A contemplative exploration of New Seattle — and all of us along for the ride — before a new opportunity
THIS SPRING, I struck up a conversation with Italian photographer Maïmouna Guerresi, who was visiting Seattle to open her fantastical exhibit at Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, “Aida in Wonderland.”
As we chatted, Guerresi told me something that immediately clarified what this week’s cover story is all about: “In order to understand something, you have to look beyond the obvious.”
This week, I use essay writing and lots of photo filters to explore Seattle’s bewildering transformation, the result of a tech-fueled growth spurt and accompanying building boom that have us debating how we help those who are at risk of being swept under by economic development.
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The New Seattle we’re building is stylish to an almost-painful degree, a sign of our never-ending push to be seen as a world-class destination for companies and visitors. But there is another Seattle: a city of workers, musicians, artists, idealists and activists — as well as exiles from convention of all kinds — who found community by Elliott Bay, in the shadow of two mountain ranges.
I fell in love with this Seattle when I moved here — permanently, it turns out — in the winter of 1995. Seattle was a fast-growing “cool” capital then, too. And I felt as much like Alice in Wonderland then as I do now.
It would be more than a decade before I joined Pacific NW, when my first editors, Kathy Andrisevic and Kathy Triesch, took mercy on my soul and made it their project to turn a daily feature writer into a long-form magazine writer. As I grew into my own on this magazine, reporting on everything from the 2008 recession aftermath to learning how to swim to the joys of putting down the phone and just wandering, I got to watch Seattle grow into its own, too, without really knowing what it needed to do to sustain its mix of communities.
My reporting for this story was done entirely on Instagram, so everyone can see the way I make sense of our civic discourse, our lived environment and the people who live in it. But really, all of my stories have been reported this way: with wonderment; curiosity; a sense of wanting to belong; and a nagging suspicion that we, that I, can do better by society.
To work for a magazine is a privilege, and I’m so grateful to all of the colleagues who helped bring my sometimes-off-the-wall ideas to reality.
As I move on to a new role, as social-justice columnist at The Seattle Times, I can say the greatest privilege has been getting to know this region’s people and spirit, to be granted access to real life, to be denied the possibility of living by illusions.
I hope my stories have helped you see more clearly, too.