Thursday, July 11, 2002

Welcome to Cascadia

I remember thinking as I got in my car to drive home, “’Welcome to Cascadia,’ my ass.” There’s something about some people that, despite their saying all the right things and going through the proper motions, just leave a bad feeling. Sometimes it’s just plain phoniness and other times, like with Bob, it seemed like thinly masked malevolence under a veneer of politeness. From the safe location behind one’s computer that thin veneer can disappear. Later the next week, Soo showed me the online “Las Piedras Island Guestbook.” See excerpts below for the assortment of “welcomes” the natives have for Californians. I found the second entry to be particularly curious. It's interesting that the vitriol abated noticeably in more recent passages. I’m told that’s because there’s mostly out of state residents here on the island now, very few “locals” are left.

I have been gone with the army (Enlisted Infantryman.) for thirteen years and have just returned. The traffic is unbearable, I can't believe how overpopulated the place has become. The island seems to be getting overdeveloped and no longer seems to have that quiet rustic quality of old. My family has been here 4 generations now. My grandfather purchased the property around the late thirties after working out here for a couple years (He was from Ballard, now a part of Seattle.). Now that I have come into the property I have found the taxes extremely high (I mean unbelieveably.). Also the cost of living up here has multiplied manyfold of what it once was, not to mention the cost of petrol which is three times that of the Southeast. But at least one thing hasn't changed and that is the lukewarm summers with the spotty rains and the cold wet winters with the high winds, slushy snow, and continous rain (I have seen it rain for over three months straight without it ever letting up and that is no lie.).As a matter of fact the University of Washington has classified a type of depression that emanates from rainy wheather. Maybe I'm wrong but the bad luck with Microsoft and Boeing (To name a few.) may cause a decrease in growth which would be most welcome. The sad thing is that I've been so disappointed with what has become of my home that I am thinking of moving to Idaho, but I'm sure that the Idahoans are having a tough time with growth of thier own. Last time I went through there about eight years ago the place was booming and people were not to happy about it (Except for the builders.). Well you may believe everything good said about this place, it was fairly nice about thirteen years ago (If you don't mind the wheather.) but things change. I am also saddened by the snottiness of many of the people here now but of course most of the people are not even from here anymore (and I mean from Washington state.). As a matter of fact it seems like these people coming up here are trying to turn Washington into another California (We all know what a disaster that place is.) and the thing I can't figure out is that they evidently came here to get away from that mess (Or try to make a buck off of poor unsuspecting Washingtonians.). It takes a bunch of liberal idiots to screw up a good thing and that is also happening up here. Well I guess I'll get off my soap box but I'm here to tell you, honestly, this place isn't what it used to be, it's big city now, withall the violence and crookedness you could ask for. Oh yeah, I also forgot to mention the siesmic activity (Earthquakes- were all still expecting the "Big One".) As well as our lovely Volcanoes (You may have heard about Mount Saint Hellens or whats left of it- yes that was here- but what you may not know is that there are many more and Mount Rainier is the largest and closest and is still very active and just biding it's time for the "Big-Blow".). We also have the regular flooding (Did I mention it rains a lot more than a lot.), severe wind storms (It gets really cold without power for weeks- yup, all those nice trees falling wreak havoc with the powerlines and roads.), blizzards, Ice storms, Acts of God,and etcetera. Yes, nowhere is perfect and I think that I will move there to get away from all the idiots of the world. I hear that Nevada is a nice rural place and also the safest place in the U.S. to live, probably because a lot of it is nowhere, but nowhere can be nice. I could actually do some shooting without having to put up with liberal idiots (Did I mention that I hate liberals? Its because they have a habit of liberally trying to take away all your rights and money and try to make everyplace just like Los Angeles and Washington D.C. to name a few places I never want to be in again. Well enough said, I will now shake my head in disgust then lower it in sadness and walk away.

