Port Townsend, WA

Jan 10, 2007
Current mood:contemplative

Port Townsend, Washington

The Boat Haven in Port Townsend harbor

Port Townsend

Up on the tip of Northwest Washington there is a small town that was originally meant to be what Seattle is today. It rates third on the National Register of Victorian seaports in the United States. I could write a book on Port Townsend but I'll spare you this time! J Port Townsend started as a logging and brothel town. It has always been run by women and is till run by women. It has the deepest seaport in North America and lost it's running with Seattle when the railroad could not be completed through the Olympic Mountain Range to access the rest of the state. So businesses and shipbuilders moved east over to the mainland in the early 1900's. The most influential pioneers to this community were Pope and Talbot who dominated the lumber industry and the Moran brothers who secured shipping, import/export and boat building.

Teddy Roosevelt was the first President that took in account the military advantage this area offered and along the southeast side of the bay he blew up a piece of land to create an island. Now known as Indian Island, it is the first stop amongst the largest Navy battleships based in Bangor, Keyport and Bremerton to offload their live artillery before proceeding down the canal to their home bases. It's that little bridge I told you about that sits high above the water that we have to cross in order to drive over to Marrowstone Island. You would never know that this island exits if you weren't told about it. It is a hub for military training and its history colored with stories and movies and American icons that all have ties to this little area. During 911, this town looked like an invasion from Red Dawn. Tanks, Hummers, military buses, ships, Marines, Army, Air Force, Navy. All of our tightly knit Podunk towns and parks, Port Hadlock, Port Ludlow, Fort Worden, Fort Flagler, Fort Townsend, Norland, Chimacum, were inundated with camouflage. It was nuts!!

Casey, Mckenzie, Jordan, Me, Payton, Jake and Roman on my lap.
In all the years I lived here, I never saw it snow. The next morning, we woke up to the wind shuddering the house with 60mph gusts coming through the Straits of Juan de Fuca, blanketing the island with fallen trees, power lines, waves the size of tsunami's and freezing rain. Mike's girlfriend, Amy, and I huddled by the pot bellied stove as Mike made mango martini's to keep our insides from freezing and Amy's parents braved the conditions enough to bring out a pickup load of cut wood to feed the fire. I don't think kids under the age of ten can feel temperature. Roman and Jordan were oblivious to the fact it was below zero in the house as they finally tore open the paper of their long awaited Christmas presents that Santa had delivered at daddy's house weeks before. 
Aprils place~On Common Grounds

Suzie, Jesse and April on Cinco de Mayo

Two days and eight inches of snow later, I ventured off the island and back into town. I was looking for one of my best friend's, April, and finally located her in Chimacum, off of Beaver Valley Road at what used to be one of our favorite coffee haunting places, On Common Grounds. This time she owns it and as I walked up the ramp to the door, the smell of her baking that I know so well, made my mouth involuntarily water. I must have been drooling by the time I opened the door, because suddenly the whole place became quiet. There were the old men of the valley sitting along the bar stools with their weekly Port Townsend Leader spread out before them on the wood bar and coffee mugs in hand when April and I made eye contact. The last time I saw her was Cinco de Mayo, but I don't remember much J. But, either does she or Jesse or Suzie, lol!! J I spent the next two days showing up every morning for these incredible flaky things she makes with , Canadian bacon, egg and melted cheddar cheese all wrapped up into a warm pastry that you can't help but inhaling along with  her infamous creamy caramel latte.

I watched as the nine years I spent in this community came flooding back. Everyone was the same, doing pretty much the same thing, in the same places just a little bit older, a little bit thinner, a little bit heavier, one more child, one more marriage, one more divorce. I felt like I fit in like an old glove and at the same time, I didn't fit in at all. In one way it reminds me of all the great memories and good times that are such a part of my life and in another way, it reminds me of how stagnated my personal growth became living in a place that doesn't change. There is comfort in the stability and frustration in the unrealized potential.

I smell bacon! PTPD~I'm 3rd from left
In a county that I spent countless hours in a patrol car and endless days at the bakery, I know almost everyone in some way. The beauty of it is that you can walk into the grocery store that you bought meat at 15 years ago and the meat cutter still remembers your name and because he talked to your ex mother in law, he knows that you live half way across the continent and that you will see him twice a year until the kids are eighteen. And when you go to the corner gas station, you can still talk to the other patrons filling their tank because they own the liquor store, they were your babysitter, hairdresser, or you took their son to the hospital for alcohol poisoning. You can visit Lanza's Italian restaurant and hug the maitre'd because he is still the owner and know you'll get a table even though the place is packed and reservations are booked until closing. And you know that you can walk back into the kitchen to hug his wife who hasn't moved 6 inches from the front of the gas stove that you saw her at last time.

Hunting Poachers on Hood Canal
 You can walk down Washington street and knock on the back door of the Police Station and they'll let you in because the guy who you used to the DARE program with, now has his stripes. And the other guy that you were working with when you first signed on to the City, the one that you used to sit in the shadows of local meth hangouts, suppressing the adrenaline in the frigid night cracking jokes and telling stories to pass the time until it was perfect for the pounce, is now in the ranking too. These two guys are only a few of the many that embraced my daughter into their brotherhood of family when she became a teenager. She is a very good girl and they protected, guided, and inspired her through the teenage years where peer pressure in small towns outweigh the different pressures of the cities. They are family.

