The Dalles, December 2008:
"...and the fresh meat," explains the wide-eyed man in the blue Grocery Outlet cap to anyone who will listen. "...We got some fresh meat in yesterday, but that was only three cases. He went around Mount Hood, that was a heck of a drive for just three cases of meat. And the guy that came in with the eggs...he drove in from Bend!!!" The man in the blue cap shakes his head in despair and awe. "By Friday I'll have to close the grocery section down!!!"
Ominous signs of the climate-driven isolation of The Dalles began to appear around the middle of December, although an ubiquitous anthropomorphic state of social isolation has been the status quo for many decades. My first real whiff of trouble occurred during the annual Elggoog [spelt backwards] Christmas Party, on the night of the 13th. Just the "13" should have been a clue to what would come to pass!
The theme of this year's party was "Wild Wild West." We gazed in awe at the spread of Western Meats on the buffet table. Anything that a cowboy would have taken a fork to was there! Prime rib...buffalo...venison...squirrel...rattlesnake...emu...vegan stuffed green pepper...and my favorite!
"Whoa! Look at that salmon with leeks!!" I exclaimed. But, confidentially, the best part was the bread pudding with custard sauce coupled with the free wine...2006 dry chard. That's American for "kuiva valkoviinia."
We picked a table and then went to register for the door prize.
"You've always wanted a new camp stove!" suggested my escort. The Coleman looked almost exactly like mine, but it didn't have the ambience of a 5' layer of rust. Oh! I hoped I had the winning ticket!!!
Time hurried on, and so did we...up to the balcony to watch people try to ride the mechanical bull There were plenty of nimble takers!!! Whump! They'd hit the floor and go back for more.
"If you'll notice, it's all in the hands of the bull operator. He can do anything he wants with the bull, he can throw anyone off he likes, " expounded my escort. The same is true of the masters of Magical Realism.
"It's time for the first raffle!" announced the dj, who was in a hurry to resume karyoke. "We'll start with this crock-pot. Number 047. Who has number 047?" I flew down the steps but was so shy I almost missed waving my arms around maniacally. A crock pot. Great for simmering tofu all day!!!
Saute. That's what I do, saute, preferably in the woods somewhere.
The party was like an Apocalyptica concert. Some gals were dressed in their most stunning Christmas party clothes. On the other hand, a sturdy gent from Facilities... who was digging into a full plate of prime rib(s?)...looked a lot like Bret or Bart Maverick.One infant-laden couple dressed exactly alike in red and black flannel shirts, long braids and...
"He must have something stuffed under his shirt!" we noted. Prime ribs???
"I wonder why there are so many empty tables?" wondered a man who sat down beside us to chat. "Hey...did you win that crock pot? My wife really wanted that!!" The poor woman gave a faint, brittle smile of terror. Take it! Take it! my mind screeched, but the small appliance stayed put beside the wreath-like centerpiece.
"Yeah...there's six or seven empty tables!" agreed my escort.
"I think the Portland people were afraid of the blizzard that is coming in," said the man."They're all afraid of getting stuck in The Dalles!!!"
All too soon we would see this possibility come to fruition.
Coming up..."Snowed Out of Portland."
January 2009: The voice on the phone was pale and wan. At first I thought it was my older daughter, Emma, asking for 2 years of Out-of-State Pharmacy School tuition due on Monday at 8 Am Central Time. The voice threw me off like a Elgoog employee attempting to ride a metal bull."
"I'm just calling to telling you I made it," Emma stammered.
"You made it," I repeated.
"I skied," Erin answered. Erin!!! The girls had been together for a week, blending together as they made hundreds of bonbons, like water for chocolate.
"You raced..?" I asked gingerly.
"Yeah," she replied. Skied in a race, like a knife blade through coconut; skiied for The Dalles Wahtonka High School Ski "Varsity II" Team after two days of practice on skis!
Just a few days ago, she'd confided, "I'm scared. I'm afraid I'm going to die."
"I don't think you'll die. I think it's more likely you'll break a leg or an arm," I told her truthfully.
"Erin..." I began," that's wonderful! How did you do? Are you coming home now?"
"We don't hear yet...and we're not coming home...probably this evening," she replied. I wondered about the cell phone reception at Timberline Lodge, and about her coach driving on snow packed highways in the dark.
"I suppose there are other races today..."
"We're supposed to be going to a banquet or something...."
"Ian!" I yelled over at the Mac-Book. "Erin raced!!"
"Whoo-hoo!!" shouted Ian.
January, 2009. "Everyone on Facebook is swearing 'Oh! Not Again! Not More Snow!'" says Ian. "It's not snowing here is it?"
I look at ODOT Trip-Check. "It says it's snowing fast and furiously at Hood River, Cascade Locks, and Mount Hood," I report. "And there's little drops of water on the video camera at The The Dalles Bridge."
"Huh!" mumbles Ian. I looked out the door. There is a thin coat of white stuff on the patio, and tiny sparkles in the air. Not much of any significance for someone who lived four years in Duluth! Remember when my African violets froze when I'd left them at my mother-in-law's in Park Rapids and the furnace broke at -38? Remember radial tires and rear wheel drive?
Which brings me back to the Elgoog party on the 13th. We left with a doggie bag of salmon, zapped out, and slumbered in a world oblivious to precip and fronts.
Doesnt look like snow to me! I exclaimed to myself in a horizontal position. Once I got up, though, I saw a thin layer of snow on the ground. Huh, I shrugged to myself, and proceeded to wash and hang the daily laundry. I ate the current combination of Post Shredded Wheat with Real Strawberries, and Original Honey and Almond Golden Gold Granola. Then I put The Raggle Taggle Gypsy into my bag and...
"Just in!! CHAINS are now required in the Portland area!!! Traction tires are not sufficient!!" blurted out the dj on OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting). Wimps!!! I shook my head and went to look at ODOT Tripcheck...and it was true!!!
Those Raggle Taggle CDs would stay there on my desk in a stack for two weeks. Yep, I lazed around for two weeks looking at stuff like the Ohio Deaths Database. If you want find out how all your Ohio relatives died (1908-1952) as well as parents, spouse, and DOB/DOD this is the place to go! And then there was snow shoveling. Everybody raced to shovel their sidewalk before the snow melted because OPB said it would warm up on Wednesday.
On Monday, the school district announced a two hour delay. Sure, people out on the orchards had more snow than we did, but they also owned those monstrous 4WD SUVs and pick-ups...which they were using to go Christmas shopping!!! Fred Meyers parking lot was packed!!!!
By Wednesday, KPSU's manager was advising people not to go in to the station unless there was an easy way to get there....like on foot...
"Chain up Truckers." You could hear this prescient ghost sound in the wind, in the ice, and in the rows of sooty semi tractor trailers which lined 6th Street in The Dalles, and for instance, where Wayne Lamar Stevens of Mountain Home, Idaho, dove his hand into his pocket, fished out his last sixteen dollars, and hiked from his red Volvo cab through the whiteness to Grocery Outlet to buy a defectively zip-locked bag of Malt-O-Meal Frosted Mini-Spooners for 99c....
Everyone, of course, was saying that the mesh of snow, ice, wind, and jacknifed semis would clear up by the weekend...but instead everything just got worse. The The Dalles Wahtonka Ski Team reported several Fed Ex Trucks jackknifed on Highway 26, despite the fact that one little skiier, Jacob, was flipping the vehicles off in hopes of nudging them back on the road again in an upright position. One man with a jeep tried to get to Vancouver on WA 14 after they cleared the landslides, but after 5 or 6 hours turned right back to Dallesport.
I personally wasn't worried about the radio show, since everyone in Portland was glued into their home by 6' high frozen snowdrifts. What did bother me was that on Tuesday we were supposed to pick up Emma and Little Victor at the PDX airport!! On Monday I checked Continental's web site....
"Flight diverted to Eugene!!" it said. I also checked ODOT, which said
"I-84 closed. Chains required in the Portland area!" Even if I made it though the Fed Ex Graveyard behind Mt Hood, would I have to carry someone who knew how to use chains? And would the plane even land?
And so it was on Tuesday, when Portland's chains lifted like Emma's plane, Erin and I slowly set out towards Hood River, intending to follow the brave trucks behind the Sleeping Volcano. We would then wait for a couple weeks in a luxury hotel for the airplane to land.
"Chain Up, Ye Semis!!!!" Three miles west of Mosier, Oregon, Wayne pulled his bulky Volvo and its volatile cargo of wine corks onto the snowy right hand shoulders of Interstate 84. Excitement was in the air. Extending a mile ahead of him...all the way to the Hood River Bridge...other semi drivers dragged their chains in hysterical glee, as if they ruled the world.
"Huh!" I thought. One minute later, where Highway 34 began the trek to the white wave peak of Hood, a sign was suspended over the freeway. It said:
"Chains required on all vehicles over 10,000 gvw or towing."
The freeway was open.
I got a little nervous around Cascade Locks, the memory of last years fishtail flickering like a machete around my neck. Then I got nervous about Portland. Then I got nervous about the plane.
"It says the plane isn't coming in until 10pm!" I whined as I perused the schedule by the airline counters.
"Mom!" said Erin, rolling her eyes. "Your looking at the wrong place. That's yesterday's flight. Emma's is on time!"
And there....there were Emma and funny Little Victor escaping from the security area. Oh were we happy to see them!!
"Keep an eye on him for a moment!" demanded Emma as she escaped from eight hours alone with a four year old.
Whoosh! He escaped and Erin began chasing him! And I followed. Five minutes later Emma caught up with us.
"Thanks for watching my bags," she laughed with cheerful sarcasm. "When I got back the security people were rummaging through them!"
"I am beautiful!" says Dr. Judy, otherwise known as Doug Fir, taking on the role of Artemisia tridentata, or more simply, Giant Sagebrush. "And I am the oldest and wizest structure on the steppe. I provide shelter and food for other organisms...."
"She thinks she is *so great* sneers Living Crust. "But I'm better because I hold the soil in place!!!" Artemisia thumbs her nose at Living Crust. Living Crust sticks out her tongue.
And then there are the quibbles in the seven member "Air" group, over the young students' name cookies.
"Anyone want to be a meadowlark?" Doug asks.
"Ugh!" everyone answers.
"Anyone want to be a coyote?"
"I do! I do!" everyone answers.
"Who'd like to be an elk?...a mule deer???"
Mammals are the Prada de Jour in Mr Chance's class.
The day before, she'd gone off to Grocery Outlet to pick up some Shop 'n' Save Granola Bars for 99c and some Chard. On the way back, she saw THE MAN WITH THE BIKE. He'd shown up in The Dalles a couple of days earlier crossing 6th to Fred Meyer...and even earlier at the Wash and Shop...with his bike and animal cage...and a sign that read:
"Going To Nebraska. Need Help." Why on earth would anyone bike to Nebraska in February?
Anyway, at first Doug Fir was gonna to walk in the imaginary lane towards Dollar Tree, thus bypassing the Nebraska biker, but decided not to.
"Say..." he said immediately. "I'm trying to get enough money for a hotel] room tonight. I don't have a regular camp and my cat is going crazy!!"
"Meow!!! Meow!!! Meow!!!" said the animal cage. Clearly insane!
I dove into my pocket and fished out a dollar bill.
"Good luck!" I wished.
He looked disappointed.
Portland, Oregon, January 2009: I surveyed the Finnish Room. Most of the students were back, and most looked amazingly similar...like Norwegian men. You know the type, dusty dark blond hair, maybe hazel maybe blue eyes that gazed out the vindu wistfully for the moment they could jump back on their skis and slide home to a evening snak of lutefisk and lefse..
"What did people do during Christmas break?" asked Dr. Tom informally.
The woman who works in the bookstore answered "I went to Whistler. While I was there a gondola support broke. One day the high was -34 and the water contained in the joints froze, and when it expanded...." I struggled to listen, as the seats are far apart.
"Hmm..." announced the teacher. "I haven't finnished grading the finals yet. But I'm afraid to say I made it too easy again."
The class gazed at him, confused by the fact that they'd already received their grades!
"I'll have to make it harder this term. For one thing, you'll be speaking Norwegian to each other in groups. But I won't be forcing anyone to do that. Some people think that this is a violation of their privacy, and I respect that."
During break, I my ears pricked up again as small group of women clustered to hear more about Whistler. I held back a bit, being Italian in name only.
"....I was in the helicopter at the time. The pilot got a page to go help with the rescue!!!"
How do you rescue someone who is suspended in a gondola with a helicopter, someone was wondering. Dunno.
"Snow boarding...Someone must have knocked me over. I don't remember a thing....found myself laying on my back. My goggles...I was wearing a helmet and goggles and the goggles were completely smashed. They came apart in my hands...."
"They didn't even stop?" a listener asked rhetorically.
"Several years ago, I was snow boarding and a skier hit me and I broke 3 vertebrae. He stopped. He bent over and asked if I was OK, and I couldn't even speak. You could smell the alcohol on his breath. Then he left me there."
"They shouldn't have skiers and snow boarders on the same slope," a listener commented.
"Uh...do you mind if *tony* comes over?" Erin asks. For the past seven months or so, we've heard this question on the average of 1.526 times a week.
"Uh...I guess so..." This is my usual answer. I always forget to grill her with something important like "Do you have your homework done?" or "Have you cleaned your room?" That's because stuff like cleaning and doing homework may be unpleasant for some people but it's just random for me. As an example, it's easier for me to clean a grimy toilet or two than it is to make a phone call to a loved one. And then there's "Are you guys going to sit at the end of the hall and stare longingly into space?" ....How do you frame a question like that?
"Uh...I guess so...do I need to go get him?" I answer.
"No," replies Erin. "He's DRIVING over!!!!"
"GASP" I gasp. "He got his license?" Barely sixteen and he's gone and got his Washington Drivers License. The only thing left is for me to give him my special Aveo gas station test. Can he fill up the tank properly? Wash all the windows?
It takes *tony* about two minutes to get to our house. No big deal, it's happened before. All too soon he is in the kitchen, pulling his wallet out of his pocket and opening it.
"It's a paper license?" Erin asks. My memory stops to jeer: "Remember putting your paper Alabama licence through the wash?" Guffaw!!!!
Anyway, I can't help strolling by and craning my neck to check it out. On the left hand side of the open wallet is a photo of my younger daughter. On the right hand side is *tony*'s photo on a little document that says INTERMEDIATE LICENSE.
Have you ever took a gander at the WDOL web page?
FAQ: If you're under 18, you can only get an intermediate license. That means that for six months you can't take any passengers with you unless they're an adult, OR they're related to you. But this is not a good excuse to run out and get hitched like your cousins did in the '50s.
---The only country that has a reciprocal licensing arrangement with Washington is Germany. This is because a lot of Germans retired to the former logging town of Leavenworth once they turned it into Little Bavaria.
---Once you have your WA license, you can get an ENHANCED license which allows you to drive or float WITHOUT A PASSPORT to places like Canada, Mexico, and Bermuda . It contains an identifying chip. You can even get an ENHANCED INTERMEDIATE LICENSE. The reason Washington did this is to "preserve travel, trade and cultural ties with BRITISH COLUMBIA." Gotta keep those hothouse tomatoes rolling back and forth in the Republic of Cascadia. EH?
Fhir a' bhàta na ho ro eile
Mo shoraidh slàn leat 's gach àit' an tèid thu.
The Dalles, December 31, 2008: You may remember Henry as the Vietnam Vet who lives...or lived...in a shack on government land near Mosier. Fate brought us together just as the Union 76
attendant hit the "regular" button and reached for the nozzle.
"My shack collapsed last night,' he told the attendant. "One of those big icicles on one corner lifted it off of the ground. I'm going to see if Dirty Dave'll put me up for the night."
"Wow, that's too bad," replied the attendant with a yawn.
Henry then saw the bright yellow Aveo. "How you been doing?" he asked. I introduced him to Emma and Little Victor, whom I was taking to the airport.
"And?" The word bounced back and forth in his skull like a laser beam. It exited the black holes in his blue eyes, and made a straight shot for my bright yellow mini-car. Wham!!!
And...nothing. I am merely the ferryman. The attendant filled the tank and I pulled onto I-84 Westbound.
Portland, January 22, 2009: "I have an eye infection and the bright lights hurt my eyes..." the woman from the bookstore was saying.
"Huh!" said one of the indistinguishable Norwegian men in my class. "How did that happen?"
"I've got these semi disposable contacts and we were real busy at the book store and I left them in for 2 days too long without cleaning them," she answered. I paused to fondly remember my own contact lenses and how I'd once rubbed my eyes with hot sauce."
"Can you wear sunglasses?" asked the Senior Audit.
The bookstore woman whipped out some mirror lens ski goggles. "Yeah, but I still can't read anything. And you [me!]'re blurry over there. I'm just here to ask him what our assignment is, then I'm going home."
The Audit walked over to where I always sit. Once you choose a seat, you can't move. It's the Norwegian way.
"I had a bit of a problem myself on the way here from Oregon City," she began . "I was driving along and you know it's bumper to bumper at five o'clock on. Well, I was driving along in the fast lane and hit a bicycle!" As she spoke, her words spilled out faster and faster, floodwaters breaking through an ice dam somewhere near Spokane.
"I stopped and got out and looked at the bicycle. And I went back and asked the woman behind me, and she said, no, no one was there. All I can come up with is that it fell off of someone's car. Or they were hauling it to the dump. I haven't even looked at my car yet."
"That sounds like a good explanation," I commented. "All sorts of stuff falls off, lawn chairs..."
All too soon, Norwegian class was over.
"Drive carefully on the way home," said Dr. Tom. I ducked beneath the string of words, but bumped my head on "Kör Försiktig..."
"I think I'm going to call the police tomorrow to see if anyone's missing a bike." said the Audit.
"Was there a bike lane?" I asked.
"Maybe over on the far right!" she replied. "But I was over in the fast lane."
Odd mishaps continue to happen here. For instance, just this evening I was driving home from Portland and hit huge puffs of heavy fog. One minute you could see to drive and the next it was zero visibility. Then I noticed the two vehicles in front of me were slowing down. Good idea! But what was that smell? Burning brakes? Rubber leaves in a bonfire?
"Ugh! What a heavy stinky fog, Ian..." I said to the figure behind the white mac book.
"Ugh!" agreed Ian.
Flash! The lights on the incendiary pick-up in front of me flashed a warning as thick smoke rolled out of it. I wondered if the truck would burst into flame...
The whole weekend, in fact, has been defective. First, on Thursday, Joe the Snake Plumber arrived to take care of our clogged sewer.
"My assistant couldn't be with us today," giggled Joe. "Go and stand by the toilets and tell me if you hear a noise. That means the snake is trying to come up the toilet. That would be very bad."
"It sounds more like it's coming up the laundry tub...." I yelled
"I'll have to send a video camera down there, see what's up!!!" chortled Joe.
Half an hour later, Joe had his report. "I went about 70 feet before I saw anything. Gotta a good picture of the crack and the tree root that's in it. Looks like someone had a problem and tried to fix it. There's a lead pipe down there, on an ASB90. I've unclogged it, but you better get a plumber to repair that!"
"Huh! What's an ASB90??" I replied. Did he mean ASP-90?
Then on Saturday, it began to snow. By evening, the streets were too white and slurpy to ride a bike! But the rugged The Dallesians continued to sliding around on the glistening moonkist pavement in their gasoline powered vehicles. Shh...kvk....Wham!!! Right into the fire hydrant on 9th and Cherry Heights.
"Huh! I've got to go check this out and get a couple overstock copies of Amy's Pizza (spinach and mushroom olive) for dinner." I exclaimed. I pulled on my Chinese Sorrel Boots.
Luckily The City of The Dalles was putting their awl into the event. A couple random public works trucks were there in the dark and the snow, trying to staunch the city's icy, transparent lifeblood, which was hemorrhaging rapidly past Ixtapa and Taco Time. Two Police Officers with their Patrol SUVs and Swiss Army Knives stood guard at either end of the block. A chain of flares was set out on 9th. No car could get through those roadblocks!! But the purple magic boots made me invisible. I sloshed across two flooded intersections, thumbing my nose at the sad detouring cars, passed the dry bones of Albertsons and the white or wheat of Quizno's and voila...arrived safely at Grocery Outlet. I put 2 pizzas, 4 Eskimo Pie eclair bars, a half of plonk chard, and two chicken pizza pockets into my bag and queueueued for check-out and fun.
"You guys got any Peppercappuchino?" asked a working class man.
"What? Pepper-chino?" asked the checker, a woman about my age.
"You know, those Italian peppers!"
"Pepperoncini!" pointed out a husband-wife Linux team as they unloaded a selection of bargain reds onto the belt.
"Funny," I said to myself. "Several years ago I'd come into Paccini's every other week or so. I'd lie about my age and go back to the No Minors area and order a Happy Hour treat...
"Can I get the steamed mussels?" I'd say. "And also a cosmo..." Mmm!!! And if I were lucky they'd give an extra piece of bread to swab up the tomatoey clam juice. But then I got de-scheduled, slipping through the web, hanging by one foot at the height of rush hour..."
"What exactly does that mean?" asks Hoofy, his bull-horns shining. "Having problems with your investment portfolio?"
"It's hard to imagine Paccini's as being affected by the economic downturn," exclaimed cuddly Boo. "Look at all these rowdy students buying PBR's!!!"
"No...it started before that...when I drank a lime-heavy cosmo before my 'Modern Scandinavian Novels' class and was so foggy I couldn't think of any jokes to make about 'Hash'. And then I stopped taking evening courses. The latter iswhat mashed dining as flat as the gnocci I will order directly.
I perused the menu for vegetarian options---Make hay while the sun shines!
"I'll have the half size gnocci...<wince> and a glass of water," I told the young co-ed at the counter, and commenced to count out dollars. One Two...
"Is that a uh...secret..."
"What, my where's george bills? You enter th..."
"No...around your neck!!" she retorted. I'd forgotten to take off the wood cookies...round pieces of branch that held my steward name: Douglas Fir...the cone with the little mousie tails...that's how you know doug fir's above you in the forest!!!
"Um...I do stuff with an organization..uh... that teaches 5th graders about ecology..." Brain dead without a pina colada!!!
"That's it! The Rain Shadow Institute...SECRETS! They used to do that in 5th grade and I loved it!!!"
"Wow! Where did you grow up?"
"Wow! I've done SECRETS in Parkdale!!" After that I'd go buy fruit cheap at the Japanese orchard between Parkdale and the mighty Hood.
I went over my homework and the dialogues so I wouldn't be embarrassed in class. Vær så god. Soon I was strolling into the Finnish room.
"Did you go to Outdoor School?" asked the Ethnic North Dakotan.
"What?" I replied.
"Those tags...they're like the ones we got at Outdoor School. The schools would have a week where the classes would go out into the woods...into the Cascades...," explained Matt, the class Viking.
"I remember they did that..." added the senior audit. "That's one of the things they cut out of the budget.
"It's one of the best things they had!" established the Dakotan.
Everyone shook their head in dismay.
4/29/07 Beginning in Parkano, Ian makes his way, via Finland's astounding rail system, from Parkano to Tampere. He meets up with his Austrian friend Georg and they stand in line for the doors of the Pakkahuone to open. They are waiting...like every one else...in their black metal tshirts to see one of Finland's greatest metal bands, Sonata Arctica. What will happen? Here is Fate's Warning, if you will,...
Fate is a giant wheel...no.. many giant wheels of chance. Imagine an infinite number of roulette wheels twirling around us, cutting like saw blade through Free Will. As the wheels turn, a daemic archer shoots randomly. His arrows bounce off an Icelandic Flight carrying Earlham College students bound for London. Seventeen years later he hurls plastic explosives into the side of a PanAm jet, and 35 Syracuse University students land as a fireball on Lockerbie. Likewise, he softly turns the evil eye to Ian and Georg in their Tampere sidewalk queue, but guides the hand of a gun towards Rotary students in downtown Portland. In a few seconds, there is blood all over the place...that's what the headlines read.
"Mom, did you know about the girl from Chile who was killed in Portland?" Erin asks.
"Mmm...Peru," I reply. "Yeah I've read all about it."
"Did you know she was from White Salmon?"
"I did. Is she in the same group as the guys living at *tony's*"
"No...but she was a foreign student. They knew her."
"The Sewer Line"
The Dalles, February 2009: "I'm not finding it..." mourned Don the Plumber. "This is the place Joe the Plumber had marked from that videotape, but I'm not finding any sewer pipe! Maybe it's over there by that cement thing. Maybe I should call Joe."
"Hmm...this looks like the area..." I began, but stopped. Back in 2003 or so, the plants in a straight line with the Oriental Pagoda began to wither and die. Soon thereafter the vegetation began to grown rampant and chaotic. If I told this secret to Don, would he call the EPA? What if the CIA took the pagoda...and the pieces of broken curbing that pip up randomly in our yard...in for investigation??
"OK!" I turned and left, dollars flowing into the creek in rivulets with each shovel thrust, each word spoken. Don would never find the sewer pipe. And in just a few hours U-Rent-'Em would deliver the Boreas II Miniexcavator.
"I'll have to go under the house..." My Husband announced ambivalently.
"BANG BANG BANG!!!" Someone was knocking on the bathroom floor. I picked up a couple of clean towels, walked in, and proceeded to kick the wall several times.
"Judith! Are you up there? What are you doing?"
"I'm putting away a couple of towels," I replied blandly.
"Can you tell where the knocking is?" Bang Bang Bang. The sound seemed to come from everywhere. But the vibrations were coming from...
"Yeah...they're coming from the divider between the toilet and the wastebasket."
"OK, then, they haven't done anything really weird. This is the sewer pipe!!!"
Well, the next thing I knew, My Hubby hopped right onto that Mini-Excavator!
"Hey, maybe Erin and Ian could use that to get the hang of driving a car." I suggested.
"It's nothing like a car. See there are two handles..." he answered.
"Still no pipe, though." That was a half-truth. Broken ends of plastic irrigation pipe jutted out from everwhere as he pushed on, riding the Mini-Excavator from Hell. The stack of dirt, pebbles and old curbing grew higher and higher, engulfing the Oriental Garden. Taxus, Cirsium, Anemone, Cornus, Aster, Taxus..the plants that unveiled the seasons...all disappeared into the pile or were smothered by it. The lower limbs of the larger trees, the maple and the two mystery taxa, yielded to the saw. What a great way to start over with a vegetable garden, when a flower garden has seen better days!!!
"Don't let the Cascadian Intelligence Agency see what you've done to that Mahonia aquifolium. That's the State Flower of Oregon!" I warned, though no one heard.
"There it is...looks like it's curving down under the pile. It's that tarpaper stuff they used to use. And look at *this*!" He pulled out a glob of hair and grease. "I thought it would go over towards the manhole cover in the creek. But...I wonder if there's a manhole cover in the alley," My Husband said.
"I'll go look," I answered. The alley dead-ends right there on our property line, because it has nowhere to go besides into Mill Creek. I walked past the concrete pagoda which lay disassembled in Erin's old "Shrine" area, and climbed up the embankment. It was right there, the round iron plate with...
"There's a manhole cover with an S on it right here!" I shouted, and took a photo.
I walked to the end of the alley and then I started to run.
I wish we could go somewhere again!" Ian says. He is sitting at his computer demolishing a package of graham crackers and playing Robin Hood, as well as playing all his unplayed songs. I'm not sure what all this means; however, I'd like to go someplace too. I'm thinking of Moloka'i.
Magic Carpet. Right-O. England, 1990. I've referred to this seminal journey as "The Lost Trip," due to the fact that wee Ian pulled at the end of my roll of film and voila!!! No photos! [in those days, before digital cameras, it was possible to get by with 36 max for a trip around the world.] So every year I've tried to reassemble this curbstone trip by adding one more tiny meaningful story. "Gennett's strange, perceptive stories are laced together by memory after ephemeral memory of driving on the left hand side of the road with an eight year old and a one year old who could barely walk but was an expert at getting into trouble"
We had been tempting Fate for the past four or five years....an amazingly interesting trip around Michigan ...a road trip through reconstructed Hutterite and Ukranian villages in Manitoba...another on the train to Churchill on Hudson's Bay...and a swift jaunt to the end of the Door Peninsula, where you got onto a ferry that resembled a small bulldozer and then they gave you a tour in a school bus:
"Washington Island was settled by Icelanders!!!" a guide said.
"Wow! Icelanders!" I thought.
It was the only interesting thing about Washington Island.
Why the UK? Three compelling reasons existed at the time:
a) A couple of my Iowa geology friends lived there. The gent had a "job" with BP. The lady had a "job" buying amazing antiques that BP would box up four years later and transport free of charge to Alaska. In her spare time she made sharp, bitter comments about the nosiness of the British health and educational system.
b) I was really into British Isles folk at the time, and wanted passionately to camp in an Oxfordshire cow pasture for several days with two wet puppies in a tent containing a lake inside that grew deeper by the hour.
c) Misc. other stuff.
I bought a couple consolidators on British Air and the next thing we knew we were taking off from Houston. Eight hours later we emerged as zombies into a grim British dawn.
"Uh...let's get our bagzzzz....." I suggested to Emma. Remember we have an entire US Coast Guard duffle bag full of camping equipment. "And then we'll go get the rental car. It's some company that's green and white."
"Yes, we have the reservation right here. Could we please have a phone number for where you will be staying." I gave the woman the number for my Alaska-prescient friends.
"Uh....this is our rental car...???" I mused to Emma. It was some sort of royal blue Vauxhall with a list, and maybe a lisp as well. Also the steering wheel was on the wrong side. Yeah, I knew the moment I got in that shifting gears with my left hand would be a nightmare. I got out and spent a quarter hour or so recording my list of scrapes and dents. Taken as a whole it was equal to the sub-compact Pontiac G8 in Kahulu'i that a banana tree had fallen on.
Dazed, I turned the key, pushed in the clutch, and attempted to move the shift. "Gzzz-clunk," said the gearshift, reluctantly moving into first. Soon we were off, onto the freewa..motorway, hugging the left shoulder at 15 miles an hour. It was hard to say which was more unfamiliar, the driving or the landscape with its sheep and hedges. I wondered how I would get a coke...
I merged onto the M25 and then exited on the A25 towards Chertsey...and then...zzzz.... lost all comprehension of where were were. Lost!!! Everytime I stopped to make a wrong turn the gears screeched and balked louder and harder, as did my brain. PLUNK!!!! Cry. Should I cry now?
"The gear shift is dead," I told Green and White Car Rentals via phone. "I can't get to Loch Ness on this one>>>"
"Right-O! Where are you? We'll bring a new one right out!!" Where was I? Look at the street signs.
I called my friend, the one that made money by staring at tiny dead things in a microscope.
"Um...you're half a block from us! I'll walk right down," he said.
"The End of Yellow Car"
Feb 2009: And so it came to pass that I called Salmon River Towing.
"I'm coming from The Dalles to get my stuff out of the yellow Aveo, Are you right there on the main street?" I asked.
"Yeah, we're right here behind the Chevron station."
Then I got into the old grey Suburu and drove the sad 40 miles into Cascade Locks. I pulled in past the non-automated gas pumps. A man resembling Santa Claus came to greet me.
"I"ve come to get my stuff out of the yellow car, and to sign the papers," I proclaimed.
"What papers?" Mr Claus asked. "I guess I'll check in the office."
He led to to my Aveo, stashed tightly in between a Nissan and a Honda, both of whom had bashed-in left hood compartments. Yellow Car was the sorriest of the three.. You could look at the Aveo's contorted left front hood to see techical cross-sections of the radiator and the engine, with its naked cylinders.
"I'll go behind and get your tire chains out of the trunk," said Santa Claus. "So you don't fall off this embankment here."
I pulled out a Beoga album while he fished out the chains, afterwhich I went to inspect the passenger section. Bright white airbags lay expanded like sheets in the wind.
"It will be a while," I said. "There is a lot of stuff in here."
"I'll be in the white shack if you need me," he said.
What a lot of stuff!!! ...Aquabat albums to Tictacs...5c pop bottles to maps of North Dakota....
"Look...I found this!!!' announced Claus as he waved a black garbage bag in the wind.
"Oh..thank you!!" I replied.
"What happened to your car?" he asked.
"I was on the interstate and there were lights to change lanes...You know, there was a rollover. I thought it was a road machinery or a bridge work thing, so I slowed down and changed lanes. But it was a rollover!!! And I hit the same patch of black ice as she did. "Whoa!!" I hit an unoccupied ODOT pick up!!!"
