Stories for 2010
Last Year 2009
As a child, I made assumptions about holidays by watching television. My favorite was Halloween, which totally lived up to my expectations. Fourth of July, I'd eat Hot Dogs. But New Years...well, I'm still waiting for New Years, the one where I get to drink champagne and kiss a handsome man under a mirror ball. During the past ten years, I've gotten close...I've *seen* other women kiss handsome men under the mirror ball. Now that 2010 has rolled in, however, I've rolled up like a pill bug. Abandoned my attempts. Some dreams will never come true.
1999/2010: "Down to the Wire"
There'd been talk of the Square Dance Party, and even a Young Quakers New Years somewhere in the Willamette Valley. Time ticked on...months, weeks, seconds...finally.
"There's D&D at Brice's at six tonight!" grinned Ian. "Some people are dressing as their characters! Some people are building weapons out of Connects...!"
"Do you need a ride?" I asked.
"No, I'm walking..." And that was that.
Then Erin fluttered by.
"I'm going sledding at Lucy's. The one with goat," she said.
"Is someone going to pick up?" In only 10 minutes, the sun would go down. How could you sled in the dark?
"Lucy's mother, I think," she replied as she bolted out the door.
And that was that...almost.
Outside, Grey Christmas had become White New Years. Soap powder streets had become washboards of ice. I was happy to stay home and think about mirror balls and clinking glasses. Then, at 11:06pm, the phone rang.
"Mom!" began Erin. "Can you pick me up and take me over to *tony's*? We didn't get to spend New Years Ever together last year..."
"Yeah," I retorted, "But I don't remember how to get there." How far up Seven Mile Road did I have to drive? Would the goats be celebrating as well, wearing tiaras and blowing their horns at midnight?
"Wham!" With several strong lunges of the broom, I cleared a foot of snow off the hood of the Suburu and dug out the windshield wipers. Ech winked his headlights and tore up the driveway and out onto 9th Street.
"Do you smell something burning? Do we have a flat tire? What's that cute yellow gas pump light by the speedometer?" I asked. The Forester said nothing. I had a good idea where I was going.
"Sliiippppp," went the car. Ten miles an hour. Better slow down.
"That's Brice's house," the Forester hinted. "The one with the silver high voltage poles in the front yard. Looks like they're setting off fireworks under the snow. Oh, let's stop there, it looks delightful!"
"No soap," I sighed. So did Ech, as he slid and rumbled on, gripping the white road with his spikes. It began to drizzle.
"Seven Mile Road." We turned, stopping halfway up with our blinkers on to call and ask if Erin were in the driveway. Only another mile...and there they were, Erin and one of the Danish Twins.
"Aren't she and Brice going out together?" I would later ask. Sure, but apparently not hosting D&D together. You have to draw the line somewhere.
Back through Chenoweth...
"How're you doing back there with that broom?" we asked the Danish Twin.
"Great. We're friends now.
stopping at home in The Dalles...And then over the bridge to Dallesport. It was now quarter till midnight and fireworks were exploding all along the Columbia!!!
And back over the bridge, swinging into the almost deserted Lone Pine 76.
"Ten dollars worth of Regular," I asked the boy who was sweeping snow off the pumps. Three minutes till Midnight.
"Happy New Year!" I smiled as he took my ones.
"Happy New year!" he replied, laughing back.
It was one o'clock when Erin called to get a ride. I drove back to Washington, along darkened but still bright streets.
Erin gave the Danish girl a piggy back ride into the house.
One by one...my collection of old lap tops have come off the top shelf. The still usable Compaq HP...the Pavilion...the Toshiba...
"Don't take apart the Toshiba." I plead. "I still have stuff on it."
"I'll take the hard drive out of the Toshiba and put into The Dell. Then I'll back it up onto the external hard drive." Both computers use a 2.5 inch IDE 4200rpm Death Star laptop drive .
"Look!" I say when he's done. "Lotus!! Old Lotus files!!!"
"I've heard of Lotus!" replies Ian.
"And look at all these 1995 KEOS playlists on Eudora!!!" What nostalgia! I remember the guy who called in from the cow pasture in his pick-up! So unlike Portland!
"Anyway...looks like you've found everything but the Zenith."
The Dalles, Oregon, January 2010: "Computers!"
"Ring!" rings the doorbell. Andrew is back...back from Case Western Reserve, back from his extended family in California. He walks into our living room and, eyes-a-glow, flips oven his laptop. Ian is ready already: the trusty white Mac never shuts down.
"Hows the Russian?" Ian asks.
"It's harder than I thought. For instance, they have triple negatives. Depending on how much you want to deny something, you add more and more negatives..."
"And the alphabet!" asks Ian.
"I've pretty much got that down, now," replies Andrew. Then I remember that I'd taken Russian, back in grad school. One term, one of those blasted A's you get when your taking a course Pass/Fail. Ray...Ray something or other was the teacher.
"How do you like Russian, Andrew?" I inquire.
"Fascinating...hard, but fascinating." His eyes glitter. I've seen this man's eyes glitter like this doing Calculus.
In a few hours, the boys are off to the movies.
"Hey Mom! We're back! We picked up four people!!"
Miscellaneous members of the Astronomy Club. A couple guys, a couple girls, all jammed together on the St Vincent de Paul futon. The coffee table is bare of old AAA magazines and LL Bean catalogues. All eyes are on a movie stored on Andrew's hard drive. This is how The Astronomy Club does things.
"What movie were you watching?" I will ask later, and Ian will reply
"Treasure Planet. And that's just the Toshiba's disk speed. The Dell I think is 5400."
"I Count The Times You've Touched Me Like I Tallied the Drunks I've Slept With...Notch By Notch In My Heart"
Portland, OR, January 2010. Time for another KPSU station meeting. I've come in late because of my show, and all the chairs around the tables are already taken. Discouraged, I flop down in a padded lounge chair in the back and proceed to think about lunch.
..."Those of you who are community members, let me remind you that we're going to start striking you if you don't pay us our bucks or get underwriting..." begins Rachelle, the volunteer director.
"How do you get a slot as a community programmer?" asks a naive student!
"Haw haw haw," snickers another of the station management. I've given up trying to figure out who they are each year.
"There aren't any!" snortles another.
"More than enough djs?" asks the dj tentatively. "I was just asking because I'm graduating."
"We're supposed to have less than 20%," explains a more dignified manager, shaking his head. "We get enough hassle from the board for being over that number. Anyway, so if you're not a full-time student, get that underwriting in!"
"A full-time student!" asks another new manager. "I'm not a full time student."
Rachelle rolls her eyes. "You have to be taking at least one hour of credit. Most of us aren't full-time students."
Time rolls on like Rachelle's visualocity. HD-radio. The new production board that doesn't buzz as you move the fader. The one minute overlap on the archives. A Pro-Wrestling benefit. Jerry Garcia...
"That's how he died you know...a heart attack when..." yawns the host of the Sweet and Sour Hour.
"I mean, like I'm not a Dead Head, but..."
"Haw haw haw! Meth's *my* favorite drug!"
"Hey look," offers the Dignified Manager. "Did you know about Shake and Bake Meth?"
Everyone draws a blank.
"They've cut out the middle men. Now people are getting a 2 liter pop bottle and putting household chemicals in it. You shake it and you get this sludge at the bottom that's meth. The problem is that you gotta shake it.You gotta shake it A LOT!! So people are putting it in their car while they drive. A lot of the time, though, it explodes!"
"Shake-And-Bake Meth!!" some of the djs explain.
"Do I need to put this in the minutes?" asks Rachelle. Being packed off to BYU by her parents at an early age explains this no-nonsense approach.
"Yeah, sure..." orders a staff member
"I'm just going to say 'Shake-and-Bake Meth.' That's all."
"Look, there's a squirrel out there," Ian said. We were sitting at the dinner table, looking out one of the big picture windows. Or were they huge television sets?
"Huh," I said. "That doesn't look like it's a nut. It looks like it's a leaf." The squirrel was quite a little bundle of rodent hyperactivity.
"Oh, maybe he thinks he has a use for it," came the reply.
Portland, Oregon, January 2010. "The Abstract Squirrel Story"
Oh Wow! A Private e-mail from Dr. Tom! How exciting! And in English...is he trying to sabotage my Norshk?
"I was down your way," he wrote. "I was delivering a squirrel to a place in Rowena. Then I went to The Dalles. I couldn't find any place I wanted to eat lunch." Wow, is that what he said? No, it was much heftier, as heavy as you can get talking about squirrels. Should I cut and paste from his e-mail...or maybe I shouldn't even mention this at all. Maybe this squirrel chatter is confidential. What should I cook for supper..um...rodent gumbo?
"There are several nice chain cafes," I wrote back. "Burgerville, Quiznos..." Um! Yum! "But I'd like to hear the story about the squirrel."
Soon all the little Norshkie students were back in school after Christmas break. Just as class was ready to begin, Dr Tom tapped the end of his stash of hand-outs on the table several times and announced:
"I am going to tell the squirrel story." That's the gist of it. I actually can't remember what he actually said.
"I was driving along on,"...where was he driving?..." and I saw a squirrel in the middle of the road. Cars were driving over above it, and it was just standing looking around like this:" Our Norwegian teacher did a cool imitation of the squirrel looking around. But wait...had he driven over the squirrel himself?
"I pulled over and got"....something like a piece of cardboard or a floor mat or a substandard Norwegian novel..." out of the trunk and scooped him up. He didn't try to run away." Maybe he had rabies. Animals that act funny like that always have hydrophobia.
"Why didn't you just leave him there?" asked a ruthless student. Whap! Dropped a letter grade right there.
"Well, he was alive, standing in the middle of the road. What would you have done? So I took him to the vet that I take my cat to." The one that makes Norwegian consonant sounds in its sleep..."kje! kje!"... ??? "I didn't think they'd take the squirrel, but they did. 'Sure, we'll take it'"
What did Dr Tom say after that?
"The squirrel did have nerve damage, but not all that bad." Not as bad as my memory. Suddenly my brain cells forsook the posh History Department library for a swirling, confused mass of pinecones and walnuts and bushy tales."Tried two wild animal places in Portland, but wasn't a native species. Those tree huggers only accept Cascadian natives. But the one in Rowena., 'Yep, yep, we'll take it.' they said."
"Mom!" reports my son. "My optical drive is somewhat screwed up and the front of the case is beginning to separate a bit." What nerve! He's twenty now, does he think I'm his mother or something, always asking me to fix his problems?
"I've made an appointment with the Apple Store on Friday," he continues. Portland? Friday? Am I a bus driver? Surely not!
Oregon, 2009: "Triple A."
The Morrison Street Bridge exit dumps us into the heart of Portland...into a state of total confusion unknown in The Dalles.
"Ian, Ian! Do you remember where Pioneer Square is?" I ask. He shrugs his shoulders, and continues to fiddle with his defective instrument. Shut it down, we're almost there...wherever that is!
"Broadway..." I mumble hypothetically. "Left on Broadway." Then I spy the glob of beams like a sculpture, pull to the curb.
"Shut it down and get out!!" I roar. I am a Tiger and Portland is a Zoo. "Call me," I add.
Triple A. Free parking. Free restroom. Free browsing...Made in China...Made in China...oh, wait, look! Made in Viet Nam!!!!
"Does he have to go in himself to get his passport photo taken?" someone asks up at the counter.
I move along. Should I ask for a reisekart of Morocco at the Free Map counter...ah here! A whole revolving display of Disney Cruises! Wow...Captain Hook! Deck Parties with Mickey! The kids would love this!
"Can I help you?" asks the receptionist cheerfully.
"Um...I was just browsing. I'm looking for something *special* to do for spring break. My daughter wants to go to Hawaii!" The receptionist's eyes grew wide in terror. "Spring Break is filling up *very* fast," she warned. "Let's get you an agent!!!" As luck would have it, the woman at the end was available.
"Which island do you want to go in Hawaii?" the agent asks, as I seated myself in front of the desk.
"Uh...I'm not picky. My daughter just said that she wanted to go to Hawaii."
"We prefer to have a destination...
"Well," I continue, "How about Puerto Rico. My son hasn't renewed his passport...and my daughter's studying Spanish."
"And that's part of the US!" observes the agent.
Puerto Rico it is!!!!
Just a phone call away...Ian has dropped off the ailing Mac and is riding shotgun.
"Um..."I bring up. "What about Puerto Rico for spring break? You're passport is defunct and the drinking age is 18, I better look that up."
"Fine with me," he replies. Later he will point out that his heart is really in Europe...namely Majorca and Malta. Sometimes, like all mothers, I wish I could just put him on a cargo ship to Malta. Save up some money for Alternative Energy School.
"Puerto Rico?" Erin will reply. "I just wanted to go somewhere that I can speak the language and drink the water and it's warm and where I can relax...*Hawaii* you said we were going to Hawaii."
<clip> <clip> <clip> "But what if I get someone to go with me who can pay for their ticket...<clip>"
See "Spring Vacation From Hell," April 2008.
"Mom!" said Erin. "Would you consider taking three Young Ladies to Clackamas Town Center to look for dresses for the Winter Formal?"
"Sure!" I answered. How could I miss taking one more bite out of my Lost Youth?
Oregon, January 2009. "With that watch you will shine like the diamonds on it"
Well...not a very big bite out of anything but a sweet and sour halibut at the Pad Thai Cafe. The moment I saw all that red stuff on it, I knew I'd made a mistake. It had not occurred to me that it didn't come with sweet'n sour peanut sauce. Anyway, I was marking time...till I picked up the girls...
"Two PM," the note had read. No problem. But then came the text message: "Mom! Can you meet us at the school at noon?" Somewhere in Wasco County, there is a ring of "one" stealers and meth dealers. I hurried up to the school to pick up my daughter and one of the Danish Twin friends.
"There's been a change of plans," said my daughter. "Porpo has a car, so she'll meet us at the house." Once at home, the moments ticked on. Lyme Disease, though out of vougue now, hung over all our heads.
"Porpo's zipper broke. It's her mother's dress. She has to drop it off somewhere to get it fixed," continued Erin.
"If she has a dress already, why is she going?" I asked Erin. Silly me. Shopping, she was going shopping.
I drove downtown and picked up a few twenties at the Wells Fargo ATM. By the time I got back, or soon after, Porpo had arrived.
"Is it OK to park my car here?" she asked.
"Sure," assured Erin. "The Crazy People might stare inside, but they won't break in."
The three girls piled in the Forester, who was pleased to take charge of such a cute bunch of girls, even if they weren't vehicles.
Soon we were off. Soon we would swing off the interstate at Mosier, to pick up Lilian at the vacant gas station.
<to be continued>
<Continued> "The Baking Class Goes To Clackamas"
You recall that Ech, the noble Forester, was on its way to Clackamas, Oregon. It held a cargo of Young Ladies in need of charming dresses to wear to the lush Winter Formal. But the back seat was not yet sufficiently crowded.
"Yes, we're on our way!" Erin said to her cell phone.
"Lilian hasn't been waiting all this time at the gas station!?!?" someone asked, either the Danish twin or Porpo. No she hadn't. But soon she would drive down the long lane lined with gnarly lichen covered oaks, her father riding shotgun, and into Mosier with its abandoned service station.
"Look! Lilian's driving!!" someone exclaimed. Lilian's dad stoically opened his door. I stoically rolled down my window.
"Would you"...giggle giggle..."ski pass"...twitter twitter..."trade off"...not taking you?..."so expensive?"
"What?" I asked. He wanted to trade off taking the girls skiing. We'd both paid for lift passes, just before Lilian and Erin decided to quit the ski team.
Aside from buying junk food at the Hood River Shell station, not much happened after that until we finally located the two story mall. I let the gals out at Sears...yeah, I know in theory there are mothers who tag along, but I just gave Erin a Ulysses and hoped for the best.
"There's a Barnes and Noble," she suggested. I browsed the shelves and found a great book about how people nowadays trust illogical intuition more than science. For instance some people don't believe in global warming, but are sure that immunizations cause autism. This is because there were no chairs there and I couldn't sit down. I roamed around a few more stores, then drove over to Wells Fargo to pick up a strap.
"A strap of ones! Is that all you were in line for?" Tellers at Big Banks have been instructed to be very very friendly now, so that we'll believe that they're too big to fail. Then I saw a Thai Restaurant in the same strip mall. There aren't any Thai places in The Dalles. I honestly wish I'd ordered Pad Thai. I choked down the sticky sweet halibut, then Ech and I drove back to the mall. After efficiently dodging a Russian woman who wanted to flop some white stuff on my face, I spent the remainder of the time in Nordstom, collecting data on the ratio of China to 3rd World to USA on a selected sample of cute blouses.
(True or False: Everything in the Made in Oregon store is made in Oregon.)
Darkness descended . Soon all the packages were gently laid in Ech's hatchback and three girls were scrunched in back again. It was time to clandestinely listen to what Porpo was saying on her cell phone.
"Please, oh please, can you just stay home with them tonight? They'll be in bed, you won't have to do a thing. You can go over to Robert's any time...please, it's their anniversary dinner...I need to go watch a movie with a friend...You're crying, why are you crying?...[Robert's our age, why would someone our age hang out with a middle schooler?]" As the hour rolled on, Porpo's voice grew more and more frantic.
"Ha!" laughed Erin. "I thought Gus was going to watch a movie with *me*!!!" (Question: Would Porpo and Gus invite each other to the Winter Formal? Would her zipper be repaired in time?)
The Dalles, Oregon, January 2010. "A Visit From the Soil And Water Commission"
Yeah, well, it was my fault. At the last Lower Mill Creek meeting, I'd turned in a sleep...um...slip of paper that read "I would like to know what plants to grow in my denuded-of-ivy creek terrace." Now an employee of the Soil and Water commission was standing at my door. We introduced ourselves.
"I came to the wrong door to start with," she confessed. She was wearing a light blue fleece jacket.
"Yeah," I explained. "That door doesn't even open." Ice blue eyes as well. One false move and they would drill through your skull. Someone I knew at A&M with Arctic eyes like that. She was studying dinoflagellates. Red tide rising...
Everything in the yard looked horrible now...dead leaves over cement blocks, the steps down to the terrace like sopping wet pasteboard. Did we ever use this area for anything? Just ivy removal and I'd won the game, hands downs.
"So..." she queried, "what are your plans for this area?"
"Um...we don't have any plans. I just wanted to get the ivy out." Below our feet, tiny ivy leaves were peeping upwards from uncaged roots. Maybe it had one after all. The horticulturalist sighed.
"P-rob-ab-ly what you want to do is...isolate an area and get *all* the ivy out. You don't want to have to remove the ivy from what you've planted. And you do have stuff here..."
"Weeds," I stated.
"They're not weeds unless they've taken over." Just like squirrels, they're not pests till they run rampant.
The Soils & Water woman with the laser eyes wasn't about to take over either.
"Do you come down here much? What do you want to do with this flat area? Do you want just a ground cover?" Nothing was about to erode here until the next 1996 flood. "There are some really neat wild strawberries that people have been having success with. You can see them in a yard in Hood River."
Strawberries! And sword ferns!
"You seem to have enough trees down here...."
"Mostly cottonwoods..and walnuts...and over there is a locust...crabapple." Yeah. Strangled by wild grape vines. I turned. "And the maple tree." It's one tiny offspring had been decapitated by a weed eater.
"Is that a vine maple or a bigleaf maple?" Who knew? It had the viney stems of a vine maple and the big leaves of a bigleaf.
"You've got some shrubs down here. Is that a mock orange? I'd say, use shrubs instead of a ground cover on the steep banks. Snowberries, Oregon grape is good too...and you already have a lot of..."
"Wild rose," I finished.
"The doom metal shows, nobody does much of anything. They just stand there."
---Folk metal concert attendee
Portland, OR, Jan 2010
These metal shows are like a broken record. You get stamped, the band(s) appear on stage, you get bumped around and then you go home. Oh, but no, things do change little by little. For a time, it was the Roseland, with it's metal and sharpie detector, and its balcony bar with seats. Then it was the Hawthorne, with its rear bar. This last one, at The Satyricon, the bar wasn't even within sight of the stage. Old folks like me were supposed to go in the bar to sit down, to drink 5 or 6 lagers...and...and...when exactly was it when euro Folk Metal started packing the house? Just recently, but some music critics say these bands are the new Fairport, the new Hoven Droven. It may be true.
It's unclear who the first two bands were, but I breathe a sigh of relief as they carry their equipment past us in the lobby. The most special bands play last...that means we haven't missed either the Faroese Viking Metal band Tyr, or the Finnish folk metal band Korpiklaani. Nor will me miss White Wizard, a Heavy Metal band from L.A.
"Power metal, eh? They're better than I thought they'd be!!" I lean on the wall at the back and watch the back of peoples' heads. Then I retreat.
"Can I get a large Diet?" I ask the Red Bull bartender. It will be the first time I get a hangover from a huge Diet Pepsi. I take it back to the pinball machine area.
Suddenly a inflatable palm appears on stage, followed by several pirates!!! Must be Swashbuckle, I comment internally, from New Jersey. I remember them for their YouTube Video, "Cruise Ship Terror." Unlike Alehouse...um...Alewives...um...Alestorm!!! whom I saw last month or so at the Hawthorne, these guys are growlers. Imagine a very tubby pirate with glasses emitting death vocals, while a eight foot plastic tree lounges on the other end of the stage. Could this be Comedy Metal???
Another break, another look at uncomfortable women adjusting their lace up boots and corsets behind the "chicks" door. Another....whoa!! Tyr have assembled on the stage wearing chainmail. And don't they look like real Vikings! Interestingly, they are probably among the best folk bands in the Faroes, at least when they have what is known as "Good Sound." I make my way halfway to the front of the mosh pit. A tiny woman dressed in white pushes me aside, bouncing into the maelstrom like a human pogo stick....high on Red Bull!?!In front of me stands a weight lifter wearing a Navy Seal cap on backwards. As time goes on, more and more people desperately push their way into the front, into the vortex. The trick is to not step backward, even if you have to repeatedly push the moshers back.
As time passes, my ears bend themselves to the muddy speakers, though I am never quite be able to translate the Faroese and Norwegian harmony vocals...the folk melodies that they are so good at. The singer, ever-calm Heri Joensen, has fashionably braided his blond beard....Hot!! Hot, it's really hot for February. Tyr exits the stage and removes the chainmail before they drown in sweat.
"Would you like to hear some Irish music?" Joensen bellows. Wild Rover....Whiskey in the Jar. Ah...picked up from Flogging Molly on a pillaging tour of Mother Eire!!!
"Varttina?" I ask Ian. Clubs like this play relevant music between sets.
"Hedningarna?" Ian asks me.
"You know Hedningarna played at...."
Or was it Kaustinen? I remember Varttina at the Zona Rosa in Austin.
And finally Korpiklaani, dressed in their nostalgic JPP Joik clothing.
"Beer Beer!!" demands the audience. This is probably the band's best known song. Dreadlocked vocalist Jonne Järvelä, defended by shaman antlers, beams.
I stand in the middle for this set. My neighbors, including the Navy Seal, move with me. It is an omen, I feel.
"How do you like them??" the man behind me asks his wife, over and over. =WHAM= The moshers are out of control!!!! and I almost lose my balance, landing in a heap with forty other people. I'm wondering how I was able to stand so near to the stage and take an illicit video last year and this year I'm stuck behind these bumpcars. For one thing, my Cool Pix is busted. But this time, I can see the accordionist, who strongly resembles Marjo, my former Finnish teacher. And the fiddle player, looks like either the heat or allergies may have gotten to him...I'm worried.
It was all over by one in the morning. I leaned against the Red Bull bar with Ian who was fiddling with his I-Pod, my Wacken shirt mostly hidden by my Nightwish hoodie. A young man with carrot orange hair walks by and stares at it. I give him a silly smile. He starts to say something, but doesn't. My secret is safe.
