Archive for June 2012

Take me out to the ballgame …   1 comment

I had been thinking about attending one of the Seattle Mariners’ ballgames for some time but was holding off until there was a good weather forecast. Although Safeco Field, the Mariner’s home ballpark, has a retractable stadium roof, I wanted to attend a game under sunny conditions, not only because watching a baseball game under warm sunny skies is much more enjoyable, but also because the lighting would be better – or so I think – for photography. I had planned on attending an earlier game but the weather forecast for the game I was considering predicted rain so I decided to wait for a better forecast. Turns out that the day the weather gurus predicted to be rainy was instead, a beautiful, mostly sunny day. Obviously, the weather here in the Pacific northwest does not take its orders from the weather forecasters and indeed, can be quite fickle.

After the blown weather forecast, I just decided to ignore the weather predictions and pick a date that suited my fancy. After discovering that the Boston Red Sox were coming to town and were scheduled to play the Mariners in a weekend series, I decided that I would purchase a ticket for a Sunday matinée game – that is, until I checked out the ticket prices! Seems the Mariners, like many other clubs, have adopted a ticket selling policy known as “dynamic” pricing. (In other words, the club is “dying” to squeeze as much money as they possibly can from ticket buyers.) According to the club’s official website, dynamic pricing is a flexible pricing plan, where the cost of tickets is based on many factors, including “opponent, team record, etc”. Weather is also supposed to be a factor in the pricing although I don’t see how weather can enter into the equation due to its unpredictability!? In any event, the opponent relates directly to the “attractiveness” of the game and seeing as how the Red Sox were the opponents in this upcoming series, these games were deemed to be quite attractive – to the degree that the cheapest ticket I could find was in the neighborhood of $100! No way, Jose! Fortunately, the relatively “unattractive” Oakland Athletics were coming to town for an earlier midweek series and I was able to purchase a comparable ticket for $50 (seating similar to that of the “cheapest” $100 ticket for the Red Sox game). Considering the cost of the ticket, transportation, parking and a bag of ballpark peanuts, the total cost of the Wednesday matinée game with the Athletics was close to $100. I had thought about buying a draft beer at the stadium, but at $8 a cup, I opted for a bottle of Aquafina (H2O, that is), at a mere $4.50. (Pricing beer at those prices is definitely one way to keep the fans from getting drunk & rowdy! Apparently, some of the Phillies and Giants fans must be smuggling in beer or making their own brew inside the stadium.)

Seattle Shoreline, Space Needle on Left

Luckily, the game day weather was fantastic: temps around 70 degrees and mostly sunny skies. A baseball fan’s nirvana. Not so good for the players however, as sunny skies can be an outfielder’s nightmare when it comes to judging towering fly balls. (Just ask Jose Canseco, who formerly played with the Athletics – he once had an ordinary fly ball bounce off the top of his head.) After a very pleasant ride on the ferry to Seattle as a “walk-on”, I started my walking journey (a distance of a little over a mile) to Safeco Field. Getting caught up in the throng of people departing the ferry, I ended up a block past my intended route and consequently, my walk led me pass a downtown mission; considering that the game was a matinée event, I happened past the mission just as they were serving lunch. There was a considerable line of homeless folks extending down the sidewalk outside the mission waiting for a free meal, and I couldn’t help but feel bad for these people. Here I am shelling out nearly $100 just to see a baseball game and most of these people can’t afford a cheap meal. There appears to be a sizable homeless population in Seattle and the city appears to “tolerate” them pretty well and to some degree, the city even sustains their existence, as they provide shelter and social services for those that seek it. Unfortunately, many homeless people prefer to “live” on the streets and many refuse social services. (It should be noted that about a third of all homeless people apparently suffer from some kind of mental illness.) And although these missions provide free food on a regular basis, it’s hard to walk the streets of Seattle on any given day without being approached by numerous panhandlers. (And yes, I know that many of the panhandlers aren’t begging for money with which to buy food. Even though I may know otherwise, I usually carry a few dollars worth of pocket change with me during my walks so that I can selectively dole out a few coins to those who really appear needy and who don’t come off as being aggressive.) By now I’m quite sure that you are  wishing that I had taken another route to the stadium!

By me some peanuts and crackerjacks … Finally, after what seemed like a never-ending walk, I was able to successfully navigate my way to Safeco Field. And once I was inside the ballpark’s comforting confines, I was able to easily find my way to my seat. (My seat selection was not only based on price, but I also wanted a seat that was easily accessible for my still-healing replacement left knee.) The seat was located along the 3rd base line, not too far from the left field foul line. Turns out my seat was located in a shaded area, under an overhang, but still provided a good view of the playing field – not the cheapest seat in the ballpark, but not in the primo category either. (After sitting there for several minutes, apparently appearing as if I was freezing, one of the ushers came up and asked if I would like to have a seat in the sun: I quickly accepted his generous offering.) As I was making my way to my seat, I bought a bag of ballpark peanuts, and ever so briefly paused at the $8-a-cup beer stand. I then realized that I would need something to drink (naturally, you can’t bring beverages with you into the stadium), so I shelled out $4.50 for the most expensive bottle of water I have ever purchased.

