By David Anderson
“Gilligan’s Island” started off with a three-hour tour.
The seven members of the Lakewood City Council have been invited by Major General Bret D. Dougherty to a “two-to-three hour tour” of Camp Murray sometime in February or March, 2014 according to City Manager John Caulfield who briefed the council to that end this past November 25 (click here, then again on “Council Agenda December 16, 2013” and scroll to p.32).
To fully appreciate this Tour de Murray, the ‘noir ambiance’ would hardly be complete without the tourists timing their visit so as to idle their time – and their engine – while sitting – and stewing – in Tillicum traffic, experiencing the “deep shadows, creating feelings of disorientation, loneliness and entrapment” which is both how ‘noir ambiance’ is used in a sentence and what Tillicum residents experience on a Monday-Friday basis thanks to the cut-through vehicles of Murray employees who parade through town, beneficiaries of a deal struck – over our dead property – between Lakewood leaders located north of Exit 123 and the military brass south of Exit 122, Tillicum marooned in the middle.
Given one of the major themes/goals of a just completed listening tour conducted by city staff which lists “promot(ing) better access to Lakewood tak(ing) advantage of proximity to I-5 and six freeway exits” – the subject of the just completed council retreat held at City Hall (click here and then again on “Council Retreat Agenda, Dec.14”) – it would be well to see how well, or not, access, or for that matter exit, is being accomplished in Tillicum – a town cut off by water to the West, a golf course to the North, I-5 to the East which is inevitably slated to also feature several high speed Amtrak trains per day and, of course, the aforementioned National Guard watching over the state’s security to the South.
Getting off Gilligan’s Island was only slightly more difficult.
In the sitcom version, the seven (two crew members of the charter boat S. S. Minnow and five passengers) are castaways having become shipwrecked on some godforsaken and unchartered mound of dirt with a few trees – enough to build huts – surrounded by water – located somewhere – and with sporadic static on their inadequate portable receiver indicating life was to be found – elsewhere – in addition to themselves.
The seven pass the time foraging for food and fashion a vast array of useful, infrastructure-type objects, some which require a suspension of disbelief – all of course laugh-tracked, “heavily inspired by Laurel and Hardy.” Their comic efforts to survive – somewhat successful – became a popular slapstick TV series in which their repeated attempts to escape typically fail owing to some bumbling error.
Fortunately for the Gilligan-and-friends characters, and the citizens of Tillicum for that matter, fish are plentiful.
That however, is where the similarities end or nearly so.
In our case, life on Tillicum’s island is not a running gag.
In our case, getting off Tillicum’s island is, at times, possible – pending which way the tide of Camp Murray traffic is flowing.
Thanks to the change in location of the Camp Murray gate that was supported by the City of Lakewood and opposed by Tillicum residents who shelled out $20,000 in court in an attempt to prevent it from happening, the employees of the Washington Military Department are allowed as a result of their victory to drive the entire length and interior of our island community.
While “Camp Murray admitted that their gate relocation will ‘continue to divert more traffic – an additional 900 vehicle trips – through the residential neighborhood along Portland Ave, adding to the 2,700 daily vehicles’” already jammed into that less-than-one-mile stretch, they – and the city – argued the streets could handle the traffic.
Besides, Portland Avenue serves “only a small residential area,” Camp Murray wrote in its February 10, 2010 Environmental Assessment (pp.46,47).
But “‘how much traffic should streets carry?’ is an example of a civic dispute reduced to arguments over numbers in which case ‘the point has usually been lost,’ observes Knute Berger of Seattle’s ‘official backing of happiness.’
“Communities are more than formulas, opined Berger. They are a way of life.”
When Andrew Neiditz was manager of Lakewood, he enthused about how Murray’s population would, at the end of their shift and thanks to the gate relocate, reintegrate into society: “In short, the new traffic configuration would orient traffic toward Berkeley and away from Portland Avenue to minimize neighborhood impacts” (excerpt from TNT Op-ed, July 31, 2011).
Now, over two years and several episodes later – how is Tillicum’s made-for-TV drama series being played out?
Actually, a bit like Gilligan and castaways who “would sometimes receive a piece of news arriving from the outside world only to get a second piece of news saying the first was incorrect.”
According to a recent piece of news (email) from the outside world (a city official in the Public Works department), “Berkeley Street (where half of Murray traffic is supposed to go if they want to get out of Tillicum southbound) is somewhat improved from very, very bad to just very bad – and North Thorne Lane (where the other half goes) has gone from fair to bad.”
And that’s the good news.
The bad news is Tillicum awaits rescue in a sequel, hopefully with a different outcome than that entitled “Rescue from Gilligan’s Island” in which “the castaways did successfully leave the island but during a reunion cruise on the first Christmas after their rescue fate intervened and they found themselves wrecked on the same island at the end of the film.”
There was another attempt too, to resurrect the good times of the TV series, in which the wanderers were plucked from their poverty only to return to the island converting it into a getaway resort. The new series called for the castaways to host new groups of tourists each week. They’d be rich. It would be a dream come true – every economic developer’s windfall.
And yet so realistic was their plight that the United States Coast Guard reportedly received telegrams from concerned citizens on occasion “pleading for them to rescue the people on the deserted island.”
Tillicum’s message in a bottle bobbing about in WSDOT waters evidently has been spotted and brought on board such that the Washington State Department of Transportation officials are on board – or at least “they’re talking about it” – with “modifying the signal timing at the North Thorne interchange,” according to the same aforementioned Lakewood Public Works official.
“In addition – Berkeley Street will be getting capacity improvements with our Madigan Access project that will add an additional lane on the overpass heading to Madigan. That project will be constructed in late 2014 to early 2015.
“Hopefully we are working toward the ultimate solution of an interchange replacement (or two) at the Thorne Lane (and Berkeley Street) interchange(s) which haven’t been touched since they were built in 1956. Lakewood is actively lobbying legislatures to put/keep these interchanges in the potential new funding package.”
A red-light-green-light timing change, two bridge replacements and Tillicum has hope.
That’s better than two of the attempts at resurrecting Gilligan’s Island once the series ended. Neither successful, finally the lagoon where Gilligan’s Island was filmed was drained and used as a parking lot and that, in turn, later demolished for an expansion project.
Not a happy prospect to think our swamp of an island community could continue to be drained in the name of so-called economic improvement, or someone’s idea of an environmentally friendly campus which is a most unacceptable exchange when you consider that pavement for driving through someone else’s neighborhood has priority not only over the people who happen to call it home but which achieves a most questionable objective in a walk-about strolling expanse at the aforementioned peoples’ expense.
Which reminds me, the city is looking for a tune, or a “marketing ‘phrase or slogan’ to establish community identity/image,” one of the New Year’s resolutions per this weekend’s council retreat.
Perhaps a “sea shanty-style theme song like ‘The Ballad of Gilligan’s Isle,’” that encapsulated a summary of the castaways’ predicament. The idea, at least it was for sea wayfarers, is so first-time viewers – or in our case visitors – would instantly understand what’s happening here.
If you’ve a submission, cap it in a bottle and toss it on out there.