Stories For 2011
Last Year 2010
In the old days, when I was growing up, dogs were free to roam. Well, maybe not, but if, say, the boxer across the street got lose, folks hardly raised an eyebrow, except maybe to remark "Yep, Old Bruno across the street got loose again," or "Doggie out there!" In fact, at any given time there might be 3 or 4 canines running around the neighborhood causing trouble. Likewise, dog poop didn't seem to bother people very much, unless they stepped in it. No one ever thought of picking it up. As Bob Gennett used to say, "Old Bruno's out there fertilizing the yard again." But things have changed...
The Dalles, Oregon, January 2011: "In the Dog House"
The plan was to harness up Old Tegan and her ever-sniffing nose, walk down 9th Street to the irrigation pipe foot bridge over Mill Creek, then on past Dr. Fran's office and Mama Jane's Pancakes, which was once featured on the BBC, and then by Safeway to PetCo to buy some dog treats for our winter college course, "Dog Obedience." But Tragedy struck just before we got to the bridge. We were sniffing a chunk of basalt when a woman came up behind us.
"------!!!" she said.
"What?" I replied and cupped my hand around my ear.
"------!!!" she repeated. We walked closer to her.
"Did your dog just pee on my tire?"
"Um...no...she already peed before we got here."
"It's wet and he was over by it."
As someone would later remark, Tegan would have to lie horizontally to pee on a tire.
"I don't think so!" she continued. She said it in a melodic way that made me think she got the phrase from watching TV.
We walked on towards the big steel pipe.
"Not good!" she warned.
Her words hung weighted with prescience.
The next morning, we were out on the circle loop up Mill Creek and around the block. We sniffed out the rose bushes and then, as a surprise move, strolled into red volcanic cinder garden at the front of the Senior Center. I remember, peering into the window, where a classful of women were exuding a fast Tai Chi. Then the door to the classroom opened. A woman about my age but far more indigenous asked:
"Would you like a plastic bag for your dog?" What?
"No, thank you," I replied.
"Why not?" the woman continued.
"She didn't poop."
"Do you have one?"
"No," I answered.
"We like *Responsible Dog Owners* here." I turned to go.
"You have a cute dog," she added.
Tegan and I walked up to 10th Street. Something caught my eye...a small clear plastic bag, so dirty I couldn't read it's message. I shrugged and stuck it in my coat pocket. Tegan continued to sniff and <clip>
I scooped up the poop with the bag and dangled the smelly dung from my right hand. I could hear the words of my new teacher.
"The reason that the dog always heels on your left side is that Dog Obedience began in hunting and in the military. Why would that be?" No one knew.
"Because you carried your gun in your right hand."
"Ooo!!" exclaimed half of the students.
The HMS Victory slides softly through warm Caribbean waters. By dawn it will have crossed from the North American plate subduction zone into the island arcs of the Lesser Antilles. Our next stop is St Lucia, which, with its active geothermal area, will be the high point of my trip. I have only a few hours left to purchase the excursion: "Breathtaking Soufrire and the Warm Mineral Baths." I can see it now, Iceland Redux, steam rising from hot ground!! I pick up the Excursion Book and...
"Excursion not available on this cruise."
Maybe I could find another cemetery in Castries.
Castries, St. Lucia, December 2011.
In retrospect, The Woman from Oregon should have rented a car but she didn't. She surged out of the Duty Free gate and down the long long ocean road to town. Soon she was snapping away...Taking only pictures, leaving only footprints...Lanky men were carving and selling coconut bowls with birds attached, but they were too big to take home...a large tree in a small park told her she was Downtown, along with a mix of islanders and tourists. At a bookmaker/gift shop, she brought up her small black Cool Pix up to fire off another round...
The man in the ragged wheelchair at the left of the door startled her....a living mummy in fetal position...she stepped back towards the pillar on the otherside and turned...concealed behind it another, leaning dazed against the wall...fallen through some dark trap door of death...gasp...
The woman from Oregon could have bought 100 bootleg reggae albums...Jah! Just look at those long dreads!...or a delicious pizza from Domino's, or a few clay cooking pots. Instead, she crossed the street to the IGA Super J Boulevard Supermarket, hoping in vain to find Diet Mountain Dew. As it was, she hopped up to the check-out with a couple 16.9 oz. Coca-Cola Lights.
"I have American money," the Oregonian said. The cashier nodded.
"Three fifty eight," she said.
Cheaper than the Victory. The woman handed the cashier four ones.
"No...only one of those." Sometimes whatever you do, you will not escape appearing to be an idiot!
"Fifty cents a piece," she mumbled to herself, smiling. Better than the Duty Free.
"St. Kitts and Nevis are like no other islands in the Caribbean. It seems to embody a kind of lush tropical paradise usually associated with the South Pacific."
Bassterre, St Kitts, December 2010:
The Woman From Oregon awoke as a giant Behemouth rose up aside her balcony...Cheerio!! A Thomson Cruiser!! Brits scurrying all over it like euro-ants...
"Huh!" she said as she pulled on her increasingly filthy jeans...that's the Cascadian Way...and descended to breakfast, racing through the short line. The Puerto Ricans liked the long lines, complex foods, and crowded tables...that was the Latin Way. Out into the Duty Free, hunting down a Coke Zero, ready for the long walk to...no wait! Right in front of her...The National Museum. No fat sweaty taxi drivers offering to "show her the island." No long foot-blistering boulevards lined by unidentifiable trees and andesite coral rip rap. Town was right there.
All sorts of architectural stuff was available to photograph, as well as license plates. She snapped one that said "TA 60/sweet bread" on it and later one that said "Who God Bless No Man Curse."
"Morning!" a man said to her.
"Morning!" said a woman, and even more amazing,
"Morning!" said a teenager.
Only one of the many Kittitians who greeted her was actually talking into a cell phone!
In only a few minutes The Woman From Oregon was at the governmental headquarters, snapped that and the Dutch Embassy, then found a church and its yard. A couple of Brits from the HMS Thomson were reading the epitaphs. Fascinating tombstones from the mid-1700s:
"Here Lyeth the Body Of James Lindow Of Lancaster
Master & Facter of The Brig Swallow
Died the 23D May 1758
Aged 31 Years"
Strolling towards the right, past the American Bakery, the Woman arrived at a big stadium, where someone was doing a loud soundcheck.
"I bet I can just cut through this field here!" she mused loudly.
Famous last words! She zig zaged through the maze, watched a SUV scowling at a Porta-Potty, trying in vain to get past it and into the inner complex. Finally a man jumped out and shoved the Porta-Potty aside. It was a sight she had never seen back in the Big O! Soon, after a few false paths, she found herself back on the street again and on her way to a city park. In the center of the park is an impressive fountain, given to the islanders by Queen Elizabeth. There is another fountain...and that was where she was headed.
"I am at complete peace now, and do you know why? I have been accepted into the arms of The Lord!" a man was shouting. "The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want..." The benches were full, so she could not sit and listen to the Psalms of the Lowland. And there it was, the smaller fountain, neatly painted blue and white, and in the center blood red. This, according to The Rough Guide to the Caribbean, was where the slaves were washed before being auctioned off.
Slavery is what Caribbean history is all about.
The Woman From Oregon stopped for a couple Coke Zeros and re-boarded the Victory. She ate her already paid for lunch...was it Mediterranean Day? Great falafel! Then she disembarked and fell into the loving arms of the National History museum. The procedure for doing so is to buy a ticket downstairs, get confused, climb upstairs where a descendent of slaves tells visitors such as the adopted Oregonian..
"There are three rooms, look around, and sign the book when you are done."
The Woman from Oregon noticed that the building was old. She would learn while writing this tale that it is located in "The Old Treasury Building." The rooms are somewhat unremodeled, making the somewhat shabby museum all the more charming and above all, historic. There is a story in each charming and historic display....stories about the French and the English, the slave trade, slavery, small houses, and the rocky road to nationhood. There are also displayes of soda pop and beer, one of the industries that replaced sugar monoculture.
"Can I sit down; my feet are tired," she asked the Woman From St. Kitts.
"Sure, you can sit down as long as you like!" she in turn told the Woman From Oregon.
Soon, The Woman From Oregon would be sitting and waving, like everyone else with a starboard balcony, as the Brits next door waved goodbye from the open decks of the Thomson Behemoth. Soon the lights of the Behemouth would blur into the lights of Basse-Terre and into the darkness of places she had not yet seen.
it was the day I went to pick Tegan up from having a hysterectomy...
The Dalles, Oregon, January 2011:
The receptionist turned toward the "Cat" area. The "Cat" and "Dog" areas are separated by a waist high partition.
"What do you want for him? Rabies...you have to have rabies...distemper..."
"Yes," answered the cat's mistress. The cat was hidden in a carrier and did not reply.
"No, not that," the woman swore emphatically
"What's the cat's name?"
"He always called him 'Tom'"
"Let me look it up." The receptionist turned toward the computer.
"No, we can't do that. He already has a 'Tom' in here."
"Did you know Leonard passed away Monday?" the cat lady blurted out. "Sunday he was talking to people. He went to sleep and never woke up."
"I'll try and get someone to take him, but if I can't I guess I'll keep him," the woman said with mixed desperation and shock.
The receptionist sighed. "We can't put him in as 'Tom.' How about 'Thomas'?"
I read the obituaries for a week, but never found 'Leonard'.
&&&&&&&&There it was, right off the balcony...the penultimate stop of the HMS Victory's voyage. And look at that outcrop!!!
Sint Maaaaaaarten, December, 2010:
The Woman From Oregon had gotten to the point of saying,
"Oh no, not another Caribbean Island!!" But look! Azure waters, a white sand beach and a cactus covered outcrop! She slipped through Duty Free and picked up a can of Diet Pepsi. Then off down the long road, fighting off cab drivers...why weren't they ever cute? But the boatyard ahead of her had one cute bateau! She raised her tiny black Cool-Pis to photo "The Magic Carpet" and then back it went, into her pocket book...a tiny clunk. She looked down. The Cool-Pix was laying inside the chain-link fence, ready to ship out to Dry Tortuga.
She couldn't reach it, and she considered leaving all $110 of it there, an omen that her life would contain nothing left to photograph. <clip>
"Can I help you?" asked the old grey haired man...maybe her age...in the gatehouse.
"I dropped my camera in there and I need to get it out," she answered, conscious of a lifelong of clutziness. He nodded.
She breathed a sigh of relief and fiberglass dust. Taking the long way around, she eventually retrieved the slippery camera.
The first sign of downtown Philipsburg was a brown woman with straight blonde hair, dressed in a revealing golden tubelike cocktail dress. Not exactly typical morning attire. The second was "Casino | Jump Up | Where Everyday's A Carnival." But these were just decoys.
"Why is there a car with a French license plate?" she pondered. "Wealthy French tourist, no doubt." This mystery would be solved by a group of rowdy Caribbeans stuffed into a French car. Tourists, indeed, but from the north half of the island! Like St-Pierre and Miquelon, St Martin is a jolly outpost of Mother France in the New World. Wonder <snap!> if they have some of these great members of the <snap!>Legimosae back in the Old Country...that would be Holland. You hear about Holland bulbs but not Holland legumes. A building says "Constitutional Affairs"...wonder if that lady in gold is involved in this? Now here's something you don't see every day! A statue-rich roundabout with the title "The Salt Pickers"! In it's previous life, St Maartin got alot of its GNP from salt evaporation, depicted here, and there was a 50% chance that there used to be a huge salt flat to her right.
You know you're downtown when you see KFC, Scotia Bank, and a traffic jam. But soon The Woman From Oregon turned and dead-ended at the white sand beach. Maui! Now she knew! St. Maartin reminded her of Hawaii.
In the distance, she could see the HMS Victory, and in her mind she could see the plane waiting for her in San Juan.
&&&&&&&San Juan, December 2010:
Airport Security, no body scans here...
"Yep, that's you!"...just a weird device reading my *Oregon* Drivers License. Just ahead, one Brit chortles to the other:
"I assume we've been through Passport Control," and I roll my eyes and want to tell them:
"Puerto Rico is part of America." It's like Samoa. There wouldn't be all these Polynesians in The Dalles, Oregon if they weren't Americans.
Washington DC, December 2010:
*Delayed*. The plane to Portland is *Delayed*. Later The Woman From Oregon will ask:
"Why is the plane delayed?" and the woman at the counter will say:
"The plane was coming in from San Francisco, but it was going to be three hours late. Then we got another plane, but we told so many people that the departure was *delayed* that we had to *delay* the flight anyway."
"Huh!" The Woman From Oregon will exclaim. She can't wait to get back to Oregon!
She has only one photo of the wine bar...It contains the waiter...
"You remind me of my son-in-law.." she doesn't say.
...a glass of Virginia chardonnay and a plate of smoked salmon on toast and...
"So what's this olive like thing?" she asks.
"You know what capers are? This is what the capers are in before they take them out," replies the waiter.
Achtung! Suddenly a dinosaur appears. It is standing in the wood louvers that separate the winos from the crowd of frustrated flyers, hopefully bound for Frankfurt.
"It's a cooler," the word goes round. "They have to fix the cooler."
"This is my favorite," says the voice of a small girl. "He's a meat eater!" she tells the Woman From Oregon.
"What's his name?" WFO asks.
"Tyrannosaurus Rex! Rawwwww!!!" Several mini-dinos have been let loose to crawl on the wine bar divider.
"Emma, wir mussen ein wenig länger warten..." her father tells her. I know he's not German by the fact I can understand him.