Inside Safeco Field

Safeco Field is a beautiful ballpark. The park has a really nice  feel to it and virtually every seat has a good view of the game. And of course, it has a retractable roof, which of course means that rain or not, the game goes on. As I’m sure most people would agree, baseball is really meant to be played in an open stadium! Although it certainly does rain a lot in the Seattle area, most of it occurs during the winter months and most of the rain that does fall is light and intermittent. Consequently, I would imagine that the stadium roof is left open during most of the games, especially those played during July and August, Seattle’s “dry season”. Prior to playing at Safeco Field, the Mariners played at the multi-purpose Kingdome stadium, which was also home to the Seahawks (football), Sounders (soccer), and the Supersonics (basketball – since relocated to Oklahoma City). Because of a deteriorating Kingdome stadium as well as deteriorating attendance, the Mariners were very close to being relocated back in 1995. However, a late season comeback and a post season run reinvigorated its fan base and the owners decided to stay put and (with the city’s financial assistance), built a new stadium (Safeco Field). Safeco has a current seating capacity of about 45,000 and I would estimate that about 15,000 showed up for the game I saw.

Mariners vs. Athletics, Game Action

The Mariners haven’t had a decent record since 2001, when they won a league tying 116 games (a title surprisingly shared with the Chicago Cubs, albeit the 1906 team). Their most notable former players were Ken Griffey Jr. and Randy Johnson. Currently, Ichiro Suzuki (joined the team in 2001 and is still playing) is the lone superstar of the team. (Due to the uniqueness of his first name (at least here in the U.S.) and his celebrity status, Ichiro is known by his first name.) As of the writing of this post, the Mariners’ team batting average (.197) at home is not only the lowest batting average of any team in baseball at the present, but apparently is the lowest in baseball for more than 90 years.  The Mariners once had an infielder named Mario Mendoza, whose hitting was so bad (for most of his career, his average hovered around .200) that the baseball community started calling a batting average of .200, the “Mendoza line”. During the five games prior to this writing, the Mariners had just 25 hits in five games and scored only five runs during those five games! While most Mariner fans no doubt wish that their team were more competitive, I get the impression that – unlike Phillies or Yankee fans – Mariner fans are contented with the team just being competitive. Somehow I can’t imagine the fans here booing a player after he has had a bad performance.

Ichiro, a future Hall-of-Famer, is a throw back to an earlier era when spraying the ball to all fields and focusing on just getting on base were considered great skills. Ichiro, at 5’9″ and 160 lbs. (soaking wet), is an anomaly in today’s game. Born a natural right-hander, his father taught him to bat left-handed since from that position he could begin his at-bat two steps closer to 1st base. He also practiced the fundamentals of baseball 360 days a year, three to four hours at time, since the age of nine. His father said that he practiced in temperatures so cold that “his hands were too numb to grip the bat”. His dad once told him that the only way to succeed was to suffer and to persevere. Ichiro has said that he does not watch movies as he feels that doing so would diminish his sharpness of vision. Talk about dedication to the game! (Watching him hit reminds me (in a good way, mind you) of the best women’s left-handed fast-pitch hitters when they drag bunt or slap-hit: it seems like they are half way to 1st base by the time their bat makes contact with the ball.) Ichiro won the major league batting title with a .350 average during his first year (2001) of playing for the Mariners and has led the league in singles for most of his career. Not only is he a proficient offensive player, but he is remarkably gifted as a defensive player as well, and has won the Golden Glove for each of his first ten years in the big leagues. Needless to say, Ichiro has quite a fan base here in Seattle and is idolized by most (if not all) of the many Japanese that live here.

The Mariners’ Ichiro at Bat

For its one-two-three strikes and you’re out …   I wish I could say that the game I watched was an exciting event, but ’twas not the case. Oakland won the rather humdrum event by a score of two to one. The good news for the Mariners was that the Athletics had only two hits – the bad news was that both of these were home runs. While the Mariners had twice as many hits (four), only one of them scored a run. Unfortunately, Ichiro went hitless and struck out twice, both times with men in scoring positions. With his slap-hitting, drag-bunting style, you wouldn’t think someone of Ichiro’s skills would strike out twice, but getting some wood on a baseball that is being hurled at you at 95 miles an hour can not be an easy feat. One of the other Mariner players, Justin Smoak, who happens to be a fan favorite (apparently due in no small part to his home run power), is dawdling dangerously close to the dreaded “Mendoza Line”. Justin was also hitless and his batting average at the end of the game dropped to a tepid .202. Kevin Millwood, who was pitching a fine game, giving up only a first inning home run, left the game in the 3rd inning with a re-injured groin muscle. (Millwood had to leave a game earlier in the year against the Dodgers in the sixth inning – a game in which he was throwing a no-hitter – because of the same injury. Incidentally, the Mariner relief staff finished that game without allowing any hits, going on to complete their first combined no-hitter since 2003.)

