Friday, April 10, 2020

Peak Mount Baker

Each night of this new plague, as I lay me down to sleep, here’s what I hope to ask while kneeling with the dogs beside my bed:

“How did we all survive both the continuing school closure and the border closure today?”   

Today was Bellingham’s first gorgeous sunny Friday of spring. Depending on your degree of introversion, you could leave home without a jacket or shirt. But you’re welcome to wear ether, or both. As always, in Bellingham certain wardrobe mainstays like fleece, shorts, flannel, nudity, and/or Birkenstocks are somehow de rigeur yet optional. And in each instance an absolutely individual choice. 

Here at Chez Leishman, exactly one other member of the family has been outdoors today, counting Bear and Buster. The other two children are vampires.

It’s been four weeks since Papa last crossed the border for Vancouver Men’s Chorus, or for anything else. That’s the longest hiatus at the Peace Arch since they began keeping records. 

Papa can tell. His parents can tell. His writing can tell. The dogs can tell. Even the children can tell. They’re the ones who pointed out the previous No Canada record was barely twelve days. The kids are getting worried about having to explain something to Child Protective Services.

Here’s my best “lemonade” plague insight so far. It came to me this afternoon, during the fourth of my walks with our happy but exhausted dogs.

We quant types secretly love pandemics. There’s always more interesting data to pore over. For example, last week Bellingham was listed as the fourth most dangerous city in the world, based on the number of coronavirus deaths per 100,000 population. We had one of the countrys first tragic nursing home moments. 

Fortunately, like the rest of Washington we promptly followed Governor Inslee. In fact, here in Bellingham we may have achieved the most effective social distancing in America. 

During our walk, Bear, Buster and I were discussing another one of those Rabbi-Kushner-bad-things-to-good-people moral dilemmas. Here’s what I asked the dogs:

“On this lovely sunny Good-ish Friday, where can Bellingham find the silver lining in what is a merely metaphorically dark cloud today?”

If I can’t personally take all the credit for yet another poorly targeted biblical plague, I’d prefer to blame some interesting statistical anomaly. A hypothesis that’s capable of explaining why a classically just God would smite poor charming Bellingham of all places with an extra dose of coronavirus. 

And then the answer came to me. All three answers: 

First, Bellingham is not only home to the nation’s highest proportion of introverts, but the combined introvert-extrovert population of Bellingham also contains the highest percentage of hippie health nuts anywhere outside Berkley, California. That means a freakishly huge number of human beings of all ages are outside exercising, right now.      

Second, Bellingham has a marvelous public park system, with an amazing network of trails. Miles of these trails are sufficiently long and wide to maintain perfect social distancing for everyone at all times, regardless of your unique medical or introversion needs. If you happen to be stuck in an extra infectious community, you want to be where the highest percentage of the population can get exactly as much exercise as they need. This keeps everyone from climbing the walls beyond their capacity.

Third, the little extra oomph that makes optimal community outdoor time possible here is that Bellinghamsters have a unique ability to maintain exactly the perfect CDC-mandated social distance at all times, even on a forest trail crowded with runners, hikers, bikers, skateboarders, stoners, and strollers. 

It takes an inner Pacific Northwest gyroscrope. We all have it. As Pulitzer-prize winning cartoonist David Horsey recently observed, “Suddenly, the notorious ‘Seattle Freeze’ seems quite prudent….

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