10/26/2014 by syrbal-labrys
I raised my family with traditions. I grew up with traditions, too; but of the wrong sort: drunken arguments, beatings, hunger. So I made my family traditions better and more pleasant. Seasonal traditions were favored. And yet, now that my children are grown and we like to re-visit the past days? One apparently can’t step into the same “river” twice, thus the discontent. Bit by bit, the favored places of our traditions are being eroded away by cheap commercialism.
For instance, when our children were small, we went to a local wildlife park called Northwest Trek. Only American animals were there — bison, deer, elk, caribou, pronghorns, cougars, wildcats, lynx, otters, badgers, porcupines, raccoons, and North American raptors. My favorites were the weasel relatives: wolverines, fishers, martens and such! We went at least four times a year, to see the seasonal changes and we went early in the mornings as often as possible. We saw food being prepared — meat, mixes of vegetables and such. But on our last visit after a gap of about five years? After the death of Dr. Hellyer, the man whose land gift created Northwest Trek, a terrible decline occurred.
Communal animals like the otters and beavers were reduced to a single lonely animal swimming disconsolately around. And all the animals were put on pellet/kibble diets and visitors were told it was more “scientifically balanced.” What bullshit. Just as even pet owners are being encouraged to more natural raw diets, these beautiful wild animals are reduced to eating dry kibble? And so, we stopped visiting and taking guests to Northwest Trek. We were further disgusted by the idea that it was an entertainment venue with things like “slides for life” and diminished wildlife habitat.
In the fall, we almost always made the three hour drive over the Cascade Mountains to a little town called Leavenworth — billed as Washington State’s “Bavarian Village”. The small city re-vamped to BE a tourist trap of unusual quality and charm several decades ago. My kids were homesick for actual Bavaria, so they always relished a visit to a place that looked like it. The restaurants provided tolerably good German food. Stores had quality Christmas ornaments, good candies, lovely woodcarvings, jewelry, and artistic glass work.
And in the woods around the town we picked wild blue elderberries for jam and cold remedies. But our last visit there was in 2007 until this weekend. I wanted to scope out where to take visitors next month, knowing it was not the most disability-friendly place (many stores available only by steep staircase); I wanted to make sure it would be worth the drive. And another bastion of family tradition and fun died before our eyes.
The glass shop was gone, the wood carvings were cheaper and looked machine made. More stores were full of cheap Chinese crap and logo t-shirts. And a wine tour was offered for $49 — to me that is four bottles of good GREEK wine that I can drink at home in comfort over a month’s time. Cheap American draft beer (small) cost us $4 each and was not even cold or properly carbonated. Piles of increasingly inexpensive items from everyplace except Germany were being sold at the same high prices as the formerly quality European imports.
And the meal, at day’s end? We went to “Prince Ludwig’s” where the service was slow and poor. The spaetzle looked cold, gray and deflated instead of tender hot and fluffy. The kraut and red cabbage was cold. The “Swinehaxen” — which should be a brined port hock, slow roasted and basted with seasoned beer, tasted like it had been boiled without seasonings and then put on a rotisserie where it was dried out to the point of dog chew toy. The veal schnitzel was dry and looked like a piece of beige rubber. The goulash was flavorless and the meat tough. It was possibly the worst meal out I’ve ever had for so much money.
All that I could chalk up to the desperation of the merchants. I might forgive it, as some shops were still good. But as it does in Washington, it was raining — not hard, just a fall shower. But walking the sidewalks got us drenched, because along the entire main street of shopping the gutters were clogged and fouled and drooping– a rain line fell consistent and heavy all along the shop fronts. So even a gentle shower resulted in you being soaked as you stepped from every shop. And the balcony of a second floor bookshop, was likewise sodden and dangerously slick. I don’t want to imagine what that and the metal staircase would be like in actual icy weather!
I blame the city itself for the disrepair of the gutters and such. They insist, of course, that shops maintain the Bavarian theme on the outside, but there seems to be little interest in making the city streets fit to walk upon. So plans to take November visitors there died a sad death. The merchants looked depressed — a huge fall from the people I saw eight years ago. The effort to make a mecca for tourists is no longer based on repeat visitors, but on the “there are more where they came from” hype of advertising. They don’t care if visitors are disenchanted and never return.
I’ve seen other businesses work off that model in the past. None of them are IN business any longer. Poor Leavenworth, all that effort to be a place of commerce and survival — now failing as it is cheapened down and in worse repair.