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

4 responses to “Beginnings

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  1. Love your story,thanks for sharing. I’m glad you made it out there after all the times you’ve talked about it. The pictures are beautiful! It’s not the novel I suggested… steps.

  2. Wow, Dad! I really feel your experiences!!! And the photos are awesome. Keep the posts coming! Love and miss you!

  3. Jeff, just finished your trip into the wild unknown. i felt as though I was an unseen participant in your journeys but laughing all the way. I reallly
    needed Toni’s assistance in getting thru this…you know I am computer illiterate, but I made it. You know I think you really could get by out there. It seams to afford you so many of the things you want. Of course you won’t have your family near by but you do have communication available at your fingertips.
    I really enjoyed reading about all your experiences & couldn’t help but giggle at some of them. Glad you visited a church. I really think you will be pleased
    with the experience. We are need to get a little closer to God. I must admit to be a bit jealous of the opportunities facing you. Enjoy yourself as you are
    only young once. We miss you and will be happy to see you back again. Love MOM

  4. Great stuff Dad!! You are a talented writer! Love ya!

    justine champion

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