There’s a tiny part of Washington state that is so remote you have to cross an international border twice to get there.

Isolated, surrounded by water and Canadians … why did Point Roberts become a part of Washington and not Canada?

Photo by Paul Williams/Flickr

 

Do most of the clothes in your closet range from hiking fleece to dress fleece, or some variations of plaid and jeans?

That’s probably what has fueled Seattle’s reputation as an unfashionable city.

(This is the second installment of a 2-part series about Tacoma’s designation as the City of Destiny.)

Why didn’t Tacoma become the premiere city on Puget Sound?  How did the City of Destiny lose out to Seattle?

Back in 1873, it looked like Tacoma would be graced with fame and fortune when the city beat out Seattle to become the terminus for the Northern Pacific Railroad.

Tacoma has been known as the “City of Destiny” for more than 140 years.

And while the city’s slogan is unique because it has lasted for so long (when was the last time you heard Seattle referred to as “Jet City?”), it also comes from a 19 Century “crazy person” who was a relentless promoter of Tacoma.

Here’s an odd fact: Seattle’s dog population is estimated to be around 140,000 and climbing. The number of kids? … 93,000 and dropping.

In fact, Seattle is neck and neck with San Francisco, which has the lowest population of children of all major U.S. cities.

So where did all of Seattle’s kids go?

Jeanine Anderson / Flickr

Back before Capitol Hill became the center of gay life in Seattle, most of the American public thought of homosexuality as not only illegal but even dangerous.  

Consequently, gay culture was underground. Gay bars were confined to the red light district and in Seattle, that used to mean Pioneer Square.

But in the cultural shifts of the 1970s, gay people were ready to leave the red light district and Capitol Hill looked like the right place at the right time.
 

In the 1980’s, the Washington State Legislature considered making it the official state song. The measure failed, but “Louie Louie” is still listed on government websites as the “unofficial” state rock song.

Sure it’s got a good beat and it’s easy to dance to, but is a song about a Jamaican sailor longing for his girl really the best tune to represent Washington State?  (Voice your opinion in the poll at the bottom of the page)

How did this classic party song become so much a part of our cultural DNA, anyway?

Race can be a volatile subject.   

Still, judging from the reaction to a recent “I Wonder Why…?” story, it’s something people are eager to talk about.

The response to the report was overwhelming.

Seattleites don’t like to admit it, but this is a pretty white city.

In fact, the latest census figures show it’s the fifth whitest of the 50 biggest cities in the country. That means there’s a higher proportion of Caucasian people here than in Denver, Oklahoma City, or even Minneapolis.

So why are there so few people of color in Seattle?

I just moved here from Chicago, and there’s one thing that has been bugging me – the way people park.

In some ways, Seattleites seem to really follow the rules. People don’t jaywalk, for instance. So why do so many people park on the wrong side of the street?

From Ted Bundy to Gary Ridgway, some of the most notorious murderers in our nation’s history committed their crimes in the Northwest.

While we may not have the most serial killers, we’ve certainly got that reputation. And that got us to wondering: Why are there so many serial killers in the Northwest?

Photos courtesy Museum of History & Industry and Charla Bear

Sure, the weather here demands a certain level of protection from the elements. But what is it that compels people in the Pacific Northwest to want every piece of equipment out there?

If you have property in the Pacific Northwest, there’s one plant you’ve most likely encountered … and battled – The Himalayan Blackberry.

It’s enemy No.1 in the Northwest. So, where did this plant come from and why did it become such a pervasive pain in the garden?

Photo by Andrew_N / Flickr

Have you ever been to Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo and had a difficult time seeing the animals through all of the trees and plants? Well, it’s supposed to be that way. It’s all by design.

The naturalistic animal exhibit was born in Seattle at Woodland Park Zoo nearly 30 years ago.

With all the totem poles in Washington State, it might surprise you to know the cedar monument isn’t from this region.

Though some local tribes now carve them, they didn’t originally. In fact, the first one here was pilfered from another state.

Maybe you’ve heard the line, "Will the last person leaving Seattle turn out the lights." That well-worn phrase came from a billboard in 1971 as the Boeing Company stalled and then fell into a tailspin.

And while the "Boeing Bust" happened a long time ago, that economic slump, almost as much as the most recent one, is still a part of our collective consciousness.

AP Photo

You might be surprised to learn that the Northwestern and the hundreds of other boats that make up the North Pacific Fishing Fleet are not based in Alaska. Rather, they travel thousands of miles south each year to tie up in Seattle.

So, why is the fleet based here?

Illustration by Justin Steyer

You might say Jesus Christ Made Seattle Under Protest. Or, Jesus Christ Made Seattle Under Pressure.

Either way, this provocative statement is a big help when you’re trying to get around downtown Seattle.

Even if you're brand-new to Seattle, you might have heard that once upon a time there was a World’s Fair here. Maybe, you even learned about it on an elevator ride – to the top of the 605-foot Space Needle.

The Northwest is home to a variety of companies that have changed how we live our lives.

