Copyright (c) copr 1998 all rights reserved TJH Internet SP and Earth Operations Central.
All comments are strictly my unsupported opinion unless you'd like to come see for yourself, but expect to get the " that boy cries wolf" run-around if you ask to be shown whatever I'm going on about this week.
Substantially up to 7.5!
Could Be Worse.

Last Updated: 1999 September 25

Due to public demand, we have decided to rate Washington not merely on the scale of DEFCON (Defense Condition, which describes a state of readiness), nor on the THREATCON (level of expectation of imminent threat), but also on the WEIRDCON, the Weirdness Condition.

Unlike the DEFCON scale, in which the higher the number, the greater the level of relaxation, the WEIRDCON scale ranges from 1 to 10. This is precautionary, since occasionally the Weirdness of Washington simply goes off of the scale.

Why do we feel the need to rate Washington's Weirdness level? Simply because, outside of making the wrong turn into some alley and interrupting some dope-deal or mugging, and getting your head blown off, there is no faster way to get killed by Washington than by Weirdness.

Incidentally, the chances of the WEIRDCON falling much below 4 are approximately equal to a snowball's chance in Hell; even if the entire District of Columbia were beamed-up wholesale by extraterrestrials (not that bad an idea, actually) there would still be the Pentagon in Virginia, as well as many other Federal Enclaves scattered throughout the whole Greater Washington Metropolitan Area. Many Federal Enclaves are essentially pockets of weirdness so intense as to beggar description (though as a Surrealist I will make my best efforts) simply because at least in the District there are quite a few people who aren't Federal employees. We must broach a theory here, that Weirdness, rather like Gravity, is an elemental and powerful force of [human] nature. In the same way that a concentration of Mass can deform the "rubber-sheet universe" as envisaged by Einstein, concentrations of Weirdness can deform the nature of reality. Visitors to Washington must therefore be apprised in advance of the (as it were) field-strength of Weirdness, lest they rush in where angels fear to tread, be caught in some convulsion of ridiculous yet powerful forces, and get warped right along with the nature of local reality, to eventually return whence they came, bearing an occult and eldritch energy impressed upon them by the Weirdness that is the Greater Washington Metropolitan Area, thenceforth to inflict upon their home district some fate at once mindlessly powerseeking, nitpickingly ineffectual and mind-numbingly banal. Well, mostly. There are worse things that one could become here.

Factors in Washington's Weirdness include:

Cops'n'Robbers Factor: 7 - Same - the ongoing War Against Drugs is predictably not getting much of anywhere -- and a spate of killings in the Columbia Heights NW neighborhood remains, so far as I know, unsolved.
District Government Factor: 5 - Same - No particular new weirdnesses to report.
Dither Factor: 5 - Same - Nothing special to report, just the same ol' same ol'.
Federal Factor: 7 - Up two notches - probably due to the last-minute budget scramble.
Free-floating Generic Lunacy Factor: 11 - Up quite a bit - No particular reason of which I'm aware.

9 - Same - 1999 July 13 - Still pretty danged wacky, but mostly too darned hot to be much of a troublemaker's paradise -- except after dark when it cools considerably and all of the thugs and weirdoes come out from under their rocks.

Weirdness of course abounds in the streets of Washington. However, surreality irruptions may "reasonably" be expected to remain minimal. Of course, the streets are still filled with seemingly-normal yet totally-wacky individuals. Welcome to Washington. Adn as always, watch your back.

As always, bear in mind that the more-dedicated of the local nutcases will immediately attack you for trying to watch your back. 9 - Up - Bizarro Land - For absolutely no discernable reason, as of Tuesday, 1999 June 8, people were acting just plain wacky. Some idiot followed me into a Post Office and was haranguing me about being (in his opinion I guess) "a goddamned wannabee dracula" which simply isn't the case. I don't even look Goth. Evidently there is some religious nutcase convention in the area or something. I strongly suspect LSD in the Communion wine or something like that. Previously:

10 - highest level -Surreality reigns. Locals may not be obviously insane, but at the present level, when you find out exactly what sets them off, don't expect to live through it. Keep your eyes out for wackoes talking crazy stuff and waving around pieces of extremely sharp optical fiber. Don't be fooled by appearances, psychotics often wear the nicest designer suits.

