Search for the Soul of Seattle: The Center of the Universe

Share this Post:
Photo courtesy of AV Eichenbaum
Photo courtesy of AV Eichenbaum

My favorite diner is in Fremont.

Roxy's touts an "East Coast on the West Coast" ethos, and the lox is no joke. The service is always friendly, the place lively on a Sunday morning. They've got the best bagels in the city — and I'm more than willing to die on that hill. It's the perfect spot for an anxious, misplaced Jew lost in my own thoughts as I stare at the large mug of black coffee — almost as dark as the chipped black nail polish on my hand gripping it for dear life.

I've struggled with anxiety my whole life. Some days, like today, are worse than others. To combat it, I'm eavesdropping on a trio of older guys seated near me as they recount the LSD experimentations of their youth. It's the little things.

Some of my friends who have lived here longer than I have roll their eyes at the mention of Fremont. It's too unabashedly weird, they say, like that kid in middle school who wears a fedora and checkered pants. I was that kid, before I had some sense knocked into me, and I find the whole vibe of the place — from the Troll to the statue of Stalin to the bizarre street layout — always lifts my spirits.

Then they'll say I should just move to Portland, and I have to fight not to spit on the ground due to COVID regulations.

I'm not in the mood to go into either the used record store or the used bookstore, both cramped but charming, so I meander my way through the Sunday farmers market, only to find it more packed than I've ever seen it. It seems like everyone but me has a smile on their face in this quirky alternative to Seattle's other markets. Down by the water, a young man is lazily fly-fishing in the sunlight, clearly enjoying the good weather.

It almost feels like I've left the city. The biggest reminder of the neighborhood's inherent Seattleness is the plethora of oversized apartments and the grocery store I can't afford. Finally able to relax, I start to wonder if the whole "Center of the Universe" thing — decided by some drunk physicists — doesn't have some truth to it. Time seems to move more slowly here, which, with my limited understanding of gravity's effect on time, is exactly what would happen at the Middle of It All. No one's in a hurry. It's just a nice day.

The problem with that line of thinking is, to me, the ego. Claiming a spot as the Center of the Universe does seem exactly like something a very proud Seattleite would do, from an outside perspective. It's that elitism folks from out of town like to point out, but unlike some other places, it doesn't have that tinge of ice creeping over it. Maybe that comes from the fact that I've never had a bad meal here. A good taco truck goes a long way.

Am I wrong to try to identify Seattle's whole by looking at the city piece by piece? What's the point? Watching the sun set from under the Fremont Bridge, I can't help but wonder: maybe appreciating the parts on their own, as people seem to do in this city, is the way to go. My anxiety's faded with the last light of day. Looking out from the Center of the Universe, I start the long, cold walk home in the dark.