"Frankfort...we're waiting for the plane to Frankfort," a couple at the next table tells the waiter. "We were on the last plane to take off," they continue in flimsy context to anyone who will listen. "It was a blizzard and they'd de-iced twenty times...we were out on the tarmac and the pilot said we couldn't take off. But the passengers started yelling "Take off! Take off!" and then started clapping. Crazy Germans! I was cringing in my seat. You couldn't even see anything. So the pilot took off!"
"Those de-icings make me shudder!!!" observes a woman at another adjacent table.
"Emma, don't bother her, you don't know her," her father says.
"That's right, you don't know me!" she agrees. But she knows another Emma; she is married to the waiter's twin!
"I have a daughter named Emma," she doesn't say.
"Do you want me to re-seat you somewhere else?" the hostess asks.
"No...that's fine. I like children," she replies. The Woman From Oregon's social brain stopped developing when she was about ten years old.
But the plane to Frankfurt is ready to load up its unreasonable Deutschkins and The Woman From Oregon has sampled enough Local Wine By the Glass.
"Emma," she says as she passes by, "I enjoyed meeting your dinosaurs and I hope you have a nice trip!"
Portland, Oregon, February 2011:
Norwegian 202 is getting bigger and bigger! People come in from other schools, other towns...and the course is particularly popular with students from Salem. You don't need to be Norwegian to be in the class, either. A couple people are just studying it because they like Norwegian metal.
"Who wants to Ron? Who wants to be Rita?" Dr. Tom is fishing for victims to read a dialog on eating at a restaurant. Let's look halfway down the page as Ron guzzles down wine, flirts with Rita, and most importantly, orders food off the meny.
Ron: "Hm. Elg med sopp og fløtesaus for meg, takk. Og kokte poteter."
After the students are done, Dr. Tom casts his line again for someone to translate the words into English.
Ron: "Hmm...Elk with mushroom and cream sauce for me, thanks. And baked pototoes."
"Boiled potatoes," corrects our teacher.
"But elk isn't technically correct, is it? Isn't it a moose?" points out a gent from Salem.
"It is...but it's not the moose you'd see in Alaska. We in Oregon are used to elk. An elg is a European moose."
"Not a reindeer."
"Students," interjects Dr. Tom. "Have any of you hit a moose with your car?" (I almost did, in Newfoundland. But "almost" isn't even worth a Texan Bambi.)
Two students, Gunnar and Jordan, raise their front hooves.
"Did either you come out of it with no damage to the car or the moose?"
Gunnar shakes his head.
"Neither of them," he replies, obviously tickled and smiling!
Jordan begins his story:
"It happened north of Oslo. We were in a bus...a small one, think Mercedes Sprinter. I was sitting beside the driver. We saw a line of cars...headlights...coming toward us...and suddenly...we could see a huge head through the windshield.. The glass in the windshield shattered. Then it was gone. We looked around."
"Was it dead?" someone inquires.
"Yeah. The antlers were ripped off. The ribs were crushed...Then a big trucker came by and wanted to know if we wanted to eat the meat. And we said no, because we weren't really into doing that. We were tired and wanted to go home. But we had to move it...we had to move it off the road..."
The Dalles, Oregon, February 2011: One morning, as I lay in bed, I heard someone gagging and choking. Hmm...sounds like someone's throwing up, I said to myself and went back to sleep. But after an hour of this, I got up. No one was in the bathroom. Try Erin's room...
"Erin, are you sick?" I asked.
"No, it's morning, Mom." I continued out to the living room, where Tegan the Dog was choking her little lungs out.
"Huh," I said, and went back to bed.
The coughing went on for the rest of the day. Normal things...grabbing my pants leg or chewing on a library book or a 2 liter bottle of Mountain Dew... would throw her into a fit of nasty sounds. By 4:45 I was ready to take her to the vet. There is a sign on the door that says "IF YOUR DOG IS COUGHING, GAGGING OR CHOKING, PLEASE LEAVE IT IN YOUR VEHICLE." So I had to wait alone.
"I'd guess that she has a light case of kennel cough," guessed the vet. "We'll give you some antibiotics and some cough medicine. And no dog obedience for two weeks!" I breathed a sigh of relief.
There were two parties ahead of me at the reception desk, but I leaned against it anyway.
"Do you want to try a plastic muzzle?" the receptionist was asking, her eyes narrowing in on the clock.
"Yes, why don't we try that.." said the customer. The receptionist pawed through the muzzle box. "How much does she weigh?"
"A hundred forty pounds...but now it's a hundred twenty." And the poor dog was anemic as well.
"The plastic ones are all too small." The receptionist fished for some other kind of muzzle. "You'll have to keep this on all the time when she's out doors, so she won't eat any more rocks."
"Your dog is eating rocks?" I asked.
"Not rocks, really, just pebbles." The dog...the hefty, amiable yellow lab, now heavily muzzled...had been filling up on rocks and wouldn't eat her food.
"Yes," said the receptionist, rolling her eyes at a white haired woman. "Is this an emergency?"
"I'd say so," replied the woman defensively. "He had an accident and now he can't get out of the car."
Well," sighed the receptionist. "We'll bring him in."
&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&The Dalles, Oregon, February 2011 "Johnsmith at Erin Glen Winery"
"Well," I say, and not to entirely deaf ears. "I guess I'll park here," I say and swing ECH into the diagonal space. From here it's about .5 blocks to the former US Mint, also known as Erin Glen Winery. Outside a man is roasting his hands on the firepit. My date and I walk up the ramp, and into the warehouse.
"You need tickets?" the pleasant woman at the table asks.
"I've got the money, unless you want to pay for it," my date states.
Never look a gift horse in the mouth.
This, you may remember, is where Bill the Quaker held his 60th birthday party. In an hour or so, Johnsmith will tell his audience that he has just had his 60th birthday. 60 is a reasonable number at a folk music performance.
There is almost no one in the audience...and we were afraid of being late!
"Hi!" There's Dan Ross, who oversees everything like a hawk and never overlooks. "There's a lot of food up over there!" Up the ramp, in the Sumptuous Wine Tasting Room, that's where the audience is, ordering wine or hops, and/or piling fajitas and pita/hummus furnished by The Baldwin Saloon onto paper plates. Too late I shall realize the hummus tastes *great* mixed up with green fajita salsa.
"You want to go find a seat?" asks my date. Dallesians have commenced to billow down the Ramp into the warehouse, with its clever green forklift. Johnsmith is standing on the stage, flanked by a young Swiss woman with a fiddle and ditto with a hurdy gurdy.
"Hello The Dalles!" he yells. "Are you ready for some ****ing contemporary folk from ****ing Wisconsin!?!?!" This wakes me up, and I realize that Johnsmith is actually sitting on a chair alone on stage, calmly spinning a tale about his recently born 10 1/2 pound baby grandchild back in Trampoline-sur-Mississippi.
Right Into Love, Fathers Day, Hired Hand, Scotch Pine, Jay Bird [love that a semi a capella!!], Juni Rae...I'm copying these from "Gravity of Grace," not from sheer memory. I sit wondering, where did that characteristic singer-songwriter style actually come from? Why not carry an accordion instead of a guitar? Or a lute? What does it take to write songs that good? To what extent is the ability to tell stories as well as make music enhance a performance? Why is his hair so short?
Ireland...I like best the story about the man who knew the author so he called him and the author said come on up, so they did and Johnsmith sang for them the story about love and flowers and the guys were all crying and wringing their hands after that, and someone said there was no flower more beautiful than the gentian [was it gentian?] in the limestone of the Burren, so they all went there, and found the flowers but they had closed for the day and one of them breathed on it so it opened. It was when Ian and Erin were young, 1995 or 1996 I think, and were driving down from Galway and a man was standing there at some naked crossroads.
"Do you live here?" I asked after he was carefully stowed in the car...was that the blue station wagon?
"Yes I do," he answered.
"You should go see the Barrens," he suggested.
How many of you have suddenly found your life taken over by dogs? How did it happen? For me, the bone that broke the woof woof's back was Facebook. A couple of gals I went to High School with are into dog rescue and football. Now I know what a No-Kill Shelter is...and we have one right here in The Dalles! Today I took on the Challenge of..."Dog Walking Volunteer"
The Dalles, Oregon, February 2011: "I volunteered to walk dogs," I told the woman at the desk. I'd filled out a hefty application...
"When do you want me to write that reference for you?" Dr. Tom had asked excitedly. The story was itching to flow through his fingers, how I'd rescued a cell of Norwegian resistance fighters by changing them into a team of Sami sled-dogs using my magic pen...
"She'll be here in a minute," the desk lady replied. And she was.
"Do you have a dog in mind?"
"Uh...I don't know any of them. But I'm used to a 25 pounder." Soon I was introduced to Cookie, a 25 pound Australian cattle dog (blue heeler) mix. She had a bunch of black spots on her, but otherwise was a dead ringer for Tegan the Dog. A heel-o-dor?
"I wouldn't doubt it," Erin would tell me. "Tegan is always nipping at people, trying to herd them." Border Collie Syndrome, I'd always thought.
Compared to our pup, Cookie was a docile girl. She didn't pull on the leash, choking and gagging with her hackles up. She walked, sometimes sniffing at this or that clump of dead grass.
"Good girl, Cookie!" I reached down to rub her stomach. Oops! "Good boy, Cookie!"
We sat down on a bench, and stared over the ocean to Washington. A woman walked by with her Black Labrador.
"Was that hail?" she asked.
"Hail?" I answered. Sleet, it must have been sleet.
Cookie and I walked back, brushing elbows with a woman who was walking a Cutie-orange purebred Pomeranian
"Would you like to walk another one?" the kennel tech asked.
"I think that's enough for today," I replied, then felt selfish. "OK, that's fine, I will..." Did I have a dog in mind? The inmates had their mugshots up on the bulletin board. Maybe I could just stay inside and pet some cats.
"No you can pick one for me."
The woman returned toot sweet with a black lab mix called Lola. Whoa! There was no chance of Lola weighing 25 pounds!
"Lola's favorite activities are resting and eating!" laughed the tech and handed me a handful of Poochy Pork Bakon Strips.
I thought the drive would be more difficult, eh little ECH? It started snowing at Rowena...you could call it suburban The Dalles...but then it let up and didn't let down again 'til the almost invisible border between Gresham and Portland. Big, psychedelic, fluffy blobs, coming full force at ECH's windshield and then swerving just in time, like 2001 A Space Odyssey...and then, as almost always, only the salt on the Broadway Plaid Pantry steps remained. However, on the way home...
Portland, Oregon, February 2011: "Hell On I-84"
"You good to go back down to Salem?" Dr Tom asks the Salem boys. Of course. They are all strong Vikings, but especially Jordan, aka "Young Swartzenegger."
"Judith!" he continues.
"Yeah, I got my big heavy car and studded tired...um...tires."
Ah...my Suburu AWD. Despite his 25mpg bulk, ECH scampers at sixty, past dozens of wimpy Portland vehicles. Then, as the truckstops of Troutdale trail into deepest coffee colored night, the lighted sign above us reads:
CHAINS OR TRACTION TIRES REQUIRED PAST MP25. Ugh!
The temperature commences to drop. 37...35...and finally 32. Some areas of the pavement appear darker...black ice! A red, burning flare in the left lane, a running shoe reflecting just beyond it. I grip the wheel as Multnomah Falls turns into sight. ECH passes a truck, a car with its blinkers on, and then slows to 55. Don't brake, don't turn the wheel. Semis begin to peel off, some at pull-offs, some onto the shoulder. 45...35...ECH never slips, never fails, but one false turn of the wheel and we are ditched, rolled over. We pass Dodson, the Bonneville curves, lights of the dam brightly shining, glittering like the fires of hell...a five second break at the tunnel...
"Say, Judith..." begins ECH faintly. "ACHTUNG, Judith, can you turn down the Letze Instanz? Can you turn down the ****ing German metal?"
"Jennifer burned this for me. Don't you like it?"
"Can't understand the ****ing German. Can't your friend find some Japanese metal for a homesick boy?" Don't go there, as they say..
"Say, ECH, do you see what I see?"
"Yellow lights! It's the cinder trucks!!"
And Cascade Locks as well...and what's that white psychedelic stuff? Snow. Snow as well also.
Vehicles continue to confidently, hopefully, continue westward, toward Portland. But in our eastbound lanes, semis continue to drop like flies...at the weigh station, at the old scales, at the Wyeth exit, along the shoulders. We pass a car, 15 miles an hour we reckon, and a huge white pickup passes us...50 we reckon. That's it for the 20 miles between Cascade Locks and Hood River. We toy with the idea of staying with Ian and his fiancee across the Columbia in Underwood, but...
"It's starting to let up," smiles ECH, his wheel studs shining with confidence.
Tegan and I were the first to arrive, staring out into the lonely emptiness of the National Guard Armory. The National Guard itself had been deployed to Iraq, taking with them a City of The Dalles Flag to fly above their headquarters. All that was left now was a Mexican food cart, a van that hung fuzzy blankets for sale everyday, and a bunch of dogs attending obedience class. It was the final lesson, "graduation" from our Columbia Gorge Community College class. But dogs, like Scandinavian language junkies, never really graduate. After Beginning Dog Obedience, there's Intermediate Dog Obedience and so forth.
"Tegan! Heel!" I instructed, pulling on her choke chain. "Heel Tegan good dog good girl heel underbar hund underbar flicka." You have to talk to them constantly, so that they pay attention to you and not some rodent in the flower bed. "Tegan heel oh no!!" Expert heeling came not without a price. It was the third time she'd booped on the barren concrete armory floor! "Wait, I'll go get some paper towels, heel Tegan, good girl!" I let the leash go as I picked up the vile steamy stuff. Oh no! Two more students, Riley and Rex had arrived! Rex is an underage Springer and Riley is a golden lab with a major in barking at other dogs. "Woof! Woof! Woof!" said Riley, making a lunge for Tegan. I stepped on the leash pulled Tegan back to the scene of the poop...
