Alyson L. Palmer was born and raised in the Seattle area. After undergrad she spent a year in NYC and two-ish with the Obama administration in DC. Now gearing up for her third year of law school at UDub = Univ of Washington. Timing seems sweet for her to jump back on the campaign trail for Obama 2013, but as yet she has no comment on that subject.
Before I moved to New York City, a co-worker cautioned, “on the west coast, we’re wash and wear. On the east coast, they’re dry clean only.” For you East Coasters, that was a dig at you. Those of us on the “Best Coast” are decidedly more relaxed and we like it that way. We don’t walk like something is on fire. Unless, you know, it is. We don’t consider traffic signals mere suggestions, but rather a useful tool to regulate that pesky balance between pedestrians and vehicles. And when we talk about having an apartment or office with a view, we don’t mean a view of other apartments or office buildings.
Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling east. I graduated from college and high-tailed it to NYC as fast as JetBlue could carry me. You folks have the market cornered on revolutionary era buildings, cobblestone, and national monuments – all symbols of years gone by that a wonk like me enjoys. I mean, you occupy 2/3 of every US history book…and you know it. I don’t think I am letting out any State secrets when I say ya’ll have a superiority complex a mile wide and an ocean deep.
True, the west is the rebellious, upstart little sister with all her unbridled energy running around without a care in the world, because Thomas Jefferson never signed a proclamation on her desk and Sojourn Truth never ate at her counter. But, that is what I love about the west! She can invent and invest in whatever strikes her fancy. There aren’t as many traditions on the west coast, so we make our own way – do things that don’t fit inside a box constructed in 1799 or 1999 for that matter.
This idea manifests most clearly in our ideas of style and culture. If the east coast is Paris, the west coast is Tokyo. We’re quirky in that “sure, this doesn’t match, but I meant to do that” kind of way. We aren’t afraid to make mistakes and start trends we will regret in 5 years (flannel anyone??). We drive with the windows down rain or shine, because we aren’t worried about the leather in our BMW becoming discolored. An advertisement saying “vintage clothing” means someone actually wore it before and not just to the tents last February. Street style on the west coast isn’t folks trying to make the “trends” page in Elle magazine, it’s stuff we actually wear while walking on the street to work, school and play. And we indulge in music, art and science as part of our everyday life, because “work-life balance” isn’t a synonym for the “mommy-track”. We exercise by paddling, biking, skiing, surfing, and climbing, because not to would be an unforgivable waste of this gorgeous landscape. After all, we’ve got all those adventures 15 minutes away from home.
Our refusal to walk the path of the settlers does have its downsides. Why it takes 4 hours to get to the next city of note is beyond me. A road trip stops being fun when you realize you are still in the middle of nowhere 3 hours later. For an area of the country founded on exploration, it’s ironic that we’d be so adverse to cutting away from the pack and starting anew just a few miles down the road. We still struggle with mass transit, because we are mostly a collection of big small-towns. Nobody had the foresight to think about what would happen when an increase in population and business would force us to travel not just sea to sea but north to south. Now that our traffic is legendary, maybe we’ll get it together and figure out high-speed rail. Last and least is our own complex. The one that makes us not as sweet as the south with its barbeque and twang, and not as refined as the east with its universities made from the plantations of the Founders. We are accent-less, our food and architecture are riffs off of someone else’s invention, and our refusal to be pinned in a direction makes us a bit directionless.
But for all of her deficiencies, the left coast is absolutely the best coast. Because when we say we “went for a run in the mountains,” we’re not talk about a vacation. We’re talking about Tuesday. We’re not opposed to being nerdy and techie, because our nerds brought us Microsoft and Google and Apple. We aren’t opposed to innovative scholarship, but when we use the phrase “ivy of the west,” we mean the school is distinguished and high caliber, not pretentious.
We may be drinking our own Kool-Aid on this one, but we like being “not like the rest.” If you must liken us to anything at all, think of us as ducks. We make life look carefree, but below the surface we are working hard as hell and reaping the benefits of a clear night sky and a cool ocean breeze. You east coasters, on the other hand, reap the benefits of using of our MACs & PCs to power through 14 hour days – I mean, stay ahead of the curve.
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