Thirty years ago, we lived in Port Townsend, a scenic little town in Washington state. On Puget Sound, PT was a former gateway ship port to Seattle, it looked kind of like San Francisco, circa 1890, two and three-story Victorian houses on hills rising from the water.
My wife worked for a big paper company, running a timber division, and we found a nice house on a hill with an upstairs bedroom that became my office, looked right at the Sound. It was postcard country in the Olympic rain shadow.
In the off season, about six thousand people lived there. In the summer, the tourists arrived, and the temporary population trebled and some, hotels, bed and breakfast places, campgrounds all filled up.
If you saw the movie An Officer and a Gentleman
? It was filmed there.
It was an arty town, lot of old hippies, but also a lot of blue collar millworkers, and they didn't always get along.
The schools were not the best, even though Frank Herbert was the judge for the science fair, and we came to realize we wanted our children in a better situation, so we moved back to Oregon.
We had fond memories of the place, though. I sold my second and third books while living there, and that was where a dear friend introduced us to good champagne.
So, on a whim, we decided to hop in the camper and take a trip up to PT, and see how it had gotten along without us.
Quite well, actually.
Amazing how a few decades changes a place. We found our old house, and it had been upgraded; new this and that, nice garden out back, solar panels covering half the roof.
The streets were the same, but the businesses mostly had different names. My favorite bar was gone, now the lobby of a hotel; the breakfast place by the marina had turned into a maritime museum. Most of it looked so different I did not recognize it. Spotted the house that belonged to the writer Jack Cady, who got me a teaching job at UW in Seattle when he decided he didn't want to do it any more.
(Dojo Rat lives on one of the San Juan Islands, twixt PT and Canada, a ferry ride from town. I shot him an email, but didn't hear back, so we missed a chance to visit. Maybe next time ...)
We had dinner in a nice restaurant, listened to a classical guitarist playing a seven-stringer. Drank wine, port, ate duck and shrimp and cheesecake. A hard gig ...
But Thomas Wolfe was right: You can't go home again ...