I’m back in downtown Seattle where my Danish immigrant father, Hans Pederson, helped take down the hills and build up the city in pre-Depression days. Known as “King Hans,” he was possibly the city’s largest contractor following the Klondike Gold Rush, and the early-20th-century boomtown days. He built roads, sidewalks, bridges, and dams, as well as forty apartment buildings. He died when I was one month old. Since 2007, I’ve made four trips to Seattle to see his work and find his projects.
It’s a joy to be a tourist in downtown Seattle. No need to join a gym, just hoof it up and down the steep hills. Back in my father’s time, Scandinavians and Northern European immigrants were Caucasians. Today I observe faces of many hues traipse up and down these steep sidewalks. This Northwestern melting pot seems a part of the high-tech rush to the future. People smile through the ever-present drizzle—at least near the downtown hotels.
A few lost panhandlers do change the reality as they stake out the fashionable intersections. I open my curtain at 6:30 in the morning and observe them under the Macy’s awning. They gather their meager possessions and pick up the pieces of flattened cardboard that have served as their mattresses for the night.
Near the Pike Place Market, we ask directions to the Westin Center from a bus driver parked at the corner. After we’ve gone a block, he chases us down to make sure we’re headed the right way. Imagine a bus driver making such an effort.
Downtown at the Greyhound bus station across the road from the giant Chinatown pagoda, some passengers wear anxious expressions. Still, most people stride by briskly in skin-tight jeans. I’m an anachronism in plain black slacks.
Guess it depends on your age.