Tuesday questions, blue sky edition

The area where I live is a major vacation destination.  Obviously, when I lived in New York City I lived in a major tourist destination, as well.  But where I live now is different.  While tourism is a bit part of the Big Apple’s economy, it’s one of many major engines.  Where I live now, tourism is the biggest game in town.  And the difference between the on season and the off is unmistakable.

It’s actually kind of a lovely thing to witness.  I’ve never seen an area transform so markedly from one season to the next.  I grew up in a college town, and so perhaps there was some variation between when school was in and out.  But I was a child then and children see everything through the prism of their own interests, so whatever changes came were lost on me.

This winter has been very mild.  I’ve been able to run outside with few hindrances from the weather since last October.  The usual ice and snow have been almost entirely absent.  But I can tell that it’s winter as I run along the empty beach (except for a few hard-core all-weather surfers who make me look comparatively sane) and pass miles of houses that go dark and dormant from Labor Day until Memorial Day.  A few visitors come for the autumn foliage, but the emptying of the shoreline is dramatic and abrupt.

The green shoots of anticipation are beginning to appear again now.  Construction projects are cropping up here and there.  Property owners are showing up to see what needs to be done before their summer renters arrive.  Soon I won’t be able to run along those same beaches without weaving around slow-walking out-of-towners, and the nicer restaurants in the area (of which we are lucky to have several) will suddenly become hard to get into again.  Things are waking back up.

So here’s my question for this week — tell us something about the feeling of where you live.   Something appropriate to the nascent spring would be great, but not required.  Tell us something subtle about where you live that you have to live there to notice.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. We have a huge tourist/non-tourist season divide here in Anchorage. Tourist season starts in the end of May/beginning of June. You can tell tourists, typically, because they are a couple wearing matching gore tex type shells and hats while the locals are walking around in short sleeves enjoying the warm weather.

    What is unique here , at least for me, in this season is due to being a skier. I pretty much only xc ski now but, luckily, Anchorage is fantastic for xc trails. At this time of year we have sun until well after 7 and its warm (in the 20 or low 30’s). The sun in noticeably strong after the long dark winter when the sun is feeble. The warm temps lead to freezing and thawing so the ski trails are usually firm and fast. I can ski after work without any cold in the bright sun. Its a relaxing end to the season. Its a reward for getting out when it was single digits and seemingly always dark to train hard for the ski marathon i did.

    Soon the near record amounts of snow will really melt and we have a Alaskan season called break up. Everything will be wet and muddy for weeks. Roads will have huge puddles that spray water over the tops of cars as you drive through them. The water and freezing at night leads to pot holes 2 feet deep. Summer will be good but for now the spring skiing is special and better then the big wet coming.

  2. I was living in Miami Arizona, which is a run down mining town we’ve been trying to turn into an art town. Changes in my life allowed me to get my own art studio in Bisbee Arizona which is a run down mining town that already is an art town, and fully restored. The difference in tourism is great, even with both cratered with mines and pyramided with tailings. But in Miami they were more successful at chasing out the hippies who later turned out to be the entrepreneurs, where as, Bisbee took off, and the town is just remarkable to walk around in. Both have a snowbird season in the winter, and the Canadian dollar has increased that. I still am involved with Miami because I helped found the Miami Loco art walk, coming up, and the drive there is spectacular. But in the end, Bisbee is where you must visit, if you like modern art, or conversely, history of the old west. I’ve been here less than a year but I can’t believe how lucky I am, and what a strange place it is, and to come into town and see all these tourists, on top of it. Of course, I must disclose, I’ve worked summers in Yellowstone Park for over 15 seasons, but that’s another story, with really dramatic swings in population! It goes from RV’s to snowmobiles in minutes.

  3. Where I live is a combination town, where there is one very dominant line of work, with tourism as the other major industry. Summer is wretched, winter is bleak, fall is pretty good. But the place famously comes alive in spring time, with a variety of flowering trees like nothing I’ve ever seen. It is seriously one of the most gorgeous places on earth.Tourists try to book then (although I suspect more actually come in summer because of school breaks).

    I live in the bleakest suburban not-entirely-safe neighborhood. Ugly, ugly. Yet my county has an enormous amount of protected woods and hiking trails for such a populated area. I can drive five minutes and go on at least 4 different hiking trails through this most gorgeous time of year.

  4. Springtime in California’s high desert is announced by the sudden appearance of almond blossoms, turning the trees into billowy white fonts of pretty. Shortly thereafter come the cherry blossoms. This is not unlike the rhythm of spring in many other parts of the country, where one after another kind of blossom, seemingly every week, heralds the rush of time and the growth of a new season. But ours ends with a finale unlike anything else I’ve seen elsewhere: fields full of grasses enjoying their one month of green erupt into massive carpets of bright, happy orange: the California poppies. Nearly everywhere in California hosts these gorgeous flowers, which can grow like weeds in the curbs. But here, we get acres, close to entire square miles, of open fields just covered with them — punctuated by more patches of goldenrods and lupines that flower at the same time. If I believed in God, I’d say She spilled her paint all over our fields and mountains on the days when the poppies are in bloom.

  5. Here, you can feel it when the Legislature is in session (Sacramento.) More people in suits, restaurants are busier and money seems to flow a little faster.
    Also, spring on the river is fantastic, what with the warm nights and just the right amount of moisture.

  6. The nearest city, “Redstone”, where I sub, is actually one of the more interesting places I’ve seen. Back in the day, it was the go-to place for wealthy industrialists from a particular industry. The best years are behind it, however, and it’s become a rather bleak place. Few with money would choose to live there. My wife’s coworkers will drive an extra hour each way to get their city needs met somewhere else. So the result is a whole lot of luxurious mansions in downtown and nobody to live in them. They’ve been converted into high-end hotels (stay at the luxurious and authentic Fitzpatrick Mansion for $125 a night!) and low-end apartments (live in the historic and authentic McAllister Mansion for $225 a month, all bills paid!).

    There’s also a lake on the outskirts of town that got so polluted that the water is a rust-red color. They have a pier scores of feet above it that they sell entrance to. That’s the closest to the lake they will let you get.

    There’s not much to report about the town where I live. There is a specific kind of tourism here – hunting. This past winter is the first year that wolf hunting has been legal in a long time and we got a boost from that. Coffee shops that are usually closed on weekends were open and such. It’s a solid year-around tourism.

  7. A few quick thoughts about where I call home:

    * One of the best ways to tell Portlanders from visitors or recent transplants is the use of umbrellas during the winter.

    * Similarly, if you’re in an uber-fancy restaurant in your city where most people are in coats and ties and you see a couple who are well-groomed but wearing old jeans and earth-toned Ts, it’s a good bet they’re from here.

    * If it’s not Spring or Summer, no one washes their car.

    * We go gaga over anything that has the word “artisan” put in front of it. In Portland people pay a premium for artisan pizzas, soups, cheese, vodka, pet food, yarn, door knobs, key chains, and really just about anything.

    * If you see someone wearing a knit scarf, sweater or hat, it’s a good bet they either knit it themselves or it was knit by a friend or family member. It is considered entirely polite to approach total strangers and ask who knit the thing that they wear, how long it took to do it and where they bought the yarn.

    • I was at the bar of the Mayflower Hotel here in DC a few years ago, and on their menu they had a special appetizer selection featuring various “artesian” cheeses. Call me crazy, but I really like the idea of hot cheese springs bubbling up out of the earth.

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