hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Meet the New Owners

Yesterday morning, a knock on the door and there come the new owners (or the new owners on Thursday).  Or at least some of them.  To our surprise (none of this had been made clear to us), the new owners seem to be 7 in number, a pair of brothers plus one wife, and two childhood friends of the brothers plus two wives.  Or maybe just one wife.  Never obvious.  What we had on the premises was one of the brothers and his wife and one of the childhood friends and his wife.  And a baby. All of them, except for the baby, maybe 25-30.

They've got a dream of a group summer/weekend vacation home for them all.  They live in Vancouver; the guys, anyway, might work all over the world; and in their spare time, they and their spouses and their children (only 1 at present and another one on the way) will make this their vacation home of happy memories.  The guys saw, offered, and bought it the house over a period of about 2 weeks, and yesterday morning, the two wives were seeing it for the first time.  I can hardly imagine how that works, but the wives seemed a little stunned, or maybe I thought that, if I were they, I would surely be stunned.

So, there they were.  We took them around for a tour of the house and the 2 acres that come with it, explaining, while they took notes on their blackberries, how various features worked, and in 90 minutes they were gone.  We were still in possession of the house, which is fast emptying, but the guys seemed jazzed by it all and ready to get going on their dream home instantly.  And I was teary at the thought of what could very well be the beginning of a spectacularly wonderful phase of their life.  At least, that's what I'm hoping for.

And in two days, we'll be history; on to some other phase of our lives, too.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Transformation Day

Well, this is an odd holiday weekend.  First, there was Christmas Eve, and then there was Christmas Day, followed by Sunday, which is Boxing Day up here in Canada, and then tomorrow, because Boxing Day was on Sunday and Christmas was on Saturday, Monday becomes some other holiday, I guess called Boxing Day Celebrated.  So, nothing is open--well not the things I need open like the post office and the bank, until Tuesday, which is a little awkward if you are trying to make your residency getaway during that time.

In any case, it is definitely Boxing Day for us, Boxes and Boxes and Boxing of Boxes Day, day after day.  Our actual moving day(s) will be Wednesday, with two much-beloved neighbors--one from Roberts Creek, B.C., and one from Point Roberts, WA--each offering to come and drive a truck-load of goods southward for us.  And then again on Thursday when we make our exit.  But until then, it's boxing day.  I've done this enough times that it should be easy, but no matter how skilled and experienced you are, it is still hundreds of decisions being made: to keep? to recycle?  to abandon?  over and over again.

But it is also transformation day because not only is all that ownership being settled when he become not house owners but former house owners, but the form of these goods is also being settled.  Will that jar of pickles in the refrigerator offer some kind of anchor around which to construct a lunch or dinner? Or does it go with us for yet another dinner? Should I make six loaves of bread and bake them in this big oven in order to not have to move a bag of flour southward?  Will the former towels and washcloths satisfactorily transform themselves into packing material for glasses and bowls?  And when all these decisions are made at the end of today, will there be coffee somewhere for breakfast?  Or an available bowl and a spoon for granola, if I haven't packed the granola, bowl and spoon?  I know there's a gallon of milk, and it, at least, is not going to be packed into a box or transformed into anything else.  So there we'll be the next few days: guaranteed to have milk, the more or less complete food.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

In 1976, I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in a hotel in Hong Kong. I was living in Micronesia at the time (on the island of Yap, which famously has stone money), so it made some sense to be somewhere else for that holiday, but Hong Kong, as far as I could tell, had very little idea about Christmas, and it was more like Christmas had been erased from the calendar.

This year, I am spending Christmas week on the Sunshine Coast, moving out of the log house we have lived in and loved for the past 20 years. It reminds me a great deal of that week in Hong Kong. I am in between worlds.  There is no Christmas for me.

When we first bought the house in B.C., we expected to live out our lives here. But in between the time we bought the house and our actual move up here, immigration law changed in Canada and B.C., and we were no longer eligible for permanent residency. And thus we began this two-decade cross-border residency, in which we went back and forth every two weeks between Roberts Creek, B.C., and Point Roberts, Washington.

We always knew that this move was likely to come to us, and now time and its commitment to age and mortality,  have brought us to the point where we need to make a full-time return to the U.S. We leave this wonderful house and community with many wonderful memories and with enormous gratitude for the opportunities the house and community gave us. And not only us, but also our five children and eight grandchildren, all of whom have their own memories of summer at the log house to take forward into their lives, many years in the future.

I've had a kind of nomadic life.  This is the twentieth time I have moved from one house to another in the past 55 years. Maybe the last such time. It is never easy, and yet there is always something to look forward to as well as to look back on, but mostly right now I am stuck on the looking back part. What an amazing twenty years this has been. We have been so lucky to have had this time, this place. And now, we need to hand it on,  entrust it to its new owners. We can only hope they will find as much joy and fun and 'hey, we won the lottery!' feeling as we have had here, every day of our lives... just every day.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Sign

This morning, i noticed that crocuses are up about an inch in several places in the yard: both in big pots and in the ground. Seems early, but they have only about 54 days before their expected bloom date, which would be Valentine's Day. So, maybe they need that much time for all that complexity, this is what they always do, etc.

Nonetheless, it is hard not to think about Noah looking at the rainbow and the dove and feeling very hopeful.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

No Eclipse for Us

When I headed for bed last night, around 11:15, I looked up through the bedroom skylight in hopes that we'd be able to lie in bed and watch the eclipse if we could stay awake that long.  The moon was barely visible as clouds passed in front of it, and by the time Ed got there, half an hour later, it was entirely hidden by pretty solid clouds.

Maybe it all cleared up by 12:30-1:30, but probably not.  However, I do remember watching the total eclipse about 6-7 (?) years ago.  We were up on the Sunshine Coast, north of Vancouver, and we went on a really cold, crispy, crystally night around 8 p.m., out on the Roberts Creek pier, and watched it for about an hour as it came and went.  It was so surprisingly red.  And the pictures I saw of last night's also showed that same, surprising red.

2014 the next one.  I doubt if I'll be around for that one, but if I am, how about earlier in the evening, and not too cold?  If I'm going to watch astronomical splendors, nice to be comfy, as well.  That's humans for you: they not only want ice cream in summer, but they'd like it in a cut-glass bowl with an antique sterling silver spoon.  And nice music in the background?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Kids Have Their Say and Their Song

This past Wednesday was the Pt. Roberts' primary school's annual Christmas Program.  There are about 15 of these K-3 kids this year and there was an almost full house to watch them perform.  They are all pretty good performers, although of different forms of entertainment.  There are the kids who are so intent on not making an error in front of everyone that they look like they might break into pieces from the intensity of their concentration.  And kids who can hardly believe they are on the stage while all the adults and older children are sitting down watching them.  Those kids are at all times looking all around them as if they had never contemplated the possibility, let alone the actuality, of being in such a situation.  There are kids who, except when they are actively performing, seem to be under the impression that they are in a locked room where nobody at all is looking at them...those are the little girls who appear to be considering pulling their dresses or sweaters over their heads in their spare time on stage.

There are kids who appear to be under the impression that their parents will not recognize them in such a strange setting and who, thus, are repeatedly trying to make contact with said parents: hand waving, grimace-grinning, etc.  There are kids who look like they figure that a public error is essentially unavoidable and who are thus trying to make themselves as small as possible.  And there are kids who step right up to the microphone, look right into their audiences' eyes, and send the message strongly, 'Yes, I'm here.  Just watch this!'

All those kids were at the performance, and all were more or less performing up a storm.  They read poems and quotations and said wise things of a Christmas and Conservationist nature.  They sang and performed a little play to lecture us on the fact that, with respect to conservation, We Are The Problem.  And they played Christmas songs on handbells with a fierceness of concentration that was exhausting, to them and even to us watching.  Waiting, waiting, waiting for that next note until an older girl was required to issue a poke to the laggard bell ringer.  A few of the bell ringers knew how to do the upstroke at the end of each ring, and watching that might have been the most fun of all.

I've been to the kids' Christmas programs for a number of years and they are always different.  There are no revivals on this Broadway.  This years' program wasn't really as stunning as last year's, when the kids all appeared in penguin costumes, but the handbell ringing was an experience not to be forgotten.  I can hardly wait until next year to see what they do!

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Tax Man Cometh

We received our property tax assessment today from the Whatcom County Assessor's Office. Not entirely clear to me how it is that, in the midst of the biggest real estate price collapse in my lifetime, our house/land's value has gone up by 10%. Just lucky I guess. Or, perhaps, that's the price you pay for all those refusals at election time to raise any other kind of tax.