Military Factor: 5 - Same - We have for obvious reasons decided to refrain on any commentary on the military.
Neighborhood Factor: 5 - Same - Depending on the neighborhood, things seem pretty quiet downtown. However, neighborhoods once thought to be safe are now much less so - for instance, Dupont Circle has recently become the site of a high number of armed robberies and was the last place a murdered INS lawyer was seen before her disappearance.
Immigrant Factor: 8 - Same - I'm not much complaining. About a week ago (maybe 1999 September 15 or so) there was an irruption of wacky weirdness which was generally quite painful. Whatever was going on seems to have been suppressed.

Previous entry:
8 - Way down - I am at a loss to explain this. By the way, it depends as always to which immigrant community one refers. The Latinos are in general wacky and I tend to avoid them where possible. Some Asians seem to have some sense, some are just plain too weirded out and are weird accordingly. I can't say anything about the Hindasians, since I have utterly refused to have any contact with any of them for about three years since they were far beyond intolerably weird. I also cannot speak as to the weirdness of assorted Middle-Eastern types, since it's very individual, some are unutterably weird and some are the nicest people.

In any case, watch yer back in any 7-11, I have no idea what the hell is with them, but w3hatever weirdness is afoot in the area, any 7-11 which is totally staffed by immigrants might as well be considered the local safe-house for foreign operations.

1999 June 8th:
15 - WAY UP - Whatever set off the local psychotics has also evidently put the foreigners on a war footing.

I very strongly suspect that with the vast majority of US Military equipment and most of the personnel overseas just about to get into a desperate two-front war when Slobodan Milosevic manages to sucker Nato (mostly the US) into having to invade Kosovo, the foreign spies and operatives which are all over the area will activate and attempt to eliminate or incapacitate any American with a clue or a brain. I firmly believe that we are at the beginning of The War. Well, we let 'em all in, I guess we deserve to have them take over.

Particularly beware of the Asian community, where once they were usually nisei Hawaiians of Japanese descent or families who arrived from China after the Civil War and built our railroads, now in this area more than 7 out of 8 adult Asians were foreign-born and have resided here less than five years. Especially beware of psychotic (or dedicated) ninja women.

Previous entry:
10 - Staying roughly the same - Slightly up though - but not enough to give a higher number. Some new weirdness appears to be permeating elements of the Hispanic Community, but the Asian Community appears to be turning almost normal - for around here, that is. Which of course still equals weird. Just not as weird as before.

Previous entry:
I am at a loss to acount for this but I am not complaining. Whatever is causing this, hopefully it will continue doing whatever it is it's doing.

Previous entry:
15 - Down, inexplicably! - I have no idea what happened during the last week or so, but for some reason many of the foreigners are acting like guests instead of invaders. I am at a loss to acount for this but I am not complaining.

20 - Same - Disruptions to the Invasion have evidently begun to reverberate throughout the illegal-alien community and their resident-alien supporters, after the arrests and indictments of a conspiracy of forgers of top-quality documentation. However, there are still individuals who are clearly either undead monsters from hell, or more-likely inimical foreign-intelligence assets, in circulation. How do I know? Now that my skull fractures have healed, I would tell you except that they've permanently brain-damaged me. I strongly recommend avoiding anyone who appears to be foreign-born. Particularly if they are apparently in majority in local offices of the civil government. See also considerable paranoia (if you were brain-damaged by imported persons you might write a page like this) The War.

Spooky Factor: 1999 September 25
12 - Very Much Down - There doesn't seem to be much foreign agitation within the city, not so far as I can tell. Of course, the career types are here as much as always, but they are at least profesionals. We note that reports have circulated that Russian spies are increasing in number, but generally targeted on industrial instead of military espionage. Take this with a grain of salt. Previous entry:
1999 July 13
18 - Down - Spies Still Everywhere but a few less of them, many less silly propagandists touting ridiculous lines.

1999 June 8:
20 - Spies Everywhere - On top of everything else, there is the Balkans conflict, the refugee crisis, the traditional attempted penetrations of Political Youth by Communist organizations has escalated to a frenzied pitch, doubtless there are a dozen more plots afoot involving various outfits from this and that country in the general region of the Balkans.

