Are We There Yet?

Ric Hallock blogs about being a family man dealing with life in and around Gig Harbor.
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Archive for the ‘The ‘Har-Bah’’ Category

Be Wary of Barely Clad Tattoo-touting Coffee Sirens

Friday, April 1st, 2011

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With a sense of full-disclosure on my part (and not my subject matter’s part …) I relay the following true event — if for nothing else, to serve as a warning to other unsuspecting parents of budding, hormone-driven teens.

On a really recent Sunday, my 12-year-old son’s baseball team called a hastily gathered scrimmage with another team to prepare for the season. Sunday being my “putter-about-the-house” day, we were slow to rouse ourselves (it also being his “sleep-until-the-sun-sets” day) to get out the door in time to make the scrimmage.

Jetting toward the field in our jalopy, I took note of the fact I had not yet been caffeinated for the day — a matter I could rectify in one of two ways. We were headed for the highway, which was the quickest way to the field site, and I was faced with a conundrum: I could purposefully go the wrong way at our exit and backtrack about five minutes to get to the nearest coffee purveyor of Seattle fame with the naked mermaid for a logo — or — I could save those backtracking minutes and head for the nearest local stand that had a neon sign flashing “open.”

I opted for the latter.

To get there from the direction I was headed, I had to pull into a road that ostensibly was a one-way going the other direction, with a 170-degree turn back — a move that had to performed with some deft driving on my part to not get stuck doing a five-point turn.

I managed the semi-illegal turn in quick order without garnering any undue attention of a county deputy and pulling up to the stand, I noted it had not one, but two windows less than a car length’s apart, so wasn’t really sure which one was the proper serving window. (I was baffled and temporarily distracted by this design flaw: an important detail in my defense.) I rolled slowly past the first window and stopped at the second.

This was your typical home-grown coffee stand, a free-standing shack, plastered with stickers and posters and hand-scrawled signs everywhere, all but obscuring what little glass was left uncovered. I began looking about for some sign I was actually going to be able to order a coffee when the stickers on the windows registered in some part of my non-caffeinated brain: flaming pink lips.

Then I uttered the words my son will not soon forget: “Uh oh,” I started. “This isn’t one of those places, is it?”

No sooner had the words parted my lips than the lips stuck on the sliding window moved aside and we were greeting by a smiling, cheerful barista … wearing scant but her string bikini, asking how she could help us this day.

The thought of speeding off in a cloud of dust and gravel fleetingly crossed my mind, but my sense of decency (if you will), prevailed. I reasoned that would be just plain rude to this finely shaped lass, who was obviously so very proud of the art running the length of her body from her shoulder down to her left flank.

I muttered some obscure coffee order and shot a quick glance at my young charge in the passenger seat as I dug in my pocket for some money. He was laughing, trying to look, but trying not to look — not having much success at either, and having great difficulty keeping any composure (as if a 12-year-old could muster such self-control).

The body tattoo asked what had us out on such a chilly, windy day and I was sorely tempted to ask her the same. but again, my sensibilities told me to behave and I bit back my tongue, just saying something about baseball.

Following an interminably, awfully long time waiting for her to make a simple mocha (no whip), she handed me my coffee and I handed her a bill (I hope it was a $5) and drove off with a hasty “thank you,” not waiting for change. My son then began laughing much more loudly, telling me how he couldn’t wait to share this moment with his buddies at the field, convinced I knew all along what kind of stand this was.

Now when we drive by this stand, I catch him craning his neck to look back for as long as he can. And I feel secure in my mind that I’ve cemented yet another nomination in my bid for Father of the Year — NOT.

And the coffee? Not as good as the naked mermaid, nudity notwithstanding.


I Keep Muttering, ‘I’m Too Old for This’

Friday, June 11th, 2010

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“Oh, dear sweet Mother Mary and Joseph, not again!”

Would that my knees, ankles, shins, feet, thighs, elbows, shoulders, biceps and back could all but speak — that would be their collective lament. What could possibly have my body wailing in protest so loud you can actually hear it?

One word: softball.

Funny — looking at the word sitting there so smugly and cuddly looking on the screen — one wouldn’t think a word containing “soft” and “ball” (even babies and puppies love to play with a ball) could also entertain such thoughts as pulled muscles, bruised bones, torn tendons and lacerated ligaments.

OK, for the sake of full disclosure, I’ve only suffered about half of the above — but really, isn’t that enough?

