STORIES FROM 2008
December 2007, The Dalles, Oregon. "I think I'll go to the New Years Dance!" announced Ian.
"Oh...at the high school? Are you going too, Erin?" i asked.
"No," countered Ian..."at Swap and Swing!!!"
"I'm going to bed at 9 o'clock," yawned Erin.
"I'm going to rip out kitchen cabinets!" said my husband, swinging a 10 foot crowbar for effect.
"I guess I'll try the Eagles..." I began.
"There's the Sacred Harp party we could go to...." began Ian.
"...in Portland," I completed.
When I arrived at The Eagles Aerie at noon, a number of senior citizens were lounging in the bar smoking cigarettes. Most of the staff, au contraire, was busily perched 20 feet in the air hanging silver strips from the disco ball.
"Where is the bartender? Isnt anyone here?" fumed an interesting looking woman with a ridged, sunken face and gothicly dyed black hair. Finally the bartendress set down the last of the plastic Hawaiian leis on the last table and took her rightful position.
"Ice tea?" she asked the woman calmly. "And you?"
"I'd like to go to the party!"
"Are you a member?"
"Yes! But I havent been here for a while...."
The room became silent; every eye rivited upon me. I shrugged my shoulders. "Dunno..." I said, but in the next moment, peering out through the dim haze of the bar I knew in one word why I hadnt been there, despite the fascinating stories that each of my fellow Eagles could tell.
I bought my ticket and lingered to drink in the pretty silver and white New Years decor which lavished the huge hall....things looked so different now. There were even new expensive cabinets behind the bar. A man walked up to me and said eagerly:
"It's still the same! Pinochle on your left... bridge on your right...."
At 10:30pm I dressed in my new red fleece Google vest and rummage sale silk scarf and drove over to the aerie.
"Can you make a cosmo?" I asked.
"It's been years!" said the bartendress. Where was Gary, the former Portland Martini Bar owner? "Let's see...vodka and lime..."
"And cranberry juice. Vodka, cranberry juice & lime...." She dumped a pour of vodka, a snap of green liquid, and a lot of Ocean Spray cranberry cocktail into a plastic glass."Two fifty," she charged confidently. The bar and billiard areas were packed with people in silver sequins and feed caps, though not on the same person, but the flanks of the dance floor were dim and soothing. I chose an empty table and sat down between the buffet and the soundboard, where a woman with the band played solitaire on her laptop, then surfed on the internet via the aerie's new WIFI. I picked up some garlic triscuits and cheese and trail mix and carrots....I must have eaten 30 baby carrots! I listened to the rock-country-blues cover band...Light my fire!! Louie Louie!! and watched the dancers. At midnight, the cocktail waitress poured champagne, one each for me and my coat, the band counted down and then the Aerie released the balloons and the Eagles stomped on them. A woman in a black sweater grabbed me and said "Happy New Year!!" Where did I know her from?
An evening like this is like walking the streets of Antigua.
A few minutes into 2008, I positioned my silver cardboard tiara and exited into the parking lot, three quarters full of sedans and big pick-ups. Suddenly the sound of my flip-phone!!!
"Mom! I need a ride home!" Soon, I found myself walking through the door of the Civic Auditorium, the Great Realm and Bastion of the "Swap 'n Swing" Square Dance Club. On my left, a young woman in a giant starched silver petticoat floated on top of a chair.
"Why hello!" a blond woman gasped. It was a pair of Rockford Grange contra dancers! "You should come to square dancing! Your son does great!"
"I sort of dont want to interfere in his life..." I began.
"What?" she asked, perplexed, but went on. "Here is a tango brochure! It starts in just a few weeks!"
How can I find tango partner?" I wondered.
Each of us sees The Light in the way that is best for us....neither the Light that is too dim or subtle, nor that which is too bright and overpowering and will blind us.
I first met the H----s around 2001 when I began singing Sacred Harp in Portland. That was back when we met at the big basalt grey Congregational church on Madison in Downtown Portland, and Peter Irvine pitched notes. The H---- wore...and still do...their own versions of modest dress. (So do I, but it's very hard to tell!) Mr H---- always carried a cell phone on his belt.
"Number 212! We practiced this at home!" Mr H---- would comment excitedly.
At the time, Mrs H---- was pregnant with her final child...
"How many children do you have?" I asked as she lounged back on the sofa.
"Eight!" she answered.
"Wow! I have enough trouble with three!" I laughed.
Over the months, the H----s disappeared from the downtown church singings, and so the group, over to a church southeast Portland, and eventually also to the ale spouting Kennedy School, a branch of McMennemins. Peter Irvine went to Massachusetts, and re-appeared at Folk Alliance. The H----s appeared again at Balkanalia! at the Greek Orthodox camp near Corbett....with their 12 passenger band, their fiddles and mandolines, dancing the night away, the smaller children running like wolves in the night, in a wild pack with Erin and the rest. As time wore on, the girls appeared in the kitchen, washing dishes on work study in their long skirts and jeans.
Two summers ago, Ian, Erin & went to a production of The Pirates of Penzance at the high school in Stevenson, in the rain soaked Cascadian woods midway between The Dalles and Portland. One minute a brash young pirate was leaping off of the stage and waving a machete at our necks! The next, we were talking to Mrs. H----y!
"I'm here because we're thinking of producing this play at our local company!" she explained.
In December, the Sacred Harp Bulletin went out that there would be a fifth Sunday Singing at the P-------r Baptist Church in near Northeast Portland.
"This is the church that the H----s attend!!!" said the bulletin.
We were late, as usual. Ian's cell phone completely discharged he was lost for a time in Powell's, where I was assigned to fetch him after "The Raggle Taggle Gypsy." By the time we arrived, the Portland Sacred Harp was in its first break! The large alcove off the sanctuary was packed. Both Mr H----, and Mrs H---- greeted us:
"It is so good you could come! We have snacks right now...and there is a tea afterwards!!!"
"And you can stay later," Mr H---- laughed and told the group. "There will be an evening service...and I hear the minister is a great speaker...that's ME!!!"
Ian and I took cookies and drinks, and sat down in our usual sections, Bass and Treble. There was a woman whom I did not recognize in the Tenor section wearing a long skirt and head scarf, and I wondered if the Baptists here dressed like that. There were also two middle-aged black sopranos that I did not recognize sitting near me. Near the end, one of them exclaimed, "Do you say AMEN!!! in your church? Because that is what I would like to shout. I have never heard music like this! It is wonderful!! Could y'all come and sing in our church!?!"
"We do say 'Amen' in our church, but not usually when we are singing. But you can say Amen right now if you want!!" Mr H---- smiled.
"Amen!!!" said the ladies, and we did too!!!
Bryan, Texas, June 1993: Imagine yourself 8 months pregnant, swaying precariously in a long line at Krogers. As time passes, you feel progressively like throwing up or fainting. Finally you unload your basket on the conveyer belt...
"I'm sorry," explains the checker. "This line is for 10 items or less." You did not see the sign. You have 14 items. You peer at him through a yellow-green haze, but to no avail.
What are some other grocery line stories?
The Dalles, Oregon, January 2008: "Panic In the Grocery Line"
Hmm...lunch! What weird bargains does Grocery Outlet have today? You grab a package of Kashi Mediterranean Bruschetta crackers and a tub of Celebrity Cream Cheese With Asparagus, stash it into your Chinese Fred Meyer Reusable Eco-Bag, and head toward the front. It is only then that you realize the store is full of Thrifty Customers on their yearly trip into the Big City from the Cascadian Outback. You roll your eyes and choose a line behind a couple of sub-senior women and their overflowing cart.
"Go ahead, honey! You have just that one thing!" they say to the woman and her package of fresh mushrooms who is just in front of you. Then they stare at you in blank silence and unload their cornucopia.
"Oops!" exclaims the cashier smoothly..."I'm out of paper. Just wait a minute while I get another roll from the manager!!!"
Soon the paper is installed, and the refrigerated items begin to whiz by in his hands. Two packages of Ives vegetarian chili. Seven packages of deli sandwiches. A restaurant size jar of Clausson Kosher Pickles. Then the case of cat foot, 50 pounds of dog food in the bottom shelf of the cart...The woman are giggling.
The taller woman, the wiry one with the beige plastic fur rimmed Russian hat, pulls out her cell phone. "Yes! Guess what! I escaped! Ha ha! I'm at the GROCERY STORE! Yes, little Brian was playing on the floor in the living room and he was driving me nuts! Whoops!" All of a sudden her cell phone catapults into the air and parabols to the ground!!! The other woman, the one in a black fur hat who resembles a bowling ball, pivots on her spike heels to help the woman look for the phone.
"I'm paying for some of this with food stamps!" said the tall woman, waving the certificate with her left hand. I expected some delay now, as I had just the night before been in the non-mechanized Fred Meyer line behind a robust young Samoan with amazing native tattoos, four cans of SIMILAC, and a rectangular document.
"Did you know you remind me of my son...your hair...your eyes...that little earring and the stud in your tongue..?" began the bowling ball woman.
"Really?" asked the clerk politely. "Is he a tow head? When my hear grows out, it's blond."
"I'll pay the rest with my check card," said the tall woman.
"Hmm..." replied the clerk..."It doesnt seem to be working."
"It should...I checked this morning and I had $97.22 in the account." The clerk suggested she try again.
"Insufficent funds!" he reported, the seed of a glazed, scary look sprouting in his eyes.
Behind us, the group of cusomers awaiting check out had risen to 30 or 40. Suddenly the manager appeared, the one who had in March of last year told me the story about how she once drank a whole bottle of that discount Liebfraumilch they carried at the time. Gathering a group of malcontents from the back of the lines...in danger of frostbite from the open freezer cases (known in the trade as "coffins"), she opened the one remaining register.
"I dont know..." explained the tall woman. "I had $72.90 in the account earlier today. Let me see if I can find my checkbook! Well, here's some cash," After a while, the tall woman pulled out four ones, a ten, and a five.
The hispanic couple behind me was playing a little love game, where he would take an item from the gum and candy rack and put it on the conveyer belt with the package of tortillas and five packages of assorted meats, and then she would scold him and put it back.
"Here..." suggested the tall woman. "Let's return this package of bananas!" The cashier pushed a button on the cash register.
"Oops!" he said. "I did this wrong. I'll have to call the manager to void this." Time passed. The manager voided the transaction. The two women busily piled their cart to the brim with full yellow plastic Grocery Outlet bags.
"I'm here at the grocery store," the tall woman said to her cell phone. "Yes, I'm waiting. I forgot my check book..."
The cashier suggested that the women would need to return more than just bananas. As the gals chose the items, commencing with the dog food, each had to be recorded in cursive on a yellow form....each sandwich, each can of cat food. The romantics began to argue over a sack of Maui Kettle Papaya-Jalapeno Chips. Behind us, an increasing backlog of customers from small towns all over central Oregon and Washington....Lyle, Wishram, Klickitat, Tygh Valley, Maupin, Wasco...waited glumly and patiently, pretending, for example, that soon the doors would open for the 1A school basketball championships, or that the tour bus would come and take them to Vegas.
In an instant, exacerbated by a sudden blood sugar drop, I remembered why I was there. Why didnt I just go to Taco Time instead?
"Can I just give you three dollars?" I asked the clerk.
"No," he seethed as he recorded the return of a package of Tuscan Pride soft mozzarella. "There has to be a transaction!"
"OK, then I'll just put this stuff back," I whined. "I'm just too hungry."
"Wait!" snarled the German wine drinking manager from the next lane, shooting a look of total disgust at me. You wimp of a customer, you prima donna!!! What about all those stamped, defaced dollar bills you pay with and we accept with a smile? "I'll check you out. But you'll have to wait until this transaction is DONE!!!"
For some reason stopping at 4 cruise ports in 4 days was much more difficult and exhausting than solo driving thousands of kilometers through sub-arctic Fenno-Scandia in March. Maybe it's the drugs they put in you ice tea.
December 2007, Tortola, British Virgin Islands:
The Woman from Oregon awoke at the shores of Road Town with a splitting headache, as if she'd viciously rammed her head against the television set suspended at lethal height in her little cruise ship cubicle and the pain had never stopped. But today was the day, and nothing, not even ceaseless piercing pain, could stop her. Out there, in walking distance, was a lush Botanical Garden!!
The stroll past the tourist shops and Canadian banks, was simple here. She bought a Diet Coke in a grocery downtown. The high school...with its motto "Can as much as you while you can"....lay on the left and the elegant Supreme Court on the right. A swank black SUV drove into the gate of the latter and a well-dressed woman stepped out carrying a stack of papers. Nearby, on the Court lawn, a red and black chicken pecked at bugs. It began to drizzle, but by the time she found the Botanical Garden it had stopped. Dr Cascadia wiped off a bench, sat down, took off her shoes, and looked at the vast lawn and hedge. As with most botanical gardens, the localness was confusingly laced with the foreign and spectacular, with cultivars and oddities from all over the world. A pond with goldfish and at least one turtle was at low water; the little bridge crossed dry mud. Was there a drought here? She examined the fern garden, and a local herb garden that did not offer any Caribbean Headache remedies. She paced the porch of a tastefully restored fin de siecle agricultural station. In all, she spent quite a while strolling here, barefoot and often interrupted by the voices of Cunard Line tour groups:
"Your cardigan is dragging!" admonished an elderly woman.
"Oh no! wow, thanks!" she answered, and continued pondering the aerial root system of the mangrove palm against the fence.
Then she sat down again on a bench and watched a rooster peck at a small round unlabeled fruit, twirling it around and around.
In the Later Time, she walked past the cemetery that rested beneath the volcanic hills that line the bay, and a monument well that read:
"On August 1st 1834 the Proclamation of Emancipation was read in the Virgin Islands, proclaiming the 5,133 Negro slaves free."
Then she looked for lunch, but found only a trailer stall with no signs of life. But the cruise dock, there was a restaurant [The Captain's Table] that reminded her of one of those places in Texas where they serve shrimp and margaritas on an expansive porch.
"What's your special drink?" she asked. " And I'd like the sauted conch...uh...conk plate, too!" With rice, potato salad and plantain....
Out here on the back veranda, she was inches away from the sailboats that parked in the marina. The young couple at the table by the railing was ordering spicy wings and ice tea. The sky was grey again...no...suddenly it was silver with a fine, wild, fast rain, some of the 52" a year that Tortola receives every year! The Woman From Oregon figured she was very lucky sitting here under the eaves!
Have you ever wanted to write restaurant reviews? For example, slash the chef to ribbons? That would be real hard living in The Dalles, since there's only a few chefs in town. You could probably not even do a weekly column in The Dalles Chronicle without having to resort to sensationalism:
"Burgerville has temporarily suspended its salmon-hazelnut salad until it 'finds another smoked salmon supplier.' Hmmm....we wonder what the REAL story is!!!! Were they actually using STEELHEAD???"
But Portland....the Willamette Week sees ten thousand restaurants swimming in the local pond and doesnt even bat a fin!
Portland!!! January 2008:
"Ian! Are you ready to go yet?" I'd picked up Ian at shape note singing in the yellow church after my show...having arrived just in time to help the small treble section out with "Poland." Now we were in Borders, where I had read most of "Look Me In the Eye: My Life With Aspergers," plus zeroing in on parts of two books that compared Carnival with other cruise lines, and Ian was busy with a strategy guide for Asassin's Creed.
"Ian! Ian! I'm starving!!!" I growled, facing him squarely. After about ten years, he picked up an Agatha Christie novel, bought it, and we continued on in search of food.
"Wow! Look at all these restaurants!" I exclaimed as we headed east on Halsey. "How about the Nautical Grill over there?"
"It's nice to hear you're interested in organ meat," exclaimed Lynne Rosetto Kasper.
"It looks pretty dark in there..." Ian whined.
"I grew up eating heart," explained Lynne. "Now heart is a rugged muscle...so the meat is a little tough...."
"Sayonara Sushi....we ate there before with Erin..."
"What I do is make thin slices...."
"Ian!! Can you tell me what you want to eat? What's wrong? Did you stay up too late last night?"
"Umm...yeah, but it's not that...I'm listening to 'The Splendid Table....'"
"Ugh!" I said. "Meat...why do they always talk about meat?"
By that time Halsey had degraded into houses, bowling alleys, and dry cleaners...
"I just had a baby and wondered if you had any suggestions on easy crockpot meals?" asked a caller
...then I saw, just to my right, a sign that said "Daily Cafe and Market," swerved abruptly, and parked on a side street next to the little coffee shopesque joint! Ian grabbed my backpack...and you know what I carry in my backpack, dont you, with my CDs???
"Look...WIFI!" I told Ian as we walked through the door. He perked up!
We walked past the market area, which contained mostly wine, organic food, beer, and more wine. A sign read, "You can have any of the wine here with you meal for a $5 corkage fee!" It was a lot like being on a cruise ship. I looked at the three specials, which were "typed" on a piece of paper and inserted sloppily into a free standing sign. Then we chose a table in the restaurant. The couple next to us had an Apple. Ian pulled out the battered Dell Inspiron 600m.
"Wow! An outlet and look here...five bars, unsecured!!! I like this place!!!" It was nothing like trying to get a municipal signal at the Big River Grill in Stevenson!
"I'll have the rigatoni special and a Black Butte," I ordered.
Ian looked up from poking Lisa on Facebook and perused the little menu. "I'll have a Daily Burger and a root beer," he countered.
"Thomas Kemper or A&W?" asked the waitress.
All around us, people were surfing on their laptops. "There was a high percentage of macs in there," my son would later comment.
I wandered over to look at the scone case.
The porter and the Thomas Kemper came without a glass, though we could have dumped our water. My rigatoni, covered with tomato chunks and fresh basil, hit the spot, and I was pleased that someone had scattered slivered romano over the top instead of leaving it vegan.
"How's your burger?" I asked.
"It's OK," Ian shrugged, stuffing it in his mouth without removing his eyes from the screen.
"Can I have your pickle slice?" I begged.
I keep on doing the same old things here in The Dalles, year after year...Red Hat. Country Dancing at Rockford Grange. The Mountain View Friends. The
F.O.E Eagles. And most green of all, the S.E.C.R.E.T.S. 5th grade program, emanating from the AmeriCorps-infiltrated Gorge Ecology Institute in Hood
River. Step inside our habitat! Imagine yourself as Douglas Fir, Environmental Steward! You have been strategically placed at Dry Hollow Elementary School...
"My mother volunteered me for this job!" guffaws an exuberant young volunteer. A story is about to emerge from the six foot two boy. The Mr Kiser's room group gathers around the tall young an we call "Trail."
"Uh..." begins Trail. "I'm going on a Mission Trip in two months. My mother said, 'Just look at you...staying up till three playing computer games and getting up at noon...what kind of life is that?' But I think, that's a healthy amount of sleep for someone my age. She said 'You cant get a job if you're only going to be here for two months. Why not volunteer to promote Ecology in Elementary Schools?'"
"A Mission Trip?" Douglas Fir interjects. She figures that he must be LDS! No one else alters their life so heavily for Mission Trips. "Do you know where you are going?"
"No...they dont tell you until the very end. But there are some places they dont let us in, like Communist China. They dont allow religion in China.
Or Afghanistan or Iraq. Because..."
"Because they're Moslems..." the mighty conifer surmises.
"Yeah...and also there's a war going on there!!!" How about Haiti?
"Hmm...so did you go to school here in The Dalles?"
"Yeah!!! I just graduated last year!!!"
"And what's your last name?" she asks suspiciously. That was her son's class, before he detoured to Finland!
Trail and Doug are assigned the "Food Chain" exercise. This is where students split into two teams. Each takes on a role and an outfit ranging from the sun (energy source) through primary producer (a hula skirt), herbivore (mouse ears), carnivore (a hawk beak), decomposer ( a red mushroom hat), and bucket judge. The suns hand the mousies a leaky plastic container of water (representing energy), and they dump it into another leaky container...well, you get the message! Finally, some of the water ends up in the bucket at the end. Trail handles it all with a charismatic finesse beyond his years! All Dr Doug Fir does is attach mouse tails and go fetch more water from the janitor's closet.
Amazing!!! Was Trail on his way to a post-Mission career as an Elementary School teacher?
"Ian!!" I asked at dinner. "Do you know Kyle A-------r?"
"Who?" asked Erin.
"He was the guy who we talked to in the electronics department at Fred Meyer." answered Ian.
"Oh," said Erin.
"Yeah!" said Ian. "Kyle was in my class. He was in D&D with me, and got all the way to Dungeonmaster at one point!!! Pretty impressive!!!"
"Wow!" I exclaimed. "Dungeonmaster!!"
"The Caribbean Saga: Conclusion"
Tortola would have been slowly fading into the distance, had The Woman From Oregon not been sitting in the starbord side lounge, down by the casino, peering through large, salty side windows. So it was that she watched the martyred virgins slip by...Cooper Island, Ginger Island, Fallen Jerusalem, and Virgin Gorda, until finally there was nothing left but ocean....
All she could remember about the next day at sea was a party held in the Venetian Palace for repeat offenders, most of whom were kept occupied trying to flag down a waiter carrying drinks. She had two free white wines and one champagne, but felt no effect.
Nassau, The Bahamas, December 2007: Providence Island isnt like St Thomas, or Antigua, or Tortola. That's because it's really part of Florida; a shoal on the North American plate. The isle is fairly flat, though the Oregon Prima Donna climbed a big hill there, and it's made out of limestone, not tempestuous subduction zone volcanos.
The major excitement in pre-lunch Nassau is buildings. On all the islands that the woman stopped at, the buildings were a little different, but these were the most interesting. Some of were wood and stone versions of Revolutionary Philadelphia. There were big squares along the corners....
"What is the term for those big blocks that go on the corners of buildings?" she would later ask. But she never found out!
The Cascadian woman took a lot of pictures of buildings, even one of a radio station. Suddenly her camera said "Out of Memory"!!! She had to start deleting photos. Some people will tell you digital photography is great, because you can keep the good ones and delete the losers. But unless acted on by a force such as "Out of Memory," she just kept them all, later stuffing them into both an overstuffed laptop and copious photo albums!!! What if she had had a digital camera on all those lost trips, during all those visually incomplete years of her life??? Would they just be drowned by the memories?
The Columbia wanderer walked back to the cruise terminal, on a main street with bleachers on each side, hoping to see a music store, but she never did. She bought some conch fritters at a stand that were mostly fritter, and threw half of them into the trash. Then she headed inland, disoriented by the lack of steep dark forested slopes with upscale homes embedded like steps. Still, there were real steps that led up to another street, where two vehicles had just collided and a man was frantically motioning traffic away from an arriving tow truck. She detoured into a beautiful limestone outcrop...then, in a neighboring junkyard, a whole wall of marvelous layered calcium carbonate!!!
"Dr Cascadia's talk tonight will be on 'The Paleontology of the A To Z Auto Parts Limestone, Nassau, The Bahamas,'" said the moderator in her head.
Suddenly, on her right there opened up a wondrous rock crevice passage into another world!!! In the distance, a multi-story fountain waterfall lined a steep rock staircase. .Perhaps this is where dying Bahamian geologists passed on their ascent into heaven!! No...it was the "Queen's Staircase," which, according to the Rough Guide, is "a deep limestone gorge into which steps were carved for the convenience of Nassau's elite."
Heaven did not appear at the top, only a vacant lot where The Woman From Oregon experienced a strange deja vu of being twelve, and an old fort covered with vendors and Costa cruise tourists chattering in Italian. She toured the feeless fort and peered out over the ocean...wow! time to snap the cruise ships at a distance shot!!!
"Do you have a diet coke?" she asked a boy with a cooler....
"Wouldnt you like to see some nice beach towels, some t-shirts, some...." began his mother.
She shook her head. Later she would receive hell from her children for coming home empty handed.
Down the hill, further inland....she started her return trip. She stopped to snap a photo of a burnt out frame house. A neighbor in dreadlocks gave her the evil eye, and her framing slipped from brilliant to meaningless.
Near the cruise dock, the Now Underaged Girl From Oregon stopped at the bar of the second-floor Iguana for a drink from the bartender...in lieu of an impossible diet mountain dew she asked "What is the specialty here?"
"Give her a Bahama Mama!!" suggested the waitress, smiling. Fruit juice and rum in a plastic cup. But she wondered if that were just what they expected her to expect them to answer. When she was done, she walked on to the raucous dockside Senor Frog's, where zillions of colorful partying tourists and a large amphibian were dancing wildly with balloons wrapped around their heads!!! She envied them briefly, and ordered a margarita...
"You want the Frog Special Green Margarita?" asked the bartender.
"Yeah," she answered. Bright Green!! She sat down at the long bar table and stared out to sea.
Soon, it was time to leave the Bahamas, so Little Miss Cascadia made her way on the big concrete dock back to the boat, bypassed by wild-eyed, sprinting Costa cruise tourists who yelled in panicked Italian. Lots of big cruise ships here! Would she ever do anything as stupid again? How else could you hop from island to island, bar to bar, like this?
Suddenly she saw it...a sleek cruise ship that looked like a Danube river boat. Happy, intellectual-looking passengers lounged against the rails.
"American Canadian Cruise Line" was what it said. "Wow...I'll look that up on the internet!" She found out that the vessels sets out from Caribbean ports to 1) a bunch of small islands in the Bahamas and 2) a string of small Caribbean islands! Plus, the boats had some windowless cubicle cabins below deck!!!
Later, in January, she would be waiting on her son at Borders and would open a paperback called "Cruise Lines Compared" and it would say this, which she found again on re-perusing the website.
"Minimum age of children accompanied by an adult passenger is 14 years."
Do they make passengers walk the plank when they have deja vu attacks?
Four short stories from Oregon....
1) Off to Albertsons in the freezing cold! I'm wearing my pink parka, the hood pulled over my head. At the corner of 9th and Cherry Heights, a car stops beside me...and the driver says:
"Would you like a ride?"
"No thanks!" I say, and continue walking. It is nothing unusual. Large Dallesian vehicles stop beside me every two months and the driver says,
"I hate to see you having to walk," and I say
"No, thanks, I'm training for climbing Mount Hood" or "I'm carrying this 24 pack of Mountain Dew as part of my weight lifting regime!"
No I dont, I just say "No thanks; I only live two blocks from here!!" and smile.
I am in Albertson parking lot and the car pulls up again.
"Do you want a ride?" the driver asks again.
I come to the conclusion that the driver is either blinded by the pink hood, or he's an elderly man who's been stalking me ever since I left the F.O.Eagles early on New Years Day.
I walk on without answering.
2) We are in Burgerville. Note that Burgerville is in Wikipedia!!!
Ian has ordered a Black Forest Shake and Erin and I are waiting for Chocolate Hazelnut. I swivel my head to the bar...um...counter, where a retired couple is ordering Burgers.
"....Those of us, who remember the sixties!" concludes the husband.
"I was in the sixties...but I dont remember much of it! I was in Viet Nam!!" replies Henry.
HENRY!!! The Viet Nam veteran who lives on public land...I havent seen him hitchhiking in months! Hmm... It looks like he isnt dying of cancer in Walla Walla, and his job as a mercenary in Kuwait has fallen through.
"Ian..." I whisper. "Look...it's Henry!!!" Ian rolls his eyes.
"Well...thank you for your service to us!" says the husband.
"You dont have to thank me," Henry grumbles..."I'd still like to kill Lyndon Johnson."
"I hear what you're saying," concludes the husband.
Then Henry sees us....looking suspicious. "You kids take care!" he says.
3) "Mom! Do you know what a Black Velvet is?" asks Erin.
"I have no idea," I answer.
"It's from one of my favorite manga videos, 'Bartender'...it's Guiness and champagne. Dont they have that at the Eagles? "
"Uh...no...let's look it up!"
4) Review: The Brazillian Grill. I plan on eating at the Brazillian Grill after my show, which I have seen while parking at PSU. But when I walk up the steps, the sign says "Dinner: 5-9PM"
I google Brazillian Grill Portland when I get home. I find out that waiters come to your table to serve unlimited meats.....carving them off a spike with swords.
July 6...Maine, New Hampshire, Quebec, Lac St Jean, Gaspe, New Brunswick, Maine, New Hampshire, Maine, PDX Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Italy, Austria.....[continued]
"Geology Takes a Spill"
Richmond, Indiana, 1968. Many many years ago, I went off to college as a psychology major. Amazing, eh? I'd just read "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden" and "Sybil" and was heavily into schizophrenia. At most colleges, especially state schools in Alabama where the admission ACT was 17, this interest would have been just ducky...in fact I would later get an easy A in Abnormal Psych at The University of Alabama at Birmingham summer school. But at Earlham! At Earlham College there was too much competition. Soon after I arrived as a naive seventeen year old, I was invited to a party at the home of my Psychology Advisor, Greg Posnick.
"Wow...maybe I should take this Japanese course!!!" I suggested.
"I dont see why you should have to do that," he grimaced. "I think, like you say, one more term of French should be sufficient! It should be all the foreign language you'll ever have to take."
Other new majors milled around in Greg's living room....at Earlham, ***everyone*** was referred to by their first name, except for one crusty, aging history teacher with a master degree. Ed was called "Mr Bastion."
"My father is a noted Jungian psychiatrist and heads the Psychology Department at Columbia University," said one new freshman. "That's why I'm so messed up!"
"I've been volunteering to work with severely mentally retarded adults at Richmond State Hospital since I was eight," said a local day-dodger. "I've developed revolutionary techniques that have allowed them to be gainfully employed as mathematics teachers."
"I find the music of James Taylor so meaningful...I've tried to commit suicide five times and have been in and out of mental hospitals since I was two," bragged a third.
And so it was that in winter term, after making a C in Physical Geology, I declared my major.
"I understand that some people are just not as smart as others," smiled my new advisor understandingly. His name was Bob Lawrence and he was into faulting.
"I grew up hosting outdoor tea parties for my dolls on the Pennsylvanian Pottsville Sandstone!" I said silently but defiantly.
Despite this diastrophic switch, I've always remained interested in people and how they think.
Trenton, Maine, June 2007: Down through the vast back forests of western New Brunswick, where the empty asphalt of an abandoned logging highway splits into chunks as big as terranes and wild rabbits and deer travel as meek as moose on a Newfoundland freeway or a pack of does outside Ellensburg....[to be continued]
"Geology Takes A Dive II....Do you ever hear voices????"
[continued] July 2007. NB107....To the north there are longer ways to cut through the New Brunswick forest to Maine, but this route is lonely enough. In front of me there is a little light that says "CHANGE OIL NOW" and the engine on this clunky sub-compact Impala may explode at any moment. The cell phone shows negative 5 Rogers bars. One vehicle an hour passes on the left. The habitations consist of roofless subsistance hunting shacks with disheveled 9th hand 1948 migrant worker trailers parked along side. Finally a town...a ghost town, except for a battered 1965 New Moon trailer guarded by a pit bull...Williamsburg? Napagoden? ...there is never any clue...on the left a large skeletal Victorian house from a Stephen King movie...
But after a number of miles, a lumber company sign appeared, and then the Mirimichi on the right. Hunting lodges began to pop up. At dusk I turned north on NB105, which follows Canada 2 along the St John. Buildings became lights. I found a motel near Perth-Andover, with wifi.
"It wont be like this when you drive to Inuvik..." a voice whispered seductively. "Or up the Dalton. The End will take a long time."
"I wont be driving an Impala," I scoffed.
"Ahem...." said the desk clerk. "Would you like an apartment for the same price, eh?"
"Sure...wow!" I said and walked over to the old frame house on the other side of the lot.
"Great kitchen for cooking ramen!....oops! Looks like there's a shower!"
And so! A motel room with a tub right above the wifi transmitter and hot water from the tap for ramen! Quel simple! In the morning rain I bought a lobster roll, and then crossed the border without incident...
"Could you pop your trunk please?" Luckily the illegal Quebecois imprisoned in the trunk had guzzled my keg of LaBats and escaped!
...and entered the State of Maine.
I continued on through Mars Hill and entered I95 south...ha ha there is no north!...musing on the deprivations of travel. Mountain Dew was flowing like a fountain, but I was missing something very important:
"The Roadside Geology of Maine"
I'd traveled for days...a thousand miles at least...depending on a French guidebook to the Saguenay and a map downloaded from the internet. What was the real story?????
After a few monotonous hours, the Impala and I pulled into the Alamo counter at the Bangor Airport.
"My change oil light came on in the Gaspe!" I gasped.
"Hmm," answered the clerk, rolling her eyes. "I wouldnt worry. We follow a rigid maintenance schedule, and your sub-compact engine is not due to explode until Mid-November."
We...a mismatched couple for sure...rolled our headlights and drove off...
"Just a minute, let me stop at that bookstore..."
....off on US 1A in the direction of Acadia National Park!!!! Surely they would have a geology book there!
"What's that lovely old hotel over there?" I asked. "Lucerne-in-Maine! Maybe we could stop!"
"Lucerne-in-Maine is the site of a planned community that failed because of the depression. They hold elegant weddings there in the inn...and they have rooms. Sounds just like something you'd be interested in!" answered the Impala in the indecipherable dialect of Chevrolets.
"What?" I ask. I drive on....[to be continued]
2008, I-84, Cascade Locks, Oregon. They've opened the freeway now, and I speed down the road with my studded tires, if you can call 40 miles an hour speeding. Due to the Green Testimony Against the Use of Salt, The State of Oregon just lets the ice sit on the roads for travelers to use as a version of Russian Roulette. If we can put a man on the moon, why cant we thaw the interstate? Sometimes there was bare road, sometimes ice, sometimes slush, but just shy of Cascade Locks, I hit something new...frozen slush!!! It reminds me of a desert field trip I took in the eighties to the Juarez area, where the vans used cobbly arroyos as roads...except these cobbles are frozen. Suddenly the car slides to the right. I try to steer, but it does work very well...in fact it doesnt work at all! [Steer in the direction of a skid!] Finally, I just give up and the little Aveo fishtails crosswise in the road, coming to rest seconds later with its head one foot from the concrete median divider.
Ian looks up from the "Bedlam's Bard."
"Holy Crap!!!!" the elven lad exclaims.
I turn the car around so that it faces the wrong way on the inside shoulder...and head back home. No, that's a jest. I wait for the two cars and the double semi tha just now round the curve, circle, and continue on to Portland.
On the way back, I hit frozen slush just past Cascade Locks...in the dark!!! Despite traveling at ten miles an hour, I have the sense of inescapable doom.
Trenton, Maine, July 2007 [cont.]: Whoa! I'm opening my new geological map of Maine...little chunks of pre-collision Europe, Mesozoic intrusives, Metamophic zones...it's all here!! But what does this huge garbled northeast southwest trending mess actually mean? At first I was delighted to find the giant map...and one of Mt Dessert itself....in the Acadia National Park gift shop...but now I am even more desperate to get my hands on a copy of The Roadside Geology of Mainel!!!
"I'm looking for someplace to stay," I asked at the office of the lovely cluster of cottages near the bridge at Trenton, Maine...the one that leads to beautiful Acadia National Park.
"Our cottages are all full," said the young down-east woman at the desk. "But we have a budget room upstairs."
"And you have WIFI, I saw on the sign,"
"Actually just in the office...but it's open till 10. Some people spend their entire time here in the office. What brings you all the way from Oregon?"
"I cant get my daughter to camp as an unaccompanied minor from Portland. So I am spending my vacation time here," I answered.
"Unaccompanied minor! Ugh! I left my two teenagers in North Carolina with their grandparents and they put them on a bus to catch a plane to see their father in Florida. So they call me from Raleigh-Durham and say 'The thirteen year old cant fly with his brother because he's only 16 and no one is here to check him in as a minor,' and I say 'Well, they're there at the airport on a one way bus ticket, what are you going to do with him...' Well, I dont get it, he could DRIVE him to Florida, couldnt he? They let them on the plane, but I had to pay sixty dollars each way...it's just a scam to get money...<clip>"
Upstairs, the budget room...including the shower stall...was slightly larger than a double bed. But late in the night, the wifi reception was great!!!
I crossed over the glistening highway on foot to the Down-East Lobster Pound for dinner. It's a quaint place with a cement floor. You order your lobster or whatever (crabs, clams, shrimp...etc) and you tell them if you want it as a grocery or cooked. Overdosed on lobster rolls, I ordered the mussel dinner with corn on the cob and slaw and went to sit at a long table in the huge screened in dining room. Staring down at the chintzy brown village print plastic tablecloth, I dreamed of my last trip to a Maine lobster-pound in 1980. I've told this story before, last year. I was with a field trip at AMQUA...the American Quaternary Assn. Oh what I would give to be guzzling beer and lobsters with enthralling, scintillating geologists and botanists interested in the Ice Age! Some of the scientists were even cutting edge world famous!! What had happened to my life, so that I now had the power to travel as a civilian to this important place alone? Was it worth it to chose my every move rather than to sit in a sweet, lively tour bus? Of course it wasnt. But the first answer was a true puzzle.
"Number 52!" yelled the person in the steamy kitchen, and I picked up my bag of mussels in a mesh plastic bag. Crunch! Crack! The mussels were gritty, as if taken directly from a sand spit. I glared at the table of Chinese tourists and their bright red lobsters in foaming envy.
The next day I made my way through Bar Harbour and its teal green Siluro-Devonian sandstones and shales, then on to the park gift shop, where I found those colorful records of the aeons.
Out from the gentle sandstone, into the chaotic shatter zone and up onto the granite intrusive of Cadillac Mountain, out along the fjords of the deeply inleted south coast of Maine. Otter Cove, Seal Harbor...there is nothing I would rather do than drive here on Orcas Island. Here is a secret...traveling on Mount Desert Island is almost the same as navigating the largest of the San Juans...way at the other end of America!!! I travel up, and back down East Sound, pulling off the road to visit The Granite Quarry Museum:
"Out to Lunch...back at 1:30..." reads a sign on the door.
...and then stop at a bank in Southwest Harbor to buy a strap of bills....and....[to be continued]
"Geology Takes A Spill"...conclusion.
Orcas Island, July 2007: ....and then passed a bookstore edging the Atlantic. Wow! Could they possibly have a copy of Roadside Geology of Maine? I hurled the Impala into the lot in back and bounded in. My face fell.
"Hmm...I wonder if these hardy Down East folks just dont trust anything unless they can see it on a map," I hypothesized, gazing sadly towards the Emotional Difficulties aisle. I halfheartedly picked up a copy of "Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences" and opened it.