The Post Office Comes to Life

Over the past ten days, I've been in an out of the local post office with unusual frequency.  Not that I had gotten around to mailing any Christmas gifts.  More like I was going to the post office to figure out whether I wanted to be mailing any Christmas gifts.  Each time I've been there, there has been virtually no one in line, which is quite a contrast for the month of December in the past.

I talked to one of post office employees who said that it sure was unusual but that he didn't know how to account for it.  Their incoming package mail was even higher than usual for December but the outgoing: not so much at all.  He thought it might be that there was a considerable increase in internet shopping with direct mailing to the recipient.  Then I talked to the UPS office and they, too, were having record incoming packages and not so much outgoing.  So I guess a culture that 70 years ago was all about carefully made or or at least inspected gifts are now replaced by a virtual gift-giving experience, or something that is not even much of an experience.  Nothing much the better in that, although at least you don't have to stand so long in line at the post office.

But then, today, I went to the post office with my own actual first gift package to mail, only to find that there were about 14 people in line already.  So I just brought my package back home.  Maybe no one will notice if it doesn't arrive until after Christmas.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Overwhelming and Overwhelmed

(The Point Roberts Craft Faire this past weekend proved a great success.  Lots of vendors at tables with a considerable array of lovely and useful goods all handmade in Point Roberts.  (That was one of the rules: you could sell only things you had made yourself, and you had to be a U.S. citizen or hold a Green Card in order to sell.)  It is pretty amazing to see how much handmaking goes on in a place with such a small population.  There were elegant chocolates made with exotic flavors (my favorite was strawberry jam and balsamic vinegar: just incredible, really); lotions, creams, soaps; jewelry with semi-precious stones, with metallic rings, with beads of all sorts, with polished stones, with anything you could reasonably put in jewelry; knit goods for the winter cold; pieced baby-blankets; flowers; cards, photos, notepaper; ornaments of many shapes and colors; quilts and quilted things; yarn and fleece sheep and llama (just one llama, as all the llamas made of llama hair that were available were of, for, and from Lily the Llama).  And more of those things. Lots more.  And hot cider throughout the day, and soup and chili and tea and coffee.

The hall was decorated with the goods, but also festooned with garlands and trees and lights and general glitter and bling and as far as I could tell, a good time was had by all.  The number of people who came through the space on Saturday was astonishing, and not least because Canadians who had come down from above us were telling tales of 90 minutes in line at the border.  Later, I was told that it was not just overwhelming numbers but a computer problem, but there were really a lot of people.  And they bought generously, perhaps stunned from having been in a border lineup for 90 minutes.

Then Sunday dawned very wet and very grey with the impediment of a flooded Gulf Road which proved something of a challenge for shoppers trying to get to the Community Center.  But, by noon it had drained off a good bit, rushing down the full roadside ditches to the ocean, and the shoppers re-appeared.

It was all over by 5 p.m.  They drew tickets for all the raffles and the immediately locatable winners collected their winnings and the rest of us packed our (small number of) remaining goods and went home to take a hot bath or a short nap or something: overwhelmed we were by it all.  Which is why we do this only once a year.

My thanks to everyone who showed up and participated.  See you there next year.

This is my quilting and spinning friend Heidi (Lily the Llama's Mom) and me at our shared table.)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Christmas Season

I think that the first Christmas-y event here in Point Roberts is the Christmas Craft Faire, held at the Community Center this weekend (Saturday, Sunday, 10-5).  Sometimes, the quilting group has a table, but mostly we don't because quilting work is pretty labor intensive and it tends to make the work somewhat more expensive than is customarily effective for this kind of event.

Sometimes, however, one or two or three of us will go it alone.  This year, I agreed to share a table with another quilter, and we will have various smaller items available for the customers' Christmas delight.  Or something.  Here are pictures of a few things that will be available from my hands.

A Lap Quilt

Nankes: Christmas Tree Ornaments

Five-inch Tall Ladies: Pins or Christmas Tree Ornaments

Also, quilted and hand-embroidered covered journals, fabric postcards, cute little bags, etc.   Come by and say hello, at least.  And even take some of this stuff off my hands?  Merry  Early Christmas!

Difficult Questions

I was talking with a Canadian the other day and commented that it was hard for Americans to understand why Canada still had a queen.  She replied that the Queen did some good, was a tradition, and did no significant harm.  On the other hand, she added, it's very difficult for Canadians to understand why Americans don't make sure that all their citizens have access to health care.  Point, set, and game to Canada!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Hole in the Sky

Last month, we went down to Bellingham and found a very puzzling sight: two workers working on a hole in the sky. We had never, either of us, seen anything like it. It was something in theprocess of being built, and perhaps what we were seeing at that moment was some uncovered infrastructure/framework, something that when the work was finished would never be seen again. Maybe it was some kind of fancy electronics for some kind of futurama border crossing news phenomena. Maybe it would provide us with real-time news and pictures of terrorists in our midst?

Ed took a picture of it as we drove through the border, conscious that we probably ought not to be taking photographs at the border if we valued our Nexus cards, but it was such a stunning sight, and one we expected never to see again.

(Link here to larger version of photo.)
And, then, a couple of weeks later, we passed through the Peace Arch crossing again, and the hole in the sky was still there, although there were still workmen around. And more recently, our friend Rose was crossing at that border, and the hole was still there, but without workers about. It appeared to be finished.

When Ed saw Rose's picture, he Googled 'peace arch crossing,' 'billboard,' and 'art," on the off chance that the border people were investing in public art as a welcoming gesture to terrorists and fruit smugglers, and other miscellaneous travellers. Lo and behold, everything was illuminated by the Bellingham Herald.

It is publicly-funded art and the piece is not, unfortunately, named 'A Hole in the Sky.'. So unimaginative the real title, 'Non Sign II.' But so imaginative and evocative, the art itself! Watch for it on your next trip...on the right hand side by the U.S. booths heading south.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Rock, a Stick

The weather stays unusually cold; some days are grey, some days the sun shines, but it shines with an amazingly cold light.  Looking out the window at the ravaged garden, there are no warm colors to be seen.  The leaves and stems and stalks that remain have only a little cold yellow in them, or a lot of greenish, cold grey.  The days go by much like one another, making it harder to remember what day of the week it is.

I went down to the beach today, thinking to see if the sun seemed any warmer there, over the broad expanse of water.  It didn't, even though it was mid-afternoon and in its early setting mode.  There were some golden lights in the sky, under a band of dark grey clouds, but even the gold seemed a cool color.  The water was dark and grey.  There were a few ducks rocking in the water as the tide relentlessly arrived at the shore, breaking every few moments with a cold hushing sound.  To the south, the snow-covered mountains on the Olympic Peninsula were in view.  Not welcoming.  One fishing vessel out a ways, but no sign of any other ship traffic.

Not much of a walk, either, as it turned out because the tide was pretty high and I couldn't get to what sand was available because of the pools immediately in my path.  So, I resolved to find, within the small area I could track, the finest rock and the best piece of driftwood available to me.  So many rocks, so much driftwood, all of it appealing in its way.  But even allotting myself one of each, I could not choose.  I came home with two of each.

Which makes today different from the week of days that went before because on those days, I neither went to the beach nor gathered a favored rock or stick, or two.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Cautionary Tale

Last week when we had the two power outages, we had another interesting event as well.  The second outage occurred in the late afternoon of Thanksgiving, so that meant we had no light and up here it's dark in the winter without electric lights.  Ed lit the two propane lamps, which burn with great brightness, and I lit a couple of small, decorator oil lamps for the bedroom and bathroom.  That's the usual routine.

Last time I used the oil lamps, I had trouble with the wicks in both of them.  We've had these lamps for over two decades.  They came from Pottery Barn and were very trendy for a brief while because they are very pretty.  Small, clear glass cylinders with a little oil-holding sphere within.  You send a match down and light the wick and it glows like a glass candle.  Very nice.  Not a lot of light, but enough for  our purposes or for a glamor touch if you are in to those touches.  Which is to say, if you burn candles when you don't need them for the light.

The wick was continuing to be problematic, providing way more flame than was needed, so I trimmed them down and just accepted that there was more flame than necessary.  Two hours plus and the power went back on, I blew out the oil lamps, turned off the propane lamps, and we returned to cooking dinner.

But later in the evening, we both noticed a kind of miasma in the room, which dissipated, and even later, I noticed that my hands were kind of grey-ish and that Ed's moustache seemed to be grayish whereas it is usually whitish.  And then I walked into the bathroom and noticed that the grate on the wall heater had turned solid black.  At first I thought it had overheated and was burning up.  But not.  It turned out it was covered with an oily, sooty substance.  I washed it off with some considerable effort.

