Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Things We Did Together

I've been married for 30 years . . . All to the same woman. (Rim shot! Thank you very much. I'll be here all week. Tell your friends!)

We were in our 20's when we started dating. One of our late night hang outs was a place called The Dog House. It was on the fringe of downtown, located in a sort of no-man's land that didn't really have a name. Open 24 hours, it was a dive-y piano bar by night and a dive-y breakfast anytime place by day. It had been in that location since the 1950's, although The Dog House itself pre-dated that in a slightly different location since the 1930's.

It closed it's doors in 1994 with a sing-a-long, followed by the bartender apparently announcing, "It's time folks. Get the f*** out of my bar. I wanna go home; they quit paying me." We were sad to see it go and I remember people moaning that it was yet another piece of evidence that the Seattle we all knew and loved was gone forever. Shortly after they took down their iconic "All Roads Lead to The Dog House" bar-backing mural, a new place opened in the location called The Hurricane. It was a also a 24-hour bar/greasy spoon, but for almost two decades it was dead to us. That is, until our daughter and her friends adopted it as one of their after-hours haunts and although my wife and I had by now aged out of the all-nighter phase, it became our family's go-to weekend breakfast spot, where we would often dine alongside still-drunk patrons and after-hours prostitutes who were grabbing a bite after a hard night's work.

A couple years ago, The Hurricane announced that the building had been purchased by Amazon, which was going to tear it down to build more offices. We joined the crowd of distraught old-time Seattleites bemoaning its demise. When we shared our sadness with our waiter, who had been serving us for at least a decade, he shrugged, saying, "He's not saying it to the newspapers, but the owner is thrilled. He got a great lease buy-out and he's moving to San Diego." That made us feel a little better, at least it wasn't a small business person be forced out, but it did little to satisfy those of us being left behind. The crappy old building has now been torn down and construction is about to begin on a brand, spanking new office tower.

I've considered this city my home since I moved here in 1984, right out of college. The demise of The Dog House, then The Hurricane, isn't the first thing I've seen make way for something new. Indeed, when I walk around downtown, it seems that most of what was once here has been replaced. In fact, I can remember when many of the "beloved" places being torn down today, like The Hurricane, were themselves soul-less Johnny-come-latelys.

That's what cities do, of course, the old is forever making way for the new. Only when our beloved Hurricane closed did I learn that our beloved Dog House had been pre-dated by another 24-hour place in that same location called The Bohemian Continental that had operated during the 1920's. I expect people mourned that as well. If it's in the nature of cities to forever re-make themselves, it's human nature to regret the losses, even if it was really just a string of seedy bars. It's tempting to, as William F. Buckley wrote, "stand athwart history yelling "Stop," and that's what most of us do, at least once in awhile, especially as we get older.

People sometimes refer to it as progress, but that implies moving forward toward something better and I'm not sure if that's accurate. Most change is simply different, not better or worse, but rather a reflection of the times, of our collective and contemporary needs and desires. It's a perspective I've learned from working with young children, who are today just starting to create the memories that will cause them to mourn the loss of their own icons. When our school moved from our location on Phinney Ridge down into Fremont, an objectively better location for us, we strived to make the classroom feel as much like the old one as possible, right down to painting the walls the same color, but I'll never forget our four and five year olds crossing the threshold for the first time. Many were appalled, a few even cried. They remembered The Dog House and this was The Hurricane.

But they got over it quickly, most never mentioning it again. As they launched into their play during those first days, weeks and months, they were beginning the work of making this new place as special as the old because what was important about our old place, of course, was not the four walls and a ceiling, but rather the things we did there together. By the same token, each time I sit down with my wife and daughter over an omelette, hash browns, and a side of pre-buttered toast which we then spread with the jam from those little packets, we return to The Hurricane, not the building, but the actual place, the one that lives within us as a warm memory of doing things with people we care about.

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1 comment:

Chris said...

My husband and I will be married 37 years tomorrow. Our "Dog House" was the Maple Leaf Grill on Roosevelt. We loved it in it's first location with an antique wooden bar. Their was a photo on the wall of the previous owner, before we came around, but not sure what the bar was called when she owned it. The Maple Leaf that we knew was in a building which caught on fire, so it moved a block away into a house that had been an Indian restaurant, In time the owner changed, but the character of the restaurant and the good food was the same. But finally about 2 years ago, it all came to the end, or as you say evolved to a new era. The Maple Bar replaced it and is forgettable to us, with it's dark lighting and loud music and strong drinks, replacing a place where everyone talked to everyone, clients and staff alike.