I began to read a story about a girl who was in the honor society and loved science. Then she started taking Physics! One night she was doing her homework, and didnt understand how to work the problems.
"Hmm... It's silly to waste time on this. I'll just go in and ask the teacher," she decided.
The teacher rolled his eyes. If she couldnt do these beginning problems, she must not be very smart. Anyone who was really interested in physics would work on the problems late into the night, until their mother threatened to vacuum up their Age of Empires discs unless they turned out the lights.
"You know...you're probably just not cut out for physics. You'll just lose your 4 point by taking this course. I'd advise you to drop it and take Creative Writing instead." And that's what she did!
In other words...Imagine two tourists, lost in Napa County. The woman pulls up to a convenience store, asks directions, and is invited to have dinner at the owner's winery. The guy drives and drives until he ends up in Unalaska, where he is tricked into hiring onto a factory fishing boat staffed by Ethiopians....
"Voila!" I exclaimed, astounded. I'd been among the first five women to receive all three of my geology degrees. At first, all but the very exceptional woman geology student was guided towards working in a library or high school. Later, someone discovered that women and men...at least in theory...were equal, and therefore thought and perceived things in the same way. And not just men and women...it was thought that thought that everyone at least had the potential of living in the same mental world, of being understood. It was not until the 1990s, when I started to seriously discuss home remodeling concepts with my husband....
"What do you mean...you dont notice what color a room is when you walk into it?" I'd gasp.
....that I discovered that people perceive reality in very different ways.
"Voila! So that's why my life didnt really turn out the way I wanted!" I exclaimed. I rushed down to the quaint check-out counter. The clerk, a young woman, picked up my book and started to read the back cover. Then she began leafing through the pages and...
Behind me, as time wore on, hardy locals and intellectual tourists from Rhode Island craned their necks to see what the clerk was reading.
"Oops, I'm sorry!" she laughed wryly. "This is really interesting!"
Out in the parking lot, I opened the book and started reading. "Men stand side by side, women stand face to face," it said. You could say that just the opposite and it would still be meaningful. And female teachers expect boys to work together in groups, but, since life is an exciting battle, it is easier for them to learn if they draw their swords.
"Time to get moving!" I told the Impala, picking up my geologic map. I had absorbed all the interesting examples I could handle.
Stop number nine...Volcanic tuff of the Cranberry Island series, sky and water smearing brilliant blue and white stripes across a canvas. Earlier this morning, I'd stopped at another beach, and the landscape was perfect. Snap! Crunch!
"Could you take our picture?" a woman asked, sneaking up on me. "We're on our honeymoon!"
"Wow! Where are you from?"
"Buffalo, New York!" she beamed. The man, in turn, smiled at her.
I took a photo of them for myself as well. But my lens covers stuck, like they often do. The picture should be cropped, but it hasnt been.
After I left the park, I hugged the coast, stopping late in the day to tour Fort Knox, built belatedly in 1844 to protect the Penobscot River Valley from a British invasion that never came. I spent the night at a chain motel, in Brunswick, with wifi, a bathtub, a next door Thai Cafe and a convenience store with Mountain Dew...
"My son was going to day camp earlier this summer...He is a vegetarian just like you. But now he is back in India for a month. It is so hard running a motel and having a family too. My mother-in-law lives with us and she has cancer...." began the clerk.
I brought the maps into the room with me, but they stayed in the other bed. After a Thai dinner, I the book out of my suitcase and began to read, mesmerized...
"Men see verbs...women see nouns"
...until I was too sleepy to stay awake.
The next day, I toured the Delorme store, home of "Eartha," at 41 feet the largest globe in the world and drove on into Massachusetts...<clip> ...and spent the night in Boscawen, New Hampshire. I walked to the wooded Merrimack and back, then turned on the ac to kill the smell of mildew and obsessively finished "Why Gender Matters."
"I got an interesting book on my trip," I said to Erin when we got home.
"'Why Gender Matters?'" she replied. "Yes, I saw it and read the entire book in one day. I find it remarkably perceptive about the way boys act...unfortunately," ...she grimaced in disgust as if choking on cat food..." and find it amazing that it wasnt written by a woman."
"You should know...most of your friends are guys. So where is it, by the way?"
"Sage has it. She finds it to be true as well."
I never saw the book again.
January, 2008: A Winery Tour in the Columbia Valley!!! This is the sort of thing you thrill in doing...especially when the key to keeping your college radio show is a course called "Geography of Wine" and an outline for your paper is due soon...
"I've been in college for 40 years...why exactly do I need to turn in an outline to write a four page paper that's due in March?" ...everytime you rehearse this phrase, smoke comes out of your ears...but using a fire extinguisher will just blow down the school building!!!
"Hmm!" you read on the internet. "A huge cliff of Grande Ronde Basalt towers over the Cascade Cliffs Winery, and this keeps the climate warmer longer!!!" Wow! Can this be real? In the guise of doing your homework, you plunge into the rain...yep! no more snow or frozen slush at this elevation...race to the car and in a flash you're over the The Dalles bridge and into Dallesport, Washington!!! You turn east into the steady stream of semis diverted by the Biggs Bridge Closure. In a couple of flashes you are at the little vineyard and winery and there it is, a massive wall of long solidified lava! And what do you know...the sun is shining! You dismount and gaze in wonder across the barren stems of trellised Nebbiolo and Syrah vines...
The sky is blue!
Must be true!!!
The Dalles, January 2008: Several weeks ago Erin announced:
"I'm going to the Spring Formal with Lillian." Then, a couple of days before the dance, Erin said:
"Sarah's going to the formal with us too! And can Lillian come spend the night afterwards? And...we have reservations with Sage and Cameron and Trace and Hayley and <clip> for dinner at Casa El Mirador."
I wish my friends and I had thought of things like this in 9th grade! But in those days, in Alabama, you waited for a boy to ask you.
The big Cadillac pulled into the driveway even before I got up.
"I'm leaving now!" shouted Ian. "That's my ride to Salem for the Winter Festival of Square Dancing. I'll be back Monday morning!"
The door slammed. Half an hour later I looked out the window. White...everything was white as snow!
"Mom...you said you'd take me to get a dress..." began Erin.
"Ok...we can walk down to Maurices...." I continued.
"Uh..." countered Erin..."The problem with Maurice's is that it's the only place in town and its chic and EVERYONE buys clothes there. I dont want to end up in the SAME DRESS as two or three other people. I was thinking of the boutique that's down town."
"Well, OK....I'll give you some money and you find something you can afford," I said. Then off we and the Aveo headed through the lilting snow to Downtown The Dalles!
Suddenly the sound of Big Band Music! "Mom!" said my cell phone.
"What's the problem?" I asked suspiciously.
"BLACK ICE!!! The interstate's closed! Big pile-up. We're heading back!" They'd picked up a woman and an all-wheel drive in White Salmon, but now were trapped in the Multnomah Falls area. On the way home they would stop in Hood River and sit in Shari's for several hours eating a little lunch.
Erin and I found the boutique on First street, and Erin located a short red cotton dress.
"We feed the birds too...I love to watch them out in the snow!!!" chatted the owner, impervious to disasters. "There was a nice big bluejay"
"My grandfather used to shoot jays with his bb gun when they got into the orchard," I said.
"Ha ha! My brother did that too!" agreed the woman.
We bought black knee sox and a black slip at Fred Meyer. Then Erin called Lillian.
"You must excuse me...I'm emotionally distraught because the toilet overflowed," began Lillian's mother. They live near exotic tiny Mosier, fifteen miles west in Orchard country. "But yes, we'll send Lillian's clothes with her to the restaurant. We'll meet you at the grocery in the morning so you wont have to drive way out where we live!"
Darkness fell as evening approached. Erin was stunning in her new dress. Her brown hair was pulled into two twists behind her ears, so that she resembled a flamenco dancer with soft dark eyes and a fiery red spirit.
Suddenly...the sound of Aqua-bats!
"Oh no!" exclaimed Erin, holding her red cell phone "The winter formal has been cancelled because of the weather!" She hurried to look at the high school web site. "Be safe and stay at home!" it said.
Then the Aqua-bats howled again. It was Lillian's mother. "Lillian isnt coming," said Erin. "Her mother doesnt like to drive in the snow."
"Can we just wait here awhile until I see someone I know? I dont want to walk in by myself," said my daughter, the lights of Casa El Mirador shining against her hair as SUVs and pickups dispatched sad couples. "All dressed up and nowhere to go"...except to a Mexican restaurant.
"Who all is supposed to come to this?" I asked.
"I'm not sure. Nikki set it up...she plays soccer so I'm sure there wont be any riff-raff. Hey look! There's someone!" Erin opened the door and strode off defiantly in black high heels, lights shimmering on the wet asphalt lot.
The front door opened. It was Ian, returned from Shari's and, rapidly putting disappointment behind him, ready to play a few computer games! As long as they hadnt paid for registration, everything was OK.
"It was really weird on the way back," Ian related. "The road was closed in front of us and behind us. All we saw were state vehicles....otherwise the road was empty."
Then Erin came home. A bunch of kids had been given a ride by someone's mother's boyfriend.
"He kept staring at me," complained Erin. "It was creepy."
"He was staring at you because you were so beautiful," I said.
Portland, February 2008:
"Class!" says Teresa, our geography teacher. "Here is a map of wine consumption worldwide! What countries are the biggest consumers?"
"Chile and Argentina!" an eager student answers. Unlike some courses, for instance Beginning Calculus or Special Topics In Wastewater Management, everyone is interested in the topic!
"The US!" "Australia!" "Western Europe!"
"Yes class...notice that wherever wine is grown, people drink it...over here in Asia..." she shakes her head "...wine consumption is very low."
"Moslems!" someone comments. "Religion is an important control on wine consumption." In fact, immigration from the Arab countries may be one reason per capita wine consumption is dropping in Europe. "People are becoming more educated about the German wines now. For years people have assumed that only rotgut comes out of Germany. When I was in college, all we had was Blue Nun, which was slightly above the level of Thunderbird."
I grimace and smile. Her eyes rivit towards me.
"You remember that, dont you?" she asked.
"But what's this blob here?" she prods.
"Uzbekistan!!!!" someone answers immediately. Yes, Uzbekistan is a central Asian oasis for the wine enthusiast!
"Now...we know that China and India have developing markets. The problem in India...what do you drink when you go to an Indian restaurant?"
"Chai tea," answers someone.
"Well...ahem...some people drink beer. But the fact is that it's hard to find a wine that goes with Indian food. And China...the market is expanding..."
"I lived in China for a while," offers a girl. "Everytime I ordered wine, they added Sprite to it...they like the sweetness."
This time the whole class grimaces.
"And South Africa...that's an outlier. The Dutch originally staked a claim as a refueling station for ships. And what did they refuel with? Wine. Up here...a little bit up here in Morocco..."
"Tourism," mentions a moonlighting caterer.
"What do they drink instead in most of Africa? Anyone know? Palm wine! They drill a hole in the coconut and ferment the juice. And that stuff is POTENT!!! One of the most embarrassing moments of my life involves rice wine!"
The class balances on the edges of their chairs in anticipation.
"It was in the late 70s, in Sierra Leone. I was invited to dine in a native village with a visiting chief. They gave me a bowl of palm wine and it tasted sweet. I had no idea what it would do to me! The chief was drinking Guinness that he'd gotten somewhere. For some reason he had a copy of a 1965 Newsweek and he held it up and said:
'Tell me about the color barrier!'
'What?' I asked. Then I figured out that he meant segregation. I was a beginning law student so I told him about the 15th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act.
"After just a few of those I couldnt even walk! But the chief gave me another and then poured part of his Guinness into it. He said
'Black and white, we are friends.'
And I realized in I had to drink that one too! They had to carry me back to my hut. The next day I woke up and the chief was gone. I never heard from him again."
February 2008. By the time we got to Meeting, most of the The Dalles-Hood River Quakers were already assembled in the Sanctuary, washing in the blood of the lamb and the generosity of the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Oregon. There were more people there than you could count on one hand! We sat down, and everyone settled into silence...
Forty minutes later, Bill said:
"Right now, its snow and rain outside. But I think of what all this water will mean in the spring, when all this snow melts; I know we will have an exceptional spring."
I thought about the hillsides, about the little creeks that spring up on the Washington roadsides and lines of railroad tracks.
"Things are changing right now. I think about how the old administration is leaving, and how I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, where before there was darkness.
People live on in what you write about them. Snap!
The Dalles, February 2008: The Ladies of the Red Hat are gathered at the recently remodeled Sugar Bowl, an institution amongst people who have lived here since the way back. I'm only half in attendance, having imbibed a couple of decongestants.
"Do you want me to light the fire?" asks an employee. No one answers, just a few uncaring head shakes, so he walks away. Later, when the thin ones start shaking uncontrollably and finally put their coats on, the Ladies will regret their nonchalance!!!
"I was wondering where they had room to put us," comments a warm, non-skinny one across from me.
"I thought maybe they would put us in the room downstairs," answers another. Downstairs? It's like the JC Penney's downtown, I reckon.
"That's the smoking section," mourns the first. "That's where the bar is. You can cut the smoke with a knife."
"Say...look at that Lady over there sitting by herself! Is she waiting for someone? Judith!"
Yikes! I wake up with a start!
"Judith...why dont you go see if that woman over there is waiting for someone. Ask her to sit with us."
No one had ever seen this woman before. As opposed to Little Miss Hippie (myself!), she bore herself with a certain stateliness reminiscent of Meryl Streep: trim, perfect make-up and dressed very smartly. She wore liver shaped hat and a long purple skirt from the new thrift store downtown.
"We just moved here from Alaska to retire. I was born in The Dalles, but spent 40 years in Alaska, first in Anchorage, then in Valdez. Valdez is the terminus for the Alaska Pipeline. My husband filled the big tankers with oil. He was born and raised in Alaska. We really love the weather here!"
"Did you grow vegetables?" I asked. I needed to say something besides "Why on earth would anyone move to this dull brown land if they had a choice?"
"We had a very small yard, but my in-laws raised *huge* vegetables!"
"So you dont miss the winters," hyperbolized the Hatter across the table.
"I dont...we got 60 feet of snow a year in Anchorage, but I'm amazed at how dark it is here in the winter. It was always white in Alaska in the winter. The moon reflected off the snow. And we did love the summers!"
"How did you find out about Red Hat?" grilled the medical records Lady across the table between bites of a Shrimp Bayou Salad.
"I am a charter member of the first chapter in Alaska! One of the gals had a copy of Victorian Magazine and she read about the Red Hats in London in the
back. It looked like fun!
Review: Ikea, Portland, Oregon, February 2008
The day stretched before me like a steeplechase. Do my radio show. Pick up Ian at Waverly Heights UCC, where he was singing Bass in the shape note square. Find some jazz shoes so he could perform like a REAL dancing pirate in Peter Pan. Order a Columbia House Chardonnay and an Indonesian Noodle Satay at the Noodle Bowl. Pick up Erin at her friend Lillian's House in the oak-haunted wilds of Upscale Outback Mosier. But, like a telegram, an e-mail from my husband dot dashed onto my computer screen....
"Pick up a 34" stainless steel IMPERATIVE backboard from IKEA!!!"
In the IKEA on-line catalog, all the items have a special Swedish name, which may or may not have any logical significance. In this case, IKEA had named a sheet of metal "The Imperative" which means "Get me that backspash if you know what's good for you!!!" Amazingly enough, it would be in stock, unlike the UNISEX jazz shoes.
Soon, Ian, I, and the yellow Aveo were hurling ourselves past the airport and the MAX train, into the lot of IKEA.
"Whoa!!! Look at the size of this place!!!" I exclaimed. We grabbed our water bottles, backpacks and sleeping bags and began the hike to the front door. Only momentarily distracted by the lingonberry jam and frozen meatballs displayed as a teaser in the front lobby, we pulled on our hiking boots and ascended the stairway to the showroom floor.
Unlike Fred Meyer or Big K, The Portland IKEA store is layed out like a condo labyrinth. First you go through some living rooms and bedrooms. Then you realize that half the people here are just here for a thrill! And what can be more thrilling than pretending it is February and you are living in a Swedish apartment full of pressboard furniture in Malung, Sweden in 17 degree weather! [note...nowadays in most of Sweden, you can expect temperatures around 35 degrees in mid February!!! Chilling!] Finally, after a couple snarfs of Power Aide, you reach the chic, modern kitchen area.
"Ian! Look nu! Den där IMPERATIVen håller på och hänger på väggen...on the wall above those pressboard cabinets!!!" I exclaimed.
"Huh!" answered Ian, fondling the tag. "Se sanoo "Ask Us"!!!" Soon, we arrived in the kitchen planning area.
"I have been sent by my husband to buy this!" I told the clerk.
"OK! You'll need the brackets as well, which will double the price. I'm printing out your order. Take it to the cashier and then pick it up at "Furniture Pick Up."" That's all there was to it. Ian and I moseyed on, impressing each other by speaking deficient Finnish and Swedish to each other.
"Whoa! What a huge cafeteria! Open faced shrimp sandwiches...salmon with dill... We should have eaten here!!!"
"Um...miksei..why didnt we?" asked Ian.
"Um...we'll eat here when we return the brackets that your dad wont need."
"That must be the kids area...so what does that sign in the stuffed animals mean..."
"KidPlay RiverHorses...stuffed hippopotami! I wonder if Erin would like a futon mattress cover?"
"Huh! Look at those pillows!" said Ian in Finnish.
"GOSA. That means "cuddle." And MYSA..."smile contentedly"....and those comforters...BILLIG.... "cheap"!!
"Those tables and chairs say "JOKKMOKK!"" pointed out Ian. Wow! This time last year I was studying Swedish in JOKKMOKK, on the Arctic Circle!
"They must want people to believe they're eating in frozen Lapland," I surmised.
After several miles of this and a swift descent, we attained "Furniture Pick Up."
"Only a couple hundred tickets and our number will appear on the screen."
"I'm going to get a coffee," said Ian. I wondered over to the introductory lingonberry and tubed caviar area. Suddenly I saw them...cans and cans of Kopparberg's pear cider!!! I reached for one as if in a nightmare. The label read "Non-Alcoholic"! Before me stretched cases and cases of zero alcohol pear cider.
We in America are lucky to have Diet Mountain Dew!!!
"The Year of the Rat"
The Summer days of brightness are coming...now at 5:30 it is no longer dark as you drive along the freeway. Mount Adams shines a golden pink as it rises like a rosebud between the sepals of Rowena Gap. It's still light...still glowing dusk as you curve off at Hood River, up Oregon 35 past the China Gorge Restaurant with its early, happy dinner eaters You turn on East SIde...the street sign is visible now. You enter the Neo-Argentinian drive of KZAS Radio Tierra. Shooing, the children off the computer, you and open your bag of CDs.
Hmm!!! They are all very thick and blue and read:
"Nissin Top Ramen OOdles of NOOdles...Oriental Flavor"
There was nothing I could do but drive home. KZAS has no CDs of its own. Not even Bjork or Sigur Ros.
I left the kids playing on the computers and the cumbias and polkas playing on the automix. I'd intended to give up, but when I got back home to The Dalles, I quickly grabbed the correct Fred Meyer Eco-Bag and drove back. My rationale was that I was playing Icelandic music this week and frankly I had not even found enough CDs to make a show without double dipping.
February 2008: Oh! What fun I was going to have this weekend. Both my children were going on the annual Junior Friends Ski Trip to learn how to be Little Foxes, concerned, responsible beamers of the Light out there on the white Washington slopes! I would drive them there! Then...I would go on a wild spree to Northern Washington State! What would I see???
"Uh..." muttered Ian. "I cant go! I have multiple mandatory rehearsals for my role as a dancing pirate in Peter Pan at the High School!"
"You know I have to study constantly for Honors English. I just dont feel I can take the time out to cross country ski..."
This is translated as "My crystal ball predicts that on Saturday night I will go to the basketball game and then I will spend all day and night Sunday at a wild party in an orchard outside of Mosier."
Hmm! Maybe I would go to Folk Alliance after all!! Or at least, the Sacred Harp Convention in Seattle....
"I've been thinking. I have a friend in Eugene whose gutters need to be cleaned out and this long weekend would be a great time to do it!" suggested my husband excitedly, fingering his heavy duty gloves and trowel.
Does your vacuum cleaner ever malfunction? Zero suction, nolla pulla? Could it be only that the filters are clogged by fine sawdust? WHAM!! You hit the debris and filth capsule against the blue fence over and over...cat hair is flying!!...until you finally see the instructions: "Twist Left To Remove Filter!!!" That's what you do. Then you walk inside and jam the plastic cylinder back into the shiny red "Dirt Devil Outlast" machine. You can see one of these at Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Dirt-Devil-M091950-Outlast-Upright/dp/B0009I724A
Then you begin to powerfully re-vacuum your bedroom floor. Imagine what a tabby cat looks like compressed inside the clear cylinder!!!!
"Hmm...what's this piece of paper way under the bed?" I asked myself. "Best Western...Hotel Seaport...Turku Finland."
You can see Hotel Seaport here!!! http://www.hotelseaport.fi/
March 2005, Turku Finland: I drove the little Toyota off the Viking Line ferry from Mariehamn and into the Swedish Finnish town of Åbo, or in Finnish, Turku. It was evening. I saw a hostel in a back alley by the river. I opened the ancient door...random people who had never before were congregating happily. "I'm sorry, but we are booked," said the clerk. Then I drove back to a place I had eaten lunch at when I was here with Ian and Erin in the summer of 2003, right next to Turku Castle and the Viking boat. It was called the Best Western Hotel Seaport and now it was a cold brick place covered with snow, like all of Finland....
"Vanhaan tullimakasiiniin.....The hotel building is a convert old customs warehouse, only a few steps from Turku Castle," says the brochure.
I held my breath...did they have room for me? Underneath the big warehouse beams, the desk clerk was busy checking in a couple Swedes who had just arrived on the party ferry.
"Här är nickeln! Jag hoppas att ni tycker om ert rum!!" I could understand her!!!...after almost two years, I could understand someone!! Finns speak the same Swedish as Americans!!!
Not much else happened here, though it would be the first of four interesting hotels I found by chance in the cold, bright Finnish winter. The rooms were not unusual except for their thick walls and tastefully remodeled ancient windows. I took a few photos of the windows and the beams, but erased them later. In the morning I ate breakfast and I drove north to Old Rauma...Vanha Rauma, with its old wooden Swedish buildings.
I walked back to my office room, and slid the pamplet into my memorabilia basket.
I hope I can go back to Finland again soon!!!
Life changes. I remember all those good classic cocktails I tasted for the first time at The Eagles. Grasshoppers...Sidecars...Manhattans....Old Fashioneds....
The Dalles, February 2008: There's nothing better that a half hour at the gym! It used to be, when the aerobic machines were in a small room, that there were just a couple old TVs hanging from the ceiling. It was here that I saw the Trade Center collapse, for the first and last and only time. Now...there are four flat screened televisons along each side of a big room. It's a great opportunity to read the The Dalles Chronicle!
"Driver Leaves Busload of Prisoners At Convenience Store..." said the headlines! Weird! I was on one of those orbital machines that sort of simulates cross country skiing. Suddenly, another snow trekker appeared in front of me! It was Gary the Bartender from The Eagles Aerie!!! Dressed in white, trim, tennis bag, fit as a fiddle with rosy cheeks! Gary used to own a martini bar in Portland, but retired in The Dalles to relax and play golf.
"Hey! How are you doing?" He asked. "Are you still dropping in at the Eagles ever so often?"
"Not really...too much SMOKE!!!...well, I was there for New Years."
"Yeah," replied Gary. "That's why I'm not working there anymore. I could hardly talk. You know how smokers have this voice...'argughuuuh'...? I'd be gone three days and it would go away, but once I got back behind the bar again it came back. I'm 63 years ago and I dont need to deal with this stuff anymore. So I quit."
"Huh!" I commented.
Secrets, February 2008...
"How is the mission going?" Doug Fir asks Former Dungeomaster Trail.
"Pretty well...they have to send the application to the regional director and then to Salt Lake...a mission is not something that can be taken lightly. They need to determine if you have the right moral character to do it...like not having sex before marriage. Half the things that people my age...they wouldnt have so much trouble if they didnt do." Trail shook his head.
"Here!" interjects Huckleberry. "Which of you wants to be the FBI agent and who wants to be the volcano?"
It is a moot question. This is the geology skit. She takes the long brown hooded cape and the wild orange and red headress. It time to erupt.
"The Cascades is made of volcanos!" Post-skit Doug Fir muses to her group as they pinch play-doh onto a laminated map of Oregon. "Can anyone think of a volcano nearby?"
The 5th graders look at the Oregon State Tree with blank eyes. Finally someone answers, "Mount Saint Helens!"
"Right!...and there's a couple even closer ones. What volcano can you see here from The Dalles...what snowy mountain...where do people go to ski?"
"Mount Hood...I sure can see that from my window!" Mount Hood and its shrinking glaciers!
"Right...and what other volcano can you see?" We are so lucky!
"Mount Adams!" Good...
"My dad was living right by Mount Saint Helens when it erupted," begins a Young Steward of the Environment excitedly. "They packed up to leave and by the time they got to a safe place, the car was covered with ash. That was the main problem people had, their cars were ruined."
"Well...some people died! What about the houses?"
"My dad was right here, and everything was covered with ash!" says another.
"The roofs were all covered in ash!" continues the first.
The Dalles Chronicle, February 2008, Police Report: In two separate incidents, wounded deer were reported on the roadway and dispatched by sheriff's deputies.
Yes...the freeway is a difficult drive in winter. But the old Columbia River highway twists like a rattler though February nights. We'd stopped, Ian and I, to pick up Erin and her friend Jose "Alfredo" Basquez at Trace Bird's Dad's aunt's orchard outside Mosier. I looked at the lights on superhighway, the lights on the river, and my hands would not move left.
"Let's go this way!" I said. No one objected. In a split second we were skimming at 30 past the last of the douglas firs, past soon to be reborn skeletons of white ghostly scrub oaks, and, most interesting for the geologist, globs of Columbia River Basalt outcrop glowing white in our headlights. In fact, small pieces of the outcrops lay on the roadway, a fascinating example of erosion. Suddenly two lean white spooks appeared right in front of us in the road! I slowed almost to a halt.
"Look!" I cried.
"Deer!" said Ian.
"Oh!" said Alfredo.
"There are two of them!" added Erin.
The two bright deer crossed the road and lept saucily over the fence wires.
Dallesport, Washington, February 2008: The building that Marshall Winery now uses as a tasting room is pictured on my old Website above as "Dallesport 2001".In those days it was a disused cafe and bar used to store junk cars. The faded neon sign, forever darkened, said "Cocktails!" In those days, in 2001, I used to drive all over, taking pictures, but now I dont explore so much. I dont know what happened...maybe I ran out of new places to look for here. Nowadays, the building is totally remodeled to resemble a manufactured home.
The vineyard, though, is down the road, back from Washington 14, and that gave me an excuse to explore. For years I'd seen the sign, "winery 2 miles." I followed a yellow Lyle-Dallesport School District bus as it turned left on Dalles Mountain Road, then took another left again on a road I'd never been on before. I had thought the winery was right by the highway with the vines, but it wasnt. The road gently twisted through tan sage and grasses, and then up a wooded draw, brown slopes on one side, brown trees ready for rebirth on the other. Suddenly the bus began flashing its red lights, and a large boy stepped out and walked down the hill, down his driveway where a sign implied "Rest Home." For horses, maybe! Then we began to drive again, past a few more farmsteads, and the winery, with its big modern outbuildings and its row after row of more grapes.
"DEAD END!!!" read a sign. I pulled into the last driveway, and watched the awkward bus turn around. Then I followed it back through the little oasis in the dead dry hills. Over to my left, towards the river, big beefy cattle with curly orange and white fur smiled in the late afternoon sun.
What is worth more, a Mint Ben or an Inverted Jenny?
Portland, February 2008: "I'll tell you a secret, " I told my companion. "The reason I stopped doing house concerts is that my last singer-songwriter told me I couldnt record," I continued in my own vein, and my mind wafted back to the early 2000s, to my own living room...
'I'd rather you didnt,' said the transparent image in my head. 'There's already too much of me out there.' They didnt want you to record, they didnt have time to take a tour of Wasco County ecosystems, and the local norm for refreshments was a package of cheap cookies and a baking pan of brownies that someone brought. What was the point? Soon I would give up on singer-songwriters and take the MD recorder up to the balcony at Balkanalia!, snapping photos of people throwing money at Merita Halili.
Just now, I begin composting this story and such dear images of taping drift in like a Texas thunderstorm. Cropredy!!! We sit...three or four of us, mother and Emma and Ian and Little Erin...on the grass, left flank of the cow pasture, down near the stage. There are children's games in the back, and Morris Dancing. Ian has bought a jesters hat and Emma has bought a magenta jacket. The brits, in their bright tye dyes and long Indian skirts, have their banners up and their beers in hand. I have my black Sony recorder and a pile of tapes....Edward II...Clarion...The Tabs...Richard Thompson...Little Johnny England....
Where is that CD from Folk Alliance? Not with L on my shelves!! Then I begin to search my bootlegs, up near the ceiling. Cropredy 2000...the last one...just Ian and myself, a prescience of Wacken, I reckon. Cropredy 2000, my silver sony MD in almost new condition. I find it in the second stack...I feel the waves close overhead....
"Here turn left...at Bluefin Sushi!!!" Chic!!
....except for the lady yelling at her boyfriend, the recording could have been made through the soundboard! Exquisite sound!!! And listen to that accordion!!! And that laugh!!!
"This is the place, huh?"
....I surf the net for Fairport Convention 2008.....
Review: Bluefin Sushi. Like a grocery store, the power behind this swankly chic Portlandista Japanese joint is a conveyer belt. Unlike unprepared food
stores, however, Bluefin has one long black belt which folds like a Portland streetcar making the rounds of Powells and Ione Towers. I had been here
before earlier in the month, and was escorted by the lone hostess to the counter ("pick a seat...would you like some miso soup to start with?"). This time,
however, since there were two of us, we were allowed by a large oriental man with a big knife to sit at a table flanking the conveyer belt. Soon the hostess
came by and asked:
"Would you like something to drink?" Hmm!! What about the miso soup?
"What kind of beer do you have?" asked my companion, and selected one of several popular Japanese brands.
"I'll have a diet cola," said I.
Then we were left alone with the conveyer belt.
At Bluefin, what you do is look at a colored plate of sushi and then look at 5 plates hanging on the wall to see how much that color costs. The trick is to chose orange plates, because they only cost about $1.25. That's just for the food, not the plate. You can get soybeans or part of an eggroll or sushi stuffed with little red fisheggs, green seaweed salad, or tuna and krab salad or topped with sponge cake. If you chose more expensive colors you can get eel rolls or California rolls or shrimp or a lot of other stuff.
"What's that stuff?" my companion asked. "It looks like bait."
"That's a clam!" the waitress answered.
You can sit and watch the belt go round and round for quite some time making interesting conversation before that final carrot cake pops up.
I got about 6 plates of sushi before I gave up. Three orange and three blue. Lots of fun...But I was still hungry!! You have to wonder if it's actually a better deal to get a $7.95 packaged sushi assortment in the student union. Luckily I needed to get a strap of bills at the neighborhood Wells Fargo Bank.
"Look what they have!" I exclaimed, grabbing a free handful of crunchy chocolate chip cookies!
March 2008: A fine story down the drain....
"Erin!" I pounded on the door...."Do you want to go see Lacuna Coil?'
"Edguy!!" NO!!! <clip>
"Sonata Arctica!!!!" NO!!! <clip>
"Mom...I just want to see something DIFFERENT!!!" Erin whined.
"Look here...Gogol Bordello is coming to the Roseland! All ages!!"
"I'm looking for someone who does a good show," said Erin.
"I've seen them...they're great!" I nudge...
"Here...look...BALKAN BEAT BOX!! I'll get tickets!"
"Great!" exclaimed Erin. Bring all your friends....
Finally the day came. "I'll pick you up after tennis practice," I said. But trouble was brewing....
"TICKET MASTER ALERT FOR MARCH FOURTH CONCERT!!!" said the e-mail. The news was not good.
"Balkan Beat Box is not performing tonite! You can have your money back," said Ticketmaster. We always pay scalpers prices for just this sort of thing, rather than drive 160 miles just to find out all the tickets are sold....but this? How could it be? Is it a hoax? I link back to McMenamins, chic rulers of Northwestern Lodging and Entertainment...
"Visa problems at the Canadian Border," said the McMenamins Empire. "They had to cancel out in Seattle as well. And dont think you can forget about your wine class and not turn in your term paper just to drive to Eugene! NIX!!!"
"Bad news!" I tell Erin on the phone as she lunges at a tennis ball in Sorosis Park.
"Oh no!" whines Erin.
"But we can go see Gogol Bordello...they put on a good show!!!!"
"When's that?" she replies.
I pour a glass of 2004 9% Piesporter Michelsberg, hoping to fill the vacuum of the evening's glass.
Portland, March 2008: "Attention Deficit, Myxomatosis, and Phylloxera"
"Yes students! It's called the 'Yellowtail Phenomnon'" says Dr Teresa, tears of joy misting her eyes. "Australia is the paragon of inexpensive wine, and a leader in mechanization. It used to be that women were employed in the fields, but then they enacted a law to make our wages equal to men. That's when Austrailia developed machines for pruning, trimming and harvesting...."
One ear is pondering screw caps in Kangarooland...Oh! I dont mind at all if you call me a Mallee Boy!!!
"Three quarters of wine bottles in Australia employ screw caps. One advantage is that there is no cork contamination...."
...the other is closed, dreaming of spring break and Lihue, the gentle lush island collapsing slowly into the wild blue waves of the Pacific as the hot spot moves on eastward...the class travels on too!!!
"Now why do you suppose this part of the South Island has no vineyards?" Teresa is asking. Dead Silence. My right ear pops open and shifts gears ...I've left the headlights on...Dead Battery....dead battery at the Franz Joseph Glacier!!! I panic....
"Because it's covered with mountains and glaciers!!!" I blurt out uncontrollably.
"Correct!!!" she confirms.
I try really hard to not be conspicuous in class. For one thing, why hoard participation points when you're Pass/No Pass?...
"Children!" threatens the second grade teacher Mrs Kinzer with her floppy arms and silver hair and huge paddle. "We RAISE OUR HANDS to speak in class!!!" Why bother to speak in class in the first place, if you already know the answer?
However, I knew a disaster was brewing the week before when Dr Teresa stared at me and asked, "Here in Northern Italy...What sort of soils does the name 'Dolomites' suggest?"
I was so shocked that all I could think of was, "Are you talking to me?"
"Yes!" she answered, appalled at my impertinance. "Arent you writing a paper on geology?"
"Uhh...calcareous." Magnesium carbonate. CaMg(CO3)2.
The clock ticks on and so do our wine miles...Chile! Argentina! Brazil!
"Twelve hours of daylight. The vines dont achieve total dormancy at this latitude...time will tell if the wine from Brazil will be any good...or total plonk!!"
"Why do you supposed that the Finger Lakes are shaped like fingers?" she asks. Dead Silence. "WHERE'S OUR GEOLOGIST???"
During the next split second, my mind tries to locate and replay the 1970 production of "GEO 52: The Pleistocene."Fingers of ice are slowly creeping through the wilds of Seneca County, flipping aside Mammoths and Sabre tooth tigers like matchsticks on their relentless march. Unfortunately, the film will not reveal its punchline for another five minutes. I panic...
"Glaciers?" I answer, making a snake-like motion with my index finger.
"That's right," announces Dr Teresa. "Glacial lobes!"
"She just sits there and stares out the window," the teacher tells her mother through one ear. "I dont know how she does so well on tests." Through the other, she can hear her horse neigh. She slides into the saddle and begins to ride through the tall Ponderosa pine forests with her brothers: Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe. Why sit in the Alabama heat when you can gallop through the High Sierras?
Lakeview, Oregon, 2006:
I am headed to California...to the High Sierras!!! But for now, the summer sun is beating down on the flat expanses Lake County, where chemical lakes shine in the sun of the High Desert like strings of freshwater pearls. Ahead of me...and the little Aveo...is Lakeview, overlooking the Pleistocene extent of Goose Lake. South of Lakeview, only the lethargic remains of Goose Lake separate us from California.
"Whoa!" I exclaim to the little Aveo. "Look at that sign! 'Ixxxxstxxx 8 Motel: WIFI'!!!" Even though the sun is still shining, I swing into the parking lot and rush into the office to register. "Any trick with the WIFI?" I ask the clerk.
"Yes, here is your hexidecimal code: hv5z67666nio9b16," she answered. "We used to not do that, but people kept parking in our lot with their computers, and then we'd have to call the police!"
I park the car, check for a bathtub, hook up my computer for a while, then descend again to get my suitcase.
"Is this your address in The Dalles? 1100 [address deleted]th" ? asks the clerk from the back door of the little office.
"I remember that house! Right by the creek. I used to go down and play with the girl that lived there. We were friends in elementary school, but it tapered off later. I lived in that brick place...923...now it's an alcohol treatment center."
"Wow!" I say
"I used to manage Prxxxr's Motel in Hood River before I came down here...."
"Wow!" I exclaim.
Portland, March 2008: There are small paper flags out in the Park Squares today. They stretch four blocks, past Lincoln Hall for the Performing Arts, past Cramer Hall and the Finnish room, past Smith Center and KPSU, and past the Portland State University Library. Each white flag represents five Iraquis killed since the invasion; each red flag represents five Americans killed. Almost all the flags are white. The fields of flags in the green spring grass resemble new orchards or cemeteries. A student is snapping a photo at the toe of the hill, in front of cluster of red flags. The paper is crinkled and the wires rusty; someday the flags will dissolve into earth and the photo will be lost in a hard disk crash.
Yep...it's PORTLAND! March 2008:
The time had come for us to give our class presentations. Most of us had carefully (or sloppily!) constructed posters. [Mine was on "Wine and Geology in the Northwest."]
The best among these was that of the British woman at the table in front of mine. Her topic was "The Cork Industry," and instead of poster board she used wine corks glued together! People were snapping away with their cell phones!
