I've been in Seattle for nearly 3 weeks. On Saturday, I'll pack my bicycle in a box and fly the furthest north I've ever been--to Alaska.
After I left Dexter, I took a 4 hour train north to it's big sister city: Portland. From San Francisco to Eugene, Portland to Seattle, and--soon--Vancouver, there's pretty much one dominating theme: homelessness & gentrification.
In Portland there's a joke that you don't meet anyone actually from Portland anymore. And it's true. I met folks born in Portland only in Eugene & Seattle, and they had a wealth of knowledge to share.
From the half-dozen cranes stacking gross luxury apartment complexes in Portland's Pearl District to a new-age/city-integrated sprawl of Amazon's office towers that blight Capitol Hill in Seattle, big tech companies have drastically changed these cities. And if you pack a bowl at the ever-growing tent cities that form in clusters under nearly every bridge in these Pacific Northwest cities, you'll learn how these "developments" aren't helping its people.
I never saw someone sitting in a public space tied-off, needle-in-arm, searching for their vein on the metro in Santiago (as I did in San Franciso's Civic Center BART station).
Before I left the USA to visit less-wealthy countries (so far Chile, Peru, and India), many people told me I would return with a new-found appreciation for the quality of life in the States. I certainly appreciate clean tap water, but I never saw someone sitting in a public space tied-off, needle-in-arm, searching for their vein on the metro in Santiago (as I did in San Franciso's Civic Center BART station).
There were many homeless people living in India, but they did so in shanty towns--under bridges with semi-temporary shelters built from wood and scrap metal roofing. If you tried to build something for yourself under a bridge here in the US, you'd quickly find yourself behind bars.
What happened? 65,000 workers walked out for five days during the 1919 general strike of Seattle
What happened to these cities? 65,000 workers walked out for five days during the 1919 general strike of Seattle. 80 years later, more than 40,000 protesters took to the streets, blocked traffic, and told the WTO they weren't welcome to Seattle in 1999 (and when the police pepper sprayed peaceful protesters, black bloc caused $20 million in damages followed by the resignation of the Police Chief Norm Stamper).
Walk through the streets of Seattle today, and you find dozens of cheap tents with blue polyethylene tarps draped over their sad, wet shelters. And a few blocks over, there's a torrent of luxury apartments. Tourists walk right past the prized Left Banks Anarchist bookstore to see a wage slave dramatically toss a lifeless, poisoned fish for consumption (it's local!).
And yet, the zines I poured through at Left Banks describing the changes (brought-about roughly following the release of the iPhone in 2007, followed by stock rises of Apple, Google, and eventually Amazon--met with communicide and rising homeless populations) seemed to suggest that the worst is yet to come--in Vancouver.
As I travel north, I learn that the average cost of a single-family home is higher in Vancouver than any other city along America's West Coast. And Vancouver is well-known as having one of the worst opiate epidemics in the continent.
the government is so eager to kick out its poor, they subsidize local bus companies to provide free outbound tickets
Alas, seeing is understanding. I don't want to dissuade travelers from visiting these cities. I've certainly met many wonderful people in Portland and Seattle, and my mind has been expanded. Besides, one of the Portlandian punks I met in Seattle told me that the government is so eager to kick out its poor, they subsidize local bus companies to provide free outbound tickets. So, want a free ticket across the US? Go to Porland, dumpster some take-out from one of their many square-blocks full of food carts, and then tell greyhound you're from--say--NYC, have no money, and you just want to go home..