I Wonder Why

Kirsten Kendrick

Friends and fans are remembering true-crime author Ann Rule as a prolific writer, a tireless advocate for victims and an expert about enforcement and crime investigation.

Rule died Sunday at the age of 83. KPLU’s Kirsten Kendrick interviewed Ann Rule three years ago about her life and career. Click on the link to hear the interview.

There’s a tiny part of Washington state that is so remote you have to cross an international border twice to get there.

Isolated, surrounded by water and Canadians … why did Point Roberts become a part of Washington and not Canada?

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Paul Williams / Flickr

Do most of the clothes in your closet range from hiking fleece to dress fleece, or some variations of plaid and jeans?

That’s probably what has fueled Seattle’s reputation as an unfashionable city.

Overdressing – something that’s just not possible in many American cities – can become a sort of phobia.

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(This is the second installment of a 2-part series about Tacoma’s designation as the City of Destiny.)

Why didn’t Tacoma become the premiere city on Puget Sound?  How did the City of Destiny lose out to Seattle?

Back in 1873, it looked like Tacoma would be graced with fame and fortune when the city beat out Seattle to become the terminus for the Northern Pacific Railroad.

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Tacoma has been known as the “City of Destiny” for more than 140 years.

And while the city’s slogan is unique because it has lasted for so long (when was the last time you heard Seattle referred to as “Jet City?”), it also comes from a 19 Century “crazy person” who was a relentless promoter of Tacoma.

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Jennifer Wing / KPLU

Here’s an odd fact: Seattle’s dog population is estimated to be around 140,000 and climbing. The number of kids? … 93,000 and dropping.

Seattle’s not such a bad place to raise kids, but based on the 2010 census, roughly 15 percent of our population is 18 or younger. And, when you compare Seattle to Boston, New York City or Chicago our share of little ones looks pretty paltry.

In fact, Seattle is neck and neck with San Francisco, which has the lowest population of children of all major U.S. cities.

So where did all of Seattle’s kids go?

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In the 1980’s, the Washington State Legislature considered making it the official state song. The measure failed, but “Louie Louie” is still listed on government websites as the “unofficial” state rock song.

Sure it’s got a good beat and it’s easy to dance to, but is a song about a Jamaican sailor longing for his girl really the best tune to represent Washington State?

How did this classic party song become so much a part of our cultural DNA, anyway?

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Race can be a volatile subject.

Still, judging from the reaction to a recent "I Wonder Why ... ?" story, it’s something people are eager to talk about.

Charla Bear’s story explored why Seattle is one of the whitest big cities in the country, whiter than such places as Denver, Oklahoma City, even Minneapolis.

The response to the report was overwhelming.

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Seattleites don’t like to admit it, but this is a pretty white city.

In fact, the latest census figures show it’s the fifth whitest of the 50 biggest cities in the country. That means there’s a higher proportion of Caucasian people here than in Denver, Oklahoma City, or even Minneapolis.

So why are there so few people of color in Seattle?

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Ashley Gross / KPLU

I just moved here from Chicago, and there’s one thing that has been bugging me – the way people park.

In some ways, Seattleites seem to really follow the rules. People don’t jaywalk, for instance. So why do so many people park on the wrong side of the street?

In my neighborhood in West Seattle, near Alki Beach, cars are parked higgledy-piggledy. Nose to nose, tail to tail. The streets are really narrow, and traffic runs in both directions, so I can understand the temptation to just zip into an empty spot, no matter which side of the street it’s on.

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From Ted Bundy to Gary Ridgway, some of the most notorious murderers in our nation’s history committed their crimes in the Northwest.

While we may not have the most serial killers, we’ve certainly got that reputation. And that got us to wondering: Why are there so many serial killers in the Northwest?

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Museum of History & Industry and Charla Bear

In the Pacific Northwest, we know that yoga pants, polar fleece and hiking shoes are great for grocery shopping. But when we head into the great outdoors, we love to pile on the high-tech gear.

Sure, the weather here demands a certain level of protection from the elements. But what is it that compels people in the Pacific Northwest to want every piece of equipment out there?

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Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

“It just doesn’t like to stop. It’s very tenacious.”

If you have property in the Pacific Northwest, there’s one plant you’ve most likely encountered … and battled – The Himalayan Blackberry.

It’s enemy No.1 in the Northwest. So, where did this plant come from and why did it become such a pervasive pain in the garden?

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Andrew_N / Flickr

Have you ever been to Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo and had a difficult time seeing the animals through all of the trees and plants? Well, it’s supposed to be that way. It’s all by design.

The naturalistic animal exhibit was born in Seattle at Woodland Park Zoo nearly 30 years ago.

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Charla Bear / KPLU

With all the totem poles in Washington State, it might surprise you to know the cedar monument isn’t from this region.

Though some local tribes now carve them, they didn’t originally.

In fact, the first one here was pilfered from another state.

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Images courtesy of the Museum of History and Industry

Maybe you’ve heard the line, "Will the last person leaving Seattle turn out the lights." That well-worn phrase came from a billboard in 1971 as the Boeing Company stalled and then fell into a tailspin.

And while the "Boeing Bust" happened a long time ago, that economic slump, almost as much as the most recent one, is still a part of our collective consciousness.

Why does it still resonate all these years later?

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AP Photo

On the reality TV show “The Deadliest Catch,” you see the crew of the Northwestern enduring storms and other dangers while crab fishing in the Bering Sea in the middle of winter.

