Our girls are grown and living far from home now. So a few months ago, my wife and I decided, somewhat impulsively, to sell our suburban house and move to a quirky but lovely island 75 miles from the world we had known for a quarter century. We now live in an idyllic setting on Camano Island, overlooking Puget Sound and snow-capped mountains. Ah, the island life.
Camano Island has a well-earned reputation as a haven for artists (one reason my artist wife was drawn here). In our brief time in this new community, we’ve met dozens of people. The one constant among them: They are all exceptional people – which is starting to get on my nerves.
Seriously, it’s really starting to annoy me. Apparently, in order to live on this island, you must be the next Picasso or Santana or Hemingway – and you must swear an oath to spend at least 30% of your time volunteering to protect the rain forest or bottle-feed orphan kittens. Don’t ask me how I managed to sneak past the island’s security. Some border guard must have called in sick the day I arrived.
Everybody on this island seems gifted in some way. If you haven’t published a book of sonnets or are unable to play the lute, you’re viewed as, well, a bit of a disappointment. Last week, I met a novelist, a painter, a sculptor, and a quilter – and that was just in the checkout line at the grocery store. By contrast, my biggest artistic achievement was playing Frère Jacques on the recorder in the 6th grade orchestra. Not to brag, but I totally crushed it.
In addition to being artistically gifted, everybody I’ve met is also great with their hands. If I compliment someone on their stone fireplace, undoubtedly they designed and built it themselves, using rock they gathered from some river in Montana. If I meet someone who flies, you can bet that their plane is a replica of a 1943 Piper Cub – which they built by watching YouTube instructional videos. And don’t bother asking someone to play golf here on a Thursday because Thursdays are Community Barn Raising Day.
If you’re a musician (which on this island means you play at least four instruments), it’s a given that you handcrafted your violin, something you can be seen playing every Thursday during breaks between community barn raisings.
I used to read Nancy Drew novels to my kids when they were young. People here read their kids Cicero’s Orations – in the original Latin. Turns out that nobody here is trying to keep up with the Joneses. They passed this Jones long ago.
But what’s most galling about these islanders is that despite all their talents, they’re also annoyingly nice. Everyone on this island is friendly. They would gladly offer a stranger a cold one – no doubt from their stock of homemade micro-brewed beer. Worse yet, everybody here volunteers. They will never brag about all the things they do for others because, well, that would be boastful. But trust me, if they are not busy building a deck from driftwood they gathered from the beach, they’re building a new animal shelter – unless it’s Thursday, of course, because Thursdays – you’re way ahead of me, I see – they’re busy raising barns.
I quickly realized that I would seriously need to step up my game – before they kicked me off this Fantasy Island. So I’m committed to making the following changes to show these people I can keep up with them. I am going to:
- Cut way back on my TV viewing so that I can spend more time mentoring troubled youths – just as soon as baseball season is over in October. (Can’t let down my Mariners!)
- Learn to play a musical instrument. I’m thinking I might start out with the triangle and work my way up to cymbals.
- Offer to build a garage for some needy family. Oh, to be clear, I don’t know the first thing about building a garage. I’m just hoping to find a needy family that will refuse my offer because they have absolutely no need for a garage, allowing me to nevertheless tell others about my magnanimous gesture.
Oh, who am I kidding? I don’t have the talent or the attention span to do any of this stuff. For me, it’s a major artistic achievement if I can remember the lyrics to a Beatles song. There is simply no way I am going to be able to keep up with all these annoyingly exceptional people.
That’s why I’ve decided to put our house up for sale. I told my wife we need to move to another less stressful community, one where I’m not always feeling so inadequate, a place I’ll feel more at home. Does anyone know where the Island of Mediocrity is located?
That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.
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© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2015
Reads to me like you are trying to make points with your new island neighbors, Tim. I hope it works for ya.
Don’t try to fool us, Tim. You were programmed for that place by that stuffy private school you went to, back East. The one where you were valedictorian, captain of the winning military company, president of the student council, and, if I recall correctly, captain of five varsity teams. On an island where everyone is exceptional, it takes a paragon like you to stand out! So finish up that cancer cure, that formula for world peace, that “next thing” communications device, and get back to me. I’m still working on my first letter to the editor.
Don’t worry, your Mariners will free up your time long before October!!
Sign me a smug SF Giants fan. However i have the right to smugness since I’ve been a fan since 1960….
Actually, a committee has already been formed to teach you how to paint/play/construct/fly… you name it. Volunteerism can be a contagious thing, so be careful… be VERY, VERY, careful. And those gulls that you see swooping in from the water to drop unspeakable blobs of “stuff” onto your deck are actually “Drones” from the local Audubon chapter, sent to deliver “How To” DVD’s covering everything from sidewalk chalk painting to Gregorian Chant harmony (Tip… there is no such thing as harmony in Gregorian chants, but don’t tell those islanders. They’ll write and illustrate a book to prove you wrong.
I have just the hobby you need Tim. You could easily build a CAT HOUSE. You have the models already within your grasp. You’d make lots of money selling them to donate to charity. Then the new friends you’ve met will look up to you in awe.
Please connect with Ron for the plans for this exotic, one-of-a kind CAT HOUSE.
Heh Tim … those super nice people are lying. You forgot to mention that the first question they all ask is, “how long have you been on the island?” If your answer is less than two years, they say something like. “you must come over and drink my 1948 vintage coca cola that I still have in the original stainless steel cask…. and while we are drinking that I will show you the thing I built in my garage… a custom designed and built Mars lander.”
Hum you respond. Now calling on detective Marlboro ( see next weeks post) to figure it out.
But if you answer, “well – oh decades” to their question, “how long have you been on the island?” , …. then they will say something like…. “Shhhh … don’t tell anyone but my son’s friend, who just got out of jail wants me to hide this thing he stole from NASA. It’s one of their custom Mars landers. My son doesn’t think anyone would find it our garage and there’s is all kinds of illegal and stolen stuff in there too…”
“So don’t tell anyone else … you are an Camano islander too, so we kinda stick together. Huh.. right.. dahh!”
Don’t trust them it’s all lies to the newcomers.