Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Who Has the Power in a Small Town?

Well, I'm back to my "small town vs. big city" discussion again, brought on by a couple incidents today and a discussion with a sheriff's deputy. You know I can usually find some humerus way to present such elements of this theme, but it finally occurred to me that I was dealing with a subject that involved fatalities, and perhaps should be taken seriously.

The incidents were of the same type ... two cars, about 12 hours apart, left the road at the 90 degree turn, leaving wreckage but no injuries, fortunately. As we all know, that is not always the case. The first accident I did not see happen, but I heard about it from Sean and watched the cleanup this morning.

It seems that a honeymooning couple from California was passing through when  their car slipped on the ice at the 90 degree turn Monday night. The car spun around and headed for the cliff, and fortunately it stopped in plenty of time. (That is not always the case.) The couple soon met Sean and (I think) Wendy, who helped them get set up in one of the guest houses, hoping they could get a pull out of the ditch they were in  the next morning. Unfortunately, the next morning  I watched while a tow truck pulled the vehicle out of the ditch, and the couple was left trying to find which tow truck it was.

The second car off the road at the turn was one I got to watch fairly close up, since it happened in  front of my house. A woman and her daughter travelled from Portland to here (heading for Chimacum), only to round the corner and as the driver left the corner, she straitened the wheels, and gave the car a little gas, and felt it slide, then spin, then go off the road onto its side, onto a sidewalk where I had been shoveling earlier in the morning and Kris had been walking five minutes earlier.

Five minutes before this happened,
Kris  walked down the sidewalk.


This is from our house.

In watching the cleanup of this wreck, I was asked by a Sheriff's deputy how long I had lived in the house we are in. I answered about eight months, and he, in great seriousnesss said we must have seen a lot of accidents at that corner.

It made me stop and think. Yes, there were five accidents I could remember on  that corner, and all five of them had involved tow trucks. Then the deputy added one more comment which really made me stop and think. "You'll see a lot more," he said, "this corner is considered to be one of the worst in the county for wrecks."

In Port Angeles the corner of SR101 and the road I lived on was one of the worst in Clallam County for accidents. Certainly monthly, and more often weekly, someone was being towed off the site and into a repair shop. The County was very much on  the state's case about the redesigning needed to save the corner, and  the residents of the road were more than audible about knowing when the commissioners would solve the problems. We had funds that various entities were regularly putting money into, always hoping the money would solve this problem.

So what is happening in small town Port Gamble to solve this problem? This is a question that begs many other questions. Whose responsibility is it, the state or the county? Who keeps a list of the worst intersections? Is it based on injuries or fatalities or the cost of the accidents? If we know which governmental agency should be solving this, do we know which department? And on and on it goes.

Does someone represent our interests in our safety? There is no crosswalk anywhere on the highway to help people cross SR104 from north to south and back again, yet we have encouraged people to make that trek by putting businesses on both sides of the street, and by putting trail heads on one side and parking lots on the other.

 I think maybe our local people think the problems are solved some where else, and solutions are not their responsibility. But isn't the safety of our people (Kris or I could have been crushed by that car) as well as the people who come to visit us at our request our concern? So I ask again as I did when I started: Who has the Power in a Small Town to get changes made, to increase our safety? Or is our safety just at the whim of people we don't even know, who live in some other town?

These Two Deserve An Award

Some of these boats have been fishing in this area for several months.

The Blizzard of '10 seems to be over
today, although quite a bit of the wind still lingers, and the temperatures should stay in the twenties or less until at least Thanksgiving.

I hope this looks as cold as it felt.

I ran around taking just a few photos this morning, mainly of any out door activity I could find.
In the process I found two people who deserve extra helpings of porridge for opening their businesses on a day where there clearly won't be any.

First is the Postmaster, Laura. She was telling me recently that she has a two hour commute home every day, and yesterday she mentioned that she was going to have to call her husband of three weeks and let him know she wouldn't be home. Last night would have been difficult traveling ten minutes, much less two hours.

So this morning I found her at the counter, with two containers of ice-melter, all ready to head out doors.

I reminded her that she had made a commitment to the head of all stamps, something about "rain, sleet, snow, or gloom of night" and remembering our conversation the night before, I asked her if she had made the same commitment with her husband of three weeks.

She smiled, tuned around and pointed, and there he sat behind her. HE had made the two hour trip in the blizzard.

