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The More Things Change…

on October 1, 2018 in Life Lessons
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I came across a great quote the other day. It was by Heraclitus of Ephesus, an early Greek philosopher.

He said: “You can’t step into the same river twice.”

This took a while to sink in. And then I realized its profound meaning, that is so simple, yet so lastingly true. Change, whether we like it or not, is constant and inevitable in our lives.

While we’d like to think that change is happening at a breakneck pace in these times, it’s really been happening at a fairly constant pace through time. Changes only appear to be coming faster because 1) we’re in the middle of it, and 2) we now have instant communications to keep us abreast of all the changes as they happen.

As of late, there has a been a huge outcry about the growth of Seattle. There have been as many as 100 cranes in the sky at the same time, reinventing and reshaping a town that except for eight years, I’ve been a part of. I have seen it through its good times and bad. Through boom and bust. It has changed continually and unerringly, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.

While I admit that all the faceless glass skyscrapers aren’t my cup of tea, they are a sign of success as a city. Seattle and its surrounding communities have grown up. The city is at the big boy table when it comes to being an economic force. It dominates the aerospace sector and is knocking on the door of the Bay Area to be #1 in technology.

Downtown, a place you never wanted to be in after 5 p.m. in the 1980s, is now alive nearly around the clock. Step out of a theater or restaurant and the sidewalks are crowded well after 10 o’clock, something that would have been unfathomable 20 or so years ago.

For the most part, we’re good with change as long as it agrees with us. Yes, some once great institutions and certainly some quirky and uniquely Seattle businesses are gone. But change is indeed inevitable, and the demise of a beloved institution is often because they have become unfashionable or unprofitable, not because gentrification or progress forced them out.

The most recent brouhaha is over the Showbox Theater. Other theaters have come and gone in Seattle over the last century. There was the famous outcry over the Music Hall many years ago, but it is all but forgotten now. Others, like the 5th Avenue, Triple Door and Paramount soldier on just fine, reinventing themselves and staying relevant.

And then there’s the Showbox, a relic of the past that rightfully has some relevance even today, except for it is also standing in the way of progress.

Now, I certainly don’t treasure the idea of another glass box being built on First Avenue, especially one filled with condos and the now famous and faceless street-level retail shops.

But we do need more housing. People want to live downtown these days and while it’s not something I would ever want to do, there is unprecedented demand, so much so that the Seattle School District is thinking about putting an elementary school somewhere downtown to handle all the families there.

At this point, I should remind you that I work in economic development. My job is to promote the state to bring businesses here. Companies create jobs. Jobs create paychecks for residents and paychecks generate spending which, in turn, spurs economic growth. It’s one big happy circle, and believe me, you want to be on the side of growth, not on the side of collapsing economy. For those here in the 1970s when Boeing crashed and burned, I don’t have to explain this.

It’s often been said that this is Seattle’s third gold rush. First, there was the real gold rush, then the post-WWII rush, and now this techno-driven third rush. It won’t last forever. It never does.

This is just the way the world works. As some long-dead Greek philosopher said it way, way back, “You can’t step in the same river twice.”

Now, I get all the nostalgia for days gone by. I still miss the Doghouse and Chubby and Tubby’s $5 Christmas trees. But there’s still plenty of old Seattle left. The Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, Pioneer Square, Pike Place Market, the Seattle Center, the Monorail, and Ivar’s on the waterfront instantly come to mind.

robzerrvation-denny-hill1But time does march on. If it never did, the Smith Tower would still be the tallest building in the city, we’d be crossing muddy roads downtown and the Denny Mill would be the city’s biggest employer. If you wanted to get from Puget Sound to Lake Washington you’d have to carry the boat and traveling from Everett to Tacoma would take hours because Highway 99 would be the only thoroughfare north and south.

It’s noble that we do try to save the past. Sometimes we get it right, like saving the Pike Place Market or the International District. Sometimes we get it wrong, such as when we carved up the Wawona up into toothpicks rather than restore her like the C.A. Thayer in San Francisco.