Mariners’ Relief Pitcher, Hisashi Iwakuma

Although the game was not as exciting and run-filled (a score of 15-14 in the Mariners’ favor would have been nice) as I would have liked, I still enjoyed the experience. The weather was fantastic, I was able to see the best baseball players (especially Ichiro) in the world in action and I was able to drink the best water in the world (at $4.50 a bottle, it had to be the best!).

Minor rant alert: Many fans apparently feel that it is OK to sit wherever they like, without having the proper tickets. Apparently, many fans buy the cheap-seat tickets (probably $15 -$25 for this game) and then just plop down in a more primo (more expensive) seat. I would say that at least 70%-80% of the people who were taking seats near where I was sitting did not have tickets for those seats. Fortunately, the ushers were on top of things and were constantly checking ticket stubs. Although some may think that it should be perfectly OK to take a seat as long as it’s unoccupied – especially after the game has started – I would respond by saying that I paid for that $50 seat and I expect those sitting in the same group, to do likewise. I have no problem with asking the usher if you can change seats but ONLY after asking.

When I wrote of the rigorous practice and dedication that Ichiro has devoted towards improving himself as a baseball player, and especially of his father’s admonition that the only way to succeed was to suffer and persevere, it brings to my mind a similar mindset (yet under very different circumstances) that a young little league teammate (Jorden) of my grandson has demonstrated towards an adversary that is dramatically unlike what baseball players and most other people in this world face. Jorden was diagnosed with a rare, very aggressive disease earlier this year and has been waging an exceptionally courageous and determined battle against this extremely potent illness. In spite of tremendous pain and discomfort, he has undergone extensive chemotherapy and just recently, he has had major abdominal surgery, and he has done all this with a measure of resilience, determination and optimism that is incomprehensible to most of us. And although Jorden has experienced some setbacks along the way, he has been able to bounce back – just as a successful professional athlete is able to bounce back from a bad performance – although in Jordan’s case, I’m referring to bouncing back from a bad experience. Fortunately, Jorden has a very loving and supporting family, as well as a legion of friends and supporters. He also has a keen love of baseball and his story has touched the heart of some major league baseball players, especially that of Johnny Damon and Javier Bracamonte, who visited Jorden at his home in Orlando. Mr. Damon now plays for the Cleveland Indians and during a recent game with the Astros in Houston – where Jorden had his abdominal tumor removal surgery – he invited Jorden to attend the game as his guest. (All professional athletes should give back to their community in the manner of Johnny Damon.) Although I believe that the quality of his medical care, the mental toughness that he possesses, and the love and support of family and friends are mostly responsible for his successful battles against his dreadful disease, the game of baseball has provided a much-needed diversion for him. Keep up the good fight and keep the hopes alive, Jorden!

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Posted June 29, 2012 by whitecrow44 in Uncategorized

Victoria, … and the Quest for Totems   3 comments

 

Access to Victoria, BC (Canada, eh), is by ferry and I had initially planned on doing a passenger-only transit and then renting a compact car for a couple of days so I could drive up to Duncan (“the city of  totems”) in my search for suitable totems to photograph. However, taking the ferry as a walk-on meant I would have to carry my backpack stuffed with clothes, laptop, etc., and then walk a few blocks to the rental car office. Unfortunately, my back was still aching from my Seattle adventure a few days earlier, so I decided to take the trusty VW Jetta with me (which meant shelling out ~$125 round trip(!) and having to endure long waits during customs inspections). Victoria is a really neat city but like most other really cool places, it is jammed with tourists, particularly in the summer months. Apparently, prior to my arrival the weather had been mostly winter-like with lots of overcast skies and cool temps. (I have no problem at all with the cool temps but I do require some occasional sunshine, especially when it comes to photography.) As you can tell by the photograph of the Empress Hotel, the weather was sunny, nary a cloud in sight.

Empress Hotel, Where I Would Have Liked to Stay …

… Accent Inn, Where I Did Stay

Victoria Parliament Building

Duncan, “The City of Totems”

After reading about Duncan, BC, being renown for its vast number of native American totems, I conjured up an image of a somewhat remote native American community teeming with really cool totems set amongst a forest of trees. But as is often the case, preconceived mental images often are vastly different from reality. Turns out that Duncan indeed has lots of totems. Unfortunately – for me, anyways – the totems are interspersed throughout the downtown section of a small mostly Caucasian city. Instead of being surrounded by trees in a lush natural setting, the totems are surrounded by banks, billboards and barber shops. Even if I was so inclined to photograph any of these totems, I would have to run the risk of being run over by a pizza delivery car.

However, I did have some luck locating some totems to photograph as the town is also home to a native American cultural center that “houses” a few totems and provides guided totem tours – for a fee, of course. My thanks to John (the tour guide’s Anglo name) for a most informative tour!

