Monday, January 28, 2008

Island Legends: The Secret Ferry

This essay is a re-run. It originally ran in the Ticket in March 2003. I’m going to see if Rick’s cartoon will show up in the blog if I copy and paste it. (It didn't)
It’s Monday, January 28, 2008, and life is good. Not much snow at our house, but plenty in the Northwest vicinity, and I am about to go up to Thriftway to load up on provender. Half and half and Pepsi for Rick in this case.
Stay warm, friends.

Island Legends: The Secret Ferry

A friend said to me today that I had promised my last column would be funny, and it wasn’t (it was about tornados), and it was about time I wrote something funny.
Noted. Before the tornado hit Vancouver I had planned to take that issue off and re-run the following column from about five years ago. So now I’m going to take this issue off and re-run this column, and I hope that it is funny to at least some of you. Here goes:
A few years ago, one Sunday morning, a Big Important Businessman was having brunch at Sound Food. His cell phone rang. He answered it, and received a Very Important Business Call.
He needed to get to an Important Business Meeting on the mainland. He went up to the hostess and asked, “What’s the quickest way to get off the island?”
The hostess told him to head north on the road outside the restaurant until he came to the ferry dock, and wait for the next ferry to arrive, and he should be able to get off the island in an hour or so.
The Big Important Businessman was distressed. An hour? That was much too long. He had Important Business and had to get to the mainland right away, and wasn’t there a quicker way to get there than the ferry?
No, the hostess told him, the ferry was the only way off the island.
“OK,” he said. “I know how things work in places like this. Where is the secret ferry?”
“The what?” asked the hostess.
“The secret ferry,” he said. “The one only you islanders know about, so you can get off the island any time you want to.”
The hostess was non-plussed. She explained that there is no secret ferry, only the public state ferries that come to the north and south end ferry docks.
The man refused to believe her. He insisted that there must be a secret ferry. She was concealing the information because we islanders were selfishly keeping it to ourselves and didn’t want anyone else to know. He was too smart to be tricked, he said. He wasn’t born yesterday, he said.
Finally, in exasperation, the hostess said, “OK, OK, you’re right. I can’t fool you. There is a secret ferry.”
He smiled in victory. “Where is it?” he asked.
So she told him how to drive down to Manzanita Beach.
He left, and did not return.
End of story.
A friend told me that story in the supermarket. She said she had heard it from the granddaughter of another friend of mine. I called the grandmother and asked her where she got the story, and she said it came from her son, Fred, who was working at Sound Food when the incident happened. Soon thereafter I ran into Fred and asked him about the story. He had been the cook at Sound Food that day, and yes, that is basically what happened, although he wasn’t sure if the hostess, whose name was Nanette, sent the man to Manzanita or to Point Robinson. He said that for a while after that the Sound Food staff joked about Bippies, or “Big Important People.”
This was a fairly easy story to track because I knew all the people in the chain of telling. I wanted to track it down because it sounded like an urban legend, but it wasn’t. It really happened.
You can check out urban legends at Island legends are easier to trace. For example, I believe that the late Joe Chambers once set a middle of the night ferry-dock-to-ferry-dock speed record of 9 minutes. Friends were posted at intersections to prevent collisions en route. He wasn’t late that night.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

