All cities word count <>46,000
This is a work in progress of a memoir city by city. I doubt that it will appear anywhere else. It is excruciatingly boring. As soon as I can find out how to get it away from the beginning of the blog, it will be buried. Caveat – this depends on my memory and it can’t be fact checked easily. Please skip to the next story. Second caveat – word counts may be low because I add things as I think of them.
Portland The First Time
Word Count 5720
1943 – 1965
I was born in a Portland hospital in 1943. Much about my early years I either remember or was told to me and was converted to a memory. My earliest memories are from the late 1940s. The family legend is that I was named Doug because my mother wouldn’t accept naming me after my father’s favorite dog Duke (now the main character in many of my stories) and I was bred for mowing the yard and raking leaves.
Portland and Oregon’s racist history is more important than my past. Oregon is different in that it was neither pro nor anti slavery, black people were legally excluded. Of course that was not a hundred percent enforced, but it was largely effective. Until many white and black workers were recruited to the shipyards in World War II, there were hardly any black people anywhere in Oregon. The new people got housing in a whole new city north of Portland called Vanport for its proximity to Vancouver Washington across the Columbia River and Portland.
After the war, whites from Vanport could find housing across the Portland area. Blacks were redlined into a small northern area – Portland is oddly partitioned into five areas – North, Northeast, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest.
I don’t believe that Jews were welcomed in country clubs either early on despite being some of the best merchants.
In 1948 the Vanport area was wiped out by a flood. The victims were mostly black people who had not left. My father did some rescue work and got an axe out of it. Water rose to the playing fields of my grade school.
My impression is that most of the other minorities in Portland were the Chinese and Japanese. Chinese were blamed for much of the illegal gambling and drugs in Portland and also had many of the traditional occupations – restaurants and laundries. Many of the Japanese in the Portland area had been farmers – east of Portland at that time was bean and berry fields, but is now residential. As in the rest of the US they were interred during WWII. Not all came back to Portland. One was in my high school class, but I only learned that he had been interred after he died.
I didn’t meet any Latinos until late in grade school, the very attractive, sharp Gloria. I took her to a drive in movie and the car I borrowed from the folks wouldn’t start after the movie. That and her disinterest in me killed any possible romance. To my knowledge at that time most of the Latinos in Oregon were Mexican seasonal laborers.
The grade school Whitaker at one time had a native Alaskan student and a Pierre of unknown to be heritage. That was about it for minorities at the time.
Many years later while editor and I were visiting mother and childhood home, a fire started less than a hundred yards away. A woman had left her oven on and the whole house burned. She had been fostering dogs, some of which could not be convinced to leave. Some brave guys from the neighborhood checked to see if any humans were inside. The fire was nothing like a Hollywood fire with some gas pipes making flames; smoke was so dense nothing could be seen inside. Unlike my youth, the people who came up looked like the United Nations – just about every conceivable ethnic group.
Not a lot to say about religion and politics. I believe that my grandparents were solid Christians at one time. I (and maybe sister, don’t remember) went to local Protestant churches, one of which changed denomination without much difference. I went to another church with first serious girlfriend a few times. At one time I had a serious childish beef with Catholicism because said ex-girlfriend told me that she was converting because of her new love. Dad once said he was the most Superior Being that he knew when questioned by my sister. They did not get along. My mother listened to religious programs on Sundays and said that she couldn’t decide which was best. I was saved, but then decided the evidence against a personal god was conclusive (see Interview, *l*rd and Intelligent Design), chose Deism and ended up with nothing. My political feelings (at least at the time that they were written) are in “Spenser” and “Do Nothing”. Anti war feelings based on the Viet Nam and Iraq catastrophes are expressed in “ATTACK” and “War”.
The weather in the Portland area is about the best that I have experienced, despite having a lot of damp gloomy days. Snow was more common in my youth, but was rarely a problem, despite people not learning to drive in the snow. My sister and I could take our sled down the little used part of Simpson between 60th and Lombard. Summers were generally tolerably warm, but on the really hot days, I slept in the cooler basement. Days below freezing were few. The Columbus Day Storm of 1962 was an exception to the usually mild weather during which I parked my unloved Fiat under a tree hoping that it would be destroyed and I could collect some insurance. Curious about the storm? Check the internet.
My mother came from a long line of Republicans, but there were some that she couldn’t stand. She didn’t quite live to the first black president, but did make it to his election. My father, as he was about everything, was completely independent. I’ve transitioned from doctrinaire libertarian to socially liberal and fiscally conservative, but mostly strongly disliking politics and politicians.
Fishing and hunting with my father was not much fun usually. Most of the fishing was done below the Bonneville Dam where he caught salmon and sturgeon. I can vividly remember the sturgeon fillets twitching – as fish go, sturgeon are very old. We would put in around where an old abandoned cannery was. By that time salmon and other fish had decreased for a long time. There was a place where we stopped for treats. I think that it still exists, but also is abandoned. For years when we would visit the Bonneville Hatchery, it has had a giant sturgeon of hundreds of pounds, several feet long. Another building had weird bottled river or sea creatures, mostly fetuses. The hunting was usually cold and wet. One was camping in the snow. I never killed much and didn’t want to. I quit going along when I was a teenager. Must have been something of a disappointment to my father, although I was a good shot. I still have trophies from when we target practiced at the Hyster range. It went when I205 was constructed.
Early memory – Cadillacs and shacks at Celilo where native Americans fished before the grounds were drowned by the Dalles dam. Either legend or memory – falling out of a boat and being dragged back in while sister saved fishing rods.
One trip to hunt antelope with mother and father sticks out for several reasons. It was in the fall in Southeastern Oregon. It would hit 80 or 90 degrees F. during the day and freeze at night. Other hunters, possibly drunk fired in our direction. I found out that I hated coffee with cream, which was how my parents took it. We had set up close to a watering hole. Different animals had different schedules. I don’t remember which were when, but we were treated to the delight of a herd of wild horses coming in. We could see the dust cloud from afar, and eventually one horse came in to check it out and then the rest.
Not as much fun was the hunting trip during which we had two flat tires. Back in the old days it was possible to fix the inner tube by vulcanization reassemble the tire. Same trip, dad taking a dump as another car passed unexpectedly out in the middle of nowhere.
There were a couple of memorably bad fishing trips. One involved a dead car in Gobel Oregon, and the other was at the mouth of the Columbia River where the swells were so deep I couldn’t see the horizon, and I had to urinate, but was too shy with a woman aboard.
Portland at that time did not include our home at 60th and Simpson built around 1940. My parents had lived in apartments to the west within Portland until around the time that my sister Sharon (name later changed) was born. At the time that it was built there was not much that far to the east. Farther to the east around 82nd street that far north, there were bean and berry fields. We all picked U-pick berries in season and I did a very little bean picking. Portland was much smaller in area and population. The city population was more than 300,000 while I was growing up, and the metro area was under a million. After I left town much of Multnomah County to the east was incorporated into either Portland or Gresham. Incorporated cities in the metro area other than Portland had fewer than 30,000 people. Then as now, Portland was the weak sister to the major West Coast cities Seattle, San Francisco (San Jose was in its pre-Silicon Valley glory) and Los Angeles.
Memories of my paternal grandfather are either minimal or imaginary. My maternal grandmother Zelda lived in Gresham. She tried to teach me piano unsuccessfully. Two things stick out in my memory. She thought that her dog Pudge could sing “The Isle Of Capri” and that she could trace her family back to Noah, which given the Bible’s begets would go back to Adam.
My jolly maternal grandparents Omah and Harry lived in Portland during part of my youth before starting a restaurant “The Brenaman House” in Dallas Oregon. It was a huge house which was great fun for the kids to play or wander around the ten acre land it was on. They retired to a small town in the Central Willamette Valley.
I had several uncles and aunts in the area. We drove down 99W to visit Eugene area Uncle Ralph and Aunt Geri in the pre-I5 days. At that time it was a long drive through many small towns. All of their children were younger than I. The closest were Al and Gladys only about a mile from our house. Albert was a year older than me and Gary seven years younger. I now suspect that I wasn’t a very pleasant playmate (I don’t mean in the Playboy sense). Uncle Lester was not around us much. He had been a merchant marine and lived in San Francisco and Hawaii at various times.
My father had a much younger sister Mary Rose and a year older brother Hayden. My mother did not care for Mary Rose, but we did hang out with Hayden, wife Corky and their children Judy and Jim. Judy was around my sister’s age and Jim was a little younger than I. For years I thought that they were farmers, but much later I found out that they were “gentlemen farmers” and Hayden was an accountant.
Because there is no reason to do so and that I hate those tell all books about how my horrible family ruined my life, there won’t be anything like that here. Father Grant (named Wallace Grant, but didn’t want to be Wally Hawley – many family members have opted to use middle names) was a heavy weight guy who had been a body builder type in his younger days. In some ways he was typical of the time in that he hunted and fished and had a few guy friends, but was largely not social. He was a machinist who worked at Hyster for many years when it had a plant in Portland, followed by smaller shops and then self employed as a gunsmith. He was largely the opposite of me in that he was a very handy guy without a lot of formal education. My mother kept trying to keep things together which wasn’t always easy. After many years as a stay at home mother, she worked for many years at the local Jantzen Knitting Mills. For years she bowled on the company team named the Titty Tackers, from her job sewing bras into swimsuits. All of Jantzen’s production may be overseas now. That was supposed to make college money for the two of us children, but I later expected it was to get out of the house some. For years she could get me cheap or free clothes. My older sister got along ok for a few years, but as we got older she had little interest in her younger brother. As I remember, she was rough with me until I got older and bigger and then “boys don’t hit girls”. I still have a scar or two that she gave me. She is now and has been aggressively opinionated. For a long time we were antagonistic, but that has finally cooled. Two events stick out in my mind. She decided we should have an acrobatic act, which would have me standing on her shoulders. I fell off and had double vision for a day or two. Better was teaching me the alphabet before I started school, giving me my start as a better than average scholar.
Mother drank and smoked, but not excessively. I don’t think that she was too happy. Father was usually rather stoic and quiet, but he probably had problems that he didn’t talk about. He got hives, possibly from stress. He was quite independent and contrary, and didn’t follow the usual path. I was probably a disappointment because; he was more of a man’s man, a hunter and fisher. I went along with both for many years, but eventually rebelled and went my own way. We were four distinct individuals who happened to be in the same family.
For many years the neighbors on the south side of our house were an older couple that got married late in life and had no children. I remember getting a job mowing their yard while they were overseas. In addition to a US cash payment, they gave me bits of foreign currency which I eventually learned were largely worthless.
The neighbors on the north side were initially a couple, at least one of whom was divorced, which was a big deal at the time. They had two daughters, one about my age, and one younger. For several years, I hung out with the older one until she got other friends. They had been renting from a couple who owned a trailer park a mile or so away. The owners of the park moved back into the house later. There were a few houses behind us in fairly bad shape and people that I never knew. Neighbor kids, including me, played softball in an open area that they had until we were kicked out.
When I was quite young a neighbor girl and I were in her garage. She said she would show me hers if I showed her mine, or something like that. Her father came in before we could complete comparative anatomy, which is why I don’t know what girl parts look like.
