Return to the Mean 

There’s no going back

The heat dome is gone, but not forgotten. It’s still hanging around other parts of the West, for one. When it came to town a few weeks ago, Portland broke all sorts of temperature records. As recently as 2017, when I moved here, I was told that “summer doesn’t even start until July 4th.” This year, we hit our highest temperatures before we even got out of the month of June.

It’s a climate story, one that we all happen to be in the middle of, but it’s also part of a larger feeling of late: we’re all desperate to the mean, even though we can’t really, no matter how many Freedom Days we announce (Freedom Days, I assume, are when local car dealers counterprogram against Toyotathon). There’s no going back, even as much as we wish to make it so.

Though I wouldn’t recommend it as it just encourages them, look at the states with the lowest vaccination rates. Vaccinations seem less urgent to people when the hospitals aren’t jammed full. Except, variants are spreading even faster than ever among the unvaccinated. Boom, the ICUs are full again and those who had to wait until now for surgeries get poorer care because the vaccine-hesitant are gumming up the works. In the olden days we could send anti-vaxxers to a remote island, but coastal real estate is too valuable now. Perhaps a preserve somewhere in North Georgia would work. 

If those folks were legitimately confused about what to do rather than being selfish and stubborn, I could sympathize. At the grocery store yesterday—where I did not have to wear a mask—I was told to wear a mask if I approached the pharmacy. Inside the grocery store. Where I didn’t have to wear a mask.

I can’t say I’m so eager to follow these because-we-say-so rules. I got my shots! Let’s think things through a bit more. Right now, it’s ineffective and nonsensical. Actually, that is how things were before.       

Portland (“The City That Works” although that has not been my experience) can’t go back, either. The cops can’t successfully staff a gun violence reduction team in a year with 570 shooting incidents, double the number at this time in 2020. Heck, they won’t go back to their union building because they’re afraid another trash can fire might break out. The city is so unprepared to sweep and clean the camps of the unhoused people they allowed to spring up over the past 18 months that the estimated time to get that squared away is in years, not weeks or months. 

One person who’s not back in the saddle, though, is Mayor Ted Wheeler. Has anyone seen him around? If you do, please mail him to City Hall. He’s still (somehow) Mayor so he could at least clear some paperwork off his desk while he’s waiting for his term to end. 

Travel is returning. Also, people are punching each other in the terminal, on the airplane, at the hotel—assuming they can even find a hotel staffer to punch—-and at the trailhead parking lot. We simply are unable to return to the beforetimes.

The systems we built had no resiliency before any of this started, and the certainly don’t have it now. Between just-in-time manufacturing, revenue management on airplanes, hospitals cutting costs because they’re owned by some heinous to-the-moon style PE fund, there’s no slack to be had. From recovering from the heat wave to a shortage of syrups are available at Starbucks, a reset is nearly impossible. It’s a real kick in the toffee nuts. 

This Could Have Been a Tweet

It’s been a wild year, New York Times. Cut me a break and please allow “Floof” as a word in the Spelling Bee game.


I enjoyed Willamette Week’s search for the burrito that caused a runner to fail her Olympic drug test in Beaverton.  

The end of TWA Flight 800, 25 years later.

Locals near the Bootleg Fire still—still!—aren’t quite sure about climate change.

*Sorry about the number of emdashes in this one.