Best of Fish & Bicycles: There Goes The Neighborhood!

Originally Published: August 5, 2010


No, the following headline is NOT from The Onion:

IHOP mascot Suzie Pancake assaulted at Bellingham restaurant

BELLINGHAM – IHOP’s mascot Suzie Pancake was assaulted by a bystander at about 3 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 3, outside of the restaurant at 3619 Byron St., according to Bellingham police.

A 19-year-old woman dressed in the pancake suit was outside the IHOP, waving at passers-by, when 22-year-old James Manas approached her and began yelling at her and hitting the suit with his hand, Bellingham Police spokesman Mark Young said.

A passer-by stopped Manas as he tried to hit her again; Manas then walked to a nearby bus stop, said Young.

Disturbing. I know. It’s the kind of thing you never think will happen in your town. It’s so A Clockwork Orange!

It’s funny, right after I read this story in the Bellingham Herald this morning, I started to take off on my bicycle for work and found that our car, which we park on the street in front of the house, had had both front windows wide open all night. Truth is, this is a common occurrence, arguably foolish complacence for sure, but crime is, fortunately, incredibly rare in our neighborhood.

Question is: Now that Suzie Pancake has been assaulted here in Bellingham, will all that change? I mean, what’s next? Will Ronald McDonald go on a crazed vigilante binge seeking revenge on Suzie’s behalf?

Best of Fish & Bicycles: When Wednesday became Sun Day in Bellingham

Originally Published: March 25, 2010


A friend of mine who lives in famously sunny San Diego sent me a link to an MSNBC item this morning, an item that our local Bellingham Herald didn’t even publish:

    Bellingham school cancels classes for ‘sun day’

    BELLINGHAM, Wash. – A forecast of warm clear weather prompted Bellingham Christian School to cancel classes today for a “sun day.”

    Principal Bob Sampson says sun day celebrates spring, promotes positive school culture and is “just for fun.”

    Because the school lost no days to snow over the winter, the principal says it can afford to take a spring day off.

When I moved to Bellingham in 1993, I knew what I was getting into in terms of the weather.

From Wikipedia:

    Although the rainy season can last as long as eight months or more, it is usually about six months long, leaving Bellingham with a picturesque late spring and mild, pleasant summer. Although Bellingham receives an average annual rainfall of 34.84 inches (885 mm), many long weeks of short and cloudy days are commonplace in winter.

Sunbreak is a word I never heard before I moved to Bellingham. I hear it on radio weather forecasts all the time, and yet a Google search provides no evidence that it is an official meteorological term. Search strings like “weather+terms+sunbreak” or “meteorology+sunbreak” yield absolutely nothing.

I did find a post by a fellow blogger in similarly rainy Portland, Oregon who mentions this colloquialism, and Googling “sunbreak+definition” finally brought me to this:

From Urban Dictionary:

    Sunbreak – When the sun appears in a cloudy sky for a little while, then gets covered again.

    Commonly used in Seattle, WA.

    Person 1: Sure is cloudy this morning.

    Person 2: Look outside, there’s a sun break, how beautiful.

I’d been living in Bellingham a few weeks, when, on one rainy day, I parked my car in a lot and, out of habit, ran towards the building I was heading into. I wore no rain gear. A man standing in front of the building, wearing a rain jacket with his hood up, unprotected by any shelter whatsoever asked with a sarcastic tone, “Don’t you just get wetter that way?”

I hate to admit it, but I spent a considerable amount of time pondering the answer to that obviously rhetorical question, and I concluded that even if it was true, even if, because the rain is not only coming down onto a running person but the person is running into the raindrops that they would otherwise miss, the obvious answer is that, yes, you do get wetter if you are not wearing a rain jacket with a hood in its upright and secured position.

Another anecdote: The first time I visited notoriously wet Western Washington, before I drove up to Bellingham, I spent a few days in Seattle. On one of those days it rained, I was in the University of Washington bookstore, I innocently asked someone who worked there if it’s true that it rains like that as much as people say, and the reply I got was, “If you live in California, I’ll say it rains like this everyday.”

But that’s another story altogether.

Best of Fish & Bicycles: Bellingham: Art Mecca?