January 22, 2008

I Do Not Abhor a Vacuum

Sound the trumpets! Stop the presses! I have vacuumed!
Amazing, isn’t it? A chore I took for granted for so many years, and now that I’m old(er) and ill, it’s a triumph of will and physical recovery. Yay! I was able to vacuum up all those pesky little pieces of paper that fall from the shredder onto the floor when I empty the basket into the recycling bag! I can see the rug again.
Then, while I was at it, I whisked over the major walkways: front door, living room, kitchen, big bedroom; and finally, my ultimate goal: the pieces of hair on the master bathroom carpet from that impromptu trim I gave myself yesterday. No, I don’t know why the bathroom is carpeted. Seemed like an iffy idea to me, but there it is.
And now I’m exhausted, dizzy and weak, and am paying attention to those responses to the workout and I am stopping.
Some of my friends would howl at me for doing this chore – the ones who have been telling me not to blow my recovery by overdoing. Another friend, who doesn’t seem to grasp that I have really been seriously ill, would be pleased that I have done something productive for a change.
These diametrically opposing views give me the strong hint that I’d better pay attention to what I need and what’s right for me, because the opinions of others will vary.
Last night I got back to typing up my old essays for the first time since we moved last October. The plan has been to put together a collection in a book, and offer it for sale, the idea being that we have some retirement income to supplement the inadequate Social Security for which we will eventually qualify. I have been too sick – too exhausted, not to mention the chest pains – for the last four months to do a keystroke of this productive activity. Everything I used to do has gone by the wayside, except for writing my column. Other than that, I’ve been resting and knitting and occasionally making dinner. I’ve been looking at the unpacked boxes, and watching the birds feeding on the back porch.
Birds feeding on the back porch: Oregon juncos are the great majority by far. Spotted Towhees come in second, and Steller’s Jays. And gray squirrels. Occasionally a crow comes by and chases everyone else away, but crows are too smart and too wary and as soon as someone moves inside the house and it detects the movement, it flies away. Then the songbirds flock back.
I have seen house finches and perhaps purple finches, pine siskins, house sparrows, maybe a chickadee, and either a fox sparrow or a song sparrow. It didn’t stick around long enough for me to make a positive ID. I keep meaning to bring my binoculars in from the car so I can take a closer look at the feeder’s visitors.
I enjoy watching them. It’s a good pastime for a person recovering from mononucleosis, as I am, and I feel like I’m learning something, which is a good thing at any age.
It was 31 degrees F out on the back porch this morning, and the deck was an ice rink. Thank heavens for the 3-tab roofing panels that the previous occupants put down. Last night at midnight I tuned into the Northwest News Channel to check up on how cold it was, and noted that over in Ephrata, about six miles from where my cousin Nancy lives, it was 2 degrees F. Some other places were in the minuses. Yep. The Northwest is definitely in the deep freeze.
And as long as it is, I’ll stay inside and cook up some stews and soups to warm the inner person. And type up a couple more essays. And for a good time, check out this website my sister-in-law Barbara forwarded to me this morning:

HEMA is a Dutch department store. The first store opened on November 4, 1926, in Amsterdam . Now there are 150 stores all over the Netherlands . HEMA also has stores in Belgium, Luxemburg, and Germany . In June of this year, HEMA was sold to British investment company Lion Capital. Take a look at HEMA's product page. You can't order anything and it's in Dutch but just wait a couple of seconds and watch what happens.

This company has a sense of humor and a great computer programmer.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Heart Test

