How the Freeze grows on you
About a year after I moved here I was struck by a lightning-bolt realization: I’m too happy for Seattle. My colleagues at the alt-weekly newspaper I worked at were cynical, insular, former self-loathers and newly christened cool kids who delighted in nose-thumbing the Seattle establishment, such as it is. This was their form of the Freeze. I was too naïve, too amiable to get it. New-to-town me fought the Freeze, believing it to be a barrier to connection, detrimental to good times. Turns out, I was fighting against nature. I didn’t exactly lose -- I’m still here, dammit -- but I put aside the fight. I came to understand that the Freeze is, not surprisingly, the homegrown equivalent of cool. It’s Seattle’s cultural currency, its community standard.
If Seattleites are not especially welcoming, it’s for good reason. This place is hemmed in by towering mountains and imposing bodies of water, and blanketed by climatic gloom nine months of the year. Sublime as it is, the environment can punish the human spirit. Only the hardy survive, and the ones who put down roots are rightfully wary of those who haven’t put in the time yet. There isn’t a lot of room. We’re fighting for limited resources. Keep the bastards out. Give ‘em the Freeze. If you make it through, maybe you, too, deserve to stay.
The Freeze strives to preserve in an age of gratuitous consumption. You can call it good or bad but that misses the point. It simply is. Respect it or go back to California. It took me years after arriving to reach a détente with the fundamental, dour flavor of this place. I’ll never be considered a local -- “I grew here, you flew here” are words someone actually said to me once -- nor am I the true Northwesterner who’s only happy when he’s miserable. Still, this place is home.