And then I slowly noticed that everything in the house, every flat and hospitable surface had a thin coating of this stuff.  Ed's moustache included.  We were the recipients of sooty oil from the oil lamps bad burning habits.  Just imagine what the 19th Century must have been like!  I wonder if whale oil burned cleanly and that's why it was in such demand?

So, in the ensuing week, I have washed down every window, every cabinet door, every everything that it had covered.  By yesterday, I was coming to the end of this tedious set of tasks, and I washed the living room curtains which are made of bleached muslin.  A commercial laundromat with big tubs, lots of soap, very hot water, and all.  And then into the dryer, and spray starched.  And, as I began to iron them, I saw there remained large patches (like camouflage fabric) of grey here and there across all the yards of fabric.

So they'll have to be replaced.  And I'm thinking of putting a notice on Point Interface:

"Two lovely, almost vintage decorator glass oil lamps; Pottery Barn, circa 1986.  Free.  Need wickwork."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Knock on the Door

At this time of year, it's dark by 4:30 p.m. And hardly anybody is around. Most of our contiguous neighbors have gone away: one for a month holiday in Hawaii, one for a visit to family in South Korea--just in time for the war-- one returned to Canada until spring comes, one to visit family in California, leaving us manning the street kind of alone, except of course for the Deputy Sheriffs who are carefully locked up at night behind their chainlink fence.

And it really is dark, because we have very few street lights around, and the auto traffic on such nights is very minimal. And it's raining a little almost all the time. And though it is no longer down to freezing temperatures, it's not far away.

And, around 9:30 p.m., there is what sounds like a knock on the door. I don't think we have ever had anyone knock on our door that late at night during the winter. It was hard at first to even figure out what the sound might be. Ed went to the front door, but there was noone there. Another knocking sound; I'm starting to think animals? And then I realize it is a knock at the back door, which is in the bedroom. I don't think anyone has ever knocked at that door at any time of day or night, at any time of year.

I went the door, greatly perplexed, and found my neighbor's brother there. The neighbor who has gone to South Korea. He had come down to check out the house because of the cold weather and had gone outside to get something and had closed the (locked) door behind him. There he was in empty, dark, cold, rainy Point Roberts, without a phone (although if he had had a cell phone, it wouldn't have worked), without a flashlight, without his car keys, and without his house key

He inquired, in his heavily accented English, whether we might have an electric drill so he could take the door lock out. In minutes, he and Ed were out in the bleak night, breaking into our neighbor's house.  And so we saved the day (or the night) for him.  And I was reminded how difficult life in a rural area can be if you are not paying attention all the time.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Last Community Market for 2010

Today was the last Saturday of community/farmers' market for Point Roberts, and their was precious little farmers' product today.  There is precious little farmers' product in Point Roberts right now after almost of zero and sub-zero (F C) temperatures.  Our kale is lying on the ground looking as if in permanent coma, and all the rest of the winterovers look even worse...the parsley, the chives, the Italian parsley, the sage: RIP, I fear.

But, even without any farmers' product, the market was surprisingly lively today.  It is held indoors in the big room at the Community Center in this weather, and that room is not all that big, so 8 or 9 sellers fill the space/tables, and the library's patrons come cross the hall, providing the market's sellers with a steady stream of customers.  Ed and I are yet working off the supply of CDs that are excess to the 100 that I want to get the collection down to, and he also has an expanded collection of 'Somewhere in Point Roberts' postcards, which I was urging on people as their chance to send Point Roberts Christmas Cards.  And we sold a respectable amount but, more important, talked to a lot of people.  I made fudge for the customers and it was interesting that there was a pretty neat break in numbers as to those who asked if they could have a piece, and those who simply took one.  Kids all looked to their parents for OK's, even if I specifically offered them one.  Good Kids!

Also in the market today were terrific cookies (I buy a bag of ginger snaps each market day and am always sorry that I didn't buy more), several jewelers with their wares, a couple of ladies spinning beautiful wools and offering to sell same, dried hydrangea blossoms, various cards and photos and postcards and books, a table of varied food in jars, and--what the auctioneers in Lakeville, Massachusetts, where I once lived, would refer to as 'boxed lots'--various household goods that came out of and to a considerable extent returned to their boxes at the end of the day.

And, for music, we had a harpist.  Not bad for a cold day in November!

I hoped the market would be able to hold on this first year, and it certainly has.  My guess is that it will take at least two and maybe three years before it gets a stable format and enough record that you don't have to worry about whether there will be enough vendors and enough buyers.  For the vendors that are there each time, it is becoming something of a social event, even though we don't necessarily know one another very well.  But we are getting there!

Thursday, November 25, 2010


It's been a difficult week what with the snow and the ice and the unusually low temperatures and the continuous presence of all three.  The roads have been completely drivable, which is a good thing, although I haven't had any particular need to drive upon them much other than to go to the post office and buy the occasional quart of milk.  But the coldness has been way too much for our heating capacities: the propane stove just can't keep up with it, and a couple of electric heaters help, but even then it's a struggle to keep the house at 65 degrees.  And in the morning, with just the propane on, we awakened to a brisk 51 degrees on Wednesday morning.  This morning, it was 0 under the house.  Of course, I wasn't under the house, so who cares?  But there is some kind of heat exchange that goes on there that makes it matter to me.  My feet have been cold for days, even though I am wearing 2 pairs of socks and a pair of down slippers.

But today it is better, and we are giving Thanks for that.  But today, also, the power has been off for five or so hours.  The first time, this morning, it was for about 3 hours, and then this evening, for another almost 2 hours.  The first time, it began around 10 a.m., so you could see, even though there was no power for the lights.  But the second time, it was around 5 p.m., and it was dark outside, and I was in an outbuilding without windows, and suddenly I was in the dark.  The really dark.  Over near the door, there is a table with a flashlight, if only I can manage to get to the door without falling over something.  It took me awhile, very cautiously moving in the direction of the door.  I missed it by about 3 feet, but eventually found the flashlight and closed things up and betook myself back home where Ed had turned on a propane lamp that I could see from where I was.

And after a couple more hours of general darkness, it was time to cook the Thanksgiving dinner.  Not a turkey, obviously.  But I thought about all those people who were trying to do a big dinner while the power went off and on and off and on.  Not the most festive of events, I'd think.  We could have cooked it outdoors on the barbeque, I guess, although it was yet a little cold to be roasting outdoors.

Well, thankful for the power that is back with us.  Long may it stay.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Movies Go Postal

When we first moved to Point Roberts, some fifteen or so years ago, there was a movie theatre in Tsawwassen...right there where the Thrifty parking lot is.  We went there fairly often.  The tickets were about $7.00 each, as I recall.  It was very much like the Orpheum Theatre in Pocatello, Idaho, where I began my moviegoing career 67 years ago.  I've always loved the movies, so I suppose it was inevitable that I ended up in Los Angeles for so many years.

But, I digress, a little.  What I have always found that I missed since I left L.A. was not the cultural amenities but the movie access, so Tsawwassen's little theatre meant a lot to me.  And then, they tore it down and we were obliged to trek 20 minutes drive across to Steveston to the big theatre with 18 screens, each one larger than the next one, each one louder than the next one, each one providing a, for me, not very satisfactory movie experience.  But to Steveston we went.

Then, Netflix arrived.  We were among its earliest subscribers and I did not much mind that I did not have to leave the house to see a movie, that I did not have to have blaring sound or constant quick edits on a giant screen.  I was happy with the small screen.  And the price was tolerable.  And then the price went down.  And now, we get a notice that the price is going up a bit, but that we can watch endless movies on streaming video and also have an endless supply of movies coming to us via the post office.  Better than Los Angeles access ever was, I have to say, although I have yet to watch a movie on my I-Pad, even though Ed says it's very tolerable.

Anyway, the point of all this is that just as Netflix begins to give up its postal business (which it surely will if streaming works out okay from a band access point of view), the Post Office here on the Point has given it official recognition.  There used to be two slots where you mailed letters at the Post Office.  One was 'Outgoing" (that is to say, the rest of the world); the other was 'Point Roberts.'  The Point Roberts slot was discontinued a couple of years ago since all the mail goes to Bellingham to be sorted nowadays.  But yesterday I saw that the second slot had been brought back to life.  Its label?  Netflix Only.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Winter, No Kidding

Winter didn't really arrive this year; more like it attacked us.  We occasionally get snow in November, but mostly it's not until December in my experience, and some years it's virtually no snow in any month at all.  But when we do begin with the snow, it is almost always on a day wherein the temperature is about 40 degrees F. and you look out the window and there are great big fat snow flakes falling fast, oh so fast, and by the end of the day, there is no snow on the ground because the ground is too warm to sustain snow.