New Ulm, Minnesota, 197.....uh...whatever.
I had never eaten Thanksgiving dinner with so many relatives! We were all assembled here at "Rubby and Louie's" in rural New Ulm, Minnesota, not too far from Mankato. The story goes that Uncle Louis lived here with his mother until she died. Then he married Aunt Ruby, who had spent many many years teaching elementary school. After they married, life went on about the same for Louie, aside from having to install indoor plumbing. Half Irish and half German, he filled up boxes of apples for local customers, and spoke German to the old guys who'd come by to pick them up. He'd store the fruit in the porch of the ancient brick house, where you'd think they'd freeze but didn't. (The apples...not the Germans!) He and his old shorthaired pointer Star would make the rounds in winter, tending the hundreds of wild and pet birds that lived on the farm. Everyone believed that Louie was a very gentle person, furrowing his brow when faced with an injured bird, or a lonely pup. But he had his dark side, particularly at the dinner table.
The dining room was huge. The living room was huge. The kitchen was huge...all intended for families that were huge. I had fantasies about restoring the house to its original decor. No more Lazy Boys, Early American end tables or utilitarian striped carpeting. No more mint green walls in the kitchen. Alas, for me to even mention my distaste for the lack of taste would...=Keelhaul her, Mateys! Walk the Plank=!!! The upstairs, on the other hand, was still untouched by plumbing and central heat...any kind of heat! Handsome oak furniture, priceless antiques from the dim Minnesota past, stood there lonely, year after year until their ultimate auction to people from The Cities. None of this kept Rubby from assigning these frozen, desolate rooms to visitors, even though the one narrow staircase was heaped with electric roasters, plastic buckets, and...well, and other neatly stacked stuff to ooze oneself around and over.
So here we were at the table. Everyone but Ruby. Ruby cooked almost all of this herself, but couldn't eat much of it because she had sugar diabetes.
"Oh!" she exclaimed from the spotless mint green kitchen. "I think I left this Uncle Ben's wild rice casserole in five minutes too long." Her face appeared grave and close to implosion as she carried the casserole to the table. "I left this in too long...I wonder if it will be OK." So there we all were, hoping she'd settle down so we could sing Johnny Appleseed.
"Oh the Lord is good to me..." It's too bad Emma and Ian and Erin didn't get there in time...bogged down in the snows of time somewhere around Mankato I reckon...to participate in the singing.
"It's odd being around the table with so many people," commented my sister in law's husband.
"I think it's like that for all of us," replied my mother in law
We began to pass the food...the mashed (squashed?) squash garnished with mini-marshmallows, the jello salad, the turkey, the dressing, the platter with celery, radishes, carrots and olives
"I'm afraid that wild rice casserole is ruined..." said Ruby. It's hard to replicate her tone of voice.
"Have a little more of this squash, Dick." Louie's aged hands gently, subtly raised the dish halfway to my spouse's head, as if reassuring a wounded goose that begged to be force fed. From then on everyone was fair game to bowl dangling in a catatonic sway. Except me and the wild rice. We were both outsiders. I had a splitting headache and hadn't helped with last night's dishes. And the casserole:
"Don't you think the wild rice is a little dry?" Ruby bit her lip.
The Dalles, Oregon, February 2010: "Henry XIV"
I may not have brought this up, macho chick that I am, but I have the worst cold in decades. It originated at the Tyr/Korpiklanni concert, slipping in when they suspended reality. That didn't stop me from driving into Portland today, to do my show and baby sit a CDR for the following host, who just had to see the superbowl and eat chile....
Past Fred Meyer and Casa El Mirador and onto the...entrance...ra...Henry!!! Henry was holding up his gently aged pasteboard Mosier sign. I was happy to see him still alive and had no choice to pick him up!
What was the gossip, then?
"You know my best friend Danny...and my ex-girlfriend Barb. They started going together and she got pregnant!" Um...High School "Seniors"?
"Huh!" I exclaimed.
"She's 50...can you imagine that?"
"Fifty?" I exclaimed. "They'll be well, almost in their...
"We're all Catholic, so there's no choice but to raise it." One in eight chance of Downs Syndrome... "But how can we afford a kid? He's making..oh..$1200 a month. She gets $400 in survivor benefits." I wondered if I had ever picked her up as a hitchhiker.
"Does she have a place to live?"
"Yeah..yeah, she got HUD housing. I just love them both so much." Henry shook his head.
"And my son...my son just got his third DUI and is in jail in Pendleton."
"The one that came home from Afghanistan?"
"Yeah. I don't know what exactly....but I know he killed a couple of guys. He drinks a fifth of vodka a day. I was over in Viet Nam and I know what happens. But I tell him to get over it. 'When I came home they were shaking their fists at us, telling us we were murderers. You're coming home as heroes.'"
Yikes! Tie a yellow ribbon around the old oak tree.
"So I'm trying to help out with the family. They're afraid they'll get thrown out of their apartment. I called up the landlord...haha...good thing I have a lot of connections. He's a rich guy. He told me if if I could help with the kids, not to worry about the apartment. They been there a long time."
'Where is it they live again?"
"And the VA's been giving him trouble..."
"Hmm...I've heard they've been giving a lot of people trouble."
"Well...not these people who are coming back from Afghanistan or...um..."
"They're doing OK by them. But it's us old guys from Viet Nam...and Korea, there's still some Korea vets around..they just want us to get it over with and die."
"And that's another problem, I think I'm getting Alzheimer's, I begin to put something inside a cabinet and it ends up in the wood stove."
"You still living in that house?" I asked. I remember a Geology Professor unable to think of the term "Permian Basin" in lecture.
"Shack. Yeah. I got it fixed up, got a new stove, so that my bed is way up under the ceiling. I stay warm at night."
"Warm air rises..."
"And the church gave me a new chain saw for Christmas..."
The Suburu Mechanic sighed and stared pointedly into my eyes.. "It's like the rest of 'em. You get the plug off the fuel tank and wham!! Gasoline runs out all over the place. We had a recall in here the other day and the floor looked like a swimming pool. And it's dangerous. We gotta take the back seat out...saw one downtown the other day, had gasoline...just soaking the seats."
"That's not her car, Ernie," said the Counter Man.
"My goodness, is this a Ford or a Suburu?" I added in emphasis.
The Dalles, Oregon, February 2010.
I gave the Counter Man my key and took a seat in the waiting room. In just a few seconds The Counter Man reappear and broke the news.
"We'll have to have you come back in with an empty tank. Otherwise the gasoline gets all over the place. It actually says this on the bottom of page 4 on the mailout."
"We'll just have the oil change then," replied the older man cheerfully. "Older" would soon reveal its self as 83. "We'll come back for the recall."
Then the old man wandered off, leaving his wife alone with me and a Time Magazine. But it was not long before another old (79) would appear in almost the same seat!
"You're not diabetic, are you?" He asked, and pulled out a Werther's Original Caramel for her. "There was a guy out around Tygh Valley, Wamic who used to give these out..."The Candy Man" they called him. Watch out if you got crowns, it'll pull them out, quicker than you can say...anyway, I started buying these and they asked me at the store, what are you doing with all this candy?"
The woman nodded, one eye on Barak Obama.
"How about the lady in the corner over there? Are you diabetic?" He was a large man, wearing a feed cap that said KOREA VET.
"No," I said, one eye on a dead Haitian.
"Come over here and I'll give you some candy!" I walked over, walked back, and stuck one of the two candies into my mouth. There is no way I can resist caramel.
"I spent a lot of time working with the Boy Scouts. Yep, I bet I donated 40 or 50 thousand dollars to the Boy Scouts over the years. Everything from Cub Scouts to Eagle Scouts. I went in and tried to do it again, and they wanted my social security number. I asked her what did they need my social security number for. She told me they had to do a check on me. I walked out the door."
The woman's husband came back and set down between the two.
"We're from Glenwood, Washington," began the husband, the older man, "My family came from Holland and settled there...first ranch in the area. Later, my brother and I sold it to the government for the refuge."
"The Indians got it now?"
"No, it's part of a wildlife refuge..."
<to be continued>
Imagine a hole in your head opening ever wide in order to allow a serendipitous influx of really interesting information. But after the information enters, most of it gets mixed up or lost. Twilight zone? Don't you wish!!! You're in the waiting room of the local Suburu dealer and two octogenarians are regurgitating the entire history of the World. What happened to your tape recorder?
"...they took a bunch of us guys and gave us technological training and sent us out in different directions. I ended up in Iceland with a bunch of Norwegians!!!" one said.
"There was some of them guys who joined up right away and got sent to Korea. Nobody ever heard from them again. And Viet Nam. Didn't hear from them either."
"Now they got 'em in Afghanistan and uh...uh...."
"Thing is...they'll still be fighting each other after we leave.
"...<clip> mining all the uranium as fast as they can."
"You got a young one there!"
"Yeah. She's still in her seventies."
The child bride got up and walked towards the complimentary coffee pots, touching my knee as she passed.
"He sure is a doozy, isn't he?" she laughed.
I rolled my eyes and laughed too.
"When I was eleven, my dad said, 'Come here, I wanna tell you something. The Chinese are going to take over the world...' And they about have!"
"Huh...They've been remodeling that bridge down there for some time."
"Lost an operator there." [probably the truck driver whose rig was blown off the Biggs Bridge]
"Some guy in his pick up went through the railing, dropped 70 feet down to the bottom. What saved him was that he blew a tire and had it fixed, laying in the back. When he come up, there it was for him. Pretty much did him in, getting back to shore."
"My brother and I, we used to go to a saloon in The Dalles every time we was there. Went into the barbershop and there they had a picture of that saloon! Anyway, me and my brother got drunk and we was driving back to Goldendale. There used to be that barge they took you across on. Well, both of us fell asleep and he woke up just in time. See the ferry was coming in and we almost ran right into it."
"Excuse me, but your oil is changed," announced the Counter Man. They'd be back, though, when they were just about to run out of gas. But...oh no...!!! The other old codger, the one with the Korea Vet feed cap, came over and sat down next to me!!!
"How do *you* feel about this stuff in Afghanistan?" he asked. Yikes! What do I say?
"Um...I don't think we should be there."
"You bet we shouldn't! And China, when I was eleven, my father took me aside and said, 'China will take over the world,' and they darn near have."
"Yeah," I agreed.
"And he told me 'Look, there are all kinds of people, white people, Indians, Mexicans, Negroes...but you take a knife and scratch him, it's the same color blood.' If there's anything I can't stand, it's when someone uses the word 'Nigger.' If I ever heard my kids use that word...."
Portland, Oregon, February 2010
Dr. Tom looks down at his Norwegian textbook with an ever-so-gentile, knife edged wrath. They aren't exactly a dime a dozen, and the ones we have were published in 1981.
"Here on page 208," he begins, "are a couple of irregular nouns. 'En vaffel'...what does vaffel mean, by the way?"
We all roll our eyes. It's pretty obvious. We answer almost in unison:
"Alright...vafler...[wafler! we repeat]....vaffelen....vaflene...and this might not seem all that important, but waffles are an important staple in Norwegian diet...all Norwegians like them...they eat them all the time, most commonly in the late evening...and they're *cold.* Jacob, liker du vafler?"
"Ja, jeg liker vafler," answers Jacob. Jacob the Red. I stare at his black earring.
"And here's another noun: 'gaffel.' Judith, liker du gafler?"
"Uh...Jeg liker gafler," I reply.
"Hmm...har du et gaffel fetish?" Do I have a fork fetish?
"Nej!!!" I answer rapidly.
Dr. Tom nonchalantly directs his all-knowing Salmon Eyes at me and says:
"You seem to have all the symptoms of a viral infection. It sounds as if you may have bronchitis."
You can always trust a Specialist in Germanics to deliver an accurate diagnosis!
Hood River, Oregon, February 2010: Saturday night in Hood River is about as fun as Saturday night in The Pearl. However, instead of carrying stacks of books from Powell's, the party-goers in downtown HR are dragging around huge 'boards. My son has conned me into taking me to this cesspool of sin and windsurfing to attend the late Joe Orton's play, "What the Butler Saw." Joe Orton! The name makes my head fly apart. Back in the days of Semester Abroad: England, we attended some of Joe's plays. Husker du. The most interesting part was that Joe's boyfriend bashed him in the head with a hammer.
Columbia Center for the Arts. Imagine the spacious foyer as the wide open mouth, the doors as lips, and the exhibit on the Tribes of Oregon as teeth. I make a dive for the ticket desk/bar.
"He's a CGG student," I tell the cashier. $3 is $3. Then I see the sign for wine and beer. Wine! Maybe if I anesthetized...
"Euthanised?" Ian will later suggest.
...my throat with alcohol, I wouldn't need to rush out the door in a fit of coughing, never to return.
"Can I take a glass of wine into the theatre?"
"No!" replies the bartender. Am I an idiot? "The only thing you are allowed is a BOTTLE of water. But I can save the wine for you out here."
I buy a water bottle and peruse the paintings sticking up like incisors in the Gallery.
Finally, we pass through the Glottal Stop of Drama into the theatre itself. Like many avant gard theatres, it consists of five or six rows of seats rising in a semi circle from the stage. We greet a couple people we know from contra dancing.
"Arts crowd," I postulate.
"It's really funny to see Galin in that leopard skin dress and wig..." interjects Ian. Ah...fairies.... Just last year, dressed in grape leaves, Galin had played Oberon, and Ian Puck in "A Midsummer's Night's Dream." Listen...you can hear Oberon talking about "luuuhhhve"!!!! Now poor Galin is dressed like a transvestite bell hop and Ian will soon leap onto stage as a fuzzy barking dog in "Mister A's Amazing Maze Plays."
I can feel the tickle coming on. Seven people between me and the door. I unscrew the top and begin to chug...after a few gulps the cough subsides. Then...crackle crackle!!!...the thin clear plastic of the bottle springs noisily back. All around us, theater goers shoot me the Evil Eye...
February 2010: Here in the deep forest of Southern Washington, the animals, wineries, and gas pipelines are whispering. And the news is:
"Young Cole is having a birthday!" Sixteen? Seventeen?
"Ummm," began Erin cautiously. "**tony's** friend Cole is having a birthday party and I'm invited. Lilian too...and **tony** can only legally take two people in his car. And I was wondering..."
"Mom..." she continued. "**tony** says he can meet us at...um wait a minute...he can take us after all. We'll meet him at the elementary school..."
"Mom"...she continued. "We'll meet him in the gravel lot just past the river. That way you'll know where to come get us."
Sixteen, seventeen. Soon the precious steam of childhood logistics will rise through the ceiling vents, never to return.
Late, we were late, but there was no one to meet us when we pulled into the pullhead, near the trailoff of the Klickitat Trail.
"You OK, Mom??" No.
We waited a few minutes, then Erin took out her cell phone. Obviously she felt that texting was not powerful enough for the occassion.
"What do you mean that Florian's not there? Stupid German!!!"
"Dummkopf," I muttered.
"They like to use animal names," explained Lilian, who spends a month or so each summer with her German mother's relatives. More exciting than Mosier, I reckon.
"Schweinhund. Sheistkopf," I added.
"Look, I can just meet you in Lyle and I'll take you." The minutes flowed. I began to doze sitting up.
"Look, they're kayaking. They've got a baby! Wonder if they're taking the baby kayaking. Maybe..." said someone.
"Why aren't you here?" Erin asked her phone. "Flo had to put away his groceries?? Why does he have to do it now? Here, say it to my mother." Erin passed the phone to me.
"I'm sorry," said **tony**.
"I'm sorry," said **tony**. Enough!
They passed me a copy of "Stavanger Aftonblad" from the back seat.
"What perverts! That Norwegian kid is wearing a t-shirt with pandas doing it," noted Erin.
"Over there at that car by the river," whispered Ech, The Fantastic Forester. "What a cute looking trailer it's pulling. Tiny" He paused. "I can only speak through you."
"Hey, girls, look at that spiffy trailer over there by the kayakers," I echoed.
"Yeah," someone replied.
"Aha!" grumbled Ech. "That wretched Jap Mazda with the peeling paint is here."
Off we went! Up the hill and its memories of Bull Thistle Decapitation. Turned right and then left, past wineries, farms, pastures, and woodlands. Then up and up, white lichen skeletons of oaks...
"There's snow in the ditches!" I reported.
"Huh..." someone replied.
"If I were Cole I wouln't even go to school," commented Lilian.
Conifers, tall above us, doug fir...pine...switchbacks...Unmaintained Gravel Road...a sudden right turn into dense forest...and the gas line. **tony** parked the valiant old Mazda.
"The driveway is too wet. We've got to take the shuttle service. Cole is going to come get us," he said.
But it was the end of the line for Ech and the poor old Mazda....and me.
It's come to this. I'm going to write about my second real boyfriend. It's not a very exciting story, except that I've found that I can very easily google him. All I have to do is enter his name, along with "bags" and "Birmingham." And,after all these years, I still recognize him. "Wow!" I exclaim. "What great taste I have in men!" Great taste in seventeen year olds....
It was the summer after my freshman year at Earlham. Earlham College, I must add, had embarked on a "Meaningful Relationship" voyage, which really ruined the dating scene. Anyway, the phone rang. It was my friend Joan. Her family was from Minneapolis, and despite being Jewish, she closely resembled a Valkyrie.
"My brother wants to go out with you," she announced.
"Which one?" I asked. The fourteen year old? The twelve year old?
"Dean," she replied. Dean was a Senior. That didn't sound too bad.
We soon settled into the way things went. Dean always had money, because he worked in the family business making lawn mower bags. He came by in the family car, we had a bite at Shoney's Big Boy, we went to a movie, and we went Parking. Or something like that. For instance you could hit three birds with one stone at the Shades Mountain Drive-In Theater. It's not clear to me why they don't have drive-ins nowadays. I guess that dates me. The night that Man walked on the Moon, we were right there at the Drive-In watching "2001: A Space Odyssey"
One night we drove to Bessemer for a football game, with a couple whose names will eternally escape me. For some reason I said something about not being pretty. Dean said "Your prettier than she is!" How romantic!! And one day, he took me to his house and we made hamantaschen, which in this case were Jewish cookies filled with honey and poppy seeds.
The Ghost of Bob Gennett, playing the role of Things Gone Wrong, is rising from his grave now. My father is hurrying over huffing and puffing, pipe smoke blowing out his ears...poking his aluminum cane at me. (You may not remember this, but Tragedy struck one day when Bob Gennett was removing a case of Cokes from the trunk of the Thunderbird. The parking brake slipped and he ran over himself. "All the dogs in the neighborhood came over, that liked to got me, haw haw haw!!" he'd repeat to anyone who asked about his limp.)
"Last night when you were out on the porch necking with that Jew Boy...."
I quiver in fear at what I know I will hear next.
"You forgot to turn off the light and lock the door. I came out here to the living room and it was standing wide open and the air conditioning was escaping."
He waves an exploding Alabama Power Company bill as proof.
The Dalles, OR. March 2010: Some people are able to meditate at Quaker Meeting. I, on the other hand, either daydream or fall asleep. This morning I dreamed about a large albino wolf-dog. Its head covered entire field of view. As I dreamed, I explained to myself why it was important, why the dog was an Omen. It's important, I said, because it is the only thing in this half dream that is totally uncontrolled. It dropped into this rented chapel like a puppy from its mother's womb, white with innocence and ferocity. Then I opened my eyes, and looked at the stained glass window that framed us, letting only the Light enter, embellished with brilliant colors.. It said "Think of the Lilies." Think of the lilies in the field, how they grow. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
Someone's watch went off. "Beep beep!" This was the signal to keep my eyes on Bill, who in turn began to watch his watch. Bill could be Impeached if he went beyond the hour. At last, he reached his two hands out to his neighbors. We formed a circle, then dropped our hands.
"I've been thinking," he began, "of how little effort it is for us to be here. You go to Multnomah and you can imagine how much work was done to get what they have."
"And..." continued Jeff, "the amount of planning it took."
On the other hand, the dynamics of a Meeting with so many people is amazing. Friends often stand up and say things.
"There was an old fellow when I was there...well, older than me...who talked about joy," Jeff continued. "To remember that joy is part of life,"
Hood River, Oregon, February 2010: All the clerks in the Shell Station by the Hood River toll bridge know me...though not by name. As for them, they probably wear name tags, but the names go straight through my eyes and out my ears, instead of my mouth. Every time I pass by there, I stop and get a soda from the cooler and a scone. My two favorite scones are lemon, and cranberry orange, but I'll take cinnamon or blueberry if they're in the day old basket or they're the only ones left. What I don't like is chocolate chunk. It's like eating a cookie.
"Where's your sidekick today?" asks the middle age blonde, who once saw me in the Albertson's parking lot.
"Overslept," I say. So what if it's two in the afternoon? "Got a class..." that's something else to say.
Three woman and one man work there, as far as I can tell. The youngest woman, the buxom one who's under 40, has a lot of tattoos, pretty ones with flowers. That's what I like about gas stations...they allow their employees to look the way they want. Anyway, today, there's nothing but bagels and a maple bar in the day old, so she's poised over the fresh ones.
"Which one?" she asks. I've chosen a cherry diet Pepsi, so I say:
"Lemon." You can't mix Mountain Dew with a Lemon Scone, but the Pepsi is fine.
"I think the lemon ones are the best. But I'd like to eat them all. I stopped smoking and gained 20 pounds and now I'd like to eat all of them. It's crazy."
"How are you today?" she asks, her bakery tongs poised.
"OK,"....yeah, except for galloping consumption.
"I have a headache today."
"You must have had a late night!"
"Ha! I worked the late shift last night. Not the late night that it should have been..."
She grabbed a scrumptious triangle with her tongs.
"My daughter is home with a migraine today."
"Ugh! My mother and my boyfriend both have migraines and it's terrible! Did you know they have to lay there in the dark without any light?" Or any sound.
"Yeah. And I bet you're the sympathetic helper!"
"No...I just leave them alone. There's nothing I can do.
I've been asked several times why I drive all the way to Portland a couple times a week. Well, for the same reason that the earth turns with one side black and one side white, and turns on its axis just to play tricks on us.
"Don't we play tricks on it too?" some might ask. And you might answer:
"I did a class paper on chlorofluorcarbons, for instance freon, and how their use was digging your grave in the ozone...oh let me see what year was that...1975?"
The Dalles, Oregon, March 2010: At home there is a lot of drama, particularly right now.
"Woof! Woof!" I greet Ian. Last night was the Opener of "Mr A's Amazing Maze Plays."
"My knees are killing me after last night! Maybe my knee pads are slipping. This one is rubbed raw," drawls Ian.
"Do you walk around on all fours the whole time?" I inquire.
"Yes, unless things get really exciting! Then I stand on my hind legs."
"Do you think they noticed when I screwed up the dance sequence?" Erin asks her dad. It was also Opening Night of Thoroughly Modern Millie.
"I think, Miss Flannery," he answers, "that it blended in very well with your character!"
The next day I would be so busy buying knee bandages and perusing crazy Miss Flannery examples on You Tube, that I do the unforgiveable.
"I'm sorry at didn't wake you at 4:30. Just threaten to breathe your strep throat on 'em. Then they'll forgive you for not being late."
"That's OK," Erin will comment. "I forgot you weren't Dad."
Portland, OAR, March 2010...In Portland, though, it is all magical realism.
"Vil du ha nøkkelen?" asked Dr Tom when I met him on the stairs. He was going to get coffee.
"Ja," I answered. HINT****Nyckelharpa***=KEY harp.
Only one more flight to climb and I was in the History Library, along with Eric, who is an only child just like me. There are three of these young students...Joshua, Matt, and Eric...who sit at the back table and pretend to be a group of Norwegian triplets, but only Eric had shown up so far. Soon Dr Tom and his strong university coffee joined us.
