I thought you might like this.
One final treat before I take a month-long hiatus from the blog (Europe beckons)! This is me telling a story at a well-known monthly storytelling event at an establishment at the north end of Broadway; I'm not saying exactly where it is– not to be coy, mind you, but because the meetup is intended to build its (significant) population through word-of-mouth, attracting like-minded folk who stumble upon it by chance or else feel compelled to share it from first-hand experience, in hopes that it might preserve its makeup of a body of intrepid storytellers, rather than a massive audience of listeners. If interested, you're encouraged to do your own research to seek it out! As mentioned below, the web is a tool....
I'm thrilled to share the above story with you, and hope you enjoy it. I look forward to sharing more beautiful moments from the streets with you in the New Year. Check back in late January!
Here's a long-overdue set of new photographs; additionally, if you're in Capitol HIll, feel free to stop by Broadcast Coffee, where I have nine works on display, through the end of January! Hope you enjoy them!
Friends, I'll be on leave for most of January, and thus this will be my last story until I return to the States sometime in late January. I'm sure it's no surprise to faithful readers, but I try to avoid using computers and phones when traveling– you know my infatuation with being in the present. My friend Ernie told me just today to remember, regarding the internet, that "it's called the web for a reason!" He loves it as a tool, but cautioned against getting caught up in it. Can't forget to appreciate that bird flying past your window, or take in tonight's sunset.
I leave you (for now!) with a scene featuring two very different but very enjoyable voices, both of which which appeal to the different sides in me:
Sometimes I pull over like a taxi, when people are flagging me down. Other times I'll think, this is no taxi, as I drive on. The determining factor is usually how frequent the service is. Aside from the obvious considerations of safety and time, one must also consider that you might see that face again. On Rainier Avenue, where various folks spend lots of time at bus stops, you might see that face again very soon. What will the mind attached to that face think– or do– the next time he sees you?
In light of such a quandary, I pull over for this guy, a waving runner at Henderson and 52nd, some time before midnight. I appreciate his vigorous hustle.
"Thank you," he says in an East African accent, catching his breath. "You are the youngest driver I think I have ever seen."
I'll spare you the details of that portion of the conversation, which I've heard thousands of times and you've probably read dozens of times by now. He and I have the Youngest Driver Ever conversation and subsequently get over ourselves. I think what excites him is that he's speaking with someone of his generation.
"I just woke up," he says, explaining his rush for the bus.
"Do you work at night, then?"
"Yes. Well, night, or day, it's a contract work. Security."
"Wow, night or day, anytime they can call you?"
"Yes. Well, if I do night, they can't call me the next day,"
"Yes, but anytime they call, I go."
"Seems like a good job."
"Yeah, it's okay." He mentions some previous contract work with the Parks Department, which he preferred over security.
"What about you," he says. "You do school?"
I'm so used to talking to people about them, not me. I appreciate this man's balance.
"I did. All done now, graduated in 2009, from University of Washington."
"Yes, U Dub. I'm never going back!"
"I like learning, of course, but you know there's so much, pressure. It's nice to have time." Briefly we discuss photography and the hectic nature of university life.
"I don't have a degree like you, I only have high school,"
"But I want to one day go to University of Washington. It's just hard with work."
"You can do it, man. Especially there's always community college." I encourage him along that route, and we discuss price points and the merits of the local schools.
I wonder where the conversation would've taken us. As new passengers board, they shift the flavor of the room– I mean bus– much like adding ingredients to a meal. When I saw The Great Robert materialize at Cloverdale, I knew the time for wistful academic discourse was over, in favor of high-wire, lowbrow explosions of goodwill– an equally valuable contribution, if I may say so.
I shot my fist in the air as I pulled up to the zone, and he extended both arms out, as if preparing to hug an enormous invisible elephant. The Great Robert cuts a distinctive figure, thin and lanky, looking remarkably like a good friend of mine (yes Joseph S, I mean you!), except taller and African-American. The facial bone structure is uncanny. This guy's a black Joseph, aged another twenty years, and seems to have as much pep as I do. He makes the Cloverdale stop, what with its buckling cement and threateningly dingy mini-mart, light up with sunshine. I think he his looking like my friend makes him feel doubly familiar.
