We got this, Seattle

Jess Lieberman
Coral Gables, FL

We got this Seattle

I’m currently living alone in a two bedroom apartment with my dog in Miami. I am still undecided if I’m going to remain here for the foreseeable future or go back to Seattle. This column and any that may follow will be me trying to rationalize going back to a disease riddled city or if I should go stir crazy in an abandoned apartment building.

Long before Seattle held the dubious title of being the first U.S city to have a case of Corona, “Seattle is dying” was a catchphrase bemoaned by Seattlites for the better part of five years. But the phrase was spurred not by a disease, but by the common pains of a growing city.

Being home to the Jeff Bezos empire comes with its drawbacks. As hoards of people relocated to become worker drones for Seattle’s tech rulers, Bill Gates and Bezos, the city struggled to keep up. Much of the small city charm was lost, traffic became a slog, rent prices reached record highs and tent cities pervaded across every open patch of grass in the city.

Soon the complaints ramped up and the Emerald city found itself in a civil war; tech workers vs. service workers; locals vs. implants; communists vs. capitalists; Jeff Bezos vs. the entire city; it became hard to have a discussion with a Seattlite without it diverging into complaints about the city.

After 20+ years of looking up at a canopy of dark clouds and staving off seasonal affective disorder, I flew to Miami for brighter pastures.

I’ve been back to The Rain City once since moving down to Miami, and when I got back I saw what I expected. 50 cranes, a new tasteless glass and steel skyscraper, boasting “bargain” apartments for $4,000 a month and a few new tent cities.

But as I groaned at the changes and prepared to complain, I was also reminded of what I missed. The things that never change. The things I took for granted in my 21 years there. The snow capped mountains, real salmon, evergreen trees and local restaurants that opened when Boeing was the only employer in town. The level of consistency reminded me that no matter how much things change, some things remain the same. Or so one would hope.

As Seattle became the epicenter of a global pandemic and the deaths across the state started to grow, “Seattle is Dying” took on a new meaning, something much more ominous. Suddenly the changing skyline seems less important. Those empty lanes of traffic, once things we dreamt of, just seem surreal.

Every picture I see from my friends in Seattle makes me want to fly back.

Not because it looks fun; it most certainly isn’t. All the restaurants are closed and people are getting in fist fights over toilet paper at Costco. Hell, I don’t even have a bed out there. But even without a bed, it’s still my home and watching it be torn to pieces from afar reminds me of that.

All those restaurants that I counted on for consistency, a few assuredly won’t make it.

A former coworker of mine in the restaurant industry said their business was down 70 percent before Gov. Jay Inslee mandated restaurants close. Another friend, the son of a local celebrity chef who owns a handful of well known establishments, told me at least three won’t be reopening.

More than half my friends have lost their jobs.

Although my body is still in Miami, my mind is in Seattle.

The Seattle Times has become my most read paper and I’m constantly dialing 206 area codes. As new rules and trends start in Seattle, a few weeks later they pop up here. You can thank Seattle for the irrational run on toilet paper, sorry world. University of Washington went online, one week later I got an email from UM. Restaurants were asked to close about a week ago, and now Miami is following suit. As the disease spreads from coast to coast, so does the response, albeit a little slower.

But, during all the suffering, somehow, a city divided has begun to come together.

A tweet from Pete Caroll “#WeGotThisSeattle,” has become a rallying cry. Local businesses have converted to food pantries for the unemployed and even our ruler Bezos has shown a kinder side, putting Amazon’s focus on critical supplies.

At first I wanted to go back out of fear. Fear I would miss out on one final meal at Toyoda Sushi, or one last talk with an elderly friend. That ship has sailed. Everything is closed. Everyone is isolated.

Now if I go back it will be to see Mount Rainier, it will be to see the grey clouds I hated, it will be for a semblance of normality. It will be for a reminder the world isn’t ending. Maybe this will teach me to appreciate the routine, appreciate what we normally complain about. So often it’s always greener on the other side of the fence, so often I ignored the mountains and the sound.

Seattle has survived unexpected horrors before, be it earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, forest fires or passing from the one yard line. Yet, we always manage to get back up. Just make sure to hand it off to Marshawn. The world isn’t ending, it’s just on pause. We got this.

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