Tag Archives: Bellingham Herald

Bellingham, Just Say No to Whole Foods

whole-foodsI was very saddened to see news in the Bellingham Herald this morning that a Whole Foods Market will be opening here in the summer of 2016.

I’ve written numerous times, most recently this past December, that one of the things that is so special about Bellingham is that local businesses are thriving here. It’s an integral part of our identity as a small city. And, local businesses are thriving mostly because we take pride in that identity and commit to support our local businesses, even at times when prices are cheaper elsewhere, because we know that the owners of these businesses are our neighbors and friends.

Another component of Bellingham’s identity is our commitment to sustainability, in terms of environmental protection and restoration, sustainable agriculture, sustainable building practices, etc.

So, you see this conflict between those two aspects of our identity when we consider the arrival of Whole Foods. While not a locally-owned business, it is a market that features natural and organic foods, including non-GMO products.

Problem is, we already have two outstanding local natural foods markets, the Bellingham Community Food Co-Op, with two locations, and Terra Organic & Natural Foods, both conduct themselves more like communities than businesses, and both contribute to a wide variety of community events and non-profit organizations.

I find the practices of these large chain stores disturbing, how they move into communities that have existing, local businesses offering similar goods and services, without any apparent concern for how they will take business away from those who were here first, wielding their corporate power against mom and pop shops, or, in the case of the Community Food Co-Op, member owners, businesses that don’t have the resources to compete fairly.

In the Herald article, a Whole Foods executive is quoted:

Bellingham is a terrific market. It’s been a long time coming…The right site was there, the right partner and developer was there, the right mix in terms of competition and suppliers. We just think the time is perfect…Our primary interest is in Whatcom County. It’s a very strong market in itself.

Now, I have no doubt that Whole Foods is confident that the market is strong enough for them to open here and succeed, but I’m just as confident that they do not consider the fact that their success could imperil the pre-existing locally-owned natural food markets.

Consider the Core Values section of their website, where you’ll find a menu of pages on a variety of topics, including one titled We Serve And Suport Our Local And Global Communities.

Sounds nice, but of course there’s no mention of their impact on similar local businesses. Why, that wouldn’t be flattering at all!

I wish I had more time to dig deeper on this topic. There are sources I’ve consulted on the impact of chain stores, which deserves elaboration, and there is the sticky fact that some local natural food producers might do better if they can sell their products at Whole Foods, and perhaps I’ll get to these topics in future posts.

For now, mine is a more personal expression of distaste for this news, rather than a thorough analysis.

I doubt we can stop Whole Foods from coming, they are already leasing the property they’ll be moving into.

But, we can make the choice to not shop there, and to continue to support the Co-Op and Terra.

City of Subdued Excitement: Origin Story

Photo: mountainbikefarm.wordpress.com

Photo: mountainbikefarm.wordpress.com

Yesterday, I wrote:

As far as I know, the origins of Bellingham, Washington‘s unofficial nickname — The City of Subdued Excitement — are a mystery.

Some claim it derives from a locally famous mural on the side of an antique shop downtown, painted in 1994, and yet others swear that the nickname significantly predates the mural.

I’d heard this ‘mystery’ discussed many times over the years, including, as I say, disagreement on the facts, with some insisting that they’d heard Bellingham referred to by this nickname years prior to the painting of the mural (pictured here).

However, shortly after I posted that yesterday, since Fish & Bicycles posts are automagically shared on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Tumblr, it was seen on Facebook by Bellingham Herald arts and culture reporter Margaret Bikman, who commented:

[the ‘City of Subdued Excitement’ nickname] was coined by Mr. Peanut aka, Stephen Stimson, previous owner of Lone Wolf Antiques, next to Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall, in 1995. You can research this.

Photo credit: poppiespoppy.blogspot.com/

Photo: ifeltit-poppiespoppy.blogspot.com

Well, I truly am grateful to Margaret for giving me the opportunity to set the record straight!

I had done a brief Google search, but nothing seemed definitive, and I didn’t see specific credit given to Mr. Stimson. If I had searched a little longer, I would have found the painfully obvious URL http://www.bellingham-subdued-excitement.com/history-of-bellingham, where Mr. Stimson is indeed credited.

But, since Margaret has access to the Bellingham Herald archives, she copied and pasted into the Facebook comments the definitive article on the subject, a March 25, 2007 piece by fellow Herald reporter Dean Kahn. (I subsequently tried every form of search I could think of in order to find this article online, but the Herald online archives do not go back that far, Archive.org‘s Wayback Machine was no use, and it doesn’t appear to be available anywhere else.)

And so, without further ado, here are some highlights from Mr. Kahn’s article, titled Mr. Peanut radiates ‘City of Subdued Excitement’:

  • Stephen Stimson – aka Mr. Subdued Excitement – was wearing a black top hat when I met him at Rocket Donuts. That would be eye-catching enough, but there’s more. His black hat topped his Mr. Peanut costume.
  • Back in 1995, he explains, his mother suggested that he paint a “Welcome to Bellingham” sign on the north outside wall of the Lone Wolf building at 109 Prospect St., next to Whatcom Museum. Stimson opened the antiques shop in 1988 in the building that had been family-owned for decades. He decided to think up and paint a slogan for Bellingham…He thought of “s” words that would flow well with the soft “c” of “city.” He thought of “subdued excitement.”
  • But what is “subdued excitement?” … For many people, the appeal of Bellingham lies in its quieter attractions, ones that might not immediately attract hordes of tourists. Attractions like our trails, parks and waterfront views, the golden sunsets of late summer, residents’ love of the city, people who wear Mr. Peanut outfits.
  • The reason that “City of Subdued Excitement” rules…is that it feels right. We’ll know the city is changing, and not necessarily for the best, when the slogan no longer fits.

And, that last bullet item brings us full circle, back to the theme of my post from yesterday, titled You Can’t Take The ‘Subdued’ Out Of The City Of Subdued Excitement.

May the slogan ever fit!

Cognitive Dissonance: A Green Jail?

homer-simpson-dohWhen I saw the following headline and lede paragraph from our local daily newspaper, here in Bellingham, Washington, in lovely Whatcom County, it really made my head hurt.

Whatcom council wants more cost info before deciding jail ‘LEED’ status

Whatcom County leaders are not ready to give up on building the new jail in Ferndale to a widely recognized green-building standard, despite the high-energy needs of the facility.

–Bellingham Herald

LEED, for anyone not familiar with sustainable building practices, is, as the Herald describes, THE standard for sustainable buildings, but the question that begs asking is:

How sustainable is it to have over two million people incarcerated in the U.S.?

LEED standards, sadly, don’t apparently consider this question at all, and, according to the New York Times, this is not at all a unique situation.

While it is admirable that, as the Herald reported:

[Whatcom County] committed in 2005 to constructing all public buildings to the LEED silver standard, “where feasible.”

…the Times reports:

The Washington State Department of Corrections boasts 34 LEED-certified facilities, with 923,789 square feet of LEED-certified space added in fiscal year 2008 alone.

Irony can sometimes be funny.

This is decidedly not one of those times.

Headline of the Day: Strange Definition of ‘Fun’

Kicking off this new Recurring Series with a headline from our local daily newspaper, here in Bellingham, Washington:

‘I thought you would think it was fun,’ Bellingham driver told cop after trying to run him over

Bellingham Herald

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.