But this year, not.  It came down a little at a time, the air temperature was below freezing, and the ground accommodated to the freezing temperature slowly and thoroughly.  So not only was there snow on the ground after that first snow fall, but it was icy and crystally, and it looks to stay that way for more than a day or so because it keeps on being below freezing.  Today, nothing melted as far as I could see. And they are predicting several more days of the same.

On my kitchen table is a list of garden chores I was getting around to doing.  Next on the list of things that haven't been done: "Bury pots with hydrangea cuttings before it freezes."  I got one of the three pots in the ground last week.  But the other two are out there in the snow ;are, in fact, buried in snow.  Sigh....

Friday, November 19, 2010

Point Roberts Coastal Photos, Second Round

Do you remember July?  I am thinking about this partly because it was snowing today, first snow of the season.  And I was thinking what a long time ago it was hot and sunny and green and July.  And indeed it was.

It was also back in July when Ed and two of his photographer friends re-shot the coast of Point Roberts for the 'Point Roberts Coastal Photo Project.'  He and our granddaughter, Gianna, did this the first time two years ago.  It was always his plan to re-do it at a future time, and in July, when it was hot and sunny, he did it, but the granddaughter wasn't available this time because she had other plans for her life right then.

However, now that the summer has gone and the winter has arrived, the second set of photos are up.  Actually, the second and third, because this time, Ed flew two rounds, one at 600 feet and one at 300 feet.  Here is the link to all three sets of photos, 2008 and 2010.

If you have any questions or comments, I have re-opened the comments sections on this blog, or you can write to me at the email address on the front page of the blog.  Our thanks to Anne and John who not only took all the photos, but also spent a lot of time in post-photo-taking to get these all organized.  And to Gianna, who showed the way.  And my thanks to Ed, who spent a lot of time getting this all coordinated, from the original flights to the web presentation.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sterling Returns, and Nearly Disappears

Updated below.
2nd update, below.

Well, it returns to my attention (aided by a reader's prompt). When last we visited with our Sterling Bank and its owners, several months ago, it had just got a second passel of money from private investors (Pinkus, Warburg, as I recall), and the FDIC had taken it off its bad bank list, and happy days were here again. And its stock was poking along in the $.50-.65 cent range, with daily little ups and downs. And there was no particular news of any note.

And then. This past Monday morning, upon no news, a very big sell-off happened--millions of shares--cutting the stock's price in half; down to $.25/share. Millions of shares suddenly were dumped on the market. No news to account for this, either Monday or Tuesdya or indeed on Wednesday or Thursday, either. Now, the stock is just meandering along around $.24-.25. Too strange!

I went poking round the Net, found a little information and a little speculation there. In the options arena, there are more investors interested in buying than selling, which makes it sound like the company was still seen as okay. Some folks, on financial chat boards, were speculating that the earlier Sterling private equity investors, Lee and company in Boston, might just be dumping some of its late spring investment, which bought a lot of shares for $.20/share, and was now taking a nice little 20 or so % profit over six months by selling, even at the $.25/share level.

The strangeness of capitalism. Sterling Financial is worth half of what it was worth last Friday, even though nothing essental appears to have happened. Although its capitalization level still looks good, I think.  But I am no master of the economy.

However, although I follow Sterling and Banner fates just because they are our local banks, I did discover yesterday that Vanguard holds a couple of million shares of Sterling in its Market Index Fund and its Extended Market Index Fund, so in a very small way, I, too, am a Sterling shareholder and thus affected by these moves.  Maybe you, too.

Thursday: The tubes were a little slow in getting the news up, but Sterling announced this morning  that it was having a reverse stock split, in which every 66 shares of Sterling would, Friday morning, turn into 1 share of Sterling.  I look forward to seeing the trading price of those now very fat single shares tomorrow a.m.

Friday: Opened at $15, closed at $16.50, 35,000 shares traded.  These new fat shares are fairly close in price to the $.24/thin share.  (multiply .24x66, on a 66/1 split).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rigors of Fall

Last night, up here on the Sunshine Coast, we got a sudden rain and windstorm that was as fierce as anything I've been through and very brief.  Torrents of rain, terrific winds for about 20 minutes.  Lights were flashing on and off as the power lines tried to figure out whether they were going to bear up.  Eventually, they decided, 'Not!' and about 10 pm we lost power for 14 hours, although our next door neighbor's lines held up.  (They're on a different grouping.)

During the storm, our living room (on a 2-story, log house with a cathedral ceiling and a metal roof) sounded like The 1812 Overture, played only on percussion instruments.  Objects were crashing down on the roof constantly and it really felt that any minute they would come right through the roof.

And, then everything frenetic stopped, and a nearly full moon appeared and everything outside, because it was very dark otherwise, was bathed in the silvery glow of the moon.  For a moment, I thought it had snowed, too, during that intense 1/3 of an hour.

And this morning, the yard was not strewn with big branches that had crashed down upon us.  A few small pieces, but little in quantity and size.  So I don't know what that was all about.  Walpurgisnacht, maybe?  A little late, though.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Kids in Point Roberts

I often mention that Point Roberts is largely a very small community of old people, of retirees. Of course, in the summer it is filled with kids who have come down from Canada to spend some time at the family cottage. But even in the winter, there are some real kids here, kids who live here all the time with their unretired and younger parents.

We have the first three four years of elementary school, K-2,K-3, usually around a dozen kids who have an exquisite school tucked back in a forested area, a setting as beautiful as the day is long in an equally appealing building. And that school has a playschool one day a week for kids under five. Once you hit third fourth grade though, it is off by school bus to Blaine, right over the U.S. Border, a maybe 45 minute ride, to be repeated each year/every day/twice a day until you graduate from high school. (A few kids avoid this because they go to B.C. schools or are home-schooled.)  Nevertheless, each year, there are six or so kids from Point Roberts who graduate from Blaine High School having spent all those years commuting to school.

Now, a town of any size generally makes some effort to provide services and resources for kids through its governmental structure and schools. Not so easy here where we have so little government to look to. (When the tea partiers extol the virtues of small government, it occurs to me that they ought to come here and see what small government might look like.)  We do have a Parks Board and they are in charge of Baker Field, where you could play baseball, if you had a team to play with. Or if the kids were used to organizing the kind of scrappy baseball games in vacant lots that I grew up with. But they are not. Still, the field exists although I, personally, have no knowledge of its being used for baseball, which doesn't mean that it isn't occasionally.

And there is a skateboard park that was built by volunteers, where I occasionally see a kid practicing with his (always a his) skateboard. The library has a basketball hoop, but it is in the parking lot, which surely sends a mixed message to kids about what is supposed to be going on in that space.

The whole peninsula is really something of a natural playground, but the fact is that the kids who live here are kind of invisible to us once summer is over. Except at the library, where they come in to listen to stories, or to do a special art/craft project, or just take out books. The library has made a big commitment to engaging the kids here with reading contests and evening activities, most recently a 'Game Night,' where you can come and play boardgames and have something to eat, a kind of dessert potluck, I think.  And the church provides some music opportunities, although those are pretty much just in the summer.  And there is a piano teacher.

So, there is not that much, even if there are not that many kids.  Maybe 60 or so total?  It is surely an odd place to live, but perhaps even stranger to grow up here, and living here must pose some special challenges for these kids in addition to that tiresome bus ride crossing two boarders each morning and again each afternoon. They'll have a lot of stories to tell when they grow up about what it was like, as if they had grown up someplace strangely foreign, as indeed it may truly be for them. But they will certainly know something about the difference between life on the border and life deeper inside a country.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Act II: Archaeology

The state archeologist who last week informed us that we all knew that all of Point Roberts was an archeological site and thus should also know we needed a permit and an archeologist at hand if we so much as wanted to dig a posthole or plant a tree has reconsidered her position. I would have thought that the state had a few public relations people around who might have advised her exactly how best to make this volte-face. Apparently not.

She explains that the subject line of her email pontification was "In Maple Beach," implying that her admonitions applied only to that area. But, alas, what she wrote was,In Point Roberts, it appears that everyone is aware that they are living on a large archaeological site. So it would be hard for anyone to state that they did not know and unknowingly dug into a site.” 

