WHEN MY EDITORS and I agreed on my annual year-opener essay, I knew it would arouse partisan passion on both sides. After all, the topic is the renewed competition between Seattle and Bellevue.
But let me lay my cards on the writer’s table. I’m a city person, living in Belltown instead of Bellevue. Whether in San Diego; Denver; Dayton, Ohio; Cincinnati; or Charlotte — I always lived in the city, preferably downtown.
True, I lived in San Diego’s quirky Ocean Beach, but it was right over the hill from downtown. In Charlotte, which insists on calling its center city Uptown, my apartment was in the lovely Fourth Ward, gem of downtown’s … er, Uptown’s … revival. The only downside was its closeness to the newspaper. Living three blocks from Denver’s Rocky Mountain News, I could never plead being snowed in.
I also shopped downtown, rarely at a suburban mall. If my downtown lacked retail, I would travel to a downtown that had it — say, Seattle. And I never attended a sporting event at a suburban stadium or arena.
But that’s not the whole story.
I grew up in a neighborhood just north of downtown Phoenix, in a 1924 Spanish Colonial Revival house. Back in the 1960s, it felt like a dump, and I envied my uncle’s new house in suburban Maryvale, with its carport and all-electric kitchen.
Today our former house is in the coveted Willo Historic District, and you probably couldn’t touch it for less than a million bucks. Maryvale has become a crime-ridden subdivision in decline, and my uncle’s former home is in sad shape.
On the other hand, I went to high school in Scottsdale, about 9 miles from downtown Phoenix.
I hasten to add this was not today’s Scottsdale, the wealthy suburb it has become, known for resorts, golf, nouveau riche and plastic surgery (Silicone Valley). My Scottsdale was a sweet small town turned into a single-family suburb built around a new shopping mall. Yes, I was a teenage mall rat. But I was blessed with one of the best high schools in the country and lifelong friends.
So, as I look at the shifting fortunes of Seattle and Bellevue, I can come at them from both sides, wishing both sides well. Indeed, this is essential to the region’s health.