"Whoa! he confirmed. "I hit that black ice on the bridge with the tow truck. You're lucky to be here!"
"Yep!!" I confirmed. "That thing was made of sheet steel. Only made a little dent or two in it."
"You know, I had this Geo Metro a while back.I was in Portland and went through a stop sign and hit an ODOT
truck. Man! See, there was a semi parked on the side of the road so I couldnt see, Totalled that little Metro!!!"
"By the way, how long you been living up there in The Dalles? Long time?"
"I got a cousin there...named Wanda."
"I don't know her," I sighed, musing over an oil change receipt. I started throwing stuff into the bag...Mountain Dew
bottles, BC motel pens, old play programs, Oysterband cd booklets...soon I was done!!! I made my way to the
white shack, hoping Claus had found the paper to sign.
"So this is the permission for you to haul the Aveo to the State Farm lot in Portland for evalution. To see if it's really totaled."
"Yeah, it's totalled." he said. "Even if the engine is OK, the frame's probably bent."
Do you remember when life was carefree and beautiful? For example, back in the mid 80s, you may have been watching the film "Trip to Bountiful." Do you remember how Ludie, when she was young, swept her young son off his feet in a field of grass? Or you may look back to the 80s, and think of your own young family, or back to the Cambrian, when there were a lot of trilobites. Me, right now, I'm thinking in terms of days....before my laptop screen went black, before I totaled my Aveo, before my cell phone screen went black and I had to switched to my old 1 piece Nokia. Before US Bancorp dipped below eleven, and the CEO went off the deep end at a Lutheran Brotherhood Meeting in Minneapolis, claiming that there was no ARP in TARP, just T for Trouble.
February 2009, The Dalles, Oregon. "Band Concert"
The command to wear black and white does not insure uniformity for the TDWHS band, even as a sousaphone differs from a kettle drum. At first, Erin thought she would "borrow" Ian's black Utilikilt, but then decided, no she would forget the kilt altogether and perform in her slip, since it was black anyway. This is no big deal for a woman who wears plaid pajama pants to school most days. Oh, how times have changed!
"*tony*'s going that way. Is it OK to catch a ride with him?" The dull grey Mazda sedan had become the transportation of choice for Erin. She and *tony* loaded the two pies and the clarinet and off they went to the Middle School. Pies were *not* allowed in the auditorium at the high school.
It cost $5 to get in and for that you got to hear and see the big band, the jazz band, and as a special treat the University of Oregon Green Garter Band. I am now convinced that simultaneous headbanging in metal bands is derived from choreographed jazz bands like TGGB, but...WHAP...you don't see the metalheads collide as much as these Ducks.
In addition, you got all the pie slices and coffee you wanted.
"Hi!" said an older couple. "Can we sit here at the table with you?" Sure they could.
"Do you have someone in the band up there?" the woman asked. We pointed out Erin, she and Alfredo Basquez were seated precariously on the edge of the stage with their clarinets.
"Do you?" I asked.
"No...we just came here because we like music!!!"
People continued to mill around the pie and the silent auction areas for a while. Another woman came to sit at the table...Ms. M, the 8th grade science teacher, who in June of 2003 dragged Ian by his ear to his locker and forced him to find all the missing assignments wadded in amongst the overdue books and candy wrappers.
Mr. V prepared to conduct the first selection...Suddenly Keenan, the class Viking, arose from the Saxophone area and bellowed out: "Justin! I LOVE YOU!!!"
And Justin, with his koolade red hair shouted back.
"Keenan!!! I LOVE YOU TOO!!!"
It's nice to be best friends like that, but in a larger sense, the Giant Amoeba was gathered here, spread out like chocolate chips in merengue...Alfredo and Erin with their little clarinets, Sage with her flute, massive Keenan with his sax, and Justin and *tony* in back by the pies, pretending they were civilians.
Portland, February 2009:
"I'm going to Argentina!" announced Matt, the Norwegian Class Viking.
"In the summer?" queried Dr Tom? "It'll be winter there."
"That's the way I like it," smiles the gentle giant.
"You look all dressed up tonite," someone continued. Matt sure was slick in his bright maroon shirt.
"I'm going to tango tonight...at Norse Hall!!!"
"Norse Hall!!!" Do you feel proud or do you snicker in resignation?"
"Yes! The biggest Tango Festival in existance took place at Norse Hall this weekend," commented Matt.
I pulled Tangos Argentinos out of my bag and dangled it at Matt.
"A bandeon!!!" he exclaimed in delight.
"Have you heard of him...Rodolpho Menderes?"
"Yes!" We began to chat about how we could help each other. This bored the other ladies in the class.
"It must be fun, but whenever I try to dance I always end up trying to lead," said one.
Matt jumped up out his seat and said, "Anyone can learn to dance! Look at me, I was clumsy as an ox when I first started." It was then that I noticed what a giant he was standing between the two tiny women.
"Hey! Let me take a photo of you like that!!!" I interjected nervously. SNAP!!!
He turned, took Sonja in his arms, and began to tango around the tables of The Finnish Room....one partner, a second, and then the third. Heavenly!!!
[You might think this Norwegian stuff means nothing to me...but guess what Erin did this weekend while I was watching "Hoofy and Boo" on my pathetic half laptop? Imagine her dragging *tony*" into the room by the ear and saying:
"MOM! Look at this delicious hunk of Norwegian-ness I have right here!!!"
"Wow, *tony*, I didn't know you were Norwegian," I exclaim.
"Uh...." *tony* pauses to pull up sagging trousers with long ropelike arms..."Someone on my mother's side," he drawls in an appealing Klicktat County monotone.]
The Dalles: February 2009. "The Fog Line"
First evening drive in my rental car, a pretty grey "Cobalt!" It's not certain the basis for naming a car "Cobalt," but maybe it's the form of "toxic asset" that has led GM to its prototype downfall. Or maybe the word means nothing, but rather cars are like men, by the time you get used to them, everything falls apart.
Cruising like a hovercraft through the Portland Suburbs...Fairview, Wood Village, Gresham, and Troutdale...freeway lights blazing pale orange against the cold Valentines pink-black sky. After that, after crossing the Sandy where Lewis and Clark saw ash choked lahars from the eruption of Mount Hood...that's where the trouble began.
"Ahem!" I asked the Cobalt. "Why is that your dims only light the next four feet of the road."
"It's because," the balky boy answered, "my previous renter abused me. You're bound to experience revenge when you rent a car."
Sixty miles of this...it wasn't bad when the westbound lane was empty and I could turn on the brights. The brights were OK. But after you did this, some 18 wheeler would pop up and fwap went the dimmer. Imagine feeling your nearsighted way around a room without your glasses. Were there lines on the road ten feet away? Which way was that curve going? Could we maybe tailgate that hummer?
Whew!! Hood River, Mosier, and Rowena. The Dalles was just ahead. Suddenly, in the westbound lane, red and blue lights!!! A county deputy rushing to some emergency, no doubt. And behind me...another bunch of patriotic lights. I pulled over to let him or her by...and they pulled up right behind me!!! I couldn't imagine what was wrong. I certainly wasn't speeding, three wheel bicycles on can recycling missions went slower than we did! I rolled down the window...
"The reason I stopped you was...." License plate light out? Maybe I should backed my way to The Dalles? "...well, in the first place, I was coming to help another officer, but he resolved his problem. But I noticed that you crossed the fog line twice." Fog line? Was that the line between the curb and the shoulder? Was it illegal to cross a word you couldn't even define? He continued. "When we find someone doing that, we immediately suspect the driver has been drinking. Have you had anything to drink?"
"No..." That wasn't true. I had imbibed several Diet Mountain Dews during the day...but alcohol? Who would dull their senses for the Norwegian Viking ship, Captain Tom at the helm, and Ensign Matt at Tango Instruction???
"Or people are tired? Are you tired?"
"Sure, I drove all the way from Portland!" Eighty miles with bitter headlights, sure! Then I remembered "This is a rental car and I'm not used to driving it."
The officer sighed. "Can I see your license, registration, and insurance?" I pulled the license and insurance card out of my purse.
"I don't have the registration," I stated.
"If it's a rental car, you should have a receipt to say they rented it to you..." I opened the glove compartment.
"I'll take these back and run them." he said.
"I ran the registration," said the law enforcement official. "The license plates don't match the ones on the car. The ones you have are registered to someone in Bend."
"Huh!" I forged ahead.
"Well, there's more than one way to skin a license plate. The VIN number, " he informed me, softening and copying the VIN off the windshield. He went back to his vehicle to run it again.
"Yeah, the car's registered to U-Rent America. I'll write them a note to tell them that it's wrong, so that other renters don't have a problem if they get pulled over.
"Louisiana Death Trip"
Memories are never idle here. You may think so and someone...in this case Ian...will say something like:
"How far was the Death March?" We all know what he means.
"No idea, but you could see it on the Louisiana Map," I answer. "You were little then, too."
Almost every natural historian has been on a Death March, whatever they themselves might call it. Usually DMs involve a field trip, or in the case of a solitary rambler, a guide book with several pages missing. The mechanisms vary. Perhaps the leader has climbed in Nepal and can run up one of the Ozarks in a split second. Perhaps the author was running out of time and made up the route from a 1937 topo map. Perhaps there is an unexpected state police siege on a Kool-Ade Polygamists of the Ninth Comet compound. Or maybe a blizzard on a fine May Day...
I personally have been on several Death Marches. The longest (6 hot weeks!) and most extreme was Tri State Wasatch-Uinta Field Camp. This tortuous festival of blisters, dust, and sagebrush is actually *the* most important hoop to that big shiny degree. After Field Camp, you're able to shrug your shoulders at any physical crap tossed your way, except for Afghanistan. "Say!" she shrugs on the Ozarks trip. The objective is to hike in a thunderstorm over heavily mined territory to observe an outcrop of lead, as well as some phlox. "Watch out for that razor wire!" <shrug> Then there's the long long hike along a creek bed to visit the sequence stratigraphy in the Yazoo Pachuta and Shubuta Fms (Vail et al., 1987). One guy has a bad knee and is climbing over two miles of sucky mud and tree roots with a cane. It is then that I, the only woman on the trip, utters the unthinkable:
"I didn't realize that we were going on a Death March!"
Everyone stares at me in disgust.
A couple of hands are now raised in the back of the classroom of life.
"Yes?" prompts the teacher.
"Uh...do you remember the 1980 AMQUA trip to the Yellowstone Hot Spot? How we rode all the way from Seattle to Idaho Falls non-stop with 20 coolers of Coors and no bathroom? Is that a Death March?"
"I wasn't on that one; I was on the Olympic Trip where they stick-roasted salmon on the beach. But some of the guys were talking about it. I'd call the Idaho jaunt a Bus Trip From Hell."
Coastal Louisiana, 1997: "Death March II"
The classic geology "Death March"...and the one that Ian remembers...took place at the Friends of the Pleistocene 1997 Chenier Plain Field Trip. What exactly is a chenier plain? you may ask. An area with alot of Zydeco going down? Was that the year they had the dinner at a cajun roadhouse, and served crawdads and Lonestar? Nope. The word "chenier plain" refers to ridges of shells and other stuff layin' on a mudflat substrate, parallel to the strand line.
In those days, I usually took my kids...or even my whole family...on field trips, on a mistaken hunch that doing this would get them interested in something more productive than reading fantasy and manga books....
"I think I'll stay in the hotel room and do my algebra today," began Emma.
So there were now four of us: Mother, Father, Little Ian and Little Erin. In those days, Ian was not 19 and six feet tall. His legs were shorter. And Erin...only three years old!
We pulled the green Aerostar into formation in the caravan [this "caravan" was customary with FOP trips and allowed participants numerous opportunities to get totally lost at stop lights, sideroads, and...uh...sand bars.] The leader parked at a coastal frog & gator sanctuary, and the participants gathered around him. Located on LA 84, the site was later obliterated by Hurricane Rita.
"We'll be walking down this road and through the marsh, to examine the the chenier ridge closest to the ocean. Supposedly, it'll take us about 15 minutes to get there, and then I'll talk about it," he yelled through his bullhorn. The gangly mix of geologists, soil scientists, engineers, archeologists, retirees, children, and dogs began to mosey their way down the white shelly road. 10 minutes, 15 minutes....the ocean was no where in sight.
"I'm TIRED!!!" whined Erin. "Let's climb the tower!" That's how we lost Erin and my husband.
But for the rest of us, there was no light at the end of the drainage ditch.
We left the road and begin to hike oceanward over the saltmarsh. The marsh was laid out in mysterious squares topped by grasses, sedges, and/or rushes not mentioned in the guidebook; in the middle were mini-ponds of brackish to salty water. The trick was to walk on the perimeters rather than in the swimming pool, and not to be eaten by alligators and crawdads.
"Are you back there Ian?" I'd ask, as the tower grew smaller and smaller.
"Yeah, Mom!!!" Ian yelled back valiantly. Time and distance ticked on in the metric system. One km. Three km....slurping through mud and monocotyledons. Whap!!! The mud would let go of your boot. The single-file line commenced to scatter; only Comradery held us together, as it became more and more apparent that we'd been vacuumed into another silly Death March. Four kilometers. Five.
"Mom!!!" squealed Ian in glee. "I see the ocean!!!"
The FOPers collapsed in relief and fatigue on the beach. Some lay down and stared at the stars.
"What is this supposed to be?" someone asked.
"Uh...I think it's a beach ridge," someone answered.
Most of us just sat and watched the waves. A few went off to see if the leader had taken a freighter to Cancun, but he hadn't and some of us listened to his one paragraph speech. Inevitably, however, we knew it would be time to go back.
"I though you'd be gone about an hour, not five or six," chided my husband a couple hours later. It must have been hard waiting in the tower with a three year old.
"What do you remember, Ian, about The Death March?" I ask Ian now.
"How cramped up I was. God, when we got back, I couldn't move." He pauses. "It was a rocky beach. I picked up some of them." He pauses again. "It was a nice day."
It's the hat, I figure, the red white and blue Swede Saami hat I bought in Jokkmokk...but made in Luleå. It is the hat that causes these things.
March 2008: Not Sweden, not New Zealand, not even Portland. I have my two beverages of choice...Diet Mountain Dew and Flying Monkey Chard. in my hands....no wait!!! These Bozos were out of DMD and I had to substitute a 12 pack of diet cherry pepsi....
In any case, it's late...like around 8pm...and I am third in line in the only human check-out at Fred Meyer, although there are 6 U-Scans open. There are 3 reasons I I dislike U-Scans:
1) I'm afraid my George-d bills
a) Will be kicked back out of the insert slot.
b) Won't get kicked back, but will then go straight to the Fed.
2) There could be six living, breathing employees there and not one.
3) These six machine don't say anything silly to you, except for yelling at you to put your 24 pack of Dew into a flimsy plastic [NIX!!!] bag.
The checker looks back at me and sighs. [BTW: I've probably written something about her before, like maybe her ribbon decals.]
"She'll check you out at the U-Scan," she says kindly. "This will take a while."
"I don't like the U-Scan," I state.
"She'll take care of you," the checker assures me as the U-Check Empress arrives to take care of me and the drinks.
"I only have ones," I warn. Half these babies won't go through the slot, I'd predict.
The blonde empress...no spring chicken herself....takes the 12 pack and begins to scan it into U-Scan 6. My oft-hidden Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) leaps out from behind the Starbuck's Kiosk and commences to get the better of me.
"I don't like U-Scans," I reiterate. Satan owns them all, rentss them out. Tiny red devils power them via treadmills.
"But I'm doing it for you, sweetie!" the checker replies.
"Could you please give my Diet Cherry Pepsi back?" I ask politely, but with that ODD edge.
I take my booze and cola back to the human checkout...I'm too tired to walk over to Safeway to repeat my choices. The line takes only a couple of minutes.
"I thought you wouldn't have to WAIT SO LONG if you went over there..." explains the human clerk.
"I don't like the U-Scan," I repeat like a broken i-pod.
"She was going to do it for you, hon," the clerk explains
The Dalles, OR, March 2009: You may remember Bill from the wine seminar last year. We had a discussion with him about the stormy sea between law enforcement and Quakerism. This time, Bill has shoved the boat off the Columbia shore with a birthday party invitation. And here we are, my escort and I, walking into the door of a local winery, for a free concert starring The Freak Mountain Ramblers!!!
The big fermentation room was crowded, what with the guys setting up on stage, two couples whom we knew, and a man holding a clipboard who used to be one of My Escort's students. Oops! Grammar error! It's a pretty dull classroom when the pupils are all clipboards.
"Who's list are you on?" he asked My Escort.
"Bill's list," My Escort answered. The man checked us off and stamped us with a red circle. "With this stamp you get free wine, beer, or whatever they have back there, *until the well runs dry.*
"Where's Bill?" someone asked. And where was the *cake*? "I thought the party started at six."
"The family's downstairs eating dinner," explained the ex-student. All six of us gasped in amazement. Weren't we like Family? What was the Deal? We all had the same time on our invitations and thought we were late. Was the Inner Light supposed to sort this out? Did we need to sit in Silence for a while till Bill showed up? Finally Marilyn broke the Silence.
"Do you want to go eat with us at Taco Del Mar?"
Soon we were set up at a table for six with our trays and enchilada baskets.
"Uh....we haven't seen you for many years..." I commented to June and Steve. "Are you visiting us from Skagway?"
"Actually," began Steve, "we only lasted a few *winters* there. Now we're back in Oregon. But not in Hood River. June is working in Canby. And if I could make a living by doing it any other way, I would." Steve is an ivory sculptor and makes beautiful things, no joke.
"Erin's on the ski team!" said Bruce to Steve when the Skagway conversation faded away. "I've been following her times in the paper."
I hadn't realized that The Chronicle had been printing her scores! Wow!
"She had hardly been skiing before," I echoed.
"Yes," said Marilyn, nodding her head happily.
We dumped our paper dishes and saved our plastic baskets, and then walked back over to the Winery. Things were in full swing. Bill was hugging everyone, including Bruce. Could I navigate through this?
"Ahghhh!! Get away from me!!!" I chuckled aspergerishly as Bill lunged for me. Then I shook his hand and said "Congratulations."
With the other hand I dug into the Oregon Food Bank barrel and pulled up an institutional can of beans.
"Is this what we're having for dinner?" I asked cutely, though with a hint of irony. Where was our cake?
"Haha," answered Bill. This was the last we saw of him. The band commenced to play, and we leaned against the old exterior wall of the US Mint, instead of sitting down...me with my two red stamp glasses of white wine and My Escort with his pint of ale...
"Is this sort of like a Grateful Dead band?" asked My Escort. I rolled my eyes, but my own mind drew sort of a mixed feelings blank.
It was nice to hear them live, and watch people dance, and record a video, and play them on In Suspect Terrane. But I guess no matter how good they might be, country rock is not really "me." I hope you'll understand.
The plan was to leave at break, before my knees turned to jelly.
"When do you want to l......" I began. But two seminal people suddenly appeared before us. One was Suzanne. She was in a dream session back in December of '08, when no matter what I did, I kept ending up at her White Salmon chain-link carport!
"This is Dr. Alan B-----a," she said turning to introduce Her Escort before launching on a 30 minute monolog about her yet-to-be -wired garage.
Dr. Alan B-----a and I stared at each other and stammered. Why, it was Dr Al! He'd led the Wine and Geology trip to Yakima last fall!!!
"I have a question," I began with a penetrating glance. "Can you think of an example where the mineralogy itself determines the taste of wine....???"
As winter begins aye mind Boney
It wasn't only you.
Who was broken on the fields of Waterloo.
------------Jim Malcom "Battle of Waterloo"
The Dalles March 2009: "Mutiny at Fred Meyer"
I see him out the corner of my eye even before I hit the check out. ("BAM!!!"). He is a slight man, no younger than I, white hair pulled back and flowing like Horsetail Falls. Is it by chance that he puts his plastic basket behind mine on the conveyer belt?
Is it a stochastic nuisance that two couples with carts full of junk food and chunks of dead animal are industriously de-carting ahead of me? And look at that hair on that one woman! White streaked with magenta!! No joke!!
And oh no deja vu!!!. ..here's the U-Scan Empress coming towards us...reaching like an octopus for our little plastic baskets!!!
"Where are you taking this?" I query forcefully.
"To the U-Scan!" she replies.
I shake my head and whine, "No!!!!"
"That's alright, she answers condescendingly and reaches for the basket belonging to the handsome man with the long white hair.
"No, I'd rather not," echoes he.
"That's fine," smiles the Empress falsely. "I couldn't get them to come!" she yells to the rest of the store with a chuckle.
"I want to hear a real human voice, not a mechanical one," the man explains to me, and then launches into a monolog on touch tone phones. It's hard for me to listen while entering my club card number and counting out the georges under the evil eye of the checker. I pick up my bag and walk out the door.
The man with the waterfall hair traces my steps into the parking lot. He zeros in on a black Ford pickup with Washington plates and welded on racks. He flips the ignition and is gone.
The Dalles, OR, March 2009: Imagine hurling yourself backwards through Time and Comments, Truth and Consequences.....
"ezeels suopmop a ekil dekool uoy" Does that look Indo-European to you? Can you hear the 969 voices of satan when you play it backwards? Well, huh, looks like we'll have to fiddle with the system. Normal or hardanger?
"You looked like a pompous sleeze on Friday night!" I inform Ian.
"That was the effect I was looking for!" he exclaims.
"How did you like the play Erin?" someone asks.
"I thought it was gross!" she spits out. "No one told me that my brother would take his shirt off on stage and flagellate himself!"
That sounded gross to me too, once I heard it.
End of backwards travel. Shift to forward.
The drama class at Columbia Gorge Community College chose "Everyman," a Medieval morality play, for its production this term. The teacher always picks something where the author is unknown or dead, so the play will be cheap to produce. The story is this: Everyman is confronted by Death, whose real name is Jordan. She tells him he has to gather up what or whom he can to accompany him to the Judgement. Everyman's been having a great time, and he can't persuade any of these personifications, ie Wealth, Fellowship, Family to accompany him. Finally, Good Deeds says she would go, but she is too weak unless he smacks himself numerous times with a Cat o' Nine Tails and changes his shirt without his mom telling him to....
What a part Ian had as Everyman! You might have seen him at 4AM, sitting at his computer jousting the unintelligible language of the SIMS with the almost-unintelligible 15th century English. Or at 4PM waiting on Death or Fellowship to take him to rehearsals in Hood River. Finally, the performance dates arrived, and then the next weekend we went to see the play! Look, see us tearing up the new white Forester on the dirt roads out side of Mosier to pick up Erin and her friend Lilian!
"I don't like this rutted mile-long driveway in the dark," I mention as my teeth grit. "I feel like we are going to fall off any minute." In fact, this past winter Lilian's dad and the pickup fell off of it twice, into the deep snow. But there they were, both girls, ready to see the play!
Soon we were at the theatre in Hood River. Everyman had already begun, but the woman in the art-filled foyer was enthusiastic about taking to take our money. "It's just started," she said.
I won't take you through an entire morality play in 15th century English, though I will say that the company, dressed in modern clothing, missed not one line, though I am certain they faked a few....but wait!!!
"cough," I said......cough....cough......I stifled the explosions and ran for the exit. Has this ever happened to you???
"There's a water fountain....but maybe I'd better get you a glass," said the ticket lady.
Yep...this is how I missed the entire discussion between Everyman and his Family. But I'd already read through the lines out loud.......read through the entire play out loud...
And yes...I was so proud of my little boy! And here came Kevin from 2nd Saturday Contra Dance...
"Ian! Congratulations! You were great!!!!"
They were all great. How could they remember so many lines?
The violets are blooming now, paint splatters on a green pool table. It's time now to be out, ripping up more ivy, and today I've concentrated on vines tangled within the grey wirelike , shrubs. Questions come boiling up from the pale green of Mill Creek...where are my clippers? my cellphone...? Wouldn't be more fun to join a party of other volunteers, uprooting blackberrys before they bloom? No.
The violets will, however, not bloom yet in our world, because it is 1:45 AM and dark out. What you do not see does not exist. A woman is yelling "Are you going too, you weirdo?" and a man is yelling back, "Yes." I know by the sound of of their voices that they are my own children. I also know that today will be one of the arguably nastiest experiences of the month. We are driving Erin to the Portland airport to visit her sister in Texas. These two scumbags have just robbed me of 45 minutes of sleep!!!
I lay in bed...what will excite me enough to get up this early? Hmmm....the closing of the Iapetus Ocean during the Ordovian and Devonian!!! Wham! Norway and Greenland crash together...island arcs, subduction, thrust faults, the whole thrilling bizz...soon I am outlining a paper on "The Lingustic Implications of Plate Tectonics in Fennoscandia."
I rise up and walk through the kichen. Ian tries to start a conversation.
"Mfmffhufjuhl," I reply.
"Don't even try, Ian," answers Erin, rolling her eyes as she stuffs *tony* into her carry-on.
"Snip!!!" Life and ivy go on beneath a battleship gray sky. I've descended down to the pasty green water now, the Mill Creek still boiling with meltwater but now a foot lower than flood stage. Pallets, dead grass, green coated electrical wires, pop cans, and plastic bags hang suspended like wicker fencing against bushes and saplings. I look down at the water and whisper:
"Where is the Salmon Prince now? What will he do?"
The backflow eddies are silent. I breathe a sigh of relief, and then reflect into memory upon Clear Creek and my Senior Project. Mill Creek rolls two vortices as if they were two baffled cold green eyes.
I rise again with a ream of repulsive vines and a muddy foot. The leaves of spring bulbs, once hiding beneath English Ivy, are popping up green all around! What would it look like here in a few days?
Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana, 1972. "Senior Project"
"What should I do for my student project?" I asked my geology professors. In theory, a senior, for instance Bob Hirsch, would excitedly jump into a faculty meeting, foaming at the mouth with an idea like "What if I write a paper about the relationship of high angle thrust faulting on the Peace Process"? This type of study seemed wishy-washy to me. Decades later, however, I would do a poster session called "The Effect of Terranes on Terroir in Cascadia."
"How about something in the field of hydrology?" asked one professor.
"Maybe the Clear Creek Drainage Basin. That seems pretty Meaningful to me!" I replied.
Wonderful. In only three months I would be out the door complete.
If you don't think that geology sounds like fun...try doing a stream study. I copied the outline of Clear Creek off of a topo map and walked up and down it...probably where it emptied into the Whitewater...for a ways and took notes. What vegetation grew beside it? Did it flow through glacial till? What was the temperature? Why were there tiny blue spheres in the water near one of the local factories. Was anything different where it flowed through farm land and forest? I took the topo map and defined the first, second, and third order tributaries. I made a cross section through the creek and measured the depth each day. It was really fun and interesting...no joke!!!
One day it started to rain...and rain...and rain... In the morning I threw on my poncho and ambled through the wet grass of the hockey field. I hated field hockey, but was forced to take it my freshman year as it was a tradition. Ugh. Then....down into the woods and oh wow!!! The usual low gradient sequence of quiet pools had become a...um...raging torrent. Who needs Colorado...you could do white water rafting on Clear Creek! Whoa, and this was probably the most Meaningful day in respect to stream flow!! But I wasn't about to jump into that maelstrom. What I needed was a Strong Man...not just any Strong Man, but a Geology Major!
The first one I thought of was a bear of a guy named Dave. [In those days, about one fifth of guys was named "Dave."] I grabbed a cute blonde female friend as a decoy, and knocked on the door of his dorm room. BANG!! Dave opened the door a crack and looked at us with painful eyes. "Uhhh...." he began. It was pretty clear that there was someone else in the room and we knew who and why my highly intelligent but blonde friend would be of no use considering the situation.
The second potential victim was a tall skinny guy named Craig....the Proto-Class Viking!!!
"Sure!" he said. "Let me get my poncho!!!"
Soon Craig was waist deep in the Big Muddy, fighting the currents and calling out measurements. I would have to put an acknowledgement in my paper for that bravery!
Hood River, Oregon, March 2009: The next time I saw Bill, he was carrying a dish of scalloped potatoes. That's always a safe food to take to a quaker pot luck, because a lot of Quakers are vegetarians. Then he disappeared....but where to? Which door should we walk into unannounced? Should we take off our shoes?
The occasion was the visitation of Three Wisewomen from the East. They were in Portland for a meeting and were now touring The Gorge with their Chauffeur Quaker from Portland. One of the stops was at Maryhill, Washington.
"My mother always used to say "Who in the Sam Hill..." but I now I know who Sam Hill was!" said one.
"...and his attempts to establish a Quaker colony in the desert..." commented another.
And his role in building the Columbia River highway. I smiled to myself.
Aside from less meat, Quaker potlucks are about like any other potluck. You sit in the living room, balancing your soup bowl and large plate on your lap, even though you have to drag most of the chairs out from around the huge kitchen table. Large pets drop off their perch as if from the sky =WHAM= and purr to be scratched, and then Ian ends up with a dish full of cat hair. Yuck! Someone has brought two bottles of Maryhill wine, and you wonder if you can refill your glass during coffee time.
"What are the states where motorcyclists don't need to wear helmets?" asks someone.
"They're only good for 15mph anyway."
"The son of the school principle hit a patch of gravel and something pierced his helmet and he died instantly..."
"We went up to Tom McCall Preserve on our trip. The grass widows are out..."
"Tom McCall...isn't he the one that put up those signs: 'Thank you for visiting Oregon, Thanks for leaving?'"
"Ha ha...lots of stuff was aimed at Californians ....with good reason. Wasn't he the one who came up with Urban Growth Boundaries?" These boundaries squish everyone into a smaller and smaller area as more and more people move in from somewhere else. For instance, Texans like us are stuck with only one acre of land!
"Ha ha...it's like saying 'Its a good thing Bush was around for eight years, so Obama would be elected.'"
There was so much baked potato soup that I felt compelled to take some home.
"Toppings?" asked the hostess
"Sure," I answered.
"Green onions? Cheese? [Bacon?]" She scooped up a huge spoonful of bacon and lopped it on top.
"There's a well upon a hill from our ancient past
Where an age is standing still holding strong and fast."
--- Dougie Maclean (1991), "Turning Away"
Portland, Oregon, March 2009: "Dougie Maclean"
"Mom," Ian apologizes. "I can't go to that concert. Brice just called and we have a big party coming up tonite. Just a moment!" Ian clicks both right and left on his ouiji mouse and suspends it over the screen of his I-Book. "Livi and I will be sitting in her car with the Domino's Delivers sign lit up on the top, looking up at the stars over Rowena Overlook, and the police with their blue flashing lights will stop by. 'What are you doing here?' they'll ask and we shall reply... [the mouse gives a slight hop]...'Waiting for some people.'"
Meth...waiting for the meth dealer? Uh...no. It's just the Astronomy Club, home for Spring Break!!!
"I've paid for the tickets already!" I whine violently. "Get away, don't touch me," I snarl as he tries to hug me and tell me I'm his favorite mom.
There is only one alternative left now. That's e-mail elggoG and see if My Escort is available in a pinch. Get down on Both Knees and Beg.
"You know Dougie from Thistle and Shamrock." I explain to the screen. "Public Radio!!!" Soon I get a phone call. "Ha ha! Thistle and Shamrock! Your nemesis Fiona Ritchie!!....I'll go!" assures My Escort. "Meet me by the drawbridge at 6!"
In only an hour and a half, we are in the audience at The Aladdin Theater in Portland. In back of us, we will soon learn, is a member of Circled By Hounds. I've got my plastic glass of $4 chard and a slice of goat cheese and shiitake pizza and...
There he is on stage Dougie Maclean!!!
I have an LP by former Tannahill Weaver Dougie MacLean, as well as a couple CDs and maybe a cassette tape...Dougie's been around a LONG time. I'll admit that Dougie hasn't been my favorite Scots CD man; his lyrics being too contemporary, too diaphonous, too abstract, too devoid of proper nouns. But there on stage, alone with the Psychedelic Light Lady, he is at his best, oblivious to what I think or thought fifteen years ago on an occasional backwards roll.
"I come from a place where people don't just sit in an audience listening," he begins. Indeed. Tonite, most of Dougie's songs follow a pattern, give or take a couple of verses and choruses: "Imperative to sing along on the choruses" admonition/ demonstration of chorus/ Funny Story/[chorus] verse/chorus/verse/chorus/chorus/chorus/chorus......
