Port Townsend is at the upper end of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. I am told that the miners departed from its harbor to head north to Alaska. But other ports took over, and the town stayed the same: a collection of old buildings bereft of madams, ladies, drunks, and miners. The buildings are now populated by tourist shops and wooden boat lovers.
I have just returned from Port Townsend and its annual wooden boat festival. With my daughter and grandkids, I admired the real boats, built toy boats, and ate the local fish dishes. The miners may have gone, never to return, but the characters remain, and the place is worth a visit.
While I was away, Joe Reifer visited New Idria. He tells us this was a quicksilver mining town in Central California that was abandoned in the 1970s. Take a look at his collection of photos of this town that will never have the charm of Port Townsend.
While I was frittering away money on trivialities, real money was being lost as New York investment banks went bust, gold and platinum returned to prices reminiscent of a year ago, and more people I know lost their jobs. An exploration company in our building offered to sublease us office space as they try to survive amid crashing share values.
At least one thing remained constant while I was away: the investment advisors continued to tell us that the price of gold will soon exceed $1,000. Amazing the bullheaded optimism of those bitten by the gold bug and a desire to predict.
Another mine tailings dam collapsed killing hundreds and China’s system was reveal naked as a vicious dragon. We will have to bear the sanctimonious rantings and ravings of the NGOs on this failure for years to come. But not one will note the failure of the political system that let this happen. It will be more expedient to blame mining in general rather than venial & undemocratic systems.
The theme that ties these events together is that the world moves fast and leaves behind those peoples, places, and institutions unwilling or unable to adapt. And this is a good thing, for if all the world were as static and top-down-controlled as is China and the privileged mandarins who head the New York investment institutions, we would have even worse problems to face. I look forward to more backwaters like Port Townsend.