Last season it seemed I injured some new muscle set hitherto unknown to me before playing each game. And unlike the days of youth, instead of taking a day to recover — it took me the better part of the week to be able to walk like a normal human once more — just in time for the next game and a whole new series of painful lessons. Good thing we didn’t practice during the week or I’d have been unable to muster the strength to make it to a game at all.

I attended the first practice of the new Gig Harbor Church Softball League season last night and afterward I walked and moved something akin to Abe Vigoda playing the role of Frankenstein — after aging another decade. My ever supportive bride scoffed at my slow shuffle from room to room, saying “it was just a practice.” My young son — who just wrapped up his Little League baseball season — just delighted in counting my errors.

Hmph. No respect for the old man. And I place the emphasis on “old.”

Without giving it away, let’s just say I’m fast approaching a milestone bithday and really only have one more on the horizon before I settle into the sunset years.

It’s been a long, tough battle between mind and body — but lately I’ve found the arguments being put forth by my aging frame to hold sway. For years, I fought the notion that I could no longer move like I did when I was 20. I could see it in my mind, so surely I could manifest it in my body. And the mind will play tricks on you — working in tandem with your body to make you believe you still have the grace and speed of a carefree youth — despite the decades of working a job where the only muscle action is to reposition my butt in the chair to keep from creating a permanent cushion indentation.

Like the Kübler-Ross model of the five stages of grief, I went through the usual litany: Denial (I’m every bit as strong and agile as I was 10 years ago, 20 years, 30 …); Anger (#@&*! I know I’m as strong and agile as I was 20 years ago, etc.); Bargaining (please, please, please I’ll give up Dr. Pepper forever if I can only throw the ball from second to first without bouncing it); to Depression (OK, so I bounce the ball to first, but at least it gets there).

And now I’ve hit the final stage: acceptance. My days of running between the bases without something snapping, popping or tearing are over.

It’s been a difficult battle, but the body has won out. I concede. The white flag is flying. But what my body doesn’t realize is that my mind is only conceding the battle — not the war. Sure, I’ll admit it — I can no longer play the game as I did in my youth. But I will not give up trying to play. Ha!

That is, at least until this Sunday, when we open the season with a double-header. I may be singing an entirely new tune by Sunday night.


Volunteerism Leads to Maritime Gig Fest Microphone

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

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In a town the size of Gig Harbor, it helps if your head can fit a lot of hats. This weekend, I’ll be donning a new one — as a result of wearing one of my old ones.

Through my years of hosting a radio show on KGHP, I’ll be taking one of three microphone stations along Harborview Drive to help announce the parade entries in the annual Maritime Gig Festival in this year’s “Yo Ho Harbor!” parade on Saturday.

Some may say it’s not necessarily a good idea to hand me a microphone amid the throngs that will be lining both sides of the street — but then again, the good folks at KGHP let me in to the broadcast booth back in 2005 and I haven’t yet brought the full weight of the FCC down on the small, but rugged radio station — despite being on the air nearly every week since.

I’m looking forward to the parade and giving shout outs to the many local and regional parade entrants as they go by. I’m sure I’ll see plenty of familiar faces both in the parade and watching. And I look forward to making some new acquaintances along the way. There are more than 100 parade entries so that means no yelling at the kids on Friday night — gotta keep the pipes rested.

For me, this is one of the perks of living in a small community. I certainly wouldn’t have the same opportunity with the Seafair parade in Seattle, for example. But then again, the opportunities are there to be a part of the community, large or small.

From putting in some elbow grease at FISH food bank to keeping ivy from taking over the Wollochet estuary, anyone in the community is just a phone call away from lending a hand and helping to make the community a warm and inviting region.

The opportunity to announce the parade this weekend came about through volunteering at KGHP. You never know how one opportunity may open the door to another.

The city even makes it easy to volunteer, with the Gig Harbor Volunteer and Visitor Information Center, located at 3125 Judson St. Call them at (253) 857-4842 or go online at www.gigharborguide.com and click on the “Learn More” button and select “volunteer opportunities.”

I heartily encourage others who haven’t yet done so to step up — volunteer today in some way, big or small, for an ongoing project, one day or even for just one hour. Pitch in and see what kind of difference you can make in the community — and maybe opening that one door may lead to another and next year, you might be helping announce the parade at the Maritime Gig Festival.

Your head always has room for another new hat.


Anyone See the Same UFO as This Guy Did?

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

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Despite sitting in our backyard a few weeks ago at night roasting marshmallows and dogs over a campfire, no one in our immediate family saw anything unusual in the sky. But one Gig Harbor resident saw something on May 1 — enough to write a report of the sighting and send it in to the Mutual Unidentified Flying Object Network (MUFON).