"Is your eye OK now?" asked Eric. "Which one was it?" Poor Dr Tom! In what I believed to be a piscean omen, our teacher had cancelled class last week because of an eye infection. Bah! When I had contacts, I used to spit on them all the time, drop them on the floor, get cookie crumbs on them, and I never got an eye infection!
"The Middle One," said our Norwegian teacher.
"The Middle One," repeated Eric. Eric has the yellowist hair of the three.
Dr Tom made a circle on his head with his hand. "Jeg er cyclops. K-y-k-k-l-o-p-s."
"Cyclops have only one eye."
"Triklops?" queried Dr Tom.
"Triklops?" requeried Eric.
The Dalles, OR, March 2010:
The Ladies of the Red Hat were again meeting in The Dalles, this time at "The Windseeker." The restaurant's name comes from the fact that it's by the river, thus "seeking" the 10,000 mph wind gusts that the windsurfers so love. And look at the view!!! Layer and layer of grim black Miocene flood basalt topped by green grass. And is that Elgoog in the distance, puffing out clouds of data and? We could see all of this from our long long table.
Red Hat is different things to different people. Some ladies like dressing up, bringing and receiving Red Hat gifts in the raffle, gossiping, and so on. But what I like most is going to restaurants which have been blacklisted by one to several of my family members...food poisoning, expensive cheeseburgers, too much celery, having to drive to get there, romantic candlelight...anything can blacklist a cafe.
"I'll have the salmon on Indian fry bread," I ordered. Some people were getting blt's, others were going for the chicken pita. But the salmon sandwich was the most susceptible to blacklisting.
"There's almost no one here," someone observed. "Why are there so many cars in the lot?" The parking lot is arguably the most interesting in town, with myriad bubbling watercourses and even a quaint rotting mini-yacht!
"There's a bunch of *men* in the *bar*, watching a *game*," another lady hypothesized, with a eye roll of mock importance. No one had any idea what kind of game was on the TV in the bar, and it didn't matter. The silent dart had been thrown, as if it were an anecdote.
"My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org," said the woman across the table from me.
"How did you chose 'sweetjasmine'?"
"My nickname has always been 'jasmine.' But I was taking a computer skills class, and the teacher was absolutely gorgeous. He was 20 years younger than any of us, but everyone in the class was drooling." I tried to imagine the classroom filling up with drool...ugh! Computers floating down the hall in a sea of spit. Anyway, we had to chose a name for our e-mail account and I told him 'jasmine.' And he said, 'That's sweet, Jasmine.' I looked into those blue eyes and I was gone! sweetjasmine!!! I went home and I told my husband that I was teachers pet!"
"Where is this guy?" everyone wanted to know. Columbia Gorge Community College?
"Valdez, Alaska," she answered smugly. At 56, Sweet Jasmine knew that she was still a fox.
"Who ordered the chicken pita without mushrooms?" the waitress yelled. Our food began to trickle in, starting at the other end of the table.
"What's *that* you have, Judith?" someone asked, the flowers on her hat bobbing up and down.
"Salmon on Indian fry bread." The firm slab of pink salmon (salmon colored salmon?) stuck out a mile from the chaotic biscuit in the center...impossible to eat with the hands.
"Deep fried?" asked someone.
"My friend makes Indian fry bread, but in a pan, like pancakes," continued another.
"I remember one time we went down to...what's the casino here in Wasco county?" began Sweet Jasmine.
"Kah-ne-tah," I answered without thinking.
"We went down to Kaneeta and ate at the restaurant there. We got salads and an order of Indian fry bread with blackberry jam..."
"They make their own jam there," added another Red Hatter.
"The Indian fry bread was so good that we ordered more. We just left our salads there. It was 98 degrees out and they would just be sitting in the car..."
March 2010, The Dalles, OR:
"Mom!" exclaimed Erin. "Look at the car in our driveway!" Hmm! Sporty white model with black stripes! Who was it?
"Must be someone turning around," hypothesized Erin. "Probably a drug deal." In our driveway?
"Maybe someone is bringing your dad home." Maybe the battered old '92 Legacy had stopped dead, left to rot on the shoulder of the freeway, or downtown in Eugene or Corvallis.
"I'll go check and see!!!" Erin exclaimed. SLAM!!! went the door. She was back in ten seconds. "It's just Ian." Back from the movies.
How will this story end?
Maui, March 2010: "Puddlejumper"
First class on Hawaiian...big seats...free booze...gourmet breakfast...vampires wearing lipstick up on the big screen!! Makes you feel guilty to watch those steerage peasants cramming their bodies into foot wide seats and eating peanut butter sandwiches. But all too soon our six hour trip was over with, and we were awash in Maui like the rest of the flotsom and jetsons.
"What airline are we taking to Moloka'i?" Erin asked sternly.
The Island Air clerk...a native Hawaiian reminiscent of Yul Brynner [who?] was very helpful. "Just follow the yellow line past baggage claim and out the door. The commuters are past the rental cars...take a right."
The instructions, of course, were entirely correct. We were soon inside of ...so to speak...the commuter terminal. This shed-like building houses not only Go! Mokulele, but also Pacific Wings and some other company that flies over volcanoes! Sign me up! I waited till the clerk, a native Hawaiian who resembled Yul Brynner, was finished with another passenger. Then I said:
"We have a reservation at 3:45 for Moloka'i." He asked my name and requested our ID's. As it turned out Erin's birthdate was exactly the same as his niece's! What a coincidence!
"We came in on Hawaiian, and I'm not sure if our carry-ons are too big."
"What do you have...put that suitcase on the scales, and then put the backpack on and step on the scales."
"Just as long as you don't tell me how much I weigh." Ian and Erin had to do it too.
"You're fine. Here are your receipts. I've already collected your boarding passes."
We had about an hour before the plain to Moloka'i left. We all got a soda pop out of the machine, and I bought an Original Chex Mix as well. Several odd looking people arrived, then took off on a Pacific Wings Flight. Then it was our turn.
"I've got your seat assignments," announced Yul. "Brenda, you're right by the door; you'll be the last to get on. You two kids, you're in the first row, behind the pilot. Dave and Gloria...row two. Ian and Dave...row three. Erin and Judith, row four."
The extended family of the two unaccompanied minors tearfully hugged the girls goodbye.
"Is THAT our plane?" asked Erin. It looked more like a brand new crop duster than a real plane. According to the Go! Mokulele web page, it was a Cessna Caravan 208B. Hopefully it still is!!!
No shoe and coat removal for the Moloka'i passengers!! We walked right out onto the tarmac...we could have been carrying on any amount of Big Wave Amber Ale and Pinking Shears and Homeland Security would never know. I handed over my little green suitcase and crawled on board.
It was a full flight.
March 2010, Moloka'i, Hawaii.
We drove our little blue rented Dodge past....
"Ian...Ian...did you see that? The container?" Someone had hoodwinked an old shipping container into impersonating a real building. Someone had painted pet hopefuls on the sides as well.
"What?" replied Ian. We drove on through town, locating the Chevron sign above what we thought was the only filling station on the island. We drove on to our hotel...the only hotel on Moloka'i. The hotel was designed in a Polynesian style, and the room was "naturally" air conditioned...we would soon learn how to manage it. Three beds, cable WIFI, bathtub/shower and...
"This beach sucks," hissed Erin. What was the problem? There was sand on it!!! Erin gave me the evil eye.
"See how there's a bank out there? The waves break way out there, not here. The waves that do come in don't have enough energy to bring in sand."
"Well..." I apologized. "I'm sorry. It looks like I'll have to change the schedule altogether. I'll try and get a hotel on Maui...."
"**Why?**," she rolled her eyes. " I'm just really really pissed right now. I have to get used to it."
Mud...between the low and high tide lines, there lay a ribbon of mud.
ECH, the Noble Forester, navigates his way back home from Dallesport...back to his own driveway. But look! There's that white car again, face to face with the old grey Legacy, SWS!!
"We got a young'un here. And she's one of us!!!" ECH notes the Suburu stars, but not the name. COI? SOI? Ah....the Orient! Land of Mystery!
"I am bringing Ian home," she smiles. "And I may stay a while, give you boys all the news from White Salmon..."
Moloka'i, March, 2010: Supper! It was only a short drive on the Kamehameha V Highway from our Polynesian hotel to Kaunakakai. Lots of cafes..should we eat in or out? How was it that we decided we were on our own for dinner? We turned at the Chevron station and then onto Kaunakakai's main street. It hasn't changed since 1957, except for a couple trendy gift shops. Sucked again into the vortex of The Real Hawai'i....but where were the menehune and the lomi lomi? At the grocery store?
Kaunakakai has two grocery stores, a wine and booze store, and numerous small, depauperate convenience stores. The groceries were remodeled back in '79. That was before they moved the coffin case...and its chaotic and sometimes lurid contents...to the present location, leaving a gap in the layers of brittle vinyl tile.
"Wow!" I exclaimed, "look at all the lohi lohis displayed right there in the refrigerator case!" But, as it happened, it wasn't lohi lohi, which I remembered as diced salmon mixed up with tomatoes and onions, sort of like salmon salsa. Rather, it was various pokes, or raw fish mixed up with a couple other things. The store had tuna poke, they had artificial crab poke, they had...but I selected the mussel poke, as well as 3 kinds of fish cakes. Erin selected a huge package of ramen and Ian...ah, Ian found a package of wieners, a loaf of 7 grain bread, and a six pack of passion-orange soda.
Ian and Erin cooked their supper in the kitchenette. The fishy poke and I were exiled to the balcony lanai. I ate as much as I could and then threw it away in the smokers ash can down by the office...
Suddenly the sound of last years winning entry in the Eurovision song contest, Norway's "Fairytail." Ian picked up his cell phone, walked out the door, and that was the last we saw of him!! But we could hear him, off and on.
[Note: the term "lohi lohi" is a play on words. "Lohi" is the Finnish word for "salmon" and "gravilohi" is the term for raw, salted salmon, which is very similar to the salmon you'd find in the Hawaiian dish, lomi lomi]
Molokai, 1947. I am the ghost of future past, and my mother is handing me three photographs of Moloka'i. In one she is standing in front of a Hawaiian Air plane and in the second Daddy George is standing in front of the same Hawaiian Air plane. In the third photo three people none of us know are emerging from the Molokai Seaside Inn. As usual my mother remains closed handed about these things and I never learn the real story.
Molokai, March 2010: "The I Pod Tragedy"
Believe me, did I feel guilty. The whole purpose of traveling to Hawaii again was so that Erin could doze all day on the beach in hot, steamy weather. And here we were, with a beach that sucked. I quickly navigated the World Wide Web, and found that the best beach in the world was on the western side of the island.
"Erin! I've found the greatest beach in Hawai'i! We'll go there tomorrow."
"We did...our children do worse things than we ever did, no no, let me tell you..." a drunken local explained to his wife. They were sitting right below our window on the smokers' bench.
Pacific Time. Erin insisted we run our day on Pacific Time. That meant we could get up early when the 467 local wild cocks crowed, and eat cereal or fish cakes or whatever and then be on route 460....west past the containerized animal shelter, the airport, and...
"Steppe. This looks like eastern Oregon," I whined children, as if they didn't know.
"You missed the turn," they accused. Soon route 206 took a steep uphill and abruptly terminated, depositing us in the old pineapple town of Maunaloa. It didn't take much time to drive 'round it. We figured that it had taken another downward slide recently. An entire resort was boarded up!
"That's really sad," said Erin, as Ian took an award winning photo of a dead frog.
"Hey, there's a restroom over there!" I replied as the kids glared at me. The door opened OK, but it was obvious that there was no running water. Everything was covered with a reddish dust. I remembered back at geology field camp, when the guys had a "worst shitter" competition going. This one would have scored a lot of points.
It didn't take long to make that turn. In another few minutes we saw real condos and a sign that said "Store Open!" We continued on to the first of many amazingly secluded beaches. Tan sand...big surf. I stood and gazed out to sea. There was no sign of Oahu. Whap! The waves broke and I ran, but not fast enough. The legs of my jeans were soaked.
Soon it was apparent that Erin wasn't going to just sit there and sun herself. She built a castle and traced out a heart that said "I [heart] **tony**" Ian drew a heart that said "I [heart] **katie**." Mystery solved, that's the gal with the white Suburu! But mostly Erin dared the surf and ran back and forth to get her fun, while Ian tried to get that one in a million photo of that one in a million wave...WHUNK!!! Here it came...knocking Ian right over! Would it carry him out to sea? He'd lived a full life...what a bad mother I was <clip> Poor Ian struggled to his feet. He was soaked as well as...oh no!!!....his camera and his I-Pod!!!
"The camera's OK, but I don't know about the I-Pod..." he said. "I'll have the spinach pie."
"Could I get the mahi mahi special including the broccoli and two scoops of rice?" I ordered. The sign said PIZZA, but that seemed to be a secondary item.
"Water got under the display and..." he continued, forlorn.
For the next two days, the I-Pod would be stashed in a container of rice. Ultimately it would be left in Hawai'i.
&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&There you were, Duluth, Minnesota, 1980, 14 degrees below zero, the soft swirl of blue plow lite on fine new snow, Minnesota Public Radio, Garrison Keeler even before we knew he had a beard and wore a completely white suit. This is what Garrison said from the Panasonic box:
"Claudia Schmidt is here with us today."
And indeed she is.
The Dalles, Oregan, April, 2010: "It's ***upstairs?***" asks the man with the bicycle. He is dressed as a cyclist, not unusual here in Oregon. "What's in the Farside Room?"
"That's where Lacey's reception is," answers the woman at the ticket table. You look through the doorway and see a tablecloth expertly slung over a table.
"I didn't know this was such a busy place, can I at least **PUT my bike** down here?"
This can go on forever so we'll <clip>
My Escort and I have found chairs at the round table right in front right of the stage, which allows him to excitedly make a cheap camera video recording of "Banana Moon." It is just the right song to explain his unquenchable passion for bananas. Claudia takes a stand...and later a seat!!!...on stage, wearing a striking but perhaps unmatched purple blouse/trouser ensemble. First she plays a couple of guitar songs, and then she says:
"I'll switch to dulcimer now."
I like dulcimers. They remind me of the founding of America, the early patriots who were not afraid to grow their hair so beautifully long, long as a Finnish metal guitarist...and soft hopeful ballads of women so Tied to the Land, to the plantings and harvests that they would never leave it. It makes me think about planting tomatoes soon...
."..no matter what you do, love is an emotion you cannot quench," Claudia says, to paraphrase. I'd picked up a plastic cup of "white wine," actually Chardonney, but I don't want the winery woman behind the table to sneak Cab into my disposable vessel and make my head explode. Anyway, that's why I can't remember the exact words. This is what she quotes next:
"I've been substituting food for sex so long that I can't get into my own pants!!!" Ha ha ha. That's what the song is about, does it make everyone's heart ache?
Claudia is a show-woman, a polished intercalator of her own songs, her own stories about South Africa, and someone else's poetry, all in a voice that is so rich that it drowns mere microphones in fiery, lava-like syrup. The someone-elses-poems are deliveries of sharp words adjacent to rolling tunes with rolling lyrics. The poems are about animals, about mud, and other seemingly mushed up blunt stuff....but the words are needles, shining brilliantly from haystacks.
In the end...and the obligatory Dallesian encore stand up...she comes forth into what would be the high density audience, were it not for the huge round last-minute banquet tables.
"Hmm...wow...she doesn't need a microphone! Her voice is that full...that rich...like chai tea with cream!" I exclaim to myself. What a wonderful voice, what a singer!! Ah...I remember Harry Chapin, when My Escort and I saw him in the then new Duluth auditorium, sitting in the balcony...singing "Mail Order Annie" with no microphone from the faraway stage.
Portland, Oregon, April, 2010: It is just the three of us in the well-appointed Norwegian 203 classroom: Kathy, Dr Tom, and I. It's the end of the line for Kathy and I, unless one of us flunks the course, which is exceedingly unlikely. Dr. Tom is known to stand by the door at exam time with a ruler in one hand and a pictionary in the other, refusing to let anyone out until they come up with the correct answers.
"Since I have just the two of you in here," he begins, "I'll tell you this so it won't suprise you." Tom neatly taps a stack of Kapitel 16 vocabulary sheets on his desk. "You know Gabe, who sits in the back of the room. He's told me that he is having a transgender experience, and wants us to call him Gabriella." I'm jealous, I've always loved the name Gabriella. "The Adventures of Gabriella Gianetta, Coal Geologist and Nordic Language Scholar," played by the voluptuous Sofia Loren.
"I'm not really familiar with transgender experiences," he continues, "...and wonder if either of you can clue me in." I sure can't, aside from having to wear steel toed boots in strip mines. You can't get in to sample or drill without steel toes and a hard hat. As an aside, back in Texas at the Gibson Creek Mine, women were hired preferentially as haul truck drivers, because we were less likely to foolishly do dumb stuff, like drag race the hefty vehicles!
"I've had a few friends who have done this," answers Kathy. "It's had a positive effect; it helped them to clarify things."
Dr Tom seems at peace now...
"And also we have a couple of new students...oh hello Gabriella!!"
Gabriella looks just like any normal Norwegian-American fellow, except that his tiny diamond stud earrings flash a bit too much in the fluorescent light.
"Our new students are from Salem. They are members of a religious group called 'Sons of Svein,' and believe it or not, they worship Norwegians."
"Uh..." Is this a joke? Dr Tom can say almost anything preposterous with a straight face.
"The cult is especially popular in Oceania. But believe it or not, there is a group in Salem!!!"
April 2010, Rockford [Grange], Oregon.
"Hawai'i!" said...um...Keith, the man who does the mailing list for the contra dances. "Where did you go?"
I had to think a moment. "Moloka'i...there are a lot of native Hawai'ians living there. It's great!!!"
"Wow," replied Keith. "Is that the place with the leper colony?"
March 2010, Moloka'i. "The Phallic Stone"
"Mom!" Erin said. "I'd like to visit the Phallic Stone." A quick perusal of my laptop indicated that someone had been doing research on what exactly a phalli'ic stone *is*.
"Sure," I said, hoping we could get some hiking in at the national park. We dove into our little rented Dodge and headed north to the green and reportedly extinct volcanic peaks flourished above us. The road ended in a cul de sac, in a forest dominated by "ironwood" or Casuarina. These trees look like pine, but aren't. They're sort of an invasive, in fact.
We couldn't wait to experience the phallic stone otherwise known as "Ka Ule o Nanahoa." It was only a short, easy hike to the basalt icon, whose masculine form, according to my "Roadside Geology of Hawaii," had been enhanced by human carving.
"Look!" Erin exclaimed. "They've made offerings to it!" Along the top of the phallic basalt lay woven leis of leaves and fruit and...
"There's a joint!!" Erin exclaimed. Someone had put a broad leaf, an ironwood "needle," a rock, and yes, a joint into a coconut bowl and set the bowl down onto the amazing object. Soon the children were posing for funny photos with the monument.
"This site is sacred to the Hawaiian people," the sign read. Oops! Would the Hawai'ian gods rise up in anger, spewing ash and red hot lava half a world away along the Mid Atlantic Ridge? Would the menehunes play jokes on innocent travelers stranded at Gatwick? Who knew? Perhaps Phallic Stones love to make people laugh; perhaps it is blasphemy to think of them seriously.
We turned and walked towards the overlook, strategically placed at the big slide zone that plunged much of Moloka'i into the sea. Later, still miffed at the refusal of anyone to respect the importance of a very large landslide, Pu'u 'Uao dove below Moloka'i and spouted out fire to form a little emergent shelf adjoining the rift. Soon humans would come up with the idea of abandoning victims of Hansen's Disease right here, far below us on the small, verdant shelf. Soon after that, all hell would break loose in the fiery, perceptive eyes of Salmon Princes and Princesses the world over.
Moloka'i, Hawai'i, March 2010: "Lana'i"
"Judith, Erin...you're in the front row. Ian, Dave..." and so on. It is Friday morning, and we're back on the mini plane for Mau'i. But there is one more place we will visit before we return to the Mainland, as Cousin Virginia used to call it.
Lana'i was, in the old days, a vortex of the Dole Pineapple empire. Like Moloka'i, it is accessible by both airplane and passenger ferry. Unlike Moloka'i...well, dunno, Lana'i is still an undefined mystery.
In just a few moments, we will board the ferry at Laihana, on the west coast of Mau'i. Some of us have spent the wait time chatting on our cell phone to our friends back in Oregon, others are looking for a cable for our i pod, and I am touring the harbour area. The largest banyan tree in the world is hosting a sort of street market beneath its copious branches. Just a few feet away, the former jail holds lovely paintings awaiting that special tourist who will pay their bail. And look...there's the oldest hotel on the west coast, re-established as a Best Western!!!! And of course, the little ferry, which will soon be overrun by a girls' sport team. Pick and choose, some look Polynesian, others Norwegian. We choose seats on the sundeck, where the wind ripples the girls' hair and Ian backs up against the railing, hoping that a macho photo will materialize.
"Look! There's a whale!!" someone points. Indeed. As time passes, the curve of the whale's back recedes into the shrinking hills of Mau'i.
After a long period of time, we dock at Manele Bay, unprepared to be more or less disoriented and confused for the next 6 hours. Lunch, just let us eat lunch somewhere other than this upperclass parking lot. We board a shuttle for the old pineapple town of Lana'i City...
"This place looks like eastern Oregon," someone mutters. As usual it's me. But after a few minutes the brown steppe surrenders to bright green lawn. We are at the Incredibly Palatial Manele Bay Resort. This is where we get off, to pay our $10 shuttle fare at the Gift Shoppe. Everyone is very polite, and they even let us back on the shuttle! The vegetation abruptly returns to whatever type of drab steppe they have in Hawai'i and our white van climbs up and up. I think about walking down and down. Soon we are at the Less Palatial Lana'i City. It resembles one of those mountain towns that has been brutally taken over by the US Forest Service. We stroll around a bit, maybe a half a block, until we find a cafe reminiscent of Pedro's Tacos in Hood River.
"I'll have a mahi mahi sandwich," I order.
Hawai'ian Time...that's how it's advertised. Get up when you please, linger a bit at the....
I'm day-dreaming. We're lingering at the The Dalles Fred Meyer day old shelf and suddenly we see it:
"It's a 4 pack of King's Hawaiian Sweet Rolls for 69c!!!" we exclaim, all choked-up. Soon, they will all disappear down our esophaguses!
Lanai'i, Hawaii, March 2010:
We're tapping our foot to Hawai'ian Time.
The young woman at the next table has time to talk the real estate business on a cell phone while threatening voodoo to two toddlers.
"I buy you nice things!" she taps. "Then you try to drink this coke through your ears!"
"I'd like to get back on the shuttle in time to go to the beach," taps Erin.
"The beach is really important to Erin," says Ian.
Finally our lunches come. I photograph some pulled pork. After a few seconds, the cafe closes its doors.
The shuttle schedule is crazy. Its major purpose is to ferry resort guests from the 4 Seasons Manele Bay golf course to the 4 Seasons Lodge at Koele golf course, vice verse, and from there to the ferry and the airport. We are just ghost figures, passing unnoticed through an income level not our own.
"They said they'd pick us up at the Historic Hotel Lanai'i," says Ian smoothly. "There it is!" The van was leaving without us!
"It's only a 10 minute walk to that other resort...that's what the driver said!"
Erin rolls her eyes in skepticism. Nonetheless we stroll as fast as we can, past old pineapple houses and monkey puzzle-style trees, not even sure we are going in the right direction!
"That's probably it!" I pant, pointing at a large country palace....and the shuttle!
"Whoosh!" A guest heaves his golf clubs into the shuttle. All too soon we will say goodbye to the rich, rugged decor of the lodge, leaving behind the sumptuous vegetation for drab steppe. In only a few minutes more, we stand in front of the Luxurious Inn at Manele Bay. What will we do in this paradise for two hours? And how could I have let Erin's dream beach turn to sand?