Yesterday one of the four that stayed at their post till near the end was Kate from Gamble Coffee Co. Today it was her boss Sean who was one of the two who made it. Fortunately he lives a short walk away, so it was a little easier -- no 2 hour commute. But he may be staying at home a little later every day next year ... after all, we just received notice from he and Wendy that while Laura and Terry had married on Halloween, they were tying the knot on New Years Eve. Is this a tradition in Port Gamble? weddings on holidays. Hmmmm, it sounds like fun.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Blizzard of '10

In one of my very first posts to this blog, about 6 months ago, I said I was here in Port Gamble mainly for the stories to tell my grandchildren. I then told my first story, which was about the three people who simply walked into my house, thinking it was a business.

Now I finally have my second story, the story of the blizzard of 2010. I'm sure if you have been skiing much, or grew up in the midwest, or even got lost on a blustery day  in winter then you feel like you've been through a blizzard ... or maybe have. But for me tonight was the first such occasion.

On the way to Poulsbo, Nov. 22, 2010 8 am

Your "average" winter morning in Port Gamble (I hope NOT). Cold, but not bone chilling, windy, but not overpowering, Kris and I went to Poulsbo to get some meds I had called in a week ago. The road was not slick, not covered with snow, but in spite of that the drivers here were being EXTRA cautious. I saw no particular reason for the incredible slow movement of the traffic until about 1/2 way to town. Then I saw it ... a huge vehicle, laying on its side, in the ditch. Suddenly the word "Slick" was given new permission to enter my thought waves, and it certainly did with a vengeance.

Port Gamble, Nov 22, 2010, 10 am.

Kris had planned to open the quilt store today, in spite of some quite strong winds and a little snow falling. We returned from our journey to Poulsbo around 10 am, and headed to the quilt store to check on its ability to hold heat (I'd give it a C-) as well as hoping for a few customers, although we both wondered who might wander out today. Very few people did wander out. I also took my snow shovel with me and after we got settled in, I shoveled my way to the post office to pick up our mail. Not much there

Port Gamble, Nov 22, 2010, mid afternoon.

My shoveling, although done to all known proper procedures, was not successful in keeping snow off the sidewalk or out of the front door. It is amazing what a little puff of wind will do in covering up a bald spot a person has put on the sidewalk.  ALL my shoveling was gone:

This is my best shoveling job, done about an hour before this photo was taken. The snow is back!!!!!!

       The day before, this dept. of transportation sign blew over, one of those sophisticated ones with flashing lights, even.
Have you ever seen the main street of Port Gamble this dead in the middle of the afternoon? I haven't either, so I decided to see who  the dedicated people are that work here on a day as cold and windy as this.

This is what I found nearly everywhere I went. By this time it was closing in on 3:30, and the forecast which in the morning had been for clearing and warming by Tuesday, was now saying maybe Wednesday.
But first I found John from Olympic Sports, the Kayak store. The owner, dedicated, but I was certain that minutes after the FedEx man was there picking up John's shipment, he'd be gone.
Laura, the Postmaster was also still there, ready to re-wrap a package.
Kate, holding down the coffee pot at Gamble Coffee Co. was the only true "employee" I found, but it was also the only true "store" that  I found with any business.

And Kris, dedicated owner of the quilt store, and like any  other owner, lost in paper work.
And that was it, all the people still  at their posts in the afternoon.  Kris and I headed for home shortly after, and I thought I had seen all the bad weather I was going to see, although the weatherman was shifting his "OK to travel" date back to Thursday. And surprisingly enough he also was predicting that Port Angeles, which already had a half  a foot on the ground (the score: Port Angeles 6 inches, Port Gamble 3 inches) was due for 12 more overnight!!

Port Gamble, Nov. 22, 2010, 8 pm

Ok, NOW I can say I have been in a blizzard. There was no reason to take a camera, it was too dark and blowing too hard. Kris and I live on the highway and decided to take a walk as far as the flagpole. You've seen storm movies where the rain or snow is blowing sideways? That was it at the flagpole. I've been sailing for 40 years and have been caught in a few windstorms, and based on my experience I'd say it was blowing 40+ which probably doesn't really rate as a "blizzard", but it certainly will next week when I see the granddaughters.

Even now, at 1am, the wind is howling, blowing the snow off some parking lots and throwing it into other back yards. Occasionally the house shakes, moans, creaks .... just now my desk shook. Yes, a person could get a little nervous, but I've been making things even more nerve racking; I've been reading Newt Gingrich's new book "Valley Forge" about G. Washington, the winter in Pennsylvania, and politics ... lots of politics, even then. But when one reads about the soldiers who had no shoes, who would look at their feet and feel good if they were red, but know they would always walk with a limp if they were black, well, it makes me embarrassed to think I would call this an "blizzard." How about "a really windy day."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Like a fire that wouldn't take ...