Anyone else from Gig Harbor to Port Orchard see anything that night? below is an excerpt of the filed report, which — according to MUFON — has not yet investigated by the organization:

My name is –. I live in Gig Harbor Washington on the water facing SW towards an area we locally refer to as the Purdy (Wa) spit. The Olympic Mountain range is in the back ground.

Three-Four weeks ago while driving down our road at around dusk I saw something. At first I thought it was a very bright star and then realized it was moving. I pulled my truck into the driveway and grabbed my scope, fixed it directly onto the object and viewed something far beyond my knowledge of technology.

I could see it very clearly through my Orion 90 refractor scope. It was the shape of a diamond. The top half was amber red and the bottom half was as bright as a star. It hovered a while at around my guess 20-25 thousand feet and then dropped to around 8-6? in a matter of a minute or two as it approached then just cruised right over the top of us towards Mount Rainier. It made no sound though I felt like I could hear something like being close to a power line or similar almost like maybe all sound went away, hard to explain. As it passed over I then grabbed my scope and went to the driveway to view it as it moved away. From behind it was no longer the shape of a diamond, it looked liked an elongated circle eight figure of light, all amber red. And no, I am not an alcoholic nor drug addled so I know what I saw.

Two nights ago,coming from the same direction, this time it was around midnight, a round orb like thing with a half circular arc just as bright coming out of the orb from top to bottom. It came from the same elevation and traveled the same direction as the first. Then one hour later another one. These objects were without a doubt not planes nor helicopters. We have had quite a bit of F-16 type jets and apache/military looking helicopters buzzing over I think as a result these past few nights. We do not normally see these military type craft directly over us.
Other than the usual black helicopters that rattle our windows every other night from 10 p.m. to midnight, we don’t see (or hear) much going on in the skies above us.

My boys have become quite adept at spotting satellites as they silently pass overhead and we’ve been able to confirm sightings of the International Space Station on different nights. So it seems unlikely we would have missed this particular sighting — unless we just weren’t outside at the exact same time.

Years ago, I was one of several witnesses watching a bonafide UFO cross the sky, but not being one to quickly assign the unusual site of lights crossing overhead to alien technology, I assumed it to be some space debris breaking up as it entered the atmosphere.

But as this posting was recent, I’ll once more be watching the skies and I can guarantee this: If I ever spot anything unexplainable and odd, I won’t settle with getting some grainy, blurry, shaky images that look like a blob of light.


K-9 Units at Peninsula Area High Schools Pass the Sniff Test

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

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Peninsula School District is going to the dogs … to sniff out illicit narcotics.

The area’s three high schools — Gig Harbor, Peninsula and Henderson Bay — will begin getting random visits by a drug-detecting K-9 unit from either the Gig Harbor Police Department or the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, looking for the identifiable odor of drugs. According to a school district official, the dogs won’t be checking students, but will roam halls, lockers and parking lots. When the dog alerts to an area, the school principal will be notified.

A first-time offense will result in a 15-day suspension (and hopefully some counseling and follow-up, although that wasn’t made clear) and a second offense would warrant a more harsh response.

A story like this quickly separates people into one of two camps:

It’s a Good Thing: Drugs may be prevalent in our society, but they have no place in public schools. Although this kind of proactive measure won’t eliminate drugs entirely from school campuses or even change the nature of the drug culture, it does send the message to users and dealers that school grounds should be like the signs say at the school entrances: A drug-free zone. And if a kid doesn’t have drugs at school, they have nothing to fear.

It’s a Bad Thing: Bringing drug dogs in is one more step in eroding our basic human rights. This isn’t a case of investigating a specific report of someone carrying drugs; it’s more a dragnet attempt that will only serve to nab the small-time recreational drug user. The dogs aren’t trained to alert to many drugs out there so the result will be minimally effective at best. It just moves the drug problem to another location.

As a parent of two students who will soon be roaming the halls of high school, I must say I tend to agree more with the former, with just a smidgeon of the latter.

I don’t kid myself: This one gesture won’t halt the drug use that is common in our kids’ culture. But it does show that the district isn’t just paying lip service when they say they have a zero tolerance of drugs. It is, indeed, a proactive stance to establish the schools as a safe zone designed for learning — not dealing or using.