"Hey...look what they've got in the exercise room!" smiles Ian. "Free Gator-Ade."
"Wow!" I answer.
"And Erin found her beach!" he responds.
"Where?" I query.
"See that terrace?" What a view, looking out across the grass green lawns and sea blue ocean to the rest of Mau'i County! "Down there, beyond those chairs."
Down and beyond are relative terms. I pass the pool and the private luau area and the sign gently warning ordinary tourists against pilfering the Resort's beverage de jour. And there is
Erin...racing the wind and the surf on the tan sand beach!
The supermarket cashier eyed the slight but handsome man in line ahead of me. Then she eyed the case of Henry Weinhardt's Hefeweizen Lager on the belt.
"Do you have some form of picture ID?" she asked.
"Oh no," I muttered. The boy was 30 if he was a day. But he was very tolerent, as well as having a bit of wickedness up his sleeve.
"Right-O." He flipped a white plastic card out of his wallet. "This is a UK drivers license."
The cashier twisted it up and over and finally called the manager as if it were some unidentified exotic vegetable like collards.
"I don't think we can take that," said the manager. "Do you..."
"How about this?" asked the customer calmly.
"Yeah! That'll work." What was it? We will never know.
Lana'i, Hawai'i, March 2010:
In due time Ian, Erin, and myself arrived back at the palatial Ferry Dock at Manele Bay. Not much happening there. A car drove up and parked, and maybe another, and another....coul be to pick up their friends and family. It was the last ferry back to Lana'i for the day. Some people unloaded coolers. Erin, who had found a hat on the beach, walked out onto a short stone break water. A catamaran named Lea Kai yawned in its sheltered water...Ah...Hawai'i time!
"Where are you from?" a couple asked us. Obviously we weren't locals, or they'd know us.
"Do you know where Portland is...in Oregon. We live in The Dalles which is..." began Ian.
"The Dalles! That's beautiful country! I went to a meeting in Portland a couple years ago and drove up the Gorge to The Dalles!"
The little ferry slid into view, docked, and began to disgorge its passengers. Some were pulling wagons with coolers, others carried bags of rice over their shoulders.
"You can get a lot of stuff here on the island, but not rice like that," our new friend explained. Then it was our turn to board.
"You can sit on top but you'll have to sit inside," commanded the boatman. "The best place is down in the lounge." We climbed the stairs and sat right behind the pilot. Then we were off to Mau'i!....WHUMP....!!! Maybe.
"Your grandfather Lyle...in World War II he was in a boat that almost turned over...they lost several men overboard!!!" I said calmly.
"Is it always like this?" someone asked our new friend....WHUMP!!!
"Usually. The waves pick up in the afternoon.
What was this, then, lyin' on the sidewalk? A page from the The Dalles Chronicle, sportin' a photo of the "Almost Traditional" band, Gaelica. They'd be playin' here at the The Dalles Wahtonka High School...yesterday evening!! But who were they and why did they charge so much? I'd never even heard of them. And you could get five German Power Metal bands for that price. And oh no they were on the same night, as "How We Escaped From Norway During World War II" in Portland...Oh well...nonetheless...
The Dalles, OR, May, 2010: "Gaelica"
It's rare for me to walk into a concert venue where I am one of the younger people there, but yeah, here I am. Luckily my hair is naturally white, so I fit right in. I stroll up to the front row, ask permission from the wife of the older man who is sitting next to her but is currently invisible, and sit down. Soon he reappears.
"It's great to be sitting here next to two beautiful women...haw haw haw...don't get up just because I sat down!"
"I have a front row seat," I affirm jokingly. The auditorium is almost full of mature adults and a few young'uns. I feel lucky to get this seat.
Imagine this. The woman who does the booking for the The Dalles Concert Series heard the Olympia band at a NW booking audition conference. The sound of Gaelica's oboe playing "Shenandoah" melted her ears....so she booked them, instead of maybe Flogging Molly, or Circled by Hounds. A couple of the musicians, for instance the oboe player Ingrid and the new Cello player Jerry...whom they'd got off of Craig's List...has classical training. The woman at the far left, Diane, au contraire plays a wide spectrum of those bluegrass instruments that everyone makes fun of...she's just picked up the banjo...and what a beautiful banjo! And the guitar player, Giles, is wearin' a kilt!!!
It is an unprecedented move for a folk band. The usher lady has handed out a program listing the songs and tunes. What a basket of old favorites! "Shady Grove," "The Shan Van Vocht," "Fear a Bhata," "Thousands Are Sailing,""The Water Is Wide." Ye'd think it's Planxty himself, come to order a couple of pints of Salmon Prince Stout at one of th' new brew pubs. Where is my Ron Kavana? "They thought the French would come rescue them..." jests the band.
And a few originals as well. The cello player says, "This is the first time I've talked on stage! I love Craig's List, where I got a Black Cat." Cats are supposed to be friendly and cuddly, but this one...something was wrong with it. We started out with high hopes, but in the end it tried to murder me. This tune is called "The Black Cat."
"What happened to the cat?" some smart ass in the audience asked.
"It went...uh... elsewhere," answered the cellist, and then proceeded with a cute, whimsical, but abstract piece.
"Oh, no the microphone's popping, they need to wrap it in styrofoam or something!" I think, rollin' th' eyes. But "They're really good.." the consensus murmered. "I like that guy playing the cello." "They have this kind of music on the radio...but I have pinochle at six thirty, so I miss half of it."
Ahhh......What would happen if Irish favorites were played all the time in the grange halls and wineries and senior centers?
April 2010, The Dalles, Oregon. "Social Skills"
Erin sighed. "Mom, you have poor social skills. But I suppose you know that already." Of course I do.
My assignment had been to go pick up Erin at Lilian's birthday party in Mosier. And Porpoise's boyfriend Gus. Who lives out in the orchards far above Mill Creek. Erin hadn't said anything about Gus, but she had a plan in mind.
"They'll pick him up at the Catholic school [St Mary's]," told me.
After 15 or 20 minutes, we arrived at St Mary's...and there was the Gus Family SUV!!!
"Are you going to introduce me?!?!?!" asked Ech, the noble Forester, excitedly.
"Um...Ech...I'm sorry I don't know that car," I replied. I didn't know Gus' parents either, except for the fact that his grandparents were in the Orchard Racket, as my father would have put it. Durn successful at it: they've got a wine cellar!
A slim, middle aged man emerged from the SUV and motioned me to "roll" down the window. He stretched out his hand.
"I just wanted to meet *Erin's Mother*. I'm Gus' father!!!" What had Erin been saying about me.
"Hi," I replied. "I'm Judith!" I mildly shook his hand. Glad he didn't try to hug me!!!
"Heard you went to Moloka'i!" he went on.
"Yes, it was really interesting." Moloka'i had already been a conversational challenge. Just how much did the bank teller, the gym desk person, and the old friend in the organic soup aisle really want to know about Moloka'i?
"I just got back from there. I work there, you know." This was the trip up. If he works on Moloka'i, why would he live here? Is he a orthodontist or a veterinarian? Had he been attending a convention in Las Vegas or in Europe. And could he have really gotten us a free visit to the Leper Colony, if Erin had just known we were going to The Friendly Isle? If she had just told him...
[Pause] "Mmmm..." I began. But he had me beat.
"Uh...It was nice meeting you," Papa Gus added.
"Yeah, you too!" I ended.
Portland, Oregon, May 2010:
Ah...Norwegian!! Only a few weeks more of our class, of the series of classes that began in 2008. What will we do after this? Now that we know each other, we should all take a Field trip to Norway...or Sweden or Finland...but that's never happened. Right now, though the children are talking about volcanic ash and who is stuck in Spain...wow! Spain!
"I'm afraid to go to Norway now...I'm afraid I'll be stuck there and can't get back."
"Without air travel...! But someone did that...rode on the Siberian Railway. Took him weeks but he got there. Everything's the same. Nothing but endless taiga."
"You could starve to death, too. Food is a real problem."
"But there' always some Russian woman who comes on board who wants you to try her pickles."
"Sounds like Portland...wanting to share their pickles," said Gab/rielle softly giggling. Then s/he looked at me with his/her coy blue eyes and added. "Oh, sorry!"
I leaned over and asked "What? I can't hear you!"
"It's like Portland...someone always wanting to show you their pickles...their sausages."
"Uh..." I replied. It took me a moment to figure out what this meant. Did I talk about men that way?
The class got down to business. For instance, there's the distinction between i and på
Jeg skal være i Norge i seks uker.
I will be in Norway FOR six weeks. But...
Hun har IKKE vært i Norga på seks år.
I have NOT been in Norway FOR six years.
Not even Google Translate knows about that one.
A couple of hours later, class was over. Dr. Tom looked over at Gabe/rielle and said
"That's an interesting tattoo you have." It was easy to see because s/he was wearing a blue striped tank top.
"It's a phoenix. I had my whole back done." Gabe/rielle pulled up his/her shirt so that his/her entire back was visible.
"Looks like some snakes!"
"And a bird!"
Gabe's thin white body, sculpted from pure marble, seemed out of place in the history library.
"They represent the two sides of my sexuality," he explained.
"Wow, I've never done anything like that," commented Linda. "All I've ever done is my ears. I had my ears pierced."
Delft china, perhaps...
Small Quaker Meetings have the memory of an elephant.
"Say, I heard from Dave Mendenhall the other day. He seems to really enjoy being retired from..."
"Retired? Is Dave retired? I thought he had just graduated from Reed. Remember that new VW Bus his parents gave him for graduation? He put flower decals all over it?"
Time flies. But sometimes it flies in the wrong way.
"I can't begin to imagine how her parents feel," begins Marilyn from the hour of silence. How do you feel when your child commits suicide? I try to remember who the parents are, and what the girl...about my son's age...looked like. The story unfolds like a rose, into things I have no way of knowing, back into...
"Ian!" I picked him up in my arms and pointed. "Ian, look, it's the moooooon! It's the Texas moooooon" shining in the dark sky.
Richmond, Indiana, August 2009: Cousin Michael shakes his head at my whining.
"You don't look like your father, Judy. You remind me of Granny..." He and I both know that I am the reincarnation of Hazel Reid.
Across town, Bob Gennett is rising from the grave at the intimation of his name. Between the puffs of pipe smoke escaping from his ears, he can hear everything we say. In only a few minutes, he will waft his way, smoke propelled, to the home he was born in, to the home in which his grand-daughter is getting married to an electrical estimator from Chicago.
"Haw haw! Your grandmother could never leave those gal-derned graves alone. Always crawling through poison ivy and cholera victims to write the names down for those old gals in the DAR. I could never figger out what anyone wanted with all that dern junk. Well, now she can see all the graves she wants. Floating through the cemetery at night with her fiddle, trying to play it like a harp. By the way, Punkin', that wedding dress looks right nice on Emma!"
Sherman Co., Oregon, May 2010: And here we were, ECH and I, flying up the road to Moro.
"We're going to Moro today," I pointed out. ECH rolled his headlights. But, oh! the excitement of driving through the steep curves of sage and dry grasses, and then over gently rolling hills lined by young green wheat, still naive of its final fate....
I parked ECH the noble Forester by the entrance, being careful not to drive over anyone. I dismounted, walked over to the middle section, and aimed my son's old camera. Please change the battery. I walked back to ECH.
"A lot of these graves say 'Here lies a Woodman of the World,'" he mentioned. "What do you suppose that means?" I didn't know, but it sounded cute. I walked back into the dead, and began to record their labels. Snap!
My own ancestors, at least most of them, died old. However, a short walk through the Moro Cemetery is enough to convince an optimist that the world is a tough place to live. The plots are a lively playpen of lambs and doves and tiny angels. Young men and women, who these days would be enjoying a college education, were laid low in the cold clay from influenza or childbirth or falling off a horse. ("In Memory of My Beloved Wife Aged 19Yrs. 3Mos. 22 Dys.") The boys of 1916...the ones who lived...were shipped off to Europe or the Pacific. If they were lucky they carried home a brass plate to mark a place for a flag. Whump! I tripped over an American Legion thingy and struggled for my balance. Face to face with Buddha.
The voyage back down to 84 was one of astounding beauty for such a harsh land. Field after field of green wheat, brown earth, and white wind generators. Hundreds of toothpick tall wind
generators in gentle but disciplined rows...
Your grandmother...it liked to got me...is having a heck of a time here in the cemetery. Every spirit she finds, she listens and writes a whole goddang story about them." Bob Gennett's form shimmered in the powerful juxtaposition of 'Bama vocabulary and two years at Harvard Law School. "She did a prize winning interview with Levi Coffin. Who'd a thunk it? By the way, punkin', she says to say hello to her reincarnation." Then off he flew!!!
May 2010, Parkdale, Oregon You wonder why people do it, get buried in the same arid wheatland that they lived in, if only briefly! Fate, no doubt. You could just as well be at 40 miles east, in the Hood River Valley, watching the orchards blossom.
Parkdale is about 20 minutes south of Hood River. The cemetery just north of it is officially known as "Upper Valley," but the obituaries call it "Parkdale." The drive up...or down...there is very pretty, especially now when the orchards are blooming. To your right there's a vineyard that wasn't here last time you drove this way. And further on is the charming schoolhouse that June and Steve lived in, before they moved to Skagway. The Hood itself is calm now, not like the year that the bridge washed out, and a landslide covered the tracks of the Mount Hood Railway.
Parkdale Cemetery is hidden in orchards; you'd never see it but for the road sign. Turn left and drive past the humble migrant lodging, into the rows and rows of apples and/or pears. There are over 600 graves here, row on row with the same cadence as the trees. I park the Forester by a stack of white plastic fruit crates. "Stones must be flush with the ground." There are only a few children resting here, and probably not many cholera victims. Most of the flat stones have pictures engraved in them: Mount Hood, a man fishing from a boat, a horse, an elk, a saw and hammer, a train, an elk and a tree and Mount Hood, a plow, spruce trees, pears and cherries, pears and apples, pears, flowers, crosses, a cardinal, a waterfall. And look here: "I did it my way"!!!
May 2010, The Dalles, Oregon: "Fire Chasers"
Deep Compelling Romance has taken over here, at least as far as Ian is concerned. Old enough to vote, old enough to do anything he likes, within reason, like working on his drivers licence without Mama and her bereft-of -automatic-transmissioned Forester "ECH."
"***catie*** and I practiced backing up!!!" Ian announced yesterday. "'SAI' had a great time!!!" The more Subarus the merrier. In fact Suburu is the Cascadia National Automobile!!! Three Suburus in every driveway!!! Wa-hoo!!
The next day:
"Good Morning! Have any interesting dreams last night?"
"I had three of them," answered Ian.
"I dreamed that a representative of Friskies Cat Food came to my door and said I'd won a prize," laughed ***katie***. "I got to come up with a new name for their catfood!" ***catie*** has a cat named Max or Rex who has no bones and 12 toes and sits on its hind legs most of the time.
"Hey look guys," I said looking out the dining room window. "It's a fire truck!! And look...there's an ambulance!!"
"And it stopped at the crack house!!" continued ***catie***.
"Across the street? That's not a crack house."
"OK, the house across the street where all those wonderful people live," she offered with a sigh. If you remember, the house is sort of a half way house..."Hey Ian, let's go watch them. That's what they do back home in White Salmon!"
Time marched on. The two children were still outside, peering through the fence at Mid Columbia Fire and Rescue.
"What's happening," I said.
"They brought someone out on a stretcher," replied ***catie** with keen interest.
But soon the vehicles left.
"Who was it?" I asked. No one knew who any of those guys were...except maybe "The Guy Who They Handcuffed," and "The Guy Who Always Walks Around With His Shirt Off."
"It was one of the regulars..." ***katie*** assured me. "They had him walking around, so he must be OK."
Northwest Folklife, Seattle, Washington, May 2010: "Dog Days"
"This is Ronda. We're going out to dinner...," John the Folksinger tells me. "Can I invite Judith to come along?" he asks her. Ronda is an old friend of John's and her hair is the same slowly whitening color as mine. The younger woman with her is fourteen and very pretty, with light brown hair and Sami-shaped eyes. Their dog is a maltese, a shaggy white puffball the size of a loaf of bread.
"Sure!" the older woman replies. And all five of us are off, riding in an unusually quiet Outback to a cozy Greek restaurant somewhere in The Emerald City. Suddenly the Greek Cafe pops into view!!!
"Ugh!" exclaims Ronda. "There's no place to park. Here, you all get out; I'll find one somewhere."
"Table for Four!" The SS Greece is about the size of a rowboat, and the passengers are packed in solid! We peruse the menu: moussaka, stuffed grape leaves, spanakopita, Little Baby Sheep...and soon Ronda arrives to peruse as well.
"I was really lucky! I caught someone pulling out. Otherwise...." She carefully tucks her black coat underneath the table. "It's too cold for him in the car," she explains.
"I'll have this cheap white wine here," I order, "and spanakopita." Everyone else orders too, except for Little Woof Woof, hidden in his carrier. As it turns out Baby Sheep is very popular amongst my colleagues.
Then the unthinkable happens!!
"He barked," mentions the daughter blandly. I didn't hear any woof woofs! But Ronda is busy befriending the folks jammed in at the next table, so they won't squeal on us. They don't squeal, they just laugh.
After an interesting drive...
"Mom, I'm not going to roll down and ask that cab driver where we are!!"...
I arrive back at my beautiful hotel with the charming view of various condos. No one is there. I walk down to the desk and buy a Payday. No one continues to be there. I walk down and buy a strawberry ice cream bar. No one...
"Hi Mom!" greets Erin. "We found a puppy in the middle of the road!"
The tan and white daredevil puppy was playing with the identical puppy beyond the closet mirror. Playing and squeaking and scratching...scratching...scratching...
"Maybe he has fleas," I suggested. No...you can see the fleas...
Otherwise the puppy was really cute, active, well fed. Could we keep her?
"So you did stop at the desk...?" I asked. Could she be part pit bull? What did a pit bull puppy look like?
"Yeah, they gave me that pet sign on the door, and this number, but I have to wait till tomorrow to call. Do dogs eat popcorn?" Scratch scratch.
The girls...Erin and her friend Lilian...finally got her to go to sleep on the bathroom floor. Oops!
"Can I take a bath?" I asked.
"Only if you want to do it in the dark."
The quiet was premature. The puppy whined all night. In the morning, she cuddled up against Lilian and fell asleep.
"This number is automated," complained Erin. "They're talking about looking for signs in the neighborhood and this address to take the dog...I have no idea where this is. Why don't we just take her home and look for a shelter there?"
"Home At Last is really full," countered Lilian.
"Can I have some money for dog food?" asked Erin.
Poop. As soon as the girls left to buy dog food, the puppy pooped. I scraped it up and flushed it down the toilet. Ugh. In fact, there had been several pooping incidents before I woke up. Would Old Kitty Freddie have a nervous breakdown if Poopy showed up at the house? Where would we build a fence?
"We couldn't find a harness at the grocery store," reported Erin. The puppy was so cute in that backpack! "She'd slip out of a collar. Hey! Don't chew your tail off!!! Somewhere like Pet Co! They'd have one. Let me look it up on the internet."
"That's a long way from here..." I suggested. "Good grief...look at this traffic!!!" I5 was bumper to bumper, just like the Greek cafe last night. But finally we exited, took a wrong turn and <clip> ended up at PetCo and its 5 spot parking lot.
"Get out," I instructed, "and I'll find a place to park..."<clip> Finally, I saw someone pulling out up past the movie theater. "9th and 45th..." that's the message I left on Erin's voice mail. I begin to walk, passing the Spanish Tapas cafe and the theaters and the $4 an hour parking lot.
"Can I help you? Looking for something in particular?" asked the Petco employee.
"Yeah! My daughter and her friend. But...uh...where are the dog collars?" Right up in the front, but where were Lilian and Erin? I walked out the door, could they have gone next door to have their ipods repaired?
"MOM!!!" <clip> "MOM!!!" <clip> "MOM!" I heard. They were right there by the big sign. But where was Puppy?
"A lady in Petco said she'd take the puppy. She said she'd take it to her veterinarian."
"Was this a store employee or a customer?" I asked as if a heavy dog house were being lifted from my chest.
"It was a customer. She looked like a student, and she was in there buying some stuff. She asked where we got the puppy and we said we found it..."
"Hey...do you want to eat at that Spanish restaurant?" I asked. Might as well make use of that parking spot.
"There's something wrong about this Spanish ham," commented Erin. "It looks like bacon and tastes like cardboard." I breathed a sigh. The girls were back at what they did best.
"Where is everyone?" I ask Erin's phone. An hour of pulling up ivy, and only a poor old cat is in the house to say "Thanks for your dedication to The Environment." In 15 or so moments, she calls back.
"We were garage saleing, but now I am going to hang out with *My Friends* The Danish Twins. Ian and *katie* went to their play ["Playboy of the Western World"]." *katie* gets to slap Ian on the face in the last act.
"Uh...what about Lilian?"
"Lilian went home."
"Uh...thanks. I guess I have to find something to eat..uh...alone."
Erin's phone shrugs.
All that time you spent...watching them with one eye...gone, drifted...
May, 2010, Folk Life, Seattle, Washington.
It was a relief to get rid of that continuously scratching puppy, but now I was wondering alone, aimlessly, past the food booths and licensed buskers and hug vendors at the Seattle Center. Should I get fried tofu or crab cakes or...then I heard it! An English button box! Fiddle! An accordion! A whistle. Yes indeed, it was an English Dance Band! Morr-iss!!! And I was the only person listening, except for a couple Morris dancers...
A middle aged woman near me pulled out a couple spoons and tapped them at various intervals. Other people began to gather, listening, watching.
"We're from Vancouver, British Columbia," the whistler said in British. He sang a bit in British as well. Who were they? I moved over a bit and leaned against the wall. The others formed a circle. And...oh!...across from me a young man...he was 20 if he were a day, with long brown hair, a weird little beard, only an oval really, and a black Amon Amarth t-shirt. Amon Amarth is a Swedish Viking metal band, and you probably don't want to look them up on You Tube. His eyes twinkled wide like a child's, amused and amazed as he watched the British Columbians play.
The music paused. Enough of this, time to go somewhere else. But the young Amon Amarth fan caught my eye.
"I love your Korpiklaani shirt," he told me. Actually it was a hoodie fleece jacket.
"I really like them," I answered. "I've seen them twice!"
"Are they the band that has thousands of instruments on stage?" He laughed.
"No, not that many," I answered.
Freddie "Fredmeister" Fraidycat, 15, of The Dalles, died yesterday from kidney failure complicated by euthanasia. He was born sometime around 1995 in Bryan-College Station, Texas, at the KEOS Radio Transmitter Site, one of several kittens of Tabby Feral and an unknown male. Ms. Feral was impounded by Animal Control, but the station engineer managed to save the litter. Despite the fact that he already owned nine cats, he graciously took them into his home, housing the orphans in the bathtub for nine months. The Day-Gennett family finally agreed to take two of the kittens until the engineer "found a good home for them."
The two "Fraidycat" kittens, Freddie and Katie, soon settled into the sumptuous luxury of a 14 room Tudor in Bryan's Hysterical District. Suffering from Feral Feline Faucet Syndrome (FFF), they were for the most part reserved. Freddie in particular enjoyed tearing apart geckos and the occasional mouse. In 2000, they moved with their human family to Oregon in "Red Van," an especially genial and valiant Ford Windstar. This was Fraidycat's greatest adventure. It included hiding under the front seat for hours, sniffing out a couple motel rooms, and barfing up a hairball on the Idaho map as he laid watch on the dashboard. They spent the last decade of their lives in The Dalles. Katie passed away last year of the same ailment, although, as the veterinarian put it, "Mama Kitty was eating her special moist kitty food and then she just laid down and died."
