it always rains when it doesn't. What I also loved about Seattle was Puget Sound and Lake Washington. For a Melburnian like myself, I am forced and do, hate Sydney. But one thing Melbourne doesn't have is Sydney Harbour which is the only beautiful thing about that place. So the waterways of Seattle reminded of Sydney Harbour, So Seattle was the best attribute of Sydney combined with the best of Melbourne. In other words, Seattle was Melbourne on Sydney Harbour and thus I instantly fell in love with the place.

As an Avgeek, I knew that I always had to visit Seattle one day so I could check out the Boeing Factory. For the record, I am still a "if it ain't Boeing, I ain't going" kinda girl, however, I was disappointed with the factory. I don't think it had to do with the fact that I had placed it on a pedestal, it was the Museum of Flight and other aviation exhibits around the place that that blew my mind the most. The Museum of Flight is the greatest I have ever seen. I have frequently told many that if you have one day in Seattle to do either the Museum of Flight or Boeing Factory, the Museum of Flight, hands down. Besides aviation though, I would've always visited the place. I was a massive fan of the Sonics growing up and then, of course, I loved the show, 'Frasier.' So no doubt I would've visited here, aviation or not.

My love of Seattle on that first visit lead me to form the view that if I could live anywhere outside of Australia then it would either be London or Seattle. I formed a great relationship with the Corporate Rental company and on every visit to Seattle, I would stay at the same place. It's also the reason why I now rent an apartment in that same complex. I loved Seattle so much that I told my folks they had to visit the City on their holiday in 2015. If it wasn't for me then it would've been Vancouver straight to LA for them. They too saw how beautiful this city was. When I made the move to the US and told them that I had settled on living in Seattle they had no objections. They knew the place as well as I did and shared the same love I had for it.

Seattle is also the city I visited on holiday in October 2018 and thus planted the seeds in my mind to apply for that job in the US that many of my colleagues were also going for. By Christmas of 2018 I had the job and was awaiting the paperwork, April 2019 I'd moved to the US and by August I had signed a lease in Seattle. Despite my job being in New Jersey/New York, I didn't mind the commute at all. I do find it funny how Northern Hemisphere folk are so scared of long-distance air travel. Although I do get it as effectively my commute was the equivalent of Melbourne to Bali. But whenever I'd land in Seattle, my batteries were instantly recharged, whether it be the familiar feel of Melbourne or the sea-air I always felt at home here.

When I left/abandoned Seattle in March to board the last Qantas flight from the US to Australia I was very sad. Yes during that time of the pandemic we all thought it was the massive doomsday virus that would wipe out half the population as the plague did. So even though there were a lot of unknowns even with my career, I was more saddened to be leaving a place that I had made a home.

Since I have returned, Seattle doesn't feel like the same City I fell in love with in 2014. I am not naive and had always seen the "ugly" side of Seattle. Especially the homeless population. There used to be a guy who would sleep at the base of my apartment's building each day, whenever I would leave for work I would always give him any of the food that was leftover or about to be thrown out. This guy never asked passers-by for money he always kept to himself but whenever I'd pop down and give him a loaf of bread or some milk he would always perk up. So I always knew the "bad" side of Seattle. Something that isn't as frequent in Australia and it breaks my heart that the so-called "Land of the Free" has such a high problem in this area.

When you walk the streets of Seattle now many business and shops are all boarded up. Some due to COVID, some due to vandalism from the riots. For those residents in the old CHAZ/CHOP location, I thank you for your sacrifice. I have a horrible feeling that the streets of Seattle would've been a lot worse if these "protesters" hadn't decided to take over and stay in one area.

One business that is closing permanently this weekend is the supermarket around the corner I would go. Quite simply, it's not because of the Target nearby and being priced out. It's the drug addicts and homeless who now call the stretch of the street outside the store home. It puts off the customers. At the start of the year, there were the following business on that strip of the street:

  • TK Max;

  • Subway;

  • Bartell Drugs;

  • Steak and Shake

Since I have returned, those four businesses have gone. From Monday when this supermarket closes there will not be ONE business on 3rd Ave between Union and Pike. Just boarded up and abandoned buildings will stand in its wake. Everyone is abandoning the city. I think Seattle will very soon become a city that just has workers come in and then immediately leave before sunset. It is a scary prospect because Seattle was a perfect Urban Jungle once upon a time.

There are concerns about safety in the City as well. I believe they are very well-founded, despite the Mayor vetoing the sacking of 100 police officers by November. The drug problem in Seattle seems to be getting worse and with COVID draining people's bank balances as well, then poverty is also going to go up. Police are stretch to the limit and the more businesses and people who leave the city, I am greatly concerned for the future of Seattle.

There at times in your life when you think that everything is "lining up" to tell you to do something. Well I also know the psychological reasons behind that, you subconsciously look for it. However, it's not hard to see when things are staring you in the face so blatantly. The boarded-up doors and windows to businesses, the lack of people on the streets (even in COVID times) and the high costs associated with living here, it's no wonder when I spoke with my neighbour I replied: "yeah, I'm contemplating doing the same as well." It was clear in her eyes that she has the same concerns about the future of Seattle. Right now my apartment complex has so many empty apartments available for rent and has massive "sales" to get renters in. People are abandoning the city of Seattle, it's clear to see.

The question right now.

Do I continue to live here in a city that has this feeling about it? The feeling that things just aren't right anymore. The feeling that this city's vibrancy is long gone. Right now I feel I'm in the "get out of here" column. As a great Aussie film states "it's the vibe of the thing."

The only thing that would possibly save me from leaving is simply logistical, I can't be bothered moving. However, unless I get a massive discount in my monthly rent I think getting out of here is becoming enviable. Needless to say, I am no longer pushing for Seattle and Melbourne to become sister cities anymore. Seattle please find yourself again and fast!


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