During the dry spell, our friend Lee replaced the shroud on the chimney of the wood stove. It had a sizeable hole in it where creosote had eaten through. When he was done, I started a fire and inadvertently selected a new Pope.
I recently visited a friend in Oregon old style, crunching the 700 miles in 23 hours. And that included two hours going 20 miles per hour on a ship. I headed out on the 6:15 a.m. ferry off Quadra to catch the 10:45 ferry from Nainaimo,then slouched toward the border with the usual misgivings.
Jude and I have had numerous problems at the border. After an hour-long crawl to the kiosks,I was asked by the guard about the apples Jude had thoughtfully provided for me. He told me to report to the Agricultural Window in the admin building.
Another guard told me where to park. As I got out of the car, he asked me where I was going. “To Oregon to see an old friend,” I carefully replied.
“Do you have an address?”
“I have it written down, but I’ve got her phone number near.”
“Is she rich?”
“No.” They like to throw you curves like that.
“Are you carrying more than $10,000 cash?”
“No. I have $60 Canadian in my wallet, $100 U.S. in my left sock and my VA check in my right sock.” That seemed to amuse him so I pressed the advantage. “I get disability for PTSD from my time in the Marines.”
I don’t like to exploit or even mention that, but an international border is a very strange place where the regular rules don’t apply quite so much.
“Thank you for your service,” he said.
“You’re welcome,” I judiciously responded. I chose not to review the folly of the Vietnam War.
He told me to leave the keys in the ignition and continue to the ag window. The clerk there was quite pleasant and I was quickly cleared because the apples had “grown in B.C.” stickers on them. I returned to the car to find that it had been thoroughly tossed, even beyond the typical trashing I do myself on a long road trip.
I started it. The air conditioning came on full blast. My best guest is that the guard was checking for pot smoke. I crept toward freedom. The guard at the gate looked sternly at my paperwork and said “have a nice day” brusquely as he raised the bar. I rolled into and quickly through Baline, Washington.
I stopped for some cheap American gas in Burlington because I knew from internet research that it was my first chance at Popeye’s chicken. I ate a few pieces in the car and decided to call Jude.
I then entered the Twilight Zone. For 90 minutes I tried to reach her. Problem was, my cell phone couldn’t call Canada, nor could the phone cards I’d bought during my May trip to Kansas. I searched a mall for a pay phone. Problem there was, it had been designed by the same humans who design casinos, so its layout was disorienting, even with several “You Are Here” maps.
I finally found THE phone and my frustrations continued. At one point I was talking to the most incompetent person in Mumbai. There are 20 million people in the metro Mumbai area, and I connected with the dumbest one. I gave up and got the hell out of Burlington.
I reached Seattle at the start of rush hour. To avoid the gridlock of the city centre, I took the I-405 bypass, which goes past Microsoft headquarters. It’s huge. I thought it was downtown Seattle. There were at least five skyscrapers. I couldn’t accurately count and safely drive.
As soon as traffic let up, I tried to call Jude again and got through. Buoyed by my sweetie’s voice, I relaxed and assessed the situation. There was no way I was going to get to the hostel in Eugene where I had a reservation by 10 p.m., its closing time. I let go of my original plan and decided to have a leisurely out-of-the-car meal. My Popeye’s, including the sublime red beans and rice, was long gone.
There was a place near the pay phone I used named “Country Cuzzins”. I reasoned that such an eatery would be ethically bound to offer a chicken-fried steak. It did, and it was delicious. It was even worth tolerating the recording of a rooster crowing every time the main door opened.
With my poultry-related dietary needs met and traffic thinning, I got to some serious driving. I cruised the FM and AM radio stations available to get the flavour of the area, settling on a blend of classic rock, new pop, country, jazz, blues, Christian rock, Christian commentary and hip hop. Mostly classic rock, not so much the last three.
I averaged 45 miles per gallon in our hybrid, so I didn’t need gas until Cottage Grove. It was about 2 a.m. and I needed a diversion. I checked out the downtown area. It’s where the parade scene of Animal House was filmed.
It all came back to me: the marching band in the dead end alley . . . the 10,000 marbles Flounder flung . . . Kevin Bacon’s character getting trampled . . a faux Playboy bunny flying through a bedroom window . . . “Ramming Speed!”
Thus refreshed, I drove on to the last rest stop before Grants Pass, where my friend lives, and snuggled into a sleeping bag.
More on the trip soon.
My friend Gordon recently e-mailed me about Irena Sendler, a Polish woman active in the Nazi Resistance during World War II. She was allowed to enter the Warsaw Ghetto as a social worker to check for signs of typhus; and daily risked her life to smuggle out infants and children, about 2500 of them.
It’s a riveting story, chronicled in the 2009 Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movie The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler, which was based on a play written by four high school girls from Uniontown, Kansas. There is also a 2011 documentary about her, Irena Sendler: In the Name of Their Mothers.
All due respect to the heroic Ms. Sendler. But what I wanted to focus on was how easily verifiable facts like this can be hijacked for unrelated reasons. The e-mail Gordon sent was a Snopes item clarifying a chain e-mail about Sendler. We had received that one just before Gordon’s.
This particular permutation of Sendler’s dramatic life had been distorted for the anonymous author’s own purposes. It tells of a dog she trained to bark when it saw Nazis, to cover the sounds of the children. Nice touch, but no other source I read mentioned the canine.
The e-mail also contends that Sendler was nominated for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, but lost. That could be, allows Snopes, but the name of the nominees are not released for 50 years, according to the Nobel Committee’s official website. Nonetheless, an epilogue to “Courageous Heart” also claims this.