The "Fredmeister" enjoyed hiding from guests, being brushed, being "biffed" by his sister, running down the hall, sitting in the sun, whining for people in bed trying to go to sleep to rub his ears, eating cat chow, and sitting in a warm bathtub.
Fred is survived by his human family and was preceded in death by his mother, his sister, and probably his brother Jesus "Hay-soos" Fraidycat of San Antonio, whom he enjoyed texasting on his I-Pawd.
Oh snap! I can never remember my dreams any more!!! How about you? But this one has crawled out of the shallow abyss of last week:
I am a mighty whirlwind, a round fluid ball kicking up dust through the sageland of Guterson's over the mountains Cascadia. Then I become like dough...you might say "doughier"...and settle for rolling through the coulees of Alberta, through the wheatfields of Sherman County, until I take human form, crawling like a cat whining, purring to be scratched as I nuzzle back and forth over the curves of two lovers in bed. I sit, curled up, backed into an Icelandic maze of basalt, Dimmu Borgir, that's how the band got its name, from that maze. There are beams above me of juniper and ponderosa pine, and I am hunched up, becoming taller, piercing the beams with the top of my head.
"By the way," the narrator asks, "Did you find a new girlfriend for Svein?"
"No, not Svein. For Hakon," I reply. As far as I can tell, this is Norwegian for "Man who used to plow my in-laws drive-way."
"But not Svein," the narrator probes.
"It was not my place to do so," I reply.
The Dalles, OR, June 2010: The arrival of a Thai restaurant in The Dalles has provided The Ladies of the Red Hat with a new high class eatery, complete with black square plates...suave indeed! I'm pinned here against the art-bejeweled wall as a sign that I can climb under the table to get out in case The Subduction Zone Earthquake occurs.
"I've never eaten Thai food before," begins the stout newbie across the table. "My granddaughter decided to become a vegetarian and she got one of those Tofurkeys for Thanksgiving..."
"Ooh..those things are awful!" comments one gal.
"I've never heard anything good about them," cringes another.
"After that, she had enough of tofu. She added poultry to her diet!" says the new woman.
Suddenly, a couple more new women arrive, both of whom are African Americans. Black folks are pretty much a curiosity here, as opposed to Samoans or Norskies. As far as I knew, no one has ever even seen these particular African American ladies before; I know I haven't. One of them is seated on a maroon colored electric mobility device with two oxygen tanks attached to the back. These are, in turn, connected to the woman by clear plastic tubing. Third level of seating indeed! The Queen Mum quickly takes action.
"Let's get another table here so she can sit at the end!!" she commands the waitress. Yes, your liege.
"I just don't know what to get...there are so many things!" the woman beside me says amiably. This is called "Small Talk," and it is a major problem to people who are confused by meaninglessness.
"When my husband and I were here, we split a pumpkin curry," I mention.
"Curry...was that hot?"
"I had steam coming out of my ears." She shakes her head. "Pad Thai. You should get Pad Thai," I advise. The next thing I know, the waitress is delivering Pad Thai to both her and the Queen Mum."
"Yes, noodles, but also they have...um...egg and shrimp...and..."
"Ours are different, though," explains the woman beside me, who, by the way, colors her hair blond and drives a flashy red sports car.
"I hate shrimp," the queen mum confides.
"And I hate tofu," confides the sports car lady. "This is really good with the peanut sauce."
"Hm..." I answer.
"Have a bite!!"
I shove my fork into an uneaten portion and then bite into a chunk of chicken!! Oops
Soon the Queen Mum is placing the birthday cake on the table. Soon she will cut it and we will all get free dessert!
"We have a very special birthday this month! Let's sing happy birthday to June!" The lady at the other end of the table who is having trouble with her knee pulls out her guitar and begins floating chords down towards the cake.
"Here's a present for you, June," says someone.
"And here's a card!" says another.
"Why am I getting this cake and all this stuff?" asks June.
"Because you're 87!" says the Queen Mum.
"I am? I guess it sort of sneaks up on you!" Everyone laughs. "My mother-in-law is younger than I am," she snickers under her breath. Ah yes, I remember that story!
"How are the cherries coming," asked the teller at Columbia River...oops...Columbia State Bank. "When are you going to start picking?"
"We're starting to pick Monday," answered the customer.
"You think you'll have a good crop?" asked the teller.
"Yeah, maybe," shrugged the orchardist.
A seagull waddles heavily, studying the battered Over Nite X-Press truck sitting illegally in the defunct Albertson's parking lot. Farther on, a red pilot car with it's sign down loiters there as well. Down by the Dollar Store, a AAA Approved tow truck and a gold colored Hummer from Washington pass each other on the speed bumps. And inside of Grocery Outlet a Hispanic Woman walks the aisles with four pre-schoolers hanging on the basket.
"Do you have any cream?" she asks with a heavy accent.
"Do you mean sour cream?" asks the Cheese Department Manager excitedly. That's how they are there at Grocery Outlet.
Outside of my house, a truck loaded with plastic fruit crates rumbles down the street.
This summer I have started pulling ivy on the steeper parts of the flood plain. What a challenge! One minute you're swearing at blackberry thorns and the next you've completely slid into a nest of wild rose. Behind the garage, though, it's all basalt rip-rap, which hasn't been visible the past few years due to a hostile takeover by Hedera Helix. It looks lush even in winter, but basalt looks pretty good too, as far as invasives go.
Fwap!! Plonk!! Splash!! As I pull on a 20' rope of ivy, my bright blue American-made ivy snippers jump out of my lap and bounce down the jagged basalt boulders and into the water at a place known to the little elven yard people as Snuggie Bay. The snips could be somewhere awful like a 2000' crevasse on Mount Hood, but I'm not optimistic. I climb down to the little mini-cliffs surrounding Snuggie Bay, and lower myself onto a water eroded pre-riprap blob of mafic volcanic rock. Then I reach down into the water. The snippers are just close enough to get my fingers on them, to push them over and pull them out of the water. Whew!! But wait. How do I get out of here? Can I reach in my jeans pocket to call Erin or 911 or both?
Outside, a truck loaded with wooden fruit crates lumbers down the street...
The Dalles, OR, June 2010:
"How was the soccer game last night?" I asked. Erin had been calling friends until she found something to do, or at least someone to hang out with.
"It was OK," she replied, with a lift at the end.
"Did you know anyone there but Keenan?" You may remember Keenan as the class Viking.
"No...they were a bunch of Mexicans." She paused. "You know, I thought they wouldn't like white people, but they did! But the Mexicans were making fun of the Mexican Mexicans." The Mexican Mexicans were in town to pick cherries.
"They'd say stuff like 'You better watch your cell phone or they'll steal it.'"
From: Judith Gennett <email@example.com>Subject: bday
The Dalles, Oregon, June 2010:
"I'm expecting you to take me out to dinner," said Ian.
"Yeh! *Catie* too?"
"Catie too?" Ian asked *Catie.*
And so on. Why not? Ian would be 21. Old enough to become a wind generator technician, climbing his way up to fame and fortune. It's a long climb, I hear.
"Ian!" I said shyly. "Here's your present!" Would he like it? My friends at college gave me a bottle of Creme de Menthe...
"Oh wow neat!" he replied, peeling off a couple of Andys from off the cylinder.
"You better give that to me," suggested *Catie.*
"And...what's this? Syrah? What is that...red or white?"
"Red," I said. Isn't it odd that drinking alcohol is the big deal about turning 21?
"You'd better give that to me," suggested *Catie."
"And this plastic glass, look...it doubles as a cap! Patent Pending New Zealand...and wow! what's this? What's the writing on the wrapper?"
"It's my playlist for The Raggle Taggle Gypsy," I explained.
"This is nothing like the case of wine you sent Emma," Ian said.
"Oh yeah..." It had been so long! "From Maryhill."
"Fwap!" went the Italian flag at the entrance to Romol's Ristorante. Hit in face by the curse of Anita DeMonella. It had started up the week before, at St Peters Cemetery when I was backing up to take a photo of an illegible ledger stone. "Fwap!!" I tripped backwards over Ted "Sacco" Vanzetti's headstone. I could hear her little elvish whispers..."Take Italian!!! Take Italian!!!" But would Anita and her whispers and yells be inherited by all her descendents?
The Dalles, Oregon, June 2010:
"I'm expecting you to take me out to dinner," said Ian.
"Yeh! *Catie* too?"
"Catie too?" Ian asked *Catie.*
And so on. Why not? Ian would be 21. Old enough to become a wind generator technician, climbing his way up to fame and fortune. It's a long climb, I hear.
"Ian!" I said shyly. "Here's your present!" Would he like it? My friends at college gave me a bottle of Creme de Menthe...
"Oh wow neat!" he replied, peeling off a couple of Andys from off the cylinder.
"You better give that to me," suggested *Catie.*
"And...what's this? Syrah? What is that...red or white?"
"Red," I said. Isn't it odd that drinking alcohol is the big deal about turning 21?
"You'd better give that to me," suggested *Catie."
"And this plastic glass, look...it doubles as a cap! Patent Pending New Zealand...and wow! what's this? What's the writing on the wrapper?"
"It's my playlist for The Raggle Taggle Gypsy," I explained.
"This is nothing like the case of wine you sent Emma," Ian said.
"Oh yeah..." It had been so long! "From Maryhill."
"Fwap!" went the Italian flag at the entrance to Romol's Ristorante. Hit in face by the curse of Anita DeMonella. It had started up the week before, at St Peters Cemetery when I was backing up to take a photo of an illegible ledger stone. "Fwap!!" I tripped backwards over Ted Vanzetti's headstone. I could hear her little elvish whispers..."Take Italian!!! Take Italian!!!" But would Anita and her whispers and yells be inherited by all her descendents?
Oregon, June 2010: Time flows like new green vines of English ivy down a hill you thought was just mud and rock. One moment...
"Mom, I'm moving out, I thought I told you," said Ian. Dang! You watch them grow for years and years just waiting till they can go with you to 21 and over shows and wham, they find
someone more trendy to move in with.
It wouldn't have mattered for this though, last week Ian was still twenty and ECH and I were barreling down the freeway alone to see one of Ian's favorite bands, Tinariwen. Every twenty or so minutes I almost turned around and went back to my cozy home...that's why I buy "will call" tickets, or in this case, one "will call" ticket. I also paid extra to get a *seat* in the balcony, as sort of a reward. I found a parking place right across Burnside from the Roseland and parallel parked for the first time in five years. I left my sharpies and other weapons in the car. But when I walked in the door, the metal detector was shut down. All they wanted was...
"Can I see your ID?" asked a middle aged woman. That's how they are at the Roseland, extra careful. They stamped my wrist for *re-entry* and I climbed up to the balcony. An usherette showed me to my seat!!!
"Do you make cosmos?" I asked the bartender. She glared at me.
"Black Butte Porter, then..."
The first band was actually a "dj," not the kind that I am, but rather someone who plays vinyl or maybe CDs without saying anything. After that was "The Dusu Mali Band," an African
fronted and flavored jazzy band. They seemed pretty good to me, and I enjoyed watching a woman who looked like a Manga Lhasa Apso dance out in the audience.
"Cuba libra," I sighed. The bartender nodded her head.
Would Tinariwen look and sound like I thought? Sure, only better. I settled back into my seat, and watched the dance floor fill up before me. Tinariwen, with its colorful desert costumes, occasional goofy-ness and its repetitive, hypnotic rhythms and tunes...
The woman in white swayed and clapped on stage and battled a constantly unwinding headscarf. She was the one who makes those wonderful high-pitched bubble sounds.
The vocals that I couldn't understand...would subtitles be useful? Or would it be counterproductive?
You can just sit there, mesmerized, hypnotized like me, or stand up and clap, or you can sway or dance any way you like...
"Look! There's a raccoon on the patio!" says Erin. "I wonder if he's been eating the catfood!?"
Sure enough, thlittle bandit, after giving us a curious glare through the dining room window, picked up a chunk of Friskies, examined it, and commenced to gobble down the whole bowl.
Romel's, June 2010: "Table for...five," guessed the hostess-waitress at Romel's Italian Ristorante, known for its stupendous mural which includes a flat but still life-like painting of Michaelangelo's David. We were led back to a rustic table for six: Ian the birthday boy, *katie* his fast-becoming-a-Siamese-twin girlfriend, Erin, Father and Mother, and the invisible but influential spectre of Ian's great great great great grandmother Anita DeMonella. She couldn't wait to cause trouble, now that Ian was 21!
"Romel's not Italian, he's really Bulgarian," she began. Seated to my right, on top of my purse, I could hear her through the ear that had plugged up when I washed my hair the day before. I shrugged. Bulgarian gnocci...who cared?
"Would anyone like something to drink besides water?" asked the waitress. Sure enough! Erin and Ian both wanted Limonades. *Katie* wanted an ice tea. My perpetual escort wanted water just so we all knew this was blantantly immoral...why eat at Romel's Ristorante when Taco Time was just a block from home?
"---- --- ---," the waitress asked, lifting her eyes at me. I beckoned her with my forefinger.
"My ear's plugged up," I explained over the high pitched roar of Anita DeMonella, who had crawled inside my ear. "I'd like a glass of house white wine."
"Dry or sweet?"
"A Pinot Grigio?"
What luxury!!! And Anita couldn't wait!!
Soon we had our drinks, and the waitress solicited dinner orders.
"I'll have the strawberry salad special and a cup of minestrones soup," ordered my escort. I rolled my eyes.
"I'll have gnocci," ordered Erin.
"I'll have the same thing," I ordered. This was like two gals showing up in the same dress from Maurice's at the Winter Formal.
"Because it's good!" replied Erin.
We both cleaned our plates.
"I wonder if they have a birthday dessert here," I foolishly asked my escort.
"I don't know," he answered, icicles dripping off his mouth. After all, we could be at Ixtapa, enjoying small tortilla soups and glasses of water, except for me. I always get a margarita or a mojito: that's why go on foot. "Why don't you ask?" I sighed and beckoned the waitress to my left ear.
"Do you have some sort of birthday dessert?"
"Uh..." Come on! We've done this before! You know you have something to stick a candle into! "We do...we don't come out and sing, but..."
"See that guy down there?" I indicated. She nodded.
The mini-tulip cup had only one candle on it, but it didn't matter. Ian grinned like the kid he always would be.
"Happy birthday to you!" we began lamely. It seemed somehow uncouth to sing Happy Birthday in a...
"Italians are a passionate people, you idiots!!" insisted Anita.
Ian blew out the candle.
1. "Sodomy is great!" Sounds like a perfectly harmless statement. But once spoken, it would change the lives of an entire radio station.
2. I pushed the AM signal button on the board, hoping a miracle would happen. No...there it was, the un-mistakable sound of the Fab Four playing "I Want to Hold your Hand," instead of the slightly less dated Charming Hostess singing "Dali Tzerni." For eight and a half years, Raggs had control of the 1450 airwaves, but it was gone, with no warning.
Portland, Oregon, July 2010:
Fourth of July Weekend is always inane at KPSU. Everything is dead at the university, except for our studios in the sub basement of Smith Center, vibrant as always. I parked in the empty ramp, then checked the closest door to Smith; perhaps it was unlocked. Suddenly the door opened on its own! And there was DJ Starchild!!
"Lucky I got here when I did," he began.
"I could have gone to the other door and used my key card," I countered.
"It doesn't work. Anyway, I'm doing all of DJ Pugwash's shows today. The elevator isn't working." Poor Pugwash has a hard time climbing steps, especially if he has to drag his wheelchair behind him. "Hey, I'm going over to get a drink, can you stand here and let me back in. Security yelled at me for propping the door open with this Willamette Week. I'll only be five minutes." <clipp>
Luckily my key card worked on the radio station door, and soon I was inside. The lobby computer was hooked up again, and I rushed to it, impatient to read my e-mail! But oh my, Starchild's e-mail account was already there! And he was e-ngrossed in a debate over the plug pulling! No surprise. The KPSU listserve had been full of this stuff for the last 10 days.
You're yawning...after all this sort of stuff goes on all the time at your radio station. And you have to worry about pledge drives, whereas we worry more about the university supporting us. So here's the scoop, and no, this is no joke:
Two Thursdays earlier, "The Debate Show" was hotly debating along and got into the subject of prisons. Someone said, wryly, "Sodomy is fun," With characteristic irony, this statement got back to the honcho at the Portland Public School System dba KBPS, Repooc Llib. That's the Welsh hissy slurp on the "Ll." WHAPPP!!! Llip pulled the plug on our timeshared leased citywide crackly frequency 1450AM. We are now left with a mini transmitter on the top of Smith Center and of course the internet, to convey ***all*** our programming to The Listeners. Some of our young hotshots have great ideas of what to do next. As for me, I was always hoping to get the last strike. "DJ Judith, a grey-haired Quaker grandmother, primed the barrel with Jean Redpath's rendition of Robbie Burns' "Nine Inch Will Please A Lady," followed by William Pint & Felicia Dale's "Pump Shanty/Jump At the Sun." (You can see the latter atop the mast as a "revenge track.")
So it was, with my last bit of hope, that I monitored the KBPS button again. "Help! I need someone...." it said. Yep. I could do naught but move on.
"Is that Romanian?" asked DJ Starchild, who was lounging on the couch.
LEIXAPREN? "No, it's Spanish," I answered.
Starchild was dubious. I gave him the cover, as LEIXAPREN waltzed on.
"Sounds like Portugese...oh, Madrid. Must be some dialect of Spanish."
All too soon Raggs was almost over, and Starchild rolled off the couch and prepared his computer.
"Like to thank Judith and "The Raggle Taggle Gypsy," she played some really interesting music!
I started to laugh freely. "Haww Ha ha LOL, 'Interesting!!!" I cried. "Italian, Starchild!!"
"No, I really mean that!! Interesting! Sounds like something they'd play at a bacchanalia!!!" Balkanalia...
"I never get enough sleep on this couch," he continued later. His laptop had resumed, had become DJ Starchild.
"What?" I asked. Jeg no comprende.
"I live in Gresham and I don't have a car. So after my show on Saturday night, I just sleep here."
Young Cole, from Off the Grid, Washington, has lain suspended from our thoughts since February. In those days, Tony had stars around his name (ie *tony*) and Cole was having a birthday party. But now Cole has emerged again, and...
"Mom," asks Erin, "Now that Freddie's dead, can we have a dog? Cole's dog had eleven puppies!"
"Ask your father," I reply.
Rural Klickitat Co., Washington, July 2010:
Up and up we drive, Erin and I and ECH, the noble all wheel drive Forester. Old Canyon Road, Snowden....
"I think we were supposed to turn there," Erin informs us. "It says right, but I think it's left."
"I think so, too." Lyle-Snowden Road, Appleton Road..."GASP!! CLEARCUT!!!" We try to hide my eyes, but...
"Yeah, there's the gas pipeline." But which of the 3 dirt roads is Cole's driveway?
Cole's home...at least one half of it...is a much lived-in doublewide. The puppies, however, live outside, no fence, no leash, only the porch to sleep under. They are all black and, to some degree, white. Some have straight coats and some of them curly.
"Is that a springer?" I ask. The mother's coat is coated with mud.
"Yes," replies Cole's mother. "I'll never have a white dog again. She is young and thin and has strawberry blonde hair and freckles. The whole family is there, Cole's brother, and mother and father. There are three vehicles and an aluminum canoe out front, open hatchbacks with coolers inside. Where are they going? "I think the best thing to do is stay here for a while and play with them, see who you like." There are ten females and one male, named Zeus. Zeus is "taken." Some of the females are "taken," and some are "50% taken." Others are "let fate decide."
"This is Harriet Tubman," continues Cole's mother. "Look at her tummy!!! She is so sweet!" The puppies are tumbling over each other, growling and biting and having a good old time.
"She's 30%," adds Cole's father, a man with dark hair and heavy eyebrows.
"Dottie's really sweet, too. She's 50%," says Cole's mother. Dottie has a small white dot on her nose, and white paws.
"Let's call and see if she really wants her," suggests Cole's father. He flips out his cell phone.
Erin holds Dottie in her arms on the way back. I think, it must be a very difficult transition, from being a tumbling piece of dog amoeba, to being the lone apple of a family's all-seeing eye.
The Dalles, OR July 2010: "The Vet"
"We get to go in the dog door this time," states Erin. She and Tegan Formerly Dottie are riding shotgun in ECH, the Noble Forester. She carries him in and we sit down on the plastic covered bench, passing a gauntlet of two dog owners and a large white dog with a universal crew cut. We sit down next to a pudgy red-haired man with a little white fluffball on his shoulder. The big white dog is whining loudly. The fluffball is shivering and Tegan takes the hint.
"What kind of dog is that?" asks a random person. Customers come and go, coming in to buy stuff like Special Doggie Treats.
"She's a cross between a Poodle, a Pomeranian, and a Pekingese," answers the plump man with some enthusiasm. What no one knows is that Erin is one eighth Pomeranian. In those days it was Prussia.
"Snowflake, you can come in now!" says the nurse. The teenager takes the leash and the middle aged man pushes from behind. Together they make it through the door, but once inside the hallway the large white mutt makes a dive for the cat kennel.
"Almost made it, Snowflake!!" cruelly jokes the assistant.
"They all do that," warns the man with the PoPoPe on his shoulder. "That puppy will learn to do it too.'"
Time passes. The receptionist, whose wirey body is constructed from high voltage electricity, brings Tegan a Super Moist Doggie Treat. Tegan licks it, then rolls it in and out of her mouth. Finally she chomps down on it.
"It'll make her want to come here!!!" reassures the receptionist, stuffing another SMDT in the black pup's mouth.
"You can bring your puppet in now...oops, I meant parrot!! Puppets don't sit on your shoulder!!" entices the veterinary asst. The parrot's tail falls halfway down the plump man's back like a Princess Davy Crockett hat as the man walks through the door. Now we are alone.
Not for long. A man comes in to pick up...my memory fails. Horse tonic, maybe, or a dog mostly cured of kennel cough.
"Hey I saw you had some pants hangin' from your mailbox...your husband's gonna get suspicious!!!<clip>
"How do you like living with The Queen?" asks the receptionist.
"Who? Oh yeah, haw haw...that Rodeo Queen stuff is a bunch of bullshit. Her mother did it, her sisters did it, her aunts did it..." He shakes his head. "Just a bunch of bullshit." The big Ft Dalles Days Rodeo is next weekend. I think of some cowboy from Milton Freewater or Walla Walla trying to ride a nasty bull. Suddenly I want to go to the rodeo.
"Tegan!" announces the asst. Now it is our turn. I try and let Erin do the talking. "Black lab mix?"
"She's half spaniel," Springer, half springer, the Royalty of Dogdom.
"...anyone sees a black dog, they say 'Black Lab'," fumbles the assistant. "Four pounds," she guesses. Size of Kitty Katie when she passed away. Bookends. Cradle to grave. Cat to dog.
"Where did you get this puppy?" the vet asks with a sigh.
"My friend's dog had eleven puppies...he lives out in the country."
"I'm giving it a parvo shot and a de-wormer. Don't be surprised if she has worms in her poop. Keep her away from other dogs until she gets her second parvo shot...away from parks, Petco..."
"Okay," nods Erin.
"Are you getting her spayed?" asks the vet.
"Yeah," nods Erin.
"It's a good idea. We don't need any more puppies...." says the vet.
That is just what Cole's mom said!!!
The Dalles, Oregon, July 2010:
"How are things going?" asks Trudy, an employee of The Dalles Gym (not its real name). She is doing her shift behind the desk, answering questions like:
"Can I get a vodka flavored Red Bull?"
"┐Puedo obtener una cancha de balonmano?"
"Are the Blazers winning?"
"Can I get a new towel...this one is absolutely dripping with sweat?"
"What do you mean, how are things going?"