Critics charge that the lessons of drug use fall upon the parents. Most assuredly it does. But it shouldn’t stop there. Schools see our children for more waking hours than the parents during the week, so any influence the schools can add to support the message of the parents is only going to help. And for some students who don’t get or have the parental support, the message the school imparts may be the only positive message to stay away from drugs that they hear.

But this isn’t just a message that drugs are bad. It’s a life lesson that there can be consequences for the actions you take. Want to carry your stash to class in your backpack? Then you risk a suspension, a possible arrest and more.

The hardest lesson to teach your child is to allow them to make a wrong decision and then face the consequences that result. But it often results in the best lasting effect. Now before you write in, I’m not advocating you let your child try drugs. I’m saying that we can’t always coddle/protect our children from the big, bad world out there. If we want them to be functioning, capable humans, then as some point we must equip them with the tools to make choices on their own, as well as teach them to accept the results that follow those choices.

As parents, we’ve been teaching the lesson about drugs  to our kids since they were tiny — using each opportunity as a teaching moment to point out the dangers/follies/idiocy of drug use. But we also teach our children to be true to their own self — to learn to make decisions on their own. And with self-reliance comes ownership of your choices and the consequences.

Will my children choose to try drugs? Maybe, maybe not. But even if one of them does, I hope that at that moment my words come echoing through their brain and they make the right choice.

In the meantime, I applaud the school district and the law enforcement agencies for taking a proactive stance in helping parents to send home the message in a clear and visible way: Drugs and their use have no place in our schools.


Parental Ideals Don’t Die, They Just Evolve With Reality

Monday, March 8th, 2010

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With few standing exceptions, most parents have high-minded ideals when they have children, hoping to instill a sense of new-found freedom and unbridled imagination in helping to shape the next generation’s Indira Gandhi or Thomas Edison. To help unleash the untapped potential surrounding their children, they establish by-and-large traditional — yet radical — rules to control the environment surrounding the tots as their youthful charges are slowly exposed to the world around them.

You know the ones, things like: “They will ingest no sugary sweets or drinks” and “They will only hear classical music.”

I, too, had high ideals when my children were still captivated by my ability to “disappear” behind my hands in a classic round of peek-a-boo. But in the seeming blink of an eye those cherubs have morphed into preteens on the verge of hitting ages 12 and 10 and I find myself looking back (with some healthy chagrin) at the many values and ideals lying strewn about in our past like cheap dollar-store toys the day after Christmas.

An apt example of an ideal gone AWOL was that television would not dominate our waking hours and never serve as a babysitter. To be sure, a hour or so of public television, with an occasional dabbling of Discovery channel a week would be the limit (notwithstanding a good ballgame or two). This bastion of parental rules in our abode has, over time, given way to not only non-stop SpongeBob marathons, but by the youngest even recording episodes for all posterity on DVDs, so the one half-hour in a week when SpongeBob is not actually being broadcast, he can still be found filling our TV screen with lemon-yellow joy.

In defense of many other parents who have succumbed similar high-minded ideals for the reality of everyday life: We don’t give up these rules lightly or in sudden bursts of apathy. Instead, they are eroded over time like a gentle meandering stream that ever so slowing eats away at the shore, until the next thing you know, you are staring at the Grand Canyon — your heartfelt ideal but a wispy glint on the far shore, evermore out of reach.

I realized another of those ideals had melted from my grasp this past weekend as I sat on the back stoop with my boys shooting at pop cans in the yard with a pellet gun.

Yes, their mother and I didn’t favor military toys and vowed not to have toy weaponry in the house. Anyone who has a male child will know instantly how utterly futile this ideal is in reality. Before they could even walk, a pencil, a twig or even their hand would easily make do for a weapon in any given instant. The very first Lego construction ever made by the oldest was that of a gun. Over time, the influence of “Toy Story” brought the ubiquitous bag of army men into the house, followed by policemen Halloween costumes complete with handcuffs and batons.

Unless you shelter your children like a religious zealot in the desert, then you know the kids have friends — and those friends have video games that feature more ways to kill people than Hollywood could ever imagine or depict. And despite your best admonishment that they play outdoors when visiting friends, that just means — according to youthful wisdom — that the PSP and Gameboys be used under the shade of a tree. And what kid doesn’t play with a squirt gun in the summer? Did I say squirt gun? I mean those high-tech devices that fire off long streams of water like a fire hose.

This, of course, leads to Nerf weaponry of every kind — that shoot soft, foam “bullets” and “missiles” with some degree of aiming ability. And a Nerf gun is really just an air-propelled pellet gun sans the spring-loaded velocity and tiny ammo– which is exactly what we found ourselves shooting off as we spent some down time on our back porch.

