Saturday, March 29, 2014

Four years ago… passing Oso

I vaguely recalled driving on Highway 530 several years ago with a friend, but since the mudslide last week, I was prompted to go back through my photos and it was easy to determine when I went.

It was a Mother's Day outing, a chance to see spring in action in Washington, so we took a convertible and spent the whole day cruising, taking pictures, just enjoying the best of the west.

What I loved about this shot was the dramatic contrast of blue and green,
and if you look closely at the mountains before the snow-capped ones,
you can get some idea of the sharp ridges that make up this area.
From Everett to Darrington is an easy drive, or it used to be.

I liked this shot so much that I actually did a watercolor rendition of it,
although I'm not exactly sure where this is, it is in the Oso region.
I'm posting these photos because recently someone asked me, "Why would people choose to live in area that had a landslide?" For the same reason that some people choose to live in Colombia or Hawaii or Florida or New England.

Each of these locales offers something greater than the physical threat of landslides, volcanoes,  hurricanes or snow, and we think we are choosing our places with care. I think in time it will come out that there was information about the geological trends in Oso which was not widely disseminated and so people were making life choices without enough details to make decisions based on all the facts.

There are so many beautiful views here in Washington State, and one of them is along Highway 20 to Port Townsend from Sequim. It is also posted with signs that say, "Slide Area," and once in awhile there are boulders lying on the side of the road.

For me, this is like driving in Colombia, where there are warnings about 'derumbas' (rock slides) all the time, and in the time I was there, I avoided being in any of them - although I was affected by more than a few in terms of not being able to go someplace for awhile.

Honestly, I haven't seen it as much of a threat, either. But with all the rain we've had this year, I am rethinking driving that road. And I will be more cautious when I hear warnings about driving where there is a potential for land or rock to slide down.

It is grotesque to imagine what these families and friends are enduring, and I hope my small donation brings some comfort.

There is another situation of significantly more danger developing and that is for the Quinault tribe in Taholah, on the Pacific side of the Olympic Peninsula. Just draw a straight line west from Seattle on the map and that is where the ocean has breached the tribal lands, causing undercutting of buildings and forcing evacuation. Although the Army Corps of Engineers has installed lots of 'rip rap' (stones to hold back the waves), much more must be done to protect these native peoples and their land.

Right now it seems as if there is no end to crises that people are facing, and my meager resources don't allow me to contribute to every one. In some ways that must be the way our government is feeling with all the demands for federal aid. But my position is we must attend to our own before we help beyond our borders. Kind of like using the oxygen mask on an airline; put it on yourself first and then help others.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

ZZ Top Adventure

Leaving the Olympic Peninsula behind for Canada...
Arriving in Victoria, BC, about 10 a.m.
Awhile ago, about the time the tickets came on sale, a friend asked me if I would like to go and hear the hard rock and blues band, ZZ Top, in concert in Victoria, B.C.

This 70's band was never on my top-must-see lists, but I thought if I'm ever going to see them live, this is probably the time to go. (Amazingly, the original band is still just the same three guys, lead vocalist Billy Gibbons, co-lead vocalist Dusty Hill, and drummer, Frank Beard, 40 years later!)

The plan was to leave early on Friday morning, take the Black Ball ferry to Victoria, spend the day roaming about, find some good restaurants, enjoy the concert and then come back on Saturday morning.

M/V Coho, in operation since 1958, is the passenger auto and freight transport ferry, taking folks and goods back and forth four times a day. It's 341 feet long and you'll doubtless be as impressed as I was in the way the captain(s) maneuver in and out of ports. If you are planning a trip, it's an hour and a half either way; be on time because they leave on schedule. Reservations suggested during peak times.

We started out from Port Angeles under cloudy skies, but by the time we arrived in Canada, the sunshine was waiting for us, and we had an absolutely divine day of walking all over the city.

Victoria is clean, safe (using common sense, of course) and for walkers has only moderate hills. It's also very bike-friendly, so the next time I go, I am taking my bike to experience it that way.

The Chinese population is significant, so you can easily find a small or large eatery to meet your needs, close to the Gates of Harmonious Interest (Chinatown). The myriad ethnic shops have enormous varieties of gifts, trinkets, household materials and furniture.
Gates of Harmonious Interest, Victoria, BC.

I found a little metaphysical shop off an alley in this district where I bought a pendulum. My adventuring partner found an Eddie Bauer brown leather jacket which was a perfect fit, practically new, for $30 at a thrift shop.

What I liked about having a friend to share this with was that we talked to people along the way, commented and observed the world and enjoyed the sunshine. It was richer for sharing it with someone.

My traveling companion and I each took some time alone mid-afternoon to read, meditate or nap, as a re-charge of our batteries after a lot of walking and shopping and eating.

Just as it was beginning to get dark we started walking toward the arena, and found ourselves in the midst of many others doing the same thing… so we had to wait in line.

There was a copper at the door asking me if I'd packed in any tobacco products and matches, and I replied "No," quite simply.
As the sun was setting and we were standing in line to go in
to the concert, this guy and his dog were just hanging about.
I wonder if he was hoping for a ticket or handout?

I think the blue streak in my hair, left over from the Seahawks championship game, stirred further inquiry and he asked me again if I was quite sure I didn't have any tobacco products. I again said "No, I don't have any tobacco products," and this time was firmer about it.

I also didn't have any herbs for smoking, although it seems plenty of other folks did. To me, that was what the real question should have been, "Do you have any kind of dried materials for igniting and breathing into your lungs?"

All around us were people puffing whacky tobacky, drinking beer, and standing up so I couldn't see.

