Aberdeen, WA is a small town of about 18,000 just 2 hours southwest of Seattle. The only thing the citizens of Aberdeen resent more than the cloud of national obscurity they lived under for the first nine decades of the 20th century is the moderately intense national limelight they found themselves in when their one of their native sons started a wildly popular ground-breaking grunge band, married Courtney Love, O.D.'ed on heroin, and promptly blew his brains out.

Other interesting tidbits about Aberdeen, WA:

  • People in Seattle (if they have heard of Aberdeen) think of it as a very rainy town on the way to the ocean. (The irony is not lost on all of them.)
  • Aberdeen was declared "off limits to all military personnel except those with family in the area," during the middle part of the last century. This was due to the town's high rates of prostitution and venereal disease.
  • A brilliant young noder called schlemazl grew up there.

Aberdeen is a city for people who love ruins. It sits halfway between the I-5 corridor and the coast, nestled in the permanent cloud bank that is Gray's Harbor County.

Reaching it from I-5 is a little like an Odyssey. First, you must prove your patience by passing two speed traps. Then you must display perseverance in negotiating ten miles of freeway where it never stops raining. All along the way, you will beset on all sides by slow moving vehicles emerging from freeway-side driveways.

The trip is more than worth it, however, if you want to take in the tragic beauty of an old town crumbling. Aberdeen's downtown is a series of glamourous empty buildings falling into disrepair. Most of them are built like mid-century department stores, tall ornate things whose entrances are lined with plate glass and real marble. An old movie theater sites vacant, the bulbs of a classic sculpted marquee dim, the chrome box office unmanned and protected by a caul of chicken wire.

Crooked sidewalks lead you past brownstone steps covered in moss and ascending only to boarded-up doors. The alleys are empty of dumpsters, bums, and any sign of life. Fire escapes hang from smashed windows like broken branches after a windstorm. The evening sun catches leaded glass and throws off a watery light like walking through a postcard.

In the distance, you can see forests and patches of clear-cut where so many grim-faced loggers posed leaning on axes over felled giants. But Aberdeen is all distance. Too old to touch, too old to save. It sits in its harbor disappearing over the horizon of memories.

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