King Solomon's Reef, a diner and bar in downtown Olympia, was founded sometime in the 1960s and has survived several changes in ownership, two major fires, and probably scores of welcome-home-from-prison parties, although nobody has kept an official tally.
One night a few weeks ago, it hosted its latest welcome-home party, for well-loved Reef employee Katherine Olejnik and her friend Matthew Duran. The two had been released that day from the SeaTac Federal Detention Center (FDC) after five months, including two months of solitary confinement, for refusing to answer arguably McCarthyesque questions about other people's politics in front of a grand jury. The federal prosecutor was ostensibly interested in some political vandalism in Seattle on May Day—but neither Duran nor Olejnik were in Seattle during the demonstration. (Olejnik had been working a shift at the Reef.) Duran and Olejnik say they were shown photographs and asked to talk about who knew whom, who lived with whom, and whether those people were anarchists. When Duran and Olejnik refused to answer, they were sent to prison for civil contempt. At the time, Olejnik's attorney, Jenn Kaplan, said, "I'd hate for the public to think of her as an obstacle to a prosecution rather than as a principled person."
Five months later, Duran and Olejnik returned to their friends at the Reef. Both looked dazed.
Olejnik said so many people wanted to talk to her when she arrived, it took nearly an hour to get from the brightly lit front half of the Reef back into the dimly lit bar (which looks like a cozy dive from the late Victorian era, with dark wood columns and a stuffed deer head). There were hugs all around, and someone asked, "Whiskey or champagne?"