Went and had my heart tested today and what I learned first was that I have got to do something about my hair. It doesn’t affect the functioning of my heart, but it makes me flinch when I look in a mirror. Fortunately I have a lot of hats now.
The heart test had a couple of parts, and ended up taking about three hours.
First I was injected with an isotope, and sent back out to the waiting room to wait for my heart to light up. Tech Kristen told me that I would be radioactive until sometime tomorrow, and she would give me a little card saying that I was radioactive because of a medical test in case I ran afoul of Homeland Security when I went on the ferry. She forgot to give me the card, but I did not run into Homeland Security, so it was all right.
I sat in the waiting room while waiting for the isotope to circulate and counted cranes – the construction cranes hovering over building sites in Seattle, at least the ones I could see through the west-facing window. I counted eleven. It’s amazing to me that more of them don’t fall over, like the one in Bellevue last year. They are so large, and so unwieldy.
In the fullness of time I was called in to be photographed. This involved lying in a chair that tilted back, putting my left arm up over my head, and my right arm at my side. I broke my right arm up by the shoulder a few years ago, and can’t lift it up over my head any more. Kristen wrapped me in a blanket tightly to hold my right arm secure.
Then the camera hovered over me. It had two screens at right angles to one another, so that when it was over me it was like being under a tiny pup tent. A tiny pup tent that probably cost tens of thousands of dollars, I’m guessing. It was a “LEHR (Low energy, high resolution) Collimator.” This means it was a nuclear camera that takes really, really good internal pictures. I memorized the name because I had lots of time to stare at it while lying still for the camera. I learned this evening when I looked it up that this is not a brand name. It’s the kind of camera it is. The really, really good kind.
I was supposed to keep perfectly still while the nuclear camera moved around me. The camera began in a position straight above me, and then moved every minute or so about an inch counterclockwise.
The first series was blurry. Kristen told me I had a bowel in the way. Did you know that your bowel cozies up to your heart? I didn’t. Anyway, they sent me back out to the waiting room to drink water and walk around, and then I went back and they did another series.
Now it was time for the stress test. Whooptie! On to the treadmill! But because I have terrible knees I didn’t have to do the running treadmill test; I just had to walk while they injected adenosine, a drug designed to make my body stressed as if I was exercising.
Another tech named Leo fitted me up for this, putting those sticky snaps around my ribcage and collar bone, and then hooked me up to the EKG machine. Kristen started the injection and the treadmill, and we were off. Or I was.
An ARNP named Chris (a guy) ran the readout machine while Leo watched me and took my blood pressure every minute or two. It was a good blood pressure: 120/70 to start, falling to 110/60 as the stress drug took effect and dilated my veins. The EKG was pretty good, too.
They were watching me closely because it is, after all, a stress test, and one of the effects I was warned about was possible heart attack and/or death. I had neither of those, though the drug made me feel weird and unpleasant, as Chris told me it would.
When the test was over the drug quickly dissolved and I felt better fast, and Leo and I got to discussing last night’s American Idol show.
Yes, I sometimes watch American Idol.
Then I went and had some post-stress test pictures taken. Back to the chair, the blanket, the immobility, the pup tent. I spent my time wishing I’d pushed my glasses up on my nose before the test began because everything was blurry, and eavesdropping on a discussion the techs were having about how to make pie crust.
Pie crusts are a challenge. I’ve made crusts that were flaky and light and melted in your mouth, and then again I’ve made crusts with the consistency of a hockey puck. When I found out about ten years ago that my mother, the queen of the pie-makers, bought the ready-made kind at the store, I switched to those and haven’t looked back.
Again the pictures weren’t good enough, and I was told to go down to Starbuck’s and get something to eat, and come back in 20 minutes. I heard and obeyed, and went down and had a blind date with an egg salad sandwich and a cup of black decaf (not good – tossed it after a few sips).
One more time under the camera! By this time I had used up all my ability to hold still and was grateful when the tech told me, “We’re finished!” and I could leave.
So I did, and headed down to Costco to get dryer sheets and olive oil, and ended up getting that and a lot more, then headed for the ferry, where no one came near me with a Geiger counter, and came home to watch the second night of American Idol.
I’m supposed to hear about the test results in three days, which puts it into next week. I’m feeling better than I was over Christmas, and I’m glad this process is underway. I’m also glad I’m not in my 20s and dreaming of going on American Idol. I wouldn’t make it past the audition, if I dared to make it that far.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Tornado Hits Vancouver, WA

