I’ve been getting a little weepy lately.
And no, it’s not an allergic reaction to my stale, smoky-smelling Naval Avenue apartment, though that’s pretty common, too.
It’s because I’m reluctant to leave it. I feel like I’m leaving behind my home.
“You see what you’re doing?” my boyfriend asked me, himself a Bremerton expatriate. “You’re calling Bremerton home. Most people here want to leave it.”
I know. It’s hard to imagine an ambitious 24-year-old woman developing an affection for a town known for its grit, poverty and economic hemorrhage at the hands of a Silverdale mall. After all, I came here to work and move on, and that’s what I’m doing.
But, as a reporter, I got to know this town in ways I never knew my lifelong hometown of Olympia. As part of my job, I developed relationships with the people in the towering Norm Dicks Government Center as well as the coffee shop regulars. I learned about the underbelly of this town, eventually learning where to spot brewing bar fights, picking up on where the frequent law breakers lived and even discovering what my own neighbors were up to through police reports.
After awhile, my stories of Bremerton crime became a comedy act, with friends always asking me the latest exploits of those fascinating Bremertonians. Take, for example, the boy who wielded a dragon-shaped sword at his neighbor after getting into a fight with his mother’s boyfriend. Or, the woman who wrote threats in lipstick on the wrong person’s car. There’s the eagle that got electrocuted on a power line while fighting over a fish with another eagle, knocking out power on Pleasant Avenue. Also the woman who reported her front porch mannequin missing to police. (By the way, if you see “Manny,” with a neck tattoo and missing ear, call 911 immediately.) Eventually I became a practical crime tour guide for visiting friends, pointing out the QFC parking lot where a man used his baby’s stroller to smuggle beer out the store or the Sixth Street 7-Eleven where people basically urinate in the alley a lot and run from police.
Not only is this where I learned a town’s secrets, but it’s also where I became an adult. This was my first full-time job out of college, which allowed me to buy my first car and rent my first apartment of my own. And, though I was occasionally asked by sources how old I was or whether I’d been to college before, this is the place I’m known as a contributing member of the community. Bremerton is where I met my partner — and trust me, this is the last place I expected to find love.
Sure, for many, this is a place to escape. But I’ll miss going to Kate’s Jersey Subs, Hi-Lo’s 15th Street Cafe, Cornerstone Coffee and Noah’s Ark, greeting the owners or manager by name. In a twisted way, I’ll miss my neighbors yelling at their significant others about the crappy pants they’re wearing and complaining on the phone about extremely personal problems involving drugs and law enforcement. No more will I get to stare out the window at the cat in the backyard — whom I call “The Godfather” — fighting with the raccoons. If not for The Manette, where am I going to get $1 Rainiers? And in what other job can I dig up a file photo of former mayor Cary Bozeman accosting a Santa Claus with U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks vacantly looking on? It is with great sadness I’ll remove that photo from the wall above my desk.
To me, Bremerton is the place where I learned something about people. Outside of the “redeveloping” downtown, there’s no varnish that glosses over the blue collar, salt-of-the-earth nature of this place. While Seattle neighborhoods are being gentrified beyond recognition, Bremerton remains in touch with its history. It’s nothing fancy, but that’s why I love it. It’s with pride that I tell people I live in West Bremerton — it carries a certain street cred Poulsbo or Port Orchard can only dream of. Sure, some of my friends mistakenly ask me how life is going on Bainbridge, but I make sure they know I live in the land where pawn shops and empty box storefronts rule.
This goodbye isn’t forever — I’ll surely be back to catch some green eggs and ham at Hi-Lo’s or a Noah’s cheesesteak. But my time as a Bremertonian is up. Until my next parking ticket, friends.