Friday, June 29, 2007

Insert City Name Here

No matter how long you have been here, you are a New Yorker the first time you say, That used to be Munsey's, or That used to be the Tic Toc Lounge. That before the internet café plugged itself in, you got your shoes resoled in the mom-and-pop operation that used to be there. You are a New Yorker when what was there before is more real and solid than what is here now.

--Colson Whitehead, The Colossus of New York

This is more or less exactly how I feel about Seattle. Not surprisingly, I'm quickly coming to adore the book--the rest of this chapter is a meditation on how your experiences shape "your" city, and the rest of the book is a tour of Whitehead's personal New York.

I've been thinking a lot about these issues because I've just recently been appointed to the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board. The criteria for landmark designation are pretty exacting, which is probably as it should be--but one of the first nominations that came before me dealt with a place that is clearly a part of many people's personal Seattle, and it was hard to watch them struggle to find a way to preserve that piece of their city under the terms of the ordinance. It was also quite an experience to make a decision about the designation in front of a room packed full of people with passionate opinions both for and against it. The Board ended up being split on the decision; I voted in the minority, for designation, but I was comfortable with the Board's decision.