Our teacher scanned the class.
"I'm afraid this is all the dogs that will show up tonight. The weather is pretty bad." Despite a few innocent drops of rain outside, the pooches in the hills above The Dalles were struggling under a foot of snow. This included the incredible chihuahua-Jack Russell terrior mix...so cute and petite!
The six of us lined up along the wall. Then, suddenly the door opened...
"My family is here to watch!" I explained to the instructor as they seated themselves on a couch by the door...the cozy blanket on the back had already been deployed to Afghan-istan, along with a huge shaggy hound dog in the Intermediate class.
"You might want to sit somewhere else," the teacher suggested, but alas, no folding chairs could be found.
First we demonstrated the Heel Poutine...um...Routine. "Heel Tegan good dog good girl heel underbar hund underbar flicka." I said, and I must say Tegan was doing much much better at heeling rather than pulling along choking and gagging with her hackles raised. All three dogs had a problem sitting, however, at the command "Halt." The stay sit and the stay down were fair to middling, despite a lot of Stay good dog good girl/boy stay underbar hund underbar flicka/pojkes. The dressage went well, as did the Call Your Dog, at least for Rex and Riley.
And then it was all over. Tegan saw Erin and bounced over to the couch, tail wagging.
"Is that *your* dog?" asked the teacher.
"Yeah!" replied Erin.
"She's really sweet and really really smart! Enjoy her!" said the teacher.
&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&March 2011: Ah!!! Life amongst the Top Two Percent! Might as well spend it on a vacation, because you're not makin' any interest on it. And so the search for last minute deals begins. Brazilian cruise? Need a visa, as well as a VISA. Bermuda? No rental cars, just scooters. China? Can't get a flight. Morocco? Can't get a stateroom. Rarotonga? Can't get a bath tub. Oslo from SEA on Icelandair? Less than it costs to fly to Chicago? No problem!!! Oh, they're at it again, Ida!!
It seemed like only a few hours before I was off to Seattle, dozing off on I5, parking ECH the Suburu in a commercial lot, taking the shuttle, checkin' in and taking the steps down to...the airport official has his hand out, like a traffic cop stopping traffic!!!
"It'll be just a few minutes," he chortled. "We gotta check this one out. Probably just someone coming in the out door." He shook his head. It was highly unlikely that anything exciting was really happening. But even something minor gave security and TSA something to do. One by one, men walked quickly by, waving their necklace passes at the chortler. You could have filled a plane with 'em.
"Pretty soon all the airport employees will be down there," snickered a waylayed passenger. But then a voice came over the headphones:
"It's just somebody ran in through the out door. We're checking it out."
Trapped. You can get trapped, squeezed until you mold like lava in a conduit, in a middle seat. This time, however, I was trapped in an aisle seat, skwunched by a huge middle-aged Viking who spread like Heimaey out over my seat. I took a swig of Genuine Icelandic water from its Genuine Icelandic plastic bottle.
"Ma'am, are you travelling alone?" the flight attendant asked. I nodded.
"There are two empty seats down there. Why don't you take one of them. Both of you will be more comfortable." Both of you? Was this my fault?
I settled down to look at the Icelandic movies on the back of the seat...Stella í orlofi...Brim...
Nine hours later we spewed out onto Keflavik, into the Islandic dawn. Whatever was I thinking? Rental car? Cozy bed? Treeless landscapes that double for Washington State? Ponies who roll in the dirt like dogs? Bring them on! No way Norway! A sour official stamped my passport and waved me on. In only a few hours I would be in Oslo.
Portland, Oregon, March 2011, Norwegian 203 Redux:
"If I may be so bold," asked Dr. Tom, "How many of you sleep with a sheet and a number of blankets piled on top of it?" This was no idle question. On page 249 of our book (Stokker, 1981, Norsk, Nordmenn, og Norge), the lazy Svein was laying in bed with a winged feedcap at the head and a dyne (=duvet)....nothing else...piled on top of him. I raised my hand.
"Judith?" our professor commented. Just me. I was the only one.
"My parents use both, a sheet and a duvet!" comment one of the guys. Everyone thought that was superweird.
It had never occurred to me that Young People were no longer using the old configuration. Up until Ian moved out, he was using some sheets I had in high school, with big flower child flowers on them. And then there were the Dinosaur Sheets, and the Peter Rabbit Sheets and the Flannel Cat Sheets.
In contrast, all the sheets and duvets I saw in Norway week before last were white and boring. The duvets on the double bed at the airport hotel were folded separately, like you'd want if you were sharing a bed with one of your kids.
I can't remember what summer this was...it was the trip where Ian threw up in his cereal bowl. I was driving through Northumberland on the way to Mother Alba and saw a 14 pounds B&B that had been converted from a stable. They had a double bed in the room and Ian, Erin, and I slept sideways on the bed...they were short enough to do that. In any event, that place had your regular normal sheet/blanket arrangement. Wish I'd taken a photo of that joint....
Oslo, Norway, March 2011: You would think a hotel with the name "Runway" would indicate you could just wheel your bag across a runway to get there. But as it turns out, this sort of trick is limitated to places like Barrow, Alaska. Here in Oslo Metro, you have to pay Bus S44 60- KR to take you there. Then you have to flop on the lobby sofa after -20 hours of sleep and ask the most important question:
"How do I connect to the WIFI here?" Then you are OK.
A lunch buffet is set up in the larger part of the lobby. Salads, main dishes, sandwich material, dessert, breads, sushi with soy sauce in little plastic fish containers...yum! The buffet isn't free or even cheap, but I dig in just to wake up....
"You're not with a group?" a food attendant asks me. Most of the tables have a name of them, like "Hydro" or "Norske reindriftsutøver forening."
"No," I answer.
"You can sit here, by the window. Where are you from?" she asks.
"Oregon." I brace myself for a blank look, but no soap.
"Oregon! I'm from California!!!" replies the blonde. As it turns out, she is from San Diego and has never been to Oregon, but it doesn't matter. And the reason she's here is that she married a Norwegian, and they're going back to visit her parents this summer and her husband likes the redneck stuff so they'll probably take a roadtrip through the South. All the fried catfish and hushpuppies you can eat!!! Would they seek out the turkey sausage place in Llano, Texas?
"Huh!" I exclaim.
"Look at all that sushi! You must like sushi! I love sushi!!" She says.
In the morning I will snap a photo of the wine menu.
"I'm just taking a picture of the wine prices," I explain.
"That's...the government has control of the prices. They call it the 'Wine Monopoly.' Back in California, it's a lot cheaper."
"They must not want people to drink," I hypothesize.
"They don't, but you know what people do, they save up for the weekend and then they binge drink. Norway is a country of binge drinkers."
And later I will ask the desk clerk:
"So how do I get to downtown from the airport?" And she will say:
"No, you take the train. It's on your left as you go in the door.
It's almost seven. Here in The Dalles, the show starts at seven, so people won't have to stay up too long after their normal bedtime; so that they won't be alone and adrift too long after they roll up the carpets. But where is my date? I pull ECH up by the curb and punch out his number on my cell phone.
"The Noble Forester here!!!" answers ECH. Oops...wrong number. I try my date's number. No response except the usual sooty message.
"Where are you? At work? On your bike? In the house?" I reply. Have you run off with another woman? Tegan maybe? What's this I hear about buying her an exciting new squeaky toy?
In only a few minutes I will count out fifteen marked dollar bills to the woman with the metal cashbox and seat myself in a row by myself...but first, a glass of the local dry Gewurtz...
The Dalles, Oregon, April 2011: "Jonathan Byrd at the Civic"
Here's the set list: Is This The Right Side of the Envelope?, She's My Waitress (sing along), The Law and the Lonesome (Note: from Chapel Hill NC, wonder if he knows my sister-in-law), Carla Sciaki...oops Cadalacku, (Ah! There's my date!), Father's Day, Chicken Wire...a couple from exquisite lady fiddler Chris Kokesh: I Hear the Trains and Oklahoma...liked the story about riding a train to Eugene and stopping a couple days to let the freight train pass..., May the River Run Dry, Coyote Song, White Oak Wood, A Big Truck Brought It, Wild Oak Song, I was an Oak Tree, a couple more from Chris...song about Lucy and driving to California..., "That's How They Roll In Texas" (was this a song or a story?), Dakota Sue, The Ballad of Larry, Prairie Girl, and finally Autumn by the late Jack Hardy. Forgot to write down the encores.
Jonathan In The Cowboy Hat is a pretty good performer; his lyrics are full of sparkling yet warm detail and wise word choices. And those stories! Canadian country folk singer Corin Raymond pops up every now and then, either writing a song that J.B. sings, or braving Texas snowstorms, looking for the trees that will distinguish the Lone Star State from Saskatchewan. And oh! How I also recall the moonscapes surrounding the smelter at Sudbury Ontario...that was back in '80, eh? And the lush white oaks surrounding Jonathan's home in North Carolina, sawed down into boards before they fell down and crushed the house, and then loaded up onto a truck by a slow talkin' sawyer and then falling off at a busy intersection at rush hour and stacked up again by a woman with strange gloves. And the rift J.B. unknowingly stole from Chuck Brodsky at Kerrville, the guy who sang "I didn't get nuthin' for Christmas 'cause I'm Jewish." I really wish I'd gone to Kerrville when I lived back in Texas...
No food at intermission, though.
The Dalles, April 2011 "The old geezer"
It's Friday and ECH and I are headed towards the low-kill dog pound.
"That truck ahead of us has a paw on the back of it..." offers ECH flippently, and commences following it. No joke, it's going to the same place we are, pulling around back upon arrival. That's the last I see of it.
"You need a dog to walk?" asks the Kennel Technician happily. "Any preferences?"
"I like them all," I answer. Spuds...that's who I get. "Oh! You're beautiful, Spuds!" I exclaim. An orange and white Chow-Husky mix, he resembles a large fox. And pretty spry for a 10
year old! Did you see him lunge barking at that mopsy Sheepdog on the River Trail? We walk for an hour or so. I snap photos of the log barge while Spudsy repeatedly marks his territory.
"Out of my window looking through the night
I can see the barges' flickering light
Silently flows the river to the sea
And the barges too go silently..."
All too soon we return, the cold wind blowing too hard in our fur.
"We're getting rid of the Old Geezer," someone in the office says.
"Someone coming to get him?" another replies.
"Yeah, they called and asked 'is this where the animal control truck goes after they pick up dogs?' and I said 'yes' and they said 'Did they pick up a 14 year old chocolate lab?' and I said 'yes...and with a very active chip' and they said 'a chip?' and I said 'yeh.'
They both laugh.
Norway, March 2011
The train from the airport to downtown Christiana was not unlike Atlanta's Marta. Except for the snow. Snow-covered farms and villages, Thomsen Equipment and Cooper Tires outlets rumbled past the window. Then, the huge confusing end of the line, the central train station with its very own Wine Monopoly! And outside! None of the quaint grass-roofed rental cabins and dizzying tundra rooted in the Norway I had known before. I was now deep inside Europe, as if someone had suddenly had thrust the Viennese plate gently into the heart of Scandinavia! I gasped and half-drug, half-rolled my suitcase up Karl Johan's street, lined with the old...the new...
"I'll take photos on my way back," I promised...myself I guess, or maybe my computer. There was a strange silence, an eerie lack of direction, without ECH, the Noble Forester.
I stopped at my hotel, an ornate Best Western built in the 1890s. Down at street level it was shored up by bars and cafes, where hardy norsk patrons laughed it up at oudoor tables despite the ice and snow.
"I'm wondering if that's the Old Noble Hotel..." Dr. Tom would later ponder.
The room was hardly big enough for a bed and a desk and the BBC, the view out the tall window limited to a Harvest Gold indoor court loaded with electrical equipment. But oh my! a painting of a naked couple smooching hung above the desk! Good enough for a starving student here in Christiana, and a true palace compared to the housing provided for the Japanese tsunami victims staring out from the BBC!
Did I fall asleep? Probably. But when moon came out I began to walk on ice covered sidewalks and the line drawings in my Norwegian textbook came alive. The National Theater, with its aqua statues of famous norska playwrights. Ibsen, Holberg, Bjørnson. The ornate Theatre Cafe across the street and the ornate Hard Rock Cafe across another. An opera singer busking with a Pekinese who resisted the temptation to howl. Dogs...the dogs own Oslo's soul. Up the hill to the palace. Was the king inside? Back down to the harbor with its ice bergs. No hopping on the Mini Cruise boat tonight!
Note: Picked up a Mozarella and Tomato sub and a Pepsi Max at a 7-11...these sandwiches were my depauperate version of Dinner in Oslo.
The Dalles, OR, April 2011:
"What's that appliance out by the garage?" asked Erin. "What's it there for?" The first part was easy."..it's a dishwasher". So was the second part: "That's the way they decorate their yards in northern Minnesota." You might have a lawn ball out there, or a flamingo, but you might also have your former walnut kitchen cabinets from the '50s covered with a green tarp, and a bunch of other stuff leading up to..."Hazardous Trash Disposal Day."
Two o'clock? Why did they close so early? Someone must have a social life! In any event, Tegan the Dog and I rounded up all the hazardous chemicals hanging out together in an Avocado-colored drawer in front of the garage door and put 'em into two blue plastic recycling boxes. Then we were off in ECH! A conspicuous "Hazardous Chemical Recycling" sign instructed us to turn right on First Street. Then a couple more signs and a bunch of orange cones told us to turn left at The Dalles Disposal Service, where three people in fluorescent green vests eagerly awaited us.
