It just got way easier!

January 20th, 2018

Ocean Park Clinic and Pharmacy

If you’ve ever had the experience of feeling oh-so-sick and had to get yourself to the doctor’s office thirty minutes away, you know what it has been like for the last 150 years for us at the North End of the Peninsula.  Well… that may be a bit of an optimistic statement.   Change that 150 to 100.  In the 1850s to the early 1900s, my great-grandfather’s time, the nearest doctor was across the bay in the Bruceport area.  He made house calls but it took days, not minutes, for him to arrive.

By the time my mother was a toddler in the 19-teens, there was a doctor in Astoria – a mere three-hour train ride and hour-long boat ride away.  And, by the time she was a teen, Dr. Paul had established himself in Ilwaco.  He, too, made house calls when necessary, arriving in his spiffy ‘machine’ (was it a Model A?) but it might take most of the day to get to Oysterville, especially in the muddy-road-season.

There have been periods of time when doctors have had their offices as close-by as Long Beach and, for some years, the hospital was actually in Seaview – but for years now, Ilwaco has been the go-to place for those of us on the Peninsula who might need medical attention.  Thankfully, for nearly a half-century, we’ve had a pharmacy (and its wonderful, knowledgeable pharmacists!) in Ocean Park – but getting to a doctor’s office has been another matter entirely.

Not any more!  Yesterday was the ribbon-cutting for the new state-of-the art clinic at the northeast corner of the main intersection in Ocean Park.  (I wonder if that area of town will still be known as ‘Jack’s Corner’ or if, eventually, the clinic will become the main landmark in downtown O.P.)  In a watershed collaboration between Peninsula Pharmacies and the Ocean Beach Hospital we now have a medical facility just minutes away.  (For us in Oysterville, it is only nine minutes from our door to the clinic parking lot!)

And, should anyone doubt (but why would they?) that we at the North End are appreciative, I’m here to report that there was Standing Room Only at the dedication yesterday. This wonderful new Pharmacy/Clinic building is one sign of progress that all of us can embrace!  Hallelujah!

Next Door, North

January 19th, 2018

Heckes House with Annex (r.) circa 1930

When I was a little girl and continuing into my mid-adulthood, the house next door to the north of ours was the Heckes House, called that because the Heckes family lived there.  Now it’s called the John Crellin House because he was the one who built it – not personally but, as the owner of the property, he had it built back in 1867.  It’s only since Oysterville became a National Historic District (1976) that the homes have been known by the names of their original owners.

The old map of Oysterville shows that, in the early days, the Stevens Hotel was once just north of our house — between our place and the Heckes House.  My mother remembered it as very run down and the place where “the old bachelors lived.”  In the late 1920s, when the building was beyond saving, the Heckes family used some of the old lumber to build an “annex” to the Heckes Inn.  The annex morphed into a garage and, finally, in it’s turn, had to be torn down a few years back.

Papa in his Victory Garden, c. 1947

For most of my mother’s childhood and for all my growing-up years, my grandparents owned all of the property between Clay and Division Streets and on out into the bay.  After the Stevens Hotel was dismantled, much of the area north of our house became Papa’s vegetable garden.  It was large enough that he used a horse and plow to get it ready for planting each spring.

Beyond the garden … nothing, really.  Grass (meadow, not lawn) that my grandfather kept under control with a scythe.  By the 1970s, it was just another empty space in this little tumble-down village.  And then, we were placed on the National Register of Historic Places and the gentrification began.

Hampson House, 1987

In the mid-eighties, my folks sold the north half of our property to John and Joan Hampson.  Their house was completed in 1987, the year Nyel and I were married.  It has been a matter of “discussion” ever since.  People seem to either love it or hate it.  There isn’t much middle ground.  Few people think it “fits in” with the general architecture and feeling of Oysterville.  My mom always tried to defend it on the basis of the north and south ‘wings’ — one a workshop, the other a garage – attached to the main house by covered walkways.  “Those were typical of early Oysterville homes; look at Uncle Cecil’s house,” she would say.

