My frequent visits to the downtown Olympia liquor store these past few weeks aren't what you might think.
No wine or fine whiskey for me. Just a lot of empty boxes.
The summer of 2010, which seems to have faded away, will be deposited in my memory bank under the ledger “life-changing moves.”
One move, which is still under way but needs to be completed by the end of the month, involves bringing my life partner and her possessions under the roof at Horsefeathers Farm. Most of the liquor store boxes have been dedicated to that effort.
We’ve been chipping away at combining our two baby boomer households since July, straining our backs moving heavy furniture we swore we’d leave for younger, stronger bodies and deliberating over which coffee pot, dish sets, television and reading lamps to keep.
We’re both avid readers and book collectors, so paring down our books to fit on seven bookshelves has been a major chore. The basement bedroom has been turned into a library, and I have enough credit at Orca Books to last me a year or two.
I’m on a first-name basis with the greeters at Goodwill Industries’ donation station at the Olympia west side store, which I’m going to stroll through one of these days and say hello to my old clothes, linen and towels that haven’t sold yet.
Consolidating our two households was made easier by another milestone move. We moved my daughter, Kate, who is a junior at Western Washington University in Bellingham, into her first apartment two weeks ago. Fortunately, it was not furnished. We had no problem filling it wall-to-wall with our duplicate belongings, especially in the kitchen. How many other college students start off life in their first apartment with a salad spinner, a whisk and a full set of cookware?
Her apartment on Indian Street right below the campus is just a couple of hundred feet from an apartment I lived in when I arrived at Western 41 years ago.
She’s already talking about finding a house to share with friends her senior year. I remember how glad I was to leave my basement apartment on High Street and find a house to rent in Fairhaven, the historic village by the bay in south Bellingham.
A boom town in the 1890s, by the time I arrived 80 years later, Fairhaven was on its last legs. The run-down brick buildings were mostly vacant, home to a counterculture enclave, a couple of taverns – remember the Kulshan and its 16-ounce, 25-cent schooners? – a bookstore, a coffee shop and the office of the Northwest Passage, an iconic underground newspaper. I contributed an occasional piece to the paper, including book reviews and a disjointed piece recounting my experiences picking apples and pears in orchards around Cashmere.
Today, Fairhaven is a gentrified place with a leftover layer of funkiness, a source of pride for historic preservationists who can point to all the tourists it attracts and revenue it generates. It’s a village where pedestrians have the right of way and don’t need to use crosswalks to mix and mingle in the 75 retail shops, restaurants, salons and art galleries. The historic buildings were preserved, not razed, and development in the Fairhaven District adheres to building codes and architectural designs that blend in nicely with the old buildings.
Much to my surprise, the old house we lived in at 1009 Larabee St. is still standing. It has a new roof and new siding, but the old garage that one of my roomies used as a makeshift Volkswagen repair shop looks much the same.
We lived next door to Bobby Burns, the honorary mayor of Fairhaven. A wiry old bachelor with a penchant for beer, cheap wine and chewing tobacco, Burns raised rabbits.
He’d coo at them when they were babies, carrying them around like a prideful papa inside his coat as he made the rounds of the Kulshan and a couple of other haunts. When they grew older, he would don his black apron and butcher them to make rabbit stew.
“A man needs meat,” he would say, one of his many maxims.
The vacant lot at 11th Street and McKenzie where I built a vegetable garden, once visited by novelist and counterculture hero Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, is now a parking lot and medical office.
Burns died 30 years ago at age 80. Kesey left us behind in 2001 at age 66. I’m two weeks shy of 62 and getting ready to climb on the treadmill tomorrow at my cardiologist’s office to check on the condition of my heart.
I’m so glad my daughter picked Western Washington University to finish up her bachelor’s degree, giving me an excuse to brave the 150 miles of I-5 traffic between Olympia and Bellingham for infrequent visits and trips down memory lane.
I think it’s more than coincidence that she picked Bellingham for her first venture into independent living. She’s a little bit of a chip off the old block.
John Dodge: 360-754-5444 firstname.lastname@example.org www.theolympian.com/soundings