Here follows a story about a tornado. It was a big deal the day it happened, and there was something on page 2 of the Local section of the Seattle Times the day after it happened, but after that it disappeared from the news.
Last June when my cousin and I were driving down I-5, as we approached Eugene, Oregon, I saw in the distance what looked like a classic funnel cloud. Darned if the thing didn’t keep dipping down and become a tornado. It ran along the hillside to the east of the freeway, lasting a few minutes. I pulled off the road and rummaged through the trunk of my car looking for a camera but came up empty, so I had nothing later to prove to myself or anyone else that I saw it.
But I’ve been talking about it ever since. I saw a tornado! In Oregon! I was absolutely thrilled and flummoxed. I didn’t think tornados happened anywhere on the west coast, but what I saw that day and what happened in Vancouver last week has taught me otherwise.
My little hillside tornado didn’t seem to do any harm to the trees it snaked through, and the one in Vancouver did property damage, but apparently no one was hurt. So we don’t usually have the makings of big tornados out here, but still – wow. A tornado is a powerful force, even a little one.
I received an email from my friend Sonya a couple of days after the tornado took the shingles off her roof, and all she could talk about was old timey and bluegrass festivals and musicians. Sonya has her priorities, I thought, and I wrote to her to say so, but today she emails:
“wrote you before the big wind, so your amazement at my sangfroid is unfounded. but i would have written on the festivals anyway. they are the sunlight in my winter.
“i've been working on a dry shade garden with native plants, and am going to have to rethink. the tornado took the shade from my front yard and put it in the back yard - in pieces. lost both big, beautiful trees. this was an ugly but very educational experience. jean, the elderly lady at the foot of my street, lost her magnificent oak. 31" in diameter, 23' to the first branches. the oak rose in the air at least 3 feet, gave a quarter turn, and fell over. when i inspected it, i discovered it had no taproot, which i had understood to be one of the reasons oaks are so "mighty". it was at the bottom of a slope, 3 feet from the pavement. obviously it was in a water trap and did need a taproot. i noticed many other uprooted trees, planted on down slopes too close to the curb to develop a good root system on that side.
“we saw it coming and we saw it at work. i saw what looked like a human body hurtle past my basement window at what randy said was 100 miles an hour, which, on later inspection, turned out to be a branch from the deodar. but it wasn't Katrina. it wasn't sustained. none of the windows broke. we are all fine. insurance will pay at least half of reroofing, and I knew the roof had at best five years left. it looks like we have 3-4 cords of wood for heating. (we'll have to use those anti-creosote logs too, unfortunately). and I was hemming and hawing (and not willingly sawing) about taking down the scotch pine at the house corner - bigger every year and too close to the foundation. so the weather-gods decided for me!
“i talked to the folks doing jean's yard, and looks like my tenant will have to cut the branches into firewood for her. my tenant's's brother knows somebody who knows somebody (etc.) who buys hardwood trees. the treecutters were pretty huffed, thinking to take away a heck of a lot of hardwood…the skyline is gone. our woodpecker tree is gone. the bat tree is gone (i don't know if bats lived in it, but we watched them rise up behind it every warm evening.) and we've had to chase off wood thieves who were "just helping" (themselves) twice. jorgenson woods, our newly developed greenspace/park along chicken creek, is a tearful site. we were on one edge of the tornado's swath, and the park on the other. sad. but Nature renews.
“i just hate waiting.

Tornado Parking Space

I returned from a shopping trip to Granny’s yesterday and turned on the Northwest News Channel while I made my lunch. They were chattering about a tornado hitting Vancouver, Washington. That got my attention. I have a friend, Sonya, who lives in Vancouver, Washington.
As I watched a realization came to me: this tornado had hit near Sonya’s neighborhood. The announcer said something about the path of the tornado running “south of 78th Street.” I looked in my address book and saw that Sonya’s address started with, “74…” and knew that the tornado had gone right through Sonya’s neighborhood.
I tried calling her, knowing it was a vain exercise, knowing that all the wires were down and there would be no answer. I watched the news, which said no one was injured, and I waited.
Sonya called this morning. The caller ID said, “Vancouver, WA,” so I picked it up and said, “ARE YOU ALL RIGHT?” She laughed and said yes, then she told me what happened.
“The thunder sounded like a pile driver,” she said. “The wind sounded like water running, like a flash flood.”
Naturally she and her tenant, who lives in her basement, were curious, and went out on the front porch to see what kind of show the weather was putting on. Her tenant, Randy, called to his son, “Hey, it’s a tornado! Come and see this.” So they stood and watched for a while, and then Randy, who has seen tornados before, understood that it was coming their way.
“Sonya, leave the front door open and get in the basement and don’t argue,” he said. They all adjourned to the basement and watched as the tree in the yard snapped off and carried away all the utility lines in front of the house.
It was all over in a few seconds. When they believed it was safe they came out to find that a lot of shingles were gone from the roof, and of course the tree and the utility lines were no more. They were fortunate that it wasn’t worse – their vehicles were not crushed or trapped by debris, as many of their neighbors’ vehicles were. Sonya spent the night at the home of a friend whose house was not in the path of the tornado.
As far as we know no one got hurt, although a lot of property was damaged, and the Vancouver Lake Crew Club was wiped out.
I went online last night looking for news about the tornado, and was surprised to find that what came up when I googled “Vancouver, WA + tornado” was a tornado that hit Vancouver on April 5, 1972.
That was a bigger, nastier tornado. It killed 6 people, and destroyed many buildings, including Peter S. Ogden elementary school, where 70 children were injured. Students at the nearby high school who saw the elementary school collapse ran to the scene to dig kids out.
What was interesting to me was that yesterday’s tornado hit at virtually the same place as the 1972 tornado. Hm. If the Midwest has Tornado Alley, perhaps Vancouver, Washington, has the Northwest’s Tornado Parking Space.
You know, when I moved here from California all those years ago I thought I had moved away from earthquakes, and I thought that we didn’t get tornados on the west coast. Live and learn.

