Friday, November 23, 2007

Slug Death

Slug death is not something I’ve given much thought to, but the concept arose today when I saw a product prominently displayed in an upscale grocery store in downtown Olympia. The box proclaimed its intent in bold red letters above an illustration of fairly alive-looking slug, no doubt prior to application of the product. I never considered the need for slug death beyond a vague idea that gardeners hate them. They probably want them dead or at least someplace else.

Slug death is one of the things I learned inOlympia today. I learned that the center city the town is quiet on this day after Thanksgiving. Retail is busy, especially at the malls and big box stores. So are, I am sure, the many coffee houses. But some small businesses and the biggest business (state government) are closed. The city’s normally slow pace is even mellower today. My pace was mellow. I contributed nothing to corporate consumerism although I did buy a plunger, broom and dustpan at a yard sale but was otherwise faithful to Buy Nothing Day.

The weather here has been wonderful since my return. Cold, foggy mornings that morph into crisp, sunny afternoons. Driving to my cousin’s yesterday, I was headed due east toward Mount Ranier. What a jewel! Sparkling white. Massive against the horizon. As a newcomer, I am still surprised when I see Mount Ranier. It’s not often visible, either because of terrain or weather so when time and place give me the opportunity, seeing the mountain is a pleasant surprise.

Today was foggy until around noon, gradually lightening into blue sky with occasional clouds, cool even in the mid-day sun. I walked downtown to check out some local businesses, which is where I saw the closures. Apparently, the border crossings into Canada are jammed, up to three hour delays. Traffic here is light. I took a second walk just before sunset. I climbed up the hill to take in the view across the valley. Topographically, Olympia reminds me of Gallup, New Mexico: a broad valley with steep inclines on either side. That’s a good resemblance. The topography makes for an open sky above and an intimate feel at ground level. My neighborhood has a good, open view view of the western sky and the state capitol dome against the horizon. The winter sky is open through bare trees. It’s not the immense Four Corners sky but it will do nicely.

Olympia feels a bit like Gallup to me. Maybe Olympia is just a larger small town. The local metro area here is about 150,000. Although Gallup is only 21,000 it serves an economic area of 200,000 people, including large chunks of Navajo land. Native communities are also prevalent around Olympia although far less ubiquitous than in northwestern New Mexico. Whatever similarities, Olympia is much “softer” than Gallup which is rough and gritty. Water makes the difference. The Rio Puerco almost always has some flow through Gallup but it’s meager and has a long, long way to the sea, if indeed it ever arrives there since it drains into the Colorado River. The Deschutes River meets the sea in Olympia, flowing into Budd Inlet at the southern end of Puget Sound.

Looking across the valley here in Olympia, I can see low ridges that make up the western horizon. They remind me of the Blue Ridge Mountains as seen from a long time friend’s place in Nelson County, Virginia. Except there’s a city with a very large domed building between me and the horizon. In Nelson County the land is completely rural. Elevation there is higher, too. Still the traces of places past give me a link to this place that has not been part of my life in Phoenix the past few years.

A good word about Phoenix, that large, amorphous central Arizona urban area, is probably appropriate here. This blog began about six months after I returned to Phoenix after Window Rock, the Appalachian Trail and the northwest summer. Probably no urban area, even Olympia, can match that grandeur or put me in touch with the earth and sky the way those years and places did, so returning to Phoenix was a let down in a very important way. Nonetheless, Phoenix was very good to me, especially between 1982 when I arrived and 1997 when I moved to Window Rock and Gallup. Those years gave me access to the southwest and all the marvel that is Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Moving to Phoenix set me up to meet my life partner, Maggie, and many interesting people. My professional career taught me how to investigate, analyze and write, it brought challenging opportunity that was highly creative and sometimes even fun. I was successful as fine art photographer and helped establish one of the most creative art spaces of its time. Even the past few years in Phoenix have been good. I became a radio host and spent time with old friends. Nothing wrong with Phoenix except that I no longer feel human in such a massive built up environment. Window Rock ruined me for big cities.

Window Rock did not prepare me for slug death.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Various Things That Come to Mind

The past few weeks have been much of a blur as I packed in Phoenix, plotted with Maggie on moving logistics, her mother’s affairs and our own. Moving to another state is complicated in no small way, even more so when the move is partial. We’ll have a place in central Arizona’s large amorphous urban area for the foreseeable future. Maggie’s looking for a vegan/vegetarian room mate who will have the place solo much of the time when Maggie is in Olympia. If you know anyone looking for a place in Phoenix, let me know. It’s a good deal if one needs to be in that location.