"I hate those synthetic corks! I can never get them back in the bottle!" I told her.
"If you put it in immediately, it will work, but after that it expands and loses its give..." she explained patiently fingering a sample cork. "You see this natural cork...it has a natural spring......"
The man at the table behind me had no such luck. Like castaways in a too-full life boat, we had drawn 5 lots for Power Points. David drew the slip that said "1."
I'd had my eyes on David since he walked into class with his bright elegantly tattooed arms and forehead, his platinum short-cropped hair with black painted sideburns and mustache, ear-lobe plug, lip-stud, glasses....and his subtly mincing demeanor.
"I wanted a course that was socially useful!" he'd confessed a couple weeks earlier. "I've already got a degree in sociology....."
And so it was that only a few moments after class began, David began his sacrificial Power Point, "Organic Wines." The high subtopic point was "Biodynamic Wines."
"This has to do with phases of the moon and burying cow horns!" he began in a strangly charismatic manner.
"I just put this together 35 minutes before class!" he confided, hanging across his table.
"You have quite a stage presence!" I complimented consolingly.
"Stage presence! I should...after being in The Theatre for five years!" He paused, musing. "Theatre, heck...I'm a Drag Queen!"
"Drag Queen....huh!!!" I said. I wanted to ask him what that was like! But it was time for the next Power Point, "Wine Tourism in the Willamette Valley." Suddenly, Dr Teresa gave him the evil eye:
"David!" she said sharply, and indicated with her head. Soon he was tinkering with the projector.
Light, sound, and illusion.
"Maintaining Our Lifestyle in the Face of Adversity"
Kapaa, Kauai, March 2008.....
"Wow!" says a woman in The Noodle Bowl. "That looks good..."
"Its the first vegetarian selection," I reply.
"Vegetarian!" she exclaims. "No wonder it looks so good!"
The woman will later order "What that lady over there had"...Yep, noodles and vegetables! Broccoli! Cabbage! Celery! Carrots! Yum!!! I have, however, neglected to tell her that the waitress bullied me out of my first choice, selection 2....noodles with bean sprouts and green onions.
"That's just noodles and shoyu!" she scoffed, the reflected yellow and green lights of the neon bar palm enhancing her disdain.
"Whatever..." I replied, defeated by the Brassicaceae.
My mind whirls back to the Saturday before last, when I was dining with my family at the Middle School...at the Senior Class Taco Feed!!! They always do that because the high school cafeteria is the size of a postage stamp.
Well, some of our family...Ian was singing on stage with The Harmonaires, and Erin got an urgent text message from her friend Jose "Alfredo" Basquez.
"I'm at the back of the room," it said. "Can you see me?"
Coincidently, we walked into the taco line just after Lark and Bill from Friends Meeting!!!! They are hosting an AFS exchange student from The Ukraine.
"Are you a vegetarian?" whispered Lark in agitation. "What do you think you are going to have?"
"Wow! I guess I'll have bean tacos..." I claimed in nonchalance. "Once I had dry spaghetti here with parmesan cheese. And then one time at Colonel Wright Bingo Night, I had a hot dog bun filled with onions...."
"Well...I'm having SALAD!!!"
"How long have you been a vegetarian, Lark?" I queried.
"Since I was fifteen years old!!!" she replied.
Vehemence grows with time, or it decays.
In about an hour we got back home...well, most of us, since Erin had gotten an important text message confirmation from her friend Sage B.-D. to spend the night.
"I'm afraid it's late," I said. "We may not make it to the contra dance in Hood River."
"Well," agreed my husband, brandishing his Black and Decker as if it were an illegal handgun. "You know I've been anticipating drilling the holes for these kitchen cabinet pulls for months!!!"
I considered a second. "OK, Ian...let's go!"
We got to the Rockford Grange Hall during snack break. The dance was half over and in the basement people were chomping on Northwestern Baked Goods! After enough brownies had transpired, the dancers ascended, and the Mill Creek String Band as well...I noticed Victor Johnson was on board for the second month in a row. And the caller...Rick Meyers from Portland. But instead of asking for the usual impossible, intricate moves that brains severely pickled with orchard insecticides cannot possibly comprehend, RIck was holding a saw in either hand!!
"This is my tenor saw," he began. "The song I get the most requests for is 'Stairway To Heaven'! Yep...I remember the first concert I ever went to. JIMI HENDRIX!!!! I heard that he was supposed to appear in the school gym!! So I went! And he was great! I took pictures...and I pulled them out recently and noticed that he was standing on a bunch of lunchroom tables pushed together! We took music seriously in those days! But here is the closest I can play to 'Stairway To Heaven': It's 'Over the Rainbow!!!'" The caller took out his bow and began to play his tenor saw. People stood and sat in a half circle around him and the band looked on in admiration! As for me, I pulled out my camera!
Later, he would introduce a contra that was so bizarre that not even the wheat farmers could execute the moves!
Kaua'i, March 2008: "Kalaheo Boy" stood at the counter of the Wailua Starbucks and contemplated what he would say about his life.
He was born in Montana, the son of a meteorologist. One day, in the dead of a winter blizzard, his father told his mother:
"There's an opening in Honolulu!"
And his mother said:
And so it was that Kalaheo Boy grew up on Oahu. When he grew up, he joined the Navy. It was an easy life for an electronics technician, and it took him back to Oahu, off and on. He married, and raised a family, at least when he was not busy soldering transistors on the High Seas.
Kalaheo Boy walked over to stand by the door, waiting and further contemplating.
"When I retired, we stayed in Oahu for a month, looking for a job" he would relate. "My parents lived there, in fact they still do...there wasnt much of anything. One day I was looking at the obituaries...you know, to keep track of the older people I knew...and read that an electronics technician on Kaua'i had died! I applied for the job..."
Yep that must be her, across the parking lot..."columbia georger," The Woman From Oregon. He held the door open...
"Thanks," she said off-hand and looked at him and laughed.
"Oh!! You must be "Kalaheo Boy"!!!
The Woman from Oregon went up to the counter and ordered a chai. Then they sat down and began to talk. There was nothing he liked better than chatting with Mainland bill trackers. Few of them ever traveled out here to the end of America, beyond the hot spot.
"I drove almost the end of Kaua'i," she told him. The blue shadow of sparse Nihu'a was a hazy ghost across the ocean waves of her memory. "I tried to go out to Barking Sands Beach, but the road was so bad. Also, it was almost six and everyone was coming back the other way!" The road was red dust, coarse gravel, and potholes. Imagine this: mile after mile of sugar cane, old lava flows stacked in the distance like tirmasu. A black asphalt one lane on the left, leading to an ammunition compound. A main road leading to the gatehouse of a missle base...."I turned around and visited the "Westernmost Brew Pub in the World." That was in Waimea, where free-flowing Porter and Ale make up for the lack of rainfall....
"Ha! That's an old cane-haul road!" said Kalaheo Boy.
On Kaua'i, the New Hawaii sits on the Old like a cinder cone on a thousand layers of tiramasu basalt.
"What do people do for a living out here?"
"Ha...that's a good question. And you can't aford a house. I rent...a co-worker bought a three bedroom house...2400 square feet...for 750,000. A lot of people are on assistance."
"Wow! Who can afford a house?"
He pulled out a stack of papers. "Here see this what I do. I record each bill and where I spend it, and when I get a hit on it...when I first get a new county." With fifty thousand bills marked, this is a lot of paper!!!
"Wow...I'm a slob! I dont have anything like that!!!" She only records the hits, the successes. "You must like data!"
"I LOVE data!!!" he replied excitedly.
Just west of The Dalles, the Northwest becomes The West, but does not ceast to be a strikingly beautiful place to visit...in its own way...
"Spring Break From Hell"
US 26 West, Crook Co., Oregon, March 2008....
"Children...LOOK AT THAT!!"
Ian and Erin...in her new chic dreadlocks...did not even look up from their books!
"Children!!" I whined. "First I point out a tree covered with hanging shoes, and then a ten foot tall carved log rocking chair! But you don't even notice!"
We were travellers on the Spring Break from Hell, jinxed from the start, like a roadblock on the Wishram Curves.
That's how it started, on WA 14, stalled ten miles from home in sagebrush behind thousands of Semis. No one knew what the problem was. My hopes of visiting the Walla Walla AVA dashed, we doubled back, bought gas at Murdock Mini-Mart and set off again east along the south side of Celilo, over a hundred flat miles of monotonous Columbia River Flood Basalt Flows and Bretz Flood Rhythmites, past the Columbia Ridge Landfill and the Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal Facility.
"Where's the Oregon Map?" I asked.
No one knew. "I'll use this Washington map instead then."
At Pendleton, we took 11 north toward Milton Freewater, then forked off east on 204 and suddenly were climbing into the Blue Mountains. Snow appeared, first in the ditches and then, as we skirted the Umatilla Wilderness and its dark conifers, plowed and packed to the sides of the road, topping the yellow plow stakes, ten foot or more.
"Take my picture!" said Erin and I stopped.
We descended again, passing the Old West towns of Elgin and Lostine. We skirted the Wallowas, rising like the Kootenay or the Canadian Rockies. At our motel on the brown sage hills above Enterprise, we could only stand and stare at the curve of the valley against the dark snowy mountains. You couldnt take a picture and have it mean anything. You could only keep the memory....and the memory of the pool and the hot tub, and the sauna too!!!
"They say that chlorine will consolidate dreads," said Erin excitedly. "Can someone take a picture of me as I jump in???"
The plan was to go to the forestry service in the morning and get a hiking map...but...
"Look! It's snowing!" I exclaimed. Drat! How can you hike in the snow wearing sandals? Maybe buy snowshoes? That was the beginning of the end.
I grabbed a Best Western motel atlas and took the children to The Bookloft, where they found thousands of great books. I drove to Joseph, where they have metal statues of the Old West on the street corners. Then I drove back. Best Western atlas in hand, we headed south to LaGrande, where i bought two Baja Tacos at Taco Time, and then began the trip to Sun River, where we had a reservation in a chic expensive suite....
Never judge distances from a Best Western motel atlas. Here is a secret, and take it to heart. As you drive through the Wallowas, in fact, anywhere in Grant County, each mile is worth two. Here is another secret. No matter what you hear about eastern Oregon, the northern part is a stunning desolate mosaic of mountain forest and grassland.
Somewhere in tall pines along a nameless stream I stop and take a photo of the 45th parallel. At Dale, in a tiny store I find, amongst the stuffed remains of bears and cervid heads, a stash of Diet Mountain Dew...but have to ask where the water is. North of Long Creek, on farm and ranch land, in the valley of the John Day, old homes lay dead with front doors swung open, then suddenly revive as the miles wear on. We turn west into sage at Mount Vernon...
"Look children! Dayville...it's named after you!!!" They pile out for photos at the welcome sign.
"Children..." I look at them. A few years ago, this noun would be accurate, but now my daughter is taller than I am and my son needs a shave. With Ian a half-freshman in college, this could be our last spring break together. That is the real reason why this trip is doomed. But it's also because I've misjudged the distance between Enterprise and Bend and we are sick of riding in the car.
"Wow!" exclaims Ian. "Look at those rocks!" Uh...a resistant layer of rhyolite like icing on a carrot cake, and Picture Gorge carved into basalts, where we gasp and snap a photo...
"I'm never coming on one of these trips again unless you force me," says Erin calmly making a fatal taunting incision. "It needed to be planned better."
"Yeah, well..." It shouldnt have been planned at all. We are racing for an irrevocable room reservation when we should be racing to gaze and wonder at the John Day Fossil Beds.
"What you should have done is not asked us what we wanted to do. That's what you used to do, you just told us where we were going."
"The trip seems OK to me," said Ian, picking up his book again.
We reached Sunriver at eight, too late to do much but fix dinner in our expensive kitchen.
"Huh!" I commented, perusing "Bend Real Estate." "Who can afford a $1.2 million resort home?" Just how many Sylvester Stallones were there?
In the morning, my car was covered with snow.
The short drive to the historic Prospect hotel near Crater Lake would be fast and simple, I thought. But the snow picked up around Gilchrist, and by the time we turned on to OR138, the view through the windshield was like static on an old television. As the highway rose into the Cascades, the snow began to coat the road and soon all I could see ahead of me where sparse yellow lights of a convoy of hay trucks on white unplowed road. Finally I said, "That's it. We're going home."
"Children!" I said, my heart bleeding white as we backtracked through Chemult. "This is what they call 'Near Blizzard Conditions.'"
Ian picked up his cell phone and calling Portland, arranged to meet a friend visiting from Michigan the next day.
I called the Historic Prospect Hotel and cancelled our reservation.
"Wow!" replied the owner suspiciously. 'All we've had is some rain and high winds here!"
The snow ceased to fall north of Bend and we crawled home on US97, tails between our legs and eyes buried in books. But somewhere south of Maupin, in our own Wasco County, I saw a strange, all encompassing cloud against the sunny green of the fields.
"Years ago...in 2002, I remember writing about these wheat fields as I drove north in the dark from California, with the glow of farm machinery lights in the fields. I was musing on 9-11. Do you feel like 9-11 is less important now?" I asked.
"Most people now just acknowledge 9-11 as an act of revenge," answered Erin.
"Whoa look at that dark cloud!" I continued. Suddenly...HORIZONTAL HAIL!!! I drove along at 20 as piercing chunks ice flew by the windshield at hurricane speed to batter the sagebrush.
Then, we descended into the valley of the Deschutes and over Tygh Ridge, the southern lip of the The Dalles Syncline, and then we were home.
"Mom..." asked Erin, after consulting everyone on her cell phone address book. "Would you mind if I didnt go with you to the coast? I have so much homework to do!"
No...I guessed not, and privately bursting into hysterical tears.
"Ian...do you still want to go down to Yachats?" I asked.
"Huh? Sure. I dont see what the problem is. I'll get a chance to chill out and relax!!!"
Portland!!! It's just me and Ian now, valiant and travelling! Actually, Ian is aimlessly riding around on the Max train with a tall, blonde woman named Kirstin from Michigan whom he'd met at Finnish camp, and I am strolling into the Hawthorne office of Wells Fargo to pick up a strap of dollar bills.
"How are you today?" smiles the teller.
"Just great! But the parking lot is covered with ice pellets!"
'Hmm..." she replies dubiously...just another crazy schizophrenic customer!!!
Then I pick Ian up at Powell's. His wild fun woman and books adventure is over and vacation is about to resume.
Yachats, Oregon, March 2004: Even though it's August, it's cool here on the coast, and even though it's cool, Erin sees the waves and exclaims:
"Time to body surf!!!" and pounces into the water. She's made a little friend on the beach, younger than herself, and the parents are dragged into the grinding undertow of explaining over and over to their child why she cannot follow Erin in...
I watch, from the beach. I am dragged into the undertow as well, half worrying about whether Erin will drown, half wishing I could drag Ian away from the television, and half wondering if the tsunami evacuation plan would actually be effective in the case of emergency. So I snap photos with my disposable camera, of Ian and Erin playing in the sand, and they are among the most beautiful that I have ever produced, with the way the light was shining.
"I wish we could stay at one of those cabins!" pouts Erin with a certain passion. The old cabins, made of stone and wood, are beautiful and historical. But we are staying in a motel unit. You have to make a cabin reservation weeks in advance.
That's what I did this time, in 2008. I reserved the coveted Yaquina cabin, and, after I stopped crying, I e-mailed the Shamrock Lodgettes and exchanged it for a motel unit.
"Fine!" they said.
Oregon, March 2008:
We swung off the freeway at Corvallis, drove through Philomath and into the Coast Range.
"Biggest Garage Sale in the World on Saturday at the Fair Grounds. Bring ones!!!!" announced the man on the radio.
"You should go to that," Ian opined.
"Yeh," I said. "Now Ian, do you know how the Coast Range was formed? What was the major process?"
"Plate tectonics?" he answered.
"Correct!!! In this case, sediments were scraped off the Juan de Fuca plate upon subduction to form mountains."
After sampling the rugged beauty for awhile...
"Can you call ODOT to see if I need chains?" I squeaked fearfully..
....of the Coast Range, we arrived at Waldport, and then just a few minutes later the Shamrock Lodgettes in Ya-HOTS.
"Huh!" said Ian. "I dont remember staying here!"
"Um..the cabins? the motel room? the beach? I have photos..."
"Oh! Over there! I remember the hot tub!"
The idea was to eat dinner at the Historic Drift Inn, music almost every night, I had a photo of us eating there in 2004, but in 2008 way too many people had drifted in!
"Hmm...let's try this wine bar with fine dining across the street!" I suggested.
"Anything's OK with me...." said Ian.
That's how we ended up at The River House, where the chef himself waits on the tables.
"I'd like the Coq au Vin," ordered Ian.
"I'd like a glass of this cheap Viognier because I dont think I've ever had any!" I ordered.
"It's the wine of the South of France!" said the chef.
"And the pan seared albacore..."
"Would you like that medium rare?" I shrugged my shoulders. Medium rare is not a part of my world.
After nearly everyone had gone, the chef sat at the next table chatting with a couple of Canadians...
"We live in Victoria. We thought it would be warmer here!"
"It's an unusual year," said the chef.
After dinner, Ian took a walk on the beach. That's when it started to hail.
In the morning, we breakfasted at the Historic Landmark Inn, host at some point in history to the Luminescent Orchestra!
"Hey...isnt that the same seagull on the railing staring at us as in 2004?" I snapped 10 pictures.
My day was filled with hunting Mountain Dew, sitting outside the library with the laptop, and walking the rugged coast. Ian watched television and chilled out.
After an interesting Mexican dinner, however, Ian decided to walk along the rugged coast. That's when it started to hail.
"Kind of rough out there!"
"Yeah! The waves were crashing very violently into the rocks. I couldn't walk down there anymore."
"This basalt here on the coast is from the sea floor. It is part of the stuff that squinched up," I told him.
"I think it's time to sit in the hot tub," he answered.
After about half an hour it was 9 o'clock and the proprietoress kicked us out. Closing a hot tub at 9 pm seems a little premature to me.
"Was that ice I heard hitting the skylight?" I asked. The music of the ice was becoming a broken record.
"It's unusual weather here in Yachats this year, she answered exasperated, either at us or the weather. The weather along the coast is always unpredictable, but this year it's extremely unpredictable."
Indeed. In the morning we drove back through the Coast Range and up I-5. South of Salem, traffic slowed to a crawl. Yes! You're right! large ice pellets were falling from the Willamette heavens and the ground was completely white! This was really unfair, since a lot of those valley people don't have snow tires.
As for the concept of Terroir...it's better if it works in the realm of magic and mystery." ---Allen Busaca, April 2008
It was time for class and the students were all assembled for class at the plush Riverenz, a former church right here in River City. Who would have believed that "Geology of Wine"...or Geology of anything else, for that matter...would have attracted as many people as "Japanese for Manga Scholars"!!! Could it be because there was only one test...a wine tasting in the final hour!?!?!
One minute...I was almost late...and there were only a few chairs left amongst the chic & swell of small town Oregon!!! But look!
"Hi!" I exclaimed. It was another errant Quaker! "Are you saving that seat?"
"How is your life?" I asked.
"I'm going to Panama soon so I can study why and how the canal was built," he said. "It's something I've always wanted to do, since the time I was in the merchant marine."
"Wow!" I said. "I was just in Panama...you were in the merchant marine...???"
"Yeah...I did a lot of things before I was 21...I drove a cab in Chicago, too. And I was a fish counter....they knew in the early seventies that the system wasnt working. The salmon often became disoriented when they went up the ladders...sometimes they just swam on...but maybe they'd go back down...or go through the turbines and that was the end." Chop!!! "So now there are fewer salmon..."
"Just shoot a few sea lions for chomping down on the few remaining fish..." I added as he changed the subject.
"My parents weren't very happy when I decided to become a policeman and carry a gun. Quakers are very judgmental. But it's a risk you take..."
"Quakers often have sharp tongues...and that is a sort of violence in itself," I commented.
"Yes, I agree...there's a point where you have to admit that there are some people you cannot control with words, that you have to wrestle to the ground. And thank goodness I never had to use that gun...."
From the front of the luscious room, our tardy teacher gave the signal for the students to be quiet. How many other mind-boggling ethical conversations had ended prematurely? Dr Allen, as we will call him, is one of the world's foremost authorities on wine and geology in the Northwest. After retirement, he joined with a winemaker for an exciting commercial experiment, which the class will get to taste.
"Class! Imagine the Great Flood! It started here in Montana in the Pleistocene and occurred 100 times in two million years! The lake was two thousand feet deep and contained 500 cubic miles of water....here is a slide that shows strand lines...each one of these is a shoreline!!!" Imagine infinite bar code stripes. "The flood is the determinate in the Columbia Valley AVA....but around Hood River, it is the more recent Cascade Volcanics," he told us.
The class listened in rapt attention behind their prescient wine glasses, loaned by the archaic The Pines 1852 vineyard on Mill Creek. I did too...but with an ulterior motive: I had written my Geography of Wine term paper for Dr Teresa on "Geology of Wine in the Northwest"! How badly did I messed up? Not much, I ascertained...what a shock! Now I was free to enjoy the lab and exam!!!
"You will be tasting three barrel samples each of Viognier and Syrah, from very different geological environments. All the samples have been procesed in the same way, but as you will notice each has its own taste," explained the winemaker. "At the Upland Vineyards in the Yakima Valley, the grapes are grown on ancient cobbles. At the Coyote Canyon Vineyards, the weather is the hottest and the vines grow in deep loess above the flood line. Because of the heat they have thicker skins. At Chukar Ridge...the natural acidity is high. THIS...this Viognier is what I want in a white wine!!!" he exclaimed passionately.
"As you taste the wines, let us know what you sense. Notice how delicate the first sample is..."
I took a gulp of the first wine and steam came out my nose.
"This tastes like sweat," I whispered. My Friend laughed. In my years of drinking fine wine from Grocery Outlet, I've tasted many things: turpentine, rubbing alcohol, leather...and grapes. But mostly I've tasted wine. Bad sweaty chardonnay. Dry chardonnay...sweet Pinot, rich Merlot....
"This has a hint of strawberry..." said a woman in front of us.
...but never the fruits that others taste. Why should a vinifera grape taste like some other fruit...who would want it to?
"This first sample tastes a little immature," a bearded man behind us commented suspiciously. Where had I seen him before? "What bricks did you pick this at?"
Then we tasted the Syrahs."Wow!" exclaimed the bearded man. "This Coyote Canyon is like going into a candy store!!! There are so many flavors!!!" Was he a local winemaker? A contra dancer?
The winemaker says "The alcohol content on some of these red wines is 14.5 to 14.8%...actually over 15%. The growers push the ripeness limit for high alcohol content. You cant drink too much of this!" My memory drifts into the Plaid Pantry, into Fred Meyer, where I dive down to the bottom shelf for sweet 8% German Reislings. That way, you can drink a whole bottle and not get a hangover. Or....you could just drink a couple cans of Diet Mountain Dew!!!
Cascadia, April 2008. "Men and Gas Mileage"
In a state of panic about global warming [see "The Spring Break from Hell"], Oregon extended the deadline for changing snow tires one week....but I'm still two days late. There is only one car, a 1998 Dodge Caravan, ahead of me as I slip into the Nelson Tire line.
"One of the tires was flat when I came in. They put a mark on it," I tell the young tireman. He nods nonchalantly. Everyone has their problems.
"Excuse me..." interrups a short rotund man...he is even shorter than I am!!! "What kind of mileage do you get on that thing?"
"Only about 35 or 37," I answer. Deja vu! My mind sweeps back to the week before, in the days before I was an asphalt vandal constantly on the lookout for patrol cars, subject at any moment to a $145 fine for a Class C Traffic Violation.
-----"Twenty dollars on pump four!" I say, handing twenty stamped ones to the Chinaman at the Bingen Bridgemart. This is just across the Hood River Bridge and real convenient when you are desperate for time and Washington gasoline. I open the twist top....the door stays open and flapping now since it froze and busted...and...
A man emerges from a skyblue vehicle and walks over to the pumps.
"What kind of car is that?" he asks. What a handsome man he is, grey hair and patient eyes.
"It's an Aveo...."
"Huh! I thought it was a Geo. I've got a Geo right over there," he points, pride in his kind eyes.
"We used to have a Geo Metro [back in the 80s]..." I say. Actually it was a silver Sprint. ***Wham!!! An elderly Texas woman in a big Texas car pulls out of her Weingarten's Grocery spot and into the tiny rear fender and keeps on going, never looks back.*** "Uninsured Motorist" is my overpowering memory of the little Sprint.
"Yeah! That's what I have!!! 1993...works great, I get 50 miles per gallon!"
"Yeah...we got 49 or 50...."
"...what kind of mileage do you get on the Aveo?"
"Only about 37...." I answer. The man smiles mildly.-----
"Huh!" comments the short burly man at the tire store. "They say 31 on the TV."
"Thirty one!" I answer bitterly, in growing confusion about Chevrolets. "Yeah. I rented an Impala and it got 31." There is a reason "Impala" is DownEast for "Subcompact."
"You got cruise control?"
"No...I don't have much of anything....but it's easy to park!"
And a good friend as well.
"The return of the Menehunes"
Kaua'i, South Coast, March 2008: I got the idea of going to Kaua'i in the waning days of Cristmas.
"Look!" I said. "I can get to Kaua'i right now for pennies!!" I said. "Just step on a plane and go!"
No one said anything. A whole year rolled around...and January too, and I said,
"I think I'll go to Kaua'i during finals week and look at rocks."
"Huh!" said everyone and went back to watching Firefly videos. I made my lone reservation on Hawai'ian Air.
In early March, people began to hint....
"Wow! Warm weather! The Tropics! Can we go to Hawai'i too...or something tropical like Malta...for spring break?"
But by that time, the flights home from everywhere in Hawai'i to Portland were packed solid. That's how I ended up with a Week in Paradise and my children got a Spring Break from Hell.
Menehune means something like "Pixie" in Hawaiian. Some think the menehunes were little magical creatures, others opine that they were part of an older wave of ancient Hawaiian arrivals, and some don't believe in them at all. But I wasn't thinking of fairies or archeology as I swung into the aging Menehune Food Mart in Lawa'i. I'd been driving bumper to bumper through Kapaa (ka-pa-a) and Wailua (?) and Lihue (le-hoo-ee), too tailgated and distracted to pull over and consult my Roadside Geology of Hawaii....
"There's a joke here," Kaua'i Boy had told me in Starbucks. "What school did all the traffic engineers on Kaua'i attend?"
"Uh..." I said.
...and I was angry and hungry. I edged my rental Ion into an impossible parking spot between the dumpster and the street light, exited the car, and slunk past the gauntlet of aging Japanese men lining the front window.
Question: Is Kaua'i euroamerica?
The advantage to going to a big, ancient convenience store like this is that you can get weird food encased in styrofoam and plastic wrap. I bypassed the
nachos and zeroed in on a stack of saranized pastries that said
LAWAI MANJU Our Own Recipe. Some said Coconut and others said Pineapple but mine said Black Bean. Then I walked over to the refrigerator case and stared at the sushi and weird meats. I picked up a package of round flat things...
"What are these?" I asked the cashier.
"Fish cakes," she answered.
"Great!" I layed them on the worn counter with my Manju and my Diet Mountain Dew and she began to total my purchases. Then a Hawa'ian working man stepped up beside me, set down his coke, looked at my lunch and with one mighty scoop of the arm, brought it into his own fold. Oops! Too much counter clutter! Have you, for example, picked up a newspaper laying on a seat in an airport, only to have a snipey old woman in a blue white beehive snarl "That's MY newspaper." Well! The clerk gave the short brown polynesian man an evil look and slid his would-be meal right back into a plastic bag!
Armed now with a little tire-store of round fish cakes...some were pink and white swirls, others were sweet hollow loops, and some were just brown and white discs... and a packet of Kikkoman soysauce, I forged on down the road. I stopped at Port Allen and looked at the boats and the vehicular...um, vesicular basalt. Then, I turned toward Salt Pond Beach, where, according to Roadside Geology, the reef comes right up to the shore. I walked out on the reef in my jeans and sandals, snapping photos of young boys against the sun.
"When will you return again, to spend days looking for the beach of your children's dreams?" I asked myself.
"Never," answered the Blue Hawaiian waves. "For the rest of your life the beaches will be your own dreams."
After that drama, I drove over to the rust red flat salt ponds, used to evaporate salt, and then past the ragged airport with its odd tourist planes and pahoehoe shots. After that, I drove west, toward decreasing rainfall and the end of civilization.
Towards flat Waimea, Land of the Westernmost Brewpub, where I'd had dinner and a porter the day before!!! I turned north there, right, to view the Menehune Ditch.
"Wow! The Pixies sure built a big irrigation ditch!" I exclaimed to myself as I fearfully parked my Ion next to a gaggle of police cars.
"No, silly," a couple of Pixie ghosts whispered. "That's the Waimea River!" I gaped in wonder as a woman in a sedan crossed the Mighty Waimea with a continuous big splash.
"Me too!" exclaimed the young Ion. But I was too scared. What if we stalled, ran off the ford?
I walked a little ways up the road, to a tiny ditch. The road there is lined with paving stones, precision chiseled by Ancient Hawaiians. A plaque erected by the Territory Of Hawai'i reads:
"The shout of the Menehunes at Kauai startles the birds of Oahu."
I snapped some photos of pillow basalt.
Kaua'i, 2008: I opened the package of pastry, then turned north at Waimea. We were on the road that would take us to Waimea Canyon, the most popular Tourist Pilgrimage on Kaua'i. I stopped the Ion, and looked down on to flat Pleistocene seafloor, with its pixie fish pond, and its green cane fields. Beyond was the shadow of the old woman Niihau, and beyond that the invisible, fading Leeward Islands, Midway and beyond. We...the rented Ion and myself, continued upward.
We travelled up and up in elevation along the ridge. Finally we pulled off onto red hard packed earth. The car behind us pulled off too, and the vehicle behind that. All of us gasped in amazement at the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and then we took pictures...one stop after another....of the stack of Christmas tiramasu and of the wild chickens that swarmed around us. Five million years...we stood on the thin brown Na Pali flows of Kauai's original volcano. The volcano collapsed in the eastern portion...I wondered if you would call this a sector collapse...and more thin red Olokele..oikealle...flows from a second volcano pooled against the rift. We were lucky to be looking out at the beautiful red velvet cake layers of the Olokele, which were covered off and on with bright green trees and other plants!
Imagine those volcanos erupting over and over, red hot Missoula floods!
I kept thinking, because we were on a ridge, that it would all look like sub-alpine Colorado. It's funny that my mind would regurgitate something like that from so long ago. But the vegetation just looked like Hawai'i. On winter mornings here, frost sometimes forms on the porches.
We drove on, to the end, where you can see the north shore of the island, thousands of unreachable feet below. The inlet here, the Kalalau Valley, was inhabited by the ancient Hawai'ians. But there are no roads for the Ion and I to drive on to see the terraces that they left.
"Would you take our picture?" asked a Japanese family with a beautiful silver camera.
"Sure!" I said. "And there's a rainbow behind you!!!"
"I'll take one of you now!" offered the man. I started to say no, but stopped.
SNAP!!! I wish I'd worn something better than a big old T-shirt.
"Look!" said an American woman. "There's the wettest place in the world way over there!"
"Yeah," replied her husband....but you can't see a thing for the clouds!"
I'd expected the manju squares to be little kolaches, but they werent. They were dense, piecrust things, and you couldnt eat too many of them at one time...a challenge once you've unwrapped them.
Two Brothers II
I still have stories to tell about Kaua'i, but I'm not in the mood. I should write about going to see Golem at the Doug Fir. I should have weird tales about "Scandinavian Thrillers," my new class with Peter, Fogtdal, famous Danish author, but instead all I have is homework! So I will write a restaurant review!
-----Portland, November 2006:
"Erin....Erin!!!" I say as we glide down Belmont. Kori wa denke des-ka? "Where would you like to eat?"
"Look, Erin...right over there...the new 2 Brothers Balkan Cafe!!!" -----
I can't believe that is all I wrote about Two Brothers!!!
Portland, April 2008:
"Ian!" I asked as I pulled out of the Sacred Harp lot...actually a Congregational Church on Woodward. "Are you hungry?"
"I could be."
Ian is tired nowadays. He is taking a full load at high school and two community college courses, one of which requires him to be Paris in a community production of "Tiger At the Gates." ...and kiss Helen of Troy on stage!! He has also just returned from a wild weekend at Southern Oregon University, where he and two girls..one of whom shone in her aerial portrayal of Peter Pan... scoped out the drama department and giggled a lot, far into the night.
"I suppose you want to go to a bookstore...."
"I don't care...uh...maybe..."
I hit my head against the dashboard of the little Aveo, shocked, and then took advantage of the situation.
"Great! We'll go to Two Brothers and then go home!!!" I exclaimed. I had longed for a repeat performance of Two Brothers. I rolled gently down 39th Street and turned left into the parking lot.
"Here we are. Do you remember this place?"
"No," said Ian. "I have never been here before in my life."
That's because he was in Finland. I had mistaken him for the fog of his sister.
At four fifteen PM, the Two Brothers Bosnian Cafe was empty, except for the blond Slavic waiter and the tiny darkhaired cook.
"Are any of these Balkan wines dark?" I asked.
"No," said the round featured man. "They are all Pilsners."
"This Serbian wine here...?" I knew I didnt want the Slovenian wine. That's like a Polka beat!
"It's like a Chardonnay..."
"Great...I'll have that and fish stew!"
"I'll have the Balkan sandwich," ordered Ian. "And a vanilla milkshake!"
I sat and looked at the crisp almost new room...over there! Fanfare Ciocarlia! Edessa! Culture Shock! Heaven! My eyes began to dance a little cocek!
The red fish stew...like vegetable soup with fish!...came with a vast rectangle of dense cornbread. I dipped the thick block into the stew for each bite. What a perfect lunch!
"The shake isnt as thick as I'm used to," said Ian. A Bosnian Style shake, I reckoned.
"What's that stuff," I asked. "Sauerkraut?"
"Cabbage," opined Ian. Suddenly the grey fat Bosnian sausage catapulted out of the pita bread and landed on the floor!
"That didnt happen!" opined Ian, picking the sausage up and reinserting it into the Balkan Sandwich.
Two young men came into the restaurant and sat at a black table.
"I'll have a mango shake," ordered the first.
Too much wine in the glass! The only antidote was more food! "Are you still hungry?" I asked.
"I could be," said Ian, as the waiter cleared the table and said the fatal words:
"How was the wine?.....Would you like anything else...we have baklava...and crepes..."
"Baklava!" ordered Ian.
"Me too!" I added, totally against my will.
The Dalles, 6:45 AM: Out at the base of the hills, there are houses dug out of rock, thousands of them jammed together like a puzzle. The misty rain is
shining aqua bright on them and I am arranging furniture in each room and.......
"MOM!!! Do you have a shell necklace? Today is Hawai'ian Day at school!"
I awake with a start...screaming and babbling in shock...
"Uh, yeah, somewhere..." I mumble. But Erin has already left the room in terror.
Seven minutes later, I remember where I am and suggest she try the top compartment of my big tool chest jewelry box for garage sale items. She squeals with delight.
Lihue, Kaua'i, 2008: "It's not that easy getting onto this bus!"
The middle-aged woman stepping onto the Rental Car shuttle is dark haired and plump and she has a silver cane with octopus arms on the bottom. I would like to have the story...in one concise sentence. The odds of getting one are very low.
"Quite a gap there," I agree and dip out of her universe. I am invisible to everyone.
"Going back home, eh? How long were you here?" asks an elderly couple.
"Actually...my husband and I live here all winter. If it was up to me I would spend the whole year. I checked the weather reports and it's snowing." she answers in Midwestern whine. Ugh...snow! "He's the one who wants to go back, to see his friends."
I wonder what it's like to live on an island the size of Wasco County where you can never hang out your clothes to dry.
The two girls are wearing swim suits and sarongs, and they are multicolored and beautiful like Hawai'ian birds, unlike this hectic stretch of highway bordering a historical Wailuan church. I motion to them, turn the church corner, and pull the rental Ion onto the shoulder.
"Thanks!" says the girl with the sunset orange hair. She is dressed in red and magenta and turqoise...and orange...and has a small drab daypack on her back. "Our feet are sore!"
"Where are you going?" I ask.
"Just down to the Opaekka Discount Store...It's supposed to be open today."
"Are you locals?" I ask.
"No...we're from Seattle!" answers the girl with black hair and olive skin and the sarong covered with flowers in muted tones.
"We got sick of being there, so we hopped a flight to Kaua'i!" complains the carrot top. For pennies, no doubt..........
"I was really *depressed* with the weather," adds the dark girl. "Are you a local?"
"No...I'm from Oregon!"
"Ha! Go up the North Coast....it's great up there." That, I say, was where I had just been the day before. I went to the Wet Cave and the Dry Cave, and to the Princeville Supermarket, where I bought a case of Diet Mountain Dew.
"They have a cave up there called the Blue Room where you can go diving. They say it is absolutely beautiful!"
I turn right at the derelict Coco Palms Hotel, where Elvis is said to have filmed Blue Hawaii, and then left at a large ragged flea store. When I back up, I almost hit the dark-haired woman!
Murdock, Washington, April 2008: "You need to hang up the pump," suggests the clerk at Murdock Mini Mart, rolling her eyes. "It won't register unless you hang up the pump." Oh no...I've screwed up again! I walk outside, hang up the nozzle, and look across Washington 14. The man in the parka is still there. A silver Chevy pickup speeds by. Pick him up...stop and pick him up, I plead, but the big vehicle speeds on by. I go inside and slap 34 stamped ones down on the counter. I hope they will go West to Idaho and Montana.
Skirting the Budweiser truck, I pull out into the two-lane and reluctantly onto the far shoulder. The man, fighting the wind in his oversized coat, opens the door immediately.
"Where are you going? Where are you going?" I repeat. I hope not Portland.
"I'm just tryin' to get to Lyle. I don't want to walk through the tunnel." Five miles.
"They have signs for 'Bicycles in Tunnel,' but not Humans."
"I've been hit twice, that's why I don't do it."
"Are you from Murdock?" I've never met anyone from Murdock, though it is just across the river from The Dalles.
"Hdl djkauidmjfd jikjiow" I can't understand him.