"Is this your first time?" asked a woman.
"How did you learn about it, from the flyer?"
"Is all this from your house?"
"Yes...paint and some brake fluid. "
"Is it all in the back? Oh...I see they've already taken it out!"
"Would your dog like a treat?"
She handed me a Milk Bone. But Tegan was too interested in being inside The Dump for the first time to snarf it down properly!
"Gosh! I'm thirsty!" Time to pick up a Diet Mountain Dew at Dinty's!
"Watch it..." growled ECH. "That railway crossing guard almost came down on my hood!" Yes...down second, buy the Dew, then up First...and into the Parking Lot of a local Real Estate Agent! The vehicle seemed to move of its own free will! Did ECH want a new house with a garage that was wasn't stuffed with stuff?
"Didn't you see those signs?" prodded ECH. "The Dalles Wahtonka High School Band Carwash! Water massage! And look at that little red hot Asian filly right next to us, getting soaped up!!!" I pulled Tegan out of the Noble Forester and waited for someone to notice us. And who was walking over but the Band Director Himself, Mr. V!
"Cute dog," he complimented. "I've got four dogs myself...brought the chocolate lab with me. All he wanted to do was bark, but I finally got him calmed down." In a few minutes we would walk by the big brown dog and he would tell Tegan:
"Woof woof woof woof woof woof woof...<clip> !!!!!"
"Hey do I know you from somewhere?" he asked.
"I'm Erin's mother..." Out of sight out of mind since Erin stopped playing clarinet!
After that went home. But later on, I came up with something even more exciting for us to do...take pictures of gravestones at the IOOF-da Cemetery! You know what they say, take photos while the sun shines...so all you need to do is "Auto Contrast" rather than "Auto Levels" or "Auto Color Correction."
"I like my color...or rather lack of it...just the way it is!" agreed ECH.
Tegan requires no pulling to get out of the car at the IOOF-da, although I have my doubts about the WOOF-da Pet Cemetery over in Hood River. I let her leash go and she'll run around in circles for hours, taking time out to dig into the rodent tunnels.
"You remember last time we were here, how she lost control and slammed into your knee full force? How you limped for days?" ECH reminisced. How had my social life degenerated into a talking SUV and a miniature Labradinger?
I started snapping photos. It was touch and go here: in 2006 someone had taken a lot of random photos with no pattern. Then I noticed an older woman walking towards me, leaning on a metal octopus cane. I stomped on Tegan's leash and hoped I wasn't standing on her deceased husband's grave. The woman kept on walking!
"Hi," I replied.
"I was parked down there and I read the paper, had a little snack, and didn't realize my lights were on. Now my battery is dead," she said.
"Wow~! Do you have Triple A?" I replied.
"I don't have a cell phone," she stated.
"I have one," said I. "You don't have Triple A?"
"I have jumper cables in my car..."
"I have no idea how to jump a car." O gosh, who could I call?
"I was wondering when you left you could check and see if someone was back there in the office..."
"I'll walk down there and see if there's any one there. There was a pick up there when I came in."
"Oh, don't go to all that trouble, just when you leave..." She could be stranded here for hours; there are many tombstones here in the IOOF-da and Find-A-Grave welcomes them all. I took
Tegan's leash in hand and we sauntered down to the office. I opened the door. Yes! The rotund man was inside!
"Yeah?" he said suspiciously.
"There's...um...a lady who left her lights on and her battery ran down..." His eyes narrowed.
"And...um...I was wondering if someone could jump it." He smiled and pulled a set of jumper cables out of a desk drawer.
"Hi Pooch!" he added.
There is no beast under the bed.
He tries to breathe quietly, to be as still as he can. He must not make a sound. Then maybe the angry person won't find him, maybe it will turn and disappear. But is it what he wants? If the figure disappears now, it will take his mamma with it.
The boy has only seen an arm. It was clad in a coarse fabric, like what was in pappa's coveralls, that pappa uses when he is fixing his racing cycle or does carpentry in the house.
The space ship that has taken him almost a week to build is broken and the pieces lie on the floor. Some of them right at the end of the bed where he lies buried. As he burst into the bedroom, he hit the ship down from the green plastic table that he and Papa had bought at IKEA. Now he is afraid that the crazy person down below heard the uproar as the lego parts popped in every direction. A Luke Skywalker figure that he had wished for so long, and just has gotten for his birthday from his parents, lies right in front of his nose and stares with empty, dark eyes.
The only thing he saw was an arm and crowbar that met his mama in the head over her ear. The head that was thrown backwards like the head of a ragdoll. Her neck was so thin and white. Round drops of blood that somehow hung in the air. She fell to the floor without a scream, and he had to take a step backwards so that she wouldn't hit him. Then there was a shadow standing in the doorway. And he did not manage to see it. Did not know if it was a man or woman. Knew only that the figure wanted to hurt them. One short moment, as long as it takes to pull his breath deep down into his lungs, he thought that he must protect Mama. But then the figure took the first step into the house, and the boy threw a glance at the crowbar. There was blood on it. Mama's blood. He turned and ran.
I must breathe slowly, he thinks. Silently.
He hears the steps on the stairs. Heavy steps, like Papa's. Can it be him? Has his father come home just in time to save them? The footsteps stop at the top of the stairs. He tries not to breath, laces up his chest like a corset. Then he hears the footsteps again. Now they are coming right for him.
Two feet over the floor. On the way towards the bed they trample the rest of the spaceship, so that it is completely crushed.
There is no monster under the bed. But it is standing over it. Slowly the shadow squats down. Then he hears the voice:
<<I am everywhere>>
A hand grips him by the hair and pulls him down onto the floor. He does not scream and has only one thought: Now I get to come to Mama.
-----the first 2 pages of "Circumference of Grace" by Jørgen Brekke, translated from the Norwegian.
Oslo, Norway, March 2011: On the one hand, baked beans and eggs, and on the other salmon, salmon, herring and herring. Standing between buffet tables positions us no longer in the Oslo Graben, but in the North Sea itself! A couple bowls of granola and honeydew melon round out breakfast...we are now ready for our first day in the land of Knut Buen and Dimmu Borgir! What to do first? Fall asleep! After several hours and a couple liters of Pepsi Max, we are ready to at least face the bookstore a couple doors down. Huge place, whole wall of crime novels. We drag our outstretched hands away from the wall full of crime novels, away from the first of Vidar Sundstøl prize winning trilogy about murder in Northern Minnesota, "Drømmenes Land." Sensible folk that we are, we buy a heavy dictionary with more words in it, so we can read more mystery novels.
"They use that one at University and it's well worth the money," an eloquent saleswoman tells us.
Afterward, we walk the snow packed sidewalks. This takes some maneuvering, as we've only our canvas tennis shoes and our clunky Sorel boots, both of whom look tacky next to the sleek stiletto heeled tall boots of the locals. These sharp shoes can be worn with incredibly tight jeans, or with incredibly tight tights to complement incredibly short skirts. Wherever we go in our incredibly dumpy boot cut jeans and tennis shoes, we snap photos. One of our favorite activities is snapping the soldiers guarding the Royal Palace against black metal insurgents and trolls. And we visit the History Museum with the beautiful doors...
"The Medieval Exhibit is here..." the man at the desk tells us, pointing at the floor plan.
"We love Medieval!" we exclaim.
"...but it's closed, as well as all of the second floor. So there is no admission charge!"
Yay! We tour what's left of the first floor, from the beginning of time to the Iron Age. That's pretty much as far as we can go anyway, without the tennis-shod feet giving out! We recommend it....and while you're there, check to see if the guard is still mumbling to himself...going berserk from waiting for the evil sticky fingered trolls and vindictive black metal dudes who will never show up.
We rest those sad feet in the hotel, and soon they are ready for action again. We've booked a ferry cruise to the Canary Islands...whoops, wishful thinking...to Kiel in Germany tomorrow and we set out to figure out exactly where we need to go. It will prove to be farther than we think! Oof-da! But wait...what's that in the window? Cardamom rolls!!!!
"I saw Jim over by the Senior Center," says Erin. This is no big surprise.
"Did you see his Jeep?" I ask.
"No," she answers.
The Dalles, OR, April 2010: "Jim"
"I see you sometimes when I go to the Senior Center," Jim says. The Senior Center is right across Mill Creek from my house!
"What am I doing?" I ask.
"I don't know what you're doing, I just see you," he replies.
Jim often parks his Jeep...and his golden retriever...in the parking lot of the Senior Center, where he spends a fair amount of time doing Meals-On-Wheels.
"He won't get out of the car," Jim tells me. "You know why? He's afraid I'll leave him..."
A few weeks later, he will say, "He's blind...you know how I know? Lawn ornaments."
"He thinks lawn ornaments are alive?" I ask. Lawn balls, or just trolls and cows?
Jim, who is eighty years old, takes his beautiful blind dog hiking in the Oregon forest. His daughter Shannon thinks it is more than a little scary.
One day, Tegan and I walk along the west side of Mill Creek. I like to see how much English Ivy is reinvading our property on the east side. Jim's red Jeep is parked there, with the tailgate open. The black pooch and I stroll down to it and, looking inside, we come face to face with the old retriever. He doesn't move, just emits a quiet, melodic growl. Tegan stares at him with a partial disinterest. It's difficult to say whether or not he's bound inside the Jeep by a leash, or by the much stronger ties that bind.
"Sometimes I drive," Jim says to me. "Often I am the only human being that they see all day. But some people come into the Senior Center and eat. It's mostly women. I look around and say to myself, 'All of these people have lost their sweethearts.'" He shakes his head sadly. Jim has just lost his sweetheart too, from cancer...but it was the Alzheimers that hurt the most, but made things easier in the end.
"Redtail up there!" Jim said, looking up at the sky...it must have been 7 or 8 years ago. In those days I was a novice Oregonian. I had no idea that he was talking about a hawk; I just knew it was something I should have been able to identify but couldn't.
The vexing, severe woman is standing and scowling in front of my plastic chair in the ferry terminal...wait no, she's wasting no time chastising me!
"Bewegen Sie über selbstsüchtige alte Schlampe!" she snarls. Or maybe she's snarling in NyNorsk. Her problem is that I have an empty chair on either side of me and she would like to sit next to her friend. Darn! I must slide left over to the next plastic chair or she will invoke Ziu to skewer me with a forklift. I move; setzen sie sich, are you happy now sweetie??
Oslo, Norway, March 2011. "Riding on the Color Line"
I've wanted to take a ferry to Germany for a long time...ever since I started traveling in Scandinavia. I'd look at the route maps and their mysterious phrases like "14 timer." Imagine taking a boat ride that didn't dump you and your rental car off just after breakfast, even if you'd stayed up all night and had a vexing, severe hangover! Knowing what I know now, I'd say your best bet would be the trip from Kodiak to Dutch Harbor. Buy American. Make cabin reservations very early.
But now The Way has opened and I am following onto the gangway a desperate throng of Norwegians scrambling to escape merciless snow and slush. Ah...sunny Deutschland!!! A couple minutes later, the Norskies and I are in the lobby on one of the two Colorline Vessels that ploughs the Oslo Graben down to Kiel. A lobby that looks more like the Carnival Liberty than the Alaska State Ferry's Tustemena. And with "promenade view" cabin windows peeking out above the food and booze court. My own tiny cabin has an "obstructed view." If I lean against the plush couch that morphs into a lower bunk, I get a great view of a lifeboat instead of a table of drunks eating open faced shrimp and hard boiled egg sandwiches! But if I balance on the wobbly stool that goes with the 10 cm wide desk, I can see Scandinavia floating by!
Off to the pub to see if they have any porter. But look what's on the menu!
"I'll have a cider," I tell the billiard ball behind the bar.
"We don't have cider," he replies. "The best I can do is brandy with a lemon on the side."
"Uh..." I order a Stout before he can, in true Scandinavian style, turn away and ignore me. Days later the word "sidecar" floats into my poor brain. But for now my gaze meets the large crowd that has gathered in the pub and adjoining food court. A man commences to play guitar and...suddenly!!!...a woman in a red Spanish dress appears! Tap Tap Tap!!! Flamenco!!! Oh my!!!
<to be continued>
Portland Oregon, May 2011: "Judith..." grills Dr. Tom. "What do YOU think about all of this?" We're discussing Knut Hamsun's Hunger...which I am reading for the third time, for the third Literature class. "Norwegian Literature."
"Well, mostly I say to myself 'Stop doing all this stupid stuff and go home, Knut!!!'" Go where, northern Norway? I take a deep breath, the next is my epiphany*.
"Um...having just been in Oslo during spring break, I found that this time when I read it......I could visualize where all this is happening." St. Olaf's Gate, the Storting, the park surrounding the royal palace, the harbor...
"Much of the book takes place in the poorer part of town," Dr. Tom counters, his sapphire Nordic eyes drilling into my skull like the finger of god and mixing everything up. But then he softens.
"As is said, living in Oslo will change your life forever. Even a few weeks."
*" the ameliorating factor that saved me from low blood sugar due to enduring intense Hunger for three days..."
It is the ghost of twilight now, a mid-blue sheen beyond dark clouds far to the west, as far perhaps as the Juan de Fuca subduction zone. In front of us, in perfect symmetry, a blue car sparkles in the closing light of Grocery Outlet...
"That's a Mercedes," says ECH, face to face with that little peace symbol on the hood. "Quite a classy looker!"
