Guest Columnists

'Dear Mr. Cranky…'

Digging into the civic mail bag
May 10, 2023 at 5:05 a.m.

Guest Columnist

Because I’ve been commenting on the local scene for quite a few years now, some misguided folks have assumed that I know what I’m talking about. As a result, I get occasional letters and emails from readers. Here’s a sampling of some recent queries.

Dear Mr. Cranky: I once dreamed of someday buying a condo on the waterfront, but now that I may have saved enough money to do it, I’m put off by the loud smashing and crashing from the scrap metal recycling operation there. Should this be allowed? — Future Buyer’s Remorse 

Dear Remorse: Admittedly the scrap metal recycling operation is an ear-shattering eyesore, but in addition to restaurants and upscale dwellings, the city’s plan was for a working waterfront as well. Let’s try to look on the bright side: at least they didn’t opt for a nuclear waste dump or an industrial hog farm. 

Dear Mr. Cranky: We’re wondering what you have selected as your personal pronouns. — Jenna (she/her/hers), Daniel (he/him/his), Allie (they/them/their)

Dear hers, his, and their: I (seriously) respect everyone’s personal pronoun choices; however, being something of a contrarian, rather than personal pronouns, I have decided to choose my personal proteins instead. Sincerely, Alan (keratin/collagen/elastin).

Dear Mr. Cranky: Back when you were writing for the Cascadia Weekly you would occasionally publish updates from your slow-growth organization Lesser Bellingham. Is the group still around? If not, we certainly could use it now. — Small is Beautiful

Dear Small: Sadly, we folded up Lesser Bellingham a few years ago. More about that in a minute, but first a correction: Lesser Bellingham was not a slow-growth organization. We advocated municipal shrinkage. In the 1990s, when Bellingham’s population hit 60,000, I and several other visionary folks decided that this was plenty. When the town quickly blew past that number, Lesser Bellingham was created for the purpose of shrinking the city back to 60,000. But we failed. Despite all our efforts — everything from spreading rumors that Douglas firs cause cancer, to posting signs on Interstate 5 at the Skagit/Whatcom dividing line that said, “Danger! High Radioactivity Levels Ahead” — we failed. 

We even demonized Realtors and we were rude to tourists, but nothing worked and we finally gave up. Most of us have tried to face the curse of bigness stoically, while others have taken stronger measures. Recently a dozen former members decided to move to the tiny town of Grace, Washington, but upon further consideration, they realized that since Grace has a population of 12 people, by moving there they would double the size of the town. No one was willing to carry the guilt that would result from such an action.

Dear Mr. Cranky: I haven’t been happy with my bank lately. Where do you keep your money, and is there anything you don’t like about the institution? — Cautious Capitalist

Dear Cautious: I keep my life savings at the WECU branch on Holly Street. I figure my $67 is safe there because they aren’t likely to put it into some crazy Las Vegas-style investment. The only thing I don’t like about the place is that they stopped putting bowls of candy by the tellers’ windows. I really miss those banana-flavored Laffy Taffys.

Dear Mr. Cranky: I moved to Bellingham from Seattle a couple of months ago to take a new job. The town is very nice but I do find myself missing the atmosphere of the big city. Do you think I’ll eventually adjust? — Metro Man

Dear Metro: Don’t worry about adjusting; you won’t have to. Look around. Crime is on the rise; people are dropping dead on the streets from drug overdoses; downtown is covered in graffiti; housing is unaffordable; traffic is a nightmare in much of the town; homeless encampments are everywhere; and boxy, aesthetically challenged apartment buildings are going up on every spot of available land. Just relax, Metro; this place is looking more like Seattle every day.

Dear Mr. Cranky: During the years I was growing up here, Bellingham was known as “The City of Subdued Excitement” but I never hear that expression anymore. What’s up? — Seeking Subdued

Dear Seeking: See the answer to Metro Man above. We haven’t been subdued for a long time now. Too bad. It was a nice vibe while it lasted.

Dear Mr. Cranky: I’ve been reading your stuff for years and sometimes I wonder why I bother. You’re always ridiculing things and making fun of them. Is nothing sacred to you? — Glass Half Full

Dear GlassI hold many things sacred: libraries, Italian roast coffee, elaborate pun jokes, Chicago blues, Laurel and Hardy, Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, dark chocolate, Shakespeare, biscuits and gravy at the Old Town Cafe, and the Oxford comma. 

Mr. Cranky contributes to CDN when he feels the need.

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