Washington State’s Puget Sound is home to Whibey Island; the longest island in the contiguous United States. For the greater part of the last thirty-five years, it has been my home. Whidbey lies directly east of the Strait of Juan de Fuca which is the Pacific Ocean’s entry to Puget Sound. It sits atop an earthquake fault, gives land to two national forests, and its western shores are littered with remnants of the state’s timber industry and debris from the Pacific Ocean. In the Fall and Winter, fog is a problem. This year, thanks to La Nina, we will probably get more snow than usual. I won’t mind. In my opinion the climate is ideal. Rarely does the temperature fall below zero and, in the short Springs and Summers , if temperatures rise above the seventies, we are having a serious heat wave. Our industries are the Navy, farming, tourism, and limited boat building and marine services. We have a vineyard which harvests berries not grape. We sport a lively artist colony of painters, potters, photographers, iron sculpturers, and writers. We also supply much of the country with Penn Cove Mussels. Penn Cove is the island’s main inlet and, at one time, was also the basin for sewage disposal from beach front homes and businesses. Penn Cove has a poor reputation for flushing. Now its waters are littered with rafts of the mussel growing industy. I once ate some of their mussels and survived, so I guess it’s all a matter of taste.
The town of Oak Harbor has a healthy theater group. My own doctor has starred in The King And I, The Music Man, Chicago, and I suspect he is now appearing in Meet Me In St. Louis. If you go on line you can find comments about your doctor. One of the comments made about my physician was by a disgruntled patient who questioned something he either did or said. My doctor’s response: “What medical school did you attend?” I love it. My dermatologist is in deep trouble. After ten years of attempting a divorce, he skipped owing everyone a bundle, including the IRS, his office staff, and his staff’s retirement funds. Shame, shame. He was hauled in and apparently cited. When his court appearance came due, he skipped that, too. The last I heard of this saga was that the cops were after him. Too bad. I liked the man and his office showed great taste in art. Fortunately our police and sheriff’s departments are no better or worse than anyone elses.
When I first arrived on the island, one of the grocers issued grease pencils and you marked the price on your purchases. They have since moved, changed ownership, and adopted more modern pricing practices. The store also has a small Post Office outlet which is run by a woman of my generation. I have been so cruel as to name her “molasses”. She can be a trial and, though she wears a store uniform, I suspect she actually belongs to the Post Office. Our home delivery postal service is absolutely great, but try counter service and you will be disappointed. You are better off driving south to Coupeville, the County seat, and visiting their facility. There the Postmaster and his staff know why they exist: to wait on you . . . expeditiously and with courtesy. Oak Harbor is littered with fast food restaurants although KFC recently fled the coop. Walmart, Home Depot, and Applebee’s now honor us with their presence and meet our every earthly need. The local, smaller business have suffered a recent debacle. The town’s main business street, Pioneer Way, was found to be an Indian burial ground. Apparently that snag has been corrected since black plastic drapes are now removed and the street repaving and restructure are again underway. What a relief, except for the fact that it will now be a one way street which pisses off most citizens since they weren’t told of this revision before hand.
The island was originally settled by the Dutch, so the annual celebration of Holland Days, with its mainstreet parade, is a major community event. As is the Lion’s Club annual yard sale and the Coupeville Art Festival: they really draw the crowds. On the Fourth of July, the city shoots fireworks into Penn Cove taking care to miss the Yacht Club and any boaters who want a front seat to the excitement. There really are no great leaders in this community and I don’t mean to demean our Navy heroes. However, having spent twenty-two years in the Air Force myself, I am well aware of the military’s addiction to normalcy and conformity. We do, nevertheless have a few celebrities in our midst. Gary Locke, Washington State’s former governor and current ambassador to China, has purchased property in Coupeville according to my dog groomer. Shirley Collins, the founder of Sur La Table, runs a stylish little farmstead that would make Martha Stewart envious. And, I think writer, Elizabeth George, still lives somewhere on the island. Still not all our inhabitants have been desireable. One of the state’s most notorious serial murderers was born and raised in Oak Harbor. Also, not twenty-five miles south of where I live, the Feds ran the founder and leader of The Order to ground and killed him. The man’s life and death are celebrated by his Nazi adherents as they honor us with an annual reunion.