"Heeeeeeeeeyyy, Mister Robert! what's happening!"
"Hey man, I love you! Where your wife at tonight? You got a wife?"
"You know I don't got no wife!"
Yes, the flavor of the meal has shifted....
"You got your wife waitin' for you in Bellevue?"
"Bellevue?!" I don't live there, but even if I did, saying so in this neighborhood wouldn't be wise. "I'm never moving to Bellevue! I'm happy right here!"
"I love you, bro! I fuckin' love you!"
"Love you right back, man! Whatchoo been doin'?"
"This guy, this guy, this, you know what," he says to the young African security man, towering over him and managing to maintain balance, leering almost, "this, my buddy over here gon' be GUY O' DA YEAR. He gonna get GUY UH DA YEAR!"
The man is overwhelmed by Robert's energy. And volume. "I know, I voted for him already," he says.
"We're gonna make him GUY A DUH YEAR!"
"Aawwwww naawww," I say.
"I voted for him already, yeah yeah, he's," says the seated man, trying to placate the wildly ebullient Robert, to no avail. The correct terminology, "Operator of the Year," is either unknown or else entirely unsuitable for Robert's purposes tonight. "GUY UH DUH YEAR," he howls again, with wild abandon. "We're gonna get this nigger's PICTURE up on the wall!"
He points at the wall in question, doubled over with joy, and I laugh with pleasure. "You're too kind! I love you guys!"
"Man, Jason, what's your name?"
"Nathan, not Jason, my bad,"
"Oh it's all the same, it rhymes,"
"I fuckin' love you, dogg. Shit. When we gonna– dude!" Eyes lighting up. "We need to have a BARBECUE!"
I adore Robert, but I have a hard enough time seeing my friends as it is. How do you politely turn down invitations to barbecues? I'm not good at this.
"Uh," I say.
"When we gonna have BARBECUE?"
"Uh, uh, right here on the bus!"
"Aw hell no, we gotta smoke out! They'll fire your ass!"
"You know I gotta keep it squeaky clean!"
"We'll set up the grill in the middle turning part,"
"No, I want the grill up by you where you can SMELL that shit...."
Robert settles into a nearby chair, expounding on hypothetical barbecue (or rather, BARBECUE) scenarios. With him is a quieter woman about his age. Meanwhile, the would-be student gets up to leave at Othello.
"Hey, it was good talking to you," I tell him.
"Thank you, bro."
"What's your name?"
"Hey, I understand. He's right, you're a good guy. I do social work. Physically I'm a darkass dude, but mentally I'm right there with you."
"You're awesome." Internally I'm thinking, what a fascinating statement.
I blaze past Orcas, parsing out the possible implications and ramifications of the sentence. What a bizarre thing to say. When you're on the road, there's lots of time to think. My mind wanders: there's the dichotomy between his interior mindset and exterior choice of presentation; resolving oppositional appearance with compassion; concepts of blackness; his need to express shared latent components he feels may not be visible–
"She didn't ring it?"
That's Robert, waking me from my reverie.
"Naw, nobody rang..."
"Go 'head, go ahead we'll get the next one."
"Oh yeah, go to the next one."
"Ooohh, now I feel bad!"
"Nooo, it's cool! Listen, what time you off?"
"About one or so tonight." They're standing up, him and his lady, coming to the very front.
"Oh, tight," Robert replies. "Then you gon' go home to your wife?"
"You know I got nothin' at home!"
"Check out my girl's teeth!"
I glance at her mouth. "Looks good! You guys look good together!"
"How about you," she says, speaking for the first time. "Lemme see your teeth!"