It becomes increasingly hard to chomp down on that pizza slice, let alone go back into the lobby and get another one.
[Interlude: How is it that the OLCC allows the Aladdin a whine and beer bar in the lobby, where children can see whine and beer?
My guess is that music is performed in a theater with seats.]
"The worst experience on this trip" [aside from Denver, where no one can breathe] "was at Sisters [OR], where there was a blizzard going across the Cascades. I had to put cheans on my car. I've never seen cheans before in my life. It took me two hours to get them on!" The stories continue, the sing-a-longs follow. There's the tragic story of Mary Queen of Scots, the sly whisky truck deliveries to elderly men on The Isle of Lewis or maybe Perthshire, the Aboriginal performer in Australia who is never afraid to swim in the ocean, because he wears a patch on his trunks that says "Aboriginal Economic Development Plan." "Not even a great white shark would swallow that s**t!!!" It's fun to watch Dougie smile and play his guitar, tapping his foot out at some odd angle behind him. Whump! Whump! And the Bob Dylan harmonica!!
Intermission. Sort of. "Do you think those four women over there are witches?" I ask. Celtic music has always been a haven for the occult.
"Yes," replies My Escort. "Some kind of witches." He snapped a photo.
Later we will decide that the tall witch with blond hair and white sparkling shirt is actually a man.
""And his most famous song of all...'Caledonia'..." I say to my readers.
"Yawn," Dougie replies.
"Written in an hour in a Belgian hotel in November," I continue.
"Au contraire. That's the depressive journal entry you wrote in the late 90s after driving by yourself too long," Dougie telecommunicates. "I think it was Brittany somewhere that I wrote Caledonia. I later had the pleasure of hearing 100 massed bagpipes playing the tune, and to tell you the truth it didn't sound that good!!!"
"The Romans..." I prompt.
"Scotland is a harsh land... freezing cold. The Romans must have got there in their little shorts and seen the big guys with the blue paint on their faces and said "Get us out! Build a wall *here*!'"
It is spring now, and Internet 84 stands with its arms folded, laughing at you. It is the season of large lakes that form against the lane barriers and in the deep channels scoured by studded snow tires. The term for driving on these bodies of water is "Hydroplaning." Likewise, it is often necessary to pass a semi truck or two...or twelve...to avoid traveling in their slipstream of back spray. Some, however, suggest that it would be greener to drive at 55 instead, damn the fine spray. Passing can be a terrifying gamble, because the slosh of a three trailer Fed Ex truck as it travels through deep water is a red light leap pulled tight over time and space. It's as if the Daemon of the Interstate has an infinite number of buckets of unflavored gelatin that he is dumping on your windshield as a means of seduction and revenge. "I am going to die," you realize when the jello hits. Some people do.
The Dalles, Oregon, March 2009: I pulled the white Suburu onto the entrance ramp. Ian and I were westward bound, to perform "The Raggle Taggle Gypsy," and much later pick up Erin at the airport. The I-84 Daemon would give us no trouble.
"It's Henry," I told Ian. "I guess we're picking him up." I pulled to a halt and Henry got in the back.
"Didn't you used to have a little yellow car?" asked Henry.
"I did, but I totalled it. Black ice."
"You mean the time when it was completely ice going up the hill right up here?"
"No...it was at Cascade Locks. Black ice." The All Seeing Salmon Eye of my Norwegian Teacher saw the black ice months before yellow car slammed into the ODOT truck. He tried to warn me. Would I tell Henry something that weird? No.
"How is your shack?" I asked. Last I knew, it had been toppled by a huge icicle.
"OK! I went and got some steel reinforcing and now nothing..."
"Nothing can damage it," I prompted.
"And you can stand up in it..."
"How about your stove?"
"I got a wood stove out of the school there, and it's got a flat top you can cook on..."
There was a pause.
"I got a bone to pick with Obama," said Henry. "He's taking away all my Veterans Benefits! I'm 65 years old!!!"
I wasn't very well versed on this. "You still have your VA hospital don't you?" He talked about his cancer drugs and the blood pressure medicine that was in conflict with the alcohol he was drinking.
"I do my squaw fishing...northern pike minnow [he told Ian]. I hunt...every so often I get a deer."
"I take it to the Mosier church and they butcher it to feed the people who don't have any food. They give me a little something for that!"
I let Henry off at the Memaloose rest area."They're puttin' in 5 feet high barriers in Hood River. I sure hope they don't do it here! I'm sunk!" He said.
"If you lived on Dutch Flats, you would be living in an eye on the face of heaven. "---myself, september 2001.
The Dalles, April 2009: "My truck is gassed and....".... I'm going back the long way.
We're here, the new Vanilla Soobie and me and we're takin' the back road home. Will she live up to Suburu expectations?
Up Dry Hollow, and past the elementary school and Polehn Farms, the buildings where they do the fruit and lodge the pickers. Dutch Flats...Dutch Flats....The map in my head is flickering on and off; we turn right on Olney and then deliberately wrong on Skyline, past the hillside orchards and past the sign that warns "Pavement Ends."
The best journeys are often on these backwoods roads, rutted washboards and frost wedged volcanoclastics trailing off at the side...bumblerumble=KERWHUMP=!!. The white oaks on the left are ancient coral crusted with lichens; dusty sagebrush tells us that... "This is the West." As we rise, Bonneville transmission lines shrink into tiny clotheslines for doll houses on the right. One false move, a crumble of the roadside, will send us rolling over and over for hundreds of feet into the toy orchards and farmsteads. I keep to the left, hugging the dingy tan outcrops, and am lucky that no truck appears, bringing agriculturalists to market in the Big City. My eyes widen and I gasp, face flushed, with each false move of the wheel. Driving an All Wheel Drive Suburu on these backroads is surely more difficult than driving a tiny yellow Aveo!
It is only a few more slow miles to Dutch Flats, not a town, but rather a level place with cows and buildings. I turn around in the lane and drive back down.
Grocery Outlet April 2009:
Loaded down with edibles and Mexican ice cream bars, I made my way to the discount wine selection. Hmm...nothing new in these racks. Over on that table there, yep, that was a different story! A completely new unexplored selection!
"You probably don't want to buy that wine today," warned an employee "Tomorrow there'll all 20% off."
"It's our Anniversary Celebration," added another clerk, tears of emotion welling up in her eyes.
"I collect corks," I explained. It's true. Screw caps as well. There have been times I couldn't get the cap to twist off. Then I say, "Screw caps." Ha ha that's a joke. Last week, I unthinkingly twisted a corkscrew through a Duck Pond 2005 Chard screw top. Screwed the screw cap. Shut up, Judith, you silly fool, before the FCC gets you.
"My mom collects corks too. You know what she did? She went down to that winery downtown and they gave here a whole bunch. They keep them in a bucket. She said they collected them and they just gave them to here."
"Wow," I exclaimed.
But what about my after dinner drink!?!? I looked at the cooler and there it was, shining like molten lava...a single of Black Butte Porter! I slipped it into my bag and slunk towards the checkout.
Ahead of me, an older woman fixed her gaze on my groceries and pointed excitedly. "Quiero dos buenos cocos helodos mexico!!!" she said, and the younger woman fetched dos ice cream bars from the freezer. The clerk chatted a moment in Spanish and handed the helados back to the couple to eat. The man waved goodbye with his bandaged hand.
"That man cut his fingers off," the clerk told me in complete confidence.
"Oh my...how did he do that?" I asked. How could he be laughing?
"I don't know. Must have been at work," she answered.
The Dalles, Oregon, April 2009. "Goodbye Kitty Katie"
The veterinary office was full of talk. Katie sat on her human's lap and listened.
"Could you take that dog to the other side, please!!!" said the human at the desk.
"I have a dog and a cat both!" answered the human vehicle. The cat was in a cage! Ugh! "Do you want me to sit on this divider?"
"Well, it *is* worse to keep a cat in the dog section than to hold a dog in the cat section..."
The vehicle continued. "Both these animals are at an adult foster care...I need to have detailed records!!"
Another human asked, "I need to get vaccinations for my horses."
The human at the desk replied, "Alright! Do you want rabies as well?"
"It's not required for horses to get rabies shots. But it's a good idea in case bats invade your ranch."
"And that would be a home visit."
A third, no spring chicken, came in with another cat! "She keeps throwing up hair balls and coughing all night. I can't stand it!"
And the human behind the desk said "Would you wait outside please? In case you cat is contagious..." The human was not very happy.
Ordinarily Katie wouldn't have seen any of this. She would have been stuffed into a cloth bag and she would be scratching and biting. But she felt too tired to do this. And she would ordinarily go home excited by the unseen gossip to tell Susie Skunk. As it turned out, she would not see Susie this evening, even through a closed window.
"Come here, Mama Cat!!" eased the male human with the cowboy accent. Maybe he was the one who took care of the horses and bulls! He touched her briefly and said "She's very dehydrated. We'll do a blood test and get some fluids into her."
The female human put her on the scales and said "Four and a half pounds."
"She's always been a tiny cat." I said. She had been the runt of a litter of feral cats found and rescued in the late '90s, at the transmitter site by Lance Parr, our engineer at KEOS radio. She had a funny eye and had recently joined the One Eyed Cat group on Facebook.
It was the last time Katie and I would see each other. Two days later, the vet would call and tell me this:
"I'm afraid I have some bad news. Your Little Kittie has expired."
RIP Kitty Katie 1997?-2009. Your humans and your littermate, Kitty Fred.
April 2009, Portland State University:
"Judith, can you read the next sentence?" requested Dr. Tom.
"Moren min kommer fra Norge." I speak with seeming hesitation, but in truth, I am beating back tiny little Swedes, dressed in unique flatland pronunciations.
"Judith is correct, but she said 'NorYa' which is the Swedish pronunciation. 'NorGa' is the Norwegian pronunciation. Judith, right now you in a Twilight Zone between Norwegian and Swedish," comments Dr. Tom. That's all there is, a private word in front of the entire class of quasi-norjalaisia. There is no need for the ghosts of my parents to appear and discuss why I am always so zoned out.
The same of course is true of Ian. The only thing we can do to see how Ian is doing is to go watch a play. He might be Paris, he might be Everyman, and right now he might be Puck. His success is in the hands of a teenager. But Erin! It's conference time again! And Erin often has something to add as she lounges in confidence against a desk or two.
The Dalles, Oregon: "I'd like to be a baker," announces Erin in Baking class. Everyone seems surprised, then the tiny teacher launches a long verbal list of where Erin can finish her training in the culinary Arts. "Try to find someplace you can afford," she explains.
"How can we make up work on this stupid A/B schedule?"
"That is in *your* hands," suggests the teacher. "E-mail the principal and explain that you don't like it, that it messes up yeast breads."
"Erin is making much better grades now!" says the geometry teacher as she gathers up papers.
The Language Arts teacher is a middle aged man wearing a whole bunch of Indian jewelry. You can't help staring at his pretty belt buckle with the yellow turquoises.
"No...no complaints at all about Erin!" he beams.
"Why are we just learning about the literature of *our* part of the world?" asks Erin with an air of aggressive insolence that the language arts teacher probably knows and half likes.
"Well..." he begins slowly. Take a look at the map. The Chinese took their boats down here to the Cape of Good hope and didn't see any reason to go further. " A half hour later, we knew the entire history of global cultural interactions.
"No...no complaints at all about Erin, the global studies teacher beams. He has very wide eyes.
"Is there anything that you can do about Bradley?" asks Erin enthusiastically.
"As a matter of fact, something is being done," answers the wide-eyed man.
Erin makes a face. "It's really hard to sit anywhere near him, when he doesn't ever take showers!!!"
Down to the bandroom and Mr Vee, who sits in a reclined clair in an office labeled "Student Free Zone."
"I'm glad to see Erin back on the clarinet. The bassoon didn't work out too well..."
"You said you were going to teach me and then your father got cancer," Erin countered.
Mr Vee is non-plussed as always. "Yeah, and I'm still doing that, going up to Olympia every weekend. You see, Erin, our generation is squeezed at each end. We are parents to our kids and we are parents to our parents." He folds his hands behind his neck, and smiles in helplessness.
Finally, we walk to the art deco gym to talk to the health teacher. She is an imposing woman.
"I don't see why you only have those choices for women who are having children....with the father and mother both living in the home. I know someone who isn't living with the father and is making it work."
The teacher sighs. "I didn't mean to say that those were the only choices you could write about. You can write about any option you want."
I wonder if Erin will become a baker?
1. Jeg bor med foreldrene mine og besteforldre mine i Vestavia, som er nær Birmingham, Alabama. Moren min heter Mary Gennett og faren min heter Bob Gennett. De selger engrossalg kjøleskaputstyret. Morfaren min heter George Hayward eller "Georgie." Mormoren min heter May Hayward eller "Nana." De kommer fra Indiana, men bor med oss i Alabama nå. Georgie var trikkekonduktør og elektriker, men nå arbeider han ikke. De hadde to døtre: Alice og Mary, og en sonne, George Jr. eller "June." Alice døde når hun va bare fem år gammel
Farfar og Farmor heter Fred og Hazel Gennett. De bor i et stort hus i Indiana. Farfaren min ble født i Nashville, men familien hans flyttet til Indiana for morfaren hans kjøpte en pianofabrikk i Richmond. Farmoren min ble født og bodde i Richmond. Faren hennes eide en fabrikk som produserte flettetrådgjerder
De hadde fire sønner: Bob, Dick, Freddie, og Henry. Freddie døde når han var 17 år gammel i en bilulykke Farfar har et reisebyrå nå. Mange år for produserte han 78s med musikere som Bix Beiderbecke og Gene Autry.
Jeg har ni søskenbarn: åtte fettere Stephen, Fred, Mike, Tim, John og Greg Gennett, og George og Greg Hayward. Jeg har bare en kusine, Sarah Gennett. Jeg har også tre onkler og tre tanter.
2. Jeg bor med mannen min Richard og to barn i The Dalles, Oregon. Han arbeider på Google. Sønnen min heter Ian og den yngre datteren min heter Erin. Ian er ved Columbia Gorge Community College og Erin gå på The Dalles Wahtonka High School. Den eldre datteren min Emma bor i Texas, men hun vil flytte. Hun liker en elektrisk inspector som hun fant på Facebook. Han bor i Chicago. Jeg har også to barnebarn, Victor og Noah. Jeg har ingen søsken, men mannen min har fire, to søstre og to brødre. Også har vi to nevøer, Seth og Avery, og en niese, Hallie.
<takk for hjelp Tom!!>
"I would like," I begin, "to see if the cherries are blooming in the orchards. Would anyone like to go?"
Not Ian. He is at an Important D&D Session.
"I'll go," volunteers Erin. "There's nothing else to do."
In the passenger seat of White Truck, Erin holds a book in one hand, and completely reclines the back.
We drive up Cherry Heights Road, where the trees are blooming, and down Brown's Ferry, oaks that survived the Sheldon Ridge Fire haunt 10 acre ranches. The secret purpose of the jaunt, however, is to test the Suburu on Chenoweth Road. Will White Truck survive the scissor-like switchbacks that lead to Vensel Road, and on to Mosier? Erin will never know, because she is pretending to sleep. The pavement stops almost immediately as Chenoweth Road and its reddish brown dust climb higher and higher like the blade of a saw.
"Erin...your phone," I warn.
"It's alright mother," she replies tersely. "It's just trying to tell me I'm getting another text message. There's nothing wrong."
The teeth chew steeply through coral oaks and ponderosa pines...
"Is that Dutch Flats way over there?" the truck asks. I couldn't be sure, but over there was flat and layered like tiramisu.
After only ten or twelve self-destructive moments of terror, a road branches off to the left.
"Road Not Maintained In Winter...Drive At Your Own Risk!" it warns. We turn right and I breathe that sigh of relief.
Bright green pastures, dotted with flattened black basalt boulders, tall empty oaks and tall green pines, a Douglas Fir or two. Ecotones flash by like yard wide universes; what was the name of that science fiction novel? Lush Cascades to the West, dry steppe to the East; it is no longer The Beaver State, but rather Colorado. It is 1974 and Iris L**th and I are driving a column shift from her family farm in western Iowa to someone's resort home in the Front Range. A six week death march in Utah, band-aids over my feet like beds of shale. Eight brave women. Iris and I from Iowa. My hiker roommate Robin from Wisconsin, with her big legs and quality boots. Sweetheart Sandy, maybe from The Cities, who covered her diamond ring with masking tape each day. Joyce T***pson from Duluth, long blond hair and a name made up when her ancestors arrived from Finland. She was my favorite field partner because of her constant laughter. Maybe there weren't any more. I look out the window and I remember that field, where we saw deer when Emma and Red Van were here. Maybe an elk and a moose too. Lee! Lee from Madison. I'd liked those subalpine volcanics that Joyce and I mapped the best...no sage brush to explode my head, just spruce and...
"You know why those spruces are growing there. It's a dike. The soil is different." Terroir, no doubt.
"Lauren!" yells a woman's voice. "Lauren!!" Mim from Wisconsin is looking for her field partner. She can never find him.
And finally...seven women. There is another, and I will find her name in a moment!
"Where is my blackbird of Sweet Avondale?"
The Dalles, April 2009. "Skunked"
The animals are now assembled around an Invasive Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) in the small valley of Mill Creek to discuss the events of the Past Moon as it waxed and waned.
"I learned from the Girl Human that the Norwegian word for 'to cultivate' is 'vaske,'" begins Sammy Skunk. "And that is the same word as 'wax'...to grow. Both the moon and our Native Plant Friends grow, and then they wane and die."
The animals roll their eyes. Sammy is so dramatic!
"When she pulls the Invasive Ivy," he continues, "she talks to herself in Norwegian. Sometimes she talks to herself in Finnish and laughs. When she was pulling ivy by the First Crabapple, I heard her say, to no one in particular, 'Rakastan sinua, lulan että sinä olet seksi, ja haluan maata sinun kanssa.' Ever the romantic!!!"
The animals roll their eyes again. They know how to take care of that stuff in a blink of the eye...if it was rolled right!
"There's Katie," begins Bucky Beaver. "Freddie wails and cries from the terrace, but there is nothing we can do. The Cat Spirits are not so powerful as to conjure another sister for him. But now the Young One sits and combs his fir, when before she mostly shut him inside of drawers."
"It's that skinny panda dude from Washington, made her more mellow," hypothesizes Ricky Raccoon, "By the way, how's the housing situation for Beavers?"
"Terrible," answers Ricky. "You know those cottonwood (Populus sp) saplings that the Flattail Corps of Engineers spent so long gnawing down...=WHOOSH= came those rains and snow melt and washed our home right away. =Sniff=...Homeless again!!"
Puss Puss the back and white cat counters..."Get those B*****d Beavers back to work! Hiss at them or something!"
The list went on...pleasant staffordshire terriers accused of atrocities and executed...kittens carried away by hawks...deer =fwapped= by diesel trucks or hunted down by men in funny clothes.
"I skunked the Girl Human," says Susie Skunk quietly.
All eyes...now stationary...are on her.
"I'm going down to Fred Meyer," I announced. "I need some granola."
"Huh..." said everyone.
I left the house...turned left and crossed the Mill Creek Bridge. I saw a pale something...
"Hmm! Is it a skunk? Naw...too grey!"
...and stopped just short of tripping over it. =HOP= it tarried a moment on the railing and dropped down into the Creek Banks. If I'd done that I'd 'a committed suicide.
"Cat!" I assured myself. Then I opened my nose. I crossed the street, walked down past the Senior Center....tried to outrun it....
Once you've been skunked for a while, you realize that it's not the nightmare smell it should be. Unusual, humorous, peppery...yes...but not all that repulsive. It's not like, say, a forgotten corning ware bowl of salmon lasagna dated November 2005, or that anonymous, scentless black garbage bag you found while pulling up ivy...is there a 1967 decapitated body of a dog inside? It's just...um...a bunch of chemicals, just "skunk."
Soon I was at Freddies, where I felt the full brunt of my misfortune. An employee stocking Full Sail Amber pivoted his head towards me and grimaced...a customer picking up mozzarella for a nightcap started choking. I found my Canadian Fields of Gold Granola...and a single of Black Swan...and strolled into the housewares section, to simulate a vacation in China. No one was in sight, the store having been voluntarily evacuated. After a few minutes I headed to the dreaded U-Chek-'Em, as the regular registers were no longer manned.
"SHOW ID TO CLERK" shouted the screen as I waved my tiny bottle of Aussie wine at the bar code dealie.
The clerk must have had a really bad cold and stuffed toilet paper up her nose to catch the drips. In any case, I flicked my hair at her, and she waved me through.
"I've been skunked! I'm trying to keep away from everyone," I said.
"You've been what?" she replied.
"Oh!," she laughed. "We have a skunk that lives under our garage! She seems to like it there...But sometimes she gets mad and you sure can smell it!!"
What a lucky Mom I am! Sometimes my boy Ian will spontaneously open his arms and hug me. I'm always suspicious, believing that he is attempting to accrue a steady level of brownie points.
"Mom! Would you like to chaperone a camping trip to British Columbia this summer; I've picked a free campground with just the basics...."
One needs a lot of brownie points for no running water.
But one day last week it was different. As Ian spread his arms, I extended my right arm like a karate chop and shook his hand violently. "This is how they do it in Norway!! I learned it in class!"
Portland, Oregon, April 2009. Norwegian 103 was running along smoothly. Dr. Tom was quite soberly introducing new and difficult words to us, for example, "hyggelig," [pleasant] a word which is used far too often by Norwegians. When he got to "å ta i hånden, however, Young Thomas [Dr. Tom] thought a moment, shook his head, and said "'Handshake'...well, I'll talk about 'handshake' later...."
"Ah-choo!" interjected a student. In that split second, our teacher laughed and plowed ahead into a potentially turbid fjord.
"A Norwegian will extend their hand emphatically, grab your hand in a vice grip, and shake it vigorously."
"Even women?" asked one of the boys.
"Especially the women," explained Young Thomas. "It's a good way to avoid being hugged!"
"Oh wow!" said Linda. "I hate being hugged. Ugh!"
"I hate it too!" said another student. Everyone agreed. Except maybe in a private situation.
"But eye contact," continued Young Tom. "You have to maintain eye contact!" Wow...this must be why he stares me down until I give the correct answer in the correct language.
"I always wondered why people don't look at each other when they're toasting; why do they do that?" a student near the front of the room asked. Perhaps they're afraid the situation will become too hot to handle??
Linda caught my eye and in a split second we were caught in a tight optical grip. Not daring to look away, I fumbled for my Diet Dr. Pepper. She fumbled for her Vitamin Water. We raised our plastic beverage bottles...
&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&The Dalles, Oregon, April 2009:
April ends as the most beautiful month here in The Dalles! Across into Washington, the hills have faded to olive green, but here by the creek life is still a new lush light emerald. Some trees still wait, leaf buds swelling like the ninth month. I am a mess, cycling between the two pair of dirt stained jeans that still fit; between two tattered musical hoodies. The yard and its all-conquering ivy have, in turn has cycled from dormancy to rampant budding from roots left behind.
I am walking in irrevocably skunked blue jeans, leafy Nightwish 2007 Tour hoodie, and ancient Chinese hiking shoes. I'm headed to one of the banks..the newest and closest one in fact...that I own. All the banks in town belong to me, the free cookies, the popcorn machine, and the stress tests.
The trendy box of the bank is vacuous, one woman in an office and one floating between the accounts desk and the teller's trough.
"Can I get a strap of ones?" I ask, laying down five 20s ejected 10 minutes earlier from the Wells Fargo ATM near Grocery Outlet.. Simple transaction at most of my banks.
"Hmm," replies the little blonde teller. "I'll ask if she has a strap," indicating the woman in the office.
"Yes, I do," the woman in the office smiles. "How has your day been?"
"I've been pulling ivy! I'm pretty tired," I answer, to explain why I am so filthy and exhausted."
The teller counts out the ones. "*Who* are you getting this for?"
Who? Amazing question! "Um...me," I smile back. I am now prepared to explain the ones with a single lie, "Bunco," or maybe "Meth purchase." But no such luck.
"OK!!!" she comments, teeth clamped into increasing suspicion.
"Hey, by the way those are nice cups!" I mention in parting. I received one of the tall red china cups with the bank name on it gratis when I bought a CD with a pre-TARP JP Morgan Chase Dividend Check. In a few days, the handle got knocked off. But it is still a great cup, coveted by anyone at home who needs a lot of caffeine!
"Yes, they are nice cups," agrees the teller more than edgily.
I tried to throw the conversation back into neutral. "My family drinks a lot of hot teas and coffees!!!"
But it only made things worse.
"COOKIES!!!" I exclaim as I leave. Wow... Fred Meyer soft sugar cookies with orange icy and confetti!!! One of my favorites! I pick one up, ruining the carefully arranged platter...no...better pass this one up. "130 pounds" flashes before my eyes. Cute Ivy Pulling Sex On Wheels!!! But then, I think, can't put back a cookie touched by these filthy hands!!!
"I can't put this one back coz I touched it, " I say aloud. Seems reasonable to me.
"No..." the woman in the office snarls, her hand on the phone set to dial 911....
I have just become the bank's Official Bag Lady!!!
Portland, OR, May '09: "Say...Did you hear the one about the Norwegian who loved his wife so much that once he almost told her?" That's how the speaker began his PSU talk: "Stubborn Norwegians! My Grandfather's Prison Camp Diary." And, as a transition, imagine yourself in Norway, a German officer housed with a Norwegian family. They feed you, wash your clothes, but they never speak a word. Is this good Scandinavian hospitality?
After the Nazis "won" Norway, they tried to win the hearts and minds of the Norwegians. After all, didn't a typical Norwegian look more like Legolas than the typical German? In the mean time, small children were delivering molotov cocktails and old grandmothers hiding machine guns in their skirts. At least this is what we learned in class. Anyway, sometime in 1942, schoolteachers were asked to "conform to a sweeping Nazi agenda." Here Mr. Branstad commenced his diary. Almost all of the teachers said "No!" The Nazis rolled their eyes and shipped a thousand of the shaking heads off...første jammed into boxcars to Lillehammer, and then floated to snowy Kirkenes...pretend that first K is a sh or an angry cat hiss...on the Arctic Ocean near the Russian border. They lived first in barracks and then in tents as the midnight sun and Russian missiles exploded over or, for that matter, into them. The teachers were, however, not overly mistreated, except for the fact that they didn't get enough food to eat...especially since most of them seemed to be shuffling off to town to unload munitions. Letters were, of course, written in the contex of both the teacher and his family getting along nicely and having meaningful experiences. As time went on, the locals smuggled marinated herring and liver paste into the camp, and finally their relatives were able to help out as well. At last, in the early fall, the teachers who were sick (!!) were allowed to go home...if they signed a loyalty oath. The prisoners decided that they had made their point, and most signed the oath. A few weeks later, the rest were released.
"This illustrates the use of passive resistance," opined the speaker.
Suddenly, Bob Gennett (my dad, if you haven't met him before) popped up from his Hoosier grave. "These guys didn't have it any worse than we did in the Corps of Engineers in the Marianas and Okinawa. Bad food. Bad movies. Crowded conditions in ships. Censorship. Sure I got paid a few bucks for fixing refrigerators. But they didn't have to deal with mass civilian suicides, two typhoons, dengue fever and typhus. We couldn't wait to get home!"
"War is bad for everyone," I reminded him. "On the one hand, the Germans burnt all the buildings as they retreated from Norwegian Lappland, but in turn they burnt all the buildings in Finnish Lappland...and the Finns were their co-combatants. And when the German boys got home, their own homes were probably bombed out!" It was good being able to stand up to Bob, even if he was a ghost.
After the show was over, I spoke to Karin, my fellow student from Swedish.
"I'm going to Sweden this summer!" she said.
"With a tour group?"
"No...a bunch of my relatives are getting together." Jealous!! Mine were stuck touring around Indiana and Ohio!
Dr Tom was there, too, with two student ducklings...Sonja and Linda...in tow.
"Judith!" he said. "I want to introduce you to this man. He skiied across Spitsbergen!!!"
"Wow!" I said to the man. "How do you get to Spitspergen?" It is one of my goals.
"I went with a ski group...with the woman who was first to ski across Antarctica...."
I loaded my plate with high calorie treats. I spoke for a moment to Carol, a senior audit who had taken a couple of Famous Danish Author Peter Føgtdal literature courses with me. Then I saw that Sonja had de-ellinged herself from Dr. Tom.
"Passive resistance!" began Sonja. "I like the idea what passive resistance can do. I was in Meeting...in Quaker Meeting...."
To me this is like someone explaining that greenstone is a metamorphic rock.
"Quaker Meeting!! Are you a Quaker? Multnomah Monthly Meeting? I'm a member of Mountain View Worship Group!" Imagine one Lutheran getting this excited about finding another Lutheran at a talk about Norwegians.!
"Yes!" she exclaimed. "And I always wondered if you were a Quaker. Because you look natural.'
"Huh!" I answered. "Must be my glasses!!! No make-up!" Jeans that smell like skunk....
May 2009, The Dalles, OR: The next time I saw Bill he was standing on my doorstep, dangling a key in the same way a gardener would balance a bushel of overproduced zucchini.
"Is there something I need to do?" I asked.
You could see the sly grin in his eyes. "Just unlock the door, and turn on the lights."
"Are you coming back for the key sometime or another?" I asked.
"Yeah, sometime..." His wife was waiting in the car. In one split second they were off on a Sunday drive to Portland.
At last I had ultimate power over Friends Meeting. Deja vu!!
[I don't really want to talk about the last time I was in this situation. I think it was in the late 90s, in Texas, and I was officially the clerk of the local worship group. The former clerk, a very calm woman, had split to Montana. One of the Quakers, Steve O., quoted Bible verses like a child with a bag of M&Ms. Another, Ian M., endlessly sought Spiritual Truth. So sharp was the knife that divided them, so heated were the discussions, that I felt as if Satan had flicked a butane lighter on underneath the Lutheran Sunday School room we were renting. One day, I started screaming, melted underneath my chair, and flowed out under the door.]
At a few minutes to ten, I drove to the Episcopal Diocese Headquarters that we were renting and unlocked the door. Soon a Quaker named Jim showed up in his Jeep. He had just had a Hyperspace Bypass, but was doing quite well now.
"You know, Desmond Tutu is giving a talk at St Paul's right now. I bet that's why no one is here," he said.
"Wow! Right now!?...want to go?"
"No...I've already seen him, and I bet there is standing room only."
We settled in, as they call it, and in a few moments a Hood River couple, Geoff and Margo arrived. 45 minutes went by and we all woke up at around eleven.
"How are you doing?" Jim asked the couple.
"Actually, I'm really stressed out," answered Margo. There was a pause. "It's my job. I can't sleep. I am so exhausted that I go to sleep, but then I wake up and can't get back to sleep, dreading the morning. I finally get back to sleep just before the alarm goes off!"
"Wow! Is it the workload?" I enquired.
"Yes it is," she replied. "Some of the other employees have the same problem. You know we serve migrants, and I specialize in diabetes. I tell people 'eat more fruits and vegetables,' but all they can afford is rice and beans. They can't afford the supplies to test their blood sugar. And now we are getting people who would never have come in before. We had a man come in in his late 20s, with Type I diabetes, which is harder to deal with. He'd never had a job, and his parents had always paid for his health insurance, but they couldn't afford it anymore." Margo shook her head. "I'm sure things will ease up. I'm glad I don't have any *real* problems."
"At least you're not the person doing the bookkeeping and insurance!" said Jim.
"Even those people have it *much* easier than our clients..." sighed Margo
Contra Dancing. Peek into the grange hall. The stereotype seems viable. One row of women, one row of men. do-si-do, allemande, ladies chain, sashay down. If things are working out OK, you're probably having some sort of nightmare in which everyone has a Briggs-Meyer personality ending in "J." These folks should do Bulgarian circle dances instead. In *real* Contra Dance, no one...well, maybe a few people, can second guess the caller! And as soon as you know what you're doing, it's time to move on to another dance!
Hood River, OR, May 2009: ...there they are, those two sleek lines in the Rockford Grange Hall. And it's the Mill Creek String Band on stage with Paul From Portland calling.
