As epiphanies go, it was fairly obvious, and embarrassing. After successive waves of humidity, flash showers, thunderstorms that could wake the dead; on the eve of a genuine hurricane; it finally occurred to me that the weather in D.C. is a bit more brutal than the misty comfort offered by the Pacific Northwest.
People in western Washington state, in particular, are known far and wide for their mellowness, which should never be mistaken for meekness. Politically, the state does things that would make headlines if they occurred in, say, New York or California (e.g., abolish race preferences in government), but the local style is so understated that the national press doesn’t know quite what to make of it. Seattle’s proposed latte levy had the foam taken out of it in this Tuesday’s elections, and then things quickly reverted to form.
To get the mood on the ground, this column phoned a friend a week before the election and asked him to do some legwork. He reported back that the attitude of most locals could be captured with the eloquent phrase, “eh, whatever.” Then they went on to give the referendum the spanking of a lifetime: over two-thirds of voters voted for espresso junkies against poor children.
Score one for the Grover Norquist crowd, but this studied Washington mellowness extends much further than politics. The locals’ preferences in dress (“casj”), music, and language reflect a shared experience with a natural world that is not all that hostile, as these things go.
All along the Puget Sound and up as far as the Canadian border, the climate is the very definition of mild: wet but not cold, almost no humidity, very few natural disasters. Californians — particularly southern Californians — often have great weather, but then earthquakes hit. The southwest has tornadoes and draughts. The Midwest hosts thunderstorms that can curl your toes. Washington, D.C. was built on a swamp. In Washington state…it occasionally rains too much. The horrors.
They tell me that Isabel may be extreme even by D.C. standards. Virginia declared a state of emergency. The local schools have pre-emptively closed and the Metro will shut down at 11 a.m. today in anticipation of the flooding. Utilities are preparing for massive power outages. Stores shelves are being emptied of non-perishable food, candles, and boards even as I type. Employees of the Spectator have been advised to fend for ourselves and most of us have decided to do that fending from home. We’ve become the de facto equivalent of the federal workforce, which too has been told to take the day off.
Sorry to end this week’s missive on such a down note, folks, but depending on how things go, this website may go a few days without updates. The spirit is willing but the electricity just may not be there. We will, however, be back.