I have many fond memories and warm emotions of Enumclaw when it was still an isolated, small town; that is, before it was inundated by Seattle’s suburban sprawl. When I was a child, Enumclaw was more or less self-sufficient, given the coal mines, White River Lumber Company (Weyerhaeuser) and the dairy farms. We had little need for the jobs offered by Seattle though, by the time I graduated from high school, a few guys were filing applications with Boeing. The air was fresh and clear, the water was pure and cold – damn cold – and I felt our little remote, mossy corner of the planet was the best the world could offer. I never really considered living anywhere beyond the limits of Black Diamond and Buckley.
“Back in the day” I knew everyone in my high school class on a first-name basis and knew or at least recognized most of those students who were a few years ahead or behind me. We spent our days and evenings lounging around the booths in the Bluebird, leafing through the comic books in Moran’s and lingering on summer nights under the trees at Pete’s Pool or the diving dock at Deep Lake. It was a wonderful place to spend a childhood.
But, alas, small-town Enumclaw vanished many years ago. There are, however, other places in our immediate region that still cultivate that atmosphere – hamlets like Carbonado and Greenwater – and you may be surprised to learn I’m very fond of these communities. I say surprised because, if you’ve read these columns any length of time, you’ll realize I’m also very fond of Seattle and New York City. In fact, just the other night an old drinking buddy asked me how I accommodated the appeal of small towns with my love affair with Manhattan.
Perhaps I’m simply enthralled by extremes; for example, Greenwater boasts about 100 people, but Manhattan has more than a million. That’s just about the extreme ends of anyone’s population spectrum. In fact, Manhattan is just about everything Cumberland isn’t. Manhattan is Broadway and the live Theater District, the Financial District and Wall Street, the hip enclaves like Greenwich Village and the Lower Eastside, that splendid pianist/singer in the lounge on the 60th floor, sexual freedom and diversity, and evening carriage rides through Central Park, to name only a few of its attractive features. But let’s not forget that Manhattan air is positively carcinogenic, it’s not the best place to raise children, you don’t know you neighbors – and you don’t want to know them because they might be crazy – and you can’t step out your back door and go fishing. Indeed, Manhattan is as far removed from the wonders of nature as you can get.
I really don’t prefer Manhattan or Greenwater. Perhaps, given my past columns, that deserves repeating: I’d be hard pressed to choose either Manhattan or Greenwater. They’re both very attractive, but they’re profoundly and discordantly different. And, as the old adage says, variety is the spice of life.