Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Mukilteo Musings

Today I am going to muse about Mukilteo. Imagine! After all, this is the name of my blog. My daughter's boyfriend has been staying with us on and off during break and my daughter has visited him in a suburb of Portland. The inevitable comparisons between the two communities have been discussed.

Mukilteo is a strange hodge podge. The main road is Mukilteo Speedway which has become as I feared it would, an extension of Highway 99. Every city has a Highway 99. It was the old road before freeways existed but now it is an ugly conglomeration of strip malls and fast food places. The Speedway used to be a two lane road lined with some old houses and lots of trees until you reached the charming little ferry town of Mukilteo (now called Old Town) and the lighthouse at road's end. Now, we have the obligatory McDonald's, nail salons, banks, and gas stations and horror of horrors, gigantic eye sore billboards. In person, I queried the Mukilteo mayor about the awful billboards and was told that the county and not the city owns the east side of the Speedway where they have been erected. I hate them and they make me furious every time I do errands.

Between the Speedway and the water is Harbour Pointe Development which is a typical suburban mix of new homes, condos, apartments, and recently cleared lots with construction. The area was newly formed when we moved to Mukilteo in 1989. But what distinguishes Mukilteo from say, Hillsboro, Oregon, is that pre-existing warehouses and industry are mixed into the residential parts in Harbour Pointe. We have a fruit company, Ivar's clam chowder factory, and a bunch of Boeing support machinist businesses. Also, we have a lot of run down older homes from the 60's and 70's and some cabin or beach-type houses mixed with new houses. Some streets still have above ground power poles and lines and no sidewalks or curbs. On the McDonald, billboard side of the Speedway is an airport used mainly by the huge Boeing plant that sits at one end. Mukilteo and Edmonds are united against the airport turning commercial but some creepy non-resident development types are pushing for local flights to say, Hillsboro, Oregon. So, unlike Hillsboro which is all brand new, pretty and nicely planned, Mukilteo is funky.

And some other characteristics:

1. We have one local jewelry store located next to the QFC grocery store on the Speedway. Since Dave's Dad was the local jeweler in Helena, Montana, Harbour Pointe Jewelry has a special place in our hearts and our lives. Dave liked the owner immensely and over the years, we have had him reset diamonds and clean and restore ancient watches. Sadly, I learned from the reader board at the Speedway car wash which had a nice tribute, that the owner of the jewelry store had died right before Christmas. He was only 57 and we are so so sad about this. Just last summer, Dave had him work on two rings for our wedding anniversary which required many visits and much discussion with a beautiful result. My prayers and thoughts for the family. They live up the street from us.

2. The QFC is the closest grocery store to us. Further down the Speedway is an older Albertson's and further yet is Food Emporium. Because of the convenience of QFC, I go there often. 95% of the time, they have angered me about something. The check out clerks are really nice but somehow the place is badly managed. QFC used to be somewhat upscale until it was taken over by Kroger. The prices never came down but the quality deteriorated. For example, just last night we were needing creme fraiche for our halibut/mussel recipe. Dave could not find it at QFC so he asked and was told they were out. I bet they had it...somewhere. One time, I was looking for tapioca to make a pie filling. The manager pointed me to tapioca pudding cups. I said no and described what I needed only to be told they no longer carried that type of tapioca. The very next day I saw a woman purchasing the exact type of tapioca I had been looking for. A clerk had found it for her on an obscure shelf. I won't even go into the situation with this same manager where because of a glitch in the self-check out line, he rechecked my groceries through the regular check out and charge me $70 twice for the same groceries. I discovered the mistake two weeks later on our credit card. But yet, we keep going back and torturing ourselves because of proximity.

3. Albertson's usually makes me happy and the prices are good. They always seem to have what you are looking for and the shelves are never empty say of hamburger and buns on July 3. Yes, this happened at QFC. The freshness of the seafood at Albertson's can be questionable sometimes, though, but the meat is excellent.

4. Food Emporium is furthest from me but it is my favorite. It is not a chain grocery store and it is also not cheap. The seafood is of the highest quality and they carry more local produce than the other stores. All of Kaley's friends have worked there, it seems. They do not have those irritating member cards and they have plenty of creme fraiche in several different spots along with a myriad of odd but necessary ingredients for fun cooking. However, if you haven't lived in Mukilteo for 19 years with all of the construction and road changes, finding Food Emporium might pose a challenge. It is on the Speedway but it is behind some auto parts and used car dealerships with some big truck trailers with Chinese writing parked at the entrance. Oh but the mirrored columns at the front of the store?? I'm telling ya'--if you are having a bad hair day or for some reason are not feeling good about yourself, go to Food Emporium and catch a glimpse of yourself in those mirrors---very flattering. Just last night on my trek to find creme fraiche, I saw myself and decided, "not bad for an old sick woman!"

5. Finally, the ear popping spot is just up the street from me. My street is by the water at close to sea level. The Speedway is up at about 500 feet. Many times I have been surprised by the existence of two inches of snow up there when we had none. There is a spot as you drive down steep Chennault Beach Drive toward the water where your ears pop. It is especially noticeable when you have made a special trip to Food Emporium to find creme fraiche and you are driving home perhaps a little fast and your head is still full of gunk. Yowee! Oh yea, the ear pop spot--only in Mukilteo.