Duncan Native Cultural Center Totem

Duncan Native CC Totem

On the day I was to take the ferry back to Port Angeles, I decided to visit the most excellent Royal BC Museum of Natural History in Victoria. Not only was the museum showcasing an excellent dinosaur exhibit at the time, but they also possessed a remarkable collection of … native totems! Only problem was that, although it was permissible to take pictures, you could not use a flash. Fortunately, I had brought my car and inside my car was my trusty compact tripod. Of course, just after I started taking some photos, a museum security guard came up and informed me that tripods were not allowed. You can take photos, but not with flash, and not with a tripod. That pretty well rules out taking decent photos as the museum lights were (understandably) considerably dimmed. Fortunately for me, I had already taken several photos before being told to pack up my tripod – which by the way was very compact and non-obtrusive. The museum had  an excellent selection of totems and although they were not framed by a natural setting, they were still magnificent to observe and the lighting was actually quite complimentary and made for good photography – that is, as long as you were able to smuggle in a tripod.

BC Museum Totem

BC Museum Totem

BC Museum Totem

Posted June 25, 2012 by whitecrow44 in Uncategorized

Day Trip to Seattle   1 comment

After being in Port Townsend for nearly two months, I hadn’t been to Seattle since A&C took me along with them on one of their apartment scouting trips back in early May.  Since I had wanted to check out some of the neighborhoods and apartments myself, I finally just picked a day with a good weather forecast and drove the car to Bainbridge Island (an hour from PT) and then took the ferry to downtown Seattle. Because of the cost of taking the car on the ferry (~$26 round trip), many people opt for the passenger – only option ($4 round trip) instead. Since I wanted to drive around through some of the neighborhoods, I took the car – a fact that I regretted not soon after arriving in Seattle. The ferry ride from Bainbridge is about thirty minutes long and makes for a very pleasant experience, especially when the weather is nice. You can stay in your car if you’d like (which you can’t do on the ferry ride from Port Angeles to Victoria, a ninety minute trip, over “open” waters for part of the journey), or you can find a comfortable seat inside the ferry’s passenger section and read the paper or amuse yourself with your iPad, or you can stroll along the deck and enjoy the views and crisp cool harbor breezes.

Seattle Ferry

Seattle Shoreline with Space Needle (left side)

It didn’t take long after I departed the ferry terminal in downtown Seattle before I wished I had used the passenger – only option. Seattle, like a certain other coastal city, San Francisco, has lots and lots of steep hills. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem if you were driving a car that had automatic transmission AND was operating properly. The car I was driving did have an automatic transmission, but when I stopped at a stoplight, midway up a hill that seemed to have a 75 degree slope, I noticed that the engine appeared to be idling somewhat irregularly and then, when the light changed … well, that was when my heart started racing as the car hesitated and started rolling backwards a little. Of course, I was a little freaked out (there were cars directly behind me) and punched the accelerator. Much to my relief, the car finally lunged ahead but the same hesitation occurred at every light on all of the steep hills. Finally, after getting to a fairly level street with available parking (which hard to find in Seattle), I parked the car and hoofed it for most of the rest of my visit, feeling more relaxed knowing that my ride back to the ferry terminal would be downhill.

With the exception of my somewhat harrowing driving experience, my visit was quite enjoyable. The weather was great and I was able to score some very tasty treats at a really cool Whole Foods store.  I also visited the Pike Place Fish Market, which was mobbed by tourists, but still worth the visit. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a good photo of the fishmongers tossing fish back and forth. (When someone buys a fish, one of the fishmongers yells out the order and tosses the fish from the display stand to another fishmonger behind the counter who wraps it up and rings up the sale.)  I even tried to talk a couple of onlookers into buying some king salmon but no dice. Maybe I’ll get that shot next time …

Pike Place Fish Market

Posted June 24, 2012 by whitecrow44 in Uncategorized

Beginnings   4 comments

Musings of a Meandering Malcontent

Port Townsend is located on the northern tip of the Olympic peninsula in Washington. The town itself is pretty small and like many small towns along the western coast, it has a distinct community character. A coastal town, Port Townsend has a long-standing history as a wooden ship building center. It is also a haven for old hippy types and has also attracted many nouveau riche former Californians and probably a smattering of ex-New Yorkers. In any event, the vast majority of its citizens are situated on the left-wing of the political spectrum and there’s an abundance of anti-war signs posted on flower-rich lawns throughout the community. Wander around town and one will notice lots of pony tails – and I”m referring to males. There’s many long-haired women as well but I have noticed that most of them don’t wear pony tails.  PT also has a thriving organic and fresh food market and not surprisingly, it has a very popular food COOP in the middle of town. One of the major ongoing events in town is the Saturday Farmers Market. Aside from the interesting local fresh food and the usual fare of arts and crafts being peddled by the merchants, the market is a mecca for characters of all types. It’s a day when young and old can dress as funky as they desire and yet simply blend in with the crowd. Unfortunately, it’s also a day when most everybody in town with a dog shows up. If the space where the market was held was much larger, the mass of mutts wouldn’t be so bad; unfortunately that’s not the case and dogs and people are scrambled together in a hodgepodge. Fortunately, most of the mutts get along but every now and then a growling match develops between a couple of  alpha canines….