That’s when it hit me — like a pellet shot square in the middle of a Dr. Pepper logo — another erstwhile ideal had been gunned down,  lying DOA on the back steps.

And like the woeful parent who’s child has just slain 20 nuns and orphans during the International Peace to Every Living Thing parade and then states on worldwide TV, “But he’s a good boy,” I kept the blinders firmly in place and refused to see the carnage of another ideal down the drain. Instead, I took heart in the unexpected “good” I found in the moment.

The oldest, a self-proclaimed “expert” at hitting moving targets, was having some degree of difficulty in putting a dent in any cans. His younger brother, who had to this point never been allowed to fire off a pellet gun, was reluctantly given the opportunity (the reluctance coming from both myself and his sibling). With little fanfare, he fired a single round and a can 30 feet away dropped. He cocked the gun a second time, aimed anew and a second can 40 feet away fell over. But being only winged, this can fell but stayed atop the tree stump it rested upon. A third shot pushed it off the stump. All while his older brother pumped several rounds into the weeds around these cans, mumbling about “wind interference” and the other gun being “better.”

I just smiled and took heart that in his ever-growing litany being a future, expert violinist/engineer/mathematician/astronaut, I could now add marksman.


Punxsutawney Phil Has Nothing on My Lawn Mower

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

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Two surefire signs that winter’s grip is slipping and spring is on final approach: The pitchers and catchers reported for spring training last Wednesday for the Mariners and I had to mow my lawn on Sunday.

While having nothing to do with the former, I must take some of the blame for the latter. Quite possibly the earliest I’ve ever broken out the lawn mower (we’re still a solid month away from the official first day of spring), it wasn’t due to any prowess at growing grass. Rather it was a combination of a very mild Pacific Northwest winter, some good time-release fertilizer, an opportunistic spate of sunshine and my inability to get one last good mowing in late last fall before the rain set in. So the lawn went dormant looking shagging and unkempt.

The recent spate of sunny weather woke the grass once more and it picked up where it left off, forcing the need to pull the mower out from under the ever-growing rubble of inline skates, Razor scooters, flat basketballs, Frisbees and other general garage detritus that accumulated over the past few months.

I’d love to take credit for my winterizing skills of draining the oil and gasoline from the mower before stowing it. But the reality is I did none of that, so it is a credit to the engineers of Toro that the old beast rumbled to life on just the second pull. No doubt my neighbors looked out their window at the crazy guy next door with the mower going in February. But I felt vindicated when later in the day, I could hear other mowers sputtering to life.

As a threat of implied punishment, I keep telling my 11-year-old that he will soon take on the task of lawn care. But the truth is I’m reluctant to give up the task. There is something inherently satisfying in turning a shaggy, disheveled looking lawn into a miniature Safeco Field using just a 15-inch wide mower. The smell of freshly cut grass and the green stains on my hands from emptying out the catcher bring back memories of youthful days when — though it was an assigned chore — cutting the lawn was a task I was always happy to do.

Lawn mowing can be at once both therapeutic and relaxing. There is no rush, yet there is always a very real and tangible end product to the task. Unlike working in the garden or toiling in flower beds, you can see your handiwork at the end of the day. Some years back, my wife discovered a new use for mowing the lawn. Being nine months and a day pregnant, she mowed “just to shake things up,” and it worked. She went into labor that night.

I mow — not to induce labor or create it — but because unlike any other activity around the house, it brings a sense of spring to the senses.


A Little Fanfare for the Secret That is PYO

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

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There’s a well-kept secret in Gig Harbor that deserves a shout out for the good they provide the community.

Peninsula Youth Orchestra has been serving the region’s youth (From Tacoma to Port Orchard) providing stringed instrument opportunities since 1998. The organization started when a handful of dedicated volunteers wanted to meet a need that wasn’t being fulfilled by the school districts in either Peninsula or South Kitsap. Although the districts have band, there was no place for youth to learn and play orchestra-style music.

Thanks to PYO, this is no longer the case, as they take in students both experienced and brand new, providing musician development through four levels of experience and age groupings with a school-year program and a summer string camp.

PYO hosted its first official performance of the 2009-10 school year with its winter concert at Peninsula High School on Saturday, Jan. 30. This was the group’s first time in the high school auditorium as they have outgrown previous performance spaces. Executive Director Paula Vander Poel told the audience that the first years they were lucky to play to 50 people in the audience. Saturday’s crowd was in the hundreds.