 Further, she cluelessly notes, had she known that a thousand people would read her email rather than just one person, she would have phrased it more carefully. Why it is okay to misinform one person but not a thousand, I will leave to the archaeologist's nimble mind, but I assume it's a matter of scale. Also, she has offered to come up and speak to us, but I wouldn't look for a big turnout at that putative meeting. And finally, she suggests that her warnings were accurate as they applied to Maple Beach. So now she has just ticked off those residents and not the rest of us. Again, a matter of scale?

I wish she had said, "Lordy, lordy, I really screwed this up! Can we just start over? Ask me the question again, and I'll write you the answer I should have written the first time. I am really sorry."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


This is the week of seed preparation. For weeks,as summer wound down, I have cut the seed pods from the various previously blooming flowers, dropped them in small paper bags, and waited for them to dry. This week, I gathered all the brown bags together, found some small plastic bags and gummed labels, and got to work. First I crushed or otherwise opened each pod over a square of wax paper, letting the seeds gather on the paper, and putting the chaff aside. It's about the only time each year that the word chaff comes to my mind, let alone gets spoken aloud. "Gosh, there's an amazing amount of chaff from these Queen Anne's lace seed balls," I say to Ed.

And there is. And a lot of seeds as well; thousands of them. And thousands more of rose campion, and hollyhock, and columbine. And many hundreds of nasturtium,Welsh poppies, California poppies, opium poppies, and evening primrose, and of the sunflowers in the photo, as well as of the many more flower garden gifts that keep giving. There are tens, only, of water iris and of meadow rue, but more may come of even these less abundant seed producers.

It is a good time to be doing this because it is cold and gray and rainy and hard to temember that there was once a time of great and abundant color everywhere, whenever I looked out the windows. November is the month that brings you to your senses as to where you live, how far north you live, and what's in store for you over the
next five months.

When I am finished there is nice little stack of plastic bags, neatly labeled, waiting to be stacked into the freezer, where I will see them regularly, at least daily, and thus will serve to remind me that the flowers will be back with us, even though it seems at this moment that we have permanently succumbed to a cold, gray world.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

12 Carrot, Maybe Even 20 Carrot

The International Market does an amazingly good job of supplying food for us here.  It isn't what you get at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's or whatever really good place you might shop in U.S. and Canadian cities, but considering that it is serving a pretty small population (2000 people, maybe?) nine months of the year, it's amazing it has anything but boxes of cereal, I think.

I assume that like many small businesses make virtually all their income during the Christmas season, the International Market makes its during the Summer season.  Lots of summer weekends, you go in and the shelves are almost picked bare, especially in the produce section.

This week, however, that is not so much the case.  Despite the fact that the tourists are in short supply, what we have this week is CARROTS!  It's true that nobody is inventing new vegetables for me to cook, but still it does seem that this is an excessive number of carrots.  There's soup and there's carrots and there's bunny salad, but that's about it.  There was one eggplant in the eggplant section, which is tiny section including other things such as zucchini (6 of them) in any case.  And there were two leeks; 8 English cucumbers.  A small passel of red cabbage (at $1.99/pound: does anyone like red cabbage enough to pay that much for it?) and a few other things of a vegetable nature.  But what there really were were carrots.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

With Greenery

The Community Events Sign once again (this time literally) breaks new ground.  The sign, the posts, the roof, the gutters, the solar light, and the big rocks are now joined by greenery: various and sundry small and medium-sized plants to provide it with the impact of a very tiny park.  Now we have a park at each of the four corners of the Point and one in the center, as well!  Thanks to all those who keep making this sign an event in apparently endless progress.  Next, a tiny stage?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

On Behalf of Community

George Wright has an excellent piece in the All Point Bulletin this month (November 2010) that speaks particularly to our situation here in Point Roberts and its echoes in the larger polity in light of today's election with respect to everyone's working on and contributing to the larger public good.  "Who put that chair there?  Not me: not my chair, not my problem, that's what I say."   (To quote Dan Deacon.)  But, alas, it often is our problem, and solutions are not likely to arise from beyond the border.

Anyone who has lived here very long has probably spent some time thinking about what it means to belong to a community and probably most of us have made one or more attempts to contribute to the community over time.  What always knocks me out is how hard it is to do it.  Such a good ideal, such a simple aim, such an appealing goal, and yet how very hard it is to do it.  I think a lot of the time, we attribute failures to the negativists out there, but it may be more a matter of our not knowing very well how to work cooperatively.  We are introduced, largely, into a competitive culture, and what we mostly seem to learn is how to compete.  And competition doesn't always sit well with community as a way to get something done.  (Which doesn't mean there are no negativists, but rather that they're more like small but permanent obstacles that it is easy to work around because they're never there when the work needs to be done anyway.)

The people who are coming out to clean up the litter on the roads are a good example of community-based action, but it's an endless job.  I think we tend to vaguely think that if we go out and show people what a good thing it is to have clean shoulders to walk and bike on that people will stop throwing their beer cans and candy wrappers and cigarette butts there.  But, as someone who has cleaned a fair number of road shoulders at one time or another, the sad news is that it makes no impact at all on others' behaviors.  I used to think that, if it didn't keep people from trashing the roadsides, perhaps it would at least inspire others to get out there and do some of the cleaning.  Apparently not.  And I realized finally that it was a permanent job with no other road that that of a job well done that needed doing.

And, I think, so is it with all community work.  It's a job, and if you (or I) are not going to do it forever, somebody else will have to eventually step in.  And that's okay.  There are a lot of us.  And George is definitely one of the positivists.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Going to Bed

It is the time of putting the garden to bed.  You really need to get it done before spring comes, or at least the absolutely essential part needs to be done.  But it really would be best to get out there in the rain and grey and cold and do it all now, not in the spring.  But it's really hard.  Because it's cold and it's grey, and it's wet, and no immediate good will come of it.

Thus have I tried these last ten days to get at least some of those essential chores done.  There will be no tulips in the spring if I do not plant them in the fall, of course, and so that is the very highest of the priorities.  I have managed 4.5 dozen tulip and daffodil bulbs and 4 dozen crocuses.  It's not as easy as just digging a hole and dropping them in, unfortunately, because during the last part of the summer, I quit weeding (I take Ira Gershwin very seriously when he says, Summertime and the living is easy).  Of course, the weeds didn't quit growing, so before bulbs can be planted, weeds have to be unplanted.

Also of high importance is the planting of garlic which is not of the highest importance because you can buy garlic easily in the summer when it ripens, but you can't buy a yardful of tulips anytime unless you plant them in the fall.  In Idaho and Massachusetts, I planted bulbs about once in my lifetime (each place) and they came up every spring thence.  But here, they may come back one or two years with actual flowers, but mostly it's just leaves the second year and then nothing.  Perhaps the somethings eat them, but I think it more likely that they get too wet over the summer in our very wet yard.  Fertilizing them does not seem to make any particular difference.  I have adjusted, have gotten used to the idea that I need to procure 4-6 dozen bulbs, sometime around October 1 and get them in the ground sometime before November 1.  And I planted a dozen garlic bulbs, which will provide a lot of garlic next fall, but probably not enough.  But then there's the grocery store for a backup.

By now, however, there's a bunch of stuff that has gotten done: the bulbs; the raspberries are mostly cut back (although we were still getting about a cup of raspberries every few days up until the last two weeks from the everbearing berry plants.  They don't seem to care that it rarely gets above 55 and that they see sun only rarely.  The lilies and the hydrangeas are mostly cut back.  The kitchen is full of seed pods from various plants, awaiting my collecting and bagging them for spring planting.  The fruit trees need work, the forsythia needs work, the day lilies, crycosmia, shastas, lunarias all call to me as I go by, 'Please so kind as to make me shorter!'  But they are yet tall.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace, but not enough gets done.  The list gets longer, the days get shorter.  Oh, Garden!  Just go to bed.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Government Strikes Back

After that nice Whatcome County officials' visitation on Monday, we were next visited, somewhat more indirectly but much more unpleasantly, by the state, in the form if its Department of Archeology and Historical Preservation.

The news came via Point Interface, which had been asked to broadcast the reply of the Department to a local entrepreneur who does something about consulting on coastlands and such.  The entrepreneur had requested a little information about what, exactly, the DAHP (that's archeology etc., above) expected regarding digging into the ground in Point Roberts.  Now, I think it's safe to say that most people here know that there has been, in years past, some fussiness about digging large holes in the ground, say for swimming pools, and in particular over in Maple Beach because of there being Indian remains in that area.

What I think most of us don't know and would have no reason to know is that the whole 4+square miles is a giant archeological site and that, strictly speaking/black-letter law, we aren't allowed to plant our garlic bulbs today without getting a permit from the state and buying an archeologist to stand by our side to make sure that no bones are appearing in the shoveled dirt.  At least that's what the archeologist said, the one who works for the state and is responsible for this law.  Not for its existence, but for its application.  You can read the text of the email she sent to the entrepreneur here at the All Point Bulletin.

