Ghost Poke

1978 – One day I was sitting in the rec center at Cordell Hull Junior High, around a table in one of the four chairs.

Three of my friends were sitting in the others. One friend found a hole in the naugahyde and put his finger in. “Hahahahaha,” he said as he jammed his finger in and out of the hole. We all laughed too. Then he made one big hard jam into the hole with his finger.

The girl sitting across from him jolted almost out of the seat, like she was slipping off the naugahyde.

We all started laughing hysterically at this physical comedy that just unfolded in front of us. She laughed for about three seconds, then looked really creeped out – like something had poked her from inside the chair.

We all stopped laughing, looked around at each other, and never spoke of it again.


The Disco Encounter

“Disco sucks, you fruit.”

In 1979 I was delivering newspapers one afternoon, wearing a shirt I had custom made with iron on letters. The message: “Disco: Ignore It And Maybe It Will Go Away.” It was at the height of the “disco invasion,” a time when most of us felt that the music and lifestyle associated to it was taking over every facet of our lives. Established entertainers were releasing disco albums. Shiny satin shirts and other expensive clothes were all the rage, even with those who could not afford the lifestyle. TV shows were Disco-tizing their theme songs. Disco versions of popular non-disco albums were available at the local Music Market.

My shirt was a direct cry against the genre saturation we all felt.

I don’t recall what I paid to have it made, but I do recall the phrase was coined by my sister Janice. Two guys – possibly stoners and obviously rockers, passed me as I was hauling my paper cart, and made it known how much they hated disco.

“That’s what it says,” I replied to them. “That is, if you can read.”

Cold Case Solved, Memories Flood Back

Diana Peterson

On December 21, 2007, a man was charged in a nearly 33-year-old murder.

King County Sheriffs department had a series of detectives assigned to the case for over three decades, and the team had finally cracked it. I love cold case investigations, especially ones like this that are so old. So when I read the original headline in the Seattle-PI – Man Charged in 33-year-old Slaying Case – I thought, “cool…another DNA test has found a killer.”

But this case was different.

As soon as I started reading the article, I realized there was more to the story. More that somehow involved me, but the reason was unclear. Why did she look familiar, I asked myself? Something about her picture in the article really caught my attention, like I had seen it before. When I read that the murder had occurred in unincorporated King County – now Shoreline – on February 15th 1975, I was stunned.

The victim looked familiar because she had gone to school with my oldest sister.

Diana Peterson’s memorial picture was on the back page of Janice’s 1974-75 Shoreline High School annual. The memory of this case rushed back to me like a tidal wave. It was a picture that I had looked at time and time again, with an 11-year old mind trying to understand why someone this pretty had died. One look at her picture in 2007, and I was suddenly in 5th grade all over again. I remember feeling sadness and confusion back that year, listening to Jim Croce and looking through Jan’s annual – lingering long on the picture of Diana Peterson. I guess I didn’t really know why at the time, and I now find it interesting that over three decades later I still remembered once I saw the picture.

After I read the article I called Janice.

“Do you have your annuals handy?” She did. “Do you remember someone in your class being killed?” She didn’t, but started looking through her annuals – only to find Diana Peterson’s picture in one of them. Jan was just as shocked about the incident as me, and just as relieved that the crime appeared to be solved. While talking to Jan about it, I actually started getting choked up. 33 years later, and I still had feelings about it inside. The Peterson family also has a huge sense of relief now that they know something has broken free in the case.

The trial in a Shoreline 1975 cold case started May 13, 2009. It drew out as a story of love, lust, anger, jealousy, a hunting knife, death-bed testimony, and 30+ years of denial. It was also a case that was within three miles of my home growing up. I followed the case and the trial. I even did a search of court records to find out what was going on. Why?

Because I couldn’t help it.

Diana Peterson’s picture kept haunting me. I was the only one in my family who remembered her face. Not long after I posted this originally back in 2007, my Mom commented about it. “Your dad and I earlier read today’s article and agreed we had no recall of the event,” she admitted. “[Yet] you have carried that picture in your mind all this time. You were so often ‘wise beyond your years.’ Well done.”

I find it interesting that I remembered this story on the anniversary of her death.

The accused received a sentence of 16 years to life, under statutes that were in place when the murder occurred. While Diana is no longer with us, the horror of that night is over and those who cared about her now know justice has been served. Kudos to the King County Sheriff’s office for their determination to bring closure to a case that spanned four decades.

Rest In Peace, Diana.

12/21/2007 – Seattle-PI Article
12/22/2007 – Seattle Times Article
5/13/2009 – Trial Proceedings
6/9/2009 – Guilty verdict
7/24/2009 – Sentence of 16 years to Life
7/24/2009 – Interview – Defendant says he didn’t kill classmate

Originally published in four posts on Blogger – 2007 to 2009. Combined and posted to Intersect on Feb 15, 2011.

Thank You Chess Club

Thank you Junior High Chess Club, for making me a better photographer.

