they’ve got no horns and they’ve got no tail

This morning dawned chill and grey and overcast and Seattle. I’m sure all the natives cheered it, as they cheered a similar day yesterday; July was record-settingly hot. But me? My body’s learnt that skies like that mean it’s time to shut down and hibernate for another three-quarters of a year.

I went out with a book for a sandwich for breakfast, and no urge to get anything done today. I was just gonna sit in the park with a hot drink and read for a while.

But on the way to the park, I found myself singing the chorus of the title track of Genesis’ album “A Trick Of The Tail”. It’s a little story about a person who leaves a “city of gold” to wander a world that sees his city as just a legend, ends up a freak in a cage for a while, and eventually makes it back home. And today I felt all too sympathetic to that plight: I come from a strange, colorful city that’s been on the edge of sinking into the swamps for my whole life, and could quite possibly vanish within my lifetime thanks to global warming. I’ve spent most of the past decade in a cold place full of people who recoil from the sun that gives me life; they wail in misery during the few weeks of the year I actually feel alive for. A mythical beast, lost in an alien land, telling tales of a place that sounds straight out of myth, beginning to question if the place they remember ever existed at all? Yeah. Yeah, I can sympathize with that. I can sympathize with that a lot today.

I used to visit my mother at least once a year. Two years ago, I went back during summer for her funeral, and I haven’t been back since. I sat there in the park watching homesickness well up and spill out through me, and cried.

Seattle’s seemingly inexorable flight towards being another city that only people working for “disruptive” software companies seeking ways to suck profit out of every corner of human effort can afford to live in has been making me think it’s time to leave more and more. I’ve been thinking about a few places but I think today just really made it clear that it’s time for me to go spend at least a few years in the city I grew up in, a place that’s so implausible that there was a Twitter thread going around for a few days in which an RPG designer pointed out all the things he’d ask for revisions on if someone handed in a world map with an accurate depiction of the place on it.

Maybe I’ll stay. Maybe I’ll find circumstance slinging me out to some other adventure, hopefully in a much more mild way than when I moved there three days before Katrina and ended up in Boston with Nick and Rik. I don’t know. Or care. I just know that I am getting perilously close to the maximum number of Seattle winters I can make it through and survive.

He grabbed a creature by the scruff of his neck, pointing out:
There, beyond the bounds of your weak imagination
Lie the noble towers of my city, bright and gold.
Let me take you there, show you a living story
Let me show you others such as me
Why did I ever leave?

They’ve got no horns and they’ve got no tail
They don’t even know of our existence
Am I wrong to believe in a city of gold
That lies in the deep distance, he cried
And wept.

And so we set out with the beast and his horns
And his crazy description of home.
After many days journey we came to a peak
Where the beast gazed abroad and cried out.
We followed his gaze and we thought that maybe we saw
A spire of gold – no, a trick of the eye that’s all,
But the beast was gone and a voice was heard:

They’ve got no horns and they’ve got no tail
They don’t even know of our existence
Am I wrong to believe in a city of gold
That lies in the deep distance

Hello friend, welcome home.

  1. Your writing is, as ever, incisive and insightful, and the thought of you leaving the area brings sorrow welling up in me, though we’ve never met. (I may have run into you at a convention, but if so, the encounter was so fleeting as to make me unsure it even happened.) The prospect of another Pacific Northwet “winter” makes me question the sanity of staying here too, but my city of gold isn’t within reach due to commitments I’ve made. Maybe someday I’ll get back, hopefully before I’m too old to enjoy it again.

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