Well, sometimes a person has a good idea that takes off, sometimes a person has an idea that sounds good, but has not depth, and sometimes a person has a guy idea in a girl town. Take your pick. Yes, I got the notion of lighting up the town talked about, but I can't see that Port Gamble is going to be particularly over lit. I hope I'm wrong.

We won't really know until the Monday after Thanksgiving when the lights throughout the commercial area put up by the maintenance crew will go on their electric eyes and come on at dusk. I'm told that the "city" has been buying and buying and buying, but we don't know if they are adding to the collection or just replacing. And they aren't talking, so we won't know until Nov. 29.

Of course mine are all new, since the last house we lived in (for nearly 20 years) was down a road a piece and no one could see it, so there was no point in lighting. And I don't dare put in writing how much I've spent so far this year, but in the scheme of things it may not be much. But at least two buildings, our house and the quilt store have lights this year.

And I know that Greg added some, but when I went by to say hello he was taking them off as fast as he was putting them on. So I think he put on LED and took off old ones, so  his display should at least be brighter. He has the perfect spot for someone who likes to "over decorate" as much as he does. It's the first house one sees when coming to town from the East, and through the Christmas season it says "Welcome to Port Gamble" in a big way.

And I'm told, but no one mentions any names, that there are some people adding to their collections. But I know of at least one shop owner who has no intention of putting lights up outside, since she has lights up inside and she doesn't care for lights outside. But she got those lights inside to show, so I'm not complaining.

But there is a feeling of anticipation that I'm told wasn't there in the past. And there is more to come. On Monday, Nov. 22,  a man with a "bucket" truck will be here to help put up lights where people can't normally reach, like on roofs, for instance. He'll be here about 2 pm and is being scheduled by Tom, so if you want to use him, call Tom Monday morning. The guy is free, but a gratuity is always nice. After all, he is a volunteer.

And then we will wait. Many of the people who live here will be gone for Thanksgiving, so the Monday after will be fun. I know I will be walking the streets that evening, around dusk, with my few lights on, looking for others. On Tuesday, Nov. 30, I hope to have lots of photos of lots of lights, although there is really nothing like seeing them in person.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Battle of the Bulbs, part 2. "In the Beginning"

I had a quick discussion today with a gentleman who, in his gruffest voice asked, "What are you trying to do, start something?"   something like a parent might ask a 10 year  old who was trying to stir up the town bully. He was talking about my efforts to stir up the town in getting some more Christms lights on the street.

My response? "Guilty as charged". I tend to be one of those who keeps his light under a basket, but let me show you  why I like lots of lights at Christmas....
It's called the light of the Gospel, it's the first lights to shine at   Christmas in Port Gamble (on the lawn of the church) and it shows the true meaning of Christmas, and all the lights we put up are just  a reflection of  the true light.

Now that we have that out of the way, let's get back to stirring up some brighter lights. The one I heard was willing to brake the bank with brightness is Greg, who must have his routine down to the point that he can get the strings out of the attic and in the trees in no time. This evening I checked a t his house, and  this is what I found:

Even Charlie Brown would  be embarrassed. But I think he is holding back and is going to nail us bad.

I checked some other houses, ones I didn't  know were going to put some pressure on (but I'm glad to see they are) and I found

some very tasteful starts. Even Steffi at Mike's BBQ, who had said that Mike's is going to be closed over Christmas so much that it wasn't worth putting any up, added her's to the start.
And mine? Well, it's a start, but the girls at Second Spring still need to put Snoopy on the roof so I can add  a  landing  strip for Santa to come down across the roof of the quilt store ... You think I'm kidding? Just wait. But this is it so far. Tasteful   ......  but not for long!!

Even Kim and Eric have lights in the General Store windows,
but I'm told by the maintenance  crew that this scene (the picket fences)

will be a blaze of lights. At least then I ought to be able to get a good photo.

So this is the beginning. I can't wait to see all the regular lights of town go dim when the rest of these are put up!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Battle of the Bulbs, part one. "The Set up"

Attention America!!!!!

Not since the days of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison with the help of their new invention (the assembly line) has man had the ability to make thousands of an item and make them all exactly the same, and not since the days of Chevy Chase and Tim Allen has man had the ability to destroy thousands of an item in exactly the same way.

Yes. Folks, looking at the calendar it appears we are once again in that time in history known as light wars, or Chistmas lights, or as we call it in Port Gamble, "The Battle of the Bulbs."

I'm not sure how the masses in Port Gamble through the years have had Christmas lights without a competition, but that has got to come to an end. Why, now that all we have to deal with is LED bulbs (light emitting diodes) instead of the old tungston style, burns are a thing of the past and all we have left to avoid is ladders, (and an occasional burned out transformer!)