She looks mine over carefully. We're stopped at Brandon Street at 12:18 AM. At some jobs, you can predict what will happen in the course of a day. I didn't think I'd get a cosmetic midnight dental checkup when I woke up this morning. Finally she approves, nodding: "you got good teeth."
"You got great teeth," I say, actually paying attention to them this time. Those really are a stunningly matched set of incisors.
"Are you married?" she asks.
"No, huh uh."
"I GOT CHOO," says Robert. "I got choo."
I make sounds of hesitation. "Um."
He understands. You can't marry just anyone, after all. "DA RIGHT WUN," he says, cracking a million-dollar smile. Some people grin in the most infectious way– you know, where it's like you're both in on some inside joke, the lips going up and getting cheeky, dimples and eyes twinkling.... Oh, you've just got to smile back to that. How could anyone not?
"DA RIGHT WUN," he says, pointing a finger at me.
"The right one!" I say, pointing a finger in response. Fistpound.
The right one!
"No, that is the great fallacy; the wisdom of old men. They do not grow wise. They grow careful."
"Perhaps that is wisdom."
"It is a very unattractive wisdom. What do you value most?"
"Some one I love."
"With me it is the same. That is not wisdom. Do you value life?"
"So do I. Because it is all I have."
-Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms (1929)
Clip (2 mins): From Seven (1995). Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman discuss different views on apathy. Screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker.
She was fifty, with a cute and approachable face. Her glasses were a touch foggy and may have been broken, and her brown sweatshirt was frayed and lived in, with that moisture a fleece accumulates after continuous long hours outside. I didn't read her cardboard sign as I walked past, in a hurry like the rest of the urban human race, but I noted her presence. Fourth and Pine, northwest corner, under the overhang. She was sitting with her back against the diagonal corner wall of the Macy's building, in front of the window display modeling clothes and Christmas presents.
I had about ten minutes before my 49 showed up. As I've mentioned before, I give food but not money, and today I had no food on hand. I had a few bills, but hesitated to part with them as I'd just cleaned out my bank accounts preparing an upcoming trip to Europe– in my own world, I was poor. I'll watch and wait, I decided, before doing anything. It's the Christmas season. Maybe all these passing crowds were relishing the giving spirit of the holiday, and were handing off pastries and coffee and loose change like nobody's business.
Part of my reason for thinking this was recent a memory of driving around (in my car) on Thanksgiving night. I'd just had a terrifically massive meal among friends, and was tooling around downtown before going home, equipped with copious leftovers and searching for folks in need. Incredibly, however, everyone already had food! I couldn't believe what I was looking at. Here was a city of street corners chomping on turkey and ham with pineapple. A couple of men underneath I-5 at Cherry topped it all off– I approached them trying to get the attention of one who was urinating behind a pillar, but before they heard me I noticed their plates of food, which were complete with well-done steak and potatoes that still had gravy! These guys had better-looking leftovers than I did! The scrambled eggs still looked warm, for Pete's sake.
The generous had already passed through town, and I continued home amused and pleasantly surprised. I did manage to part with stuffing and macaroni– a man at I-5 and Madison got excited when I walked toward him in the dark yelling, "do you like stuffing?"– but that was all.
Additionally, I recently bought a coffee for a character at Third and Cherry, only to have two others walk across the street to supply her with coffee at exactly the same time. Worse things have happened, we concluded. Maybe this woman at Fourth and Pine had similarly already been helped. It was the holidays, after all. I tarried, taking up a post just outside her periphery by some newspaper bins, and settled in to watch things play out.
I was very wrong. Thanksgiving at midnight must summon an urge for sharing that the pre-Christmas shopping crush simply does not possess. I watched the hordes at Westlake walk past, and walk past, and walk past, decked out in finery and stress, without a care beyond their own in the world. It was a cacophony of shopping bags and heels, watches and plush sweaters and skin daubed up with cream. There's a man around who sometimes carries a sign saying, "I feel invisible," and that sentiment certainly applied here. Watching all of this from her perspective it felt as if the affluence was being rubbed in her face consciously. A well-dressed young man, either massively ignorant or bent on doing the above, walked directly in front her as he arranged large bills in a money clip (tip for the uninitiated: don't do that when near Third and Pine!).
