All posts by Steven Gardner

Bremerton Needs Retail and Other Enlightenments

So a week ago Bellevue developer comes to this side of Lake Washington to tell us Bremerton needs retail.

The commenters to the story first responded, “Duh.”

Here are some other observations worth noting:

Silverdale doesn’t have a city hall.
Poulsbo needs parking.
Port Orchard is hilly.
Bainbridge Island is still part of this county.
The heat was hot.

Commenters to the story also complained about the parking, with responses that Kmart had plenty of free parking, and then arguments that downtown needs people for retail to survive.

None of it is wrong, and Kemper Freeman’s point about Tacoma is perhaps worth considering. Nonetheless, does his take mean Bremerton should have put retail in first. Well then, how do you do that? I think the whole point of these parks and conference centers and tunnels and new bridges and hotels and government centers and infrastructure tax breaks and property tax breaks and road paving and condo building and Bellevue developer wooing and new marinas and fish and fisherman statues and parking committees is designed to create what?

It is designed to create the kind of crowd I saw the other day at 2 Blocks Up Cafe at the corner of Pacific Avenue and Fourth Street. On Wednesday during a break in union negotiations four of us headed over to the cafe for sandwiches and strategizing and found that we had to sit outside the restaurant. The place was packed.

I don’t know what accounted for the rush that day, and I don’t know if that’s a regular thing. You can’t create conclusions from a single observation, try as story commenters might.

Nonetheless, what I have seen is a host of downtown merchants who are believers in downtown Bremerton. Boston’s Pizza is doing great night business now because of the Fairfield Inn.

Bremerton has not turned the corner it needs to for downtown to be considered a success, but despite the economic downturn the momentum hasn’t stopped. At least, it hasn’t as far as I can tell from my casual observations.

One more thing:

Dirt is dirty.

Hen Movement Grows Slowly in Bremerton

Did you remember that there are some people who want to be able to have hens in their Bremerton backyards. Here’s the latest from a purely observational standpoint.

I haven’t written much about it lately, but I saw another Facebook post last week to suggest the group is gathering signatures. One note said nine sheets were turned in, which would mean the group has 180 signatures and needs only 2,320 more to get on the ballot.

Meanwhile, the city council has remained silent on the issue in every meeting I have attended, and that has been quite a few. That can’t be too good a sign for those who want to decriminalize poultry in the city. You may recall that chicken fans don’t really want to go to the ballot box to get their hens, but they’re willing. This weekend they’ll travel to Port Orchard to gather signatures from Bremerton registered voters disloyally shopping across the inlet. They also have plans to hold more signature-gathering meetings to get petitions out at outdoor markets and other events.

Thursday afternoon I spotted the sign posted here, took a picture, then drove all over much of the rest of town to see if I could find even one more sign like it. I didn’t find one.

Bremerton Magic

If you’re one of those people who believe there are no accidents in life, then you have to wonder, like I have, what message I was sent on tax day.

That was the day there was a tea party in Olympia I didn’t attend, favoring instead a chance to stay in town and get liquored up, and by that I mean to write about the privatization of liquor sales in this state.

Good fortune smiled on me for making that decision, because Taco Del Mar was offering a free taco just for showing up with a coupon Jim Campbell printed out and handed to me. Had it not been Campbell I might have sensed treachery. But that guy is solid. I’ve also been well trained by my beloved to stop feeling guilty about freebies.

So on to Taco Del Mar I went, wondering if a free fish taco would be as good as one I’d pay for. It was a sunny day, so I decided to take my food to the Harborside Fountain Park on a quest for profanity.

Out of the taco fell what you see pictured here.

This has to mean something.

According to Wikipedia, the source for all truth, unicorns are pretty awesome. Conservapedia says the unicorn might actually be a rhinoceros. There once was a British band called Unicorn. Who can forget them? (Raises hand.)

As many cheese sandwiches as I’ve grilled over the years, you’d think I would have had a holy visit before now.

But this was a first. I carefully placed the cabbage back in a bag, then decided to take it out again to make sure to get a picture in case it was fragile. It was.

The picture you see here is a re-creation. I found the horse and the horn, but they were no longer attached. This is pretty much what it looked like.

I was cursed for not taking full advantage of my good fortune. On the way back I was forced to take a longer way home because of construction. When I got back to the office I carefully sealed the unicorn in the best sealant I could find (the tape in my desk) and put the apparition on the wall in case anyone wanted to come see it for inspiration or favors.