We knew the people in two of the houses across the street from us for part of the time that I lived there. One was a family from Eastern Oregon. I was amazed by their stories of snow in the late spring. I hung around some with the younger son who was a little younger than me. He had a basketball net set up we used. For awhile the school bus picked us up at their place. The people in the house south of them had moved from Seattle where the bigger city got TV before Portland. Their daughter babysat us at times.
For most of my first Portland life, my social life was quite grim, largely because of my lack of social skills and few redeeming qualities. My few serious relationships are covered in non-fiction stories written with a pseudonym, but many non-fiction stories are inspired by those girls/women.
Before TV, home entertainment was board games, cards, and radio, largely my mother’s soaps. I can still remember “Our Gal Sunday”, “Ma Perkins”, “Gun Smoke”, “The Shadow” and “The Inner Sanctum”. Early TV was about three networks in black and white with horizontal and vertical adjustments and ghosts. I remember early shows “Dangerous Assignment”, “Topper” and “I Married Joan”.
Music changed radically during this time. It went from the end of big bands and Perry Como, Jo Stafford and some really sappy stuff to Little Richard, Elvis, Fats, Jerry Lee and finally to the British Invasion with Beatles, Rolling Stones et al. I’m still enamored of 1950s and 1960s rock and blues.
I had visited Whitaker Grade School where my older sister went to school before me. My mother thought that I was something of a smart alec to whomever it was that we talked to there.
Early home life was a few local vacations. We never went more than a few hundred miles. The longest that I can remember is to Victoria B.C. in 1959 I think, and San Francisco by train, and driving back in a 1959 Fiat Uncle Lester gave me. I may be an ingrate, but Fix It Again Tony was not a treasure. Vacations were taken at the coast or East Lake in the Newberry Crater, the site of a collapsed volcano. Because the coast was only 60 or 70 miles from home at the closest point, those trips could be day trips. One of our favorites was Short Sands beach, a short quarter mile walk from the parking lot. Newberry Crater is a wonderland. There are a couple of clear lakes, some waterfalls and various types of abundant volcanic rock. Obsidian looks like black glass, which could be used for cutting or arrow heads and pumice is a rock so light that if floats, which can be used for scrubbing. We tent camped there and my father fished.
Two willow trees were planted about when I was born. In my pre-teens they were fun to climb. Leaf raking was a small chore, and I’m so glad that it was in the pre-devil’s tool leaf blower era. Weed spraying was done with what seemed a giant can of mixed herbicide. The mowing was done with a jury rigged electric mower which had a long electric cord for me to run over and cut.
Besides the girl next door, once school started, I had a few in my neighborhood. The late Stan, who I thought was a good buddy, many years later when I had moved back to Oregon said he had no idea who I was. Cheryl and Michael lived a few blocks away. Later in grade school and then the beginning of high school, my gang was Tom/Tank and Kent/Dirk/Pete. They lived a couple of miles away so, it was a bit of a walk. Later things fell apart over silly things – old story, eh? I hung out with the one year younger Peter for many years, a Finnish – Portuguese mix. Because of the fishing connection, many Oregonians were Scandinavian or Finnish. We walked to grade school together frequently. Don’t know what happened to him when we started high school. Towards the end of grade school or the beginning of high school, I met a group to play ball at Whitaker during the summer. After coming back to the Portland area I contacted one of the players. He didn’t remember me either.
I never wore the right clothes because I was generally unaware. Jeans and sneakers were the order of the day. My mother typically cut my hair short, even what she called a pig shave, until I saw a guy with a ducktail when I was in the seventh grade. That looked so cool, I wanted long hair and started to experiment with horrible looks and equally horrible hair goo, possibly including Brylcream – a little dab will do you.
Our first pet was a dog. I may have inadvertently caused his death by digging up some buried bones, which he may have eaten. After that we had a series of cats, most of whom were run over by cars, because all of them were outdoor cats. We don’t let our cats out now. I remember Mopcat, and Sophia particularly. They generally weren’t fixed and the females produced kittens that we had to get rid of somehow.
I remember two example of bullying. Gary (not the high school Gary) was picked regularly and I don’t know why. Delores had some congenital disorder that I can’t remember. I thought blue baby, but that isn’t right. My faulty memory says missing thumbs. She was quite disagreeable and was treated horribly. Twins, a year behind me, were not bullied, but were regularly messing with my head. One drowned over a summer and was never mentioned again. In those times counseling everyone over a death wasn’t a thing.
Grade school was the beginning of alternating fairly pleasant experiences and rotten ones, school by school. It began at the corner of 60th and Columbia before I started. It may have been in small temporary buildings. My sister may have started there. When I was there it was at 52nd and Columbia. Over time it was built larger and had fires at both ends at different times. After it closed down, its name was given to a middle school which had been a high school. That school was closed down because it had been infected by mold. The closed school was the location of a 2003 Gus Van Sant movie Elephant which portrayed a school shooting by two disaffected teens. The 52nd and Columbia location is now Native American Youth And Family Center. I visited many years ago as a part of a grade school reunion. It looked much the same as I remembered, but the playground equipment under the covered area was gone. The ball fields were still recognizable, but I don’t know if they were in use.
In the first grade, I couldn’t see the blackboard well and started the rest of my life as a four eyes. Maybe I’ll get lasik surgery, but probably not.
I was one of the bright students and was good in all subjects. At the beginning, I was fairly athletic, but I lacked the growth spurt others got towards the end of grade school. Thus “short” is the theme of many of my recollections and stories. First school recollection – spooked by a toilet that I thought would overflow. In the fourth grade, I got in a tussle with an older boy who picked me up and brought me down on my foot resulting in a broken ankle or foot, which kept me on crutches or cast for a while. There was the time I hurt my hand by hitting someone. A fingernail was permanently damaged by a ball bouncing off it. There was the guy that irritated me that I strangled until I was pulled off him and the much older, but spastic (literally) guy who bested me. I ground off an upper tooth falling on the asphalt basketball court. In the pool at the now defunct amusement park Jantzen Beach, I was pummeled by someone whose size I had mistaken because he was crouching. I missed a lot of school with various infections and diseases, but in high school I had no absences because I didn’t know how to fill out an absence form. When I was around eight stomach pains at first seemed like appendicitis, but turned out to be Meckle’s diverticulum, something like appendicitis, but in a different place. It is a vestigial organ that only lasts until birth except in 10% of people. Lucky me.
As a standard grade school in the 1950s the sports were basketball, soft/hardball and football. We didn’t get much ice, so ice skating and hockeys were rare. I failed at roller skating. Soccer / world football was rare at that place and in those times. I was never involved until I was a sophomore in high school and got hit in the balls. Never have liked it. Memorable moment – I caught my first popup. Nobody but me was impressed. Playing elderly people softball now, I wonder what age my talent is equivalent to now – 10 or 12? We swam at the aforementioned defunct Jantzen Beach and our local YMCA. At that time during guys only swimming we swam naked. It was a thing at the time.
Our covered playground had a merry-go-round from which we be hung out like a flag when someone turned it fast enough, monkey bars, jungle gym and swings from which the brave guys would swing seemingly ten feet high and bail out. Despite all of the concern about the dangers for kids, I don’t remember anyone getting injured.
Non-standard sex or any sex was rarely acknowledged. One time we were warned about a certain service station because of someone that I inferred was some sort of unspecified pervert. “Queer”, “homo” and “fag” were all serious insults. I was told much later that a girl at Whitaker did not wash because she was afraid to be naked with her father around. There were a few unplanned pregnancies.
There is an incident that I have wondered about for sixty years or more. I was standing along some street and a guy pulled and said he thought that he knew me. I wonder if that was supposed to be a homosexual pickup and if I looked like I was interested. Nothing came of.
My short acting career started at Whitaker. It is described in the Short Humour article “Thespian”.
For quite awhile I would take the bus downtown to the main library and read about different things, mostly science or math, and buy a copy of Billboard to check on song sales. At that time I was a numbers nerd, particularly populations. At that time or later, I would pass small or salon called Mode O’Day. I’ve been thinking about and have no idea why it sticks with me, or if it even happened. The disappearance of the family piano has me and other family members baffled. My parents had a dramatic picture of a wood burning train moving through the night, which also disappeared, much to my regret.
Father had assembled a swing set in the backyard that sister and I used for many years, but finally we were too old. I’m not too old anymore, if convenient I’ll tamely swing now. In the early days there was a clothes line. There was not a separate clothes dryer for many years, just a wringer. During much of the rainy part of the year clothes were hung inside.
In the seventh or eighth grade we started to play sports in a north of Portland league. We were both undersized and under talented and were regularly crushed. I played baseball in a couple of summer leagues. In one I quit when I wasn’t getting playing time. I’m quite good at quitting when things don’t go my way. I asked mother one time whether one had to join scouts and get married. She said no, but I joined scouts, but then quit over some squabble. Our scout leader was Bud, called Butt, because of the man that he lived with. At the time I didn’t think much of it and there were never any rumors. Now with all of the Boy Scout scandals, I wonder. I have not quit marriage yet. A perk of being in the Boy Scouts was ushering at NFL pre-season games. At the time I didn’t realize what a big deal it was. I don’t know which year(s) that was. The other league went better. Because of the wind blowing towards the batter, there were no home runs that year, but because I was fast and had some difficult hits to field I led the league with two triples. Funny incident – a pitch hit the cup of the catcher and a loud thud and rolled halfway back to the pitcher.
At that time and place, bicycles were good for a short period of time, maybe 8 to 12 years old. For some reason, we were supposed to give them up before we started to drive. One girl got in trouble for riding a bike to school. She was then and now is rebellious against the perceived wisdom. I watched my sister ride one and got the idea that they drove themselves like a car. Immediately the bike and I fell over sideways. Later in what may have been my first ride, I didn’t know how to stop and ended up in some brambles to be helped out by a neighbor lady. I never went more than a few miles away. At that time and place, few had anything beyond one speed Schwinns. I failed two of the things good bicyclists did ride up the dirt path (now closed) uphill between Columbia and Lombard without stopping, and no hands.
I’d walk to places up to a couple of miles away. Tom, Kent and I would go to the old one screen theatres, probably gone now, to see crappy sci-fi and horror movies. We’d come home in the dark and nobody thought anything of it at the time. Sometime a wooded area a mile or so away was turned into Fernwood Park. The land was interesting because some areas were left wooded and it had numerous hills. I think I played ball there some. A gravel pit was a scarier place. Once my sister had to talk me down from a bank I had climbed up, but didn’t want to back down. It may have been severely polluted too.
In the seventh grade we did safety patrol at 52nd and Lombard. I remember not being dressed for the cold temperatures. As a treat, we went to Oaks Park’s rolling skating building. Skating on roller or ice skates is not my thing, but another girl told me that she went there to meet boys. She got pregnant. Another memorable event was taking a field trip to Benson High School many miles away, possibly to get us indoctrinated. Tim and I missed the bus back and had to walk many miles home. We were reprimanded even though both of us missed the call to get to the bus.
