Monday, October 04, 2004


Its a fun little word, coined by fantasy author and fellow monkey Kij Johnson, which needs to be spread into the mainstream of our language:

Blitzenfreude blitz-en-FROID (n): The feeling of guilty enjoyment from bad climate in other parts of the country: You could see the blitzenfreude all over the newsreader's face as she reported about Hurricane Ivan (German Derivation: blitzen (lightning) + freude (joy)).

Blitzenfreude hits up here in the Pacific Northwest when spring floods hit the Mississipi and the Ohio, when tornado alley spawns clusters of twisters, and when Chicago is paralyzed by three feet of snow and a minus-10 wind chill. There is just a touch of smugness in the local concern about such things, sort of a "boy, I'm glad I'm not there, anymore", particularly among people who a few years ago WERE there, not too long ago.

And then the other shoe drops. Mt. St. Helens is getting frisky, with ever-increasing mini-quakes and steam eruptions. Now the scientists are saying there's magma on the move down there, and an explosion of some kind is imminent. The old-timers (meaning anyone who's been here for 25 years) are now telling stories in the office about the last time Mt. St. Helens went off, when the world was grey and tasted of ash. Tourists are flocking to the mountain (which, given what happened in 1980, I would be more concerned about traffic jams going the OTHER way). And they've closed the Johnston Ridge center, which is the closest place to observe the crater.

And there's that feeling of blitzenfreude from the rest of the country. Yeah, they might have tornados, flooding, and locusts, but at least they don't have a volcano in their backyard.

Ah, well, that's our lot in life. And while I pick on the local media and pols a lot, they have done a pretty solid and respectable job so far. Most of the panic-stricken reporting is being done further away - our local cable news network has done a responsible job keeping folk informed without giving way to a media circus. People are a lot calmer about this warning than in, say, the terror alerts. And that is in the light of the concerns growing slowly over time - from just micro-quakes a week back to a major eruption potential today - things have been legitimately ratcheting up.

All in all, we seem to be taking this in stride with a minimum of panic and grandstanding (though, Seattlites with tell you, PORTLAND is closer to the volcano). But I'm just waiting for the Vice President to state that only the current administration can protect America from vulcanism.

More later,