"Grab another partner and form squares!" instructs Paul. Yep...the dreaded "squares" ! Did I just pay a total of sixteen dollars to struggle through five squares in a row? To be fair, the dances here are called "country" dances, to make allowances for the wretched "squares," and to prevent the local agriculturists from leaving in a huff in their McCain plastered Yukons.
The first square dance isn't too bad. One by one, the four partners cut away one and then pull the opposites back and forth. But even with this fortuitous simplicity, things are going wickedly wrong. I look around and notice...HALF the dancers are under fifteen!!! And most of them are female!!!
"What's wrong with a room full of middle school contra dancers, hee hee hee, LOL???" inquires the ghost of nightmare dances.
"Because," you answer in bad taste, "no matter what, or perhaps because of what, you hear about other, 'cooler' 12 year olds 'hooking up' with guys at drunken parties, none of the girls here are willing to even dance with males." That's why every other couple consists of one girl wearing a tie and one girl not wearing a tie, while several men sit alone at the side. In addition, a couple moms coax dumfounded three years olds ("You're doin' great, honey!") and one mother ignores a 10 year old as he suddenly rolls around the floor laughing. And then there's the mom with the six footer in the black "HAKA!" Tshirt from New Zealand ....
=FWAP!= goes the first spoke in the wheel. =CRASH= goes the second rib of the star.
"Mom!" says Ian. "Half our square is gone!!" Can't do a Texas Star in that condition, no matter how debonair my Little Faerie Puck is. The scientific rule is simple: "CHAOS" rises with the percentage of dancers not old enough to drive a car. That's how the DMV deals with "CHAOS."
I believe it was the fifth square where Paul from Portland explained the left hand grand. I was standing between Puck and The Cashier. I'd been dancing almost ten years with The Cashier, but had no idea what his name was!!!
"Of course you know all of this. You're an old hand," The Cashier said to me, laughing. I rolled my eyes, suspecting that he was laughing at *my* moments of abrupt confusion, for example:
"I wonder why Victor Johnson isn't playing fiddle tonight!" =WHAM=STOP=CHAOS=
"That's a neat hippie skirt she's wearing. I wonder if they're married? I wonder if she voted for Obama?" =WHAM=STOP=CHAOS=
"OK...Allemand your corner," called Paul From Portland. I stared The Cashier in the eye and gripped his right hand tightly as we pivoted. Then I did the same to my partner, Puck.
"Ha!" Puck said under his breath. "He must be Norwegian!" Tight Grip. Eye to Eye.
"Well...he's tall, maybe so," I answered.
May 2009, The Dalles: Wednesday! Portland! I put Subway To Sally's Hertzblut in the CD player, and commence searching out any evil "scheisses" or "scheisskophs" or even "schists" that front man Eric Fish might come up with. I take the long route through Downtown to the The Dalles Bridge over the Columbia. Ahead of me, on the corner, is a young man with a red plastic gas can. The can reads "Need Gas. Anything helps." Why does that sound fishy to you?
"Fishy?" asks the CD player. This has to be the most esoteric of my hallucinations. "Ja, ja, Fish ist hier!!!" Listen and you can hear the hurdy gurdy in the background.
"Visst!!!" I exclaim.
"Dieser man war hier am Montag. Auch seine rote Flasche," continues Eric. The man had been standing there since I took Erin over to *tony*'s on Monday, trying to obtain some gasoline. Fishy indeed!
Note: NO MINORS!!! Parental Advisory!!!
Portland, Oregon, May 2009...Imagine yourself at Paganfest, if you like. It shouldn't be hard to do even without Magical Realism hallucinations. So...Let the Pagan charms and lighting wizards lead you on, as you and your drivers license float into the back bar of The Theatre at Hawthorne and 39th, near Fred Meyer. The bouncer at the NO MINORS door snickers: "Um..do you have your ID on you?" Yes, you've just spent 10 minutes looking for it in a panic.
You immediately target the bar. It's a hard choice: the stout is like chocolate here!
"Can I get a cosmo?" you ask.
"You want that on the rocks or as a shot?" the bartender asks. "Shot?" Is that like "Up?"
"On the rocks!!" It is as hot as Valhalla here. You can't wait to crunch on the lime flavored ice. Wait! Lime? Is this really a cosmo?
The problems began when three different start times were announced, also some people were surprised to find that Swiss band Eluveite...probably the only band in the world singing death vocals in reconstructed ancient Gaulish, as well as certain members head banging with fiddle, hurdy gurdy, and gaida...had cancelled out. You'd shown up after the Pirate Metal band, Swashbuckle, had already played, you had suspected that would happen. You picked up your cold chocolate at the bar, and cozied up in one of the theater chairs to listen to Blackguard from Montreal. Ooh lala!
"Tämä on meidän ensimmäinen matka Amerikaan!" the vocalist said in English. "Vittu! Perkele!!!" you expounded, rolling your eyes. "That ain't French! That's Finnish English or vice verse for 'This is our first trip to America!.'"No, niin... Moonsorrow?" You whipped "The Willamette Week"(Carson, 2009, v 25/27p 37) out of your memory:
"Most exciting to a growing segment of Portlanders is the special appearance by Finland's Moonsorrow. This mostly instrumental group made one of the greatest and most overlooked metal albums of the past five years, "Viides Luku: Hävitetty" -two massive 30 minute metal tracks of progressive and folk influenced metal dynamism that will satisfy shoegazers and head-bangers in equal glorious measure." Yep! Some nice epic "Lord of the Ring" themes! Even though they weren't from Montreal, the audience up front gave a lot of hornsigns...zzz...snore....
"Whoa!!" you noticed, waking with a start. Two older guys had just entered the bar in black utilkilts and black t-shirts, one of which read "Dropkilt Murphys." Yes, now the older crowd was primed for a jig-mosh. In anticipation of a weird dance challenge , two women were grinding in very poor taste. You shook your head. Must be Lesbians.
But now you've got your cosmopolitan ice, and you're leaning against the wall, watching the Irish band ...um...let me look this up. Primordial. At first, they remind you on stage of Rage, the singer artistically tattooed and presenting himself as a dedicated, genuine force....
In front of you, the bouncer hassles a black-haired woman with studs in her lip about her ID. She finally locates it.
Oh come, Godesses of the Solstice, Let me become my own self===
Regretfully tossing my lime flavored ice into the trash, I bolt out the door of the back section. No Id or black-light stamp is needed to enter the children's area. I've previously discussed "Metal Zones." The sound is equally abysmal, thudding drum and bass wherever you stand. But in front, the lights, the sound, the sight of a hundred two fingers raised, the sweat bubbling from the musicians naked arms, the sudden eye contact with an electric fiddler or accordionist, the unity....are a thousand times more intoxicating as six plastic glasses of Syrah poured down the throat...I stop to take a close-up photo of the Korpiklaani banner and am suddenly trapped in this shimmering, wet pool, three rows, three heads, three faces away from the stage. One by one the band appears, and I am looking directly at the "violinist" and jouhikko player they call "Hittavainen." I guess, in a way, this means, "Damn good fiddle player." I am amazed how omnipresent the skeleton-like fiddle is in the mix.
Korpiklaani is arguably the heir to the stunning Swedish folk rock bands of the 90's...Garmarna, Hoven Droven...where did these people go? I remember watching Hoven Droven in '99 in a big tent at Falun....sniff.
"Mom...do you remember how I read 'Little Labels Big Sounds' while they played," suggests Ian. "People wondered how I could concentrate when the music was so loud!!!" But while Hoven Droven was...oh well, I don't know. They both seem about the same loud. Korpiklaani, however, combines every sort of weird Finnish stereotype at one time. There's Jonne with his rack of Sami reindeer (it was Jonne who joiked for Finntroll, wasn't it?*?*?). There's the accordion and fiddle carrying on the depressively alcoholic pelimannit and Tango traditions. "Beer Beer" and "Wooden Pints," the later considered arguably by some the best song in the world!!! (Miller, pc, 2009). They add a delightful sprinkle with the word "Kantale." And there! See look at that guitarist lean smiling and amiable toward the audience as the band plays "Paljon on Koskessa kiviä (which means something like "There are a lot of rocks in the waterfall.") ...isn't that a touch of Helsinki's Stratovarius?
Suddenly, I am forced to to leap back. Oh no, it's the "jig-moshers"...laughing spritely girls giggling, spiking, flinging and ramming into each other! I've never seen anything like this! Do I push them into the couple ahead of me...a 6'2 woman dressed in black, accompanied by a 5'4 man with a honey colored beer...um...beard and waist length hair...or just retreat? Finally, just before the third encore, that's exactly what I do, cool running like an icebreaker from Kemi....Showing my useless fluorescent stamp to the bouncer and crumpling into a chair for a minute. Back here, the Korpiklaani is decidedly less enchanting. That's why people stand as close as they can to the stage.
Outside, the cool air is *very* enchanting! I put my Nightwish hoodie on. Suddenly a huge Viking sheaths his sword...okay, so the sword isn't real, but the bearded man is...and says:
"Granny! Let me shake your hand!"
Uh..."I guess I am a granny!" I laugh.
"But you're a special granny. You're a Metal Granny!!!"
I laugh again. Sounds like a great radio show title.
Seattle, WA, May 2009: 3 teenagers + 2 Mountain Dews =5 hours to get to Seattle!! And the car entertainment was not something to shrug at either!
"Trace," asked Erin. "How does it feel to have long hair all over your legs?"
"Hmm," answered Trace. "I was just thinking about that myself."
and so on. Actually, I can't remember much about the conversations, which went in one ear and out the other. Instead, I was driven to make it to Northwest Folklife for a landmark event: "Blackened Folk."
"What does that mean?" my friend Cajun John would ask on the way to cheap Black Butte Porter in the Hospitality Room. If you an make it through the churning crowd of peasants and past the heavily claymore-armed guards at the gate, you too can jostle for chairs with hard-core old-time jammers (Isn't that half of our Mill Creek String Band?) and perky Scandinavian dancers.
"Does that mean that they do acoustic versions of metal?" observed Cajun John.
"Um...no," I replied. "Are there any more bagel chunks over there?"
"I'll go look," Cajun John replied, and the term "Blackened Folk" floated away like puffs of ash from Mt St Helens.
It was not difficult to totally lose contact with the children. They were old enough to "do their thing" without Mama Judy. What was hard was that my feet took the wrong vertical street to the Seattle Center. Five blocks doesn't sound like much, but when you have to invoke mass wasting and gravitational anomalies to modify the steep angle of slope, you're in big trouble. Lucky I arrived at Neofolk Paradise with less than time to spare, and was able to secure a portion of a red "cushy seat" just after the first keyboard driven psych act....
Waldteufel is either a French composer ("Skater's Waltz") or a little forest devil or an esoteric neofolk performer from Portland....in this case the latter. Dressed in modern clothing vaguely suggesting lederhosen, he speaks, sings, and chants in German, though his strikingly bass voice seems partial to chanting, thereby invoking little grimm Black Forest elves. The German works particularly well if you're used to listing to Rammstein or Subway to Sally, "Du hast, du hast mich," o.s.v., and still have no earthly idea what the lyrics are. Unaccompanied here in Seattle, he relied on electronica, microphone tricks, and a frame drum, to get the desired druid-like Gregorian chant effects.
Soon, however, Waldteufel would be sitting on the floor, right across from my ankles, as I held my place on the premium red bench and stared at the side of his head. Everyone else had left the bench...it's always Musical Chairs at Northwest Folklife...and new people had taken their place.
"Do you sing Sacred Harp in Portland?" asked the middle aged woman next to me.
"Sacred Harp. Do you sing treble?" she continued.
"Yes! What a coincidence!" I exclaimed.
"I'm Sue! I sing Alto! Are you singing tomorrow? " What on earth was this woman doing in a room with black walls listening to folk metal? Was she another closet Metal Granny? A wicken? Were we singing in a square or (ugh!) on risers? Suddenly the sound-check amps screeched like Dimmu Borgir.
"Oooh!" she grimaced. "Too loud!"...and walked out the door.
Too loud and too bad that she did not stay for the next band, Hail / l'Acephale, another Portland entity. I very honestly don't know anything about them, except to say I had never seen a group of grim reapers head banging on stage. They appeared soon, marching around the black mosh pit in their black robes. The leader carried a garden rake teeth toward heaven. They chanted "He is gone vanished...boatman for the dead" over and over. They ascended the stage to their instruments, and commenced a faceless black metal drone, chanting in words with no faces, bowing their cauled heads up and down. They raised an effigy...a medieval woodcut of man, and drew red ribbons through it...As the ritual progressed, some in the audience sat motionless and others rocked on back and forth. A couple in gothic black writhed, their arms like tattooed snakes, and later laughed.
Outside, I bought a plate of Tibetan curried garbanzos and tripped over strollers. Buskers played their accordions and washtubs and tiny quarter size violins. "Teaching kids to beg," Cajun John had opined to me once. I walked on like the moon, face to the sun, back to Pluto.
The Dalles, June 2009: Snow!!! The best place to be in this weather is in among the wild rose stalks. On the left, it's a steep incline to the terrace, and on the right the newly emerging silver cobbles and English Ivy....and the snow. The senior center, above the jagged riprap, is joyfully obscured by leaves of walnut and maple, and cottonwood, which is where all the soft, feathery snow comes from.
It's a day of intermittent daydreams. "I'm a fairy rising from the river of Deep Time" is intertwined with "Is this a Hedera or a Rosa? What happened to my shears? Who planted this c**p in the first place?" In the end, Deep Time will take over, but I'll go back inside for a moment....
"Liza and some people went to Sasquatch...pictures posted....some kind of concert...camping on the grounds," Robin Goodfellow [Ian] threw in. "Nostalgia!!!"
"You've camped on the grounds....when you were very young!"
"But I always helped put up the tent!"
"I remember when you got lost!" What a nightmare that was!" Oh how I long for the days of camping at festivals in the rain with little children!
I'm back outside now. During my stay in Seattle, I reread most of the book "In Suspect Terrain," named for my radio show. In it, John McPhee, "one of the pioneers of narrative non-fiction" according to Wikipedia, drives west from Brooklyn to Indiana with conodont specialist Anita Harris, in much the same way that I would drive that root had I the time. Variations of the term "Whoa! Look at that outcrop!" dominate Anita's personality....
"Yeah, I've met her a couple of times..." someone at a 1980s Texas A&M Paleo Lunch would admit, as the tetra-bromoethane and formic acid simmered on beneath the hood.
....so in a sense Anita represents not only bug pickers, or women as we pry-barred their paths into science, but each and every geologist as we swing through life overly assaulted with sensory...um...junk. Well, some of it is junk, some not, but it still comes clopping along like an over-filled gravel truck hell bound to confound your window.
The term "Suspect Terrain" doesn't actually mean anything, but McPhee used it because he isn't a geologist. A "Suspect Terrane" however, is a micro-continent of unknown origin or some such poised to dock onto a continent. Much of "Suspect Terrane" deals with plate tectonics...but not continental drift. Continental drift was a fin de siecle concept invented by meteorologist Alfred Wegener [et al], in part while daydreaming on some Greenland death marches. Plate tectonics, on the other hand, was a mid-century invention that allowed fun-loving geologists in Chicago to make their own cartoons or "animations" of plates going back and forth. Good grief, this vine is as big as a tree trunk!
Enough of that...I forgot why I wrote it, other than to say that a lot of textbooks written in the 60s and 70s also left out Wegener, leaving a generation of geologists to believe that plate tectonics was an exciting new concept.
"What about Wegener?" someone would ask him at a party.
"Who?" he would answer, abruptly sloshing his 5th plastic Budweiser on the forest floor.
Are you a geologist at heart? Here's a fast quizz:
1) Do you look at every outcrop as you are driving and make up multiple working hypotheses? What does a pillow basalt look like?
2) When you don't have an answer do you say This isn't my field or The mechanism is not well understood?
3) Instead of making a clean final decision, do you collect more and more data and opinions for years and years?
4) Do you enjoy being outside?
Dr. Tom half asks half says: "Is the grass browning up now in The Dalles?" He has the understated smugness of a Native Oregonian and a Salmon-Eye to boot. Yes, but the roadsides are covered with bachelor buttons and lupines, clover and yarrow, cows and calves....
Klickitat County, Washington, June 2009: It was so long ago...since I had Red Car...that I last topped the Columbia Hills and drove to Goldendale. Over and not around is by way of Dalles Mountain Road, the un-maintained wash boarded gravel and dirt route that peaks on top of the Klickitats or Dalles Mountain or Columbia Hills or whatever you want to call them. In boring geological terms, the "mountain" is an extended example of the charming little Ortley anticline and thrust fault that you can see a couple miles back a little west of Murdock. Here, look, imagine holding your left hand rigidly horizontal and ramming your floppy right hand up against your finger tips at an angle a bit less than level, letting your knuckles arch a bit as the axis of the anticline and bloody mangling the fingertips, leaving your right arm to continue on into The Dalles Syncline, getting your elbow wet and electrocuted on the BPA wires as well, and then breaking a couple bones in order to get it back up to Tygh Ridge. That's what they teach you at Geology School, how to explain spatial processes.
In any case, I drove the new glittery white Suburu Truck up the hill.
"Hmm! Look over there! A cow and calf in the middle of the road!" warned the Suburu. This locally green Japanese firm (Suburu) includes a full arsenal of warning devices in its vehicles. The hefty calf and its heftier mom moved over onto the shoulder, suggesting that cows aren't as stupid as they seem. We continued on, till we reached that one point near the signal tower where we could see everything in a sweeping cyclorama. On the left, the checkered wheat fields and wind generators of Sherman County, abruptly cut through by the Columbia with its dark walls. On the right, the valley of the Klickitat River, with its green pastures and fields...behind it the gap in the...oops, a chunk of rock covered by browned up grass is in the way! But look at that radio tower! Like the one at Tarvisio in the Alps!
As we began our descent, the Rattlesnake Hills and that Mighty, but decapitated, Matador of the New Cascades...Mount Adams came into view, white as snow!!! White Truck sighed. "Cattle...a lot of this time...in the roadway..."
"Oh my!" I ejected.
"Don't run into 'em..." suggested White Trucky. In front of us, ignoring the barbed wire, were dozens of cows and calves of all colors and patterns. Husky...they were all husky and smooth, like a flotilla of battleships ready to attack Goldendale, Washington. Had something like that ever happened? No...they were more likely to *feed* Goldendale! We slowed to 5 mph. A few of the frisky calves skittered across the road like chipmunks.
Blacktop. Soon our mission would be accomplished....lunch at Ayatollah's Mexican Restaurant!!!
"That's Ayutla's...." warned my Precision based Japanese SUV, which, by the way, had neither eaten there nor at the Chevron next door. "By the way...There's some more cattle on your right...Oh my!!!"
"That's..." I began, but was outspoken.
"That's sort of a feed lot." Two dozen or so cattle were shoved in like a jig-saw puzzle...into a maze of fences and dirt. "I spoke too soon. Those cattle are no hazard to us."
May-June 2009: The Dalles: A knock at the front door. ..Ian! Home from performing in the dignified Shakespeare play, A Midsummers Nights Dream!!! And in his hands orange and red....
"Sunflowers," he said. Wrapped in cellophane. "And I'm supposed to know who sent these to me."
"Who?" I asked.
"I'm supposed to know."
Oh my little Puck...my sweet Robin Goodfellow!! You have chomped one more byte out of the cake of success. One more roll under your belt!! The role had earlier been played by Jena Viemeister at The Dalles Wahtonka High School, but, like Peter Pan, anyone can do it. The trick to hiring a guy is that they can legally perform topless, the current rage amongst wine majors at Columbia Gorge Community College. And there was Puck's boss Oberon, who had a weird way of saying "lu-uv," and there was Ian as Puck. the only two men that could be found willing to be Faeries...
"I should try and walk more and do some exercises," suggested Puck. Both he and Oberon should have grows a pair of short horns and pointy ears.
"Liza got rid of *that* goat," Ian added much later, in a different context. The one that Little Victor petted at the county fair.
And there he was, with pretend English Ivy sewn onto Dockers, acting as a scout for King Oberon, dressed in maroon sweat pants and a halo....surrounded by those beautiful faeries, and the stunningly graceful and merry Faerie Queen Titania.
"She made that dress herself," said Puck. How many hours did it take?
"Give me your hands if we be friends
And Robin may restore amends."
At this, Robin Goodfellow came into the audience and took my hands into his.
Then the play was over.
Portland, OR, June 2009: "Balkan Beat Box"
"Yeah! In Portland...Tonite? I'm going to a concert with my mom," Ian spoke into one of his little electronic boxes.
"What's up?" I asked.
"D&D session!" he replied. Oh, poor lonely dungeonmaster!!!
The Crystal Ballroom on Burnside has three stories. The ballroom itself is on the third and top story. It is painted with murals framed in a dusty robins egg blue. The "sprung" wooden floor "floats"; it is like a huge trampoline. Not surprisingly, the huge room is partitioned lengthwise into three black, mobile, waist high dividers. There's the kid's area, the bar, and the buffer zone, the "no-mans-land," where you can only go if you're a 300 pound 6'9 bouncer, or a musician with a tuba and plumed hat. We arrived in the kids area in time for a few tunes by Vagabond Opera. What an accordion! And not that they did this, but I wonder how someone can eat fire or or even get a firey hula-hoop going. The gal I saw was great at hula-hooping, but it wasn't lit, just red and shiny. Polka-mosh!!! PDX's V.O. kept the audience lit with their own special Cascadien blend of retro euro circus noir music, can can and other sexy dancing that goes with a slice of cheese pizza which served as our dinner. (Ian's had pepperoni)
I sank down to the second floor briefly, projecting that some dj would be spinning odd discs during the break. This was not to be. STILTWALKERS!!! These men and women, dressed in light blue satin, towered over the childrens section, walking around and under each other (you know what I mean). Some were twice as tall as the average customer and almost stepped on audience members in states of altered conscience. Appropriate circus music was provided by costumed musicians playing "brass." You know...trumpets, saxophones, they could have been a gypsy brass band! Soon the stiltwalkers moved over in to the Bar, and proceeded to never fall over there either , though they had to watch for even more customers with plastic glasses in their hands who weren't moving. A group of gymnastic dancers in skimpy red clothing moved into our area, but my child and I were not close enough to peer over the crowd.
Soon, the band that we had all been waiting for took the stage...BALKAN BEAT BOX!!! We'd been waiting a long time, as last spring they had been waylaid by Customs in Blaine because of some weird thing with the English bass player's passport. Words cannot convey the high energy and intensity that surged forth from this Euro-Med Disco band. I was fascinated that they were as "heavy" as any metal band I'd seen. But instead of "banging" heads, the audience...and the band...spiked up and down or swayed and shoveled back and forth. Some of the ladies were obviously belly dancers, snaking their hands and bodies around. No horn signs, almost no music t-shirts despite the fact I felt altogether proper in my royal blue Woodlestadt T-shirt and Gogol Bordello hoodie, which was soon tied around my waist. The chicken song...the Bush (or whatever) resistance...digital monkey (i think)...and different, new songs from their latest album.
"JUMP!!!" they shouted, and hundreds of people JUMPED!!! on that trampoline floor...
"I'm moving over to the side," said Ian, his skin white with terroir.
"Clap!!!," they shouted, and hundreds of people clapped over their heads, sweat dripping off their bodies. A francais clad couple, tiny and slim, clothing noir and tight, red scarves. A tiny girl in blue, on her mother's shoulders. Up in front, a spike- mosh, one song traveling directly into another. A white haired couple in REI uniforms, women with shawls around their waists...three couples in suburban mall attire, the man in back hugging the woman in front lining up perfectly....An odd child or woman, I'm not sure but she is 4'10" in red satin and white lace, hugs a man as he walks by.
Ian caught my attention. $2 for a drink, he inquired in sign language. I looked at the menu and sighed. No Diet Mountain Dew. One root beer....
I scrambled for my ID, but when I showed it to the bar guard, he shook his head and with a flick of the fluorescent stamp, waved me through.
"Terminator," I asked at the bar. Terminator Stout. Part of the McMennemin Empire. My attempt at coceks were not worth anything. I could only DIVE back and forth.
I wonder if I will ever see anything quite like this again.
Six, eight blocks back to the white truck. Unlocking the car and getting in, I screamed quietly. Almost paralyzed from DIVING. At Troutdale I stopped and bought a Payday. Paydays have the same amount of calories as granola bars.
The Dalles, June, 2009: I spent the morning sending off cute messages in unintelligible Finnish...at least my Finnish is now...."minun suomenkieli on nyt"...unintelligible, wheres the dictionary? Forgot the umlauts...I better switch my country button to Finnish...oops! I hit the send key!!! Oh my. At least the Finnish is unintelligible....
I do this alternating with pulling up ivy. As Midsummer approaches, the holdouts dive further and further down into the sand, and it is harder and harder to..
Back inside, the phone rings. From the sound of the voice, it's "Quench" after our phone service! I snarl, as always, "He's at work." My husband is always at work. Elgoog owns him.
"Is this Judith?" he continues. Sly one.
"Hi. I'm Jason, I'm an electrical estimator in Chicago...one of the top ten companies...I've got my own home and a herd of water buffalo and...uh...I guess I'm asking for your daughter's hand in marriage."
"Take it!!!!" I squeal with delight, my eyes glowing. Later my husband will ask:
"Does he have health insurance?"
The day wears on. What kind of outfit should I buy at Fred Meyer? Will they actually use the Gennett Mansion, only 4 hours from Chicago?
At 6 o'clock, I rouse Ian from his Mac.
"Your dad is MIA at Elgoog. We have to go Contra Dancing without him."
"Huh...let me finish this," replies Ian, staring at the screen.
Only 20 minutes and we are on the road to Hood River, leaving Erin to struggle with the agony of a migraine alone in her room. Later, sitting on the back steps, she will be attacked by a skunk.
"The Cashier" at the Rockford Grange looks at Ian, who has recently been scalped. "Haircut!!! Whoa!!!" TC points up to the band on stage and whispers. "We have a new band up there...they've never played at a dance before!" Six foot four I reckon, maroon shirt, frantic eyes, later he will dash from his position as my "corner," saying:
"Whole bunch of new people coming in." I will be left to do si do alone, while he squeezes $$$ out of hopeful dancers.
And I will later ask Ian, "How many fiddles up there?"
"Wow!" will answer. "Eight fiddles! And a guitar and a double bass!"
"And downstairs, during break, their teacher will play her 'Nyckelharpa!''"the caller will add. Nyckelharpa i Mosier, vad nästa, sier du det? Why is my camera at home?
The next day, Sunday, I drive in to Portland, unexpectedly loosing Erin to her friend Evi while there.
"She's really upset that her friend with privileges moved to California and she left some jewelry at his apartment," Erin explains in the car. "She needs someone to talk to."
"Huh," I say "What's that?"
"It means they're not dating or anything," Uh.....
"Is this her old boyfriend?" I ask.
"No, this is her friend with privileges. She got rid of her old boyfriend a couple of years ago. He was being a douche."
"Did you know 'douche" is Swedish for "shower"? I continue.
I return to The Dalles alone, and stay that way for quite some time. No Idea where anyone is.
My cell phone rings. "Donna," flashed onto the screen. Who was this Donna? Oh yeah, my sister-in-law, my husband's sister. I know what she will say:
"Uncle Ken called me this morning and said that Aunt Dorothy died."
More or less, that's what she says.
Portland, OR, June 2009: "A Quick Trip."
"Where is it that you want to be left off? Downtown? " I ask Ian. School is out now for everyone, including Columbia Gorge Community College. This means that my job as the Portland Bus Driver can be extended even to weekdays!
"Uh..." says Ian, picking up his I-Hop. "SE 10th and Hawthorne."
"Which side of the river is that?" I query.
"What do you mean?" East. Oh gosh. Would I have time to get to my radio show?
I turn off the freeway at 42nd Street. Better to be safe than sorry. But will I have time to get to my radio show? Smooth, though, smooth travel once on Hawthorne.
"We're looking for 'FREE GEEK'."
"We run PSA's for FREE GEEK," I say approvingly. Non-profit. Lots of used, re-tweeked towers in the window. I leave Ian off at Geek Central and head across the Hawthorne Bridge.
[What is that?" I think as I cross the bridge. "Why is there a full-blown cruise ship down there? Who would want to take a cruise to Portland? Is it a ship full of tattoo voyeurs?]
Will I get to KPSU in time for my radio show? No, one minute late, but the jukebox is on, the lights are off, and no one is in sight. How lucky!!!
DJ Victrola, host of "The Guitar Shop" comes in much later, and quietly says, "Hello!"
"Alghy! Yikes!!" I scream, diving under the board. DJ Victrola apologizes.
"How long have you been here at KPSU?" she asks, changing the subject. I unwind from a fetal position.
"Um...January 2002." Yep.
"So you've been here a long time too..."
Soon I am done with my show. I gather up my music and liter bottle of Diet Mountain Dew. But I am not alone in the lobby. The "new" Production Director, a dark skinned man from somewhere in California, is working away at Facebook on his laptop. I say "new' because we have so much student turnover. Anyone who hasn't been here a year is "new." Victrola and I, in contrast, are very very old.
"How are things going?" he asks.
"Judith's been here a long time too!!" Victrola interjects.
"I know," replies the PD. "Judith, you have a wonderful voice. One of the best radio voices at KPSU."
I am dumbfounded. Whiny. I have a whiny voice and don't sound at all like a guy like women do in Philadelphia. "Yeah...all those 'ums'"
"You don't realize this, but I listen to every show on KPSU. Yours come on and I sigh and smile and close my eyes. It's...um..."earthly"...."
"Yeah, well, I have a couple degrees in geology," I counter. "
"Earthly...it could be from the mountains...from the sea...."
"Huh!" I remember the man who called my Texas station, KEOS, and told me in 4,000 worlds how much he liked my mellow voice. That's two fans!!!
"You two...as far as I'm concerned you can have...you can do anything you want at this radio station. Let me tell you this, I respect my mother and my grandmother and my great grandmother...."
"Ha ha!" laughs DJ Victrola from the booth. "He respects old women!!"
The Californian smiles. "I respect you for the experience you have."
"If I can drive it on down through Birmingham,
I'll fly back up to Memphis
As soon as my feet hit solid ground,
I'm gonna walk on back to Texas."
The Dalles, Oregon, June 2009. "Eric Taylor 4"
The last time Eric Taylor was here in The Dalles, he drove a car just like mine
"How do you like your Aveo?" I asked. But it wasn't his. "We saw you way back a long time ago, at a house concert in Brenham. You autographed my 'Eric Taylor' CD." What he wrote was: "Eric Taylor."
"You were there?" he replied. "I remember that. Because there were only so many places you could play."
Taylor has a reputation for presenting the quiet, sweaty, sleazy, warm, incomprehensible country in which two of my children were born, but in more than five meagre words. When I think back onto the Lone Star State, my first image is Young Enthusiastic Paleoecologists walking the opaque brown waters of the Brazos. I think of how Dan Miller, our Wise One on this self-inflicted death march, wore Snake Boots. Dan would have been awarded a Snake Eye, if didn't already wear a Catfish Eye with tarter sauce. But Eric has A LOT of ideas I don't, for instance, the first half of this last concert contained more songs about carnivals than times I've been to carnivals in Texas. He seems to use them (ie knife throwers, dog acts, slack rope walkers, etc) to portray the extremes of human behavior, in some ways like Peter Hoeg's "The Quiet Girl." [You too can pretend to analyze lyrics after taking a couple of courses in Scandinavian Magical Realism at Portland State.]
"Eric Taylor! Are you ready to go?" My Escort asked. "I've already reserved two tickets!"
"Was that tonite?" I panicked. "I thought all I had to do today was get my oil changed!"
"I wish you had told me about it!" sighed Ian. "But check out the CDs and shirts...."
No yellow Aveo this year. But there was Eric, in his gangsta outfit, black to match Johnny Cash, whom he would later monologue and sing about. The Fireside Room was, to our surprise, not full.
"Three things are going on in town tonite," someone claimed. "Asleep at the Wheel at the Granada..."
"Asleep at the Wheel?" exclaimed ET. "Get me my shotgun!!!!" he smiled.
We sat down in the eighth row and I went over to the window and bought a Black Butte Porter. Mmmm!!!!
...and the show began with a carnival song...two back to back. Eric precedes each song with a long monologue, funny and tragic and possibly bittersweet. He might mention his friend [the late]Townes [Van Zandt] or his friend David Olney, which should give you a clue to what's coming....
