Thursday, August 29, 2013

Bethel Saloon

My friend Sonya is visiting this week and my friend Becky called up one day and said, “Let’s go have lunch at the Bethel Saloon!” The Bethel Saloon is a biker bar on Bethel Road in Port Orchard. It’s a funky old building, almost like something out of an Old West movie. It’s an interesting leftover from a time before Walmarts and other manifestations of suburban blight. My friends and I have been driving by this place for years and saying, “Cool building.” It has a skeleton riding a motorcycle on the roof over the entrance. First thing you notice as you walk in is that the parking places in front are all for motorcycles. It was Wednesday and there was a sign saying, “Taco Wednesday! Two for $3.00! Come in on a Harley or a rod and get two free!” We went in and found ourselves in a classic old school American bar. The bar itself was on the left, and to the right were two rooms with one pool table each. We went to the bar and ordered lunch from the nice lady who worked there. Sonya and I had the two tacos, and Becky had the pulled pork sandwich. The food was good, and sitting on the tall stools at the bar we looked around at the d├ęcor and watched the people playing pool. The place reminded me of bars from the fifties and sixties with the dark wood interior, the neon beer signs, and the old school (i.e., politically incorrect) male humor. There were pictures featuring underdressed women and customized motorcycles, Seahawks memorabilia, and a few bumper stickers. My favorite bumper sticker was, “I swear to drunk I am not God.” I liked it for the humor as well as the theology. We got to talking with the lady barkeep after she made our lunches. When she found out we were from Vashon she asked if the story about the bicycle in the tree – that some World War I soldier had stuck it there before he went off to war – was true. I was pleased to be able to tell her, no, it most certainly is not true, and then told her the story of the Puz family’s misfortune and how it led to Don Puz’s bicycle being stuck in the tree, only to be discovered years later. We had a pleasant time and finished our lunch, and Sonya went off to use the restroom. When she came back I said I’d like to do that, too, and she pointed across the room and said, “Straight across that way. It’s the door on the left, if you have any trouble figuring it out.” I started to walk across the room and saw the two rest room doors. Over the door on the right, in black letters eight to ten inches tall on a white background, was a sign that said, “Dicks.” Over the door on the left was a similar sign that said, “No dicks.” So I didn’t have any trouble figuring it out. All you young’ns don’t realize that this sort of humor was once commonplace in America. You don’t see it so much anymore. Some people would be offended. If you are one of those people, I recommend you not go to the Bethel Saloon. But if you’re not one of those people, the Bethel Saloon is a great place to have lunch and a beer. The place has soul, a sense of humor, and pretty good food. We settled our tab and went outside, stopping an arriving biker named Pete and asking him to take our picture with my phone, which he did. Thanks, Pete. As we waited at Southworth to catch the 5:05 ferry, we saw many motorcyclists coming off the ferry and figured some of them were heading for the Bethel Saloon, maybe to get their two free tacos.
Now I have written a favorable review of a bar in Port Orchard. Any of you restaurants on Vashon who want a review, put up a sign saying, “Free lunch if you arrive in a Honda Civic.” I’ll be right over.

