Greetings, Oak Harbor. I am delighted that my monthly musings about life on Whidbey Island will now appear in the Whidbey News-Times after debuting several years ago in the late, beloved Whidbey Examiner.
To those unfamiliar with this column, be aware that I sometimes write with tongue-in-cheek –– but not always. I muse, you decide.
I live “down island” near Coupeville but I know you well, Oak Harbor. I’m “up there” almost every day; State Highway 20 and I are best buds. It’s an honor to be movin’ on up to your Big City newspaper. (Long ago, in a galaxy far away, I wrote for another Big City newspaper called the Los Angeles Times.)
So here’s my muse of the moment. While Langley revels in its glossy image as a gorgeous, bliss-filled “Village by the Sea” and Coupeville poses in saturated colors as the epicenter of all that is quaint, historic and hike-worthy on our Rock, what do you claim as your beauty marks, Oak Harbor? What do you brag about? When your well-tanned relatives from Florida or Arizona call, what do you tell them they “absolutely” have to see or do when they finally come for a visit? Speak up! I can’t quite hear you!
Maybe you’re just too busy living to boast more about your own attractions. Let me help. You have Garry oaks. The Holland Happening. The Pigfest. The Oak Harbor Music Festival (and that, I’d say, does more than anything to warm up your conservative reputation in some quarters — rock on!) You have Frasers Gourmet Hideaway and Whidbey Coffee. Island Thrift and the Garage of Blessings. The Whidbey Playhouse. The Blue Fox Drive-In, where many a new family has been created. You have historic Pioneer Way (which I, for one, love as a one-way street). You have the best waterfront strolling path on the island down at Windjammer Park, and the Rock’s best Fourth of July fireworks display by far.
Heck, you even have Home Depot, Safeway and Walmart. Forget what some on our island may mutter about big box stores; they come in handy and save a lot of trips on the ferry or across the bridge. Now if you only had a Costco.
Also, how can I not love a town than has about five times more churches than fast-food drive-up windows? (Woe, however, unto any of the town’s “hip, modern” storefront congregations that decide to try drive-up worship: “Do you want fries with that communion?”)
You’re fortunate to be much younger than the rest of the Rock. Your average age is just over 31. By comparison, Coupeville’s average is approaching 55 and Langley’s is almost 60. You’ve got all that youthful energy, Oak Harbor. While the rest of the island does chair yoga and tai chi, you run marathons.
There are, of course, things that could be gussied up. Let’s dream up something fun and interesting to put in that empty lot where the Ford dealership used to be at Pioneer Way and Highway 20. As it is, it’s not much of a welcome invitation to all those visitors who drive through Oak Harbor –– on their way to someplace else. Without stopping, of course.
How about a family entertainment center and multiplex there? That’d be fun. Or maybe a “Best of Whidbey” marketplace selling everything from loganberry jam to local wines and hand-woven blankets? That’d make me stop and take a look. What else could it be?
That gives you a taste of how my musing works. I’d love some ideas for future columns from you. What’s up your sleeve?