Sitting here in the lobby of a nice hotel in one of the most metropolitan cities in the world, enjoying fresh-roasted coffee, watching folks strolling along in the misty morning. And, note, they do stroll because nearly everyone here is long-legged and fit, wearing their ecoconcious brands in muted and not-so-muted earth tones. Cyclists are everywhere, peddling past, toting bikes onto trams, pausing outside funky little shops and cafes just long enough to lock their machines to the ubiquitous racks. The tourists are easy to spot in their mass-produced T-shirts emblazoned with the various catch phrases of The Emerald City. They are shorter, older, remarkably homogenized and as noticeable as their beloved Wal-Mart stores are noticeably absent in this big box holdout.
Everything here feels freshly scrubbed, perhaps due to the supposedly constant rainfall which has been anything but during my visit. Even Martin Luther King Blvd., that stereotypical bastion of poverty and racial profiling in cities nationwide, has been gentrified, with newly built but classically styled row homes painted in alpine hues with clean white trim and flower filled gardens both around and on top of them. The irony of the “white around the edges” trim of these homes is unmistakable as brown faces shuffle forth to the light rail stations to join their lighter-skinned and wealthier brethren in the rat race that, although slower-paced, exists here as everywhere.