Cars were also a problem. I learned to drive in the family 1946 pickup with non-synchro or double-clutch transmission and a 1948 Chevrolet with a three on the tree. I was so bad that it took three tries to get a drivers’ license, but since then I’ve only had three minor accidents and a few tickets. Driving cool wheels in the 1950s was a big deal. I didn’t drive cool wheels, and didn’t have a car of my own until the aforementioned Fiat. Years later I killed the family Plymouth station wagon by running it without oil.
High School at Madison is four years better forgotten and mostly is. A short version of four years of misery is covered in “Mad(ison) Men” in Wilderness House (around 3,000 miles from Madison). A sign of how things would go started almost immediately when the students voted to be called the Rebels, but were overruled by administration, because of possible political implications. At some of the reunions I talk to people longer than I did in four years there. After the relative freedom of grade school, Madison was very oppressive regarding acceptable thinking and acting. Raging hormones caused a lot of unhappiness. The simple pleasures of grade school were replaced by unsatisfied lust and a lack of growth emotionally and physically. I played a little tennis and disorganized sandlot sports. The tennis has recurred sporadically.
Teen hangouts included Yaws, long closed didn’t get there often. I do remember a car of guys asking girls to jump in a pile. Didn’t work. Another place that I liked for awhile had burgers, fries and a drink for 75 cents. Even then it was a good deal. Vans out on Marine Drive had fine burgers. It was close to a houseboat owned by a young Wagner of the Mixermobile Wagners. There was the time:
We burned furniture to stay warm in the houseboat.
A guy threw my tam that my sister had sent me from Scotland into the river during a wild night. I was drunk and didn’t care.
One of the twins and I picked up a pair of girls and took them there. His was ready to go, but mine only went for dry humping. Never saw them again.
Our favorite family restaurant was the Pagoda. It had a Pagoda like top and walls painted in psychedelic Chinese mythology art. Every time I went there, I was entertained by the art. In the old days, it had jukeboxes at each table. We went back there with my mother when we moved back to Portland, but it closed shortly after we came back.
Another failure was with a girl whose best quality was her body went out with me a couple of times, including local make out point. She then ran away to California. A girl that I was interested in told me she didn’t like guys hanging around her locker – me. At least I had a good comeback – “I’ll keep them away.”
My summer jobs were limited by my lack of useful or social skills. I did some work at Mixermobile where my father worked, mostly in printing. I did very little field work with the green beans grown in the area. I worked on my father’s gunsmith business for quite awhile. Most of my money was made two summers that I worked for the highway department as an engineer’s aide. I qualified by a written test of such things as trigonometry, which was never used. The first summer before my senior year as Portland State College was at Gold Beach on the Southern Oregon coast. More on this in the next city story. The second was mostly in eastern Clackamas County. We spent some time at a quarry where a person in a crane was killed when his rig hit a high tension wire to the rock crusher which produced rock of various sizes. Most of my job was testing the density of road bed to see if it was up to specifications. The traditional way was to laboriously dig a hole in the road bed with a spoon-like tool, weigh it and measure the volume using a gizmo that dropped a bag into the hole to measure the volume. Hard work, and I had to go back to the shop when the bag broke. Mostly I used an atomic device which only had to be set where the calculation was to be made. We had to wear a bit of film to see if we were irradiated. That led to lots of jokes. I had the bad luck to be working on the old method when the temperature hit a then record, subsequently tied of 107 F. I had to measure weights inside the van that I had. For awhile I tried to measure with the back open, but the wind forced me to close the back. What had been tolerable immediately turned to hell.
After high school, three of us dealing with broken relations took a road trip. Gary, one of the twins, Dick or Ron, headed south. We were the odd trio because the other two were about a foot taller than I. We stayed in cheap motels after driving all day. I think one of the motels that we stayed in may have cost $4. Different times. We took my 1959 Fiat with suicide doors, one of which was sprung when somebody opened it while we were driving. I don’t remember much, but there was commiserating with woman in Fresno who had also recently broken up, and being threatened by a truck driver, and the other two trying to skip out of some beatnik café when it wouldn’t serve us beer. Part of our plan was to go to Las Vegas, but a fan belt broke somewhere outside of LA and we couldn’t get a replacement until Barstow followed by giving up and heading home.
After high school with no idea what to do other than washing dishes as a profession, I went to Portland State College, because it was close and I got a scholarship. I went with math, because as the saying goes “Those that can’t handle people study science”, or something like that. I couldn’t even handle objects, so I went with abstractions. Buddies Gary and other Doug went there from Madison too. Unlike the transition to high school, we stayed close. It didn’t take me long to see how far I had to go. At one time I thought that if one learned calculus, that was about as far as it went. After being close to the top in high school, I descended to the middle. Time at PSC was liberating. After the oppression of Madison, one was free after leaving a class. After commuting from home, I started renting cheap places with various roommates. First friend Gary and new guy Kim, then a whole bunch of people after Gary got married, new friend Jerry (now Jeremy). Before going to University of Oregon, I was back with Gary and his wife for a few months. I avoided the humanities and stuck to subjects that I was good in. Possible huge blunders – gave up on French and a programming class.
Three things stick out in my mind about the place that I lived with Jerry / Jeremy. One night at a party where I drank a lot, I blacked out. I’m told I picked a fight with someone who outweighed me by a hundred pounds. I was ineffective and he just ignored me. Or so I’m told. One night a woman knocked on our door because she was afraid of her boyfriend. He got into our second story window, a French guy from Viet Nam. He claimed to know martial arts and intimidated us. I think that it was resolved peacefully. At another party a woman was threatened and given a black eye. I professed to no knowledge when her father showed up. Bad scene. Jeremy and I were on beer run when we were blocked crossing the street twice. Jerremy beat on the car. Huge guy big as the two of us together knocked my on top of the beer. We jawed at each other and then he left.
PSC started with a split from first serious girlfriend and ended with a completely different one. Different physically, emotionally and mentally. As indicated earlier, those stories are in anonymous tales published somewhere with names faked. The time at PSC is covered somewhat in “Behind the Portland State College Bowl Team”, for which I couldn’t find a publisher closer than Massachusetts and later SF Bay Area Synchronized Chaos. PSC wanted nothing to do with it. Because of sex, drugs and rock and roll?
Socializing frequently happened at the Chocolate Moose, rumored to be a gay bar, but I didn’t notice. Mick, and gnarled veteran and hanger on would hold court there. Amell’s (sp) was the burger hangout where I saw Brian Cole (of the Association – see “Birthday”), and I found the woman I thought that I might marry. That story is in an anonymous tale. I thought of this the other day – an old man, 73 I think (4 years younger then than I am as I write this) bragged of curing his health on a sea weed diet. He said pushing his finger into his arm used to leave a dimple, but no more. I also pass that test. He also fixed his eyesight with exercises, but mistook me for a pizza faced kid. One of the waitresses there was none as bird laidy because she was thin and moved quickly. I traded jibes with the cook I called Archie as a typical teen (Archie is back in Riverdale as I write this). He called me Maynard as in the Dobie Gillis show. Those two places are long gone. One that I never or seldom went to, Cheerful Tortoise is still around.
Word count 1253
Summer of 1964
Between my junior and senior years at Portland State College, I got a job as an engineer’s aide for the Oregon Highway Department by passing a test. I think that it could lead to studying civil engineering, but that was not my intention, it was just a job that was easy to get for someone who knew trigonometry. The best location that I could qualify for was Gold Beach, the penultimate town on the Oregon coast before Brookings and then you are in California. I thought my first extended away from Portland might be a day at the beach.
At the time I didn’t have reliable transportation. A place had been arranged for me to stay. When I got there I met two other guys from the “Big City” Portland. We found that the locals didn’t much cotton to us city slickers and in some cases were vocal racists, or they just wanted to bait us. I felt like the red headed cousin or whatever the appropriate cliché is.
As the outsiders, Chuck, Bill and I banded together. Except for the fishing and the Rogue River jet boat, there wasn’t much for tourists or anyone else to do. The beach was not particularly interesting. My only memory of the beach was a stinky dead seal. The Coast Range started a little inland with thick forests. Fifty some years ago when I was there the population was a little under two thousand and now it is a little over. Not a jumping place.
On the way down we passed a section of highway that had to be detoured because it was slumping towards the ocean. It is difficult to maintain roads that are subject to the whims of earthquakes, erosion and a lot of rain. Most of my work was holding a measuring stick that someone spotted through a transit. We were warned to sacrifice our lives in order to save a transit because it was worth more than we were. We surveyed for a change in the highway by taking distances and elevations along the proposed route. One check of our work was to see if over a closed circuit the net elevation change was zero. A rule of construction was for cuts (material removed) and fills (material added) to equal so there was minimal moving. This earned us a minimum wage of $1.61 an hour for physical labor going up and down the hills through thick vegetation which had nothing to do with mathematics, which was still enough to get by on and save for the next year. Chuck got overtime weighing trucks.
Life was bleak without transportation. Wake up, make cereal or something for breakfast, get back, go to a local hamburger stand whose personnel didn’t care for me, back to room and kill time until I slept. After a month at my first lodgings which were quite basic for $40 a month, I moved on. My parents later said that I shouldn’t have left because the assumption that I would be there for the whole summer, and the landlord wouldn’t be able to rent it again. After that I stayed with a regular employee whose wife had left him, then a hotel room and finally another concrete place that appeared to have been condemned for migrant laborers. Bill and Chuck slept in the one bed, and I slept on the floor there. At the hotel, I was aggravated by being stuck in the common bathroom after the doorknob fell off, while people outside laughed at my predicament. When my girlfriend came down the coast with her family, I was told that I couldn’t close the door to my room when she was there. Worried about commercial sex or any sex? Didn’t improve my mood in any case.
A couple of things happened on the Fourth of July. My nephew Ross was born to my sister, and there was a parade down Highway 101, the Pacific Coast Highway, with a street preacher that did no business at all. I felt sorry for him, but shouldn’t have.
Gold Beach is small and wherever I stayed was close to the office, which was a trailer or mobile home. I looked for it a few years ago, but was not surprised that it was gone. The boss was an old guy with bad emphysema. Another worker regularly mocked him to no effect. The two other fellows that we went out with did the physical work. An advantage of the wide territory that we covered was that occasionally, we would finish a job after a few hours and be told that we couldn’t get to the next job in time and just go back to the office early. We wore much the same clothes every day and got so grubby we were given time off to get haircuts. I normally was grossly groomed, but the haircut I got looked like a part of the vendetta locals had against us.
Because of the tedium we drank some. Of the three summer guys I was the only one over twenty-one, but I had the hardest time buying beer because of my callow appearance.
Beside the girlfriend visit, a visit from a PSC roommate who was working in Port Orford, and directing a guy looking for a hospital whose female companion had been injured gave a slight break in the monotony. My second trip to California was to an oddity – an Oregon Highway facility just south of the border. A couple of songs stuck in my mind from that time “Remember Walking In The Sands” / Shangri-Las and “Where Did Our Love Go” / The Supremes, but I don’t have answers to either question.
It would be unfair to make my stay all bad. I distinctly remember feeling completely free running through a field passing wind freely without any of society’s constraints.