"Oh, I'm OK. Both our cats died so Erin got a new puppy."
"Huh. My husband and I are glad all our kids are grown. We don't have to fool with dogs. We're cat people."
"They're indoor-outdoor cats. LOL!!! They sure bring a lot of stuff inside. Cats are born hunters."
"All ours have been indoor cats. They've never brought anything in." Back in Texas, they didn't need to. The kitties just hunted animals in the house. Those little lizards...what were they called? Skinks. And what about the time they cooked crickets in the microwave? Davy...Davy Cricket, King of the microwave....oops oops, those cats were Ian and Erin and **Ryan**...the obviously sadistic neighbor kid from down the street...
"They bring all kinds of stuff into the house," Trudy reiterates. "We went off for two weeks and left them alone. We got back and there was a bird in the house. One of them had brought it in before we left, carrying it in his mouth...they do it all the time, proud to show it to us."
"What did it eat? How did it stay alive?" One more question for Trudy.
"No, but, we got home and there it was, up on the ceiling fan, trying to keep away from the cats!"
"Wow," I comment.
"Now one of them has started bringing in gophers."
"He brought in eight in one week." I suddenly recall swerving so as not to run over a gopher, over on WA14, near Dallesport, where Trudy lives. "He must have caught two in one day.
Those things are **BIG**. I can look at the tunnels in the yard and see how big they are!" How can a mere cat win a battle with a gopher?
the counter lady.
"Are you a family member or close friend?" the counter lady counters.
"I'm his sister!" exclaims Erin.
"And I'm his mother," I state.
(They must have believed us.)
The medicios are almost done with Ian. He is laying on a bed, with his left arm wrapped up as if broken.
"They said the dog just missed a tendon," **Katie** reveals. I'll have her tell the story:
"We were driving across The [Columbia River] Bridge and saw a big dog walking down the middle of it. We tried to get it to move over so it wouldn't get hit, and some guys who were fishing were helping us too. Then a big white truck came along and hit it. If you hit a deer, it will go up on top of the hood. But the dog went under and you could hear the crunching of whatever is breaking. [Here *Caitey* stops to fight back the urge to cry] The guys got out to see what they hit and then got back in and drove off."
"Probably drunk," interjects someone.
"The guys who were fishing left as well. Ian went over to see how it was and the dog attacked him. I saw the blood running down his arm and called 911. I figured the police could do what needed to be done. The Washington police because we were on that side. It had tags...who would let their dog out like that? And then we drove up here. Looked like a big pit bull...no it was really big, maybe a boxer."
"That tetanus shot is good for 7 years," informs the nurse as she gives Ian a huge tub of mind bending pain pills and other stuff.
"Do I need to show them an insurance card?" I ask
"No mom," Ian replies. "They found me in The System."
Birthday parties, as your kids get older, well, the parties get more and more out of line, until they are hurled away with your children by centrifugal force into the far away galaxies of Chicago and Olive Garden gift cards. I can see the Puerto Bello ravioli belt coming closer and closer....But for now, Erin, Lilian, Ian's girlfriend **Katie**, and Katie's mom have planned the whole shebang. Let's rev down the landing gear and take a peek.
Hood River, OR, July 2010: "I hate Italian food," opines Lilian. We're seated on the deck of a Japanese Cafe in Hood River. The last time I was here, it was a bar. The Clumsy Lovers from Vancouver were on stage and I drank a couple of chocolate martinis. Lucky I had a designated driver. But now we're gnawing on romaine lettuce with peanut sauce, a first for me, and soon the waitress will bring bowls of miso that we have to eat with chopsticks. That's a useful skill in Japan, I guess.
"All Italian food?" someone asks.
"Almost. I can deal with spaghetti, but just the thought of ravioli...UGH!!! I was forced to eat Chef Boy-Ar-Dee canned ravioli as a child..."
"...That's the farthest away from REAL ravioli that there is..." someone comments.
"Where are you from?" I ask **Catie's** mom. The long table is actually 3 small tables mushed together. The mothers have their own little table for two.
"Um Hum. Utah." How did the story go?
"I hear your mother was brought over from Japan to work in the fields..."
"Not exactly. Her mother died when she was born, so she was sent to a foster family. She did all the boys work, the mans work. She plowed the fields. She was like their own little servant."
"Huh!" I take a sip of my Chardonnay. Should have got something more authentic.
"My father was from Japan, though. He was born in 1888..."
"He went from Japan to Hawaii and then to Utah. He got a job on the railroad. Utah was a big place for the railroads. That's where they drove the golden spike."
Now it is time to listen to what the children at the end of the table are talking about. <to be continued>
There's a downside to writing To Be Continued Prose, and that's that something even more exciting will happen before you can write Part II. For instance, this is one of the upbeat things that happened today at Fred Meyer:
I was standing in the Express Check Out Lane with some Arm & Hammer Detergent, some Cage-Free Eggs, some Dreyer's coconut pop-sicles, a box of Quaker Life cereal and 7 pacs of Top Chemical Flavored Ramen. I noticed that the woman in front of me had a bunch of jars of baby food in her cart. More than 14, I figured.
"These are for me!" she turned and said to me after unloading the tiny glass encased food gems. "Oh, it's terrible getting old. I can't chew my food any more."
"Huh!" I said, looking as her teeth gleamed like well-tempered ivory. "I thought they were for your grandchildren!" She had long white hair, swept back into a braid.
"No they're for me...it's not really that I can't chew, it's my esophagus. I have to chew it up for a long time, so it's smooth."
"Hmmm! Like yogurt," I ventured.
"No...I can't eat yogurt. It has sugar in it. See this meat jar? I use it in soup." Then the conveyor belt of life took her away.
Anyway, <Happy Birthday, Erin! Hood River, Oregon, continued>...
At the other end of the table the three high schoolers, Erin, Trace, and Lilian, were involved in a heated scholarly discussion about psycological disorders. The rest of us settled down and listened.
"Did she ever graduate? I remember when she ran out of the p.e. dressing room with no clothes on."
"One time I closed my locker and she came up and started screaming. A teacher came by and told her 'No no...they're not witches'"
"When I was in elementary school a kid that wasn't quite bright had a crush on me. One night his grandparents drove him to the end of our driveway and let him off. I was in my room and I looked out the window and there he was, looking in at me. My parents invited him in."
"Lydia told me,'my brother and his girlfriend talk on the phone in the next room and tell each other how much they love each other. I wish someone would love me that much...'"
"Does Lydia have an identifiable disorder?" I asked. I could remember wishing someone would hurry up and love *me* in High School. What was wrong about that?
"She's Autistic," said someone, chomping on the bit for a few elegant experiments on caged white rats.
"Yeah, she's Autistic," added another budding psychiatrist. Asperger's? High functioning? Or maybe just Artistic. In my day, Schizophrenia was all the rage.
<to be continued>
<continued> Hood River, Oregon July 2010:
"Drat! My batteries died!" I exclaimed. No one else seemed to mind, but it ended my lavish and outlandish creativity for the evening.
"Are you going over to the house?" someone asked.
"Um...no...no one invited me."
"Mom! Mom! I'm inviting you!" Ian pleaded. It's the sort of thing sons say to their mothers to derail a potential Mama whine. "But I need someone who knows how to get there."
In only a few minutes we had crossed a major river, and catapulted ourselves into the Big Woods of Washington.
"Uh...where do I park?" I asked. "Oh here's some sort of disused road."
"It's the fire road," explained Ian. "It's there so that they can get to the back of the house in case of fire." The Russian Roulette of life whispered to us that the chance of a forest fire tonight was very low. ECH the noble Forester happily parked himself, having misheard "Forester Fire." Would it be another wild Suburu party around a petrochemical bonfire? Anyway, we were soon on the doorstep of the house where *Katie*, her mom, and now Ian were living. And Max, and Rex, and Jazzy. As soon as we walked in the door, *Katie* appeared dangling a calico guinea pig. This was Max.
"The smartest animal in this house," she commented.
"And that's Max...uh Rex, I guess. M...rex, I have heard so much about you," I greeted the gigantic orange cat. "And those are his multiple toes. How many toes does he have?"
"Seven on each foot," Katie told me.
"And he IS sitting like that!" Rex was sitting straight up, like a kangaroo. "He only has one bone in his front legs," *Katie* said through my memory. I reached over...Rex is not shy...and felt his arms. They were fused at the elbow at an angle, making it impossible for him to prop himself up on them. Rex jumped to the floor and waddled into the kitchen, hoping for some extra food.
"He reminds me of one of those semis with the slanted bottom," I commented. People laughed.
Jazzy, a tortishell with long hair, was of equally humungous size as Rex. She was laying on the kitchen counter and...
"Both these cats are shelter cats," *Katie* began. "Jasmine was abandoned and is always afraid that people will abandon her again. Sometimes it's hard to even go to the bathroom without her following you in. And Rex...Rex is afraid he won't get enough to eat...you can put food into his bowl and then take it out when he's not looking. That way you can feed him again and he'll be happy.
"And where did you get Max?" I asked.
"Petco," she answered.
Topics left...the cake. the cuisinart. saving silverman....
Washington State, August 2010: The haze descended on us a few days ago...was it due to the Rooster Rock fire near Redmond and Bend? Feed lots upstream? Inversion? Subduction and consequent vulcanism? Driving west on the Bickleton Highway, you can see the swarm of volcanic cones all the better for the translucent air.
ECH and I are on a mission to bring Erin and Tegen home from hippie horse camp near Goldendale, Washington. Dry white oaks and ponderosa pines tower over us in open woodland. The rambling shacks, and manufactured, and stick built homes along the gravel road make the woods...hardly a forest...seem even more open.
"Washboarding!" I comment to ECH.
"Ugh!" he replies.
"Woof woof woof!" bark some dogs behind a fence. There is no lack of dogs, horses and creative yard decoration along Old Mountain Road.
"I wonder about this place," I remark to Erin as we drive off. In the woodland to the right, some pines are marked with yellow tape and some with blue. Were the trees being thinned to keep the woods open? Why?
"Why?" Erin asks.
"Oh, I just wonder, who is it that lives out here? Why do they live here. Do they have swimming pools in back? Where do they get their water? What kind of aquifer they have, or do they even have one? Wow! look at that old tractor! When are they going to put the two halves of that doublewide together?"
"Huh," shrugs Erin. She leans back the shotgun seat, and soon she and Tegen fall asleep...two puppies who have only one year left before they are adults.
The Dalles, Oregon, August 2010:
Erin, Mama, and Tegan...in her big kennel...ECH the Valiant Forester is almost full as s/he turns onto the I84 ramp to Portland.
"Wait...is that Henry with that 'Mosier' sign?" Mama...um...I ask. Yes it is Henry, the Vietnam Vet who lives in a shack on public land. ECH stops to pick him up. The Cadillac SUV behind us almost has a nervous breakdown, having to slow down and all that peasant stuff.
"I'm lucky to be riding with two beautiful ladies!" compliments Henry from the back seat.
"Three beautiful ladies!" I correct.
"Oh, yeah, well, she's more of a dog lady," says Henry.
I rummage around for something to say. It's too early in the day to speak.
"How's your son doing?" I ask.
"They got another kid...I got a new grandbaby! And *he's* back in Afghanistan," he answers.
The Dalles, Oregon, August 2010:
Park Lawn IOOF Cemetery is Five Miles south of The Dalles on Three Mile Road. I've gone to the back today, right by the flag pole.
I begin snapping photos. Soon I realize I am in the veteran's area:
Cumiford US Army, Viet Nam; Robideau Sgt. US Army Korea; McConnell US Navy; Albright 1stLt USAAF WWII Air Medical Physician P-47 Thunderbolt; Weller SN US Navy; Hajicek Sgt US Army, World War II; Spangler US Merchant Marine World War II; Medford US Army, World War II; Powell US Army, WWII Europe; Clear US Army, Korea Pastor; Lowe SP4 US Army, Vietnam; Comini US Army, Korea, Wasco County Historian...They are all here, in long rows, the ones that came home and lived long enough to be buried here, long enough to grow cherries and babies....
My father, Bob Gennett, takes the opportunity to rise from his grave in Indiana, pipe smoke billowing from his ears.
"Okinawa...that dang typhoon! The shower building was the only place I could get any sleep! Everything else collapsed!"
And my father-in-law, newer at this game, rises from his grave in northern Minnesota. His own special marker reads "LTJG US Navy, World War II" Slowly and methodically he repeats, "The typhoon was very very severe, very...Just sheets of rain. I thought we were going to sink...but we came back up."
The two spirit men establish a bond they will never break.
"Haw haw," adds Bob. "Miss Judy, my marker would read 'PFC, Army Corps of Engineers, Refrigerator Repair Man!' What a bunch of baloney!!"
A young woman drives up in a red convertible and parks under the flagpole. She gets out of her car and walks a ways down from me. She sits down on a grave marker, lays back, looks up at the sun and shakes her hair. She sits like that for a long time, smiling. I imagine her body melting into the stone beneath her.
I walk over to the middle section of the cemetery, and start another set of photos. The markers are still there, just not so many of them.
Hill Maj US Air Force, Viet Nam; Costelloe Oregon S2 US Navy, World War I; Wrenn MOMM3 US Coast Guard, World War II....
&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& The Dalles, Oregon, August, 2010:
The Queen Mum had finally rounded enough Scarlett Begonias to have lunch. Just enough, in fact, that every one had room to sit at one long table in the front room of Baldwin's Saloon. It's a beautiful place, Mount Hood staring down like snowcones from exquisite oil paintings on the walls, much like Sybil and her dissociative identity disorder personalities staring down at you from the wall. Off the wall...
I was sitting next to Donni, a Grand Old Lady of the The Dalles orchard community.
"How were the cherries?" I asked.
"Uwugh," she said shaking her head.
"Uwugh?" asked a woman across the table.
"That's all I can say, I don't even want to think about it...though we were still going till Tuesday."
The other ladies gave her sympathetic looks.
"My son took some to the farmer's market, and he was able to sell some of them. Might as well, they won't process them. But it cost more to rent the booth than he got out of the cherries. You can only make it work if you use it the whole season. Now that I think of it, I should have brought some here..."
I tried to get a word in edgewise.
"Not these. They're brown."
"We grow different varieties that grow at different times. These were a type of bing..."
"I saw on TV where most of the medical care costs...maybe it was "60 Minutes"...come from the month before people die," one woman across the table said.
"You know, I was going on vacation a few years ago and the gal that was going with me backed out at the last minute she said she'd had to pay EIGHT THOUSAND DOLLARS on her dog to keep it alive that long."
"Why pay all that money on someone who's going to die anyway? I could die right now and I wouldn't miss a thing. And no one would miss me..."
Cherry cultivars. I would like to learn about cherry cultivars before I die.
"Mom, I'm going to visit Emma on the train," Erin said as she punched out the links on the AmTrak pages. "I'll go in with you on Sunday." That was that.
August 2010: "The Empire Builder"
It's that Sunday, the one where I am covering the three hours that Jon does. He has gone home for the weekend to Snohomish County. I fudge a bit, well, half an hour of PDX SoundTraks. I hope we will make it to Union Station...the other side of downtown Portland...in time for the train to Chicago.
"I'm starving," begins Erin. Do we have time?
"We'll have to stop for something," I say hurriedly. "You don't like Chipotle."
"No, I don't," replies Erin bluntly.
"Hey wait, how about the Bubble Tea place?"
It's only a couple blocks until we order our bubble tea and bagels, and then back up to ECH The Noble Forrester in the PSU ramp. We swing left onto...
"Northeast Sixth. That should take us to Northwest Sixth and Union Station."
Eventually. Portland has improved traffic flow by hurling Sixth back in time to a one lane brick road. The other lane has been taken over by MAX light rail trax.
"Go, you douche!" Erin yells at the ox cart lumbering along in front of us. "I need to catch a train!" I chomp down on my deluxe salmon bagel. Autos slide in and out of parallel parking places, wait for pedestrians to make left turns, let out sari-clad passengers at a street fair....
"Mom! Look! There it is!" Union Station stands before us. We will see a mural photo in the entrance that hints that the building looked about the same back in 1913. But first the...uh...parking lot? It is 4:15pm, and I toy with the idea of just dropping her off.
"Look Mom, there's a spot!" I park ECH and race towards the pay station. A woman is fiddling with it, trying to get her credit card to work. Give up lady. Put some coins in the machine or something. Then I pull out my credit card and try to make it work....
Erin and I cross the street and enter the quaint, vacuous station. People are in a queue to go somewhere. California? Chicago?
"There's the ticket machine," I tell Erin. She swipes her internet print-out into a laser beam and the machine burps out tickets.
"So what do I do with my baggage?" she asks. Amtrax lets you bring unlimited baggage, but no puppies, darn it. I look around...
"Here it is," Erin yawns. She hoists the old blue garage sale suitcase on the counter and a woman puts it on the other side.
"Is that all there is to it?" Erin asks. "We should take the train more often!"
We spend the next four minutes standing in line. A uniformed man strolls down the queue and asks her to sign her ticket. Then the uniformed man at the counter exchanges it for her boarding pass. We hug each other and she walks out the quaint brass door to The Empire Builder.
Soon Erin will be exchanging hundreds of texts with her sister Emma in Chicago. She will be forced to ride an unknown number of miles next to a fat man who takes up three quarters of the seat. She will find there is no place to shower. Eastern Montana will be really boring.
"Look what our puppy did to my jeans!" I said to Trudy, who stands behind the counter at the gym. There wasn't much left of the legs.
"Ha ha...wow, people pay to wear jeans like that..you could go into business...call them "Puppy Love.."
"Great idea. Get a little puppy logo..."
August 2010, The Dalles, Oregon: "Another Visit To the Vet."
Simple. Catch the puppy. Put a leash on her. Inject her into the passenger seat. Drive to the vet. Open the dog door....pull the pup, all fours firmly grasping the quarry tile floor...YIKES!
A cow. No...just a dog that looked like a miniature yellow cow, or a bear. Tegan, now held on my lap, shook in terrier.
"Have you been here before?" asked the receptionist. "What kind of dog is that?"
"It's a Labrador Retriever," the man answered. Labs are the most popular breed in the world, including an enclave in Finland.
"That's what you'll look like when you get to be nine!" I told Tegan in jest.
The receptionist came out with cookie bites that smelled like gingerbread. The big yellow cow dog stared suspiciously and then snarfed down a whole handful. Then the receptionist came over to Puppy Tegan and offered her a cookie. I wondered if she would bite, but she just nosed it. Finally the receptionist held it in the palm of her hand, and Tegan did some snarfing of her own.
Old Yeller went in first. Then, a few minutes later, the assistant called Tegan, who was just too busy to stand on the scales.
"What kind of mix is that?" asked the vet.
"Probably some border collie, seeing as where we are," opined the assistant. "Just look at that long narrow snout."
"It says here that she's a 'Spaniel Mix.' But she has short hair. Do you know the parents?"
Sigh. "I know the mother, she's a springer, but they couldn't figure out who the father was," I said. I'd been calling her a Labradinger, which I thought described her pretty well. Or a Springador.
"I'm putting this in close to where it's needed," the vet explained as she inserted a syringe into Tegans left nostril...
August 2010, "Guessing Phone Calls"
Portland, Bluefin Sushi. Watching those $1.50 plates go tearing around on the conveyer belt...imagining them as cars on a train and the customers as railroad stations...as great cities and small towns...
No sesame rolls for dessert so I'll eat the sweetened egg instead.
Suddenly the sound of a cell phone!! Oh gosh no, here in a restaurant, too. I pull the phone out from my jeans pocket and look at the screen. "Ian" it says. Maybe they're getting married. I dismount and go over by the front window.
"Mom...where are you?"
"I'm in a sushi restaurant in Portland."
"I thought maybe you'd be home by now."
"No, I'm not....what the problem?" I am allergic to phone calls. Anyone who calls has to have something important to say.
"I just wanted to say..." I just wanted to say I'm getting married. Emma called a couple years ago and told me the same thing in front of the Bridge 76 in suburban Bingen, WA.
"Uh...well...I just wanted to tell you that I asked *Catey" to marry me and she accepted."
"Oh!" Two down and one to go.
The Dalles, Grocery Outlet. Zzzz...Maybe I can absorb some energy from this Red Bull cooler if I just lean on it.....zzzzz...
"I can get the next person over here," says the clerk.
I sneak in behind the lucky customers and, even though the sign says "Cerrado," I unload my package of Polly Ann Italian Mozzarella and my bottle of Rainbow Creek 2009 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (Screw Top) onto the conveyer belt. That's when my cell phone rings. It says "Erin." The train trip to Chicago was a terrible experience. Can she fly home?
"Mom...The train was a terrible experience, it was full of smokers, Emma and Jason and Victor say they'll be glad to have me a couple more days, I could cash in my ticket, we found a couple of flights that aren't any more expensive than the train..."
"Erin, can you call me when I'm not in the check out line at Grocery Outlet? Maybe in 10 minutes or so..?"
The plants and animals and tiny Yard Færies were gathered to assess the loss. The Norway and Colorado blue spruces, though quite regal and authoritative, had seen very little from their isolated kingdom in the herb garden.
"As we understand it, the old Bishop pine had been going downhill for quite a while..." Silence.
"Going downhill...haw haw haw..." said Randy Raccoon. "On the way to crashing down into the living room!! By the way, do you know why The Family stopped leaving cat food for me out on the patio?"
"Konichiwa. May I, as the only adult survivor, tell you what happened," began the Japanese Maple.
"I see they chopped your head off," commented Bluebeard Scrubjay. "Haw haw haw!!!"
"The men came one morning and rang the bell. They had a middle school boy with them, who rang the doorbell and announced 'Ruiz Tree Removal.'"
"Child labor," whispered a Tiny Yard Færy. It is said that the Færies appear to children but no one else....except those young at heart.
"'Te daré un buen acuerdo sobre esto, porque yo le quité tu seto hermosa hace unos años,' the old man said. I regret that I do not speak Spanish. Then the boy...sharp kid...translated 'He says that he'll give you a good deal because he did that hedge for you.' The woman in the house grimaced to remember the charming, regal hedge of bittersweet turned into a desolate wasteland. By the time the day was over the boy and the old man had bargained 7 trees and the dogwood stump."
"Y'all, I saw 'em pull into the drive the next day," shrugged the persecuted wisteria vines on the fence by the street.
"There was a whole regular gang of 'em,"
"...five guys and the old geezer and that woman, Aralia that was what they call her, and the kid..."
"...all jabberin' in Mexican on how they was fixin' to cut down that big ol' pine tree..."
"One man started to climb up my papa's trunk..." sobbed a two foot pine sapling who had somehow been overlooked.
"Og så begynte han å så.," sighed the Norway Spruce.
"He amputated limb after limb, then started on the trunk..." added a Colorado Blue Spruce.
The black and white kitty broke in. "Basically, what happened was one of the men cut down the huge dead pine tree. At the same time, they cut down the two moribund teenager trees at the end of the Japanese garden, and got rid of the artsy dogwood stump. Fair enough. But before anyone even knew, they cut down the little 20 foot walnut under the eaves behind the Oregon Grape and Ligustrum, is that right? Privet?...
"A healthy living young walnut?" shrieked the twenty or more walnuts in the yard, mostly in the creek bottom. It's hard enough to get established there, what with the summer-dry conditions and the competition...
The feral kitty continued. "As well as the walnut behind the garage with the dead top...oh gosh, I wish I could remember...Topless Walnut Syndrome? And the alder who died of moisture stress last year, just had the cones on it...and the three ring tree right under the streetlight, trailer trash...the woman Aralia and the kid were working hard dragging the corpses to the chipper."
The Dalles, Oregon, August 2010: Suddenly, the sound of a doorbell ringing and a puppy barking, woof woof.
"You got any sewer pipes running under this tree?" asked the man with the stump saw.