"No...I'm from Vancouver. Yiopnmc klj;dkj."
There are lupines blooming all over the basalt hillsides, and that yellow stuff that matches my Aveo. I'd have to stop to identify the yellow stuff. I'd like to say this, but don't.
"There are white caps out on the lake today," I say. White lace, white spit on a grey ocean.
We pass the sign that says "Bicycles in Tunnel."
"Where is it you want to go in Lyle?" I ask.
"Over to the Lyle Mhgbnnbk..."
"Pardon?...the Lyle Mercantile?"
"Yeah...I'm hoping they have a job for me to do, so I can get something to eat."
I pull into the big parking lot of the old grocery store and the laundromat, where you can get a shower if you need one.
"I have this coin jar here...I can give you a little for lunch."
"Thank you, ma'am," he says. "What's your name?"
"Judith," I say.
"I'm Ernest." I look over at him, under the hood. He might be about my age, his hair and beard are blond or grey, and he has bright blue eyes. I take out a recharegeable battery, then pour half the glass jar into his hands. They are shaking so hard that the coins jingle.
"You can put them in your pocket," I suggest.
"That's what I'm going to do next."
Then he gets out and I drive on. After I pay the Hood River Bridge toll, I pick up an egg salad sandwich at Starbucks.
"He sat there, not on the bank of the river as an interpreter, but in the middle of the river. And for the first time he realized he could not interpret the maelstroms of the river."
[Enquist, The Royal Physician's Visit]
Portland, April 2008. Here I am again, sitting for the first time at the table that left flanks the stage at the Doug Fir Lounge. The large room is a chic Portlandista bar nestled into my in-laws log basement sauna at Little Mantrap. Lots of Logs...logs on the bar, logs on the stage, logs on the ceiling. I contemplate my day...the six hours I spent dodging Sunday time between my radio show and this live show. I ordered a salad at Chipotle and got a free drink with my PSU ID. I walked down to the Oregon Historical Society and got in free with my ID, touring my own bakelite-littered past at the tail end of their exhibit "The American Dream." I read a couple psychology books at Powell's. Dodging derelicts, I picked up a Voodoo Dozen. I walked back to my car to get my laptop, checked my e-mail outside Smith Center, and then drove across the Willamette to the Doug Fir. I bought my ticket, got lost in their upstairs Hall of Mirrors bathroom, and then walked out again, down Burnside, photographing landmarks like Union Jack's and KBoo. It was a Definitive Grand Tour that I recommend all you tourists take some day.
The cocktail (I have a cosmo!) seats around the swank perimeter are all taken by the time Chervona and their dancing bear take control. Chervona...think Limpopo vs Gogol Bordello! At the end of the evening I will buy a CDR EP for $5 with no title or tracklist. I will write the band for a tracklist so I can play Dark Eyes and Those Were the Days on the radio, and they will promise to send one and after a few weeks I will resolve to deal only with the Ukraine directly. But for now, Chervona is playing great music on their little accordion and trombone and stuff. A woman in a peasant costume begins to throw lemons from a basket out into the jiggling jumping mosh pit. She descends the steps and hands me a leftover, which is now hard as a rock and sitting on the dining room table.
After this warm up band, I go get a Black Butte. A woman sees my Gogol Bordello Gypsy Punk Revolution and exclaims, tears forming in her eyes...
"Were you *there* at the Roseland? I mean...a whole sea of people swaying back and forth..."
"Yeah," I answer cautiously. "My daughter got knocked around quite a bit downstairs. Were you upstairs or down?"
"Upstairs...the whole balcony, swaying like the ocean!!!" Things were fine up in the balcony bar! The OLCC likes it that way, too.
"Yeah, I was upstairs too," I agree. That made four of us...including Jonathan, host of "Is This Music?" punking out in the very front row!!! A network!!
Now it is time for Golem. Golem is more well-known, in my opinion, and has made it to definitive Gypsy Punk, but really, they are just a loud Klez band. Wow, are they a fun group!!! My eyes rivet on the singer and accordionist, wondering what it was like being a tiny woman. I observe the fiddler in her tiny skirt, whom I irrationally will remember playing Irish music all evening. I admire the trombonist, whose sliding arm gathers in the band and holds it together. My eyes travel to the two indie boys on bass and drums. As a young girl, I would have had the energy to play the lethargic, contemplative electric bass, but never the drums. And last but not least, the rich, cheesy vocals of the man with dark hair!!!
I remember a tune or two from their earlier album, and will later recall a couple tunes from the new one, after I buy it. The tunes are adjacent on "Fresh off the Boat" and are "Warsaw is Khelm," which I hear as "Warsaw is Hell" and "School of Dance." While the second tune plays, the moshers on the dance floor must do a little line dance with special steps...and later...
"Let's do a hora now!" says Annette, the tiny, dark woman with the voice and the accordion. And down on the floor, they begin to circle around and around and around, like turbulent maelstroms on a swirling sea.
April 2008, The Dalles: There is no worse musical dilemma than two great metal bands playing in the same city at the same time! Yep, it was the exquisite Finnish cello metal band Apocalyptica at the suspicious, camera-free Roseland, and the intense, rowdy technical progressive Symphony X at the charming, photogenic Hawthorne. What to do?
"Kelly Joe Phelps is at the Civic here in The Dalles," said my husband.
What a relief! I had seen Apocalyptica and SyX, but never the Portland-Vancouver based Phelps! Let's go!
The bottom line was, however, that I wouldn't have to go by myself.
"Can I hitch a ride to square dancing?" asked Paris...um...Ian. Paris is his new theatrical role.
Square dancing, it turned out, had been bumped by Kelly Joe.
"Can we buy you a ticket?" I asked.
"No...I guess I'll walk home and do my homework," answered Ian. Exit Paris.
Kelly Joe Phelps is a blues musician. He has a little Vandyke and is really animated...exaggerated in his movements, I'd say, when he plays, passionately rocking back and forth and stuff. Apocalyptica would never act like that with their cellos....uh...would they? But whoa, can he play guitar!!! I'm not joking....wow!!! I sat in that folding chair with my Bolton Cellars Merlot, stunned. And suddenly, he started singing....
"Oh won't you forsake your house carpenter
And go along with me...."
"That's 'House Carpenter'!" I exclaimed. "It's a Child Ballad!"
"Yep!" observed my husband. "That's your kind of music."
Playing Avantasia today reminded me of last year when I went to see the German power metal band Edguy at Rock and Roll Pizza in Portland. On that occasion I had been able to coerce Paris...um...Ian to go with me. The event was entitled "The Hellfire Tour."
September 2007: "The Hellfire Tour"
"Wanna go see Edguy?" I asked.
"Sure!" said Ian.
"Ugh!!!" said Erin.
Rock and Roll Pizza is just what its name says it is. It's a typical hard-rock pizza place laid out specifically to comply with pre-Friday OLCC regulations. You walk in the door and there is a moderate size room with black walls, a stage, and no furniture. In one corner there is a place you can order pizza, soda pop, and milkshakes. Off to one side, separated by a chain-link fence, is another black room. This room has great stuff like tables and chairs, a pool table, and a well-stocked bar. Every so often, an enthusiastic Portlandista food service worker rushes out of the kitchen with an aromatic pizza held high in the air! But only Adults in the Chain Link Room are allowed to eat pizza at a table!!!
Ian and I floated back to the rear of the black empty room and leaned into a pass-through in front of the rest rooms. It was almost like having an chair!
First up was the ethereal female fronted LA Echoes of Eternity. We missed them because they published the time wrong. &*%^$#@^
The second band was Light This City from San Francisco. I had never heard of them.
"It's a female screamer!!!" exclaimed Ian calmly amused. Whoa! It took me a long time to get used to a woman in a tie-dye shirt fronting death...uh...thrash metal.
After that was Into Eternity from Saskatchewan. I wrote a story about them early in 2007. They were wonderful, eh!!!
"Wow! They're great, eh!!!" exclaimed Ian, eyeing the T shirts.
I'd like to mention their latest album is "The Incurable Tragedy."
"I'm going to get a drink," I told Ian, cruely obeying OLCC rulings and ducking behind the chain link fence, thus abandoning my 18 year old six foot baby to fend for himself in the maeolstrom of corseted Heavy Metal vixens rushing to the rest room .
"Could I have a cosmo, please?" I asked the bartender. I took my luscious red cocktail to a real table and began to slurp, as metal scum popped pool cues against 8 balls.
Finally, Edguy came on stage ...featuring the astounding Tobias Sammet! Tobias is a special person. As a high school student in his native Deutschland, he discovered he had the voice of an Angel and joined a metal band. The rest is history! My mind reels back to 2001...or was it 2002?... when my children and I were traveling to Alaska in a battered red Windstar and I slipped Tobias' "Avantasia: A Metal Opera" into the CD player.
"You have to understand, wee younger children" began Emma. "Your mother doesn't listen to Normal Metal. This is actually 'Cats' [ie Andrew Lloyd Weber] Metal."
But...Oh crap. The pixie-like sexy jail-bait German teenager of Avantasia had cut his swaying waist-long hair and now resembled a middle-aged Frankfurt architect! The voice, though...the soaring voice, topping the scale! was the same and so were his bright, quick, impish eyes!!! Yep!! Then, Tobias said:
"Hey...you guys over in the cage..."
"They must be the Regulars," commented Paris.
"...what are you doing? Why aren't you paying attention? Why are you paying pool? Didn't you pay the cover? How much is the cover?"
"Fifteen dollars!" someone yelled. Tobias winced.
The Regulars continued to slurp PBR and knock around the eight balls. I figured they had a season ticket.
Then Tobias began to sing:
"We have the power of light, We bring you fantasy
We are the kingdom of Light and Dreams...
gnosis and life: Avantasia! "
The audience and the pool wizards stood silent. The Voice of an Angel was flooding the Hawthorne Theater.
"MOM!!!" says Erin. "I need a white wine bottle to use in my Honors English Class play!" Erin adapted the script herself from Edgar Allen Poe!
"How about this...Pavin and Riley 2005 Columbia Valley Merlot???"
"NO!! It has to be WHITE WINE! It has a *special connotation*!!!"
After I go to The Gym (see below), I pick up a bottle of Robert Mondavi 2006 California Central Valley Chardonnay. When I get home, I empty the contents into the Pavin and Riley bottle, and then rinse out the Mondavi bottle.
"Drinking at Private Clubs"
Thursday, April 2008: "One more song and I'm taking a break," laughs Kelly Joe Phelps before he plunges again into exquisite guitar. "I usually don't do this, but it's not every concert I play that people are waiting for POTATO CHIPS!!!" Yeah...we here in The Dalles are odd. Every intermission at the Civic Auditorium there is something FREE to eat, provided at least in part by our number one merchant Fred Meyer, which is Northwestern for KROGER. In my opinion, Fred has skimped on this event, but nonetheless I've already eaten a dinner's worth of cheese and crackers.
After that one more song, I buy a donated Bolton Cellars Merlot and then cruise to the food table.
"They have to have food to sell the beer!" comments one man to another!
Wow! Thank heavens for the OLCC!!!!
Next Wednesday, The Gym, also known to the The Dalles Elite as "The Club." Nine thirty PM. I walk over to the table in front of Raquetball Court Number One. Two middle aged men are sitting at the table: one Anglo one Hispanic. In the world of Raquetball, it's not the color of your skin or the language you speak that matters. It's how you play and what you bring to the potluck.
"This is the Birthday Boy!" says the Mexican.
"What're you looking for...the empty beer cans [he loops the Budweiser holes in his fingers and waves them in the air] or the bottle of tequila?" asks the bald white dude.
"I'm looking for The Dalles Chronicle with the police reports. All that's here seems to be The Oregonian," I whine.
"You need some Pure Tequila!" says the Mexican. I pick up the rumpled paper bag and look inside at the square glass bottle and the light brown liquid inside. It doesn't look like a margarita to me. What if it's horse spit and creek water? Or iced tea? Or worse, PBR? What if it's 200 proof tequila and I keel over on the rowing machine? Or...UGH!! right there in the lobby?
Then I notice there are no glasses.
"What if there are ***germs*** on that bottle?" I ask, pretending I'm kidding. Do I really want to be THAT intimate with these raquet ball wizards? I shake my head and walk away laughing.
Bingen, Washington, May 2008:
"Are you just going over the bridge?" I ask; the boy has jumped the gun and has already thrown his pack in the back seat.
"Yeah...I'm going into Hood River. If you could take me to the interstate, or downtown to the library...."
Interstate it is!
"My grandmother's name was Judith."
Isaac is dressed in long red dust hair, a Himalayan cap, a bright multicolored patchwork jacket, and a full complement of camping gear. My guess is that camping is his normal occupation.
Outside, the sky is blue, the Columbia is blue, and Mount Hood is a dove of peace in the distance, covered with snow. The grid on the bridge sings like a passing freight beneath the yellow aveo tires.
"It's hard to get across the bridge on foot..." I begin.
"You can't. They won't let you. They should put in a bike lane."
"Mount Hood is beautiful today," I begin again.
"Do you ski?" he asks.
"No...well, cross country, but that doesn't count..."
"Huh," he replies.
"Lots of people here."
"Maybe for the fiddle festival." Fiddle festival? Why am I going to Portland? Why don't I know these things?
"Are you just going to Hood River?" I repeat, hoping to get more of a story, difficult considering the distance of the toll bridge span.
"Yeah...I need to get some food money. I have a couple of apples and that's all."
I sigh. "There's a coin jar. You can have some lunch money from that..."
"Thanks!" he exclaims. "I'll take a dollar. I can get something at McDonald's!"
"You can take more than that. I don't use those coins for anything." They were laying on the floor of the car until Erin scraped them off the carpet a month ago.
"No..." he replies. "I'll just take a dollar."
I swing up to the door of the Shell station, where Erin and her friend Jessica have been dispatched to buy me a scone and a diet Mountain Dew. They are bound for Lloyd Center; Jessica has a gift certificate from Macy's. Erin rolls her eyes when she sees the car.
"I've got two teenagers to put in here, so this is where you get out!" I smile.
I drive away, but Isaac stands there, between the Shell and Starbucks, staring at the car.
"You picked up a real cutie there," Erin says.
"Did he have dreads?" I ask. It's hard to see when you're driving.
"He had dreads on his beard. And his face was very weathered....red, by that I mean red. But under his beard he looked young, in his early thirties. By his voice, though, he sounded like he was in his twenties."
"His voice...." I agree.
Stevenson, Washington, May 2008. ~~On the way back from Portland...we briefly meet another interesting person.~~
"Where do you want to eat?" I ask as the Aveo escapes out from the dark underbelly of Lloyd Center.
"Hmmm..." answers Erin. "Can we eat in STEVENSON?"
Ten million restaurants in Portland, and we will eat in the Columbia Gorge. The Big River Grill is our homie!
The establishment is packed. The sun is shining. I snap a few photos of Erin eating a hamburger and Jessica Morgensen eyeing her Smoked Sturgeon Spread with distrust.
"I thought it would just be some fish," she exclaims.
After dinner, a tiny blond woman drags several small children to our table and hands a slip of paper to Erin.
"What's this?" Erin asks. The chunk of shiny cash register tape reads "www.chainsawmary.com"
"Don't ask...just look it up on the internet," answers the woman.
"Huh! I wonder what that means?" wonders Erin.
"Maybe she doesn't like your dreads," I hypothesize.
"Mmm," adds Jessica, swishing her Scandinavian locks and ice blue wolf eyes over the dinner she doeesnt like.
The scenario grows in my battered mind. The woman is sitting at her booth and sees Erin.
"Dreadlocks! Ugh!" she exclaims to herself. "Repulsive!! Just like in the movie 'Chainsaw Mary'! I'll have to show that little upstart how unconventional she looks and then she'll she the light!"
The nerve of that...uh...woman!
"Erin," I say the next day. "Chain Saw Mary is a hair salon in Portland...that does corn rows and dreadlocks!"
"Wow!" answers Erin. "I could use some help with my dreads!!!"
April, 2008, Vancouver, British Columbia:
"I am the fountain of affection
The instrument of joy
To keep the good times rolling
I'm the boy, I'm the boy...."
Yes! Oysterband fans from all over Vancouver and Oregon, crammed like sardines into a tiny foyer! Someone's accidently opened the door to Oysterband's soundcheck! Listen!
Who in their right mind would drive hundreds of miles to foreign lands to see an English folkrock band? Why, Ian and his mom from The Dalles!!! There are even rumors that someone traveled from Wisconsin and China to see the famed Oysterband!!!
Falun Folk Festival, Dalarna, Sweden, 1999: It was in the days of Michelle Delfino.
"A special acoustic performance of Oysterband at 'The Hotel!'" says Michelle..."and your invited!" Us...a personal invitation! Outside, in the darkness of night, they are playing, reducing my young children to mincemeat in the blocklong mosh pit. You can hear the voice of Emma Hardelin drifting like a sweet sparrow as you stand waiting for one of them outside the restroom! But here in "The Hotel," where Finnish accordionists jam quietly with Norwegian fiddle players, the Oysteraudience is subdued, except for Erin, who is jumping and rolling over the place...
"She's tired," I explain.
But Ian sits on the floor, mouth open, paralyzed with attention one minute, clapping wildly the next. Then the music stops, and the boys stroll out, down the middle aisle, as the only thing behind them is a big window. Ian stares up at the Welsh singer and his black glasses.
"John Jones!" my fourth grader exclaims in awe.
I would never see John or "The Hotel" again.
Isn't it odd that you can pretend you're writing something several years earlier? Isn't it odd how truth changes with time? But now it's the winter of 2005, and that packed lobby where you made that illicit MiniDisc of a Finnish accordionist and his friends is silent as Thor's tomb as you pay megakronor for your room. And now it's the spring of 2008, and your child (the one with the beard) smiles as he peeks through the door to alter of the St James Parish Hall.
Suddenly I hear a voice and see a robust bald man with a ponytail! He sees me too!
"Judith!" he exclaims. "You made it!" Steve Edge grabs me and hugs me! I hug him back, which is unusual, I keep my hands to myself, but I am so glad we made it!!!!
[to be continued]
Early Morning: I drove my car and white RV caravan up the ramp, onto the deck of the cruise ship with the rest, and parked it parallel so that the gulls could look down on it. I waited several days, doing laundry twice. But nothing happened.
"Why is this the Oysterband Cruise?" I asked. "Aren't they going to play?"
"It's just called that," shrugged the man. "It doesn't imply anything."
Ian and I got back into our car and drove off down the yellow-brown freeway. We began to plunge into a tunnel beneath the deep dark ocean. The dip of the road became vertical and I could no longer see or steer. We emerged deep within the bowels of Copenhagen, in the Earthquake Research Center, as featured in Peter Hoeg's "The Quiet Girl." Scientists were busy investigating a rectangular piece of the city that had dropped below sea level.
Late Evening: Out of the racetrack of the Seattle I5 Express Lane, and on through the night, lights skidding by like fireflies on a summer night. Burlington...Bellingham...Blaine, towards the dead of night and the Canadian border. At Customs, there are only two lanes and one Beautiful BC car ahead of us. Deep blue sky glows over the toll booth. The ferryman yawns.
"Why are you coming to Canada? When are you leaving?" The gate stick rises and we...Ian, Judith, and the little Aveo...are onboard the RV Oysterband.
"You can't be right up next to something, and at the same time want to understand it. Do you know what I mean?"
---Peter Hoeg, The Quiet Girl
Vancouver, April 2008 Trapped!!!....they were jamming in more and more seats to the Oyster Congregation! The inside of St James Hall is shaped like a barrel, and in just a few minutes, it would be awash with the finest sacramental vintage of music fans....Oysterheads!
Soon the boys were assembled on stage, having passed through customs as a distinguished delegation of greying English architects. Chopper...the guy with the cello...had a thumb piano in his hands. That could mean only thing:
"OVER THE WATER" they would start with, then
"BY NORTHERN LIGHTS"
At some point in my life, I would write down a set list, then write down a review. But at some point I realized that it was like the Whatchamacallit Principle...that if you attempt to observe something, a small atomic particle I guess, your observation will screw up the observation. And furthermore, you'd think for $25Canadian the Boys In Black would hand out a set list!!
John Jones is the Welsh singer...and sometime melodeonist....he has an amazing voice, I think, just perfect. I wonder why he wears dark glasses? He said:
"This is one of the first of our own songs we wrote, after we started as an offshoot of The Oyster Ceili Band, in Kent...."
"Whoo!" shouted someone in the Choir Loft.
"Are there people here from KENT!?!?" asked John. They don't call it British Columbia for nothing!
The Oysters began to play..."The Oxford Girl." The audience began to yelp!
Then they played a bunch of songs...most of their hits...after that. I have never heard musicians perform so perfectly!!!
Intermission came and went.
"I am the fountain of affection...the instrument of joy...." My favorite Oyster song!!! It's off of "Holy Bandits (1993), the seminal "Classic Period" album! Look at them, the Scotsman Ian Telfer, his bow sliding smooth as butterscotch pudding...and Alan Prosser shredding the guitar...and the new drummer from Wales, Dil Davies, banging away, safely protected from people who like Quiet Music....and the mosh pit...Oysterheads were scurrying in like ants to dance...
"There are people down there that you'd NEVER find in a mosh pit!" Like middle aged women...
"Why don't you go and dance, Mom?" Uh...
"Look!" exclaimed John Jones..."they're dancing! This is the first time on this tour we've got people dancing! Thank you British Columbia!!!"
Chopper will later write on MySpace:
-----We continue on into Vancouver to play in Saint James Hall, packed out again and this time the sit down audience wouldn't sit down for long. As usual we finish with Put Out The Lights totally acoustic, standing down on the floor with the crowd. Then it's champagne corks popping, a few slaps on Dil's back for his 50th gig and a huge sigh of relief that we got away with it once again.
See you soon....Chopper-----
All too soon it was over. But of course we banged our feet on the floor, and clapped our hands. Finally they came back!
"YO!!!" yelled Ian above the din.
The man on the other side of me asked him excitedly:
"Do you think they will play 'Blood Wedding?'" The man would be unfortunately disappointed.
Finally, just like Chopper said, the band played the last song out on the floor...what was left of it. I wondered if they would be as good as Harry Chapin was when he sang "Mail Order Annie" on the stage of the new Duluth Auditorium. What year was that?
Yo! They were!
Whether you have traveled the slow road or the fast, the blue of the lupines and the yellow of the balsam root will light your past.
May 2008: "Two Stories from the Road"
"Initial Encounter with The Wind" Saturday night, contra dance at Rockford Grange. Here they hem and use the term "country dance," not without reason.
"You boys ready to go?" Erin's door...shut tight as the thumb screw on the sink drain.
"Yeah!!!" my boys exclaim.
Out on the freeway, two miles west of The Dalles, me at the helm, the wheels hit a pool of ice and skid on bare,dry pavement. The wee car shimmies, then is carried, as if it were a plastic bag from Albersons, over two lanes. The steering wheel is attached to ether. The little Aveo hits the guardrail, then rolls down the embankment, hitting the Columbia and bursting into flames. At his next artistic appearance, Kerry Grombacher snaps a photo of the cross and Texas flag that Erin and Emma and Baby Victor have erected to commemorate our brief, sinful lives.
One second later and I have won the battle, but only because the Outo Vihma, the Strange Force has withdrawn capriciously.
"Whoa! What was that!"
"It was The Wind," I rely.
Lupines and balsam beneath crumpled oaks, I navigate the ancient turns and hills of the Old Columbia River Highway. The days are longer now, and though it is light, Ian is already asleep. Suddenly an orange sign appears:
"ROAD WORK AHEAD"
Then a flagger appears in a yellow-green vest. Her red sign says:
We stop. The flagger motions me to roll down the window.
"It will be just a few minutes," she tells us. "They're shooting a commercial up there!"
"A commercial? Might as well turn off the engine," I muse.
"Yeah, save gas, and roll up the window because it's cold out here!" And windy.
Some time later, two motorcycles pull up behind us...it is a grand but chilly day for cyclists.
I fumble for the Willamette Weekly in the back seat.
A white late-model Volkswacken camper pulls up third...the kind that says "Wesphalia" on it.
Finally, the flagger talks on her walkie talkie. The Water Service Truck (503)682-6723 on the side of the road pulls out...
"Alright, you can go now. 13 1/2 hours and they've finally wrapped it up!" says the flagger with a shake of the head. She throws the stop sign into her white pick-up and starts the engine. We follow the water truck. The cyclists hesitate, as if defrosting, then follow us.
I look to my right. Ian is asleep. On my left, twenty people mill around an old farmstead. The roadway in front of the driveway is wet.
Miles later, the sluggish tank truck turns into Rowena Crest Overlook. Beyond them, you can see the Columbia and its brown walls all the way to Murdock. You can also see the Ortley Anticline and thrust fault, part of the Yakima Fold Belt. Another one of these anticlines forms the Rattlesnake Hills AVA, over by Zillah.
The Aveo keeps on going. Suddenly, a wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) appears, puttering around on the roadside.
Have you wondered who these "Senior Audits" are? Imagine this! If you are 65 or older you can go to College free at Portland State! What's the catch? Well! The stipulation is that you don't get credit for the course, and that you don't bother the teacher. This means that not only do you not have to write papers and listen to the usual death threats about plagiarism...can you imagine some little punk instructor presciently assaulting a World War II vet this way?...but that you cannot even if you want to!!
Many Seniors like to take classes in the Foreign Language Department, where they irritate the other students by refusing to take tests. A gent with a masters degree sat next to me for two years in Finnish:
Ms. Marjo: "Ralph, you can take the test if you want to. I have an extra!"
Ralph: "Ei, Vain voin puhua vähän suomea että minun isoäiti ja isoisä puhuimme Northernissa Minnesotassa kun olin pieni...olen niin vanha oppia lukea ja kirjoittaa...."
Ms. Marjo: "You must be kidding.... You wouldn't fail. You speak great Finnish!!!"
May 2008, Portland, Oregon, "FL 399 Scandinavian Thrillers": "Students!" begins famous Danish author Peter Fogtdal. "You just saw 'Mifune', a Dogma95 film. What did you think of it?"
"There is no way in the world things could have happened in that way..." opines one of the graduate students. Graduate writing students are the prima donnas of these lit classes. They are under a lot of pressure to know everything. They have to be sharp as a tack and not use too many adjectives. I never want to be a writing student!!!
"I've read so much magical realism that I don't expect anything to be realistic."
"Yes! This wasn't magical realism, though." Where do you draw the line?
"The prostitutes seemed pretty happy and satisfied. I thought it was superficial in that respect," responds an undergraduate. Oh! People love to chatter in Peter's courses!
"That pimp seemed a little too tolerant when she left to become a housekeeper in the country [in this case Lolland]," added someone.
"Pam!" asked Peter. Senior Audits receive no mercy in Peter's discussions.
"I found in my practice that prostitutes aren't really very happy people. It's a psychologically degrading job. The only reason that most of them do it is their drug habit..."
<clip one week...pan around through the natural lighting of the uber-Unitus Credit Union using only unadulterated light and no weapons...other than a sharp tongue...>
"So what did you all think of 'Pusher'?" asks our teacher in his mushy Danish accent.
Some of the kids really liked the film. Others think it was disgusting.
"What you have to realize is that the subtitles are really bad. The reason it was so successful in Denmark is that the characters are actually saying very funny things. For example, the character Milo [played by Zlatko Buric] speaks really poor Danish, and much of what he says is really weird. A whole cult grew up around Milo..."
The class decides that it was chilling that so many awful things could happen to the characters, and in fact they weren't making THAT much money for the risks involved.
"It's a hard life. Most of them, though, don't want to work regular jobs," offers Pam. "When they can go out and get more money with so little effort. I've worked with drug dealers, and one thing they tell you is: 'I'm not gonna flip burgers at McDonalds.'"
"You've worked with drug dealers...you said you worked with prostitutes as well?"
"I've worked in rehabilitation, in clinical situations for thirty years with prostitutes, drug dealers, pimps..." Pam flashes a wry smile.
I wonder how many of my hitchhikers she's met.
"Winnebagos Are Symbolic"
In those days, there were more of us out there on the road, people our age, with their thumbs out. Hitchhiking...camping...was the aethos of the day.
1972, fueled by my dad's credit card...
"I knew where you were by my credit card statement," Bob Gennett told me later
...down the west coast from the City of Roses to Haight Street, three elven children (us!) already filling the car, they'd crawl into the hole in the back and every so often shake their heads in scorn...
"Another Winnebago. Fat ass old man. Those &$%^&)s never stop for ya."
But we did.
Our neighbors in Duluth owned that same Winnbago, the logo beginning to fade just like the April snow. Marge and Mike Mahan, they'd take the kids and the setters and go fishing, beyond the thin fringe of Superior, beyond civilization...
I'm on foot. I've picked up a copy of "Into the Wild" at Hollywood Video.
"Do you want to pay your fine for "Juno now"?" asks the cashier.
Of course I don't. But I do.
And I'm on my way across the parking lot to Safeway to get a 2 liter bottle of soda water. That same Winnebago, with its dented blue and yellow California plates, has followed me and is parked, waiting for me to notice. The back bumper and cargo hatch are gone; they gape like a missing jaw. Random blankets and tablecloths are stretched over the windows for the night.
I put the video on, and sat alone to watch it. Ian came over to look at the cover.
"I got this because I read about him in the Lonely Planet when I was in Alaska," I began.
"Jena Malone's in this!" he exclaimed.
I look at him.
"She's in Pride and Prejudice!" He sat down.
"He dies? You didn't tell me that he dies," said Ian.
"I did, but you weren't listening."
"Don't ever do this to me," I say.
Finns in America"
Portland, March 2008: It is rare for a night-owl to get stuck in a traffic jam going INTO Portland, but that day was different. Maybe there was a stall, a wreck...the memory fails. But I was right there in the middle lane at 11AM, inching in....
A commercial pickup rolled by in the left lane. A young dude in a baseball cap was hanging out the window.
"Hey!!!" he yelled at me.
I looked at him. He was maybe 25, and wearing a baseball cap, as I said.
"Hauskaa Tavata!!!????" I replied. Nice to meet you.
"Isn't that right?"
"Yeah!" Then I remembered the Suomi flag on my hatch. I have two lippua hatchella. The other one says "Pray For Peace" and has a dove flying over the Amerikalainen Lippu...uh...flag.
"Hyvää huomentaa!!" I said back.
"Hyvää huomentaa! What does that mean?"
"Hyvää huomentaa...hyvää huomentaa..." he repeated. Then the pickup darted off.
"The Exception," by Christian Jungersen, p 119.
"I personally believe we hear too much about the Holocaust," begins our teacher, the famous Danish author Peter F. "And my grandfather was Jewish! He escaped to Sweden in the bottom of a boat. But we hear about it all the time...and there are so many other instances of genocide which we do not talk about...I'm particularly interested in the Armenian genocide..."
So was Kurt Vonnegut.
"...that have killed millions of people. What do you think?" He motions towards a senior audit, a robust blonde who has her feet propped up on her red walker.
She speaks with an accent.
"Growing up in Germany...as a teen during the war....I don't remember anything about the Holocaust. We never knew anything about it...." she began.
"And 'the forgotten genocide' that is written up in the book?" After the war, or at least this is what it says in the fiction book we are reading, "more than 15 million Germans were expelled..." from their homes in eastern Europe and "more than 2 million German Civilians were either murdered or died from starvation, cold, or the terrible ordeals they endured....it wiped out East German culture." [p 122-123]. According to that great collegiate authority, Wikipepedia, the number of deaths was only 500,000 to one million.
"[Let's put it this way...]We had relatives in East Germany," she answers. "And, um...." she pauses, "we had quite a few losses."
"I know exactly where The Dalles is," Trackwalker assures you. "I spent some time in Wishram in the late 80s!"
You are standing in Trackwalkers vast yard, also known as "Stump Ranch," in suburban Alger, Washington. You know the Alger exit...right there between Burlington and Bellingham. Many of the hemlocks in Trackwalker's forest are growing out of huge old stumps. A large truck with 2 small steel parasitic twin wheels is parked in front. You know you're in the right place.
"Wishram!" you exclaim. "Wow!" Wishram, Washington is perhaps 15 miles upriver from The Dalles, in the dry steppe to the east...the direction in which you seldom drive. It is an old railroad town, and there is a bridge for trains there, across the Columbia. It is the illogical boarding point if you want to ride anywhere on Amtrak. According to Wikipedia, 123 people live in Wishram; 26% are below the poverty line. The town has seen better days.
"When I got there, they had an employee cafe. Everyone came to greet me! The next day they were demolishing it with the bulldozer!"
"Wow!" you exclaim.
"Did you know Wishram is the oldest continuously occupied community in North America?" you say.
"Naw....that can't be true!"
"It is! There's a sign right there! The Indians...." Wishram is right there by Celilo Falls, where the Native Americans caught salmon for thousands of years. All this ended when The Dalles Dam was built.
Usually, I'd be singing with the Sacred Cow Harmogenizers at Northwest FolkLife, but things have gone awry. For one thing, the Stump Ranch II International Bill Tracker Gathering has been placed on Saturday afternoon. The second is that my singing buddy Ian is chained to his alterego...Paris of "Tiger At the Gates." The third is that Portland Sacred Harp failed to personally inform me about the Sacred Cows.
Soon, however, I will steer my rental Dodge Caravan and its cargo of five rowdy 9th graders south to Seattle, to wander aimlessly around Northwest Folklife. No one will attempt to shoot me.
"Isn't there more to Corbett, considering the size of the school?"
There is one gas pump in Corbett, Oregon. It's located outside of the charming Corbett Country Market, right by the door. The grocery reminds me of the ones you see along the highway in Maine or New Hampshire. That's us...the New England of the West. I'm glad to see it, because I'm trapped in a high school field trip debacle that is rapidly spiraling downwards, along with the road that descends to the Columbia River. Almost out of fuel for the Aveo, I am haunted by AAA demons.
I park my car by the lone pump, topped by a big sign that says: "4.10." Another sign reads "Price is X2." No one comes out. In Oregon you cannot pump your own gas, so usually some furtive guy is lounging around with baited breath just waiting to shove that nozzle in your auto.
But maybe this is an exception....like the flights to Dutch Harbor.
I walk into the store. The clerk, a woman with strawberry blonde hair and reddish, oblong glasses (I may be wrong about this) is talking to a customer.
"Haven't seen you in a while! <clip>"
As he leaves, I interject: "Could I buy some gas?"
"$15 worth of regular on pump....um..." Oops.
"Now...the price will be twice what it reads on the pump. I just wanted to make sure you knew that, before we start."
I assure her that I'd read the sign."
"Our pump only goes up to $3.99. There's a 17 week waiting list for new pumps," she says with a touch of bitterness.
We descend the stairs to the pump.
"The prices are really high!"
"Yeah...it should have never happened like this, you know what I mean?" she replies.
The first time, I have found, is often the best. The first Folk Alliance...the first Balkanalia!...and the first Northwest Folk Life. After that, there's no real shock value.
"Didn't we stay downtown one year and ride the monorail?" asks Erin. "That was fun!" FUN!?! I had to keep my eyes on Ian and Erin at all times: two eyes on rugrats and one eye gazing in awe at Folklife's extravagant musical whirlpool. In those days, I used disposable cameras. They were my fourth defective eye.
That was the first year...
This year, Erin has chosen four friends...more than ever before...to come with her.
"You all seem to get along so well!" I compliment.
"That's because I chose them with harmony in mind," Erin replies.
...and to my amazement, their parents have all allowed them to come! I've squashed all of us into a suite at the Quality Inn Space Needle. The girls (Erin, Lilian, and Sage) are further squashed, like your middle three fingers, on a king sized bed in the living room, next to my roll-away. The room threatens to explode, like Sage's Pop-Its.....
"Washington is really lax on its firecracker regulations!" says Sage.
....The boys (Alfredo and Trace) each have a spacious double bed in the bedroom.
"We should have done this differently...." Erin will suggest, after the fact.
Interestingly, my roll-away is A-OK.
Now we are driving south along I5 from Alger, where we attended a bill tracker gathering at Stump Ranch.
It's later than I'd counted on; Saturday is almost gone, and Folklife is winding down.
Soon we will park our rental van at the Cruise Passenger-infested Quality Inn, and the children...no...teenagers will move off, always together, like a chaingang or a huge symbiotic amoeba.
Then I will be
ALONE AT NORTHWEST FOLKLIFE!!!
[to be continued]
Sunset was forming over Seattle and its weird Saturday inhabitants...
It was only a few blocks to the festival and it was only a minutes till I reached the best place to be if you're looking for a hot time...the Mural Ampitheatre!!! In the evening, this is where they put the bands with mass appeal and drums. As always, a big crowd of people was there....a black man with dreads, a white girl with dreads (mmm! What's that smell? Is something burning...a spear maybe?), a middle class couple, and older man with long white hair, punks...all dancing in the mosh pit....some step dancing, some waving their arms around, some.... As usual, Zone D-L was just standing there. The band at this time was Flowmotion . I cut rudely through the octopus arms of the dancers and stood at the left wing trying to get a good shot, but it was too dark and darn them, the band kept moving. I stayed for a couple of tunes. I'm not sure it's really folk music. But you know what they say.
The real thrill, though, is taking photos of buskers. The first year I was there I polluted gaia with about 7 plastic cameras worth of buskers. After 7 years, some of them hadn't moved an inch. "While it is still light!" I exclaimed dreamily. Almost light. The first ones I came upon were a guy with a fiddle and a woman with an accordion. I wondered who they were, they were pretty good! They played Eastern European tunes, too! Maybe they had another life...
"Hi MOM!!" Five little puppies gathered around me. I wondered if they were actually listening to the superb selection of busker music, or if they were just goofing off. But the good thing was that they were staying together like a amoebic chaingang!
"Line up! Let me take your photo here by the big fountain!" What cards they were! I followed then about 20 feet and took a couple flash photos with my moribund coolpix. They didn't even notice.