Proposed Changes to Hampson House

The house has recently been sold again and we have been notified that there will be a hearing on January 29th concerning the new owners’ proposed changes to the exterior and their application for a building permit.  All things being equal, Nyel and I will attend in the hopes that we will get a clearer idea of the planned changes.  From the elevation drawings posted online, I’m having a hard time seeing whether the new façade will be a better “fit” with Oysterville   But then I never was very good at the ‘spatial perception and imagination’ parts of aptitude tests.  I hope that there are some architects familiar with Oysterville structures who will attend the hearing and weigh in.  Until then, I’m trying to keep an open mind.

Waiting for First Light

January 18th, 2018

My first instinct this morning was to go to the west windows and take a look at the church.  Is it still intact?  And what about all the Monterey Cypress trees up the street?  Was there any damage at our house?  Are all the pictures still on the walls and the dishes safe in the cupboards?

None of these questions come from a place of logic.  Not really.  They are more visceral than intellectual – they feel instinctive.  Almost primal.  That’s what happens when you are wakened by a thunderclap so loud that your bed actually bounces from the reverberation.  Eleven by the clock and out of a sound sleep.

Our Stairwell

Nyel was already awake, thanks to the diuretics he takes.  In fact, he was awake when the skies lit up like midday immediately before the roar of the clashing clouds – and for several more just like them.  His wakefulness is a ‘usual’ condition caused by the diuretics he must take.  (And as several of his hospital nurses have noted, he’s a ‘night pee-er.’  Which, when you think about it, is better than the alternative if you want any kind of daytime normalcy…) So, he was able to report that we seemed to be at the epicenter of last night’s storm.  Not ‘we’ as in Oysterville.  ‘We’ as in this very household.

Church and Steeple

Thankfully, I slept through most of it.  It’s not that I am afraid of thunder and lightning.  Not exactly.  But, one of the last years I was teaching at Long Beach School, my class and I witnessed a lightning strike on the house across the alley.  Immediately, smoke rose from the roof and the power went off at the school (and throughout the neighborhood, we learned later.)  I sent one of the kids to the office to ‘report’ what we’d seen, the fire department was called, the school went into Fire Drill mode and my first/second/third graders felt like heroes.

As always in situations like that, I was left with thoughts of how ephemeral safety is.  How things can change in a second.  Without warning.  With a strike of lightening and a clap of thunder.  And, though I slept through most of the storm last night, those few jarring, wakeful moments have left me a little bit jangled.  I’m still waiting for first light to see if all is well in the village.

Clotted Up With Surveys

January 17th, 2018

They come in our email.  They show up on FaceBook.  Our telephone rings off the hook with them.  Surveys!  Opinion polls!  Day in, day out.  Sometimes from the same medical institution as yesterday or the same political pollster as last week. I guess they are job security for someone. I don’t see that anyone really cares about the answers.

If they did care, Trump would be out of job by now, the cafeteria food at one or another hospital would be improved, and the service department at our auto dealer’s would vacuum the car when they wash it.  It’s all enough to have you yank the phone out of the wall, cancel your cell phone contract and go into permanent hiding.  Oh. Wait.  “You can run but you can’t hide.”.  Isn’t that what they say?

Taken on an individual basis, each of these surveys, questionnaires, etc. might be seen as an honest effort to gather information that could result in positive change.  Taken as a whole, however, and given the lack of results… they are a huge timewaster.  Even worse, they are a distraction-to-the-max – a look-over-here, no-look-over-there, yes-somebody-does-really-care distraction!  Keep us busy giving our opinions (is that supposed to make us feel important and like we truly have a voice) while the movers and shakers go right on rattling the planet off its axis and out of sync.

So…  Push one if you agree.  Push two if you disagree. Your information will be kept private.  Thank you for your transparency.

Preaching to the Choir

January 16th, 2018

Chinook Observer, August 9, 2017

I don’t know what amazes me more – the number of people who are so well informed about local happenings because they “read it in the paper” or the number of people who don’t even subscribe to the Chinook Observer.  It’s not a new realization, but one that has been underscored for me these last few weeks –  ever since the ICE arrests of our Hispanic neighbors have caught the attention of the Big City media.

