Forks Belong in the Bus!

Posted on Jun 26, 2024

Stories new and old from the rainiest town in North America, as told by Paul Magid

Noodlini and his 23 juggling balls

It’s morning. After the campfire we had in the middle of Forks last night, it rained. As our wonderful sponsor, Sue Shane, explained we are in the rainiest town in North America.

Despite the rain, we had a classic sweet first day on Chautauqua. We started the day in Port Townsend with the morning meeting, where most of the buckstopper positions were taken by many of those present. A buckstopper on Chautauqua is the head of a job that needs to be done. They are responsible for making sure the job is completed. They don’t necessarily have to do it themselves. But the buck stops there.

It was a mad dash to get the truck packed. A scramble to get the kitchen trailer loaded up, but finally, and 1 1/2 hours after the stated departure time, we departed and headed west.

I was driving the Bluebird, our loyal and reliable 1992 Bluebird Army bus. She was made for war and went to Iraq for Operation Desert Storm to shuttle the troops around. Then she was brought back with her beige sand-appropriate paint job and auctioned off for peanuts to a community group in Port Townsend, WA. They gave NOTC the bus and we’ve had her nearly 20 years! She is a workhorse and never seems to tire of holding joyful Chautauquans, singing and joking their way through then many miles to our next community collaboration.

bus crew reflected in the mirror

We are situated on the edge of Forks, a very small town in the heart of the northern Olympic peninsula. It is a logging town and an imagined place of Vampires romping about in the Twilight, in both novels and movies. The Chautauqua has been here many times.

In fact, the first time we were, lo these many years, there was a bit of suspicion in the air about just who were these strange people in colorful band jackets and dilapidated ancient vehicles. We were set to play in the high school, but we hadn’t sold any tickets.

There was a festival happening and a miniature train on tires that took tourists and locals around. The band hopped on the pretend choo-choo and arrived at a plaza full of locals.

This chain of fools played the magnificent piece de resistance, The New Chumleighland March, a sure crowd pleaser - but the Forksian crowd was not pleased. They were still casting silent aspersions in our direction.

We were unnerved but our lines still held because we knew our arsenal included the mother of all heart melters, Teddy Bear’s Picnic which we proceeded to play. We tooted, we danced, we sang about Teddy Bears, then jammed - a sure fire program of shock and awe… But when the smoke cleared the flag of suspicion still waved, in fact it seemed the locals were now not only suspicious, but I detected then slightest hint of pity mixed with a cherry finish.

At this point, I thought all was lost as I introduced Joey Pipia to perform what I considered the worst possible suicide mission in show biz, dying on stage. Joey bravely stepped forward and proceeded with a card trick that included audience participation. He picked the scowliest, most rugged looking logger type for his volunteer.

Joey made a few of the usual jokes, but the folks weren’t having it. Joey courageously carried on. “Pick a card, any card, look at it, don’t show it to me, put it back in the deck.” much shuffling occurs and a card was pulled from the deck.

“Wouldn’t it be amazing,” says Joey, “if your card were the 2 of Clubs?” The woodsman who looked like he could have you head with one swipe of his mighty axe looked Joey squarely in the eye and said, “It ain’t.”

Joey looked a bit confused but then pulled another card from the deck, “The 7 of diamonds?” “Nope” said the son of Bunyon.

At this point I realized that Joey was not in control, that something had slipped, that we were in the uncharted anything goes land of chaos and magic. The crowd began to titter, snicker… as Joey went on, “The Jack of Spades” he desperately asked.

The titan of timber just shook his head.

At that the crowd erupted in laughter, as did all of the Chautauquans, and suddenly the invisible wall separating us disappeared and we had become what we always were, just a group of humans, laughing together, glad of each other’s company. The show sold out that night and have been selling out every time we have returned.

This year, on arrival, we went to western edge of town, across from the big grocery store at the Concerned Citizens building. The Concerns Citizens building houses a child care center for children in need and another home for special needs adults. They have graciously let us camp here.