After seven minutes of sentry duty I decided action was necessary. I stepped across to Starbucks, immediately stepping back out upon seeing the long line. Not enough time to buy anything; forget the food rule. I'll just have to give her one of the two fives I was carrying.
"Hey," I said, entering her field of vision. "How's it going."
"Not too good,"
Don't tell anyone I gave her two transfers as well. I swear it's not a habit: "here. This is for now, and this is for later."
"Oh, thank you."
"And I'm gonna give you one of these fives, I need the other one to buy lunch,"
"Oh thank you."
"I've been watching you, and I can't believe that no one has stopped!"
"I know. No one's given me anything for three hours."
Wow, I thought. "Okay, you need to have the rest of this," I said, handing her the remaining five. "My name's Nathan."
Handshake. "You can ride my bus anytime, any day."
"Be safe today." As I began walking away, I added, "treat yourself to something nice."
Upon hearing that she burst into tears. That wasn't the effect I intended the line to have. Her shoulders shook from crying.
I should've stayed with her longer.
There's a Samoan man in sharp leather who calls me "Center of the Universe." It's because I that's how I announce Third and Pike/Pine. Tonight, somewhere on Jackson, he launched into the following tirade, which I need to contextualize by saying it was yelled hoarsely by him with a smile on his face. I had just innocuously fared someone well with "happy holidays." From the middle of the bus, which is scattered at this late hour with faces rugged but friendly:
"Stop sayin' that shit, man, 'happy holidays!' It's bullshit and you know it!" Arms histrionically waving in the air. "It's about Christmas! It's 'Merry Christmas!' This holiday is about praisin' the Lord from up on high, man! Fuckin' happy holidays, forget that brother, this is about Jesus!" I'm laughing and he is too. He'd be a great preacher.
"Is that right?"
"Yeah it's right, praisin' the greater glory of God, don't hide it! You know better! It ain't about the merchants, we can't be celebrating the merchants, 'happy holidays,' they're just tryna make money off tha Lord! Its about the, it's about Jesus repayin' our debts and rebuildin' that church in three days! Don't say 'happy holidays!' I heard you sayin' that bull, it ain't no happy holidays,"
"I been sayin' both! You heard me mixin' it up!"
"Merchants just after your money, everybody use it as an excuse to buy stuff, they max out their credit cards five years with a swipe! Buy more this year than they did last year!"
"Well, I know that's true!"
"I'm just thinkin' aloud, guys," he says, downshifting. "Thanks for listening!"
"Hey, I'm down, you can say what you gotta say!"
"Thanks for hearing me out, everybody!"
Later on, he said, "hey, what's your name?"
"I'm Nathan. Nathan."
"Nathan. I'm Patu."
"Patu yeah, I'm Samoan. You're a great bus driver great guy."
"Thank you. It's always good to see you!"
"Have a good night! And–" forget political correctness for now, as we holler at each other in unison– "Merry Christmas!"
Later that night, an elderly Jamaican regular looked at me askance after I had diplomatically said "happy holidays."
"I define my holidays," he said. Dramatic Pause. Then: "Merry Christmas!"
Okay then! "Merry Christmas!"
I suppose it's similar to how I feel about the term Caucasian. The etymology derives from the Caucasus Mountains, located between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea, with specific reference to the 18th-century populations which lived on the southern slopes. Neither I, nor my father nor any of his ancestors have ever had anything to with the Caucasus Mountains. Especially not the southern slopes. I guess I prefer the non-PC "half-white" or "non-white" or yes, "mixed-race," or the tentatively canonized "hapa." Or we could all just settle for "Muggle."
Having said all of that: Happy Holidays!
He came up to me at 135th, scabrous and gristled. This was last Christmas Eve, on the 358.
