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A Year in Review: The best of What's Up 2009 (Part two)
What’s Up rocked the second half of ’09 starting with good, old fashioned gluttony. We paid a visit to downtown Bremerton’s Coffee Club Diner, where we demanded to take part in its 10-pound Burger Challenge.
The game? Consume a five-pound burger and five pounds of fries in less than an hour and it’s on the house. Plus you’ll get your picture on the Wall of Fame and take home a $25 gift certificate to Bremerton’s Minder Meats.
But if you don’t finish, it’ll cost you $25.
We couldn’t resist, and unfortunately we couldn’t finish the burger, either.
“You can try again next week,” our editor said.
Also in July we caught up with a few of the maestros behind the area’s favorite fireworks stands, where we learned that you won’t get much if you ask about the money they make, but the irony of it all is clear.
“How do you support a country that oppressed your people for 500 years?” asked Bennie Armstrong, Bennie’s Jets salesmen and subject of a 2000 PBS documentary on the industry in the area called “Boomtown.” “That is the irony of it all. Now we’re selling fireworks and making a little bit of money off the birth of a country that has oppressed our people for 500 years.”
The stands also happen to offer summer jobs to kids, which is a little bit of a miracle these days.
In August we learned the tricks to making a house look more appealing to buyers. Local real estate agents taught us the charismatic charm of a green lawn and decluttered yard, which can set a house apart from all those in foreclosure, where wear, tear and dead grass turn buyers off.
Then there was the philosophy of bubbles, which we examined with renowned Seattle street performer Garry Golightly, who showed his stuff in Bremerton in late summer. Otherwise known as “Bubbleman,” the ardent optimist has performed for sick and dying kids at children’s hospitals around the world. He’s even been commissioned for children’s funerals. Midway through his career, during a period spent in Poland, he performed for children affected by the Chernobyl disaster.
“Their simplicity, their temporariness ... they’re here one minute and gone the next,” he says. “(People) say that we’re just a blink of an eye in the big scheme of things, I think a bubble is just that blink.”
No matter how fleeting, bubbles carry an indisputable connotation of positivity, he notes, whether in the face of tragedy or on a simple sunny afternoon in the park.
Come September, we shared a cup of coffee with Bainbridge Island young adult author Suzanne Selfors, who was feting the release of her novel “Coffeehouse Angel.” In the book — Selfors’ second young adult novel, a follow-up to the widely successful “Saving Juliet” — the “Coffeehouse Girl,” Katrina, spies a homeless man sleeping in the alley behind her grandmother’s coffee shop.
She leaves a cup of coffee, a bag of chocolate-covered coffee beans and some pastries for what she thinks is a guy down on his luck. As it turns out, the vagrant is actually a guardian angel on a break between missions. Following Katrina’s random act of kindness, the angel, Malcom, is now indebted to reward her selflessness by fulfilling her heart’s greatest desire. Selfors wrote it from a seat at Poulsbo’s Hot Shots Java, a fitting setting given that the place served up inspiration for Katrina, the novel’s leading lady, and Nordby, the Scandinavian-tinged town in which the story is set.
“My stories don’t usually happen this way,” Selfors said, “but this character just kind of popped into my head, and I know it was because of this place.”
Leaving angels for legends, we talked to investigative journalist Michael McLeod about his book “Anatomy of a Beast: Obsession and Myth on the Trail of Bigfoot.” McLeod, who isn’t a believer, took a look at the life of Robert Patterson, whose shaky footage of Bigfoot in the woods lifted the mysterious hominid to cultural icon status in the 1960s.
“It’s really an interesting idea that something like this could be alive,” said McLeod, who grew up amongst the Cascade wilderness. “To me, that is the soul of the book — Bigfoot and the giant footprints in the woods — it’s like folklore, an intangible reminder that there still is mystery left in the woods, because, basically, there isn’t any mystery left in the woods.”
Just in time for Halloween, we checked out indie political zomedy “Zombies of Mass Destruction,” a movie shot in Port Gamble during summer and fall 2007.
Cast and crew rejoined for the movie’s Port Gamble premiere Oct. 2.
“It’s basically kind of like a homecoming,” the movie’s producer John Sinno said of the event. “It was a wonderful collaboration with Port Gamble and the town’s production company. This will be a chance to go back and say thank you, celebrate our cooperation, and also show people the film and where it was shot.”
The movie made festival rounds all summer, from Seattle to Minneapolis to Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Through their tireless attention and application to the festival circuit, “ZMD” producers gained visibility for their film, not only within festival audiences, but also online and in the media.
Variety calls the movie a “rare breed: a horror-comedy that’s actually consistently funny and occasionally almost scary.” Film Jerk lauded the film’s “potentially interesting political and social commentary to go along with the blood and guts.” For more info on the film, see www.zombiesofmassdestruction.com.
Later in the month, we met Irene Bowling. Bowling, Bremerton Symphony’s featured soloist for its season opener, has a house full of pianos.
The front door of her Geodesic dome-shaped front room opens up to two big, black grand pianos which offset one another and nearly a dozen electric pianos lined up in back-to-back rows down the middle of the room. Down a path across the property, a short distance from the dome, another fleet of grand and electric pianos fill entire rooms in what was once a guest house — now the renowned local piano teacher’s second studio.
Even more intriguing, especially for the younger students, Bowling says, is the big gray bus tagged “Music Mobile,” which hibernates on a long, tree-lined driveway beside the old guest house.
“This is our newest invention here,” Bowling said, unlatching the side door of the 35-foot-long, red-and-blue-striped silver behemoth. “It was a bookmobile. We kept all the original paint and everything, but we took out the word ‘book’ and put ‘music.’”
She and her husband Bill gutted the entire interior, replacing bookshelves with sound treatment and lining either wall with Yamaha synthesizers, effectively transforming the bus into a fully functioning practice studio on wheels.
While the idea sounds at first a bit radical, Bowling says the innovation is practically aimed at making music lessons more accessible to more people. It’s especially practical for places like schools, after-school clubs and other community centers.
“If they’re already at the YMCA, and maybe the YMCA has a piano class that’s offered,” Bowling said, “the YMCA doesn’t have to come up with a whole room and put a bunch of pianos in it. We just drive up to the lot, they jump in, take their lesson, and we’re out of there.”
In November, we took a tour of Bremerton’s Aurora Valentinetti Museum, as it celebrated 10 years of puppetry with a special exhibit of puppets from around the world. In December, we met up with FreshLocal manager Jean Schanen for the lowdown on Bremerton’s new — and only — regional, year-round food market.