I reach with some desperation for the camera in my purse...but wait! no! It's not my black camera, it's a blue deck of cards that says:
Baltic Sea, March 2011:
"Once out in the fjord I straitened up...looked in toward the shore and said goodbye for now to the city, to Oslo, where the windows shone so brightly in ever home." Outside, the flat chunks of white ice give way to open ocean; on shore the crowded buildings in Falun red, yellow and white became a faraway line of pink sunset; and finally, the lobster soup and salmon of dinner morphed into the dense nutty bread, the brown goat cheese, and the pineapple and watermelon slices of breakfast.
I had high hopes for sunny, snow-free Kiel, despite the rumor that it was one of those cities that had risen like a blah phoenyx from the ashes after World War II. I watched the church spires, the ugly grey naval boat, and the red, white, and blue Stena Line cargo ship race slowly on starboard as we slipped into port. Free now, to roam the streets of Kiel and explore the thrills of Post-Modern German stuff! All we had to do was to walk through the turnstiles, which poked up like stainless steel wind turbines at the entrance to the ferry terminal!
"Achtung," said the TSA...nope...just some normal German guard. "Only one of you can go through on that boarding pass."
"He lost his," said a slightly ditzy male passenger.
"If he's lost his boarding pass, he has to go to the ticket window and get a new one," explained the guard.
I looked at my card stock boarding pass, which doubled as a cabin key. It was bent and it was necessary to insert it in the lock 12 or 13 times before the door would open. (Shouldn't have held it between my teeth.) What if it failed to move the turnstile? Would I be stuck here in Mother Deutschland with my desiccated high school German but without my luggage? I sat down on a bench next to the disused baggage X-ray and commenced to watch cargo...new cars, "caravans," semis, semi trailers, fork lifts, rekkamies, tank trucks,and so forth, go in and out of the ferry hold. This was, after all, what I really loved about ferries!
Suddenly an American drunk walked up to the guard and opined:
"Hey...look at that bridge that just ends in the middle of nowhere? Haw haw haw!!!! Leave it to the Germans to do something stupid like that!!"
Well, no, it was a passenger ramp to nowhere...there was just no boat at the end of it just now. You hear about "Ugly Americans" doing this stuff 40 years ago, but not in our enlightened age! Haw haw haw!
I wandered over to the passenger vehicle side. How I envied the drivers, waiting their turns! And soon it was their turn, and then we were off, back to Kristiania, back to Oslo. I picked up an open faced shrimp sandwich in the deli lunch line. Soon the ubiquitous wind turbines of Cousin Denmark would dance and twirl for us in the port windows.
Erin grinned and held the book where I could see it. Pan by Knut Hamsun.
"I was looking the wrong way at my book shelf. I had it in on top of the shelf of books," she said. I'd been tearing through piles of stuff for days to find Pan, a heavy duty Norwegian novel. Dr. Tom had added it to our assigned readings just last week.
"We're going through these books too fast...I'll have to assign another one," he announced, modestly covering the nude lady on the cover with a sheet of paper as he held up his lurid Penguin Edition for all to see. I'd already bought and read Pan for "4 Scandihoovian Authors," and it wouldn't cost me a dime to read it again...if I could just find my book! And I was actually hoping Erin had it! You will never know how grateful I am to have a wee daughter who can devour heavy duty authors like Knut Hamsun!!!
However, this story is not about Pan. It is about the deja vu subject: "Taking Young Ladies To Buy Prom Dresses In Portland."
Oregon, May 2011:
"Are you Erin's mother?" asked Sara'a mother. Erin, ECH, and I had pulled into the extinct gas station in Mosier, a popular place to pick up passengers from the rural orchard heavy area around Mosier. "I'm Annie." Aside from being an apricot orchardess, Annie is an experienced cake decorator and has trimmed cakes at posh weddings in Hood River. "Sara, don't forget the pillow! Sara is on a Tempur-Pedic run. Ha! Ha!"
"Look!" I interrupted. "Lilian is running down the hill!"
"I parked up at the school," she told us upon arrival. And then the three girls lilted into ECH and we were bound for Portland, or rather Clackamas. Questions:
a) Why couldn't Lilian just drive the girls to Portland?
b) Were the girls actually going to the prom?
c) Why didn't the girls just buy their prom dresses in The Dalles?
Answer: "Because there aren't any, Mom...."
I dozed on and off on the way, but woke up in time to ask:
"How do we get to Clackamas Town Center?"
"You turn south on I205, and take an exit just after the hill with the mansions on it," someone replied and continued their character analysis of some weird person at school. Fortunately there was a...
"There's a sign for the exit!!!!" Thank goodness!
<to be continued>
Two hours later I'd found a parking place at CTC and ECH had discharged the three young damsels. I pulled out my copy of Hamsun's Pan and began to read. Hee Hee, what if I just recline the seat and...put down the book and....zzzz. Then suddenly my body began to freeze and tingle mercilessly.
"Is this a dream? Or is this what it's like to die? Am I dying? Will this tingling, this ever speeding cyclone...?"
I opened my eyes. Sunday shoppers were sauntering between the cars with open umbrellas, or at least their hoodies up. I closed the window, dried off my arm, picked up Pan again and began to read again. I must have got through half the book before it stopped raining. Then I was hit by Hunger. Fast forward to food court!!!
"I'll have a cinnamon roll," I ordered. Why was a cinnamon roll so expensive? One could get 8 of these for the same price at Grocery Outlet, either that or almond bear claws. Fast forward to the entrance by J.C. Penney.
"Ring!" Suddenly the ring of my cell phone. I answer it.
"Mom! Where ***are*** you?"
"Where are ***you***?" Had we agreed to meet somewhere? Surely she hadn't hoped for a mom tagging along behind!
"I'm in the entrance to Barnes & Noble." Obviously.
"I'll be there in one minute." Lucky us! I slipped the phone back into my jeans pocket.
"Mom!" said Erin. "I need to ***pay for*** my dress." She thought she had me on that one!
I looked at the Mosier gals. They were both carrying small bags. Must have be another year of microscopic prom dresses. And where was Apricot Annie's Tempur-Pedic?
"I'll have to use a credit card," I explained. I followed them up to a shop on the second floor. (Maybe I could get another cinnamon role afterward.). A sales-woman was waiting on them. Ha ha, pun! A saleswoman was waiting with a short white eyelet cotton dress.
"Are you going to wear tights under it?" I asked rhetorically.
"Seventy-one dollars," the saleswoman rang up.
"I can use it other places," Erin said. "....I'm going to diet..." she assured me. What she really said was "I'm going to dye it." Blue, she dyed it blue. And now it awaits our two soccer pals for their night on the town.
Portland, Oregon, May 2011:
"What depressing Norwegian book are we reading next?" I ask Dr. Tom. I am very very very weary of Knut Hamsun.
"This one right here, Lillelord, but look, the cover is coming off." Beggars can't be choosers, Captain Tom.
"The cover...Wow!" I exclaim. "Here's my street...my hotel! The Storting, the Palace, the little pond right there. And there's my window!"
"That's where your room was? Did you go over to the Grand Hotel Cafe, where Ibsen went for his evening snack?"
And later, as I read the book, I will find the names of the streets I did not follow. I will be bitter and depressed.
Oslo Norway, March 2011
When we again awoke, we were safe and sound in the Oslo Graben, the Oslo Fjord, running at 17.7 knots through what we would wishfully call pack ice. Several hours later, we docked again at Kristiania and I pulled my stuff down Ruselokk, back to the Best Western and stashed it in the Luggage Room, all except for my computer; I put that behind the desk. Then I took off for the Akershus Fortress. Suddenly, down at the pier...the sound of Balkan music! Why had I not brought my minidisc player? Balkan buskers...right in front of a McDonald's billboard, an accordion and a saxophone! They weren't cute, but the sax was really great! Wow! I listened for a while, and dropped some kroner to them. Then I turn toward the castle, stopping briefly at a statue of Franklin D. Roosevelt, famous Norwegian resistance fighter.
My apologies, Mr. Roosevelt. Clad in cloth tennis shoes...why didn't I change to Sorel boots?...my feet are beginning to feel the effects of Norskslush fever!!! But the ancient photos are lovely, the sky is blue, and you could look out into the harbour as the Colorline Magic began it's next voyage to Kiel.
After a while, I walked back on new and different streets, on newly frozen feet, back to the hotel. Almost there and...suddenly the sound of Asian music! Right in front of the Storting, in front of Parliament, a band was set up and it was playing Disco Bhangra! Wasn't that illegal? Shouldn't they be playing a schlager of God Bless Norway? Where was the CIA? Imagine a miniature version of the Portland Park Blocks. Why were all the folding chairs and concrete seating taken? I leaned against myself, and at last the music was over.
The new tiny room was on the top floor. It contained a tiny bed, a tiny couch, a tiny desk, and a tiny bathroom. If I wanted, I could go out on the tiny balcony and jump to my death. But...suddenly the sound of a Balkan band!! I left the balcony door open and stripped off my shoes, to the tune of a Balkan line dance...
Mother's Day has slipped by year after year. All those salmon breakfast buffets...at Multnomah Falls Lodge...aboard the Cascade Locks sternwheeler...
"Wait! You didn't do this ritual salmon stuff because Mother's Day is on Sunday," chided the Woman From Oregon. "Your radio show was on Sunday!! You traded your trivial and meaningless radio show for **Mother's Day.**"
"And sacred harp..." I countered. "...with my son. We did this for many years. Don't you remember at that metal concert where the female lead singer asked you:'Is that your son? Isn't he just the love of your life? My son is two years old and he is the love of my life.'"
The Dalles, Oregon, May 2011. "Mother's Eve"
And so it was that I got an e-mail from the love of my life:
"Do you have plans for Saturday night? If not, we're taking you out!"
As the week wore on, as it commonly does, I learned more stuff. No, Erin couldn't go, and Ian was sure she could get along fine on her own. And the reason became clear: we were going to the new Swedish cafe, bar and clothier, Ananas Boutique.
"Swedish cafe in The Dalles?" They serve Swedish meatballs.
And what does the word "Ananas" mean? Why, "pineapple" in Swedish, or at least Norwegian!
And what was the occasion, besides Mother's Day? A Lousiana band!
More time wore on, but at last Ian stood in the driveway and said: "We'll have to use your car." *Caitey*'s white Suburu, the former "SOI," was too full of stuff.
Upon arrival, we trekked through the jungle of chic nouveau 70s clothing for young women to the vino beer bar and cafe at the back. The red sign "No Minors" explained why Erin was not invited...not that she cared, as she'd been spirited off to Lilian's 18th in suburban Mosier. The bar itself was tiny and sported a small blue and yellow Swedish flag.
"I'll have a glass of Chardonnay, and a spinach burger," I ordered. You would think they'd have open faced salmon sandwiches with a sprig of dill.
"I'll have Swedish meatballs and...um...what do you have to drink that isn't alcoholic?" You would think that Ian would order Guinness, now that he is 21. But the single of cab with a plastic stem glass attached that I gave him for his birthday sits lonely in its Underwood refrigerator.
"We have...um...ginger ale," answered the barista.
"I'll have the same," ordered *Caitey.*
Atomic Gumbo, a really excellent 3 piece band from Portland...if I remember correctly...where was my pen and napkin? My radio card? The keyboard gent is from Mother Louisiana and a real hot item. But despite knowing almost all of their repertoire, the only song I remember is "Don't Mess With My Toot Toot." (They should make a You Toot of this, har har.) Marcia Ball...what was the Marcia Ball song they played?? "Hot Tamale Baby"? Out in front of the band, a few couples with amazing feet were dancing on clouds.
"Look at those old people dancing!!!" said someone at our table.
"They're ***really good***!!! added the other.
"Huh! Look at all these dresses!" the drummer suggested to me at break. The drummer was a real hot musician as well.
"A lot of these are probably prom dresses," I explained. The gowns had alteration tags on them...raise hem and lower neckline....
"Prom...at my daughter's high school, they have junior prom and senior prom." Or maybe just senior prom.
"They have junior-senior prom here. Where does your daughter go to school?"
"Cleveland High School." Southeast Portland, not the small town in southern Washington.
After the show was over, a wiry blond man from behind the bar popped up and thanked me for coming.
"Ha! It was my mother's day present!" I replied.
"Yes, that's what they said!" he smiled.
The Dalles, Oregon, May 2011: "The Prom"
"Erin, I can't find black rice," I stated. "Maybe I could go down to the Thai restaurant and get some there." It was my day to be humble, to gather and buy odd food ttems, like almond milk, light brown sugar, and the elusive "forbidden" black rice. These would be whipped up together for Erin's assignment....to provide dessert for her friends' pre-prom pot luck!! There was almost no hope of me being asked to the prom. Buying these foodstuffs allowed me to pretend...do other mom's feel that way?
"Let me see...brown rice? Can you get brown rice?"
"I'm sure I can," I said, heading out toward Safeway.
<clip> "Here!" said Erin, jamming a spoonful of Thai Rice Pudding between my jaws.
Erin had prepared two pudding-like dishes. What's left of the yummy chocolate one is now on the bottom shelf of the Kelvinator. But the bowl that held the white rice pudding is laying empty in the sink...flink!!!
Panic! Her sister-pre-owned golden shoes looked silly with scotch tape on them. But soon her friend Imelda (not her real name) arrived with 10 or 12 pair,...the glossy green ones saved the day! Erin washed and dried her short locks, applied make-up, and put on her white bolero top over her gray dyed cotton eyelet dress.
"Mom...can you take a picture of me?" she asked. "I told Emma I'd send her one." I picked up the little black Cool Pix that resembled a deck of cards. Where should she stand? Panic!!! Despite the fact that I'd swept the floor and vacuumed, every surface in the house was stacked high with stuff.
