|Lonely days in the Emerald City|
By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist
People back east probably wonder whether it's difficult being the last man still living in Seattle, but really, it isn't all that much different from before.
I must admit that I do occasionally get a little misty eyed thinking about the old days when the city seemed to be the center of the universe. Boeing was the globe's leader in aviation and defense, Bill Gates was the world's richest man and everyone was going to retire early on Microsoft stock. And best of all, the city was home to the greatest baseball players in the world -- Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez and the rest of Lou Piniella's Mariners.
I suppose the population drain began in late 1999, when Junior demanded a trade to the metropolis of Cincinnati, the fabled City of Light, in order to be closer to his family. Some of us wondered why he didn't simply have his family live here year-round, but that's us. Having been so isolated from the rest of the world and its modern conveniences, we just assumed everyone enjoyed living that way. We thought Junior was happy. After all, his home was only a couple of blocks off the trolley line, and it had indoor plumbing recently installed.
But I guess the straw that finally broke the camel's back for him was the party line phone system. He said he got tired of having everyone in the city listen in to his phone calls with Jay Buhner. I guess you can't blame him, seeing as how he was from a big, cosmopolitan city such as Cincinnati, but out here we didn't mind that sort of thing. We relied on our neighbors too often for barn-raising and midwifery to worry about them overhearing us talking about whether we were voting for the Whig or Bull Moose candidate this fall.
So, Junior left. And we got by.
So, A-Rod left. And we got by.
Then, Boeing moved its corporate headquarters to Chicago, saying it needed to be closer to its Eastern markets and away from the notorious Seattle traffic. And again, we understood. We only wished there was a company somewhere that could manufacture a contraption capable of carrying people long distances in a short period of time. Plus, we had heard the tales of how Chicago's mass transportation was the envy of the world, with broad, open freeways connecting its citizens to every point of the city within 15 minutes via nonpolluting "horseless carriages." How could Seattle compete with that when our horses were still slipping in the mud and backing up buggies along Skid Road?
So, Boeing left. And we got by. We still had Lou and the Mariners to entertain us in the summer and the vaudeville circuit and the Chautauqua tent preachers during the winter rainy season.
And then Lou left so he could manage closer to his home in Tampa, Fla.
The problem was that once Lou left, everyone figured maybe he was right, maybe Seattle was a little too isolated, and maybe we all should get out when the getting was good.
Of course, Rick Neuheisel was the first to go.
Soon, everyone followed. The city lost 1.2 million residents the first six months and another million by the end of the year, and it just got worse from there, until all but a stubborn and hardy handful of Microsoft employees with stock options remained. (It got so bad, some people even moved to Tacoma). Amazingly, despite the population flight, homes on Queen Anne Hill still went for $780,000 and the state highway 520 floating bridge still was backed up to Redmond at rush hour.
But then, eventually, even the failed dot-commers left and everyone was gone. Except for me.
So, here I am now, the last man living in the former great city of Seattle. Yes, there are inconveniences. Yes, I miss the Mariners. Yes, I long for the good old days. But I do all right for myself. I may be the only man left in Seattle, but I have a house with a 360-degree view of Mount Rainier and the Olympic Mountains, and I still make a very comfortable living.
After all, I run the Starbucks.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.