Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Coming event

Boy, once I start writing I sure make up for taking a few weeks off. But there is so much coming up in the next couple of months that I want to tell you about, that it is hard to keep quiet. Let's start with next weekend. How can you turn down an invitation that starts like this:

"Imagine sitting in a natural amphitheater overlooking picturesque Gamble Bay on a warm August afternoon in the Pacific Northwest and looking out where once the oldest operating sawmill in the United States processed and shipped lumber all over the West Coast. Steeped in history, Port Gamble is the perfect place to have one of the West's few maritime music festivals. Now in our fifth year, we've played host to the cream of the Northwest maritime music community and continue to have much fun doing it!"

This is the opening paragraph from the "Port Gamble Maritime Music Festival" page on the internet ( where the writer is describing what it will be like to be here on Saturday, Aug. 14th, from noon to 5 pm. to participate in the festival.

I must admit to being a bit partial to this kind of music which seems like it is hanging on by a thread in  those few "seafaring communities" (like Port Townsend, for instance) where stories are told through music of shipwrecks and collisions, calms and storms, where the heroes were often those who went down to the sea.

And what better place to tell some of those stories (and hear them) than in a place like Port Gamble, where men have been going to sea (and often coming home) since the middle of the century before last. The venue is the grass field between the Port Gamble General Store and what we "locals" call the Walker Ames house, maybe a hundred feet away.

If the weather is good and people show up in town the way they have been doing  this summer, there may not be room for everyone, and you may miss  the likes of  Pint and Dale or  Shifty Sailors or Watch the Sky or even Sanger and Diddle.

This is my kind of Port Gamble fun ... no noisy cannons going off, no running till you collapse, no rain, just listening, singing, visiting a few stores and eating an ice cream cone on a pleasant Sunday afternoon.. If you haven't been here for awhile, come this Saturday and you will get a  taste of what this place is about.

Summer help

I debated long and hard before I decided to call this entry "summer help." Those words seem to convey a somewhat lazy attitude,  one held by a teenager who knows he can get away with murder since no one really expects much. There's other phrases that indicate that attitude, like "Maui Time," for instance, a reference point often appropriate to the speed of college students during spring break.

But I have been woefully inadequate in finding anyone who I would refer to as "summer help" in a negative sense here in Port Gamble. The summer workers must be paid well, supervised well, and held accountable to a high standard of behavior, because when I see them they are dressed well, always working, and interuptable only long enough to make sure they are friendly.

Take this mower, for instance. I'm sorry to say that I have yet to get his name, even though I have stopped him on several occasions tring to get his permission to use that machine. I've wanted to ever since I saw those machine, must be close to 10 years now.

No, he will stop, smile, turn off the engine, and let me know without saying anything the least bit bothersome, that I am not going to be running that machine while HE is responsible for it. So a couple minutes  later off he goes as always, having brightened my day and taken a short break.

I said they must be paid well. They must also have a chance to come back again next year, a chance to get a letter of reference in case there is no work here next year, and from seeing some  of them in "action", a chance to spend a few off hours with a person of the opposite sex.

Having worked one summer in college in a small town (only slightly bigger than Port Gamble), I know the influence of "being watched." It's a healthy way for kids to learn to be careful in what they say or do, knowing that if their words or actions aren't viewed properly it might make a difference in what they do in the future. And believe me, while I wasn't the "class cutup", I'm having fun trying to put some of them on the spot. It's a game we play. It's fun and it works, and they stick to their jobs like only "summer help" can in a place like Port Gamble.

I'm also amazed by how many of those "summer help kids" are now balding, full time, and still working as hard as ever to make the most of this place. One in particular (who is not balding) was very active in the crew that moved a "disheveled stable" into a "beautiful quilt store" and in the many days I watched, not once did she take advantage of being a woman to do less work. I hope to corner her in the next day or two to get her story.

One other item. Yes, I am back on the "job." (This is a "job"? Wow! I didn't even know there was a pay day.) I took a little time off to work on getting my meds to respond to me instead of me having to respond to them. I'm back and will try to add posts a couple of days a week. This place is crawling with things to talk about, a whole different perspective on life on the planet earth.

A Town With A Split Personality

When I first started hearing about explorers in school, I had strange ideas of what it might be like to be one of them. They had names like cars (DeSoto, Pontiac ... oh wait, was he a native?), got around the world a lot, and came home rich from being given so many things by the people they discovered. It wasn't until reading about people like James Swan that I found these discoverers weren't the good guys who were given presents. But that's another story for another author.

