Ocean Park Food Bank

Cheryl Wren, Donna Reynolds and John Larson — volunteers at the Ocean Park Food Bank — stand amid barrels of fresh fruit and produce.

“I miss touching things I’m not going to buy.”

—Tweet

We’ve been minding our manners for weeks now: staying home, no hugging, no shopping just for amusement, and trying to pretend everything’s fine. It’s driving me a little crazy.

I read an article by a psychologist who remarked that two kinds of people are managing best during this pandemic: 1) introverts who are just happy as clams staying home and not having to make excuses about it; and 2) those better at compartmentalizing — e.g. putting whatever is inconvenient or unpleasant in a little box, shoving it somewhere, and not thinking about it again.

I’m a little in both camps but that hasn’t kept me from feeling like a loose cannon rolling around a tossing deck in danger of breaking through the rails and sinking into the blue. Yes, I’ve started my mornings with meditation, although I was a little chagrined when I mentioned this to an out-of-town friend who laughed uproariously, “OMG, the new normal is setting in.”

Look, I’m trying “whatever gets me through the night” (to quote Lennon). If he says it’s all right, it’s all right.

Pandemic grocery report

I’m always sifting through the news for tidbits of truth since we’re getting a steady diet of political tomfoolery from the White House. So I’ve been listening to Gov. Jay Inslee’s pressroom webinars to keep up with statewide issues. I’m particularly concerned our county will be hit by increased virus cases as we open up to visitors. At the same time I understand that Pacific County, especially in these prime spring and summer months, survives on tourism. (More on this anon.)

Tourists or not, some businesses are seeing an increase while others are just dead in the water. Tom Downer, owner of Jack’s Country Store, told me that online sales are perhaps three times the normal rate for this time of year. And the variety of products being shipped is odd. “Our business is up significantly. Our RIT dye order was so large that the company actually called us to ask if we really wanted 80 units of the same color. We said, yes we do. They’re cleaned out now.” Are we going backwards in time to the Tie-dye Nation? (Get your bellbottoms out.)

Other popular products (as well as toilet paper — Tom says that no matter when the shelves are restocked, they empty quickly) continue to be baking items: flour, yeast and baking powder. Also beans and rice. And garden seeds. Meat is at a premium now that Costco has limited amounts. Tom admits, “The supply chain is hammered. But we have more flexibility in our meat ordering than Costco because we deal with a lot of independent suppliers and we’ve been able to move from one to the other depending on what their strengths are. Some are stronger in poultry, some better in seafood, some pork or beef.”

Food preservation products are also flying off the shelves — canning jars and lids, replacement seals, cabbage slaw cutters — months before the usual run on such items. I guess we Peninsula shoppers are an early-warning system for the general mood, needs, and malaise of the country. As Tom says, “You have to meet a minimum order and buy in case increments. We placed our first order for canning supplies weeks ago and our second order is five times as large as the first. We’ll make a third order in a couple days.”

“We also ran out of regular Coke,” he continues. “But our biggest single issue is hiring people. We have open positions, but how do we compete with unemployment insurance of $600 a week?” If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

State virus news

Last Friday, the governor announced five counties are approved to begin phase two of reopening: Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln and Pend Oreille. They’ve met two requirements: fewer than 75,000 people, and no confirmed covid-19 cases in the last three weeks. (Garfield has had no confirmed cases, a big fat zero.)

As most of you know, we’ve been hit in Pacific County from the Bornstein cannery outbreak; many workers live on our side of the river. So, although phase two is expected to begin for most areas on June 1, the state still requires that public health data look good. I’m not sure how we’ll fare. I’m fearful we’ll be caught in the crosswinds between economic forces and public health. It’s easy to think things are A-OK when you see full parking lots at local grocery stores, second homes with multiple cars in the driveway, and people walking around town without masks.

Please, people, be safe. And let’s continue to keep each other safe.

Food, glorious food

I stopped by the Ocean Park food bank last week to see how things were going and spoke to John Larson, Donna Reynolds, and Cheryl Wren. The bins of vegetables and fruit — especially citrus — were overflowing and beautiful. Lots of canned and dried goods were stacked here and there, Harmony Soap has donated a box of soap bars, and there were even a couple packages of diapers by the door.

When I asked if there was anything needed, the answer was “eggs, cheese, and milk.” But by any other measure the food bank is doing well. Director Michael Goldberg says, “We saw a significant increase the first week of March, but April was back to normal. We have lots of food available.” Though, by the way, they would like a few extra hands to help unload trucks on the second and fourth Thursdays starting at 9:30 a.m. “We lost a few regulars,” Michael said. “It only takes an hour or so.”

Note that the food bank’s “Green Bag” program is still happening; there are 125 participant so far but they would certainly love more. If you’d like to help, stop by during food bank hours — Tues.-Fri., 10 to 2:45 p.m. — pick up a Green Bag and register yourself with your address. Then fill the bag with whatever you think might be needed and put it on your porch or outside your gate on pick-up morning, always the second Saturday of the month. The next pick-up is June 13, so you’ve got plenty of time to go green.

Kudos also to John Vale and his crew still going strong with “Meal Kits Plus.” The Senior Center meal team has been whipping up 200 meals a week — really three meals: a lunch, dinner, and breakfast — and handing them out every Friday around noon. At $10 a shot, they’re a bargain.

A small group of us — we call ourselves the Chickenfoot Tribe because ordinarily we’re playing dominoes together every week amidst the expected hilarity — anyway, we pooled our money and every Friday we’ve been delivering, with Holli Kemmer’s help, between 15-18 meal kits to families all up and down the Peninsula. I’d like to personally thank chickenfooters Rosemary Hallin, Al Betters, Teri and Steve Kovach, Nancy Edwards (adjunct), Vicki Reece, Bette Lu Krause, Margaret Main (our chickenfoot matriarch), Nanci Main, and Starla Gable (in absentia) for being part of this effort.

Vicki even told one of her Minnesotan friends about our project and darned if she didn’t send along a check too! I’m glad we can help in small ways to make things go a little more smoothly for people with special challenges. It’s the kind of thing our community is known for.

So that’s the news from Loose-cannon-stuck-in-Nahcotta until next week. In the meantime, R. Crumb’s advice? — keep on truckin’.

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