"Every so often," he might say, "there's a drunk woman in the back of the room who raises her hand and says,'Townes...Townes...can you play a happy song? Townes, just for me?'"
"There's the song about Hemingway," suggests an unsettled man in the front of the room.
"Yeah, Hemingway, that's a happy song," ET muses back with a distant look in his eye. The chances of hearing "Hemingway's Shotgun" were distant indeed. On he went with songs that express the sadness, beauty, and weird, subtle joy of life..."Walkin' Back Home To Texas," Townes' "Dirty Dirty," [enhanced], "Carnival Jim and Jean," "The Peppercorn Tree," "The Great Divide," "Manhattan Mandoline Blues....," hardly anything, ironically, from the years we lived in Texas, about *our* Texas. So it goes, time flies. I flew up myself, during break, and bought a plastic shot of the local Chardonnay with the subtle taste of celery. Three things, I pondered over my vegetal potion, you need to be an exceptional singer-song writer. Good drainage, adequate growing season...oops! Great Lyrics, Good Tune, Good Timing. Eric's detailed lyrics may be winsome, poignant, tragic, depressing...but they're almost always great. So is the rest of the stuff.
The Dalles, June 2009. It was the usual fiery summer evening here in The Dalles! Ian, celebrating his new minimum wage job, had gone to a play in Portland with a bunch of people in a car. Erin was off to Freddy's with her friend Sage to help buy something with someone's gift certificate, then they moved on and Tony stopped at the park they were at and then they took Sage home and then they stopped by Keenan's to watch a video and hang out and... Ah youth! But now it was almost 10 o'clock. It would be dark soon. Why wasn't she home? And what about those strange twittering noises outside.....? Flying saucers?
"Slam!' goes a car door. Sounds like a beat up grey Mazda to me! The outdoor light goes on, the front door slams and then slams again. I wait. The door slams a third time.
"Mom!" Erin begins. "I tracked down some raccoons!"
"Not skunks, eh?" I just narrowly missed a small skunk the day before, but to my relief, it dove behind the clutter next to the garage.
"Raccoons. Do do you hear that high pitched chattering sound?"
"It sounds like a weird bird"
"At first," continues Erin, "I thought it was a Hispanic guy, because they make those sounds sometimes [for no apparent reason]. But no one was around. Then I walked around and saw a couple of animals down by the bridge....I was very quiet. There were two raccoons, walking circles around each other and making that noise."
"Was it down in our yard, or up on the bridge?"
"Down in our yard, by the bridge. Doing their stuff."
"Huh." I exclaims. I sort of hoped raccoon pornography was taking place.
"I don't know, maybe they were mating?" suggests Erin reluctantly. I don't know either....
The Dalles, OR, June 2009: "So... long time ago...in a universe far far away," chuckled Ian as he postulated the conversation, "Apple, IBM, and Motorola formed an alliance...most people called this the AIM Alliance. IBM and Motorola made chips and Apple made computers. They started out with the G3, G4, and G5 chips...."
KERWHUMP!!! It was one of the biggest KERWHUMPS I had ever heard...huge enough to envision making baked Apple Kerwhumps for dessert. In fact, there were two KERWHUMPS coming from outside. Had the 9th Street collapsed? Then the spinning and spinning of wheels, the gunning of engines, and the excited conversation of women.
"I wonder what's going on?" I queried.
"Probably illegal drag racing..." suggested Ian.
"That's dangerous. Someone should call the cops." I didn't budge. The lights and sirens came soon enough, flickering through our windows like misdirected fireworks.
1-2-3. Out the front door. and into the mardi gras of the driveway. Damn! Had someone hit "ech," my new Suburu? No...out past the driveway, in the middle of 9th Street, an orange emergency worker was taking photographs of how a white pickup listed sharply to the right. Across the street, one of the schizophrenics was chatting excitedly to himself, and farther up five women were talking amongst one another. Then...I saw the shadow of the black vehicle against the curb on my side of the street! Could I dare to walk up into the black and blue midnite to see what had happened?
One step...two...three four five...
"Ma'am, " said the photographer. "We can't have you going up there." I started to back up on the sidewalk...and the photographer sighed.
"Can you see that wire hanging above you?" The wire was hanging slack as an overweighted clothesline.
I am always stupid in emergencies.
I-84, Cascade Locks, Oregon, July 2009: The conditions are right for pulling over, and the boys look OK, as far as hitch hikers go. "ech," my suburu and I pull over on the broad shoulder. They hesitate, still facing Portland, then begin to run. The taller one has a black guitar case..a bit awkward!! The other, dressed in a saffron tunic and simple grey trousers, will later comment proudly that his pack, a printed Indian bedcloth, and the clothes he has on his back is all that he owns in the world.
"Where are you headed?" I ask.
"Hood River," answers the man with the guitar. "I have a sister who lives there and I'm hoping she'll give us a job and we can earn us enough to get to Alaska. She works at the farmers market."
"That's fine, " I say. "I live in The Dalles."
"Where's that?" the man with the guitar asks.
"Twenty miles further down the road." I will later explain that Hood River is upscale and The Dalles is more of a farm community.
"Great! We love to busk in front of the bars!!!" Yep...Hood River is the place for them!
The Guitar Man's name is Shannon O'Brien.
"People laughed at me because that's a girl's name, Shannon, but my dad said that isn't the way it is in Ireland. So last year I went to Ireland and they laughed at me there too!!!"
Shannon is 22 and grew up in Maine, a country just as beautiful as here in the Columbia River Gorge, but not a place where you want to live all year. He had a girlfriend and a job at a bank and three weeks vacation a year. But he wanted to travel, and three weeks wasn't enough. Now he's been six months of on the road.
The man with the tunic is Christopher. He scans the junk on the passenger seat floor.
"What are these books?" he asks.
"Dunno. They belong to my son," I answer.
"I read a lot, but not fiction, " Christopher tells me in his soft voice. "Right now I'm reading the I Ching." Classic of changes...
Christopher and Shannon met somewhere in California, where it was easier to get rides. Remember Santa Cruz? Here in Oregon, it has taken almost all day to get the 40 miles from Portland in 80 degree heat.
"Portland is so easy. There are food banks all over the place, and it's easy to panhandle. But that isn't necessarily good. There's heroin all over the place; most of the Travellers are on heroin. They can't quit...they may want to but they can't face the big sadness if they do. If they're not on heroin, there're on something else...xanax, valium...well...I admit I smoke weed every now and then and have a drink or two but...." Christopher shakes his head, his hands and Indian fabric folded neatly in his lap. How can one doubt a follower of Buddha?
"I didn't realize that this part of Oregon would be this beautiful!" exclaims Shannon. "Do they let you swim in that river?"
"The Columbia?" I answer. "Yeah, you can swim in it, but you wouldn't want to. They say it's polluted." They say if you step into it, your feet will fall off.
"Um...Upriver...um...is Hanford, the Hanford Nuclear Reactor...the Superfund site....radioactivity."
"Ugh!!" the boys reply. But then they perk up.
"LOOK over there at that train!" cried Shannon. Magical!!! "Do you think there are some kids riding the freight cars???"
July 4, 2009, The Dalles, OR:
I was about as disgusting as it gets, sweaty from 100 degree heat, filthy from Mill Creek silt, an old raggedy black T shirt from Argyll, Scotland, and ants falling out of my hair, which incidentally was glued into stiff whiffs by filth, sweat and silt. So tired that I could hardly walk and my right knee giving way, I carried a 12-pack of Diet Mountain Dew in my right hand, and 7 packages of Oriental Flavor Ramen and a bottle of Mirassou 2007 Chardonnay in my left hand bag. What a suicidal combination!
"Did you have to work today?" asked the checker obliviously.
"Yeah...in my yard!!! Too hot!"
"I wish I could do that!," she mused. "My daughter and her husband are coming and I'd have liked to had the time to <clip>."
The day had started very quietly. Erin was still spending the night with her friend Sage and Ian had taken his laptop to hang out with his friend Andrew in front of the Public Library. [My husband, as you may or may not know, sold his soul to Elgoog] I had the house to myself!!! But slowly, the people began to trickle back. First, Erin returned.
"*tony's bringing over a crayfish trap,"* she said.
In a few split seconds, *tony* came over from Washington in his poor old grey Mazda with a crawdad trap.
"How is your 4th of July going?" they asked.
"Great!!! I got a Trophy English Ivy Vine!!!" I exclaimed as I flung the back door open to retrieve it. I liked to think of it as the Mill Creek Sturgeon. However, in the ground, it resembled a tarnished copper pipe, the size that goes to your water heater. Straight as one too! There was an ivy leaf stuck to it, so I reckoned that was what it was, an ivy vine.
Then the boys returned, in Andrew's Family Minivan, parking it directly behind Hubby's poor old grey Suburu. Luckily, Hubby almost always rides his bike to Elgoog. They sat down on the floor by the DVD player, opened up their laptops, and proceeded to do two totally different things. Andrew was playing a game called "Angle of Repose," * whereas Ian was using the Dreaded Blue Screen to hack into Prussian Defense Headquarters.
"Look at all the crayfish we caught!" exclaimed Erin. Ultimately there would be four of them. Then three.
"Haha...people eat them...their tails. I guess you didn't go on those Friends of the Pleistocene trips in Louisiana when we had those for supper."
"This is the Alpha Male," *tony* told me. "But not for long!" Erin was boiling water.
"Oh don't do that!!!" They were fiddling with the Order of Things, and it was my fault.
And last but not least, my Hubby returned, having been able to escape from Elgoog. He sat down in his Favorite Old Chair and slipped a copy of "The Count of Monte Cristo" into the VCR. That's when I walked down to Fred Meyer.
When I got back, Erin and *tony* were sitting or standing at *tony's* Mazda.
"What are your plans for the evening?" I asked coyly.
They were in a quandry, as well as a mazda. "They say you can't set off Washington fireworks in Oregon," one of them said. <clip>
Erin asked, "Can I get some money for...." Oregonian fireworks? Rumor is that Oregonian ones don't shoot into the air, whereas Washingtonian ones do.
Later, I would watch the Beaver State fireworks skitter all over 9th Street. What fun.
The moon would slip silently in and out of a jet trail.
It wasn't until later that I heard that Ian and Andrew had gone over to HOOD RIVER to watch the fireworks there! The family minivan was still in the driveway, so I reckon the Astronomy Club came and fetched them.
*Angle of repose: The maximum slope at which a material such as soil or loose rock remains stable.
The Dalles, Oregon, July 2009: "How was your day at work, dear?" I ask.
Ian seems more relaxed today. "I'm back with the toddlers today," he says. The 4 year olds...miniature cherry pickers...are too angst-ridden for him.
The pickers start work at 5AM, and Ian arrives on foot at the OCLC at 5:15, having been jolted out of bed as late as possible. That's a hard life when you go to bed at 2AM!
"I have a story for you, Mom," Ian begins, and I try to absorb as much of it as possible. It begins the night before, socializing with the Astronomy Club in Saint Mary's parking lot.
"Livi's car wasn't working, so she had a loaner," continues Ian. Day before yesterday, they'd had to push start it.
"What was wrong with it, anyway?" I ask.
"The starter was bad," replies Ian. "We'd put all the seats down and were watching a movie on my computer."
"Good grief! You were all lying down in a car? How many people were there? That seems awfully cozy."
"It was a SUV thing, and there were five of us. We were sitting. We just fit."
"Then a police car drives up. After a while, a woman comes by and starts talking to him, I guess maybe about something that happened earlier.We decided to get out of the car. Then all of a sudden he notices us and says, 'There's kids over there!' so he comes over and starts saying things like, 'Why are you here?' and 'Why aren't you watching videos at home?'"
"Huh!" I add.
July 2009: Ian and I headed west towards Portland in the odd cloudy grey of the late morning. We stopped, as we almost always do, at the Shell Station by the Hood River Bridge, and pick up three drinks and a cranberry scone.
"Hey! Nightwish! Is that the band with the chick singer?" asked the clerk, staring at Ian's shirt...no, wait that was MY shirt he was wearing!!!
"Yeah," answered Ian. Touring around this planet hell...
"The Black Dahlia Murders?" continued the clerk, smiling. I was sure the radio station had a copy. But it wasn't my place to say anything.
"As I Lay Dying?" he went on. Let me guess. Melodic death. And the clerk was so clean cut! Most of the customers would never suspect!
Only a few hours later, we would be sitting at a table at Two Brothers in Portland. I ordered a Slovenian Avia mystery white and a "pita," actually phyllo dough stuffed with cheese and spinach and rolled like a honeybun. My young companion ordered a milkshake and a sausage plate.
"Tastes like cider," I said.
"Huh," Ian answered.
A man partially clad in black garbage bags walked in to report...
"The pay phone down the street isn't working! You've GOT to call the phone company!!!" The waitress shrugged. Time ticked away. A woman laughed as she paid for a large foil pan of take-out. A couple came in to pick up food and cappuccino. An old man...perhaps my age!...with backpack and beard and mournful eyes walked in and looked around. Would he make a secret dive for the washroom? No, in the next set of instants, the ragamuffin sat down and stared at a twenty while the waitress poured his Dr Pepper and brought his soup.
It is no hotter here now than in the Alabama summers I knew growing up. As they progressed, the bermuda grass grew tipped with brown and begged to be watered and cut.
"What is different about the climate in Alabama and Oregon?" you ask.
It rains more in Alabama, and unlike Oregon, the rain is more or less spread out equally. Oregon is summer dry.
I dislike the summers here. I dislike the dry heat that sucks the brown grasses brittle and limp...on the massive Columbia Hills...on Seven Mile Hill above Rowena... omnipresent brown grass flowing like ripened wheat...ripened heat...
It is one hundred degrees. I drive the Suburu up Dry Hollow, past the Polehn orchards. Cars are parked in the lot but nothing else moves...except two Hispanic men with insulated lunch boxes. Farther up the road, two children play in a gravel driveway. Acre after acre of irrigated cherry orchards, giving way to the dry grass and oak savanna and look! topping the hills...dry dusty squares of wheat fields.
Somewhere between Dufur and Maupin the Columbian shrub steppe gives way to juniper high desert. One minute you're driving south on 197 with a sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) headache and voila, the next you're staring Juniper Flats in the face, Gin Trees popping up like rabbits in a San Angelo hat store. Unfortunately, you're stuck with these dumb cedar trees until you pass Austin...um...Bend. Suddenly, Pinus ponderosa (Ponderosa pine) is towering over you, as well as big ole cinder cones!!! Pretty soon after this, the reddish cinders of Lava Butte will become strikingly visible against the white snow and the CLOSED sign. It's just now, 2009, you've decided to visit in the summer.
You're sitting with me on the patio of the Lava Lands Visitor Center.
"Where is everyone from?" asks Retiree Volunteer Rick, who used to be head of the Volcanic Arm of the USGS or maybe a rock hound. We don't know.
"I'm from The Dalles," I say.
"I'm from the Northwestern Tip of Washington!" adds a woman.
"The wet place!!" comments Rick. "Hey, all the way from PENNSYLVANIA!!!" The man's shirt says "I [heart] Intercourse PA!!!"
"No," replies a man. "I went to the Oregon-Penn State Game."
"We're from Vancouver, Canada.." answers a couple. No one is from really far away, and almost everyone is nicely dressed. And the families! Thin perfect children with glistening eyes. Minivans that shine and start on the first try!
"Anyone want to tell us where Newberry Crater?" begins Ranger Rick, or at least that's what we'll pretend.
"Um...50 miles over that way!" answers a dentist from Eugene.
"Yes! Over there on the horizon, there's the Cascades, those are stratovolcanoes, piled one on top of another. They are the result of the subduction of the Pacific Ocean under the North America. Here's a can of Diet Fresca, part of my unfinished lunch. Can anyone tell me what happens if you shake it up?" He zooms in on a three year old.
"It blows up," the boy replies excitedly. "The superheated rock of the subducted plate begins to rise, and as it does so, dissolved gases are released, which give the magma an additional 'Gas Lift.'"
Rick , unsurprised by the child's erudicity, continues. "But the Newberry Crater and all these cinder cones are not part of the subduction zone. It's a shield volcano..." he shows us an upside-down paper plate with a Nemo motif..."and it's here because of the intersection of three fault groups."
We could drive to the top, but we miss our time slot. We decide instead to walk the cinder cone trail, which luckily doesn't go up all that far. Our noses have been clogged by bitter brush (Purshia) pollen, forcing us to breathe through our now dessiccated mouths. We rise up the windward, barren south side, through the blocky and ropy lava field.
"A lava ball!" we've never seen one of those before! And a lava tube, and a lava river, and a natural levee!! But, alas, no steaming sulfur pools...
And...the water truck is out on a Saturday, drowning the dust on Wilson Road above Mosier. We climb through switchbacks and we are here, at the Elgoog Annual Picnic. We...erin, *tony* and i, disembark from the Suburu and follow our separate ways. In particular, I look at the trees...a typical Eastside Conifer Forest: Doug Fir, Ponderosa Pine, and Oregon White Oak, with Bigleaf Maple and Cottonwood near the creek, though we lost Mosier Creek long ago in our climb. I head for the restroom and erin and *tony* head for the food. I head for the food as well, although I could have taken a shower. Inside the row of carnage barbecue det finns..oops...I spy the grilled gardenburgers, heavy with red peppers. I lay one on a bun, then add 5 tomato slices and a bunch of onion. An extremely delicious half corn on the cob adds to the paper plate's fey excitement. Last year...oh last year!!! Hawaiian salmon ...mmm...
It is so hot. It is so hot that only one chunky couple is sitting in the sun. I join them, but they don't say a word. I have fantasies of announcing that my Usual Escort and Elgoog employee is in Corvallis...the town that he really wanted to live in...and is experiencing weird inventions at DaVinci Days....and that the spine of his life is cute, perky inventions. Huh. In any case, I've elected a bottle of Fat Tire Ale, and I drink it as I eat my burger and try to manipulate my story beforehand.
"How's Richard like his job?" Lark asks at Friends Meeting today. Bill smiles in the background.
"He loves it. He gets to install stuff....computers and so on. It's one of the two best jobs in his life...that and the Coast Guard, where he was an electrician."
I skip the fun stuff...the inflated sinking cruise ship morphed into a slide...the face painting...and the dunking tank.
"We were just above you!!!" says Erin, who appears if by magic, dragging *tony* like a too-hot stuffed snake.
"Huh!" I reply and grab a couple macadamia-white chocolate cookies. Confections like this are why Americans are obese.
I walk south along the road, headed towards four Primo Eastside cattle. They are all different, and I can't tell if they are cows or bulls. There is so much I don't know. I snap a couple of hopeful shots and proceed down the ranch road. Will there be a sense of wonder, an epiphany?
Yeah. Just shy of the maintenance building, a field of blue, of miniature iris. What are they? Cascadia has thrown me again!!! The meadow becomes pond and green rushes and blue faeries! The 8 faerie wings are separated into twos, as the creatures bank and dive. The red faerie just sits, lighter than air, and watches. Two creamy brown butterflies dart in a separate universe. I film the scene with my old camera, but I know when I transfer it here to my old Dell...nothing that I have seem will appear at it was.
I walk back, into the barn, the food place.
"Do you know where people are getting the snow cones?" asks erin. No, I reply. But I hear where the music is...Victor Johnson and his three piece!!! Right here in the shaded barn!!! The three piece doesn't exit on the internet, but what the heck. I've grabbed a Wretched Halo IPA and a slice of watermelon. The small band is playing all my favorite kids songs, and "You are My Sunshine" to boot!. Oh, that I could return to the past! But look..the Elgoog employees have increased 10 to the 4th power, spreading uncountable small Elgoogs around to dance and sing with the band!!!
Texas, Spring 1985: "Evening Primroses" or "Sam and Dave"
Sam walked a perfectly balanced path between industry and academia. He'd worked in coal exploration and knew what was going on. Now he was working on a PhD in engineering geology and knew what was going on there too...at least as far as anyone at Texas A&M *could* know! The theory was to piggyback a couple more studies on Sam's sulfur/EOD work. As the only Tertiary palynology student in the neighborhood, I was just perfect to provide the world with correlations between the sulfur content and the paleobotany of Texas lignites.
Several problems existed with this scenario. One was the laboratory work, which was dangerous. The other was the field work. Imagine yourself in the Canadian Rockies, amongst fir and spruce, pulling cores of glacial lake sediments! Then imagine yourself baking in the Texas sun, surrounded by strip mine highwalls, draglines and mesquite-ridden cow pastures. How elegant!!
And so we left the civilization of Bryan-College Station, if you can call oak savanna civilization, heading for Christine...or was it Jourdanton? Sam was at the wheel of the Carryall and Dave, a university technician, was at the helm of the Mobile Drilling Rig. A couple of other people, too, like Kerry, who was interested in Shlumberger-like details, and Gary, who was there for the excitement and free food.
Jourdanton. Wow!!! The Stardust Motel with real beds, showers, fake wood walls, and a swimming pool open to the community. And a restaurant, just down the street, with a salad bar!! As the days passed, we were able to sample most of the *texan* food on the menu. In the mornings, we'd get up so we could hit the cafe as soon as it opened, so we could get out in the field as early as possible. The boys drank a lot of coffee. I tried not to drink anything at all.
Our days went like this: we'd get up at around 6AM and go eat. Then we'd drive around in the cow pasture...a parcel of land that the lignite company hadn't stripped yet...and drill a bit. The guys would do the real work, and I'd take care of the core. Then we'd eat lunch. Then we'd drill some more. About this time, if we were driving past the mine office, I'd say:
"Could you stop so I can use the restroom?" But they refused.
"My mother lived on the farm all her life, and she never needed an indoor restroom!" Sam said with soft derision. And I'd grown up with real trees, southern pine and oak, not these spindly bush beans.
The weather got hotter and hotter. One day, Sam took off his shirt and smeared drilling mud onto himself as sunblock.
"That's the way they do on the oil rigs," people seemed to agree.
One day the rig spewed drilling mud all over a beautiful patch of Evening Primrose until they looked just like Sam, or those human casts from Pompeii. I wrote down that station of the cross as EP.
There was a wooden thing out in the pasture where the owners fed deer.
When we drove back home, I rode shotgun with Dave on the Mobile Drilling Rig. It had 20 gears and Dave said he'd show me how to drive it, but he never did.
The wheel spins on, sucking souls on at a whim, tearing folks off with crawdad claws in sheer caprice. One minute, a newborn baby with stunning brown eyes like pools of chocolate, scanning the world with head held high, the next...
The next, "sweet sixteen, never been kissed." Erin rolled her obsidian eyes at my stupidity and bragged:
"*tony* gave me a ten dollar gift certificate for ANZac Tea House!!!"
"Huh!" I suggested and continued on. "It's Friday. We can all go to a restaurant your father doesn't like."
"Right," said Erin, matter of fact. "We can go to Rommol's. I love their tiramasu." Not to mention their gnocci.
And so the day arrived. Some girls in my Ahnentafel were already married by this time. But in those days, there was no High School Fun. Or College Fun. Or Grad School Fun. Anyway, the friends started to leak in slowly. The magical part-Norwegian *tony* from Dallesport and then Trace from second grade, never faltering with creativity and friendship. That was it. Sage was in California. Lilian was in Germany.
"OK ...come in and sit down...no no...here in the living room...it's like herding cats.
"You have more people than will fit in your car," reasoned My Escort. "I'm riding my bike!!!" Ask me what life is like with an obsessive bike rider. Brother Ian riding shotgun, and all the little 16 year olds in the back seat. Too big for the back seat.
After just the right amount of snafus, the Suburu arrived at Rommol's with its lucky passengers.
"Rommol...the dessert fox!" I said softly to Ian and he laughed. No one else knew our secret. One second more and there he was, Rommol, inquiring "How many?" in his quaint Bulgarian accent.
"Six," we said, holding up various amount of fingers. The restaurant was full. But there was one table...one table for six! Fate had smiled upon us.
We sat down and I scanned the room. Too many women staring across the table at themselves, dressed in finery. All the guys were at Shari's eating steak and potatoes.
Time passed. The young people talked and laughed.
"Mom, can you explain to *tony* what gnocci is?" suggested Erin.
"It's...um...sort of like mashed potatoes...um...molded into..um...a shell...." I defined.
I took photos. We ordered.
"Can we two *split* an order of gnocci?" asked the happy couple.
Food arrived. Then *tony*...bless his heart...whispered to the waiter:
"Do you have something for birthdays?"
"We don't actually have anything special...but I'll come up with something!!!" Then our server commenced to collect used plates. And...<clip>...brought out a shell egg of chocolate filled with whipped cream. One candle, lit. One candle, Erin, at the crossroads. You can do anything with your life, child with open eyes. She blew the candle out.
"Anything else?" asked the waiter.
"Could I get some tiramasu?" asked the Birthday Gal.
"I'm sorry, we don't have any tiramasu tonight," countered the waiter. The four children stared at each other and whispered in one breath:
"This ent a funny story!!!"
The Dalles, OR July 2008: You remember this song, don't you? "The ents go marching on and on, hurah, huraah!!" Well, I have a trunk full of data to support *this* fact: trees cannot "march" anywhere if we humans are around to see them!!! But one very late night, the speed trap cops on 10th took a break from meth, driving while suspended, and backing over a street sigh, and the trees were free to gather in our yard.
"We are in deep trouble!" whined Merry Maple. As a native big leaf maple (Acer bigleafium), she was the only Acer in the yard native to Cascadia, and, situated on the terrace of Mill Creek, the one least likely to fade in these days of burning drought..
"BURNING??" the trees shriek at me in terror. Oops.
"Have you seen those Fire Danger signs?" asked an invasive European hemlock who was sprouting up illegally next to 9th Street. "Word passed on tree by tree indicates 113 degrees on the Bank of the West thermometer." GASP!!!!
The trees were at varying amounts of heat stress. Down by Mill Creek, Cottonwoods still popped up new clones like wildfire....
"Clones," said the mulberry in disgust. "That Populus deltoides stuff is just one f-----g gargantuan clone!!"
"Children my birdseye," agreed a sugar maple (Acer saccharinum) from behind the garage, whose roots were being increasingly crowded out by the little buggers.
"Now now..." assured a walnut. "A lot of those thugs get mowed down by the Man of the House, when he remembers his lawn duties. Doing fine, growing high, WHAP!!!"
There were the usual problems of maple and walnut saplings dying of dehydration in the interior of the stream terrace, too far above the water table, and the...
"Sier du det! Jaså...didn't vun of your kids get dehoditated by de veed eater? Drought min needle scar !!" fumed the Norway spruce.
"Oh...Ent God, yes!!" wailed the big leaf maple as she burst into hysterical tears. "Mistook her for a blackberry bush, I reckon."
"Rubus, min oye! and hva happened to det dogvood (Cornus) in de front yard?" Its legs and arms, limbs if you will, were slowly disappearing into the Yard Debris Container.
"We think it possibly expired by poison injected by a local human scholar to control the pine bark beatle IN A CALIFORNIAN. Those CALIFORNIA PUNKS should all be cored to the heartwood..." seethed the Oregon white oak.
You can't prove a thing!!!" countered the hysterical Bishop pine!!! "And me still dripping sap all over the place in spite of everything!!!"
The main problem area, however, was in the segment of the yard no longer irrigated due to being dug up in February's sewage disaster. Several red osier dogwoods moaned softly, leaves tinged with brown. And over there, what about the alder triad? They must be alders, because of the tiny cones. It sure was hard to tell from the sparse leaves.
"She's watering us now," whispered Woody and Phloe, "so our few remaining leaves are photosynthesizing." But Randolph, growing by the side of the cliff? The few leaves hung rigidly limp, like tiny brown grocery bags. SNAP!! went the branches.
The Dalles, OR , July 2009: I'd intended to go somewhere important this summer...most notably "Learn Faroese in Torshavn in a Few Short Weeks and Sneak in a Little Beer and Basalt At the Same Time"...but also one of many backlogged joints like Spitsbergen or the Queen Charlottes or Japan or...in fact a week ago or so I tracked down a ticket from Seattle to Reykjavik tickets at the IcelandAir website for the price of my younger daughter's weekly texting bill. But then two English Ivy draped monotone spectres appeared to me and said:
"You will pay for a wedding." Gulp! Back and forth...alternating...until my head exploded.
Here are two exciting back-to-back stories from Fred Meyer:
Oh...what was I buying that evening...coconut popsicles? cheap chard? diet mountain dew? ramen? granola? a Payday? Pick a couple, you're the reader. I crossed 6th Street (on foot which is often the case) and approached the 2 foot concrete wall separating the concrete 9th Street sidewalk and the asphalt parking lot. [Let me again inform you that Fred Meyer is actually Kroger.]
So was a man, perhaps my age, curly brown hair, wearing non-descript clothing and carrying a white plastic grocery bag. One moment...strolling...the next
=!FFWWAAPPP!!!!= rolling. This is the sort of thing you don't really want to get mixed up in, but I asked:
"Are you OK???"
And, struggling to his feet, he answered:
"Yeah...but I could use a smoke."
"I can't help you there," I shrugged.
He kept watching me, all the way past the can recycling machines, until we lost contact.
I walked up and down the aisles, making judgement on whatever I could. A lot of the yoghurts have gelatin in 'em. Most rice/wild rice mixes ooze monosodium glutamate. And the American flag tumbler set...made in China. osv. At last I headed toward the checkstands, vehemently avoiding the U-Cheks.
I set a single of Gallows chard on the belt.
"Ha ha!!!" laughed the checker, a blonde pretty young woman whom I believe to be one of Ian's Facebook Friends. "You go into the women's restroom this time of night to take out the trash and you find these in the trash cans!!!
"Huh!!!" I exclaimed.
"Those naughty girls drinking wine in the stalls and not paying for it!!!"
And they say her flower is faded now
Hard weather and hard booze
But maybe that's just the price you pay
For the chains you refuse
---Richard Thompson, Beeswing
In August, the weather began to break. Whereas a week ago a "107" may have been displayed on the green Washington Federal S&L sign downtown, now it was 95 or even 92.
"Get going!" I told myself, depressed and disgusted that I had not taken the Forester for a test trip to Mount Shasta. Mount Ranier. Or even St Helens. But fortunately, there was one place close by that I needed to check out...
Lyle, Washington, August 2009: "The Klickitat Trail."
East on I84, north on US197 across the Columbia River. Dead grass, flowing like wheat, dead grass black as coal.
"That must be the fire "they" were talking about," reasoned the pearly SUV. "They " were saying, "There was a fire down by the dam, and that's why "they" shut off the power." But that was last week. "They" were still saying "fire down by the dam," and I figured...
"Over there on your right, that's fresh charred grassland," suggested the vehicle. "It's one fire after another. If I were back home in Japan, "they" wouldn't have these desiccated shrubs and tinder dry grasses."
"Yeah, well, let's all fly back to Japan, it's on my list," I retorted bitterly.
"Those filthy slavers...you should have seen the holds," complained the Forester.
West on WA14, through the tunnel, one of several flying buttress blasted through basalt. Into the odd little town of Lyle and out in less than a minute....actually the time depends on how many of its citizens decide to walk unannounced across the highway.
We pulled into a dirt lot next to where the "Klickitat Trail" sign used to be.
"I find that highly suspicious," snooted the Forester. Windsurfing. Most of the vehicle owners skipping on the wind. Confused, I turned right onto the state highway (WA142) that sets off to the north and lines the Klickitat. Off to our left, children and their grownups played in the river, its muddy waters the color of a melted chai smoothy. We parked at the adjacent trailhead.
"You're leaving me here? They'll tow me away!!!" I rolled my eyes. "Not here," I countered. "But they may break a window."
The trail was gravel, and a challenge for the clog wearer. I used that and the fact that it was real hot not to walk very far. I looked around. The usual suspects were here: Ponderosa pine, Oregon white oak, and big leaf maple. Brown grass like wheat. Yellow composites. Blackberries. To the south, floating across an unseen Columbia, the flat basalt flows of the Rowena curves and the Tom McCall Preserve. Far above the canyon of the child- and sediment-laden Klickitat, dead grass and power lines, topped in the distance by forest. You can see al ot by just walking a short distance in your clogs.
We drove back to The Dalles the way we came.
"Smoke?" I asked. "Is that smoke I see?" But the Forester merely choked.
