The notes below cover from 1/28/98 to 4/3/98
(with previous notes at the bottom of the page)

Scroll down to seen what we've been up to....


posted: April 3, 1998

Tomorrow: Big audition at the high school for starstruck folks who want to try to get a part in the Warner Brothers film Practical Magic being filmed on the west side of the island this spring. Cheap & easy way to get famous.... Should be a mob - even the Bellingham radio staions have been announcing it. As you know, it's unusual for things to be crowded here besides during the summer...but, hey - the weather has been nice.

Sculptor-extraordinaire Tom Pemberton is featured in this month's Art Foundry Journal in an article called "The Making of a Bronze," which details how he makes his acclaimed Frog on A Hog sculpture. Check it out!

Just give me the warm power of the sun: Tomorrow there's a solar car race for kids at the elementary school, put on by Juan Lopez...a variation on the Pinewood Derby, kids put together cars that race along a lit (obviously!) track with solar-panel-run motors. Gotta see it to believe it.

Any idea what effect El Niño will have on the whales' annual visit this summer? Everthing else has been weird this year...

It's a shuffle: Skagit Valley College (San Juan Center)'s Heather Beck - assistant coordinator there - moves over to take Mary Keith's job at the assessor's office, while Mary (after 18 years) moves to work with the Town.

One more thing on tap tomorrow: take a moment to remember Dr. King. He would have been 69...

Yo, weather nuts! Art Miller (not the Dead Salesman one, the Duffy House one) showed me this page which is updated every hour or so for Friday Harbor's weather. I've got it bookmarked - see what you think. Reading it from off-island? Don't fret - whatever it says will change in the next coupleof hours anyway. Last week we had a day with hail, sunshine, rain, and a little wind. Not all at once, of course.

The road to the drainpipe project has begun to be run: they're starting on this month's drainpipe-laying project that runs through town. Traffic throughways are still open, but parking may be a little less. First dent: Big hole in the middle of First Street in front of the Hungry Clam.

One of the great (no, that understates it: make that magnificent) things around here is our library. Make a point of dropping by soon to check out the new titles, the Internet access, the great kids' part, the CD-ROMs you can check out, the comfortable atmosphere in which to do research or read the latest magazines. It's great. Drop in.

posted: March 27, 1998

I'm dreaming of a white...April? Whoa! Did you see the hail this morning? It covered everything, and looked for all the world like a one-to-two inch snowfall! It was great! Town in white!

The San Juan Building Supply has announced they're closing...Bonnie there tells me probably by May or so. Meanwhile, there are sales going on.

The Community Theatre has added a news page to tell you of upcoming dates & events - check it out!

posted: March 24, 1998

After so much sun and spring-like weather, it figures we'd have to pay sometime...yesterday's patches of sun were sure welcome, though.

The ferries are back on schedule, as of last Saturday. Whew! If that was a problem (they were down for chunks of last week), wait'll it gets crowded!

Over at the ferry landing on Lopez, Sue was telling me about the tourists who came by there on their way to Shaw Island the other night. She was curious, since it was the last boat to both Lopez and Shaw. Asking them where they were going, they allowed as how they wanted to visit the topless bar on Shaw they'd heard about in some tavern in Friday Harbor. (Yo, rookie tourons: there isn't one!)

Mentioned this to Ann Carlson, the Sounder writer, and she said in the '80s people were going (or being sent) to the Shaw disco. Same idea.

Little league kicked in with practice this week here on the island, with foul balls flying and batting practice underway; the Wolverines softball team and baseball teams got started last week (the boys won 13-4 Tuesday, while the softball team's game ran into rain with either an 8-8 tie or a 9-8 game going...the scorekeepers are still talking.)

How do they do it? The middle school's Hobbit was great - with kudos to stage magician & director Fred Yockers and his great group of kids & some 60 volunteer parents, and all the audience members who filled the theater for four days, including kids who came from the Shaw school who ferried to see the show. Fans all over.