Thoughts of an Old Convert

Almost thirty years ago I experienced my adult conversion to Christianity. I grew up in the Baptist Church and always felt I was a Christian at heart, but in my late 30s I felt the call to be a Christian inside and out. Telling my women’s support group that I was giving my life to God was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my life. I was afraid, you see, that I’d become that person standing on a street corner forcing Bible tracts on passersby, stopping strangers to ask, “Do you know Jesus?” I was afraid that by giving my life to God I might end up being one of them. It was a relief to realize sometime later that God called me to be myself, and I did not have to hand out tracts. My renewed faith was at home in the Episcopal Church. I especially loved the Book of Common Prayer. I suppose it makes sense that a writer would join a church because its prayer book was well written. For years I began my day by reading the morning daily devotions in the Book of Common Prayer, and praying. It centered me at the start of my hectic day. I’ve returned to that practice recently. I did not evangelize my kids with a lot of specific teaching. I had this idea that who I was in my interactions with them (or anyone) was my evangelizing. If the way I lived was bogus, I figured nothing I said would make much difference. I didn’t realize that hypocrisy is part of being a parent. You can’t help it. Live and learn. I did tell the boys some things. I told them that the word “God” was a tiny little box which we used as a symbol when we were talking about something that was much too big and complex for a human to comprehend. I told them that every human being has a spirit, and that it is as much a part of you and integral to your being as your beating heart. You may not have a religion, but you definitely have a spirit. I told them that God is reality. God is the point where truth, light, life, death, mystery, enlightenment, etc.(!) all come together. I was thinking about those things this morning as I was sitting out on the ravine porch with my Book of Common Prayer, listening to the creek and praying for the people on my prayer list. It’s a long list. You might be on it. I was thinking how those things I thought and said years ago have proven to be true, and the longer you live in faith, the deeper you go into the layers of reality. Faith allows you to live in some kind of peace in this crazy, broken, world. God doesn’t fix everything for us, but does weep with us, hold us through all trials, and rejoice with us. Going beyond that, there are things in heaven and earth that we do not understand, and for which there is no empirical evidence. I cannot give you a rational explanation that would make miracles and visions comfortable for you. I’m not telling you to become an Episcopalian, or any other brand of religion. I am telling you that if you hear your call to be yourself, and you answer that call, that life will be hard, but if you don’t answer that call, life will be harder, and you’ll have missed the mark. I’m glad I answered that call years ago. Have I become me? In my halting, sporadic, human fashion, I’ve done the best I could. I believe that faith has served to make me better than I would have been otherwise, and looking back at all the times I screwed up, I know that I was usually following one of my own bright ideas and things got better when I let God steer me. It’s God for me, but for you who object to the nomenclature “God,” fine. You think about what you want to call your tiny little box that symbolizes everything that is real and true and incomprehensible, and nurtures and enlivens your spirit, and makes your life better than it might be if you do things “your way.” The walk of faith is so worth it. Good luck, pilgrims.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Icebugs of Grylloblattaria, and Other Critters

This has been the most beautiful summer I remember in years. Day after sunny day dawns, and we put on our shorts and tank tops and sandals, those of us not restricted by bothersome things like jobs (“Bwa-ha-ha-ha,” says my retired husband), and go out to meet the delirious, delicious summer day. We water our gardens, we admire the blooms of our flowers, we revel in the sweet juiciness of our homegrown fruits and vegetables. I myself have five tomatoes on my single tomato plant, and if the weather holds, they may have time to turn red. Meanwhile I love to touch the leaves and smell the tart muskiness of tomato plant, a scent that says, “summer” to me. The sun discourages, but does not stop, the slugs. I got some of that “safe” slug bait and while it may kill slugs, and I’m not saying I have any proof of that, it is apparently a tasty treat for mice. Our son said that every time he went out on the kitchen porch, he heard the scurrying of little feet and saw mice bailing out of the slug bait container and running away. I never saw these mice, but a quick check of the slug bait stash revealed a liberal sprinkling of mouse turds among the few remaining pellets. Rather than trying to trap and kill the mice, I figured that when the slug bait was gone, the mice would forage elsewhere. Let the problem resolve itself, I thought. NOTE: this method may work with mice, but I have been informed it does not work with raising children. Little tip for you young parents, although nothing you do or do not do will forestall the day 10 or 20 years from now when your adult children will tell you the mistakes you made as a parent. Be of good heart – being blamed for our mistakes is a little service that parents provide for their adult children. Another feature of this long hot summer is that the spiders are spinning early. Usually I don’t run into spider webs until August, but this morning I had to clear a web before I could walk out the kitchen door. I can only imagine the size and extent of the webs we’ll have in September. The mosquitoes have been numerous and hungry this year. Eh, that’s usual here on the edge of the woods. We had one branch of tent caterpillars in the apple tree, and my non-identical twin Becky happened to drop by and cut the branch off so I could dispose of the caterpillars. An hour or so later we looked out in the yard and there was a large deer eating the leaves off the non-caterpillar part of the branch. We chased the deer away, but it came back later and finished the job, plus stripping my rose bushes of leaves and roses. Lastly I mention earwigs. Earwigs comprise the insect order Dermaptera, according to Wikipedia, which also says, “Many orders of insect have been theorized to be closely related to earwigs, though the icebugs of Grylloblattaria are most likely.” The icebugs of Grylloblattaria!* Isn’t that glorious? Doesn’t that sound like a science fiction novel? But I digress. Earwigs like to inhabit crevices. We all know this from experience. Quite often earwigs will inhabit crevices in flowers I bring in from the garden and a few hours or days later I find earwigs crawling across the kitchen table, or the kitchen counter, or the living room rug. I have an irrational dislike of earwigs, and will usually crush them without hesitation or compunction. They give me the creeps. So it was extremely creepy when I opened up my bedside CPAP machine the other night and found an earwig inside. Ugh. I walked it into the bathroom and sent it for a quick swim in the bathroom sink. Beats me how or why it got into my machine. The darn thing simply showed up. I guess that’s why I don’t like them – they’re always sneaking up on me. Give me the oogly-wooglies. Even the most wonderful summer is bound to have some down sides, but all these critters aren’t stopping me from enjoying this summer. Hope you are enjoying your summer, critters and all. *”Grylloblattidae is a family of extremophile and wingless insects that live in the cold on top of mountains.” – Wikipedia. Now you know.

