Stick a Fork in It: of Railways and Reagan

by Jim Washburn

“What’s new in Sequim and environs?” regular readers might be wondering, since it’s been a good five months since I checked in from the family’s northern redoubt on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.

Well, stabbing seems to be in vogue, edging out previous local enthusiasms such as cattle-tipping and shooting, though there was a recent shootout in a WalMart parking lot in Port Orchard that made national news. Conveniently, WalMart is the nation’s largest retailer of firearms and ammo.

But my two favorite headlines in the Peninsula Daily News were “’Stinky Feet’ teen stabber sentenced” and “Woman stabs Beaver man with two-pronged, steak-knife fork.”

In the first, 18-year-old female Dallas Smith had “stabbed a young man in a drunken rage after he teased her about having stinky feet.” The man received a collapsed lung, and Smith received 15 months behind bars plus an assignment to write a paper of not less than six pages addressing the downsides of binge drinking.

 My town, Costa Mesa, has its share of murders and brawls, but the local paper, The Daily Pilot, has rarely had a headline to rival “Woman stabs Beaver man with two-pronged, steak-knife fork.”

It probably calls for a bit of explanation. “Beaver man” is not a muff-diving superhero, but, rather, a person living in Beaver, a town quite near to Forks, the town now made famous by the Twilight series. As Aspen, CO is to ski bums, so Forks is to troubled young vampires, both to fictional ones and to would-be bloodsuckers who have made Forks an improbable tourist destination.

Anyway, in a Beaver travel trailer, 44-year-old Dana Rafmussen allegedly stabbed her live-in male friend Corey Wine in the lower back to punctuate a daylong argument they’d been having over her desire to have him move out.

Usually, one does not find a headline describing a fork in as much detail as the Peninsula paper afforded it, but the editor likely deemed it necessary to distinguish the fork from Forks, and also to make a point of the size and two-tined nature of the offending utensil so that readers would not assume the puncture was the work of a backbiting midget vampire.

I’m still hopeful that someday I’ll see a full place-setting in a Peninsula headline: “Spooning Forks man knifed by napping kin.”


Two of the great hallmarks of civilization are sidewalk cafes and good public transit. Seattle abounds in both, though it takes a hardier breed then me to brave the former in this season.

The high temperatures when I was up there ranged from 37 to 46. You do acclimate; eventually you can function in the chilling grey twilight that passes for day, but you do not love it for long. Bracing loses its novelty. Meanwhile, on the eastern seaboard, it was, what, 19 below zero?

We always love hearing from our friend John Dunn, who was forced to move from Newport Beach back to his native Boston a few years ago for his health. Massachusetts, thanks to that raving socialist Mitt Romney, has a nearly-humane health care program where, unlike in California and most states, John could get the life-saving heart surgery and follow-up he needed. He is stuck there—he couldn’t afford his medication anywhere else—but he does not love it.

You have never heard weather hated upon so hard as when a Boston Irishman is damning the fucking goddamn snow to hell. This winter has been a daily affront to John. If an Englishman spit in his face I don’t know that he’d take it as personally as he does the rain, sleet and snow, not to mention the fucking summer. I’m sorry for his plight, but it makes me love where we live all the more.

Seattle light rail

I love Seattle, too. I thought about moving there for decades, but never did, because I knew each luscious summer day is paid for in grim winter weeks. I was born in Hawaii, and can only go so long without sunlight.

Maybe some cities shine brighter to counter the drab skies. Seattle has oodles of culture, community and curiosities. It’s been a while since I’ve stayed in town, but I always at least try to grab a meal en route from Sequim to Sea-Tac with my friends Andy and Karl, who, between them, appear to know every one and place in greater Seattle.

We ate at a newer restaurant called Flying Fish—friendly trout, nice people—then Karl drove me to a delightfully idiosyncratic used bookstore, Anderson Books, up a flight of stairs in an old building in Ballard. The owner, Mark Anderson, dredges up books and pamphlets I had no idea I needed. I bought photo books on Gaudi and ’60s pop music images plus an early ’60s Disneyland guide book, which is a remarkable indicator about how things have changed: In photos showing thousands of people enjoying the Happiest Place on Earth, there is not one single person of color depicted. Unless you’re a Birther, how happy is that?

Anderson was nice enough to mail the books to me, because I wasn’t traveling with rolling luggage, and was about to avail myself of one of Seattle’s more recent civilizing amenities: a light rail train that runs from downtown right to the airport.

It opened about a year ago, and my wife and I had taken it before. It’s a shiny, ick-free, smooth-riding bit of civic pride, costing a mere $2.50 to traverse what can otherwise be a half-hour, $40 cab ride. There has also long been an express bus that will run you to the airport cheaply, but it was just inconvenient enough that friends usually insisted on driving me.

Now they have no compunction about dumping me downtown. The train’s northern terminus is Westlake Center, which is also the southern endpoint of the city’s 1962-built monorail, which holds the distinction of being the nation’s sole self-sufficient public transit system.

The monorail station is upstairs in the shopping center, while the train and bus tunnel is well below ground. Very Disney, and the train provides scenic fun to rival Disneyland’s railway: going through tunnels; elevated, monorail-like, for some of the way; and riding at ground level parallel to Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, through neighborhoods that more than make up for vintage D-land’s lack of diversity.

You’ll pass Buddhist temples, Ethiopian restaurants, Filipino markets, Afro hair salons, and cheerful Habitat for Humanity housing projects. Even the rust in the scrap metal yards seems more colorful than what you’ll find alongside the commuter rail that rumbles and lurches between OC and LA, not to mention Seattle has commissioned piles of playful public art along the route.

What a fine transit town. We can take the rail downtown from the airport, walk a few blocks to the ferry station, and be on the Olympic Peninsula in no time. From there, though, to do the 75 minute car ride to Sequim by bus instead can take 3 ½ hours, with long waits in the rain between buses. But Seattle? It’s tip-top; buses aplenty running all over the place. There’s even a number you can call where a real human being will help you figure out how to get where you’re going.

What a far cry from the transit district down here, where the goal seems to be to punish the working poor for being poor.separator

Nothing too much new back home, though I did get a letter in the Daily Pilot newspaper recently. A Newport Beach city councilman—once a Reagan White House staffer—proposed and got approved a $60,000 statue of Reagan to be placed somewhere or other in the city. It’s not political, he insisted, citing the spontaneous, grassroots effort in towns across the nation to name things after the Gipper; neglecting to mention that it’s actually the result of a concerted, well-funded, GOP-orchestrated campaign.

So I did my civic duty and wrote the paper:

In commissioning a public statue of Ronald Reagan, I hope it is the Newport Beach City Council’s intent to honor his career in film—starring in such classics as Bedtime for Bonzo and Girls on Probation—because his achievements as president are hardly even fit for pigeons to roost on. His policies created the biggest deficit in US history (until it was topped by George W. Bush); his Afghan policy helped create and fund the radical Islamists who became the Taliban; his covert war in Nicaragua was an affront to the US Constitution and the rule of law; he used our tax dollars to prop up brutal despots and dictators around the world; he supported South Africa’s apartheid government; we’re now reaping the whirlwind of his destructive environmental policies; he lied about his military service—the list goes on for pages. Why blight Newport Beach with a statue of him?

Jim Washburn
Costa Mesa

I know the list goes on for pages, because I happened to write one back in 2002. It’s here, if you’re in the mood for a stroll down memory lane.

Jim Washburn has written for the Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Register, the OC Weekly, various MSN sites and just about anybody else willing to trade a paycheck for a pulse.


I thought you were born in Kenya.

2011-02-2 by Mr. Osney

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