Can it have been 30 years? Dr. King was killed April 4, 1968, and the state, city of Seattle, and King County (the one Seattle's in) have proclaimed a Season of Non-Violence to remember. Coincides with the 50th anniversary of Gandhi's death, as well. The 64 days between these memorial anniversaries are being hailed as a time to raise awareness of the principles of nonviolence.

posted: March 19, 1998

Is it summer? Sunny skies and 65 degrees yesterday, with a few days left before the equinox. Supposed to be warmer tomorrow. Or maybe rain.

Well, the big hoorah 'round town today is the ferries: the Evergreen State is busted (one street report has it we're waiting for a part to be flown in from Finland). This has thrown the schedule off for the last couple of days, with no "it's fixed!" date set yet.

When I went downtown to get some milk earlier this evening, a visitor asked me if the ferries break down all the time - she had a five hour wait ahead of her. She said this wasn't a good way for us to treat our tourists. People think we plan these things?

And they think that's inconvenient: Next month work begins on a project to lay drainpipe all the way from the Malcolm Street area to the end of Spring Street next to the harbor. It has to be laid under the existing street, and it's 36 inches in places (that's a big pipe!). Could tear up town for a while, but the end result will channel water down to the harbor away from some unintended quaqmires that presently happen when it rains. It'll be worth the trouble.

Meanwhile, it was great to see the girls' tennis team on the ferry on the way to Anacortes, all studying away on a bright sunny day. Assistant editor & tennis player Sarah Hartzell tells me the second issue of the school paper, the Underground, is due out soon, probably next week.

Sure run into interesting people riding the ferry: Met Taylor, the medic for the movie being shot here - she's done this for other movies, and was called in to work this one, treating injuries big and small and watching out for the health and well-being of the folks involved.

Tom Hemphill at Emerald Seas tells me his NAUI diving conference, held here last week, was a great success and attracted 80+ people.

Also saw Susan Argento-Millington, who is both a massage-giver and B&B-owner (Arbutus Lodge), just returning from a trip to Connecticut; as well as a fellow named Rick, who attends school in Seattle (Cornish College) and just came up for a break from the city.

Rhonda who works at the Blue Dolphin (she's always smiling, ever notice?) went over to get her car from Anacortes, and Terresa the school bus driver was reading what must be the 10,000th book in her career - you get a lot of reading in when you drive athletic teams (like the afore-mentioned tennis squad) from a 11:30 ferry loading time till a 10:25pm coming-home time.

Do you have your tickets to the Middle School's production of The Hobbit this week end? Why not? Get 'em! It's gonna be great!

posted: March 17, 1998

Last Friday's Carnival at the high school went well, with money raised going to various school groups who worked to put on a good time for the island's other FHHS news, that was a bunch of juniors you saw on the ferry last Wednesday, making their way to Western Washington to scope out college life.

Then there was a mob of kids at baseball tryouts (a misnomer, since everyone is assigned to a team) the next day at the elementary school.

Nice rundown of that meeting a few weeks ago about the Makahs wanting to kill a whale on the Whale Museum site.

It felt like a spring day yesterday, as we lean into the equinox this weekend. With full moons and warm days, everyone scurrying around to get their gardens going, and the dogwood trees in full bloom, it's more like the tail end of spring than the tail of winter. Just can't believe that calendar.

Now, get outside and play.

posted: March 10, 1998

Folksinger and storyweaver Peggy Seeger visited last night at the Community Theatre, gracing the island with her love ballads, stories of struggle, and just plain goodtime folk tunes. She's a good person to have on your side, whether the cause is cruise missles, clearcutting, or women's issues (which often are people's issues, you know.) And a good time was had by all.

Did the boat seem to list a bit to port? That was some eighty fifth graders from FHES on the ferry last Monday, going to the mainland for a field trip. Escorted by principal Court Bell, several teachers, and a brace of moms, they all sat on the left side of the boat going over, doing homework and visiting with one another, just like any other ferry trip. Great kids.