"Outside maybe." Even greater panic! Ian and his fiancee **Caitey** were in the process of reconstructing the Japanese garden after the tree death epidemic disaster of last year. Ugly plastic tubs of slowly composting vegetable matter were lounging all over the yard! But here...against the house...voila! We just needed to remove the welcome sign with the moose painted on it...
Grass...almost knee deep in grass....
"Over there...towards the creek..." I suggested. The vinca were blooming a beautiful blue....
"No, just forget about it." We commenced to lock horns.
"Look...give me the camera and I'll get someone else to take some."
"Okay, well...I'll put the moose back." The moose is an original, hand painted by an artiste at a craft fair in Ellensburg, Washington in 2006.
"No...don't put the moose back. Leave it." Erin snarled. It was now clear that she had always hated the Welcome Moose.
I turned around just in to see a thin Spanish lad enter the yard. His hair was nicely combed and he was wearing a dark suit. The boy...no...the young man...was carrying a box containing a red corsage. So this was Pedro the soccer pal!
As Tegan approaches her first birthday, she continues to chew things...pencils, romance novels, nice socks, Chinese tennis shoes, Diet Mountain Dew bottles, Pedro's water bottle, twenty dollar bills, CD covers...Just look what she did to Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba! (Let's put that on for background music, eh? Will it play with that big hole in the middle? Of course it will!) All this destruction is my fault. I came of age in the day of unleashed dogs. In my childhood, most dogs ran loose...I hear they do that in Chile even now, run around in packs, owner or no. And in the house...you had to make sure your toys were picked up. I still remember the shock when Pippi the Pug chomped down on two of the four cars in The Game of Life. And even in the Texas years, there were no crates, no lectures from family members. Now...it's at least one mild complaint every day, more than equal in severity to the one about not rinsing out one's glass when one's done with it but using it again. A glass a day keeps the whines away. But not the wine.
I try and take Tegan for a walk every day. Usually I take her along the creek on the senior center side. Once this past week a crusty older woman was weeding the cobbles and trimming the rosebushes.
"Looks like you got a puppy there!" she said to me.
"Actually, she's a year old. We never expected she'd stay this small."
"I've got a puppy," she went on. "My family gave it to me to help my depression. I went from depressed to angry all the time."
"Does she chew?" I laughed.
"Chew? Does he chew? The first thing he did, I'd just been to JC Penneys...he hops. He can hop three feet in the air. The next thing I knew he'd gotten the bag off the table...I'd bought two twenty dollar brassieres...chewed the straps completely off!!!"
"Brassieres?" Erin would exclaim when I told her the story. "Those are the worst!"
The Dalles, Oregon, May 2011
"I'm going to pick up my volunteer hours from Shannon when I go to the slide show on Chile," explained Erin. She needed, in her case, 10 Quaker "community meal" hours in order to graduate. I had witnessed the contract at Mama Jane's Pancake House after Meeting a week earlier, no problema. But what was this Chile thing?
"Mom...you must be kidding. The slide show about Chile in Hood River."
Ummm...as long as you promise to graduate from High School.
"Who are you going to walk with?" I asked a few weeks later, after the prom. Ian had walked with the drummer in the Jazz Band.
"**Pedro**," she answered. "I told him at the first of the year I'd walk with him if he made it through." And indeed she would, with a unicorn glued to her heat. I couldn't wait!!!
And so it was that Erin, Ech, and I pulled up...well no, we walked a couple blocks...to the Starlite Pizza and Movies in "The Hood," running the pizza parlour gauntlet to the cozy theater.
"It doesn't cost anything," Erin assured me. There it was, the chic sprawl of Santiago spread in power point across the wide screen. And the Quakers that Erin knew would be there, despite her mom being totally clueless. Bill and Lark....
"I stayed out til two in the morning!!!" the prom girl told them as she inched toward the cozy sofa at the front. And Jeff and Marge, who were giving the first part of the talk. But where was Shannon? Why, no problem for you folks, she is on my facebook page!!
For those of use who have never been to Chile, it's not what you think it is.
"There's a hole in the ozone here," Jeff explained. "Even with 95 sunscreen we were sunburned every day!" And windy! With the sun and the wind, people in this part of Patagonia have to grow their vegetables in these plastic sheeted structures. There are bigger operations, they grow flowers in this for whatever town this is. I must admit I know almost nothing about the geography of Chile. And here's our bus driver performing maintenance on the tires after chugging along on a gravel portion of the Pan-American Highway. This other photo shows how modern they've made other sections of it. I had to admit it looked like Italy.
The other part of the show was captained by a man who owns a fly fishing camp down there. I'd last about 15 minutes out on the boat catching rainbow trout, brown trout, and salmon and tossing them back in. Why bother to get fish slime all over you if you can't eat the gargantuan darlings? However, the area was very very gorgeous and unspoilt save for the lack of ozone. The spouse hiking and botany trip would suit me! On the other hand, look at those gargantuan beetles they use for bait! Maybe I could just catch a plant and eat it.
The Dalles, Oregon, June 2011: "Wedding!"
"It's up that way...no...keep going..." Erin is gingerly holding the 2011-2012 phone book in front of her face, attempting to ascertain where our very first wedding shower tea will be held. ~No previous history of wedding shower teas~...hmm...where is that on the Asparagus-ADD spectrum??? To put it another way: "can't be any farther on Scenic Drive than the pale The Dalles Formation unconsolidated volcanic conglomerate outcrop!"
Erin sighs. "Turn right at that road by the one that goes to the hospital...<clip>...Leanne's Suburu...."
"Hey cutie...don't see you that often!!! But soon we'll be **Family**!!!" exclaims ECH with every bit of charm he can muster. Borderline Horsepower Disorder?
"I'm Erin!" Erin exclaims to the older woman who answers the door. The woman is wearing a floral dress...almost like a housedress...
"I'm **Ian's** mom...and Erin's!!!" I exclaim and extend my hand. The woman is confused. Who is **Ian**? Erin rolls her eyes. Luckily Leanne, **Caitey's mom** is there, atop the brief staircase of the 60's split level, and she explains it all: **Ian** and Erin are 2/3 of Judith's children and **Ian** will be donning a kilt suit to marry Leanne's daughter **Caitlin**, the showering guest of honor, in three weeks. It would be way cool if **Caitlin** were to wear a kimono, but alas this is not the case. She will wear a gown with an empire waist, resembling those from the Regency. The wedding costumes will sparkle the Wedding Guests with Aura de Romance Novel.
We climb into the living room. The Japanese Gardner is sitting there, and during the course of the afternoon will not say a word to us; he will just smile. But the back yard...the fountain and tiered rock garden...will speak for him.
"What a beautiful garden!" **Caitie** assures us.
"We moved here ten years ago from California," Jackie the Hostess begins. "The fountain wasn't here then. But the little house, and the tennis court..."
"Tennis court!!!" we all exclaim.
"...were already here," says Jackie. "Frogs love the fountain, but they keep is awake." Indeed, I can hear the tree frogs or something like that out in Mill Creek as I write this. None of these organic noises bother me...frogs chirping, dogs barking, babies crying. It's the electric garbage...lawn mowers, weed eaters, men snoring...that drive me insane. "Every so often we drain our fountain and they migrate to the pond two doors down.
"I love it here," continues Jackie, gazing over the Columbia River into the very visible Washington State. "The smog in Los Angeles is so thick that..."
"One time it was so thick that I couldn't see from here to the end of the room!!!" finishes some one who was able to escape California after about ten minutes of this smog nonsense.
My mind's eye carries me back to Downtown Birmingham, where a magical magnetic dust settled on everything and made its way into the lungs of small and mostly "colored" children who lived in "shotgun shacks." In a few years evil men would be washing them down with fire hoses.
<to be continued>
"I'm beginning to sound like you, Mother, when we travel...look at that rock over there! It's a sandstone! And look at that mountain range! Those are the Rockies!" My older daughter smiles. In December, she will be 30 years old. It's been Metal Granny's pride and joy, not being old enough to have a daughter that old.
"I'm beginning to understand what you were going through, Mother, camping with us. 'Wipe the mud off of your feet when you come into the tent!!'" How difficult it is with a six year old who doesn't stop talking natural history and Pokemon long enough to listen...and a German Shepherd with M.S. for dogs who pulls himself around like a seal...he is lying right behind me now, 90 pounds of dog, snoring.
This unlikely trio has traveled from Chicago to here in Red Van, a 210,000 mile veteran of 4 wrecks, because Ian is getting married **Caitey** in one week. Emma will be a bridesmatron, and Young Victor will be the Ring Bearer. The pups are not invited.
&&&&&&&&The Woman From Oregon is in the fitting room of J.C. Penney, and her older daughter is handing her clothing to try on for the wedding. Just a few years ago, before she became so pudgy, she had more of a clothing sense. Now it is limited to Metal Band Shirts.
"Maybe you'd like to try some other color?" her daughter asks with an annoying confidence.
"No...these black pants will be fine. After all I'm losing a son."
Then a voice arises from an anonymous cubicle:
"Did you hear that? Losing a son! Haw haw haw!!!"
Hood River County, Oregon, June 2011:
The girls...Emma and Erin...had gone on ahead in Red Van with a plethora of homemade chocolate cupcakes with purple icing. That left us...me, my spouze, our son-in-law and our grandchild to fumble our way to the Crag Rat Hut in ECH.
"That Ford thinks he's some hot stuff, he's got 250K on him, been to Alaska, I told him I had All-Wheel Drive and he said 'I don't NEED four wheel drive...'"
Up the freeway and down 35 towards Mt. Hood.
"Van Horn Road! Turn right!" I rolled my eyes.
"Left" I said.
"There's the fire station!"
"There's the cemetery!" Cemetery? Could I just stop here and snap a couple photos? And then there was the sign from the Crag Rats Hut, or so I agreed with a sigh. Something was fishy.
"I think this is a private home," ECH retorted as we pulled up to the garage.
"The road is supposed to be narrow and winding," said someone. "Drive up that way."
"Into the orchard on a dirt path? They must be kidding," ECH observed. Keep in mind that ECH speaks only to those who open their minds.
"Be careful not to ruin someone's irrigation system when you're turning around!" someone warned. Go back to where you started.
Pine Grove, Oregon, June 2011: Through careful observation of giant fruit factories, we finally untangled our route and drove ECH up a spiral hill to the Crag Rat Hut. By that time, However, we had forgotten why we were going there. It was, in fact, a good question, "why?" as all my spouze and I needed to do was sit down, stand up, sit down, stand up, and walk out. Young Victor's role was to refuse to be ring bearer, abdicating to Aden, the bride's nephew. And all Jason was expected to do was admire his own bride of two years as she stood there with white peonies in her hands.
Whoa! What was going on? The rustic chic "Hut" was buzzing with activity. The kitchen was humming with women washing and drying plates and silverware. It was here by the sink that my spouze would remain, totally enraptured by drying plates in the company of women. Out in the main room, more women ironed lavender organdy cloths laid on white clothoths on round tables. Other tables were being decorated with various purple candies, including purple rock and purple licorice. But those plates! Had there been a wedding brunch we had missed? Had the rehearsal been scrapped as too OCD? Time wore on. I toured the display cases in the rustic basement, perusing ancient skis and snowshoes and batteries. Finally, I walked back upstairs, where my remaining family was assembling table lights out of tea candles, gold gravel and lavender bows.
"Are we supposed to have rehearsal sometime?" I asked.
"I guess so," answered one of the artisans, disinterested. I walked into the kitchen, where my spouze was washing silverware.
"Are we supposed to have rehearsal sometime?" I asked.
"I thought so, but if it doesn't start soon, I'll have to change the dinner reservation at the Crazy Pepper!" Terror!! The rehearsal dinner was to be our major expense, though the kilt rental wasn't cheap! I turned and asked the bride's mother:
"Are we supposed to have rehearsal sometime?"
"I thought so," she exclaimed in her mild way. After this things began to move rapidly, and soon most of the participants were chaotically gathered on the small lawn behind the Crag Rat Hut. Others were unrelatedly trying to string up lights somewhere, though the sun and Mt. Hood were shining brightly.
"Where's the groom? Where's Ian?" asked a thin woman from Colorado who may have been in charge.
"He's up there working on the sound system," answered someone.
"Could you please tell him to come down here? This is more important." Someone...I never learned who...took over the job. Then, after some amount of confused time she asked:
"Where are the grooms parents?" Right here, right next to you. Then, things traveled smoothly through the chaos. By the time we'd called the restaurant and nudge the reservation a bit, half the rehersalers were already at the Crazy Pepper!! And look! Wasn't that Uncle Roger and Aunt Tami from Illinois, right there at the door?
&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&We never thought it would turn out like this. There were signs: laying in complementary configuration on the floor. Barking in unison at cats and the mailperson. And the day Hadrian took large kibbles out of his bowl and laid them out for Tegan. The last day...just before they left for Chicago...we took them out onto the lawn together...the young impish miniature labradinger and the old broken German shepherd...she jumped around him, laughing and barking, and he laughing and barking back like a puppy.
"We should have done this sooner!" mused Emma.
The Dalles, Oregon, June 2011: "Visiting the Vet"
Family members began to nag me even before Emma, Victor, and Hadrian arrived in Red Van.
"MOM! I need to take Tegan back to the vet. She's still over grooming!" Yes indeed! Those big bare patches were still there on her knees!
"So, when did you stop giving her her medicine?" Antihistimines, set to end the vicious circle of itch scratch itch scratch and so forth.
A new problem arrived with Emma and Hadrian.
"I'm about out of arthritis medication," Emma sighed.
So, after a few false starts, away we went to the vet!