After that I noticed a man and a woman with accordions playing a Russian Chestnut. What was it? It sounded like Meadowlands, but it wasn't. Then they screwed up and retreated to a pillar to bone up. My guess was that they weren't even buskers, they were jammers...and perhaps future lovers....trying to convey a tune by ear. Then I took a photo of a band with a washboard. By that time it was just too dark! I returned to the Mural Amphitheater where things and people were really smoking. Wow! One of my favorites! The Clumsy Lovers from Vancouver, eh? I ploughed like an ice-breaker through hostile waters to reach the side of the stage again. The time Emma (my phantom older daughter) came up in May...which year was that?...we stayed here in the dark for the whole show, bouncing to the music and losing Erin! We were all so carefree then. They closed that night too...they must be habitual closers. I snapped a few and then turned...a man with a tripod was poised and slipped immediately into my vantage point!! Then I stood in front and took a couple flashes to an American tune about an old woman, but it was hard with moshers bobbing up and down.
After a while I wondered what was going on a few feet away at the Center House. Scandinavian Dancing!!! What I really dislike about Folklife is that there are so many choices and I am increasingly unwilling to deal with that. The current band was called Mad Fiddlu. Try looking that up on the internet and you won't find it. They had not one but two nyckelharps! The word "nyckel" is Svenska for "key." Jag kan inte hitta på mina nyclkar. Jag är så dum, etc. Plus a bouzouki. Suddenly the phone rang! It was Ian. I made my way to the door and returned the call.
"Whatcha doing, Mom?" asked Paris.
"Well...I'm in here listening to TWO nyckelharps...and over there is The Clumsy Lovers. What a choice! Can you imagine it? How was your play tonite?" Had he abduction any more Greek women...with a face that launched a thousand ships?
Anyway, the Nyckelharp man also sang! A lot of people were out there dancing to the trio. I climbed up to the balcony, and joined others in snapping photos. I thought of watching people dancing to Hoven Droven at WOMEX in Stockholm, in the days of Michelle Delfino. Emma was there too, and Martyn Bennett was right behind us!!
I drifted back to the Clumsy Lovers and then back to the Swedes. A bunch of women were up on stage with fiddles and I figured they were Hale Bill and the Bops, thatäs what the program said, but you never know. Sometimes they switch bands again, and sometimes they don't even show up, as I would learn tomorrow when I braved potential gunfire and even worse fought thousands of people with strollers to see Vishten.
After they were done, I left and went back to my suite. The children were right at my heels.
"Wow! Let's go swimming now!" exclaimed Sage.
"You'd better hurry...it closes at midnight!"
"What time is it now?"
"Eleven forty five!"
[Oops! That was the night before! But they did go swimming.....)
Folklife 2: "Changes in the Way I Get Music To Play On The Radio"
Sunday morning commenced as a blur...but after that I strolled up to Northwest Folklife again, alone except for my pathetic coolpix...
The dark, secretive evening crowd at the Mural Amphitheater was now replaced by the big Orkestar Zirconium, pumping out loud brass pesudo-balkan hits! How much more colorful the big band was now, in this sunlight perfect day, rather than stuffed into a dank subbasement to play on my radio show. I was happy not to have any jet-lagged responsibility for them. I moved on to the Center House where Vivian and Phil Williams were playing some kind of Folk Dance music to...how happy the dancers are as they are instructed on new dances...and who is that? why, it's Susan Reagal, Portland's Balkan dancing queen, moonlighting with some English country dance! How dedicated she is!
Not having a dance partner, I then took to the sidewalks to photograph buskers. I snapped the dude with the 2 steel mushrooms, and then the junior birdman puppeteer. I may have photographed them at earlier Folklives and filed them under "unusual." Then, gradually! A young nuevo-euro garage band, madame flod! Hmm...something Seattle is famous for... I didn't know it at the time, but they are from Eugene....I bought a CD, the price was right, in a little slip case and have played it a couple times on the air. What an unusual bass!!! Then three young men with a hookah...is that legal?, an even younger fiddler, and the chinese man with the lovely erhu music whose CDR I bought in years past...where is it now? The Alder Street Allstars, also from Eugene...must be garage bluegrass...but wait! That's not English!!! Italian? Snap that one up for $5 as well. What's the point of going to Folk Alliance when you have all these garage bands right here? ...I take some more photos, and then pick up a few more CDs at the official store...a couple years back I picked up a bunch of CDs here, but now I have most of the European CDs that they're selling here. I find a few...which I play a couple times on my shows...and then have my usual conversation with the cashier:
"I bet you don't honor the Oregon sales tax agreement," I begin...
"No," he says. "The price has the sales tax built in."
"Uh-huh," I answer. What a convenience to Folk Life!!! And how lucky the State of Washington!!!
Several years ago, I saw an ad for Dusty Strings Music, and drove my van over there, just like today, on a Sunday afternoon, and bought a couple dozen sale CDs, most of them European....lots of stuff from Spain and France. I still play some of those on the air. What a great time to drive over and get some more.
<clip> I weed through the sale bin...some Irish...well....I pick out a John Tams and an Early Reptile.
"A few years ago, I bought a whole bunch of European CDs on sale here," I mentioned to the clerk....maybe they were hidden in back and would be revealed!
"No...we don't carry much of that kind of stuff any more," said the clerk.
On the long hike back to the rental van, a man, perhaps in his thirties, pulls up to me on foot and points to my fleece jacket.
"Gogol Bordello! Did you see them when they were in town?"
"No...in Portland. Pretty wild. Luckily I was in the Adult Balcony! The whole audience seemed to know the songs!" I answered.
I'm starting to put Northwest Folklife, behind me...despite the fact that it took place above me on the map...in Seattle, under the Space Needle. I can't remember anything that happened!! That's why I took pictures.
<continued> "Folklife III or IV...can't remember...."
The Kate White Band from VancouverWA..."come and see our show!!"....many of the buskers are actually NWF stage musicians, stuck outside like hyper-mechanized billboards for the remaining hoursSNAP!!!..........Bagpiper Don from Seattle, with phenomenal lungs to stand outside for hours, droning on and onSNAP!...I buy one of his famous handscrawled $5 cdrs in the homemade paper cover...Spoonshine from AnacortesSNAP!.....The Amoebic Five from The DallesSNAP!
"What are you going to do next, MOM?" asks Erin.
"I'm going to go over and see John," I answer.
"Oh? I was wondering about him. Where is he?"
"He's over in the...uh...some Cafe....."
Then the big protoplasm slithered away....leaving me to check my map and schedule....
John Palmes...I announce him all the weeks that I don't forget to bring his CD to my programme. "Mr John Palmes from Juneau, started the show off on his mouthbow." I say, or something equivalent. I like the sound of that mouthbow! This year he was performing at the Cafe Impromptu, which was a corner of a room backed by windows on both sides. Later in the day, Mark Kailana Nelson on Hawaiian slack key would find the windows a sun-filled nightmare. Me too. But now it was pretty much OK.
John didn't have his mouthbow at this performance, however, just a guitar. He played several topical songs....ones that he'd done before on my show in February. Buddy Tabor's "Waiting On A Miracle." "We Don't Seem Kumbaya No More." "Dzantik'iheeni" or "The Naming of a School in Juneau." "Born To Be a Butterfly." He sang others too, and the audience listened with hungry ears, their heads nodding silently. Then John got up and walked to the back of the room with his guitar. People began to clap....
"John! You have some time left! Come and do another one!!!" said the MC.
And that is what he did, shining in the blue of the coastal sky. The time is right for this kind of music. The time is right for the Wisdom of the Elders.
[to be continued]--------------------------------------------------=-=
The Dalles, June 2008: It had been several hours ago that I'd left Erin and Lillian off in the parking lot of J.C. Penney's.
"Film a scene from Romeo and Juliet!!! What kind of a teacher gives an assignment like this the last weekend of the term?" ranted Erin. "She could have at least gotten us video cameras!" The whole thing had turned into a snafu. We were eating lunch at the chic Petite Provence on 2nd...just a few blocks from the #1 JC Penneys in Oregon...when they decided to round up the cast and crew
"Sarah's not coming! She's going to a graduation party instead!!!," Erin (Tybalt) exclaimed as she snapped her cell phone closed. But Sage was....and John Young, the man with the video camera. "She's got such a bit part....maybe John can just leave the camera still somewhere and come in and do it....."
"How about your brother?" suggested Lilian.
"No one knows where he is!" I began.
"Ugh! Not my brother. He has a BEARD and he is TOO TALL!!" Poor Ian...he did not fit in as a 9th grader. Or even any high schooler at all, as he had just graduated two hours earlier!!!
Whatever, soon we arrived at J.C. Penney's. The girls scanned the alley.
"Is Sage here?" I wondered...she was the third major player, and non-disposable.
"No...but there's John Yonge!" said Erin. He didn't look all that short...but maybe it was the eager look on his face....a young cinematographer willing to bud out like a camelia now that he had found innocent victims.
Now, they have arrived home...having filmed 9 times the amount of material that they need...
"John is going to edit it on his computer!"
....And stopped by the bowling alley as well!
"Someone called the police on us." It was the sword fight. Erin was using a letter opener, a gift for MY graduation 40 years ago.
"Someone thought the fight was real," complains Erin.
June, 2008. I swing left...west...onto Washington 14, and there they are! Two large Indians! I swerve towards them and then reconsider...I need to buy gas first.
"Hmm...I wonder if they thought I was trying to run them down, like that dead cat I just saw on US197?
But no....they are already running towards me.
"How far ya going?" I ask as they open the door.
"Not very far"...said the one who tried to sit on my backpack in the front seat. "My brother is just going to Murdock...that's just a little down the road."
"That's where I was going for gasoline!" I exclaim.
The man in the front seat is called something like Shawn McConnville (I shake his leather paw) and he lives in Wishram sometimes, but more likely Stevenson. He doesn't like Wishram, because its too dry. I find out later that he is a Nez Pierce and Yakama, and the mother of his four children is Warm Springs.
"Sounds Irish," and "Stevenson is pretty wet!" are my comments.
His brother is called Jamie Jim. We leave him off at Murdock Mini-Mart ($42 to fill up an Aveo!). He lives in Wishram all the time. I associate the Jims with Celilo Village. However, there are no Jims, I will find out as I write, in the phone book.
"Better call her and let her know I'm coming," says Jamie. Shawn pulls out his cell phone.
The flowers on the roadside are white now; before they were yellows and blues. Summer is coming, but right now it is unseasonably cold.
Somewhere past Lyle a man in his 50s I think, looks a lot like John Palmes or my husband...skinny with a beard and white hair...is standing with his thumb out. Right there next to him is an old silver Toyota pick-up with topper. It's dead. I don't realize this until I've past.
"Wow...do you think he's having trouble?"
"I think if you pick him up, he would appreciate it very much," says Jamie.
I turn around and had back. I turn around again, the rear of my car sticking out in the right lane. I hope no one will hit my Aveo!
The man in distress climbs in and introduces himself and shakes hands. "I'm Ed Fogastle from Appleton!" Appleton is a very rural community inland from the river, up and up above the lower tree line. "The guy who sold this truck to me said, if it ever gets down to empty, you'll stop moving. I tried to fill up last night in at Hattenhauer's, and they said they were out of unleaded until they got a delivery. I was low then! I hit on the tank and it sounded hollow. Thanks for picking me up."
"I'm just like a bus service today...." I say.
We drop Mr. Fogastle off at Hattenhauer's...
"Real nice people, the Hattenhauers...." comments Shawn.
"Yeah they are!" answers Ed.
Shawn continues with me over the Hood River Bridge. He's decided to go along as far as Cascade Locks, since I'm going on the freeway. He knows some people there; they're fishing for squawfish now, and not catching many, but he just wants to fish for the fun of it. A good idea, considering the consensus on the state of the water in the Columbia River.
"My oldest son," he begins, "is at the end of his first year at Mount Hood Community College. He's doing really well....he's in Biology; they have the best fisheries and wildlife program there."
"Hmm..." I comment.
"He's done well, so he will start getting his grants. He gets money for himself from the Warm Springs...the Nez Pierce are poor. Every year the grant increases."
"Encourages them to stay in, I guess!" I remember "Charlene," or Coleen her real name, the woman from Warm Springs who was in my Forest Ecology Course at CGCC. She had wanted to continue on in Wildlife Biology. I wondered what she was doing now.
I gaze out the car window. The "Welcome, Warm Springs" sign is still waving hopefully. But the Warm Springs casino has met powerful opposition from the people who lived in the Gorge. Who wants a casino in paradise?
"My younger son...he just wants to play basketball! He was chosen to represent Oregon...." If he goes to school in Klickitat, Washington, how's come he's representing Oregon, I wonder, but do not ask...."in the Indigenous People Games...that's what *I* call them, in Canada. Only 8 people are chosen, and he makes high grades too, that's how he was chosen."
The Cascade Locks exit is here already!
"If you can let me out at the first gas station..." he hints
That's what I do. Good luck fishing, Shawn!!!
I kept your letters for a long time...decades in fact. You wrote me in French.
Now, more often than not, I forget they ever existed.
This morning I took the envelope I kept them in, out into the Oregon sunshine and blue sky.
I opened the envelope, and placed the letters one by one onto the grill of the Coleman stove.
I lit a match for each letter and burned each one, not reading it before hand, not wanting to read it.
Each letter burst into flames. Once, in a gust of wind, I thought I would be ignited too!!!
I picked each letter up and put it in a container. Most of the ashes were black, but one letter burned to white.
I walked down to Mill Creek, which flows beside our yard, and scattered the letters into it.
Soon they will be in the Columbia River.
I hope they will reach the Pacific
"Ian!" I say to my cell phone. "I'm by Muirhead Canning now...don't know when the signal will go, so I'm calling now. Can you be out by the road? I don't
want to go up that driveway in the dark!" I snap the ingenius device shut and pull out, destined to drive in the ghostly darkness of....
"Mill Creek Road"
The Dalles, Oregon, June 2008
Now have come the final hours for the The Dalles Wahtonka High School exchange students. Soon, alas, they will all be deported to the primitive countries of their birth, for instance Sweden and Denmark; none of these nations offer anywhere near the freedoom and material wealth of America! That's why I am driving Ian down Mill Creek Road, past the neat green irrigated orchards that checkerboard the hillsides, until they give way to brown Oregon white oak scrub, past the rows of crucified Vitis vinifera that line Mill Creek, past the grange hall where the The Dalles Theater Company stores its stuff, past...
Travelling on washboard gravel, the trees grow denser...and the homesteads sparser. Soon we will be on a four wheel drive track. The Aveo only has two!
I am taking Ian to a goodbye party for Eugene, a guy from Taiwan whose hair is a blond haystack. His real name is something like Jian Jiang, and he is staying with a host family named Gooch. Finally I see it (Gooch) on a dusty mailbox, and turn up into the tortuous driveway, also paved with dust and gravel.
"Imagine what this road would be like in winter!!" I complain. I KNOW what it would be like in winter, because I've driven out here to see how deep the snow is. "Not maintained" is how it is.
Ian disembarks, but after only three hours I am headed back, destined to drive the ghostly darkness, the oaks rising like eerie copses.
I turn around on the darkening road....it is 10:30 and sunset is almost over...pull over to the mailbox, ignite my emergency blinkers, peer upwards at the house lights. Then three people appear, laughing and talking. It's Ian and two Third World women, Heena and Youssra, who need rides!!!!
The youths settle into the Aveo. Suddenly a huge, battered pick-up pulls up and the burly black-bearded driver begins to speak with concern:
"Where is you Oregon Outback Permit? Why are you here in Uber-Paradise?" Ha, no I'm just making that up for ironic effect. My license frame says "Smith: Hood River," so I'm safe. What he actually said was:
"You folks need any help?"
"I'm just picking people up! Thank you!" I assure him.
"What are you going to do when you get home?" asks Ian.
"I have one more year of school in India," begins Heena, who will do most of the talking. "Then I want to get an M.B.A. in Finance. I'd like to get a bachelors first. Ha ha!Youssra wants to be a tour guide in Egypt...or a translator. Where was it you went, Ian?"
"Did they speak mostly English to you?"
"Most of the time...but I picked up a lot of Finnish. At first I tried to correct them, but I gave up. I figured as long as we understood each other, that was all that mattered."
"Ha! ha! I remember when people used the word "coz." I had no idea what that was! Then someone told me..."be-cause"!!!!"
Mosier, Oregon, June 2008: You can see them all along the roadsides now...bachelor buttons!! These pretty blue Composites are an invasive species, a cultivar gone wild, making a nuisance of itself. Mount Hood rises December snow white above them, like a Klansman head. Global Warming is vacationing somewhere other than the Columbia Gorge!!!
"How was the movie?" I ask. Erin has been to the movies in Hood River with her friend Lilian.
"It was Ok...I mean, as movies go, it was better than most. But the bad guys were abducted by a flying saucer. It spoiled the whole movie for me. How was your drive home?"
"I picked up a couple of guys..."
"I knew you'd do that," sez Erin.
"Did you see them on the way there?" I hadn't.
"Erin! Look over on your right! DEER!!!" There were four of them, standing in a grove of ponderosa pine!
"In Minnesota, they really hate deer," she begins. "...they eat everything and they breed like rabbits...."
"Where are you going?" I asked.
"As far EAST as you can take us!"
"I'm just going to The Dalles..." I said. Seventeen miles.
But The Dalles was fine with them. "We started out in Hood River yesterday and got to Arlington..."
"....Then we hopped a freight that we thought was going east...but it was going WEST! It took us back here to Mosier...." A net gain of three miles!
"....We saw all this on the train yesterday!"
The boys both had backpacks...I'd originally mistaken them for hikers. I figured they were in their twenties, but you never know. The one in the front seat was a little pudgy and not too tall. The one in the back was a phantom I really didn't look at until he got out. He was tall, and blond, and bearded, thin as a pine tree, with colorful tattoos all over his arms.
"Where is it you are actually going?" I queried.
"Wyoming," said the man in front.
"Where are you originally from?" I asked.
"Southern California. We've had enough of southern California."
"Look over there..." said the man in front. "That mountain over there looks like a painting!"
I took the opportunity to point out the geology. "That's a thrust fault over there. Those rocks have been shoved over the others. See how the beds are arched up?" I took my hands off the wheel to make a roof with my fingers. "That's the Ortley Anticline."
"Huh! Do you get a lot of earthquakes here?"
"I've never felt one. A lot of people felt the one that caused so much trouble for Olympia. 2001, I guess. But I was in my car and didn't feel anything!"
"My dad lives a couple miles from the San Andreas Fault! When I was a kid we had a big one, like 7.2."
"Was that in the 90s?" asked the illustrated man in back.
"No...the 80s!" countered the man in the passenger seat.
"Hey...that's a big dam! Do you get to use the power? Where I lived, all the power went to Las Vegas."
"Some of it does. That's why they built the aluminum plant over there. Now Google's server farm is here because of the dam. On the other hand, the reason the aluminum plant closed is because they needed power in southern California!," I blithered.
Two men were sitting on a precarious narrow shoulder, between the West and City Center exit. Their thumbs were out!
"There's nothing I can do..." I shrugged.
"There's a lot of us out here right now," explained the man in front.
I have begun to wonder about the trips to Portland, about the high price of fuel...the more georges I spend for gasoline, the more dollar bills I deface...and worse yet, the more gasoline I squander. Take my husband, on the other hand, he rides his bike EVERYWHERE....to work at Google and even to Home Depot to buy lumber. His Suburu sits in the drive, rusting away for weeks at a time! How green he is! So...should I just quit doing radio? Should I stop taking road trips? Should I just give up on life?
A good start is driving your Aveo 55 on the freeway, which is *really* irritating to every other vehicle on the road. Tuesday I cranked my leaden foot down to 60, and Sunday, I bottomed at 55. Everyone passed me...even the semis. The speed limit for semis is 55, too! Everyone passed me but one truck and a grey SUV with Minnesota plates that tailed me all the way from Corbett to Troutdale. Then they pulled off at a Hiking Area.
Another thing you can do is amortize by picking up hitchhikers....
June 2008, Dallesport, Washington. Onto the The Dalles bridge over the Columbia on and on to the T where US197 meets WA14, beneath the dry brown Columbia Hills. There he is! A large Indian in a white shirt with his thumb up....and headed east. Where is he going? Wishram? Yakima? I turn left, towards Vancouver and the West and, still watching him in the rearview, a big white van pulls to the shoulder, and he is running towards it......
We fill up at Murdock Mini-Mart, and then cross over again at Hood River. In doing so, we travel from the American West to the Pacific Northwest....the boundary is somewhere between Lyle and Bingen, between the ponderosas and the douglas firs. We stop, like we usually do, at the Shell station, where they have dense, fresh baked cranberry scones for me and chicken tenders and corn dogs for Ian.
"Whoa! That's a great haircut!" exclaims the blonde-haired clerk approvingly. They know us there. Just last Tuesday, the brown-haired clerk said to me:
"Do you live in The Dalles? I saw you there, walking past Albertson's, looked like you had some groceries...."
Yep, that was probably me.
Then we arrive in Portland, where I do my radio show and Ian goes to the Apple store, to scout out stuff for his graduation MacBook. Then we drive to McMennemins Kennedy School, where we eat dinnunch...
"I'll have the aho tuna sandwich and...just water.
"I'll have a cheeseburger and a Terminator Milkshake," says Ian.
"I'll have to see your ID!" demands the waiter. You have to have an ID to sit at a tall table as well, the ones with tall stools.
"Uh...I don't have it with me," answers Ian. "I'll just have a mocha blast, then."
"I thought it was like beer bread...the Terminator Stout would just be THERE, but not really THERE," he explains.
Then we join Portland Sacred Harp in song. Then we begin the drive home.
They were there, right by the east Cascade Locks entrance ramp: two boys with tie die shirts and a sign that reads Boise.
"Ian...we have some hitchhikers!" I announce, as he stares at "'Allo 'Allo" reruns on the screen of his MacBook. I get out to put our packs in the trunk.
"We're going to The Dalles, 40 miles east...." I tell the pudgy one.
Their faces fell. "No..uh, uh.." he answers. "We're looking for a ride all the way to Idaho. We've got one in the morning from someone in Cascade Locks, if we can't find one tonite."
"Boise!" Ian exclaims as I settle into the drivers seat. "Ha! Good luck!"
The Dalles....June 2008 "Racoons"
It is the most beautiful evenings of the year! There is a soft breeze and the sky is black merging to an orange-blue on the western horizon. Earlier, a trumpet player on the balcony across Mill Creek stood lazily picking his way through old Herb Alpert tunes. But now, it is almost ten o'clock, and Erin Day-Gennett (shorn of her dreadlocks and looking very different!) is sitting on the back steps that lead to the patio, listening to Baseball Bear on her headphones.
"No one can see me now!" she rationalizes. "No one will think I'm a freak-o maniac!" She begins to tap her feet wildly to the music!!!
"Run!!!" exclaims Ricky Raccoon, until now enjoying the brisk night hunt. "It's Erin in her Disco Fury mode!!!"
Whoosh! Right there beside her, eight legs with stripes panic and make a dash for the creek!!!
"Erin was attacked by raccoons!" The rumor spread around the household.
"They just went past me...they were right by me and I couldn't see them," she rolled her eyes.
"Usually it's skunks out on the patio," said her mother.
"If they were skunks they would have sprayed me," replied Erin.
The next evening, amidst the sound of chirping crickets, Erin's father will inform Freddy the Cat, as if he didn't know. He will gaze out the vast back windows toward the patio and the strawberry bed and say:
"Freddy...A couple of your raccoon buddies scared Erin out there last night!"
and then he will tell Erin:
"He said he invited some Racoons over, but you scared them off. Tonight he's invited some Skunks over!"
The same animal jokes circulate over and over.
"Whooohooo!!!" cries Erin. "It's raining!" But a few seconds later she returns from outside....in fact, right from the place that she was attacked brutally by raccoons last week.
"It's just sort of drizzling," she announces dejectedly.
That is good, because it is thundering, and, as I had approached TD from Portland I had spied a thin twig of lightening above Columbia Gorge Community College. Thunder and lightning may mean nothing to you, but out here it is really something special that should be regarded with beautiful caution, like, for example, a dancing rabid skunk, or the beaded lizard of the west. Since I've lived here I've only seen lightning three times!!! That's how the weather is here...not like the midwest.
It has been an odd year. For a while, summer was like August in Iceland, and I pretended to be in the midst of sheep and grim fishing boats and volcanoes....and as if by magic, they appeared!! Then, two days ago, summer hit like the eruption of Grímsvötn....
The Dalles, June 2008: The Woman from Oregon was on a dangerous 102 deg. misson: to buy 2 l. of Diet Rite and Bananas at Albertsons, as well as some popsicles and defectively packed Malt-o-Meal Mini Spooners (99c) at Grocery Outlet. What happened is that the zip lock is not attached to one side of the bag. WfO stared at the haze in the sky...probably more grass fires out by the Google Server Farm...and looked down again. The front curb of Albertson's was lined with scruffy migrant workers, staring blindly ahead as they ate popsicles and waited for their rides...
It was a very special day in Dalles City. It was Ian's 19th birthday! WfO had spent the day remembering her own 19th birthday, marching in Washington during the Moratorium, and the scent of tear gas. Then she recalled Texas and the chaotic birthday parties with the books wrapped in gaudy paper, and then, all the planes she had put her son on, to camp in Minnesota the week before his birthday. Soon she would have no minors at home at all...
"What do you want to do for your birthday?" she asked. She'd already stretched the MacBook to include both graduation and this event, smart girl.
"Dunno, what do you have in mind?" retorted Ian jovially. She'd thought it was enough, to leave him be as he conquered the world (in the name of Sweden) on his shiny white laptop.
"Hmm...let's load up all your friends and go drinking in Vancouver. You're old enough to drink in British Columbia!"
His dad would later point out that this event would not be very popular with the other parents. But how are you going to keep them up on the orchard after they've seen Case Western Reserve?
However, as evening approached, the pale lad crawled out of his cave again.
"Could we...uh...eat somewhere classier than Taco Time tonite?"
"What do you have in mind?" she queried.
Rommels...Italian cuisine with a Bulgarian touch...is the classiest place in town. Yet there are items on the menu that even people living here in The Dalles can afford.
In an hour the family members who were reading 50% immersed in Mill Creek were now plunging into Yellow Aveo. They were on their way!
"Hello!" greeted Rommel himself. "Sit right down here at this table!" He looked at Ian. "You got a haircut! I think of doing that myself sometimes." He whipped his long thick black pony tail a couple of times. The restaurant, unlike Ian's house, was functionally air conditioned.
The little family studied the menu, then started dunking holey bread from the basket into plates of olive oil.
"I'll have rigatoni," said Ian to the waitress, etc etc.
"Can you close your book?" demanded Erin. "This is a restaurant!"
Then someone said, "Can you stop texting?"
"Can I just look?" pleaded Erin. "I won't answer!"
Erin had spent the day texting Tony in Dallesport.
"Y-not?" said Ian. No one had even heard of Tony before!!
"This is what he looks like. I got it off of MySpace," she said as she cursorily waved her cell phone at everyone.
Did she actually know this Tony guy? Or was he a dirty old man from the internet?
"I think I talked to him at the [rescheduled] Winter Formal. He was dancing with Lilian a lot. I think he must go to school in Lyle."
"If he lives in Washington, what was he doing at a The Dalles Wahtonka dance?" my husband asked suspiciously. Wasn't it illegal, like buying hi-powered fireworks in Washington, or low-powered Mountain Dew in BC?
"Stephanie got him a guest pass. It was back when she liked him." Stephanie? Whoa!! Who on earth was Stephanie?
After some time, our food came.
I am reading a book called "River Song."
"New Kid In Town"
Mosier Oregon, July 1, 2008. I haven't seen anyone with their thumb out all day. That's why I am so surprised to see a man sitting at the Mosier entrance ramp with this thumb out, so stunned that I don't think of stopping. The man is somewhere between 30 and 60, you can't tell from an Aveo going the speed limit, with long hair and a brown ensemble, like Kit Carson. I could stop right now, I think after 10 feet, but I don't. It's late afternoon and it's fourteen miles to The Dalles, and if I picked him up he'd just be sitting down on the pavement by The Dalles instead of Mosier.
July 2, 2008. Today is the day I take my car in for more than an Oil Change. I've been putting this off for years. Now I am heading for the wrong side of the tracks, heading towards the Columbia River. Before my time here, the street that I will be on was slicker and more important. The aluminum plant is on this road, yes, you can see cars outside it. But it's only because they are slowly tearing it down to build a Costco and a new high school and all those other rumors. There's the Elks Lodge, housed in a flimsy wood building that some say used to be a restaurant. A lonely "closed" sign marks the site of an ancient attempt to make a go of it with a retain nursery, nipped in the bud as usual. Over to your left is a motel with cute rotting carports. It should be a historic site, like all the battered gas stations and tourist courts along the old highway. Now it fronts for B & J's Trailer Court...and...There are, however, a few high points, neat and trim oases on the road to ruin. All of these have to do with automobiles: Sky's Auto Body, Approved Towing, and...J&K Specialties, where I am taking the Aveo.
But I'm not there yet. I've just turned onto this bipolar road. On my right, two elderly people are in the ditch, standing in the tall dead wheatlike grass that seems ready to burst into flame at the drop of a cigarette. The woman is pointing towards the invisible river. The man is looking at her. How odd, I say, but do not stop the Aveo, but rather travel on. Twenty feet further, a man with long hair and a brown ensemble is sitting on the gravel shoulder, holding onto a big black plastic lawn & leaf bag. His thumb is not visible.
Maybe he is a Stick Indian.
Just after I finished my Geography of Wine Course, I set out on a one day field trip to the Rattlesnake Hills AVA. The
Washington State Department of Natural Resources has provided a free online guide to this AVA, as well as the geology
you will see as you drive from Cascade Locks.
Zillah, Washington, March 2008: I have my guidebook in my hand, and I am approaching
Stop 1: Zillah Sewage Treatment Plant.
"NO TRESPASSING" the sign says. But today, I'm a Wine Geologist...though I may soon retire... and we know how much Geologists care about signs like that!
"Bah! Humbug!" I exclaim, and nuzzle up to the spectacular torte-like outcrop (actually, the ones by the interstate are better) of dull tan Missoula Flood rhythmites. Each little micro-layer represents one amazingly disastrous flood roaring over what is now the scablands and through the Columbia Gorge. That's how our lives work isn't it? Our own disasters, the floods of misfortune that overwhelm us as we gasp for air...in the end we walk over them as if they were insignificant layers of mud, not even noticing unless there is a road cut, a stream bank, an open wound. Wow!
I snap a couple of photos of the cut from various angles, trying to find the most varves with the best lighting and the most graffitti. The beds are separated by indentations so they really stand out if you get the light and shadow right. Tanner and Lex...what were they thinking about when they carved their names in the soft sediments? How long ago...how far apart were they here?
I drive the yellow Aveo back into Zillah to get a Diet Mountain Dew. These days, I'm trying to cut back, but that day I already had one under my belt. I choose a gas station, survey the coolers, and crankily settle for a Diet Pepsi. Then a woman walks in. She is in her forties, perhaps, and has faded red orange hair. She is wearing a green sweat shirt that says 'Zillah!' in Aveo yellow.
"Can I cash a second party check here?"she asks the silver-haired cashier. He may be the owner and he may be a member of AARP. "It's from my mother," she adds in a hyperactive buzz. "She lives across the street from me. Well, I wouldn't blame you if you didn't."
"Well..."replies the clerk or owner slowly, "we have a policy of not taking second party checks unless we know you."
"That's alright. But can I just cash one of my own checks? I'm running out of cash!"
"It depends. It depends on whether you're on the list or not."
"The bad list...I don't think I am!" she laughs.
"No, the good list."
"Can you find me on there?" she asks, her jitterbox blue eyes darting like waterbugs.
"...." The clerk pulls out what in the last varve would be a computer print-out.
"No? Well, don't worry, I'll just try somewhere else."
"..." comments the clerk.
"Is that all?" he asks as I place my pop bottle on the counter.
"Yeah, that's it," I answer pleasantly. I give him two dollars in marked bills. Cash on the barrel head.
I walk to the Aveo in the parking lot. The woman in the Zillah! Shirt is climbing into her rental Volkswagen. I wonder where she is from. (Utah! maybe.) I wonder what her story is.
This is how I...or rather Erin...got a copy of River Song. The Quakers, like dwarf mistletoe on oak, were gathered together as usual for 1st & 3rd at the Episcopal Headquarters. Someone said:
"I have this book. Does anyone want to read it..."
Silence. She took a breath.
"Every month Hood River designates a book that everyone in town can read. You can get a free copy at the library. That's where I got it."
"I've read that, actually," said another Quaker.
"I thought it was interesting that many Native Americans live with old cars and pickup campers around their houses...as a display of wealth," someone added.
[It took me a minute to remember that the typical Friend strives for Simplicity. Most of us don't normally abide by the traditional Northern Minnesota custom as my family does, storing old shower stalls, dishwashers, mattresses, disused birch bark canoes, etc out by the garage. Wow, you can't win, though, when we lived back in Texas, the City of Bryan served notice on the gold spray-painted 1965 Volkswagen Bus that we were using as a storage shed! So now I wonder if the Northern Minnesotans picked up the custom from the Ojibway?]
"I'll read it!" volunteered Erin.
Erin devoured it in a flash. I am still on Chapter 6.
The most fascinating part of the book to me is that some of the chapters are set right here. You can just imagine Danny Kachia, a Nez Perce, as a child, swallowing salmon eyes at the now drowned out Celilo Falls fishing ground, and as an adult visiting the Wish-Um Cemetery across from the closed Shell Station near Dallesport, and the pictographs at Horsethief Lake. Most astounding of all is that Danny saw an intriguing vision and a stick Indian behind the small hamlet of Cloudville, on the cliffs above the river.I wrote a story about Cloudville in 2003. Now, a few years later, one of the houses has been reduced to charred wood
Washington 14, July 2008: We crossed the Dalles bridge, and the sandy steppe which surrounds the Shell station and the Wish-Um Cemetery, and turned left on Wa14 from US197. A thin figure had his thumb out!
"Oh wow...maybe I shouldn't pick that guy up!" I said like I often do, waiting to get a look. "Oh! A woman!" I exclaimed. It is rare to see a woman hitching alone; I think only 3 of my hitchhikers have been lone women. I worry for their safety.
"How far are you going?" I asked. A tiny black and white dog head emerged from her turquoise and magenta nylon jacket. It was about the size of a Chihuahua.
"Just down to the store," she answered. She had long black hair and, if you're old enough, you can imagine Buffy Ste Marie with a mini-pooch instead of a mouthbow.
"I'm getting gas there!" I assured her, staring at the pup.
"I try to keep Little Buster hidden, but he keeps popping his head out..." she commented
I told her that I lived in The Dalles, and she told me that she lived in Wishram, but was staying in Lyle with her father right now. That's about all we had time to say before I pulled in to the pump at Murdock Mini-Mart.
"I like to fill my own tank," I explained.
"It's like in Yakima...the guy from Oregon who asked the service station for help because he didn't know how to fill his tank. Ha! Ha!"
"What did you say your dog's name was again?" I asked. His big eyes were like jittery eight balls. Salmon Eyes....Snake Eyes.
She held out her soft brown hand to shake mine. "I'm Eikcaj Duolc." That's sdrawkcab so it can't be delggog. "I've lived here all my life."
"I'm Htiduj Ttenneg," I exchanged.
She bought a few things at the Mini-Mart while I pumped my Aveo fuel and counted the hundreds out to pay for it. Then she continued across the highway, to visit her uncle in Murdock.
Mother," Erin asked tonite. "Would it bother you if I went out on a date?"
The Dalles, July 2008: "Independence Day"
So it was settled. Tony and Erin would meet each other, face to face, at Fred Meyers (AKA Krogers), at 12:30 on the 4th of July. To be on the safe side, Erin's friend Sage would go along with her.
In less than an hour, I heard Sage's shrill laugh in Erin's room. Had the meeting flopped like a wet mop? I looked in through the open door...
"How did it...oh hi!" I asked. Tony was right there, taking the tour of Erin's room!! He was (and still is...) a tall, rawboned boy with a very blond "Beatle" cut. Tony wore lean black jeans, beads, and an As I Lay Dying t-shirt. I stammered, waved and left.
And then all three climbed up to Keenan's house to "Hang Out." "Hanging Out" has taken The Dalles by storm this summer, like some retro rerun. Would Tony from Dallesport, like Sage from Idaho and Lilian from Mosier, be accepted into the established circle of "Colonel Wright Elementary Alumnae"? Y-not?????
"Ian!" I asked, bored and lonely. "How did your evening go?" He had gone to a party last night at the home of the guy...Bryce I think... with the big silver high voltage pole in his yard. Ian's circle of friends is planning to build a trebuchet. After planning for this very special event, they played Dungeons & Dragons and consumed huge quantities of Mountain Dew. After that, some of them went to a movie. Then Ian and his friend Andrew (who attends Case Western Reserve but is for the summer working at the deli counter at Albertsons) and two ladies (whose names I will not mention) drove over to the St Mary's School track to watch the fireworks...to watch the lightning. Lighting is very rare here in The Dalles.
"When did you get in?" I asked. "About two."
"Actually it was more like four," he corrected groggily.
Erin and Tony returned (without Sage, who had to go home) about supper time.
"Um..." said Erin. "Tony and I would like to go to dinner at The Lighthouse, since both of us are interested in Japan."
"What does he do for a living?" my husband asked gruffly.
"He prunes V. vinifera vines at Marschell's Winery," said Erin.
My husband smiled and dreamed of summers detassling corn in the brutal fields of southern Minnesota. You're never too young to get a foothold in agriculture!!
The Lighthouse, featured in The Lonely Planet Guide To The Dalles, is always closed when you want it to be open. It was only ten or twelve extra blocks down to Burgerville....but they were fast on their feet and soon returned to continue this story.
"Ian!" Erin pleaded to a stony, sleep-deprived face. "Can you buy some fireworks for us? Tony just brought this one Pop-It." In Oregon, you need to be 16 to buy fireworks.
And so it was, that I walked down to Fred Meyer with Erin and Tony, and waited while they rounded up the Very Special Explosives that suited them. They tactfully disappeared as I went through the check out line. Once, at Bi-Mart, there was a woman ahead of me trying to buy pellet gun ammo for her son, but the clerk wouldn't let her. He suggested she try a different aisle. So I was extra careful.
