Only on Vashon – The Weekly Rundown 02/05/2023

We have a skeleton that washed up on the beach.

An astute islander points out that it’s likely a vertebrate animal. I was pretty sure it was a jellyfish until they said that. I mean, you can just imagine some translucent goop around those bones, undulating around in the water. 

In the end, the consensus has it that it’s the spine and pelvis of a deer. So I guess imagine a deer undulating around in the water. 

Besides wayward skeletons, the issue galvanizing Vashon’s foremost opinion makers this week is this: “Pet peeve- sidewalks to nowhere and dinky little trees.”

I totally get it. Like, a sidewalk isn’t useful if it only goes one block, unless you live on the same block as Subway, I guess.

Of course, instead of focusing on the very valid point about the lack of accessible public space for pedestrians, we focus on the part where he complained about small trees. As one person says, “ I just love that you’re mad at trees because they take so long to grow. Lazy trees.“ It’s hard to plant a tree when it’s big. Just imagine trying to pull a fifty foot oak tree out of a pot. Not easy! 

The original poster employs ChatGPT to write an argument in his favor. It says you should plant large trees in sidewalks for a variety of environmental reasons. Why in the sidewalk and not beside it? I get the feeling that the artificial intelligence–existing as a nebulous assemblage of disparate computer architecture–has never planted a tree, or tried to break up concrete using a jackhammer. 

Reading text put together by chatGPT is almost painful in its banality. I prefer it when AI makes weird mistakes with grammar and surreal connections between unrelated ideas. I don’t like it when AI uses the words ‘furthermore’ and ‘in conclusion.’  It should use phrases like ‘barometric bungalow stream’ and ‘vacant overpopulated sprinkler attachment.’ 

AI should be what would happen if our collective consciousness, as expressed by the corpus of written language, dreamed. Instead, it writes like an eighth grader plagiarizing Wikipedia. 

AI is basically a jellyfish -mindlessly floating around absorbing little shrimp and turning it into brainless ephemera and the occasional blast of venom. 

Someone is in need of a contractor to do a task that so far AI can’t do. They say, “ISO: someone to change a light bulb. Licensed & bonded please. No lamplighters or gaslighters.”

Our first reaction? Correct their spelling, Someone insists it’s spelled ‘lightbulb.’ But even that person is corrected, as another islander says, “We industry professionals call them ‘lamps’.”

Others point out that lightbulbs are bad for the environment and should be exchanged for candles. I tried screwing a candle into my light socket, and it didn’t work, so maybe I also need a contractor.

Another islander says, “Light bulbs have feelings. Don’t force it to change.” I like this attitude. This is why my house is dark. It still has all the vintage light bulbs that came with it when we moved in ten years ago. 

We have this post, which at first read to be a dig at climbers. 


My initial reaction was, you mean mountain climbers? We don’t like them? And they’re wildlife? Then I realized it was just a poor graphical layout. The only animal that doesn’t get a positive adjective is the goose, who flies in cool triangles. None of the other animals on the list have mastered geometry. So much hate. 

We then get into a discussion of whether possums actually exist on the island, and it turns out they do, but there are few of them. Some argue that it’s unfortunate that there are few because they’re good for the environment. Others contend that they carry Lyme disease and their feces are toxic to horses, so maybe it’s good there aren’t many. 

Armed with this information, I believe the sign should be changed thusly:

Lastly, an islander is parked in front of the abandoned K2 factory selling chainsaws out of his truck in exchange for dead cell phones. Also, someone’s heading to Costa Rica to get dental work done, and their dentist collects US license plates. They don’t have a Washington one yet, so an islander is looking for old Washington plates. I wish I could exchange an old license plate for dental work. And go to Costa Rica. That sounds nice too. Maybe I can exchange a dead cell phone for a chainsaw, which I then exchange for an old license plate, and then for dental work?  This is the post apocalyptic barter economy I’ve always wanted.

Anna Shomsky
Author: Anna Shomsky

I'm a former teacher and a data engineer living on Vashon Island. My writing has appeared in Five on the Fifth, Women on Writing and on the Post-Culture Podcast. I wrote and produced the radio show Whispers of Vashon for 101.9 KVSH. I’ve had short stories published in the anthologies Island Stories and Chicken Scratchings, as well as through the Open Space Literary Project.

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