My hometown of Bainbridge Island, Washington, is rarely in the national news. This is probably for the best, as it usually involves a High School Biology teacher dying, The Professor, or David Guterson. But a little bit of team spirit mixed with dubious legislation has drawn the attention of the national media once again to the place where I grew up.
Of course, it wasn’t always like this on Bainbridge. For years, nobody much really paid attention to our little island paradise in the Puget Sound. But then the rich Californians came, lured by the promise of a simpler life, and promptly drove up property values, insisted on the luxuries they ostensibly came to avoid, and ran those not already ensconced in homes of their own directly in into the heart of nearby Poulsbo. In the fading light of the 1980’s, and grunge explosion of the 90’s, Bainbridge Island sold its soul to become a suburb of Seattle, as opposed to remaining the last bastion of sanity in the redneck infected boonies of Kitsap County. By a margin of 136 votes, residents voted to make the City of Winslow a thing in November 1990. That, however changed shortly after the law took effect, as the rest of Bainbridge Island couldn’t stand being lumped in with those “city folk” downtown. So the City of Bainbridge Island came into being.
And so it came to pass that the island where I was growing up slowly became The Little Big City. Where, when I was just a little boy, you only needed to give out the last four digits of your phone number, by the time I was in middle school, you were up to seven. And in high school, they added yet another prefix to accommodate all the cell phones and pagers which had begun to outpace the number of residents on the island. The cops had nothing better to do than to harass the general population, as violence and other crimes was still not a major issue. We had a tolerance march to show we could do the whole “civic pride” thing, despite the fact that the population was, at the time, close to 85% Caucasian, and the world was still nearly twenty years away from recognizing gays as people. Compensating for a lack of urban anything, we did our best to hide our inadequacies through hilariously overstated gestures.
When I was just freshly out of school, I moved in with my girlfriend who was living in one of the few places left on Bainbridge where the poor folk could still be kept. I’d spent my childhood in Rolling Bay, where the intellectuals resided. We had our own Post Office (98061, represent!), and after we were roped into assimilation with the City, they put he Municipal Courthouse in the heart of separatist country (I’m fairly certain just to keep an eye on us), located between the Bay Hay and Feed and the Jiffy Mart (Author’s Note: The Jiffy Mart in Rolling Bay is the only one left of the three that were in existence when I was growing up. The others have been bought out by corporate entities or otherwise been re-branded.). I went from living in the land of woods, beach, and insurrectionist speech, to a double-wide just a ways down from Battle Point Park.
It was a simpler life, then, and no one really paid much mind to the hayseeds down in Island Center. Kind of like the slow cousins that no one liked to talk about, the rest of Bainbridge preferred to leave us to our own devices. That is, unless some idiot wanted to fire off his shotguns in an inappropriate fashion, or get into property disputes with the fancypants who just moved in next door. Really, the City only interfered if it absolutely had to, and then, just to minimize the paperwork stemming from your average rural shenanigans.
When I left the Island to make my way in a proper city setting (having grown tired of my camp beneath the trees and shrubbery behind the Safeway), I was a little relieved at leaving all the nonsense behind. And to be living somewhere that didn’t shut down completely by eight o’clock at night. And to have real public transportation. But even saying goodbye to where I had spent my entire life, I wasn’t truly prepared for how much it would change when I was gone. I left at the end of summer in 2001, and every time I came back to visit, it seemed less and less like home. Houses began popping up where only forests had once stood, and ferry rides were crammed with crowds of strangers I’d never even seen before.
Which is why I find it strangely satisfying that 2005 runner-up for Best Place to Live in the United States has once again stumbled into the national spotlight over something so entirely and perfectly ridiculous: Today, January 16th, 2015, all cheese and cheese-flavored products are banned from City Hall in a show of Sportsball Solidarity with the Seattle Seahawks. But Mike Spence has decided that his “part-ownership” of the Green Bay Packers has granted him the right to try and rain on everyone’s parade (Dear god, they probably have decided to have some sort of parade…), by informing the City Manager that, “As a food item, the regulation of cheese falls clearly within the authority of the Kitsap County Department of Health, rather than the City of Bainbridge Island, a noncharter Code City under RCW 35A.11. I see no authority under that statute granting a noncharter Code City the authority to regulate cheese.”
This, stupidly enough, has drawn the attention of a Wisconsin radio station, which has banned all “songs from any band that calls Seattle home.”
I realize that this is all tongue-in-cheek, and just a way to spice up the pregame festivities, but it just makes us all look like a bunch of idiots. It seems, perhaps, that only Berkeley, California would get caught up in something more ridiculously misunderstandable. Let’s all just shut up about this, and get ready for Sunday afternoon, so we can get back to eating Flamin’ Hot Cheetos in City Hall, and listening to Pearl Jam in Madison, Wisconsin.