In the course of running some errands Friday, I realized it had been some time since I had actually been downtown. “Historic Downtown Clarkston” essentially equals about a half-mile segment of Sixth Street. My husband’s office is downtown, near Wasem’s Drugs and Schurman’s Hardware, legendary stanchions of generations (well, two generations—this is the West) of family enterprise, and, I’ve heard, John Birch Society literature for the asking (I haven’t asked). Everyone who works at Wasem’s and Schurman’s is helpful and pleasant to deal with. I’ve sometimes been treated as a tourist (“Hope you visit us again!”), probably because I always use a credit card, but also, I think, because wherever I am, I always have that “not from around here” look. It’s taken me years to cultivate that look. I’ve lived in 10 cities in six states.
I found Historic Downtown Clarkston at its best as I drove along Sixth Street Friday. Stores are decked out for Christmas, and the 19th-century Western-patterned brick facades have a festive look that makes them seem more pretty than usual. The shops look Christmasy without the obnoxicon.
I actually had a purposeful errand at Schurman’s, and even though I like the owners and everyone else who works there, I sometimes dread the endearing eighty-something cashier’s immigrant-bashing palaver. Unfortunately, the dear represents everything I hate about the Tea Party. No one has a choice of how to shoot the breeze once she gets going. But happily, Friday was not one of those days. The dear was delightful, ebulliently showing off the bubble lights she had strung around one of the artificial Christmas trees merrily gracing the store. I wished her a Merry Christmas and headed out with my O’Keefe’s Working Hands, the hand crème for people who work with their hands (or who refuse to wear Latex gloves, even when using bleach cleansers), feeling as though I’d lived in Clarkston my whole life.
Saturday I asked my husband if we could go downtown together; I wanted to look around in Wasem’s. Wasem’s is probably the most comprehensively diverse drug store in America. They sell used vintage cameras, and even film. I think they carry batteries for every digital watch ever made. And Christmas descends on Wasem’s in style. They had a toddler’s fake-mink coat with a hood and matching fur boots. It was compelling to think of my adorable granddaughter wearing it, even at $44. Alas or fortunately, all they had were size 6-12 month, and my little precious is in the 12-18 month bracket. So no fake mink this year.
We visited Wasem’s downstairs area for the first time, and were amazed at the things they have that are probably available nowhere else in the Lewis-Clark Valley. Wasem’s is the supply paradise for beer brewers, winemakers, and artists keen on high-quality imported brushes. And Santa was there, and a photographer, ready for small brave kids to sit in his lap.
I’m generally not much of a holiday person; I value my intact routine too much. But the outing was just right. I was able to return home from downtown feeling that I had enjoyed a benign Christmas.