Peace, Dude

Kitchen with a View!

As to the house I am staying in, it’s quite spacious and very cozy. It’s surrounded by trees and lovingly tended gardens, set under an often overcast – but magnificent sky. A window over the kitchen sink overlooks the garden and surrounding trees and makes spending time in the kitchen – even doing dishes – downright enjoyable! I am alone in the house except for the downstairs/basement resident, Mitchell, who I was told was recently divorced/separated from his wife. Seems that he and his wife (who is female) are both gay. Although initially it seemed odd that gay members of the opposite sex would live together, I guess it really does make sense in a convoluted kind of way. A gay male, depending on the extent of his maleness/femaleness could conceivably be attracted to a gay female exhibiting the opposite maleness/femaleness. Seems – to me, anyway, that a gay male exhibiting a strong feminine side could conceivably be attracted to a gay female who exhibited a strong male side. Perhaps, one of these two parties demonstrated the “wrong” gender side … or maybe, they just stopped liking each other.

Adult Bald Eagle in PT

Days 1-13: My first couple of  weeks here were pretty much uneventful. Angie showed me the ropes by taking me along on some of her errand runs and introduced me to Port Townsend’s weekly Saturday Farmer’s Market. She and Cliff also took me along with them to their church, the Unitarian Universalist (UU) Fellowship; by the way, this was the first time I have been inside a church in over thirty years. I should point out that the UU is an open-minded religion that encourages its members to follow their own spiritual path and supports a wide diversity of beliefs. They are also heavily committed to social justice work and are deeply involved in community outreach.

Day 14: Although A&C had planned on sailing around May 1, a last-minute meeting and the delayed receipt of a navigation related computer chip had postponed their departure for nearly two weeks. And although the weather didn’t exactly provide them with a pleasant send-off, they were finally able to set sail and begin their big adventure to Alaska aboard their sailboat, “The Walkabout”.

Except for Mitchell, I’m now on my own as chief house-sitter for the next three months. I’m really looking forward to what lies ahead!

And now, let my big adventure begin …

PT Saturday Market Entertainment
(the dog is supposed to be guarding the cash

Day 16: It wasn’t long after A&C left that I got my first rush of excitement since being here but it wasn’t exactly the thrill I wished for. Midway into one of my evening showers, just after putting shampoo on my hair, an alarm (or should I say many alarms – all of their house smoke alarms were linked ) went off, scaring the bejesus out of me. By the time I (quickly) rinsed out the shampoo, partially dried myself and got out of the shower, the alarm(s) stopped. I went downstairs to see what Mitchell had burned on the stove (I assumed that a smoke alarm had gone off and if so, it had to be smoke related, right?) and detected nothing ablaze or smoking. I then called to Mitchell, who was in the hot tub (seems like he spends more time in the hot tub than Hugh Hefner). He exclaimed that he didn’t hear any alarms. I then got back in the shower, and this time – just as I finished putting conditioner on my hair –  EEEEEEEEEEEE AAAAAAAAAAAAA EEEEEEEEEEAA AAAAAAAEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! – there goes the damn alarm(s) again. Same drill as last time, but this time, I took a little longer rinsing & towelling off. I decided to perform a walk down of each room and after discovering nothing amiss, I called down to Mitchell, who by this time had left the hot tub and gone downstairs to his apartment. “No”, Mitchell exclaimed, “there’s nothing wrong in my apartment.” He asked me if I was taking a shower & if so, was the bathroom/hall door open & was there was a smoke alarm nearby? I meekly replied that yes, I was taking a shower and … umm, yes, maybe there is a fire alarm in the hall, nearby. He explained that he had a similar experience happen many years back, when the steam from his shower triggered a nearby hall smoke alarm. Of course, I replied that I had never had such a thing happen to me and that as far as I knew, smoke alarms were SUPPOSED to be ionization type alarms and couldn’t possibly be triggered by steam. Of course, by now I had realized that was indeed exactly what happened and that these alarms – in spite of my quickly proposed theory that these smoke alarms are only triggered by ionization from actual smoke – were in fact, triggered by the steam emanating from my shower.

Bluff Near “My” House

Day 17: Another beautiful (mostly sunny, cool) day in PT.  Great day for viewing the sea and coast, although when viewing the sea-shore, (Rant Alert!) I am also forced to view the many, many dogs that appear to accompany the majority of the area’s residents. I understand that most people own dogs for the companionship they provide but why is it necessary to own animals that are the size of small livestock and that have the temperament of Tasmanian devils?? Although there is a lease law, many dog owners apparently consider a leash an optional fashion accessory. I watched many of these owners walk with a leash for a spell and then turn the “hounds” loose, apparently so the dogs can experience the sheer thrill of chasing and harassing whatever wildlife is in the vicinity.  On one occasion, I witnessed an “unleashed” retriever suddenly make a wild dash into the ocean. Initially, I thought that the dog was simply a waterholic who suddenly felt an urge to go for a swim – although the water temp was probably around 50 degrees F! However, shortly after the dog dove into the near frigid water, I spotted several otters within 20 feet of the dog and on the same line as its swimming course. Fortunately, the otters were in their element and the retriever – although quite determined – was not in his. Meanwhile, the dog’s airheaded owner was yelling profusely at the dog in an attempt to get its attention. The retriever would then look back at the owner, then turn his head towards the befuddled otters, and then back again at the owner, etc. These actions would continue for a good five minutes. Finally, the hapless dog apparently decided that his quest for fresh otter was likely futile – no doubt enhanced by the fact that his limbs were started to lock up due to hypothermia. After a thorough scolding by the owner and a return to the leash (temporarily, no doubt), the retriever shook off the cold water, then looked ruefully towards the location where the (no-doubt grinning) otters were last seen.

