JOKER'S PEACE | Meeting the Mossback
January 16, 2009 · 4:47 PM
Nicest Old Curmudgeon Ever.
Knute Berger is referred to, by some, as an old curmudgeon.
The dude has been pontificating on Puget Sound for decades.
Always a newsman, he was one of the students who helped start up the Evergreen State College newspaper in the 70s and went on to an illustrious career as an editor and columnist at Seattle Weekly following more than a decade of running various start up newspapers and magazines around the region into the 1990s. Now he writes for the online Northwest news source Crosscut.com as well as Washington Law and Politics and Seattle Magazine.
Last Sunday he came across the water for his first-ever bookstore reading at Eagle Harbor Books on Bainbridge.
Being a wide-eyed, Puget Sound-loving transplant and young journalist, I had to meet the one they call Mossback — the one whose book, they say, is “required reading for anyone who calls themselves a Northwesterner.”
“It’s pronounced ‘Ka-newt Ber-zher,’” — he introduced himself to a standing room only crowd at Eagle Harbor — “not ‘Newt Bur-ger,’” which sounds like a bad name for a fast food chain.
But he doesn’t really correct people when they get it wrong, he added. (The lady who announced his arrival defaulted to his nickname Skip.)
Berger was on Bainbridge — a second home for him, he said — for a reading/signing of his new book “Pugetopolis: A Mossback Takes On Growth Addicts, Weather Wimps and the Myth of Seattle Nice.” It’s a collection of musings and ruminations collected from 16 years of his writing and commenting on the region’s current and historical morphing into what’s been termed Pugetopolis.
It’s a good book, quality local history, poetic wit and decent jokes, but I was hoping more to see if Berger was really as curmudgeonly as some people, and some of his columns, have made him out to be.
If the curmudgeon-labeling sources are to be believed, he’s one of the nicest curmudgeons I’ve ever met.
But I suspect that many of those who’ve labeled him as such over the years have probably never met the man in person.
Airing one’s opinions in text, especially those rooted in the old school, can easily and often come across curmudgeonly, but in person, Berger was quite sincere. He even offered to put off the homecoming-esque dinner with his mom and sister for a cup of coffee with me. But I took a rain check.
After all, nothing is more important than family, and I already had all that I needed for this piece when he summed up both the book and the quest that’s driven his career by saying: “(This) place itself is a part of who we are, and we are part of it ... and we have to treat it that way.”
READ MORE MOSSBACK at www.crosscut.com, and find more on the new book “Pugetopolis” at www.pugetopolis.blogspot.com.