Forty Years of Festivals

Yours truly singing at Festival, 1976 or '77 In July of 1973 I joined my hippie friends one Saturday morning to go up to town and see the Festival Parade, my first. We had to park a couple of blocks out of town and walk in with other festival goers. That part hasn’t changed in 40 years. The crowds have become bigger and the walks are longer now, going down Beall Road on the east and out Cove and Bank Roads on the west, as well as up and down the main highway. There were a few marching bands, and cars with a parade marshal, and various pretty girls waving to the crowds, but what most impressed me was the Bacchus Lumber truck. It had a pile of drain field pipe on the back. I knew I wasn’t in California anymore. In 1974, I sang at the Festival for the first time, by myself, in the patio behind what was then the library and is now the Senior Center. By 1975 festival music was being staged in Ober Park in the little area on the south side of the building, which is still used as a concert stage. The music was all volunteer, and as far as I know all the musicians were local. Some of the ones I remember are Mike Dumovich, Sr., playing raucous slide guitar blues; Mindy Manley playing the banjo and singing old time songs; Steve Fearey and Thea (Teddi) Leyva (now Westcott) performing as Bodacious; Bob Haworth in whatever configuration he had going at the time – perhaps his one-man band; Ron Hook and his Sub Pop group; and Chris Howie, Rick Tuel, and yours truly performing as Kanout Manufacturing. At the end of Saturday afternoon, Zumi and his marimba band played and most of us got up and danced. Many islanders played in the marimba band, swinging and sweating. The marimba is a fitness instrument. There were many other musicians playing, and I apologize if I have not mentioned you by name. I simply can’t remember everyone. In the evening there was the traditional street dance. Probably the band was the Doily Brothers. Now, here is an Island Legend. It happened before I arrived, so call it a fact-related rumor. In 1971, so the story goes, the Festival street dance was rocking on Saturday night, and everyone was having a good time. Midnight came and the county sheriff who was present told the band the dance was over and it was time to shut down and go home. There was resistance to this suggestion, so the sheriff pulled the plug on the band, and voila, the dance was over. People were not happy, but they dispersed. Everyone went home except for a couple of souls who came back up to town and firebombed the court house. I made a request on the Facebook page, “Old Vashon Pictures and Stories,” for stories about that incident. People have responded kindly and generously, so you can go to that page to read the stories. My deepest thanks to all who have contributed. Turns out to be a story of redemption for at least one of the people involved. People are still writing, and contacting me outside of Facebook with information, and I may write about that night and its fallout in a future column. As the years went by the Festival and its music grew. The Portage Fill began doing a different kind of street dance, so we had choices on Saturday evening. The parade started to include Bob Haworth’s kazoo band, and other local groups started doing their own original parade entries. Islewilde brought giant puppets. The Seafair Pirates, who terrified little children, eventually stopped coming. I think. In the 1980s I would perform at the Festival with the trio Women, Women & Song. We had fun and people came to hear us in droves, which was quite gratifying. Since then my participation in the Festival, and Festival music, has dwindled. Rick was part of the color guard at the beginning of the parade for a few years, but he can’t do that anymore, so he usually stays home during festival and enjoys the quiet in the neighborhood. Most Festival weekends the last few years I’ve gone up for the Kiwanis pancake breakfast and watched the parade with my friend Becky, and then come home and hung out with Rick. I take our granddaughter up to do the rides sometimes and walk around the booths and admire the crafts people’s wares and see people I haven’t seen for ages. Festival: an island tradition, the highlight of our summer, and quite a blast before August, when we frantically summer it up before school starts and autumn moves in. Looking out my window I see that there are already some leaves turning yellow on the maple trees. I mentioned this to someone who said, “Don’t look out that window.” Good advice. Happy Festival, Happy Summer, to all.