"You give a good ride, man."
"Well, thanks, man. You got plans for the holiday?"
"Yeah, I'm gonna get off here, go over to KFC."
"Oh, right on."
"Yeah, gonna grab some dinner for my girlfriend. We're gonna stay in tonight, watch some TV."
"Sounds good to me, chance to relax. 'What it's all about, right?"
What I felt was not pity but admiration. He existed outside of all the shame, the hunger for status that drives so many of us, leading us to places of inadequacy and judgment, washing away the awareness of what's truly important. I daresay his Christmas Eve was, in its barren simplicity, likely more stress-free than any number of his fellow Seattlelites.
He got on along with the great mob at 4th and Pike. Somebody in front of him was taking an extra moment to pay cash, and he'd tapped his ORCA card and snuck quietly past, but my "how's it going" reached his ears. The man had been planning to walk further back, but after seeing the way I greeted everyone he sat down up front with a smile, grinning as one does upon coming across something at once energizing and unexpectedly familiar, like a relative you'd forgotten how much you liked.
He responded by asking how my day's been.
"It's been fan-tastic," I said. He cackled with shared delight, perfect rows of teeth highlighted against his dark skin and rugged attire.
I continued. "What kind of work do you do? If I may ask."
"Sign spinner," he said sheepishly.
"Oh, sweet! Like 'slow and 'stop?'" He nodded with a rueful smile, which blew into a huge grin upon my saying, "That's awesome!" I was thrilled at the opportunity to learn more about the job I see so often.
"Not really!" he laughed.
"Aww. Are you sure, 'not really?'"
"This is Seattle in the wintertime!"
We burst into fits of giggling. "This is true. Minor detail! But! I would hope, 'cause that sounds like a safety sensitive job, I would hope you're gettin' paid. I hope they're givin you a little somethin' extra, standing out there. 'Cause it's a standing job too, and that, that, that takes a certain kinda energy!"
We talked about his job, then about mine, how nighttime is the best time for driving, how the light cycles are shorter, the people are fun, how great I think the 7 is, and so on. Through the course of all this we found ourselves using terms like 'fortuitous' and 'elated,' and it wasn't just myself lobbing off the four-syllable words. Here was a man who shared my passion for learning, no matter his career or life circumstances.
"Now, I'm not sayin' you have to," I quipped, "but if you're ever on my bus you can always lean out and wave that "slow" sign around, get some of these cars back in line!"
Then, after a pause, a new thought occurred to me. I'd been trying to imagine the job from his perspective.
"Hey, lemme ask you something. Do a lot of people wave thanks, or hi or something, as they drive past you?"
"Aaaauuuhhmm," he said. We laughed again. "Sometimes they do. I always do. I mean, it only takes a second, to smile."
"It only takes a, exactly. I mean, what else are you gonna do?"
"The bus drivers always, they looove me! They get so excited when they drive past...."
"Oh, yeah! I always wave, 'cause i'm thinkin,' both of us are workin,' here we are,"
"Yeah. it only takes a second."
"It's so easy. Plus, you're gonna see each other ten more times!"
"Exactly! Oh man, I know every single bus driver, police officer, ambulance driver,"
"These are good people to know!"
"Taxi driver, Jack-in-the-Box, every single Post Office employee, every pizza delivery guy,"
"There you go! Oh, you're set!"
"One day I'll just be like, 'do you have an extra one uh those?!'"
"And they'll be like, just don't gimme that stop sign next time!"
Another pause. One of those conversations where a silence can enter and easily be broken again later on. I said, "I tell you, 'cause when I look out at these car drivers sometimes, they just seem so depressed! They just look morose!"
We were laughing.
"Ooh, great word. That's gotta be the word of the day, morose."
"Love that word," he said.
"Me too! I so rarely get an opportunity to use it in a sentence!" The giggling fits began anew....
"I love vocabulary!"
"Me too! It expands our horizons. New ways of thinking!"