The blackened area that we had passed through earlier had expanded dramatically. At least ten tiny fire districts were on hand, chatting by their tiny vehicles and waiting to see if the flares and smolder would threaten US197, a local trucking firm, and/or the Native American Wish-um Cemetery. A chunk of liquid red orange twisted toward the shoulder as we drove by....Later inspection would show blackened grass right up to the highway!!!!
In due time, a government helicopter would dump massive amounts of water on the scorched earth, and the fire personnel would go home to supper.
Wasco County, Oregon, August 2009: "Oasis on Biscuit Scabland"
It was my intention, when I arose, to make the day trip detailed to me by a member of the Portland UFO Society...the Forester and I would travel once more to Bend and further south on gravel roads, through harsh but exhilarating volcanic terrain. Like Iceland, I thought. It would be like the dark, jagged, hostile landscape encountered when I first set foot on the accelerator of a rental car in Iceland. Perhaps this memory of crying hysterically for hundreds of kilometers is why I...zzzzz
After a couple hours I forced myself to wake up. I made breakfast, washed and hung the clothes, took a gander at my messages about 23 year old hip-hop men from Speed-Date, dug up a half ton of re-emergent ivy....and at last felt zealous and ready to ride. ARGH!!!! It was almost noon!!!
3+3=6. Just getting there and back would take 6 hours! Day trip indeed. Change of plans.
"Mount Adams!" I exclaimed to my eyeballs. What a cool place!!! Haven't been up there for years!!!" I grabbed "The Roadside Geology of Washington," and gamboled to the car. East on I84, over the Columbia River bridge on 197, west past Dallesport on WA14 and ...SUDDENLY, the sound of samba rhythms!!! Were WAS my phone? On the floor, in my purse?...I pulled into Murdock Mini Mart and parked just as the catchy tune expired. I picked the ancient NOKia off the passenger seat to call home.
"Mom! I need a ride to Andrew's! We're going over lines for the play." Rumours. Andrew and Ian were both cast as police officers in the Rumoured play. They had been able to procure uniforms from the The Dalles Police, but their badges said "Junior Deputy." Twenty was a little old to be a "Junior Deputy."
I sighed and retraced my wheel rolls. Soon Ian was securely planted on Snob Hill. And I was free to go...somewhere...?????
"Tom McCall," I instructed the weary Suburu. "Tom McCall, a brave man who'd a just said, Judy, get the hail outa here and go back to Texas. Gig 'em." Soon we had passed the The Dalles Unofficial Shooting Range, the Free Trailer Trash Community on Simonelli Road, the Rowena Curves, and the Big Overlook. We parked.
"Sure is windy here at Tom McCall," shivered the Forester as I put on my winter jacket. The door slammed and slammed again as I poised to ramble in the Preserve, famous for its Endemic Plant Species. Oregon For Oregonians.
Dead endemics, that is. Everything was dead, from the grass waves that whispered like wheat on the ocean, to the Living Crust, to the dried up endemic composites or lomatiums or whatever that rattled eerily like rainsticks. Looking way down at the tennis courts in Rowena Dell from 30 feet away was the best I could do, without being blown off tall basalt cliffs. Or looking off across the Columbia at Lyle, at a barge ploughing upstream past the Ortley Anticline, at the dry grass, the pines, oaks, and maples beside the mouth of the Klickitat. in Washington...
"Great day for windsurfing!!" shouted the Forester in jest.
But I knew where I was going...the circle of green would soon appear in eyesight, and I would enter through a break in the green foliage. I could hear the whispers now....of the grasses, the rushes, the lilypads and their big yellow flowers. They were all shouting "Welcome!" from the rippling emerald mirror of the pond.
The Dalles, OR, August 2009:
"The colors of the wedding will be black, blue, and orange and yellow," began Emma. "The bridesmaids will wear blue summer dresses, and the groomsmen and Father will wear blue suits...no make that black suits, blue shirts, or maybe yellow...."
Erin bought a blue dress that could double as a shirt. She tested it out for durability at Hippie Horse Camp, near Goldendale.
"Don't worry, I'm buying tights and new underwear," she assured us.
"Maybe she could get some bloomers," suggested her friend Evie's mother. And then we all shrugged.
"What are you wearing mother?" asked Emma.
"Maybe I'll buy some new jeans. And silver sandals with shiny glitter and bubble fireworks that shoot out into space!"
"Jeans??!!!" Emma replied. You could see fireworks going off right there on the e-mail message.
A few days later I slunk off and bought a long black skirt at Penneys, and a pair of black sandals at the Bass Outlet at Troutdale. They matched a blue silk shirt purchased in someone's driveway at an unknown time. I put the shoes on to break them in, and tripped over the front steps, resulting in bloody toesteps and a cracked kneecap.
"I remember falling off the front porch," chatted the two boys in our household. "Nearly died. Wondered if anyone would ever find me."
"Ian," I suggested as I raised my toe above my head to stop the bleeding. "There are two twelve packs of soda pop in the car, would you mind getting them???"
"Sure!!!" he complied as he left through the front door and didn't fall off.
Of course, it didn't matter what I wore, since I wasn't in the wedding. I would just sit and smile with my little flower pinned onto my earlobe. The boys, though, were starting to whine big time.
"Decided what you're going to wear?" I needled my daughters' father.
"No!!!" he semi-snarled. "Maybe I'll just wear what I did when *I* got married." I was later told by DJ Victrola that one man insisted on wearing a shiny worn tuxedo purchased in 1978 at his little baby darling's wedding. Ugh!
Ian was a different story.
"Ian," do you know what you're going to wear?" I asked. Of course not.
"When do you want to go down to St. Vinnies and look for one. Half an hour?" "An hour?" Time was growing short. Or in this case, long.
"MMMMuUUmmBieWABLE" mumbled Ian. Then an idea hit me...and my poor besieged credit card.
"What if we go down to Penney's and buy you a *new* suit?
"Sure! I'm ready to go right now!!!"
We finally located the mens department at Penney's, downstairs next to Housewares. We then came upon a whole rack of black and blue suits! Ian grabbed the first one he saw and tried it on.
"The sleeves are two long," I opined. But really, neither of us knew what we were doing. After about 20 minutes a sales person came by and asked
"Can I help you?" and explained to us that we were looking at blazers, not suits, and the reason they looked so cheap was that there were no trousers or vests included. All too soon, now that we knew that suits would suit us, everything was ready to roll except for....
"Do you need your neck measured?" ask a young woman who leaped stealthily from behind a display of gauche summer sport shirts. She was wearing a shiny disc on her lip and a whole bunch of tattoos half revealed beneath the short summer dress that could double as a top. She stretched a measuring tape around Ian's neck, like a noose, and also measured how long his arms were. In that way, Ian knew what size of dress shirt to buy!
Kentucky? Ohio? Indiana? August, 2009:
Touchdown in Kentucky. From there it's north, snaking a rental Dodge Forester north along the trail of ghosts.
"Petersburg! That's where my great great great grandmother Mary Ann died of consumption. At thirty six...what a hard life!!" I muse, and everyone ignores me.
Crossing the broad Ohio River, two or three ancient diaphanous boatmen float in single file. My dead bulge out further north, like Jupiter or a spinning top; east-west rings dipping through time as they strike along the National Road from Eaton to Richmond and Dublin. Distant stragglers fade shy of Fort Wayne...
"Rising Sun! Aurora!" I whisper calmly to the green wooded hills and dales befriended by my mother's father's mother's family. At least it's daylight, and nobody's opening their coffins to float about.
"Brookville Reservoir!" Living Hoosiers are hauling their canoes and pontoon boats en mass this Friday afternoon, but I know what lies beneath the calm waters.
"Over there, Fairfield, under that reservoir...that's where my grandfather Hayward was born."
"Huh!" says someone.
"The spirits here walk on the bottom of the lake, cursed, like in 'Pirates of the Caribbean'," I explain to the RAM.
"Yeah, I know!" he replies, a grim rattle emanating from third gear.
By a fortunate twist of fate, we arrive in spook-choked Richmond on time and unscathed. We're here to attend the wedding of our sister and daughter, Emma, to a man from Chicago whom we will call Jason. It will be the first wedding in the Gennett Mansion in 97 years. Luckily the bride, Great Aunt Rose, moved to L.A., lived to be 104, and cannot bother us. Nor, alas, will she have any words of wisdom for Emma and Jason.
The minister is a rotund, jolly woman, with red hair and a deep purple pants suit. I tell her:
"My father was born in this house!"
"Your grandparents lived in this house, then?"
"Yeah, but not for long. They moved to 21st Street." Then on a long shot, "Good thing Emma isn't getting married where my grandfather Hayward was born... It's under the Brookville Reservoir!"
"My family was from Fairfield too!" the minister says calmly...as if she already knows. "There's even a web site about Fairfield. They moved the town up the hill and called it 'New Fairfield.'"
"Excellent Lake Views," I comment.
"There's a boat ramp there," continues the minister. "Some people go down that road thinking they'll get to a town, but they end up in the lake."
All too soon, we are traveling back to that airport in Kentucky.
"Bath!" I comment. "That's where my grandfather's sister Lafe died of consumption." At this point I cannot remember whether it was Lafe or Ivy who died of consumption or leukemia, but no one is listening.
"Hey look! 'Fairfield Ramp!'" But The Driver seems to miss the importance. I am quick at the next opportunity.
"'Fairfield Causeway'!!....hey I need a restroom stop!!!" We follow the ancient concrete road, lined with weeds, flowers, and spirits, and then cross the reservoir. Someone snaps a photo of boats in the waters of time.
I-84, they had their thumbs out...be wary, I thought, and drove on. But then I saw their plastic woven clothing, their ant-like helmets, and the abstract wire-like arrangements of titanium steel leaning against the guardrail. It was then I knew that they were......"Bikers In Distress."
Northern Oregon, August 2009: The split second I'd spent thinking sent me too far down the shoulder.
"I'm backing up!" stated the Forester emphatically. I knew he was worried about the graceful, frail vehicles. Or perhaps seduced, but we won't go into that. We backed up quite a ways before the boys saw us and glided excitedly toward us on their bicycles. The black haired one opened the passenger door, and asked:
"Are you going to the Hood River area?"
"Yes, I am," I replied, and got out to open the back hatch. The boys released their hubs, and...
"Should I put down one of the back seats?" I asked.
"No...we're fine. We've done with less," said the sandy haired one. I opened the right rear door and laid two thirds of the seat down. The bicycles fit in easily, and the pearly Forester grinned headlight to headlight.
"I'm so glad you stopped. My legs were killing me!" began Sandy.
"You have enough room there?" I asked. Yes, and he was just happy to be picked up, and so on.
The man with the black hair took over. "We spent to much time in Portland. Which way do the winds blow here? We didn't feel the big head winds that people said would slow us down."
"Are you trying to get to Hood River tonight?" I asked, musing on why with so many bicyclists along the Gorge, the trails are so sporadic that the cyclists must ride on the shoulder of a busy freeway.
"Yeah, we know someone there and we're hoping to get ahold of them. We started this trip in northern California." They were not, however, from the Land of Redwoods. "We're from San Diego. He goes to school there. I go to school in Washington...in Seattle. We're going to Seattle next, and then to Vancouver..."
"Canada?" That's a long way!!
"No...Washington. Then up to Seattle and I'll stay there and he's going back."
We passed a construction sign near the Bonneville curves: "No Shoulder...Bikes in Roadway." Look what they were missing! Then after several minutes I announced, "Cascade Locks."
"Are there locks down there?"
"Yes, but they aren't used. The pool is too high. You'd have to go through the locks at Bonneville Dam instead."
Richmond, Indiana, August 2009. At first glance, there is nothing out of whack with the shiny black station wagon waiting faithfully by the motel door. At closer inspection, however, you can see glittering sparkles of light twinkling in the Turtle Wax. Holiday Inn has spent a fortune in research dollars constructing a visual aura of affluence which hits before you even walk in the door. The driver is just as enticing: chin curtain, suspenders, white shirt and black trousers. The passenger, a woman in a flowered dress and soft white cap, follows him inside.
"Do you have a room?" the man asks the desk clerk.
"Yes we do," she answers.
"How much is it?"
"It's $84 plus tax for a double room."
The man nods and the woman smiles. Amish, Mennonite, Brethren, I wonder if there is a Plain Dress Discount.
The road in the valley of the Whitewater from Aurora to Richmond is lined with green hills and trees. In Brookville, the old rectangular of brick and frame, the Antique Stores, collide with Arby's and Subway, with Cigarettes, Beer, and Tattoos. It is a drama that I never witnessed driving to Richmond as a child, or as a college student at Earlham. The buildings were the ones that were there, and the people as well. Now the Indiana-Ohio borderland is an old friend that I know too much about by reading letters. I am afraid to meet it in fear that I know it only in print and have made up the rest. My daughter, by a wedding ceremony, will also be anchored in the Whitewater, but by an ever thinning piece of string.
"The Microwave Fire"
The Dalles, Oregon, August 2009: Ugh! Morning! I stumble out of my room, completely dressed, and hit a huge vortex of smoke!
"Wow!" I exclaim to Ian. "Smells like somebody's burning trash!"
"And they're not supposed to in any case," adds Ian. With only 17 drops of rain in the past 3 months, we are in exponential burn ban condition.
"Mom..." interjects Erin. "Can we go get Lilian at one? We can take Sage home at the same time." Sure. We are a regular motel here for Erin's friends.
I choke down a can of Diet Mountain Dew and a bowl of Life Cereal and Northern Gold Granola (made in Port Coquitlam, eh!) . Then trek down to Grocery Outlet for some stuff I can't remember and put it on the belt.
"Is that smoke from the fire in Mosier?" asks a customer.
"Is there a fire in Mosier?" asks the check-out clerk.
"Yeah...and you can smell the smoke all the way to Sherman County!"
"Is that where you're from?" inquires a customer from Moro.
"I'm from Condon," she answers. Condon is even further, in Gilliam County. There are a lot of wind generators in that whole area.
"Is that why you have 2 shopping carts full up," laughs the lady from Sherman County, who only had one bulging cart. I am glad I was in front of them.
"Yeah, I get what I can while I'm here in The Dalles. That's why I've got 20 assorted packages of cheese here." How cheezy!!
"Time to get Lilian," Erin announces when I return.
"Her boyfriend came and picked her up." Sage recently broke up with her football player...and nearly broke up her locker and back as well in the process. But the fight was all in jest. Now she is going with Backwoods Tom Sanchez. It is quite a change for everyone here in the 'Hood.
Soon we are on the freeway to Mosier.
"Look, there's the fire!" I cry in delight. Smoke, is all I can see....but at least I know where it is. "Its path is controlled by the Mosier Syncline!" Or at least the west flank of it. Not too smoky in town...what was the big deal, then? I pass a lonely white PDX television truck with one of those dishes on it.
I drive through..oops! Two guys are walking along 4th Street, carrying a bag of ice. Eventually they move to the side and we all grin at each other. HoHo.
Soon we're driving south through Mosier and out into the orchards...
"Mom! Turn here...you're going right past it!!!" Yep, up past the overturned tree stump that used to look like a man, and up the long rutted lane lined by pasture. The fire...or rather the smoke...is visible from the top of the driveway. It reminds me of the paper mill in Camas. Lilian seems non-plussed.
"Ha ha!!" she laughs with her eyebrows, in that confident Teen Age way. "I was working on the computer last night and the power went off. I looked out the window and there was a fire. I had to read all night."
"With your flashlight?" asked Erin.
It is the usual "stayover." The gals "stay" up all night and then stroll over to Fred Meyer and even...
"Where are you going?" I ask.
"Everywhere!" Erin tells me hoping for a reaction.
"OK," I reply. I'd like to go everywhere too. Even to Antarctica.
At last, the electricity is back on in Mosier and Lilian's Mother is here to take her home. I hope that someday I can speak German as comfortably as Lilian's mother speaks English, but I doubt it.
"Did you have a good time, Lilian?" she asks politely.
"How's the fire?" I interrupts.
"That was something! Lilian usually stays up all night...till two, and when I got up at eleven, there were no lights on...and I asked Lilian and she said there was a fire! You know the place where people park to windsurf...it got all the way there. And the sewage plant right by it...it's new and we paid a fortune for it. It went all the way to the freeway and the railroad tracks. I was outside and a neighbor came by and said he had all his pools filled up with water. 'Don't you have any?' he asked and I said 'sure, it's folded up in the basement!!!'" Lilian's mother shook her head.
Lyle, Washington, September 2009. "In Aspect Terrain"
Again, the thought had been to take the trip suggested by my favorite member of the Portland Extraterrestrial Travel Association, but I called it off when I looked at the thermometer. Eighty degrees and it wasn't even noon yet!! It must be about 100 degrees hotter at LaPine Martian Resort!
"Leg 2 it is!" I said to myself.
"Bye! I'm going over to Lyle for a while, to walk the Klickitat Trail!" I told Ian.
"Huh?" he asked, glued to the latest web episode of "Simon & Simon"...and his new Snow Leopard.
Lyle, Washington, September 2009. "In Aspect Terrain"
I headed south on foot at Trailhead 3, the one by the blocked off railroad bridge, To my excited surprise the gravel/cobble-size chunks of basalt on the railroad bed had been infused with a dust-like matrix, making for supurb strolling!
Suddenly, a mini-steam roller was coming right at me! I moved quickly to the edge of the trail. The driver stopped, pulled out one earplug and said:
"He's unloading <tracks? trucks?> back there and you'll have a hard time getting around him. We'll be done by Thursday and then you can walk anywhere you want to."
"OK," I answered amiably. Who wants to walk on your silly railroad bed anyway, Washington State? Our capitol is cuter!!! Vermont marble!
"I'll just go the other way!" I smiled.
Going north, however, was easier said than done. I drove the silent Forester over the asphalt bridge and along a washboarded gravel road. I'd seen a trailhead as we crossed, but it had disappeared.
"The trail head was a mirage, a visual hoax, hi-jinx, a daymare inflicted upon you by the Witch of Washington! Go Home Oregonian, can you hear her cry?"
"Good Grief!" I said to my pearly Suburu as I rolled my eyes.
"Look at the sign. This is an unmaintained road," he added. "Let's get the r**t out of here before I fall off into the river!!" FYI, the CCC (car communications commission) has banned the use of "rust" on the car radio, as it denotes a bodily function. Ever hear a ten second blip on "Car Talk", where the Mariachi Brothers don't say a word?
Dejected, I decided to drive further along 142 to a trailhead called Pitt Stop. There were (and still are) a few houses on one side of the highway, and a huge dusty parking lot on the other.
"Stop! Stop!" cried the Forester. "Look at that silver Mercedes Benz! What a sleek German fox!" I rolled my eyes. Who knew what they would do alone here in the dusty clearing while I was hiking. Mingling exhaust fumes? Rubbing tires?
In any event, I took my leave and walked past the familiar sign demanding that I leash my dog or it would surely attack chickens or get poison oak. My feet could feel every razor point of basalt railroad bed, but at least I was on the move. The trail followed the grade through riparian savannah, past a stone wall that held in the highway. Then some long-forgotten crew of Chinese and Irish would dynamite a path through unmoveable basalt. Because of this, the wide trackbed shrank to a path through oak, pine, maple, alder, and cottonwood and a couple head of goldenrod. With every other step, the green understory would rustle as someone small and incredibly scared of me took flight! Not so far below me, in a grove by the milky blue green river, two invisible fishermen chatted in an undecipherable language, boom boom swish swish. A stone staircase led upwards as if to heaven, a sign on a slack chain instructing "Authorized Personnel Only."
Soon a few houses came into view, and then a fruit garden...pears, apples, fuji apples, grapes, and spiny items that looked like chestnuts. A paper sign identified the location as Skookum Flat and assured the traveler that the fruit was gratis by the Rails and Trails Association. It was a good place to turn around....<clip>....I opened the door of the small grocery in Klickitat...3 miles from my trailhead...and headed straight for the Pepsi cooler, where I pulled out a Diet Mountain Dew. The clerk must of thought me a crazy woman, red in the 95 degree heat, wet, tattered clothes and hiking shoes, and stringy, disarranged white and brown hear. I will never have that savoir faire that real hikers need. Tough bounce!
I opened my Dew and we began to climb the Klickitat-Appleton Road, up beyond the dry grass and oaks, until we could see far down into the Klickitat Valley. On one mountain-hill, you could see tall pines on the most northerly slope, then curly oaks, then dead grass on the side that faces Oregon. Real ecologists spell this "aspect," but since I'm not an ecologist I'll type it "suspect."
[Note: The title is in reference to a book called "In Suspect Terrain" by John McPhee. He is writing about what geologists call "terranes," large islands of material that adhere to a continental plate as an oceanic plate is subducted beneath a continental plate. McPhee says that geologists are mispelling "terrain" as "terrane" just to be cute. "Suspect" refers to a terrane whose origin is not well known.]
It was just the three of us. Elgoog had dispatched my spouse to Koala Lumpur to install something and eat sushi. Erin had just a few hours before hurled a package into the refrigerator, yelling, "I'm going over to *tony's*. Don't eat my Chinese food!!! " That left Ian, Freddy the Cat, and me.
"Where do you want to eat?" I asked.
"I don't care," he answered with a sigh.
"Taco Del Mar?" Cheaper than Ixtapa or Casa El Mirador.
Ian shrugged. But wait! There was a new ***Brewpub*** next to Taco Del Mar!!!
"It doesn't matter," repeated Ian.
September 2009, The Dalles Oregon, Review: Rivertap.
I eased the Suburu up behind another white Suburu that looked like a sedan with a pickup on the end...I would later be told that it is was a "crossover" called a "Baja."
...And, before gravity could pull us toward Taco Del Mar, I checked the classy Rivertap for the green sign that reads "MINORS ALLOWED until 9PM." As opposed to the red sign that reads "NO MINORS." I gasped in delight and fear. Then I checked to see if anyone was inside.
"Uh...Ian, do you want to eat here?"
"I don't care," he answered. What a docile boy!
The Rivertap is very chic looking. That's "Portland Chic" like the new Jack In the Box. Outside, there were a few black metal tables with customers sitting at them. Inside everything was boxy. There was a big garage door that could be opened for effect and silver colored heating and cooling ducks on the ceiling. We stared across the room for a minute or two and looked at the card menus held up by card menu holders at each table. Puzzling!!!
I headed for the bar, having some experience with this.
"Um, we haven't been here before, what..."
"You can sit anywhere you like," a buxom blonde barmaid assured us. We sat down at a random table, and the buxom woman asked us what we wanted to drink. My own choices were limitless...but basically all I cared about was....
"Um..what kind of dark beer do you have on tap?" It was between Guinness or Rogue American Amber [or equivalent]. I went for the Rogue.
"I'd like a root beer," ordered Ian. Dark as they come. The barmaid gave him an odd look. But soon our beers were on the table.
"Want to taste this?" I asked. Parents who host lose the most!
"No," he said, as if in a root beer dream. "What does it taste like?"
"Not bad! It's kind of sweet." We continued to talk and talk, and I began to stare at the people behind the bar. Food! Finally, I went right up there and stated:
"We'd like some food. He would like the jerked pork sliders, and I would like 2 fish tacos and sweet potato fries." How quaint. Sort of like the UK without the mayonnaise lasagna.
A couple came in and sat down at a table close to the bar. "Hi there, we're back again!" They obviously knew the ropes.
Our food came. Luckily it tasted good and was worth all the shaky terrain. I got the thrill of watching "sliders" disappear for the first time, sliding down Ian's throat,
"There's our car out there," I said to Ian.
"There's a Soobee in front of it, too," he replied.
"What kind of car is that? It looks like a sedan in front and a pick-up in the back."
"It's a crossover," explained Ian.
Hood River, Oregon, September 2009: "Hiker In Distress."
"Portland"...the sign was what caught my eye, rather than the beard or the backpack. He was sitting there in Hood River's "Nightmare Traffic Corner," just off the toll bridge, the marina, and the freeway.
"I'm going to PSU," I told him. Ten miles later, I would learn that his name was Matt.
"I'm walking the Pacific Crest Trail," he began. "But I hurt my foot. I was staying up in Trout Lake for a few days, thinking it would get better. It hasn't so I'm thinking I'll go to Portland. People tell me the northeast side is the best place."
"May be. I don't live there," I told him.
"Wow...I'm from Los Angeles and I've lived in California all my life. Oregon is great!! I love it here. So many trees!"
"That's probably why so many Californians move here! Where did you start?"
"At the beginning; at Campo on the Mexican Border. That's the worst part. They say that *this* is the reward for hiking that part. I've walked across The Bridge of the Gods [over the Columbia River] and everything!"
"Wow! What's that like?"
"It's really windy, and they have that open grating so you see the water underneath you! There's so much *water* here. In California, you had to carry days worth of water. Now, my packs are a lot lighter!!
"Hmm...doesn't the trail go through the mountains?"
"It goes through the Sierras. The Sierras are great! That's the only good part!" I thought about the stacked terranes down there.
"How long have you been hiking? Are there any towns you stop at beside Cascade Locks?"
"Yeah...about every week or ten days. But they're only small places." Like Cascade Locks, I reckon. "I'd never been backpacking before. I've been walking now for three months. A buddy of mine was hiking with me but he hurt his leg south of Ashland."
"We've been singing in harmony along the trail. We decided we wanted to get together to perform beautiful music...harmony accompanied by a piano."
"Huh! Have you heard of Shape Note Singing...Sacred Harp."
"Did you see Cold Mountain? That had some Shape Note singing in it..."
"Was Nicole Kiddman in that?"<clip>
What stamina these young men had "I've walked a couple of miles on the Pacific Crest Trail!" I laughed. "And a few miles on the Appalachian Trail, in New Hampshire."
"There's the Continental Divide Trail, too. But only a few people walk it each year. There's places where you have to do rock climbing. It's really rugged." I could imagine.
I left him off at the 43rd Street Exit, in front of Trader Joe's. The car behind me got irritated and honked its horn, but the Suburu remained silent.
"Trader Joe's!" exclaimed Matt. "Now I know I'm in a city!!"
Hitchhikers are like the stretch of road between Hood River and Portland: When it rains it pours! I'd spent an hour or so of my trip into Portland trying to get into the mind of an injured PCT hiker. Now I was halfway home But look...over on the shoulder... two people and a cardboard sign reading ="EAST."=
"Pass them by. You'll be free to talk to yourself in Norwegian..." said the Forester.
"One of them is a woman. I never leave women travelers on the road," I replied. No matter how many noserings.
I pulled over to the shoulder. A few minutes later they noticed me, and the woman walked up to the car. The other side of the cardboard said "Denver."
"I can only take you forty miles," I told her.
"That's fine," she answered. "We've been taking this trip in short jumps."
The story was simpler than the facts. "You've got a lot of stuff with you," I said. A duffel bag and several dusty backpacks. No bikes.
"This is only half our stuff," she answered. "The last time we moved this way, we took nothing but a duffel."
"We're moving back to Denver because work is hard to get here," added the self-assured man in the back. He was visible in the rear view mirror, along with his baseball cap and grey ponytail.
"We were staying with my parents in Reedsport...on The Coast. But there wasn't any work out there." She was overweight and smelled of tobacco smoke.
"What kind of work do you do?" I asked hesitating. Cherry picking was gone for the year.
"Any kind we can get...construction work...house cleaning..."
"His brother is starting up a roofing company in Denver...." [pause]
"It used to be when we travelled like this, we'd go to a truck stop, and she'd ask one of the drivers if we could have a ride, and they usually said 'yes.' But now they can't do it..."
"Liability," I commented.
"Actually, the first ride we got, from Reedsport to Salem, was on a semi. He owns his own truck and my Mom knew he was headed up that way. Look at all that water over there in the river. You don't see that in Denver."
"That's no river...that's just a big lake."
"I would have liked to have seen it before all those dams," I commented.
"People don't really trust hitchhikers," she began again. "Once I was driving around with my friend, and she got all mad because I picked up a hitchhiker with my son in the back seat. 'How can you DO that?'"
"How old is you son?" I asked.
"Hmm...lets see...twelve I think. But back then he was six months old."
&&&&&&&&&The Dalles, OR, September 2009: Tonight is Open House at TDWHS, home of the Eagle Indians. Erin's baking class has sacrificed a week of After School to produce the outstandingly delicious pastries that supply serotonin to calm anxious students, parents, and teachers. Stuffed with organic antidepressants, we find that Erin is a highlight, a rising star. She leads underclassmen to lie down by still waters in Spanish class, contributes college-level comments in Genetics, has a better attitude in Algebra 2 than in Algebra 1, and will soon be able to recite Beowulf in British Literature class.
"Oh yeah, Erin, she's great!" reports the Health teacher in Australian. "By the way...do you remember that model ship over there? Your son brought that to me from one of his trips!"
"The Caribbean!!!" I exclaim, trying to get a word in edgewise.
"I used to live the world through Ian's travels!" smiles the Aussie.
It is the next to last Open House we will attend, unless something weird happens. Time flies, but the bickering continues, Ian the slob, Erin the opinionated.
"I don't know, maybe Erin will get married. Then you'll be safe," I assure Ian. The spouse of one of Ian's high school classmates suggested that maybe his dad could come home from Malaysia with a mail order bride for Ian, but we got our signals crossed. Imagine, however, two years and all our kid problems married off!!!
The Gennett Mansion, Richmond, Indiana, August 2009: I turn my older daughter's wedding in my mind, like flapjacks. Hers was indeed *the wedding* that my mother would have wanted for me, the kind you see in the movies. I felt the same way as my red haired mom...maybe a pagan solstice with trolls dancing around to the tune of Elsie Marley, and afterwards a natural history field trip up Clear Creek, look at that till profile in the cut bank!
So here am I, mid-August, my left arm in Ian's right; he's wearing the Chinese wool suit I bought him at JC Penney. My son escorts me to my seat, walks to the far left, and the wedding beneath the tent begins. The attendants...Ian and Erin, Emma's friend Beth from College Station, and three young people from Chicago...take their place. My cue to stand up is "'Tis the Gift to Be Simple," a Shaker Hymn...only a few letters off! Emma's father...I've loaned him to her as an Escort...escorts her in, as if to give her away, not that we'd really give her away. And little Victor, the ring boy, where is he???
Emma is so beautiful in that gown, the white flowers in her hair....
Later, at the reception, the "dj" will ask for a song about love. The Chicagoans at the next table begin to sing "I'd love to be an Oscar Meyer Wiener"!!!! Emma will explain to me even later that her new husband's parents and their families were all employees of Oscar Meyer in Chicago. Her new father-in-law's family came up from Tennessee, whereas his mother's family came up from Italy and all have different spellings of the same name.
I have invited only two guests, Cousin Mike, a True Gennett, now living in Cincinnati, and Cousin Julie, a Reid. The Reids Own New Paris....and the Gennetts own the Gennetts.
The Dalles, Oregon, September 2009. "Diet Soft Drinks have been found to actually cause weight gain..."
And here we are, sitting in a very small circle in the Headquarters Chapel of the Episcopal...um...whatever it is. We don't believe in all that stuff, which suggests the Church of the Former England in Oregon is quite tolerant in allowing us to rent Sundays here. As usual, despite the snafu of a couple years ago, we are barely hangin' in there. This week, for example, we're four and one half students of the grace of god. I'm half, because I've just woke up.
And as often happens, no one says a word until the hour is up. Then all hell breaks loose.
"Are you 100% up to par?" Jeff asks Nancy. Last winter Nancy broke both legs skiing somewhere near Bend? Sisters? Bachelors? Most gals her age here in The Dalles would have broken both legs falling off a Fred Meyer motorized shopping cart.
"Not completely, but I'm doing special exercises at the gym."
"Did you read the book I gave you?" interrogates Jeff. Washboarding is only a steppe away! The name of the book is "Younger Next Year," and the premise is that if you exercise and eat the right stuff, you will feel younger, even at our advanced age.
"I did. I think it's preaching to the choir, though." I hide beneath my folding chair, liters of Billy Rock Station Chardonnay and Diet Mountain Dew and HR Shell Station liquid scone dangling above my head. You may recall how, in 1999, I wrote about the Quaker Testimony against Soda Pop.
"You know," commences Jeff's wife Marge, a Health Professional, "what happens is that you don't live any longer. If you do the right things, though, you stay on a plateau..." she illustrates using a horizontal hand..."and then suddenly you go down hill fast." =WHONK!!!=
"You don't live any longer, you just enjoy living longer!" figures Jim.
