Friday, July 6, 2012

Still Life with Robin: The Good, The Bad, And The Derecho

by Peggy Robin

This is a bad news/good news type of column. Whenever I’m told there’s both good news and bad news, I always want the bad news first. My attitude is, let’s get the get worst out of the way and then find out what’s good about the situation (although in the standard comedian’s formulation, the “good news” is just more bad news with some little twist at the end, as in: “The bad news is that a tree fell on your car and totaled it. The good news is it also totaled your neighbor’s car, the one with the car alarm always going off at 3am.”

Well, you already know the bad news for the week: We were slammed by a “derecho” last Friday night that left a million and a half people without power, many of whom continued to be without power for the full week, which happened to be during a massive heat wave.

And now the good news (for those who like superlatives): According to the Capital Weather Gang, we blew away the old June record of 102 set on June 9 in both 1874 and 2011: "We are now experiencing D.C.’s hottest June temperatures in 142 years of record-keeping." And again today, on July 6th, we set a new high (  

That’s also the bad news for the 25,000 or so who are still without air conditioning, a full week later.

Now for another bit of bad news...for Pepco’s chief executive, Joseph Rigby: According to the Washington Times, Rigby did not get a salary increase last year, due to "customer reliability issues." However, there’s also good news --again, for Mr. Rigby-- in the company’s decision to raise his salary by 11.9 percent next year, to the sum of $985,000, in recognition of "Mr. Rigby’s strong leadership evidenced by his oversight of the company through reliability, customer service and reputational issues." This raise was approved by Pepco’s board, who each received more than $100,000 in compensation in 2011 (The Washington Times, July 3, 2012,

The bad news for those who are long-time residents is that we can no longer say to newcomers with a superior smirk, "You think *this* is bad? Well, I lived through worse in 2003 with Hurricane Isabel!" Or for those of us who have lived here more than 40 years, "It was far worse when Hurricane Agnes blew through in 1972." Actually, it wasn’t: the derecho downed more trees and left more homes without power. (Perhaps not too surprising, if you consider how much the Metro area's population has increased.)

The good news: We have a new word in our vocabulary, derecho. And it has a newly expanded Wikipedia entry:, which is quite informative and useful, to those who have had their access to the internet restored, or those fortunate enough not to have lost it throughout this patience-trying week.

The bad news is that the Fourth of July was not a wholly festive, happy occasion for anyone who had to throw out a full refrigerator full of food, or who had no cool place to retreat to, once the parades and fireworks were done.

The good news is that the Palisades community puts on the greatest little 4th of July parade every year, and this year was no exception to the standard kept over the last 45 years. The Palisades parade has got everything: funny cars, brass bands, politicians in trucks, politicians on scooters, brightly costumed South American dancers,  men in kilts, decorated bicycles, decorated dogs, marchers who throw out candy to the kids, marchers who throw out bouncy balls, and various public-spirited organizations passing out chilled water bottles and American flags for free. Want to see what it was like? Take a look:!

Hope to see you there next year, with both better weather and better news.


Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Fridays.

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