Keeping hearts warm in cold Seattle & Portland

Columbia River, near Vista House

We heard from our Uber driver that a 2-bedroom apartment rents out for US$3500 per month in downtown Seattle. Prices have escalated since the tech companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, Expedia started moving in/back a couple of years ago. Amazon alone is creating 60,000 jobs in Seattle over a year. That is an impressive number for someone who used to dig into archives for numbers like these to put on speeches for Chairmen and MDs. 
So Seattle is getting expensive. The city reflects that too with big brands, nice buildings and well-heeled clientele. That is generally a good sign indicating that the city is headed towards bigger and better things. But it also means that there will be people left behind. Along Pine Street, just slightly off the city centre, the homeless dot the area. I was rather surprised when approached by a young Caucasian couple – looking learned and all – asking for money to buy food because they hadn’t eaten in the past 24hours. Something might have happened to them but I found the approach strange. Maybe people are kinder here and are pre-disposed to help cases like these. They would have a harder time in Singapore – warm weather, colder people.  

They are very accepting of different kinds of people here too. Or at least what I have observed, in Portland particularly. The LGBT community is front, centre and integrated. It’s not as if an area has been sectioned out for them like in many cities and I sensed freedom for them here. Portland is smallish in terms of city-likeness; if NYC is a 10 and Orlando is a 3 then Portland would be a 6. Seattle would be an 8.

Opposite the Public Mrkt Center in Seattle

The markets we find here in the US are always enjoyable. Walking out and around in the open is not ideal in the frigid cold (-1 deg C) but to be able to watch and hear people go about their business, with white fogs emerging from their mouths every time they utter something, is oddly reassuring.  

Of course we couldn’t miss Pike Fish Co. The crew gamely performed their fish throwing routine when SJ requested for it. They must do this a lot and brought smiles to the faces of people gawking. They told us that they were invited to Singapore by the Ministry of Manpower a decade back presumably to share their business model and such. They are after all a famous case study. And the crew cheekily mentioned that they visited Orchard Towers for some ‘nightlife’. Not your usual tourist destination, they said. They are a fun bunch. 

I’d like to go back there someday just to take stock of changes, if not the coffee, preferably not when they are having a cold snap. As both cities evolve, I hope they won’t lose their ability to be kind and embrace everyone. 


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