The street is empty, save for the junkies shooting up in the graffiti-enshrined doorway.

And the human feces on the corner.

Which I barely miss stepping in as I headed into the intersection. A few people sporting headphones and masks don’t budge, apparently because the pedestrian sign is still showing the red hand. The only thing that had a chance of hitting any of us at the moment is a stray urine stream carried on the frigid wind tunneling down Pike Street past the boarded-up storefronts, so I walk. 


I am, too.

This city is falling apart, a real-life underworld scene from a steampunk imagination.

I lived a handful of blocks from here and worked in this downtown core for almost a decade, first as a temp worker, then as an actual hired employee, and finally as a singer-songwriter trying to find my own voice in the skeptical post-grunge Seattle scene. I’d called my guitar player from back then to suggest we meet at a bar where we used to play, and had been surprised at the unfamiliar hesitancy creeping through his usually overenthusiastic voice.

I don’t know, man. Really unsafe there now. No cops, kind of the Wild West with blades and needles. I don’t even go down there anymore. 

Someone else’s problem, right?

Not in my backyard. 

Otherwise known as NIMBY… a clever acronym for folks who think helping others is a nice idea, as long as the solution has nothing to actually do with them.

Acronyms won’t solve this. Neither will slogans. Or movements. Or hashtags. 

Only people can solve this. People willing to do what is necessary and unpopular, people willing to step away from their screens, people willing to consider protest as an action to materially improve a stranger’s life, not an opportunity to deflect responsibility.

People can solve this.

But probably not in headphones and masks, waiting for a sign to tell them to cross an empty street, as their city falls apart around them.

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