By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index
September is always a month of transition. Back to school is an annual tradition for parents, children, teachers and many more.
In Western Washington, the Washington State Fair (known locally as the Puyallup Fair) is a benchmark of the changing seasons.
Both, of course, did not happen in 2020. Or at least they didn’t happen in any recognizable form.
September, like everything else in 2020, looks nothing like any September we have seen before.
In local news, September opened with news that the world’s oldest known polar bear, which had been residing at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium died at age 34 years.
Labor Day weekend, instead of being the last gasp of summer was the weekend of fires – and not just the fires of California and Eastern Washington. Even Western Washington, from Sumner to Lakewood had fires that just seemed to pop up everywhere.
By September 10, smoke, if not fires, became inescapable virtually anywhere in Washington, Oregon and California – and Nevada, Colorado and every other western state.
For a day or two in the middle of the month we had glorious sunsets and sunrises. Then no sunrises or sunsets.
By the middle of September we heard of the permanent closure of two of Tacoma’s most iconic downtown venues; Pacific Grill and The Swiss.
Each of these had, in their own way, defined, or even pioneered, a very Tacoma-specific revival of downtown. Whatever may take their place, these two businesses were far more than providers of food and drink. Each one was an anchor for the community. They will be greatly missed.
The quarantine within the quarantine
Just when we thought life could not get any stranger, the month of September said “Hold my beer….”
The second week in September was when, yet again, all the rules changed.
This time it was a visitation we could all see, one that we could not deny or avoid: the smoke.
As of mid-September, outside dining, for a time the salvation of local eating establishments, ended abruptly thank to suffocating smoke.
It was as if Nature, or the Fates or someone, was saying “One way or another, you are going to be wearing a mask – and staying inside.”
It took a while for the fires and smoke to take on political dimensions, but this being 2020, of course it did.
Within the week, smoke from the west Coast had enveloped the entire country, coast to coast, even making its way to Western Europe.
Never had so many of us prayed so fervently for wind and rain.
And never had blue skies and chirping birds seemed like such a miracle.
The canary in a coal mine is no longer a metaphor
Thousands of migrating birds have died in south-western US in what ornithologists have described as a national tragedy. –https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/sep/16/birds-falling-out-of-the-sky-in-mass-die-off-in-south-western-us-aoe
Odd news –
Twilight Zone Edition
On September 1st, jetliners reported seeing someone outside their windows flying alongside in a jet pack outside of Los Angeles.
Signs of life were detected on the surface of Venus. They were chemical signs, but still….
And if we think we had it bad with smoke, COVID, racial strife and a collapsing economy, at least we didn’t have the potentially deadly mosquito-borne illness that emerged in Michigan. (https://news.yahoo.com/michigan-residents-urged-stay-indoors-144631664.html)
A would-be Messiah was arrested in Russia. Besides fleecing people, apparently impersonating a deity is a crime in Russia. – https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/22/cult-leader-vissarion-reincarnation-jesus-arrested-siberia-russia?
Since courage has been so rare among human beings, a rat was awarded a medal for bravery – https://www.bbc.com/news/world-54284952?
There’s an analogy there somewhere…..
Odd news – the local version
Besides filling the Puget Sound basin with smoke from wildfires, the windstorm broke loose one of the floating shipping cranes, which hit multiple sites before finally landing at Katie Downs on Tacoma’s waterfront.
All of Tacoma’s parks were closed for several days because of the hazardous smoke. Among many other things impacted by the smoke, birds seemed to disappear.
Pierce County is taking steps to have the Electron dam removed. It has been in operation since 1903. The action that inspired the dams removal was the use of rubber-based carpeting from the Kingdom (yes, the one that used to be in Seattle) that crumbled into rubber pellets and dust that is virtually impossible to retrieve from the river and Commencement Bay.
Pier 58, while being removed, collapsed into Elliot Bay. Two workers fell into the bay. No one was injured.
