Where Bernadette Went

Of course I had to read this book. Not only is it set in Seattle, but it was written by a Seattle-hating Californian transplant and reportedly offers a devastating portrait of the city’s “charms.” Now I’m here as your fact checker, to tell you what the author got right and/or wrong about my adopted hometown. (I’ve been here for over 25 years—I don’t count as a transplant anymore, do I?)

Claim 1: Seattle is full of five-way intersections cunningly placed to bamboozle non-natives.

True, but it wasn’t malicious. The city winds around giant hills and bodies of water. Deal with it. Jeez.

Claim 2: There are only two hairstyles for women—long gray hair and short gray hair.

This is obviously false, as there are many women who are too young to have gray hair and many women with gray hair who color it assiduously.But it’s true that there are still large numbers of women with gray hair, and I’ve been told that long gray hair is totally unacceptable in some parts of the world. Well, my long hair isn’t gray yet but it is definitely headed that direction. Deal with it.

Claim 3: Microsoft is a creepy hero-worshipping cult.

Yeah, true.

Claim 4: Microsoft transports its cult members around on a private shuttle system called “The Connector” that’s just for them.

True. I see those things everywhere. But to be fair, city bus service to Redmond stinks.

Claim 5: “Chihulys are the pigeons of Seattle.”

True, oh so true. You can’t spit without hitting one of Dale Chihuly’s glass thingamabobs. And recently, the city tore down a little amusement park called the Fun Forest and built a Chihuly museum in its stead.That’s right, they replaced a fun place to take your kids with a big building full of shiny, highly breakable objects.

Claim 6: Seattle mothers are narcissistic helicoptering freaks.

True, but only in the private schools. While I was reading the book I was sure, totally sure, that the school that plays a central part in the story was modeled after the hoity  toity private school my kids used to go to. It all sounded soooo familiar, in an unpleasantly exaggerated but not untrue way. After I finished the book I did some googling and learned that actually, the author’s kids go to a different but apparently similar hoity toity private school. In contrast, public schools are quite different, except for the ones near Microsoft.

That’s all I can remember. I read the book several weeks ago and my long going-gray hair weighs down my brain. If you have any other “is this true?” questions about Seattle, or heck, about anything, post them in the comments below. I promise to answer candidly.



11 thoughts on “Where Bernadette Went

  1. (Churros at Disney) I’m glad you wrote this, because I felt like I missed out on some of the Seattle jokes in the book, having never been there. The art museum here just finished a big Chihuly exhibit (which I paid to see), and I kept thinking about the pigeon comment and feeling like a bit of a chump. 😉

  2. What I loved about that book is you could take the theme of it (aggravating characteristics of upper middle class parents) and transplant it to any place in the US by subtly altering the details. The Seattle stuff was only important because it was set in Seattle. But I could rewrite that book in a day just by changing the details to the pertinent characteristics of Podvillians. We have the energy industry instead of Microsoft; highlighted newscaster hair instead of gray hair; Little League baseball instead of Chihuly (or, if you don’t like that, we have hunting paraphernalia instead of Chihuly); giant, oversized multi-lane highways with aggressive drivers rather than five-way intersections; and plenty of narcissistic helicoptering freaks. **They are the same people in Seattle as in Podville, just with different trappings.**

  3. I’m sorry they tore down your park but I like Chilhuly work and would love to own one. This from the woman with the grey hair and the bottle tree in her front yard. lol

  4. a post like this is  precisely the reason I hang with Xanga; to read the truthy truth from someone I’ve learned to trust. Other than that, guess I’m just waiting for someone to set a  story in my own adopted hometown. q’dima, Israel Pop 11000.  I did thrill to ‘Boys from Brazil and that Harrison Ford flick about the supposed Amish, The Witness. Names and details get changed in flight to fit the market, I concluded.  They even changed the wording of the exit sign on the Turnpike for the film. (I’ll have to Google this Chihuli guy. Feel like I was raised by wolves sometimes, in an ornament-less forest with no name.

  5. I live in Oregon now, although I’m not sure that’s pertinent to any part of this comment, except that it made it seem like “Portlandia” might be pertinent to my life.  Only it wasn’t.  And the one episode I watched seemed to me to be the other half of one of those weird math problems with too many colons:  Portlandia:Oregon::Where Bernadette Went: Seattle.Oh!  And my husband has to go to Seattle next month for a business trip, so now I can warn him about five-way intersections and glass parks and the Microsoft cult.  Do you think if he joined, he’d get a new PC?  ‘Cuz as long as their not serving Koolaid, I think I could let him be a cult-member if it involved free gadgetry.

  6. I heard a review of this book and it did not make me yearn to read the thing. I kind of felt like you had to have some first-hand experience of Seattle to appreciate it, even though it’s about warming up to a new situation — which should be relevant to just about everyone.

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