Speaking of great kids - Beth Hedtrick tells me some 40 kids showed up at the meeting yesterday for organizing the fundraising and other details about the skateboard park. Set for being built on fairgrounds property next to Family Park, the dollar tag ranges from $30-45,000, with some of the cash being supplanted by folks donating time, energy, and love to build it.

You've seen her shirts and designs, now you can see her shop--in a different place. Dolphin Arts' Vivien Burnett is moving her Cannery Row shop down two doors to where Harbor Books used to reside. She'll have a better view of the harbor from there. Meanwhile, the bookstore moved down the hall to where J.L. Scott used to hang out. They, of course, moved next to the Park Service, up from Coldwell Banker's office. Lotta movin' goin' on....

Commitment: That was Coach Gibson out there in the drizzle & rain with the softball girls yesterday afternoon. Mike tells me they're gonna be good this year.

posted: March 2, 1998

Couple of rainy, gray days...mostly kind of sprinkley. Good for staying inside and getting the writing done you meant to do all winter - quick, before spring hits.

Nice day to take a walk up Mount Young...just a little drizzly. Dan Ward at San Juan Transit added some hiking ideas to his webpage, if you're thinking about exploring the island.

Coming to the Community Theatre next week: Peggy Seeger. Turns out your friend and mine Mike Cohen, who lives on the west side, is sorta related: his brother John (who plays with the Lost City Ramblers) is married to Peggy's sister. Peggy's set for Monday the 9th, in the evening sometime. Don't miss her. She's a great one!

Speaking of events: the Jazz Festival has announced their lineup for their 19th edition this coming July.

Out at the University of Washington's Marine Labs they had a retirement deal for Sally Dickman last Saturday night, I hear. Someone who went told me one of the deals was a variation of the Sheep-to-Shawl Contest we have at the county fair each year, in which contestants get the wool off the sheep and turn it into a shawl...only this was a seaweed-to-shawl contest. Good luck, Sally!

Do you know people who are cliche-challenged? I keep track of such things: a good friend last week was talking with me about the way we get two people to look at stuff we publish in my office - a double-edit - and she said, "Yeah, two eyes are better than one." I knew what she meant, just like what another friend meant who said, "You're trying to pull the rug over my eyes."

Then another friend showed her commitment by saying she was going to jump in with "both feet in the ring," while another was making her plans for the "recent future." Should be any day now.

Gas prices are something on an island...this week it's $1.39/gallon or so, sometimes a bit less, sometimes more. That's why when we went to the mainland couple of weeks ago, we filled up with $.99 gas in Burlington, then re-filled up about 20 miles down the road...we just couldn't believe it, or believe it would last.

Meanwhile, over at the high school, all the spring sports start this week, while the school newspaper (The Underground) staff is working hard to get out the semester's second edition. The first, by the way, opened to great, rousing reviews.

posted: February 25, 1998

Terrible news. This stuff is hard to write: On the island today a man killed a woman, then himself.

Unlike newspapers, I see no reason to advertise names and the whys, hows, and wherefores of this. Check the Journal next week; they'll have the details - that's their job. For now, the shock in town is palpable: the folks who told me the story could barely speak; a woman who worked with the victim called to tell me she couldn't attend computer class tonight; there was a hush at the grocery store as someone told someone else the story.

We also had one of our friends commit suicide last weekend - a rare occurrence around here, even more tragic with today's events.

Another victim in all this: Our self-confident sense that this stuff happens somewhere else, that we on our little island are somehow protected, somehow isolated from violence.

