Seattle’s Got Distinction

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If you’re assembling an “Only in Seattle” file, you’d have to include June 6th, the night that the Seattle Symphony showcased music inspired by Seattle hip-hop icon Sir Mix-A-Lot. sirmix

Sir Mix asked for “a couple of ladies” to help him out with his signature song, “Baby’s Got Back.” Upwards of three dozen women crowded onstage and boogied while he rapped and the symphony played. The free-form performance quickly went viral across the country. Few, if any, symphony orchestras anywhere can match that claim.

Mix’s dance-a-lot is only one of the happenings that make Seattle stand out as a city where the unusual is usual. Every day brings us more evidence that Seattle’s got distinction.

For example, as we speak, Seattle is fine tuning regulations necessary to implement Washington’s standing as one of only two states to legalize marijuana.  While it is true that state regulations are being hammered out by the Liquor Control Board, the fine points are being left to municipalities. Seattle is the leader, figuring out where marijuana can be smoked, inhaled or consumed as an edible.

sunglassesThere are other Only-In-Seattle distinctions. Seattle is the city that buys the most sunglasses (I suspect we misplace them during the winter months) and, overall, the most cans of cat food.  Seattle is the city that sells the largest number of books per capita. And it has jumped out ahead of the pack: fastest growing city in the nation, its population up 2.8 percent in one year.

Fast Company, a business magazine, has dubbed Seattle “the smartest city in the United States,” factoring in six indicators: people, government, economy, quality of life and mobility (think of that when you’re stuck, idling in traffic, though the magazine probably means another kind of mobility).

We’ve got the deepest working harbor and the highest adjacent mountain. We had the nation’s most successful world’s fair, one that actually turned a profit and left us with the 74-acre Seattle Center and an acclaimed metropolitan opera company.  We are said by insurance folks to house the nation’s worst drivers; but, cushioning the sting, we have motorists who are rated “politest to one another.”

espressoSeattleites drink more espresso than water (the bottled kind) and we have a City Hall that houses a Farmers’ Market on its plaza on summer Tuesdays. City Hall also was home to more than 100 same-sex marriages on Dec. 9, 2012, the first day when such unions became legal following a state-wide vote.

Not all Seattle’s distinctions are worth bragging about – the gender pay gap, women earning only 73 cents for every dollar a man takes home – continues to haunt us. It is the worst gender pay gap in the nation. And yet Seattle and Washington State continue to elect some of the nation’s best balances of women to its legislative and city governments. It is time – past time – for women and men of conscience to get to work on that dark disgrace and start changing it into a distinction of the past.