Sure enough, Cyndy and I have been in contact by phone or text during the whole CenturyLink “out of service” siege, which only ended last Friday evening around 9:33 p.m. Before that service restoration, I wandered up to O’ville to hear some anecdotal information about how the outage was affecting people.
I was alerted to the situation about a week into it by dear friend Sydney Stevens. She and Nyel both have cell phones but they had no land line and no internet service; so Sydney could not post her daily and now famous (“infamous”?) Oysterville Daybook blog. I heard tell that folks hither and yawn began calling around to find out if Sydney was OK. Her “bonus daughter” Marta in California even got calls — “What’s going on with Sydney’s radio silence?” When I caught up to her by cell, she said, “Give Cyndy Hayward a call too. She has some information you might be interested in.”
Joseph Wright, filling in at the Oysterville Post Office one morning, said, “We haven’t been able to get reports out from here. But our post master in Ocean Park can pick them up from our system and send them on from there.” Waiting outside the P.O. was Eugene Norcross-Renner who confirmed that yes, they had no land line service. He seemed calm but resigned. “Maybe we’ll get it back by Thanksgiving.” At the Oysterville Seafood Store, staffer Jordan Deckert said, “We’ve been sending credit card payments through Starlink — that’s Elon Musk’s satellite connection. It’s not perfect but we’re making it work.”
So what have we learned about taking care of ourselves and others? And why have our county leaders not been more effective about creating contingency plans for our winter power and telephone outages? Cyndy mentioned that when the main power went out at AiR, one of her visiting artist residents took the initiative to fill buckets of water from the drain spouts so they could flush their toilets! We’d better get smarter quick. This past weekend’s insane weather Rolodex — drenching downpours, hail, wind gusts, king tides, sun, rain, more hail, then lightening — foretells a tough winter for us coasters this year.
But here’s my question — directed to our county commissioners, specifically our north-end rep Frank Wolfe, who seemed unusually unconcerned about the outage — What have we learned since the Big Blow in ’07-’08? The 2008 day-long Eye of the Storm post-hurricane workshop that Nanci Main pulled together catalyzed a lot of extremely helpful follow-up actions: neighborhood elder check-in procedures, increased training for Ham radio operators, location of folks with chain saws, instruction for prepping a go-bag, etc. But because we really haven’t had another dramatic storm since then we’re all out of practice. For this recent blow, I forgot to put a flashlight by my bed, nor had I prepped for candles, extra batteries, or how to get a hot cup of coffee in the morning.
I’m sorry to be ragging again on our local officials but, c’mon people, can’t we be bolder? The new regulations for fireworks have been announced (see Chinook Observer tinyurl.com/LB-Fireworks-Cutback) and after many many hours of conversation, surveys, community meetings, data collection, and business discussions the grand plan devised by our “fearless” leaders reduces our fireworks sales and light-up days from eight to five. This is, for certain, the ultimate anti-climactic act of wimp-out! I’ve been told that even one of our major LB downtown business owners says, “We are whoring our beach for fireworks!” Plum right.
It appeared that what was initially being considered was a three-day reduction, which, though modest, would at least have begun an awareness that Long Beach was attempting to change the attitude of so many out-of-town tourists who come to our beach, trash it, and leave.
But five days? — who will even notice the difference? We will still have hordes of misbehavin’ people who set off fireworks on residential streets; leave masses of plastics, fireworks, refuse, fire pits, even furniture on our beach; then think they can simply have a Yahoo-time of it and do it all again next year. The majority of people who live here, who pay for the services on our Peninsula, and who pay the salaries of the people in leadership positions, want something better than this.
Time and time again, our community people have taken it upon themselves to parse the information, consult with other communities, and attempt to craft a solution — only to have our leaders balk big-time. The leading edge thinking on fireworks is this: they are an environmental danger, especially on a beach, especially on a beach of dunes in the summer with acres of dry dune grass. As it stands, Long Beach fireworks is also contributing to plastics in the ocean — which as we now know, end up in our marine food chain and ultimately in our own bodies. I have to agree with Greta Thunberg. As far as our Peninsula leaders and fireworks, the blah blah blah has overshadowed any meaningful change. We need to elect representatives in local government who can respond effectively to the realities of the times we are living in — who realize that our current problems cannot be solved with status-quo thinking.
On a sunnier note, my story of last week’s Dia de los Muertos and other colorful celebrations in the tiny Yakima Valley town of Tieton prompted a good friend to write me about a touching tale from that rural community. Sturges Dorrance, newly elected to the KMUN Board (congrats, Sturges!), writes, “ I always try to write you when I feel your column, always good, is really above all. This week’s piece is simply great. Most people have no idea where Tieton is, but Pam and I have a special connection.” “Many years ago Pam wanted to buy a pug puppy for her sister who has lived most of her life in Florence, Italy. We found the puppy in Tieton. After many struggles with the glorious U.S. and Italian bureaucracy, the puppy made her way to Via Maffea across from Santo Spirito in Florence. The inevitable name for the puppy was Sabrina, and she lived many happy years being loved in Florence.’ “But the real point of your column was the thought of a celebration here for Dia de los Muertos. More so this year than ever before I think how wonderful it would be to celebrate the people we have loved who have left us.”
I couldn’t agree more. We’ve lost friends and dearly beloveds this year and last, yet in our dominant culture we have no way of truly honoring these passings as a community. Our Hispanic friends and neighbors have a beautiful and loving tradition that we might ask their help in creating. The year my mother died, I was part of an enormous Dia de los Muertos parade through the streets of Tucson. I carried her photo around my neck and we all walked together talking to each other about our losses, sometimes holding hands, and comforting each other about both the fierceness and fragility of life. It was profound and moving. It would suit our community at a time when healing is needed.