I came to the club after school twice a week – with diligence because I loved Chess. I never won a game. In fact, Chess Club, you would typically beat me in a mere  handful of moves. Over and over. Each one of you. I was the newbie punching bag. Never able to move past that point. And through all the beatings and smug checkmates, you also said a total of 8 words to me in the weeks I attended. Eight words from no fewer than six other kids. No effort to teach, engage or encourage.

And because of that I quit Chess Club and joined the Annual Staff.

Using my Mom’s camera and unlimited black & white film supplied by the school, I took pictures of everything and got feedback from the the staff advisor. She pointed me towards what looked good and what needed to go away. She trained, engaged, and encouraged.

Her actions carried value for a lifetime.

So thank you Chess Club, for being pompous self-righteous gamers. If you hadn’t been so, I would still be stuck at a board losing my back line to a checkmate. Because of you I’m capturing life as it happens with a camera.

And I am much better off.

Christmas 1972 Photo Brings Many Memories


One photo, so many memories. Scanned this slide from Christmas 1972, showing sister Karen sporting her killer Poncho. My suit jacket was shinier than Wayne Newton’s Atomic White Teeth.

I love the hand-made Wise Men statues and the wicker chair in the background.

This was taken at our home in Preston WA, which is east of Seattle on I-90 by 20-odd miles. The Christmas ornaments were styrofoam balls covered with shiny threads that ran from top to bottom all the way around. They actually looked pretty cool. On the mantle are 1972-73 school pictures, plus art pieces from Alaska, Japan, and Africa.

Looking closer at the photo I see something that triggered a lot of memories from that time. Below the mantle is the console TV where I watched the ABC 6 O’Clock News with Harry Reasoner and Howard K. Smith; they are still the image of network nightly news in my mind. I have vivid TV memories from the time, of black & white news footage showing B-52s dropping bombs – payload after payload. I also remember the network would tally up the daily death and injury tolls from Vietnam at the end of the broadcast. Being eight-years old, I didn’t really have a grasp on what the war was all about. I just knew it was a sad part of the news. One day I asked my Mom why it seemed like the injured numbers were always higher than the numbers of those who died. She just shook her head and never answered. I suppose she didn’t know how to answer a 2nd grader’s question, but was probably disgusted that either one was happening or reported for all to see.

I can understand that now as an adult.

On January 27, 1973 – roughly a month from the time this picture was taken – I was playing in the backyard. My Dad walked quietly across the street to the church and rang the steeple bell several times, to mark a Cease Fire in the Vietnam War.

The Battle Scar


On the top of my left hand, near the knuckle to the index finger, I carry a reminder of history.

The skin in the mark is thinner than what surrounds it. The shape is vaguely like a triangle. A faint bluish color is detectable just under the surface. If I press on it the triangle gives way; there is a crater underneath. It doesn’t hurt or feel weird. It’s just there, linking me to the past every day.

It’s my Paperboy Battle Scar.

In 1979 I delivered newspapers for the Seattle Times. My paper routes – numbers 30042 and 30032 – gave me between 80 and 100 delivery customers depending on the month and year. The Times was delivered in those days during the afternoon during the week, then mornings on Saturday and Sunday. That meant I was out very early on weekend mornings, typically after 4:00am but sometimes before.

One dark Sunday morning, probably in the Spring, I went to drop a paper on an equally dark porch…when I heard a low growl. I stopped in my tracks. There was no animal within site of the porch, yet the growl continued. Then, fast as lightening a large dog began barking and bolted out of the open front door towards me. I said one thing: “WHOA!!” while putting out my left hand instinctively as an attempt to fend off the attack. It didn’t help; the dog bit down and through my hand.

Oddly, after that, he stopped barking and sat down. I stood there shaking, while trying to talk calmly to the dog out of fear that he would jump again. There was blood everywhere, dripping down my hand and onto the sidewalk. I heard some sounds at the porch and a light came on.

“What’s going on out here?” the homeowner asked.

“Your dog bit me.”

“And who the hell are you??”

“I’m your paperboy.”


They pulled me inside and cleaned up the wound in their kitchen. I recall the woman running water over my hand for the longest time, eventually wrapping it in bandages. “He’s never done that before,” is what they said several times. I didn’t believe them. I still don’t when I think about the incident now.  They eventually sent me on my way.

I don’t remember finishing the paper route that morning.

I delivered my last paper just as the world was lighting up. That weekend my Dad was out of town. I quietly walked into my parents’ bedroom and asked my Mom what I should do if a dog bit my hand. Within minutes we were on our way to the emergency room at Stevens Medical Center in Edmonds WA, where they sewed me up with three or four stitches. I recall that getting the stitches hurt more than getting bit. Some time later our general practitioner took them out.

I never saw that dog again. The homeowners canceled the paper delivery. They would not answer the door or respond to the mail when my Dad tried to present them with the ER Bill. I have no idea why their front door was open at 4:00am.  Today – thirty-plus years later – I’m still skiddish around large dogs.

And I’ve had the scar ever since.