The waiting room was almost empty when we arrived, but quickly filled even before we went through the dog door. A couple people, we would find out later, were just there to buy dog food or goat medication. Too soon however, a dog arrived:
"Woof woof!!" Hadrian barked in his most assertive police dog voice. "Woof Woof Woof Woof...." Tegan perked up her ears.
"I'll take him out!" Emma said, petrified of the receptionist's ruthless multitasking.
"We need to know where he is in the queue." offered the survivalist receptionist.
"He's with us," I said, or think I said.
The receptionist directed her gaze to a woman and her beautiful orange sleddog/mix.
"Who is this? What is he here for?"
"Spuds...I just got him and need to get him checked out!"
"SPUDS!!!" I exclaimed.
"Yes, Spuds! I just adopted him. Do you know him?"
"Yes! I've walked Spuds!" A "senior" shelter dog. Home At Last!!
"Now you," the receptionist's gaze drilled into my teeth so hard I could only fumble with words.
"Uhh...my younger daughter's...uh..."
"She's scratching," explained Erin.
"Hadrian is running out of arthritis medication." Emma approached the bench with a hand full of plastic pill bottles and a head full of Pre-Pharmacy courses.
"Is he on your account?" The gaze drilled even further, and I could only manage a nod and an "Uh huh." Where were the doggie treats she usually handed out?
Emma and Hadrian were ushered into the examination room, Emma lifting his rear with a beach towel to replace his useless back legs. The Senior Vet with the cowboy clothes was there, the one I always think of as driving around examining horses, cows, and John Deeres. (He was the one who had broke the news over the phone a few years earlier: "Mama Kittie has expired." ) Erin, Victor, Tegan, and I followed, lounging in the hall.
"That's a good way to do it!" drawled the doctor. "One hundred and five pounds!" Good way to lift weights!
"He's been diagnosed with severe arthritis and degenerative myleopathy. He was also diagnosed with mild hip dysplasia at three years," said Emma. "We were thinking of getting him some wheels."
"Why is he putting a thermometer up his rear? Ugh!" asked Victor as the doc recorded all the dog medications he would send home with Hadrian. "Why is he putting that up his rear end?" Yep!
Thirty one pound Tegan and her bare patches were far less interesting. "No, I don't see any sign of varmints. I'll prescribe a little different dog medicine for her this time."
July 2011: "Zzzzzz"
Dedicated readers may note that there have been almost no stories about hitchikers recently. Have they been hiding behind road construction signs? Probably. But just the other day, I passed up a group of four young people. One was carrying either a puppy in her arms. By the time I reminded myself that I was a Quaker and calculated the chances that the five would fit in ECH, they were a mile behind us.
The next day, yesterday in fact, I noticed another couple of young people with their thumbs out. This was at The Dalles Discovery Center Exit and they were holding a cardboard sign that said "PORTLAND." The girl was dressed in blue jeans, a halter top, and a bandana. I don't remember what the boy was wearing, aside from a piano-sized duffel bag on his back. ECH and I didn't stop immediately, we really didn't want a semi tanker sporting a cartoon cow to rear end us! I tried honking, but they were deaf, so I commenced to back up. C-runch! Bruised up a relective marker a bit...got out to look at...
Boring? That's what the title implies! I motioned the kids to the back seat and they hauled their mega packs into the hatch.
"Finally!" said the boy.
"Getting a bit hot?" I replied.
"Where are you going in Portland?" the girl asked.
"PSU," I answered, and pulled back onto 84.
"Great!" she confided.
Then I sat nervously and listened for that cue for a spicy dicy conversation, but nothing happened. In fact, I couldn't even see these people in the rear view. I de-slumped myself and looked again. The girl sat relaxed, eyes closed and mouth open.
The miles wore on: Hood River...Cascade Locks...Dodson.... So did the scenery. Were they used to seeing incredible wonders like Multnomah Falls? Finally, in what is known as "The Corridor," they woke up.
"Is the university OK for you?" I asked.
"Is the university close to downtown?" one of them replied.
"Yes!" I assured him/her. So they weren't from Portland. Where were they from? Had they traveled from the East, through the hot High Desert, and even further?
I paid my $5 and pulled into the ramp.
"Sorry we fell asleep!" the boy apologized.
"That's OK. I did too," I assured him.
I shook my head.
&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&1. When Ian (the kid who just got married) was a baby, I tripped going down the steps at his day care. I had a choice of either falling down and bonking his head on the pavement, or landing badly on my feet. That was the only time I've sprained my ankle but I know how you're feeling!!! Ouch!
2. Tegan had a bad experience with a pit bull today. We were on a walk and the pit bull was jivin' with his family on his porch. When he saw Tegan Crowther he rushed towards her and they commenced to growl and roll around. The owner, looked like a Motor Cycle gang type, came rushing over and yelled: "Stop that you idiot." Which is what the pit bull did. Tegan, however, continued to sniff him, as if she'd met a new pal!
&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&In the earlier (but not earliest) decades of my life, I attended....and forced my children to attend...numerous music festivals. Foremost amongst these were British Isles: The North Texas Irish Festival, Fairport Convention at Cropredy...oh well, I can't remember what all. But the closest to my heart were the Highland Games, with its Caber Toss and bagpipe contests. Now the Scottish games seemed to have slipped beneath the lethal metalic wheels of my life. Then, leafing through the Willamette Weekly, I read:
July 16, 2011, Gresham, Oregon: "Portland Highland Games"
"Yes!" Ian replied to the invitation. "But in separate cars. **Mrs. Caitey** and I have some shopping to do in Portland." Probably at IKEA! "I'll buy the tickets on he internet. They're a little cheaper!" Aye, ever the frugal Scotsman! "Meet you there!"
ECH and I pulled into the Mt Hood Community College parking lot at exactly the right time. I rang up Ian.
"I just parked," I told him.
"Uh...we're still in Hood River. Had to run some errands." Luckily I'd printed out the receipt with the bar code. Would they believe me at the gate? Ask for an ID that said "Ian"?
"My son bought the tickets," I told the admitter, trying to look as old, ditzy, and vulnerable as possible. "But he's still in Hood River."
"Here's the other two wristbands," the man replied as he scanned the bar code and fitted my wrist in flimsy plastic.
I shuffled along to the basketball court, where there was a restroom with a long line, a pretzel stall, and a lot of vendors. I braved the line, bought a haggis flavored pretzel and went to sit in the football bleachers. Some kids on the field were performing the Highland Fling. Down on the track a mismatched group of kilted Scots were being led out by a group of pipers. Then the pipers vaporized and the vagabonds began to run. Ian would later refer to this as "the running of the kilts." Smart boy, picked up a program! Suddenly the sound of my cell phone:
"Mom! We're here!"
"I'll meet you at the entrance!" And so it was that they received their wristbands and turned toward the vendors on the basketball courts. **Mrs. Caitey** was all aglow at the new and unfamilar world of Scottish Merchandise! Coincidentally someone she knew was from Scotland who wanted her to bring back info on where to buy Scottish stuff like shortbread.
"Look! A purple kilt! If we had just seen this before the wedding!" **Caitie** noted. She and Ian had employed a lavender theme, but Ian was forced to wear a "granite" kilt.
"That's a purple working kilt," I noted.. Today, Ian was dressed in a black Utilikilt, also a working kilt. He never seems to want to wear the Donnachaidh (sp?) kilt of his heritage.
"Look!" Ian said. "Ha ha ha! Do you remember 'Horrible Histories'?" These are silly British kids paperbacks.
"I remember you had 'The London Blitz' or something." Was that 1998? **Caitey**, hard to imagine as Ian's wife in those old days, was fooling with a Tam o' shanter. Then there were the hair screws. A mob of seekers was clustered around the hair screw table. You wound them in your hair. But ah!
"They're too expensive with the charm...."
On to another table where **Caitey** bought a parchment with the crest and history of her maiden name. Later she would ask at the "Welsh Genealogy" booth about her maiden name and they would be skeptical. If you're half Japanese it's hard to convince people you're Welsh, even if you have a bunch of ll's y's and w's in your name.
Eventually we broke free of the vendors, even the powerful guy who was stamping "coins" with thousand pound weights. Hung out on the football field listening to pipe bands practice, then made a beeline for the Border Collie demonstration complete with sheep! Oh how I wish Tegan The Labradinger could have come with us! There's a Border Collie 3 houses down whom she barks at on all her walks. They are great friends! We passed up the Scottish Bangers outlet store and though initially excited about the British Teatime store, the cookies proved too expensive for some of us. I on the other hand snarfed down a cheese scone and a whole wheat scone with jam. "Not made in a commercial kitchen," a sign warned. So goes the pleasure of real life. Moving on...did that police car not seem ominous? A woman at the booth, framed by pencils and Scotch whisky, called at Ian...
"The hats are only $5!" Why, it was the Portland Police Highland Guard! I said:
"I'll buy one!!!"
"I like Grand Jury. You don't have to feel guilty about sending anyone up the river."
"Grand Jury II: "True Bill"
Have you ever received a summons to appear for GRAND JURY? I have, in 2005, and you can read all about it on =FWAP!=
In 2011, the blind queen of justice is again tying her shawl around the mouth and eyes of those who are randomly chosen to serve...
"Nothing leaves the room," she admonishes. Your ears are still open to hear the testimony and your hands free to vote "True Bill." But you can't laugh about the 300 pound guy pulling the toilet up from the bathroom floor and heaving it at his wife until The Dalles Chronicle publishes the indictments.
"Hey, did you know that new h****g s***d on K***y by the M*****n S***e burned down?" said someone after voting "True Bill."
"Really? I didn't even get a chance to try it," said another.
"K***y is one of the worst s*****s in The D*****s," said a third. There's always someone r*****g across it." said a third.
"You should just *** **** ****!" It was just a joke, officer.
At the lunch break a couple of the other old ladies asked me to have lunch with them. They needed a tie breaker and so it was I who voted "B**********" Off we went!! Hell bent for their specially blended local gardenburgers!
"Umm...looks a little busy. Let's try T*** D** M**." I love T*** D** M**...yummy fish tacos!! And not crowded, either!
"We're in a hurry!" the retired social worker told the burly man. "We're on the Grand Jury!"
The handsome old geezer smiled and held the door for us. We got our fresh mexican food off the assembly line. I ordered fish tacos. Then we sat down.
"Well," said the retired social worker, "I can see why there aren't many people here. The food isn't very good. I like Taco Time better."
"The guy up by the soft drinks says there's more of a crowd in the evening, with the beer...." said the retired teacher.
In any case, I didn't feel very good, making the wrong choice of fast food.
[Somewhere, a salmon prince is being sent up the Columbia on a "True Bill." Soon he will be in British Columbia.]
The Dalles, Oregon, August 2011: "Rose and Robert"
Walking the dog across 10th Street. Avoiding the idiotic adversarial pitbull, and the old geezer chocolate lab. I like that old lab, and its slow movements of friendship. But the Dog Who Looks Like Tegan ambles over...there are no leash laws here in Paradise...and they commence to sniff each others' behinds in a circular fashion. She's got spots on her neck, like a German shorthair pointer, but...
"Psst...grandmama. We were done with the sniffing a whole two minutes ago. Let's go down down this alley...I smell something." Something indeed! Two tiny dogs, one likely a pomegranate and the other some sort of terroroodle, commenced to yap at Tegan and myself from behind the chain link fence gate. Then they squeezed through the crack between the gate and the fence. But so what? There are no leash laws here!
A little old lady...at least a couple years older than me...came racing at me from her patio!
"How are you doing?" she asked.
"What?" I countered.
"Aren't you my new neighbor who broke her back?" she asked.
"No......" I countered.
What a great way to introduce yourself!
"I'm just dogsitting Gizmo [the pomegranate]. My friends were going to the Coast and she doesn't like to travel. So I said, why don't you just leave her with us so she won't have to sit in the car. Her other dogs love to travel though. And my Buddy! Never had any problems with Buddy!"
"Huh!" I said.
"What's that shirt say? Finland? Have you been there?"
"Yes," I smiled.
"In 2000 we went through Europe. We went to England, and Germany, and Denmark, and Austria, and France and...have you been to Paris? It was my niece's youngest daughter. She was 19 and in the service over there and she said, "Aunt Rose, you have to see the airfares. Four hundred dollars. So we went and we loved it! But Finland. We didn't go to Finland."
"I hope you can go someday."
"No, said Rose. "My Robert isn't doing very well. He needs me to stay here with me almost all the time. The only thing we do is go to McDonald's for coffee every week."
"And you have such pretty teeth," she continued, changing the subject. What a shock! It was the first time anyone said anything like that about my teeth. I ran my tongue over missing fillings and poorly filed canines. They have to do that if you're a werewolf.
"Huh! Well, thank you!"
"I have a three thousand dollar tooth," she said.
"Is it gold?"
"No! But by the time they got done with it it cost three thousand dollars!!"
&&&&&&The Bite off Oregon, August 12-14. Sounds a bit nautical, eh? Undersea volcanism at the boundary of the San Juan de Fuca and Pacific Plates? What do you do at Festivals? Chomp through a bag of bubble-gum flavored kettle corn? Buy a retro tie dyed T-shirt from China? Absentmindedly stuff your ears with Sean Finnigan and the Outbag Doodlehoppers? Here at the Bite, you can largely dispense with all the peripherals. You can spend the entire time stuffing your face!!
Ian had departed first, from Underwood, riding shotgun for his wife and mother-in-law. We...myself, Erin, and ECH...followed, picking up her friend Sarah at the defunct gas station in Mosier. Soon...60 miles west...we crossed the Willamette on "The High Bridge."
"Where are you?" asked Ian, gaining fame for his inquiries via cell phone. "We got a parking place ten inches from Waterfront Park!!"
