only on vashon – the weekly rundown 9/17/22

We posed the question, “Tell me you live on Vashon Island without telling me you live on Vashon Island.” 

Many short comments, one right after another, read like a poem. If you try really hard, they can be sung to the tune of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel. 

P2P, No bridge, mud bogs

I think our mayor is a dog

I found somebody’s missing goats

I was the last one on the boat

Jesus Barn, one stop light

nettles, augies, Stupid Bike Night

Riding horses to the Dairy Queen,

no you go, Jesus Barn again

Okay, that last rhyme was pretty forced, the rhythm’s off, and I couldn’t figure out how to get “asphyxiating on a stackable washer” in there. Workshop it in the comments, please. 

And now for the weekly animal report: We’ve got coyotes! We’ve been tracking them around Burton and as far as Old Mill Road. They were even at the bottom of Morgan Hill, where my dog spotted them chasing a stag. The coyotes have been terrorizing cats, but an islander informs us that coyotes have “mad respect for donkeys.” As one should. 

And you know what else coyotes have mad respect for? The flag. 

So we got into it about the flag. A local business had a display that involved a flag draped over a table. A group member asked: “Doesn’t using the American flag as a tablecloth violate the flag code? If you’re patriotic, shouldn’t you know this?”

Opinion was mixed. 

As to the patriotism question. We all know that patriotism is 99% about following arbitrary rules of flag etiquette and 1% about helping our communities thrive. So let’s dig into the flag code, which many people helpfully linked to. 

Someone gave us a snippet of the flag code, namely  United States code 4 U. S. Code section 8 – respect for flag.(d) “The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.”

Turns out the flag code is better thought out than the Tax Code.

Okay, so the flag itself can’t be used as drapery. But someone asked, what if you have cloth with the American flag pattern, but it’s not an actual flag?

A group member pointed out  that he got an American flag tie at the gift shops in Pearl harbor and the Federal Government Gift Shop in DC. They wouldn’t sell those there if they were illegal, right? 

So there is a difference between a flag and a cloth with a flag pattern. This is the kind of argument I live for. It’s like arguing whether a hotdog counts as a sandwich. It’s all about creating a system of rules and definitions and then seeing how everything aligns within those terms, and finding the most obscure and borderline examples to see if you can test the limits of your definitions. 

(A hot dog is a sandwich.) 

Now we get into the nitty-gritty. It turns out the restaurant draped a table in an actual flag, but it wasn’t being used as a tablecloth. It was draped over an unused table as part of a memorial for fallen soldiers. So we reach another point in our quest for the perfect definition. Is it still a tablecloth if it’s draped over a table that no one eats at? 

I tend to agree with the commenter who said, “Just don’t spill the gravy on it and everything will be ok.”

So then another group member asked us to consider the intent behind the action. Did they mean for it to be disrespectful, or were they doing it out of national pride? 

The restaurant workers asked the American Legion if the display was disrespectful, and the American Legion volunteer gave it the go-ahead. (Is this an example of the ad hominem logical fallacy? Or is it ok to defer to authority on these matters? Let’s debate this for six hours.)

This shows that the restaurant had the intent of showing patriotism. My vote is that the restaurant i in the clear.

I’d like to address the question of whether we should show so much deference to the flag. I’d go so far as to say that the inverse is more meaningful. Does the nation that this flag represents respect its citizens, residents, and the people of other nations all over the world? Has the flag and the nation it represents earned our respect? Does the flag deserve a code that’s longer than the universal declaration of human rights

We end with a philosophical take from one of our group members, “Things only have the importance you assign to them.”

And an even more philosophical point, with which I’m sure we can all agree: “I think American flag bikinis are the most patriotic of all.”

Chicken accessories/clothes image 0
God shed his grace on thee

One isalnder shared an image of a group of bicyclists riding three abreast while wearing matching bridesmaids shirts. 

We again got into the nitty-gritty of posting screenshots of various laws to figure out whether this kind of bike riding is illegal. (Though no one mentioned that taking a picture on your phone while driving might not be the most legal of things to do on the road.) 

Many of us got upset that bikers act like they own the road, when in fact roads are for the exclusive use of cars. I was always under the impression that roads are a public good, to be used by all people be they on foot, bike, horse, motorcycle, car, bus, truck, tractor, camper, glamper that’s towing a boat, etc. 

One islander pointed out how the island is billed as a haven for bikers, but we have narrow shoulders and no bike lanes. Even if bikers are riding single file, you still can’t pass on Quartermaster. It becomes an exercise in patience, which, according to section 125 (b) of the Flag Code, is a virtue. 

Even though bikers are the bane of this world, it turns out drivers can occasionally be a bit unsympathetic too. There is someone called the Tahlequah Honker. Every day at 4am, they honk to get the attention of the person they are picking up. I would like to say it’s a rude thing for anyone to make so much noise that early in the morning, but then I’d have to do something about my roosters, who crow like car horns every day starting at 4. 

A woman is in search of babies she can watch. She needs her baby fix. Some grown men offered themselves up, citing their baby-like behavior when tired or sick. The poster insisted that they’d have to fit in a Baby Bjorn. Thankfully she also found islanders with actual real babies.

There will be Irish road bowling on Saturday, September 25 at 3 PM on Old Mill Road at 220th, by the sheep dog trials field. 

Finally, a hamburger is a sandwich. Meet me at the road bowling if you want to fight about it. 

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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