This is a small island, a small community--when something like this happens, it doesn't involve some distant "them," it involves us. Because of the closeness that we share, our confidence is doubly shaken. We feel the loss deeply.

posted: February 22 1998

Our ace wrestler Nate Prescott did the job at state, snagging fifth place in the 178-pound division, while Kyle Wilson and Matt Miller wrestled respectably to notch spots in the top 16 in the state. Super job at state by the guys, super season by the wrestling team, super job by the Coach Gordy Banry! Wait'll next year!

posted: February 19, 1998

After a couple of really windy days, things settled down and we had a pleasant spring day on the island today, with blue skies and everything...pretty good for the middle of winter.

Jean from Western Prince Cruises tells me there's a meeting here in Friday Harbor on Saturday to discuss the Makah tribe's decision to hunt and kill a grey whale, to be attended by the area's congressman (Jack Metcalf) and others. The Whale Museum issued a press release telling what they thought of the idea (not much), and Rep. Metcalf has gone on record opposing the kill.

If you've been by Griffin Bay Books lately, you've seen Susan on crutches...she hit the skids with some ice on her porch and broke some walking bones. Hope she's healing OK.

In the sports world, FHHS basketball came close Tuesday as the boys played a playoff game to go to districts and came up short 66-65 in a well-played, tight game.

Meanwhile, Kyle Wilson is at the state wrestling meet tomorrow, ranked 16th in the state (his dad, Gene, told me all about this--he runs the local tow truck & I needed my car pulled) along with Matt Miller and Nate Prescott, who also are ranked.

Earlier today, Sherri had to go to one of her jobs, taking minutes at the Park & Rec meeting. My boy Shay asked where she had gone, and I told him, "She took the car to Park & Rec." He asked, "How can you park and wreck a car?" He's right, of course.

Speaking of whales...want to see a whale jump out of the water? Go to this page that's part of San Juan Excursion's video of a whale breach. The movie was shot last summer off the west side...the orcas are off eating someone else's salmon right now.

posted: February 15, 1998

Valentine's Day came and went here on the island, with a number of feelgood things happening: Our local great marimba ensemble Musasa put on a live performance at the Community Theatre last night that they recorded for their next album. The band members were walking on air after it was over - they told me it was great recording in front of a loving and involved audience, which is the kind I've noticed they mostly get.

Meanwhile, over at Katrina's, there was a crowd to take in the combined singing of Joy Van Camp, Chinmayo, Bill Cooper, and the irrepressible Liz Illg. A block away at the Grange, the Contra Dance had a huge bumping-into-the-walls crowd stomping and swinging, warming up a cool winter night, with the band in great form.

Down the street there was music at Herb's (local-boys-make-good: The Fabulous Rhythmatics), the Electric Company, and China Pearl, and a nice-size crowd (judging by the cars) at the Legion Hall.

And a good time was had by all.

More island people with exactly the same name: there's Scott Bell who used to play in The Ducks (local band) and Scott Bell who works at the high school (head maintenance guy).

And, yes, this is the crossroads of the world where coincidences must be taken for granted because they happen so often: Rose at Charters Northwest is the mom of Neena, one of my old ninth-graders back in my Oregon teaching days. Rose just moved here last year...this kind of thing happens all the time; you come to expect it.

Yep, the swans are still around - John Dustrude and Susan Vernon, local swan experts, tell me they winter here, and hang out on the center part of the island. That's how Trumpeter Inn got its name, after the trumpeter swans that take up part-yearly residence in the neighborhood.

Eye on the prize: The boys and girls basketball teams head to district playoffs this week, with the boys at home on Tuesday at 4pm. The big question: have the boys peaked, or are they ready for the big time - they have a not-too-shabby 11-7 record, and have steadily been improving all season. This could be their moment.

posted: February 9, 1998

Garden time already? Blame it on El Niño, the Japanese Current, the California rains, or what you will - there were crocuses popping up around the island today, and it's been downright pleasant outside. My second-grade boy Shay told me it was because the Pig saw his shadow - that's the Ground Hog, which he still thinks is a porker.

