Monday, May 12, 2008

Aurora Avenue--Last Bastion of Seediness

On Saturday we drove out Aurora Avenue and I was reminded that some parts of Seattle are still complying to my militant agenda.
An artery famous for its ghetto motels, suicides, and hookers, Aurora also offers a fine selection of pawn shops, sinister Chinese restaurants, strip clubs, gun shops, junk yards, casinos (I don't get how that works as it seems unlikely that north Seattle is a patchwork of Indian land), and sagging strip malls.
As a critic who often makes judgments on purely aesthetic grounds, can I really feel comforted by a strip mall?
The answer is yes, yes I can.
You may note that this blog is called Keep Seattle Seedy not Regress Seattle to A Pristine Woodland Meadow.

I am not singing the praises of just any strip mall--I certainly have no use for the strip malls of the TCBY and Panda Express variety. The strip malls on aurora are special--an endearing mishmash of mom and pop taxidermy shops and what Poverty insists are 'nail salons with happy endings'. (There are clearly several flaws in his theory, but I thought it was worth mentioning, if only the image it conjures.)

You know what makes the ugliness of Aurora better than the ugliness of the latest Ballard condos?
Two things.
1. Aurora is useful.

The retail space in condos is not useful.
Bistros are not useful. Salons are not useful. Boutiques are not useful. The amount of people who can afford them is small, and the clientèle they cater to is select. Aurora, on the other hand, offers a little something for everyone. Cheap Chinese food anyone? Not your gig? OK, how about house paint? Or a garden shrub? Or a bicycle? Or a hand gun? Or a taxidermied duck? Or a stripper?

2. Tom Waits

Although I'd like to believe that Tom Waits could do anything, I'm not sure he could write a good song if strictly limited to describing the aesthetics of a typical Seattle condo development. But Aurora Avenue? He'd have a field day.


OCD OD said...

1. You're right.
2. You had me at Tom Waites

Jason said...

As someone who grew up on Aurora Avenue, *ON mind you, not in the vicinity* and although I have a veritable assload of stories because of it, it's pretty overrated. Watching misery is interesting from the outside, but it sucks terribly when one is mired in it. Aurora, honestly, is a hard world to escape. A place in which having yr nails filled and yr hair did are more important than paying the rent.

Maybe as a tourist. But then again I roll my eyes at all the Americans who come to Spain dreaming of Hemmingway. To observe and take notes can only be a partial thing. You remain, always, at a distance.