For many of the participants (ranging in age from 8 to 18) this was their first time on a stage under the lights with an audience. Nerves may have been in high gear, but you wouldn’t have known it by the performance. All four groups: Debut, Encore, Junior and Youth orchestras each took the stage, demonstrating how they’ve grown from learning how to properly hold and play an instrument to playing complex, moving pieces.

The organization is funded through community support and a tuition-based program. Partial and full scholarships for some are made possible thanks to the donations of sponsors.

Music education, sadly, is being underserved in many communities across the country — and the current economic conditions of budget cuts and staff layoffs mean more music programs that have thus far survived still find themselves endangered. A national study released last year was among the first to quantify the music knowledge level of eighth-grade students and the data is disheartening, to say the least.

In the findings:

Only 57 percent of eighth-graders attended schools where music instruction was offered at least three or four times a week.

Eight percent attended schools where no music instruction was offered.

Just over one-third (34 percent) of eighth-graders participated in one or more musical activities in school.

Only 5 percent of students reported playing in an orchestra in school.

At a fundamental level, music provides a young mind a better understanding of both mathematics and science, as well as learning cooperation and discipline. At a deeper level, it reaches to the very core of being human — we are the only species that creates “music” beyond a need to communicate, but for the more ethereal sense of enjoyment and satisfaction. The creation of and listening to music is a uniquely human endeavor and one that crosses all socio-economic and cultural divides. We may all speak languages that are unintelligible to non-native ears, but anyone can appreciate the lyrical lilting sensibilities of a Mozart minuet or the captivating beat of a jungle drum in Zimbabwe.

Youth who participate in music programs show improved test scores, demonstrate high levels of problem-solving, and a significant number go on to higher education (see: The Importance of Music Education). We understand this, and yet music programs are routinely among the first to be cut from shrinking educational budgets. Why? The best I can figure is that a music program’s benefits cannot be quantified as easily as can a reading or science program. Although much like mathematics in its basic form and compositional structure, music’s real benefits are on an artistic plateau, not so easily defined and measured as they are felt and experienced.

Because music speaks to the soul more than to reason does not justify its elimination in our public schools. But until there is a fundamental shift in how we view our educational system, arts in general — and music in particular — will continue to be silenced for the sake of balancing budgets.

That’s why programs like PYO need and deserve the community’s recognition and appreciation for the quality of music education they provide the region’s youth.

Bravo PYO.


Forget Hawks vs. Tides, What About Gig Harbor’s Real Football Rivalry?

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

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For more than three decades now, the crosstown football rivalry has pitted the Peninsula Seahawks against the Gig Harbor Tides in a contest so big that it garners its own name: The Fish Bowl. (The name comes from the benefit side, an annual salmon dinner served before the game that benefits the local fishermen and fleet.) Even though Gig Harbor is 4A and Peninsula is 3A, the non-league game remains big with bragging rights between the blue and green that run deep in the region’s veins. The latest incarnation of the gridiron contest is set to take place tomorrow night (Friday, Oct. 2) at the event’s only home, Roy Anderson Field at PHS, a stadium that is shared by both schools as their home field each football season.

But in my humble opinion, this contest pales in comparison to a matchup that isn’t even part of football reality — yet.

Anyone who is even remotely involved in youth football in Gig Harbor knows there are two leagues to choose from when signing up junior to be the next Peyton Manning. Part of the harbor’s rich history in youth sports is Peninsula Youth Football, well into its third decade in developing football stars of tomorrow. A relative upstart by comparison, the still young Bulldogs Football is in its fourth year of operation. Both leagues field teams from ages 8 to 14 — and both include cheerleader squads so whole families can stay involved.

Both leagues play an eight-game season with extra games included as part of a post-season tournament. Both leagues develop young minds and bodies for the rigors of football that will eventually feed their players into one of the two area high schools. Both leagues bristle with volunteers at all levels willing to help from coaching to cheerleading to recruitment. And just like their high school counterparts, both leagues do not share common opponents beyond each other.

All these similarities end at one very important point: Unlike the Hawks and Tides, PYF and Bulldogs do not play each other for bragging rights to Gig Harbor football.

Having been involved with both programs, I think I’ve gained an insight as to why this might be. As a matter of full disclosure, my son has played three years in PYF and this year is a Bulldog. I’ve been actively involved as well, having coached those same three years in PYF and now coaching as a Bulldog.

