Letters From Belltown, Which Could Be the City's Crown Jewel of a Neighborhood

Duff McKagan's column runs every Thursday on Reverb. He writes about what music is circulating through his space every Monday.
Rather than go long on a single issue this week, I thought I'd relay several observations that I've been able to make about the Belltown area of Seattle while I've been down here making a record this week at Studio X.

There is a little market across the street from the studio that has the usual fare--Red Bull, chips, string cheese, crack pipes (sorry, glass tobacco pipes), and an assortment of baseball hats and beanies. I guess these are the items that sell the best here in America. Every corner market in every major city in the States seems to carry the same stuff.

But the baseball hats at this store gave me pause. I like humor, especially when something is not supposed to be funny. The slogans on a couple of the dustier, long-hanging hats instantly explained why they had yet to sell. One hat had a graphic of a crafty king's jester with an evil smile. The slogan above the graphic read "JOCKER'S WILD." Heh, heh. The other hat showed a graphic of the U.S. Presidents on Rushmore. Above this, it simply read "MOUNTAIN RUSHMORE."

My new friend who runs this store, a fellow whose first language is not English, bemoaned the fact that these hats were made in China and that "they can't spell English down there." I thought to myself that perhaps he was missing some of the humor. Someone from his store had indeed displayed these hats to sell. Besides the fact that, yes, a lot of our disposable goods are imported from China, I'm just glad that I live in a place where I can banter with an Ethiopian gentleman about a Chinese-made product and openly complain about our government.

The U.S. is a melting pot, and I hope that it remains this way. Immigrants built this country on grit and determination for a better life. I COULD do with more U.S.-made products and/or less outsourcing to other countries, though. I'm more than sick of hearing about another car or plane plant closing because of cheaper labor and other costs abroad. Maybe my new slogan to reflect my insights should be "MORE IMMIGRANTS, LESS IMPORTS."

Because I have been down in Belltown recording every night until midnight, I have been privy to the crap that goes on here at night. It is a fucking crime free-for-all. I love this city, and it bums me out to see crack deals and threats of violence in our urban center. I like a city with some edge, don't get me wrong, but this is plain ugly and scary. For 10 nights straight, I have not seen one police car or cop presence at all. I'd rather walk anywhere in Boston or New York at night than have to circumnavigate Belltown these days. Hey, Mayor McGinn? What's the deal?

Belltown could be THE crown-jewel urban Seattle neighborhood. It is far from that right now, from what I have seen. I know there have been recent meetings with Belltown neighborhood groups, but I don't think extending weekend police activity alone will do much to stave off the day-in, day-out bullshit that I have witnessed this past week.

Lastly . . . the Seattle Mariners. Will someone please fire president Chuck Armstrong and CEO Howard Lincoln? They are not apt to fire themselves, and Seattle baseball fans deserve so much more than the very less-than-average Major League team that we have now. There is no tradition of winning, and I am afraid that it can't start while these two fellows are running the show.

Back to the studio.

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