Now that the Seattle Times and the BBC have picked up the story, people in our own community are saying, “I had no idea.”  Yay!  I couldn’t be more delighted that their attention has been captured.  But it is a little disconcerting that they are just now noticing.  It never occurred to me that my “Stories from the Heart” that ran weekly from July through October would go completely unnoticed by so many of the people I know.  Or that they would be picked up by the mainstream media before some of my own friends had read them!

The BBC Weighs In

It was thanks to my friend Erin with her deep connections to the Mexican community that people opened their homes to me and allowed me to interview them for those stories.  They shared their once-upon-a-time dreams with me – their hopes for a brighter future, their reasons for risking everything to come here to America. They spoke of the impossibilities of going back and of their fears of arrest.  I was overwhelmed by their courage and dignity and that they allowed, actually wanted, me to tell their stories.

I wrote those stories in the hope that they would shine a little light on the very big problem so many of our local families are facing. Because of the increased activity by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) this past year and the apparent ‘targeting’ of the Long Beach Peninsula, family members have been deported to Mexico, children have been taken out of school, employers are hard-pressed to replace workers who have been arrested.

Rosas (Courtesy Gladys Diaz) – From the Seattle Times

Too, it seemed so wrong that our neighbors were living in fear, keeping to the shadows, when I knew that there were so many people right here on the Peninsula who would reach out – if only they knew.  And, they have indeed come forward — to help and support, to offer financial assistance or information about legal help, to provide child-care when the only adult left in the family must work.   So much compassion!  So much practical, no-nonsense community involvement.

So… now the little candle that was lighted in our own Chinook Observer has reached far beyond our Peninsula and Pacific County.  Yay!!  And people right here in our midst are saying, “I had no idea.”  They probably also have no idea what a gem they have in our local weekly, either.  But… I’m undoubtedly preaching to the choir here!

When Things Are Perfect!

January 15th, 2018

Welcoming A Full House

I suppose it’s a fear of jinxing things to say right out loud while it’s happening, “This is perfect!”  In fact, isn’t there a saying we are all fond of that goes, “The best is yet to come.”  Well, I’m here to tell you that last night’s House Concert here was, indeed, perfect, and I don’t think it could possibly be topped.  The most we can all hope for in the future is parity – if that word can even be used in the context of musicians, performance, audience, food, wave-lengths and all the other nuances and subtleties of the evening.

The musicians were Larry Murante and Wes Weddell with a guest appearance by Nick Drozdowicz.  Plus, there was an audience participation opportunity, as well the ambiance added by a whole host of ‘connections’ among us all — connections that spanned the centuries. They ranged from Sarah Crouch, our resident ghost who lived here in 1892, to Tod Marshall, the current Poet Laureate of Washington State who we hosted for a Poetry Reading last September. (Actually, Nyel had a sudden hospital stay and we couldn’t be here as planned, so I guess we were ghost hosts!)

Nyel, Bear and Tater

Larry and Wes were fresh from a ten-day Singer/Songwriter Retreat co-sponsored by Sue and Bill Svendsen of the Performing Arts Center in Long Beach and by Cyndy Hayward of the Willapa Bay Artists in Residence here in Oysterville.  These accomplished musicians shared the stage, one song each, throughout the evening – some new, some old, and all heart-tugging in one way or another.  Of special note (but we hope not by You-Know-Who) was Larry’s “Ballad of Mrs. Crouch” written back in the early 2000s, after his first stay in this house.

And topping things off in a fabulous serendipity, Holly, one of Nyel’s favorite nurses at Emanuel Hospital came with her husband, Max AND with their two wonderful dogs, Bear and Tater.   When the concert was over, ‘the boys’ came in to visit.  Nyel, who has been saying “We need a dog” for months now, was in seventh heaven.  Shhh!  Don’t tell the chickens!