There are even times when we seem to have an uncanny knack for picking the wrong side. In the 1990s, Seattleites had the chance to create a 61-acre world park that would have connected South Lake Union to downtown. It would have cost taxpayers about $300 million to build an equivalent to New York’s Central Park. Paul Allen even loaned $20 million initially to buy up the property.

When the initiative failed, Paul decided to develop the land instead, and we now see how that turned out. I am certainly not about to blame him for Amazon’s sprawling campus and view-stealing skyscrapers. Real estate is, after all, a business, and we turned our backs on the idea of a new park, a park he wanted to help finance.

Seattle voters and residents have been fickle like this since the Denny party landed on Alki. We all say we want to cherish the past, but our history has shown a quirky desire to put the past asunder, build anew and then be wistful about the way things used to be.

It seems to be the Seattle way, to make way for the future while wishing things could just always stay the same. Unfortunately, you can’t step in the same river twice.

In the Emerald City, living in the present before I too become a recycled relic,

  • Robb

 

 
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Hello, I’m Mr. Fudd.

on September 24, 2018 in Home Ownership
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I grew up on Saturday morning cartoons. It was the best day of the week and I anxiously awaited my favorites. I freely admit, the Warner Brothers Cartoons were my favorite. Hanna-Barbera was O.K., but it was hard to touch Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and the cadre of characters that regularly paraded across my TV […]

 
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I Think I Got A Code.

on September 17, 2018 in Randomalities, The Soapbox
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A new movie called First Man is about the Apollo 11 mission as seen through the eyes of Neil Armstrong. Before the movie even made it to theaters, flag-waving crazy people have been up in arms about the fact that the moment when Neil plants the flag on the moon isn’t shown. Of course, in the […]

 
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President Thin Skin. Again.

on September 10, 2018 in Politics
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Bob Woodward is at it again. His new book is shaking Washington to its very core, leaving a standing president to whine and moan about how he is being treated unfairly and how the libel laws of the land should be changed to rein in all this bad publicity and hateful words. Now, I happen to […]

 
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In Bed With The Devil.

on September 3, 2018 in Randomalities
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No, this isn’t about my Florida days. No dishing dirt on that chapter on my life, though the headline, I must admit, would have been a good one for that. Rather, I am dealing with the harsh reality that I don’t think I am invincible any longer. Now, this invincibility thing has been central to […]

 
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Fame Or Fortune. Pick One.

on July 23, 2018 in Life Lessons
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A couple posts went looping around last week on Facebook asking others to share a story about someone famous they had met. There was plenty of namedropping, of course, some names more well known than others. I didn’t post a reply, largely because I’m not really all that impressed. Growing up, I was never starstruck. […]

 
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Liars, Tigers And Bears, Oh, My!

on July 16, 2018 in The Soapbox
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I’m not quite sure when things in our society went so askew. Maybe I’m just getting old, but it seems that as of late, we have shifted our scale or what is right and wrong to fit whatever moment we are in. There seems to be no absolutes anymore. And that is scary. When I […]

 
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The Zzaj Singer.

on July 2, 2018 in Pirate Adventures
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I often wonder what normal people do with their weekends. Some of my friends display their lovingly restored rides at car shows, others go boating, still others have family picnics or hike to the top of mountains just to see what there is to see. Me? I go pirating. When I was still in the […]

 
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A Pirate Looks at 60.

on May 28, 2018 in Life Lessons
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One of my favorite songs to perform is A Pirate Looks at 40. It’s about a guy in Key West who never really found his calling in his lifetime. Eventually, his biggest wish came true, for when he died he was cremated and was kept on top of the cash register at his favorite bar. […]

 
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Damned Failures!

on May 21, 2018 in Culture
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I am a Boomer. I used to be proud to be part of this generation. I mean, we are the majority of the country, or at least we were until those upstart Millennials came along. We were the generation that marched against an unjust war, fought for racial equality, embraced the women’s movement, got rid […]

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