There is a small town on Fidalgo Island in Washington state called Anacortes. I visited there yesterday and it was one of the best days of my life. I fell in love with Anacortes yesterday.
Anacortes is a working town, with a refinery and boat building enterprises. It’s main street is about six blocks long, with many funky antique shops, restaurants and other usual small businesses. There is a fantastic, “old fashioned” hardware store which, in contrast to our Home Depots, instilled in me, if you can believe it, a sense of happiness and appreciation. The smell alone sent me reeling into the annals of nostalgia. Most of the businesses along the main street are family owned and not national franchises or chain stores. Of course, right outside the “downtown” area, there are your Safeways, Lowes and other big box stores. The town is a perfect slice of Americana, with neat small bungalows typical of the northwest but also with some new housing. Washington Park is part of the spectacular scenery surrounding Anacortes. There, the girth of the trunks of the old growth trees is not to be believed. Across the water the other San Juan Islands are beautiful.
Anacortes is small enough that the residents actually know each other. I got the sense of a real community. We passed the library and community theater. Sure, Anacortes isn’t for everyone, especially those craving a more urban setting with its accompanying action. But something about Anacortes was also reminiscent of growing up in the 1950’s, when life seemed more simple. I know that life is complicated no matter when and where a person slogs through it, but Anacortes seems just so “livable”. Life in Anacortes appears a bit more insulated, more “manageable”, than life in the suburbs or cities. It does my heart good to see a place where the children can have the freedom and safety to walk or ride their bikes from place to place.
Of course there are people in Anacortes with varying political bents, just like anywhere else. Every Sunday, a group of Republicans gather on one corner of the intersection by the Safeway, while Democrats amass on the opposite corner. This tradition began during Bush the Second’s tenure. This gathering is more of a social event than a confrontational political statement. It is kind of like the old meetings in the local grange halls: community cohesiveness, as American as apple pie.
Don’t kid yourself though. There are the same extremist, divisive elements in Anacortes as anywhere else. In front of the main post office in the middle of downtown, two people set up a table with flyers and posters of President Obama with a Hitler mustache. My daughter warned me to ignore them and not make a scene. Then, she promptly walked me across the street to where these sorry, prejudiced idiots were. As we walked by, one of these rabble-rousers said to me, “How do you like the poster?” I continued walking a few feet and then responded, “It’s not half as pathetic as you are.” I then called him a racist and told him to get a job. To see that mustache on a photo of our President had quite a gut-wrenching effect on me. It was the lowest blow by ignorant sore losers. Yet, I had to react. Sorry. Well, what would you expect me to do?
So there is the natural beauty of the geography, the small town feel and all the philosophical and political positions represented in Anacortes. It is not the Garden of Eden though, because just like any other place, people have to find decent jobs and housing, afford health care and provide their children with an effective education. These issues are just as important and relevant in Anacortes as they are in any other American locality.
However, there is something about Anacortes that made me feel more optimistic that these goals can get accomplished, that quality of life is attainable. That is exactly why this day was so uplifting. I do think that if I was thirty years younger, with all the hope that youth encompasses, I would have given Anacortes a shot. There’s just something about Anacortes.
My utmost thanks to Maribel and Cookie for a most memorable day.
Unfortunately, I forgot to pack the cord that connects my camera to my computer, so I am unable to download my photos of Anacortes. Please check back later this weekend. When I get back home I will download the photos.