(No, not the Dickens novel. I may never touch Dickens again--I get that he's one of the Great Authors, but he's also a very clear illustration of the fact that Victorian writers were paid by the word.)
So I took some time off work and flew up to Seattle for a few days. I hadn't been there in about 15 years, and the most recent trip was just a day jaunt from Tacoma and...anyway. The point is, this was my first time really being aware of the culture in Seattle. I had always assumed it was pretty similar to L.A.
We think we're liberal down here...wow. What we're really good at is talking the liberal talk. In Seattle they walk the walk. I saw flyers for activism events everywhere. Recycle bins, everywhere. (They also banned plastic shopping bags before we did.)
And it's not just in the political arena. Maybe the main difference between Seattle and L.A. (apart from the weather) is that Seattle's defining industries are practical and solid, while L.A.'s are superficial and ephemeral. This is the land of Hollywood and Disney; up there it's all Boeing and IBM and salmon fishing. And that attitude trickles down into everything. You can be kinda slobby in Seattle and no one cares, which is why they invented grunge. A guy who has lived in both cities told me "In L.A., if you earn $100,000 you drive a BMW. Up here, there are millionaires who ride the bus."
Of course, if the bus system here were as good as the one there, maybe our millionaires would ride it too. I was astounded by the sheer number of buses I saw, all with overlapping routes so if you miss one, odds are you can catch the next one and it will work just as well even if the route number is different. It's more expensive than L.A. Metro--$2.25 base fare compared to $1.50--but the first transfer is included, and it's worth it in any case. Plus there's the option of a monthly pass--I didn't look into it, but if it's anything like the one down here, it's more cost-effective than paying every fare on the spot for a regular bus rider.
Everyone knows how rainy Seattle is, right? It actually didn't rain much while I was there, but it was cool and partly cloudy the rest of the time. I didn't see many people carrying umbrellas, though. When the rain started, the locals all just put up the hoods on their hoodies. I thought that was kind of...amusing? Like they're so used to the rain they don't even go out of their way to avoid it; they just wear a lightly resistant garment and deal with whatever damp gets through. At times I wished I'd done the same, because my umbrella is big and flashy and doesn't telescope when closed up. It got in the way a lot.
Also on the nature front...being about a thousand miles north of L.A., Seattle is in an earlier phase of spring. I saw lots of trees covered in white or pink flowers. Others had leaves, but they were still small and pale. I mention that because it surprised me a little. It shouldn't have. The part that really messed with my perceptions is that it was cooler and earlier in spring...but the hours of daylight were longer. April on the calendar, March on the ground, May in the sky.
The diversity in the urban bird population seems to be lower there, or maybe it was just too chilly for some of them. I saw a few starlings, some pigeons, a fair number of gulls, and scads of crows. I mean, crows will live anywhere, but they seemed really in-your-face in Seattle, always showing up in pairs to collect nest-building material and not moving until I got right on top of them. Less cautious of people than they are here, in other words.
I think I'd like to move there...