Valley Voices

It’s true: You can see three Starbucks from one spot in Seattle

A construction worker puts in framing for a new high-rise building in view of the Space Needle in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle in February 2015.
A construction worker puts in framing for a new high-rise building in view of the Space Needle in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle in February 2015. Associated Press file

Fresno and Seattle. Could any two cities be more different? Dry and wet. Flat and hilly. Sunny and cloudy. Sprawling and dense. Struggling and booming.

It’s been six months now since we moved from Fresno’s University Portals neighborhood into a condominium building near the University of Washington in Seattle to be near our daughter, son-in-law and 2-year-old grandson.

I retired from full-time teaching a few years ago. My parents, who lived at San Joaquin Gardens in Fresno, had both passed away in the past two years. And my wife, Liz, had just retired as librarian at Bullard High School. So, we were in a position to downsize from our home of 32 years, where we’d raised our children, to a small condo on the sixth floor of an eight-story building on a busy street.

How are we doing? So far, I think we’ve handled the rain, darkness and short winter days pretty well, with no signs of seasonal affective disorder. But it’s only January.

We’re adjusting to condo life, with an elevator but without a backyard clothesline. Seattle traffic is terrible, and we stay off the freeway as much as possible. We ride the bus and light rail everywhere.

It’s a pleasure to live in such a beautiful city – whenever the clouds break, that is. I love Fresno, but nobody’s ever accused it of being beautiful.

The Seattle metropolitan area has about 4 million people, compared with about 1 million in Fresno, so there’s an incredible amount going on. And we’ve been taking advantage of that.

We’ve been to Mariners games instead of Grizzlies games, Town Hall Seattle (an actual building) instead of San Joaquin Valley Town Hall, the Seattle Opera instead Fresno Grand Opera, and Seattle Repertory Theatre instead of StageWorks Fresno.

Everything’s bigger, and there’s more of it, but the quality is not necessarily any better than we’re accustomed to in Fresno. Even in Fresno, there was always more going on than we had time to do.

And much is the same in both cities.

We still have a Trader Joe’s within a mile and a half of our house. I can still buy my size-14 tennis shoes at Nordstrom Rack (or an actual Nordstrom, I suppose).

Just like Fresno, Seattle has a zoo, a big old movie palace, a symphony orchestra, touring Broadway shows and mountains (visible much more often in Seattle than in Fresno).

Just like Fresno, Seattle has homeless people, crime and a (much greater) threat of earthquakes.

Just like in Fresno, we live within walking distance of a college football stadium – although our friends no longer park in our driveway, because we don’t have a driveway, and we don’t have friends (yet).

Seattle has a big downtown art museum, a big science museum and a big history museum, and Fresno has ...

OK, I guess the analogy only goes so far.

Still, I miss the fruit stands, wide streets, FoodMaxx, DiCicco’s calzone, Politi Library, Educational Employees Credit Union automatic teller, 940 ESPN radio, Hoover High tennis courts, Fresno State farm, and flat bicycle paths.

It is too bad that I’m not a coffee drinker, because the stereotype of Seattle as a city of coffee shops is true. In downtown Seattle, there are several spots from which you can see three Starbucks at the same time.

Unlike most Seattleites, I still use an umbrella when it’s raining. And I can’t bring myself to refer to the University of Washington as “U-Dub” – it would be presumptuous and overly familiar. I just call it “the university.” Or sometimes “U-Dubya.”

Over the Christmas holidays, we made our first return visit to the Valley, spending a week with Liz’s family in Visalia and making a few drives up Highway 99 to Fresno.

Fresno may not be changing as fast as Seattle (which is full of cranes and new high-rises), but we did see the new high-speed-rail viaduct south of town, the new curbs and gutters on the former Fulton Mall and the new Park Crossing center up north.

When our week was over and it was time to fly out of Fresno-Yosemite International Airport, I found myself having trouble saying the “h word.” Somebody asked us when we’d be leaving, and I said, “We’ll be going h ... h ... h ... uh, to Seattle tomorrow.”

Pat Dodds of Seattle is former vice president of the San Francisco Giants Fan Club and former editor of the Clovis Independent.