Give ‘Camougle’ a chance

By Dennis Stubblefield, Guest Columnist

Groups of young people have been roaming downtown Camas recently. Washougal too. They’re looking up and down, and all around. They’re playing the new rage “Pokemon Go,” “augmenting reality” by phone; the objective is to catch the most creatures.

I’ve been thinking, “This looks pretty cool. Maybe it will contribute to a drop in Vitamin D deficiency.”

But I finally caught myself. Who needs augmentation when you’ve got the real thing? Why chase life on a smart screen when it’s right in front of you on the street? Catch another “monster?” We’ve already caught a “Camougle.”

Now, hold your horses, Nellie. I know that some don’t like this term: too kitschy, too cute, too much. But see if you catch my drift: “Camougle” is just the name for our two towns bundled up — cozy and comforting — like how we have been welcomed here.

My wife and our Yorkster moved to Washougal last October. Until then, I’d lived most of my life in big cities. Portland and Vancouver are close by, but the rat race seems far away. It’s not exactly “easy” here (long winters and steady rains aren’t “easy”). But making new friends here is.

“Camougle” is the area roughly from Louis Bloch Park to just across the Washougal River, and various points up the hill. For some, it may be just shorthand for an area where borders seem blurred. For me, it’s a phrase which conjures up good vibes and sweet memories. And more on that in a moment.

PoGo players compare notes with real street-level humans to catch as many virtual cutiepies as possible. Techies and machines at PoGo developer Niantic pin virtual monsters on real locations seen on PoGo’s virtual maps. For example, a Camas High junior can see a “Mudsdale” hanging outside Lutz Hardware (clearly a savvy hose shopper), or a “Comfey” outside of Lily’s boutique (who might chirp that fashion and comfort go hand in glove). And, across the river, you may find a “Moltres” mulling over a good book at Our Bar, or a “Flareon” looking stellar after getting styled at Annie’s.

Pediatricians and physical therapists like that kids are moving their heads and necks around more. Take it from this geezer: that’s a very good habit to learn early on.

A recent Wall Street Journal photo caption read “[t]he game is bringing people together as they meet and share tips in their hunt for virtual monsters.” PoGo has no chat function, and no map showing other PoGo players, as noted by Christopher Mims recently in that paper: players must “connect with others [by] meeting them in person.” Wow. What an idea.

But, back to “Camougle.” What’s so catchy about it, and what’s the connection to PoGo already?

First, the catchy. The comforts of home: Cozy Coupes and chicken pot pies; crafts and hot chocolate. Sports and the great outdoors: from salmon and steelhead to hikes and bikes; mid-fielders and little leaguers; sidewalk chalks and Seahawks. And let’s not forget peaches and cream, and ice cream dreams; cherry cobbler, and Crimson and Clover; root beer floats and “Mairzy Doats.”

Mairzy what? Google it and enjoy a World War II-era ditty whose refrain admits that the song is “nutty as a fruitcake” with jangled-up little sniglets, but whose bridge brings the real words to light, about really endearing live creatures in the natural world. This 1944 number-one hit by the Merry Macs brought smiles to the faces of our men and women battling abroad, and to tykes at home throughout the years.

These goofy words — like dagwoods and dagnabits, darlingtons and daisykins; mudpies and mischkens; kit ‘n’ caboodles, and just plain canoodles; geezergogetters and dogsterkinsitters; littlekins and ittydibittykins — make me feel glad all over without having to try too hard, or worrying about how to download an app or memorize the rules of a dang game.

This crazy “Camougle” is just fun, and captures what’s best about our towns, where it seems that most everyone:

— Knows your name

— Is real and unaffected

— Is sincere without agenda

— Goes out of their way to be nice to their neighbors

— Looks you straight in the eye

— Works hard and treats their customers like royalty, but knows when it’s “quittin’ time”

— Is mostly private, yet rarely forbidding

— If they’re “youngsters,” sure-as-shootin’ respect this “elder” much more than I fear I respected mine back in the Summer of Love

Arcadia? Nope, but it’s as close as I’ve found. But what is it about Camougle? So, some more “C” words. Folks here seem: Capable, careful and considerate; common-sensical.

Now the connection. We’ll be talking and meeting and laughing and greeting, long after PoGo goes the way of the Pet Rock. Camougle is a place where most anyone can live in relative peace and harmony. A place where cultures can converge, if they want to, in creativity, collaboration and coolness. Who knows? Perhaps even a place which has a fighting chance of making good citizenship cool — and not so hard — again for everyone. Wouldn’t that be something?

PoGo is huge. But we can be as little as we want, right here at home.

It’s true that fields and streams are key to our dreams. But the downtown deal — now that’s “keepin’ it real.” And how about our mill? Isn’t it grand that it still stands? We’ve got the best of all worlds.

No, “life ain’t easy,” and we all must deal with the inexorable onslaught of little things. But here, people don’t usually lose their cool.

So, I say, let’s “Give Camougle a Chance!” Think of the word as me saying to everyone here, “thanks for the warm welcome,” a nod to the spirit of the folks of Washougal and Camas. “Camougle?” I can’t quite pin it down. It’s just a “gut feeling.” It’s simply fantabulous.

That’s my take as a newcomer. Catch ’em all? No thanks. I’d just as soon lay back, being comfortable as can be right here in Camougle.

Dennis Stubblefield is an attorney and author. He lives and works in Washougal.