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Sunday, August 24, 2008
But what would Kurt have thunk?
I recently killed part of an afternoon in Seattle's Capitol Hill district and the Pike/Pine Corridor. Supposedly the "heart of trendy Seattle," they've been dubbed everything from Seattle's equivalent of San Francisco's Castro district to the birthplace of grunge. Supposedly, Pearl Jam came up with their band name in a Capitol Hill coffeehouse and several bands from that era got their start in nearby clubs.
On Wednesday the only signs I could find of the district's grunge past were a few record stores, a head shop and a middle-aged homeless man busy screaming out the lyrics to a song from Vs. outside of a QFC. I can't say I was surprised. When I visited the Haight a few years ago I found a burnt-out junkie standing next to a Ben and Jerry's across the street from a Gap at the district's famous intersection. Apt metaphors for the dark sides of two generations worth of hopeless dreamers?
Capitol Hill and Pike/Pine seem like they're experiencing the first pangs of gentrification. Or maybe it's more like the fifth or sixth-thousandth pangs. Apartment buildings are turning into condos and I spotted a few people trotting down the street pushing baby carriages. You can practically watch real estate prices climb like time-lapse film footage of weeds growing but there's still a few rundown, graffiti-covered buildings to be found. The impression that I was left with is that the entire area is on the verge of going full-blown Pearl District at any given second.
One sign that the neighborhood is mutating into a yuppie stronghold is Bimbo's Cantina, formerly Bimbo's Bitchin' Burrito Kitchen. The internet tells me that this place was once a hole-in-the-wall hipster hangout with a staff known for being rude and, well, downright bitchy to customers. Its new location, sans the lucha libre stain-gassed windows and south-of-the-border brick-a-brak, could easily pass for a martini bar.
Nonetheless, my rather polite waiter was wearing a flannel shirt straight out of an early Soundgarden press photo and my Homestyle Burrito put the similar "Elmer Fudd" burrito at the Belmont Laughing Planet to shame. Weighing in at what had to be a full pound or more, this monstrosity combined the best parts of a traditional burrito with a Thanksgiving dinner. I left the place feeling like a boa constrictor that had just consumed a Disneyland employee in a Mickey Mouse costume.
I wish I could have seen the neighborhood in the early-90s but I guess I'll just have to settle for the condos, the fantastic burritos and Stumptown Coffee's first non-Portland location.
Some other stuff:
A Jimi Hendrix statue outside the Capitol Hill Everyday Music.
An old movie poster on the side of a warehouse.
"News" being a bunch of show posters and Green Peace ads stabled to the side of a former telephone pole.