Focus of the Month

January 14th, 2018

The Cliff House, c. 1900

I remember specifically when I became aware of concept of ‘critical mass.’  It was 1952, I was sixteen years old, and I was working at the Cliff House Gift Shop in San Francisco.  It was a summer job between my junior and senior years in high school and I used my mother’s old Plymouth to commute across the Golden Gate bridge to and from San Rafael where we lived.

The Gift Shop was huge and sold every imaginable high-end souvenir to low-end tack – something for everyone.  And, it seemed that ‘everyone’ came every day to the popular tourist destination out on Sutro Heights.  They spilled out of tour buses, they came in fancy limousines, they came to enjoy the view, to dine in the world class restaurant, or to take in the Sutro Baths which, by then (1952) had been converted to an ice rink.

Cliff House Gift Shop, 1950s

In my memory, my first-day orientation focused on the huge north wall of teacups and saucers – every one different and, as I was told, Big Sellers (capital B Capital S).  A large, couldn’t-be-missed sign above the display said, “Lovely to look at, Delightful to hold, If you should drop it, We mark it sold.”  I remember being traumatized by the thought that I might have to tell a careless customer that they would have to pay for their breakage.

Days went by and, though I was busy ringing up sales at the old-fashioned cash register, not a teacup or saucer came my way.  I couldn’t imagine why the manager had emphasized how popular they were.  And then, one day I sold eight of them.  And the next day, four.  And, unbelievably, eleven on the following day!  It was as though the dam had broken.

My Grandmother’s Teacups

But, just as quickly, the interest in teacup collecting abated for a few days.  Then, it came again.  In droves.  Not just one teacup here and another there, but many in a day – sometimes several to one customer.  I remember talking to my dad about that.  He was a sales representative for gift lines from India and he said that it was a common phenomenon in his line of work.  Interest in an item happened in waves, he told me.  The trick for the seller was to catch the crest.

I don’t think Dad used the term ‘critical mass’ but that’s how I think of it now.  Somehow, those runs on an item have to do with a size, number or amount large enough to produce a particular result (Merriam Webster Online Dictionary).

Right now in Oysterville ‘No Trespassing” signs and their relatives ‘Private Property’ and ‘Keep Out’ seem to be the focus of many of our visitors.  I’ve had at least a dozen questions in the last few weeks about the proliferation of those sorts of notices on the fences in the village.  I can really only answer the ‘why’ of it with regard to the sign on our own gate.  Years ago, when my mother and father were still living here, Mom walked into the living room to find a group of strangers who inquired about a tour of the house.  They apparently had the idea that this was a museum.

At Our House

Our ‘Private Home’ sign has been on our gate ever since.  I can’t speak to the others.  Nor do I know if the critical mass phenomenon is in the sudden appearance of the signs or in the sudden noticing.  Whatever the reason, those signs seem to be the focus of the month here in the village.

The Trouble with Time Machines

January 13th, 2018

A Candlelit Friday Night – 2016

The power went out about 4:40 yesterday afternoon, twenty minutes before our first Friday Nighters would be arriving.  We gave it a few minutes and then lit lanterns and candles and fire to stave off the darkness and chill.

“What’s going on?” asked our first guests.  “Are we having a ‘Back to the 1890s’ evening?”  Great idea, but “no” and we learned that it was apparently just Oysterville – PUD working on the line just south of town.

There was a period of time, years ago that we used only candlelight on the first Friday of each month.  Neither Nyel nor I can remember what happened to that plan.  Probably the dark season morphed into long days of sunlight and we lost sight of the idea (so to speak.)

Under threat?

When the lights came back on after about an hour, we were tempted to turn them all out and continue our candlelight evening.  But we didn’t.  The discussion had, by that point, turned serious and there seemed to be the need for the ‘cold light of day’ or at least the bright lights of the twenty-first century.  Under cover of darkness, the talk had turned to politics – perhaps a first in twenty years of our Friday Night Gatherings.

We talked about our two-party political system, what has happened to the concept of States’ Rights, the difficulties of law enforcement (traffic laws, burn bans, fireworks) on a local level and… on it went.  There were folks talking from both sides of all the issues – civilized discourse, you might say, but I’m not sure we got anywhere.  Still, it was an interesting evening – sort of out-of-the-darkness-and-into-the-light. Literally.

