On Those '78 Minutes of Summer' ...

... in Seattle, and the Round-the-Clock Inferno everywhere else. Several readers from the Puget Sound area wrote in response to their homeland's distinction as the coolest spot in the Lower 48. (Below, for contrast, a "We're No. 1!" map from the front page of today's Washington Post, showing that DC is expected to have the very highest "heat index" in the country tomorrow. I love the heat, but more about that another time.)


The pattern in the Seattle messages was: people who had grown up there said, What's the problem? People who had grown up somewhere else said, You know, the summers here  just aren't warm enough. For example:

>>As someone who's only lived in Seattle for a few years, my biggest problem is actually not the rain (which isn't really *that* much) but the fact that the summers don't get hot enough. I'm from Austin, where I'm spending a few days now, doing not much more than enjoying finally feeling hot. The closest I can get to this at home is a heated yoga studio! So, to you and your readers in the rest of the country: enjoy having a real summer! Eat some popsicles, go to the pool, and don't worry about taking a jacket with you if you're going to be out past 8pm. I'd trade you any day <<

I understand. My wife and I were living in Seattle through the "summers" of 1999 and 2000. We loved it! But, on that first Fourth of July I was so tired of being cold -- rather, of never being warm -- that with one of my sons and our friend Mike Kinsley, then of Slate, we drove all the way across the mountains to Yakima, where the sky was clear and we got a glimpse of the long-rumored sun.

In similar vein, a Seattle-based Boeing employee responds to the line that "living in Seattle is like being married to a beautiful woman who is sick most of the time":

>>My own addendum to that comment would be "Being a paraglider pilot in Seattle is like dating a Victoria's Secret model who mostly wears fleece and Gore-tex."

BTW, if you want a mind-blowing aviation-related distraction from the Murdoch mess, check out the Red Bull X-Alps Race. An 800+ km race from Salzburg to Monaco where the only permitted means of travel is hiking or flying your paraglider. These guys are hard-core gnarly.  The only American pilot is Honza, a meteorologist from Davis, CA. Currently in 4th place. Links are here, here, and here.<<

But despite my own lifelong preference for hot, steamy, sweaty locales rather than chilly, damp, gray ones, I can't help but be touched by the voice of a lifelong Seattle resident and loyalist:

>>Being smitten by (even enthralled with) the beauty of one's spouse, whatever the periodic state of his or her health, is completely understandable.  There are undoubtedly places in the Lower 48 that offer, at least seasonally, just as good a balance of beauty and health as Seattle (to extend the metaphor) - perhaps even better.  But they just don't tend to be places with ample opportunities for good jobs, schools, houses, or coffee. 

The vast majority of people in the U.S. should understand that when someone visiting from Seattle says something nice about the beauty you have available locally, that Seattleite is merely trying his or her best to be polite.<<
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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