But I always wanted to be the first to "find" a small town which no one knew about, where people were always good to each other, where everyone was happy and no one complained, "and everybody knows your name."

I think I may have found it, but I'm thinking I might be too late.

Kris re-opened her quilt store here in Port Gamble on April 20th, about four months ago. Then she had her "grand opening" on May 1, and let me tell you it was grand!! A lot of people came, a lot she knew, but even more she didn't know, but wanted to get to know. It was so busy that day that she hauled me in from taking photos to run a cash register, which I did reluctantly, because I thought it was more important just to find out more about this area and this town.

So to do that, one of the things I did with just about each customer I ran into was ask them where they lived. Expecting "Bremerton" or "Port Townsend", I got instead an incredible number of the same answers: "Hi, where are you from?" "Hansville." "Hi, where do you live?" "Hansville" "How about you?" "Hansville." "And you?" "Hansville"

"Did you folks all come from Hansville together?" "No, we don't even know each other." And so the day went. By dinner time I was convinced that "Hansville" was a nickname for "Seattle" and most of the quilters from there had come by ferry to see us.

I really didn't want to wait too long before I saw this "town" call "Hansville", although I had been there years before on vacation with our family at a place called the Last Resort. But finally Kris and I took our quick "tour" through the area ... and I guarantee you it won't be our last.

Now I was on the City of Port Angeles' Planning Committee for many years, even the chairman once, and like so many other cities we felt our job was to organize the place. "OK, all the really nice houses go over here, the single lot houses over here, businesses here, doctors' offices here," until we got to the point that you could not get lost in our city, because it was just like yours. (Did you know the streets of Port Angeles are laid out just like Cinncinatti (I think it is) EVEN DOWN TO THE NAMES?)

Hansville, it seems, is just the opposite. On the waterfront might be a 3 zillion dollar home next to a beach cabin owned by a hermit. Somewhere inland may be a 4000 square foot Cape Cod home on three acres of property that has not been mowed in years next to a half acre lot you can't see the house in, because of all the incredible landscaping. Hansville has defined the word "eclectic".

On the map it appears there is a "hub" of a city quite a ways north of where we stopped, but we had started north from Albertsons and the signs seemed to indicate that we were in Hansville all the time. If that's the case, Hansville must be huge, at least 15 miles by 6 miles, by appearance all full of residential property of a wide variety of types and sizes, with many of the "residents" being the four legged kind.

A day or two later I finally made my trek north to the end of the town, at least the end according to the map, and I think I got to the "city center". Recently I talked about Kingston and their incredible amount of parking stalls used by all their businesses (see the July 4th blog .. not to be bragging too mmuch, but it was a hit in Kingston). There were signs up for the celebration of "Hansville Days", I think it was called, but I could locate ... ready for this? ... only one business. ONE business. A kind of downsized, but efficient, Seven Eleven.

I mention all this because I honestly think Hansville has more residents in its borders than just about any town  on the Kitsap Peninsula, certainly more than Poulsbo, which claims to have only 8860, a claim I remember it having on its "Welcome to Poulsbo" signs when I played basketball against them in high school. I don't want to tell you how long ago that was, but I'll just tell you the Hood Canal Bridge was still a pipe dream.

But those people in Hansville are spread out just the way they want to be, each one on a spot of property that was probably worked out with the former owner ("Now your north corner is that bend where the creek goes around that tree, except if you don't mind I'd like to keep my garden, so maybe we can bend the East line by twenty feet to take it in...." I'm sure they worked it out years ago and still know in their head, but not on paper, just how much property they have. And that's probably the smart way to do it. Kris and I recently sold our house in Port Angeles (after having it on the market for seven days, but that's another story) and the new owner wanted our 6.3 acres surveyed. Mind you it's perfectly rectangular, two adjacent properties had already been surveyed, but still it cost $3600 to have it done. I like the apparent Hansville system better.

So my hat is off to another unique town in this county, one that has got to be seen for all kinds of reasons, its beauty, its eclectic houses, its unique farms, and the even more unique ways some of them sell their goods, but most of all, you've got to meet the people, although I don't know where you got to do that. Maybe the quilt store, or the general store in Port Gamble. After all, they don't have many stores of their own.