Okay, I am finally out of jail and if you Max Unglohd IV, or whatever you call yourself there now are still living there or haven't been shot or eased into the murky depths of Puget Sound with tightly bound ankles and appropriate lead or concrete gravity activated Davey Jones depths conveyance mechanism, if you haven't, well let me tell you, buddy,that you owe me bigger than big. After your brilliant plan failed. After we dug that hole that tunnelled into the place. After doing that job on that sub's reactor core. AND after you turning me in to take the heat off dear sweet you.
Well, Las Piedras Island is a very wet place, but when the sun shines it makes it worthwhile. Unless your'e in the federal pen in Colorado. So when I find you, it won't be on a sunny day. Wait for the rain. And wait for more rain. And when you grow tired of waiting, when you no longer believe that I will....... I will!!!

I have lived in Lakewood, Wa since 1959 and have never been on the island. Sounds like it may sink soon. Too many people, not only on Las Piedras but, all over Seattle/Tacoma. Stay in California......

hi i grewup on san pedro islnad from 1943-1960
i've seen property skyrocket on the island
a poor man can't afford to live there no more
i've seen for ward go from the naval base to a millionaires paradies.
my family is buried in the island.
i have 55acres for sale to any millionaire that would like to but it
my grandparents bought it in 1933 for $1,500.
i will sell it to ne one for 16 million dollars
half is waterfront
sincerely yours
mr rose
lyle p rose
- Thursday, April 29, 1999 at 23:43:26 (PDT
Welcome to Las Piedras Island , Now Leave.
Bobby Hull
- Sunday, January 31, 1999 at 10:37:11 (PST)
I am back to Idaho! Orofino baby! This place stinks!
Clint White
Idaho, ID - Wednesday, August 07, 2002 at 23:18:41 (PDT)
I agree that Las Piedras is a pretty place... to visit. After living there for 16 years however, i must say that all the rich, self-righteous snots that have taken over, have made the island an ugly, ugly place. Not the land mind you, i'm talking about the attitude of the place. All the lawsuits and constant bickering about pointless things make Las Piedras an enormous ball of stress. Adults are rude to children and people find some comfort in driving 15 miles below the speed limit. No wonder your highschool age drug use is shooting through the roof. Islanders need to give themselves an attitude check and a wind-down, then maybe it would be a nice place to live.
(an oppinion from one of us that is not blessed with a fancy house and millions of dollars to talk with.)
I feel more than blessed to be away... in a community of Tacoma no less, and loving it. I find it strange that in a large city like Tacoma (where very few are wealthy compared to the population as a whole) everyone is kind and polite. Unlike your Island.
Do an attitude check.
The trees however, are very kind to the eyes.
Fircrest, WA - Friday, May 31, 2002 at 02:57:37 (PDT)
POULSBO, WA - Thursday, April 11, 2002 at 14:24:48 (PDT)
I have mixed feelings about Las Piedras Island. My brother was born there, I was born in Seattle, the family moved to Utah when I was too young to remember. I do remember spending every summer with my grandmother, Margaret Manning, out on Battle Point. That was indeed heaven. What really hurt was the fact that my grandmother was driven to sell her home due to the insane property taxes. Her father was a ferry boat captain on the sound; my grandmother and grandfather built the road and the beach-front house before World War II. They helped create the golf club that cannot be joined now without the income of a small European GNP.
Communicating with others who are leaving Las Piedras, in disgust, the consensus seems to be that money has ruined the Island. The island is almost as nice as it used to be, if you ignore the hundreds of new houses going up all the time, it’s just that there is a new breed of islander, more suited to the blue blood New England snobs than a semi-rural bit of paradise.
It really saddens me.
Liddy Gordon
Tucson, AZ - Wednesday, April 10, 2002 at 12:57:29 (PDT)

Note that these are actual excerpts, cut and pasted directly from the Las Piedras Island online guestbook. “Cascadia,” in case anyone was wondering, is the term used to describe the region around the Cascades, including, of course, parts of Canada. The thinking is that the people in this region have more in common with each other, regardless of nationality, than they do with the rest of their respective countries. I know it sounds strange for Americans to feel an affinity for Canadians, that odd tribe in the Great White North, but this is the thinking.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

