Not Quite What I Expected

Wilson Diehl

Wilson Diehl
Seattle, Washington, USA
March 09
You can find more of Wilson Diehl's work on Babble, Salon, and her blog, She's also published some poems in some places and made a short film called "How to Go on a Man Date." She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of Iowa and teaches writing at Hugo House in Seattle.


Editor’s Pick
AUGUST 4, 2011 6:35PM

Blue Angels Force Local Resident to Zoo

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As a child, I loved the Blue Angels. We’d take mini road-trips from Iowa City to Chicago in the summer to stay in a fancy hotel and see the air show and buy new outfits at FAO Schwartz for my brother’s stuffed dog, Henry, and my favorite doll, Baby Chicago. (Apparently I've always been a bit of a literalist.) I loved the noise, the thrill, the way it looked like the planes were flying sideways between the skyscrapers and practically holding hands—er, wings—with each other when they flew in formation. I sensed how dangerous their stunts were and loved them for it.

Months after I moved to Seattle I learned that the city was not, in fact, under attack on a random August weekend—the Blue Angels were performing over Lake Washington as they do every year.

The same Lake Washington that’s about three near-vertical blocks from my house.

Every August since we met, my husband and I have hiked down to the lake in our crampons (just kidding—do I seem like the kind of woman who would wear, let alone own, crampons? Are crampons even used to climb down things? Or is that belaying? Or bungeeing? Unclear.) We have sat on the banks of the lake drinking warmish sodas and marveling at the noise, the danger, the thrill. Then we have cramponed our way back home to try to ignore the hydroplanes that race like angry wasps across the surface of the lake all afternoon. Those things are annoying.

We bonded over our love for the Blue Angels in a town where most everyone we know takes the reasonable—but boring and predictable—stance that the Blue Angels are a waste of money and fuel, and they send a nasty macho message glorifying war, and they produce copious amounts of water and air and noise pollution, and they're just generally too much.

“I know”—comes my standard reply—“But you have to admit they’re pretty cool.” Everyone stares at me like I’m a Republican and then details their exit strategy for the weekend. Mount Rainier. The Washington coast. The Oregon coast. The coast of Anywhere But Here.

My husband would be devastated to miss the show, and I have never been a fan of leaving town during this particular weekend until I had a baby. Who naps. In the afternoon. Between 1:30-3:30, aka, prime Blue Angel time.

I looked up the schedule this morning, and learned not only do they perform on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, but they practice once on Friday and twice today. Twice! How hard can it be to fly 18 inches from five other fighter jets? I mean, honestly. And what job doesn't have a 10% mortality rate?

At 10am on the nose a Blue Angel buzzed our house. The baby covered her ears, gave me an imploring look, and said, “Pane. Yowd.”

So I scooped her into the car and we went to the zoo, which is a real sign of how much I love her since I’d generally rather kill myself than have to witness a bunch of mangy, patchy bears pacing a 30 x 30 “naturalistic” exhibit—only to learn that the jets actually cover most of the city with their flight patterns. I guess it takes a lot of room to make a U-turn at 500 miles per hour. Luckily the baby was too distracted by the pacing grrr-grrrs to be bothered by the yowd panes.

Last year, when the baby was nine months old, a rogue fighter jet (“Not a Blue Angel,” my husband recently clarified, “those guys are professional.” n.b. My husband is no more Republican than I am, he just really likes airplanes for some reason) anyway, some non-Blue-Angel illegally—and unprofessionally—broke the sound barrier—BOOM!!!!!—right over our house. I was holding the baby, who was handling it all rather well until I jumped all the way out of my fucking skin—and then she started to cry.

This year, I whisked her home from the zoo and settled her into her crib before the second practice session of the day (thank you, internet, what with all your special events calendars and schedules). I turned her fan on “high” and left my iPhone in her room with a white-noise app—the combination of which will surely render her deaf if the sonic booms don’t. At least I won't have to worry about the noise next year!

Professional or not, those planes are loud. And distracting. And, in a certain mindset, very frightening, especially when you can hear them but not see them, like right now as I madly type these words before the baby inevitably wakes in terror. As they buzz our roof and make our 100-year-old windows rattle in their frames, all I can think to say is: Fuck you, Blue Angels. I love you—but fuck you. Because of you, I had to go to the zoo.

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I love the Blue Angels. I'll never forget the day I stood at the edge of the sea as they roared in off the water and over my head, just a few hundred feet up. I was so excited, I almost got crampons...