So we put the mighty kitchen trailer in place, then the truck, and finally the Bluebird. Our crack truck packing team consisting of Raul, Chris, and Mark unloaded Morgan (our truck) and we set up camp on a beautiful lawn, tailor made for the ultimate in glamp camping!

I felt that swell of emotion and a thrill in my heart to see our tents pop up, the kitchen take form, and our group of fellow travelers begin the process of becoming a tribe.

We had another band rehearsal where we integrated a major missing component of our ensemble, the drummer. Our drummer that the Creator, via our keyboardist, Karen, had conjured up, is a member the local Quileute Tribe who live at La Push. His name is Carl and he jumped into rehearsal heels up!

Carl the drummer

Kristin made a dinner that couldn’t be beat. Some of us gathered rocks for a fire pit and suddenly a fire sprang up in the middle of the town of Forks. We sat in a circle until the land of Nod called us to our tents.

Today, the morning started early. Our shower buckstopper, Mark, had repaired the slightly broken Easy Up Tent on departure day,had erected the shower, and hooked it all up, but the shower head was cracked from the year before. So after waking up and getting the coffee going I walked over to the hardware store across the street and got a new shower head and some zip ties.

the shower

When I came back, I was greeted by one the members of my our extended family, the former chairwoman of the Hoh Tribe, Lisa Martinez. She works in Forks as outreach coordinator for the homeless and addicted who camp in the woods here.

Danielle, our muralist and blog maven spoke with Lisa about some of the important stories and beliefs of the Chalá·at people. Lisa was only planning to visit for a few minutes, but she stayed for morning meeting and afterwards.

We then had band rehearsal. Eben is our musical macher, capel meister, who rules the band with an iron baton! What an amazing band we have this year. I want to give a special shout out to the women musicians from Olympia, members of the Artisian Rumble Arkistra, with Becky on trombone, Nancy on tenor sax, flute, and piccolo, and Julia on clarinet. This morning, we worked on some new music for our clown acts extraordinaire, Faeble and Professor Humahumahumah (on musical saw).

the chamber band

At 11:45, dressed in our band jackets, the bus motor roared into action and we drove to our destination, the Rainforest Arts Center , or RAC. We formed up and marched through town to cheers of the Forksonians! We got back, had a Kristin-made lentil soup that couldn’t be beat and set up for our first set of workshops.

The workshops happened inside the RAC. Again I felt my heart skip a beat as I saw flurry of learning and sharing happening everywhere and all at once. There was our truck driver and sound guy Don giving a workshop on Japanese yarn braiding called kumohimo, Earthball Eric teaching knot tying, Haida/Tlingit princess Donna McKay teaching Tlingit arts and crafts, Karl and Jeremiah teaching juggling, Faeble teaching clowning and bit of hula hooping, and many more - just a hive of one on one human activity!

At 4 pm we started getting ready for the show. The community of Forks made us a delicious meal, as Jorjan, NOTC treasurer and Don and Raul put together the sound for the show.


We got gussied up, put our horns to our lips and marched in with our band, The Fighting Instruments of Karma Marching Chamber Band/Orchestra, now in our 49th year!

The show was, as usual, a wonderful mix of funny, audience participation, emotions, and the deeper spiritual connection of homo sapiens in commune via laughter, music, and awe inspiring skill.

For me there was a wonderful generational high. Jeremiah, a new Flying Karamazov Brother (FKB), and I performed for the first time together a FKB trick that is at least 52 years old. The Six Blazing Torches Trick! It went great, and it was so rich to be with Jeremiah, 40 years my junior, and say the ancient incantation that works as well as when it was made.

The show was a hit with many highlights, but like all things it came to an end to sounds of “Down by the Riverside” and to the thunderous applause of the people.

We packed up and headed back to camp where sat around in the community building and sang Kym the “Happy Birthday” song and then the Beatles, “When I’m 64” because that is how old she is. Cake and candles and then a goodnight!

Written Paul Magid

Photos by Paul Magid, Eben Sprinsock, and Mark Tanski