"Yeah, the one with the clean out right over there," I answered. I could feel the cluttered air of doom pressing down on me.
"I asked your husband and he said there wasn't none," explained the Mexican stump saw operator.
"Let me make a phone call," I said. <clip> "He says to flush the toilet and see what happens." <clip>
"Oh s--t!!!" exclaimed the man with the stump saw
On the road from Oregon to Indiana, September 2010. "Murdo, South Dakota"
Two hours, two diaphanous hours of time have mysteriously stolen away, under the eastbound the tires of ECH the noble Forester. My computer says 9:53 and the microwave in this fairly decent motel room reads 11:54. Not much has happened to write about. Back in Montana, we had a great time traveling inside the notorious fault-swarmed-and-then-eroded Precambrian Belt Series. And then, also in Montana, there was the white haired man who screwed ECH's gas cap on and closed the little gasoline door for me. I was sitting nonchalant in ECH's drivers seat, chomping down on a Seafood Delight 6" from Subway. Oops.
Tonight, though, as I sit here with my noble Acer and type, I reflect upon how I could not get the motel WIFI to connect. Finally I went back to the office and got a cable. There's more than one way to skin a maple. Two people were in line ahead of me:
"Do you know if there are any places to eat here that are open?" asked a man.
"Not much...the Pizza place across the street is your best change," replied the desk clerk. On the other hand, several bars and lounges were open.
"Do you know where Rosebud is?" asked a woman.
"About thirty two miles south of here," replied the desk clerk. There are signs up on the freeway advertising a good deal at the Rosebud Motel, but I don't know if that's what she was talking about.
"Thirty two miles?" the woman repeated.
"But I wouldn't go down there in the dark," continued the desk clerk.
"Bad road?" inquired the woman.
"Good road, but it's in the reservation. If you're a stranger, you don't want to go there at night."
"Huh!" responded the woman. "How many rooms do you have left?"
"Three," said the clerk.
Dr. Judy at the wheel, her noble but lonely steed Ech tearing out of Chicago, hell bent for Richmond, Indiana and the Gennett Mansion, but first...
Indiana, September, 2010: "Alquina"
The freeway miles and freeway construction click on, every "left lane ends" is one more paving stone in the road of Putting America Back to Work. But Ech and I are not looking towards the future, we are counting backwards towards...
"So what do you know about this National Road?" asked Ech.
"I used to live on National Road West in Richmond when I was a senior in college. The year after I moved out, the building was condemned..."
"But what do you know about the road in general?" Ech was tapping his tires.
"The National Road reached this area in 1827. There weren't any **Subarus** then, or even cars. Why don't we take this exit to Spiceland, and a look around as well..."
"Okay!" I knew what it would be. Clunky US40 cement and amazing brick houses infringing upon Deep Time.
Truck stop. Indian Restaurant. We wished we hadn't just eaten! Then...suddenly...catapulted into a time machine. Spiceland, Dunreith, red brick storefronts and red brick houses. I remembered driving here in Alma Luverne, on cheap trips to Indy. How old were the storefronts?
"Indiana 3," I pointed out. "That'll take us down to Greensburg." My great grandmother grew up in Greensburg, the town with a tree growing through the courthouse roof. Several trees, in fact, one by one, as if by magic. But we hadn't gone far before we saw the sign:
"Highway Closed. Road Construction. Local Traffic Only."
"It figures. Indiana 1 at Cambridge City. That'll take us to Connersville, following the Whitewater Canal!" Actually we didn't know about the Whitewater Canal beforehand, we just kept seeing signs. As our trip...4000 miles from Cascadia to Hoosierland and back...as our jaunt progressed...
"Hey! Am I your wee jaunting car, then?" smiled Ech.
...a major theme took hold, a theme as important as the "people perceive reality in very different ways" of the '90s. It was "Why did I go to college in Indiana at a hub of spiffy Quakerdom and never see these things? The Whitewater Canal. Levi Coffin's House. My great great grandparents' graves in the cemetery next the college?" So many of us wait until we retire and move into motorhomes before we see our own past, who we are, instead of just reading about it, and only if we're lucky. At Earlham I learned that my ancestors...
"Your ancestors were Ordovician bryozoans and brachipods and they lived at Blue Clay Falls!" laughed Ech. What a hoot!
Connersville, Indiana, and the Whitewater Valley Railroad. Rent a caboose for your private party. But were dead set for Alquina. Just recently, in a window of luck, I'd put together the timeworn scenario about my great great great grandfather Hayward:
"Three Quaker brother came to Indiana from Gunpowder Monthly Meeting in Maryland: Joseph, Jacob, and Tom. When they arrived, they were immediately disowned for having Baptist girlfriends and saying the word 'you.'" In 1850, Jake was living in Alquina with his sultry infidel wife and ten zillion children. From there he moved on to Missouri, Illinois and finally Kansas, where he became a Republican. And there it was, right on the sign: Alquina Road.
There wasn't much to Alquina, several houses, a school and a bait shop. I drove a few miles further, and snapped a few photos of the farmland. It was nothing like the paper landscape I'd imagined. It wasn't even like the Google Earth satellite photo. It was just rolling hills and fields separated by rows of trees. It probably looked the same way in 1850, except for the water tower. I figured that this structure could be photoshopped out.
Dublin, Indiana, September 2010.
Dublin is one of the most beautiful towns on the National Road...at least in Wayne County.
FACT: The first Women's Rights convention in Indiana was held right here in Dublin in 1852.
My mother's mother grew up here, and my great great grandparents, Reading and Malinda Swaim are said to be buried at Dublin Southlawn. Reading was Disowned from Elk Monthly Meeting back in '35, but you can't tell it by looking at his photo. In any event, I was walking street by street in the Dublin City of the Dead, looking for Reading and Malinda. Suddenly the sound of a cell phone...
"Hello! Where ***are*** you?"
"Uh...who is this?"
"Cousin Julie!!" Oops...
"Well, I'm in Dublin...but I'll never find these people. Do you want to meet for..uh...lunch...supper..."
We agreed to meet at the I-Hop at 3:30.
"Well, I will say this...I've never had a bad meal there," commented Julie. I began to dream of Hawaiian pancakes with pineapple and bananas on top, with coconut syrup.
My second cousin Julie is a Mary Kay consultant. Even in her late '70s she looks beautiful. My own face looks like a potato compared to hers.
"Did you bring me any photos?" I asked.
"The kids packed everything up and put it in the basement when Gene died, but I do have a photo of my mother and grandmother...looks like it might be about 1912." My heart sank, but the spinach quiche was pretty good.
"You know, your grandmother Hazel made a lot of mistakes," she continued. "I live with these people...you should talk to that gal that has the produce stand. She has everything worked out." Fine with me. I'd used up all my desire to debate research working on my...hey wait, is that the Boston Till Plain I see out the window?
We hopped into our cars and drove east on the National Road, across the border into Ohio. There it was, a small building full of charming gifts, web based floral arrangements, huge piles of sweet corn and small bins of other various vegetables. Out back, however, was the star of the show, a giant corn maze!
"This is our cousin Tom," Julie introduced. "He's a Jordan."
"That means we're...um...third cousins??" Cousin Tom added. We looked around the store a while but no one handed me a carefully hatched descendent chart. Finally we walked over to the aerial photos of the corn maze in years past. They were amazing!
"How do you do these mazes?" I asked Cousin Tom.
"Actually we hire a company to do it. Everything has to be precise."
Outside, the cornstalks were green, a rarity in this drought. I took some photos of the old photo Julie had with her. At last I had a good picture of my grandmother's sister Mabel! Then we both mounted Ech, the Noble Forester, and drove north.
"They all settled around the watercourses. They needed the fresh water," Julie explained. I'd heard this story from her before, but now I had a good idea of where I was, following in the footsteps of pioneers through forested creeks near Middleboro. And "They" were the people in the cemetery.
"Pleasant Hill," said Julie.
The next evening, the one they call Friday, I took Ian and *Caitey* to the stand. We admired the stuff...including the Made In America wind chimes that sounded Buddhist. *Caitey* bought some inexpensive things to take home to Washington. Cousin Tom was there, and his wife, but I didn't say anything to them. I have a hobby of trying to be invisible.
Outside, young people were gathered in the parking lot and in the amazing corn maze.
"They probably go in there to make out," one of us observed. But none of us braved it.
We remounted Ech and drove the 100 feet back to Indiana. Remember, in the 60s Earlham college students drove to New Paris to buy 3.2 plonk beer. Gag me with a spoon. I put my hand down on the gear shift and...
"S**T!!!" I screamed. Excruciating pain shot through my hand.
"There it is," said Ian calmly, pointing at a lethargic yellow and black flying insect. "Let me look if the stinger is still inside."
The next day my hand would puff up like a yeast roll.
Snap! West on 80 through the flood plain of the Platte, deceptive green farms just a hop skip and a jump from the steppes of Wyoming....down into the valley of Lake Bonneville and its strandlines, how many lines of freshwater on the hills before you shrink pathetically down into the present, the Great Saline Lake and rush-hour Ogden and...?
This was not the summer to travel by Suburu, or any other race of auto, on the American highways. Or maybe it was, if you're hooked on road construction like ECH is hooked on glacial geology. Indianapolis was particularly nasty...
"Hey, how did we end up at the airport instead of on I74?" I asked ECH.
"Dunno, but why don't we hop on a plane and look for some till planes and terminal moraines? Terminal moraines, get it?"
"You dodo, cars don't get to fly!!"
"They fly to Barrow. In airplanes. Maybe we could go to Barrow...."
Ech must have been desperate. And the worst was yet to come.
Brigham City...if you were bored you could imagine handcarts instead of cars, heaven bent on turning Utah! into a green and fertile seagull habitat. Driving onwards towards Idaho, towards the sun. Oh gosh, no, the sun! You start with your visor lowered further and further and further, then it's your hand and one eye closed, hoping for some granitic pluton to rise up and block the fiery orange ball before you go blind. But look, there's the border, Idaho, and there's I86 coming in from the east and there's....
There's a bunch of cones. Lane switch left. We swung left, dodging red cones in the blinding fire of early evening and...suddenly...ill-defined, ghostly figures rising up like spectres on the left and right. Spectres with green fluorescent stripes, pointing the way, go between us, they seemed to be saying. Threading the grey dust filled eye of a needle from hell. Ech and I both breathed a sigh of relief when we were finally in the right left la...
Lane. But bearing down upon us from the left, a giant smoky rectangle. A semi merging right! Brake! Brake!
Maybe we could have driven on in the night, made Boise or even Baker City. But we stopped at the first place we saw, the Best Western Inn and Conference Center in Burley, Idaho.
"I'm looking for a room," said a man on my right to the clerk. Another clerk emerged from the back room.
"I'm looking for a room," said the man in front of me. The left hand man took his key and exited.
"I'm looking for a room," said the woman on my left. "My name should be in your computer. I've been here before."
"I'm looking for a room," I said. I took my key and began to leave.
"I'm looking for a room," said the man to my left...
Och så videre.
The room included a discount at the adjoining Perkins Family Restaurant. I decided to go over and get some healthy fare.
"Do you have wine?" I asked. Dry white....I opened my ears to the people in the booth behind me and took a lengthy swig.
"No, this was my first time in Yellowstone," said the woman. She was sipping a hearty glass of Pinot Noir.
"I was sure glad to get off that highway!" commented the man.
Dayton, Ohio, September 2010:
"Still interested in a road trip?" I asked Erin in July.
"No," she answered, hoping I'd go away and leave her alone. That's how she ended up on the Empire Builder, bored to tears by Montana.
Ech, of corse, had to do what I told him, had to drive to Indiana for the Gennett Reunion. How about **Caitey** and Ian? I didn't even ask.
"If you'd like to go, I will pay your way," I told them. I wanted to show **Caitey** what it would be like to be a Gennett.
"There are two ways to go to the Dayton airport," Cousin Julie told me. "There is I-70 and there is US 40." That's the old National Road. Since it was dark, Ech I took the interstate. I dismounted and hung around in the ticketing area, which doubles as everything else. Time passed. I sat down on one of those odd chair benches.
"On time!" I said. I was in a State of Anguish, as well as the State of Ohio, and so had begun talking to myself. "On time! Thirty minutes late." These situations always bring to mind the TV show where a girl figure skater convinces a boy hockey player to be her partner. Then her plane crashes as he waits for her. "Please Go To Desk" says the "Arrivals" board. After that he becomes a singles figure skater.
"I'll bet they're unloading," said the woman sitting 1 1/2 seats from me. She was a husky sort, about my age.
I sighed, and tried to remember the small talk script for this situation.
"Well, there's some people coming out. They were supposed to be here at 11:15."
"Huh," she shrugged. "I live north of here, I have to drive a long way."
"Indy...Dayton...Cincinnati...." I shot gunned. Akron...Cleveland...Ottawa...
"No matter where I fly out of, I have to drive. My husband won't go anywhere with me. I like going to Vegas, but he sure won't go with me. This gal I'm picking up, I go to Vegas with her. I like to play poker."
"I was playing poker one time, and one of the guys asked, 'What are you doing here; this is a man's game.' I told him, 'I'm here, so it's a woman's game.' Haw haw haw!!! So he said, 'I bet you're married,' and said 'Yes I am, why?' and he said 'I was going to ask you to dinner. But I bet you don't fool around,' and I said,'No I don't but I bet you do!' Haw haw haw."
"Hmmm" I commented.
"There she is! Nice talking to you!" she said, springing from her chair.
&&&&&&&&&&&&&&I am back now in Oregon, and it's rainy. But just a few days ago I was back and it wasn't rainy. I was sitting on the patio near the clothes line, in the chair I usually dump my wet clothes into before I hang them, curled up with Ingmar Bergman's 1987 autobiography, The Magic Lantern. Suddenly everyone else in the house...Erin, *Caitey*, Ian and Tegan...rolled out the back door.
"Hey, you guys down there, get out of here! This is private property!" Erin hollered. Who, me? No. Everyone was looking down at Mill Creek.
I glanced down at the terrace, where English Ivy is starting to take over again. Why?
"Perché?" the Fantasma of my great great great grandmother Anita DeMonella had shrieked. "I film di Ingmar Bergman? Perché non si studi l'italiano? Una maledizione su di voi e le vostre terre." Then she had waved her ivy sword.
"Lascivo norvegese!!!" she added.
I had glanced down at the stream terrace just in time to see a shirt connected to the moving body of a tresspasser...
"Get out of here!" yelled *Caitey*.
"Send Ian after them!" I suggested, tongue in cheek. "Or Tegan!" Tegan the Labradinger was poised to spring.
"Take those traps somewhere else! Catch your crawdads somewhere else!!!" demanded Erin.
"How old are they?" I inquired. "Middleschoolers?" I could tell they were by the tone of Erins voice.
And thus they departed. But they'll be back, nel buio della notte, with their aerosol cans.
I'd heard a bit about Hadrian, seen his photo..
"A Cat Killer," was the word that came down.
"No...he incited the Cat Murder," corrected Emma, my older daughter.
And that's why Martha gave Hadrian to Emma, and why Hadrian was living in a "crate" in Chicago now, with Emma and Jason and Young Victor and two angry cats.
Chicago, Illinois, September 2010: "Hadrian"
"Are you sure he's a German Shepherd?" I asked Emma. "Are German Shepherds that big?" My image of a shepherd is of a lean black and brown dog about the size of a brittany spaniel.
"Mother," answered Emma. "That's the size they usually are." Hmm....Maybe. I walked out to ECK to get my suitcases and stuff, including a 500 page history of the Day-Gennett family specially printed for Emma. Zzzzz....
I was being housed in the basement guest room, situated near the heavily stocked Diet Coke bar and Izzy's litter box. Izzy resembles a wild black demon.
"We haven't changed the sheets since Erin was here. We can..."
"No, Emma, it's fine," I assured her. This way I could guiltlessly leave the room any way I wanted when *I* left! LOL!!!
The day continued. I opened the door to go downstairs.
"No no, Mother," cried Emma. "Don't leave the basement door open! No no...there goes Hadrian!!!" Thump thump thump. "We don't let him down there because that's where Izzy stays."
"Izzy was in your bedroom when I last...."
"And because he can't get back up the steps!!" Jason rolled his eyes and descended the stairs. He picked up Hadrian's back legs and pushed. Step by step.
"Where else did you want to go?" Emma asked. A number of tourist activities had been scrapped due to poor planning and the weird train schedule from Park Ridge to Chicago. It didn't matter as it turns out. There is a lot of interesting stuff in Park Ridge, like the alternation of modest mid-50s dwellings and gargantuan new homes built on tiny mid-50s lots
"Take a look at that gaudy copper downspout!" exclaimed Jason.
"And look at those gargoyles by the front door!" exclaimed Emma.
"There's my school!" exclaimed Victor.
Anyway, I told them that the Natural Area would be a great place to visit. It is almost in their back yard.
And so we went, on foot, four people and an 8 year old Miniature Horse-sized Cat Murder Inciting German Shepherd with hip dysplasia. A cheerful golden retriever chortled by in the other lane of the path.
"Woof! Woof!" roared Hadrian. The golden stopped in its tracks. No doggie friends made here!
The Salmon Prince glided his salmon eyes back and forth, gathering in the available smolt packs.
"I've been jumping around quite a bit tonight, but here's one more story. This one doesn't leave the room...er...the strait."
Smolt being smolt, they all gathered around him, anxious to repeat the story in one form or another to everyfish they knew.
"It's a story about steelhead." he added.
"I'm a Steelhead and Proud of It!" remarked one smolt.
The Salmon Prince hooked his fins in his gills (not an easy feat) and began to speak.
"Once, the Beautiful Queen Maeve of the Steelhead was eating at a restaurant in Trout Lake. And as we all know, Steelhead will 'eat nearly anything they can grab.'* Suddenly, the waiter came up to her and said:
"Madame, you will have to leave!"
"What?" Maeve exclaimed, astounded. Back in BC, eh, no one would dare tell the Queen of the Steelheads to leave! "Do you know WHO I AM, you slimy little salmonid?"
"Um..." cowered the waiter. "The Queen of Kamloops?"
"Close enough, eh."
"We do have this one small table over in the corner for you. It's just that we have a family reunion coming in and they can get pretty rowdy."
In the meantime, fish after fish came moseying into the dining room, joking and laughing.
"They seem to all know each other..." she remarked to the slimy samonid waiter as he swam by.
"Shh...this story doesn't leave the dining room. Many years ago, the Steelhead Prince of Oregon would swim up the White Salmon River and spawn here...and every time it was with a different salmonidette."
"These fish are his offspring and every year they get together...at least the ones that don't get caught."
Suddenly, the fishes broke into a cheer:
"Yep...we're Pan-Cascadian Half Royal Steelheads And Proud of It!" they squeaked.
*see Wikipedia, "Rainbow Trout"
The Dalles, Oregon, October 2010: "I'm invited to a wedding Saturday," says Erin.
"Oh?" I retort. "Who's getting married?"
"One of my classmates, Emi." Imagine getting married when you're a senior in high school!!!!
"The guy she's marrying is 24."
"Her mother got married when she was 12 and had her first child when she was 13. And she's still alive."
"Is that the way they do things back in Old Mexico?
"Mom!" says Ian over the phone. I haven't seen him in a couple weeks. "Can we get our Christmas present early?" *Caitey* and Ian want a membership at the gym, so that *Caitey* will look great in her wedding dress and Ian can lift segments of wind generators, or whatever you do as a Renewable Energy Technician.
"Um...Erin went to a wedding yesterday," I mention to him. Lots of news coming down here.
"Who got married?"
"One of Erin's classmates?"
"*One of Erin's classmates???*"
"Mmmm...Probably a shot gun wedding..." I hear in the background.
"Erin...did you enjoy the reception?" I ask.
"It was a lot of fun!"
"Were there other people there who weren't Hispanic?" I ask. All this romantic anthropology interests me.
"I was the .5% who wasn't Hispanic!!....The dancing was really great. All you had to do was this:" She demonstrates something where you go forward and back, a step like clogging or Morris Dancing. "At the school dances all we do is step from side to side."
Halloween!! How time flies. Will it finally this year that none of the children will go trick or treating?
October 2010, The Dalles, Oregano:
Wednesday: "Your dad and I are going to go see Kelly Joe Phelps at seven," I told Erin.
"Before you do that, can you buy me these things"...she handed me a long list of exotic cake ingredients..."and take me over to the Civic? I'm helping decorate the haunted house."
"Wow...that's where **we're** going, to the Civic!!!" The tastefully decorated "Fireside Room," not the Haunted House! Couldn't she wait a couple hours, search around for the white or blue cupcake papers and the instant espresso? Drop by Petco and buy a bag of Royal Canin Puppy Food 32 for Medium Breeds before her poor labradinger starved to death? But then I remembered that this time next year, there would be no children at all. I could feel the last rope slipping out of my hands....
Friday: "I'd like to go eat at the Thai place," said Erin. "I've grown fond of it, and afterwards we can go to the Haunted House. After all, I contributed to it."
I grimaced. I was in the midst of putting a number of local deceased up on "Find-A-Grave." (Check out my new photos from the IOOF!) But there are some things you just have to accept. In any event, we piled into and out of Ech The Noble Suburu, our exotic food and foot long Thai Iced Teas finally arrived at our table, we hopped back into Ech, and before we got out of the parking lot...
"You can let me off right here. I'll walk home," said my husband. LOL! A couple years ago, Erin had walked out of a $14 a ticket Kelly Joe Phelps concert before it even started. "I'll walk home," she had said. Tit for tat!
It was only a hop skip and a jump to the old Civic Auditorium. Ech found a parking place right across the street.
"Hey, you know those guys over there?" I asked Erin.
"I hope not," she replied.
We paid our $2 (it was my treat) and ascended the stairs to the room where Google had held its "Way Out West" Christmas party. I couldn't wait to see that mechanical bull again!
Ffsl! Ffsl! Ffsl! Oh no...it was a fast frequency pulsating white strobe light!!! Roller coaster, free fall. Blue Arachnid tent set up, Bergman's Karin sees God exploding through the wallpaper as a huge spider, helicopter, she screams. Zombies, corpses, Woodmen of the World reach rotting hands, roasted buffalo, karaoke, Gorge Winds Christmas concert, open pie bar. Follow Erin to door...inside wall...
"I told them they shouldn't use the strobes. Someone with epilepsy could come through and they'd get sued," she said.
The trail continued on through battered brick, plaster and lath, deep into the derelict uncute areas of the Civic. Sometimes Erin would say things like
"I put that monster poster there," or
"See that skeleton in the fireplace? It was left there last year and I pulled it out to rearrange it and water had accumulated on it and it was really gross."
"Ugh," I said. This sewer-like basement room also included a young woman laying on a table, waiting to be dissected by those darn strobes, particularly effective in conjunction with curly silver Christmas icicles. Were they solid or just an illusion? Everywhere we went, corpses tried to grab us...
"They've been told not to go beyond that yellow crime scene tape. It keeps things from getting out of hand," Erin told me.
But Halloween is not yet over. It lives on in the memories of those trying to pick a topic.
--"Gee whiskers! I've gotta come up with something to write for my Ingmar Bergman class! Gotcha...I'll write about Halloween! After all, all the actors just dress up different for each movie!!!" Good try, Judith!
The Dalles, Oregon, October 2010: And so it was that Erin announced: "I'm going to a Halloween Party at Porpoise's."
"Will you be trick or treating?" I asked.
"I think so." Remember the days when no one over twelve would be caught dead Trick or Treating? Now the streets are full of young adults in odd array out begging for...hey wait! What has Erin done with her candy???
"Are you taking Tegan?" I ask. Tegan the Labradinger could pose as a Satanic wizard without dressing up in anything but a battery powered black strobe collar.
Erin rolled her eyes. "No," she answered.
"Do you need a ride?" I ask.
