Life in a littler town (than one is used to)

It’s actually a bigger town than you would at first notice, there being two big chunks of streets and neighborhoods here — one more up-down, and one caddy-corner and off to the side from the first chunk. But it is still quite small, at least in comparison to DC. I feel like most people in DC stick to their own neighborhood most of the time. Maybe they Metro everywhere and don’t get away from those more accessible zones. Maybe it took a while to figure out where everything was in proximity to their residence, so why spend time looking for a coffee house, a video rental place, a small restaurant, that’s not near where they live?

But there’s something interesting to me in sussing out the hole-in-a-wall and mom-and-pop places where they know your name when you walk in and sit down. There’s something fun about comparing your local experience to ones that are catering to someone else. Susanne and I clocked in many hours at Sidamo in DC, where the owner roasts the coffee on the premises every morning, and the whole street smells of carefully prepared espresso. And Mimi would see us and give us a great big hug, and I never thought twice about it until I realized I haven’t been hugged by anyone but Susanne since we moved. It’s an odd, nearly silent absence.

I have most of a pound of Sidamo coffee in the kitchen, and I may pick up some more when I head back to the east coast next month, but at some point, I’ll have to find a place out here — and it’s not like there are no good coffee joints in the Pacific Northwest! Far from it. But none of them shout my name when I enter, none of them feel like my own comfort zone, just yet anyway.

We live, unsuspectingly enough, next to the college’s recycling center. The front of the building, which apparently nobody notices, hosts a sign that says the plant is closed for remodeling. The side of the building, which apparently everyone knows and loves, has no such sign, and so keeps being visited by erstwhile recyclers with mountains of cardboard and aluminum. There is also a whole cast of characters who have some kind of — I can only come up with “addiction” — to coming over and visiting the empty building. One of them wanders around the city looking for discarded items that can be recycled, and one of them swears loudly every time he sees that more shit has been dropped off here, to the tune of how your grandfather swears in your distant memory: “Son of a BITCH!” “You goddamn mother of BITCHES!” I just feel like he picked up his sing-song cursing streams during a tour in the US Navy, since that’s where my grandfather learned them. You know, it’s like kind of an oral history of sorts.

 

Our neighbors

Our neighbors

 

 

The recycling center has a beat up pickup trunk from the 1970s that just started leaking gas yesterday. We had previously been annoyed that it was parked right up against our house, under our kitchen and dining room windows, but this now pales in comparison with the very combustible and dangerous fuel leak, which is currently being contained in a — you guessed it — 5-pound coffee tin. Utilitarian and recyclable, all at once! I gently explained, in my most West Coast, indirect manner possible (for a born and raised East Coast person) that this was maybe not the best nor safest way to deal with a toxic chemical known for its volatility. I found agreement, which is good. Now hopefully the whole matter gets resolved.

I guess I can’t say we had a local recycling center we used, but that was because we lived in a big city and had a place for recycling for our building. The most we had to contend with was the occasional angry raccoon we’d disturbed as we walked home. Here in Walla Walla, it’s more about the disturbing gas can or angry resident instead.

We plan on taking a drive tomorrow so I’ll be sure to post with pictures and comments of our trip!

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