by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
July 24, 2003
DR. SOUP, FRIEND OF THE MOSQUITO
SEATTLE, Wash. -- When I moved out here - and the phrase "out here" marks me at once as an alien, for the natives are under the happy delusion that "out here" is simply "here" - I was struck at once by two absences: the absence of rain and the absence of mosquitos.
The first will no doubt astonish you, for in current folklore Seattle is the ancestral throne of Jupiter Pluvius, who keeps practicing precipitation in the hope of eventually getting it right.
The jokes are endless: souls in Hell awaiting their turn to be thrown into the fire ask the head demon: "What about those guys over there?" Answer: "Oh, they're from Seattle - still too wet to burn." Ha ha.
The fact is that it does rain in Seattle, but almost never all over Seattle, which is a gigantic metropolitan area, a cluster of loosely linked neighborhoods. Weather maps showing precip as agitated little blips of green are risibly unhelpful. When it is raining in Fremont, I might be lying in the sun on my deck in Crown Hill.
Once I was lying on the deck on a bright sunny day and felt drops of water falling upon the old bod. A prank? I thought. Yes, but one made in Heaven, for raindrops were falling from a clear blue, blindingly sunny sky.
So the rain in Seattle is a joke. Almost no one owns an umbrella, or admits to owing one, and to use it for the pathetic little moisture that does fall occasionally shows a lack of confidence in statistics.
Never in Seattle have I witnessed the sort of torrential gullywasher that was common in my own South Carolina or my beloved place of exile, New Jersey.
Now about mosquitos. There is a certain link between the topics, rain and mosquitos, is there not? I recall being urged to empty containers in my Princeton backyard that might have filled with water from the frequent rains and then served as incubators for mosquito larvae.
There are no mosquitos in Seattle.
Let that astonishing truth stand there as a paragraph all on its own. They have not discovered the place - and long may their ignorance continue.
Soon after our migration, a friend invited us to dine with him in his garden, which looked like something transported from New Orleans: an outdoor table surrounded by lush tropical growth - ferns, lemon trees, vines. One look and I wished I had thought to cover my exposed skin with "Off" insect repellent.
But no. Not a mosquito could be heard, let alone felt. There are no mosquitos in Seattle.
Needless to say, this situation has upset my colleague Dr. Soup, who has recently converted to environmental activism. The re-introduction of wolves into Yellowstone has thrilled him. He talks constantly and gleefully of younger children being thrown from the back of sleighs to pacify the pursuing monsters. He has read too much Russian literature of the ghastlier kind.
Now his plan is to restore the mosquito to Seattle, where, he claims, human beings, in the absence of this natural predator, are proliferating harmfully.
The incidence of the sort of outdoor dining described above, even in the presence of lush shrubbery, and even late in the evening, is seen as a sure sign of the ecological imbalance brought on by the elimination of the mosquito from Seattle.
Experts warn, Dr. Soup says, that without the natural limits imposed by mosquito predation, there is no foreseeable limit to the explosion of human beings in the area. And he, for one, has seen quite enough of human beings.
Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton University.