Tag Archives: waitsburg

Toe Tapping Tuesday

As part of our ongoing welcome back from friends, a buddy of ours texted late last week with an invitation to go to the Jim German bar in Waitsburg, about 20 minutes east of Walla Walla. I’ve written about the town in this blog before, for its quaint two-block downtown and its anti-abortion protesters, who seem to assemble at random on the main corner in town. It does have a few good eateries, like the Whoop ‘Em Up cafe (low country Southern cuisine) and the Whetstone Public House, which I like to call “classy pioneer.” The Jim German bar isn’t a German tavern at all, it’s a what-is-it-doing-so-far-from-the-city nightclub of clean lines and pretentiously prepared drinks that one should sip with pinkie extended, or at least with a semblance of attitude. And when wearing a lot of black. Read More…

Why was 6 afraid of 7?

I’ve written about the Census here and there, in part because the idea of really being able to count everyone in a country as big as this is next to impossible, and I’m extremely curious about the actual logistics involved in knocking on every single household’s door. I’ve worked with the Census before, though not in the enumerating capacity. It’s one thing to sit in a meeting in a run-down basement conference room on Census’ campus, the distant but distinct sound of water dripping through pipes like a kind of static behind the droning conversation about boring (but politically loaded) words like imputation, matching algorithms, and so on, the voices starting to sound like the tuba-speak of adults in the Peanuts comic. Wa waaah wa waht waaaaah waa.

The reality of walking around a neighborhood must be different, if only for the absence of GS-11 level and above staff. It’s just a temporary employee with a badge and a clipboard, and oh, reliable transportation. They are really insistent about the reliable transportation, having asked me, at this point, no fewer than five times if I have it. I would get a tattoo of my VIN on my forehead if I thought it would silence the question, but that’s no good over the phone.

So the Census has asked me to be an enumerator for them, meaning, walk around and knock on doors. I said okay, sure, I’ll take the $11.75 an hour, happy to have a job offer from anyone after 19 months of no real income. The $30 for doing the reading at the Roadshow last week was great because it was money from writing, but one dinner in downtown Walla Walla and I was back to having $5 in my wallet. (Still, it was great to take Susanne out to dinner again, I’ve missed that little grace.)

I reminded them about my amazing aluminum steed, so very reliable, and confirmed that I do not speak a lick of Spanish. If I were dropped out of a time machine—hot tub or otherwise—into 1984, the one thing I would change would be to sign up for Spanish, not French, classes. I mean, French is useful for reading Derrida and Lacan, and possibly for my citizenship test for Canada, should I some day apply, but wow, that’s about it in this lifetime.

Between my lack of Spanish and the Census’ map of the area’s initial response rates to the census form, I am betting I’ll be asked to go to Waitsburg, two towns east of Wallyworld. I don’t think I’ll be knocking on doors near the prison, but who knows?

Waitsburg is the cute town with the anti-abortion protesters, the very ones that I flipped off last winter for holding up pictures of completely inviable fetuses. They were not what I saw as an appropriate welcoming committee.

That said, I know I can be an impartial counter. I am cheery and I have nice penmanship. I may try to see if different facial hair styles has an effect on people’s response to me, because hey, you never know. Maybe they’ll cover this in training. I’ll find out tomorrow, when I show them my passport and press my fingers into their background checking machine. I suppose I’ll come up in the system, since I used to work for Social Security. It’ll be like deja vu, surely, only this time my background check and training will come on the other side of the country, in a Mormon-owned building. So sure, it’s just like the same thing as the west side of Baltimore. I could see the Wire from my window.

So this job, temporary though it may be, shall be interesting. More interesting than basement conference room, more interesting than watching yet another NCIS or SVU episode while I try to focus on writing a new story. Less interesting than writing a new story, but, and this is a big but, great fodder for an as-yet unthought idea for a new story. And I’m all about the new stories.

Waitsburg, here I come. I promise to keep my middle fingers to myself.

Clark and Lewis

After a full week of overcast skies, Susanne and I decided to venture away from the Walla Walla Valley, hoping that we could pierce the cloud layer and see the sun. Now then, there are three ways out of the city, in basically a T formation: Highway 12 runs east-west at the north of town, and Highway 125 runs due south, toward Oregon. We headed east toward the little village of Waitsburg, remembering that it has a cute, pioneer town quality and gives one a chance to take in the Blue Moutains, which were considerably more snow-capped after this weekend than before. The drive was nice enough, although we didn’t escape the clouds. Given that the east coast was caught up in yet another heavy snowfall, neither one of us was too grouchy about our own weather, depressing and blase as it was.

We were curious to see a small crowd of people waving at us as we came into town—”city center” would be an overstatement, as the downtown is two blocks long and one street wide. I smiled, thinking they looked happy and small-towny, until I saw the signs they were waving. “She regrets her abortion,” one declared. I started looking for an arrow to one of the women, a la the “I’m With Stupid” t-shirts that were popular among the geek set 20 years ago, but it did dawn on me that they meant some proverbial, collective “she.”

I was not amused. I’m coming to your town, presumably to spend dollars in one of the 9 stores you house and you’re going to alienate me with pictures of aborted fetuses? Not such a smooth move, Waitsburg.

I contemplated sharing my disappointment with the throng-ette. Susanne knew where my brain was going, and helped me ascertain that expressing my opinion would probably not make the situation any better. I turned, blinker on, and drove into downtown, because I am a good liberal who follows proper traffic laws. So there, anti-choice, sign-carrying people!

We moseyed along the main street, stopping in to a curious antique store that had old Coca-Cola bottles, snowshoes, and kitchen ware, as if someone cleaned out his grandmother’s house and opened up a store with everything he’d found, minus the linoleum, but not the kitchen sink, which sat in a corner in the back room. I suppose any copper pipe he’d stripped had already sold, because that stuff goes fast.

We happened along a creek with a Lewis & Clark sculpture in front of it. It clearly was modeled after the countless “Lewis & Clark” highway markers that dot the roadways out here, in the still-wild west. My question erupted out of my brain and through my mouth.

“I always wonder which one is which.”

As we passed the sign, I turned and saw the back, as well as my answer:

Lewis and Clark signQuestion answered.

Finishing our short walk, still out of the sun’s light, we ambled back to the car and drove out of town. I flipped off the line of activists, figuring it would give them renewed energy to hold their signs proudly in the rain.

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