WATERFRONT EMPRESS

Decades after the ballad of the “Waterfront Empress,” in a lecture to students of Scientology, Ron offered the following remembrance of his Ketchikan stay. As a further word on his “Waterfront Empress,” it can hardly be improved upon:

“Everybody who gets in trouble with the State Police and the Feds and everybody else will eventually turn up somewhere in the backwoods of Alaska, if they can make it.

“Nobody goes by his right name and they have a murder every morning for breakfast. It’s not quite that bad because they’re not murders -- they’re suicides. And they find a fellow with his head blown off by a shotgun: no sign of a shotgun, footprints all around, sound of tremendous struggle, the fellow’s pockets emptied. The sheriff comes out, takes a look at the body, and says, “Huh! It’s suicide!”

“They have there in Ketchikan the only stream in the world where the fish and the fishermen go up to spawn. It’s a red light district. It stretches up around the curve, a very beautiful little stream. But the buildings have trap doors -- most of Ketchikan is built over water. The fishermen -- it’s mostly fishermen that come in there with any money -- wear rather heavy rubber boots, and water gets into these boots rather quickly, and they go down rather fast.

“The air is in the boots at first, and that holds the boots up until the fellow drowns, and then the water fills, and then the boots hold him on the ground. The tide there is rather fast, and it sweeps the body out past Chatham, the cape there, and nobody ever knows anything more about it.

“But when the police do find a fisherman drowned or floating there in the straits without anything in his pockets they look him over very carefully and say, ‘Hmmm! Suicide!’”






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