Holiday in hell

Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer. Usually it's a wistful moment. But this has got to have been the worst summer in a long time for most people. No need to write up the full list of woes – you know what I'm talking about.

And so, to end the summer of 2020, it was only fitting that here in Portland we had hellacious east winds, which had been forecast, and choking smoke, which had not been. 

The daylight was that hideous orange that comes from being downwind from a forest fire. Everything stunk. The bad air even came through the walls of our old house.

I was out in the yard struggling to get the garbage out to the curb and a few things watered, when several big gusts came whipping through. The flowers we had been admiring for weeks bent over, almost all the way to the ground. Dust and debris were flying around. It got in your eyes. Limbs on the trees, still heavy with all their leaves, shook and swayed violently.

After a while, our mentally ill neighbor up the street started one of her screaming tirades out on her front porch. It seemed perfect for the moment.

And then the power went out for a couple of hours.

I thought: So long, summer of 2020. Don't let the door hit you.

But after that couple of hours, by then well after dark, the lights came back on. The comforts and conveniences that electricity bestows were restored. I pictured the crew from the power company who got things back up and running. Young people, probably, maybe with a veteran or two calling the shots and offering advice. They drove to the scene, cleared away the debris, got the line reconnected. They knew what they were doing.

Part of me thinks that's what will happen with the whole world between now and next summer. I certainly hope so. Here's to the crews, all of the crews.


  1. I know a scene in a movie that this reminds me of. We experience most days this year with no particular fanfare but Labor Day is different. We have traditions and expectations so any break from the norm is more jarring than if it had just been another sucky day in 2020, right?
    Okay, the movie is "War of the Worlds" - the modern remake with Tom Cruise. By this time in the plot huge crowds are trudging around the countryside trying to get to someplace safe. In one little town they stop as the railroad crossing starts up with the clanging sound and the arms begin to lower down. It is refreshingly familiar - at least something is still working like it should - like it used to. Then the train shows up and it's speeding wildly and completely on fire. It barrels through the crossing and heads off on its doomed run to hell. Next the arms of the crossing rise up again and the bells stop ringing. The event has come and gone. It had turned out to be a combination of order and almost shocking wild chaos. The people don't really react. They just continue trudging along already beaten down by what has happened to them up until then.
    That was Labor Day weekend in Portland this year. The familiar feelings definitely arrived. People went to the coast and had barbecues. I suppose some changed their behavior because of the pandemic but not enough to notice. Then the arms of the crossing lowered and the warning lights came on. Labor Day was here, but instead of something familiar, it showed up like a speeding train on fire before roaring through town on its way to even more catastrophe. The arms of the crossing have come back up now and the clanging sound has stopped. It was so orderly really and yet so crazy. It won't really phase us. We will wake up tomorrow and continue our long march through 2020. Who knows? Sometime later we'll really process what just happened. For now we're too weary from layers of calamity. But some day maybe someone will ask us, "What was Labor Day 2020 like?" and we'll sigh and say, "Let me tell you. It really sucked."


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