And yes, Tacoma hit the national news with a story about our own alien induced crop circles. This was in Tacoma’s North End, so it was not really “crop” circles, and it wasn’t aliens either (https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/those-crop-circles-at-a-tacoma-park-theres-a-terrestrial-cause/ar-BB19c8xY). At least that’s what the media and the government are telling us….
For the first time in that state’s history, a Kennedy was defeated in a Massachusetts Senate primary.
On September 3, our sitting president was urging people in North Carolina to vote twice. This is a felony – even in North Carolina.
If you like baseless, nonsensical conspiracy theories involving aliens, pizza and rainbows, you’d love the fantasies of Sequim’s mayor (https://crosscut.com/politics/2020/09/qanon-conspiracy-theories-have-seeped-northwest-politics?). And yes, he promotes his pet theories on the city’s official website.
Attorney General Barr has made it clear that he does not want the federal Department of Justice “run like a pre-school” –https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/516849-barr-doj-wont-be-run-like-preschool.
Couldn’t agree more….
President Trump roiled the political landscape by stating – and then repeating – that he might not accept the verdict of the next Presidential election and ensure a “peaceful transition”.
Spoiler alert here, authorizing and validating any election, let alone a Presidential election, is not within the realm of responsibilities for a sitting president. The Constitution specifies that all rules and regulations regarding voting are the responsibility of each individual state.
In COVID news
As virtually everyone expected, the Sturgis motorcycle rally was indeed a “super-spreader” event that is expected to infect over 260,000 and add $12 billion in health care costs.
Florida’s governor is seeking a “bill of rights” for college students following crackdowns on parties and other social gatherings that have led to a surge in COVID-19 cases on campuses around the country. Parties should be protected, pandemic or not, he said, because “That’s what college kids do.” https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/sep/24/florida-governor-proposes-college-bill-of-rights-t/
The governor also lifted all COVID related restrictions on bars and restaurants.
Florida has had more than 700,000 testing positive and 13,900 dying from the virus. With 3,100 cases per 100,000, it is second only behind Louisiana in its rate.
Not that there is any connection, of course – Florida is scheduled to host the Super Bowl, the NFL’s championship game, in Tampa Bay in February.
The last week of September gave us news of a COVID test that gives results within minutes –https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/28/covid-19-tests-that-give-results-in-minutes-to-be-rolled-out-across-world?.
On September 29th it was announced that over a million deaths worldwide were attributed to COVID – more than 10% were children.
Not quite the militia
Armored “volunteers” have taken to many of our urban areas to “assist” the police. Fully masked and armed, unidentified and unaccountable, these are a force never before seen in our cities.
US President Donald Trump has reportedly been nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for the “historic peace agreement” between the United Arab Emirates and Israel.
And in related news, Vladimir Putin is also said to have been nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize. No reason was given.
It should be noted that “the Committee does not itself announce the names of nominees, neither to the media nor to the candidates themselves. In so far as certain names crop up in the advance speculations as to who will be awarded any given year’s Prize, this is either sheer guesswork or information put out by the person or persons behind the nomination. Information in the Nobel Committee’s nomination database is not made public until after fifty years.” –https://www.nobelprize.org/nomination/peace/
Weather – and other natural phenomena
August gave us twin hurricanes in the Gulf area. September, delivered five tropical storms – hitting the Gulf States at the same time.
Fire-tornados hit California (https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2020/09/13/fire-tornado-hit-huntington-lake-calif-with-some-roots-still-burning.html)
For the first half of September everyone in Western Washington, even atheists, prayed for rain.
And in true 2020 form, an onslaught of termites hit Gig Harbor, Key Peninsula and Port Orchard in the middle of the month. (https://www.thenewstribune.com/article245809170.html)
And in other news, bedbug infestations have increased rapidly across the state.
We don’t have hurricanes on the west coast, but we can have hurricane force winds. And Alaska was hit by them – https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/26/weather/hurricane-force-wind-warning-alaska-saturday-trnd/index.html?
Previous months gave us murder hornets, September gave us a bumper crop of spiders.
Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away September 18, Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year. According to Jewish tradition, a person who dies on Rosh Hashanah is a tzaddik, a person of great righteousness.
She was the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court. Also known as Notorious R.B.G., Ginsburg inspired at least two full-length bio-pics and her own action figure.
Traditionally, saying “may her memory be for a blessing,” is appropriate when a Jewish person has died.
On the day of her funeral, President Trump announced his pick for her Supreme Court replacement.
Harold Moss, the first African American mayor of Tacoma and the man who guided Tacoma through turbulent times, died in September at 90.
Moss became Tacoma’s first Black City Council member in 1970, first Black mayor in 1994 and first Black Pierce County Council member in 1996.
I only had one solid conversation with Mr. Moss. I was struck by his kindness, wisdom and determination. May his memory be for a blessing.
At the end of September, singer Helen Reddy passed away at age 78. She was a singer and songwriter whose song I Am Woman became a rallying cry for the nascent feminist movement in the early 1970s.
On the same day country singer and songwriter Mac Davis died, also aged 78. He first found fame working as a songwriter for Elvis Presley in 1969.
Davis is behind the lyrics to some of Presley’s most memorable tracks such as “In the Ghetto”, “Memories”, “Don’t Cry Daddy”, and his posthumous hit “A Little Less Conversation”.
Davis’s songwriting includes Glen Campbell’s “Everything a Man Could Ever Need” and “Something’s Burning” performed by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition.
Davis and Reddy worked together, and died on the same day at the same age. (https://www.stltoday.com/news/two-70s-singers-die-helen-reddy-of-i-am-woman-and-country-star-mac-davis/article_708dbf0c-d279-54f0-9fb2-b071dd903c08.html)
President Trump in September
Bob Woodward’s new book claims (with recordings) that President Trump knew of the seriousness of COVID even as he dismissed and mocked it at multiple rallies. And in what can only be described as another example of what The Economist terms the Trump Administration’s policy of “up-is-downism”, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump was simply looking to “convey calm”.
Love him or hate him, Mr.Trump, on any given topic, is not known for “conveying calm”.
The last week of September featured an extensive analysis of citizen Trump’s tax return showing that he evaded taxes for virtually all of the past fifteen years.
This was not really a “news” story since he has boasted about his tax evasion for several years telling us that he was “smart” for doing it.
Among other things, Mr. Trump claimed as an annual deductible expense, $70,000 for hair care. That’s an average of almost $200 a day.
September ended with a “geo-magnetic storm” over the Pacific Northwest – with the promise of Northern Lights visible from the Puget Sound area. This was a promise unfulfilled.
Speaking of geo-magnetic storms, September also ended with the first of three planned presidential debates between President Trump and (former) Vice-President Biden.
I couldn’t bear to watch the whole thing, but in summary, it was a shambles. It was nothing like a standard debate or discussion. With little reference to issues or policies, it was a free-for-all of insults and interruptions.
I am sure no one changed their minds about which candidate they would support. In its own way, perhaps it was a barometer of the past four years, and sample of what the next four will hold.
Maybe a drug test wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
It was certainly a low point in Chris Wallace’s career. We can only hope our presidential candidates don’t go any lower. And that America never sees a “debate” quite like that again.
The last day of September saw a return of California forest-fire smoke, political commentators trying to make sense of what was supposed to be a presidential debate. And news from Boeing announcing 787 Dreamliner production would move from Everett to South Carolina, a decision that would make a lasting, if not permanent, impact on the Puget Sound economy.
And to capture the essence of 2020 so far, what could be better than a release of a new flock, or batch or case of emoji? https://thehill.com/changing-america/enrichment/arts-culture/517838-these-new-emojis-capture-how-2020-is-going-so-far
With the end of September, we have made it through three-quarters of 2020.
Anyone else just burning in anticipation for what the final quarter will bring us?
October surprise, here we come….
In his inimitable way, President Trump sums up where we have been and where we are going; “Next year, we’re going to have a year that was better than last year.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.