Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Five Days in Yakima is Long Enough

We spent Monday through Saturday (morning) in Yakima.  Five days, essentially.  It was long enough to take care of the business we need to do:  Rent a storage unit.  Move all of our boxes, which we had shipped to my brother, and stack them in the storage unit.  Get our files and papers organized to turn over to my brother the attorney.  Do paperwork with him.  You know, all that paperwork.  The "sign your life away just in case" paperwork.  Deal with the fact that the insurance plan's pharmacy messed up both of our medication orders.  All that stuff.

Sidebar here:  There is something unspeakably sad about signing an advance medical directive.  No, I don't want food pumped into my body if I am deemed brain dead.  Yes, please pull the plug.  Well, and give me happy medication, preferably opiates.  Just very sad to consider the fact that signing such papers might be necessary, that for some people it is necessary, and that given our world as it is, it makes such paperwork necessary.

There is also something very sad about locking all one's worldly possessions into a 5 ft square, 12 ft high storage locker.  Really, that is all we own.  A bunch of boxes with my code (K for kitchen, H for house, B for books, R for Richard, P for papers, C for clothing that I might want along our trek around the world), stacked with what we might need in front, and what might break on the top.

On the other hand, there's something very freeing about having only one rolling luggage piece and a small backpack, and nothing else.  And I keep thinking that that one piece of luggage has too much stuff - that somehow I should be able to downsize it even smaller.  I'm working on that.

At any rate - Yakima.  Five days to take care of business.  Five days to spend with my brother, whom I haven't seen in years.  Five days to hang with the sister-in-law and adult nephew I rarely see.

Five days in a strange strange town.  I don't even know where to begin.  Yakima is in the center of Washington state, well, a bit south of dead center vertically but definitely dead center horizontally (as the map flies).  But it isn't even in the center politically, it's far to the right.  Just as an example - there are two referendums (referenda?  referendae?  referendi?  Pure Latin would make it refendi.) that Washingtonians are voting on this year (legalization of marijuana, and same sex marriage) that are generally applauded on the west side of the state, and opposed on the eastern side of the state.  Yet Yakima seems to be the center of the opposition for both issues.  Not the center politically - no, the center of the opposition.  Despite the current gangs and rampant illegal drugs and prostitution and all that.  Well, maybe those societal problems are exactly WHY the town is the center of the opposition.

Yakima is kind of western in feel, almost a cowboy style.  And yet it has always been mostly an agricultural center.  Lewis and Clark found the various Native American cultures here, who lived off the land in a beautiful flat and fertile valley, surrounded by tall hills, almost like parenthesis around this verdant valley fed by mountain rivers.  The native tribes became the Yakama Federation, lost the war with the pioneers, and were moved to reservations.  (The native beadwork is amazing, some of the most gorgeous work I've ever seen, tiny beads forming intricate designs so tightly sewn they look like petit point!)  So the Native Americans were the first disenfranchised people in the area.

Next came the migrant workers - the railroad builders, road builders, fruit workers.  Asians, Mexicans, other Central American workers came to work the field and orchards, pick and process the produce, and build the infrastructure that led to the development of towns and cities.  (Side note:  75% of the hops grown in the USA are grown in the Yakima Valley.  So beer is a big business.)  And of course, some of the migrant workers stayed and created enclaves of their own cultures.

Then we add in the current economic problems in the US today, and we suddenly have a town that is something like 60% Hispanic, who knows what percent European-descent American, and the last (and smallest) percent of citizens Native American - and we get a hotbed of economically on-the-edge people.  We get inner-city-type issues like drug trafficking and gangs, because that's where the quick money is.  We get prostitution because that's where more money is.  And we get criminal activity because the reality is that drugs and prostitution are currently illegal, nothing is regulated, and everything is controlled by warring gangs.  Not a good situation.

And I'm not trying to slam Yakima, truly I'm not.  I know I only spent five days there.  But that's long enough to get a sense of a place.   Just shopping for a few items was a microcosm of the town:  Target is where upscale people shop.  WalMart has a whole different clientele.  We shopped at both, and there was a visible difference.  WalMart had more people of color, more people who were visibly depressed both economically and emotionally.  And the two stores are across a large street and half a block away from each other!!!

So that's Yakima.  Friendly people on the surface, seething social issues below.  A place named the "Waffle Caffe" with fabulous waffles that misspells "cafe," on the same block where the hookers troll for work.  Kids in overalls looking like junior farmers, and kids with gang symbols tattooed on their arms. 

Five days in Yakima was long enough.  More than enough.  I love my brother and his family, and it was wonderful spending time with them.  But Yakima?  No, I don't think I want to be hemmed in by dry brown hills, where the coyotes howl at night.  I don't want the only green to be along the rivers and irrigation canals.  I don't want to feel sad at one store because the people look one step away from needing me to buy their groceries.

Yakima is a strange kind of a town. 

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