I am, therefore I write

Random musings on my life and the world

Doing Non-Beachy Things While At the Beach

The bikers are mostly gone, Alison is back to work, and today was my first day alone.

My day consisted of:

*Tossing frozen, uncooked eggs because my cottage refrigerator cannot make up it’s mind about what constitutes a moderate temperature setting. As of this writing I believe I have finally found the optimum set point, but we’ll see if my lettuce is frozen again before I go to bed.

*Visiting the one and only shop in town that I haven’t been to before. Alison and I passed it by accident last night after her farewell fish & chip dinner, but it was closed. Basically it’s a little flea market, but she noted the ‘Used Books’ sign in the window and was regretting that we hadn’t realized earlier that this little place was just around the corner from us. I gave it a go for her today, but the not so extensive book department held 60% religious tomes, a few cookbooks, some biographies, and tons of kids books.

*An early morning visit from the local wildlife, who stopped by yesterday for both Alison and I to enjoy.

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The second fawn was hiding at this point, but just as cute. These cottages are surrounded by tall, thick forest and shrubs so it’s my best guest that this doe is raising her young somewhere in there. They seem to favor some of the greenery that surrounds the homes and really aren’t skittish at all.

*Putting some gas in my car, although I stopped at $10 for now as the towns one gas station monopoly allows for higher prices than I’m happy with.

*Fiddling around with some art. This is a color/black variation of the basic design called “4 Corners.”

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*Creating a stir fry for dinner using baby yams, onion, broccoli, and red pepper purchased from an organic farm stand up the coast about 12 miles. I’ve passed this stand many times and never stopped before, which I now regret greatly after finding some of the nicest, freshest veggies being sold at amazingly low prices. The farmer/owner had some lovely corn, as you can see, and she shared some history of her home/farm and the area as well.

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Now-

The dinner dishes are clean. The sun is headed into the ocean. The sea breezes are coming up so my patio door won’t be open much longer. I’ve had my dessert cookie. Perhaps I’ll attempt a bit more art, then a little TV before sleep.

Going Hog Wild

After a long drive, one that should have taken under 2 hours to complete, but yesterday took roughly just under three, my vacation home-away-from-home looked great.

Alison was driving her car, coming for just the weekend, and we ran into bumper to bumper, stop and go lines of cars not even 15 minutes from home. That traffic lasted for over 1 1/2 hours, setting us behind, and setting our teeth (or at least mine) on edge. Apparently some of it was left over from an earlier accident and the rest is normal on that stretch of highway. If there was ever a visual that screams out for public transit, or tax dollars for improved road conditions, then we were sitting directly in the best advertisement ever.

This little cottage is cute, small and tidy, and holding a staircase that freaks me out to some degree as the treads are thick wood, so nicely strong, but open. The bed in this loft takes up most of the space, which means that I either toss myself over the bed to reach the opposite side, or buck up and walk way too closely to the railing, which is open as well. They have furnished the entire house with IKEA furnishings and IKEA modular kitchen components.

Did you notice the title of the post? In an ironic twist, this weekend just happens to be the annual Hog Wild Biker Fest. Bikers have taken over the convention center and most of the town. They were swarming the local IGA when Alison and I stopped for groceries. The bikers are fine. I am taking issue with the regular tourists, and the biker wanna-be’s. Bikers can drive. They have to be able to navigate the roads. Others however…after a few near misses with drivers blowing through signs or simply deciding that they own the road, Alison and I parked the car and walked to do some shopping.

We actually have a group staying next to us. Other than leaving just a short time ago with a full bottle (unopened) of what I think was tequila, we haven’t seen much of them. I guess that I was lucky to even get this place after seeing how many people are here this weekend. I think these little cottages are fairly new and not known so lucky me!

We did some beach walking this morning, had a ridiculously high priced, just average lunch of quiche and salad in a place that was charging $25 for a bottle of wine that I could buy at Walmart for $8, and Alison locked her bike to a tree, which was fine, until she couldn’t remember the combination and had to break the tree to get her bike free. What, you may ask…break the tree. Why yes, totally true. It was a young sapling that bent very well until the last minute and then, with a snap, released both the lock and the bike. She had a nice ride though, and fortunately that was before the crazies took over the roads so she made it back in one piece, although she almost took out a chipmunk who decided to play chicken with her and nearly lost the game.

Time to refill the wine glass, open the bean dip and make a cheese and fruit plate and listen to the music of the Harley engines as they cruise up and down the streets.

