Listening to the weather forecast on KUOW, I heard the announcer say: “Highs in the low 40s and lows in the high 30s,” and thought that was a wildly twisty sentence. But the bounce between highs and lows isn’t very big in winter (unfortunately) as it would be in a place like Southern California.
So today was one dull, cool, rainy winter day. Actually, if you’ve lived in Seattle too long you’d say today was a beautiful day because it never rained hard and except for the cloud cover you could see clearly. But coming from New York and having lived for a few decades in California, I know what a truly beautiful day is. There are a fair number of such in an average Pacific NW winter (and many more in summer). But not today.
After dropping my son at preschool, I shopped at Seattle’s Pike Place Market and then drove to Volunteer Park to give the dog a walk. I saw a few remarkable sights. The worst thing about all this was that I didn’t take my camera. What great shots I could’ve gotten!
The “volunteer” in Volunteer Park refers to the American “volunteers” who fought in the Spanish-American War. A plaque at the park entrance notes that it is dedicated to them for “liberating the oppressed peoples of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philipines.” I wonder how “liberated” the million or so Filipinos killed in this war felt? Anyway, it just goes to show how tragically misguided were our supposedly benevolent, but imperialistic impulses in national ventures such as this.
Whatever Happened to ‘Whatsoever?’
As I walked through the park’s western border, I saw a commonplace Seattle city sign that I’ve seen before at the entrances of Frink Park. It said “Dump No Material Whatever.” I’ve noticed this sign for a few years and each time I see it I say to myself: “Why not the simpler and more direct ‘No Dumping’ or ‘Dump Nothing Whatsoever?'” And whatever do we think about that “whatever?” It would be much more common and probably more emphatic to say “whatsoever.” Reminds me of the talk we heard on the bus getting here.
We all know what ‘whatever’ means in this sentence (though it would take a lot of words to convey it): “Yeah, that’s what YOU think…Whatever!” I’d say it’s a somewhat vague and passive way of dismissing a statement we disagree with but don’t want to argue about. But the use of the word on the sign seemed just plain odd to me. Any lexicographers out there who can tell me whether I’m wrong or right? Looking at the sign, my first thought was that the sign might be the work of some engineer from the 1940s who favored a convoluted prose style. Perhaps I’m right. We can always wonder, like I did a lot on my bus trip this way.
And while we’re speaking of weird municipal signs, I’m always amazed by warning signs in Portland (can’t remember if I’ve ever seen them in Washington) that say “Reduced Sight Distance.” Total gobbledygook in English, but you sort of get this Portland traffic engineer’s even more convoluted drift. “You can’t see well or far up ahead, so be careful.” That would be hard to say clearly & concisely in only a few words. But let me give it a try: “Caution: Reduced Road Visibility.” I know it’s not quite right. But it’s pretty close. And all it took was an English major to try to knock some sense into engineerspeak!
Firefighters Fighting a Fire [or Was It a Mirage?]
I was walking up the hill on the park’s south side when I saw a group of firefighters in full regalia spraying serious hosefuls of water on what I thought was a fire of some kind on the sidewalk. As I got closer I started thinking, “isn’t it odd that firefighters are fighting a fire on a bare sidewalk when it’s cold and rainy outside? Seems like a superfluous exercise, doesn’t it?” As two firefighters poured prodigious highly pressurized amounts of water up the sidewalk slope, they appeared to be losing a battle with the copious gallons previously discharged which were flowing against them downhill. I feel my inside body pretty good.
It seemed like an exercise in futility until I saw there was a third firefighter with them who held a clipboard. Then I realized he was their supervisor or tester who was training them in the operation of the hose and that this was a training exercise. Mystery solved!
Confabulation of Crows
A little farther up the hill at the Water Tower traffic rotary, hundreds of crows congregated in a midday powwow. They flew from every direction and roosted on two contiguous trees. As they flew they raised a huge ruckus. The sound of one crow cawing is enough to drive me to distraction. But the sound of hundreds in cacophonous unison (and only 100 feet or so above me) was deafeningly powerful. I don’t usually like crows much because they’re too possessive, territorial and competitive for my taste. But the site of this confabulation left me visually amazed. What a sight!
I then left the park, drove over to pick up my 2 and 1/2-year-old after preschool and drive him home. But he didn’t want to go home. After five days cooped up in airplanes, a California hotel, a synagogue (we came for a Bat Mitzvah), and relatives’ homes, he wanted to run! And he did. He went running down the street at a gallop, leaping, whooping and holding his arms straight up in the air. Quite a show! I realized he was mimicking a part of his preschool dance class in which the teacher asks each child to leap in the air solo, while the rest of the class watches (and presumably whoops and raises their arms straight into the air!). He did this for three entire blocks and only stopped because we came to the Isaac Stevens School playground.
As he approached the school property he saw a rainbow over Lake Washington. And then after he noticed the rainbow he noticed the school playground right in front of him. This kid never met a playground he didn’t like. This one included. After unsuccessfully trying to persuade him you had to be a student at the school to use the playground, we barged in and he went straight for the metal platform with a bridge and multiple slides. He found a contraption that looks roughly like a huge tic tac toe board with each square shaped like a round rolling abacus bead. He began turning them all like mad and saying he was piloting a ship. I asked, “Where are we going?” He replied, “California.” “How do we get there?” He then ran to the other side of the bridge. “Jonah, what are you doing?” “I’m in California. Daddy, you come too!”
Then we played tetherball, which was a huge hit (don’t ask me why). Guess we’ll be going back there again! Is it just me or is my kid great?