7 AM: High winds roared through D.C. overnight. The flags atop Nellie’s — the famous gay sports bar on the corner — are straining against the wind. The D.C. flag was tearing loose from its flagpole when I went to bed. It disappeared into the sky overnight. The U.S. flag and progress pride flag are still hanging, but they too are tattered. The six-story building under construction next door is wrapped in protective Tyvek sheets that ripple loudly with the wind. I fell asleep wondering if a loose board or the poles of an outdoor dining tent would crash through my window.
Normally, the construction site is busy early, but the wind must be keeping workers off the scaffolding and aerial work platforms. A man in a heavy winter coat pushing a child in a stroller at the end of the alley is the only activity I see as I sip my coffee at the window.
2 PM: Despite the wind, I feel a slight calm today. There is no time left for election surprises that might influence opinion. We can do little more beyond getting those who have not yet voted to the polls and making sure every vote is counted.
After writing about wind this morning, and as the wind continues to blow this afternoon, a song about the end of authoritarianism came to mind: German rockers Scorpions’ Wind of Change from 1991.
At nearly five minutes, it is a slow burning rock ballad. In each verse, Klaus Meine’s lyrics invoke the wind of change as an ever-present quality. Change seems to be everywhere, always happening. Change is constant. But change alone is neutral, is not necessarily a good or bad thing.
soldiers passing by / listening to the wind of change…—Scorpions / Klaus Meine
The future’s in the air / I can feel it everywhere / blowing with the wind of change…
Where the children of tomorrow dream away / in the wind of change
The wind of change blows straight / into the face of time / like a storm wind that will ring / the freedom bell for peace of mind
Other lines tie the song to its historical context of 1990-91 and the end of Soviet bloc repression. But the wind of change described is a curiously passive force. Who is doing the work of change?
Sometimes I use the word change on walks I’ve led precisely because it is a neutral term. I might be thinking about the effects of gentrification or economic forces, but I might also be thinking about natural changes. I am curious what changes those walking with me notice.
Change visible within a block or two of my apartment includes: the collapse of an abandoned home due to decades of neglect, the repair and redevelopment of that home, the end of a long-running flea market, the construction of a large luxury apartment building, the closure of a basement nightclub due to the pandemic, the growth of ivy on an alley fence, the addition of parking lane restaurant seating, the predominance of masks on the faces of neighbors.
The other lyric today’s wind recalls is Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind. In his song, the wind is not the agent of change, but carries the answers to difficult questions (how many roads, seas, years, times, ears, deaths before some insight or justice is achieved). Here’s one interpretation Dylan gave in an early interview:
It ain’t no book or movie or TV show or discussion group, man. It’s in the wind… just like a restless piece of paper it’s got to come down … But the only trouble is that no one picks up the answer when it comes down so not too many people get to see and know… and then it flies away.—Bob Dylan
This song has more to do with knowledge, the kind associated with meditation or divinity. This is not the wind of change, but a messenger wind.
It is not to be confused with Dylan’s Idiot Wind, the wind of breath and speech: of his wife amid their divorce, or the press, politicians, and even Dylan’s own writing:
Idiot Wind—Bob Dylan
Blowing every time you move your mouth
Blowing down the backroads heading south…
Blowing through the flowers on your tomb
Blowing through the curtains in your room
On first listen, Idiot Wind might conjure whoever you’re angry with. Whoever your favorite idiot is. There’s an obvious candidate for that title on my mind this week and these past four years. But, Dylan includes himself as an idiot in the final verse, “Blowing through the buttons of our coats / blowing through the letters that we wrote… / we’re idiots, babe” A caution not to be too sure of ourselves before all the votes are counted, perhaps.
6 PM: The wind has died down. Dark early with the change to Standard Time. The streets are empty. Restaurants on the block are boarded up for the winter, for election chaos, or both. In 26 hours, the first polls will close. The forecast for tomorrow is clear skies, light wind, and a 50% chance of rain at midnight, after the polls close on the west coast.