Originally Published: November 12, 2009


maxxi
The lede photo here is of the new Maxxi museum of contemporary art in Rome, which, according to The New York Times, opens this Saturday.

Not to be outdone by those elitist, eurotrash Romans, Bellingham will open its own new museum the very same day.

While Bellingham does have a vibrant arts scene, up to now, besides the grand Mt. Baker Theatre, it’s been a scene of smaller theaters (iDiOm, Upfront, Pickford) and art galleries (Allied Arts, Blue Horse, Lucia Douglas). In order to see anything resembling what the Maxxi will offer, a 90 mile trip to the Seattle Art Museum, at the least, was a necessity.

Enter the new Lightcatcher Building addition to the Whatcom Museum.

thelightcatcher

I think that’s pretty stunning, myself.

And, in true Bellingham spirit, the building, designed by Seattle’s Jim Olson, with its use of natural light and ventilation, radiant floor heating, rainwater catchment and green roof is slated to meet the standard for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification.

That said, a new contemporary art museum needs more than a cool building. How exciting, then, to get advanced glimpses of at least one of the inaugural exhibits, a mysteriously beautiful installation titled Bloom: The Elephant Bed, by Seattle artist John Grade.

bloom

The city’s vision is for the Lightcatcher Building to be the centerpiece of a downtown arts and culture center, and from the looks of it they are off to a great start.

Best of Fish & Bicycles: Bellingham and Me: Proudly Provincial

Originally Published: April 5, 2010


I like big cities, really, I do! Where I grew up, in Central New Jersey, I could drive 45 minutes to New York City, 60 minutes to Philadelphia, 3 hours to Washington, D.C., and 5 hours to Boston. One of the greatest things about living in Bellingham is that Seattle and Portland are only 90 minutes or 4.5 hours to the south respectively, and Vancouver is only 90 minutes north.

I love big cities…but I wouldn’t want to live in one.

For one thing, I’d miss items like this in the local paper:

Mallard Ice Cream to introduce new flavor at Sunday event

BELLINGHAM – An ice cream social to celebrate the naming of a new Mallard Ice Cream flavor will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, April 11, at The Leopold Ballroom, 1224 Cornwall Ave.

The new name and flavor will be kept secret until its Sunday debut. All that has been revealed so far is that the ice cream will be in honor of Kulshan Community Land Trust, a nonprofit organization that provides affordable homeownership to people of modest means.

I love seeing people I know wherever I walk, I love that there’s usually only 1 to 2 degrees of separation here, I love that it takes me no more than 15 minutes to get from my house to the farthest parts of town that I regularly visit, and most trips are 5 to 10 minutes, I love locally-owned businesses, like Mallard Ice Cream, that become community institutions.

I know these these things aren’t really nonexistent in big cities, but I sure wouldn’t like Bellingham half as much as I do if they didn’t exist here.

Bellingham Herald Goes Tabloid

Shame, shame, shame on the Bellingham Herald, for their sensationalist tabloid reporting in today’s paper.

One has to wonder who at Western Washington University (full disclosure: my employer) pissed off who at the Herald, because two substantial hit pieces were published today — At WWU, few safety changes made a year after freshman’s death; WWU defends police chief’s vacation during search for Clark. And, even if someone was pissed, how incredibly irresponsible and unprofessional to vengefully publish two sleazy articles that try to expose problems that don’t even exist?! (More on that in a moment.)

As I mentioned last week, this is the biggest weekend of the year at Western, when 4,100 students move into their on-campus housing ahead of Wednesday’s first day of classes, with many thousands more students moving into off-campus housing. These students have an ENORMOUS amount of stuff they are dealing with: many are moving away from home for the first time, or moving out of the supportive on-campus housing communities for the first time, their tuition and fees have been steadily going up, there are fewer student jobs available on campus and off, they’re worried about getting the classes they need, about moving into their rooms, meeting their roommates in person for the first time, saying goodbye to their parents, buying books, getting their student ID cards, learning their way around campus, getting used to dining hall food, etc.

