Saturday, December 20, 2008

Welcome to Pugetopolis


This blog is about Pugetopolis: A Mossback Takes on Growth Addicts, Weather Wimps, And the Myth of Seattle Nice, my new (and first) book.

As I say in the book, "Pugetopolis" is a dirty word, at least it is for those who have been worried about the massive growth in the region. My book isn't about growth per se, but it's about my sense of place in a city and region that is changing rapidly. For more than a century and a half, Seattle has been regarded by its Euro-American settlers as a kind of blank slate, a place for do-overs, make-overs and utopian dreams.

Often ignored is the fact that in that 150 years, we created a place with a there there. Despite the impulses in our society that tend to regard change not only as inevitable but as a manifest imperative, things like place, localness, settled culture, history, roots, and attachment are regarded with suspicion, often contempt. The native inhabitants learned a good deal about this attitude as well.

In the 19th century, as newcomers poured into the region lured by the "paradise" of Puget Sound, the newbies looked upon the existing settlers with a kind of contempt. Those who came in covered wagons were inferior to those who stepped off of Palace Cars. They called the residents "mossbacks," because they were rooted, backward, in the way of progress. 

That attitude still exists, and half a century ago it took root in the boomer dream of a greater Seattle that would sprawl throughout the Puget Sound basin, a place where industry and nature would live side by side in harmony and unlimited growth and potential would be realized. Pugetopolis, a the Mega-city of Destiny (apologies to Tacoma).

I am fascinated by where I live, and by the strands of DNA that run through our public life. A place of nature that is touted for its global industriousness. A place of history that is still regarded as new, unfinished, in need of growing up. A place that sees itself as the antithesis of New York yet that is itself Manhattanizing. A place that values niceness, but rarely practices it. A place thought to be progressive and open-minded, yet riddled with nannyism, self-doubt and an institutional dysfunction that can be maddening (though often useful).

These contradictions are old and deep and very much a part of who we are.

My book is a collection of a decade's worth of work exploring these contradictions and trying to get a handle on who we are and what we have done to this place, and how it has shaped us. The columns and essays collected in Pugetopolis come from a variety of sources, including Seattle Weekly where I served as an editor for many years, Seattle magazine, Crosscut.com, and others. There is also a new section specifically on the topic of the Pugetopolis phenomenon itself.

I will be updating this blog regularly with news about the book, readings, interviews, and new work. I also plan to explore the issues of Pugetopolis and point readers to news and stories that are relevant to the region and regional identity.


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