Day 19: I decided to check out the Unitarian Universalist Church again – the second time I have attended since arriving. I can’t say the Unitarian “church” is for me, but I have decided that I will attend – at least whenever the mood strikes – if for nothing else, than the opportunity to meet some like-minded souls, and maybe even a potential female companion.

Today is Mother’s Day, and appropriately enough, the “message” that was delivered today was on the topic of motherhood – presented, again appropriately, by a female member of the fellowship. The take-away from today’s message is the belief held by many that there are two basic types of mothers: the nurturing kind and the ambitious kind (those that are obsessed with making their mark in the world, often at the expense of nurturing their offspring). My mom definitely is a member of the former category. She really never cared about fame or fortune. Her mission in life was to take care of her kids and very little else mattered beyond that mission. Happy Mother’s Day, mom!

(Minor Rant Alert: One of the things about the UU “service” I’m not too fond of is the group singing. In my opinion, the only people who can sing are in the choir. The rest of us – especially me – can’t sing worth a hoot and should just listen to those that can sing, sing.)

Anyway, after listening to a fine message about our much under-appreciated mothers, and enduring some much under-skilled singing, I decided to hang around in the fellowship hall and see if someone would extend a welcoming gesture, and perhaps introduce him/herself. (As the saying goes, be careful, you may get what you wish for.) One of the members (female) that also decided to hang around in the fellowship hall happened to catch my eye and, and – or so it seemed – I caught her eye as well. While waiting for the opportunity to introduce myself, I thought that I overheard her say that she was pretty fortunate to have “so and so” in her life. Perhaps I took what I thought she said out of context … but I decided it was time to “graze in another pasture”.

After a few awkward moments of just hanging out, I apparently looked like a lost soul in need of a rescuer as one of the other members (Bonnie) came over and introduced herself. Next thing I know, I am telling Bonnie about why I am in PT and am relating to her a good portion of my life history – at least most of my recent medical misadventures. Of course, that was all a Mother Teresa type needed to hear. After pointing out a couple (Natalie and Wes) that she had befriended and that were relatively new to PT, she happened to mention that Wes was a guitarist. I then casually mentioned that I had always wanted to learn guitar but I also made a point of telling her that I didn’t want her to say anything of that nature to Wes. Too late!!! Within seconds she introduced me to the couple and without skipping a beat, she told Wes that I have always wanted to learn how to play guitar, and asked him if he had a guitar I could use, and if I could start taking lessons this afternoon. When Wes said he would be busy during the afternoon, she asked him if I could stop by in the evening. Finally, Wes and I convinced her that getting together a couple of days later would be better. Whew! I can’t remember meeting anyone who was that determined, single-minded and relentless, and yet, who remained exceptionally pleasant during the entire process. If Bonnie could speak at a Tea-Party convention, I’m confident that she could convince them that there IS such a thing as global warming and that we are at least partially responsible for causing it. (OK, maybe that would be a little too much, even for Bonnie).

Once Bonnie received a guitar lesson commitment from Wes, then the “take Jeff to lunch, etc.” campaign began. She did mention that she had a boyfriend/significant other/buddy/partner (she didn’t know how to describe his role in the relationship) so I felt at least somewhat relieved that there was another person in her life. After being “persuaded” to have lunch with her, I felt even more relieved when she asked if it was OK to ask her boyfriend, Gordon, if he could join us; I responded affirmatively in a split second!

We (actually just I) had lunch in a rustic place called the Underground, well named as it is literally located in the basement of a historic downtown building. Bonnie informed me that she knew of a shortcut because of road construction in the area. Of course, the mention of a shortcut sent shivers down my spine as I knew I would be in for an adventure – since a shortcut is usually an euphemism for a long circuitous route. The good news was that it only took a jiffy to get to a parking spot; the bad news was that I had to descend 166 steps (yes, “166” steps – it seems that some kid Bonnie knew was so bored that he actually counted them) to get to the back door of the Underground.

