Only on Vashon – The Weekly Rundown 09/24/2023

We have been arguing about the Vashon Troll for months.  

We wanted to photograph it before the unveiling and were upset when asked not to. 

We were irritated that the Ballard troll was being built in the Point Robinson Parking lot, and all I have to say about that is, why didn’t anyone tell me earlier? I would’ve gone to check it out.

We’ve complained that trolls are boring. As one islander says, “I never got the troll thing. The Fremont troll holding the VW vaguely interesting. Otherwise not really interesting.” Though this is not an especially helpful critique, because they don’t offer suggestions about what form public art should take. 

Perhaps they would prefer something a little more divine, like the Quezalcóatl sculpture in San Jose that, from behind, looks alarmingly like poo. 

Others felt it didn’t represent the community, and we should invest more in local artists. 

We had a thread started by an anonymous member with 134 comments that said: “I know everyone seems to be excited about the troll, but maybe an indigenous artist creating art that’s related to the stolen land would have been better.”

It spawned a discussion of how to honor indigenous people, how to give back land, whether land acknowledgements are meaningful or if they’re just hot air to alleviate guilt without accomplishing anything concrete.

We’ve argued about whether the troll will draw tourists, and if so, will it be a blessing or a curse? And will tourists even be able to get to the troll, what with the ferry problems? 

Some people don’t like it for what seem like purely aesthetic reasons. One islander says, “I really don’t give a rat’s posterior about the prospect of a Vashon troll. I hate the one in Fremont; it’s trite and cutesy and well, Fremont sucks now because of Susie. My tastes would be more conducive to sculpting a Brutalist Gollom under the Judd Creek Bridge, but I get it. I’m not nice. I want people to be horrified, not delighted.”

(As a side note, I think people use golem and goblin interchangeably, when a golem is a being made of clay and brought to life by the Hebrew word emet (truth) being written on them. Like so many things in Judaism, there are many variations on the golem, as well as an endless debate about its meaning, origin, history, and symbolism, which we won’t get into here, but feel free to discuss in the comments.) 

Pic via Getty images: Golems, made of clay, representing how life is made from unformed matter and given its true substance by the word. Or maybe it represents our true, brutish nature which can be shaped into action by words– see for example the story of the golem unleashed on Prague. Dammit, I said I wouldn’t get into the discussion here! Anyway, they are definitely not little shits who lurk under bridges or hoard rings.

Our posts about the troll are not all anger and vitriol. Many of us like the troll. As one person said, “The troll project is a good project and you may feel allowed to be proud to be a part of it! (Trying to not be the feelings police.)”

And now, finally, the troll  is here. 

He’s sitting on his throne, judging you for your Facebook posts. 

An author from Seattle’s child came to the island to visit the troll, and while she was here, took in the many sights. As for where to eat, she suggests, and I quote, “Stop by the deli counter at the Vashon Thriftway for handcrafted sandwiches and snacks.” 

Yes, come to Vashon, we have not only a world-famous troll, but also a grocery store. 

We speculate how long it will take the troll to get vandalized. Brunn Idun in Lincoln park has already gotten a pair of shorts spray-painted on her. 

She has since been cleaned, and I wonder whose job it is to wash the shorts off the troll. 

As a wise islander said of troll graffiti,  “A pox upon anyone that would be so lame. I’m tired of hearing about the damn troll but let a player live.” 

Another person has a good compromise on how we can interact with this public art: “I mean it would be tempting to put pants on a troll statue but like respect the art. Don’t paint em. If you can find pants big enough for the troll that can be easily removed….. I’d support that”

Someone who worked on the project said, “The bet some of us had on site was how long it would be before someone fell off trying to climb to the top.”

Besides grand, formidable works of art, our island has another new, imposing public feature we need to discuss: trash cans. We have a post that is a multi-paragraph essay, but the thesis is here: 

They include these pictures on the post for reference: 

You all need to lay off the caffeine

Some commenters are worried that people are bringing their garbage from home and putting it in the trash cans. “This Sunday morning, while drinking coffee at the Roasterie, we saw a guy take his bag of trash from his car, cross the road, then put it into the trash can at the VCA corner. “

Others think it shows the decline of our rural character. One says, “That is what happens when you want to be like the big cities. Next thing you will see is when the cans are full, trash spewing out onto the ground. Then that same guy will just drop his trash next to the can.”

Others think it’s best if the garbage is contained, if not entirely in the trash can, then at least in proximity to it. They say, “We’ve become a tourist-based island. So, along with the tourists comes the garbage. And we’ll be lucky if they use the provided garbage cans instead of just tossing their garbage on the ground or out of their car windows.”

I haven’t seen any tourists do this. However, I propose we send every tourist home with some authentic Vashon garbage. I have a number of chipped mugs, torn socks, and empty kombucha bottles they could have. 

Others have an idea of how to turn this into a public art project, which, according the the troll posts, is something the island needs: “Maybe trash cans created by local artists to be beautiful and iconic, placed throughout town during July and August could work, but during the long cold winter months, they may invite trash that wouldn’t otherwise be in town at all.”

If we make those cans, then Seattle’s Child can run an article that says, “After feeding your children hand-crafted mac-n-cheese from the grocery store deli counter, you can dispose of their to-go containers in one of Vashon’s bespoke, locally-made, seasonal garbage cans.” 

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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