So at various locations today, men of many of the households of Port Gamble discussed who might want to be involved and what the chances are of winning the Battle might be.

First, of course, we decided early on that we would not set criterea for beating your neighbor until we knew what everyone's strengths are. So those are probably to be discussed over coffee or a beer later, perhaps after everyone has flipped his last switch. And we also dicussed finding an impartial way of judging, which could involve such things as comparing electric bills for December, or even comparing the heat emission of lights shown on satelight photos. But why worry about that yet? First we need to identify some of the players. What follows is not a list of all the people who can win, only the ones who's egos would make sure they were willing to get involved.

Me) I'm new at this which gives me an advantage ... you don't know how good I am at this, so you won't feel threatened and thus won't keep watching. I have two venues at stake, Quilted Strait and our house.

ERIC), also new this year. He took me on a tour of the General Store today and does he have an armament! The entire third floor is full of lights and trees, and he has a full complement of employees and friends coming over on Friday night to help decorate. A top contender.

GREG), the "old timer" at this in this town, having done a "solo" battle for years so we assume he is ready for the real thing. Normally I would fear him the most, but if he's been doing solo, then I would expect him to drop out early, probably with a case of no-staying-power.

JANICE), a top contender if "class" is a criteria. But I don't think girls really know how to compete in this game. No, I shouldn't say that. I don't think girls really know how to win in this game. No, I shouldn't say that either. How about "I don't think guys really know how to let a girl play this game" Yeah. That's it.

SHIELA), another contender with class, but the additional burder of moving soon might make it more difficult to play. On the other hand, that might make it more rewarding.

SEAN), would be a rough candidate, but his venue lacks space to really stack the deck. Only one coffee stand is a terrible handicap.

Mike), especially since Steffi will probably be helping. If she puts her mind to it, look out.

SCOTT). Now there is a man with no time. He's playing Scrooge here at Port Gamble (7 performances, on the stage in the top floor of the post office), so he might not have enough time to play. However, he does have a full complement of kids and has a huge playing field (house) so with his direction they might do well.

Anyone may enter at any time. If we see you with more than two ladders out at a time, we will assume you are in it for the rewards.

Just  add Snoopy to the roof .....

And we will be watching and making reports, so don't let down!!! And remember, Tom and his crew of maintenance people will take care of holes in the roof, doors broken, etc.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Halloween slideshow

Well, I'm trying something new, thanks to the trick-or-treaters. Let's see if this works. It's a slide show, which will fill the screen if you click on the box in the lower right hand corner. (If that works, and you want to get out of it again, hit escape.) To move faster, hit the arrows on either side. It has about half the kids that showed up at Port Gamble. Since it's 4:19 am, I'll try the rest of the kids another day.   I think if I pay them something, the company will even take their name off the show.

But seriously folks, this is a testimonial which gets me nothing...this slide show was easy to learn, seems to work good, and has several options I haven't used. As my daughters and wife will tell you, I'm no computer geek, so it has to be easy to learn for me to use it.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Three events - one weekend

I’m going to repeat myself, but once again it appears that some events in really small towns can be more personal, more meaningful, and at times more fun to experience than events in big cities. To explain what I mean, let me tell you about three events that happened in Port Gamble over the weekend. Nothing unusual, nothing special, just a wedding, a halloween trick or treating day, and a seance. Well, alright. It’s not too often one talks about a seance.


This was a cute evening in an unusual setting. Let me explain. The postmaster of the Port Gamble Post Office got married in Port Gamble on Sunday. Nothing unusual about that, right? A Postmaster gets married, somehow you expect a “formal” wedding, especially in Port Gamble which hosts nearly a hundred weddings a year, many in a church built not in the last century, but rather the one before that, in a style with the narrow building and tall steeple to match the formal churches of New England. Or the weddings are held in “The Vista Pavilion”, a building built just for such occasions, with a special tent along side for the reception. The receptions often include string quartets to provide that formal atmosphere, (although karaokie is also known to break out). People really do come from other states just to have their weddings here and they do appear to be fun. I had never been to one here before last Sunday.

The Postmaster, Laura, married her beau, Terry, in Port Gamble Sunday. Now let me add some fun elements to that which made a whole different wedding out of it. The Postmaster, Laura, married her beau, Terry, who she met through an electronic dating service, and had the wedding in Mike’s BBQ Restaurant, on Halloween, which was held as a costume party by all who wanted to come in costume. So many elements were different from a “typical” wedding, each one making it more personal and meaningful than a “typical” Port Gamble wedding.

