hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

It's All About Traffic and Roads

Back.  And finding that the border has once again become a very big problem.  Long lines almost every time I've been near it.  Today, the longest line I've ever seen going into Canada in the regular lane (not Nexus, that is) around 1 p.m.  Not to mention that one of the reasons I was acutely aware of this was that I was stuck in a very long Nexus line coming into Point Roberts.  For about ten minutes, nothing moved although there were three lanes operating.  And then, nothing moved very quickly.  Twenty minutes in Nexus is not what we had in mind on A Tuesday mid-day.  Doubtlessly we can blame it on computers or healthcare insurers or global warming.  Whatever, not cheering for a nice summer day.

And then also, since I've been back, I have discovered every time I drive out into Point Roberts itself that there is a Whatcom County Sheriff's car lurking in a sideroad of Tyee or Gulf or Benson or whatever we consider the main roads here.  The purpose of such lurking is obviously to issue speeding tickets.  And then I discover that Deputy Slick has returned to us.  In his prior posting here, he was known for his obsession with speeding, and it has stayed with him, I guess.  It's good for the season.  Right when everybody in Point Roberts is hoping to encourage tourism, Deputy Slick arrives to make sure that tourists will have a better than average chance of getting a speeding ticket.  This can't be part of our economic development program?

Perhaps Chair Reber and the Community Advisory Committee could consider using the $370K to purchase large extension mirrors so we could see what's in those little roads ahead of us.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I'm away for the next five days so posting will be light to absent.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Summer Arrives

The last three days have had a very summer-like quality to them, which is to say sun and warmth pretty much unlike anything we've seen so far this year.  Just watching the shrimpy-little garden plants that seem to have been up but shrimpy for months, or at least weeks, reaching out to the warmth is enough to gladden your heart or believe in hope or something like that.

We ought to have some kind of celebration for this phenomenon, and of course there is the summer solstice within a week or so that we could be celebrating.  That would be a natural here given the widespread Summer Solstice festivals in the Scandinavian countries and Point Roberts' Icelandic history.  But not: Point Roberts puts everything into July 4th (despite the fact that the relationship between the Point and the Federal Government is not always a happy one, or even usually a happy one, it sometimes seems) and has no time for any summer solstice-y thing.  We're raising money this week, as a matter of course, but no sheer celebration for the sake of celebration and summer. 

It's different down south of us, apparently, where the Scandinavian-Americans are still hanging onto their ethnic traditions.  According to Wikipedia,"The Seattle, Washington neighborhood of Fremont puts on a large Summer Solstice Parade & Pageant, which for many years has controversially included painted naked cyclists. In St. Edwards Park in Kenmore, Washington, the Skandia Folkdance Society hosts Midsommarfest, which includes a Scandinavian solstice pole."

Now that's something that I think Point Roberts could get behind: painted naked cyclists!  Could that involve an economic development plan?  And maybe combine it with painted pole dancers.  I guess not.  Well, in lieu of any other summer solstice festival, we could just watch Ingmar Bergman's 'Smiles of a Summer Night,' or listen to Stephen Sondheim's 'A Little Night Music.'  The latter is derived from the former, and both are about what can happen on a summer solstice night.  Neither, however, features cyclists, painted or unpainted, naked or clothed.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Protection on the Point

We are of course protected 24 hours a day by the Customs and Border Patrol here in Point Roberts.  But we are also protected by the Whatcom County Sheriff in the person of a couple of deputy sheriffs.  They used to live at the Sheriff's Station on South Beach Road.  There were two weary-looking, pre-fab kind of houses, nicely surrounded by a 6/7-foot wire fence.  Well, nicely if you like the idea of being fenced in.  With a big sign saying there is No Trespassing or No Unauthorized Entrance.  (I can't remember at the moment what the sign says, but it has a forbidding quality to it.)

It looked sort of prison-like, I'm sorry to say, since it was actually the home of two deputies and their families.  Then, about 3 or 4 years ago, the deputies and their families moved out.  The word on the street was that the houses were rodent-infested, or mold-infested, or just not nice for human habitation.  The deputies and their families then took up residence in rental properties and you would see their official cars parked at their little cottages here on the Point.  And the Sheriff's Station lay vacant.