Pop! Shizzle! Darkness lay across The Dalles like an electric blanket, and everywhere the town was like Afghanistan or some other war zone! Erin and Tony were lucky enough to have a creek to go to, so they could set off their brilliant cache without setting off the dry cheat grass as well! Still.... I wondered if they would get caught and arrested for MIPIF...minor in possession of illegal fireworks!
The path from Albertsons to Grocery Outlet this evening is heavily strewn with migrant workers, sun-broiled men from Mexico. One is huddled by the blue pay phone, another paces and yells Spanish into his cell phone. The cherry pickers are so numerous now that I can not silently shout to them that it is I that own this vacuous town which now sizzles in its mid-summer doldrums. Mark my words, they can have this Oregon of mirage-inducing heat and tinder dry cheatgrass. When the snow comes and vehicles fish tail wildly on ice as black as cinders, the migrants...or at least most of them...will have long ago retreated to California with tails between their legs. The Beaver State will be Ours again!!! Oregon for...um...Texans!!! Bwah-ha-ha!!!
The sky may have been an oppressive blue this afternoon, but on Saturday there were huge brown clouds in the sky. Wait! Those aren't clouds...they're smoke!!!
The Dalles, July 2008. "Fire!!!"
I've passed the gauntlet of idle sunbrowned Hispanic men and am about to enter Grocery Outlet in a quest for defectively packaged 99c Malt-O-Meal frosted shredded wheatlets, Hanson's coconut-pineapple smoothies, and over-produced Health Valley white-chocolate-chip macadamia cookies...and maybe a little Fat Cat 2006 California Chardonnay. The manager lingers out front, chatting with a customer.
"We've been under evacuation alert since last night, but nothing's happened!" relates the customer, arms folded. "Ha ha!"
"Huh!" answers the manager.
I gather my exotic groceries and head into a mercifully empty check out line. My guess is that they've hired a few more clerks since the story about the woman in the Russian hat.
"Where is the fire?" I ask. Ian will later tell me, "Liza said it's chewing up Rowena." Just seven miles west of The Dalles, Rowena is a blah little hamlet with no commerce except for a church, a phone booth, and a pop machine. As far as I am concerned the fire can chomp all it wants!!!
"They say it is getting close to Foley Lakes Trailer Court!!!" begins the clerk excitedly. Foley Lakes is an unique mobile home village with several lovely bodies of water for residents only. "I drove past it and I thought it was a contained fire because I didn't see no flames. But I guess it isn't."
Intrigued, I swing the Aveo out onto 6th Street [the old Columbia River Highway] and drive west. Right there at the Urban Expansion Boundary...wow!!!...the road is blocked off by orange cones and a law officer!!!
"The freeway!!!" suggests the little yellow Aveo. We spin onto I-84 and continue west for a few hundred feet. Right there, where Munson's Paving quarry their paving material and The The Dalles Militia aims at Vodka bottles, skunks and other targets...the landscape is no longer merely a dead straw invasive cheat grass covered lump of Miocene flood basalt. It is now a long fiery cinder-black volcanic mound of pumice! It is a deep black night in Hawaii lit by sparks of molten lava!!!
Hmm...no...wait...we're in Oregon, not the Big Island. It's just a massive grassfire....and at its base, little red and lime yellow fire trucks crawl slowly to and fro, ants dwarfed by its majestic elegance.
In the morning, I buy gas across the river in Murdock and then I drive by the dead fire's intrusive blackness on my way to Portland.
"Look! Ian! Erin! Tony! That's where the fire was!!!" I exclaim.
The Dalles, July 2008: "Grass Fire Fun"
The check in my pocket felt as if a burning tourist had set it alight!!!! That's why I was solemnly sitting here, in Bank of the West, buying a CD. In the mid-70s, when interest rates were 14% plus a full set of Corning Ware or Romanian crystal, CDs were a hot property. Now people ask:
"Why would you go to a bank to buy a CD?"
Certificate of Deposit. That's what it is short for. Anyway, I told the bank officer I wanted to buy another CD, and she said...
"I can't find your other one. What's your social security number?...oh gosh, what do I do now? The computer says 'Cannot access anything at all'."
One of the older tellers suggested that she retrieve my paper signature card and go on from there.
"That's the way they used to do it," I commented. Time wore on and continues to do so. She printed me out a receipt.
"Nothing's working," a teller commented as she flipped open her cell phone. "The phones arent working. The internet isn't working. The terrorists have won."
"The internet isn't working," complained Ian and Erin when I returned home. They were patiently waiting for the manga sites to return from the war against terror.
"The phone lines are out all over town," I said. "They were out at the bank."
"Ahem!" said the familiar radio voice of Greg LeBlanc....actually it could have been someone else. "We are experiencing not one but TWO disasters here in the Columbia Gorge. First, a fiber optic cable has been cut near Parkdale and most of the area has lost its internet services. The towns of Dufur, Maupin, and Tygh Valley are completely without phone service. If you are in those areas, go to your local fire station if you have an emergency...trained personnel are waiting!!!"
"Maupin, eh?" I commented.
"Secondly, here in The Dalles, cultural capital of Wasco County, Mid-Columbia personnel have been battling a voracious grass fire which began in the area of Foley Lakes Trailer Park. The old highway AND both lanes of the interstate are closed."
"The sky looks blue outside...." I observed.
"Liza says that it's chewing up Rowena!!!" said Ian, twirling the battered Nokia cell phone that he'd bought in Finland.
"Tony says Dallesport is sizzling!!!" said Erin, twirling her text laden LG .
"KODOT The Dalles," a mysterious voice said abruptly, then returned to radio silence.
Time wore on again...soon I would need to drive to my radio show "Fire and Ice" in Hood River!
"I'd like to go with you," begged Ian.
"Sure, but we must start early, as we will have to travel on Washington 14!!!!" I answered. I wondered how long the line was at the Hood River toll booth.
The sky was Windex-blue when we pulled out of the driveway, but as we approached the freeway the heavens began to resemble fluffy oil streaked dishwater. Semis lingered dreamily on the roadside while their drivers checked out the margaritas at Casa El Mirador, the steamy videos at the heavily picketed ("Not in Our Town") Adult Shop, or the NoDoz at Rite-Aid. We pulled onto the freeway east toward Pendleton with no problem. The west lane was vacant. Suddenly, as we approached the exit for the bridge to Washington...WHAM!!!...most of the traffic came to a standstill on the shoulder. A LOT of vehicles were in line to turn left for that magical bridge to Washington!!!
"We won't make it in time for my show," I commented to Ian. It didn't matter. We had metamorphosed from broadcasters to firechasers.
It took 20 minutes to get off the freeway, but once we got on that peach of a bridge, we were home free!
"Wow...looks most of the smoke is coming from Google, and that high voltage substation," I remarked as we approached Murdock Mini-Mart."Call your dad."
"It's not answering!" said Ian.
We would later learn that he and all of the Google server farmers were TRAPPED BY SMOKE...A few employees had tried to escape on their bikes but were immediately asphyxiated....or maybe they just couldnt see a thing in the foamy atmosphere. Not only that, but the Animal Shelter had begun loading dogs and cats into personal vehicles for evacuation!!
"By the way, you have a message," he added, thrusting the flimsy phone at my ear.
"I can't understand Spanish..." I retorted...."If its Spanish, it MUST be from my station!!"
"He's saying that there's something wrong with the internet and they're not broadcasting from the studio." A year of living with Finglish had taught Ian how to understand Spanglish.
"Oh heck, let's turn around and go home," I whined, pivoting abruptly at the Doug's beach parking lot. Thousands of windsurfers were obliviously parked there, taking advantage of the wind that was fanning the flames. I mowed a couple down in my haste, but they were only phantoms.
Ian and I were now free to gawk.
[to be continued]
Grassfire Fun" (cont.)
It is Sunday...so quick the time flies...Ian and I are driving home from Portland. Ian has travelled even further...all the way from Corvallis. He has been revelling at the "Annual Session" (we Texans call it "Yearly Meeting") of Northwestern Quakers in Corvallis, where teenagers suddenly set free wear blue Tshirts that read "Get thee to the Party!" Quakers are sort of like the Amish in some ways. But, at 19, Ian's tenure as a teenager, as a "Junior Friend," has de facto drawn to a close. He is now a "Young Friend," a condition that now leads to increased expectations. When we get home, he will show me some pictures of the other children in his group.
"This is Paul....he has a Masters Degree!! He says it is hard to find a job, because people don't want to pay extra for a masters!!"
Yikes!! It will be a shock for us both.
"Ian!" I begin. "So you got a ride to Portland with someone's mom. What did you do with the money I gave you for bus fare?"
"I bought some stuff...'Faith and Practice' (Whoa!) and a T Shirt." He pulls out the TShirt.
"'Walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone.' [---George Fox, Quaker (1624-1691)]"
"Wow! That's a great one to wear when you go in front of the draft board!!!" I suggest.
We're close to home now, and I say "I'm getting off at Rowena [to drive on the Old Highway. Hwy 30 and I84 are open again]"
"Okay," agrees Ian.
"Lilian says that there is only one kid they pick up on the bus in from Mosier to the high school...that everyone else is old people."
"Huh!" agrees Ian. He hasn't had much sleep the last 3 wild nights.
We pass the dead cheat grass and the lonely Ponderosas (Pinus ponderosa) and Oregon white oaks (Quercus garryii) as they valiantly fight the ecotone. We pass the barren rocky site where gun enthusiasts target shoot empty transparent vodka bottles...now blackened by week old brush fire. No one is shooting now, rather, they move in a strangely devout manner in worship to the fire god, I am Vulcan, god of the forge.
We don't stop...we've never been target shooting, though my husband once took up an invitation by his work mates to watch. We drive on into my intention, to see what we could not see from Washington on Wednesday...the blackend sage and grass along either side of the freeway, the now dead flames half licking a tongue of death upon the oaks and cottonwoods and Russian olive along Chenoweth Creek. It is not as I remember it.
"Why are you turning here?" Ian asks, as I swing onto the bridge across the freeway.
"I often get off here," I answer.
"I drove across the bridge and there was stuff burning on the railings. I thought...they shouldn't allow that..." my husband had said. One gust of wind and the old Subaru is in death flames....Black...everything is black as basalt now...up to the ruins of the old aluminum plant, up to the animal shelter where dogs and cats were hastily loaded into private cars...almost right up to the Google server farm.
What a shock!!!
[to be continued]
So what exciting summertime stuff happens here in The Dalles, other than brilliantly lit combustion of grass and sagebrush? Hmm...there's a reason I try and go somewhere more "cool" in the summer, like Barrow or Rekjavik. However, a look at the "Police Report" in The Dalles Chronicle will show you what really goes on. Mutual combat with rifle butts. Meth busts. Driving While Suspended, and Driving Under the Influence of Pinot Noir. Abduction of ExWife to Skamania County Using a Butcher Knife. Abandoning a Puppy or Alligator in front of the Pet Store. And best of all...the all-too-prevalent torture of grocery store checkout clerks by tourists:
"No!" growled Georgia as I swung my gallon of milk on the 2" shelf of the pre-checkstand at Albert Sons. "I'm not in a good mood! People are so rude!!! It's not the locals...they've been very supportive. It's not the pickers, either. It's TOURISTS!!!! I've had it!!!" My ears tingled...I wondered what sadistic stuff they had done!! But a big man was in line behind me with a 24-pack of Budweisers.
So for the bottle opener.
"Residential Care Facility"
The Dalles, July 2008.
"Ian!" I announce. "I'm going to get a Diet Mountain Dew, a strap of ones, and a couple stamps for my domain renewal."
"Huh," he utters absently, absorbed by trying to get "1001 Cool Cheats for Serenity Role Playing" to print out. I enter my Aveo and pull exit the driveway, having ascertained that it's too hot for me to walk downtown. I look back...and wow! a City of The Dalles Police is pulling up to the curb, right in front of our home, red and blue lights flashing!! Oh no! Are they going to arrest Ian for Impersonation of "Runner" without a Pilot's License? Were they just waiting for me to leave? Or are they out to incarcerate me for smoking...hmmm, better not say what...back in '73? Or is it just another rowdy coffee-crazed fight at the Senior Center...too much "In the Mood" at Bingo last night? We circle the block and breathe a sigh of relief. The cops have done a U-Turn to the duplex across the street and have their man...an thin older guy with slicked back grey hair...handcuffed. I've seen him before...hmm...I think he lives right there...or else he's a duplex groupie?!?!
Yep, the duplex. In the early 2000s, it was just an ordinary rental, with a car heavily plastered with Marine Corp bumper stickers on one side and a family that yelled at each other on the left. But then a couple of years ago, a notice was sent out to our neighborhood. "We are establishing a psychiatric care facility right by your house and we're circumventing the zoning laws by maintaining the duplex identity of the building. You may file your objections after reading our application, written in size 6 Arabic Sihafa font and conveniently filed somewhere in the courthouse basement.
What politically correct person would object to a psychiatric facility? It's been just like living in the Pearl District since they arrived; the residents add color to the community! Old guys stand around talking to imaginary friends and enemies. A younger man sits on the curb sipping Mountain Dew and waiting for DUIPN drivers to hit him. Most of all, the residents walk while listening to their CD players...back and forth in the yard or in increasingly large loops around the neighborhood. Our family rarely sees any of this, however, because we live in a agoraphobic riparian oasis behind a big blue fence, emerging only briefly into the driveway steppe to step out into the world of work, school, or shopping.
When I return from The World, the police car is still parked in front of the duplex and two coppers are standing beside it, chatting. Another man...in a police-colored polo shirt, is lounging next to my driveway. I cautiously pull over against the left hand curb...is this illegal? and then back into my blind driveway...is this illegal? But the polo police guy just smiles and stares politely at the Aveo.
"On My Own"
Grocery Outlet, July 2008: "How are you doing today?" inquired the young check-out man. You may remember him as having a nervous breakdown when those two ladies came in with $20 and tried to buy twenty yellow plastic bags full of exotic food.
"Great!" I answered. Nowadays people usually say, "I'm good." When and where did this alien term begin? Does at all it divide generations and regions? To avoid an incomputable answer, I continued: "I got rid of one of my kids to day. I took...." ...my daughter to Hippie Cuisine Camp for a week.
"Wow!" blurted out the cashier. "It'll be 16 or 17 years before I get rid of any kids."
"I have a 19 year old I can't get rid of..."
"Ha! I left home when I was 17...I'd graduated from high school already and my dad lost his job at the aluminum plant when it shut down, and they were having trouble making ends meet. I said 'Mom, I'm outa here!' What was the point in staying?
"Huh!" I answered.
One week later: Outside the pines and oaks and wheatfields and freethinkers of South Central Washington passed by as we stood still, sitting inside the yellow Aveo.
"Who would throw their kid out when they were fourteen?" I asked Erin. I think we were discussing one of her classmates.
"It's pretty common. For example the guy who was next to me in the lunch line..."
"The one dishing up the salad with the Mushroom Vinaigrette?"
"Yeah. His parents threw him out. He lives in Anchorage and owns a rickshaw business."
"Hmm! How old is he?" He looked about Erin's age.
"Fourteen....ha! My friend from Portland and I were sleeping outside one night, and he came up to us. He held out this bong..."
"UGH! yes!...that he had carved himself at camp. He said 'I smoke herbs in this; they're good for you' That's the odd thing...how smoking could be good for your lungs...."
Four days later, out in our driveway: "See this leaf?" Erin inquired as she waved a big, fuzzy leaf.
"A mullein (Verbascum thapsus)?" I asked.
"Yes. This is one of the things he smokes. He says because of this fuzz, it coats your lungs and it's good for asthma."
July 2008: It is eight o clock in the evening, and we are returning Tony to his Homeland, Washington-On-the-Columbia. We cross the bridge and climb the round brown hills. Tony lives above the river, above the buildings, above the little two-lane highway, in a beautiful new house with wide vistas of the Columbia.
"We have more trees!!" I have told Erin smugly. We do, thousand of cottonwood clones spring up every day on our lawn, but also we have maples and walnuts and an oak tree ...and other species too many to mention.
"Tony!" I ask as I pull in beside a couple of backhoes. "Wow, is that your excavation equipment?"
"One of them belongs to my grandmother and one belongs to the guy who own the vineyard," he answers patiently in his deep "radio voice."
Then Erin and I are off to face the panorama of the river and The Dalles and the white of Mount Hood beyond them.
"Ian and I almost came up here to check out the fire," I mention. "But there was too much traffic on 14."
Erin rolls her eyes. "I'm glad you didn't.
[conclusion] "Hey, then I'm going through the center of Dallesport them!" I told Ian as I turned south on the road that leads through the cow pastures and fruit trees to the city center...maybe you could call it that. Dallesport is defined by a 30MPH sign rather than by commerce. One by one, commerce closed its doors. All that is really left is a tiny airport and the bright new elementary school, where children go for seven years until they are abruptly bussed off to Lyle Washington.
Why live in Dallesport, then?
1) No state income tax in Washington!!!
2) No sales tax across the bridge in Oregon!!!
3) Weird animals, like buffalo and llamas, can be seen almost every day!!!
We had only gone a few feet down the road when we saw The Dalles and its raging grassfire across the barbed wire and dry straw-colored pastures. Long clouds of smoke trailed like time-discarded wedding veils across Dallesport as well.
"Ian! Take a picture!" I suggested, tossing him my ailing CoolPix. "No...I'll just stop."
I slammed on my brakes and pulled halfway off the road. I hoped I wouldn't get hit! But there was no traffic, except for empty pick-ups and SUVs with blinkers flashing. All the passengers stood gawking with binoculars and cameras and maybe a tripod or two. From where we stood, Google and the cement company, the animal shelter and the high voltage lines looked to be engulfed by the fire! But, in truth, they were only engulfed by over-enthusiastic wedding veils.
"And look, Ian, over there at the freeway! Look at all the vehicles stacked up!!" A huge long line of eastbound cars and trucks snaked like a cobra around the parkland to the west of The Dalles!! I would later read in the paper that absolute zero visibilty on I-84 had stalled out traffic for three and a half hours!!
"It's just like Wacken!" I added. "Eight and a half kilometers of people!!!"
One hundred two degrees. This is the summer that I swapped wild adventure for a 2% interest CD. And what an exciting summer it has been here in The Dalles!!!
The Dalles, August 2008: Rosemount Estate, South Eastern Australia 2006! My cork collection has grown to the point that I have to dig hard to find a new genus...oops...new white wine for less than eight dollars. There are a few with screw caps, like Thunderbird, but these are "fortified" wines and, unless you cut them with something safer like benzene, you're stuck with them for weeks just waiting for the cap! Tonite, the cheapest new white wine at Albertsons is Rosemount...
"Hmm! A nice Chardonnay for a Saturday evening!" says the clerk, a robust man about my age with a mustache.
"Yeah..." I answer. He scans my shirt.
"Kaua'i Dirt Shirt!" he adds.
"Yeah, I was in Kaua'i and bought it there," I answer.
"I was in Kaua'i once for about an hour. Didn't see a thing."
"You didn't get off the plane? How crazy! It's such a pretty place."
"I had a job in Hawaii once and I bought plane ticket around the islands. I went everywhere."
"For an hour?"
"Well, it's nice in Hawaii, but I'd get claustrophobic being on a small island all the time."
He nodded in agreement "I had my car shipped over and everything. I drove around Oahu, and it only took a couple hours. So I left when I got the chance."
"Wow...well, you can't drive around Kaua'i at all!"
He nodded in agreement.
"Last Tango At Albertsons"
The Dalles, August 2008: "Whoa! I need hotdog buns for my Tofurkey Polish Sausage!" I exclaimed to the Yellow Aveo as we returned from far-away Hood River.
"You're right, though I think I'll pass it up and drink some gasoline," agreed the little car. "Let's pull into Albertson's and check it out!"
We swung into the nearly empty parking lot and parted ways...but not very far. A robust man with a robust mustache, perhaps in his 50s or 60s, was standing by his white pickup and used this opportunity to take over my ears.
"There's a sign on the door that says it closes at seven."
"Oh my!" I said.
They're shutting down the store! I read it in the Chronicle."
"I wouldn't doubt it."
"Yep...they're shutting it down."
The fatal die was cast long ago, and I could see it coming. Across the street, Fred Meyer remodeled, expanded, and added a Starbucks in order to compete with the metrochic Safeway down by Hollywood Video.
"I wish they'd remodel THIS place," suggested Georgia the Checker.
Down the strip mall, Grocery Outlet moved in, offering little in the way of decor, but a lot in the way of cheap, quirky merchandise. All that Albertson's had offered was service. If there were three customers in line, they'd open a new one....and they took any brand of deposit container that the can pickers brought in. The big clue, however, came a couple of days ago, when a male clerk could be seen on the sidewalk, cell phone in hand.
"...could transfer a few people...." you might have heard him say while you strolled past the Out Of Order pop machines.
Inside, back at his check station and you setting down a box of house band frosted shredded wheat, a 4 pack of organic rootbeer, and a package of Popeye spinach leaves, might have heard him remark to the bag boy...
"I mean....what are they going to do, fire us?"
"They're closing Albertson's!!!" I told Ian as he sat behind his new white laptop.
"No! That's not true!" he replied. Maybe not...maybe that devilish guy with the white pickup was just trying to pick me up.
Ian immediately dove into Facebook Chat to ask the horse's mouth...his friend Andrew who until last week had a summer job as a deli clerk. Soon he will be back at Case Western Reserve, dancing his way through aeronautical engineering instead of fried chicken and potato salad.
"Andrew says it's true! He gave me a link!!
Today you can see the headline and full color photo at the news stands all over: "Albertson's Axes Store In The Dalles" !!!!!!
When I was young, the rocks in my yard were houses, and I would draw people and furniture on them. How about you?
August 2008, The Dalles: "Students! " she asks from her celestial dream chair. "Who are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?" She writes on the blackboard as her eager students call out:
1. Plate tectonics, ie earthquakes, volcanos, and igneous petrology.
2. Glaciation and other bad weather.
3. Meteor impact.
4. Human impact
"And what is the most devious of the human curses?"
A quiet pupil speaks up. "Hedera helix!!!" The class quivers with fear.
"Correct!" she says. "English Ivy!"
When I was growing up in Alabama, all the roadside from Vestavia to Birmingham was covered by kudzu. But here, closer to Japan, there is no kudzu. The Dalles is, however, the epicenter of Hedera helix pollution. What happens is that someone looks out at the dead yellow grass in their yard and exclaims, "I need a groundcover that is as much like a green plastic plant as possible." They plant a little here and there and voila, it grows. At first it covers some Paleogene volcanic rocks and some dead grass, but then continues to engulf everything in its path...trees, old fence posts, outbuildings, clothing left out to dry, and old folks dozing on the porch swing. Aggressive genera such as Parthenocissus, Vitis, Rubus, and Wisteria are no match for it. Hedera helix is *the* Kudzu of Kascadia.
You are crawling on your knees into a garden, here a maze of one mallow and one dogwood and one cottonwood. Everything around you is green or brown, the brown-grey of dead lower branches that SNAP! when you pull them downward, the green of the ivy and the other creekbank so close you reach for the walnuts with their nuts hanging green and cottonwoods with its cotton long gone. The water is so low now down in the creek that you can almost cross it on wings of faith...But flying over isn't your goal, it is rather to pull out the woven ivy mat....to clear the land on you homestead in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, to slay the snake monsters under your feet and hands.... The mallow is the queen, the dogwood the king, and the cottonwoods are grey castles. The royalty stands oblivious, its head and young limbs reaching for sunlight, while you...you are charged with defending the castle from the snakes that climb and dig into walls with feet like the teeth of a sawblade. The vines carpet the ground like waterpipes in an old city. Looking at your own red blotched hands and arms, you decide to weave baskets or rugs for your enemies with the vines. You grab each snake and pull, and snip when you can no longer pull, chopping their bodies into two or threes. It is slow going and there are so many snakes, so many castles...
Every day the stack of dead snakes on the patio grows large and larger.
The yard debris dumpster is full.
"Mother!" said my older daughter Emma. "I keep waiting for you to write about me and Little Victor!! But you don't!"
"OK..." I repied. "I'll think of something..."
The Dalles, August 2008....
Finally the day has arrived. All my children and Little Victor are assembled in the Yellow Aveo. We are headed to Google to eat gourmet lunch with Victor's Grandpapa!
"We've come to eat lunch!" we say into the intercom at the first gate to Google. The yellow bar rises and we swing a left at security.
"This is the non-disclosure agreement," the Wacken-Hut man explains to Emma. "Nothing you say or hear inside the gate can be disclosed." Each of us gets a paper adhesive guest tag with our name on it.
We drive through the second gate. All sorts of things happen. We eat food. Then we leave.
"Ian...I know you are six feet tall, but can you move the front seat up a little?" whines Emma.
WHAP!!! The adhesive tags hurl themselves over our mouths and stay there until we forget the xxxx and xxxxx salad and who was playing air xxxxx....and even the massage xxxxx.
"Children!" I continue as the little Aveo turns right.
"Oh no," whines Emma. "Are you going home a different way?"
"Yes...just checking on the extent of the fire. Look how close it got to the animal shelter! They had the dogs and cats loaded up in private cars to evacuate..."
Emma responds: "Father said that at Google, XXXXXXX[del]XXXXXXXXX."
"Good grief!" said one of the children, rolling its eyes. "Four wheel drive, huh!" We are cruising our way through south western Iceland, the black lava area that layover guests see near Keflavik. The gravel on the road consists of knifelike jagged foot long samples of the Columbia River Group.
"Ha ha ha!!!" giggles Victor from his car seat. "This road is BUMPY!!! Ha ha!!!"
"Some of us don't have seat belts on," counters Erin.
"There wasn't any room to put them on!!" reinforces Emma. The back of an Aveo is not designed for two young women and a car seat full of squiggly three year old.
"Hee hee~!!" exclaims Victor.
"No dumping!!!" I read.
"What's that garbage there?" asks Ian.
"It's a seat out of a car!!!!" replies one of the girls.
"There goes the gas tank!!!" replies one of the girls.
"Hee hee hee!!!" laughs Victor as we pitch over a cliff.
Finally...I pull the Aveo up beside a couple other nice sedans and get out. Slowly every one else does too. There is a lake in front of us, filled with murky water. Someone is fishing in a canvas fold up chair. The children slowly emerge. Erin sits and stares into the lake.
"Fishies!!!" exclaims Victor, hurling a log into the lake.
"Hey!!!" exclaims Erin, doused with murky water....
"We came down here and walked along that path once when you were younger and had a picnic by the river. You guys kept saying 'What's the point?'"
"I can never remember that at all..." ponders Ian.
"What do they call this lake?" queries one of the girls.
"Taylor Lake," I answer.
Just a few days after I'd loaded the first dumpster with Hedera helix, I had the opportunity to work with two more notorious invasives: Cirsium vulgare and Rubus armeniacus.
Balfour-Klickitat Wayside nr. Lyle, Washington, confluence of the Klickitat and Columbia Rivers, August 2008:
"Stewardship Troops!" began Jamie, the SECRETS leader. "Make sure you've filled out you Forest Service Background Check, Liability, and Non-Disclosure Forms, then pick up a pair of snippers and gloves and assemble here for the One Sentence Safety Talk...." We rapidly signed our forms and hauled weapons and armor out of the hatch of the her car.
"Make sure you move this lever here to lock the snippers when not in use." warned our leader. Snippers! Ha! The real danger out there were the terrorist-style defensive adaptations of the Invasives themselves!!!
"The area was obtained from a farmer who did some pretty weird things," explained our leader. "Right now we are attempting to restore it to its native state. The first step was application of herbicide." She paused to ponder the sweeping majesty of the Columbia River to the north. "There's a lot of star thistle here.." she continued, pointing to a mid-size wiry plant with starbursts of beautiful yellow flowers...deceptively surrounded by rapier-like thorns! "...but there are so many of them that we prefer to use mechanical means to get rid of them. Today, then, we will be concentrating on decapitating bull thistles and clearing the trail of blackberries. Who wants to do blackberries?"
A couple volunteers who hadn't eaten breakfast quickly picked up the long handled bush snippers. The rest of us armed ourselves with hand snippers and black plastic bags and headed for the purple headed bull thistles.
"You don't have to whack off the entire plant," demonstrated Jamie. "You snip off the flowers like this, and the ones that have gone to seed. You can get also rid of these that are about to bloom, and put them all in these garbage bags. We'll put water in the bags and they'll essentially cook!" Water does not boil at 106 degrees, but we believed her. We felt like WE were cooking!!
Snip! Snip! Snip! <snip>
"Where are you from?" I asked a cheerful blond volunteer as the raised her guillotine.
"I'm from White Salmon, but I'm going to school in New York."
"You should have a lot of experience to show your fisheries advisor with all these internships this summer!" interjected our leader.
"I'd like to get something in aquatic invasives...I've decided I like the plant part better."
What a dilemma!
After a while we took a break to view the panorama and stare longingly at the cool Klickitat flowing below us.
"You look at all the dead cheat grass in the open area and you think we haven't done much. But we are taking short leaps. You can see it in the shadier parts like this. There's some patches of green...the bunch grasses are coming back," said Jamie. I looked down at my feet and saw a bunch grass...and the Living Crust! "And these young Ponderosa pines! We can't tackle it all at one time, so it's best to just do it step by step."
The stewards went back to whacking off thistle heads and in no time it was almost time to go home.
"Let's help them finish clearing out the blackberries," suggested Jamie. We picked up our plastic bags, covered in holes cut by the thistle spines. We had the same problem!
The other group had been ripping out blackberries around a wooden walkway over a little wetland. Time had gotten the better of them, however, and now we were all clipping the thorny stalks where they hung over the trail, making sure that we dispatched the ripe black berries before they hit the ground!
August 2008, near Lyle, Washington: Yep! We're still in Washington...but we're done with thistle heads cuisine. Now we have lemonade and bananas!
"How do you like your Aveo?" asks Jamie.
"I like it alot...unless I want to put people inside it!"
"What kind of mileage do you get...?"
And so on.
I turn east and drive towards home, pondering the fact that I've used about a gallon of gas and a plastic bag in order to spay a few square yards of thistle. As I pull past Lyle, Washington, I crane my neck to look for Tony's High School and...oh! There's a young man with his thumb out! I'm too hot and wounded by spines and thorns to stop. I look back. His once-expectant face is sad. Oh no!! It must be me, I did this to him!! I pull to the side of Highway and he runs for the car.
"Where are you going?" I ask. He has moppy curls and a silly circular ghoatee.
"Just to Dallesport," he replies. Seven and one half miles. I look down at my arms, dripping red blood from my battle with Invaders.
As we drive through the tunnel, I say: "I guess it's hard to walk through the tunnel."
"Yeah....there's no place to walk....usually I just catch a ride when I'm going to see may parents, like I did today."
Then there is only the sound of the air conditioner fan and the Aveo's new tires melting on the road.
Time passes and we pass Murdock Mini Mart and Lori's grandparent's water well drilling operation.
"Do you want me to drop you off in Dallesport somewhere?" I ask.
"Whatever is most convenient for you." Unless he is speaking, he seems miserable and odd.
"I'm just going to The Dalles. I can go any way I want," I exclaim.
"Oh. Then you can turn right here."
I drive a few bocks and the young man instructs "stop here." His fingers form a "Victory" sign as he turns and walks away.
"Amortization of Non-Renewable Resources"
Portland, August 2008: This Sunday, as I write this, there are hundreds of bicyclists in the Park Blocks fronting Smith Center. They have peddled from a road on the faraway Sandy River, perhaps where I dodged a few of them in an attempt to fetch up Ian at Balkanalia!...across the Willamette on the blocked off I5 Bridge (is this legal?)...and now the numbered, spandexed cyclists are eyeing lunch: flanks of huge dead salmon whose amino acids are coagulating on the grills. The sinful world of gasoline vehicles goes on despite the green party...
Q: How do you know the amino acids are coagulating?
A: I learned it when I was teaching biology labs at Arizona State.
The Dalles, August 2008: Last Sunday, I swung onto the freeway at the Dalles West Exit. There he was, Henry!... with the familiar worn sign that reading "Mosier." He wasn't really hitching to Mosier, but to the shack he built on state land across from the Memaloose Rest Area.
"I was bringing 2000 pounds of oak down the hill," he began, "and I fell with this...you know I have this bad knee. When I was trying to catch myself, I put my hand down and broke my wrist!" Sure enough, both his knee and leg were covered with baby blue splints!!!
"Wow!" I answered.
"So Dan up the hill took me to the hospital and they fixed me up...2700 dollars! But you know I go to the VA Hospital and they're gonna cover 2000 of it. So the lady at the hospital told me 'Henry, if they pay $2000, we'll write off the rest of it.'"
"How nice!" I commented.
"I got a generator now, so I'll have electricity this winter, but it didnt work. I changed the brushes [?] but it still didnt work. Dave from Mosier looked at it and said 'You got a bearing out. I'll fix it if you pay for the bearing.' I said 'OK' and he said...'oh keep your five bucks...'"
"How nice!" I answered.
"I caught a lot of squawfish and I guess in all I'll get $2000 this winter!!!"
"That's a lot of money!" I answered.
"You think so?" he said wryly.
"Sure. For squawfish." I dont know a thing about squawfish bounties....
"The LDS are still bringing me cases of chili...I'm so sick of chili..."
"Why do they do that?"
"They got a free coffee booth over in the rest area and one night I caught someone breaking in there..."
"My son is back in Virginia from Afghanistan."
"Afghanistan! I didn't even know you had a son!!"
"Yeah, he and his wife live in Walla Walla. Anyway, they gotta debrief him...and then I'll wait until they get to know each other again and then I'll buy a bus ticket and go see them and my grandkids."
"Grandchildren...I didn't know you had grandchildren!!!"
Henry pulled a worn picture of a beautiful little girl from his wallet...a bit younger than Little Victor.
"That's the latest one!!" he beamed.
There it was...the Memaloose Rest Area! I pulled to a stop on the exit triangle.
"You know I've been in love with you since the first time you picked me up...not, you know, but in a platonic way."
"Huh!" I said laughing and rolled my eyes.
When I first had kids, I couldn't wait till each one got out of diapers. This went on on and off for about 13 years, and, yucky as diapers are, I realized that there is something worse than changing yucky diapers day after day after day: The Car Seat-Seat Belt Complex. Let's go back to last week, when the Aveo was gliding over the tire piercing basalt chunk road to Taylor Lake.
"Hee hee hee....it's so bumpy!!!" exclaimed baby Victor, safely buckled in his car seat.
"Mother!" said Emma. "Don't do this!! We don't have our seat belts on!!!"
"WHY NOT!!!!" These women were old enough to know everything, why couldn't they understand about seat belts?
"Mom!" replied Erin. "There isn't room back here to put them on!!!" I looked back. Their arms snaked and wrapped around the seat backs and around the car seat. There wasn't even room for all their limbs!!!
"Do you remember the field trip where we were bouncing around all over Fort Hood?" asked Emma.
"Uh...was that an F.O.P. [Friends of the Pleistocene] trip?" That brought to mind bats who hang out in the limestone caves of Central Tejas. "I remember the one in Mexico...."
"....Where the van was driving down the Arroyos....ha ha!!!"
"...and Ian cracked his head on the roof?"
"I don't remember anything about that trip," commented Ian from the spacious front seat.
"I remember the time we were flying on that little commuter plane from Houston to Bryan that time. They were trying to beat a thunderstorm and things were flying all over the place it was so bumpy. Victor hit his head on the roof!!!"
"The Roof???" someone exclaimed in disbelief.
"Well, the area where they have the lights and the oxygen masks. There's only about an inch of clearance in those planes."
"You didn't hit YOUR head?" Erin asked.
"*I* had a seatbelt on!!!" replied Emma.
[to be continued]
Two Stories from Here and There:
Here: Emma says "Ian...don't you and your friends ever get into trouble walking around town at 3 AM?
Ian answers "Uh...no."
Emma remarks "What do you tell the Police...that its the Astronomy Club out on a field trip? Ha ha!!!!"
There: Oh, what an exciting life it is at KPSU Portland!!! I am throwing on a song by Boneshaker and the doorbell light goes of like a little stobe or atomic flash. I hastily rush out of the broadcast booth into the lobby, open the door and let some guy in. He looks vaguely familiar.
"You want in?" I ask bluntly.
"Yeah, I've got a show coming up in an hour or so."
"Who?" I ask.
"Randi. She's had a show on Wednesdays for years," he eyes me suspicious-like. "I just wonder why she isn't here."
"Um...because it's Tuesday?"
"Tuesday? Oh, I get it...it was my birthday Sunday and I didn't got to work. That messed me up. Uh...let's just keep this between you and me...."
"Emma!" Cascadia tells her older daughter who is visiting from Texas. "I'm going to the bank...see ya!" Visions of virgin, ungeorged dollar bills and a frosty bottle of Diet Mountain Dew dance before the mystical eyes in her brain. She grabs her purse from the hook and quickly opens the front doooooor......
"Mother!" replies Emma. "Can you take Victor with you?"
...not fast enough!!!
Victor springs through the back door of the yellow aveo, eagerly chattering about the Pokemon video he's just seen for the twelfth time. His car seat has two shoulder straps with weird miniature ice skate blades or chic razor blades at the end. These somehow fit into a black thing that goes between Victor's legs. It is a challenging puzzle which takes only fifteen minutes and a PhD to solve! Click!
The first stop, a Wells Fargo ATM, is the easiest.
"I want to get out too!!!" screams Little Victor.
"Wait here Victor!!!" Cascadia replies. "I'll just be a moment." She looks over at the Aveo every ten seconds. Is that white car with a luggage rack an unmarked City of The Dalles Police vehicle?
"Ma'am...you've left this vulnerable three year old in your car unattended for four minutes in 75 degree temperatures with the window down. We're charging you with gross child neglect!!! Twenty years without parole!!!" Click go the handcuffs!
She withdraws ten twenty dollar bills from the ATM without incident.
The next stop is Bank of America. Cascadia parks in the back lot and fumbles with the seat for five minutes. Then, Victor jumps out and they walk into the air conditioned building.
"Well hello there!" greets the lady who opens accounts. "There are all a lot of children here right now!" There are, in fact, almost enough kids to start a pre-school in the Bank of America today.
"Aren't you going to say hi back?" the Cascadian asks Victor.