Now, in all fairness, she does say that they have never interfered with gardening,  per se, although it appears to be covered by the law, but she does claim that so much as a post hole being dug anywhere on the Point requires both the permit and the archeologist, both of which come at a price.  (Maybe this will discourage the radio station with its desire to put up five towers on Tyee?)

Yesterday, I was at the local grocery, parked between a County Planning and Development truck, and an SUV.  The SUV's driver got out and strolled over to the County truck and inquired of the driver whether he knew anything about these requirements for archeologists and permits in Point Roberts.  The Planning and Development guy replied, 'Oh, there are lots of state requirements, etc.," and effectively blew him off.  But I'd guess that is just one of many inquiries coming government's way.

It's hard to imagine what inspired the state archeologist person to commit her views to print, since they are done in about the most irritating manner possible.  If you've been feeling some irritation with government here during the anti-government election season, you could scarcely find a finer example of what's wrong with government regulation and of why so many people are so furious about it.  Well, we live and learn.  Both us and the archeologist, I'd guess.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


So, last night the suits came up from Bellingham to entertain us in dialogue as to what Point Roberts needs from them (but not so much what they need from Point Roberts).  About thirty locals showed up for the experience, most of which was spent on the issues surrounding the missing dock at Lighthouse Park.  That is, how the dock could be made to reappear.  That was not so much dialogue as it was informational, but for those who missed the information, there were some dialogue attempts.  One fellow was puzzled as to why everybody kept talking about a dock at Lighthouse Park when as far as he was concerned there was no dock to speak of there.  In trying to straighten him out on this point, he drifted even farther away when one of the suits appeared to say that there had been no maintenance on this sorry excuse for a dock for the past fifteen years.  Right to the end, I think, the fellow never got much clarification as to the problem and the solution.

The problem is that the dock was removed three years ago because it was beyond repair, and the solution is that the County will put up some money, and the County and Chairperson Reber will try to get the Port of Bellingham to put up some money, and then they all three entities, assuming we can consider Reber an entity in this sentence rather than a person, will try to get the State of Washington, via some relevant agency to give some money, and voila (with the missing accent added), a new dock will come into existence.  And individuals are encouraged to write letters of support to everyone and to donate any money toward the project that they can find it in their hearts to donate.

The second hour was spent more on the dialogue part.  A woman from the Voters' Association, or maybe the Taxpayers, Association (I wish they would unite just so that we can stop having to keep them straight), spoke of the many reasons why it would be a feature and not a bug to have a foot passenger ferry between here and Blaine.  She was heavily infused with the "If you build it, they will come" vision of how things work.  Unfortunately, that vision probably involves a capital commitment that would guarantee losing money for at least the first five years, and probably forever.  The dialogue part was the suits saying, in various ways, "You go for it, Ma'am, but I wouldn't be looking for County dollars in these trying times of no County dollars."  Reber was pleased that no one outright laughed at the proposal.  The Taxpayers/Voters, whichever it is, will do more research on this issue.

And there was a little information about a small advance on getting a lighthouse for Lighthouse Park.  And there was considerable discouragement about a Bond Issue for Point Roberts which would raise large funds and would then be paid back by the income stream from the gas tax.  (Better to lease those funds, I say.  Abu Dhabi might still be interested, but Chicago, it appears, is now suffering from having people rip up the Abu Dhabi-leased parking meters.  The equivalent here, I suppose, would be angry constituents ripping up the gas pumps.  Not that!!)

And then we closed on the perennial whimper about Pt. Roberts becoming its own little municipality with its own little City Hall and its own little taxing authority.  The suits looked very dimly on this, largely based on the interesting information that municipalities' funding base is almost exclusively business fees.  They used to get money from the state, but no longer.  So, looking at the business base in Point Roberts, their advice was, "Not Enough Business..not now, maybe not ever."

And then we all went home suitably entertained.  Oh, also, the current gas tax revenues will go to some walking path shoulders on Benson and somewhere else, as I vaguely recall, to be worked on in the spring at the same time that Tyee is re-asphalted.

Monday, October 25, 2010

All Together Now

You could live in Los Angeles for your whole adult life and never feel the need to join a group, I think. Except for things related to work in fact, I think that's pretty much what I did. But move to Point Roberts and group joining becomes, it appears, a major life activity. There's the Voters' Association, and the Taxpayers' Association, right at the top. If you are Canadian, you might lean toward joining up with taxpayers, whereas if you're American, you might be more inclined to go with the voters. Or the two groups might be united, as they frequently threaten to do, and you could join both.

Beyond civic duties, you could participate in doing some kind of active good, which might lead you to becoming a member of the church or the Food Bank group, or the Prep group, the last of which is dedicated to getting us through a disaster. In fact, if we had a real disaster. we might require the services of the food bank and the church as well. PAWS membership would enable you to help out with unexpected dog and cat needs: lostness, foundness, illness, maternityness, and orphanhood, especially.

The Historical Society and The Friends of the Library are a little harder to classify, because they seem sort of civic, but also sort of do-good, with a dollope of hobby on the side. If they have legal status, they are surely not-for-profit, anyway.

And then there are the activities groups, which might also be described as 'interest groups,' if the phrase had not been entirely taken over by politics. The Garden Club, the Beekeepers, the Rose Society, the church choir, the Sustainability Group (which may or may not overlap with the inventors group), the community garden participants (which might overlap with the sustainability people), the book clubs, the knitting group, the horse association, somebody's poker group, and the quilting group.  Doubtless more, but these are the ones I know about.  Really, quite a lot for a place with only 1500 permanent residents.

It is, of course, the quilting group that I belong to, and it has managed a continuous existence now for about fourteen or fifteen years. At its peak, it has about 14 members, but this number waxes and wanes with the seasons. It is a group with a strong presence on the Point. Over the years, we have made and donated a lot of quilts for community events or projects, or places. Our quilts can be seen in the Community Center, the Library, and the Aydon Wellness Clinic. At the Lutheran Church, there are four of our quilts on the walls of the great hall, "The Four Seasons of Point Roberts."  Last week, the church raffled off another of our quilts in order to raise money for a generator to help save us in a disaster. The quilters aren't the only people I know on the Point, but they are all good friends in the truest sense of the words. Couldn't get along without them.

Maybe all this group joining is a function of the age of Point Roberts residents. It is largely composed of older people, of retirees, who come here and need to find some kind of niche to begin their new life. Back in Los Angeles, or wherever, they already had a life whose boxes were already filled and one would hardly be looking for yet more boxes to fill. And maybe it has something to do with the isolation that is such an essential quality of Point Roberts. Whatever the cause, it is another good feature of the Point.  Here we are, like the pieces of a quilt, all separate, all different, and all together.

Friday, October 22, 2010

At Last: Separateness

On Tuesday, I observed that not only in Point Roberts but also in Bellingham, road workers were out painting yellow lines down the middle of all our roads.  They'd been getting fainter and fainter and we might have thought, reasonably, that the County no longer had enough money to buy paint to paint us into separate directions, given its budget difficulties.  Or we might have thought, less reasonably, that the County had figured out that we were all smart enough or not-British enough to know which half of the road we were supposed to be driving on (although knowing your half obviously isn't quite enough on a more than 2-lane road).  Or something else.

But what actually explained this lack of yellow lines and now this presence of yellow lines is that the national shortage of yellow-line street paint which began last spring has, at last, been reversed.

"Dow Construction Chemicals, one of the largest producers of the compounds that go into pavement-marking products, experienced plant breakdowns in April and May, according to the contractors group. Along with Dow's reduced production, shortages of other chemicals and rising demand from roadway projects in Asia have contributed to the problem. Industry experts also say the shortage has been heightened because of demand from street projects funded through American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus money."

(Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2010/08/12/20100812phoenix-road-paint.html#ixzz138mPD3YU).

Actually, if you Google "national shortage yellow street line paint" you will find the shortage cited even earlier than April of 2010, but whenever it began, at least seven months later, it has ended.  You might think that the free market and capitalism and supply and demand and all that would have permitted a more rapid recovery, but then you might have thought that big banks would have good and legal processes for mortgages and foreclosures of same.  I find myself, day after day, being astonished to discover things that I would have thought were obviously true to be absolutely NOT true.  I'm not sure that I can bear getting any older if the learning proceeds at this pace.