Coming soon?

This morning I woke up thinking about Jeff Sessions and Marijuana and Prohibition and Elliott Ness and ICE and the Feds in general.  Imagine!  Way off here on the Left Coast in little old Pacific County!  If we go back to Candlelight Fridays, it’s likely to be more like the 1920s than the 1890s.  Not my idea of a fun trip in a Time Machine.  No sirree!  But, I don’t think there are any guarantees about power failures – in Oysterville or in the Other Washington. Yikes!

Time out, Donny!

January 12th, 2018

Donny Trump

As we watched the news last night and saw Mr. Trump make his racist “s***hole” remark, I found myself saying (in my best teacher voice), “Time out, Donny!” and, ridiculous though it was, I waited for someone in that illustrious gathering pictured onscreen to call for an immediate Class Meeting. That’s what was needed, pure and simple.

I’ll wager that first-grader Donny Trump never experienced a Class Meeting at the Kew-Forest private military school where he attended first grade.  I doubt that collaboration with your six-year-old peers was  high on the priority list. Had he been at any of the public schools where I was teaching, on the other hand, Class Meetings would have been part of his every day life.  The language he used to describe the countries he apparently doesn’t like would not have been tolerated.  Not for a minute.

Not only would young Donny have had a time-out, he would have had a full opportunity to explain his terminology and his reasons for using it and then he’d have had an opportunity to hear what his classmates thought about his vocabulary.  And we would have discussed the words “appropriate” and “inappropriate” and, perhaps, had an opportunity to look up “s***hole” in the dictionary, extending our discussion to real words, made-up words and the definition of “profanity.”  Perhaps we might have talked about far-away countries and people who speak other languages or whose customs might be different from ours.  Or even had an impromptu lesson on immigration.

Class Meeting

For sure, his choice of words would have come under scrutiny bigtime – by those who counted most.  His peers.  But come to think of it, in thirty-nine years of teaching six- seven- and eight-year-olds and in thirty-nine years of holding Class Meetings every single day – I don’t think I ever heard a child use that particular word or one even comparable.  Little kids come to school already knowing a lot about what’s appropriate.  Just as little kids need few reminders about “family business” versus “okay for school discussion,” they have pretty clear ideas about acceptable vocabulary.

I’ve read that little Donny was a boy who had tantrums and, according to one biographer, has bragged, “When I look at myself in the first grade and I look at myself now, I’m basically the same. The temperament is not that different.”   Yes, little Donny.  Last night’s news clip bore that out.  Too bad you didn’t have an opportunity to sit in the “share circle” in your first-grade classroom. It might have made a difference.  For all of us!

When being underfoot is a good thing…

January 11th, 2018

There’s nothing like a new carpet to spiff up a room!  I was a little fearful between the placing-the-order part and the fait accompli part.  Would it be too dark in color?  Would the entire room seem gloomy, especially during these dark days of winter?  Would the deeper pile seem too modern for the room?

No, no, and no are the answers to those questions.    By 4:30 yesterday the carpet laying was complete and the heavy furniture was back in place – bed assembled (though not yet ‘made’), bureaus, table, chifferobe, and fainting couch all in their proper places.  While Chef Nyel prepared dinner, I returned ‘the small stuff,’ delighting in uncluttering the hallway and east room as I worked.  By dinnertime, we were back to normal.  The New Normal!  And we are inordinately pleased!

When it was time to change into our kiss-and-lie-down clothes and our bare toes buried themselves in the newer, deeper-than-before pile, I briefly thought that maybe I should just skip the bed part of a good night’s rest.  So cushy!  So soft!  So inviting!

This morning, I realized that we haven’t really seen this new look in the bright light of day.  Not yet.  Probably not for a while.  It’s overcast and rainy out and the house feels dim, even with the electric lights blazing.  No worries, though.  Bring on the sunshine!  The only downside to the spiffy new avocado green carpet may be seeing it clearly in comparison to that sad excuse for a winter-lawn outside.  Hmmm…  Perhaps another project in the making.