"No!" says Victor and pulls away his hand. He disappears behind a sign that reads "Check out our great loan rates!!!" Cascadia changes five of the twenties for a strap of ones, which will later yield a george stamped by M&M in Springfield.
"Look, Aiti!! It's a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle!!!" introduces Little Victor. The jointed action figure, pulled from a white crate of toys confiscated as mortgage collateral, is made out of green plastic. Victor is happy about his new toy, but the Cascadian is anxiously eyeing Bank of the West across the street. Normally, she would drive over so the Bank of the West won't feel offended, but today she takes a chance.
"Victor! Why don't we take the Ninja Turtle visiting across the street!!!"
It works...and she doesn't have to buckle the two new pals into the car seat!
Bank of the West is uneventful, except for the soon-to-be discovered ghost bill from Shane in Coos Bay. The Oregon Grandmother and Little Victor walk back to Bank of America.
"Hello!" greets the woman who opens accounts. Victor shakes his head and cradles his Mutant Turtle.
"It's time to put him back with his friends!"
"HE DOESNT LIKE HIS FRIENDS!!!" counters Victor. She knows by experience that this could take hours and a possible indictment for ripping off the arm of an endangered turtle species. But anything is preferable to facing the car seat fastener. There are no car seats in the county jail!
The last stop is Hollywood Video, which has the best deal in town on chilled bottles of Pepsi products.
"Why not just buy a twelve pack?" asks the Greek Chorus, on break from their DVD.
"Because she's a chain pop drinker. All twelve would be gone in one pop."
Once out of the car seat, Victor darts for the computer game rentals, while Cascadia dives for the Dew. "Victor...wow, look, these used kid videos are 4 for a dollar. Can you believe it?" Look...it's Astrid Lindgren for a quarter!
"I don't like any of them!!!" says Victor, eyeing "Best California Bed & Breakfasts 1987 Edition."
"How about a popsicle?"
It is a little known fact that Drumsticks are very difficult for three year olds to eat in a carseat!!
We are hurtling southward past New Westville, southward through the extreme west of Ohio.
"So...I imagine these little towns here are just left over from the past..." I ask.
"Well," answers Cousin Julie,"this town is here because of the railroad. And this spot here..." as we top a hill "...was the highest point going down to Cincinnata from Chicaga!!"
"Huh!" I comment.
West Florence, Ohio, September, 2008: "So this is the place where our great grandfather invented his fencing machine!!!" I gazed in awe at the old white farmhouse and the red barn. "I imagine it must have looked about like this in the 1880s...."
"Yes...except they didn't have aluminum siding back then," countered Cousin Julie.
"Or satellite dishes." If he hadn't gotten so involved in woven wire fencing, maybe Pettis would have invented those things as well.
I got out of the Journey...Dollar's version of "subcompact"...and snapped a photo of the right side of the house.
"Uncle Walter and my mother were born here...where was Hazel born?" she asked.
"Granny was born in Richmond," I answered. Right across the state line in Indiana.
I walked around to the old red barn...the real scene of the crime...and raised my camera. You know what happened next!
"DEAD BATTERIES!!!!," read the camera screen.
"Ian!" I shouted. "Take a couple of pictures of that barn!!!"
Ian began to walk down the middle line of the silent asphalt road. Nothing was moving here in rural Ohio...no humans, no cars, no cows, no horses, no tractors, no rows of seed corn or yellowing soybean. But you could look off into the soft grey haze of sky and see the past driving their buggies, you could see Walter and Mabel playing in the front yard, you could see Emma setting the table with blue and white plates for the threshing crew.
"I'd like to see the old Kelley house, too," I reminded Julie, though I knew it was painful.
"It makes me sick; I grew up in that house," she began. "Some doctor bought it and decided he wanted a shooting range in the basement. So...well they found out the reason there had never been a basement when they hit the spring. Now there's three foot of cement in the cellar to keep the water out. That messed up the porches, so they took them off. The doctor got disgusted with the whole thing and sold it. And then the people who bought it started to paint it but didn't finish."
"OH GOSH!!!" I said to myself when I saw it. "How embarrassing! I took a picture of the wrong house when I was here in '87!!!" The square block of brick was half covered with a pink stripe and looked entirely different from the large, imposing farm house in my photo book. Where were the trees? The vicious dog? I'd shot from inside my car...in those days a Chinook camper...because of that EVIL dog!!!
"When he came up here he built a log cabin over in that hollow," she continued. "Then he built the house, and then they added on in back." The line of the addition was obvious now, with the porches off. "In 1907 they had a tornado here, and she was washing clothes and scared her to death. But it bounced off."
"Wow," I said.
"The gal that works at the gym lives here now."
"It looks like she's bitten off more than she can chew," I commented.
"And over there is the one room school where he was teaching when he met Emma." Nowadays it would have been a scandel, the teacher and his eighth grade student!
"I guess you can't show me the old Reid house," I whined. We'd just stopped at the charred ruins of the brick school house where Pettis taught when he was 17. Was this the one they called White Pressure? Julie had no idea.
She laughed. "You're lucky you took that picture when you did. I was surprised that was the one."
"I had a photograph of it from 1905 in an album," I said. In those days it was all black and white and ...there wasn't a refrigerator on the porch.
"Yeah...it used to be a drug house, and there was a murder there, so they yellow tape around it for about five years...never found out why...and then it burned."
The Dalles, Oregon, September 2008: It wasn't too long after Ian and I returned from Indiana that Erin broke the tragic news to *Tony*:
"I can't get you a guess pass for the dance!!!"
"Huh!" said *Tony* in a baritone monotone.
Fortunately, Erin's friend Sage saved the day and arranged a surprise pizza party for her parents...at least it was a surprise to her parents when the guests began to arrive!!! It was, however, no surprise to me when suddenly my cell phone rang!
"Can you come get me?" asked Erin. "And some of my friends need a ride too!!!"
It was not long before I pulled up to the front of Sage's house. A bunch of teenagers were clustered out on the sidewalk, and a couple of them were kissing each other =SMACK= goodbye! Wow! Teen Romance!!!!
"Uh...who is in my car?" I asked. "Cameron is in the front seat here..." Sage's boyfriend had, in fact, made a quick, assertive dive for the front seat. Smarter than I thought!
Erin answered with a laugh. "There's Cameron...and *Tony* is sitting on my lap in the back seat. And Jessica and Haley." Jessica and/or Haley is or was dating Keenan. You never know with identical twins. But where was Keenan...had he stayed at the dance? Anyway...that made 6 people in the Aveo, four of whom were very likely not wearing seat belts. I'd drunk a whole bottle of 3.2 German Riesling and, compounded with 4 no seat belts, I would be executed immediately if stopped by the The Dalles police!!! Oh no!!!
"Let's yell at Keenan when we pass him!" said one of the little Danish twins.
"He's walking home!" explained someone else.
At six foot two and over two hundred thirty pounds, Keenan would never have fit into the trunk. Both Keenan and Cameron, in fact, are football players. How is it, I have wondered, that many of Erin's are on the Football Team or the ASB...the modern day equivalent of the student council? How can a huge Viking with hair halfway down his back and a cute supplemental braid in the center like a garland get onto the football team? How can a woman who fends off romantically hopeful goths left and right at Northwest Folklife be elected to the ASB , as well as date a football player? Well... this is The Dalles!! Remember, this is *the town* that won the State Cheerleading finals with "Viva Las Vegas"...wearing gold tennis shoes!!
I scanned the horizon for the cops...and the Wasco County Sheriff. These latter drive around in rugged gas guzzling SUV's, so that they can chase meth dealers on sagebrush infested four wheel drive trails. I calculated the distance to everyone's house for minimum law enforcement exposure. Yep...I'd deliver Cameron and the pretty twins over there past the Middle School and then take Tony over to the next state [Washinton].
"We're scraping bottom!" someone observed.
"Mom!" added Erin. "Remember in Middle School when we took James home and the car was scraping?" Was that the Aveo or the old red Windstar?
"James? He's pretty...uh...big," asked one off the twins or Cameron, politely.
"Yeah," assured Erin. "He was huge then, but he keeps getting bigger and bigger."
As predicted, we left the Oregon kids off at their homes near the softball field. Fortunately the cops were out nabbing someone else more important than "no seat belts." We continued east and...
"Mom...are you trying to take *Tony* HOME now?" asked Erin. How stupid of me!!! "Um...I thought maybe we could maybe hang out at our house awhile."
"Uh...yeah." I u-turned west, drove home and hunkered down over my computer as if I were in Galveston. Soon my feet began to have the heebie-jeebies, a sure sign that they wanted to go to bed real soon. I knocked on Erin's door.
"You have till one o'clock..." I said with the tone of a desperate mother.
At one I picked up my cell phone. My daughter answered immediately.
"Oh sorry! We were down by the creek!! We'll be right up!!"
I thought backwards to being sixteen, grinned, and strolled towards the wee Aveo. Erin and *Tony* joined me like a fork in the Tree of Life.
But.... in the driveway.... bright headlights!!!
"WHAT?!?!" exclaimed Erin. "Oh it's Ian!!!" she laughed. Laura's car had just injected Ian into the driveway, three forks in the tree of life!
"What's the video you saw?" I ask right now.
"Master and Commander...the Far Side of the World!" Ian answers.
September, 2008, The Dalles: Yep...I'm still pulling up ivy. That's what's bad about an unkempt big lot...there are so many invasives to exterminate! But...sitting outside with a real purpose, people you never thought you'd meet strike up conversations with you!
A couple of nights ago, I was pulling ivy around the Norway spruce close to the house. You've got to admit english ivy looks great in shady areas where nothing else will grow. Otherwise you would just have barren dead spruce branches. But after a while it all starts to look like the green blob monster.
Clip! Pull! Clip!!! I looked up, straight into the eyes of an older couple peering over the 9th street bridge at the water, rocks, spring flood debris, and masses of ivy. The man had a white beard.They looked straight at me!
"Hey mate! Can you tell us where a restaurant called the Sugar Bowl is located?" Wow! It must be spring in Kangarooland now!
"Uh...about 4 blocks that way," I answered, I don't know that it's 4 blocks...here in The Dalles, we're not precise. I hoped they knew what "about" means!!!
This morning, I clipped ivy close to the creek. If there's one place that invasives should be apprehended, it's in the riparian areas. Wow! Look at this! Actual flood debris! When Mill Creek floods in the spring, like huge branches, grass, plastic bags, pallets, and what's this? A child's sock! Made out of some synthetic fabric, it , like the ivy, showed no sign of disintegration. It could have been decades old.
I looked up. A man was sitting in the back parking lot of the senior center with his dog and pick-up, eating an early lunch.
"Whatcha lookin for?" He asked. How apropo! Just the day before, I'd dropped my clippers in the ivy mat and it took me ten minutes to find them!
"Nothing!" I yelled. "I'm getting rid of English Ivy! There's so much of it."
"You need a trachet?"
"A what?" Trench hoe? Transplant it?"
"This seems to work ok."
He paused. "Cleaning up those intrusives. Did you see the OPB special on the TV about intrusive star thistle?"
No," I answered, "but I've seen a lot of star thistle." Mostly over by Lyle, at that Washington State Roadside.
"It's taking over all the ranchland," he explained
"awesome show in portland last night and it was fun just chillin in the bar" ----Anonymous MySpace Comment
Portland, September 2008: Suddenly, Finnish metal has been sucked into the vortex of Portland like dust into a vacuum cleaner. Not one...but three Suomi bands this last week!!!
"I'm going to see Finntroll," I say.
"I'm going to see Finntroll," I say.
"I'm going to see Finntroll," I say.
"Huh!" replies Ian, eyes sucked into the vortex of the new "Spore" game on his new "mac."
Erin doesn't even hear me.
I'm a little late to Portland's Hawthorne Theater. Here is how the one big room in the Hawthorne is set up. In front, by the stage, is the all-ages area. Then there are two grim plywood partitions, with the soundboard between, and, finally, at the back is the Bar. In accordance with the OLC, no one under 21 can go into the "bar." The real bar itself is at the back of the "bar." The bar, in its elegant salad days, used to be in between the partitions, but has been moved to the very back.
The first band was surprisingly good. They played Taiko Doom, moving as if swimming in molasses." Wham!" went the drummer over and over, hard and slow. They had some other typical metal instruments as well. Every once in a while the frontman growled something depressive and unintelligible. I liked the second band too. My guess is that their genre was mellow death, like, for example, Dark Tranquillity. I made up names for the two bans: "Embezzled" and "Sacrificial Combine."
Question: Why is it so hard to learn the names of the warm up bands at metal concerts? Why is it so uncool to introduce them?
Answer: Because you're supposed to KNOW who they are!!!
Anyway, at the end of "Embezzled," I went over to the bar. "I'd like a Halfwicken stout," I said. It was on tap.
And sat down in the row of theatre seats against the right wall. A young man walked up to me...long brown hair and a beard like Marco Hietala, divided into two and tied ~WOW~!!! He looked confused
"Weren't you at the last Feentroll concert?"
"No, I'm sorry I missed it." Jo, kyla.
I took a swig of my Halfwicken, which is brewed with hops and decaf. Now I was ready for a journey to the All Ages section.
Well, here I was, close to the stage and Grim Combine. The man standing front of me was wearing a Bathory tea shirt; Bathory was a seminal Swedish black metal band. Everyone else was fairly blah. Then, suddenly, one of the blah guys ran right into another one! Wham! The second reciprocated. A small cell of moshers had erupted right next to me!!! I rolled my eyes and hopped backwards, hoping not to hit anyone myself!!! Soon I realized that it was best to mosey back to the bar.
My luck ran out when the thrash band Warbringer took the stage. Ugh, thrashmetal! Sure, there are a few instances of rebellion, for instance Sepultura's "Roots," but in general, thrash metal,is a f*****g pool of odious slime. And...up front, the guys were at it again, this time like a huge swarm of bees or a saloon brawl in the Old West. Wham! Wham!
Finntroll combines folk and Humppa (derived from oom-pa...the same style of music you hear from Elaikaiset) with black metal. And there they were, up on our humble stage, one of Finland's premiere folk-metal bands! In order to look like pagans, they had grease-painted something resembling black tree limbs on their faces and torsos. Two of them...the skinny Nordic dudes with long blond hair...had taken their shirts off!!! And oh what pretty hair they have as they twirl it in the air!!! Vreth, the vocalist, said: "Our bass player is in the hospital...so we are borrowing one from Oregon!" The Oregonian wore a blue T shirt and didn't look pagan at all.
Soon, however, the Finnish bassist returned from his cat scan, and even better, a couple that was leaning on the barricade moved off, due to the woman wanting to sit down. I leaned forward to collect my thoughts. Finntroll didn't sound quite the same as on their recordings, not quite as folky, alas. I looked forward into the All Ages. Most of the area was a pool of sweaty tattooed Brownian motion. Wham! A roller derby queen with arms the size of cannons leaned against the barricade and laughed.
I turned to examine the bar rats...like me! Three other middle aged women...hmm...!! A group of three men...friends...collided with one another gently and laughed. One of them began to dance the highland fling. A cheery, pudgy bearded man with old-style wire-rims, and his cheery pudgy wife stood quietly grinning.
"Where's the Mountain Dew?"
"It's in the fridge, duh!"
A very normal man with short brown hair wore an Eluveitie shirt from when Paganfest was in Portland. Hurdy-Gurdy bagpipe metal from Switzerland. It was the first Eluveitie shirt I'd ever seen!
Richmond, Indiana, September 2008: My parents kept a tinted picture of the Gennett mansion on the wall in the blue bedroom. I've hung the same picture in an embayment of the hallway, just above a photograph of the 1924 ice jam on Lake Superior.
"I was born in that house!!!" my father would mention every once in a while.
My cousins in Richmond saw the house quite often, but I only saw it for one summer week and one Christmas week a year. At the time, it was cut up into many apartments, as was the mode of the day. Attics with luan mahogany paneling were most coveted. Finally, in the nineties, the building was restored as a classy insurance office; now it is a classy events home. While all this was going on, no one had ever asked me if I wanted to go inside. But, jeez, how many of us get to tour their great grandparents' homes.
"I was raised in the Kelley house," sobs Cousin Julie's aural spirit. She is a Reid and not a Gennett. "Just look what they've done to my great great grandparents home!!! They took the porches off and halfway painted it pink." Yep...the Richmond area is a incredible hotbed of beautiful old brick buildings that harbor poverty, that collapse or burn and beg to be totally obliterated.. We have a few of these in The Dalles, but not many. Basalt bricks haven't been particularly successful.
So...this year at the Gennett Reunion there were two functions at the Mansion. One was a reception for the family and for the Starr-Gennett musical artists who would be honored by "The Gennett Walk of Fame." This is an ever growing series of cement sidewalk chunks embedded with a ceramic 78rpm superimposed with a mosaic of the artist. The Freds...my close cousins and I...bought a Vernon Dalhart last year, though I would have preferred Lawrence Welk. This year they were all sold out of new honorees, so we were off the hook. The next day, which was probably Saturday, we hung out listening to bluegrass and mariachi at the tidy but ravaged site of the piano factory and recording studio in the Whitewater Gorge.
"That area down by the river is a gol-durn mess!" my father would say to his brothers, or to Grandfather, and then grumble about Decca. Grumbling is a family tradition. I only had a vague idea of what he was talking of, having seen "what" primarily in one green tinted polaroid in the ever-increasing unkempt glob of photos stuffed into a pocket of the battered Ethan Allen maple coffee table in the Den. But in the late 90s, the children and I traveled one spring break to Niagara Falls....and took a sidetrip. The complex of cement and brick ruins were a gol-durn mess.
About 5:33 were arrived BACK AGAIN to the Gennett Mansion. All of the Freds but us had skipped out on the reception...luckily the leftovers canapes were served again before dinner. I guess if you drive from Indy or Cincinnati, you don't need to get your moneys worth for a United flight.
But there were enough Freds at the dinner, and some others that I'd never seen before except in my genealogy files. Just outside the door, a chubby bald middle aged man extended his hand.
"I haven't seen you since I was twelve!!!" he exclaimed.
It was Cousin John Henry!!!
<to be continued>%^%^%^%^%
The Dalles, August 2008: Suddenly, the doorbell rings!!! Ding-dong!!! I hope beyond hope I will get a copy of Thee Watchtower with its lush drawings of Armageddon, Paradise depicted as Hood River-esque orchards (why would you want to go to Heaven if you're already in it?), and three headed serpents! Or maybe UPS is delivering a package of CDs from Latvia!!!
No. Two women are standing out on the tiny front steps. Our house was built almost 60 years ago and in those days the view in the back was of the creek, and then an endless sea of grasses, oaks and pines blowing in the Columbia wind...your eyes owned it all...!!! That's why the real porch was in the back. Now, the Senior Center is docked permanently on Mill Creek, and beyond that a ball park and twenty blocks of manufactured homes. But with the sprinkler system, the lush bright green...
"It's so lush here!" *Tony* told Erin.
.... unkempt hedges and flower beds, as well as the walnuts and cottonwoods that line the creek are heaven to visit with. Each side of the house has something to offer.
One of the women nervously shows a petition to me. "We're from [name of grocery store]. We believe...uh...that supermarkets should be career positions and that we should...um.. be paid a living wage."
"And I will give my consent
to any government
that does not deny a checker a living wage."
I sign the petition. They hesitate.
"We were just admiring your yard!" one says. Of course! It's an oasis in the Sahara!
"Thanks!" I reply.
Mosier, OR Sept 2008: They pop up out of nowhere...on the backroads...on the freeway...over on the right hand side, on the Mosier Entrance Ramp!!!
Yep...it's a chubby, round man in an orange t-shirt. He is holding a small duffell, and he's got his thumb out!
As I pull to a stop, I notice that he's actually a woman, with short, red hair...and an orange t-shirt.
"Thanks! It's hard to get a ride with the road messed up the way it is."
I wonder, in fact, how I'll even get back on to I-84, with all these crazy orange construction cones.
"I live in The Dalles," she says.
"I live there too," I agree. Then my cell phone begins to buzz. I've left it in my pants pocket, where it seems to be stuck. I wonder if I lost weight if I could get my phone out more easily. By the time I get it pulled out, it's stopped ringing...the screen says "Ian," and I'm almost home. I put the phone on the seat between my legs.
For a few minutes there is silence, as the last doug firs circle into dry pine and oak scrub. as if trapped on a salmon wheel.
"I was in Hood River because someone said they had a cleaning job for me," begins the hitchhiker. She has a round face with odd features, and I wonder if she has Downs Syndrome. But they wouldn't leave her here on the highway if she had Downs Syndrome...would they?
"But..." she continues, "when I got there they didn't have anything. I got a ride from a Hispanic guy to Mosier..."
"Five miles?" I ask.
"He didn't speak English too good. Then no one would pick me up with the road the way it is. I am out of money and my cell phone is out of minutes and I couldn't even call anyone to come get me."
"Wow," I add.
"Where do you live?" she asks.
"Down by the Senior Center." She nods. "I live behind Home Depot and Chenoweth Elementary School. I live up on the hill by the old Middle School."
"Hmm!" I comment. Just below Chenoweth Table, where violet widows peaks are the harbingers of spring.
I think a minute. Then I remember.
"You live in those apartments?" I ask. On the east end of town, it is the one of the few areas where Ponderosas grow naturally in your yard...like Colorado...like the Rockies someplace you could be in Iowa or Texas in the Morning and the Rockies at Night. =SNAP=
"Yeah, it's nothing fancy, but it's home."
"Road kill. Dead skunk," I say.
"Dead skunk," I repeat a quarter mile along.
"Ha ha! This must be skunk alley!!! Skunks must be pretty stupid. My dog keeps getting skunked. The only way you get rid of it is by washing them in tomato juice. You have to leave it on for a while too."
"Huh!" I imagine restraining a dog soaked in tomato juice.
"And Vinegar is a good way to get rid of smells. When we worked in Safeway, we'd have pickle spills."
"Ugh!!!" I said, peeling off at The Dalles Discovery Center Exit. "Where is it I turn now to get onto 10th?"
"Right there by home depot. Even if I got a job cleaning, I don't know how I'd get there. I don't have a car. I don't have any money. I don't know what I'm going to do. Over there is the old high school. You turn onto 10th there."
I turn the Aveo onto 10th, and then up into the pines. I pull ten stamped ones out of my purse and give them to her.
"Hey, where do you get so many ones?" she asks.
"I make them," I reply.
"Italian For Beginners"
Portland State, September 2008:
"Men!" yelled the coach. The men were stationed in rows of desks facing the front of the northerly of the two big classrooms ajoining the PSU gym and basketball court. There were so many of them that the spilled out into the hall, blocking traffic. "Team! Listen! This WILL be the best basketball season we've ever had!!" And listen they did, quaking in fear, these tall men who... =snap=
Yeah...I had checked the room out before hand and paid the price: deja vu!!
"Students!" said our teacher. "This course isn't easy. You'll have homework! You MUST listen to the cd and the videos!!!" The thin Italian-esque woman in the stylish pants ensemble glared at her students, who were rolling in like meatballs. She shook her head in amazement.
I did too...shake my head in amazement. No Nordic teacher would ever admit to teaching a difficult language. 19 different noun cases in suomenkieli? No problem!!!! What was I doing here in this odd Rec Center classroom? Why wasn't I taking Norwegian in the Finnish room like I planned? "Dr Tom," said the e-mail on my brain computer. "Do you think your Norwegian class will 'make'? Need another student?" Midnight sun over the fjords, snow on the fjells....
"Ciao~" began Mme Susan. "You only say Ciao to your friends and to children...but here in class we will always say ciao~." I began to gather my books...."To everyone else, you say Buon giorno, or...if it is evening...Buona sera." Bella sera, a single of bella sera white was waiting for me at Fred Meyers, if I could just get home in time. I could leave right now....just walk away...
Suddenly the ghost of my great great great grandmother, Anita DeMonella, appeared in front of the door, holding a large sword. I sat back down and began to whimper. Blood will out. Maybe Gaelic, though, why don't they teach Gaelic???
The sword of Anita hit my desk with a thud, cleaving it in two like the parting of the Ligurian Sea.
"Come si chiami?" she screeched angrily.
"Gennett...the g is pronounced like a j because it is in front of an i or e!!!" I answered shakily.
The Dalles, OR, Oct 2008: The scientist is a returned local, and the name of his exciting talk is "The Health of Lower Mill Creek."
"We did a very detailed survey of the vegetation along Mill Creek...we labeled every invasive plant we found. Here on this map, for example, I've tried to label every blackberry (BB) patch and every tree of heaven (AA)." He flashes a slide of 27 local Aithanthes altissima individuals which have attained a height of ca 12 feet in just 8 hours...reaching for Heaven, I reckon.
"How about the English Ivy?" someone asks.
"We don't have much of a problem with that here, not as much in as in Portland. There they form 'English Ivy Deserts,' because they keep everything else from growing there!
GASP!!!! The audience reels back in sheer terror. The scientist reels forwards to show a different slide.
"A healthy stream has a high content of pebbles in its bed. What we found was that much of the Mill Creek sediments are half cobbles with boulders...too straight a channel, too much rip rap...."
"Huh!" comments a few listeners.
"The creek is always changing. We thought we were looking at an area that was swiftly moving. A week later <slide> there was a big beaver dam. We knew it was beavers because there were chewed off trees around there."
An elderly stream liver spoke up. "I know about those darned beavers! I finally got a trapper to come out 'n' get rid of him for me. And you know that was the end of that beaver, coz he was a trapper! WHAP!!!"
"And here's another problem...trash! It's actually not these Dr. Pepper cans or the grocery carts...."
"That's why our grocery prices are so expensive. Haw haw haw...They take the carts as far as they need 'em and just dump 'em," says a man.
"....It's the run-off mixed with oil, and...well...the creek is just an open storm sewer!"
"Yuck!!!" I tell myself.
The elderly woman speaks again. "These hispanics...you remember them when they marched that time. They were all carrying water bottles, and when they got to the bridge, they threw all of 'em down just to watch them all fall. And these young kids. It's not the skateboarders...they have something to do, it's the kids that don't have anything to do. The parents say they want to build that skate park over by the middle school, but the parents gotta watch 'em. I tried to run them off and they give me the finger sign and they're back again the next day...."
"Huh!" exclaims the scientist.
"Wow! There's a lot of McCain Palin signs," I say to Erin. "It used to just be Obama signs. Now McCain signs are popping up like...uh... poison mushrooms," I tell my daughter.
<cont> The Dalles, Oct 2008:
A man in the audience spoke up:
"So what are we supposed to plant, once we got the *INVASIVES* out?"
"The US Forestry Service suggests poison oak. Ha ha!!!"
The audience was very enthusiastic about this, but only on steep slopes and basalt cliffs that they would not be using for Memorial Day Barbecues.
"Yeah...and invite a couple more of those SKUNKS to come inspect the poison oak!! Haw haw!!!" added another man.
"Excuse me," announced the woman from the Mill Creek Watershed Collective. "It's time for our TOUR now!!!"
The first stop was to look over the ninth street bridge at *our* floodplain property, which still has vast amounts of *Hedera helix* all over everything.
"Looks like they at least have it off the trees," snapped one woman. The situation begged me to show her the calluses on my fingers from pulling those m**********g ivy vines. But isn't that how it always is? I remained silent.
A couple Habitat Pals, one of whom was my little mentioned spouse, where hugging the rails on the bridge at the other side of ninth...the side by the duplex with the crazy people.
"Look!" one of them exclaimed. "There's a shopping cart down there!!!! We'd better take it back to Safeway!!!" That was the last I saw of my old man for a while!
Long time readers will recognize the site of an old disused trailer park along Mill Creek. As luck would have it, a new owner had utilized part of the property for pricey creekside condos and donated the rest to the City for a park. That was why the padlocked gate was there.
"So what IS this pipe we're crossing on?" someone asked. It was something everyone had always wondered.
"It's a water pipe that comes to town from the reservoir up the hill," said the scientist.
"Huh!" exclaimed everyone in some way or another.
The scientist took a key out and unlocked the gate. We walked down to the creek.
"Hops!" someone pointed out as only a brewer would. "We could brew some beer and eat blackberries! Haw haw!!!"
"The 1996 flood must have really ripped through here...I can remember watching the garbage cans float by!!!" said a woman excitedly.
"We've thought about putting a bridge here for the trail, but it would have to be wide enough for emergency vehicle access in case someone had an accident.," said the committeeleader. "What we'd do is cut through the basalt riprap and resituate everything."
Riprap? No...it was one of those old mortarless walls build in the late 1800s by Italian masons! How dare they rip it out? Here is my opinion: You must balance natural history with human history. Otherwise you've got a bunch of crumbling, canopied gas stations entwined with invasive plants and hungry skunks and raccoons, and you're hell bent to destroy or ignore it all.
"Red alder....sycamore with that white peeling bark...tree of heaven (Ugh!)...and what's this? Does anyone know?" I knew, but had forgotten the name!
"Buckeye!" exclaimed a young woman with confidence. Horse chestnut.
"That's right!" exclaimed the scientist with equal enthusiasm.
"I lived in Ohio for a long time," exclaimed the woman. The buckeye is the state tree of Ohio.
"Here's the fruit, he said, holding up a chestnut-like nut. "There must be another around...they don't reproduce on their own. There's one at Dalles Mountain Ranch, and it never bears fruit."
"Good lord!!" said a woman, "What is that? Bamboo!????"
"No..." answered the scientist. "It's Japanese Knotweed! Someone must have dropped a piece here and it mushroomed all over the place!!!"
"Look," whispered my husband to his buddy. "See that Safeway cart poised to plunge down that almost vertical slope? We'd better take it back!!!"
"Buckeye..." I whispered to myself. "There's the other buckeye."
Near Yakima, WA, October 2008. Everyone else on this geology and wine field trip has a predestined partner...everyone but Audrey and me. This means that we two girls are ephemeral buddies. A trim women in her sixties, she is retired as a school speech & hearing specialist in Boise. Audrey and her husband like wind surfing and skiing...that's how they ended up in living on the outskirts of Parkdale....at the pear-laden threshold to Mount Hood. Some people call that area Pear-adise and they might be right!!
Audrey is a now a listener...a part time pourer for wine tasters in the Hood River Valley. That's why she is on the wine and geology trip.
"Do you do most of your travelling alone?" she asks me. I immediately think of the trip Ian and I took to Wacken.
"About half...I grab a child if I can. But I drove around Iceland alone...and New Zealand...." Hot springs!!! Whoa!!!
"New Zealand!" Audrey exclaims. "I've always wanted to go there!"
"New Zealand was CHEAP when I went. The seasons are backwards too. I rented a camper van for $30 a day. I would HIGHLY recommend New Zealand!!"
"I'll never go," she said. "I'll never have the money."
"Why?" I answer quizzily.
"Because, like many retirees, I have seen my pension fund decrease by 50% the past week. You're not in the same position? The stock market has plummeted."
Yeah, I own stock, and I have seen it go up and down. USB stock...that's what I type into Firefox every morning. Ha ha! Tokyo? Community College for the kids? = Poof!=
In only 20 minutes, we will observe yet another vineyard. We will be perched at the top of one of the anticlinal folds in the CRBs which define the AVAs of the Yakima Valley.
[FACT: If you wonder what the heck geology is good for, consider that it determines both terroir of wines and the boundaries of American Viticultural Areas!!!]
We will load onto a little surry bus and climb to the highest point of land. The young dog will hop aboard...every vineyard has a charming dog...but the old dog with the bad hip will doggedly follow. No one will lift her up. The long surrey will stop at the highest point on the ridge.
"See these three granite boulders?" asks the vineyard owner. "This is the line of the Missoula flood lake that covered the Yakima Valley, for at most a week or two!" The granite boulders were ice rafted in from exotic BC.
I write this stuff down, like I usually do. With the cost of tuition, Oxford Inn, and spaghetti , you would think that everyone else would as well. But, yeah, apparently they have photographic memories. Or maybe the bits of information here just become drops in a pool of ambient understanding.
Hmm..a bench! I can sit down and write notes...and listen...
"Why are there just skeletons of grape clusters on the vines over there?" asks a prospective vineyard owner.
"That's from the mechanical grape picking machine. The only one we found that would work on this property was from Germany." Ha ha, not China!!! "Unfortunately it was the most expensive one!! and then...we even found a de-stemmer.!!!"
I look up. The trip leader...the teacher of this adult education course is standing over me like a video camera at an ATM machine.
"I was wondering," he said, "Why you are taking so many notes. Are you writing an article?"
Huh! Well, I'm flabbergasted. But I have a line:
"See, here....these are my notes for my Geography of Wine Course, and next are my notes for this trip...."
The vino geologist stares at me kindly.
"And...uh...no, I'm not writing anything."
He smiles. "I find it useful to write things down too, even if I don't look over my notes."
Not write anything? At that point, I realized I would write anything, but not in the way the teacher expected. Haw Haw, possums and skunks!!!
=WHAP!!!= Spirits appear, rising from up behind the translucent screen of the battered Inspiron 600m and bolt me blindfolded to the floor over by the litterbox. UGH!
"You have three doors...one labeled 'dry land farming'...we saw that at Celilo. The second is labeled 'Drip Irrigation,' popular with red grape production in the Yakima Valley AVA. Thirdly, there will be a circular 'pivot irrigation," which we have not yet experienced in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. You must pick the right door!!!"
Uh...I blindly picked the right door, but had no idea which one it was. I just sniffed out the sickly sweetness of a mature Muscat and I was a free woman.
I awoke in our room in Yakima, the heavily channeled Yakima River flowing sweetly beyond the balcony and pool.
"I spend all my time in the summers gardening," Audrey was saying. My roommate, I deduced, was a "Master Gardener." It is the best masters degree you can have.
"I haven't had any time to plant anything this year...
"I understand what you're saying. A couple of years ago I was with a volunteer group that pulled English Ivy from a site in the Hood River area," said Audrey.
"Pull...I've heard that you can roll it up like a blanket!!" I countered.
"I can't imagine that. We had to just pull it. Then we put in native plants, but most have not grown very well. We think that the ivy leaves a toxin...similar to that of walnut trees, that won't allow anything to grow after the plants have been removed."
"Wow!" I replied.
"It's addictive," I said.
Two old soldiers against the blight of Hedera helix, we turned the TV off, settled down in our soft double beds and slept for as much as ten hours.
The Dalles, OR, Sept 2008: Wine! Soon wine and beer will comprise at least 40% of the US GNP!!! Not to mention the acres of Concord grapes grown on contract to Welches! And it's not just beverages, but also building materials and sound systems for wineries!!!
"Wow!" I w[h]ined to my Wine and Geology classmates last weekend. "Maryhill has so many visitors...it's always so crowded."
"It may be because they always have MUSIC!!" explained a cheerful punaviinia infused student.
Indeed they do, on the patio or over in the amphitheater. Crosby Stills & Nash. BB King....whatever.
And furthermore,,,the wise words of my Geography of Wine teacher Mother...uh...Doctor Teresa echoed in my skull:
"When you purchase a winery, you're buying a lifestyle, not an income!"
Just a few weeks ago, the word...or rather the e-mail... came out that Kevin Burke was playing a benefit for Habitat for Humanity in The Dalles. Whoa!!! KEVIN BURKE in THE DALLES!! Bill Morrissey, Kerry Grombacher...amazing enough...but a well respected Irish Fiddler???!!! Here in *The Dalles*? I read on...
"...at The ERIN Glen Winery,." Well...that made more sense.
Yes, and interestingly, Kevin Burke sort of made a joke during the performance about there being a winery in the middle of downtown. He probably didn't know that *THE Dalles* is THE Market Hub for at least a three county area. You come here from South County, you head to one of two places....*Downtown*, or over to Fred Meyer [aka Kroger] by our house..
"Where are you going, Ian?" I asked my son a minute ago.
"Down to Freddies," he answered.
"What is that you have?" I will say when he returns. "Candy?"
"M&M's with peanuts."
It was a sell-out crowd at the winery....the same people who might arrive at the Civic to experience the lyrics of Eric Taylor or Kelly Joe Phelps. Our family sat in the FRONT ROW...Me, my little mentioned husband, and Ian. One of Ian's assets is that he'll listen to any kind of music, unlike his sister Erin who presciently decides almost everything is potentially boring. Yep...inside a huge work garage, where they probably stomp the grapes at harvest time. Behind us was a classy wine bar, where you could sit and taste or, as was the case tonite, buy white or red varietals by the glass. You'd think, though, at Erin Glen it would be green wine...haw haw!!! Dinner-free, I filled up on a glass of white wine and some crackers and cheese donated by Fred Meyer. I brought back a white napkin and commenced to "write something." Luckily, no one was flabbergasted that I was taking notes!!!
Off we go! This is what I wrote: The Doon Reel/Town In Kilkenny/Maug Millar. Last Train to Lochreg...
"Why are you using a ***napkin***?" my husband asked in disgust, rolling his eyes. He handed me a stack of tiny chaotic yellow post its.
"The Lighthouse Keepers Waltz/Glen Cottage Polka. Song: Off to Missouri (Lewis & Clark).'I think this must be a good night to play a Johnny Cash tune.' Green Fields of Paris Nights (cabaret). Coleman's one of first to get recorded in US--went back to Ireland. Boyz of the Loch/Wind that Shakes the Barley---from Coleman's? French Canadian tunes from Brunet's Playing. Evening Prayer---Bill Munro. Old Mandolin-History [this is great...sort of a Where's George for mandolins!!!]. /Winery in Middle Of Town/Carved Woodbox. Clancy's Hornpipe. Flexible Flyer, 2 reels by Cal. Water Story. O Carolan Concerto/Loftus Jones. Dionne Twins/ Mouth of the Tobique...and I was lost on Cape Breton....
During intermission, I raided the Fred Meyer chips and salsa and bought a copy of the latest album "Kevin Burke and Cal Scott: Across the Black River." That's howI know that many of the songs that night were from "Black River." Ten years ago, when I interviewed Kevin Burke, and Andy Irvine at the Cactus Cafe in Austin, I knew the Patrick Street tunes by heart. Now I am overwhelmed by the passage of time. But..oh good fortune, I buried myself in sound, in the contrast of Kevin's traditional fiddle with Cal Scott's frets. I pulled the two apart: the old, smooth, traditional tunes played by Kevin, the bow flowing like silver wire in my own hands, and the foreign, modern acoustic sounds exiting Cal's instruments.
