Monday, May 27, 2013

Harbor Stories - Introduction

I grew up in Grays Harbor, Aberdeen, to be precise. The south side of Aberdeen, to be even more precise, a couple of blocks from the Chehalis River, in a neighborhood of houses with no basements because the Chehalis went over its banks at least once a year and flooded the streets. The combination of big rain and an ultra-high tide would do it; we could look at a tide chart and know just about when it would flood. As the water rose, all the stuff under our houses would float out: bits of wood and fabric, Wonder Bread wrappers, insulation, dead cats and mice, discarded toys and headless dolls.

I remember a family of beavers swimming down the street one year. My dad would tie our crayon-green rowboat to the front steps and we'd row around in three feet of water.

For the record, yes I know the house where Kurt Cobain lived. Yes, I know the places he wrote about and no, I didn't know him, I was long gone from the Harbor before his family arrived. And yes, the Harbor really is a gray and drizzly place all year 'round, almost perfectly temperate when I was a kid with very few sunny days but also very few really cold days. I can remember entire summers when there were maybe a couple weeks of semi-sunny weather. The result? I am slightly distrustful of too many sunny days in a row.

Grays Harbor -- or just "the Harbor"  was the first of many harbors, bays, sounds, ports, and inlets that I lived in (literally, in boats and houseboats) and still live on. Years ago I started writing about them, and now I have several bulging folders (real and digital) of stories; places and people that I've collected into a series called -- not surprisingly -- "Harbor Stories".

It's kick creating a amalgamation of everywhere I've lived and visited and populating it with people that I can't make nearly as quirky as the people I meet. I include myself in the "quirky" category. The best I can do is to combine quirks.

To make it all work I've created a fictional place; Salmon Bay, which just recently renamed itself, much like how the Queen Charlotte Islands are now Haida Gwaii. I've had to draw a map of my fictional place so I can keep track of where everyone's comings and goings.

The nifty thing about a blog is that I can post character sketches and such to see what to look like "in print" before integrating them into the book. It's a humbling experience: I think I've got a sparkling character only to see him or her fall flat after being filtered through the blog.

About Salmon Bay--

Salmon Bay has one store/gas station: the Mercantile, called the "Merc" by everyone because the "antile" fell off the sign in 1952 and was never replaced. There are tribal offices, a school, a post office, a harbor with four docks, mostly filled with crab and fishing boats. There are five churches and four taverns: the religious folks feel they have the edge on the drunks.

More about the Merc next week.

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