I’m not sure if I’m getting across the general flavor of this place. It’s kind of like vanilla meets raspberry sorbet. There’s everything you’d expect from a small community, two supermarkets, close access to a real city (as opposed to the imaginary kind), other towns nearby with varied socio-economic demographics and the resulting judgment/status issues. Las Piedras Island has a post office (one and a half, actually), auto body repair, equipment rental, banks, a McDonald’s (much to some resident’s chagrin), shoe stores, frame shops, and the usual panoply of retail outlets required for the day to day survival of a population of 20,000.
So, I’ll just get used to the fact that this is an ordinary town when something odd like tents pitched in the park will turn my head. I’ve done my fair share of camping, enough so that I’d poopoo the idea of “car camping” (except in cases like Yosemite where you’re dealing with some pretty fantastic scenery), which is what made the presence of three REI tents at Las Piedras State Park so remarkable. I suppose I shouldn’t have been too shocked, it is afterall a state park with campsites and motor home parking and all the other accoutrement that goes into being a state park. But, I had come to think of it as a play area with a really cool view.
Or, I’ll get into a sour misanthropic bent and I’ll start believing some of the messages from that Las Piedras Island guest book. People here are snobs. The island’s populated by a bunch or elitist, exclusionary hermits. The old mossbacks hate the “Californians” coming in and ruining things. I start thinking every turned head is a snub, every glance judgmental, and I’m reduced to the emotional equivalent of an awkward adolescent out of the cool clique. “If they don’t want to hang out with me, fine, who needs them. (Mumble, mumble) they think they’re so cool, huh, they’re not so cool.” Deep down we’re all that dorky high school kid, somewhere at sometime made to feel insignificant or inferior and forever scarred. Unless, of course, you were the perfect popular kid all through school and went on to lead a perfectly successful happy loving fulfilled life. In which case you should know, everyone else hates you. All this runs through my head at times when I’m shopping or at the park, and then I’ll meet someone who is really nice. It’s an awful word, “nice,” but I think it’s taken a bad rap. It’s been plugged into so many meaningless phrases and said with such consistent disingenuousness that it’s lost its heart. “Have a nice day.” “She’s really nice, and a great dancer.” “Oh, he’s very nice, and the Rogaine is working.” “Nice to meet you.” Let me tell you, though, when you spend all day with a self-absorbed terror (I mean dream-child), and conversations with adults are limited (limited both in frequency and scope [talking with a relative stranger about your child’s scat is not the same as talking to a strange relative about scatological references in your favorite childhood movie]), meeting someone nice can be like finding a life preserver. Not to overplay the image because using the physical isolation of a man adrift at sea to describe me now is the height of exaggeration, but emotionally it can be easy to fall into that trap. Any more on the topic and this will become another self-help book instead of my self-help book, and I’ll drift further from the point of this chapter, which is somewhat pointless anyway. How do you describe the mood of a place in a few paragraphs?
I suppose what I’m really talking about here is rationalizing the moods, somehow bringing together my mood, the mood of an unemployed man in uncertain times with the mood of a place, an altogether peaceful (damn near idyllic) island disturbed (as the rest of the connected world is) only by the news and (possibly) how it’s reported. Just a word on Bremerton. It is less than 45 minutes away by car and very close by sea. People paying attention may know that it is a very large naval base. In fact, the Kitsap peninsula is home to the Bangor submarine base, as well, making it the home of thousands of military personnel, at all levels. These are the same troops that the press and administration officials have urged us to support. Since I’m in this mood I’ll just come out and say what I’m thinking rather than sugarcoat it. I find this “support the troops” message insincere at best and despicable at worst, promulgated as it is by a president with tenuous claims to the title to prop up flawed policy. Using a nation’s love for its sons and daughters to limit domestic backlash as that nation violently exerts it’s will on the world is deplorable. Is this a popular opinion? No. Certainly not in this neighborhood. Does it make a difference that I hold this opinion, do other people share this opinion? Is it right or wrong, right or left, or just from left field? I don’t know. I just know it’s hard to ignore. You think about things, and mull them over and over until they start intruding on your dreams and keeping you from sleep. All these thoughts just pour into my brain like water from a tap and if the drain is stoppered whilst I sleep they flow over the rim onto the floor and I’ll step on them later and curse as I get my socks wet. Must we all live with these little disturbances, and are the disturbances “one size fits all.” Maybe there are people that have to feel things more deeply, that are built to be more sensitive to these thoughts and feelings for a reason. If that’s so, and that’s me, well, I just want to say, “It sucks.” As mis amigos los beatles put it, “I’d give everything I’ve got for a little peace of mind.” Yeah, yeah, yeah, ain’t dat da mudda fuggin troof.