Around 2002 I went on a hike downriver on the Rogue for around forty plus miles with nine women and no other males. I had no opinions during that walk. I was struck at, but missed, by a rattlesnake and there was a lot of poison oak. We had very hot weather and suffered, but it was worth it. The hike had stops at resorts along the way which were taken by fishers other times of the year. A few bears were spotted. We didn’t get as far as Gold Beach, but we did get to the place where a star football player, Purple Heart and all around good guy Bill died in a boating accident in 2011 just after our fiftieth high school reunion.
In 2012 we visited friend Don, another Mad(ison) graduate who has a permanent camp in a resort a few miles from the mouth of the Rogue. We took the jet boat as far as the rapids where Bill died. Gold Beach had not changed much in all those years, but the Highway Department trailer was gone. We were delighted that in that same general area we encountered a rock hound. The hound, a medium sized dog, pushed a flat rock about eight inches across towards us. We would push it back to him and he would return. He was there during two visits.
The rural counties of Oregon are in bad shape because of limits on timber harvests, fishing and other resources. They worsen their problems by having low property taxes. There is a big divide between the relatively wealthy Portland area and most of Oregon.
Word Count 1500
Eugene & Springfield (1965 – 1968)
Because there had been some pressure for the University of Oregon to accept more Portland State students to U of O in Eugene Oregon, I got a free ride for math graduate studies there. It was the best deal I could get, and I wanted something familiar, so off I went. Eugene is a little over a hundred miles south of Portland on the south end of the Willamette River. At the time that I was there, the population was sixty some thousand and is 166 thousand today. The weather is slightly cooler and wetter than Portland. Like Portland, it is overwhelmingly white. Many of the black residents are athletes at U of O. The town is named after Eugene Skinner who is also immortalized in Skinner Butte. Before that it had been the home to various aborigine villages. My experience there was miserable, and it is easy to cast blame – at me. I had gone from being at the top in mathematics through high school to being good in college to being crappy in graduate school. I had no outside interests, no girlfriend, and no social skills. I subsisted on burgers, beer and occasional weed. I rarely saw my uncle and aunt who lived in town or my parents a hundred miles to the north.
My initiation to the difficulties of graduate math was Sylow groups which I never understood then and don’t understand now. You could look them up and give them a try. Something about polyhedrons. Because I started out nearly flunking out, I thought desperately how to avoid the draft because the Viet Nam insanity was in full flower. I was able to survive by avoiding abstract algebra and that professor. After that I specialized in analysis on topological spaces. Don’t know what that means? I don’t anymore either. There was another hurdle – to get my degree I had to pass exams in two languages. I had dropped out of French at PSC and had nothing else. A group had a Russian tutor in, so I took that. The only thing that saved me is that mathematics is a universal language and many of its technical terms looked the same in major languages.
After three years I had a thesis advisor Karl who drank and married a lot. He was legally blind, but could see a little. I was able to pass my oral exam and was qualified to start a Ph.D. thesis. Along the way, I got some sort of master’s degree.
I had seen the University of Oregon a few times before because my sister went to school there for a few years. It looks like pretty much any college campus as seen in college movies, and was the location for the movie “Animal House” after one or more other colleges wouldn’t allow it to be filmed on their campuses. The math department was in Deady Hall. Deady was the first U of O building. You could look it up in Wikipedia. Pertinent facts – it looks old, it was named after a virulent racist who didn’t believe in college, and maybe its thick walls were for protection from Indian attacks (I have not been able to check this).
I didn’t know anybody when I got there. All of the Portland State grads (with a possible exception or two I’m not sure about) went to graduate school somewhere else or not at all. The major division in my incoming class was married or not. Except for one couple from Berkeley, I hung out with other single guys. I’m still in touch with Jerry who still in single and in Eugene and Bob a native New Yorker who is now on Long Island. Roy, now Joy (not a sex change, just a name change) and I have had complicated, close and antagonistic relationship. Part of my problem was his marrying a woman that I was interested in. Woody is a very smart guy who got out of Stanford in three years, U of O in three years and became an actuary a year before I did. He eventually returned to Portland as I did.
I first rented a place a few miles out US 99 from the campus. It had a pull out bed, which largely covered the living space when pulled out. One fine feature was a gas furnace which showed the flames rather dramatically. I got to watch them from a few feet while in bed before I slept. It had one bit of drama. The other resident on the second floor was a white woman who frequently had a guest who happened to be black. They made a lot of noise at night. When she was evicted, she claimed it was based on prejudice. I couldn’t judge if the eviction was based on prejudice or legitimate. The second place was just a block or two off campus. Later Bob and I got a place in Springfield, the smaller working town to the east. Springfield was the non-Eugene, based more on the lumber industry and not-enamored with college types. At different times we got in trouble for not taking out garbage, and a party for Karl when he took his sabbatical to Sweden where he got a wife. During the party, one of our guests had raucous sex under someone’s window. While unconscious after drinking a lot, I burned a pizza and filled the place with smoke, but did not burn it down. An entertaining, but dumb, incident was beating a birthday cake to death that I had let turn to concrete. Later I roomed with Roy in a place in Coburg, about ten miles north of Eugene. Nice little town, divorced from the college people.
Roy had a Bug-Eye Sprite. The two of us went down to his mother’s “healing retreat” in Mendocino. Seems that we stopped midway and slept off the road in sleeping bags. Vivid memory – we chopped some wood, not one of my skills, while Lovely Rita (Sargent Pepper Era), also went at it with the repeated refrain “fuck” at her ineptitude. Mendocino, an artist-hippie town has been celebrated in a song of that name. The crappy roads keep the traffic down. It was used in some period movies because TV didn’t get there for years, so no TV antennae.
Along with the drugs, there were narcs and arrests. One of my fellow students was busted for weed and was tried. I think that he got off. Some other people I barely knew were imprisoned (could have been in Portland). Legalize it nationally, not just in some states. The campus was a blend of stereotypical frat culture and doper/ radical culture. While I was there the ROTC building was burned down, which was a bit of a bummer because I did play a little miserable basketball there.
With my rotten diet and little exercise, I probably hit my highest weight and lowest muscle. The few pictures from that time show a prodigious abdomen. Running was a big deal at the U of O there, as it is now. I did a bit of running on the famous track, but quickly ran out of breath. Trying to follow other runners left me behind and ending up finding my way back to where I started.
Those years were the psychedelic music years – Rolling Stones, Beatles, Doors – and the British Invasion was in full effect.
Other than going to Portland, our favorite spots were Fern Ridge Reservoir to the west and Fall Creek Falls to the east. Another of the gang, Jules, got a cheap sail boat on the Reservoir and Fall Creek provided a bit of drama during a return to Eugene two years after I graduated (foreshadowing). Florence on the coast is just 61 miles (100 km) away from Eugene, so went to the beach a few times. Small parks along the Willamette were very close.
A couple of events deserve attention. I saw the first man on the moon while at Max’s bar. Max’s had some good graffiti also. I remember one about the college president fucking pigs. At least I thought it was funny. The bar was right off campus and a very popular place. Good times. I saw Ray Charles in concert. Good routine – calling the white person that guided him to his piano “boy” and asking for a newspaper for his piano bench so he could get “just a little higher”. The music was fine as well, but I wasn’t crazy about most of his country music (exceptions – “You Are My Sunshine”. “I’m Moving On” and “Together Again” – all better than the original). Digression – if you are reading this far I recommend his biography. He is completely honest and doesn’t blame anyone for his problems, nor does he excuse himself. Many good anecdotes – he thought that it was OK for him to be a white country band because he couldn’t see their color.
Karl was offered a raise to go to Kansas State University at what was a princely sum at the time, so he took the job. Despite all the warnings about how horrible Kansas was, a few of us followed him there. I was very much motivated by the idea that if I didn’t follow him I would wash out of U of O and be subject to the draft. I had a 1949 Buick with a disconnected shock absorber that tilted diagonally at speed. It had cost $100 and I sold it $75 (which was hard to get). I bought a 1960 Impala with a huge V-8 and greasy brake linings (I was too young to die), which I was able to nudge up to 109 mph (indicated and prolly overstated). Off I went. This episode overlaps a little with “I Won’t Take Manhattan” which is the story of my stay in Kansas, included elsewhere in this blog, but not in “Cities”. After a year’s gap, I’ll be in Atlanta. See you there and be square.
Like much of Oregon, Eugene and Springfield have gotten much more crowded. Population Eugene 1960 51,000, 1970 79,000, today 171,000. Springfield 1960 20,000, 1970 27,000, today 63,000. Eugene and Salem jockey to be the second most populous city in Oregon. Eugene is bolstered by the university and Salem by state government.
See “I’ll Won’t Take Manhattan” in this blog or find it in Synchronized Chaos https://synchchaos.com/creative-nonfiction-from-doug-hawley/
Word Count 3,000
1969 – 1973
This brings us up to leaving Manhattan, KS. My thesis which I wouldn’t understand a few years after it was written was typed. I defended it back in Eugene which would eventually grant my Ph.D. Digression – I don’t believe people graduate schools, I believe that people graduate from schools. After a quibble about grammar, of all things, I satisfied all of my requirements and was given my diploma which I probably still have.
At that time there was a huge problem getting employment. During the post Sputnik era there was a huge push in the USA to embrace what is now called STEM – science, technology, engineering and math. A lot of money went into producing graduates in those areas, which is probably why I got a free ride through my college and post-grad years. That part may have been good, but when I got my degree in 1969, the Federal government was investing billions in killing Vietnamese and others in Indo-China, because politicians were fools. Nothing was learned about the French giving up there, or that the war was a human and dollar sink. Oversimplification – a math degree was good for weapons research or teaching. My degree was in very abstract math and I didn’t want to support anything making killing more efficient, so I was stuck with teaching, and area n in which I’d had very little experience at KSU. Therefore I applied to A LOT of schools. I had two problems – I had nothing to show that I was a good teacher or researcher and at that time the cliché was that there were five hundred jobs, but only for black lesbians in computer programming, an area I had avoided. Mathematics was a solidly white or Asian male area, and diversity was highly valued.
I would have liked to end up in Hawaii, but that was out. An earlier U of O grad was the head of the math department at Morehouse College. I was lucky to get a job there. Morehouse was an all male college in the group of “traditionally black” schools including Atlanta University, Clark, Morris Brown and Spelman (female, named after Rockefeller relatives).
Atlanta was a whole new world to sheltered white boy from pale Portland. Without checking the demographics , at the time Atlanta was roughly a rich white north and a poor black south, but there were pockets of well off blacks. White racism was very entrenched. One could still see water fountains that were categorized with faded “colored”. I heard a white person wondering why blacks would want well paid jobs rather than work for her and overheard another white critique a black man because he was wearing a suit. Shortly after I got there, Sam Massell was elected mayor. He was the last white mayor and the first Jewish mayor. I recall that he was involved in many scandals, and he ran a campaign for re-election against the first of all the succeeding black mayors that implied the city would be torn by riots if a black was elected. In looking him up, I was surprised that he is still alive. I found nothing about scandals, so this might be a false memory. Lester Maddox was governor when I got there. I’m convinced that he was elected so that Georgians could honestly say “I’m smarter than the governor”. The election of future president Jimmy Carter was close to a 180 degree turnaround. Atlanta was marketed as “The city too busy to hate”.
