On the way to Port Angeles, we passed through Portland, which looked like one big construction zone. I guess it's true that Portland is the new San Francisco, because the way they're building condos and apartments and everything else, there must still be literally tons of people flocking there.
The Pearl District is becoming a whole Pearl Necklace...
And then some.
Wow! As impressive as it was, it was all a bit too much to deal with traffic-wise for a simple lunch stop. Plus, it was still kind of early in the day, so we decided to get lunch at a place we like in Olympia instead.
With that in mind, I said we could almost certainly park across the street from where we wanted to go downtown in a big (and usually emptyish) parking lot behind a bank. At least that was the plan...But when we got there, we discovered that this was going up where the lot once was...
Hey kids - get yer red hot condos here!
Oops! Olympia was pretty booming, too. No more parking lot behind the bank - now it'll soon be five or six stories of condos and apartments, with retail below. In other words, when we did manage to park, we may have gotten one of the past open parking spaces in downtown Olympia. (Oh, and the downtown was extra buzzing that day because it turned out to be the first day of their 32nd annual Olympia Film Festival...)
And so, lunch having finally been acquired, we hit the road again. Our full bellies gave a bit of a lurch as we made the turn onto Highway 101.
But we got to see the new, improved sections of 101 in Clallam County - which were weird and totally out of scale. This was especially noticeable due to the very light Friday traffic on 101. I mean, for all intents and purposes, there was no traffic on 101 in the late afternoon on a Friday.
Coming into town, we noticed that the porn and firewood trailer is gone. That was, I will admit, a bit of a disappointment. Then we passed the bleak Border Patrol facility. The closed Bushwhacker. We saw that a vet is moving into the building where the liquor store used to be - but that the store next to that is vacant.
Passing the Air Crest, we were, of course, aware that we wouldn't be seeing the Moldy Mattress. But still, we looked, just in case. (Later, we saw something I liked even better: A shut down, beat up and spray painted soda machine leaning lifelessly against the side of the previously discussed Holiday Lodge.) We saw the STILL FOR SALE Lincoln Theater.
The Lincoln Theater...Not sold, just old...Very, very old.
Everything looked essentially the same as it did a couple of years ago, only dingier, more run down. Gross's Florist & Nursery was just that - gross - with peeling paint and mildew overshadowing any plants on site. The streets were grubby and nearly deserted. The PDN informed us that Toxic Teresa Pierce would be appearing in some sort of Christmas show. Cherie Kidd still had her big campaign banner up across from the gas station - in violation of State law.
But the thing that seemed to sum it up to me, that seemed to encapsulate the whole Port Angeles vibe to me, was the still signed and still closed Maria's Mexican Restaurant on Lincoln. That place was closed before I even left town, but the sign was still up, nothing had changed. It had been run by a kook (Herbert Lutz), who got in a pissing match with the City over - irony alert - their sign codes, and it all ended with Lutz ending the business.
Maria's: Still closed for business seven days a week.
Except that...It hasn't ended. Despite the City's sign code, the very one that Lutz found so onerous, the sign for Maria's still stands. The empty shell of the building still sits there, a history of anger, civic dysfunction, petty feuds and economic decline trailing out behind it, and, apparently, in front of it. Is it a ghost? A warning to others? Or just another eyesore?
Herbert Lutz and Matthew Randazzo...Before it went
so horribly wrong for both of them.
All I know is that I spent about ten hours each way going through a big chunk of the Pacific Northwest, and most places things seemed to be booming, thriving, vital, alive. But not Port Angeles. It just seemed dingy and dark and treeless and lifeless and lost.
It felt so good to get someone out of that place, finally, and to know that we would never, ever have to go back for any reason. I know some people are going to cling to Mark Ozias as a ray of sunshine in the darkness, but the fact remains that Clallam County is a very, very, very dark place. It's like the old pun about a thousand points of blight. I just feel bad for the good people who are there, because it is a place run by and for bad people, evil people.
No place is perfect, to be sure, but it feels so good to be home in my legitimately progressive town, with its tree-lined streets, and low unemployment and high civic involvement. I've said it before, and it's worth repeating: Life is too short to live in Port Angeles. It's a place beyond hope, without a prayer. It cannot be saved, certainly not in our lifetimes, but you can save yourself. It is worth any price to get out.