In any case, rejoice at those yellow lines.  Or stay on your own side, at least.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Down in the Big City

I was down in Bellingham yesterday, checking out what people more in touch with the modern world were experiencing. Lots of stuff happening to them. Mostly, I was at Trader Joe's and in various medical offices, but even there and on my way to those theres, lots of stuff to notice.

At one place, they had a newspaper and I was amazed at how awkward it was to read something so big and floppy. Surely that would be much better on the I-Pad, and the office had wi-fi, so why not just get it in an easier format? But I stuck with it, in all its size, and discovered (amazing!) that the airlines find it too costly as well as ineffective to haul U.S. Air Marshals around in first class seats and would like to require them to fly in the cattle section of the aircraft. I think no comment is needed there, except to note that I would never have known about this if I had not chanced upon this newspaper in the big city.

Later in my travels, I found another piece of news that reminded me about Point Roberts. Last year, the fine city of Chicago sold the revenue for the next 75 years from its parking meters to a brokerage bank..Morgan Stanley?   JP Morgan?...which in turn sold the revenue stream to Abu Dhabi. So, now, if Chicago wants to make parking free during some city event, Abu Dhabi has to say they're OK with losing those parking revenues, which they might understandably be not willing to say. And now NYC is considering selling/leasing long-term their parking meter revenues.

I just had not grasped how thoroughly privatization had taken hold. I know about all the military stuff, but I assumed cities, counties, states were privatizing only actual services, like garbage collection, prisons and schools. This parking meter revenue sale though was something different: like banks selling and securitizing mortgages, cities were now selling revenue streams in order to fill their budget gaps.

Chicago got over a billion dollars for their parking meter quarters. NYC is thinking five billion dollars.  So what kind of revenue streams does Point Roberts have that we could be thinking about selling, leasing, securitizing, slicing and dicing, and then insuring to hedge the down side?  First thought that comes to my mind is the penny per gallon on the gas tax.  Since we have almost $400,000 now, in ten years it would be $4 million, no?  And with two-thirds of that amount, we could have a ferry to go back and forth to Bellingham or Blaine (a small ferry, and it would have to largely be paying its own way since we would have sold our revenues in advance).

The City Manager is going to be up in Point Roberts on Monday night to meet with us.  Maybe we need to get somebody there from Abu Dhabi to discuss leasing our revenue stream?  And if that doesn't work out, we could maybe sell library fines?  This kind of thinking is what comes from going to the big city, I'm afraid.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Half an Apple, Better than None?

According to the news, it's a good apple crop this year, although less so in Washington State.  In fact, the crop here is likely to come in lower than predictions due to apples being small.  Which, apparently, is a result of colder weather and rain in September.  Also, it was pretty cold during spring bloom.

Here in Point Roberts, it has been considerably worse than just less than predicted, although I doubt that anyone of any importance was doing any predicting about our crop.  Our crop is, I am pretty sure, entirely a matter of personal apple trees for, more or less, personal use.  The original Icelandic settlers here planted lots of apple trees; so many that there must have been some for commercial use.  But the orchard tenders have moved on to other worlds and now there are just lots of untended apple trees in largely vacant lots with absentee owners of some sort.

In any case, and for whatever reason, there are lots of apple trees all around.  Ed and I have four apple trees (one of which is multi-grafted and has four different varieties, which might mean we have seven apple crops that can can fail).  Of the seven, this year's Transparent crop was small in quantity, but the right size.  The Jonagolds were right in quantity, but very small in individual volume.  The Red Delicious, which are ripening now, are tiny in number and small in size.  The Golden Delicious are not only small in number and size, but also seem to have some kind of internal brown fleck problem.  The Pippins, also ripening this month, are small in size but about average in quantity.  And the other two, whose varietal name I do not know:  well, one doesn't ripen until late November and never has much, and the other, which is an early russeted apple of some sort, set not one single fruit this year.  (The pippins in the picture at left are about 2 inches high, each, and with flaws.)

So, we are pretty much reduced to buying apples.  "What a revolting development this is!" as William Bendix used to say on The Life Of Riley, which was a very popular radio show in the Neolithic Era when I was growing up.

Worse yet, we are going to be pretty much, which is to say entirely reduced to buying apple juice.  For the first year since our friends George and Rose bartered a quilt for an apple press, we will not be invited to make apple juice with them (bring your own apples if you've got them), because nobody has any apples to bring.  Not only global warming but also no fresh apple juice.  Revolting doesn't even begin to cover the situation.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Commerce in Our Times and Place

I really don't have an entrepreneurial bone in my body (as Walt Disney was once alleged to have said, so it's hard to know whether it's a sentence ethat really can be taken seriously, but I really don't have any peddler inclinations).  Thus my summer and early fall's experience with Pt. Robert's Farmers'/Community Market is pretty unusual for me.  I found, over the 4 or 5 times I was there, selling the 4/5 of my fabulous CD collection, that I kind of liked the interchange, the process, the (mini)adventure of it.  I didn't wake up on Saturday mornings delighted to be rushing through my breakfast so I could get there by 9 a.m., but I didn't turn over in bed and decide to sell CD's some other Saturday, either.

The CD's have  been steady sellers, even as I point out to people that it's a dying (if not quite dead) technology, to be replaced by all the music that is available to anyone via the web.  As an almost former technology, it has to its credit that it really doesn't take up a lot of room...CED's are small, they're, eponymously, compact, right?  So, I imagine people will still have them hanging around on shelves for decades to come, but I doubt if they'll be playing them.  Given that, I'm particularly grateful that people buy them and take them to hang around on their shelves so I don't have to have them on mine.

Ed has also enjoyed selling his postcards of Point Roberts.  Link to many of the cards here and here.  We can only hope that the Post Office has been helped by an increase in postcard stamp sales.

The overall success of the market is reflected in our experience (or vice versa).  It was pretty fun.  Not too much work.  Generally enough buyers, although it would have been nice to have a few more sellers.  The growing season here is fairly short so a farmers' market isn't going to extend into the fall much unless you want to buy a lot of different kinds of apples, maybe.  There are meetings to decide what to do next, how to get it to continue to exist.  Depending on volunteerism is probably the worst way to bring something to an extended life, but here it's about the only way.  And if it is successful, it's usually because one mortal person has decided to really make it work, but then its existence depends upon that one mortal person, which is to make the event/institution/whatever a hostage to fortune.

I don't think I've got anything to sell on a regular basis once the CD's are done, and they will make it through only a few more market days.  I think Ed's are the only uniquely Point Roberts postcards on the Point, so they will probably have a longer shelf life.  I'm sorry we can't contribute more, but I hope the organizers can keep it going.  And I'd like to extend our thanks for their having made it happen this year.  It was an occasional event that had, at least as far as I could tell, absolutely no downside, and any number of small and pleasant upsides.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Stand Tall!

Three or four years ago, maybe even five years ago, the local Parks Board got into negotiations with Verizon about the building of a cell phone tower in Point Roberts.  They Parks Board was going to rent some land to Verizon in order for them to build the tower that would provide us with cell phone access, which we did not have.

It's not clear to me how it is that someplace this small has no access when a mile away they have plenty of access, but no one has seen fit to explain this to me, and I take it as one of life's eternal verities.  If you live in Point Roberts, you don't have cell phone access.  True then, true now, although my teenage grandchildren, when they visit, have found that if you go down and stand on the beaches of Point Roberts, you do indeed have something that responds such that you can call your friends on your cell and do whatever else cell phones do.  Not having one because of not having any practical access means that I don't really know exactly what they do...phones, email, word games, music, photography, and in fact maybe they just do everything.  So we probably should have one.

So why are we so deprived?  After Verizon and the Parks Board came to an agreement about the rental, the locals who did not like either the idea or the reality of cell phone towers gathered themselves together to oppose this agreement.  Eventually, they got themselves in court over it.  They were concerned about health issues (its placement was too close to the K-2 school building), about aesthetics, and for all I know about the rental terms themselves.  This dispute dragged on for quite awhile, but the County hearing officer eventually told the objectors to go away.  But by that time, Verizon apparently had forgotten why it ever wanted to put a cell phone tower in Point Roberts, although it still had some kind of option to do so.

But it hasn't done so, and now their option is running out.  And if it runs out, they would have to go back  and reapply for all the needed permits.

I recount this piece of history to explain why we don't have cell phone access and to explain why we are now about to have 5 radio towers built here on the main road into the peninsula, just south of the border.  The radio company wishes to expand its reach, particularly in order to get it in better contact not with the residents of Point Roberts but with the East Indian community of southern Vancouver.   A local resident has pointed out succinctly that surely the place for those radio towers is in the southern part of Vancouver, perhaps Delta (the large municipality immediately north of our peninsula), which is to say in Canada.