And..the songs from Calvin that kept the lyric junkies awake!
tinner, grocer, fencemaker, pianomaker.....
Richmond, Indiana, September 2008: The Gennett Mansion isn't really a mansion, per se, like the homes of The Tinplate King or the Vanderbilts, nor was it ever. It is only about twice the size of our big house in Bryan, Texas. It is likely that if you are properly upscale you've spent the night at a comparable B&B, or at least you've toured The Lumber Wizard of the UP's sizeable all-wood home. Jo...the reason the house is a mansion is that it looks so tastefully classy....like a beige version of the White House!!
That's where my son Ian and I are tonite, snarfing down canapes in one of the oak-mouldinged dining areas...the one my great grandmother slept in after she could no longer climb the stairs.
I've turned over my personal black and white copy of "Key To Your First Second and Third Cousins" by dr. judy so I can draw on it. I have my tired, malfunctioning Cool-Pix cocked and ready for one more room and the one after that and....
There are people here who know the conflicts and the aspirations of the ghosts who inhabitant the Mansion much better than I. I am just an archeologist collecting quotes, photos, and tomato-basil bites.
"Huh!" I say, opening a French door in the canape room. "An old white bathroom!" Why would anyone put a French door on a bathroom?
"Are you sketching in details?" asks the new owner. "I have a floorplan...that might be easier!" She returns in a few minutes with a plan that's served to rewire and replumb the first floor. I reckon, don't know for sure!
Time scampers on: I climb to the second floor and eddy back through the backflow eddies to the new owner.
"I hear there's a ballroom on the third floor! I sure would like to see it!!"
The owner sighs. "There's really nothing special up there but empty space...it's not what you think. Besides, it's where WE live!" she laughs.
The conversation runs on like sand in the wind and finally the speakers are blown elsewhere.
"You don't show the ballroom, eh?" I comment.
"I do if you're a family member," she replies, perusing my red "Fred" label. "If you wait till things clear out, I'll give you a tour."
I went back to eating, and talked to a couple people...
"Wow...you made it out of Nacogdoches!!!" I said to a distant cousin once removed. "YES!!!" she grins.
...I had never met. Finally everyone left.
" You know...during the 70s, this place was actually slated for demolition as part of Urban Renewal. I really wish I could find the original floor plans....here, I'll show you what someone sent me, but they can't be the originals." She leads us to a small office cubbyhole on the second floor. Carving up the house into apartments...and later on into an insurance office...led to a number of mystery rooms.
"Yeah," I confirm. "I think these were drawn up as part of a house tour."
Which was what we were doing!!! The owner opened up the door to the third floor!!!
"Huh!" I exclaim. I've seen the plan before, but the third floor in my mind is completely open. This one in my eyes has rooms on the corners. Weird.
"Someone asked how people could dance up here. But what I think is that since they were from Nashville, they did southern line dancing. And the band would be in this bay window here." The bay looks like a tongue sticking out of the dance floor. "Come over here and lean against the table and say something...anything! Can you hear it Put your hands on the table and lean a little more?"
"Uh...Ian why don't you try it?" I can't tell any difference.
"Wow!" exclaims Ian. This sounds great!"
"It's the "sweet spot"...everything is amplified over and over!"
No wonder they put the band in that bay!
Portland, October 2008: She was walking across the parking ramp when she heard the tune. It was a lucky penny, the golden nickel...
"The customer who gave this to me said he'd kept this nickel in his pocket for ten years," the cashier had told her.
...a song without notes, like Siam or a well-landscaped yard in autumn. She thought and thought, and finally decided that it was an escaped memory from the few years when she saw landscapes as paintings and there was magic in every story. She reckoned it had come back as protection against jokes about Sarah Palin. But what else magical would take place today?
Sacred Harp, Dinner and a Play, all with such a handsome man! That seemed magical enough!
"I'll have the veggie combo (stuffed grape leaves and meatless moussaka!)" she ordered.
"I'll have the chicken kabob [but it's not what I wanted...a donor kabob like they have in Finland...]," said her son.
The waiter walked away and ~=snap=~ an army of corpses began to roam the streets of Portland!!! Cadavers, young and old, faces titanium white, banged on the plate glass of the Greek Octopus with their fists ~=KERWHUMP=~, and a few came in to order dinner. Some even had roller blades and skateboards. She bet she knew how *those* zombies met their end! But...How magical!
The Dalles, October 2008: The next day, she began to ~=CLIP=~ ivy again. It was a cheat, but she ~= snipped=~ a wide path through the wretched Hedera helix and fading Equisetum to reach the shore...or the beach, as her grandson called it...of Mill Creek. The creek was running quick and low and every so often there would a ~=whop=~ and a change in pitch that made her suspicious. When she reached the edge, she looked down surprised at the two ragged red ovals that hugged the shore, blowing in the current like a kite in the dark evening wind.
Oh! Who do you suppose they were? Escaped goldfish chewed to bits by raccoons? She smiled, glad they had made it this far up their path to death. She picked up her blue German clippers and walked over to the woods to work. After a while, she lay down in the space she had cleared and looked up at the bright blue sky where yellowing leaves are stars. Walnut, cottonwood, maple...maple? She'd never seen that maple before!!
Oregon, Oct 2008: Oh how things turn upside down!!!
"Mom!" exclaimed Erin. "Kamelot is going to be in Portland! Can we go?"
"Huh!" I exclaimed as well. "Ian, do you want to see Kamelot?"
"Sure!" exclaimed Ian, confident that he would get to ride in the front seat of the Aveo unless...Keenan...
"Keenan wants to go, Erin added a few days later. "And Sage. And Justin. And of course ***tony***
"Whoa! That makes SEVEN, that's all even a rental van will hold! You'll have to put ***tony*** on her lap!" This was no joke. It's not unusual to see ***tony*** being carried piggy-back on Erin's broad, strong shoulders. That's what 9th Grade Weight Training will do for a gal.
"Brice wants to go," Ian added. Brice is a member of Ian's RPG/Astronomy club. Almost every week, Brice hosts a late-night D&D sessions. This makes sense because there is a huge silver high voltage pole in his front yard. The metal pole makes it easy for wizards as well as cows and extraterrestrials to access the site.
"Oh no!" I mumbled..."Soon we will need a 20 passenger van."
"[But I GREW UP listening to Kamelot]" you can hear the extra-terrestrials sob.
"Mom!" exclaimed Erin. "Brice can't make it. He has band. He told me that in the hall. I have marching band too, and the decision has torn me apart."
"Hmm...I'll rent a 7 passenger van..."
"Mom!" exclaimed Erin. "Keenan can't come because of football and Sage can't come because she was being too disrespectful to her parents!" Here is one of the more perplexing and pervasive issues that parents have to face. Make expensive reservations for a birthday party in Trinidad, and at least one parent will ground their kid a day before for leaving their jacket in the living room aquarium.
"Great!" I retorted. "We can cancel the van and take the yellow Aveo."
Erin quaked in fear.
"I've got replacements. Jordan thinks he can go, and Cameron too."
"Here it is...the KIA minivan! Looks comfy. You and ***tony*** can cuddle up on the back seat."
"MOM~~~~!!! We'll take the middle seats. And by the way, Cameron can't come because of football."
"I guess he's more essential to the Eagle Indians than we thought." We began to pick up the children: ***tony*** over in Washington state; Justin, hanging out at the home of the pretty Danish twins; and Jordan at his doublewide across from the movie theatre. Soon, the six of us were zinging down the freeway toward Portland!
"I have an idea!" Erin exclaimed. "My friend Evi in Portland!" Erin and Evi have been friends ever since they met at Hippie Camp and discovered their mutual interest in Manga. How fortunate we have cell phones!
And so it was that we approached Market and 39th.
"There she is!" exclaimed Erin.
[to be continued]
Portland, OR October 2008. Lotsa time has passed since we viewed young Evi on the corner of Market and 39th. She looks forlorn out there in her pretty CosPlay ensemble. It's time we rescued her!
"Erin, why don't you get out of the mini-van and keep Evi company?" I said.
"Why don't we ALL get out?" someone suggested.
The door rolled back and the happy group of ephemeral metalheads rolled out like an amoeba pulsating through the Seattle Center. Erin...Evi...Justin...Jordan...and, of course, *tony*, the token Washingtonian. Ian remained in the passenger seat, blocked in by childhood on the left and adulthood on the right; pulled forward into the undertow by the mail-in ballot, washed back onto the beach by the OLCC.
We drove 4 or 5 blocks before we found a place to park. What a gentile neighborhood for a rock 'n' roll palace!!! There was the Amoeba, shimmering by the door...I rationed out the tickets, and, the protozoan blobbed on through the frisking area.
["Do they frisk everyone who goes in?" you ask.
"No...just the guys," I answer. "Women never carry knives and guns, just sharpies." At the Roseland, they even confiscate your sharpies in fear that you will draw graffiti in the bathroom...but not here!!!]
"Here!" said Erin, handing me her jacket. Slinging it over my purse, I slunk like a coat tree into the NO MINORS bar.
"I'll have a Half-Wicken STOUT!!!" I told the bartender, and received a plastic glass of lovingly brewed decaf to sip back in the NO MINORS area.
"We are Edguy and we are from DEUTSCHLAND!!" giggles Edguy's Tobias Sammet...
On the surface, there's no clear reason to re-describe either Edguy or Kamelot, or even the venue....except to announce that Tobias (sigh!) seems to be growing his hair out again and his voice is as magnificent as when he was 14. But, during the evening, it will become evident that a new, ruthlessly efficient force is evolving in these jovial power metal bands, reflecting the mounting bitterness and tension over subprime lending and General Motors' attempt to hoodwink the public into buying Hummers instead of Priuses.
During the intermission, I went up front and like a magnet was pulled into the sphere of The Amoeba. Three weeks later, at Second Saturday Contra Dance, we would try to imperfectly recreate their Perfect Circle. **Whap!!!** I pulled back and tapped on Erin's shoulder.
"Hi Mom. I saw you," she said and returned to The Sublime. Then I saw Ian. We sat down and began snapping photos.
"Oh no!" exclaimed my son. "My batteries are dead!!!"
"Well...here's a couple." I pulled two rechargables from my purse. "No?" I then extracted the moribund batteries from my dying Coolpix. "Here...try these!"... the ultimate photographic sacrifice a mother can make!!!
The lights lowered, and were replaced by the deep tones of many many spotlights. Don't let them fool you...the higher a band towers in the hours of the evening, the more it is necessary for them to present an optimal and integrated audiovisual experience. However, Ian and I were sitting behind the Kamelot merchandise table, not to mention dozens of pre-moshing metalheads, and could not experience...well, we couldn't see very much.
"I'll see ya..." I said with a shrug, and re-entered the NO MINORS area where everything was safe. There was a wall I could lean against...there...over to your left!!
People were body surfing up front near the stage, white figures lifted to and fro on a wave of white arms. Huh!!! I thought body-surfing was illegal! Conversely not much was going on back in the bar. If we didn't have the status advantage of beer and martinis, we old codgers in NO MINORS would be awarded a Zone D for Dull. Nonetheless, several women in black corsets were making out with guys in black T shirts, and the gent in front of me was air guitaring with a passion. One of the Incas finally took him aside and asked if he were OK. I'd stood beside these Inca chaps a few weeks ago in the balcony of the Roseland....at the Sonata Arctica/Nightwish concert. Latin American guys are all over the place, rich kids from Rio Grande to Terra del Fuego...following the bands.....My mind drilled back to..
==Summer '07 and we are waiting for our luggage at the Hamburg airport. WACKEN!! WACKEN!!!
One man in an In Flamed T-shirt asks a second in an Iron Maiden shirt:
"Where are from?" and the man answers:
All too soon it was over. The cohesive amoeba sashayed out the door.
"I need to call my parents to come get me," said Evi from Portland, pulling out her cell phone.
"We'll wait here with you," suggested someone. All of us. I leaned against the brick wall.
"Things were too chaotic. That butthead woman pushed me!" reported Erin. "She had flab dripping out of her shirt. Ugh!" Somehow the woman had implied that Erin should go with the flow and have a good time pushing back.. The incident set the scene for an impressive dark story that Erin would soon write for English class.
Quick as a flash, two of Evi's parents appeared on the sidewalk.
"A drunken woman pushed me!" said Evi excitedly.
"She did? Really???" Evi's stepmother laughed.
One day every thing was green and then...the next morning, the leaves on the dogwood were red and glowing....and then the next day the fire spread to the walnuts and the cottonwoods. The warm colors of the fire flowed to the ground, and no amount of soggy grey rain could extinguish it. Smoke was everywhere. It was still, however possible to pull and cut ivy, targeting the new green leaves that were emerging from cuttings and roots. I'd worked my way almost to the creek, and had just begun to hack away at an ivy stump. Arghh!!! I couldn't cut it with my shears...it was as big around as Arnold Swartzenagger's arm...
Suddenly, my left pocket began to buzz! I could only feel it, the creek was so wild with the grey rainfall!! I struggled to remove my ragged gloves and pull out my cellphone.
"Mo--m!!" began Erin. "I'm go--ing to a cou--ch bu--rni--g." Why was the signal so bad?
"Bu--t don'--t worr--y. It''s with a ch---."
"Is this Sa--ge's church?" You wonder why Presbyterians do couch burnings. "Wh--at ti--me is i--t?"
"Yea--h...we--re go--ing to chur--ch at Fi--ve a--nd then af--ter--wards we'll do it.It's o--ver at n-ne I'--m getting a ride."
"Hmm..." I stalled, wondering whether I'd have to climb the stream bank and drive her there, shivering in my cold, damp jeans.
"I'--m get---ing a r--ide the--re and back. "Sage and the Da--nish Twin--s and Jus--tin...the D--rug Fre--e c--rowd..." Was she rolling her eyes on the other end of the phone beams??
Hvordan har du det?
Portland, OR Nov 2008: "Students!" said Dr. Tom. "I was right...your Norwegian midterm was too easy. But we'll make it up on the final!!" I took a cursory look at my exam. There was nothing on it but a comment: "Molto Bene!" My eyes grew wide.
The Dalles, OR Oct 2008: Snip snip! I gaze into the black roiling waters of mill creek and she appears, my great great grandmother, Anita.
"You haven't done your homework for Italian class," she begins in her own fey way.
"You're right, I've been procrastinating and now I only have a few hours. But I have no desire to sit in front of a CD player pronouncing 'Ciao' over and over."
"Anita," I begin heart to heart. "Who did you sleep with? Was it Genet or Gianetta? Who am I?"
"Only my heart will know the answer," replies my great great great grandmother, falling gingerly into the stream. A soft tarantella begins to play. One snip more and she is floating towards Astoria. Another snip and...
I am facing my computer. In my heart I know I cannot commit to six quarters of real school with its Eye-talian language labs, head phone homework, and group poster sessions. I type the fatal URL: www.psu.edu.....
"It's time now to learn a little bit about Norwegian geography," Dr Tom continued. He describes the wildness of Telemark, the Lone Star stateness of Aust- and Vest-Agder, the poverty of Hedmark, the pretty-ness of Rogaland...Sogn og Fjordane contains the loooooooongest fjord in the world, More og Romdal is the Viking Heartland..
"You've been to Northern Norway, haven't you Judith?"
"Only to Mo and Narvik," I answered.["....and Tarvisio!"] I lived again the camp stops between Mo and the motel in Kristiansand...and Ian reading beneath the Midnight Sun as Norwegians swam in the summer fjords.
"Why don't we go around now and say what our connections are to Norway!" ordered Dr. Tom. "We'll start with Judith!" The reason he picks on me is that I took "Four Scandinavian Authors" last fall.
I shake my head. "Uh...nothing...uh...but my brother-in-law used to teach in Stavanger. At an American school."
"Stavanger!" he comments in garbled in-law Minnesotan. "Why, that's good enough!" says Dr. Tom, moving on to Jorunn (from old norse "Jorunnr" or "stallion love") the 16 year old high school student sitting next to me. From then on, it was exciting tales of emigration, grass covered roofs, and exchange students. At last we arrived at my book-end Jennifer, with her pretty smile and immaculate black clothing, hair, and eye makeup.
"Well, I really don't know any Norwegians," she said sweetly. "But I just made a new friend on the list for people who like the Norwegian bands!!!"
If you don't take me out of here I'll surely lose my mind....
The Dalles, November 2008. The Ladies of the Red Hat were again assembled in Rommels, the primo restaurant in Dalles City. That's why I'd joined, so I could go to chic cafes without having to sit alone, or with people who think nothing of rolling around on the floor.
"Emma told me you let me and Ian roll around the floor on March 28, 1996," Erin began in her deceptively perceptive voice.
"Yeah," I said. "I'm deaf dumb and blind to chaos...and by the way, Emma herself was rolling around on the floor at La Petite Crawdad back in 1985, and it didn't phase me at all."
The Ladies were laid out on a long table that stretched 4 tables long. I sat near the window next to DarLayne and across from Jana, and waited for the floor rolling to start. Instead, a congregation of Greek Orthodox people walked in and sat down. Soon, one of them would take several photos of us. But before the photography, a waitress began handing out menus. She begin with Jana.
"When you start taking orders, you and I will have to have a little talk," Jana said sternly.
"We can start right now," answered the waitress, with the patience of a woman hoping to get a tip.
"This menu...I don't understand this kind of thing. I like HOME food. I'm a MEAT person."
"You could order something and split it. You could have the meat and Judith could have the vegetables," interjected DarLayne snicker snicker.
"The lasagna is good...it has sausage in it.., suggested the waitress.
"No...I HATE pasta and I HATE sausage."
"Well, the veal piccata is quite good."
"It may be but look at the PRICE!!! Twenty dollars!!"
"How about an appetizer? The stuffed grape leaves?"
"Because I wouldn't touch a grape leaf if you paid me!"
"Hmm. How about the meat and cheese plate? Is salami Okay?
"Yes! I think that would work! Why didn't you tell me about this before?
Four of us had birthdays in November, including me and DarLayne. At the end of our meal, the waitress brought us chocolate eggs stuffed with chocolate foam...and a burning candle in the middle!!! I forgot to make a wish.
Imagine the Woman From Oregon at an interesting function held in the well designed Columbia Gorge Discovery Center. Her husband introduces her to a thin, grey-haired woman who lives several blocks up on Mill Creek.
"WFO has been pulling out the English Ivy on our lot. It wasn't there when we moved in, but now it has taken over!!!" he explains.
"It's the KOOD-zu of the Northwest, isn't it?" a large man asks.
"...I just take a shovel, a hoe, whatever, and chop it off at the sidewalks every spring..." the grey lady is saying. WFO is eyeing the 2007 gewurtz at the Open Bar...dry or sweet...not to mention the Diet Coke with Lime. Then WFO asks:
"You must not have a half acre of it?"
"In fact, I do, but I find it charming."
"You keep it in check!!" WFO replies, trying to be civil.
"If you tear it out, the *weeds* will come in."
Avoiding a hostile debate, WFO turns and heads for the 2005 Bolton gewurtz dry
Portland, November 2008: "So you don't play Norwegian Black Metal!" asks a man's voice. Norsktimen er slutt...Norwegian class is over and I've emerged from under the table. I'd been huddled there following an embarrassing announcement by Dr. Tom that I do a radio show. I swivel to the right and stare straight into the eyes of the burly Class Viking.
"Will I be able to travel to Norway when these classes are over?" he'd asked, twirling his broadsword.
"Yep! This will fix you right up!" said the laerere, nonplused.
"Like Dimmu Borgir?" I ask the blond, hefty warrior.
"Oh, I don't know any of the names," he fudged. "When is your show on?"
"It doesn't matter...if you have a computer...they're archived!! Are you a registered student?" Maybe he'd like to do a radio show...
"Yes, I am!"
"Do your parents speak Norwegian?"
"No...My father's side is all British Isles...but my other grandmother did."
"Was she from Minnesota?" I laughed.
"No...her parents settled in Eastern Montana. She grew up there during the Depression. The stories she tells...are really gruesome. But by the time she was in High School, it was a lot better.
"Some of my husband's relatives ended up in Roosevelt," I countered.
"Eastern Montana somewhere!!!"
"Ha ha...Montana's a big place. It takes a day to drive across it!! There's my car. You're Judith..."
Heck yeah, everyone knows me, I speak Swedish half the time.
"I'm Nat!" A giant fist shakes my hand.
So...are there any responsible adults around at Justin's party?" I asked. I'm Middle Management...I have to ask these questions, cover my back.
"There's something you and dad don't seem to understand," Erin began. "The group I hang out with are Nerds. We would never drink or take drugs...."
"Uh...wait. I'm just Middle Management."
But Erin continued. "And no one would have sex just like that. They are chivalrous gentlemen. They would never have sex with a girl unless it was in a situation where she would feel comfortable. I've talked to several of them and they all agree. But mostly the guys just want to play video games."
"A Late Night sausage party...haw haw haw!!!" snickered Ian. This reference comes from one of Ian's favorite time-wasters, "Late Night With Conan O'Brien."
"Uh...." I repeated. "Is there some sort of adult there?"
"Yes, there's Doug."
"How old is he?" I asked
"Nineteen!!!" Oh no! Too young! But later I would learn that Justin's grandmother was calling every four hours So it was OK after all, I guess.
The party was of unprecedented audacity in the Kingdom of Mid-Columbian Band, Track & Drama Nerds. Justin and his grandmother were moving from their house to another house, so Justin was throwing a well-lit House Cooling party from Friday afternoon to Sunday night. Wow!!! The plan was for Erin to come home at 10:30 on Friday night.
"There's actually one girl spending the night..." Erin said when I picked her up. "But I wouldn't want to do that. All the guys are running around like crazy and sweating, so the place smells like...UGH!"
By Saturday evening Erin had conquered her loathing and disgust. She glanced around the room nervously, then asked:
"Can we stop by the party again? I have to give a couple of things to *tony* and Jessica [one or the pretty Danish Twins] wants me to be there for some reason," queried Erin rapidly and tentatively. Soon we were driving the Little Aveo across town.
"How long do you think you'll be?" I asked. "Should I wait?"
"Well, I guess 10 or 10:30 was OK last night..." she wheedled.
So! That's (10:15) when *tony* escorted the Big E down Justin's evanescent driveway; no enemy bratwurst would assault Erin with *tony* at her side. Wasn't it nice that the Kingdom had accepted him into their "Hanging Out," even though he was Out Of State!!!?!!!
"Jessica seems feel safe, now that Bryce is there," explained Erin. You may remember that Bryce and his brother Chad have a huge silver utility pole in their yard on 10th Street.
"Are they going together now?" I asked. Word had it that Bryce wanted to hang out with Jessica, now that she'd broken up with Keenan.
"Hmm..." pondered Erin, which is what she does best. "You take advantage of the situation."
Erin was quiet for some time. Then she began. "Darrell broke his collar bone and Edward set the oven on fire. I was about to beg *tony* to leave with me, because I was afraid he'd get hurt."
"Wow! Why was Edward there?" Edward had been Erin's nemesis in Middle School.
" Ugh! I *don't know.* But he tried to roast marshmallows in the oven."
"What about this Darrell or Dwayne guy?"
"They were playing this game where they were picking people up and tossing them into the air. They tossed Darrell about 20 feet. At first they thought his shoulder was just dislocated, so his parents came and got him. But it was broken."
"Wow," I replied and paused.
"Local Teens Set House On Fire Roasting Marshmallows in Oven," captioned Erin.
We both began to laugh uncontrollably
The Dalles, Oregon, November, 2008: Imagine! A shining pendulum swinging back and forth above your head...picking up failed thrifts right left and right...until it finally slices off your head. Or maybe not...
Meantime we are in Fred Meyer with a stack of cotton rectangles to exchange for the usual...a bottle of screwtop Barefoot Chardonnay, a box of granola, a 12 pack of Diet Mountain Dew. The woman in line ahead of us is about our age and vaguely familiar. She is sliding sliding her Debit Card in exchange for a pack of gum. Whoosh. The checker squints her eyes and says:
"That didn't go through. You'll have to try it again." Oh no! Oh Kind Fortune, the swipe works. Second time is the Charm. She opens up her purse...
"You know my car got broken into...they didn't get any cash or cards...just my checkbook." Voila! She's a checker too! It's a Checker Chat!!!
"Where was that?"
"Right out here by the wall...I was parked by the wall. It makes me so mad!"
"They'll take everything can get their hands on. You know they took the magnets off my car. I hardly have two or three left!"
"I can't replace them...unless I go back to Tennessee." Imagine this...a car previously covered with refrigerator magnets now with big, sad gaps. Daydream awhile.
"Those jerks will take whatever they can. You can't leave anything in your car.
"They were from when we went to Tennessee to see our boy off...the 133rd."
Now it is our turn.
"I've had my CD player get stolen a couple times," we say in the singular. "I leave it in the car and it's gone."
"That's what my daughter said happened to her, she left it out there and it was gone. Just like those magnets. I'd have to go back to Tennessee to get new ones."
"I'm not sure what you mean by 'magnets,'" we reply.
"Oh, you know, the ribbons...the ones that say support our troops...133rd. I can't replace them unless I got back to Tennesee."
The Dalles, November, 2008: 'twas the night after Thanksgiving, and everyone else in the universe was slurping down leftover Turkey. Alas, it was the
second year in a row that my family had reeled in terror that I would roast another Tofurkey. They dove into the gravy like fat roasted ducks and spent
hours making chicken pot pie and mashed potatoes for themselves and squash stuffed with wild rice, walnuts, and cranberries for me. I didn't have to do a
thing!!! Hee hee.
Therefore, I remember the moment. Ian and I sat opposite each other at the dining doom table, fooling with our computers...I printing out a preliminary 110 page history of the Reid Family in Preble County Ohio, and Ian watching Pokemon cartoons. Suddenly, wee Ian got a message on his I-Pod. It said "Circled by Hounds at the Mint!!! 7pm." The curt message was sent by Livi, a final remaining member of the summer Astronomy Club. You could say that Ian and Livi were two sturdy Douglas Firs in a forest of weeping russet tamarack. On the other hand, there is a lot to be said for Columbia Gorge Community College over Brown and Case Western Reserve. Your parents don't go broke, for example.
I stared at the glass of 2005 Irony Chardonnay I'd just poured and mumbled "If Livi's there it must not be NO MINORS"... "LET'S GO!!!!"
"You want to?" Ian exclaimed.
Soon Ian and his chauffeur were at the Erin Glen Winery/The Mint downtown The Dalles, paying their cover charge. The chauffeur sat down and began shooting a couple defective videos with her busted cool-pix. Ian went somewhere else.
The band is from Portland, and my, what wonderful musicians!!! Two fiddles, a guitar and a bodhran, in a lush setting of massive tattoos and happy audience!!! All the old favorites...Bedlam Boys, Follow Me Up to Carlow, etc!!! Whoa...Imagine Dalles City becoming the Celtic cultural centre of the Columbia Gorge!
"Hey, we have our own mosh pit here!" said one of the violinists. "Come on down...you have to be under 4 feet tall to mosh next to the stage but we have a dance floor behind it." The rugrats who were spiking up and down in a very simple way were much more coordinated than the kids...or even the adults...at the Second Saturday Contra Dance.
"Hey Ian! Get in front of the camera so I'll be legal on Facebook." I demanded.
"They got CDs up there," he countered. And what nice CDs they turned out to be! 2 for 25!!!
"And...uh...I got a message on my I-Pod. There's a D&D party on at Alex's house."
Darn that rascal Alex! He'd snuck in to town from Pacific and regenerated the Astronomy Club. But..
"Well, it's time for our break. See you at ten!" countered the band.
An hour and a half...wow...time for the chauffer to drop off her "fare" and hang around the house awhile checking her e-mail or something.
When I returned at ten, the big grape room was a vacuous echoing cave. A few people lingered, chatting, jackets hung over their arms and eyes wandering.
"The band must have misspoke," I said to anyone who would listen.
"German Club Float"
You could tell the French and German Club members right off the bat. The French Clubbers were mostly nicely dressed, self-confident young women. On the other hand, being a German Club member was the late 60s equivalent of wearing a Rammstein T-shirt. Further, the French classes were taught by Mlle. Stange, who had blonde hair was twisted in an absolutely perfect French twist and a voice that could twist French into a perfectly understandable string of Alabama dipthongs. Frau Wingo, conversely, was a middle aged woman who had immigrated from somewhere like Michigan. We learned French mostly by memorizing French to American word lists: "Je suis tu es il est" We learned German by osmosis: "Ja ja, ich bin ein Orangensaft und Kasebrot! Das ist schade!!" Each method failed in its own way, but taking both languages would later allow me...well, to read menus and road signs in Vienna and The Gaspe.
The Germans had a club called Der Deutsche Seerauber, named after our school mascots, The Berry Buccaneers (Bucs for short). Um...
Vestavia, Alabama; Autumn, October 1967: What a Homecoming this would be!! A football game against the Woodlawn Colonels, a dance, and best of all the Homecoming Parade! At least it was the best part for me, since no one asked me to the dance and I didn't like football. The key event would be the building of The German Club Float. Members of the Seerauber got together at Activities Period (every other Thursday between second and third) and discussed what to do.
"How about a German Tank with a Swastica on it?!?!" someone suggested.
"Blitz the Colonels!!!" someone added.
"Wow!" said a third. "Black tank red swastica, made out of crepe paper and chicken wire!"
"Yeah! We can use my car!" exclaimed Walter, the Class Viking and Auto Mechanic.
Frau Wingo nodded her approval and times were set to stay after school and build the Blitzkriegmobile.
I brought the Polaroid camera that my dad had given me and took a few pictures of the building of the event. The photographs are faded and cover the first pages of my first own photo album. A frame was built and chicken wire was attached. I stuffed black crepe paper into the chicken wire. Others worked on the mailing tube that would become a large, harmless lethal gun. But despite all the first class work we did, the float didn't win the Best Float Contest.
"I heard," Frau Wingo would smile in class on Monday, "that the judges thought you did a really good job..."
"Why didn't it win, then?" the young Germanophones muttered sadly.
"Well, they seemed to feel that float might have offended some people," answered our teacher.
December 2008, Grocery Outlet...
Back in the same old check-out line at 5:30 pm with a box of graham crackers, 2 cans of tomato soup, a package of organic jack cheese, a double box of Pop Tarts, and some mini carrots. What will happen today? But wait...do we hear a baby crying over in Breakfast Foods? "Wa-ah-ah-ah. Wa-ah....."
"I sort of miss that sound," muses the caffeinated young checker. "Mine's two."
"Ha! Mine's fifteen, I don't miss it at all!" begins the female customer. "Hey...arent those turkey franks supposed to be 99c?"
"No idea," says the checker, picking up the phone. "Ira! Price check!!!" Oh no!!! Just last night we'd been stuck with a gallon of milk in the Fred Meyer line behind a woman buying a cartload of Chinese...Barbie...zzzz....you start to fall asleep and quickly grab a Diet Coke from the cooler.
"It's OK," the woman pleaded, terrified that she'd never be allowed to leave the store. "I'll just go ahead and take them. I don't want to leave people waiting." It doesn't matter to us, though. We'd like to see how much the gobble gobble dogs really cost. You see, sometimes the price does or doesn't get changed in the computer as opposed to the sign on the shelves. And even worse, there's been a stack of priceless Danish Holiday Butter Delights stalled in Cookies and Crackers for weeks on end!!
Now comes our turn...and it is over much too soon. As usual, we have a wad of ones. We hand the one on bottom to the handsome checker with the glistening eyes.
"Have you ever seen a one like this with the eye cut out of the pyramid?" you ask, pointing to the back of the bill. At first, you thought it was a snag, but then you noticed the cleanly cut triangle. You can only hypothesize that this was done to thwart Satan Worshiping Freemasons from taking over the country.
"Uh...no," he tells us. "But you know what, people have been turning tens into hundreds."
"No!" you exclaim.
"Yeah! They've been dissolving the ink!!" It sounds more like they were turning hundreds into tens!
"Naw!" you exclaim again.
"Yeah! They found one at Schuck's and one at the Murdock Mart!!!"
The answer is within the Power of the All-Seeing Eye.
"The Pied Piper" or "Another dream sequence"
The Dalles, OR December 2008: There is a cage, made of chickenwire and silver, that's where the keep the white doves, the gulls with the golden beaks. Now they've escaped, out onto the wavelike hollows in the moss-covered basalt that forms our floor, out onto the oaken boards. One dives at a tiny orange striped kitten, no larger than a mouse, a vole. I grab the kitten and set him free and he rushes out on to the carpeting. Where will he go?; I will never account for him again! Behind me a full grown white striped cat rushes at the bird, thinking of dinner!
"Where are all these cats coming from?" I ask.
"This white one belongs to Suzanne Byrd in White Salmon," says someone. "You better go let her know."
I go into the bedroom of my old house in Texas and find a hole in the screen. Thousands of cats are crawling right through it like a plague of locusts.
My left arm is numb. Am I dying? I open my eyes and my ears. Freddie the cat is on my chest. "P-U-R-R!!". I know what he wants! If I could only move my arm....
Suzanne's vast carport is surrounded by a chain link fence. I return to the car and tell Emma and Ian that
"There are not only shabby motel rooms here, but also a campground." I look at the sign on the door. It says:
"EVANGELICAL CAMP MEETING."
"I wonder, children"...Ian is a toddler still in diapers and Emma is not much bigger..."if we can just pitch our tents here without asking." Right here in England, on the mossy basalt that forms the campground lawn. Suddenly a tele-evangalist appears and says:
"Welcome to the campground! The children can put up the tents while I take you to the church across town to register. We sit in the back of the car and he laughs and puts his arm across my shoulders. He sighs and kisses me. At first I think this is very romantic, but UGH!!! I hiss:
"You are a married man and a minister! Stop the car! Let me out!" But he does not let me out until we reach Suzanne's chain link carport. He gets out of the car and heads toward the door to the church. I realize that I have no earthly idea where I am....somewhere in Kentucky on Highway 31, the road between Birmingham and Indianapolis. Before the interstate you had to drive through downtown Louisville to cross the Ohio. The only photo I took was through my eyes. I run towards the stairs and ask:
"By the way, how do I get back to the campground?"
"Here, I'll draw you a Google map!" he replies amiably.
I drive back to Suzanne's carport with the chain link fence. The shabby motel is closed and rapidly deteriorating. Emma has pitched the yellow pup tent and I wonder how in all this rain it is dry without a tarp or a groundcloth. I peak in and it is dry as a bone.
"Where's Ian?" I ask.
"He's toddling around the RV area charming old people," she replies. She is seven or eight and absolutely beautiful. I drive over and look at the big blue REI tent that I pitched earlier at the Cropredy festival. There is a big still lake inside. I drive back, thinking I can share the pup tent. But it is so small in there!
"Emma...it's so wet here! How would you like to load up and go to Atlanta? I know that you have always wanted to see the Cyclorama."
"Mother!" Emma whines. "Why do we always have to do the motel thing? Why can't we just camp out like we used to?
I know Erin's out there, rummaging for something to wear to school that isn't hers. But I just lay still with Freddie one side and my numb arm on the other.
This is a translation of the preface to Mikael Niemi's "The Man Who Died Like A Salmon," which I bought at the airport in Luleå, Sweden in 2007....after I'd read the book. I need to redo it, but don't hold your breath.
It smelled like a mouth. That's what she wrote afterwards. It smelled like a mouth, a large animal directly in front of her had spread its jaws. It was hard to imagine anything more frightening. A quivering, membranous perception. She remained standing uncertain in the doorway, stood there summer-sweaty in the sharp light with the key clasp like a knife in her fist. She had rung several times. Then knocked. Then punched in his home phone number on her work cell phone, but without getting an answer. Through the closed door she had heard those crashing signals again and again, metallic rings from an old 70s telephone with a rotary dial.
Maybe he had gone out. She picked up the key marked with the old guy's code number. After that Rauha Jauhojärvi would return over and over to that moment, how she stood there and hesitated. How her hand cramped as she turned the doorknob and stared into the dark. She was at the point of turning around and driving on to the next senior citizen. Her feet stuck in her wooden clogs. A housefly hummed around her neck, enticed by the smell of damp human shoes. On such a day you should swim in the river, she thought. Lay in the grass and get sunburned.
Rauha Jauhojärvi hesitated, gripping the key. She could still pull out and report to the office. The sun, the light. The housefly, those swollen feet. The hops that wound rustling leaves up the drainpipe. Such a moment it was! It weighed nothing. But as soon as she set foot on the threshold it was past.
Because of the smell, she left the door standing wide open. The fly accelerated and darted inside at once. Rauha continued into the hallway and shouted the old man's name. No one answered. She knew how predatory animals became stronger as they ate and suppressed an impulse to spit. Tjälknöl, she thought .The old guy was fixing beef tenderloin. There was something burnt in the air, as if from a coal grill.
It was now that she discovered the stains. Something tarry that dropped on the oak parquet flooring. She turned to the left, came into the kitchen. The stove was warm and she shrunk back from it instantly. Directly on the stove lay something charred and burnt through. Was it some sort of meat? The heat had burned and melted the lump till only a distorted soot sausage remained. It had long ago ceased smouldering, but the fat roast -smell remained on the walls. With an expression of distaste she closed the stove plate. Alzheimers, she thought. The old man had gotten hungry and tried to fry food. Without a frying pan. She had seen worse things over the years. Lucky that the house hadn't started to burn.
--Hello! She yelled again.
The floor stains. They came from the other direction. A narrow passage led through the house, away from the bedroom. She waited uneasily and listened.. No one answered, everything was still. Only the clump from her clogs when she advanced, leaned into the doorway and peeped in...
He lay on his side. His mouth gaped, his eyes were half open. The sheet was completely tangled in a heap as if he had snaked himself around. The bed was soaked through with something blackened and clotted. He held his hand on his stomach, the hole in his belly gaping, its contents lay outside, curled over the mattress.
It took her a couple of seconds to comprehend the scene. Two seconds she would carry with her forever. She could never remember how she went outside, how she lost her clogs. She ran away in her stocking feet, ran away along the village street and dropped hold of the key and her cell phone, and not until then did she start screaming. Mikael Niemi. 2006, The Man Who Died Like a Salmon.
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