"Exactly. It's like, why not?"
"I know, man. There's more than five four-letter words with which to express ourselves!"
Walker Percy once wrote that when the same event happens twice, one at one time and the other later on, we can define everything which has passed in between by whatever differences there are in those two events. There are faces you see, friends of yours, once every blue moon over the developing years. Time collapses in these moments.
Celia and I usually don't really ever plan to run into each other. It just happens. Seattle is just small enough to allow for these happy intersections, and just big enough for them to seem improbable. I'm wondering where– and who– I'll be when I next run into her.
This afternoon we're once again in Rainier Beach, at the layover. She and I are talking about film, the proposed jail and how it's a terrible idea, and talking in Korean. It all melds together, intercutting threads of conversation flowing ever forward. She feel passionately about the youth jail, and how there are better solutions than the expensive monstrosity proposed to take its place. There's a protest coming up where, in many languages, people will chant, "no more youth jail." She's asking if I know how to say it in Korean.
"Shoot, I don't know 'jail.' We never really said 'jail' when I was growing up at our house. I can say the rest of it though. 'No more youth!'"
"'No more youth?' That would kind of defeat the purpose!"
We begin laughing.
In my periphery there's a figure approaching. He must be late teens, maybe a touch older with those gold teeth, doing his level best to look like Lil' Wayne. He's got the large shades with gold-colored plastic rims, a battery of necklaces and other masculine jewelry flailing about, and sagging– but fitted– jeans. That's the thing nowadays. I give him the upward nod, with a smile.
"Hey guys," he says politely. "I dont mean to interrupt, you all look like you two handsome young people havin' you a conversation– no homo to you, and you look lovely, young lady."
"How's it goin'?"
"I don't mean to interrupt, but could I ask either of you guys got a cigarette?"
"Aw man I'm sorry," we're both saying.
"Oh it's koo!"
"You're a gentleman though!" I say.
"My mama raise me tha' way!"
"She's awesome! You're awesome!"
"You guys too!"
The moral of all this being, mothers, you have an impact which holds even when you're not around. You are part of them, and the kids are looking up to you. Happy Mother's Day.
This happened a looooong time ago, but it's a story I keep rattling around in my head, especially on these post-Ferguson nights.
"Hold on one sec," he said. Tall African-American man, I'd say thirty, six feet something with a baseball hat (curved bill tonight, not flat) and a wardrobe fitted for a mythical man three times his size: black hoodie halfway zipped, glistening basketball shoes with the wide flat laces, and stone-washed black jeans, the expensive kind, with white accent threads and fabric piled around the sagging bottoms, folds of cloth accumulating around his shoes like Michelangelo's Pietà, or Alexandros of Antioch's Venus de Milo.
"Aw, sure," I said. We were driving something down Third Avenue, either a 3/4 or a 1/14.
"I know I got it."
"Oh, it's cool."
He kept fumbling around, searching for his transfer.
What would a fellow of his look be up to on a night like this? Ten PM on a weeknight. Sometimes it's polite to not ask. I don't ask specifics of the guys I know are dealers, for example. We talk about things like weather. I really ought not to assume though– haven't seen this fellow before– so I decided to venture.
"How's your night goin'?"
"Iss been good. I just dropped off my son. We went and checked out the ferris wheel."
"Oh, cool! Did he have a good time, your son?"
"Yeah, somebody said it was only three times they go around but we got a good three, four times. It was dope."
"Perfect. And it's a nice clear night, good for that,"
"Awesome. I haven't been on it."
"It's good, yeah."
"What time they stop runnin' that thing?"
"I think it closes at ten... man, I know I had one. Truly." He was still searching his pockets.
"It's all cool. D'you need another one for later tonight?"
"Here's the goods."
"Thank you man, I appreciate it."
"Dude, thanks for lookin' for it! I appreciate you!"
"Man, I had it."
"It's all good. I trust you."
Sometimes people just pretend to look for transfers. He really did have one. Finally he showed it to me, excited to prove his honesty. "See?"