See "Foreign Factor". The Ninjas and the Coyotes are back and have come out swinging! Unfortunately, that's usually only when your back's turned, except of course for the Ninja gals, who have this great little yuk su do taekwondo move where they get up in line next to you and pop you in the throat with one hand while pretending to straighten their purse strap with the other one. Keep a spare larynx handy. I always do.

previous entry:
The spooky weird bastards of apparent extranational origin who had circulated throughout the suburbs playing interesting games with interesting and very hurtful little toys seem to be taking a breather for now. We don't expect this to last. Ahem, as of 1998 December 15 or so, it stopped lasting. Beware of wacky Koreans with relatives in N. Korea. Ahem, as of 1999 January 6 don't turn your back on anyone, and expect them to notice you not turning your back on them and then studiously circle like wolves and do incredibly horrible and inexplicable things to you for no discernable reason. Ahem, as of 1999 January 22, still don't turn your back but don't be quite so prepared for sudden death. But don't be complacent, while they seem to have gotten "stand down" orders, they're still here. Ahem, as of 1999 March 15 there appears to have been some sort of readjustment - however, I have reasons to believe that a readiness posture is not only being maintained, but possibly reinforced.

Tourist Factor: 1999 September 25
10 - Up - Every September it happens. The locals lose their ability to tolerate anyone who's not "our kind" and prombptly go ballistic on anyone they can't immediately tell is one of them. Expect life to be a total horror if existential angst if you're a tourist, and your experiences to pass the level of surreal, moving rapidly into waking nightmare the longer you stay. this isn't right, of course, it's just how the locals are. And anyone they recognize as local who doesn't participate in the little game of the pointy-eared of driving the normals back to the provinces, gets labelled "dracula" (definitely weird, eh?) and they begin to focus their eforts on them. But that's okay, "Earth Operations Central" will continue to report from Washington, making sure that the voters know what's going on here.

Don't expect those reports to be exactly glowing. 1999 July
8 - Same - Oh it's Tourist Season Again! You can easily tell the District Denizens from the Tourists, the Tourists are the ones with smiles in their faces who "don't know nothing and get in the way". The DC Denizens are the ones glaring at everyone. Especially be on the lookout for anyone you see glaring at you over the top of their hand covering their mouth and nose, showing you their oddly curved and pointed thumb.

Expect Tourist-Related Weirdness to climb towards 10 within the next month.

WEIRDCON = 7.5 Almost a full point Up! eeek!

Cops'n'Robbers Factors:
Washington is a city possessed of a great deal of wealth in the form of the Federal Government itself, lesser wealth in the coffers of various national and transnational organizations and corporations which have their headquarters here, lesser wealth concentrated in the accounts of perhaps one tenth of one-percent of the population, a fairly small middle-class that isn't very wealthy and has a very high overhead, and a vast underclass of people who've spent their lives on Welfare or have been awfully close to it. Washington has had some of the most grinding poverty in America, a nation which, of the industrial nations, has the greatest percentage of its population living below the poverty line. It's thus no surprise that a great many of these very-poor Washingtonians have turned to one or another form of crime to supplement their incomes. The most profitable of crimes is of course drug-dealing, generally moving money from the decadent rich into their own socioeconomic group's pockets. It's generally a lot more profitable than the crimes of violence, though in the last decade or two a huge percentage of the crimes of violence were basically turf disputes between rival dealing operations.

Of course the cops tend to take a dim view of this. For the last decade, though, they were severely hampered by deteriorating equipment, mismanagement, and (many believe) extreme politicization and corruption within the department. Calling the wrong cop to the wrong corner has reportedly resulted in disappearances when the complainant found out that they'd just tried to bust some operation that was paying protection money to the cop amounting to 10 times his annual salary from the city. This is the main source of Cops'n'Robbers Weirdness in Washington. Recent changes have tended to restructure the department and re-equip the police and great efforts are reportedly being made to eradicate graft and corruption from the District police. However, there's still the rest of the local jurisdictions to consider...

District Government Factors:

See Federal Factors, except that it's lots worse.

Dither Factor:

Also, there is occasionally a major administrative, procedural, legal, or even Constitutional crisis which adds considerable stress or extra work, or simply bogs the system if only through the fact that nobody's doing anything except talking about the crisis. While this is an absolute commonplace at the highest levels of government and a given in national politics, ordinarily even the most eccentric of Federal employees is doing something even if it is only gouging the taxpayer to benefit special interests. When the system bogs down under such chitchat or other inefficiencies, we call this the Dither Factor.

Note that there is a Dither Factor for most of the other major factors.

Federal Factors:

Face it. Washington is the Nation's Capital. This horrific fact has caused many an unsuspecting citizen to come to Washington, expecting it to be a city like any other, one that is conducive to business, well-run, clean, and safe. Surprise!