At The Range

Fortunately, Soo can always tell when I’m losing it and need a little alone time so on Saturday she told me to go away. I had heard there was a driving range near Kingston, which is off the island on the north Kitsap peninsula. To give you a general idea of the geography, Las Piedras is less than ten miles west across Puget Sound from Seattle, which, and this might come as a shock to some people, is about 100 miles away from the Pacific Ocean. The Olympic Peninsula runs interference, holding a protective wing over the Kitsap Peninsula, which in turn holds a protective wing over Las Piedras Island, making the island look either like the bullseye at the center of rings of land and water or some cocooned chrysalis waiting to sprout wings and fly away, depending on your perspective. I was leaning more towards the former so decided to get off the bullseye for awhile.
To get to Kingston, or, to be more precise, the driving range on South Kingston Road on the way to Kingston, I crossed over the Agate Passage Bridge turned right at the Casino (yes, casino), went through the Port Madison Indian Reservation (slowing near the grave of Chief Sealth [Seattle, to you and me]), and then just meandered until I saw something that looked like a place to hit balls. I needed to stretch my conception of what that was. The range was barely noticeable from the road, the sign was concealed behind some bushy trees (honestly, I will study the local flora at some point. For now, let’s call them cedars), and the gravel drive looked half-complete at best. If it weren’t for the stubby flag plunged into a swath of sad grass masquerading as a putting green I would have rolled right by. A trailer abutted half an old barn. To enter, you slid open the barn door. Once I had done this, all my snooty preconceptions went out the window. But for the lack of grass to hit off, it was an ideal little setup. And, the lack of grass could be forgiven, afterall the range was covered (remember this is a land synonymous with rain), it’s hard to grow grass under a roof (see: Houston Astrodome circa 1971). The matts were good as far as matts go, the distances on the range itself were well marked, and the view was not displeasing, leaning towards the pastoral/welcome-to-Mayberry feel. But what really set the range apart were the images of Ben Hogan framed and hung on the inside wall of that half barn. They were enlarged copies of the illustrations from Ben Hogan’s “Modern Fundamentals of Golf,” the one book everyone who wants to know how to play golf should read. It has taken some heat lately as being overly technical and not as modern as it once was, but you don’t have to take everything in it as scripture. It was one of the first golf books I ever read, and combined with Jack Nicklaus’s “Playing Lessons” would provide a solid foundation for anyone’s game.
There was one other person on the range. I bought some balls, (it was self-service, put your money in the tin and take a bucket) and set up shop at the opposite end where a mirror stood so golfers can check out their swings. After I’d pounded about half my bucket I saw the reflection of the other guy walking over towards me. Now before you get the idea that this is going to be one of those mystical golf stories, forget about it. I like hitting balls because it’s therapeutic, it helps me get out aggression, and it might help my game, (which needs it), but it's no more spiritual than a good piss is. I’ve read a lot of crap about golf and the soul, my opinion is the two should be kept as separate as meat and milk. What follows is my recollection of an awkward conversation (more or less) and that’s all.


“Howdy,” he said as I placed another ball on the tee. I stood up and said hello.
“Haven’t seen you around here before.”
“Haven’t been here before,” I said.
He looked down at my shoes, “New around here, then?”
I was wearing a pair of white FootJoys that I had put on in the parking lot (a habit developed from years of playing at public courses). There was no real need to wear golf shoes on mats. My new friend was wearing hiking boots.
“Yup.” I wasn’t quite sure where this interrogation was going and I hadn’t really gotten a warm and fuzzy feeling from this guy. But, it became apparent that he wasn’t going to just walk away.
“Over on Las Piedras Island,” I told him.
I looked at him quizzically, “Ahh?”
“Well, it’s nice over there, ain’t it?”
“We like it,” I said.
I nodded and then waggled my driver a bit, trying to convey politely a desire to return to the reason I was there.
“Kids?” he said, clearly not picking up the subtleties of my body language.
“One,” I told him and then decided to look for a way out of this conversation. So, I smiled and said, “Does everyone who comes here get this treatment or have I done something suspicious?”
He laughed a bit and I laughed, and then he said apologetically, “Oh, no, no, it’s just there’s only about 30 or 40 guys around here who use this place and we all pretty much know each other, so when I see someone new I like to know who they are and how they found the place.”
“Not sure how much longer this place will be in business with only 30 or 40 customers.”
“Oh, we’ve got a pretty low overhead,” he said.
“You’re a part owner then?”
“Well, it’s more of an informal investment, a handshake deal, nothing in writing. A bunch of us just got tired of driving to places we didn’t like all that much so we decided to make our own.”
“Makes sense. My name’s Billy, by the way.”
“That’s a funny last name you got there, Billy. My name’s Bob.”
“Huh, oh yeah, it’s Dutch,” I stuck out my hand, “Nice to meet you Bob.”
And really that was about it. We talked a bit more, I told him we’d moved from California (did I notice a wrinkle of the forehead, or am I just being overly sensitive), somehow I got rid of him, hit the rest of my balls, and left. Except, as I was walking through that sliding barn door, Bob looked up, saw me leaving and said, “Welcome to Cascadia.”

