The wind tickled my cheek as I took a sip of a locally-crafted ale in a compostable cup. I was marveling at what a tiny joy it was to have a pint on a patio on a warm July evening — socially distanced, mask ready to go — when a fleet of at least a dozen motorbikes loudly careened down the street, belching black puffs of smoke from their lawn-mower engines.
Being outside in Seattle is one of the things we all love — but being outside has gotten pretty crowded lately, now that outside is both the only place we can safely be and the place where we must go to demand equity, justice and an end to this police state.
So many folks are outside these days that it can be difficult to remember the challenges of those who are living outside. When a thick cloud of residual pepper spray lingers over Cal Anderson Park, or the requirements of physical space make it impossible to find even a square foot of shade in a park, people with no home to go into are at the mercy of the byproducts of our dueling pandemics.
When police fill the air — you know, a resource that we all need and share and have been taught to share — they not only irritate the eyes of protesters for whom they have so much contempt. They also create a noxious fog from which people who are sleeping in the doorways of Pike and Pine can’t escape.
When revelers seek the lush green grass of our local parks — even the closed ones — to meet with friends and finally enjoy a view other than their own living rooms, the people who sleep in those parks all the time may be crowded out.
On a typical summer day, they might seek the cool air of a library or the refreshing spritz of a spray park. But in covid’s Seattle, those options — as well as most other cooling locations — are gone.
And parking their residence at Green Lake to access the bathrooms and shade of large oak trees?
Forget it — those parking lots are closed.
covid-19 has been a struggle for us all; it has been a historic disruption and one that is forcing all of us to learn new ways of living.
For folks who have already had to find work-arounds for their basic survival, though, it has become all-consuming.
Hanna Brooks Olsen is a writer and political consultant. Her work has appeared in the Nation, the Atlantic, Bust Magazine, GOOD, Pacific Standard and some other places.
Read more of the Aug. 5-11, 2020 issue.