The last night in town, I sat at Siren's. This is my place. Its address is engrained in stone on the sidewalk below the long stretch of stairs that lead up to it. 823. My badge number. We were destiny from the beginning. Port Townsend is a vortex. There are handfuls of vortexes scattered across the world. Vortexes are known for healing. The Indians were drawn to them; they were sacred. They're not sacred to most people anymore, but this is a funny little town. Very liberal, very hippie, it's a throwback from Berkley and advertised in the American GI magazines in Germany as the best place to move in America if you want to smoke weed and not get in trouble for it.

My Dad, my hero on our little 2 acre farm in Puyallup with Greta and Lady.

I moved here in April of 94, a week after my dad died. I needed a vortex, even though I didn't know it. It became a place where my soul could feel and heal without the restraints and responsibilities from the daily heartache that dominated most of my waking moments.  My mom, my dad, & my boyfriend had all passed on within a short period of time and I had been in an endless custody battle with my rich and spoiled rotten, ex-husband over our three children. The company I worked for, Sea Galley, moved me up here, I had a choice of Port Townsend or Fairbanks but this restaurant sat on pilings over the water and Richard Gere ate here in the movie "An Officer and a Gentleman". That was reason enough. Ironically, I met Gere's  cousin on the beach, ten years after the movie was made and only four days before the boys and  were scheduled to move to Coeur d'Alene, ID.  We ended up with a summer romance until the 296 mile weekend commute between his house and mine became an issue. Oh well, some things just aren't meant to be, but boy he was HOT....with those same smoldering brown eyes. J

Port Townsend from the north

Corner of Taylor and Washington. The Phoenix's doorway in
the center and Sea Galley is connect on the right.
 After closing down the restaurant I would sit on the beach chairs on the deck. No lights, no people, no sounds except for the strength and power of the ocean bathed in moonlight. I'd look out onto the world with such serenity for endless minutes, watching the wharf rats skip through the rocks over at the old ferry dock to the south. Then I'd stand up, walk down Taylor street just after midnight, turn the corner until I came to the fourth door of an old Victorian hotel that during it's hey day you could envision carriages pulling up to let the people out and into a regal foyer heavily decorated with dark cranberry velvet curtains and imported Persian carpets. It's been remodeled since and now the foyer hosts "The Phoenix" bookstore. A bookstore that only a vortex city would have. It is filled with Tarot Decks, incense, healing stones, rain sticks, tea leaves, hand carved totems, and endless shelves of books from Buddha, Astrology, Karma, Witchcraft, to Eastern Holistic Medicine Journals. I used to think that only the crazy people went in there. Now, I don't leave Washington without stopping in just to absorb the energy of it.(Shhhhh…I know exactly what you are thinking, lol!!)

Rick's jewelry shop is next to it and then Holly's flowers. The stairs up to Sirens are steep and long. Instead of walking up to the second story, you feel like you've climbed to the top of the Empire State Building. As you round the hallway to the back of the building, the first thing that strikes you is that you go from a brightly lit area into a dusky, sensual and inviting room. In front of you is the tall single door to the deck that rises above the ocean and brings you closer to the stars. The windows are long, tall and heavily molded with the intricate woodwork of master craftsmen. To the left is a heavily shellacked wood bar that looks like it came from the middle of the largest redwood in history. It's beyond beautiful. Off to the left they added on a few booths, a corner fireplace, a couch, some pool tables and a stage where all the really cool local bands play. The tables are still the same and the one that has always been mine and is always empty is next to the one window along the water. You have to step up to it because it sits higher than any of the others and is nestled into it's own little alcove which only seats two. It's intimate. I love this table. It has glass on top of the tabletop where visitors from around town and around the world slip their business cards under to let people know that they have been there. I read them all. It fascinates me where people come from, what their stories are, to think about what they were thinking when they sat in the exact same spot that I'm sitting in. I've always sat here alone and as romantic as it is, I've never shared it with anyone.
I had a crush once before I married Mike. He was from Port Townsend. Born and raised. He touched my world in ways he touches everyone's world. He is a gentle man, and extremely talented with music. He had a band, Willow's Bones. They were hot!! Years ago, at Siren's, they played to a sold out, packed bar and to the record scouts from Pearl Jam.  Chris and I used to drink cheap blackberry wine form Whidbey Island on the beach and one of the greatest gifts I ever received from a man was a little leather bracelet that he made me. It had dark purple glass beads intertwined with little metal beads engrained with daisies on them. He told me that I reminded him of daisies. He moved on to find the love of his life and to New Mexico to play his music. I miss him too. I miss Simon.

My table at Sirens

And when I miss Simon I think of why. I think of all the little special things that instantly connect you to someone.  It's something that isn't tangible and yet it surges through your body with such undeniable force that the initial butterflies imprint on your blood that will forever flow in your veins and back to your heart. Those people that you keep a piece of their soul eternally even when your lives take different paths. They mold your life in ways that won't let you settle for anything less than that powerful torrent of indescribable emotion. It transcends your being into empowerment, into growth, into sorrow, into joy, into nirvana. As I sit at this table looking out onto a winter wonderland night, I see him there, sitting across from me, sharing that moment. It would never happen, but at least for one suspended moment, I had it. I shared my table for the first time in thirteen years.

After writing for hours, I stepped out on the deck to breathe the sea in one last time before heading back to Colorado, etching the salty smell in my mind and absorbing the dampness on my skin. My hair curls here. It looks like Shirley Temple. I won't miss that.

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