On Friday the 13th, I found myself with a little time to visit parts of Seattle that I'd neglected. Georgetown was among such places. Though not far from where I live (Columbia City), the neighborhood hadn't been on my radar for over a year. What will not be found in the pre-pandemic days is this kind of negligence. In 2019, for example, I was a regular at a number of the bars and restaurants there. At the end of 2018, I even shot a scene for my movie, Thin Skin, in Georgetown.
The inspiration for the scene was a June 2017 visit to Sisters and Brothers, a joint that specializes in Nashville-type grub and that relocated to the southwest side of Queen Anne before the pandemic. What I saw from the restaurant's Georgetown windows, and then later from its unstable roof, was a stream of small and mid-sized planes landing at Boeing Field, which is officially called King County International Airport. Many of the planes were sleek private jets. The richest of the rich were coming back home as I ate spicy fried chicken and thick greens.
Here's King County's description of its airport:
[It] serves small commercial passenger airlines, cargo carriers, private aircraft owners, helicopters, corporate jets, and military and other aircraft. It's also home to various Boeing Company operations as well as The Museum of Flight. Thanks to our location just four miles south of downtown Seattle and close to other business centers, we frequently host celebrities, dignitaries, and sports teams.
In short, the rich of Seattle have their own airport. And if you have the kind of money that's not there yet for the ownership of a private jet, you can rent one with a few other middle-class passengers at one of the airport's private terminals.
In 2019 the Seattle Times used these words to describe this lower but considerable luxury (especially in comparison to the public terminals of Sea-Tac International Airport): "[Two] hours [can be saved] by flying out of private jet terminals, where passengers can avoid security lines and only have to arrive 20 minutes before their scheduled departure times." This is called "the freedom of private travel."
These luxury planes fly right over not only the small businesses and homes of Georgetown but also a floating slum of RVs. I filmed this slum on wheels at the end of 2019. The RVs were parked along the airport's chain link fence. It was an appearance (or essence) one would expect of a Third World country with a stark Gini coefficient. The jets of the rich above, the homeless in RVs below. This appearance only intensified during the two years that separated the autumn shoot and my summer visit on Friday the 13th, 2021. After drinks at Smarty Pants, one of the three joints I visited that day, I saw RVs surrounding a park, RVs along the airport's fence, RVs near the train tracks. And above it all, private plane after private plane, private jet after private jet.
And to make the moment more striking, the sky was filled with smoke from wildfires in British Columbia.
Canadian #RealEstate in a Hot Market Nobody Likes...."Climate risk scores could reshape Canadian real estate markets, some experts say" as told by @emmapaling via @CBCNews #vanre #vanpoli https://t.co/uAdcugjDwR
— Andy Yan (@Ayan604) August 16, 2021
And so the sun began to set on this scene of extreme inequality, on an alien planet that can't be endured without an apparatus that purifies or directly supplies life-fueling air. And before seeing this bad sky with its smoke and its luxury jets, and these crumbling RVs, I saw an employee in one of the bars I visited dealing with a man denied entry because he did not have a vaccination card.
The man's anger was ready to explode. The restaurant employee (a young woman with blue hair) was resolute but ready for the worst. The cardless man finally stormed out of the bar. (Would he come back with a gun?) This scene, which occurred in the middle of yet another heatwave (it was over 90 degrees, thanks to the capitalocene), has become common during the fifth wave of the pandemic. (I saw a similar scene play out at a bar on Beacon Hill, a Capitol Hill bar owner told me a similar story, and so on.)
Thanks to Mayor Jenny Durkan, the city is sleepwalking through a state of affairs that demand attention and celerity. Small businesses, for now, are really on their own. They must do what the city has not officially done, which is protect workers from the new and exceptionally dangerous breed of anti-vaxxers.
We have entered the zombie stage of the pandemic. The zombies are the unvaccinated. They are everywhere in this apocalypse of wildfire smoke, exceptionally high temperatures, and homelessness blooming below billionaires. All I was trying to do was visit a few bars in Georgetown, and all I saw was the world around me coming to an end. This is the gloomiest summer ever.
Let's end this post with a doom jazz tune by Bohren & Der Club Of Gore, "Komm Zurück Zu Mir".