As you can well imagine, many of the “adults” involved with PYF don’t want to see this kind of matchup because they don’t want to legitimize the Bulldogs program in any way by acknowledging it (I use the term “adults” loosely because some revert to childlike behavior when it comes to youth sports). There are no doubt detractors for such a match-up in the Bulldogs camp as well, although I must confess, I have not met any of them yet. As you can imagine, those involved in a new league are eager to prove they belong, so many in the Bulldogs organization would welcome such a once-a-year contest.

At the youth level, you better believe the players are well aware of the “other” league. My son has taken his share of ribbing from his former Seahawks teammates for going Bulldog red. I just tell him to point out the difference in the won-loss records of his former and current team.

I joke, but seriously, both programs are filled with players that will one day join together as teammates on the sidelines for either Gig Harbor or Peninsula. Having now been a part of both programs, I have a better view of the youth football world than I did a year ago. Both programs are by-and-large well-run and are filled with adult volunteers who give countless hours to helping players learn and love the game of football. To be sure, both have individuals who detract from the core essence that it is and always should be by and about the youth. But I think you’d be hard pressed to look at any youth sports program anywhere and not find that element.

An annual contest between the leagues could be a good thing for the Gig Harbor community. Like it’s high school counterpart — the Fish Bowl — the games could be built around an annual fundraiser. A nominal admission could be charged and throughout the day, each grade could square off at Roy Anderson Field for bragging rights. A traveling trophy could be created, given that there are five team levels, so each league that wins three or more for a given year would earn the trophy. Non-profits could even earn needed money running concessions for the day-long event.

Granted, there are logistics to be figured out. While the Bulldogs field one team per grade, PYF fields 2-3 per grade. Creating an “all-star” team from PYF would be unfair because those kids wouldn’t have played together through the year. Maybe the PYF teams could alternate years — a Tides team one year and a Seahawks team the next.

Despite the obvious problems (where do you fit this into the calendar) and the sublime ones (those adults who don’t want to see this happen), it is an event that could be put to good use in the community to drive youth sports awareness and community spirit. I can tell you, the players on both sides would love the opportunity to play their school mates.

So how about it, adults? Can we truly act our age long enough to create a Fish Bowl in miniature? Having experienced what each program offers, I can tell you flatly that both leagues teach good values, sportsmanship and determination while also developing a respect and love for the sport of football. I no longer listen to the rumors spread about either as I’ve found it all to be just that — rumors. Let’s get past the pettiness that may have spurred the development of two youth football programs in Gig Harbor, acknowledge that there are and always will be two solid programs for players and parents to choose from, and use this opportunity to create something special and unique for Gig Harbor that involves both programs in a fun and positive fashion.

Lets embrace the competitiveness that is part of having two healthy, growing programs and develop a higher sense of community oneness by using the playing field to bring this all together. We can all feel good about creating more youth participation while raising funds that can be turned back into the community to further help make Gig Harbor a great place to live, work and play football.

I’ve snapped the ball. The question is: Will anyone run with it?


Could School District Save Parents’ $$$ with Bulk Buying?

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

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Like swallows to Capistrano, students and educators have flocked back to area schools to start anew the educational cycle for 2009-10. Preceding the annual return to the hallowed halls is the parents’ annual trek to area stores and malls to meet the demands of the back-to-school supplies necessary to keep the classrooms running efficiently.

Not to sound like the proverbial old coot, but “when I was a kid,” we seldom had to bring more than a notebook of lined paper and a sunny disposition to start a new school year. I remember my teacher even handing me a shiny and unsharpened bright yellow No. 2 on the first day. But tightening budgets and burgeoning classrooms have conspired to create the system we have today, wherein parents must supply the class with many of the necessities that schools routinely supplied in the past.

Today’s student is lacking if she doesn’t bring a box of tissues, crayons, erasers, markers, notebooks, reams of paper, tape, rulers, glue sticks, highlighters, Ziploc bags, hand sanitizers, scissors, calculators, pocket dictionaries and enough pencils to build a bridge that would put the Tacoma Narrows to shame.

What got me to thinking was the demand for reams of paper. I got to wondering just how big the stack of paper would be if you totaled all the students in all the classrooms in all the schools in the Peninsula School District who were asked to bring a ream of paper to start the year. This rather simple query turned into a laborious task of Sisyphian proportions as I took to amassing the school supply lists of the 15 schools in the PSD realm.

