Annoyed that Seattle tourists had the gall to bitch to the press about the eyesore of "transients" in this city, author Jonathan Raban decided to take a homeless guy to lunch. He found Real Change vendor Fred Spruitenberg, and the result was a column in Sunday's New York Times. Fred, he found, was a real human being, with thoughts and interests and aspirations and imperfections, just like the rest of us. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it's a really nice piece of writing.
Fred mentioned Goblin Market, a Christina Rossetti poem that helped Raban frame just what needs to be said about Seattle at this particular moment in time.
Like Fred, Seattle has been a longstanding client of the goblin merchants. The city is littered with expensive toys and baubles, like Paul Allen’s grand folly, the Experience Music Project, a globular, multicolored extravaganza designed by Frank Gehry and known as “the hemorrhoids” by employees of the public TV station that overlooks it, but which now appears to my eye as a cornucopia of goblin damsons, figs and pomegranates.
Likewise, the new $52 million, 1.3-mile streetcar line, a pet project of the mayor, which runs from downtown to the giant construction site of South Lake Union, and whose shiny red, orange and purple cars are cute, quaint and eerily underpatronized. This is the city that a couple of years ago came within an inch of spending $11 billion (including the cost of debt service) on a new monorail system, cool as an iPhone but of doubtful utility.
As the faint breeze from the east strengthens into the frigid wind of recession, Seattle will have to reckon with its weakness for the goblin stuff. A chastening reading of Fred’s favorite poem might be a good place to start.