Archive for July, 2011

More of Vashon

Busy day Thursday. In the morning I went swimming at the Vashon Athletic Club, which is connected to a gas station, as though it had once been the auto repair shop. I’ve already mentioned how crummy it looked to me, compared to what I’m used to at Charlestown and various athletic clubs I’ve belonged to or used around the country. The locker room looked cramped and kind of primitive. The pool reeked of chlorine and looked small to me. However, I decided to give it a try.

And I’m glad I did. There was no chlorine in the air at all. The guy who maintains it had told me that somebody had neglected to do something the day I smelled it. In the system he maintains, they make their own chlorine from salt. The water felt great. It tasted faintly salty. The inside of the pool has recently been resurfaced, and after swimming the first lap, I felt that it might be a couple of yards longer than Charlestown’s pool. The pool itself is good, even though the translucent walls of the room look shoddy. I didn’t even mind the shower for four.

After swimming, Carol’s and Geoff’s friend Carla took  me to lunch at the Vashon Tea Shop, right in the middle of uptown. They offer dozens of varieties of teas–black, green, white, decaf, herbal, and tisanes (floral infusions).

Here’s Carla contemplating her order at the counter.

We both had spinach feta quiche, made in individual portions and very good. I had lapsang souchong tea, which  I haven’t had in over 20 years, I’m sure. Ernie and I used to have it among a variety of teas we drank regularly, but that was long ago when we had tea every afternoon.

The current featured local artist makes these mini-altars. (I thought of Joseph Cornell’s art boxes.)

And someone made these silk mini-prayer flags.

When she invited me to lunch, Carla said the tea shop was “gentle elegant.” She’d heard about my first impression of Vashon.

I wouldn’t describe this shop as elegant, but it is charming and quiet. Definitely refined by Vashon standards.

And a curtained doorway leads into The Vashon Book Store, a surprisingly well-stocked bookshop for such a small community. Even more surprising, there’s another bookshop two blocks away, next to Cafe Luna.

Good lunch in good company.

Thursday evening Carol, Geoff, and I walked uptown to the performance of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream by local actors. It was performed outdoors on a beautiful evening in the park.

The cast and the audience included people of all ages, from infants to elderly–well, not the cast. But there were lots of kids in the cast.

It was what you would expect of a small-town amateur production, and because of my hearing, I could not understand most of the speaking. That didn’t matter. The ambiance was great and I thoroughly enjoyed being there.

So, Vashon has begun to grow on me. Being here has become much more enjoyable.

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Good times at Vashon

Okay. I’ve just presented a mostly negative take on Vashon. In fact, I’ve been having some very good times. First, let me show you the floral arrangement daughter-in-love Nan gave as a welcome gift.

Calla lilies, roses, long-stemmed lavender something, and exotic greenery. Just look at these roses:

They were actually almost mauve, not this pink, but dusty lavender.

With Nan, I saw the lovely home of her friends.

At one time Nan even lived here, in Mary’s studio behind the house.

We picked two quart yogurt tubs full of their raspberries, so ripe they fell into the tubs with a touch of the branch. The raspberry patch is behind the flower garden.

Here’s the tepee where her friends like to sleep in the summer.

This is Vashon, folks, where the bumper sticker reads “Keep Vashon weird.” But Vashon is starting to look better to me. And believe me, the food is REALLY good.

At Geoff’s house on Friday morning I got to watch 17-month-old great-granddaughter Beau play with and in her new kiddie pool.

I am waiting for Beau to get interested in me. I’m just hanging out, not trying to interact with her, not trying to get her attention, just being there. Each time she’s seen me, she’s paid more attention to me. Now she waves and smiles and “talks” to me. Yesterday she came looking for me in my room, stood at the doorway waving and giggling, backed away and came back into view several times.

Geoff and  Carol, with daughter Zoe, built their house in a sweat equity development. It is located just three or four long blocks from “Main Street”, like a miniature suburb of the town.

It is named for Rose Ballen, who years ago envisioned just such a sweat equity project to enable people to own their own homes.

The homes are grouped around a commons area, and each is painted differently from the next.

Geoff and Carol’s house is painted “Seattle Red” over the initial objections of other homebuilder/owners. It’s a lovely house, with four bedrooms, front and back porches, and plenty of space for gardening.