Oh, our biker neighbors just came home. Can you guess what was on their radio?

Solitude

Summer vacation has arrived.

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via Trip Advisor

Headed to the beach tomorrow. Miss G will be visiting with her San Diego grandma for some days while she is in town. I will be staying on the coast, likely eating things that I shouldn’t some of the time, drinking wine some of the time, reading, walking, drawing—all the things I do at home but without the spouse or the cat involved.

Peace.

Quiet.

Solitude.

A Brief Follow-up

My last post took a bit of a turn didn’t it? I don’t think that even I intended to spend as much time or share as many words as I did on the sea of humanity that confronted Alison and I on that evening.

I have since found some specific articles, published actually almost one year ago in a local newspaper, that go into great detail on the changes we saw downtown. Mental health issues and lack of services seem to be the biggest culprits for the influx of transients in the downtown core. The changes aren’t new, as I assumed. Perhaps I just hit town on a good day the last time I was there. The articles intimate that this homelessness issue has been growing for some time, years actually. That makes me wonder if I just have an uncanny ability to turn a blind eye, at least up to the point that I walk into a wall of mentally ill, homeless individuals with nowhere to go.

Will the situation I saw get worse before it gets better? Probably, and I think that is one of the reasons I was so taken aback that evening. It wasn’t just the drunks, passed out in doorways. It wasn’t just the vagrants in dirty, torn clothing hauling their entire lives around in a backpack. It wasn’t the hipsters, many of whom are homeless as well. It wasn’t the fact that I had just enjoyed a lovely meal and I knew that these people may not remember their last meal. It was the fact that this scenario is being repeated across our country. Everyday. It was the fact that this is simply one more social issue, or as sociology texts refer to the appearance of poverty-mental illness-vagrancy-unemployment-hopelessness; a major social problem. These individuals are just another problem, like the problem of race, or the problems associated with sexual identity, or the problems of violence, or economic problems, or international problems

Pick any current issue and stick the word problem behind it.

Einstein is quoted as stating

that if he had one hour to save the world he would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution.

Am I the only one who believes that we have given enough time over to defining, and feel that it’s time to get off of our asses and move on with solutions.

Shock and Awe

Alright, I admit this title is an overused and completely incorrect phrase when applied to the situation I plan to write about here, however… the individual words hold meaning for me in regards to much of the space I occupied last evening so I am running with this title.

First, the non-shock, but still awesome part. Alison and I ventured south to our capital city last night for dinner and our almost annual summer musical theater event. The term city is relative as you will read shortly.

**Quick shout out to the esteemed TDP and this post, which came at the most fortuitous time, and helped to direct me in the correct use of capital/capitol. I fear I may have used the wrong spelling without her timely post.

We had dinner at an amazing Thai restaurant called Lemongrass, starting with vegetable wonton appetizers. Then we shared Buddha Tofu: slabs of creamy and delicately soft inside-fried to chewy perfection outside tofu floating in a fresh tomato-garlic-pineapple sauce, and apple-potato curry in a slightly sweet and coconut infused sauce. I literally could have had an entire bowl of the curry broth all by itself. I cannot make curries that come anywhere near the goodness in that bowl. There was so much on the menu that I still want to try. I would also like them to move the restaurant to my front yard for ease of trying and continuing to enjoy those dishes.

I have written in the past about the little theater in our state’s capital that, we learned last night, will celebrate 25 years in 2016. For a several years they have taken on a fun musical production centered on music of the 1960’s and 1970’s. I’m much too lazy right now to link past posts so if you need/desire information on these events it’s up to you to search the archives. Suffice to say, we have enjoyed these summer outings since we seem to go back almost every year. Last night they showcased a reworked version of their 2009 production. This one was entitled Sixties Chicks Too. 

My impression of this production was good, but not great. A husband-wife team are the artistic directors and I have come to realize that they enjoy making social statements, and providing education on social issues as a part of their productions. They always manage to incorporate a video screen backdrop into their shows, usually filled with relevant news images and thought-provoking words appropriate to the era being portrayed. Somehow it works, probably because this city is known for an association with both the unique, eclectic and often outspoken old hippie/new hipster worldview. Sixties Chicks Too meandered through songs centered on teenybopper love, feminist empowerment, soul, the sexual revolution and folk ballads with a cast of four female actors. The first half was so-so, but after intermission the personalities of all the players finally emerged. My favorite of the night, and I am not a huge Janis Joplin fan, was a petite brunette (and also choreographer of the show) who rocked an amazing tribute to Janis with a powerful, energetic, at times frantic, rendition of “Me & Bobby McGee.”

