Vol. 11, No. 2,586W - The American Reporter - February 20, 2005

Ink Soup

by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
Seattle, Wash.

SEATTLE, Wash. -– It has snowed–copiously. The locals compare it to the great storm of ‘96, which, as it chances, we witnessed, as we were here on a visit before moving here three years later.

For the State of Washington, snow is nothing to write home about. Snoqualmie Pass is routinely declared off limits even to vehicles with snow tires. The Cascades are a prime locale for skiers.

But Seattle knows snow only as the odd white flake that sometimes falls–saying, Excuse me, does anyone here know the way to Spokane?–among the raindrops.

For the amount of snow that fell yesterday the city is totally unprepared. The local joke is that they do have a snowplow, but it's broken. Whether the recycling and trash can be picked up this week has yet to be decided.

In 1996 we were staying on Lake Union and witnessed the havoc wreaked on boaters when the flimsy flat roofs of their shelters simply gave way beneath a weight that greatly exceeded the worst nightmares of their builders.

Hills, of which Seattle boasts quite a few, simply ceased to function as passable streets. We saw a busload of passengers standing beside their inert vehicle and, with their thumbs out, depending upon the kindness of strangers.

Speaking of kindness, I was able to clear the walk and part of the drive yesterday only thanks to a shovel given to me almost as a joke, some years ago, by my late neighbor, Tom Barrett. God rest his generous soul. With great anxiety, I managed to get the car out of the garage in order to go to the gym down the hill in Ballard. The question was, could I get back up the hill?

The first obstacle was a gang of youngsters, ecstatic over the chance to use their sleds without driving to the mountains, who had simply appropriated a large part of my usual route. The second was that no street, not even the central arteries, had been plowed. The snow had simply been defeated in place by ordinary cars like mine.

But I made it. The health club was open but very few members were on hand.

One was Walter Dalton, the actor. Walter has a voice that can knock down small buildings. I had long wanted to hear his reading of a couple of my favorite lines from Shakespeare (from Act II, scene 2, of "Measure for Measure," if you must know): "That in a captain's but a choleric word / Which in a soldier is flat blasphemy."

When Walter reached the shattering spondee of "flat blas" he nearly set off the fire alarm.

To compensate for this, he told me, in a little tiny voice, this joke: A baby snake comes to its mother and asks, "Mommy, are we poisonous snakes?" "No, dear," said she. "Why do you ask?" "Because I jus' bi' my 'ongue!"

Having just done more physical exercise than I normally do in a week, I gave myself permission to forego the workout and sauna, shave, and shower only.

I made it (as you can plainly see) back up the hill. But on the way I passed not one but two busses–the double monsters that normally shoulder mere SUVs and hummers off the road–sidelined and disgraced by the effort to move passengers from Ballard up one of the gentler slopes in the region.

Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton University.

Copyright 2005 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.