Informal!! Those of us in attendance were asked to stand in a circle around the bride and groom at the start of the service and we went around the room, each of us giving one word which said something meaningful about marriage. The words came out like “joyful, dedicated, love, commitment, gamble...” (“gamble”? that was my word. Well, we were in Port Gamble, and let’s face it, some marriages are indeed a gamble...)

After we all sat down the bride and groom lit candles together, gave each other a ring, and voila! suddenly were married.

Like at all weddings, they had a “first dance”, we ate (BBQ style), and there were many pictures taken, and in no time at all Kris and I were on our way home. We talked about the changes the economy has brought about for newlyweds since we filled that roll thirty plus years ago. We had one house to share, they have at least one extra they are having trouble getting rid of. Kris and I had virtually no commute. Laura has been commuting two hours EACH WAY to work and home, and now they will share that drive, each going the extra time three days a week. It must be tough being a newlywed these days, even for those who are old enough to have gone through it before. But I figure anyone who gets married at a costume party on Halloween, who laughs at “gamble” as a word to describe marriage, and meets his or her life partner through an internet site has got a leg up on having a successful and long term marriage. Kris and I wish the absolute best for the most recent couple to tie the knot in Port Gamble ... although they won't have that distinction for long.


A week or so ago my entry into this blog was a description of what the merchants here wanted to do for some of the kids in the area, wanting to show them the fun of Halloween, not just the greed, and hoping the whole families would join in. That’s exactly what happened and it was a delight!! Last year, as in previous years, the number of visitors was up (to 75 last year) and once again this year we had more, over a hundred this time, all appearing to have a good time. I mentioned in the last entry that Kris' quilt store, until we moved to Port Gamble, resided in a town which had 2500 or more trick-or-treaters and they trolled through the downtown area looking for handouts, like tunnel drilling machines under the streets of Seattle.

2500 is too many for anyone to have a good time. But a hundred was just right. And even those weren’t all just kids. I was nervous when the first visitors showed up, when Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson appeared, middle school aged and unaccompanied, but I learned in an instant from their comments and behavior that they were extremely polite, appreciative, and they left us glad to have seen them. If I'm not mistaken, they were the only treaters who arrived without a parent or two.

In our store (the quilt shop) we were giving away photos of all the kids (more for the benefit of the parents), with a candy bar for the kids. And it was fun.

(I’ve included some of those photos so you can see. But I've been having a terrible time posting photos, so my apologies to parents of kids who came but don't have a child here. As the Seattle ball teams always say, "Wait till next year.")

Afraid of a little blue spider? Never!

This young man was torn between the camera,
which he didn't like and the candy. He finally
came in.

I'm not sure what her costume was,
but she was having fun.

The spider won out.

Well, I did ask him to squeeze in tighter.
But could it have been like this in a larger city? Only if it was limited somehow. The kids played games to get their treats wherever they went, and that takes time. At one stop they had to throw a fishing line over a curtain. At another, they had to throw a bean bag through a hole. And at our stop they had to stand still for a minute. Maybe that’s the lesson to be learned; any part of raising kids takes time and should not be rushed for everyone to get the most out of it. When the parents stick with their kids and the whole family is having a fun time together, there's a whole different kind of "growing up" going on. Those become the kids that can't wait to come home at Chistmas, the kind that don't move far from home when they move out of the house, the kind that will raise their kids pretty much the way they were ... with respect and a touch of discipline.  And in a neighborhood.


I still have comments to make on the Ghost Conference which was here this weekend. In the meantime I got some photos of the trick or treaters I'm including. They are here under the title "Photos To Go With Halloween." I'll  have the ghost conference comments soon;  I'm not sure what to make of it (ghosts) after what happened to me when we moved here, and after what happened to some good friends here this weekend.

I also want to tell about some of the plans for adding to the events and use of the buildings here. It amazes me!!!   I should have that in a day or two.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Photos to go with Halloween

Finally, I have some photos of the Halloween Visitors!! A lot of kids, but a lot of Moms and Dads, too. I  found only one girl who I would say was unhappy (make that "cranky").  She looked ready to have a tantrum, ran over by the spider, whipped around with a phony smile on her face only to have the flash go off at the same time. She had thought she could ruin my day by giving me a big smile which I would miss, and she would never give  it again. But I beat her to the punch, and her's is one of the best photos here. But I'll protect her ... I won't tell you which one she is.

"Who's the Fairest In the Land?" (Sorry, that's a cell phone, not a mirror.)

One of many happy families.

Personally, I think the families were happier with their photos more than just the kids.