Wednesday, February 13, 2019
I was walking past the Leopold Building on Cornwall Avenue when it happened. Everything turned wavy and buzzy. Bright lights were flashing in my head. Then it stopped and things were back to normal again—except different. I was perspiring inside my winter coat. I stopped a passerby and asked him what the temperature was. He said it was about 77 degrees. “But this is February,” I protested. He replied, “Yep, pretty typical winter weather for these parts now. Climate change, you know. We should have gotten serious about this a lot earlier than we did.”
I looked over at the Leopold. There was a doorman in a red coat at the entrance. The sign said “The Leopold Luxury Condominiums.” I asked a woman coming out of the front door how long this had been condos.
“Years,” she said, “way before I moved here in 2036.”
“What year is this?” I asked.
She gave me a funny look and said it was 2050. I asked how much a condo costs here and she answered, “My husband and I were lucky. We got a 500-square-foot, one-bedroom place for just over $2 million.”
As I wandered around I hardly recognized anything. There were so many high-rises the sun didn’t make it to the street.
I headed to the downtown Co-op for a cup of coffee. The building was gone. There was a new building on the site with a Korean luxury car showroom at street level and upscale apartments above. I asked a guy walking past where a good place was for a cup of coffee.
“There are Starbucks and Woods Coffees on every corner,” he said. “Those are the only espresso places around here.”
“What about the Black Drop? Avellino? Adagio?”
“Must have been before my time.”
I entered a Starbucks in the lobby of a financial building that used to be the YMCA. The place was full of brokers and hedge fund managers. I got a drip coffee to go and was a little rattled by the $20 price.
I walked down to the waterfront which was now all retail, hotels and condos. There didn’t seem to be much in the way of maritime business. I sat down next to an old fellow on a bench by the water. I told him I used to live here years ago and asked if he was a longtime ’hamster.
He smiled and said, “I am. Lived here all my life. And you have been gone a long time. Nobody uses ’hamster anymore. A while back folks dropped it, figured it wasn’t sophisticated enough for the new Bellingham. Or what I now call Bellevueham.”
“I suppose we’re no longer the City of Subdued Excitement.”
“Haven’t been for years. Nothing subdued about this place. Especially rents and house prices. Lucky for me I bought my place in the York neighborhood 50 years ago. Houses there now start around $4 million.”
“Wow! Can you still find halfway decent prices in the Birchwood neighborhood?”
“You kidding? That’s the trendiest, most expensive part of town. It has been ever since Amazon moved in.”
“Well, where do working people live?”
“Way out in the county. The California developers all came up here and started building huge subdivisions in the rural areas, 500 look-alike houses popping up overnight. You gotta go a long way now to find peaceful woods or an uncrowded hiking trail. Not much greenery left anywhere.”
“But we have a growth management act.”
“Sort of. It’s been watered down so much it hardly means anything.”
“This is all terrible! What’s Fairhaven like now?
“Oh, nobody really lives there. It’s all boutiques, bistros, hotels and Airbnbs now, strictly a tourist area since the cruise ships started operating out of there.”
“Have we at least done something about problems with Lake Whatcom?”
“Nope, nothing but Band-Aids and half measures, year after year. You can still drink the water, but it costs so much to treat it that we have the highest water rates in the country.”
I started yelling about all this and the next thing I knew my wife was poking me in the back and telling me to wake up. I was, of course, greatly relieved to wake from this horrible nightmare, even though I realized we could never let something like this happen.