When I got there the math department had more whites than blacks. One of the new guys along with me was a Stanford graduate who was brilliant but strange. We / I depending on when, hung out with him and his wife. They divorced, I think because of his oddity. Dick. From the U of O was the chairman and got me my job. I roomed with him in an apartment the first year. There was an older white woman and a disabled guy who volunteered in Guatemala during summers. The two blacks Harriet and Sam were lifers I thought. The cycles of teaching a particular course – finding out what one is doing, then doing it well the second time and finally being bored for the remaining times it is taught. There were some very bright students, but I had the same experience that other teachers mentioned. Many students had been just passed along in high school without learning much. I distinctly remember trying to lead one fellow through an equation like x-5=3. He just couldn’t get it.
Not all of the students at Morehouse were black. One blond student had been at a black high school and just followed his buddies to Morehouse. Some appeared to be Middle Eastern. There certainly were a lot of types. I met fairly naïve rural types, as well as city slickers. Regional variations were important, maybe more important than racial differences. I got along with West guys of any race better than native southerners. Infamous twins dressed outrageously and acted totally camp. My favorite student was my assistant Sid from Miami, both smart and clever, who attended my wedding. For him and some other “th” was pronounced “f”. “With” was “wif”. Another student followed my career path into actuarial work.
There was a small language barrier. I learned “get-go” and the alternate meaning of “clean”. “Hello” there meant “how are you”. People didn’t “get sick”, they “took ill”.
Despite being a white teacher at a black college, I had few problems. The big one was three of us being kicked out of a presentation by poet Peal Cleage after getting a lot of dirty looks. After that there was a break with one of the staff that had previously been friendly, who thereafter made it clear that I was on the wrong side of the racial divide. Less serious – it occurred to me that if I had an affair with a student, I’d break three taboos – teacher – student, black – white and male – male. There were exceptions to the male Morehouse rules. Students from other schools in the complex could take classes at Morehouse. That is how I was disconcerted in one class. I’d been writing on the board and when I turned around the female student had been staring and smiling at me. Yikes. Not scandal material, but upsetting. Dropping a condom out of my billfold and a surprise fart in class were both embarrassing.
An equally bad experience as the one for being white was being ignored in a restaurant; it seems based on our looks because everyone there was white.
The weather in Atlanta was not to my liking. I had a false idea of a sunny paradise. Its position at the end of the Appalachians and thousand foot altitude meant that it could and did get cold. The apartment where we lived at one time had a long power outage that broke most of the Southern pines on the property. The rains could be vicious as could the heat and humidity. Not all bad, summer was longer that I was used to, so the outdoor swimming season was longer.
The Georgia coast was very different from my Oregon experience. Instead of a quick drop off, one could walk out hundreds of feet in shallow water. One time I saw fins looking like dolphins a hundred feet or so offshore. I thought about walking out there, but then thought “dolphins or sharks” and forgot about it. There were not many places where the beach was accessible unlike Oregon, and not much beach tourism. Jekyll Island and Hilton Head are two places on the coast with good beaches and homes for the rich.
Stone Mountain in the Atlanta area is unique in that it has the largest bas-relief In the world – but it is of Confederates. It is a quartz monzonite dome monadnock (trips off the tongue). It is 8 kilometers in circumference and rises 825 feet from its base. We climbed it several times.
I saw many famous people while there. Marched with Jesse Jackson, saw Hank Aaron at a faculty meeting. He had married an administrator at one of the colleges. At that time he had not achieved the lifetime home run record. He did not look as physically imposing as his achievement would indicate. Julian Bond had a delayed graduation because he quit for awhile to concentrate on civil rights. Some NFL players used facilities at our last apartment complex where we lived. Carl Eller may have been one of them. Somebody who looked like OJ spent some time at our YMCA and praised my little white guy leg strength. Andrew Young, who was or would be mayor of Atlanta and delegate to the UN went to that same Y. When I mentioned it someone, I was told, that the difference between white and black representatives was that black representatives have longer caucuses. Whoop, whoop, maybe you had to be there. We enjoyed hanging out with the Reverend and Mrs. Guy who lived across the street from the campus. Their child, Jasmine, became the lead in the Cosby spinoff “A Different World” and she has been on “Grey’s Anatomy” among other things.
In 1969 Dick, a student and I went to the anti-war protest in DC. Little did I know that my editor to be would be there (foreshadowing).
Subjectively I felt that the south was more violent than what I was used to. A bizarre event – two security guys on campus having a quick draw contest. One was either injured or killed.
After the end of the 1969-70 school year, I took off for Eugene in one of my many cross country drives. It wasn’t bad when I was younger – drive from sunup until sundown, find a place to stay, repeat the next day. I’d usually drive 500 – 1000 miles a day. While in Eugene I met my soul mate, the woman who would become my editor in 2014 and wife in 1970, the day after Thanksgiving. I may have written about this elsewhere. It is an interesting story. She likes to tell it.
A woman hitched with me part way back to Atlanta was no fun at all. She shorted me on agreed gas money, and screwed up on a place to stay in Taos New Mexico. After we got there all she knew was that the first name of a person who was a potter.
At that time, we lived in an apartment off Peachtree, a major north-south highway, one of the many Peachtrees in Atlanta. It’s an Atlanta thing. “Peachtree” is supposed to be southern for pitchtree or pinetree. I never got fluent in southern. When trying to get a typewriter ribbon for the typewriter I bought from Jules in Eugene, and still have, it took a lot of talk to a salesperson to find out that I meant “topratter” in southern.
The rest of our time in Atlanta.
Wife Sharon taught in a housing project school. It was easy for her to get a job because with desegregation a lot of white teachers quit rather than teach black students.
We went to lunch one day at Antoine’s in New Orleans and came back the same day. We paid what seemed like an outrageous amount at the time, but what might be two cups of coffee now.
Slept on a beach somewhere because we were nervous about getting a room while unmarried.
Saw Elvis in Macon in a rather intimate venue. Because I had seen him in 1957, and that was 1972, my plan was to see him every 15 years. Elvis did not cooperate. What a waste. Ike and Tina at Spivey Lake was a real treat. The scene was both exciting and mellow. Got to see Tina and the Ikettes shake a tailfeather. At that time and place, the good stuff was R&B – Al Green, Aretha and so many more, plus Southern Rock with Allman Brothers, Joe South and Lynrd Skynyrd. We went to Underground Atlanta a few times before the crime there got out of hand. The highlight was a Fats Domino show where I got an LP of his greatest hits. Still have the songs on my computer. That was probably the first place that our dancing was deemed outstanding. It made me particularly happy that black people awarded us “couple number one”.
We traded in my 1960 Chevrolet Impala, because we had wife Sharon’s Nova. After the then new perimeter road I-285 we drove all the way around it as a lark. Within a little while it would be choked by traffic. Atlanta is a very bad example of urban sprawl which goes on for miles. Now there is talk of an even bigger outside perimeter highway to accommodate the huge Atlanta metropolis.
At the end of my second year at Morehouse, we took off for THE BIG 13,000 MILE TRIP. We went up the east coast and went through what was terra incognita for me. We stayed in motels, camped on the Outer Banks off North Carolina and were devoured by no-see-ums. Stayed with math people I knew from U of O in Boston. Hit little states which later allowed me to have been in all fifty – very short drives in Delaware, Maryland, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine. Maine taught me why people don’t go outdoors in the summer – plagues of black flies. We got some of Canada in – Quebec and Ontario – and then dropped into my new in-laws in Detroit. After that, it was the northern tier of states to Oregon. We visited friends and family there, then took the short route back. We picked West Virginia later – very curvy and mountainous.
While in Oregon we stayed for a week in an my uncle’s unfinished cabin in Waldport on the Oregon coast. I used the time to write my one published math paper after my thesis. Later someone in Australia or New Zealand answered a question I posed in the paper and named a property after me. I neglected to account for the money that I had gotten through a grant. My other neglect was not telling Morehouse that I wouldn’t come back after my fourth year.
The first day that Disney World opened we thought about driving down. We didn’t and it was a good thing. Traffic was backed up something like a hundred miles. We did camp in northern Florida once. The loud country music from another camper and the humidity made for a miserable time. The air in Florida feels like a thin sticky molasses to this Oregon boy. Most of the South did not suit our taste, but we did like the Piedmont region of the Appalachians as found in North Carolina. Our first cruise was an overnighter to the Bahamas. Good times, and got us hooked on cruising for the rest our lives.
We started to watch live NBA games in Atlanta. Those were the days of Pete Maravich and Lou Hudson.
Our last two years were in an apartment in Cambellton SW. Before we left, the area was rapidly changing from white to black. Block busting was alive in Atlanta. Whites spooked when a single black person bought a house in their neighborhood.
Dick left for Chicago after my third year at Morehouse and Ben took over. All around smart guy, he had early electronics in his Datsun Fair Lady, a predecessor to the Z car. After he moved into what had been a white neighborhood, there were massive moves. Sidelight – A southern practice was to change the names of streets depending on whether the residents were white or black. This practice was impractical because the line moved over time.
Ben, wife Sandy and baby spent some at our place during a power outage when we call kept warm from out oven.
Towards the end of my time at Morehouse, my instruction time and class time left me plenty of free time. I tried my hand at textbook writing unsuccessfully and took up watching “Days Of Our Lives”.
I had been thinking for awhile that teaching wasn’t for me. I’d rather do things than tell other people how to do things, and I wasn’t making much money. Sidelight – as little as I was making, which was not much, garbage men (largely black men doing heavy lifting before trucks did most of the work) were getting around $4,000 a year, about half what I was making. Had I wanted a different teaching job, there were few available. Keith mentioned actuarial work. After a little research, I took the first two exams of what then was a series of ten.
My job hunt was a bit frustrating. For one thing, some companies didn’t trust someone with a Ph.D. I told them it was a youthful mistake. Another quizzed me on religion, which didn’t help me out. I didn’t have a head hunter, so I sent out a bunch of resumes to the South and Northeast. I got a job offer in New York City and Kentucky. The interview at the Metropolitan in Newark was scary. It had its own security force outside the building and workers were still beaten while trying to go home. The pay difference between Kentucky and New York was not big enough and NYC intimidated me, so I chose Capital Holding in Louisville.
Since I left Atlanta, I have returned a couple of times, once for actuarial tutoring a year or so later, and much later to try to sell my line of actuarial software. More on that later.
When we were in Atlanta the city population was around 470,000. The population dropped for many years, possibly because of white flight. Atlanta is a majority black city. In more recent years, the white population rebounded to get the city population to 498,000. Because the population is so spread out over thousands of square miles, the city proper is less than a tenth of metropolitan population, variously considered 4.6 to 6.5 million people, which makes it the ninth or eleventh most populous metro in the US. Unlike where we were from there are little towns everywhere, making getting anywhere slow. There are many counties and many county court houses. Before the practice was outlawed. elections were not one man one vote in an effort to give primarily white counties more power than urban Atlanta.