I follow this a bit because I live near the Sheriff's Station and I used to be able to tell people how to get to my house by using it as a landmark.  But since the deputies moved out, newer residents to the Point seem less likely to know either that there is a Sheriff's Station or where it is.

Then, two or three months ago, much activity was suddenly manifest at the Sheriff's Station.  The old and infested pre-fabs disappeared over a week and then, in a bit, new pre-fabs appeared.  And much construction of additional amenities, including decks on the two houses, was undertaken.  And then a couple of weeks ago, I saw a moving van drive into the forbidden area.  And now, there are people there.

Not only people, presumably Deputy Sheriffs and their families, but dogs.  Several dogs, perhaps as many as three dogs.  Black dogs, of about the size of German Shepherds.  They could be short-haired German pointers, although I don't remember that they are ever solid black.  What they really are are barkers.  Insistent barkers.  They are committed to protecting the Deputies and the Deputies' families from any attacks from people walking by and especially from any attacks that arise from people walking by with some other dog on a  leash.  Those Deputy Dogs, they bark and bark and bark. 

Unfortunately, on a sunny, summer Saturday or Sunday, somebody walks down South Beach with a dog on a leash about every twenty minutes.  So we are treated to the sound of the Deputies and their families being provided with all this dog protection quite steadily.  All this protection AND a 6/7-foot wire fence that completely encloses the compound?  And a 24-hour CPB with cameras and radiation detection and all?  We might well ask, as a 7-year-old grandchild once wisely asked, "Why do the Sheriff's Deputies need so much protection?.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Way Down Below..Farther Even than the Carpet

Today, Ed and I spent the better part of the afternoon in Whatcom County's class on 'How To Inspect Your Own Septic System.'  After all the brouhaha in late 2009 about everyone having to lay out $200-$300 to have a 'professional inspection,' the County revised the law to permit anyone who took the County's class in inspections to do the inspection on his/her own septic system.  We had already had our septic system inspected, but the law requires that it be inspected regularly (every 1 or every 3 years, depending upon the kind of system it is).  So, having taken the class, we could do it ourselves next time.

I know that because I took the class.  But, frankly, I wouldn't, at least not yet, trust me to inspect our septic system.  First of all, you have to be able to take the lid off and it's way too heavy for me to move, so I am stymied at the very first step.

The class, held here in Point Roberts, attracted 60-65 folks, most of them guys, but there were at least a dozen women in the room, as well, most of them of the elderly (like me) class.  I don't know whether any of those other ladies could lift their lids, either.  But it wasn't just the first step that was the problem.  The guy from the County who was explaining to us how to do this work was really very good, but he really didn't expect to be dealing with people like me, people who don't know the first thing about the subject, including the language that one uses to talk about it.  For example, there was much talk of baffles.  I could never quite get it into my mind what he was talking about.  At one point he actually showed me a baffle, pulling it out of a piece of PVC pipe (I do know what PVC pipe is; there's that).  But then, the next time he referred to the baffle and how it needed to be dealt with, I had forgotten about the thing he pulled out of the pipe and that it was called a baffle and thus had no idea what he was talking about.  This was definitely not his fault.  But the class effectively had pre-requisites, classes I had not taken.

It just got worse for me.  By the end of the second hour, when he was warning us about 'ponding' in the drain field, I was not sure whether ponding meant 'ponds of water,' or whether it had some special technical meaning that was obscure to me.  Thus, as Ed learned how to do it, I ended up knowing less than I knew at the beginning.  At least I suspect that at the beginning, I would have been pretty confident that ponding meant water gathering in small ponds.

Now, Ed knows how to do it and we are both certified by having been at the class.  Ed, however, assures me that he will walk me through it with our system so that I will see what it is the instructions were talking about and then my certification will have more content.  That would be good.  I learn that kind of thing better if I'm seeing the real practice.  Otherwise, I'm just likely to hear the word 'baffle' and immediately think of myself as baffled.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

At the End of a Long Day

We had a long-ish day in medical care land today, and at the end of it I went to the meeting of the Point Roberts Advisory Committee which is, among its many other possible activities, fossicking about in the $370,000 fund for improvement of roads and transit in Pt. Roberts, a fund made possible largely by the Canadians who come cross the border to buy, in large quantities, our (relatively) cheaper gasoline.  (According to Wikipedia, "Fossicking is a term found in Cornwall and Australia referring to prospecting. This can be for gold, precious stones, fossils, etc. by sifting through a prospective area. In Australian English, the term has an extended use meaning to "rummage".")  Whether the committee is prospecting or rummaging is surely a matter of perspective.

