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The Beginning; sort of…..

September 12, 2007

After landing in the Pacific North West many Friday evenings ago, wiped out from a long week and an even longer flight, we headed straight for the car rental place. This time these two savvy travelers had only carry-on luggage; mismatched carry-on luggage, which consisted of backpacks slung over shoulders, a small wobbling piece of rolling stock each, and some “extraneous” extras.

We had discovered going through the security check before our flight, that dealing with two pieces of luggage each, a purse for me, jackets for both of us and those obligatory (if one requires any lotions and potions), one quart, clear, plastic bags with sliding closures, plus having to remove ones shoes, was quite a feat. I have also noticed that after removing jackets, shoes, belts, jewelry, and other things that might be perceived as dangerous, then being x-rayed (and some of us frisked), we passengers hover together replacing those removed articles. We put our shoes and jackets back on, re-thread belts in our skirts or pants, re-clasp watches and necklaces, poke earrings in our ears then smooth over our hair from all this re-dressing. It makes for strange dress-fellows. Sometimes I want to ask someone for a mirror or perhaps inquire of a stranger if everything looks to be in the appropriate place.

On a flight a few weeks earlier, not yet privy to the official see through plastic bag requirement, I had inadvertently and cleverly, so I thought, placed my three very small tubes of goop into a pint size bag. Much more economical you’d think. No, no, no. I was pulled out of line and sent to the TSA person at the First Class security check to get the prerequisite, one quart, see through, plastic bag with the sliding, red closure. In front of a terminal full of people. It was like being back in elementary school answering a simple math problem incorrectly and having to stand in front of my sniggering classmates (all bratty girls) and repeat the dreaded multiplication tables. I blushed profusely both times.

At the car rental place we fell into a just washed, small size sedan and headed toward the city and then the ferry. I had dug out of my back pack the various directions and maps courtesy of Mapquest and we proceeded with me as navigator, which wasn’t an easy task in the dark. The interior light (although considerably smaller) when switched on, resembled a spotlight, making visibility through the window and ultimately the road ahead, a bit iffy. So I flashed it on and off just long enough to read two words at a time, hoping that drivers within close proximity would not think it was Morse code and mount some kind of rescue operation. I also hoped that what seemed like convoluted instructions were not too extensive because there wouldn’t be enough time to read them all before reaching our turnoff. We were lucky that the distance from the car rental to the ferry was not a very long one. And, it turns out I’m quite a fast reader.

Last November we had made a similar trip to check out the island as a possible place to live; even looked at houses, but were not yet ready to buy. This time we were. And this time we weren’t going to make the mistake of not taking the ferry from the city to the island, a mere half hour trip, because last year we had driven all the way around, septupling the time. It had been sleeting and snowing, a rarity there, totally confusing 99.9% of the drivers, whose cars spun out and blocked 50 miles of expressway; as did busses and trucks.

During this nightmare my partner N made quite the declarative statement: I never want to live here, I hate this place. It sucks. I got the message, but all I wanted to do was be back safe and warm at our Bed and Breakfast on the island. And perhaps hit him over the head.

Needless to say by the time we returned to the Midwest’s real winter and real snow, he had forgotten all about his outburst. I took a few months longer. So, he didn’t really hate the island and I sort of forgave him and we were heading back for a second time.

We reached the ferry that Friday night just in time for the 9PM crossing, but there were 60 or 70 cars ahead of us. Bummer. We were tired and just wanted to get to our hotel. When they started loading the vehicles (very efficiently I must say), not only did we get on, but the couple of dozen cars behind us did too.

We pulled away from the dock and even though our view from inside the car parked on the lower deck of the ferry seemed like sitting in or on a huge piece of ugly industrial equipment (which it was), just gazing at the calm water and seeing the city lights diminish, was instantly therapeutic. Thirty minutes later when we drove off the ferry, we were driving along streets lined with huge Douglas Firs and Cedars, where it was quiet and beautiful and we could see the stars. Our hotel was only a mile away.

Saturday morning we rose early, excited at the possibility of finding our future home. N and I were intrigued at the prospect of living on a beautiful island in a country setting, yet only a half hour away from a big city. After a deliciously indulgent breakfast, we met with our Realtor friend Peter, for a full day of house hunting. This time he brought his wife along, whom I had not yet met, but from the instant we did so we were like comrades in arms, each seeming to sense the mischief maker collaborator in the other, with just a glance.

Our list of houses was extensive, because N and I had pre-viewed them on the Internet and based on the written descriptions accompanying the visuals we had chosen about 20. There were more, but we had whittled down the list to something that could be accomplished in the 6-8 hours we would be there. Peter had mapped out the logical progression circumnavigating the island in a clockwise direction and we were off.

I cannot relate the whole experience of viewing the various and sundry abodes, but will say that we did not find the house of our dreams, not even close, except for one that was exquisite but very, very pricey. Most of the houses had been “misrepresented” on-line by the use of wide angle lenses in the interiors (which I was aware of, but chose to ignore), and exterior views obviously taken by the photographer lying flat on his or her stomach, thereby making the house seem to have much lush vegetation in front and obliterating huge, looming, ugly buildings behind.

One house had a studio whose roof was so overgrown with moss and lichen it would require mowing. Another was quaint, but being a tad on the small side the builder needed to maximize every square inch of space. As the ceilings were high, the only cupboard in the kitchen and the only bookcase in the living room (both of which were floor to ceiling), would have to be reached either by a Brobdingnagian, stilts or ladder. The builder chose the latter; a twelve foot steel ladder bolted to the wall and painted black. The effect was quite stunning.

I can just visualize a dinner party for guests with me standing on the top rung tossing down the dry goods needed for the meal. (I don’t really cook with those.) We decided that cotton balls, toilet paper and paper towels would have to occupy the top shelf, then moving down in order of the ability to do bodily harm, to the bottom shelf, which would house the canned stuff. As to the bookshelf which was a little over a foot wide, I have no idea. There was apparently another set up just like this one in the studio, also on the property, but we chose not to waste our time viewing it. Perhaps the previous owners enjoyed role playing with their love making, the “Me Tarzan, you Jane,” ladder hanging, rope swinging kind of fun.

My new friend Frances, wife of Peter, and I had a riotous time commenting on décor and personal artifacts around each house and making up stories regarding the inhabitants, or lack thereof (some houses were already vacated). But in one instance a house where we had an appointment (okay, we arrived two hours late), the lady of the house opened the door (this was around noon) in her loosely fastened, tiger patterned robe, coffee cup in hand and said we couldn’t come in. We asked if we could come back in say an hour to which she replied “No.” Only mildly annoyed, her house was no great shakes anyway; we drove off with me muttering that she was probably entertaining her lover. Frances picked up on this notion and we were off and running again with even more colorful possibilities, which turned out to be more than possible.

We had another house to look at down the road and returned along the same route by which we had come, going past “Tiger Lady’s” house, whereupon my astute, sharp and eternally shrewd partner, N, noticed a smiling gentleman leaving, swinging a jacket over his shoulder.

After hours of looking at many houses with stories to accompany them, I couldn’t remember which house was which and probably didn’t care either, until we pulled up at the divine one (the very expensive one), sitting on top of a small hill with landscaping to knock your socks off; a house that wasn’t even on our list. We showed up unannounced and the extremely cute owner, who was also very accommodating, let us in and we stayed a while.

We left the Pacific NW the next morning feeling a little defeated, disappointed and supremely exhausted, but even more sure (yes, there are varying degrees of sureness) that this island is the place where we want to live.

Copyright © 2007

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