Outfit called Not For Tourists has just published a guide to Seattle. It's a handsome book, looks just like Moleskine journal, complete with oilcloth cover, fat elastic closure, gorgeous paper. The Seattle version is tenth in a series, cobbled together by a design staff in faraway Noo Yawk with input by a locally based "city editor" named Fred Beldin, who contributes occasional music reviews to The Stranger.
NFT Seattle starts out with a grid of 49 neighborhoods (Belltown to Redmond), each with a map that mashes up Essentials (banks, car rental, coffee, community gardens, gas stations, landmarks, parking, pharmacies, post offices and schools) with Sundries (copy shops, gyms, liquor stores, movie theaters, nightlife, pet shops, restaurants, shopping and video rental stores). Copy-wise, each nabe also gets a couple of 60-word blurbs. According to Beldin (I guess), Belltown was "formerly seedy...but don't fret, heroin can still be scored on the proper street corners." Other advice: "Shorty's is the closest thing to heaven in Seattle"..."Shop with all the cool kids at I Heart Rummage." And that's just Belltown, but without the links.
Each Essential and Sundry then gets a breakout with repeats of addresses (a total of 4,152 listings) and a breezy, snide, sarcastic or cynical comment. Hempfest: "Who can think about politics after a few of those brownies?" Bite of Seattle "Showcase for local culinary excellence." (Maybe they served leftover brownies?) It calls Flexcar "Flex Car" and complains that it has only 100 vehicles; in fact, there are some 300 in the Seattle market. And some nabes (like top of Queen Anne and Ballard) get short shrift; others include listings for long-shuttered restaurants.
The problem with a 374-page book like this is that it's out of date even before it goes to press (and, yes, it was printed in China). It's not so much a 2008 guidebook as a 2006 directory, and it's competing with much more current information online (CitySearch, AOL's CityGuide, NWSource, UrbanSpoon, even Yelp). Ah, but wait: not to be outdone, NFT Seattle has a website of its own! In fact, the whole book is online, though only as PDF pages. It's possible, if you're patient, to find live links to major sports facilities, though not to Metro or to Flexcar.
So it's a good thing NFT included a baker's dozen categories in an "Ultimate Web Index." Seattlest.com makes the cut (of course), but they get onto really shaking ground with the Food & Drink category. Four sites, and the only food blog is Seattle Bon Vivant. Nothing against Viv, but, gee, her most recent post was back in September. And before that, mid-August. What about Accidental Hedonist, Orangette, Gluten-Free Girl, Roots & Grubs, Eating Seattle, Hogwash, TastingMenu, DeliciousCity, or even Cornichon, for crying out loud. Hey, Beldin! Wake up over there! Your own blog hasn't been updated since May!
Meanwhile, more about Flexcar. State of WA bureaucrats went back to calling Flexcar a "car rental company." It's not. It doesn't rent cars to the public. It's an association whose members share cars. Not a fussy, semantic question, either; the state gets an extra ten percent tax on fees if gets away with classifying Flexcar alongside Hertz. Gov. Gregoire thought this was stupid on its face, but she couldn't convince her own Dep't of Revenue. Mind you, this isn't about paying sales tax, as some have said, but the supplemental tax on rental cars charged to out-of-towners. By definition, Flexcar members are local. First the state said it would impose the tax, then it said it would hold off, now it says there's no way around it without a directive from the Legislature. Geez, what a no-brainer. But don't hold your breath; the folks in Olympia seem somewhat preoccupied.
Besides, Steve Case (founder of AOL, who bought the company a couple of years ago), has apparently grown tired of the whole thing. Word came last night that he's sold Flexcar to rival Zipcar. Official spin is that it's a merger, but headquarters moves to Boston shortly. Guess it's time for a new NFT entry.