The committee has put out a survey and the 49 responses received so far are enthusiastic about trails and walking paths.  And a bridge to Blaine (or maybe Bellingham, I forget).  And more street lights.  And fewer street lights.  There seemed a good deal of talk about 'what people wanted,' but it is not clear to me that 49 responses provide much evidence about what people want.  Perhaps the 1, 451 non-responses indicate that the people want nothing at all.

In any case, beautification is a possibility, apparently, although there are many unanswered questions about any possibility.  Some things are not possible at all because they are not included in the narrow definition of roads and transit; some things are problematic because they would require meeting county standards that would make them very expensive.  E.g., there was at least an assertion at the meeting, that a walking path along Benson Road, e.g., would have to meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act, such that a wheelchair could easily move along the new walk's surface.  Which would be a very different standard than, say, just making sure that the shoulder of Benson is regularly mowed.  It was not clear to me whether Benson was just an example, but upon pointing out that people already walk on the shoulder of Benson all the time, I was told that walking on Benson is very unsafe.  Although I"m not sure that making it wheelchair accessible would make it any safer since the cars would still be driving 40 mph and the shoulder would still be right next to the part where the cars travel.

Well, perhaps it was just the end of that long day, but perhaps I'm not really suited to small town government activity.  I felt more like I was watching a TV show about small town government meetings than actually watching anything that had to do with Point Roberts as I know it.  But maybe the Committee members all know a different Point Roberts.  They all seem to have a vision for Point Roberts.  Me?  Like the first George Bush, I don't seem to have 'the vision thing' (and don't we all wish that the second George Bush hadn't had the 'vision thing'?).

And particularly I don't have a vision of or for Point Roberts.  I like it the way it is.  And I think it will more or less continue to take care of itself in the same way that it has done for a century.  Things come, things go; people come, people go.  What I most like about Point Roberts is its uniqueness.  And a substantial part of that uniqueness either derives from or means that things are difficult here.  The vision people seem to want to make it less difficult and, I suspect, that will result in it being more like other places.  They want more services, more tourists, an economic development plan, more stability, a bigger share of County dollars.  And I suspect they don't care at all about llamas.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Books We Knew

The other day, I was reading the most recent New Yorker, which comes to us in paper format via the U.S. Mail every Thursday or Friday.  It also comes via digitalness in the email every Monday, but even though I can read it four or five days earlier if I do it that way, I wait for the paper form, which is to say the magazine form of the magazine.

I'm not entirely wedded to books and paper, though, insofar as I already have found myself the possessor of a Kindle.  (I didn't buy it; it was a hand-me-down; thus, the awkward phrasing.)  I like having books around and, although I rarely buy a book (since I believe that libraries, not my house, were made to store books), I have not found myself inclined to store books on the Kindle.  This is largely because the book prices on the Kindle are higher, usually, than used book prices on the Net.  If I'm going to buy a book, it's really unlikely that I need it right this minute and am willing to pay extra for that privilege.  There are free books on the Net, of course: almost anything that is out of copyright, which includes a lot of books.  But most of them are in a format that the Kindle can't read, and thus I can't read.

So, back to the New Yorker last Tuesday morning.  I was reading an article which was taking a look at the novels, especially, of Somerset Maugham, one of the most widely-read (in English) writers in the U.S. and U.K. in the 20th Century.  I read all his novels when I was in my teens and early twenties, so his popularity was still notable in the middle-third of the last Century, although it probably peaked mid-Century.  Now, not so much: not the plays, the novels, or the short stories.  I'm a sucker for formerly famous novelists (I own the complete works of Anthony Trollope, despite my claim that I have no books permanently in my possession), and I was tempted by the article to go back and reacquaint myself with Of Human Bondage, The Moon and a Sixpence, and The Razor's Edge.  Which means going to the library's web site and ordering up copies to be delivered unto me in a week or so.  Plenty soon enough.