The LAST thing they and their parents need is a reminder of a terrible tragedy that befell a Western student shortly after move-in last year, a tragedy that hit me and the whole campus pretty hard, one that I wrote several posts about — The Value of a Life, The Terror of Being a Parent, Happiness is a Verb.

How can the Herald be so heartless? A lot of folks are still healing from that experience!

As I said above, the articles are blatant attempts to claim controversy where there isn’t any, offering absolutely no substantiation for assertions that Western hasn’t done enough to improve safety by educating students about the perils of drug and alcohol use, or that the University Police Chief was in any way negligent for having gone on vacation once the investigation of Dwight Clark’s disappearance was taken over by the Bellingham Police Department. The disappearance happened after Dwight left a house party held off campus, and all indications suggest that he headed to the waterfront from there, rather than returning to campus first.

Western can’t be expected to be responsible for safety issues off campus, nor the poor choices students often make off campus.

Speaking from the experience of ten years working at Western, the campus Counseling, Health & Wellness department works in concert with other departments all over campus, through a variety and frequently refreshed programs, to promote healthy lifestyles and safe choices, and, really, that’s about all they can do.

Precipitation Blues

The rain in Bellingham is legendary. It either drives people to depression, to move to Arizona, or to wear Gore-Tex.

Appropriate, then, that I’ve written about the rain quite a bit, in ways ranging from matter of fact, to dismissive, to angry as hell.

Well, we’re currently having one hell of a cold and wet spring…

Via The Bellingham Herald:

Bellingham on track for temperature record – but not the good kind

If temperatures don’t warm up in the next two weeks, Bellingham may beat its record for the longest stretch of days below 70 degrees.

As of Wednesday, May 25, Bellingham had gone 240 consecutive days without reaching 70 degrees, as recorded at Bellingham International Airport.

The record is 254 set in 1955, according to the National Weather Service, which keeps records for Bellingham as far back as 1949. In 1955, it didn’t hit 70 until June 6, said National Weather Service meteorologist Carl Cerniglia.

Now, if this was just a matter of our comfort level or our mental/emotional health, then I probably wouldn’t chime in on this news.

But, this is getting more serious than that.

Also from the Herald:

Lack of sunshine creating problems for Whatcom Co. farmers, dairies

As this cold, wet spring continues to deprive Whatcom County residents of much-desired sunlight, local farmers are becoming increasingly concerned about what this is doing to the crops.

Now, that said, I may have stumbled upon a solution.

This morning as I was donning my rain gear, preparing to pedal my bicycle to work in a nasty downpour, my wife suggested that I just drive to work, but I forced myself to get on the bike.

I got soaked…

…but then about 15 minutes after I arrived on campus the rain stopped, the sun’s been peeking out from time to time, and it hasn’t rained since.

So, what we’ve gotta do is get everyone to get out on foot or on their bicycles and act like it’s not raining at all.

It’s a kind of sun dance.

It could work!

Who’s coming with me?!!

Bellingham Burglary: Crime of Conscience?

Sometimes you have to read between the lines to find the humor in news stories.

Other times, it’s hard to distinguish between a real news story and a story from the news parody website The Onion.

Today, The Bellingham Herald posted a prime example of the latter:

Former Bellingham sports bar burglarized; condom machine stolen

A condom machine is missing and an ATM is damaged after the old Quarterback Pub in Sehome Village was burglarized early Tuesday, March 22.

One or more burglars entered the former sports bar through a roof vent sometime during the night and, once inside, pried open an ATM and stole a condom machine out of a bathroom, Bellingham Police spokesman Mark Young said.

Now, normally the comments section at the Herald is a very unpleasant place, a forum for the worst kind of polarized and unproductive political discourse.

But, as of this writing, this story has not only disarmed the usual suspects — there have been no attempts to politicize this thoroughly apolitical story — it has also inspired a string of funny retorts, some of them VERY funny, and I couldn’t resist posting a few of them here:

  • See, this is what happens when you cut funding for Planned Parenthood.
  • When condoms are outlawed only outlaws will have condoms.
  • Hopefully the idiot(s) know how to use the condoms so they don’t birth more idiots like themselves.
  • Prolly just some kids intent on screwin’ around.
  • condom machine ??? i thought that gum was awful chewy….