After a couple of days it started turning black, though, so I decided to dump it in the trash.

Still I feel so rewarded for my faith in free-dom that I was so honored by a visit from something so powerful as a unicorn. That never would have happened if I had lunched in Port Orchard. Over there the best you can hope for is a narwhal.

Safe from the Tales of Intimacy in Bremerton

A co-worker plying his trade on a Saturday decided to take a break in the place that is one of the breakiest of the break places in downtown Bremerton, the Harborside Fountain Park.

The park, besides its whale spouts and imported trees and rocks, has a sound system that when employed provides an atmospheric backdrop that says, well I’m not sure what it says. It just plays music.

Said co-worker happened to be there on a day when said music was the kind that contains several references to human intimacy in rather non-discreet language, applying a common term that generally refers to intimacy to things that are incapable of being intimate, such as cars, homes and accountants.

If you still don’t know what I’m talking about, think of Ralphie when the lugnuts flew, and not because someone shot them.

Said co-worker told me of said incident, when diaper-clad kids could splash to the sounds of a story about women who are not particularly choosy and tend to display improper manners. It caused me to make three trips to the fountain park. When I went, though, all I heard was music inoffensive, unless you count Billy Squire. (I do, but not for the same reasons.) The broadcast was from the Sirius satellite network, which doesn’t have to concern itself with Federal Communications Commission standards. If Janet Jackson had experienced that malfunction on the Sirius radio, if that were possible, she wouldn’t have been fined.

I talked to Wyn Birkenthal, Bremerton’s parks and recreation director, about the Saturday experience of my co-worker and he was appropriately aghast. It’s not something he wanted repeated. Staff has been instructed to only employ channels that “provide music without profane lyrics or questionable DJ commentary.

You’re children are safe from potty mouth entertainers, at least in Bremerton‘s parks.

You’re welcome.

I can’t protect them from bad musicians, though.

With any luck, maybe you’ll hear this guy:

Mourning, Healing and Remembering

Steven Gardner writes:

Sunday was one of those days you really hope you never have to face, but for a day like that it couldn’t have been any better.

Michael Pitcher’s death last week affected a lot of people I’m close with. People who are genuinely part of communities have the benefit of having others to hold on to when the things that happen seem to make no sense. There’s been a lot of holding on to each other since last Monday.

Michael and I were more acquaintances than friends. We had each been in the other’s home, but I can’t say I really knew him. I can say I admired him, mostly for what you see in the picture here. Despite our passing and brief relationship, it saddens me to know that I won’t see him again. Not around here, anyway.

On Sunday I went to church and it was a service in which many people who knew Mike well were able to stand up and share stories about him, about how he influenced them.

His father, Frank Pitcher, spoke. I would guess Frank has had multiple opportunities to try to provide comfort to people who are grieving, and is among those grieving now. As one who has seen it and been through it before himself, he understands it. Understanding does little to comfort, though. It hurts.

Then there is Michelle, who came along into Michael’s life at a time when he was experiencing the very same thing she is now. Michael’s first wife lost her life suddenly. The one person who could probably help us, and especially Michelle, the most, the one who could extend his arm around us and offer comfort like no one else could, the one who could say, “I’ve been there” is the one who can’t be here to do that at all.

And yet a legacy goes on.

Last Monday I stayed home from work during the day because my wife was ill and needed to rest. I did go to work that night to cover chicken decriminalization and to make cops calls. Before I went in Josh Farley called me and asked that I follow up on an accident in CK, where a man fell from a tree and died. Later that night I read the press release, which included no name. I wrote a brief piece for the paper and went home as quickly as I could.

I stayed home the next day as well, except to taxi the children while my wife continued to rest. As I was putting shoes on my youngest, Diana came to the door and asked if I’d heard about Michael Pitcher. I hadn’t, I said. He died, she told me. That was the first moment it occurred to me that the man I’d written about the night before could be Michael.

Seeing someone just 30, so full of hope and goals and dreams, pass from this life to the next so quickly and unexpectedly has been transformational. I want to be a better father. I’ve always wanted to be a great dad, but something about Micheal’s passing spurred me to renew my commitment to my children and to Diana. I want there to be more pictures of me and my kids the way Michael is seen here, not because I want to be remembered that way, but because I want to be that way.

We made a start last week. The one benefit of Diana being sick and me staying home is my youngest and I bonded like we seldom had before. We played. We went on rides. We read together. It is clear the difference it has made on him. It’s more clear to me what it’s done for me. I thought of Michael a lot while it was happening. I wish he was here so I could tell him, but I have faith that he knows.

