The character of Twilight

As a writer on the Hill who is all but worn out by the near-daily experience of seeing yet another Land Use Notice on the side of a beloved landmark, I made the assumption that my column this week on the Twilight Exit would yield yet another funeral dirge.

It's become all too common: a signature Capitol Hill establishment with unique character, a devoted clientele and a brisk business nonetheless yields to the wrecking ball of gentrification.

As I've written previously, destruction and rebuilding aren't universally negative. Certain spaces outlast their use value or become run-down or simply need a face lift. Sometimes businesses benefit from fresh digs and a new personality. The Elite, formerly on Broadway and now on Olive, along with the Cha Cha Lounge, formerly on Pine and now on Pike, stand as prime examples that change, to paraphrase the immortal words of Sheryl Crow, can do you good.

Still, the trend on the Hill is clear and it's starting to feel less like a zeitgeist and more like an undertow. If our current engagement with gentrification demonstrates anything, it's the simple yet tragically infuriating and disheartening truth of two words So-Cal punk band Bad Religion, to quote another musical artist, sang out about life in a post-modern world of neoliberal economics and governmental control often masked as individual freedom: "No Control."

Yet I'm pleased to report much like Mark Twain, after a journalist appeared at his door ready to write his obituary 13 years early, that the pronouncements of the Twilight's impending death are greatly exaggerated.

When I entered the Twilight a few days ago, I noticed the Land Use sign had been removed from its exterior. Again, given the tenor of life on the Hill, I assumed the city merely didn't want it to stand in the way of ubiquitous wrecking ball of improvement. Why sully a good sign when its services are in such high demand?

Upon entering, in no time I was reminded of not only the value of a seemingly meaningless establishment like a local bar but also the rarity of a place like the Twilight. Having moved a few years ago from a few blocks away to its current location, which previously hosted the now-defunct Oscars II, the Twilight Exit brought and even increased its trademark originality.

The lighting fixtures vacillate between estate-sale chic, goodwill art-deco and your grandmother's old lamp. Together, they collectively produce what too frequently gets ignored by those who design bar interiors: lighting that's actually inviting, warm and acts in the service of an actual ambiance.

From a corner juke-box, perhaps the best in the city, The Boss sang out an opening line as prophetic as any ever written - "In the day we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway American dream" - while a cast of patrons, many familiar to one another, relaxed over drink.

In this sometimes gaudy, sometimes campy, often kitchy yet always endearing place that, on one level, just serves drinks like any other bar, on another level enacts and lives the very values Seattle ascribes to itself, or at least attempts to.

The Twilight Exit feels less like a business and more like temporary rest-area for clusters of seniors, middle-aged and 20-somethings, for whites, blacks and everyone in between, for the well-off, middle class and typical wage earners. All shared the space and interacted in

a way that might be best described as organic.

Much like the Crescent Lounge on the opposite side of the Hill which I wrote about nearly a year ago, the Twilight, too, has an earnest modesty that, however minor and however localized its effect, nonetheless acts to erase the very lines of distinction late-Capitalism, with its niche marketing and life-style advocacy, attempt to cast in ever-increasing ratios of contrast.

While it's difficult to be a fly on the wall while typing away on a laptop, I thankfully caught wind of perhaps one of the most heartening pieces of Cap Hill nightlife news that I've heard in a while. The Twilight Exit will remain standing and in-business for the foreseeable future. Originally, a six-story apartment building was planned for the lot but now those plans have apparently been delayed.

I think I can speak for many on the Hill and Seattle in general who value the singular: this news comes none too soon.

Mario Paduano's column appears in the third issue of each month. Reach him at

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