"Otherwise, it's just a long downhill slide," continues Marge. "And we've all met people like that!"
Everyone nods solemnly. Four hundred pounds. Off road motorized vehicles, 50 foot TV screens...chomping on McDonald's fries, Popeye's fried shrimp, gulping Diet Mountain Dew.
The Dalles, Oregon, September 2009: Nice to hear the chatter of children, arriving home at 9:30....after the Friday night game.
"It's great to see The Dalles winning for a change!" exclaimed Erin.
"Who did they play?" I asked.
"Uh...some team." Neither Sage nor **tony** seemed to know either.
"We're going to Shari's," Erin continued. Make-up. Both she and Sage were wearing make-up. I hardly recognized Sage. "Most of the band will be there!"
"Are they playing?" I asked. Had this been another Homecoming Dance?
"No, just eating!" replied Erin. Marching Band. Sage played the flute in the marching band. Erin used to play clarinet, but that's before she got into Baking.
The North Wasco School District got this weird idea of a 4 day 8 hour a day week, with all four grades now stuffed into our arguably striking art deco high school building. On the one hand, growing brains now have the opportunity to grow more and more. On the other, some brains have already hit capacity and exploded. Ah...Friday!!
"Can Jessica spend the night with me?" Erin asked on Thursday. I'd taken them over to **tony**'s, where they listen for hours to some guy named Fernando ramble on and on about how he loved to play a particularly obnoxious video game where you shoot people all the time! Ugh! I felt so guilty!
"Sure," I said. The next day the forester and I returned Jessica, one of the "pretty Danish twins" of bygone stories, to her de facto home out in the country.
"Copenhagen Sur La Gorge," joked the Suburu. "Somewhere on the back road to Mosier!!!"
"It's really pretty out here in the spring!" explained Jessica, who was riding shotgun.
"But now it's all....ugh..." finished Erin.
"But as we come closer, it becomes greener, explained Jessica. And in one minute, we turned into a driveway of a white house with a green lawn.
"Ah oh!" warned one of us. Running toward us in the driveway was a small black dog with a red collar! It looked like it had broken loose!
"I'll get out," offered Jessica firmly as she reached for the door handle. Soon she had the little dog under control. But...suddenly three of its friends appeared in the gravel drive...a small white dog, a big black dog and a goat.
"Look at them!" I laughed. They were all excited and wagging..."Huh!!! That ***goat*** is wagging its tail!!!" The perky caprinae had a short stump of a tail, like Harvey, our old Brittany Spaniel, and long floppy orange ears, one of which was tagged like a Fred Meyer leather jacket. I started laughing hysterically and couldn't stop.
"I need to...ha ha ha...turn...ha ha...the car around, " I told Erin. Jessica easily collected the dogs, who were genuinely glad to see her, but no soap for the goat. It ambled amiably over to a vehicle next to the property line and...waited...patiently....wagging...
&&&&&"How's the aftermath of the fire there in Mosier?" I asked Erin's friend Lilian, faking politeness, but actually interested in Disaster Demonography.
"Not too bad!" she answered. "You could really smell it before, but now you can't." Fair enough.
Mosier OR, September 2009: "The Twin Towers of Microwave"
Gravel. Darned if I want to walk on any more sharp hand-sized sharp chunks of basalt, even if there be no gradient. I swirl the wheel of hiking fortune and voila...it's the Twin Tunnel Trail! Stretching from Mosier to Hood River, it's paved in neat black asphalt about the color, I will later ascertain, of many of the trees along the route. Because it is a part of the Old Columbia River Highway, you have to pay three bucks to park at the trailheads.
The Forester and I have indeed parked at the deserted upscale...(paved, with two deluxe outhouses!!!)...Mark Odom Hatfield Trailhead. Outside the Forester, I inhale the death sweet whiff of burnt vegetation, burned living crust, and the toasted lichens and moss that form the floor of the "semi arid" forest.
"Question...how can I be parked here with "semi-arid" towering pines and douglas fir?"
"Answer...no idea. We didn't do this in Alabama. Pines grew in semi-mildew, not semi-arid. Perhaps the same is true of Japan. The mildew protects the forest from fire. "
I am on my own now, tearing up the asphalt like a Stutz bearcat. "WARNING! STAY ON THE PAVED TRAILS!!!" Gotcha. Anyway, just as I suspected, topography was a determinant of which trees were done in by the Microwave Fire. Here at the trailhead, the combination of black rock, black lichens, and black trees form a homogenous goth landscape. Or Iceland, it looks like the Atlantic rift zone barfed hot basalt on it..
There are ghosts along the trail, I can hear their voices. They whoosh around and ask "What trees are here?"
"The usual. Doug Fir, Ponderosa Pine, Oak...lots of oak...and maple." The fire has been capricious along the old highway. Are those oak leaves withering with fall, or fire? A doug fir is half burnt. Next to it an untouched green vine maple begs "Wind! Carry my winged children to a new moist home!!!" Way down below, the next bench of basalt is completely charred. The trees are Iraqi conscripts roasted to oblivion beside their tanks during the Desert War...do you remember the photos? We are the first to visit Martinique after the eruption. And when will St Helens burn again?
The first of the tunnels is a tornado of gorge wind...a wind tunnel! It is easy to imagine riding through in a Model T. Will the roof collapse? Will a rock fall on my hood? Will I be picked up and ejected, carried in a cyclone, and left to fall into the Mosier Market parking lot without my Forester?
Luckily, I emerge A-OK at the other end, except for hair so snarled it must be hidden beneath my Gogol Bordello hoodie. And look here! No coal black wood...only emerald sword ferns and tender young Douglas Fir saplings. I stroll a few more yards and see a wooden stake.
"CT5 15" it reads, or something like that. On the steep slope above the stake are...five wooden stations of the cross.
Portland, OR, October 2009:Summer's fever pitch is now broken. The air is crisp and even watery on occasion. You might ask, has summer not ended weeks ago? Not in Oregon, where Higher Education hones the blade of the butchers' knife way too late, convincing...<clip>
It's school again for those of us who made it through Norwegian 103. We've been thrown out of the"Suomilaisessa Huoneessa," because of the Finns' belief that we were on the wrong side of the Winter War. Silly Norskies, you like to climb mountains, try this hike to the 4th floor!
Our new room is the "Hoffman Library," and we are now distributed in plush chairs around a big, lush, table. You see these tables in movies where someone in advertising is showing their idea posters and everyone else is spinning their pen or snoring. But so far all the Norskies are attentive. Dr Tom is moving his salmon eyes around to establish contact and to count how many vocabulary sheets he needs to pass out.
"It's a little stuffy in here," he suggests, staring at the windows, but they've been fixed like a litter of animal shelter kittens to remain forever shut.
All of our own school of fish eyes are on the new student, a gentleman named Jacob. He has a shaved head and a black plug in his earlobe. "I've studied Norwegian in Bergen and at U of O." Intimidating, eh? Soon Jacob will be be one of us.... a friend of Norway's quirky little Language, as well as the odd idiosyncratic habits of the people who live there. Or else he'll drop the course.
<to be continued>
Norwegian 201....you've caught us still seated in the Boardroom of Norskie Scholars as our teacher Dr. Tom whips out xeroxed word lists for chapter 10. You wonder if he hands out the same
words year after year. Chapter 10 for us is a review of the Bakkes, a family of bønders som bor på en gård. A farm family with three barns: en låve, et fjøl og et stabbur, as well as five barn:
Mette, Siri, Thorleif, Stein, and Øyvind. Let's try that last one again!!! "Øyvind!!!" LOL!!!!
Soon, however, Cathy is gloating about her summer school in Ozlo, and the student bar, when you can get a beer cheap, only three times the American price.
"Wow, I pretend to say,"When I was at University of Iowa, they had a bar in the student union too!" But my "senior citizen" guess is that the bar went the way of the 19 year old drinking age...can any of you remember the Good Old Days?...and ubiquitous joints passed around at parties. So I remain lost in my half-true dreams.
"How much would a beer usually cost in Norway?" one of the dishwater blonds asks.
"Something like 100 Kroner...which would be...hmm...around 16 dollars." Everyone gasps! How could the Nordmenn afford it? "Let them drink champagne!" as Carl Gustav Bernadotte would have said.
"...But," continues Cathy,"the minimum wage is so high, the Norwegians can afford it."
"It's just the foreigners...the tourists...that can't!!"
"Well, they're the third largest oil exporter in the world!" By now I am losing track of who is saying what.
"And fish...the minimum wage is so high that it's cheaper to send them off to China after they're caught, to be processed and sent back!"
"Even quarries...they send the rocks to China to be cut!! Can you believe that?"
Rumors about Mother Norway begin to fly like leftse frisbees!
The Dalles, Oregon, October 2009: Homecoming. It's Friday, a day recently abolished by the School Board as an economic stimulant.
"Mom! Can you take me to school in three minutes or so?"
"Yes, dear," I reply. "Just let me spinach my fencetense." But wait! It's Friday!
"Erin, isn't today a Green Friday?" I ask. Erin is in the bathroom redoing her eye make-up.
"It's the Noise Parade!" she says matter-of-factly. How could I have forgotten that?
She turns, and then I see that she has a red streak of lipstick or oil paint running down the center of her face.
"Is that where everyone walks downtown and makes a lot of noise?" I ask, and , finishing my sentence walk out to the Forester.
I take her to school...who would walk with a face like that?...and drive off again, narrowly missing a boy carrying a huge bass drum. on his front. Boom boom!!!
"Mom!" Erin's tinny voice rang through our cell phones. "Can you come pick us up?"
"Sure! Where are you?"
"Downtown. We're down at the costume store?" Costume store? All those establishments look alike to me. Each, however, reflects the history of Oregon in its own unique ways, including murals and mirrors.
"It's down by Klindts." OK. The oldest bookstore in In a split second I am there. Why do they need a ride? Huh...and who are they?? We cruise down 3rd and then up 2nd, one of those odd one way things experienced also in Redmond, Oregon. And look! There they are! I zip in a couple car lengths from Klindt's and a couple meters away from the curb. An angry 15 ton Dodge Ram pick-up...sprouting gargantuan American flags from each of its wheels and shark teeth on its grill... gives ECH the Forester a truly fearsome scowl. "You Liberal AWD pzev Jappie, park like you're supposed to!!!" Oh my! (I've learned vehicle language by listening against my will to Car Talk).
"Where are they? Why aren't they coming?" I reply, picking up my cell phone.
"Mom, where are you?" Erin snaps self-assuredly.
"Uh a couple stores from where you are?" Soon the children were stuffing themselves in the big SUV. Erin made a break for the front...
Rehearsal: ~Officer, I'm just an old muddle brained LOCAL woman picking up her exemplary great-grandchildren from the bookstore. I didn't realize what a traffic obstruction I am. [bursts into tears]~
"Is everyone in?" I ask. A solid armada of macho vehicles is passing by in my lane.
"Ha ha...he's staring at us! Do you know him *giggle giggle*, Keenan?" Keenan the class Viking! They'd have more room if he were in the front.
"Where am I going?" I ask.
"You're taking Lilian and her friend up to the high school," replies Erin. Lucky she didn't say Mosier.
"We did a pretty good job of looking like we were keeping our seat belts on," declares someone in the back. Wait a second! Lilian and her friend; Keenan the Class Viking; and Sage, who had done quite a bit of self-decorating. One two three four. I thought I was done with these antics in Middle School!
&&&&&&&&&&&Portland, Oregon, October 2009
Waiting...Dr Tom and I are waiting for Norwegian class, here in the History Board Room. "I've been reading about the The Civil War and World War One," Dr Tom tells me in English. Spread before me on the table are the the transparent images of Last Letters saved, xeroxed pension files, and tintypes of thirteen year olds dead in the trenches.
"The Civil War was a really terrible thing," I reply. Someone is poking me with a bayonet.
"Yes it was," agrees Dr. Tom. Without fail, I trust him to comment on the awfulness of armed conflict. But Tom's overthrust does not stop at the War Between the States.
"I was reading about the Battle of the Somme." I shake my vacuous head. "The French and British and Germans were all going at it. I never realized this, but the battle lasted a month, with over a million casualties."
My mother's voice, pure memory and not fiction, cuts in here, "We didn't have anyone in That War. Daddy George and Grandfather were too old and Daddy Robert was too young." I roll my eyes in horror, thinking of nine year olds and middle aged fathers "going at it."
The clock is ticking, seconds, minutes...Christopher, with his round black spectacles throws his books on the vast table and seats himself on an upholstered chair.
"...where the British were planting a huge amount of explosives and the Germans were advancing to build trenches..."
"We're talking about horrible things," I half-laugh to Christopher, twisting my mouth.
"You can see it all on You Tube," adds Christopher calmly.
You Tube. Ice Cream...There it is, a half appledumpling of dust and European Sixth Cousins. Close up views of bodies after the rats have been at them.....
"Whuzzup?" asks Ian cheerfully. No one else is awake.
"I'm looking at true life pictures of the Apocalypse," I say. Or something like that.
"I went to see Zombieland tonite," he continues, "with Erin and **tony** and Keenan. Guess who was the adult?" I bet he could pass for 25 in the right circumstance.
"Uh...I guess when you have a beard, it shows some measure of oldness."
"It was free. Erin got a 20 out of the machine, and the rest in nickels."
"Yeah, and I had to pay for the tickets, so I had to give them all those nickels."
Ypres...I quickly grow weary of the phosgene and mustard gas...much to much for me...and YouTubed a whole hour of Okinawa...My dad is waiting out Operation Iceberg on a Corps of Engineer boat, waiting to pave roads and fix ice boxes. One miss-fated kamikaze hit and it would be all over for us.
Hood River, Oregon, Rockford Grange, October 2009----"Country Dance" season is here again!
...dozens of 8th graders breaking in line at the water fountain. My Spouse and I are standing at the edge of the churning cauldron.
"I can't remember your name..." an old timer admits to my spouse.
"Richard," says Richard. "I can't remember your name either.
"Tom," says Tom. Tom is very tall and, because he often mans the cash box, his real name is "The Cashier."
"I can never remember names," says my spouse, whatever his name is.
"I was talking to "The Guy Who Sends Out the E-Mails"...um...Keith, and he said at one point they had more contra dances at different Grange Halls...White Salmon...and The Dalles. Is there a Grange Hall in The Dalles?"
Mill Creek Grange, I almost say, but My Spouse beats me to it...
"Chenoweth Grange is right there in town. But I don't think there have been any dances there."
But I remember one, seven or eight years ago. It was a demo for a Museum Kids-Spend-the-Night-As-Pioneers.
"Tonight, we're having something special!" announces the caller. "Tom is going to tell us a story he learned from the storyteller at one of our House Concerts!"
The Cashier ascends the stage. "This is a story from Ireland," he begins.
"LOUDER!!!" someone yells. Middle School girls can be quite noisy.
"LIKE THIS???" booms The Cashier, lengthening the stem of the microphone.
Here is the story that he told:
"A farmer had to go away for three months and left his farm in the care of his neighbor." The neighbor picked him up at the station when he returned.
"Anything go wrong?" asked the farmer.
"No..." answered the neighbor.
"Everything went OK?"
"Nothing since your dog died."
"My dog died?"
"It was probably from eating all that burnt horse meat"
"Burnt horse meat?"
"Yeah the barn burned down. Some cinders must have fallen onto the roof from the house"
"We had some candles tip over from the wake and it set fire to the house.
"Your mother-in-law died of shock when your wife ran off with the priest."
"Oh...gosh...what will I do? My wife's run off with the priest, my house and barn burned down...you said nothing had gone wrong!"
send private replies "No, I said nothing had happened since your dog died."
Small things have been happening here in the Days of Whooping Cough and Whooping Sneeze. For example, after a Whooping Fit in Meeting, Lark told everyone "Bill has that too!" Bill was probably at home like a good Democrat, Whooping to himself.
And then there's the green light that turned on at the intersection of 6th and Cherry Heights, and the bicyclist who subsequently launched into my path from the sidewalk. Damn bicyclists!
And walking out of Fred Meyer, absorbed in thought, with a uncheckstanded 69c 2-liter Bottle of Big K Sparkling Water. No one noticed.
Portland, Oregon, October 2009: Evy's 18th birthday party in Portland! How time flies, except when you're driving to and from the party twice in two days! And the 5:45 traffic jam on Friday! Whoa!
"I should have told you we wouldn't get there on time if we started at four," Erin told me. "But I have a tendency to be blunt; to not say things in a polite manner."
"Huh," I answered. The gals would be going to Olive Garden dressed as frumps. I was already green with envy. Now this slap in the face...just like Christmas!
Soon I was on the road again to fetch Erin. I wasn't on time for that either, but it didn't matter so much.
"I have to get dressed," she said.
"I always love coming to your house, it's so interesting!" I told her mother. As I become more and more of a recluse, I sometimes find it difficult to talk to people. But Home Renovation never fails to inspire!
"I only have two rooms left to paint, but my arthritis has been so bad," she replied, rubbing her hands. How could this thin young woman without one grey hair have arthritis?
"The kitchen and the office," she continued.
"Hmm..." I remarked. "You would think painting would be easy...just like that."
"The painting is easy; it's the preparation that's hard." We know that; all our lives we've just slapped paint up over whatever was up there already...until we get caught doing it that way.
"Back in the office, for some reason they textured the crown moulding. I have to strip that off." 75% of the time it's a daemonic "they" who do weird, stupid stuff. She was lucky everything wasn't covered with luan mahogany plywood...sent directly by Satan!
"Ugh!" I exclaimed.
We moved on to the living room. "The last thing I did was strip the fireplace. When we moved in, everything was white in here...the wall, the bookcases, and the fireplace. There were three coats of paint on the fireplace, and a glass screen that covered the archway. I put that out on Craig's List, you wouldn't believe how many people wanted it!"
"Huh!" I remarked.
"I tried to use an environmentally friendly stripper, but there were places...at the end I had to use methyl chloride...and...<clip>
It's odd that I can remember almost every detail of what she said.
"A lot of flu going around..." reported the Salmon Paradise Bank officer. I was in there, trying to get a better rate on a CD renewal, maybe enough for a pack of gum. I assumed the small talk reference was to the computer not spitting out the certificate like it should. Computers all over town were ill.
"A woman came in a few days ago," she continued, "that had that H1N1 flu. She'd been sick for a couple weeks, so she went to the doctor. He said she had H1N1 flu but that she wasn't contagious. He told her to stay home from work another week."
"Huh!" I commented. I don't have the Flu. I have the Cough. So there!
Portland, Oregon, October 2009: A couple of us Norskie gals were sitting there in the alcove, waiting for the Arne I. Spiffy History Library to open for class.
"I feel OK. I just have coughing fits," I explained to Kathy. I knew she would outdo me.
"What I have now is better that the last thing I had," she began. "This time, I just have a low fever, a clogged nose, and... "
I can't remember what she said. I'm a dead plant doctor. Erosions, landslides, sector collapse; infertility and dwarfism due to living on the tundra ecotone. Plants can't even move from where they first were a sprout.
But Kathy had another story to tell in class. She'd spent part of the summer at a language school in Oslo, as well as doing interesting things on the side.
"We went to Goteborg once. They stopped us at customs on the way back, and put us in a locked room." Everyone's eyes grew big!
"They went through our things..." Wow! We thought Fennoscandia was a gentle, kind place.
"They were looking for alcohol. It's so expensive in Norway and so cheap in Sweden." Relatively cheap, at least, particularly .5% cider.
"It's probably your age group," someone offered. The last time I'd gone through the border between Norway and Sweden, no one stopped me. The customs station looked as empty as the snow-pack.
It was during the second half of class that I ran out of Diet Coke. That's when I had the coughing fit. <clip coughing fit> And it was after or before that the use of NyQuil came up.
"I have a distant cousin in Norway who stocks up on NyQuil every time she comes to the US. She says that it gives her interesting dreams to write about. She writes children's books <shrug> ...anyway, every time she goes through customs she worries about getting caught with a bag full of NyQuil."
The small monologue brought to mind grad school at A&M. I kept a bottle of cough medicine on my bookshelf during the worst of the winter season and took a swig about 20 times a day. Then I remembered a fellow student who took a big swig of NyQuil every night, after the beer wore off.
The Dalles, OR: October 2009 "The Zombies"
"Can you take me over to **tony's**?" Erin asks as she downs a Panda Noodle Jumbo Cup Kim Chee flavor. These food delights are four for a dollar at Grocery Outlet.
"MMMMmmm" I am perceived to say.
"Can you drive me to...."
"Who am I to deny you?....As you wish," repeats farmboy. **tony's** mother usually makes meat for dinner, but once Erin was stuck with a grilled cheese sandwich.
The leaves are now yellow and yellow, and a green carpet is beginning to spread out on the land dried or burnt up by Summer. But it is always Springtime for Erin..and for "ech," the Suburu Forester in whom we are riding.
"How old are your children?" asks Dr. Tom before class.
"Twenty seven, twenty, and sixteen," I answer. In less than one year, Ian will be old enough to order a Terminator [Stout] Milkshake at McMennemin's, despite the fact that he longs for the days as a young child, when they had naps at school.
Suddenly...over and over in fact...the sound of Japanese chimes.!! These are text messages...probably from **tony**.
Even more shocking, the rare sound of a vintage phone ring!!! Erin talks, laughs, and then says to me,
"That was Lilian." My ears are turning into huge nosy cornucopia.
"She drove me home from school today. After I got out, one of the Crazy People came across the street. Right up to the window and stared inside." Erin fixed her virtual hands in a suction cup circle around her face. "Lilian's father was freaked out."
"They're harmless, I guess," I comment.
"You can feel that way if it makes you happy," warns Erin, as she navigates a muddy lawn afflicted by do-it-yourself irrigation installation.
Portland Oregon, October 2009:
We're right here in the KPSU studios, which resembles Hades or a coal mine in that it is way below the surface of the earth with no windows. We're leaning back in our chair, listening to tango...and a man walks in!
"Where's the list of CDs that's on the computer?" he asks. I think I know him, but I'm wrong. Hmmmm....Great title for a bad love story!
He changes the subject. "What's that you're playing?"
"From Clare to Here?"
"Irish!!! I got that on an album..."
"Real Irish...not from Los Angeles?"
"Darby O'Gill." Local band. "They come every year during the uh...what do you call it? When they ask for money week?"
"Yeah, they call it pledge week, but it's actually two. Scott his name is, they call him Darby O'Gill, but his name is really...uh...uh...Scott.
"I'm having trouble thinking of words lately."
"What did you say?" I ask. "Ha Ha!!!"
DJ "S" walks off...not the one I thought he was...to scour the numbered drawers for Darby O'Gill The afternoon takes a dark turn.
"Where are those guys??" I query "Donde esta? Where are the Sudamerican Rockers?" Soon I will be faced with concocting another fetching hour of programming. And I like to tell you, you can't concoct an hour of Sudamerican Rock without the Catalog, even with Gardel at your fingertips!
"Why do you say, 'I like to tell you'?" you ask.
Good question. Recently I was reminded of the way my grandfather Hayward used to talk. That "I Like to Tell You" phrase was often accompanied by a shake of the head, possibly to get rid of this lengthy wag tag of an interjection. Who'd a thunk it!
"I found it," interjected DJ "S."
"Pick out something!" I commanded.
<clip....and the intense hour of pulling irrelevant CDs is over.>
Now it's DJ "C" leaning up against the drawers of CDs. They are all set to explode once we get computerized. DJ "C" or DJ "A," as he is sometimes called, used to be the Program Director, which suggests some degree of masochism.
"How do you like teaching?" I ask. The man has a scholarship to teach. I wonder if its as scary as teaching Pre-Meds how to spit in iodine, or suggesting to Pet E's that there's more to geology than the numbers on Halliburton's paycheck.
"I really like it," answers Cody. "I'm beginning to see the gap between me and my students...mostly 19, and I'm...uh...in my mid 30s." Time flies.
"What are you teaching?" I ask.
"The History of Democracy," he answers. "The readings are really interesting, and I talk about how the concept of Democracy, starting with the Greeks, deviates from how people have
interpreted it. You can see the lights go on in their heads...
PORTLAND, OREGON, November 2009: "Halloween"
And yes...we're here again, at the aftermath of the KPSU Bi-Monthly Meeting. A few problems have been discussed, including the possibilty of using HD Radio instead of the flaky AM signal, and the placement of the increasingly popular "IPOD" in a place that it can be physically accessed during one's radio program.
=STRETCH= That's what people have do now to reach both the "IPOD" and the microphone...not to mention the computerized playlist. Not me, though, I don't have an "IPOD."
Afterwards, while I dig through review CDs, a group of DJs gather to discuss their drunken Hallowe'en experiences. Not me, though. I am never invited to Halloween parties anymore....
The Dalles, Oregon 31 October 2009: "Halloween"
"What's up?" asked my son nervously. Erin was over at **tony's**, but would soon return home with three skinny men, all of whom would need an x-streme application of Ghoul Make-Up.
"Um...the usual...I just scanned a couple photos from Destin, Florida. I can't understand how this photo here would have been from 1951, what with that maroon and white Buick. My dad had a blue Buick convertible until about 1954." I have no memory of the blue Buick, but it was reported that I looked up and said "Steet-Lite..Steet-Lite" several times when the top was down.
"Um..." continued Ian.
"What?" I replied, digging a shovel into his words.
"Can I get a couple dollars to finish up my costume?"
"Are you **trick or treating?!!**" Yikes! In my day, you never saw college students trick or treating...unless they were baby sitting.
"Are you going alone?..."
"Who are you going with?"
"Nice that you are there to protect her from Spooks," I answered. Laura was a member of the legendary "Astronomy Club." I wondered if she were going as a pirate, or as a Fair Maid!
"What?" asked Ian, for clarification.
"Nothing," I sighed.
"Uh...do you know where my suit coat is? I'm wearing my kilt." The suit coat still had some icing on it from his sister's wedding cake. And the black Utilikilt was rumpled from hanging up on the floor.
"Ian," I opined. "You look very suave and sophisticated." Black coat and kilt, white cowboy shirt with pearl buttons, red vest, patent leather wing tips and new black vinyl gloves...and clean wet hair and orange beard. What a winning mix!
"Huh!" opined Ian.
I found it amazing that a random egg cell of mine could transform itself into such a handsome man. I guessed that it had a little help.
"You look so much like your great great grandfather," I sighed.
If you wanted to, you could walk from The Dalles to Dallesport, over the US 197 Bridge. For some, it's a bit long for a casual stroll, but, unlike the bridge at Hood River, ours has a sidewalk. Long-time residents will tell you how they crossed over via The Dalles Dam...in fact I accidently crossed over on Bonneville Dam 40 miles downstream, just before 9-11. Before the bridge there was a ferry. Nowadays, it takes just a few minutes to drive over the bridge, which has made it possible to make integrate notes like "Pick up Erin at **tony's** at nine" into one's life....and that was my intent.
The Dalles, Oregon, November 2009: "Road Block"
Blue and red flashing lights, at the corner of MacDonalds and Shiloh Inn!! Ten or so emergency vehicles scattered in an oblong!! I resisted the urge to turn around and go home.
"You can have our Erin tonight!!" I would assure **tony's** family. They were trustworthy. Dad is an electrician for BPA, mom is a school secretary...
A fireman in fluorescent garb stood in roadway. I rolled down my window.
"There's been a big accident here. The bridge is closed," he informed me. Fair enough.
"Um...I'm supposed to pick up my daughter at her boyfriend's house in Dallesport. Any idea when it will be open?" Oops.
"Ma'am," he continued, "there's been a fatal wreck here. We don't know when it will be open."
"OK, thank you," I sighed.
I drove home again, along the deconstructed remnant of I-84, putting Oregon back to work.
"My phone's busted," I told what's left of my family. "Could someone please call Erin?" This concept took a while to sink in and then I was on the freeway again, counting the dark, easy miles to the US 97 Biggs Junction Bridge. 1,2 <clip> 20...the Forester and I crossed the Columbia, the gaudy lights of the Biggs truckstops at our back. Back towards Dallesport on an even darker, deserted two-lane.
"Hmm...maybe I should stop at the Maryhill Winery!" I told the Forester.
"It's closed," he replied. Not too talkative.
Then onto the annoying Wishram Curves. A semi appeared and passed in the other direction. Count the miles...20. Phone is busted. Knock on the door. Bright lights.
"Ten Emergency Vehicles? Fatal accident?!" commented **tony's mom** "I hope not many people are hurt!! Let me look to see if there are still lights down there."
"Do we still have that telescope?" someone wondered.
"No," said **tony's mom.** "The lights are still there."
On a hunch, I cast our course towards The Dalles Bridge, following tail lights. Whump! Up onto the bridge we went!! Up and over and...
Two firemen started out from behind a row of flares. I turned around on gravel and they retreated. Whump! Whump! Whump!
Twenty miles to Biggs, twenty back. Down below me, across the water, I could see the lights of the Celilo Indian Village, and when I got to Celilo, there they were, the lights of Wishram above the Columbia.
A couple days later, the accident made front page news. One Toyota was rear-ended by another with such force that both cars had landed across the highway. The driver in the front car had minor injuries; the driver in back died.
Three days later, the obituary was published. Except for patches of smashed glass, the incident was closed.
Iceland" Portland OR Nov 2009
"Judith! Is that YOU?!?!"
Of course it was me...but who was the woman that I recognized, haunting the deserted, dimly lit Friday Night of the Smith Center Food Court?
"Audrey! From Swedish class!" She looked a bit different, older, maybe. We chatted a while, then she asked:
"Do you have anything by Mary Hopkins? Jade?"
"Um...maybe...in my Lps." I can't recall ever hearing of Jade. My Reputation is ruined.
"Well," I said at last, "I need to go now." I showed her the flyer:
"A Walk Across Iceland"
That night, Room 171 would be a full house for the two photographers and seasoned hikers (they walked the Pacific Crest Trail as well!!!) who had conquered Iceland from top to bottom, along the Mid-Atlantic rift. No boring Tertiary rocks for these ruff n tuff-ers!! How I envied them!!
"The first part will be a slide show, then we will travel from top to bottom, and finally travel a bus on the Ring Road." Wow! I'd driven the Ring Road in a rental car...2002! How would things look now!? Overwhelmed with dried fish?
"Hmm...hope I don't have one of those coughing fits like I did during 'Growing Up In Estonia'..." I muttered to myself. Immediately, I felt that tickle in my throat, bolted for the door...and finally ended up at the Maxi-Coke Machine in the lounge. That did the trick!
"Nice flowers!" I exclaimed to myself. I joined latecomers, leaning against the wall. We were all Independent People, chasing wild ponies.
The talk itself, a trek made footstep by footstep, slide-by-slide, was nothing like I had imagined for The Interior. The volcano could be seen in arid New Zealand, those sheep in Scotland.
"Everywhere that it's green in these slides, there were sheep," narrated a photographer. They worked their way from the northernmost lighthouse, past Lake Myvaten, past geothermal mines, where steam rises from the jagged lava beds with the power to tear shoes apart.
"Would you like this seat?" someone asked the elderly couple standing next to me. The woman finally gave in, but the man did not. He was walking through a dust storm of his youth, three steps forward, two steps back.
We followed four wheel drive tracks, crossing rivers that grew wild in summer when the glaciers melted, on isolated bridges named for the travellers who had died there:
"...we didn't want any named for us!!! " joked the speaker.
We were Bjartur of Summerhouses, looking for his sheep, chasing reindeer, dipping water fresh from pure streams flowing in Green Places. We ate hiker food mailed to campgrounds and tiny villages.
"Do you want to see my id?" we asked at the Post Office.
"No...how would you know the package was here if you hadn't sent it!" answered the clerk.
Aside from these stops, we were alone together, you and I, taking photos we believed to be incredible, thousands of them. Bjartur's plastic lens throwaway was put to infinite shame.
At last we reached a National Park campground, awash with rugged humans. Soon we would overtake The German....
"Holger? Was that his name?" I have already forgotten. So many Germans here. Holger could not be stopped, he did not want miss a thing! Up, past the big glacier Vatnakojull, and on south to Skogur where a hot tub awaits us.....