Unlike the Verizon request, which would have provided some kind of local benefit, the radio tower request would appear to have no benefit to the Point Roberts community, which is pretty short on East Indians.  The reason, I am told by those closer to power, that Point Roberts is a desired locale is that the radio company, by locating itself outside of Canada, frees itself from having to deal with Canadian radio regulations, which includes a bunch of requirements for 'Canadian content,' the kind of requirements that would probably appear to be Socialism if practiced in the U.S.  So, that is the service we could be providing this corporation, although what service they are providing us is not known.  It's not even Parks Board land that the towers are slated for, so there's not public rental fees coming to us.  Just the towers.

Well, they'll be tall (150 feet, as I recall), and they'll be easy to spot, so we can always say to our newcomer friends, 'Hey, we'll meet you at the radio towers.'  I guess I could contemplate knitting sweaters for the towers thus making them an art project, but I don't think I'll ever collect that much excess yarn again.  Local horse owners could, maybe, hitch their horses to the tower legs?  No, probably not.  At the very least, I guess we can listen to those programs that are designed for East Indians and expand our multiculturalism skills.

On the other hand, maybe someone will ask Whatcom County why they would approve this.  Of course, Whatcom County might answer this question.  The County is the third approval needed, after the FAA (danger to airplanes?) and the Federal Communications Commission.

For the most recent word on the Verizon tower, see here.  For the most recent All Point Bulletin coverage of the radio towers, see here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Be Thankful! It's the Law.

Yesterday, our Deputy Sheriff was lurking about 20 feet from his home/compound on South Beach, looking to cite drivers on Benson Road.  (That would be on Saturday, on a weekend in which the tourist traffic re-increases because we have arrived almost at Canadian Thanksgiving and on which day Canadian cottagers often come back for a family turkey dinner.)  Today, Sunday, he was sitting just out of sight on Benson, looking to observe (?) folks running the red light there, or perhaps just making rolling stops at the stop sign.  Same tourists, still here.  Same virtually no-traffic on the Point.  Well, there are rules and there are laws and all that.

I am reminded, however, that the lowest level of moral development is that of  'you have to follow the rules.'  Preferably to the letter.  This is the moral judgment of five-year-olds.  And, I suppose some folks never really get beyond that stage.  I was reading an article the other day about the current Acting Director of the DEA in our federal government (that's the Drug Enforcement Administration).  She was appointed to be Director by Bush but the appointment never got approved.  But now, Obama the Disappointer, has reappointed her to head that Agency, notwithstanding the fact that she believes the federal government should continue to enforce marijuana laws even when they fly in the face of state-approved medical marijuana laws, and even when the U.S. Attorney General has said that the federal government should not do that.

What can you say?  Well, there are rules and laws and all that.  And I guess we can be thankful for them on Thanksgiving Day.  Even Canadian Thanksgiving Day.

Friday, October 8, 2010

In the Grey, Good News

So it's fall, and the grocery store is kind of emptied out and the weekend walkers are spare on the side streets, but enough to keep the Sheriff's three large black dogs barking on a regular basis.  A fellow resident, at the end of his first summer here, once told me how astonished he was when the tourists all cleared out, and how quiet it seemed.  Pleasantly so and then some, he thought.  I would imagine we could stop worrying about all those traffic dangers for awhile at least.  Although I believe the Sheriff is still making his laying-in-wait sorties, out to get the people doing 35 in a 30 mph zone.

And the rain has returned, along with the grey skies.  That 10-12 week summer we get here with all that sun inevitably makes me forget that it rains here.  Perhaps that is because I spent my life in either a high or a low desert: that is, I basically assume that there won't be rain because there never was.  Left in the sun, I expect it to continue to be sunny.  But it is not.  There have been many days of heavy rain and the back yard has reverted to its vaguely marshland feel.  The thousands of plums that fell from the tree and never made it into anyone's mouth (not for lack of my trying to accomplish that feat) have dissolved into the grounds and into the wet ground and it is purple and slippery with plums when I walk between houses.

I'll get used to the rain again; at least I have every year in the last couple of decades.  And I'll also remember that I'm used to the threats of big developments in Point Roberts that never quite make it to fruition.  The Point Roberts Lily Point Beach Club has now sunk bank into the dream world from which it came. After a springtime of agitation about what could be done to stop it from happening, life stopped it.  It turned out that the people who were making all those plans last spring actually weren't paying the mortgage on the property and the bank decided to foreclose and sell it at auction.  Which it did, and at the auction the winning bidder was an art gallery owner in Vancouver who already owns a place in the near vicinity of the property.

He says he might build a house on the property some time, but has no immediate plans to do so, and that he bought it to keep it from turning into a development.  That is, to conserve it, in the best sense of conservatism.  So that is a bright light shining here in the fall.  If we can just remember that, the next time somebody decides to announce they want to put a racetrack on Tyee, or a Wikkininish-type resort on the beach, or five radio towers on Tyee.  Probably not going to happen.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Problem, the Solution

Okay, I think I'm finally back with everything working.  Several events and what I took to be a few day's hiatus from the blog turned into about a month.  Maybe not a bad idea to take a vacation.

What happened was this:  we have a lot of computers around, probably nine of them in Point Roberts.  But that is not just because we like them but because Ed is a computer guy.  He has computers that are named 'cardboard' because they are a lot of different parts that sit together in a cardboard box and function as a server for some purpose.  I have no idea why we either have or need a server, but apparently we do.  It's okay to have a lot of computers; I usually only work on 3 of them, including my I-Pad.  But one day in September, one of them I work on stopped working.  We had recently moved it down from the coast in order to upgrade the one I was using in the quilt workshop.  It had all my current files on it.  So when it refused to boot despite all Ed's coaxing, he transferred its files onto an external drive via our main computer.

And then the main computer refused to boot.  So he went back to the computer that had been replaced at the quilt workshop, but it had had its network card replaced in the exchange, so it was back to looking at the main computer.  Many tricks, all unsuccessful.  Finally, he replaced the battery in the C-Mos, and it booted up successfully.  But then, in about 24 hours, it quit again and refused to boot.  There was concern about highly problematic viruses, but given that this computer, although a PC, was running Windows 2000 made that seem a little less likely.  Nevertheless, an upgrade to XP.  No significant result.

Now a decision to upgrade the whole system to a better monitor, a better graphics card.  About this time, I made the decision to bail out on PC's after all these years.  I ordered an I-Mac.  Time is passing during all this ordering and upgrading.  I have the I-Pad, but it's hard to write much on if you don't have a keyboard and dock.  I don't.

The I-Mac comes.  I set it up all by myself.  This is a big deal because over the past 2 decades, Ed has taken over all computer maintenance and I don't suppose I've ever even installed a program.  I just use it.  The happiest news I have read in some time was the section of the tiny manual that came with the I-Mac that says something like 'Except for memory chips, nothing in this computer can be serviced or dealt with by you.  Don't even think about it.'  I am smiling.

  I am also figuring out how to use the Mac with help of my son, particularly.  It's all foreign stuff to me: the language, the syntax, the 'intuitiveness.'  My intuitions have all been shaped by PC's.  'So, how do I learn this?'  is the beginning of every email I write to the son.  He answers, usually, 'It's in the dock.'  I write another email, 'What is the dock?  Where would I find it?  Is it a program?  A place?  A manual?'  He replies; rinse and repeat.

Then, just when I'm beginning to feel I can get back to blogging, we went up to the Coast to the house for sale where DCC Cable Company had disconnected our internet connection because we had asked them last month to disconnect our TV connection and we hadn't been back at that house since we had requested that.  We called the cable people Friday afternoon and their friendly phone person in Ontario or somewhere explained that nobody could do anything about our situation before Monday.  Maybe DCC Cable Company ought to think about having an ER room with at least Saturday hours of availability?

Monday, Andrew arrived and apologized for having cut it all off.  'It shouldn't have happened,' he said.  Right, but that's what happens in life.  But rapid correction could have happened if DCC Cable cared the least about its customers, which it doesn't, of course.

Anyway, anyway, now we're back in Point Roberts.  The I-Mac is working; I am feeling I can use it; Ed has spread the entrails of the 'main' computer out on the slate kitchen counter and is now inserting a new motherboard (which arrived during our absence).  If this doesn't work, he says, perhaps a new power source since the new graphics card and monitor require more power.  He is not abandoning his commitment to PC's, I take it.

And what has been happening in Point Roberts while I have been engaged in my own problems?  Well, fall has come.  And thus everything has changed.