We’ve been in our new apartment almost 3 weeks in Issaquah, a town in the foothills of the Cascades that is best known for its Salmon Days festival where the salmon swim up the local creek to the area around the hatchery to spawn and then die. We live near the creek and it’s quite the sport to stand there and watch the fish splashing their way up the river. Some 150,000 people will arrive in town that first weekend in October for it.
The town is laid out in a way that makes it one big traffic jam from 3-7 pm each day with schools letting out and then the commuters driving home from Seattle. I didn’t have Internet for awhile, which is why I was camping out a lot at the local library and at various Starbucks around town. In comparison to Fairbanks, which had no free-standing Starbucks stores, this region has one on almost every corner.
One night, we were eating at Five Guys, a popular hamburger franchise that’s gone nationwide (although I remember patronizing the original Five Guys off of Rt. 7 in northern Virginia 20 years ago). I’d noticed a homeless guy standing at the corner near the restaurant, so after we ate, we took our (uneaten) bag of fries to this man, who looked very harmless and about 20 years old, to where he was standing. He had just taken our bag when Veeka shrieked, “Mommy, police!”
And sure enough, across the street were three police officers walking toward us. They ignored us and approached the panhandler, said they had a warrant to arrest him for drug dealing and handcuffed him right there. We slunk off and returned to our apartment, where I let Veeka wander about the grounds of the school across the street. Pretty soon, however, two police cars pulled up near Veeka who ran back toward me as I came out of the apartment. A teenager who was hanging around the area walked up to the officers; I later learned she was 16 years old and had called the police on us, as she’d seen Veeka wandering about alone and she thought that was dangerous.
Now the part of town we live in is very quiet and off the beaten path. One of the officers saw me and recognized me, as he’d been one of the guys arresting the panhandler! I was beyond annoyed that this young woman hadn’t bothered to ask Veeka where her mother was, as Veeka could have told her I was watching her out our window. This happens a lot, I’ve found; people don’t bother to ask basic questions but assume the worse and call the police on you! Of course the officers and I had a nice conversation and they said it’s unusual for a kid just to be wandering about alone. Most kids have someone with them. We don’t have that luxury in that we know no one here and no one has really befriended us. But I do wonder about some of the locals. Like someone just posted a note on my door complaining about some things I had done with the cardboard boxes from us moving in. I hadn’t stacked them right in the condo recycling center, it seems; however some of the things this person accused me of, I didn’t do! This is such a sign of the times and how impersonal things can be. People hide behind their cell phones and never go out and talk with people, nor check to see if their crazy assumptions are correct.
So last weekend, I went down to Portland for a day to meet with a group of friends I’ve known for some 35 years and spend time with them. It was lovely to be with people to whom I didn’t have to explain myself nor Veeka. Other than that, am treading water on several fronts. My father is doing better, thank God. But the job hunt is going very slowly. My book on serpent handlers that I worked so hard on hasn’t gotten accepted by any publisher and my agent has tried quite a few. The religious market where I’ve sold my previous four books doesn’t want to touch this one with a 10-foot pole, because, as one explained to the agent, there’s no spiritual “take away” to the book. In other words, no clear moral or happy ending. Sigh – do these folks get what real life is about? And I thought there were many moral lessons in my narrative. But the secular outlets aren’t biting either, which frustrates us a lot, as I got tons of hits when I wrote about the same folks for the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. Plus, the advance from this book was what I’d counted on to support me this fall while I’m in between jobs.
So we live in interesting times. I’m still amazed when I walk into stores here and see bananas for 19¢ a pound whereas they were 99¢ a pound in Fairbanks. I still miss Alaska, though. Fairbanks just got snow last week, which was 3 weeks earlier than last year, when it didn’t snow until Oct. 4. I miss the beauty and the lack of crowds. I miss the friendliness and the freewheeling spirit there. I’m glad I turned down a possible job at the University of Oregon to go up there last year. And I’m glad I’m not in Eugene this year. It feels so much better to be only 14 miles from my parents and close to the mountains.
I settled in an area where I was sure there’d be kids playing outside. But in the afternoons, there are none. Do they all sit inside and watch TV? So my daughter is very lonely. I take her to an Awana club on Wednesday evenings but finding playmates is a work in progress.