You might be surprised to learn that the Northwestern and the hundreds of other boats that make up the North Pacific Fishing Fleet are not based in Alaska. Rather, they travel thousands of miles south each year to tie up in Seattle.

So, why is the fleet based here? There certainly are more convenient ports closer to the fishing grounds. The reasons have to do with water, weather and people. Oh, and tradition plays a part.

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Illustration by Justin Steyer / KPLU

You might say Jesus Christ Made Seattle Under Protest. Or, Jesus Christ Made Seattle Under Pressure.

Either way, this provocative statement is a big help when you’re trying to get around downtown Seattle.

It's a mnemonic device, a sentence that helps you remember the names and order of the city’s streets. The first letter of each word corresponds to a pair of streets between Pioneer Square and Belltown. Jesus starts with a "J" which means Jefferson and James come first. The "C" in Christ signals that Cherry and Columbia are next, and so on.

You might've already known that, but do you have any idea where the memory trick came from? Or, why it remains so popular?

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The Seattle World’s Fair – which opened 50 years ago this weekend – was pretty small on the global scale, compared to later World’s Fairs in Montreal or Vancouver, B.C., or Seville, Spain. It would seem tiny next to the immense Exposition in Shanghai in 2010.

But the memories of 1962 burn strong for those who attended. And historians and civic leaders say the legacy still matters today.

Even if you're brand-new to Seattle, you might have heard that once upon a time there was a World’s Fair here. Maybe, you even learned about it on an elevator ride – to the top of the 605-foot Space Needle.

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The Associated Press

The Northwest is home to a variety of companies that have changed how we live our lives.

We spend more now on coffee thanks to Starbucks. Amazon is changing the way we read books. And another company with deep local roots has gotten many of us to buy more of everything: Costco.

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Rik_C / Flickr

You pull up to a stop light, look over and the windows on the SUV next to you are so dark you can’t see in. Why are we hiding behind tinted automobile windows here in the Pacific Northwest?

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Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

It’s one of the most enduring legends of the Northwest – hundreds of people report sightings of Bigfoot every year. Native American stories also call it Sasquatch or “the Hairy Man.” The idea of a giant, ape-like creature that hides in the woods and might be related to humans has been around for centuries.

Why has this “myth” endured in the Northwest? Is it because Bigfoot is really here? Or, is it because it’s the kind of wild alter ego Northwesterners love to imagine for themselves?

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yelahneb / flickr

"We, in our 20’s and 30’s, took over the city from the old men who were sitting in the Rainier Club playing dominoes all day."

There are thousands of manhole covers on the streets of Seattle. Some of them, 115 to be exact, are official works of art. Artists are commissioned by the city to create them. It’s one of those little quirks that set the city apart.

Why the city decided to decorate these "personnel hatch covers," as the city now refers to them, harks back to a time when the city was full of creative energy and lots of city activists were looking for ways to improve the quality of urban life.

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For years, the Northwest has had the dubious distinction of being one of the most non-religious regions in the land. In fact, it's often referred to as the "unchurched belt" in contrast to the "bible belt" in the South.

On a recent visit to a North Seattle church, there was only a small group of worshipers, filling about a third of the pews. That's not unusual in Seattle or the Pacific Northwest.

So why, we wondered, don’t people in this neck of the woods go to church?

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Photo by Frank H. Nowell and courtesy of UW Special Collections.

The Northwest has long been known for its technological innovations – from airplanes to software. More than a hundred years ago, Seattle was showing off a brand-new invention involving babies.

At the city’s first World’s Fair in 1909, called the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, there was a Wild West exhibit, rollercoasters, concessions  and right next door, were premature babies … in incubators … on display.

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In 1974, CBS’ 60 Minutes declared Seattle was the best place in the world to suffer a heart attack. Nearly forty years later, the reputation persists – and experts are still claiming Seattle is tops in saving victims of cardiac arrest.

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If you live in Boston, Manhattan or Mumbai, the sounds of rush hour include the overwhelming sound of beeping and blaring car horns. But, that’s not the case in the Pacific Northwest.

Honking the horn just doesn’t seem to be part of our driving DNA.

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Museum of History & Industry

In Seattle, we’re never satisfied: Viaduct out of fashion (… and a little dangerous) – remove it and dig a tunnel; Kingdome no longer fits our vision of a great sports venue – poof!

Remove all the hills because they’re in the way of progress – leveled!

One of the earliest engineers to envision grand changes for Seattle was R.H. Thompson. He’s the guy who leveled the hills in what’s known as the Denny Regrade. To understand our drive to give Seattle a constant make over, we decided to take a closer look at this unsung engineer who dramatically changed the city more than 100 years ago.

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In the Northwest, we share some unique attributes. But, like people everywhere, we disagree passionately when it comes to those things that tie us together. That came clear to us after sorting through the comments prompted by KPLU’s "I Wonder Why…?" series.

For instance, in combing through two of our most popular stories, no one could agree on just how friendly we are in the Northwest or whether men in skirts … er Utilikilts is a good idea.

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In a story worthy of our “I Wonder Why … ?” series, a Seattle TV station has resurrected the mystery of Mel’s Hole located somewhere (but no one knows where) near Ellensburg.

KOMO wrote on Tuesday:

From Bigfoot to the disappearance of D.B. Cooper, the Pacific Northwest is full of mysteries. Another mystery burred deep in the hills of eastern Washington keeps resurfacing. Ellensburg and its surrounding valleys and Manastash Ridge are beautiful in any season. Some believe what lies beneath is a deep, dark hole with supernatural powers.

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