Washington, as a city, has almost nothing businesslike about it, other than the seeming facade of people all heading into town in the morning dressed in suits. Businesses run on a variety of principles with a variety of goals, but they all have one thing in common: they're trying to make money. Most commonly, businesses make money by following the dictates of common sense. Washington, as a Federal center, has neither the need nor the incentive to follow the dictates of common sense. On the contrary, the Federal Government is a bureaucracy, full of rules which make no sense even to specialists in the fields regulated by various branches of the government. That is because lawmakers often did not follow common sense when framing the laws, but instead followed large cash-filled suitcases delivered by lobbyists and political-action committees. Thus, one daily sees bureaucrats headed for work, determined to retain their jobs by using senseless procedures to enforce senseless laws that benefit nobody except special interests and which otherwise only bother people. Believe me, they know what they're doing. That's why they look like they do. You can only be a sane person doing an insane and thankless job for so long before it gets to you. Eventually they snap. Most simply become rather eccentric. However, a city full of eccentrics does not, to the visitor, look like a city full of eccentrics, but rather is clearly a madhouse where the lunatics have taken over the asylum.

Free-Floating Generic Lunacy Factors:

One of the greatest single concerns of anyone from the Greater Washington Metropolitan Area is that nobody be able to tell what is actually going on here. This includes other Washingtonians. See Military Factors and see also Spooky Factors. Considering that the main product of this region is hot air, over-regulation that benefits no one except special interests and in general is an annoyance to everyone, substance is nothing and image is everything. Washington is to be represented to the nation as the grand and glorious capital of the greatest nation on earth, and while it is indeed that capital, the rest of it is hogwash and everyone knows it. However, they cannot for a moment acknowledge it and in order to not acknowledge it, have taught themselves to be unable to imagine that things really are as indeed they really are. This Double-think combines with the Double-agenda to essentially give the local weltgeist a bad case of paranoid schizophrenia.

Military Factors:

Every now and then, there's a war, or a rumor of war, and the military mobilizes. Even a mid-scale call-up of the Reserve officers can throw a vast monkeywrench in the already inefficient Federal agencies which specialize in over-regulation everything to the benefit of no one. This can generally be viewed as a Good Thing. However, at such times, making the wrong turn into the wrong driveway at this sort of time can lead to the sort of event which causes one, for the rest of one's life, to ponder what exactly happened to you and what you did to cause it. Don't worry, military convoys do run over people from time to time, sorry you were the one in the way.

Neighborhood Factors:

There are some neighborhoods in the Greater Washington Metropolitan Area that are safer and saner than others. Some neighborhood areas are still shell-shocked from having been free-fire zones for the last two decades. Some neighborhoods appear to be nothing more than fashionable bedroom suburbs. Some neighborhoods appear to be little more than secured safe-zones from which hostile elements deploy to trade shots in the free-fire zones. See also Immigrant Factors.

Immigrant Factors:

A great many immigrants live in the Greater Washington Metropolitan Area. It's the fifth-most-favorite destination for immigrants to the US, both legal and illegal. However, unlike most of the extraordinary migration to the US, rather than settling in the downtown regions (it would clearly appear on the basis of raw-numbers-over-timespan alone to be a foreign invasion), the immigrants have settled in the suburbs. Many of these immigrants are very well-educated and professional. However, many are in the lower and middle income brackets, and many are very successful shopkeepers.

However it cannot be sufficiently stressed that these immigrant communities retain extremely strong cultural and linguistic ties to their former countries, and certainly to their own local community. There is in many of these communities a powerful drive to form Enclaves and to remain isolated culturally from the rest of local America. These isolated foreign subcultures are - due to the adherence to their own particular language and cultural norms, and the gossip and scandals that circulate within - essentially huge intelligence apparats, and there is no question that within these communities there are those who manipulate the foreign cultural weltgeist to their own political ends, whether directly for the advancement as special-interest of that particular foreign subculture, or to polarize that particular foreign subculture against their personal enemies, or to essentially alert the whole foreign subculture to collect information, make particular investments, attempt to capture entire market niches and segments, and in short act as an insurgency or invasion. See Spooky Factors. Outside of the District of Columbia proper, this is an increasingly important factor in Washington Weirdness. Beware, you might be mistaken by elements of these foreign subcultures as their enemy, and coming as they do largely from war-torn regions characterized by insurgency, invasion and prolonged guerilla warfare, you might well be the victim of something not only Weird, but possibly deadly. Be also advised that if they think you've noticed this, your stay in Washington will become an awesome hell until either you, singly, or these hostile foreign subcultures, en-masse, are removed from the area.