Sidebar (if you’ve got space, Ed):

Vancouver Lake Crew Club destroyed by tornado

This item was posted on the Tacoma News Tribune website on January 10: "Today’s tornado ripped 2 boathouses off the foundations and destroyed most of the club’s 50 rowing shells as well as rowing machines, trailers and oars. The club’s founder, Bill Kalenius, was the head coach at the University of Puget Sound for several years in the 1970s while the team was rowing down on Commencement Bay. Bill has been battling cancer for years and recently finished chemo and radiation treatment."
An account has been started for donations at the Bank of Clark County. Donations should be attention:
Vancouver Lake Crew
8915 NW 21st Ave
Vancouver 98665

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Eat Nuts, Don't Elect Them

January 9, 2008

Dear Hearts and Gentle People,
I am told that my last essay (see previous entry) has caused Discussion among people who have read it. I guess that’s what I’m here for – to get people thinking and talking, as well as laughing.
I guess. I don’t know. I just write this stuff.
It has been a snowy, stormy time here in the Northwest, and on the west coast of the USA in general – rain, wind, snow, thunder and lightning. A real winter. The effect of La NiƱa, I’ve heard. I’m not sure what you in the Midwest and east are told to blame for your weather, which has not been a picnic, either.
2008 is an election year and the madness is on, as I’m sure you all know. I saw Mike Huckabee on the David Letterman show the other night. He was charming, and funny, and said all the right things we want to hear.
Back when I was dating men, I learned that charming, funny men who said what you wanted to hear were the ones to run away from as soon as possible, because on closer acquaintance they turned out to be anything but charming and funny, and anyone who tells you what you want to hear has a plan for you that you don’t want to experience. This was a hard lesson for me, but I think I eventually learned it.
I saw Richard Nixon on the Johnny Carson show back in 1968. He was also funny and charming and said what we wanted to hear. He came across as a great guy. I liked him. I was too young to have the perspective of his track record for the previous two decades, and that one appearance made me think, oh, he’s a good guy. I like him.
And he was elected President and brought the country peace, prosperity, contentment, and integrity.
I’m joking. He was elected President and he was a brilliant, tragically flawed person who thought he was above behaving legally, or with integrity. His hubris eventually brought him down. A tragedy for him, and for all of us, and we live with the fallout still.
So I don’t think I’ll buy Mike Huckabee’s folksy bite on David Letterman. He has the smile of a demented Kevin Spacey, and appears to wear contacts that make his eyes look big and dewy, and he says what you want to hear. Hmm. Does anyone want to know any more about him before handing over the country to him?
And I don’t mean to pick on Huckabee. I don’t trust any of ‘em at this point, of any party. I wonder who the vegetarians are running this year. I think, “Eat more nuts, don’t elect them” might be a good campaign slogan.
Yeah, I’m pretty cynical about politics at this point.
In spite of that, I wish you all the best year possible –
Blessings & love & hugs & grace & peace