Then the nameless author launches into his/her/their agenda: “Al Gore won, for a slide show on Global Warming. Later another politician, Barack Obama, won for his work as a community organizer for ACORN.” Wrong. Gore won for his work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Control. His 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth won an Oscar, not bad for a slide show. Obama won his Nobel Prize for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between people”. He never worked for ACORN.
A few days ago we received the e-mail from another friend. The person who had sent it to her had added “(Sendler) was very brave. I wonder what she thought of the 55,000,000 babies aborted in the US in the last 40 years after she risked her life to save babies?”
I rue the liberties people take with the memories of others. Larry Ward, who organized last week’s Gun Appreciation Day, speculated that Dr. Martin Luther King would have endorsed it. I will now fall speechless.
Good Neighbour Chris came by a few days ago, making bad on his threat to keep visiting until I blog again. The man is ruthless, so I have no choice.
I had something to share, anyway: a gem of a moment, a burst of serendipity most welcome as I continue to slog through winter.
Yesterday I was meandering through my favourite website IMDb, a treasure trove of info about TV and the movies. A convoluted selection of link choices brought me to a name I hadn’t thought of in decades, C.C. Courtney. He was the evening DJ for WNOE, a popular AM station in New Orleans, in the mid-60′s. That was about the time AM started losing ground (air, really) to FM. It was the era of Top 40 lists, pick hits and payola scandals.
I had just dropped out of college and moved to the Big Easy. WNOE was my constant companion as I drove around the city and stayed in my French Quarter apartment, trying to figure out how to be hip. I never succeeded. As best I remember, C.C. had the 6 – 10 p.m. slot, followed by Lou Kirby until 2 a.m. and Al Casey (who broadcast as “Him” with tunes from his Himbook) until 6 a.m.
C.C. would end his show by saying “Remember, no one lives in Murphy’s Canyon but my brother, Mele Kilikamaka.” On Saturdays, he would read a passage from “On Love”, a section of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, then play “Lovers Never Say Goodbye” by the Flamingos. This was supposedly to encourage couples listening to him on Lovers’ Lanes.
He and Kirby had an act called “Their Singing Bodies”. They had a regional hit with a cover of Buddy Holly’s “Maybe Baby”, and once performed it in black tights with the rest of their singing bodies painted metallic gold.
Courtney moved to New York City in the late 60′s and found success as an actor on the soap opera “The Doctors”. He co-wrote and starred in a rock musical called Salvation, which helped the early careers of Joe Morton, Barry Bostwick and Bette Midler. One of its songs, “If You Let Me Make Love to You, Then Why Can’t I Touch You?”, was covered by Ronnie Dyson. It sold more than a million copies. Other songs from the musical include “Let’s Get Lost in Now”, “Tomorrow Is the First Day of the Rest of My Life”, “Ballin’” and “There Ain’t No Flies on Jesus”.
All that came rushing back to me just from that semi-chance encounter. So for a brief, exhilirating while, I was not a senior citizen surrounded by snow in Canada, but a teenager cruising the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain singing along with Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders. Parenthood, Vietnam and the Bush administrations were still ahead of me. Who wouldn’t marinate in such a moment?
Silly me. A week after throwing in the towel, I’m using it to clean up the mess I caused
by caving to early-winter doldroms. Consider it Fiscal Cliff diving. I forgot that I get
through my least favourite season in baby steps, hopping from event to event with
studied tunnelvision until April reliberates me.
I enjoyed one such event yesterday with Good Neighbour Paul. We watched the Seattle
Seahawks advance in the NFL playoffs by beating Washington. Astonishingly, Jude had
better things to do, so it was just us two guys yelling suggestions and criticism at 22 other
guys. Beer, popcorn and testosterone. Does it get any better?
Sure it does. In April.
I truly appreciate your recent comments. They all helped me reverse directi0n. The clincher
had to be the threat of another Good Neighbour, Chris, to visit us more often if I stopped
blogging. You can’t imagine has much clout this man has on Granite Bay Road. It extends
all the way to Village Bay Lakes Road.
So as I square things away, I’ll post when I can. Today’s main distraction is a water system
that has slowed to a trickle. I’m waiting for Lee to help solve this. Then I must prepare for
tonight’s national college football championship between Alabama and Notre Dame. Roll,
There may be a hitch in service because the renewal date on my blog service provider is
in a week, and it hasn’t contacted me yet about paying up. The level of service I buy does
not really include customer contact.
So until we do meet again, let me leave you with these:
The last one was shot just a few minutes ago. I’m considering the visit from the crane
a sign of good luck. There must be some ancient culture which believes that. And I’ll
take all the positive omens I can get right now.
I am genuinely surprised by your response to Monday’s post. I assure you that it
wasn’t a cheap play for sympathy. I had become so occupied with some enormous
tasks looming for me that I thought I wouldn’t have any time for writing.
But then I realized that I’m the only one who can give you updates on our chickens,
the back stories on Jack Elam and Harry Anslinger, and important footnotes to
history like the night I misplaced my virginity.
The tasks still loom, but I’ll do my best to check in as they de-loom. Please hang in
there with me. Thanks.
P.S. The chickens are braving the winter well and still laying, although they
don’t seem to like going barefoot in the snow.
In that the last day of the year is fraught with symbolism of things ending and things
starting anew, it seems like the perfect time to end this blog. I have some new projects
just underway that are requiring a lot of time and energy.
I truly appreciate you viewership. I hope that the best part of your life is still ahead.
The blog has been a terrific writing challenge, but it’s time to redirect the skills I’ve
I’ll be online for a few more weeks to respond to any comments, but I don’t plan to
post anymore. Let’s be kind to each other in a world that’s going apeshit over Kim