What Brought You to the Island?
Arrival Stories

What Brought You to the Island?

By Randy Marinez

I lived in Ashland, Oregon for 2½ years. I liked Ashland very much; artsy, all the theater, pretty scenery, beautiful Lithia Park, good customer service at retail stores and restaurants. And it had a gay bar: “Cooks Tavern.” Unique for a town of only 16,000.

But, living in a small town as a single gay man felt limiting, so I decided to return to the Seattle area. Having attended school in Seattle, from fourth grade through college (UDub) – it felt like returning home. I wanted to find a community similar to Ashland in the Seattle vicinity, and my then-partner wanted to live on Vashon Island. I was keen to the idea, being initially enamored with the nature of the Island.

In 1989, the two of us, a friend, and our four cats moved to outer Quartermaster Harbor, with a tram running from where we parked our cars down to the beach, where our house was located. 

When we ended our relationship, I moved out and, once again, guessing that living as a single gay man in a small town would be limiting, looked at several apartments in Seattle. But they weren’t right. So, I ended up renting a small home on 188th, which we then called Cherry Creek Door and Window Drive. Within 3 months of my living there, the place was sold!

My next move took me to lower Gold Beach. Honestly, at first the neighborhood seemed too suburban for my tastes, but I loved living there. I had a fantastic view of Mount Rainier, the summers were beautiful, and I started gardening for the first time.

While living there, I met Francisco in San Diego, and after a long-distance relationship of 13 months, he moved to Vashon Island in 1994. We bought a lovely small home on the North End, with a beautiful vaulted ceiling, and a view of Puget Sound. And then, in 2000 we adopted Marisol and Luther.  

Marisol and Luther were born in Portland, and we brought them home from the hospital. As they grew, our small home became too tight, and in 2003 we chose the island again – moving to our current home on Dolphin Point.

Having kids expanded our universe and community: Co-op preschool, the Vashon public school system, Rock Island Pizza, Drama Dock theater productions, swimming, baseball, and more. Francisco opened his Barber Shop at the Old Fuller Store in 2005, and he’s been working there ever since.

With all of that, my family and I are visible in this small community of nearly 11,000 people. Not only are we involved in public endeavors, but I am an evident gay man, Francisco is Mexican, and Marisol and Luther are Black. On an Island that is 89% white, we stand out, and our experience, predominantly, has been that the community of Vashon has collectively put my family under its wing. We are able to be fully ourselves and be relatively safe. There are many places we could live where we would be a target for violence. 

Here we are able to thrive.

March 17, 2023

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