"You're awesome! Thank you!"
"Yeah, I just met a new lady," I continued. His eyebrows went up in a half-smile as I went on– "so I been thinkin' about places to take her. That sounds like a good one."
"Definitely. I been lookin' for stuff to do too."
"Yeah, my lady, she thinkin' about other things, but I'm gonna bring it back. Gonna get it this time."
"Bring back some a that old magic."
His eyes twinkled in the darkness. "Yeah."
"That's beautiful thing," I said. The effort.
His concerns were about the same as mine. I shouldn't have been surprised.
We addressed "the whole bathroom thing" in the post below. While we're on a roll, let's settle another issue– the one where people tell me Seattle is overwhelmingly white.
I'm weary of people who spend their entire lives north of the Ship Canal telling me that Seattle isn't diverse. Hipsters who spend all their time in Belltown, Capitol Hill and the U-District, with the occasional exploratory jaunt out to Ballard, would do well to keep quiet on the issue, that they might not inadvertently reveal how little they know about the city.
A woman who worked on Queen Anne and lived in West Seattle once told me she thought Seattle was "just way too white." I'm unable to take such comments seriously. You've got to go somewhere besides Queen Anne before rattling off such generalizations. The Seattle metro area is filled with huge, gigantic swaths of land, far larger than the high-profile neighborhoods people often think of, where entire lives, families and generations carry out the ongoing drama of the American nonwhite experience.
Some people will tell you 98118– Columbia City– is the most diverse zip code in the US. Others say it isn't. It's easy to find articles supporting the belief you choose.* However, searching for accuracy by way of arguing about the zip code boundaries and code tabulation areas is to miss the larger point: either way, 98118 is one of the most diverse environments in the country. Some reports point to 98178 and 98188 (Skyway and Tukwila, respectively) as more diverse. There is the fact of Tukwila School District being the most diverse in the US.
But statistics reduce all these lives to mere numbers. The forest for the trees here is that Seattle is exceptionally, monumentally and gloriously mixed.
If you haven't spent time in "The Valley," an enormous area which can take an hour to drive the bus to the bottom of, you haven't seen all of Seattle. There you encounter languages you've never heard of, and can walk for miles without encountering a white face. If you haven't been to or heard of White Center, Bryn Mawr, Riverton Heights, Hillman City, Boulevard Park, South Park, Delridge, Dunlap, Brighton, LakeRidge, Holly Park, the Central District, Delridge, Burien, Renton, Kent and the entire South End... these are minority majority environments. Even Bellevue is now a whopping forty percent Asian.
There is more to the city than Capitol Hill and the U District. I would hope this would be apparent to anyone walking through downtown. It's one of my favorite things about the city. Moving beyond race, the fact is that most people in Seattle are from somewhere else– whether another state in the US, or another country. In many parts of the world, the person standing next to you is likely from a similar class and ethnic background, and experienced a child- and adulthood not unlike yours. In Seattle, the person standing next you has stories you couldn't even guess about. I think this is beautiful.
At the end of the day, I would say heuristic knowledge counts for a lot. The experience of walking around in the aforementioned neighborhoods will do more for your understanding of the Central Puget Sound area than sitting around reading statistics and articles like this one. In other words, come out for a ride on my bus!
*98118: This issue is thorny. Naysayers will stick to ethnic values only, forgetting that diversity is about many other things as well. There's a difference between "most nonwhites" and "smallest population share of dominant group." More crucially, class remains the elephant in the room as far as the national conversation is concerned, and deserves more studied attention. Unlike places like Brooklyn, Columbia City is not comprised of self-imposed cultural enclaves or boroughs. Everybody lives next to everybody. Also, the "whites" figure discussed with respect to Columbia City includes one of the US's largest contingent of Sephardic Jews. Religious, economic, educational, tribal, and age values need to be considered as well. Gini-Simpson values would be useful here. More here, here, and especially here.