A Howling Good Time

One of my first personal goals when I moved here was to find some friends outside of work. My summer as an intern a few months prior didn’t leave any real connections and I set out to the disc golf course to try and meet some people. I linked up with a duo who seemed pretty cool. It was a skater-looking white guy and a tall Asian dude and as we wrapped up the round, we exchanged numbers to grab a beer some time.

I only noted their races because of what happened next.

“Yeah, Tri-Cities is pretty chill,” said the skater guy. “Except the beaners are ruining it.”

It’s been a few years, but that was the horrific gist.

I’m not naive. I know racism and xenophobia exist. It just seemed so crazy to say something like that to somebody you just met.

“Yeah,” chimed in the Asian guy. “In this town, it’s the white people and the Asians versus the blacks and the beaners.”

I didn’t know Tri-Cities very well at that point, but I knew it wasn’t a massive race war.

We didn’t end up hanging out.

For some reason, I turned to another disc-based sport as an extracurricular activity. Though I had played a little intramural ultimate frisbee in college, I had never taken it too seriously. I would smoke cigarettes on the sidelines and gloat about having whipped a defender with my ponytail to get an edge.

I figured it was worth a shot and stopped by a pick-up game, and I’ve been a proud member of the Desert Lorax ever since. The club has not only served as my exercise, but opened up a whole new circle of friends. I learned more about the game’s spirt of sportsmanship and the often silly, but always fun nature of tournaments — perhaps epitomized by the one we host here every Halloween.

We held the 14th annual Hanford Howl a couple weekends ago. Not only is it my favorite time of year here, but the shenanigans are for a good cause. Each year, the club donates more than $10,000 to Special Olympics Washington. To do so, we hosted 36 teams from around the Northwest, requiring each team to come up with a theme and have each player dress and play in costume.

When I look back at this time in my life, I will undoubtedly remember the amazing experiences my job as a photojournalist has afforded me. Riding in helicopters, World War II-era planes, and hot air balloons will all rank high amid my fond memories. But playing in the Howl will be right up there. Especially fun was the Disney theme we had in 2011, when we were able to match up against the other Disney team character for character in five of the seven spots for one point. The other two spots synced up by movie, with Scar and Maurice on our side facing off against Rafiki and Gaston.

Here are a few snaps I took during the day just to give you a taste:

I had so much fun this year, I didn’t even feel like taking any pictures. Instead, Doug Love busted his ass and covered the entire weekend.

So if you’re looking for something fun to do in town, anybody is welcome. Check out the club Facebook page for updates on pick-up times. Stopping by was probably the best decision I’ve made since living here.

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Kai-Huei Yau

Kai-Huei Yau

Kai-Huei Yau was a photojournalist at the Tri-City Herald for six years and recently moved west to be a communications specialist at Vertafore in Bothell. He's thrilled to live next to a great fried chicken joint, a good spot for pho and to put his journalism skills to work in a new way.

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  • Suzy Garza Higley

    that looks like a great time! 🙂 …I’m glad you found great people!

  • Lou Galindo

    That looks fun. How did that guy in the “Up” costume manage to not strangle himself with those balloons??

  • Ugh. So glad this had a happy ending! I’m always totally caught off guard when people make comments like that. I remember after going to a concert at The Gorge years ago, we stopped at a Denny’s in the wee hours of the morning for a bite to eat. I was wearing a handmade alpaca wool hat that I purchased from a friend who made it in a little town high in the Andes of Peru where I was living. It was thick felt and basically shaped like a cone. I noticed a couple of older guys in a booth across the room who kept looking at me. Eventually, one of them walked over and asked if I’d remove my hat. He said, “I was in Vietnam and every time I look at you, all I see is a guke sitting there and it’s ruining my meal.”

    Huh?

    TOTALLY caught me off guard. It made me sick and angry. I felt like I needed to do something. Say something. Take a stand or something. But then, I was very quickly filled with a great deal of pity for the guy. I thought of all of the wonderful people, experiences and cultures that he would never be able to appreciate or understand. So much wonderful goodness and color in the world that he was completely blind to. So much anger and resentment that would taint and poison his entire existence. I felt so grateful I wasn’t him. This all happened in an instant. After a brief moment of staring at him in shocked disbelief, my look softened. I set my hat on the bench next to me and calmly said, “Dude…you’ve really gotta let it go. You know that right?”