The name game continues: As we've mentioned before (see previous reports below) there are more people per capita on this island with the exact same name as anywhere else in the world. Besides folks we've noted before, there's Dick Barnes the FHHS tennis coach and Dick Barnes the Snug Harbor guy, as well as Susan Williams who does research in marine ecology over at the UW Marine Labs and Susan Williams the actress, director, and Sandpebble (the shop) owner. We'll talk more about Elizabeth Burden and her daughter Elizabeth (a soph at Smith College) and Henry Burden and his son Henry later.

The San Juan Historical Museum just put up their page. Neat place to visit, whether you live here or are just dropping by....

Next week is Winter Break at the school - unlike some school districts that have a Spring Break, we have a week off in February sometime and another in April. Lot of parents work during the summer, so this gives them a chance to sneak a vacation or break in without missing too much school.

When I moved here a good while ago, I asked a longtime denizen & bodyshop guy how you keep your car from rusting - we are, after all, surrounded by salt water. He said, "Sell your car in eighteen months."

Hence, a number of people on the island have beaters they affectionately call "island cars." These are automobiles in which at least one thing doesn't work, usually the radio or something, which proudly show untouched-up rust spots and are never washed, unless you just have to take it off-island.

I got mine a couple of years ago - a 1980 VW gas-run Rabbit that used to belong to Craig down at the ferry, till he sold it to the guy who sold it to me. I got it for $300 - the radio isn't connected, the hand brake came off in my hand, the wipers swish a quarter inch above the window surface (I fixed that - it DOES rain), two of the doors are bolted shut because of previous body damage (not caused by Craig!), and a cracked windshield. The body has a fair amount of rust, which makes me concerned that some pedestrian might get tetnus rubbing up against the car. The motor runs smoothly and the brakes work. It's perfect.

PROOF THE APOCALYPSE IS NEAR: Maybe it's a small thing, but in CBS's coverage of the Olympic opening ceremonies the other night, they mentioned it was a technological and cultural marvel to have five choruses around the world sing the Beethovan's Ninth Symphony's fourth movement ('Ode to Joy') all together at the same time for the event. We kept the kids up late to listen to this - they just learned 'Ode' in their piano lessons - and the performance was interrupted three times by commercials!

AGGH! If it's a marvel, and it is, then let people hear it! Grumble, grumble, grumble....

posted: February 5, 1998

The results are in: The voters of the island approved the M&O Levy (that's maintenance and operations) for the school district by over 80%. It's one thing to pass these things; it's another to pass them with such enthusiasm.

That, in turn, reminds one of the vote last spring when over 80% approved the bond to renovate the middle & high school, and buy land for later use. It's said that you can measure a community by the care it takes of its kids...I like the island's report card this week.

The First Grade Show at the community theater last night was great... some 70 strong, the class of 2010 (check in your letter jacket at the door...2010 sounds like the future!) sang, recited, danced, and played drums for a nearly full house - and the place holds 300. Whoever says there's nothing to do in town, just doesn't get out. Teachers Peg Hodgkin, Pat Penwell, and Bruce Robinson do a super job, both on stage and in the classroom.

Report from Olympia: Bigger, slower ferries for us this summer - ones that hold 160 cars instead of 100. Some people are concerned about the slow traffic in town because of this, but I think it's no big's just important not to be in a hurry if you gotta drive through town, because you're definitely going to be late. It's still not time yet to panic and put in a traffic light, either. Nobody's in THAT big a rush....

Of course, this doesn't mean we've ended the discussion about what crowding, overcrowding, and running around like this really mean about the island's carrying capacity...but the discussion DOES go on.

Sports: Both the FHHS boys & girls head to playoff action in basketball next week, with the last regular season game this Friday, away at Coupeville. The wrestlers head to districts as well.

Another way to find stuff about us...Suzy and Tim Wilson have put together an online guide for the islands at it out!

posted: February 2, 1998

"Papa! There's a fire!" I was answering my e-mail this morning in the By Design Corporate Suites (actually, we're not incorporated, and the only suite was some honey in my echinacea tea...but I digress) when my boy Cameron crashed into the room. We ran to the east side of the house, and there was the fire - a beautiful sunrise that had every shade of orange, yellow, and red, blazing across the morning sky. "Isn't that great?" He was right.

