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"Everyone knew that those log rafts would never come back …"

The Muse and I will just be staying two nights in the crappy hotel on the edge of the bordering forest. I dutifully slink out to find a Starbucks in the morning since the hotel's internet service can't quite seem to recognize my laptop as a valid user. I don't mind. I usually slink out wherever we stay, unable to keep myself locked away early in a day. My eye seems drawn to the down and out, those who justifiable feel left out; though, as The Muse confided, we seem to have landed on the more fortunate side of our towering Continental Divide. I carry no good advice for anyone trapped on the opposite side, good fortune visited us, and my empathy buys nobody nuthin except for perhaps an insignificant reassurance for myself as I wander through. I did not grow up here, a place seemingly founded to provide a decent back story for anyone fortunate enough to escape. Every Western Washington mill town seemed to have been founded upon this same principles.

Hell if it is the state capitol, it failed to shed its grittier roots.
The capitol building lacks any imposing grandeur. The supreme court building, labeled The Temple of Justice, blocks the view down to the ass end of Puget Sound, hardly grandeur, anyway. The old downtown, on our after-supper stroll, features people seemingly just milling around, as people do these days after dark in every once-proud mill town. The buildings were built for efficiency, for shedding off the incessant rain, and whatever grandeur the booming town once possessed long ago fled for the suburbs and the larger cities. A succession of comeback strategies left a few cute crap shoppes as well as a surprising number of neon lit little bars, the kind that once ringed every mill town before everyone had cars. Now, smokers ring their entrances, a concession to state laws crafted by people who never found the time or the absolute necessity to spend their lives milling around.

The young people from the ultra liberal state college have erected a footprint of their culture, fine, hand-crafted food choices coexisting with the bare-chested homeboys lounging in adjacent doorways. Half the storefronts seem to have been machine shops once, servicing the now long-absent working mills. The Muse identifies what must have most certainly been a J. C. Penney before the crash. I see what just had to once have been a fine furniture store that is no more, building now for lease—will amend to suit any responsible tenant—now housing a sometimes somewhat consignment shop. A candle shop somehow survives. Neon outliving the original businesses still burns in the gathering dusk.

Traffic flows out of town of an evening like this, an evening originally intended to encourage a stroll around the central business district, but those business are nothing but long gone now. A diner survives in more or less its original state, its menu gone to beer and shots, chicken and waffles, rather than family-friendly meatloaf. This place ain't no place to bring a family anymore. Primarily scented with exhaled cigarette smoke, the whole city smells like a threatening juke joint, eying us malevolently as we stroll by. Steal any man's pride to discover what might have always been lurking inside. Deep suspicion of all the others around them, the mystery of the luck of the draw that leaves some folks blessed and others simply fucked.

I might vote for a clown for president, too, if I hadn't landed on the more fortunate side of our towering Continental Divide. The logged out forests go to fern, alder, and second and third growth fir, protected now from logging to preserve a heritage which ultimately swiped that heritage away. The Skid Row was once an actual log skid, a slide carrying fresh cut giants down to the inlet where they were chained together and floated away. Everyone knew that those log rafts would never come back and that every felled fir cut away a piece of a tenuous heart to transform a proud mill town into just another MillingAroundTown.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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