Now, we need to move on to the shock and awe parts of the evening. I have to use those words because Alison and I were both overwhelmed by the glaring change in the downtown core of the old city.

To clarify a bit first…our capitol building and surrounding government buildings sit next to an inlet of the Puget Sound. The original, old-timey city proper houses the eclectic contingent, plus historical buildings, homes and businesses remade and re-purposed many times over. Across the inlet sits the expansion of mid-century homes, and even farther west lies the modern, strip-mall capital city.

Alison and I have frequented the historic district for years as we love the shops and have always loved the history and feel associated with this little enclave just 1/2 mile from the capital campus. Last night was different and thus we speak of the shock and awe. In the past hipsters have been a mainstay along one or two of the central avenues. I only focus on them in the context that they simply are the core of the old downtown itself. Many work there, many simply hang out there, and some also live there, on the street, literally moving from place to place among the alleys and bus station and market area.

A change has taken place. Walking along the sidewalks last evening felt different. We were wary, and even uncomfortable, and neither Alison or myself has ever felt that way before, especially early in the evening. After eating, we had some time to kill before the theater opened. Just one block past the restaurant we both became silent, rather absorbed in what we were seeing as we walked. The hipsters were still present, but transients, more than we have ever noticed before, were clearly the new normal along the tree-lined streets. Almost every doorway of the closed businesses housed a disheveled, often very dirty, just as often drunk or passed out, down and out transient. Parking lots held contingents of vagrants, clearly homeless souls with their lives crammed into backpacks and bags, their dogs mingling while words were exchanged among the mostly male groups. Their ages ranged from young – teens/20’s – to much older men. While no one was ever aggressive towards us we mutually became aware that we weren’t comfortable anymore, walking on those sidewalks, and we maneuvered ourselves out of the area and back toward our car.

Words and emotions began to flow between Alison and I.

“What has happened here?”

“When did the homeless become so present, so complete, just so everywhere?”

“Have we not seen this before, why now, what has changed?”

“Why are we so uncomfortable with this?”

“Why are we worried about walking here?”

We each felt uncomfortable with ourselves because we were being both overwhelmed by the sheer numbers but also because we were being judgey, not judgmental per se, but just feeling more than okay with our reactions to these human beings, homeless and alone, living on the streets and among the places that just a few months ago felt light and happy and fun. We didn’t like either the imagined situations that may have led to this change, nor our reaction to the people just trying to live on both sides of this change.

We talked, and I began to remember reading some news stories telling, not so much why or how, but that yes indeed, transients and the homeless were becoming a huge “social problem” for this downtown corridor. We talked about other things we noticed that night: a much more obvious police presence than before; what appeared to be a mobile soup kitchen set up in a parking lot just to the rear of the theater we were visiting; the clear lack of cultural diversity in this city. This city is white, beyond even the whiteness of my own tightly wound suburban community. There has always been a large LGBTQ community here, but people of color–you would struggle to find anyone with racially diverse ties.

I don’t have the answers as to why this noticeable change has occurred here. Of course I am not so naive as to believe that this small, old town area was ever completely without a homeless population. We’ve seen transients scattered throughout the core every time we visit. It is the apparent suddenness with which this population has come to claim a 2×4 block radius as their own that surprises and mystifies and bothers. Individuals lingered on the fringes, but I almost want to characterize this striking upswing as likened to cattle being herded into a strictly monitored enclosure. And that is god-awful in both my use of that image as explanatory to what we saw as well as the implication of the notion as reality.

Alison and I, along with a smattering of other very middle class residents and visitors, were decidedly the outliers here. We were the strangers. We, with the clean clothing and the ability to eat dinner in a restaurant and pay for tickets to a musical, we didn’t fit in. Speaking personally, we were uncomfortable, and wary and even slightly frightened by the sense of ownership and authority of this ‘in group’ of individuals who live differently than ourselves. I was made keenly aware of emotions and feelings associated with difference, of exclusion based on appearance and class. My emotions scattered when faced with the ability, if only partially, to begin to comprehend what it may mean to live in a society whereby you are ostracized, or marginalized, or oppressed simply because you are different.

Much later, enclosed within a moving bubble of that same middle class humanity edging as one group along the sidewalk and through the increasingly crowded streets, the enjoyment found in the last few hours was replaced once more with questions.

Would we come here again, to this place that has been fun, and always seemed welcoming?