That would not be me these days. I am back in Olympia fast discarding my Arizona identity. I am now a fully registered and licensed Washingtonian, accomplished in about an hour with only tolerable snafus at the Department of Licensing. I was thru the door right after 8:00 am and was the only applicant. And even though my proof if residence was based on outdated info, retrieving the required proof was no big deal. No Phoenix area Arizona Motor Vehicle Division office is ever that uncrowded, even early. Maybe (as I hoped) most people don’t deal with licensing the day before Thanksgiving. The clerk who took my application was even concerned that I might not have family for Thanksgiving and was relieved when I told her that I had cousins nearby.

The licensing clerk is pretty typical of Olympia. Almost everyone I deal with as I establish my residence is friendly and happy to welcome me to the area. Of course, I am part of a trend that has already affected Olympia to some degree, but from my perspective, the town is still very low key and livable. I hope nobody else [*cough*] moves in to ruin it. Part of my identity is a library card, which I got on my first day back from Phoenix and used prolifically on that first opportunity. A good library is a requirement for a satisfactory place to live. Olympia will do just fine.

One drawback to Olympia is air transportation. Getting to SeaTac airport adds one to two hours to any flight. Gone are the days of the ten minute trip to Sky Harbor. The local airport shuttle can be tedious, especially if you are first pick-up heading out (we were) or last drop (I was second) coming back. My return shuttle was during rush hour. We moved along at about 60 in the HOV lane. Definitely faster than single occupancy traffic but it all slowed down when the HOV lane ended in Tacoma. South of Tacoma, though, we moved along again well. Next time, I’ll grab a back seat so I can sleep. Maggie will dodge the shuttle bullet when she returns because I will be there to meet her. For me, it will be yet another run up I-5 into the heart of Pugetopolis, a route I’m coming to know well.

Today I head up the Sound to my cousin’s place in Tacoma. I found a southern route that does not involve I-5 but does take me across the back side of Fort Lewis and into Tacoma through Yelm, McKenna, Roy and Spanaway I saw part of the latter on the first shuttle drop the other night. I expect it to look better today. Maybe I’ll see the combination teriyaki and Philly cheesesteak place again. Back road trips are always a joy. The first time is always an adventure.

The round trip to Phoenix resulted in baggage searches each way. Coming down I had flatware in my checked baggage and found a TSA inspection notice. You’d think they could see that it’s dinner ware on their scopes but I guess not. Someone felt the need to check and someone did. Whatever. Maggie found an inspection notice in her bag two years ago when she flew east to meet me during the Missing Miles Hike. She brought a jar of Nutella stuffed inside a boot. TSA must have been flummoxed by the dark mass deep inside her bag. As part of the inspection, they check her sunscreen but failed to replace the cap properly. No real damage but enough to irritate her. Returning to Olympia, I once again carried flatware in my checked baggage along with a shit load of other household gear, including real sharp knives, an articulated desk lamp and small rugs. I had a two bag allowance as was wasting none of it to bring up a few more essential items. One “bag” was a well taped box. The flatware was in the big duffel, easily opened by zipper. The box survived the trip well, only a bit worn but still secure.

The flatware looked undisturbed when I opened the duffel shortly after arriving home. No new notice, only the previous one that I had included to show that they’d looked before. The box didn’t show obvious signs of search; they hadn’t pulled the top sleeve off and all my original tape was still in place. It wasn’t till I found the inspection notice buried under a top layer that I realized TSA had searched the box. Even after seeing the notice, I the search was not obvious: not one item of a well packed box was out of place. A final item was the object of TSA’s endeavors: Prince’s Ashes. He must have appeared as a 3x3x4.5 inch block of dark matter. I had wrapped the box in bubble pack, now open. It looked like a plastic bag back in camp when you discover you’d left some food vulnerable to critters. The paper wrap around the cannister had been disturbed. The cannister was slightly ajar with a faint trace of gray dust. The name on the wrap was Prince Reardon, which was also on the plastic bag of black and white hair our vet saved at our request. I wonder what the inspectors thought of it all.

Olympia had frost this morning with a low of 23 degrees. Sky was clear at first light and I saw Venus through the bare trees. My location here has a good view of the western sky over the capitol building. If I walk, climb actually, a few blocks east I am at the crest of the eastern ridge of the Deschutes River drainage and can see across to western mountains. The foothills of the Olympics, maybe. I know soon. In the meantime, I can marvel at them. Late morning is bright and sunny. Time to get moving.

Happy Thanksgiving all.