Sunday, July 7, 2002

What If Las Piedras Island Really Is Heaven?

There’s no doubt that this place is special, but there are times when Nathan is sleeping and I’ve had time to be alone and look around at the place where we’ve landed that I think to myself, “What if I’m really dead, something happened that I can’t remember and I died and now I’ve been transported to this sanctuary in the woods.” It could be heaven or it could be a way station, a purgatory, a place where we are to await further instruction, our next assignment. Heaven or hell is really a matter of perspective anyway. I mean it’s not like I strapped a bomb to my chest, blew up some infidels, and am now getting serviced every night by a harem of virgins. Whose heaven is that? (Just a rhetorical question).
My point is, people spend their entire lives thinking or dreaming of some imaginary place that is better than where they are now. What if this is it? (And by “this” I don’t mean Las Piedras Island. At least not for everyone). I mean, what if we all have the capacity to make our lives into the ideal existences promised to the religious in the next world if they follow the rules in this one. (Billy stopped, poured himself a cup of coffee, went downstairs to get his trusty dictionary, and looked up the word “delusional”). “delusion n. – 1. a false belief or opinion. 2. a persistent false belief that is a symptom or form of madness. delusional adj. < Do not confuse delusion with illusion.” Other interesting words heading nearby pages “deleterious, depression, descent, despondent, devil-may-care, dialectic.”
I’m not saying I’ve transformed my life into perfection, like I said, it’s just a matter of perspective. Take the Buddhist tenet, “Life is suffering.” If you operate with that thought as the underlying theme to your life, you’re bound to feel good about things some of the time. If the alternative is expecting perfection and continuously being disappointed, I’ll side with Siddhartha. With all the treacle and Pollyanna that populates pop culture these days it could do folks some good to think that some times things aren’t good. Or at least don’t always have to be. I’m a long ways from being able to make sense of a Buddhist philosophy that monks spend entire lifetimes meditating upon, and even further from explaining how it fits into this chapter. I have a tendency to grab onto bits of theories, snippets of songs, lines from movies and abstract them to fit my own world view. I guess what I’m trying to say is, you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need.
Let me just excerpt the Las Piedras Island Almanac 2003 to give you an idea of what this place is like and why I started this chapter, “The list of ways to dip a toe into the community pool (two pools, actually, in the new Las Piedras Aquatic Center) is endless, of course – and not much different from any other community. Except that the people who move to Las Piedras, for the most part, feel like they’ve arrived at home.” It sounds nice and everything, but something about it gave me the heebie-jeebies and made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I know it’s designed to give me a peaceful easy feeling, but I can’t help remembering it’s cruel to be kind (in the right measure). Maybe I spent too much time hiding on the backstreets thinking this town will rip the bones from your back, that it’s a suicide trap, that we needed to get out while we were young because, well, tramps like us, baby we were born to run. Regardless, I was just thinking to myself that this could be heaven or this could be hell. I’m just hoping that if we go running for the door to find the passage back to the place we were before, we don’t find the nightman telling us to relax, Las Piedras Island is programmed to receive, that we can check out any time we like, but we can never leave.