About ten minutes after I had this thought, there was a knock on the door and the Fed-Ex guy delivered unto me my new I-Pad.  I plugged it in, got it connected to my wi-fi network, downloaded the I-Book app, and within 15 minutes of having the I-Pad box put in my hand, I was reading Of Human Bondage.  At no cost and with no wait.  The I-Pad is an easier reader than the Kindle and weighs nothing, relatively.  And with an awful lot of classics at my disposal, I can imagine relying on ordering them from the I-Book store rather than from the local library.

And The New Yorker is preparing an App for the I-pad so that I can read it, just as I am reading the New York Times, via the New York Times App, on the I-Pad,  If this takes off as it seems to be doing, I imagine libraries are going to be having to figure out something else to do with their shelf space.  Certainly they will remain information conductors, but overdue fines look like a thing of the past.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Beneath My Feet...Someday

I like a little carpet under my feet when indoors.  That is especially true in the somewhat irregularly built houses here in Point Roberts where insulation may be a tad on the thin side.  So, when we are doing a little remodeling and need something new underfoot, we think carpets!  And we are at that point right now in the house that Ed has been fiddling with over the past five years. 

Carpets!  So nice to have done, so unpleasant to get done.  Years ago in Los Angeles we were inclined to put a new carpet in a study.  We went to a carpet store where there were approximately 32 thousand different kinds of carpets.  We looked around for about fifteen minutes and without further consultation we exited the carpet store and didn't mention the topic again for three or four months.  And then, three or four months after that, I saw an ad in the newspaper which told me that the carpet people would have a telephone interview with me and, based on that, would bring a few samples to my house.  I called them; we talked; they brought five samples; I picked one; they came within a few days and put the carpet down the way it was supposed to be done.  I was never very crazy about that carpet, but at least it was not stressful to acquire it.

Now, here in Point Roberts, the acquiring and laying of a carpet is yet a different kind of matter.  We did this once before, about 12 years ago.  And here are the tasks: 1.  In what country do you buy your future carpet?  If you buy it in Canada, they will not deliver it to Point Roberts and then lay it because there are border issues with the Americans.  If you buy it in the U.S., they will not deliver it to Point Roberts and then lay it because there are border issues with the Canadians.  We found some carpeting we liked in a big place in Bellingham and when they asked if we would like them to deliver and install it, we mentioned Point Roberts and they laughed raucously.  What a great and charming and audacious idea!  Delivering and installing carpet in Point Roberts!  What would we be thinking of next?

So, you need to find an independent carpet layer who will deliver and install your carpet.  And what you really want is an independent carpet layer who has dual citizenship so that he can help you arrange the purchase of your carpeting from a Canadian company and can then pick it up and deliver it to your house.  He can cross the border with your carpet because he is a U.S. citizen and thus can lay your carpet.  We have the name of such a person.  So we called him and he agreed to help us with the purchase of the carpet, the transfer of the carpet to our house, and the laying of the carpet in our house.  As soon as we were ready to go with this project, we were to call him.

And we did, and it worked pretty well.  We went to the store, they didn't have too many kinds of carpets, we had a sample of a carpet we liked, they showed us what they had that was more or less like it, we picked one of them, we paid for it.  And we called the carpet guy to tell him it was done and when could he start.

Let us think of that as Day 1.  On Day 2, the carpet company called to say that the carpet layer thought it would be better to have the carpet from a 15 foot roll rather than a 12 foot roll, which left us with two problems.  First, the 15-foot carpet had to be special ordered, so it would be an extra week or so before they could get it; and second, the carpet installer couldn't transfer a 15-foot roll in his truck, so we'd need to get somebody else to pick it up and deliver it to us.  But that was doable, because Point Roberts has services that will do that for a price, which is to say an extra price of sorts.