I whirled off the freeway by the ambulance on the 6th Street exit and into the PSU parking ramp. Now I was alone and it was a long walk. But it was graduation day!!! Look at those Young Vikings off to conquer the world!!!
"The stage by the wine tasting," Ian phoned me. I knew he was trying to lure me into the compound by mentioning ***WINE***. But look over there on the park lawn...hundreds of geese milling about!!! And along down the sidewalk, a full chorus of Mennonites singing. A man asked if I wanted a CD and I said yes! The next day, I would find that the CD itself contained the voices of The Eshes, a Kentucky family of nine that died last year when their van collided head-on with a semi. And then...a wedding! What a beautiful white gown.
"Mom, where are you?" asked Ian on my cell phone. Somewhere. Found the entrance, reflected in the agile waters of the Great Willamette. Pedicabs slithered along the bank as well.
"Mom!" said Ian from his vocal chords." We're sitting over by the stage, waiting for the Iron Chef Frost-Off. Here's the dessert area...and these chef's table booths have food made by the Greatest Chefs in Oregon!"
"Hi!" I said when we arrived at the Iron Chef Stage. **Mrs.Caitey** and her mom were seated there. Erin and Sarah as well? I will never remember, so we'll pretend that they were.
"I think I'll go get some food! I haven't had lunch. And a glass of wine..." Ian, oh, I'm too lazy, go get me a glass of white wine. And a collection of corks as well. Wait! Wine with lunch? Memories of stupidity soaked afternoons began to gnaw at the souvenir glass that you could wear around your neck....and so it was that....
And so it was that I did not drink any wine that whole day, though I did buy a gift stack of wine spiked jams jars. Rogue pear, cranberry, and pinot noir!
For the past month or so, Tegan the Labradinger and I have been traveling a different route. We parallel Mill Creek 'til we get to 10th Street. However, instead of walking down 10th, Tegan stands at the edge of the sidewak until the greatest amount of high-speed traffic appears, and bolts to the middle of the street.
"Achlfggll!!!" I cry as my disconnected head rocks back and forth. With any luck, we've crossed to the dry straw-grass of the neighborhood nunnery. With any luck, they have their sprinklers going. With any luck, we've avoided....
The Dalles, August 2011: "The Dog Pee Patrol"....but now our luck has run out.
Tegan stops, scanning the bridge. A couple is walking their lean, healthy German Short Haired Pointed.
"Hey look, Duchess Raggle Taggle," says Tegan. "There's Wolfgang! Heard a lot about him, though we never have met. And see how he's pulling! Sweet Wolfgang wants to come over and sniff me! But his Pack Leaders, argh, listen!"
"No, Wolfgang, no!!" they yell. "You know not to do that~". None of these mixed breeds for him!
"Why not? English Springer...Labrador: The Best Of New World and Old!" Tegan Crowther dreams to herself.
We round the corner, walking past the now chained pit bull who once attacked Tegan, and then the ancient Chocolate Lab with the frog motif wading pool, who noses the little Labradinger as she passes and then sprays the fence as if to say "Mine!!!!" We swing left on 11th, where a woman is spraying her grass and the sidewalk too! A chance to get wet and cool off!!!
"Hi!" I say.
She is silent for a moment, then says:
"I don't appreciate that you let her pee there." Tegan the Dog is sniffing a curbside bush.
"I missed that," I replied.
"She didn't, but don't let her do it. Other dogs will want to do it too."
"OK," I say and move on, thinking we are safe. We make it to the end of the block. A woman glares at me through a window screen of a green duplex. A month or two ago, someone posted in the tiny front yard:
"Please do not take my stones. Each one is very meaningful to me. I can't garden anymore, so all I have is my stones."
"Did he pee on that tree?" she asked. The trunk was gnarled and leveled off at the side walk.
"No," I said calmly. We get to the alleyway before Tegan decides to poop on the tiny lawn.
"No Tegan, no!!!" I exclaim, pulling brutally on her leash. Tegan, confused, decides she will never try to poop again.
The sky is an ocean above Multnomah Falls today. The Mississippi disgorges its load of silt and clay into the Gulf of Mexico, the Amazon unloads its laterites into the Atlantic and spreads them all the way to Portland. But in an ever changing viewpoint, a wounded deer is spreading blood across blue bed sheets. These are no clouds, you explain, this is...
Oregon, September 2011..."smoke"
In proof that Global Warming is some Liberal's spoof, Oregon has had a break from summer all summer. But now that it's September, the temperatures have been in the 80s and even 90s. That's why the smoke is there, because Oregon is burning hot.
"What's this about your brother's trailer burning?" I ask *Pedro,* my daughter's handsome latin lover.
"It started in one trailer, and then went on to his and then another one. I went over to see it, me and my mom, and it was terrible," he replies.
It wasn't til today that I read it in the paper...couch 10 feet away caught on fire, then spread rapidly through the tinder dry grass. The first trailer was gone before the firemen could even get there.
I maneuver ECH into the Astro Station. Hit the power button to open the window, fill it regular cash, dive for the gas door opener, stare into space a moment, pull out...and glance over at the freeway. The westbound lane is a double line of turtles. Accident? I drive on to the 76 station, grab a bottle Diet Mountain Dew (perhaps the last), and hear the rumors..."FIRE ON THE INTERSTATE!!!" ON the interstate? Hmmm...
We don't get ON to the interstate. ECH and I drive the back way, on the old Columbia River Highway. Several miles along, we see people parked along the side of the road, standing and staring at a cloud of creamy smoke. We don't stop. We head west to Portland. Then we drive back, ON the freeway. Just west of the Gorge Discovery Center, there is a blackened area several acres 'round, and ten or so fire fighting vehicles guarding their turf.
"Can you tell if Hadrian is getting worse?" I ask my son-in-law. The 8 year old German shepherd is suffering more and more from paralysis, dragging himself along like a seal.
"He makes me cry," answers Jason. Now he can't even move his back paws.
Atlanta, Georgia, September 11, 2011. "Chihuahuas!"
First Class. It was my idea, of course, to fly First Class, especially when one only had to pay $210 each way! And then *Caitey* and Ian. And then finally Erin. Luckily *Jason* and Emma, Young Victor and Poor Hadrian were driving down from Chicago in Red Van!
But for the rest of us, well...who wanted to go to something as important as Cousin Hallie's Bat Mitzvah in Bloomington with Restless Leg Syndrome and a stomach full of pretzels and Budweiser?
But the Bat Mitzvah was over now. We climbed into a puddle jumper ("what's that staircase for?") from Bloomington to Atlanta, hung around Atlanta a while wondering what would happen when you flew on 9-11, and then boarded the plane back to Portland.
WHOOSH! I hit the First Class window seat with a thud and stared at *Caitey* all alone across the aisle.
"Would you like to sit next to *Caitey*?" I asked Ian.
"If it's all right, Mother," Ian said slyly. They are still at the stage of marriage when they like sitting next to each other.
We exchanged places. Time passed. No one ever showed up...
"Wow! I said."I didn't think you'd ever show up!" I said to the pretty blond woman in the black and white summer dress.
"I had so many problems getting here! I can say one thing, this airplane is cooler than the one from Savannah!" Southern...heavy duty Southern! She took out a metal water bottle and unzipped her carry on. A tiny, furry head poked out. The woman filled up the water dish. Then another head poked out! "Chihuahuas!" I exclaimed. "You have two of them!!!" But my best bet was that they were Chihuahua-Siberian huskie mixes.
The woman went on to explain that she lived in Portland, would never go back to Savannah or Charlestown or wherever she had been visiting her parents. I explained to her that I would never live in Birmingham again and didn't have anyone to go back to.
"Are those two related?" I asked, changing the subject.
"They're litter mates. They're thirteen," Lulu and Pooh Bear and...
"Lulu has a mammary tumor that took off and went into her lungs. That's one reason I went to visit my parents...so they could run around together with the rest."
"Can you get that under the seat?" asked the flight attendant. The blonde woman's shook her head. The two women looked at each other for a moment, and the flight attendant walked down the aisle
September, 2011: "Bat Mitzvah!!!" The family guests for my brother-in-law's step daughter's bat mitzvah trickled in like imagery for writing stories about Bat Mitzvahs. First it was my sister-in-law, Donna, and her son Seth, a tattooed body builder from North Carolina. Then it was me and my bribes...
"Ian! *Caitey*!" I said. "I'll pay for it!!!" Poor *Mrs. Caitey's* back still hurt from the accident in Portland, when a bookcase from Ikea slammed into the back of her seat when the woman behind them talking on her cell phone slammed her car into the back of *Mrs. Caitey's* Suburu. Mine, in fact, still hurt from tripping backwards over a tombstone. Flying all the way to Atlanta and up to Illinois! Better get bargain rate first class seats and a reputable motel room!
"Is everyone going but me and Dad?" asked Erin. Would Dad spend the whole weekend asking what her plans for finding a job were? Luckily there were still spaces available on the planes!
"Do they allow dogs where you're staying..?" asked Emma from up in Chicago. Not too many doggie resorts accept 110 pound paraplegic German shepherds. But our motel would...oops...wait...that was the one across town. I cancelled our two rooms at the Spiffy Inn and Suites, and reserved three at the Inn at Un-Spiffy.
And so it was that we drove to Portland, dumping valiant ECH ungratefully in the Remote Lot.
"ECH will have a lot of cars he can talk to," I pointed out. The three ducklings rolled their eyes.
That's it for right now.
"Bat Mitzvah II"
The drive to the airportland ran smoothly. We hitched the long term bus, *Mrs. Caitey* and Erin found a bit of pizza to chomp down on while I glared at them. We passed through Security with only one glitch, due to *Caitey*'s racial/ethnic group...but what the heck, it's better than detention camp!
Then Erin stopped suddenly. "Where's my blue bag? Did I take it through security? I'll go back and get it" Our eyes slanted wide in weariness!!!!
Our flight to Atlanta seemed to be boarding. As we stepped up to desk, the intercom commenced to speak:
"Ian and Judith, please come to gate 16!!"
"Here we are!"
"We've found a bag that you left the dining area," they began.
"My sister left her bag. She's already gone to get it," Ian explained.
"Don't worry, you have plenty of time..." said the Gate Prince.
"I went back to security," Ian would say later. "I told them my sister had gone back to get the bag."
"She'll either have to put the bag through security, or leave it in Lost and Found," the Security Prince had told Ian.
In the meantime, eighty miles and a cultural word away, a mysterious, garbled message was left on a telephone recorder:
"You ahve a suticaes lft at Lsoe & Foudn nd we wlli hafta srch it."
This really confused my spouse!
Somehow, even though the suitcase was no longer at Lost & Found, it, along with both Ian and Erin, made their way toward the gate.
"Will you be taking this flight anyway, even without the other two passengers?" asked the desk clerk. Plenty of time?
Luckily *Mrs. Caitey* had been keeping post. "They're coming now. They're running!!!"
"What?" asked the Desk Clerk.
"They're coming. They're running," I echoed.
Lucky we were First Class Passengers!!!
Bloomington, IL, September, 2011: What luxury! We pulled up under the breezeway of the palatial Maison d'Illini; I dismounted and strode up to the checkout desk.
"Hi! I have a reservation...actually three...for me and my son and my older daughter. My daughter's family including a heavily shedding German Shepherd will be in later tonight, as they have a cub scout meeting they have to go to. Luckily they're just coming from Chicago."
"Do you want to keep all this on the same credit card?" I'm sure all you readers have been through this.
"And I had my room on the Senior Saver rate..."
"Oh...I'll make sure all the rooms get that rate," assured the desk clerk.
"And my older daughter has a dog..."
"Oh don't worry about the fee."
Darn! I should have reserved an in-room hot tub room for the young people!
We drove around to the appropriate door and disbursed.
"Aughhhh!!! A cricket!!!!" yelped *Mrs. Caitey*. Multiple crickets, it sounded like.
Erin and I entered our room, holding our bayonettes before us. But the room looked OK. And the beds...ahhh....and the word was out from Erin's Cell Phone, Emma's family would be here in an hour!!! Knock knock!!!
"I put a request in with maintenance," Ian began. "The toilet needs to be repaired, but I don't want to leave the luggage in the room. So that's why I'm leaving it right here in your room."
Pulled out the overloaded Aspire 5516 and looked for mail from Erin, Ian, and Emma...decided to check across the hall...KNOCK KNOCK!!!
FLOP FLOP!!! Hadrian, the heavily shedding paraplegic German Shepherd flopped joyfully towards me...like a 110 pound seal!!!
Oregon, Oct 2011: The house is full of deceptions. My husband is my father and I am my own mother. I suspect schizophrenia. I expect this is not the case.
A pair of brown shoes in the hall way is two deceased cats, Freddie and Katy. A black T-shirt is Teagan, sleeping alone in East Portland. ECH the Noble Forrester, sleeping alone in the driveway asks:
"Why does the Chrysler Dealer want to buy me?"
"He's seen the scrapes on the sides." Apparently the Chrysler guy is looking for macho used cars to sell. Weird!
The last straw, the one that unscrewed me, was Erin. She and Teagan the Dog have gone to live with her friend Brittany while Erin goes to Food School. I remember how my mother brought a box of Krispy Kremes back to me, after they'd left me off in the dorm with my new friends. No idea what I wanted to major in, though I mentioned psychology.
But the earth has shifted and Erin is playing the role of her friend's aunt. "This money will sure help us out!!" says Brittney's mom.
Ian is sleeping with a lovely Asian wife in the Washington Woods, and Emma is dozing off with a lightning protection man in front of an Illinois nature preserve. That's it for my sanity!!!
First Page: http://w3.gorge.net/judith/stories.htm
I am gennett at gorge dot net