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The world from a gray perspective | Chuck's World


Last updated 2/22/2017 at Noon

There were two of us in the car, one in his late 20s and the other not. We were driving somewhere in north Lynnwood, back a few weeks ago on one of those days. You remember those days.

One of those days when the temperature rose to freezing and then gave up trying. One of those days when the clouds seemed not ominous but relentless, darkening a day that didn’t start out exactly bright. One of those days when the leftover snow stayed piled against the curb like unwanted toys, the little fun it once provided long over. One of those days.

February, in other words, the one month of the year that’s only redeeming quality is its length. February is the purgatory of western Washington, a time for reflection and contemplation of our sins and failures over the previous summer, some of which involve shorts.

It’s not my favorite month, if I was unclear. It’s dreary and depressing. Dismal. Dank. I could go on.

We headed out on a February afternoon, my son and I, just because. He was feeling a little cabin feverish and I couldn’t think of a reason not to, so we took a deep breath of winter and just went to the mall.

We’ve done this since he was old enough to sit in a booster seat, wandering around. The differences, though, make me aware of the past, just because we drive the same streets and he’s now 27. Twenty years ago, I would have been mostly focused on keeping him buckled up and by my side. Now we can just be guys, alternating running commentary on the nature of consumerism and how ignorant most salespeople are about the products they’re selling. It passes the time.

We were driving down one of those familiar streets when he asked me a funny question.

“Do you ever wonder what it would be like to live in Russia?”

I have, in fact. I thought about Russia a lot when I was younger, for good reasons.

My first semester in college I took a Russian language class, majoring in journalism and imagining a future of doing stand-up reporting from Moscow. The future looked a lot different then, by which I mean it looked to be the same. I’d grown up in a Cold War that occasionally heated up but seemed relatively stable. I figured a familiarity with the language was a smart move with my goals.

Later on, I took a class on Russian and Polish theater and got more enlightenment about the culture and political structure of the Soviet Union, so yeah. I’d thought about it. Very dreary, that place. In my mind, it might as well have been a country named February. I could see why it had crossed his mind.

I was wrong, though.

He’s been fairly incurious about the world around him, or at least the big picture, for most of his life. Most of his life, in fact, he’s had enough on his plate. For a kid who was diagnosed early as fitting fairly neatly in what we now refer to as the autistic spectrum, just getting through a day in the third-grade was about all he could handle.

But he’s older, and he’s connected to the world via broadband, so lately the news has been creeping into our conversations. He’s a voracious reader and able to talk intelligently about current events, even if he lacks a little context. The context, of course, is history. Most of the time it is, with most of the people.

So wasn’t talking about Russian winters. He was talking about authoritarianism. He was talking about the same thing a lot of us are talking about.

I wasn’t biting. I don’t believe it can’t happen here; I just think it would be really, really hard. Americans are ornery down to their DNA, and power in this country is all about riding the tiger and not getting eaten. This should be interesting.

I understand, though, or at least I’m aware. There seems to be an underlying unease, a sense that change has happened and none of us are quite sure what’s coming.

I see it with the people I socialize with, attend church with, talk with. I’ve heard from more readers than I usually do, almost all commenting that these are uncertain times.

But history again. Somewhere around here is a scrapbook, a gift from someone, a baby book in which we wrote down details of my son’s birth, etc. I remember noting that Buster Douglas had just defeated Mike Tyson to win the heavyweight title at the time he was born, which apparently seemed important.

And I wrote about the Soviet Union quickly disappearing, something that made no sense. It was disorienting to someone growing up when I did. The Berlin Wall came down. It just came down, brick by brick. It felt as though aliens had landed.

So I’m aware that the world can change quickly and dramatically. It may be changing now.

I’m not looking for a bright side. That’s never interested me, twisting logic to rationalize a sunny outlook. I tend to be an optimistic person, but I don’t think I’m unrealistic. I have no idea what’s going to happen to the world, to us, to me. Some things don’t look particularly sunny.

But this is a world that has my son in it, and that feels pretty sunny to me. And March will be here before we know it.


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