The sights and sounds of spring

    Ah, Bellingham in the spring (brief bouts of snow flurries and hail in early April excepted) … the birds are singing, the grass is growing, (boy is it), March Madness has come and gone, the Mariners are back at it … it’s a great time of year. Everyone seems to have a little extra pep this time of year, don’t they? It’s been a fun month to observe the happenings around town as the city emerges from its deep freeze.
   Some of the recent sights and sounds:

• It was standing room only at Village Books on a chilly Friday night as an overflow crowd gathered to listen to Paul Rusesabagina — the real-life hero of the Rwandan genocide played so incredibly by Don Cheadle in Hotel Rwanda — came to town to talk about his new book.
   I never did see him; it would have been like fighting through the floor at a Beatles show to get to the front row, and the zealous few that had him in their sights weren’t giving up their perches easily, not that I blame them.
   Seen or unseen, Rusesabagina is an amazing man, and it was a treat to have him one room away and listen to him talk of those dark days and the positives he has made of them in his own life.
   Good beer and darts at the Archer Alehouse aftewards capped off that great night.

• The Fifth Annual Wings Over Water Northwest Birding Festival in Blaine, formerly the Washington Brant Festival, was a great family activity despite blustery, cold conditions. Nary a brant (a kind of goose) in sight, but a very, very cool little festival nonetheless!
   We had family in town from Southern California, and their day was made when, as we walked along the bay in Marine Park, a bald eagle swooped over us, barely 20 feet off the ground.

• Easter-egg hunts everywhere! Very few things cuter than kids in their Sunday-go-to-meetin’s hunting for eggs.

Western (Air) musings: Flight cancelled
   One of the things on just about everybody’s lips this month has been the demise of Western Air. Yes, I know that technically, since they decided not to go forward with federal certification, they can’t be called "Western Airways" or "Western Airlines," but we’ve already got an entity here in town referred to as "Western," and last time I checked, it had no problem accepting credit-card payments, so we’ll just compromise and call it Western Air.
   How could an idea with so much promise go from rah-rah photos of stews getting their wings to the repossession of its temporary trailer in no time flat?
   Barely made deadlines, robbing Peter to pay Paul, borrowing from one kitty to pay off another, sending their credit-card payments through another business — how could so much have been so wrong? How could the company, as a corporate entity, get as far as flying passengers about the country while being so poorly run?
   Yes, the first clue that something was rotten in Denmark for the general public was when the planes started making "unannounced visits to the beautiful SeaTac metroplex" to refuel there, when there was a perfectly good fueler here in town — a fueler which, as it of course turns out, wouldn’t pump another milliliter for Western Air until they paid their bills. Which they couldn”t because of their credit-card-processing snafu.
   Ugh.
   With Western Air now out of the airport, the Port of Bellingham is actively pursuing other major-league airlines and is proceeding apace with its development plans for the airport, including a satellite parking area in the former Air National Guard site that will be served by shuttle bus.
   The saddest thing about the Western Air fiasco is that a great number of local folks invested heavily in the startup. And while the company valiantly claims to be reorganizing, and will "fly again," (from where?), one just has to shake their head at the initial promise of the airline’s concept and its lightning-fast descent.
   The proverbial heads have rolled atop the organization, but it will take more than that to ever get the troubled company off the tarmac.

Web site wonderments
   Our graphic design and online guru Sean Echelbarger’s redesign of the paper’s online front page has been completed; easy buttons now allow quick navigation between the current issue, the archive, and BBJ Online, our news-tip-of-the-day service.
   In addition, new areas have been added to allow you to fill out Book of Lists forms.
   Check it out at www.thebellinghambusinessjournal.com, and tell us what you think!

John Thompson is publisher and editor of The Bellingham Business Journal. He can be reached by calling 647-8805, or via e-mail at bbjedit@businessjournal.org.

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