This is a good place to rant about college costs. A recent study showed that all segments of spending are going up faster than inflation – instruction, maintenance, everything. Textbook costs have jumped 1000% since 1977. One former math professor at U of O gets a pension of over $300,000 a year. The crisis in attending colleges is not so much what it costs students as what colleges are spending like drunken whatever occupation you want to malign. Rather than talk about “free” college, we should be talking about “responsible spending” colleges. Fewer administrators, affordable employees, teachers that spend their time teaching, fewer goodies for the students.
Word Count 1700
This stay was short and sweet, less than two years. My initial foray into actuarial work was largely unpleasant based on a couple of factors – weather and job. There are three types of weather there – too hot, too cold and too wet.
I remember toxic air. People seemed to stay sick longer there. Louisville was half southern and half Midwestern. At the time there were industries polluting the air, including a tire factory and others that I can’t remember. People from other places got respiratory problems that were worse In Louisville than where they had been in other places. Looking up current Louisville, I didn’t see any reference to such places, so maybe they moved. The air there inspired me to set my story “Bhopal 2”.
Louisville had been on the skids for many years when I got there and had been for many years. I remember row or shotgun houses (narrow, but long) for sale for $10,000 which was really cheap even for those times. Louisville is an amalgam of the south where Kentucky is usually placed and the Midwest like its neighbor Indiana. Many of the residents talked like the south “Ah” as first person pronoun and where the rubber hit the road it was “tar” on “tar”.
Harold, another new actuarial student, and we started out in the same apartment building. We were told the rent would not be raised until the swimming pool was built. They lied and blew us off. A couple that we knew, Ann and Bill, then rented us an apartment where we stayed the rest of our time in Louisville and took good care of us. The Halls were a family of giants. One of them tied for the tallest people that I have ever known – 6’9” – and the rest were all over 6’.
Many workers crossed the polluted Ohio River to or from Indiana. Kentucky drivers knew that the Indiana drivers were a scourge (known to us as Indianuses or Indybananas, and the Indiana drivers probably thought the same of Kentucky drivers. The interstate area was known as Kentuckiana, but we called it Indyucky.
Capital Holding started off as a Kentucky insurance company selling industrial / debit insurance. That old form was sold to low income people for weekly premiums to provide money for burial. When I was there it still had many of those policies on the books, but was selling policies more like today – larger benefits, various premium modes. The older polices were divided into white and more expensive “Negro” policies because Negroes were assumed to have higher mortality. Racially based policies were banned by the time that I got there. Hospital policies were issued in $10 increments for daily stays which were absurd amounts even then based on the daily costs of a stay in a hospital.
Capital Holding consisted of several insurance companies in the south and Midwest in addition to the original Kentucky one. Either the internet doesn’t know everything, or my research is imperfect, because I can’t find out what they were. I am fairly certain there were ones in South Carolina and Florida and others. The actuarial work was centralized in Louisville.
Why hate my job? Let me count some of the ways.
We spent a long time doing a tedious calculation and then were told not to use the answer, not because it was wrong, but because they didn’t like it.
For me, just about all work was tedious calculations. Other actuarial students got more responsibility, but not me. Over two years, I learned almost nothing.
When I went to take an actuarial course in Atlanta to pass an exam, I got sick. Later there was a rumor that my problem was drinking. I stayed with Carolyn, ex- wife of Keith and her roommate.
Grooming policies were out of the 1950s. One could be checked for excessive moustaches by biting a credit card to see if the ends of the moustache hit the card.
We were warned that we could be fired for being five minutes late, but we were expected to work some Saturdays. When we worked on Saturday we were allowed to expense our lunches, but we were nickel and dimed on that. I did not back down.
I was faulted for failing an exam, but passed two the next time. I got more grief for the failing than praise for the double pass. Those two exams got me half way through the full set and an Associate of the Society of Actuaries or ASA. I danced on my desk, which prolly didn’t improve my reputation, but by then I had one foot out the door.
We would use a stack of punch cards to compute actuarial values. If we forgot to put in the “end” card, the computer people would send it back with a note telling us to put in the card, rather than put in a card.
During a bomb threat – apparently the head cheese had made enemies besides actuarial students – important officers and computer tapes were evacuated, but we peons were not notified until the all clear.
At one point I decided to stick it out because I didn’t have any other good options. A tornado that tore through Louisville a block away from our home changed my mind for good.
The perversity of the situation was that Capital had an excellent study program which allowed us to pass exams and when we started to know something go away.
We largely hung out with the other students, who were all unmarried initially except for David and younger than my thirty to thirty two. Harold and Bill became pension consultants I believe. Jeff was a consultant in Florida. I think that Dave and Chris got other insurance company jobs. David and Chris were more company men and may not have hated the place. What I remember of them: Harold was easily amused and amusing, Bill was not confident and mistook me for someone who knew things, tall and studly Jeff dated two of the women that worked there and married one. Gene was the most fun. He took actuarial study time to golf. He would challenge me at stump the band – he’d hum a few bars and I’d identify the song. While I was still an actuary, I ran into a few of them at professional meetings, and did Christmas cards until a few years ago. Mostly fun guys, but no diversity.
The technology was prolly current at the time, but would be laughable today. Besides the punch cards, used for the main frame, our desks had Friedens at first and later something slightly more advanced. The Friedens were electrical / mechanical and very noisy. As a gag, we could divide by zero and leave while the noisy buggers would fruitlessly attempt to do the impossible. The next model was at least quiet, but the display was primitive by current standards.
Sharon had a short sales job at Stretch and Sew and then taught and subbed. She doesn’t remember if she ever subbed at Cassius Clay / Muhammed Ali’s school.
What to do for entertainment in Louisville? Go to Fugawi, a club whose name was a takeoff on the Heckawi Indians of an old TV western spoof. It played very loud rock music, so it was prolly better to listen outside. We enjoyed the fine musical group Chicago in addition to the oldies group Sha-Na-Na when they came to Louisville. Free tickets to a Kentucky Colonels gave us Artis Gilmore being punched out by future Portland Trail Blazer Maurice Lucas.
We joined the Y and got some exercise there. Sharon hated the women’s locker room.
We were there for two or three Kentucky Derby, including the hundredth. We decided not to go. The actual race is over almost immediately, and we didn’t want to deal with the madness.
Food favorites? The Hot Brown, named after the iconic Brown hotel is a ham and turkey dish that we still eat from time to time. A former brothel with tables that could be hidden by curtains had good food. For awhile there was a successful hamburger emporium Ollie’s Trolley which had tasty goods. They were backed by John Y. Brown of Kentucky politics and KFC, but it never reached its potential. My research indicates that there are three left rather than taking over the world. We didn’t eat at KFC, but think that we saw Colonel Sanders once. While there we partook of beer and the local fave bourbon.
What about scenery and trips? There was the Ohio River watch. The Appalachians were to the east, and the eye candy of the Kentucky Arches natural bridges was around 150 miles southeast. The fine Mammoth Caves were used for another one of our series of small honeymoons. We went to the city of Chicago and saw my sister and brother-in-law. There was at least one trip to the in-laws in Detroit. Generally, not excited about the scenery.
There were many attractive estates. We were told that some of them were willed to former servants of rich Louisvillians.
After the tornado, I started looking for another job. I told people that I needed to take some days because my Grandfather had died. He had, but I was job hunting. We stopped into a Kansas City Mo consulting firm. Everything was OK, but I didn’t feel qualified. Next was Denver, where I took a job with National Farmers Insurance. Next stop Denver.
Here we have a memory problem. Editor and I are not sure if I looked for a job in Keene New Hampshire from Atlanta or Louisville. It was a nightmare getting to Keene. As I remember it there were big storms and we made unscheduled stops in Canada and Buffalo New York. I stayed in Springfield Massachusetts and got up groggy for the interview. It was another case where I thought that I was unqualified.
After I quit Capital implied or said I had been fired. We were back a couple of times, once from Denver when I got really ill (flu?) and once from the West Coast when I went on a sales triangle including Chicago and Detroit.
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We left Louisville in April 1975. After we got to Denver and moved into an apartment, the weather didn’t seem as cold as I expected, but at the end of May, it snowed. Later we would have ten days below zero F. in a row January 1976. The last year that we were there it snowed a hundred inches. We got frozen condensation on the inside of our windows. When we bought live Christmas trees, they couldn’t be planted until the ground thawed in May. Then they died. Despite heavy snows, Denverites seemed unable to drive in the snow. During non-winter – July and August – it gets hot. It is always arid, which ruined my nose with cracking and bleeding for years after we left. The arid conditions create virga – rain that falls, but doesn’t reach the ground. While playing tennis in hot weather I noticed I wasn’t sweating until I noticed my skin was covered with salt. Perspiration dried immediately and left a salt lick.
National Farmers Union was a strange entity serving two masters. The NFU as indicated was a union of farmers, mostly in the North Central area. They got entangled with Baldwin United, originally based on Baldwin pianos, when they made a bad investment, I think in phosphates or some other mineral, and lost a lot of money. The piano accountants, as I thought of them, bought NFU because they thought that insurance was easy and insurers were not smart enough to run their business. The first part is wrong and the second part is only partially correct. While there, an accounting guy died of cancer and a purchasing guy who traded business for sex with a vendor committed suicide.
The company was located in the Montbello area of Northeast Denver. It is or at least was a mixed area of blacks and whites, probably Hispanics. For most of my time at NFU I was close enough to work to walk there, at least when it was zero F or greater. On my way through the prairie, I might spot rabbits (one dead baby as well as live ones) or lizards. Bad incident – a passing car threw piss or something on me as it went by. I got some sympathy from someone who saw it. Everything until one gets west of Denver is West Kansas. The local newspaper ran an article about doctors who moved to Eastern Colorado thinking that they were in ski country despite being a couple hundred miles away. An abandoned lot in the middle of Denver turned back into prairie complete with tumbleweed. The area is really a bad place for lawns. Our hose broke one summer and the lawn died before we could replace it.
NFU opened a second building across a street. It was called FU 2. Because Eric and I needed to get a printout from FU 1 to FU2, we were wheeling it in a cart, when a prairie wind distributed over a large area. Some fun.
NFU sold both casualty (auto) and life. As a life guy, I didn’t know much about the casualty side, and not very much about the life side when I started. Leroy was the boss of life insurance. The other actuarial side was Bruce and Eric on health and Bill the chief actuary. Bill was a WWII vet who had been in the India – Burma area, Bruce was a lifer, and Eric was a little younger than I, behind me on exams, but knew programming.
I had a honeymoon period for most of the time that I was there because it was such an improvement over Capital Holding, even though they didn’t use two ply toilet paper. I had decided to concentrate on learning practical actuarial work over passing exams. I did both and picked up a little Fortran programming.