We spend more now on coffee thanks to Starbucks. Amazon is changing the way we read books. And another company with deep local roots has gotten many of us to buy more of everything: Costco.

Rik_C / Flickr

You pull up to a stop light, look over, and the windows on the SUV next to you are so dark you can’t see in. Why are we hiding behind tinted car windows here in the Pacific Northwest?

It can’t be the sun in our eyes.
 

Photo by Bellamy Pailthorp

Why has the “myth” endured in the Northwest? Is it because Bigfoot is really here? Or, is it because it’s the kind of wild alter ego Northwesterners love to imagine for themselves?

yelahneb/Flickr

There are thousands of manhole covers on the streets of Seattle.  Some of them, 115 to be exact, are official works of art. Artists are commissioned by the city to create them. It’s one of those little quirks that set the city apart.

bhsher / Flickr

For years, the Northwest has had the dubious distinction of being one of the most non-religious regions in the land. In fact, it's often referred to as the "unchurched belt" in contrast to the "bible belt" in the South.

Why don’t people in this neck of the woods go to church?

Baby incubator exhibit on the Pay Streak at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition

The Northwest has long been known for its technological innovations – from airplanes to software. More than a hundred years ago, Seattle was showing off a brand-new invention involving babies.

In 1974, CBS’ 60 Minutes declared Seattle was the best place in the world to suffer a heart attack. Nearly forty years later, the reputation persists – and experts are still claiming Seattle is tops in saving victims of cardiac arrest.

If you live in Boston, Manhattan or Mumbai, the sounds of rush hour include the overwhelming sound of beeping and blaring car horns. But, that’s not the case in the Pacific Northwest. Honking the horn just doesn’t seem to be part of our driving DNA.

Men "rubbernecking" during regrade project <em>Museum of History & Industry</em>

In Seattle, we’re never satisfied: Viaduct out of fashion (… and a little dangerous) – remove it and dig a tunnel; Kingdome no longer fits our vision of a great sports venue – poof!

Utilikilt photo by djwudi/Flickr

In the Northwest, we share some unique attributes. But, like people everywhere, we disagree passionately when it comes to those things that tie us together. That came clear to us after sorting through the comments prompted by KPLU’s ‘I Wonder Why…?” series.

Photo by Paula Wissel

Did you find yourself in the dark, shivering under blankets, eating cold rations during the recent snow and ice storms?

Did it have you wondering why we are so dependent on overhead power poles to keep the lights on?

Could there be a better way?

Photo by djwudi/Flickr

Whatever your feelings about Utilikilts, they are part of the Northwest. The idea was born here. They’re manufactured here. They even have their own store in Seattle’s Pioneer Square Neighborhood. Why, then, are they so polarizing in their own hometown?

Seattle cable car at Third & Yesler in 1940. Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives

The revival of streetcars in Tacoma and Seattle would be a surprise to our civic leaders from the 1930’s. But they used to be prolific throughout the Northwest. What happened? Was it a conspiracy, or just the changing tides of fashion?

Ariel photo courtesy of the WA Dept. of Natural Resources

There's a large swath of native prairie southwest of Olympia that’s very strange looking. So strange, in fact, that some have even said it was created by aliens. 

What makes it strange are “things” called The Mima Mounds.

The city often ranks pretty high on those lists of the best places to move to – There’s the food, the water, the mountains, the music. But once people get here, they find it’s pretty tough to make friends. There’s even a name for it: The Seattle Freeze.

Photo by Justin Steyer

There they sit, almost three years later. On the shelf in the KPLU newsroom. Two dozen of them. Each in their own day-of-the-week slot.

Why haven’t we been able to toss those papers and relegate the printed P-I to the dark depths of the archive stacks at the public library?

A lot of people in the “Rain City” take pride in the fact that “real” Seattleites don’t carry umbrellas. But, I walk around town with a portable roof over my head. 

The result? I stay dry, my hair doesn’t get tousled, and I can use my iPhone while I wait for the bus. I also get dirty looks.

We’ve all seen the billboards and giant posters hanging off the sides of buildings: “The Northwest has a higher incidence of Multiple Sclerosis than most anywhere on Earth.”

But do we really? Turns out the answer is more complicated than the awareness campaign that got everyone talking about MS in the Northwest.

Everyone went a little crazy. Police were called, road blocks set up.

It’s 1954, early spring, and tiny chips, pits and dings are popping up on car windshields throughout the Puget Sound region at an alarming rate. Suddenly, communities from Anacortes to Tacoma are in the grip of a textbook case of mass hysteria. (In fact, it is in the textbooks.)

Do I have an accent? You hear me on the radio. I hear myself on the radio, many times a week in western Washington, and I didn’t think so. But, a researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle tells me I do have an accent – it’s in the way I say that very word “accent.”

Fear of a ticket from paternalistic police? Group angst? Peer pressure?

Whatever the reason, even if a car is not in sight, Seattleites will often wait patiently for the light to change rather than … jaywalk.

Seattle isn’t a particularly noisy place. After all, you can get a ticket for honking your horn. But, we have a reputation for having the loudest fans in the NFL. And, we wondered why and just how loud are we?