Once inside, Gordon showed up as I was finishing my lunch (for some reason Bonnie skipped lunch) and it didn’t take long to realize that these two people were as opposite as two people could be – or so it seemed to me, anyway. Bonnie told Gordon that she would like to travel to Sequim, a small nondescript town about 30 miles away, a place famous for its lavender plants and which was home to an Indian casino and Roosevelt elk (I actually saw these massive animals on my first trip to Sequim, “lounging” together, about 100′ from a flashing highway sign warning of elk in the area – right on cue. And yet, I’ve been told that there were some local inhabitants that have passed away without ever having observed these animals.)

Unfortunately there were no elk to be seen during the journey and much to my chagrin, we discovered that we arrived just after the annual Sequim Irrigation Festival Grand Parade had ended. (Are the parade floats loaded with irrigation pipe?) An irrigation festival in the rainy Pacific northwest? You’ve got to be kidding! However, it seems that Sequim is located in the rain shadow of the Olympic mountains and receives only 18 inches of rainfall a year. Amazing, huh?

Plotting the “abduction”: Besides, wanting to show poor, lonely Jeff the sights, Bonnie & Gordon had some merchandise they needed to return to Costco (Costco!?, I couldn’t think of anything I would rather not do than go to a mega store like Costco, especially on a day as gorgeous as this one). Gordon was not so particularly inclined to go either. Bonnie, however, was adamant: She said that we could take (I was thinking kidnap) Jeff along and show him the sights. “After all”, she said, “he’s all alone, he doesn’t know anybody & needs the company”. By this time, I was really hoping that Gordon would win the day but considering Bonnie’s relentless tenacity, Gordon didn’t stand a chance. Finally, as I finished the chicken salad I started some two hours earlier, Bonnie wrapped up her entreaties to Gordon to drive to Sequim and we then proceeded to Bonnie and Gordon’s apartment to pick up the merchandise. By this time, Gordon had gotten a second wind and once again stated his objection to going to Sequim. It seemed that the equipment they wanted to return was purchased 34 days ago, some four days past the maximum allowable return period. Gordon repeatedly tried to drive this point home. Bonnie would have none of it and told Gordon to stop being so negative. She said she would have no problem convincing the manager that they should get a refund (of that I had no doubt whatsoever!).

By the way, the two items being returned were a Coleman 10′ x 8′ tent and a dvd recorder/player. Seems the tent didn’t fit their needs (allegedly because it was too big) & the dvd player did not work properly. Gordon inquired as to what kind of argument Bonnie was going to present since the stuff was purchased beyond the 30 day exchange period and Bonnie replied, “I don’t know but I will come up with an argument when the time comes”. Nothing like not having a plan! But knowing Bonnie, I didn’t think that she really needed one. She definitely had a lot of positive energy!! We finally gathered up the out-of-date items & headed for Sequim and Costco. A very lovely day it was indeed – just thinking about spending part of it inside Costco’s made me feel a little nauseous. Whoops, I’m beginning to sound like Gordon.

One of Billions of Snails in PT

Honeysuckle Vine with Pollinator

The Costco Experience:  I could feel my spirits drop as soon as I entered the store; I was actually hoping the door-checkers wouldn’t let me in since I wasn’t a member but then I remembered about guests of members being allowed in. Bonnie and Gordon stopped at the customer service desk and within a couple of minutes the store manager was summoned and within a few seconds after that, I observed him presenting them with a refund. I don’t have a clue as to why Gordon doubted her! Guess it was just a lame excuse to stay home and enjoy the great weather.

After getting their refund, Gordon picked up another dvd player, this time a blue ray version. (Turns out they got a refund on a dvd player that was actually “thrown in” with their purchase of a tv. They received a refund on something they didn’t even buy!)

The Super Tent: Next order of business was the tent department. The drama surrounding the purchase of another tent played out for what seemed like two hours and they actually ended up purchasing a larger (10′ x 10′), much heavier and much more expensive tent ($400 as compared with the Coleman they had purchased earlier on sale for $60.) Apparently, they encountered a salesman who could nearly match Bonnie in terms of persuasiveness. Seems that the deciding factor in buying this tent was that it broke down very easily – although the fast talking salesman actually ended up taking a good 20 minutes to complete the break down job, a job he earlier said could be performed in a matter of a few minutes. (A few minutes or thirty minutes, who’s counting?) The tent did possess a pretty nifty break down mechanism but at 40 pounds, it better have its good points!

Finally … after they picked up some actual useful supplies, we headed towards the check out register. Unfortunately, since Bonnie had puzzlingly skipped lunch, she was getting pretty hungry. On the way out she picked up a pre-roasted chicken and asked Gordon if they could stop near the store’s hot dog stand and eat some of the chicken, as she said she was starving. She also said that she couldn’t eat by herself and asked Gordon if he would have a bite with her so she wouldn’t feel guilty. Gordon stood his ground, based on his alleged vegetarianism and refused. When asked if I too was a vegetarian (of course, I couldn’t lie as I had already eaten some chicken salad at lunch), I said not completely … and I just didn’t have the heart to turn her down. Finally, just as the store was closing, we left Costco and headed for the John Wayne Marina Grill (where we planned to eat dinner).

