I live in a highly redneck section of King County, Washington. Most people think of this as the Left Coast and Starbucks sipping hippies (not entirely untrue) but if you go by zipcodes, I’m pretty sure this area went red by a significant margin in 2016. I knew that when I bought the property to move out here from where I used to be in the white, middle-class, red districts of Fairwood (a neighborhood of Renton, WA) in 2010.
Part of my reasoning then (and going back as far as 1988 if you want) was that 2020 was going to be a terrible inflection point in US history, for reasons I have discussed in other places and won’t rehash here. Didn’t want to be in “The City” when what I saw coming caught fire.
I got lucky and found this particular property in 2010. The previous owner had died at the end of 2006, and his various kids had been trying to sell it, but there were “issues.” It had even gone so far as serious negotiations from another person, but he got chased off by the neighbors, in a polite way. Another Microsoft millionaire type, set to move out here and “change everything.”
The land is 6.5 acres, at the end of a cul-de-sac. I have a neighbor, E, above me, who originally bought most of his section of land in 1963 and then sold it off in chunks over the decades, especially when she and her husband divorced and he left. I remember E explaining to me one day, early on, that one of these days the Feds would be coming for her and it would be Ruby Ridge all over again. The others in the conversation just nodded and agreed, so you have a pretty good idea who my neighbors on three sides are.
Fourth side are 60s hippies that mostly grew old but are still a little weird. I got lucky when I was getting serious about buying by randomly starting at the Hippie household to meet the prospective neighbors. R & C told me about the guy just south of me who scares everyone, and what to say to him.
Mind you, when I got to the top of his driveway, he was already standing in his front door, pot belly all shirtless and deployed, and I’m assuming a shotgun out of sight. He’s like that.
“You G?” I yell from my truck.
“Who wants to know?” he yells back.
“R & C told me I should come up here and say hello,” I answer. “Looking to buy M’s old place.”
M had put down a foundation and covered it, planning to put a modular home on it back in 1991. But then he found out that the school board would charge him a building levy for that, and he threw a screaming, hissing fit (as I got the story 20 years later). Ended up living for the next 16 years out of a 26’ gooseneck horse trailer, with a 55 gallon drum set in the ground for a septic tank. Really serious, gold-fringe-on-the-flag sort of fellow, if you get my drift.
There are a lot of those folks around here. But you know what I’ve seen in the last ten years?
Gentrification. The Safeway in Maple Valley (town wjhen I go west) started carrying exotic cheeses. When they built a Fred Meyers (kind of like a SuperWalmart with regular stuff AND groceries) it had a huge cheese booth. Wrapped on three sides of about ten feet each, displaying maybe a hundred weird cheeses. That’s my barometer of hipster around here, as you can tell.
Then two plots right around there got developed and a bunch of McMansions got built in the stretch 2010-2016. More recently, a couple of new apartment developments have gone in.
The world in town is changing. I’m still out in the weird, red zones, past a wilderness that can’t be developed because Kent, WA and Seattle, WA bought both sides of the road for several miles and fenced them in. I’m in a pocket that is still trapped in the 1950s in many ways.
But the gentrification progresses.
With the pandemic, nobody can really go out to eat. For a long stretch, all the restaurants were take out only. And we did, supporting our favorites. More recently, they can open, but at half capacity. Enumclaw, WA, the city I usually go to, closed off several side streets and put up pavilion tents and rented tables and chairs, turning those streets into sidewalk cafe seating so that the restaurants on Cole and other streets could serve the same number of folks as before. Hopefully, they’ll live. Some good ones I enjoy.
But it has been ‘food trucks’ that was not on my pandemic bingo card. Usually, they do the fair circuit in the summer, but all those are shut down, so neighborhoods have organized to have trucks rotate through. (I have found some fun new eats that way, and we’ve kept them in business.)
So this last week, Ravensdale, WA had their usual Wednesday Truck event. New burger truck I haven’t had before (pretty good, too). But next to them was a truck doing bubble teas, smoothies, and other exotic drinks.
Exotic to the locals, that is. Normal international fare when my wife lived on Capital Hill in downtown Seattle and we could walk all sorts of places.
I got boba with my burger. Brown sugar, milk, ice, boba. Stir. A hint bland, but that was because they didn’t have any good fruit syrups to add.
But this is gold-fringe, You-Can’t-Make-Me-Wear-A-Mask, crazy hard right wing country. And the bubble tea truck did pretty good business. Not as good as good, old-fashioned American Cheese burgers, even with that weird Waygu meat. But there was a bubble tea truck penetrating the consciousness of this zip code.
Makes me all warm and fuzzy to think about, because it means that the folks moving out here are not white, blue-collar, right-wing voters. The city might develop services. Places. Things.
Enumclaw has a downtown. That’s why I go there. Maple Valley is closer, but it is Generica Suburbia on the highway, and not really a place. Some good restaurants. The library. A trail that has been converted from an old railroad bed.
Nothing like a downtown where you could walk around on a Sunday afternoon. Strip malls and fast food make up most of the city. I dream of that changing, as well, but I’m not holding my breath. Maybe another decade.
But this week I had a moment of hope, in a year of suck. Boba, from a food truck, in Ravensdale, Washington.
Will wonders never cease?