Possibly it was in Denver that I learned the automobile model for a life insurance company. While the president was at the wheel, the actuary put his foot on the brake, marketing put its foot on the accelerator, and the accountant looked backwards to see where they had been. Part of my inspiration for “Tapes” (Potluck etc) was going to see insurers and buying lunch when we wanted to get a policy approved. “Dark” (Potluck etc) was directly inspired by actuarial work. “Half” (Potluck etc.), “Die” (Potluck etc.) and “Scenes” (defunct AWS and Down In The Dirt) came from the morbid side of insurance – mortality. All of these can be found in this blog or the journals as listed in Aberrantword.
We felt secure enough to buy a house. Our first cost $35,000. It was a tri-level with more than enough space, an open front yard and a fenced back yard. We got a lawnmower and other maintenance equipment. I dug border next to the backyard fence. Despite precautions an outdoor pipe froze during one winter. An advantage of the three levels was that we could sleep upstairs in the winter where it was warmer and downstairs in the summer where it was cooler. A neighbor when we arrived gave me my last weed (so far). A neighbor that moved in after us, Homer, is someone that we have kept up with over the years. He now lives west of Denver. We painted the house inside and out and became farmers by accident. After we threw out a pumpkin after Halloween, it sprouted a whole pumpkin patch, so we were able to give out pumpkins to local kids.
While there, Sharon’s younger sister went to the University of Colorado in Boulder. Because she couldn’t keep her cat “Frodo”, we got him. Best cat ever. He found a way to shimmy up a narrow passage when we tried to keep him in the basement. During snowfalls, he would chase snowflakes and during summer he would bring in the nine o’clock moth in his mouth looking like an animated bow tie. We had this act in which he would lie on his back on my outstretched arms. He was friendly with all people, but got in fights with other cats. Despite my counsel that he should drop his rivalry with other toms, he kept getting bitten, so we were forced to get him fixed. He lived with us through several moves, and we really missed him when he died. Because of the look of his black face, and my disinterest in Lord of the Rings (I did like the National Lampoon version Bored of the Rings), he was renamed Batface. One night when I was in the garage, I thought I felt his whiskers on my ankle. When it occurred to me that they were too low, I looked down to see a ferret. We later found out that it was a pet escaped from next door.
We had three cars in Denver, starting with Sharon’s Nova. When it got tired, I was interested in something more distinctive. We got in touch with Chevrolet Corvair convertible fanatics, who thought it was the greatest car ever, despite (according to them) Ralph Nader’s “Unsafe At Any Speed”. Many believed that its purported handling problems were caused by wrong tire inflation. We did have some squirrelly moments with it. A more serious deficiency was that it would overheat (air-cooled) when driving into the mountains with more than one person aboard. A bit of cleverness to get it started in the cold backfired. I put a blanket over the engine to keep it warm, which was immediately pulled into the fan when I started it. Our last wheels there, and the first of two Hondas, was the Civic, privately called the Yellow Peril. Great mileage and as a front wheel drive, good in the snow. Only got it stuck once.
One scary trip was through parts of Wyoming to Yellowstone and on to Portland. Most of Wyoming is desolate and boring, but there are some good places, certainly Yellowstone with its hot springs and mountains and Grand Tetons. We were a little surprised at the snow and cold in June. Right around the Continental Divide, the Corvair almost went off the road on the left and I overcorrected to almost go off the road on the right. With the steep drop offs on both sides we probably would not have survived in the convertible. A top ten frightening moment in my life. Along the way we stopped in Butte and Spokane to see friends Steve and Billie. Bonus – the marmot colony there.
The Denver location gave us a lot to see,, usually on our way to the Northwest – Montana (Butte and Missoula), Northern Nevada, New Mexico (Carlsbad Caverns – got to see a spectacular vortex of bats leaving the cave and a speeding ticket during the national I can’t drive 55 era), Colorado (Mesa Verde, Rocky Mountain National Park (Mountain Goats?), Utah (Salt Lake, Arches National Park) and Utah-Colorado (Dinosaur National Monument where dinosaur bones embedded in rock could be seen). The Arches-Dinosaur trip was the one that had more scares from a flash flood. Rather than go into detail about the trips, which I really don’t remember, one could do a search on the wonderful places.
We attended several company picnics in Bailey to the west of Denver. Softball, food, good times.
We took one trip back to Louisville while we were there. The old gang was impressed by Denver and Coors beer, which was not widely available at the time because it was not pasteurized. We liked it at the time, but our taste has improved.
Perhaps because of my background of Oregon greenery, I wasn’t too impressed by Denver. It appeared like the western edge of Kansas (see previous “I Won’t Take Manhattan”), kind of a dusty cow town.
Flying in and out of Denver was frequently exciting, because of the turbulence caused by the Rockies. The old Stapleton airport was an oddity because runways went over I-70. The airport is a lot closer to Kansas now.
While in Montbello, we went to a local gym for exercise and pumping iron. We did summer hiking in the mountains, one of which really did me in. We were up to ten thousand feet and Denver’s five thousand, but the elevation gain was tough. Our one serious mountain climb was General Sherman, the easiest and least interesting fourteener in Colorado. Easiest wasn’t easy. We went up and down the final three thousand feet to qualify and there were many large rocks and talus.
A military guy that we met at the gym was involved in Rocky Flats, which produced plutonium for atomic weapons. Rocky Flats produced a lot of toxic soil and maybe local earthquakes. The colonel was much aggrieved.
Strange but true, in skier’s paradise, we only went skiing once and that was cross –country. I kept bending the poles. I don’t know if snow shoeing was popular at the time, but we didn’t try it until years later back in Oregon.
We saw the Nuggets ABA team before they joined with the NBA. It was the Dan Issel, Louis Dampier, David Thompson days. Liked to eat at Tin Lizzy, a place that started in Montbello, Apple Tree Shanty (closed after we left) a place featuring apple oriented dishes and a Red Barn (one time burger – chicken chain with hundreds of locations which lost out to MacDonald and the others). After we moved to Aurora we could walk to a TGIF which had amusing youthful patrons. Can’t remember the name of the huge Mexican place with strolling entertainers.
While I was taking my last exam to become a Fellow Of The Society Of Actuaries – the highest achievement, Sharon was taking her first exam on her way to becoming a pension actuary at A. S. Hansen. Prior to that she had worked at Stretch and Sew and taught school in Montbello. As a treat for getting my FSA, we got to go to the national actuaries meeting in Boston. I learned that I would never want to drive in Boston. At that time many lanes out of the airport turned into a few, and it was not for the faint of heart. Driving on sidewalks seemed to be accepted.
At the meeting, we got small signed basketballs by the late and great John Havlikec.
My mother came out once to visit. She had older relatives there. Several of her family had lived there at various times.
Around our third year in Denver, I got tired of looking after a house, so we bought a condo to the south in Aurora, Denver’s big suburb on the west. Counting the basement, it had around 3,000 square feet. Friend Bob from the U of O and family visited and could keep to themselves in our large basement. We were happy with the place, but it was a long drive to work. I found out that in the winter, I could either warm the Civic engine (manually choke open, but automatic close) or the interior, until I hit on putting cardboard in front of the fan. It worked better than a blanket over the Corvair fan. We bought the old place for around $35,000 and sold it for around $60,000.
At least at the time, most insurers kept three books, which would normally seem crooked, but two were required for all companies – statutory and tax. Statutory was for the state regulators to insure financial stability, and tax calculations were to produce taxes owed and were absurdly complicated. Generally accepted accounting principles was the third for stock companies. It was about using reasonable assumptions and capitalizing first year expenses. Some, including your author believed the GAAP was crap and should be scrapped. I have a vague memory, of running the valuations two ways for strange business reasons. As indicated the piano accountants thought that they knew how to produce the results they wanted. I saved them money by telling them to run it one way, and then decide if they should run it another.
Because the states do most of insurance regulation, they don’t all have the same set of rules, so it can be challenging to write one policy that makes all of the states happy. I did some policy work and it led to a meeting with former Truman Secretary Of Agriculture Charles Brannan. A push was on to make contracts understandable for an average person, which led to the Flesch test (not as fun as it sounds). It had a formula which awarded short sentences, lack of clauses and short words. It is partially to blame for the horrible writing in newspapers and has led to horrible sentences such as “But he went to town.” End of second rant.
We had a bad valuations system that left some of the calculations to be done by hand.
At the end of my four plus year tenure, I was ready to move on. We had the coldest December and January ever with a hundred inches of snow. There was snow on the tennis court until May and we froze getting in and out of the hot tub. The piano accountants were arrogant and not too bright. I had gotten as far in my job as I would go and the future looked repetitious. I found a headhunter and told her West Coast. All she could find was in LA. One was using the valuations system that we had and didn’t like. The other was installing a new valuations system, so I mistakenly thought that would be a good thing and I went for that. Before that I had a horrible interview about a teaching job in Nebraska, which is just as well. Not crazy for Nebraska or teaching.
We sold our condo for about what we had paid for it. We hid the part of the wallpaper that Batface had scratched. Karma got us later on the house that we have now.
Because it was winter, we went south first and then through New Mexico and Arizona, stopping in Las Vegas before getting to LA.
I was right about piano accountants. I think before I left, I saw a flow chart of all the companies they owned. It looked like squids mating. It seems their companies held overvalued stock in other owned companies. They sold a lot of stock to their employees. We had a modest amount and sold it at twice what we paid for it, then it went up more and then it went Enron. They went bankrupt. National Farmers Union Life is now held by another conglomerate and is in Kansas City. The casualty end is still in Denver.
We had two other financial mistakes – going in on an oil well as advised by a “friend” and putting in money for a ski condo that never developed. We got our money out, but it was not easy.
We kept in touch with Bill for awhile and visited Denver because Sharon’s sister and brother in law are still in the area and for business reasons. We used to hear from LeRoy and friend Jerry, now in Boise, at Christmas. We are still in touch with Eric.
Despite all of my whining (a talent of mine), NFU was my best and longest employment.
Los Angeles 1979-1983
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On the way to Los Angeles, we took the southern route through New Mexico and Arizona to avoid the snow which followed us. We may have made quick stops in Las Vegas or the Grand Canyon, but we didn’t stay long. When we got into LA we got a Westside temporary place, Oakwood Apartments. We could barely walk through with boxes all over the floor. That night was very nice with Margaritas in the hot tub. The Oakwood was a temporary place for divorcees and corporate types from out of town.
Soon thereafter we got an old place from the 1920s, formerly owned by a movie artist or carpenter – two bedrooms and one bath on Preuss Road close to Olympic. We were screwed because the gas guy would not connect the in floor heater because he said it was unsafe. We sued the sellers and our inspection guy. Sharon was at the trial in which the judge said something like; it’s an old place you can’t expect it to be in good condition. I did enjoy the hammock that we put in the back yard. Sharon’s family visited and her father did some electrical work on the garage. We did very little with the house. The furniture was moved from Denver. For a short while we had a couple of maids because we were both busy, Sharon with pension consulting. I think that the two short women were related to Mayans.
We overpaid for HVAC poorly located in the ceiling and didn’t bring the promised bottle of wine. Lots of foreshadowing of our LA experience.
Interesting neighborhood – typical Sikh, Anglo, Jewish, black area. The Sikhs were largely Euro converts with daggers and beards. They had a restaurant fairly close and sent children to a school in Arizona.
