My friend Jim asked me to email a friend of his who was in Spokane, but was looking for a job, and was interviewing in Walla Walla. He wanted to know “how did it *feel* to live there?” S0, I wrote a pretty good encapsulation of my six years there, and thought that I would post it here for friends and family that have never been there…
Well, compared to Spokane and Seattle it feels slow. Leisurely. Uncomplicated. For now. This is not a bad thing. It took me a while to get used to it, though, especially if you are used to validating yourself and how important you are because you are rushing around like a nutcake, in horrible traffic, with the latest of everything (technical, clothes, whatever) like everyone else. People have time for each other. Strangers talk to you out of the blue in the grocery store. People smile at you when they walk by on the walking path. I started to savor my long, lazy Saturdays in which I did nothing more complicated than have coffee and a natter with a friend at her house, or walk to the library or hike around Bennington Lake. If you are active, you can walk, bicycle, or motorcycle anywhere. Lots of long hot summer days (with rolling dust storms), very few icy, cold snowy winter days. The colors of the ripe yellow summer wheat, the blue sky, and green hills in the summer are something you won’t see on the wet side. The wet side doesn’t have the Columbia Gorge, the Oregon Trail, high desert, deer hunting and amazing Lewis and Clark geological bluffs within an hour. I became fond of watching rodeo. I bought some boots at the New York Store on Isaacs Ave, and the guy waited on me like I was a princess. **Friendly** describes Walla Walla. Oregon is 11 miles away.
It can be hard to break into anyone’s social circle; things and people are mostly traditional, and long-memoried. I was there for 6 years, and lots of people were just starting to think of me as other than “the new person” by the end of that time. I volunteered for things, but they never seemed to work out, mostly because people didn’t show up to tell me what to do, or because of communication misunderstandings, or whatever. I realized after a while this might be because a lot of these activities have been done for so long by these same people, over and over together, they assume that everyone already knows what to do. After a time, though, I made great friends who invited me over for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the occasional dinner and glass(es) of wine. Kids can’t believe that I wondered what to do my first summer as faculty there, since I got it off from the community college. After all, there’s harvest! You can always make money driving the truck, after all. 😛 There’s a little theatre, art galleries, an adorable little boutiquey downtown, Whitman College, (not the seventh day adventist Walla Walla College, and not the Community College, WWCC, where I worked) mom and pop building supply and hardware stores, and things like the yearly Lion’s Club Crab Feed and the Catholic High School Sausage Fest. It was hard for a middle aged single woman like me to have a dating life, especially not having children; if you have children, however, you’re immediately in with the mommy sect. Most guys were married with family lives, or I quickly found out why they weren’t. 😛
Lots of awesome wineries; lots of fancy tasting rooms, but my favorite is Rulo Winery, on Pranger Road, off of Old Milton Highway. Vicki and her husband make awesome Syrah, Chardonnay, Viognier, and a white called “Combine” that’s my favorite. They taste it off a card table in their warehouse; outside is lots of metal scuplture from the locally famous Walla Walla Foundry. Lots of big-city retired baby boomers are moving there, and these rushing around big city attitudes can irk people who’ve been there for generations. Roads into Walla Walla are being widened, and the secret is out, after getting written up in several national magazines. Go now, if you’re going. I’m afraid that in 2 years, you’ll be up to your armpits in Pottery Barns, Crate and Barrels, and Sur La Tables. “Luxury Condominiums” are already being built across from the Farmer’s Coop and Gas Station next to the renovated historic Marcus Whitman hotel.