2002.05.30 The mysterious city of Ballard

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

People are dying in Cle Elum, Wash. A couple of hours to the west, in Ballard, they’re passing away.

Faithful readers might recall my interest in obituary styles from newspapers that I receive.

A couple people didn’t merely die in the Cle Elum area—they died peacefully—but not a soul passed away.

My brother, Little Danny, sent two Washington papers last week and I quickly took a look at how people are passing on into another realm. For Dan, it’s the police news that makes it worth opening small weekly newspapers. I frequently hear comments from him about the Observer’s reports.

Dan sent a copy of the Ballard News-Tribune with a note attached to the front: “Don’t miss Cops and Robbers on page 3!” Actually, he used four exclamation points and the story was worth each one of them, if not more.

Where many papers use boring headlines such as ours (Police News), the News Tribune has the large heading Cops and Robbers with bullet holes scattered across the display. It must be pretty wild territory up there in…well, I’m not sure.

The paper talks about Ballard as though it’s a real place, but just try to find it on a map or in an atlas. It doesn’t really exist. People are dying and exposing themselves in an imaginary town.

The item Dan thought I might enjoy reading was titled Indecent Exposure. Dan was right. I did enjoy reading it and I enjoyed intermittent laughter while thinking about it for the next five minutes.

A man was seen standing in front of a bush at the library at around 2:50 on a Sunday afternoon with his pants down. He acted surprised when he heard a woman walking by and he quickly dressed and ran off. The woman wanted to prosecute and told police she would certainly be able to recognize the guy if she saw him again.

A suspect was later detained and denied the incident. While police went to get another witness, the man admitted he was in the area earlier in the afternoon and here’s his story.

While walking by the library, the drawstring on his shorts came untied. He stopped to retie them and then his left leg went numb, causing him and his shorts to fall. The sharp police investigator then asked how his underwear had also fallen, but the man said he wasn’t wearing any.

He was trying to get some feeling back into his left leg when the woman walked by.

I’m glad I don’t have to write stories like this one.

“I was really excited. It was a good feeling.”

This isn’t the police news anymore. This is a report on a high school sophomore who received an award from Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

“I thought the board was going to zig, but they didn’t. They zagged.”

That was outreach coordinator Ed Stone talking about a proposed monorail that might pass through the imaginary community of Ballard.

“Route options for the proposed monorail still remain—pardon the pun—up in the air.”

That was News-Tribune editor Adam Richter writing in an embarrassing style.

“My associates will be honorary Beavers that night. It’s a once in a lifetime deal,” Flick said.

That was Bob Flick of the Brothers Four, talking about returning to his alma mater, Ballard High School, home of the Ballard Beavers.

“Free Ballard! Free the neighborhoods!”

That was Chamber president Mark Pahlow explaining the Ballard mystery. It was a city until Seattle took it over in 1907.

“I don’t want to be 100,” she said. “I’d rather be 49.”

That was a refreshingly honest 100-year-old woman talking about her birthday.

“This will give you something to write about.”

That was a parent at the softball game when the Beaver team won its third straight Metro League title. The headline writer had to insert that sports cliché “three-peat.”

I find it very odd that writer Dean Wong included the parent’s yell in his sports story (“This will give you something to write about,” yelled one parent as I left the field), but the parent was right on two counts. It gave Dean something to write about and, thankfully, it did the same for me.

    – May 30, 2002
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