“That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” “Bremerton” Chapter 49
By Bruce Williams
Michelle and I were checking out my nephew’s new house over in Manette, a small neighborhood in greater Bremerton, when he slid his phone over to me during lunch as I was three spoonfuls deep into a lovely cup of clam chowder at the Boat Shed (a local restaurant) to display a blurry, Sasquatch-like image of his neighbor hunched over her garbage cans with her jacket splayed open exposing her shriveled, tubular bare breasts looking like sad sweet potatoes yearning to return back into the ground. Apparently this neighbor’s bumper stickers convey her and her husband’s desire for Topfreedom; a cultural and political movement seeking changes in laws to allow women to be topless in public places where men are permitted to be bare chested, as a form of gender equality (thanks, Wikipedia). I had not heard of this particular movement, but the image effectively ruined the chowder for me—well, at least for a minute or two until it faded…
Speaking of Bremerton bumper stickers, another of Nate’s neighbors displays one that warns, “Buckle up buttercup, you just flipped my bitch switch”. Michelle and I had a good time on the way home projecting what that person must look like. I proffered pocketless denim with an elastic waistband and a man’s salt-and-pepper haircut on a middle-aged woman. Michelle suggested maybe a sleeveless flannel and wrist bands. Among the auto graveyard out in front of the house that sports that sticker there were several cannibalized PT Cruisers sadly missing some of their crucial parts and covered in a layer of stagnant gunk. There was an old mossy camper and, of course, the prerequisite former undercover police cruiser—the preferred vehicle of sexual predators everywhere.
When we first pulled into Bremerton we encountered what I referred to as a “goth pirate”—a youngish, smoking gent in all black—festooned in a satin swashbuckling blouse with leather cross straps and some riding pants with high-laced boots. When we remarked at lunch about this splendid fellow, we were epiphanized with yet another term we’d never heard of before: Steampunk. Little did we know of this fascinating subgenre (It is a mixture of the Victorian era’s romantic view of science in literature and elements from the Industrial Revolution in Europe during the 1800s—where would we be without you, Wiki?) As I slowly dabbed my hand-dipped cod in tartar while traveling down a Steampunk Google image funnel with astonished naïveté, I realized I was at a family lunch and politely turned my phone over and rejoined the conversation.
While we stood in Nate’s driveway chatting, waiting to tour his new house, his husky dog Nixon wandered over on the other side of the chain link fence and lifted his leg, sending a ropy stream of urine inches from my mom’s canvas shoe through the diamond-shaped steel wire. “Uh, mom…mom…Mom!” She never heard or noticed, even though she had her new hearing aids in—luckily Nixon’s expulsion fell harmlessly nearby in the dirt as he trotted away with what looked like a grin on his face. My nephew has recently transitioned, and watching my poor aging mother do verbal calisthenics trying to get the gender pronouns right probably explains her absentmindedness in noticing a dog’s nearby leg lift. I told my sister at the start of the transition that I thought it was an incredibly brave thing to undertake. Still do.
Also while at lunch, my sister and nephew raved about the local bakery Saboteur, where the proprietor had recently been named a finalist for a James Beard Award. After lunch we figured we’d check it out, so we parked across the street in front of the pot shop and headed into the modest storefront. Inside, there was an eager gal behind the counter standing next to a glass case that had all of three pastries in it. Michelle, understandably rendered mute at the paltry offering after such a robust buildup, was relieved when I said, “I’ll take the one on the right”—leaving her to opt for one of the two chocolate croissants remaining on the left of the display. Back in the car I immediately dug into my paper sack and wasn’t disappointed—the mixture of soft danish, granular sugar droplets, gooey custard and hardened chocolate covered my sweatshirt and seat belt with its dribbling, flaky goodness, leaving me to concede, “Okay…I get it.”
Bremerton—the other-worldly majesty of the monstrous naval vessels, and bridges, boats and seawater everywhere you look. It has that small beach town feel of lax traffic laws and liberal time management, but without the expected meth zombies you might find in, say, Ocean Shores or Lincoln City. Visit for a day or a lifetime—and say hi to Nate for me.