It's the perfect fall evening in Portland, Oregon. The sky is not yet a dark blue, but the lights glitter like Christmas, reflecting from the wet streets like watercolors. The neat, boxy restaurants and eyeglass shops beckon one to choose. 1-2-3, it's sushi at 1.50 a plate, wedged between two young men with tall towers of dirty plates.
I eye the menu. Wines...Saki...Japanese beer...uh...my Norwegian class! I lift a plate of deep fried California roll drizzled with Hot Sauce off the upscale conveyer belt and order a Diet Pepsi.
I eye the Japanese sushi-masters behind the counter of multiple inlets, as they lay out the seaweed, massage the rice, apply Saran Wrap, and finally, salmon at my right hand, tempura shrimp on my left. I know the young man on the right...a class? radio? my kids?
Tuna on rice, Salmon and Avocado on rice, Sesame seed covered sweet paste orbs...I get up to pay my bill.
Somewhere on the sidewalk, it comes to me. It's Jacob, one of the checkers at Grocery Outlet! Moonlighting in Portland!!!
Imagine this...the relentless subduction of the San Juan de Fuca plate underneath The The Dalles Senior Center...and you an island, a terrane, and with every birthday you have, its one step closer to being, not subducted, but rather scraped off into a room full of Bingo Cards. B5!!!
Hmm...just another way of saying "It's my birthday!!!!" Whoo-hoo....
20 till 2 and the host of "Gen-Y" is flopped out on the couch. The one panel member du jour...KPSUs Volunteer Director... wishes me a.......
"Happy Birthday!!!!" then explains that Brent has the flu and they decided to put KPSU on auto mix.
"Wow..." I ponder. I ponder. zzz...oops! Already said that once. Been half asleep for the past week.
"Maybe we should disinfect the mike!" I whine. She grabs a spray can of Lysol and douses the entire Broadcast Booth, after which she returns to North Dakota. Brent, on the other hand lays motionless. Should I dial 911?
I take my time and for once have everything set up. I punch the button to John's intro, then to Santtu Karhu and the Winter War guys in the second tray. Jon, the host of the 3 o'clock show, wheels in and asks,
"Are you allergic to chocolate?"
"Are you allergic to chocolate? To chocolate cake? All of a sudden everyone has this gluten thing..."
"I'm not allergic to anything," I tell him. Close enough. Red Wine often tears my head apart.
"I got you a present," says John, handing me a plastic bag from Safeway. Wow! A big slice three tier slice of chocolate cake!! I am truly filled with lust, but I quietly say,
"This is wonderful Jon. But I can't eat it while I'm doing my show..." An hour later, driving out of town on I-84, I fight the impulse to open the terrorist-resistant plastic box and stuff cake into my mouth with my bear hands.
My birthday!! I don't worry about dinner. The family has bought a frozen Michael Angelo Eggplant Parmesan at Fred Meyer and "cooked" it themselves. They've also bought a frozen Creme Cake with a lot of pecan fragments, which they don't defrost. I take a couple thin slices, good cold.
"Here's a present for you," says my spouse. Just what I had expected, only better: a *silk* scarf and a batik sarong, bought on his Elgoog trip to Koala Lampur.
"You wrap it around yourself and then put the corners through this leather thing and tie the ends behind your neck." demonstrates Erin
"That's a coconut husk." I tell everyone. "You're supposed to put on this scarf to cover your hair and then wear this sarong..???
"These only represent different aspects of the Malaysian culture," my spouse assures me.
In an hour, Ian comes to me and drools, "Are you going to eat this cake in the box?"
"Yeah," I tell him. Then I'm off to Fred Meyer for Cereal and Mountain Dew. Yep, Mountain Dew, Life, Granola, and Fat Free Cheese. I cleverly avoid the U-Scans and set my eco-bag down in front of a real checker.
"This cheap Chinese bag has a hole in it," she reports with shock. "Looks like you may have to replace it soon."
"Huh!" I reply. Must be time for the duck tape. "Quack Quack!!!"
"Mountain Dew. My sister in law is addicted to this stuff. She's sitting out in the car waiting for me right now, to bring her some. My brother drank all she had."
"Wow," I reply.
"She got a craving for it when she was pregnant, addicted to it!!"
"Addicted!" I reply with a sense of panic. "It's got a lot of caffeine in it!" Even I, awash in substance abuse, stayed clean when I was pregnant.
"Yeah. After the miscarriage she got addicted, has to have it all the time now..."
There is an uncomfortable pause as she hands me the receipt. "You have a good night now!"
"Yep..you too...and thanks for the story!!!" Once outside, I scan the parking lot for a car full of Mountain Dew Addicts.
The Dalles, November 2009:
Oh my!!! Ech The Forester had rolled back as far as it could, trying in vain to hide under an old Aspenite table lounging in front of the garage!!!
"What is up with you?" I queried.
Ech whimpered. "You're going to cut off my feet!!! SWS told me so!!!" I turned and gave the evil eye to the mischievous old Legacy.
"No one is cutting off your feet. We're just exchanging your SHOES for BOOTS...so you can do your AWD best to conquer all the macho emergencies that may crop up on winter roads!!!"
I'd seen the Finnish tires in the Tire Store last year, and my heart had melted. Nokian Hakkapeliitta...suomenkieli for Nokia's Lumberjack Spiked Axe Game. Wouldn't I just be the envy of myself if I had those tires. Tears came to my eyes as I remembered the "spikes" on my little red car as we drove the Nordic winter from Helsinki to Narvik and back. What year was that?
"I was in a couple days earlier," I told the salesman, "looking at the Finnish tires." None of the showroom models had a single spike on it! Gentle to the environment!
"We only have the all-weather tire in stock right now. But these things are fabulous...though the snow tires are out of this world!!"
"Hmmm...I also have some Dunlops that are almost new. They were for my old Aveo. That's why I'm buying new tires, because I wrecked the other one on Black Ice." Mustajaa, the Finns call it.
"That Black Ice is Bad Stuff," said the salesman. "A neighbor of mine was killed that way, down in Tygh Valley last weekend."
"Yeah, I saw that." I replied, as we walked back in. And there he was! Then salesman I'd took to earlier....
"Why don't you take her and I'll go back to helping these two guys with white crosses on their jackets and knives in their boots," hinted my salesman. "Find what you were looking for, gentlemen??"
"I'm looking for a set of Finnish snow tires for my 2009 Forester and I have four Dunlops I want to trade in."
The salesman looked "tired" as he up the estimate and handed it to me.
"Uh...are these from China?" I asked.
"Yeah...no! They're from Korea...see the problem is that what we have is all weather tires, and the reason to have those is so you don't have to change them every year. But your summer tires are in great shape, and...."
He had a point. So did the studs on my new tires, and they'll slowly dig deeper and deeper, carving aqueducts into the pavement on I84.
"Oooo-hooo!" exclaimed Ech. "Look at these Oriental Tires! Almost Japanese! and look at the studs on my black rubber boots! Ech the Ripper!!!"
He would be the belle of the Parking Ramp.
Hvarfor spør du, "Hva skjer i kjøleskapet?"? Tror du at mat snakker om natten som trær og fisker og katter? Men mat som er død, vet jeg ikke. Kan du høre noe i kjøleskapet nå? Flaskene sitter og kjemper en stor krig inne i grønnsakskuffen..
"Du er ei flaske urin!" skriker Sideren.
"Du er en svensk frukt!" skriker Lapin Kultaen.
"Dere er begge skandinaviske griser!" skriker Coronaen
Glass mot glass, en dårlig drømme, ja visst.
En skive skinke forteller dem, "Du drikkevarer, du skal snart være fri. Men jeg skal ligge her til jeg råtner."
Så mange interessante ostproblemer er her at en student kan studere. Mozerella Osten er ofte muggen, og Farfar Sveitserost har så mange hull at han ikke kan huske navn. Om Jalepeno "Jack" Ost er i kjølskapet, det er kanskje en brann også. Heldigvis er det et brannvesen, Applesin Saft, Melk, og Pepsi Max, som hjelper med brannen. Likesom med Løk og Hvitløk. Veldig varm!
Vanligvis er kjøleskapet meget reint. Ennå kan man finne iblant mat som har vært i kjøleskapet for lang. Skinken som snakker med flaskene har vært der inne i fem måneder for eksempel.
Sennep og Syltetøy både sier "Vi har vært her så lang at kjøleskapet tilhører oss." De er muggene nå og maten vil ikke lytte til dem. Familien spør seg selv "Er de fremdeles gode?" men åpner dem ikke fordi de kanskje har usynlig dødelig slim!
"Hej! Jaså! Jeg heter Smør! Jeg er en glatt gutt! Folket elskeder meg. Alltid kommer familien og vennene deres til meg og tar litt etter litt magisk sjelen min. Snart er jeg bare et skjelett, men plasten min skal liver for alltid i en fyllplass.!"
"Cluck cluck," sier den hodeløse kyllingen. "Jeg er mer magisk an deg! Jeg har en 'Wishbone' og jeg er nedbrytbare."
Why do you ask, "What is going on in the refrigerator?"? Do you think that food talks at night like trees and fish and cats? But food that's dead, I don't know. Can you hear anything in the refrigerator now? The bottles are fighting a big war in the vegetable drawer.
"You are a bottle of urine!" screams the cider.
"You are a Swedish fruit!" screams the Lapin Kulta.
"You are both Scandinavian pigs!" screams the Corona.
Glass against glass, a bad dream, yes indeed.
A slice of ham tells them, "You drinkables, you shall soon be free. But I shall lay here until I rot."
So many interesting cheese problems are here that a student can study. Mozzerella Cheese is often mouldy, and Grandfather Swiss Cheese has so many holes that he cannot remember names. If the Jalapeno "Jack" Cheese is in the refrigerator, there may be a fire as well. Luckily there is a fire squad....Orange Juice, Milk and Pepsi Max, who help with the fire. Likewise with Onion and Garlic. Mighty warm!
Usually the refrigerator is very tidy. Still, one can sometimes find food that has been in the 'frige too long. The ham that was talking with the bottles had been in there five months for example. Mustard and Jam both say, "We have been here so long that the 'fridge belongs to us." They are moldy now and the food will not listen to them. The family asks themselves "Is it still good?" but does not open them because they perhaps have invisible deadly slime.
"Hey! What! My name is Butter! I am a slippery boy! Folks love me. The family and their friends come all the time and take, little by little, my magic self. Soon I will be only a skeleton, but my plastic shall live forever in a landfill!
"Cluck, cluck,' says the headless chicken. "I am more magic than you. I have a Wishbone and I am biodegradable."
^^^^^Takk to "Dr. Tom" for correkting the original Norwegian!!!!^^^^^^
&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&"Jacob Hayward" I googled . "25 Apr 1806." I'd been searching for Jake's parents for the past twenty years; family history nerds call this "hitting a brick wall." And yes, you're hitting that wall for a reason: it protects you from having to do research back in the 1600s, before computers were invented.
But there it was, the hole that Jacob and his brother Joseph hopped through to become Real Hoosiers. Then the hole got bigger and bigger and more and more Monthly Meetings, Disownments, and Grey Clothes sloshed through until we almost drowned at the doorstep of Penn himself.
The Dalles, Oregon, November 2009: "A Quaker Thanksgiving"
The long conglomerate of tables stretched all the way through the living and dining rooms...handy to have an open archway. Bill was swirling like a little tornado in the kitchen, between turkey, ham, two kinds of stuffing...handy to have a vegetarian wife!!
"Want something to drink?" he asked, his spatula waving freely. "Beer...wine...coffee..." Three bottles of red wine (including a high class The Pines 1852) and a bottle of Martinelli stood regally amongst the stemware on the opulent sideboard.
"Red wine makes my head explode," I thought. "What kind of beer do you have? Anything dark?"
Terrified of the crowded kitchen, the dark, sweet lager and I sat down on a living room chair and opened our ears.
"I see you got rid of Sarah!" said Steve #1.
"Yeah," laughed Steve #2, who spends 5 months a year creating and selling art in Skagway. "She was doing a fairly good job to begin with, but then she started getting goofy."
"So how are you doing with the economy? Are you selling much?"
"Ha ha. I'm always waiting for my ship to come in!! Right now, I'm selling more inexpensive things. You know, this summer, you could book a cruise for almost nothing. You just had to wait until the day before. They wanted people on the ships buying things."
The table was set at intervals with applesauce and green and black olives and people. But before we started eating the pumpkin soup, we extended each hand to our neighbors for a moment of silence. Sometimes, like today, it brought a moment of clearness, of unspecified epiphany.
After dinner, those who could still stand up played musical chairs. Half my family was permanently out...out the door in a few minutes.
"Judith speaks Finnish and Swedish," someone told Steve #2.
"Mostly Norwegian now," I replied defensively.
"I've been listening to a lot of Finnish music lately. Have you heard of Pandora? It's an internet station and you pick some you like and then they play some they think you'll like. That's how I learned about Apocalyptica. And After Forever."
"Apocalyptica?" I could hardly believe my ears. "Erin's wearing an Apocalyptica TShirt!"
"That's all cello," offered Ian.
"Yeah...that cello player whipping his hair around like that when he plays cello!"
"Yeah!" agreed Ian.
"And those Metallica covers. Everything I like seems to go back to Metallica. It all goes back to the Hard Rock I used to listen to...that's why people listen to so much old Led Zepellin. The guitar riffs...some of greatest guitar..."
"55 and Over Metal!" I grinned. "I always get carded!"
"Carded...you can only get in if you're over 65!!!"
Avast! Scottish Pirate Metal! I am four feet from the stage as the boys begin playing human bumper cars. Girls too, a tiny woman dressed in tight green clothes darts and flits amongst the moshers like a skink or Peter Pan. I frown, raise my hand so as not to be violently smushed into the T-Shirt table, then retreat. I am left to muse on this unusual genre, and on Alestorm....songs like "Keel-Hauled." and a cover of "Wolves of the Sea," the Latvian entry to the Eurovision Song Contest. There's just something about the Brits that's genuinely British, the skinny singer up there with his mobile keyboard...Right O--Monty Python!
"Ian says he wants to hear less of his drums!" the singer remarked to the Soundboard Wizard, stationed in a no mans land between the beer and the noise. "That's because he's gay."
Even with its share of buzzy mesmoric guitars and indecipherable bear growls, this is no ordinary metal concert. Instead, it is metal that even Grandmother can listen to. This is...
Portland, Oregon, November 2009: "Heathenfest 2009": the New Wave of European Folk Metal
You never know when these shows actually start. One place says "seven," another "doors open at seven,"and another "eight." Ech The Forester and I slide into P-Town at "six-thirty," way too early. Still, a small band of black-shirted metalheads are clustered on the steps of the Hawthorne.
"Hmm..." I muse and drive on to cruise Movie Madness, an X-treme video rental place. Back again at 7:30, I park and walk four blocks to the theater door, where a gentleman is being fisked and his date is having her bag searched. "No-no, that's 'frisked,'" I tell the Dell. "'Fisked'" is Swedish for 'fished.'"
"Hi!" I greet the doorman.
"Good evening, ma'am," replies the bouncer. Ah...Respect!
I open the Red Door...as opposed to the Green Door...the key to the Red Door is a transparent Happy Face stamp on one's wrist...and my heart sinks! The Finnish band, Kivimetsan Druidi, is already on stage! I go back through the Green Door. The RockForest Druids (Rock 'n' Troll) ovat viisi miesta mustojen pakanallisien juovojen kanssa ja yksi kaunis nainen keltaisen tukan kanssa. Nainen laulaa suomeksi!! Upea!
As Kivimetsa disapears, I wander back to the Red Room and...
"Can you make me a cosmo?" I ask the bartender.
"Huh! You want it on the rocks? Because I don't have...."
The right plastic glass? "Sure! That's fine!!!" I emphasize.
He pours everything into a shaker. Suddenly, !!!!CRASH!!!!
"A little breakage there," he assures me.
I find one of those theater seats on the side where bored wives with little pearl noserings sit and wait until their husbands are done running into each other. I sit there with my cosmo until it becomes ice to chew on, watching two midgets who are either Lesbians or Siamese Twins fondle one another. I scan the handsome man with long brown hair, a utilikilt, and a thin, pale gothy wife in a long black dress.
The next band on board is Vreid. What a missed opportunity! How am I to know that the lyrics for their 2007 album, "I Krig," are based on poetry by the WW2 Norwegian resistance fighter Gunnar Reiss Andersen, and that their latest is a tribute to the resistance group MILORG. Oh well. I just sit there in the Red Room with my ice and soak up the buzzy, deathy ambience...not realizing that I have been catapulted to Mother Norway in the 1940s. Soon I will confess to my Norwegian 201 class and will be shot at 9PM.
Avast! Scottish Pirate Metal!...oops.
The next combo, Belphegor, are...um...I think they are from Austria or Romania and now they are growling some songs about goat worm decapitation. They are far the best of the evening at growling and...
"Can I get a Stout?" I ask the barman.
And finally Eluveitie, The Oft Mispronounced. Eluvietei, from Switzerland, the headliner, with lyrics in reconstructed Gaulish sung by the fiddle and hurdy gurdy girls. Eliuviete, with their lute and flutes and bagpipes...and their Acoustic Album.
"Our last album was an Acoustic Album. We are going into the studio to record a METAL album!!! Do you want a METAL album!!??!" shouted the dread-headed singer. Do I want Blowzabella??
Well maybe. I'm in the Green Room, four feet from the stage, cursing the effect of the sound machinery on the hurdy gurdy. As the set presses onward, more and more lutes, flutes, and bagpipes sneak in...Celtic music, Irish music..and the happy young people around me began jig-moshing. One-two-wham!!!
I am reminded of Korpiklaani
Iowa City, 1977: Snowing. It's snowing outside the bar but we're all, with the possible exception of Royal Mapes, warm and young and drunk and crazy. There's a whole table of us, no, two heavily poly-urethaned tables jammed together for 40c beers in plastic cups. The courses are over for the term, but the deltaic environments, the vole jaws, and the terminal moraines will persist until we die...or dui, after 12 beers on slick roads. Wham!!! Over there against the wall Brian Witzke is manhandling a pin-ball machine...
Portland 2009: "I was going to take you ladies out for coffee," Dr Tom smiles. We...Linda, Tom, and I...'re headed out the door, out to the sparkling black Multnomah night. "But I have to go to sleep right now!" He leans against the wall, slides down to the floor and begins to snore. We gently nudge him with our feet like an oversize soccer ball, laughing to ourselves because this is just fiction.
"But I need to go to bed right now," he tells us. The 40 year old Yerba Mate he found in the kitchen cupboard at 4am isn't working any longer. "And uh," he adds, pivoting, "I have to take this CD player back to the foreign language office or they will have my hide. But I will take you out. Three weeks from now."
We eye Dr. Tom with suspicion.
"I'll remind you," I warn. As it turns out, I will not have to.
Portland, Oregon: The last Norwegian class for 2009 is now over. "Students!" announces Dr. Tom boldly. "Judith had a birthday recently. and I'm taking her out for a cup of coffee. Anyone who would like to come along is welcome...unless you're underage! I thought we'd go to Higgins."
Most of the class is burdened with negative possessions: colds, three hundred page papers due tomorrow, a sense that Satan is tempting them, a fear that they will end up on Dr. B's blacklist, etc.
"I'll go!" said Linda. "I'm having a birthday next week!" We have a lot more in common: two children the same age, and lovely grey hair!
And David, whose wife is from Norway, agrees to come along as well!
"Higgins it is!"
We descend the stairs of Cramer hall, admiring the chain-link fencing and thrilled by the fear that Light Rail could speed by and flatten us.
"In *my* college days," I relate, "we could just go across the line to Ohio and pick up 3.2 beer...." Ugh!!!
"My gloves!!! Oh no!" Linda exclaims frantically. "What did I do with them?" I know the feeling...
"We'll go back and look for them...why don't you go on? To the bar, not the restaurant," says Tom.
"Well, I only know one way to get there from here," observes David. At six four he sees things I can't. "You drive all that way?"
Sigh. For me this is a tired...and sometimes snow tired...topic. "Yeah...last winter I smashed my car. It's a dangerous road."
"Yeah, I remember that. Once I was driving east and had a lot of trouble between Cascade Locks and Hood River. Black Ice. Cars all around me were slipping and running into each other. They all missed me...I made it through. It was so slow...I had a girlfriend in the car with me and I told her 'We're going to crash.' It was that slow."
"But you made it through!"
"Hey there it is! Higgins!" Finally I will get to see what Higgins looks like inside.
Higgins is a charming place. The bar is packed to the gills. We're directed to four seats at the far end of the charming bar.
"Would you like to order some food?" asks the waiter. I am of two minds, because if I don't order food, I can't make this a Restaurant Review.
"No," David shakes his head. Suddenly Linda and her professor appear in the doorway. We wave our arms frantically. We are so far away!!!
"I never took them outside of my purse," she admits. I roll my eyes.
Linda orders a triple strength espresso, the boys choose huge glasses of yummy ale, and I get the cheapest glass of valkoviinia on the wine menu: Z White 2007 Columbia Valley. No idea what that is!!!
"How did you and your wife meet?" inquires Dr. Tom, changing the subject.
"We were both travelling in Guatemala." Makes sense. David has been all over South America, except Peru, and finds it all very charming.
"I'd like to go to Argentina," I say. Yes, the Argentine is one of the most excellent. I open my mouth to mention that one of my archaeologist friends, Ohio Jones, narrowly missed taking a bus in Peru that blew up. Or maybe all the Americans were shot. And never mind Panama.
"Would you like to see the food menu?" hints the waiter.
Some amount of time has passed. David's wife, an extraordinarily beautiful woman, has joined us, and we have snagged a table. I've acquired an iced tea, mostly to avoid the tasteful Portland water. My brain is now tired of the pushing aside the conversations of tens of people who have been cajoled into buying plates of oysters or honey and chili roasted hazelnuts. I look down at Tom's hands on the table. They look remarkably like my son's hands. Maybe Ian will end up teaching Norwegian.
The Dalles, December 2009: "The interstate is still closed!"
Hoo-ray. The ODOT recommendation was the same as last night: use Washington 14 instead. Except if you're a "large truck." Washington roads can stay open because WSDOT uses a new "...anti-icer [that]is made up of salt, de-sugared molasses, mineral,and water."
I carefully concocted my route plan. Drop Erin's friend Lillian off at the deserted gas station in Mosier; her dad would be waiting in his pick-up. Drive the grounded semi gauntlet to Hood River, pay 75c to cross the toll bridge, cross back over on I205, deliver Ian to Portland Sacred harp and...drive the final race to KEos...um...Kpsu. Argh!
The drive to Hood River was easy, 65 all the way. Closing in on Hood River...eyeing the grounded semis and the empty spaces between them...and the sign above the freeway...
"WATCH FOR ICE NEXT 45 MILES" Carry chains or traction tires.
Open!!! Ian and I breathed a sigh of relief, and ECH, the Noble Forester, smiled playfully as we exited at the Shell station by the...
"Stop!!! Brake!!" exclaimed Ech. "A triple trailer FedEx is pulling out right in front of me on the ramp!!!"
I took the Forester's advice, and that is how I am able to post this story.
All this stuff started on Saturday.
"I need to talk to you," My Date said. What now? Had I left a light on all night?
"I-84 is closed from Hood River to Troutdale. Do you want to take WA14?" Closed? Not a drop of snow here! "Or do you want to just blow it off?"
"I'd say just blow it off." I had plenty to do here, sweeping floors and staring at the computer. But the question was obviously rhetorical.
"One of the guys just got there and said the road was fine until you got to Stevenson. Almost there."
"OK," I replied. Who knew what ECH would say!
"Maybe it's just the freeway. One of the guys said he went through there just before they closed it and there were a lot of vehicles in the ditch..."
Soon we would make our way to "The elgooG Christmas Party for 2009."
The Dalles, Oregon, December 2009: "The 2009 elgooG Christmas Party"
When we left off a couple days ago, My Date and I had decided to attend the office Christmas Party 40 miles to the west of us in Stevenson, Washington, despite the fact that the freeway was closed and Washington 14 was closed to semi tractor trailers.
"Whoa, no trouble here!" I sure didn't see any black ice as we sped through Dallesport, Murdock, Ly...
"Huh! A semi stopped in the right lane just in front of the Lyle Tunnel!" mentioned my date. "They should have better shoulders, so when trucks figure out they're too big, they don't end up in the roadway.."
"Maybe it's too high for the tunnel," I intimated to Ech, as I prepared to draw the Noble Forester into a dangerous "Oh I hope no one is coming in the other lane" dashes.
Thirty miles later, WA14 was A-OK: the molasses must have been doing its job. Alas, when we stopped to buy gas in Stevenson Proper...the pavement was as slippery as a set of collectable Fostoria Crystal in the sink!!
Fortunately, we were soon at the sumptuous Northwest-Themed Skamania Lodge, where we slipped carefully from the parking lot to the nearest door. From there it was just a hop skip and jump to the gargantuan Ballroom! Once in the door...
"Wow, look at that!" Several large blocks of ice (with the word elgooG frozen inside) were stacked jauntily on top of each other, surrounded by dozens of martini glasses. On top of the ice was a transparent funnel and clear plastic tubing coiled through the blocks. One barista shook a mixture of vodka, peppermint schnapps, and something illegible. The other gal stood on a ladder and poured the drink into the funnel. Customers lined up to fill their glasses with this hi-class drink...and I was right up there with 'em!
=WHAM= I should have known by the fumes! The yummy little martini blew a sector collapse in my skull!!!
"Tastes like mouth wash," commented My Date. Maybe the firewater dispenser was there for an pre-dinner gargle.
A swank dinner buffet was covered, and waiting in labeled chafing dishes. Ahh...salmon...prawns...risotto...squash...vegan...vegetarian...contains nuts...no garlic, etc. Wait...who would want food without garlic? Maybe it was because the party came with a free room for the night and free baby sitting! Nudge nudge!! wink wink!! But not us...too old for chicken fingers, too young for schnapps.
We checked out the still intact odious leg of cow, and the hidden desserts, across the stage to the "open bar"....you could get anything you wanted...oh dear...smoke coming out of my ears can we find a place to sit down...hungry...so hungry...
"Would you like one of these?" asked a Skamania canape holder.
"Hmmm...what is this?" I asked.
"Bruschetta," she answered.
What happened to the vodka and schnapps that ended up at the base of the ice? Did it just vaporize, was it thrown away? Or did the feed it to the staff...?
"Is it still out there?" That's the question right now. "It" is a maudlin amalgam of melting snow, rain, grey skies, and vivid green grass. Reminds one of Ireland, no? But just a week or so, the
weather was fair, and it was time to again attend...
The Dalles, Oregon, December 2009: "Lower Mill Creek, Part II"
"Mill Creek contains 300% too much E. Coli!" reads the front page headline in The Dalles Chronicle..."authorities are looking for a septic system in default"...oops, wrong story...
"Hey! Look! I snagged a 2008 report on the creek!" I gloated to no one in particular. The medium-sized group of Mill Creek property owners was dwarfed by the huge cafetorium at St Mary's School as they sat and waited on the next piece of quirky info.
Dr. Phil....the dude who clipped our conifers a few years back...took the podium. "The convicts and I have been using the greenhouse to propagate native plants to replace the invasives [mostly blackberry, saltcedar, and tree of heaven]." Poor Dr. B!! Ousted from the high school and sent to NORCOR, the regional jail, in the round of budget cuts that gave us the 4-day school week.
And the slide shows!!! "Here's a photo of the falls on Upper Mill Creek that the county won't let you near. It prevents the steelhead from bothering the trout species." "Here's where we replaced a culvert so the fish can get through."
"So..." asked a man in the audience. "If the old trailer park is city property, why have they put a lock on the steps?"
"The pipeline doesn't belong to the city, but the water people have taken the lock off," answered the speaker.
"It's locked now. You know," he reminisced, "all that stuff got carried away down there, but boy, before that, you didn't go near there. Drugs. Young girls living under cars and stuff."
The highlight of the meeting, however, was a talk and slides how by "Ken," a historian.
"He's Our Treasure," someone would later confess.
The mouth of the creek had been settled since Archaic times, by Indians, by Lewis & Clark, by Methodists, by the military, and by Dalles City. The sandy beach was used to transfer people and goods. In 1907, however, the city was sick of the whole thing and drilled a tunnel in the basalt for the last legs of the creek to trickle through...
Looking at map on the screen, though, one could see how Mill Creek got its name. Mills operated up and down the creek when it was the center of attention. Even on...hey I recognize that meander loop!! Where *did* all those chunks of cement in our yard come from?
Later, we would find a ragged dead salmon by the garage. Where did *it* come from? Raccoons? Birds of prey?
Hood River, Oregon, December 2009:
You would think the hitchhiker traffic would dry up come winter...but how could anything dry up in weather like this? And so it happened that when Ian and I pulled off the freeway at Hood River to get gasoline and other libations, we saw a couple of them by the entrance ramp.
"Look, hitchhikers," I prodded.
"Yeah," replied Ian.
"Pretty upscale," I commented. Attractive, nice clothes, no baggage, no pit bulls. "If they're still there by the time we leave the Shell Station, I'm going to pick them up."
"If I were going to hitchhike, that's the kind I'd like to be." Ian shuffled his backpack and the red sacred harp books to the front.
We kept our eye on them as they playfully stuck out their thumbs. Just as the Forester stopped at the sign by the marina, a white sedan slipped to the side of the road and the couple ran to it! You could hear the conversation in your head.
"I can get you to the Wyeth. Maybe you could hop a freight there..."
I pulled in behind them as the conversation hesitated.
"We're going to Portland," said the man.
"We are too!" replied Ian.
"Perchance would you let us ride with you?" asked the woman.
"I'm Ellaine," said the woman. They had both had dark hair and eyes like large deep raindrops.
"I'm Elliot," said the man.
"I'm Ian," said Ian.
"I'm Ian's mom," said I.
"We're siblings," added Ellaine. "We're both natives of Hood River. We're on the way to pick up our mother at the airport. It's a surprise. We have a car in Portland we can use.
"We thought we'd do some Christmas shopping too," mentioned Elliot.
The conversation was muffled by Ian's I-pod. Once, I made an effort to listen.
"Do you ever have much trouble..?" asked Ellaine.
Elliot laughed mildly. "Once I was stuck in a small town. Finally, an old couple who were hauling a huge sum of apples took pity on me and went out of their way to help. They took me to a bus stop and said, "If you wait here for 10 minutes, a bus will come..."
Imagine yourself at midnight thirty, dozing in...oh whatever warm medium you'd like to be dozing in...and suddenly you hear a man's voice yelling, "Hey!" It sounds as if is five feet away!! Yikes!!!
You doze off again, but awake to more yelling. Now you know you've become a highlight in The Police Report!
The Dalles, Oregon, December 2009...."Thou shalt not trespass."
"Hey! What do you think you're doing? Show me your hands!"
"I'm not doing anything!"
"If you didn't do anything, why were you hiding in the bushes? Why were you running away?"
"Because I was trying to catch a guy who was running *that* way!"
"OK, let go of the dog and put your hands behind your back."
"I won't let her go. Because I don't want her to have puppies."
"Put your hands behind your back. Got the handcuffs?"
The men sound like they are in the hallway, and you are pretty scared. Are they arresting your son for not cleaning his room? Your spouse for their UnAmerican, obsessive attemps at Lowering Their Carbon Footprint? Your cat for blocking the hot air duct? Or you, for trespassing at the Selah sewage treatment plant?
"Officer, I was only looking at the outcrop of Ice Age flood varves!!!"
They are, in reality, right outside the window....and the The Dalles police are in the yard with their with bright flashlights. There are also police cars with shining headlights at the end of the alley, and across the creek at the Senior Center.
Later your daughter's boyfriend's sister will report that she heard a gunshot.
The door bell rings. The Oregon State Patrol is on your porch!!!
"We got this guy who says he has permission to sleep in your bushes. You know him?"
Of course you don't.
"Were you asleep?"
"My Spouse says there was a dog out there too," Your Spouse adds.
"Yeah, he had a little pit bull with him," the trooper answers nonchalant.
"OK, lay down your pit bull and put your hands behind your back."
"Cute story!" You may comment. But consider the charges: Disorderly conduct. Second Degree Trespassing. Possession of less than one ounce of marijuana within 1000' of a school at midnight. Good thing they got that guy behind bars until January!!!
First Page: http://w3.gorge.net/judith/stories.htm
I am gennett at gorge dot net