Would the numbers of homeless grow and with that increase would aggression among their groups increase, or spill over onto those of us who live a very different life, who don’t seem to belong, who are intruding?

I also silently had to ask myself what my place was here, or if I had any true ability to understand this world. I came away clearly knowing that I have a lot to learn. That my understanding of this one social issue, while allowing me to glimpse what so many others live and endure each day based on class or gender identity or race, is minimal at best. My place is centered in privilege, and through this experience, confronted with that knowledge I am shocked at my naivete, my own incomplete understanding of people who live in ways unimaginable to me.

The easily invisible few, scattered here and there, forgotten in previous visits as quickly as we would round a corner onto the next street could not be overlooked this time. The bodies strewn about, huddling in doorways, congregating in alleys and on benches, walking tirelessly from place to place and corner to corner, taught me more about my meager grasp on our world than reading a hundred sociology texts. My eyes were forced to see and I am now also forced not to ignore, perhaps forced not to write of wondrous meals, or inconsequential outings that are quickly meaningless to me. Trivialities I take for granted but unattainable to so many.

Today I am forced to think, and hopefully also do something as I acknowledge my privilege in this world.

 

 

How Do You Define Obsession?

I have a rather astounding update associated with that self-driven quest I wrote about a few weeks ago. You might remember the mention I made in this post regarding the all-out battle I decided to wage against all those company’s catalogs that are consistently sent to homes like mine rather they are asked for or not.

At the time I had a running list of at least ten companies that were receiving my nasty clear and concise emails asking that they remove me from their mailing lists, and that they stop selling my name to related business partners.

Every single one of the companies has, in some way, acknowledged my email. Most typically the responses have come as rather generic notes assuring me that I was immediately removed, but also adding the suggestion that I better not get too cocky too soon.

“Dear Ms. Smart-Ass Lady,

Thank you for contacting Irritating Company Name. We appreciate your email and can assure you that we have removed your name and address from our mailing list as you asked. Please be aware that you may still receive 2 or 3 catalogs because our mailing lists are printed in advance. (In other words: this line is just a ploy and we hope to convince you to buy something from our company by reeling you in with a few more strategically mailed catalogs) Please contact us if there is anything further we can help you with.

Sincerely,

Generic Customer Service Representative”

Have no fear. I am literally keeping a running tally of the date I receive every one of these email verification’s as well as how many more catalogs I receive down the line. What? Going overboard in this you ask… No way, I say. Does she have any life at all you wonder? Yes I do, but I might wonder that same thing myself if this story was posted on your blog. Let’s just say I am being thorough in my documentation, waiting for the moment when catalog #4 arrives from any one of these companies and I can send another bitchy clear and concise email reminding those CSR that they very clearly assured me that the catalogs would stop arriving in my box. I really want to be able to say, even just once, “Ah, but you promised that, at the most, I might expect 2 or 3 catalogs. This catalog I now hold in my hand is Catalog #4! You people LIE.”

While I fantasize on this, and practice the perfect way to present my indignation just in case the scenario happens, I do have to share that astounding update with you, because I got away from my originally planned point just a bit.

I have never ordered anything from Jockey. The underwear people. I don’t even buy anything Jockey in the stores. Earlier this week I received a catalog from Jockey. Without hesitation, ready to nip this new offenders tactics in the bud before they could get a foothold, I sent off an email. Short and to the point. Almost immediately I received a reply.

Here’s the astounding part.

It was not the typical, rather generic, scripted reply. Yes, Erica W did thank me for contacting customer service. However, Erica W took her reply to new heights by not only noting that Jockey understands just how tiresome it can be to receive unwanted catalogs, but that they are also deeply conscious of the environment and were absolutely glad to be saving a tree or two by taking my name off their mailing lists because…don’t we all need to do our part for the environment.

I had to read the email two or three times just to make sure of what I was seeing. I was impressed that Erica W tried to make this email reply personal and meaningful. It didn’t occur to me until later that there may have been some sarcasm involved, but I am choosing to believe that Erica W is honorable and true and sincere in her words.

So impressed was I that I sent my own thanks back to Erica W for being so prompt.

Just tonight, I received this email from my friend Erica W:

“You are so very welcome Debbie. Take care!”

I can’t begin to tell you how happy this made me. Jockey really does care, about me, my concerns and the environment.

As to that concern about my having any sort of life…I bet Erica W would never question that idea. Perhaps we’ll have a laugh over that in our next email…

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