The results of my query resulted in four rather cumbersome charts, which can be accessed as PDFs labeled in the following:

psd-09-supplies-per-student (SPS): Shows the supplies needed by each student in each grade, with a total dollar amount per student factored in with the pricing guide.

school Supplies by Grade/School (SGS): Shows totals of each item requested for each grade, based on projected enrollment numbers for 2009-10 posted on the PSD Web site.

psd-09-total-supplies-by-school (TSS): Shows total number of each item requested by each school, with a total for all of the districts eight elementary and four middle schools.

psd-09-supplies-prices (SP): Shows estimated cost of each item, total requested for the school district and the cost to parents based on these amounts.

As a matter of full disclosure, please note there are a number of discrepancies that make this list necessarily incomplete. For one, the high schools are not represented as class supply lists are not posted online. The per-student total is not completely accurate as a number of the supplies can be purchased at different stores for different prices — sometimes for big discounts at some stores. Also, the per-student total can be skewed by unlisted items, i.e. middle school students are required to provide gym clothes and some, locks for a locker, and none of this is incorporated into the cost totals.

Likewise, many parents refuse to purchase the total amount of some items requested, i.e. a student may be asked to bring 10 glue sticks, but a parent supplies three or they opt to not send some of the requested supplies to school at all.

And naturally enough, there is the matter of recycling. Many parents save items from one school year to the next — such as watercolor paints, or reusable items like calculators and rulers — eliminating the need to purchase the item anew each year. The costs per student shown on SPS assume that a parent is buying every item on the list as requested for the new school year.

Now I’m no statistical engineer, so my math and logic is in no way meant to be comprehensive or complete. Rather, this little project  led me to pose the bigger question: Given the distressed economy, could the school district pool the teacher wish lists, purchase the major accoutrement at a discounted bulk rate and save parents a lump sum of cash?

And like any statistical study, interesting facts and heretofore unasked questions come up when the data is laid out side by side.

For example: While most schools require at least one box of Kleenex per student, kids in Goodman Middle School must have particularly runny noses as they are expected to supply 2,196 boxes of tissues for the 549 students — a total of four boxes per student. And kids at Artondale and Purdy elementary schools plan to glue a lot of paper, with both schools expecting more than 3,500 glue sticks, while Evergreen Elementary and Goodman Middle School students will glue nary a dozen pieces of paper together with Evergreen asking for little more than two glue sticks per student and Goodman less than one per student.

And my original question on reams of paper? Students at Harbor Ridge and Voyager didn’t need to weigh their backpacks down on opening day as they were not asked for any reams, while Kopachuck tipped the other end of the scale, requesting 1,112 reams from the 656 students. Districtwide, a whopping 4,355 reams of paper were expected to be collected. With a ream of 20 lb. bond measuring 2 inches deep, that’s a stack of reams topping out at just over 725 feet high. If you were to stack the reams 10 feet high, you would need a closet measuring at least 6.5 feet by 7.5 feet and 10 feet high.

Anyone who has manipulated statistics knows you can create a number or set of numbers to represent just about anything you want. Looking at the numbers, a parent could wonder why a fifth grader at Artondale requires more than $80 in supplies while his counterpart at Minter Creek can meet her needs with less than $20. And do Artondale third-grade and Harbor Heights fourth-grade teachers really expect to go through 60 pencils per student in one school year? (That’s a new pencil for every three school days.)

But that’s not the point here. I’ll leave that kind of number crunching to those of you who feel compelled to look into this further. My point is to the school district. Couldn’t the district, with its buying power, purchase the non-reusable items on the lists each year — say  like the 23,432 glue sticks (parent price of 3 for .99 cents, costs parents $7,732.56), 7,714 Kleenex boxes (.99 each for a total of $7,636.86), and 4,355 reams of paper ($2.99 per ream, $13,021.45)?

The district could recoup the funds by then charging the parents what it paid for each item, so the parents are still footing the supplies bill, but getting the district’s buying clout.

It just seems to me a good starting off point to talk about the district looking to be innovative in ways to help parents meet the needs of the classroom by using its buying power to reduce the overall costs of going back to school. Anyone agree?


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About This Blog

Gig Harbor, nestled in the northwest corner of Pierce County, snugly between Tacoma and Bremerton, is fast shedding its small-town demeanor as people seeking to escape the hectic pace, congested traffic and high cost of living in the big city continue to “discover” the fishing village in the harbor. With the influx of population, Gig Harbor continues to morph and develop, coming of age — as it were — as it defines its place among the many communities that dot the waters up and down Puget Sound. Kitsap Sun Special Sections Managing Editor Ric Hallock (whose responsibilities include Gig Harbor Life), lives in Gig Harbor and finds that reason enough to blog on living, breathing and spending money in the Maritime City.

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