Terra Cognita

Streets of Fire (Sale)

I’ve been living in Seattle for over ten years now, in fact in the same neighborhood the entire time: Capitol Hill. It’s well known around Seattle that Capitol Hill is the artsy, boho-ish, gay-friendly area, so it’s naturally full of local color and about nine hundred thousand hoboes, each of which hits me up for change on my way home every day. Broadway is kind of the acknowledged main drag (ahem), and if I have only one problem with it, it’s this: it’s going straight to fucking hell right before my eyes.

Take the Broadway Market. The Broadway Market is a mall that’s not really a mall, more kind of just a dinky mall-let with more character and a nice public space in the middle where people of all ages and all manner of metal shit lodged in their bodies come to hang out, drink coffee, and make fun of the unhip straights like me. It’s cool. Upstairs years ago there used to be a funky bar/restaurant called Hamburger Mary’s which has since moved to a different location, where it died a horrible death, and was replaced by another bar, which is undergoing a horrible death, pretty clearly, because nobody ever goes there for mysterious reasons perhaps having to do with a gypsy curse or something. Anyway, when I worked at my horrendous retail job in the Broadway Market, we would of course go upstairs to get drinks there, but then when Hamburger Mary’s left, it was replaced by an intolerable Mexican joint whose margaritas tasted like transmission fluid, so nobody went there any more, and now it’s a fucking health club. Part of me dies when a health club replaces a former bar spot, but maybe that’s just my liver sparking out a twinge of hope.

Downstairs in the Broadway Market, they just lost a big anchor store when the Gap moved out. This leaves me really fucked, as I now have no convenient place to purchase my bland, monochromatic clothing. I need solid colors! I can’t dress myself otherwise! But the real question here is: how does one of the ostensibly hippest shopping centers in town, located in the midst of a huge gay population, with tons of foot traffic lose the Gap? It’s insane; it would be like a head shop going out of business in downtown Eugene. It doesn’t make any fucking sense. The Market is looking pretty gutted, and there’s more on their way out; a funky African store is taking off, and the snooty sandwich shop inside folded too. Now it’s not that I feel warm fuzzies for any of these particular places of business, but I liked them a whole lot better than, oh, nothing, which is what’s shaping up to replace them. About the only thing in there clearly still doing a jumping bit of business is the liquor store, and why not? Everyone on Broadway is drinking themselves stupid while they watch their neighborhood dissolve into something out of Escape from New York. Only instead of Kurt Russell, it’ll be Jane Russell, except this Jane Russell is a man in drag, and instead of subhuman CHUDS, there’ll be loser punker kids spare-changing in front of empty store fronts. Othewise exactly the same.

Down the road a bit, there’s another bar that croaked itself after being in business for around ten minutes–Jack’s Roadhouse–and since it failed as a bar, the new tenants are cleverly resurrecting it as another bar, this time an Irish Public House sort of deal. We’ll see. Across the street, the great old indie record store that closed down a while back and then turned into sleeker record store that almost immediately gorked out is trying to become a funky shoe store. They’re doomed. And down from them is the space where–RIP–Fallout Records used to be, home for about a million years to punk records, punk regalia, punk comics, and, occasionally and improbably, since the place was about as big and comely as a grimy phone booth, punk bands. It cheered my heart walking home some days to stroll by and be suddenly leveled by the sheer noise emanating from their store, while the neighboring shopowners glared and calculated arson prison sentence negotiations in their heads. It always sounded like some pub band had fallen en masse into a huge wood chipper.

It’s all just depressing, and I hope the place recovers before it gets worse. I might do my part and go out and get a drink at one of my default bars on Broadway. There’s a nice little Asian joint right around the corner. You know the place. It’s next to Jimmy Woo’s Jade Pagoda, one of the most legendary places of magic in town, a wellspring of timeless booze mojo. Cheapest drinks around; clientele looking like they were born in there, years ago, sprouting up from the carpet mold; a jukebox that really has “It’s Raining Men” on it; and of course the alleged food that they never serve to anyone because every person I know is terrified to try it, even in the most gravely drunken desperate state. That’s the place.

It’s closing soon.