Want to know more about that movie they're filming here? Check out Dale Roberson's page about it - he lives on the westside of the island near the park where the filming will happen, and is keeping an eye on them for us. Says he's gonna be continually updating the page with new photos and info.

I know what you're thinking: that Orcas Island is named after our orca whales - makes sense, right? But no - some Spanish fellow who "discovered" the island was named Something de Orcas...completely unconnected. Similarly, I'd always assumed Buck Mountain was named after the long-time island family Bucks. Visited with Bob Buck (and Barbara) this weekend, and he allowed as how his dad came up here to the islands around 1919. So is the Mountain a family namesake? "No," he laughed, "that's named for the deer. You know, a buck."

The Crucible at the theater was great. If you missed it, tough - that's what you get for waiting. FHHS Drama coach & director & guru & magician (how does he do it?) Fred Yockers tells me there were 100 people on a waiting list for tix Saturday night. The kids turned a difficult work into a fine piece of thought-provoking, emotion-evoking art. It was great.

posted: January 28, 1998

Well, last night was the last night for auditions for this spring's Sound of Music production at the Theater. The streets were deserted...I hear that it was pretty packed at the tryouts...

But some were at Katrina's, where Mike Cohen was singing. Mike's been playing the banjo and singing for over 50 years (we had a concert last year to celebrate), including stints in the NY folk scene, hangin' around Woody and the Weavers, and he must know about a million songs. He's a walking museum of traditional folk songs, so at Katrina's he gives you a menu of questions (ex.: Why did the Northern Star come out? Why could the lady only say "no"?) and then sings the song that answers the question. Wonderful voice, wonderful spirit.

Meanwhile, ace kindergarten teacher Nancy Cope was there (with Roy) making calls on a cell phone. Turns out this is "I Love To Read Week" at the elementary school, and if your teacher calls you between 7 and 7:30pm and you're reading, they announce your name on the announcements the next day, which is cool. She said she was having trouble catching anybody home; figured they all were maybe at the auditions. Mike said if was him, he'd set the phone answering machine on to say, "I can't answering the phone right now, I'm busy reading," which would cover the situation.

In other news, Sea World's page says orca whales live to an average of 25-35 years. Kinda misleading: ask Granny, our orca here who researchers say was probably born around the same time as Ronald Reagan; experts here have identified whales in their 60s and 70s as well. Throw in the relatively high calf mortality rate, and maybe Sea World's average is closer to right; it's clear, though, that whales live a heck of a lot longer if you don't stick 'em in tanks. Check the ages of our local whales (there's a list of 'em) on the Whale Museum's page.

Just heard Peggy Seeger's singing here in early March.

Movie thought: The movie people are gearing up to set up things for shooting later this winter and spring. Mary Ann Anderson wondered if it isn't about time the County didn't set up a film board or something to help avoid the confusion surrounding the present project. Sure would help make the movie makers feel more welcome - they could explain the rules and regs we have here, so our visitors would know what they're getting into.

Another economic thought: Just this past week, I heard four different folks comment about how hard it can be to afford living here. All have 40-50 hour-a-week jobs, work hard, and have trouble making ends connect. The pay here is usually a little higher than the mainland, but so are most expenses....All mentioned they were considering moving, which strikes me as sad.

Finally: The FHHS production of The Crucible was great. Simply great. This coming weekend's the last weekend. Don't blow it. Go.


Back issues:
Review the Update from November 24, 1997 to January 22, 1998.

Other places with info about the island:

San Juan Island: The Web Directory

Everything. Simply everything about the island.

The San Juan Island Chamber of Commerce.

Pretty complete site about the island.

The Journal's Site

Includes news and classifieds!


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Updated every five minutes.


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