The commons is beautifully landscaped, including play area for children, as you can see from Geoff’s porch.

Here’s a side view of Geoff and Carol’s house.

Upscale Vashon (or mid-scale Vashon)–fresh, new, tidy, and attractive.

Just behind Roseballen is a communal farm where Geoff, Carol, Caleb, and Lauryth have started to produce their own food. On Sunday morning I went with Caleb as he did his farm chores–tending the ducks and chickens and collecting their eggs, and feeding and watering the pigs. Here he is getting food out of the shed.

And here are the ducks and chickens converging on the food. Already they are getting enough organic eggs to sell at a premium.

Next come the pigs. When full-grown, one of them will be butchered humanely to provide meat for the Johns family.

As Caleb performed his chores, we were talking–good talk about where he and Lauryth are in the experiment to live a sustainable lifestyle.

That evening Caleb and I prepared a pasta dinner for all of us at their yurt. Here’s Beau, who loves to eat and eats everything, with Grandma helping and Granddad supervising. Lauryth is on the far right.

Most of the group:

This yurt has a guest room, sleeping loft, washer and dryer, dishwasher, hot tub, and Lauryth’s piano. Remember, this is Vashon.

While Geoff was at gigs, Carol and I feasted on half a whole salmon. It melted in the mouth–so fresh and moist. Leftovers went into a huge salad that featured, among other goodies, eggs from the farm, carrots and tiny green and lemon cucumbers, tomatoes, black olives, raw sugar snap peas,avocado, bean sprouts, and goddess dressing made with tahini and tamari, not to forget the fabulous, succulent salmon.

More to come. I’m getting groggy with sleep. Enough for now.

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Uptown Vashon

I’ve told you that Vashon looks shabby to me. Some people who live here agree. Some think it’s unfortunate that so many Vashon residents want no changes in their town. They don’t want any updating, any repainting, even any repairs. They want it to look shabby.

Let me show you what I mean with some shots I took along the three or four blocks of “Main Street”. They don’t call it that here. It’s just “uptown”. See what you think.

The Red Bicycle restaurant where you can get sushi.

A row of shops just off “Main Street”.

Now this is kind of cute. It’s actually a shop named WisEnergy. I don’t know what products or services are offered here. There are lots of VERY small businesses.

In the following shot you can see a pedestrian crosswalk. Drivers actually stop for people who start walking across the street. The corner shop is where I took my laptop. When Caleb said he wanted to look at it, the owner charged me only half his minimum charge because he hadn’t completed his diagnostics.

The big red building is a pet supplies and grooming business. There are several establishments that cater for pets. Across the street is the Fair Isle Animal Clinic. Pets apparently are big business in Vashon. Everywhere I go (but not at Geoff’s house) there are dogs. Here’s the Vashon source for all things pets.

Across the street is the gifts, arts, crafts, office, and school supplies store, as well as a pizza pub with the high sign.

Coffee is very big on Vashon. There are roasteries here and many, many places selling coffee in all its forms. Local is very big. Organic is very big. Below is one of the drive-through espresso shops. Photographed with the flowers, it looks nice, but up close, it’s not. The sign above is in front of it, near the street.

I think this shop is either consignment or thrift. There are several thrift shops, including Wendy’s Weather’d Wear across the street.

Also, there are numerous shops selling decorative objects. I think of them as tourist shops, but it seems that islanders buy a lot of crafty things, as well as second-hand stuff.

In a relatively attractive strip just off “Main Street” is  Cafe Luna, a popular coffee house, sometimes featuring live music. It’s also a wi-fi cafe and a place where you can just sit and chat. Here you can see inside. It’s kind of quaint.

Hand-lettered signs like this one are placed on sidewalks or next to the street.

What do you think of this sign for Parker Plaza?

Here they tell me where to cross the street.

The Indian restaurant.

Latin store:

The most expensive, highly rated restaurant in Vashon, La Boucherie. The owners have a farm and butcher their animals. They sell their produce and meat and use it in the restaurant.

Now, do you think uptown Vashon is pretty?

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It’s not all bad.

On Sunday Geoff and I went kayaking in Puget Sound. It was the most beautiful Sunday all year on Vashon. Geoff reserved a two-person kayak at a public park. Since we had to wait half an hour for the boat to be returned for us, we walked a trail in the park. Time for conversation with Geoff.

