When I told my family and friends that we were moving from the urban mecca of Portland, Oregon to a coastal town of less than 2,000 people; they were more confused than Ozzy Osbourne watching the MacNeil Lehrer Report. You see, when some people hear the words "small town", they picture a bucolic Fannie Flagg existence whereby I live in an ongoing montage of one-room school houses, cherry pies cooling in windows, and potlucks at the grange hall set to the theme from "Driving Miss Daisy". . .still others hear the word "small town" and immediately picture me bent over a sawhorse getting a back alley Pap smear from a sideshow freak named Zed while his toothless progeny pick banjos in the background.
Unfortunately, when one pictures the average small resort town denizen, the "hoot-n-holler', beer guzzling, crop top wearing yokel tends to come to mind. In truth, nothing could be further from reality. Of course, we do have the odd gene pool skimmings that remind us daily why cousins shouldn't marry...
*E.g., the mutants down the street who decided to 'stick it to the man' by building their house without electricity or running water. I'm relatively certain they shit in their yard... and may possibly have the odd dead hooker buried under the Mad Max-esque trash heap they call their driveway, but I digress.
But for the most part, the people in my community are bright, funny, unpretentious, and magnificently eclectic. Thusfar, I have met two published writers, four college professors, a third-degree black belt who once sparred with Chuck Norris... and WON, a retired soap opera star, two opera singers, a man who spent the summer hitchhiking with JD Salinger, and a multi-gazillionaire who built his own lighthouse, and five years ago, flew in Johnny Depp for a personal 'Pirates Of The Caribbean' party (in costume, natch) which culminated in him and Mr. Depp gettig snot-flying drunk on white rum and being drug off the sand by a park ranger at 3:oo am.*
*In my 'hood, the cops are either 18 year olds with acne and a taser, or they look like Charles Durning after all-you-can-eat night at the Olde Country Buffet. But our park rangers have full tac gear, semi-automatic weapons, and have arms that would make Jeremy Renner weep. Forget that Yogi Bear propaganda you THINK you know about rangers and pic-a-nic baskets... our park rangers don't play, yo.
Yes, the "hoot-and-holler" folks are still adequately represented here, most prodigiously in the summer months, but they are not our locals. No, by and large, the obnoxious, beer-swilling miscreants are not the small-towners, they are the tourists from the more "civilized" milieus such as Portland and Seattle who leave their worries, their responsibilities, and apparently their senses of common decency and decorum behind when they go on vacation to our sleepy beach resort paradise.
I would like to say that perhaps I'm just being judgmental...
*Because, let's face it. I'm judgier than Gordon Ramsey doing Jäger shots in an Applebees kitchen, but in the immortal words of the poet laureate Lady Gaga: Baby, I was BORN that way.
... but the fact of the matter is, like Dorothy so succinctly stated at the end of 'The Wizard Of OZ': "Dude...I've seen some shit."*
*I may be paraphrasing.
From the Sandcastle Festival in June, to a thirty-mile beach fireworks display in July, to the Kite Festival in August, to the Hot Rod Run in early September, my family and friends have witnessed behavior from our out-of-town guests that were so execrable they would make a German snuff film look like a Nicholas Sparks novel in comparison. To wit:
1) The young man racing his truck down the beach at 50 miles per hour, swerving so as to kill the fledgling snowy plovers flying along the shoreline. For those of you who don't know, the Western Snowy Plover is not only an endangered species, they are also cute A.F. When this man discovered he was unable to speed up their rate of extinction, he had to appease his grief by hurling beer cans into the surf. So. Much. Hate.
2) The family of five I discovered in my yard playing with my chickens when I came out to feed them at 6:30am.*
*The chickens, I mean, not the tourists. Like gremlins, one must never feed the tourists, lest they multiply.
Since most of you have never been to my home, allow me to elucidate the audacity of the situation. We are located off of the main road, down a short gravel path, and then one must cross a rather wide expanse of manicured lawn to reach our gate... our LOCKED gate. Then, one must unlock the gate, walk across our patio, cross in front of our porch, unlatch the gate to the chickens' field, and enter. Which they did. All five of them. Because... chickens. The ensuing conversation went something like this:
ME: May I help you?
MAN: No thanks, we're just looking at the chickens.
ME: Um, yes, I can see that. But may I ask why you're in my yard?
WOMAN: Is this your yard?
ME: Well, it's inside of my fence...adjacent to the house...so, yeah.
MAN: We just thought we'd stop in quickly. The kids have never seen real chickens.
ME: Have they ever seen a fence?
MAN AND WOMAN: ...
ME: Dude! Get out of my yard!
Pretty sure I shattered their illusion of the open-armed farm girl that day, but this Elly Mae still has a fair amount of city in her blood and the requisite amount of righteous indignation to go Britney-level crazy when provoked. Especially when it comes to my chickens. I'm oddly obsessed with my chickens.