Spooky Factors:

See Military Factors. The primary difference between Spooky Factors and Military Factors is that one sees Military Factors Weirdness Escalations only in times of war, or rumors of war. But Washington's situation as the seat of government and military planning places the city dead in the sights of every spy in the world who doesn't get his orders from here, and half of the spies that do get their orders from here. There are spies everywhere. Even among the gibbering-lunatic streetpeople, you must expect at least a double-agenda, if not a triple-agenda or god knows what depth of tiers of deception, skullduggery and plot. Nothing is as it seems with the simple exception that if someone seems to be pointing a pistol at you, they probably are... though most prefer more subtle ways of dealing death, not that it matters since the Medical Examiner's office can't seem to even tell the difference between sudden-infant-death syndrome and a fall from three stories up, much less the difference between a heart-attack and ricin poisoning.

This general spookiness has long since pervaded the collective unconsciousness of the entire city, leading some newcomers to conclusions that are way "out there". This has included suspicions that the entire region has been taken over by some sort of Hive-mind aliens burrowing into the brains of the locals, possessed by zombies, overrun by vampires, successfully invaded by the New World Order, come under the control of some huge extended family that keeps the rest of the nation in the dark and runs the city as a huge practical joke on the provinces while they entrench themselves ever-farther into every nether recess of governance, or been replaced piecemeal by Pod People. Personally, at present I rather favor the Pod People Theory.

Tourist Factors:

At least every summer, Washington is invaded by a flood of tourists, generally curious to know for what exactly their tax dollars are being spent. Washington's local economy is dependant to a very large degree on these tourism dollars. However, tourists are in general seen by "Washingtonians" as, at best, a nattering horde of locusts whose main mission in life is to know nothing and get in the way of their mission to successfully administer literally thousands of Federal programs that over-regulate everything and produce benefits to no one, by whatever means are necessary. See also Spooky Factors.

Washingtonians tend to refer to tourists, when tourists aren't around, as "provincial inbreds from the hinterlands". When tourists are here in force, they may temporarily outnumber "native Washingtonians", who are in reality quite-likely carpetbaggers riding the coat-tails of one or another elected official, from whose home district they hail. These johnny-come-lately types quickly worm their way into whatever pointless and annoying system they help direct, and also quickly become all puffed-up over themselves and their superiority at having actually made it to Washington and gotten a job with the Federal Government. They also tend to think that they are now a part of the real Washington, and internalize all of the spooky weirdness. Such newcomers demonstrate to all who have come before that they are now "inside the Beltway" by vigorously participating in the one true native-Washingtonian hobby, which is "fucking with tourists". Or perhaps, as per a theory commonly held by tourists who got fucked-with, maybe they really do get replaced by Pod People. Be that as it may, when it's Tourist Season ("hunting season") Washingtonians are exasperated but generally attempt to pretend to civility. When Tourist Season ("hunting season") ends, this civility evaporates like ice on a hot skillet and no hold is barred in the effort to get the damned inbreds back to the provinces. This can be, seasonally, one of the greatest single factors in Washington Weirdness.

At present, possibly the only reasonable approach to this immense ball of bad art taking itself seriously is the approach of Dadaism, the more outrageous and outre, the better. Nothing can deflate the pompous faster than a good mocking, and this is not without its risks. As it is in Washington, the only true measure of one's power tends to be the degree of self-importance and pompousness one can muster; to deflate the pompous is to whittle away at the source of their being. One must expect, therefor, that the Dadaistic approach to interpreting Washington will penetrate through the region's schizophrenic weltgeist and in fact the surreality level, already off-scale locally, may be forced to rise to the level where (we can only hope) Washington will pass some event-horizon of weirdness or some threshold of bizarreness (like perhaps the Capital Beltway), and not unlike a black hole star, implode right out of this universe, or at least they won't be able to have any more deleterious effects on the rest of America.

However, this is of course dangerous to anyone who is caught in the area when there are irruptions of massive local weirdness. Hopefully, having taken care to consult the WEIRDCON level, you'll have prepared yourself for the eldritch horrors that await the visitor.