As we paddled out from the launch site, this is what we saw:

I was in front, Geoff was behind me.

More shots from the kayak:

There were lots of boats out there–lovely sailboats and raucous, obnoxious speedboats and jet skis.

We had constantly to be adjusting our position to face into wakes. Sometimes there were wakes coming from two directions. It was not the right time to be kayaking on Puget Sound. We were totally inhibited by the dominant motor boats.

Returning, we beached the kayak at the park launching site.

Although the paddling was rough, it was great to be out on the water and to be one-on-one with Geoff.

I cannot kayak at this facility. Kayaks are available only on weekends after 9:00 a.m. As you know, I want to be on the water at daybreak, when it’s still and quiet. I’m told that I need to work out some kind of arrangement with owners of kayaks to be able to use their boats when I want to. I’ll have to connect and network and get into the Vashon community where that kind of informal sharing and exchanging among individuals, without a mediating entity such as the park service being involved.

To do that, I would have to live here. That’s what I’m considering, as I’m here. Can I live here and be free of the symptoms I experience at Charlestown? Could I totally recover?

Today I looked at an apartment that is over the garage of the owners–separate from their very large and elegant house. It is a large and elegant apartment with a magnificent view of the Sound. The property is on the waterfront, and the owners’ neighbors have kayaks.


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First impression

I’ve written that my first impression of Vashon was that it looked like rural West Virginia. Here are some pictures that show what I mean. To get to the house where I would be staying, we traveled winding country roads, uphill and down, with few houses, and those rough and not well-maintained. The plan was for me to stay at the house where Nan lives for the duration of my visit. There was a guest room that I could use.

When we turned into the driveway to this house, this is what I saw:

A derelict car left there.

On the other side was a derelict boat.

A view of the house follows.

In the backyard was this:

The view from the back of the house:

Junk everywhere. I’ve shown only a few of the shots I took. You haven’t seen the half of it!

Can you see why I couldn’t stay there? And I haven’t even shown you inside the house!

Nan had created a clean, orderly, and pleasant sanctuary for me next to her room, which she had made into a haven for herself, but I simply couldn’t tolerate the mess everywhere else.

When Geoff told me that he and Carol could make room for me in their house, I dumped my belongings into trash bags and my little carry-on bag and left within minutes.

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Arriving by ferry

To get to Vashon Island, you have to take the ferry from Seattle. Here’s Nan on the ferry, having picked me up at the airport. This is my first view of Vashon. It was Tuesday, July 19th.

As expected, it was gray and gloomy, cold and windy, at 11:30 in the morning. Here’s another view of Vashon from the ferry.

I don’t have Photo Shop on this computer. Thought I’d never need it. So the pictures are come as they are, unedited.

It was after we drove off the ferry, through Vashon, that I began to see what it looks like. That is. what it looked like to someone with very different expectations.

I don’t yet have the pictures that show what so surprised me. They will come.

The sun did come out that afternoon, and it’s been sunny every day since. I am here during the only time of the year when that is likely to happen.

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It’s been awful. During the flight, water spilled on my laptop and damaged it. Since then I have not had computer access except to my gmail account, which I could get to from the public library. I took the laptop to a computer technician who said it had to dry out before he could diagnose it. When I had not heard from him today (Saturday–I arrived Tuesday morning), I went to his shop with grandson Caleb. Technician said he couldn’t fix it. Caleb said he would check it. He found that only the screen was not working. The computer is fine. Son Geoff connected it to a spare monitor he has, and I’m back online. Finally.

Because I have so rarely left home for even an over-night stay since 2002, I’ve always had access to my computer. (Except when it has crashed, of course.) It never occurred to me that I might lose my laptop’s functionality. I did not remember my passwords, and the reset links could only be sent to my unusable laptop. I felt lost.

On top of that upsetting experience, I found myself totally disillusioned with Vashon. It is not at all what I expected–a lovely small town in a beautiful green landscape. Instead, it reminds me of rural West Virginia–shabby and trashy. The cost of living is exceptionally high here, yet the small commercial area is not at all attractive and there are lots of unkempt residential properties. Everyone raves about it. Everything I’ve read and heard about it led me to believe I would love being here. I don’t.

I’ll try to post pictures in subsequent posts.

I want to flee.

But I’m here until August 4th. And I am open to changing my mind.

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