When I worked as a tourguide at ARRRRRRRGOSY, we went past the Sleepless in Seattle floating home (IT’S A FLOATING HOME NOT A HOUSEBOAT) about eight times a day. I gave the same spiel every time: OK, folks, and if you look off to [port/starboard], you can see the floating home that was used in Sleepless in Seattle! How many of you saw the movie? How many of you have wives who made you see the movie? (pause for hands, dirty looks from wives).
Et cetera. I’d go on for five minutes or so about that fucking houseboat. Four times a day. This is what passes for tourist attractions in Seattle: the Sleepless houseboat, the EMP, and Bill Gates’ house. I love Seattle, very much, but it’s never going to attract many tourists – and most of the ones who do come through are on their way to Victoria or Vancouver anyways.
So that’s why I think that the remix of Sleepless is hilarious:
You know why we’re Sleepless up there? Because it’s tough to get to sleep after drinking six cups of coffee a day to ward off seasonal depression. Yes, those stereotypes are true. I started drinking coffee at eleven, but I really honed my habit while at the University of Washington when I was fifteen.
I write this also because sometimes, I miss Seattle. I called it home for a while, although it really never was. It’s just the nearest major city to Victoria, where our American TV and radio came from. I used to listen to KNDD when I was a teenager, and dream of the day when I’d move to Seattle, get a little studio apartment in a brick building like in Singles, meet all kinds of wonderful creative, sophisticated people, and see grunge bands play at Moe’s on weekends. I started in Internet because it was the fastest way to Silicon Forest. I thought, when I was sixteen, that Seattle was a wonderful, sophisticated city, with its own unique culture and history, with glamourous stores and urban coffeehouses and artists and musicians everywhere, and I wanted to live there, more than anything.
It makes me a bit sad, years later, to realize that Seattle is another third-tier American city, which is rapidly becoming assimilated by migrant white-collar workers and California-designed malls. That there is one-tenth the things to do there that there is in L.A. That the clubs are terrible, that the shopping is second-rate, that Seattle has somehow lost its sense of self. It’s close to home, and I may well go back someday still. But when I do, it would have to be as part and parcel of Getting Married And Settling Down. Because if I didn’t have a family of my own to take up my energy, I’d just get bored. There’s only so much hiking you can do – especially when the mountains are choked with California transplants.
When I was sixteen though, I think what I really wanted was to be someplace that was Not The Island, someplace where there would be other intellectuals, where there would be Art and Theater and Music and Culture. I’m here, now, and I have all those things in Los Angeles. But I sometimes miss the way the raw wind comes off the Sound. I miss the little culture quirks that go with living in a place surrounded and divided by water – the ferries, the bridges, water taxis and kayaks. I miss Pike Place Market, with its worn wooden steps, polished by a century of shopping feet. I miss the remaining traces of Seattle’s memories, the last vestiges of the sense of isolation, the inside jokes and references honed over its history, so far from the rest of America, closer to Alaska than to New York.
However, most of all, I miss living on the edge of the Wild, living someplace where you could see the wilderness, just outside the city. A city where the wild sometimes came into the harbour: porpoises, orcas, sea lions. That goes for Victoria, that goes for Vancouver, but the only American city that feels that raw, that clean, is Seattle. Perhaps that’s why I occasionally dream in it. It is more likely than not that I’ll stay in the States, and if I do, then Seattle, the biggest city of my native Northwest, is going to become “home”.