Fortunately the fellow who asked me to accompany him is about 6'4" tall, so he was able to take a few photos to memorialize this adventure. I took some, too, but I don't know who took what. We were at least 150 feet from the stage and if the seating was for hockey, we would have been near the goalie. So I'm impressed with my little camera capturing this much.
Z Z Top, that little band from Texas, playing the NW.
They sang a few songs I remembered and enjoyed all those many years ago, and the audience, surprisingly, was not just people from the early era of this group. I would guess that better than a third of the Canadians there were just over 21 to about 35, a whole new audience to court.

I really did enjoy much of the concert, and was truly grateful for the $1 ear plugs since I'd like to preserve my hearing to last as long as I do.

After the performance, barely an hour in length, we adjourned to a favorite watering hole of the Victoria crowd, Big Bad John's. (You can read about it on the link.) It's a bar in close proximity to the fabled Fairmont Empress Hotel on Government St., a beer and peanuts-on-the-floor kind of place, where everyone around you is quickly becoming a pal. It was a nice way to let down from the artificial and nearly literal high of the concert.
It was clean, affordable and the staff were helpful. I just
cannot think I'd want to repeat this economy again.
Then we walked back up to the Ocean Island Inn, a popular hostel, stay-over place on Pandora Street.  (I am giving you the link so you can reserve a space if you want… they were all booked up until June when we got our bunks.) Since this was definitely not a romantic date of any sort, I kind of thought having a dormitory room would be an affordable solution to staying in the city.

I ended up on a third floor unit (walk-up, folks) on an upper bunk, with a rubberized pad that would not keep the sheets in place and a rock-hard pillow in a room with five snoring folks. Can't wait to climb into my therapeutic bed tonight!!!

So, the good things from this adventure were having a fabulous Dim Sum lunch at the Chinese sector's Golden City on Fisgard St., with a stir-fried sticky rice with peanuts that was delicious and a spring roll that melted in the mouth. Then we had another amazing traditional evening meal at Ithaka, a family-owned Greek restaurant on Yates that deserves all of its five stars; service, food, and service! We were told that Mama makes the baklava… sigh… can she come and visit me?
Magnolia blossoms and all variety of annuals
were blooming on the sunny streets.

We ended the dining portion of this adventure with a breakfast on Saturday morning, before catching the ferry, at John's Place (I don't think it's the same John who owns the bar, but I could be wrong.) a couple of blocks away from the hostel.

We each enjoyed a huge breakfast that was served by an extraordinarily cheery lady who didn't offend when she called us "Honey," because it felt real. Massive strips of bacon, crispy 'taters, real butter for the breads, and great water for the tea (it didn't turn muddy when added to the bag) and affordable.
M/V Coho waits for its passengers going to the U.S.

The Olympics loom ahead near Port Angeles, WA. This was
taken about 40 minutes from arrival in the U.S.
Friday was the day to be in Victoria, it turns out. Once home again, I heard from a neighbor that it had been chilly and even on the verge of snowing again in Sequim. He said he had been up on a roof and could see over the Straits of Juan de Fuca that the sun was shining where we were.

It was a nice break, a tiny voyage, with some sun, great foods and experiences… I needed that.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Impotency of Waiting

My heart goes out to all the family and friends of the Malaysian Boeing aircraft identified as MH370 that disappeared in the early hours after take-off from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia on March 8, 2014.

The news media hone in on the frustrated and vocally angry who want answers to what has happened to their loved ones.

Particularly for the men of those families, their impotence in being able to 'make something happen,' to change events, to force a better outcome, is anguishing to watch.

Long ago there was the Hindenburg which exploded upon approach to the docking station in Lakehurst, N.Y., and people were outraged at the mystery of what happened, wanting to find some evil force behind the act, someone to blame for their losses.

This new mystery, in an age of constant communication and surveillance, digs into our consciousness and lack of control of external events in our lives.

But even all these years past other mysterious aircraft disappearances, we are not emotionally advanced beyond demanding answers.

How can such a huge piece of equipment, state of the art in so many aspects, simply vanish? What are the elements of Fate and conditions which have coalesced to create this stunning, unbelievable situation?

As I am not an aeronautic engineer, only an older woman with a history of interest in aircraft, a frequent flyer years ago, and with a hobby of detecting (on several levels), here are my observations.

1) Although today's aircraft are impressive in size and speed and function, some of the devices for keeping track of them are sadly outdated. There are better tracking systems in some of the smart phones than in some of the planes.

2) Upgrading systems of tracking worldwide have not been a priority because much focus was put on upgrading security inside the aircraft, and in making more room for more seats to maximize transporting the cargo (that's you, folks).

3) Malaysia's aircraft were part of a regional growth in commercial air travel which has been huge in that part of the world and perhaps they put more attention into getting the equipment to provide transport and less on upgrades. Did they compromise maintenance so that some small failure led to a greater one?

4) While Malaysian authorities have done an absolutely phenomenal job of crisis communications (something I once was involved in), I challenge any other company or government to do as well with such an unprecedented event, and it serves as a reminder that there is no such thing as 'crisis management,' today, only preparing to communicate in surprising circumstances.

5) As long as we live, there are going to be unexpected events, and we cannot prepare for all of them. All we can do is develop our consciousness to be aware change is the only constant. This is no consolation for those who grieve, I know.

We are all impotent as we wait and hope for some explanation. Nothing is more frustrating than wanting to help and not being able to do anything. This we can do, we can send healing thoughts to all those for whom this situation is primary.

Cherry blossoms in March in Washington,
not in the east, but in the west.
And realize that for all our advancements in technology, there is still a vast level of knowledge and experience we have yet to discover.