I recently came across a line in a story about Seattle written by a Bay Area reporter in 1968. "Among cities on the Pacific Coast," he wrote, "San Francisco is the mistress, but Seattle is the wife."
There's enough truth in that to be funny. I just came back from a trip to the Bay Area where I've been cheating on my hometown.
San Francisco is a place to have fun, Seattle is the town to raise a family. San Francisco is heels, Seattle is sensible shoes. San Francisco is Mediterranean, Seattle is Copenhagen.
When Seattle turns heads it's not because we're hot but because we're "Doing things right." Balanced, progressive, sustainable. Take the recent story in the New York Times by Edward Glaeser, the Harvard prof and author of the Triumph of Cities. He lauds Seattle for doing all the right urbanist things (density, diversity), but especially for being a city that attracts "smart people." He writes: "Educated neighbors are particularly valuable in dense cities, where contact is more common."
He's not talking about the kind of "contact" people used to get down at Rick's strip club, now closed. He's talking about ideas.
Seattle is a national poster-child for quality of life, not human sensuality, pleasure, beauty, and movement. We're surrounded by gorgeous country, but Mt. Rainier is more maternal mammary gland than incitement to misbehavior. If Seattle's biggest sex organ is its brain, say the smart-growthers, it'll attract a new generation of recyclers.
Seattle today is, I would argue, sexier than it was in the '60s. People make passes at people of either gender who wear glasses nowadays.
I think, at least, we've graduated to sexy eco-friendly soccer mom.