I think you'd be hard pressed to find a city whose economy offers a better tour through the American economy — with all its ups and downs — than Seattle. From the once-vibrant sawmills along the muddy banks of the Wishkah to the cavernous airplane factory in Everett to the bucolic Microsoft campus over in Redmond, it's all there. Driving around for an afternoon, you can take a journey through time from the resource-focused past to the post-industrial future.
And on a sunny day, there may be no finer city in all the world. I love walking around Seattle when the skies are blue; glimpses between buildings offer fleeting peeks at diamond-sparkling Puget Sound and the verdant isles beyond. The occasional seaplane buzzes by, punctuating a steady line of Boeings flying back to the place they were born, an airborne metaphor for the salmon running in the crisp freshwaters nearby.
And there's this great sculpture on Second Avenue; I've always thought of it as a metallic version of the stone ruins on some sun-drenched Aegean isle. Maybe the sculptors were making a point: sic transit gloria mundi; everything is fleeting, no matter how permanent the marble or metal may seem. It's irony in steel.
But on Thursday I looked up and realized (not being a local) that these urban ruins stand (er, lie) on the grounds of the Washington Mutual Tower. A sculpture of ruins before the old HQ of a ruined company.
And then it hit me: forget all this symbolism of paying back TARP funds. Maybe WaMu's corporate heir, JPMorganChaseandFriends, should contact the sculptors and ask them permission to "fix up" the sculpture. Maybe with enough (ahem) inducement, the artists could decamp (under cover of night) the askew original for a meandering sculpture garden somewhere. In its place, they could deposit a new set of pieces that would snap together cleanly when righted. Imagine the photo op: hardhat-clad, bullhorn-clutching Jamie Dimon directing cranes as they ressurect the columns. The pillars of capitalism standing once more!
Of course, if we've learned anything from the ruins of those ancient lands it's that disasters, natural and man-made, inevitably take their toll on temples and memorials. Sometimes, it's what people do and how they act that resonates better than the monuments they build.