The Kids Are Allright, and There Are Lots of Them

Steven Gardner writes:

Last week I looked at our community calendar and spotted the toddler dance party the librarians on Bainbridge Island were going to put on and I thought “video gold!”

My one worry was that they’d only have two or three kids show up. I needn’t have worried. There probably five dozen kids and almost as many adults. The place was packed.

Speaking of Bremerton

Steven Gardner writes:

That didn’t take long.

On Monday Bremerton gets its grubby mitts on your blog here and within days Money Magazine cedes all of Kitsap County to Bremerton.

That dude living on his boat and dumping his stuff into Eagle Harbor? He’s from Bremerton.
Those kids that spent New Year’s Day in Pasadena instead of jumping into the sound? Bremertonians.
Seabeck, Poulsbo, Silverdale? It’s all Bremerton.

I was going to one day threaten that you’d all be assimilated, but it looks like it already happened.

Money Magazine has a new list out, one of those things they create every so often to make people remember that magazines still exist. In a section devoted to Real Estate 2010, it predicts which areas will see the steepest increases and make the biggest falls in real estate value. Number five for robust real estate, or tied for it, is Bremerton, population 240,000.

This has, of course, been going on for years. One time Bremerton’s recognition got the former editor of the Central Kitsap Reporter so jacked up he wrote an editorial asking when Bremerton would stop riding on the rest of the county’s coattails. I answer, when will you shut up and accept that you’ll be riding ours forever? Quiet before we annex you.

Your assimilation into Bremerton isn’t free. There are some standards to be met.
First, Bainbridge Island has to stop its obsessive repulsion to chain stores. We want a Burger King and a Taco Bell on Winslow Way, or we’re coming over there with a bridge.
Silverdale needs one, probably two 7-Elevens. Circle K’s wine for the thrifty isn’t as diverse and the clientele isn’t as troubling.
Poulsbo, get rid of all those extra stop signs and replace them red-light cameras.
Port Orchard, the paint job is kind of a step up, so we’ll give you credit there. Some of your windows reflect direct sunlight into our eyes around sunset, though, so we would appreciate it if you’d do something about that, m’kay?

Now that we’ve all accepted that we’re all from Bremerton, I think we can also agree that we need to band together to sell some condos and direct some more retail into what we will all call “downtown” without having to ask “Downtown where?” I’ll see if we can get our paper renamed the Bremerton Sun again. I guess we can stick with the city names we’ve got, but we ought to develop nicknames. Silverdale can be “Slick.” Poulsbo is “Olaf.” Bainbridge will be “Money Bags.” Seabeck can be “Chip.” Port Orchard should be “Junior.”

If you’re not excited about this, I don’t know what’s wrong with you.

The Advice Less Traveled

While in Silverdale for a discussion on health care, I stopped by Safeway. The store sells used books for a local charity. On the shelf I saw six copies of the book “Don’t Set Goals.”

The author was Wade Cook.

I’m sure I’m not the first one to see the irony in that title. I can think of a few goals Mr. Cook would have been well served to make. Staying out of prison would have been one.

It’s probably a decent book, though.

Bremerton Invades South Kitsap

Steven Gardner writes:

Last week I was driving around Port Orchard and saw a sign advertising “Ettermans’ jackets.”

It made me long for the old days, when a sign like that would inspire me to stop and take a picture to throw up on a blog, an excuse to get silly about Port Orchard. The pressures of writing for two blogs, though, eventually became too much, though. I passed by that place taking no pictures and writing no screed against your fair city. It’s like those dogs in that Gary Larson cartoon. They’re sitting on the porch while a cat’s delivering mail, while the dogs do nothing. “We’re getting old, Jake,” one says to the other.

That could change in the next few weeks. As Chris has likely explained to you, my illiterate rants (as opposed to the brilliant ones I write on the Kitsap Caucus site) can again find a home. I’ll just post them here. The Bremerton Beat is no more. See it as a victory if you like, but I’d be careful. Here in Bremerton we like our chickens illegal and our hot dog vendors spread out a bit. We’re a different breed, and we can see your houses from our condos. We can draw tourists with whimsy and fountains. Pretty soon we’re going to have something else to draw them, and that includes you. While our finest residents will be going to your town to post bail, your finest will coming to ours for something else. I can’t yet tell you yet what it is. Remember though, you’re on notice.