Seattle: the theme park

This new attraction showcases all the best of the great Northwest.

A COUPLE WEEKS AGO, big-shot developers from Kentucky announced plans to raze 100 acres south of Tacoma (near Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base) where some low-income housing, a trailer park, and a middle school now stand. In place of all that, they want to put up a "Great Northwest" theme park. Early accounts said the "proposed family-oriented park would include thrill rides. It would aim to highlight the 'rugged outdoors' elements of the Northwest, as well as its history."

Here's what any truly authentic NW-themed tourist attraction oughta have:

Seasonal-affective-disorderland. Start your visit here at "The Depressingest Place On Earth," where a special overhead dome keeps the "sky" unrelentingly grey and dim for a few midday moments and completely dark the rest of the time. Soothe your quiet desperation at the Jolt Cola soda fountain, the tanning-bed thrill ride, the Magic Prozac Dispenser, the Ingmar Bergman screening room, and the Cry-In-Your-Beer Garden. The fog machines shut off just long enough to reveal the desolate landscape of your next stop . . .

Clearcutland. Panoramic murals enhance the experience of being entirely surrounded by stumps and blown-away topsoil. Take the Abandoned Sawmill Ride, but keep your arms inside the tram car— especially when turning past Circular Saw Corner. See the hourly fights in the Lonesome Pine Tavern (the sign above the bar reads: "It's called the Lonesome Pine because it's not poplar"), as the hippie backpackers blame the unemployed loggers for having killed 90 percent of the forest and the loggers blame the hippies for not letting them finish the job. But see it all soon; each week, fifty square feet of Clearcutland is given over to the expansion of . . .

Sprawlland. Enter the showplace of material excess that is the Cabin Castle—a giant, meandering compound all done up in "rustic" tones, overlooking the last remaining forested area of Clearcutland. Step lively during the walking tour while the castle's perky mistress (looking sharp in her Coldwater Creek apr賭ski outfit) demonstrates each of its amazing luxury features—the indoor hot-spring surrounded by holographic rain forest images, the sauna rebuilt from an authentic native sweat lodge, the bedposts made from real Inuit totem poles—all while lecturing you about the importance of Simple Living. You move on (very, very slowly) in your SUV-replica tram car on the Ex-Country Road Traffic Jam Ride, on your way to your next destination . . .

Gatesland. After the long Traffic Jam Ride, the kids will rush for the chance to stretch their legs and run through the Office Cubicle Maze. The grownups, meanwhile, will be corralled into a cavernous meeting room to hear the Animatronic Bill robot (surrounded, as always, by a dozen animatronic yes-men) either (1) praise his legacy of innovation, or (2) map strategies for "embracing" other companies' ideas and running said companies out of business. A short corridor leads into the next meeting room, also known as . . .

Processland. You're now watching a two-part dramatized farce. A panel of animatronic city bureaucrats sit with the stoicism of London palace guards while animatronic activists rant on and on (via electronically speeded-up voices) about assorted social ills. Suddenly, two human actors (playing the only characters in the piece the producers choose to depict as human) rush on stage, demanding hefty municipal subsidies for a new caviar store. At once, the bureaucrat robots spring to "life," shuffle some papers, and promptly approve the proposal on a voice vote. The victorious upscale couple invites everyone in the audience to come celebrate this important victory for the city's future and leads everyone off toward . . .

Condoland. Nosh at the Gourmet Hummus Snack Bar. Partake of the finest no-host beverages. Eavesdrop on upscale costumed characters chattering about what a crime it is for government to dare interfere with business and why citizens who don't support caviar store subsidies are lacking the will to greatness. Out of the corner of your eye, you spot a pair of nose-ringed beverage servers walking down a hidden passageway. You follow them down what seems like 10 flights of stairs to . . .

Boholand. You can see the faint remnants of a painted-over "Grungeland" sign at the entrance. You can also see people you've run into earlier today. Previously, they were ride operators, tour ushers, and snack-counter servers. Now, they're dressed in art smocks, Beatnik-chic black sweaters, ballet tights, leather G-strings, BSA-logo biker jackets, or drag gowns. They invite you to share their Triscuit-based hors d'oeuvres and wine-in-a-box while they explain to you how everything in Boholand used to completely suck, but now it all completely sucks in totally different ways. As your eyes adjust to the dim lights, you can see signs posted around the black-painted room. The signs announce that various corners have been condemned for an expanded Condoland. Eventually, you also see a sign that promises "Only Way Out." It turns out to be a shortcut back to Seasonal-affective-disorderland.

It's not that you can't leave the park, but that you're not supposed to ever want to.

 
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