Rejection, finally: After arriving at the grill I couldn’t help but notice the “reservations recommended” admonition below the menu located just outside the entrance. So it was no surprise that after entering the restaurant, the staff informed Bonnie that the wait time would be at least an hour. And even Bonnie, armed with her supreme confidence and optimism and flush with a “win” at Costco’s, met her match here. Although they would not relent to her relentless petitions for a table, she decided to go for the gusto. She spotted an empty choice harbor-view table and asked if we could take that one. She assured the hostess (who by this time brought in the big gun: the matre-d’) that we would eat quickly and be gone before the party with actual reservations would arrive. Apparently the maitre-d’ had heard this line before and steadfastly stood his ground. He replied that the party was due in 5 minutes and there was absolutely no way she could have the table. Even Bonnie had to admit defeat.

With our tails firmly tucked between our legs and with my stomach growling, we left “Duke’s” Marina Grill and headed for Port Townsend, with the hope that we could find an accommodating restaurant.

During the trip back, Bonnie regaled everyone (with the likely exception of Gordon) with her tales of her’s and Gordon’s camping trips. Interspersed among these tales were pleas to Gordon asking if they could make plans for a camping trip so they could try out their newly acquired “super” tent. Seems Gordon, not surprisingly, was also not too keen on camping. Bonnie implored over and over again, pleading that they would just go on a short trip (seems Gordon especially didn’t like long camping trips). Gordon kept deferring. So on we drove.

As we were driving, Bonnie received a call from Natalie (the wife of Wes) asking here how the day was going and how I was doing (I’m not really sure why she asked about me but at the time it aroused my suspicions.)  She told Bonnie of a great Mexican restaurant (one doesn’t often hear those words used together) where she and Wes just had dinner. Bonnie asked me if I could handle Mexican (I informed her earlier of my GI misadventures) and I thought to myself, well, if I could survive the Costco adventure, I could pretty much survive anything and since by this time I was pretty hungry, I was willing to gamble. So off to Pedro’s Mexican restaurant we drove. Once there, my concerns about the quality of the food subsided a bit as the restaurant had a pretty good crowd (and not a pick-up truck or run down jalopy in sight) and the menu was well presented. Just to be safe, I ordered a vegetarian burrito (instead of meat) and although Gordon had initially agreed to try the highly acclaimed fish taco, Bonnie decided not to push her luck and split the vegetarian special with him.  Finally, after being with Gordon for seven hours and twenty-six minutes, he seemed to relax and his mood softened. Perhaps all the man needed was a good vegetarian meal. I know I was happy … especially when I realized that I would be back home within thirty minutes!  A most interesting day indeed. (Even with all the tension that I felt between the two of them, I really have to appreciate the kind gesture that Bonnie displayed towards a total stranger [your’s truly].

   Panorama View Overlooking Fort Worden, PT.

(Click on the picture to get a larger image.)

Days 20-46: Wow, how time flies. With the exception of my daily two-mile walks and the Saturday midday trips to the Farmer’s Market in PT, I haven’t been doing too much during this period. I’m anxious to get out and photograph some places such as the Hoh Rain Forest in the Olympic National Forest but have been holding off until I can get some good “shooting” weather, meaning sunshine. Places like the Hoh RF would be great to visit under any conditions but good light is essential (for me, anyway) for good pictures. Sunlight filtering through the forest canopy is something I lust for.

Day 47: The weather forecast finally looks good for a visit to Hoh, which is a three-hour drive from PT. Because of the distance, I decided to drive to Forks, a small hamlet just 45 minutes from Hoh, best known for its fame as the setting for the TV series, “Twilight”, and spend the night before driving to Hoh the next morning  (not too early of course). Hoh receives about 150″ of rain a year so opportunities for photos are few and far between. The following picture was shot with my new Sony mirrorless camera, which is equipped with a panorama feature. I must say that it doesn’t work as perfectly as David Pogue of the NY Times suggests but when everything does work right, the results are pretty amazing.

Moss Covered Log, Hoh Rain Forest

 

“I taste a liquor never brewed,
From tankards scooped in pearl;
Not all the vats upon the Rhine
Yield such an alcohol!

Inebriate of air am I,
And debauchee of dew,
Reeling, through endless summer days,
From inns of molten blue.

When landlords turn the drunken bee
Out of the foxglove’s door,
When butterflies renounce their drams,
I shall but drink the more!

Till seraphs swing their snowy hats,
And saints to windows run,
To see the little tippler
Leaning against the sun!”

                                      … Emily Dickinson, “I taste a liquor never brewed”

(For those of you that may be unfamiliar with the poetry of Emily Dickinson or that of the time during which she wrote [mid 19th century], she was fascinated with the natural world and in this poem, the liquor she spoke of referred to how the beauty of nature exhilarated her and gave her a feeling of intoxication. A similar feeling is evoked when you visit the Hoh Rain Forest.)

Some photos of broad leaf trees (maples) and conifers (firs, hemlocks) in Hoh RF

Hoh RF

Conifers Hoh RF

            

Posted June 5, 2012 by whitecrow44 in Uncategorized