Monday, July 27, 2009

Seattle for the sake of Seattle

I started my morning off grabbing a tall Americano from the first Starbucks ever established, across the street from my building. Wandered the Pike Market just because it was close by, determined not to fall into any of the tourist traps but found this cute shop where they sold some re-worked vintage dresses from material as far as Nepal and the Himalayas. it provoked an interesting question: a saree, reworked into a skirt. is it offensive to muslims or cool? i decided to leave that decision for another day.

one of the guys working at the hostel struck up a conversation with me that kind of continued in bits and pieces over the entire weekend. he told me that most people staying in Seattle are just passing through, either on their way north to Vancouver or south to California. He said nobody really comes to Seattle for the sake of Seattle. it's not an international city like New York or Paris or London.

this surprised me. i feel like there are plenty of reasons to go to Seattle for Seattle itself. it's a West Coast city, but with a much more bad ass vibe than, say, sunny Portland or hippie Vancouver. the entire grunge movement was homegrown here, in this one city. Jimi Hendrix was buried around here. a whole host of musicians passed through this city, where history was made. I think this is what i like about American cities, which, unlike most Canadian cities, have this amazing deep sense of history in it. Canadian cities, for the most part, are small and young, even for North America, and what is exciting about them is what is happening now, what is developing now, and the exciting promise of the future. American cities, on the other hand, have a past. they struggled through growing pains of war and race and a different ideology that Canada did not experience, and through that grew an arts culture that reflected on it.

i love to travel, and my favourite thing to do is to walk through a city that i've never seen before but read all about. i walk down and look at the buildings and i can practically smell and taste the history, the set of memories and experiences of someone else's life, another community, another world. i may never intend to move there but there is the feeling, the possibility that here i am in a new world and i have a new life. i love that feeling and i can never have enough.

i went to the Experience Music Project, which is probably one of the best places i could have gone to explore Seattle, simply because there was an exhibit devoted entirely to the development of popular music in the Northwest. Housed in its incredible Frank Gehry-designed building, there were pictures and videos and displays explaining the stories of the bands there, starting from jazz to r&b to 60s garage rock to metal to punk to grunge to Harvey Danger (hahaha). i loved it. i just drank it all in. i was disappointed that i couldn't take any pictures, because there were so many amazing things there. there was an entire exhibit devoted to the history of guitars: they had a Gibson from the 1800s.

what also won my heart was the Sound Lab. it's just a bunch of rooms set up to let you explore instruments. at first, i was like meh, i own like five guitars and already know how to play the piano. but i realized that it is a great opportunity for non-musicians to learn how to play instruments in a non-intimidating setting (like in a music store where some middle-aged ponytail will accuse you of not looking like a slide guitar player because you're a petite Asian girl). also, they had other stations set up so i acquainted myself with the basics of sampling, mixing, and turntabling - all things that no one has ever bothered to teach me before. that was pretty damn cool.

also: the Experience Music Project was connected to the Science Fiction Museum. i cannot express how much i enjoyed the science fiction museum. i had my notebook out the whole time, trying to write down the names of books i've got to check out next until i was forced to finally give up. there was a whole section on robots! yessss. everybody who knows me knows that i am a big nerd, but i was unnecessarily aroused at the science fiction museum.

the Experience Music Project had a Jimi Hendrix display, including the strat guitar on which he played the famous Spar Spangled Banner at Woodstock. I feel like you had to be there, or else have someone else tell you what it was like and you have to believe them. you know, that's the problem with being born so late. You spend half your life trying to catch up on what you missed. you chase after place after place and dream about what it must have been like to be there when it mattered: to be in Washington as the riot grrrl scene roared to life. to be in Woodstock when Jimi performed. to be in toronto, in that room when the concept of Broken Social Scene was born. to be in Montreal, during the explosion of post rock. i guess that's all right, as long as you remember to spend the other half of your life catching the scene that is happening right there, right then.

those that know me well know that i have a hard time staying in one place, doing one thing. nobody has ever asked me before what drives me, but there is is. it's the frustratingly finite physical limits of life. i can't do everything and be everywhere. there is so much to see and do and not enough time.