On Day 15, the carpet arrived, but by now, the carpet guy had gone on a week-long vacation.  On Day 21, we called the carpet guy, but he had extended his vacation for another two weeks.  On Day 28, the carpet company called to say that the 15-foot carpet roll weighed 640 pounds and was 48" wide and maybe we would need to make some special arrangements for its literal pickup, and also we'd better install a 48 inch wide door to get it into our house.  So, we talked to the carpet guy and as soon as he got back, he said he would go to the warehouse and cut it into the 3 pieces it would end up in.  And then the pickup people would get it to our house.  But that didn't happen because they had it in the wrong warehouse and another 5 days were involved in getting it cut.  We're now at Day 41 or 2 but now the delivery guys can't figure out their schedule. 

Finally, today, Day 44, the carpet shows up.  It is announced with a call that the truck will be here in 30 minutes and is there someone who can help the guy carry it out of the truck and into the house?  Well, there's me, a nice medium-sized lady in her 70's.  I'm pretty sure that I'm not going to be the kind of help the driver needs, but fortunately Ed arrives in time to help.  It is heavy lifting, he reports.

So now, there the carpet is!  Or, there the three carpets are.  But just before the carpet got delivered, the carpet layer announced that, what with the delay and all, he won't be able to start laying it until next Tuesday, which will be Day 48.  And I think longingly of those people in Los Angeles who talked to me on the phone and brought those samples and in three days it was all over.  I'm going to like this carpet better, I think, than I did that one.  But the process is one that you can probably get only in Point Roberts.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Riding High

It keeps raining, the skies keep being grey, the air keeps being kinda cold.  And then, suddenly, for an hour, the sun comes out and it seems like a different season altogether.  Today, mid-afternoon, the sun came out and we skipped out for a little holiday.  Went down to visit the llama and goats, walked around down near the beach and checked out a kildeer nest with two eggs and with a pair of kildeer parents who really didn't want us looking at their nest OR their eggs.  And ran into an acquaintance who told us that the orcas had recently been by, heading north.  'Usually," he said, 'When they are heading north, they'll be back in about 4 hours.'  In the interim, we went over to the Tsawwassen Ferry terminal to look at Point Roberts from that vantage point.  PR looked very neat and tidy.

By 7, though, the rain was threatening again and the wind was blowing up and it didn't feel like the time to go down to Lighthouse Park for an evening picnic and a spot of whale watching, but we went anyway.  Too cold, however, to be sitting around on the beach picnicking.  We unpacked our chicken-and-brie sandwiches and our chips and our wine and sat in the car, spilling food all over ourselves.  And watched.  No sign of orcas.

But it would be kind of hard to see them because the waves were kicking up quite a bit: at least as much as when we had the tsunami wave this past winter.  The sea gulls were valiantly flying sidewise across the beach with the heavy winds coming in from the south, off the ocean.  I saw one crow fly backwards while rising slowly, in this way backing into a comfy, if unsheltered, position on a piling about ten feet above the water. 

And then came to my eyes a big red kite.  Not a diamond-shaped kite, but one of those fancy kinds that are flat, but when they are buoyant are like an arched air-mattress.  Some guy in shorts and a t-shirt was running along the beach, and boy was it easy for him to get that kite up in the air.  But then, once it was up, he followed it out into the water.  And there I was, watching wind surfing, something I'd never seen in real life before.  And up very close.  He was moving very, very fast through the water on some kind of board...well...like the wind.  The kite wasn't on a string, of course; it was on a harness and he was manipulating it to take him to the left, to the right, way out in the waters and then, suddenly, it lifted him right out of the water and he was flying.  Wow! 

We watched him with unalloyed delight for about fifteen minutes.  Again and again, he went right up in the air and he never fell off the board into the water, and the wind blew like crazy, and he was going back and forth like crazy, and then a second kite showed up in the air, followed by a second guy, this one in a wet suit, following the kite through the water.  The two of them raced around for another quarter hour or so and then they came in, one at a time, as easily back to the beach as if they were walking on the water, not flying through and above it.

I talked to the first guy a little bit and found that his small board is attached to him with straps, which is how he can go up in the air like that without losing the board.  But, he said, the other guy was using a surf board and it was not attached and the fact that he managed to stay pretty much upright all the time (although not to fly up in the air) was very impressive.  He also said that it was really too stormy to be using a big kite and if he'd realized how hard the wind would be blowing, he'd have brought a smaller one, and that it had been very tiring.  Either way, we couldn't have had a finer show.

Oh, never saw any orcas.