The Perfect Vision Plague Diaries #17

Your cracks are showing

Notes on the general state of the neighborhood, the family, and the masses in the time of the virus.

Alki Pano
Harbor Ave, Elliott Bay, hints of the mouth of the Duwamish

Yesterday’s numbers:

  • 3,486 confirmed positive cases (up 155* from yesterday)
  • 230 confirmed deaths (up 8 from yesterday)

Love those single digit deaths. Zero would, of course…

News on the Bridge front:

Since our initial recommendation, our biggest concern has become the extent and rate of cracking near the quarter points of the main span could lead to collapse in the near future if strengthening is not implemented quickly. 

So the West Seattle Bridge was probably a lot closer to catastrophic failure than we realized. And the engineers say that 80% of its burden is, I think they call it unloaded weight or dead load or something – it just means that its greatest stress comes from its own weight, even without a single vehicle on it. So it’s getting worse even as it sits unused. That sucker won’t be open for years, and at the front end of the plague year that’s a dirty little serendipitous way to heap misery onto tragedy.

Was the bridge built poorly in the first place? It was finished in 1984, after the previous bridge was rammed by a 550-foot freighter called the Antonio Chavez, piloted by an alcoholic Norwegian named Rolf Neslund. Some people believe he did it on purpose because the city was taking too long to get it replaced. He and his equally afflicted wife lived in the San Juan Islands, where they screamed and threw things at each other in drunken rages, and from where he eventually disappeared. It’s a wild story that’s well worth the short read here. 

In any case, the city’s hand has been forced again, this time by damage that has set in quite a bit sooner than expected. They’re still trying to figure out what’s causing the advanced cracking (which is still growing, oh BTW), so they know what to prevent when they fix it. Is it the increased traffic from the incredible population growth on the peninsula? Is it pile driving in the harbor below? Is it the sinister red paint of the highly controversial bus-only lanes? Or is it Rolf Neslund, tugging on hazy bottles of spicy aquavit and repeatedly ramming his ghost ship into the concrete knees of that behemoth span, screaming curses at his terrible wife?

You know which explanation I’m going with.

While pretty much everyone is complaining about how it’s been handled, as well as assuming that the only possible explanation is a combination of negligence, ignorance, and malice, I am just glad they caught it and kept everyone the heck off of it. A bunch of armchair engineers complaining on the internet is a lot more tolerable than dredging the Duwamish for bodies. Call me naïve, but I never expect every possible danger to be anticipated. I expect the greatest possible effort to be made to anticipate every possible danger, but when the experts issue a report that says “we don’t know the cause” or “we didn’t see that coming,” I don’t immediately scream accusations of incompetence. As Robert Louis Stevenson said:

The world is so full of a number of things

We can’t possibly see them all coming, and have to content ourselves with reacting honorably when the surprises come.

………

One of the highlights of this past week or two has been watching our neighbor’s 3 (I think) year old son learn to ride a bike. Our dead-end street angles upward towards its terminus, and he starts at the top of the hill on his no-pedal scoot bike, shooting with unchecked speed straight down towards a very small speed bump and the basketball-sized rock at the end of my driveway, which sits at the mouth of our sanctuary. It was hard to watch, and thrilling, as he would fly down with his feet out at angles and the little bikle wobbling with that “brink of disaster” shimmy that you always see on motorcycles right before the bike crumples nose-first like a horse getting shot in a movie, and the rider soars over the handlebars. But he’s always been able to get his feet back to the ground and Flintstone himself to a stop. There have been crashes, to be sure. His parents are great about it – no panic, no rushing to pick him up, just a casual walk to the crash site where he’s already picked himself up and is in some diminishing state of tears. He does like to veer towards our rock, though, and apparently one night when we were inside, he ramped himself off of it and took flight, swelling up his hand and scraping pretty much everything. He turned out ok and boasts now of the time he “back-flipped off of the big rock.”

The rock is fine.

He’s pedaling now, without quite enough strength to make it back up the hill, but with the semblance of control that comes with having brakes that aren’t the rubber soles of his Keds. Of course, knowing how to drive and knowing where the obstacles are doesn’t preclude the odd, unforeseen circumstance that ends in tears and broken things. You can’t prevent that forever no matter how much information and experience you have. Sometimes you even run into things that you can see perfectly clearly in front of you. Just ask Rolf Neslund. The key is not getting bent out of shape about it. That’s how you finish Stevenson’s poem up there, in agreement with the line that says:

I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.

………

Skyline

Your “Homeless in Coronafornia” update for today:

Sounds good , I have to go set up a living quarters. It’s going to be as good as I can possibly make it
Have an awesome day

You too. You too.

—Ramming speed, Comrade Citizen!—

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