"No, I'm meeting Porpoise down at Fred Meyer's."
I was out walking Tegan in the Senior Center parking lot when Erin appeared with a young man I didn't recognize.
"This is the exchange student from Japan," she said. "Porpoise will be here in a few minutes."
And soon she was. But not before Erin showed the Japanese guy how messy our house is. Apparently no one's house is this disorganized.
The hours flew...our house is so secluded that Trick or Treaters...even the college kids...never come to our door. We tried once putting a table out next to the street, but that didn't work.
Suddenly the phone rang. The witching hour had arrived.
"Mom!" said Erin. "I need a ride home! And so does Sushimaki!" Hold on to it while you have it; these years will never come again. "He lives about 20 miles out of town with some Mormans..." Ah! Twenty miles of holding on to my life as a mom...soon I was making my way down tenth, past the high school, the mortuary...and across US197. What if I just started to drive...south...to Bend...to California...then suddenly the sound of cell phone ring...
"Mom, where are you, Mom?"
"Right across the street."
"I warned you that it would be a mess, but not this messy," Erin told Sushimaki as she began hurling stuff into Ech's hatchback area.
"Did you go trick or treating?" I asked. Yes.
"I was Harry Potter," answered Erin. So that's what the red vest was for!
"What did you go as?" I asked Sushimaki.
"Himself," said Erin.
"He went as a Japanese guy!!!" I added.
"So why did you come here?" inquired Erin.
"I wanted to learn to speak English. The English classes are not so good at my school."
"You speak really good English," complimented Erin. "Except for the r's and l's."
"Yes! We can't say those letters. Or th." He demonstrated how not to pronounce r's, l's and th's. "But also, I'm interested in international cultures, how people are around the world."
"Hey," I asked. What's your address on Mill Creek? Is the road paved there, or is it dirt?"
"Paved? Dirt?" he replied.
"Gravel?" Erin added.
"Uh...the address is 7100. There are a lot of trees there."
Whatever. It was a long way in any case. Erin and Sushimaki chatted happily in the back seat, while I kept on the lookout for house numbers. Finally, I turned left from the paved road and descended at a 89 degree angle down a gravel driveway into the wooded lot. But how would we ever get back up onto Mill Creek Road?
1. Oh, what can I say?! We're in the Staples parking lot...what are we buying? Paper? Sushi?...ah...expensive ink cartridges! I mount the saddle of my noble steed ECH and...
"Look who's parked beside us!" exclaims ECH. "It's USH from Washington! Usch! I've heard about that guy..."
A white haired senior man is standing beside Washington USH and is saying something to us. Oh for deaf! The windows are all rolled up. I roll them down.
"Hey!" says the man. He is wearing a forest green flannel shirt. "Your Forester is bigger than mine!"
"Huh!" I stall. "Is that a Forester?"
"Yep! How old is yours?"
"I just bought it last year." Odd, I can't remember what model year that is. 19...uh 200...9. It comes slowly. Or was it a 2008 or a 2010?
"Yeah, that's about right. I got mine used three years ago and..."
2. Tegan! We've rambled along Mill Creek...the other side...through cobbled rosebeds... Past the Meals On Wheels kitchen, where there is always the possiblility of...
---Tegan! I shout. Drop it! That soggy piece of bread is not for you! I wrench the pasty crumbling nasty morsel out of her mouth blob by blob. Why are there always these soaked globs of refused bread and rolls out by the loading dock? Why does Tegan sing when she plays with squeeky chew toys? Why do Scaninavian authors refuse to use quotation marks when their characters speak?
Up and up, past the metal storage shed and the disused horseshoe pitches. The creek on the left and now that the November walnuts and cottonwoods are losing their yellow leaves, you can see our grey house there too. And then there is no more up, we've reached the infamous 10th Street Bridge.
"No! Teagan," I command. "Don't roll in that poop!" I can't see it, but I know it's is there....
"Gwan gyou gyen geliv i gya glore!" The man is dressed in a pale blue running suit and the whitest hair I've ever seen, long and pulled back. He's standing in back of an unmemorable automobile, waving his arm and talking to each vehicle that drives by on Tenth.
"Gu gha a gud dgay!" Deaf. His words sound deaf. "Ghad gles gyu!"
How can we avoid his advise? It's too late. There's a lull in the traffic and he's walking towards us. He looks down at Tegan and smiles, then puts his hands on my shoulders. My eyes grow wide.
"Gyu gtak gcr of ghat gup!!" he smiles. Then he walks away.
The Dalles, Oregon, November 2010:
Ah Quaker Meeting! Bill had done his best, assuring us that he saw amazingly good things in Our Path to the future, but no one seconded it. The soundless seconds billowed away. I pulled out my cell phone. 10:57am. Next to me, Mari-Lynn sat with her jacket hung over her face...
"Ahh..." sighed everyone when three seconds passed. Mari-Lynn took the jacket off her head.
"Why is it so cold in here?" Margie asked innocently.
"Bruce turned off the heat. He's 'Mr. Turn It Off' at home. Anything he can find to turn off he does, to save energy. We've got a garage door opener which sounds like a luxury, but if it's raining or snowing, it's great to have. One time I started to go out and it was pouring rain and I couldn't find the remote anywhere. He'd hidden it."
"Is that why you had your jacket over your head, because you were freezing? I thought the light was bothering you," said Margie.
"I thought you were having a migraine," added someone else, turning down their sympathy.
Bruce just sat there in his folding chair, with a s--t eating grin.
"It does make a lot of noise," suggested someone.
"Is that why you turned it off, Bruce?" someone else asked.
"Maybe so," conceded Mari-Lynn. "Bruce, maybe you should have just used your ear plugs."
"Have you two considered couples therapy?" suggested someone.
"We'll go around the circle now and tell how we feel about this...haw haw haw," said Jeff. "By the way, I've brought some apples for whoever wants them. They're pretty tart now, but as time goes on, they get sweeter. And some garlic. I brought plastic bags, too."
"I don't think we need any garlic," said Ian. "***Caitey*** can't eat garlic.
It was nice to see Ian. I hadn't seen hide nor hair of him since Monday, when we went out for my birthday...and ***Caitey***, she was waiting for him outside in her Suburu, Soi.
And I gathered up four apples and a bag of garlic. We sliced an apple up for dinner.
November 2010, The Dalles:
Studded snow tires suddenly appeared inside the Forester's hatch...just in time, because the racketball players at the gym had predicted a big snow storm!
"It's raining...won't be a problem!" I remarked as ECH pulled out of the driveway, as if on his own. Out of the driveway and on to the tire store.
"Good grief!" exclaimed ECH as I parked behind a green Jeep with Publicly Owned plates. "I've never seen so many vehicles waiting to get their tires changed." The cars, pickups, Wasco County Sheriff SUVs and the NORCOR Inmate Work Party van...hundreds of them, alligned in esoteric patterns according to the bays to which they were destined. I got out and hiked the two miles to the sales room.
"I bet he's a real fighter!" said a man.
"Yeah!" I laughed.
"Is he a puppy?"
"She's five months old,"
"Yeah she's still got some growing left to do. Right now she's a lap dog...not a purse dog, but a lap dog." Lapp Dog, Sami Sled Dog's Adventure in Oregon.
"You go right ahead," said the Labradinger critic.
"I parked my car by the mailbox. Is that OK?"
"That's the end of the line. Do you want to wait for it or come back?"
"How may hours is the wait?"
"Six...six hours." An agitated rumble rose up behind me. "If it's six hours we..."
Tegan and I began our soggy walk through the drizzle, stopping only for yummy food wrappers. Suddenly I saw them...tiny white specks on her shiny black coat! * * * Snow!* * *
It began with snow that did not stick, moved on to snow that was beginning to stick, to rain that melted the snow...
"I'm going to the gym," I announced after dinner. Snow. Huge flakes of snow, like a psychedelic blizzard.
"My husband..." Trudy at the desk told me,"...you know he coaches the girls' basketball team. He was driving the Toyota and hit a boulder at the Lyle Tunnel! There were three of them." She enclosed a space about the size of two basketballs with her hands. "He limped to Lyle...his gas tank was all ripped up!!!"
"Huh!" I remarked. "That was the weather?"
But even Trudy was smiling. And outside, fit and trim patrons ran out to the cars laughing, throwing snowballs at each other!
In the morning, there was ODOT trip check. The Dalles web cam was white as snow. Everywhere else was black ice. I decided to drive to Portland anyway. No I won't. Yes I will. No...wait...that's why I waited six hours for those Indonesian studded snow tires! As predicted, the snow melted...sort of...and I got into Portland almost an hour ahead of time. "The Films of Ingmar Bergman" was waiting with open arms, holding the third installment of "Fanny and Alexander."
"And what about this house?" asked Dr. Tom. "Judith! Is this house someplace you'd like to live?" Of course I would, whitewashed walls, it's right out of 'Country Home'! But that freaky goth maid played by Harriet Anderson!!!
"The house is very beautiful in its own way," I answered, "but some of the people who live there are pretty unpleasant." Sort of like the weather. I bolted out of class as soon as it ended, drove ECH out of the ramp, onto the freeway. A little snow here...a little snow there. Sixty four miles of a little snow.
"Look at that car up there, going too slow!" snarled ECH! "Let's pass 'em!!" We began to accelerate and move into the left lane.
"Packed snow." I warned, braking my Noble Forester and, with some effort, moving him back into the right hand lane.
"Nature's Monochrome Collide-o-scope!" Huge dizzying white snowflakes whizzing by in a tizzy! The irritating car exited at Rowena, and ECH and I settled in behind a semi. 55mph...50...45...40...and then Hurrah!!! Exit 82!!! The Dalles was the same as we left it!!!
"Hey, what's up?"
"We're going 25mph, only slightly faster than the vehicles on the freeway!"
"Can you read those yellow lights over on 84?"
"ACCIDENT AHEAD!" Hundreds of well-lit vehicles...mostly semis...were backed up at a dead stop, just past where we got off!
"And look...the smart ones are exiting up by Denneys...onto 6th Street!"
"Speaking of smart ones, there's a red Suburu Forester named ECH!!! Let's let that guy in!!"
We snuck into the parking lane, and turned right by Burger King. In only a few minutes we would be home.
The Dalles, Oregon, November 2010:
Thanksgiving! This is what you get married for, have kids for, so as you age and become a matriarch, you can have 34 close relatives come for dinner and bustle around the kitchen and...
"Mom...Letti has asked me to come have dinner at her house," says Erin. With Ian at **Caty***'s house, Emma and Jason and Young Victor and their special guest Ermhardt Printer in Chicago, and my husband hanging around Elgoog so he could eat turkey, it was just me and Tegan at home. Then the phone rang!
"This is Mari-Lou, Letti and Jon's mother, and I was thinking, well this is stupid, why don't we invite you too!?!"
"Uh...I'll have to think about it," I told her.
"Well, I tell you, if you're driving around, just come by about four and we'll bring you in a chair off the porch.
"Where is that accent from?" I asked.
"We're both from Kentucky. But my husband has to meet the public so he's got this weird Oregon accent."
I started to hyperventilate. There were a lot of things I wanted to do around the house like clean the bathtub and outline my Ingmar Bergman's View of Depression talk. But then an e-voice came to me from my Texas days, DJ Gary from KEOS.
"Thank you for inviting me, but I despise the humiliation of being the person who gets invited because there's no where else for him to go."
~Shove it, I'm inviting you because of your warm personality and daggers of wit and because I can eat dinner with my family any time. You would make Thanksgiving dinner special.~
"OK,' I e-mailed back."
"OK," I told Mari-Lou on the phone.
"Great! I can't wait to meet you!"
At 2:50pm I dropped all the things I was doing and drove over Mari-Lou's house. Erin reluctantly led me through the livingroom. I remember thinking that the oak floor needed refinishing big time. Then a rotund woman with grey hair met me in the kitchen.
"Oh I know you! You were in that parent program with us..."
"Uh..." I said.
"Haw haw!!! We thought they were going to have us paint walls or something! But it was entirely different!" Indeed it was. But I will tell you this, you can't discipline a book nerd by taking everything out of his room but his bed and his books.
I found a chair in the corner of the rumpus room and sat down. Erin rolled her eyes in dismay and said "Mom, are you going to get a story out of this?"
"Yeah, but not right now," I answered, flashing my new sleek black CoolPix at her. That would soften her up. Then Buddy walked by.
"That dog looks like a walrus!!!" I exclaimed to myself. Actually more like a black hippopotamus.
"What kind of dog is that?" another guest asked.
"Buddy's a Labrador."
"How old is he?"
"Twelve," answered the Dad, a vegan employed as a meat cutter at a local grocery.
"No...more like 14, Dad," argued one of his four children.
"Do you ever take him on walks around the block?"
"Yeah, but he's pretty much done-in when we do." Poor Buddy staggered around the couch, then lay down to watch the football game.
"Drinks! What kind of drinks do y'all want?" That was the sign for everyone to race to the tables. Erin and her two friend Letti and Jon had already staked out the computer area. I started to ask where I should sit, but realized no one cared.
"I got coke, sweet tea and water."
"Coke?" someone remarked.
"Coke in glass bottles!!" Mom replied.
"It's a family tradition," explained the oldest daughter nostalgically. She and her fiance had just arrived from Portland and were a bit ti--sy. "We always used to get them in our Christmas stockings."
"Can you eat this salt?" asked someone. The exquisite centerpieces consisted of stemware containing candles in a bed of rock salt.
"Is this the stuff they put on the roads?" asked another, putting a chunk into her mouth. [The stuff they put on the roads in Oregon is actually known as "cinders."]
Mom rolled her eyes. "It's ice cream salt. We'll save it and you can use it to make ice cream."
"I'll have water," I answered.
"Do you want water for hot tea?"
"I have some tea bags here in my purse..." added the woman sitting next to me.
The food was set up buffet style in crock pots on cabinets at the other end of the room. There was mashed potatoes, green beans, hominy, chunks of squash, cranberry sauce and deviled eggs. Irregular chunks of turkey were already on the table.
"This is my good china, Haw haw!" Paper plates. Later the Matriarch would explain that she didn't have enough real plates for everyone...and she didn't have to wash these!
Back at the table, conversations were raging.
"Do you butcher them yourself?" the dad was asking The Bearded Man.
"Naw, I take them down to Sanchez' over in Bingen," he answered.
"What grade are you in?" queried someone down in the "Kids" area.
"Well, I'm not actually going to school now," answered the weird-nosed boyfriend of a guest. "I RESIGNED rather than getting expelled. I thought that sounded better."
"Wow! What happened?"
"Well, see, Grainger passed a note to me in health class and the note had a drawing on it and the drawing was the kind you could get expelled for."
"Teen age stuff!" the girl's mother explained to me, laughing.
And then home-made pies. I had a slice of pumpkin pie for dessert, with whipped cream on it!
I'm hanging out with second year Norwegian class again this year. It's not that I flunked it the first time (which is very close to impossible), but rather that I like the charming camarderie...the tie that binds the students in obscure language classes....
Suppertime, at the exotic cafeteria two floors up from the radio station.
"Is that salmon?" I the ask India-man behind the counter at Mambo Italiano.
"No...oh OK...yeah." The salmon fillet is covered with olives, capers, and sun dried tomatoes. Try it!
"And a small serving of yellow rice." One scoop, two scoops, three..."That's enough!"
I carry my "Plate" over to the cash register, and then over to my usual table.
Then I see him...Dr. Tom! And look, he's carrying a cup of fruit salad and a spray can!
"Tom!" I beckon him with my index digit. "I have a question to ask you!"
He aims the can at something only he can see and sprays. "I'm just doing some disinfecting here," he replies.
"Where did that Snorri book come from?" We had passed around a leather-covered vintage book in Ingmar Bergman's class a few hours earlier. It looked like one of those huge old Bibles you wish you'd inherited from your great great grandparents.
"It's mine," he answers. "Would you like to borrow it? I can stop down in the Finnish room and get it."
I finish off my salmon and rice and hike up the multiple flights of stairs to the History Library. That's where the class meets. As promised, Snorri is right there on the table. We pass it around. Then the lecture begins.
"I said I'd bring pizza for the last class," begins Dr. Tom. "But the waiting time was 45 minutes. So I brought these instead." He waves a red plastic plate of Anna's Swedish Ginger Cookies. A winner with Norwegian classes everywhere! Then we get down to business, learning Norwegian and all that, handing out the take home final.
Suddenly our teacher says, "I've heard that there's a Norwegian food cart in Portland now,"
Erik the Red (the "Class Viking") immediately pulls out his lap top and elgoog-es "food cart Norwegian Portland"
"Got it here...they give the website...here it is!" exclaims the young Norseman. "Viking Soul Food! Here's the Lefsa based menu."
"What IS lefse??" wonders a couple of students.
I know what lefse is. You could buy it in the grocery store in Duluth. Furthermore, my brother-in-law met his first wife at St Olaf. They made lefse and lutefisk at a family Christmas back in the 80s sometime. O, I remember my times in Lake Wobegon...
"Hey, why don't you look up Norse Hall," suggests Dr. Tom. "See if anything's going on tonite...tango night. Great place. You ask someone, 'Snakker du norsk?' and they say answer 'Huh?' The bartender is an 80 year old woman. Ha ha...no one gets interested in The Sons of Norway until they turn 60. You look about 60..." He's targeting the pretty senior audit next to me, the one who wrote the lovely Christmas letter.
"No..." she laughs. "A lot older than that."
"But the Portland Sons of Norway is noted for its outreach to younger people..."
"I know," comments Erik the Red. "When I was there, one of the women targeted me and introduced me to EVERYONE!"
"What did you find for tonight," asks Captain Tom.
"Thursday Tango Night," replies Erik.
"Let's do this...let's go through this section and then go check it out!"
I don't stay to check it out. Black tires on black ice at black midnight slide back and forth inside my brain, a fifty pound Snorry book in my arms.
Portland, Oregon, October 2010. "I was thinking about a cruise..." I began. Yeah, it started out innocently, maybe AAA had a hot deal on Argentina, Uruguay, the Falklands, Antarctica, and Chile all in one week, prior to Christmas, for around $369 including balcony suite. But the conversation soon degenerated.
"If you can't deal with jet lag, you don't want the Caribbean," said the travel agent, her teeth fused into one solid chunk. What happened to Buenos Aires?
"No, I think it's OK. I've been to Maine..." I began. "I *would* like something without all those 'fun days at sea.'"
"Well, the only way you're going to do that is...oh here's one...Freeport, Nassau, St Thomas..."
"I've already been to all those places."
"What does that matter?" she countered with an evil glare. Simply put, there are so many places I haven't been to. But pretend you're on a huge hulking cruise ship. You start out on the American Plate, gliding past the Bahamas, de facto a part of Florida. By the time you've docked at Ste Charlotte Amalie, you're conch fritters on the Caribbean Plate, but the **real** action is in the Lesser Antilles, where the N.A. Plate is being slowly subduced beneath the Caribbean Plate. North America dives deeper and deeper until it melts. As they say, subduction leads to orogeny. Martinique 1902, that's the Lesser Antilles, volcanoes a Caribbean dime a dozen. But one island is different, eastward, an accretionary prism at the plate boundary....
"Barbados," I said excitedly.
"Barbados! Let me look!" she replied. <clip>
"Let's see...early or late dinner?" she asked happily, on her own turf at last.
"It doesn't matter," I replied.
"Wow! They have some early dinners available!"
I would later change this on-line to "your choice."
The HMS Victory is loaded up and heading out with its cargo of Puerto Ricans, Bajans, Eastern Skiboarders, a couple passengers from the Pacific Northwest...and, of course, the ghost of Admiral Nelson.
Bridgetown, Barbados, December 2010. "Barbados"
The first two days were quiet. The Victory's first stop at Charlotte Amalie provided the culinary highlight:
"I'd like one of your Maine Lobster rolls," the woman from Oregon ordered.
"Cock-a-doodle-do!" replied a nearby rooster.
At sunset they cast off again for a "Fun Day at Sea," eating desserts, forming conga lines, paying the penny slots, and translating Norwegian mystery novels. In her case it was "Traktaten Varsleren" by Hogne Hongset.
"I see you working so hard in your room," sighed the tall blonde woman from Housekeeping. "You need to relax! and have *Fun*!"
"By the way," the woman from Oregon diverted. What could be more fun than a thriller about North Sea Oil? "Where are you from?"
"Bosnia," the houskeeper answered.
"Yes, the former Yugoslavia, down around Italy."
The woman from Oregon would have chosen Albania.
The Victory docked at Bridgetown on the morning of the third day. The turistas aboard were welcomed by an authentic steel drum band, but the woman from Oregon pushed forward anxiously, passing through the tanzanite-rich duty free shops and along the park that faces the ocean. She wandered through the fish market, pulling her new Cool Pix out to snap photos of the fly-dotted carcasses. Just where was she? Where did she want to go? She was confused by the juxtaposition of the old and new, the immaculate and the shabby. Drawn by a silver dome, she turned inland at the KFC, and then again at the lush, ornate Barbados Mutual Insurance Company building. And then rising before her...a grey chuch with a grey steeple! An epiphany! And...um...a graveyard.
Initially the woman from Oregon was confused by its chaotic condition. Pristine, granite-veneered head stones popped up in ancient, open tablet graves. Who knew what would happen if she kicked one of the sandy mounds of fine shell hash? Would the toe bone of a pirate poke out and rattle its revenge? Would Horatio protect her? Never mind...she pulled out her Cool Pix and began to snap photos. She'd recorded eighty three Bajan souls before...
[to be continued]
On the way back to the Victory, The Woman from Oregon bought an iced chai latte and a bottle of duty-free Coke Zero. She boarded the ship with the contraband coke and snarfed down a tomato and mozzarella a la pesto sandwich at the "free" deli. Then she sat down at her laptop....and hit the jackpot!!! Only one stone had been photographed there (Evelyn Redman Chittenden (1872-1963))!! The rest were all hers, like particles of shell hash running through her hands, the citizens of Barbados flowing through time and never stopping 'til they hit the ground!!
She surged down the flights of stairs, out onto the gang plank, and through Duty-Free. Her plan was to short cut as soon as she could. Turning left at an outdoor bus station, she passed a tiny wooden Bajan bar. An old man stopped and looked at her.
"Where are you going? That way or that way?" he asked.
"This way here." His eyes grew large and he replied:
"You be safe now."
And both went their ways. She walked past stalls where Bajan people were selling cool Bajan stuff and did not stop. She'd been warned!!!
Soon she was back at the churchyard. She began at the left of the walkway, where the graves were slightly tidier and less perplexing. But who was Harold BG Marshall MBE (1908-1998)? Had the name Hinds mutated from Haynes? Where did the given name "Elphiston" come from? And why hadn't she had the wits to go on a tour of a rum factory instead? But none of the spooks here rose to share their secrets.
After a couple hundred "SNAP"s, she turned and walked towards the ocean, where the Victory was moored. Suddenly she found herself trapped in a parking lot! Not for long, though. As she walked through the seaside park, next to the ocean, she came upon a young rastafarian man making and selling little rasta man ornaments.
"Did you take a taxi down?" he asked.
"Yeah," she answered. "Uh, no. What?"
"Some people take a taxi downtown and then they realize how close it is and walk back," he laughed.
"No, I walked both ways," Twice.
"How much are those little guys there?" she continued. He gave her a price, then immediately lowered it for two, and then three...
"Some guys hang these from their rear view mirrors. Or you could use them as Christmas tree ornaments."
The Woman from Oregon bought two of them, thinking they were funky enough for her family members' devlish minds.
"What's this stamp here?"
"You go to the url and type in the serial number and series and you can see where it goes."
"Huh!" replied the man beneath the dreadlocks.
"Close your purse," he added.
First Page: http://w3.gorge.net/judith/stories.htm
I am gennett at gorge dot net