Is the Party Over in Fremont?

Dear Uptight Seattleite,As a newcomer to this city, I've noticed an odd thing about the indigenous beer culture: The lineup of taps in every bar is at least two-thirds pale ales. The hops in all those pale ales are so strong, it's like you're drinking grapefruit juice instead of beer. I realize that hops are a local product and everything, but has it occurred to people around here that there are other kinds of beer, or that there are other ingredients in beer besides hops?Hopped Up

Dear Hopped,

Wort did you say? Get it? Wort, as in the fermentable liquid derived from mash? Heh heh. Just a little beer joke for you. But hey, you know, I'm actually really glad you felt comfortable enough to write in, even if you are a beer beginner (never mind the details that gave you away), because you might at least have enough knowledge to appreciate my dilemma.

Which is this: All too often when I pop in at a local quaffery, I am struck dumb by the subpar sparging evidenced by the proffered brews. Like a tap through the bung is the piercing of my palate by some appallingly amateurish stab at Kräusening, unrestrained ester, or obvious neglect of the maltose heralded by the paltry longevity of the head and weak after-lacing. Yet people all around me drink this stuff, laughing and talking as if everything were perfectly OK.

Of course, everything is OK, in a way. There's nothing wrong with "having a good time," or whatever. But how can I make them understand that they're drinking a lie? I can't. I can only offer a sad, weak smile and pedal away on my recumbent bicycle. Thanks for offering hope that someone else has at least a glimmer of the burden I bear.

Dear Uptight Seattleite,

I didn't go to the Fremont Solstice Parade this year because of something I saw when I went last year. Among the naked bicyclists was this one big muscle-y guy, his skin painted purple. He was standing up on his pedals to show off his massive schlong and prowling up and down, glaring at the crowd through his sunglasses like an angry predator. Creepy! The image of this guy lingered in my mind, casting all the subsequent clowns, faeries, and marching bands in a pale, sickly light. Is the party over in Fremont?Not a Parade Hater, Just Wondering

Dear Parade Hater,

Well, it's true that Fremont isn't what it used to be. Before it became poisoned with the elements guaranteed to ruin any neighborhood (successful businesses and a large number of people who want to live there), a vibrant community of artists once animated its air with fun and invention. Which is why so much great art from the old days lives on, as will be documented in the hotly anticipated SAM exhibit, "The Do-It-Yourself Glories of Fremont, 1973-1998." OK, so maybe there isn't really going to be a show like that. Who needs institutional validation anyway? There were some great parties, and some truly legendary pilgrimages to Burning Man. No one can take away the community's memories of stoned midnight brilliance stretching back dizzily through the decades, an epic pageant as ephemeral and lovely as Aboriginal song lines. And that's really the legacy of Fremont—a spirit of festive self-absorption. If the parade seems to have lost its way and become host to the odd creep or two, it still offers a little blast of that spirit in a dosage safe for the masses. And what's so bad about that?

Dear Uptight Seattleite,

When did everyone start wearing Crocs and stop wearing Birkenstocks?Shod-curious

Dear Shod,

The tipping point came on the morning of Sunday, July 23, 2006. That's when Larry White of North Seattle, on his way to do some gardening in his yard, groggily kicked aside the suede Zurich-model Birks ($110) he'd gotten as a 39th birthday present from his wife, and slipped instead into the fuchsia Crocs ($29.99) he'd picked up on a whim at Target. The bright, synthetic color of the Crocs suggested pharmaceutical fun, while their spongy material seemed like it might involve some sort of recycling of industrial materials (even if it doesn't). Proceeding thus shod toward his tomato plants, he suddenly felt a spirit at once youthful and sensible enter his body. This blinding epiphany rendered his Birkenstocks a forgotten taupe smudge in the corner of his garage. Larry and the rest of us haven't looked back since.

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