3) The story told to me by my husband of a Washington State patrolman who stopped a man driving through town erratically. When pulled over, the smell of pot smoke emanating from his ride was apparently enough to anesthetize a small village, prompting the state patrolman to question the driver's activities for the day. When the query, "Have you been smoking marajuana today?" was posited, Tokey McBongenheimer succinctly replied, "Yeah, but it's okay, 'cuz it's legal here!" Why, yes... Washington is, in fact, all about the 420. It is absolutely legal to smoke weed here; it is also fully legal to drink alcohol when one is of age. It is not; however, legal to do so in public... and, you know, while DRIVING.
4) The woman walking down Main Street screaming her boyfriend's name repeatedly while waving a conch shell over her head. Hard to believe that "Jeffrey" was not responding to her siren's song of "Where the @#$% you at, mother$%^&*#!?!?", but to be frank, I was more baffled by the significance of the conch shell to question the integrity of her personal relationships. That's some serious 'Lord Of The Flies' shit right there, y'all.
5) The elderly couple in their RV who drove past me on my jog down the beach road last week, stopped at the end of the main drag, and promptly disposed of a stained mattress, two plastic bags of garbage, a deer head, and the contents of their septic tank in the dunes lining my once-pristine littoral neighborhood. Two powerful revelations struck me on this occasion: one, people suck like an Alaska Airlines toilet, and two: who throws away a perfectly good deer head? I may have been tempted to bring that one back home. Don't judge.
"Doh! A deer... a headless deer."
5) Do you ever wonder what those shirtless people you see getting arrested on 'Cops' do during the daylight hours? Well, ponder no more. I give you the den of iniquity known as the Long Beach Tavern (the LBT to the locals). Between the months of mid-September to late-May it is peopled with local fishermen and crabbers looking to assuage their stress-filled months at sea with some liver-pickling happy juice, but in the late-May to early-September months it is a panic-inducing melange of "Girls Gone Wild" and "America's Most Wanted". Heard about that fight in town last night?...LBT. Didja know some kid blew his fingers off with a bottle rocket?...LBT. Did anyone else see that naked woman wearing a cowboy hat and waving a machete outside the fish-n-chips joint last night?... you guessed it. All roads to iniquity begin and end at the LBT. That cozy little Peyton Place has seen enough deadly sins to make Dante wince. But while we all recognize the sheer debauchery that occurs within its stained walls, the locals have an odd fondness for the LBT, much like a mother does for her recalcitrant teen. We are disturbed by the things that occur inside, but its activities subsidize both our local economy, as well as the two residential alcohol treatment centers conveniently located at either end of the peninsula. "It's the ciiiiiircle of liiiiiife..."
I have tried to wrap my brain around how and why otherwise civilized people can come to a bucolic village and suddenly lose all sense of decorum and basic common sense. As yet, the best I can come up with is this: most people are self-centered, and exist in a constant state of solipsism. Therefore, if they are on vacation, then certainly all surrounding laws, ethics, and mores are obviously on vacation as well. To that, I say this: We are not living in a live-action rendition of "The Purge". There is no 48-hour reprieve from state and local legislation simply because you got some personal leave time from Intel. Laws are still a thing. Personal decency is still a thing. Are you apt to walk into your local Whole Foods and drop a deuce in the middle of the produce aisle? Doubtful. Therefore, for the love of all that is good and holy, DO NOT DO IT AT MY FARMER'S MARKET!!!!*
*I would like to say this didn't actually happen. I would like to... but sadly cannot.
Do you see those quaint beach cottages just west of town? They are managed by my friend Liz, a witty, self-effacing woman from Tacoma who volunteers at the local food bank. I saw you admiring that fishing boat docked in the harbor. It is for sale now, once owned by a man named Jack who bought it for the woman of his dreams who broke his heart and left him shattered. Those rhubarb stalks and apples you're stuffing in your bag at the street fair were grown by Autumn and Trish; two sisters who moved home to care for their ailing father after their mother passed away suddenly from cancer. And that man and his ebullient Jack Russell terrier walking along the shoreline picking up your beer cans and McDonald's wrappers from last night? His name is Stan; a retired college professor and multi-millionaire who spends his days refurbishing homes for Habitat For Humanity. They are people, all of them. Good, kind, hard-working people, and get this... they LIVE here. They sell you hoodies in the souvenir shops and clean your vomit off of the hotel carpets, and tolerate your drunken fumbling whilst serving you cocktails. They love this town with the ferocity of a mother bear, and while thankful for the influx of your dollars to float our local economy, are ecstatic when you pack up your toys and return to your homes in parts unknown so they can continue their peaceful existence.
If you're ever in my neck of the woods, please... come and visit. I, like most others in this town, am always happy and proud to show off our beautiful hamlet and extend some local courtesy and charm. All I ask in return is that you leave our town the way you found it: pleasant, pristine, and unpolluted. Treat your vacation destinations as you would your own home, because it IS someone's home. So, please, be respectful. And don't mess with my chickens.
Don't nobody mess with my chickens.