Our neighbors on one side were the young couple Greg and Betsy. Both could have been movie stars. He was like a Greek god, and she could put any Hollywood beauty to shame. He was studying to be an oceanographer at UCLA. He had a friend film a student movie at our house. We played tennis, or he did, and I tried. The other side was an older Jewish couple. She did some clothing work for some very rich clients. We got used to Bentleys and Rolls parking in front of their house. They kept their guard dog outside the house. We were told not to mind the barking because he was protecting our houses. He was kept inside on a very warm day when someone broke through our back fence on an alley and a back window to steal our TV set. We only noticed when we went to look for it. A sleeping bag was taken, I guess to wrap it up.
A couple of really bad crimes happened close to us. A Bobs Big Boy where we had eaten was robbed and the staff was forced into a freezer and shotgunned. A guy high on PCP killed one or more people, one of whom was related to an accountant of my new employer, Unnamed Insurance Company’s (hereafter called UIC) accountants.
A quick geography / demographic lesson about Los Angeles County, or, as it is known, a hundred suburbs in search of a city.
The San Fernando Valley has a bunch of neighborhoods and sub-cities. Population mostly Euro and Latino. One can go north from the Valley via the Grapevine (insert I heard it through the Grapevine, or I herd it over the grapevine joke here). Even in its southern location Tejon Pass at the north end of the Grapevine is 1499 feet in elevation and can be closed for snow – it has happened to me. The majority of the land area and close to half population of LA the city is there. It’s hotter than the rest of LA.. We went though it on our way somewhere else, and had a friend or two and a restaurant we liked there. My friend Roy from the University Of Oregon lived there as a youth and said it was heavenly in the late 1940s when it was orange groves before it was paved over.
Beverly Hills and Culver City and some other places are surrounded by LA the city. Culver City is the home of MGM, which was suffering when we were there and has gotten worse. Beverly has such a reputation that BH adjacent is a thing. We could walk to the BH library there BH had a restaurant that we liked (which we have seen in at least one movie). Close to BH is not quite as good as BH, but still good. South of Santa Monica Blvd in BH is more or less average, but north is where the big estates of stars and moguls are. Santa Monica Blvd. is elegant to the west, but becomes a prostitute market place as one drives east into the quite tawdry Hollywood.
Malibu on the coast to the north is another very expensive area. We frequented a restaurant there where we could watch the ocean and walk on the beach. At least some of Malibu was open to the public, but there were surfers who were rather proprietary. We enjoyed the Getty Museum there before it was relocated.
South Central is mostly known as the black area. It has been the setting of a lot of movies, and East LA and east of LA is the Latino area. It’s where we had our van window replaced there when broken by vandals.
A narrow section of LA heads south to San Pedro where we took “The Love Boat” on our cruise to Mexico. Parts of our Mexico cruises have been OK, mostly the ones with snorkeling and lots of tequila. Other parts, not so much.
There are three cities between LA and the San Gabriel Mountains which are little populated. From west to east – Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena. Burbank might be remembered for the “Laugh In” TV show “And now from beautiful downtown Burbank”, Glendale for I don’t know what, and Pasadena for many things, such as the Pasadena Playhouse, the Rose Bowl and the Huntington Gardens. I regret seeing none of them. I’ve subsequently learned from the online IMDB that the Pasadena Playhouse was the beginning for a lot of the big movie and TV actors.
We would go to Santa Monica a few miles west on Pico regularly because it had fine beaches, piers and restaurants. Sometimes we’d just walk on the beach. There is a very elegant enclave with Muscle Beach bodies of all the genders, people with in-line skates, playing volleyball and wearing interesting clothes.
Mulholland Drive connects much of the territory. We tried to drive all of it one time, but found that, at least then, it runs by fits and starts, sometimes major, sometimes minor and sometimes not at all. It is immortalized, or immoralized in the movies “Mulholland Drive” and “Mulholland Falls”. Mulholland the man is the one who brought water to LA and inspired “China Town”.
The southern beach towns, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach were places we liked to go, but only on weekends because they were a ways off. There was a Redondo place which had super omelets.
The relatively even level of daylight year around was a change from most of the places we had lived.
For bigger excursions, we visited my family in Portland. It was either a long one day trip or two easy days, either way 900 miles total. It was a short trip to San Diego. We had one company picnic there and we also went to Sea World on our own and the wonderful zoo. Visited Disneyland a couple of times when it wasn’t too crowded and the rates weren’t as outrageous as today, plus Knott’s Berry Farm – not quite as impressive. The LA Zoo is ok, but not as impressive as one would expect for a world class city.
For solitude that we did not appreciate enough, Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests were just to the north. Despite their proximity to the millions of people, they were little used. Big Bear and Arrowhead Lakes are in the San Bernardino Forest.
On a whim, we took a trip to what became our vacation spot in the eighteen years we were in California. Morro Bay is about halfway between LA and SF, about two hundred miles from either. Usually good weather, whale watching in season, good beach, fine casual restaurants and reasonable lodging. Their Christmas time boat parade was something we tried to get to most years.
On the way, we passed through Carpinteria, the year round Christmas town, Solvang, the Danish themed town and Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara is where Hollywood people could find a slower pace and the home of two of our favorite mystery writers – Sue Grafton and Ross MacDonald. Cool fact – MacDonald called Santa Barbara Santa Teresa in his books, and Grafton continued the practice as homage.
We went to Santa Catalina a couple of times. The Four Preps sang of its virtues in 1958. We did not tour the whole island, another “should have”. Too cheap. I was supposed to go to the Channel Islands while Sharon was studying for an actuarial exam, but the fire that destroyed the MASH filming site kept me from sailing.
Marta’s was a close place to walk to for a breakfast of bagels and coffee. Roaches on the wall and a price increase decreased the attraction. Stephen Spielberg’s mother had a milk bar in the area, and Jane Fonda had her exercise studio a few blocks away. We had no use for either of those things.
Crazy Doug decided to lose weight by eating every other day, but drinking any and everything all days. I got down to 140 pounds with little fat, not much muscle and no energy. When I went back to a more or less normal diet, I was in worse shape than ever.
My drive to work was fairly easy. Sharon took the bus to work and had to deal with handsy perverts. Driving on the freeway was always an adventure. Seventy miles an hour with cars ten feet away. We started with the Civic, but when it got tired, we got our second and last Honda, the Prelude coupe – sort of economy, pretend racy. It had our first sunroof. I think that it had been dropped off the ship, because it didn’t steer straight. When Honda wouldn’t repair it I made the promise to them never to buy another Honda, a promise that I have kept. Our last LA vehicle was the vandalized van. It was a full sized Dodge van with a slant six engine and stick shift. With our short legs, the shift was behind our backs, which made driving interesting. Our plan was to take it camping. We did that once from LA to Palm Springs. Our timing was off, and it was very hot inside. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Because it seemed to make sense to have a convertible in LA, an Oldsmobile convertible made a short appearance with a lot of problems.
We didn’t get a lot of exercise, but for awhile we played tennis where many of the elite played. I saw Paul Sorvino and Sidney Poitier. They looked shorter than I expected. We got to see a few other stars at the airport – a very frail David Niven, Robin Williams, Paula Prentiss and Richard Benjamin. Dane Clark, someone I remembered from an early TV show crossed my path close to work, and a very short Bette Midler was spotted while wandering in Beverly Hills.
Weekends we would walk to Rancho Park after making and drinking smoothies. It was a very large park with a fast pitch softball game played between the same two teams every week. One visit there was a Playboy Magazine ball game with appropriate voluptuous players.
Inspired by the television show, we took the Love Boat to Mexico. For those that have not cruised, real cruises do not resemble the Love Boat. The rooms are minuscule and the passengers are mostly old people who look like old people and not movie stars. We stopped at the usual suspects – Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Zihuantanejo-Ixapa, Acapulco and Cabo San Lucas. On one of our Mexico cruises, possibly this one, we had a pleasant all margaritas, cervezas and tacos before snorkeling with the fish in warm waters. Not as much fun – Sharon was going on one of the parasailing trips until a man before her ended slamming into a tree and being knocked unconscious.
Friendly Batface would greet people that he met walking down our sidewalk.
Of the two TV tapings that we saw live, I remember “Three’s Company”. We did not take advantage of much of the talent in the area. We did go to the some funky movie theatres. Sometimes the Aztec theatre shows up on “The Simpsons”. It is a real LA theatre. We never got to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, but did see a display of movie nostalgia in Century City. Attempts to see a Dodgers game and a Groundlings show were sold out. The most entertaining event we saw was Ray Charles at the Beverly Wiltern. Too much country, but otherwise fine.
At the time I thought that LA city and county had gotten as big as it could. No. City then around 3,000,000 people, 4,000,000 now. County 7,500,000 then 10,000,000 now. The counties around LA – Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino all have over two million to over three million people. Ventura and Santa Barbara to the north are not as overrun and very expensive.
We made the mistake to try to get rich in California real estate. We bought a small condo in Moorpark to the north, then lost a tenant when the owners refused to leave on time. Every year there was a new mortgage holder that wanted us to do more paper work. Couldn’t make enough money on the next tenant, so we sold it to a very shaky person. The agent agreed to fund part of the sale but we had to take a big discount. Later we were told that we were being foreclosed. I told them to go ahead because it wasn’t ours. I was glad to see other parties screwed on the deal. To complete our debacle we owed more taxes because we had been depreciating the place.
We bought a lot in our dream town Morro Bay. At first there was a moratorium on building because of a water shortage. When that cleared up, we asked Mike to recommend an architect. The people he recommended generally gave us very unreliable numbers and a model made of cardboard. Their office leaked, a bad sign. When their bid with a basement was too high, and the subsequent bid without a basement was the same, we quit. Eventually, we sold the lot. Probably would have done all right if we had waited ten years, but the property taxes and lawn mowing hit us hard every year.
Actuarial staff –
Herb was the original chief. He said something like “If you run through a red light and no one sees it, is it illegal?”
Steve (beardo) became the next chief. Even though a bit plump, he completed a marathon while in LA. He and family were later subjected to a terrifying break in while he was in bed. He got in touch with me by emailing by accident a few months ago.
Stan – Is one of the two people that we have kept in contact from our LA days. Stanton from Canton (Ohio). Looks a bit like Harpo Marx. Now splits time between his origins in Ohio and Southern California. He dropped by our place when he was in town. We should catch him in California sometime. Or Ohio if we both visit Michigan.
Rick – Renaissance man. He tolerated my tennis for a little while. Skilled in bicycling, actuarial work, programming, dance, martial arts. All three of us went to the San Francisco Bay area after LA. After living in Indianapolis, he is now in Oakland. We get together when we can.
Pat was the fair haired but bearded guy. His background was similar to mine in that he had a Ph.D. in math and an FSA. He had done CO work during the Viet Nam war. At UIC he handled the reinsurance programming for the insurance sales pyramid scheme. He visited us in our current address with his new Korean wife.
Bob was the actuary trainer. We never did click.
Steve (weirdo) – This other Steve did the naming to identify the two. He was bright, but lacked confidence and didn’t do very well.
Chris was hired to code input for the new computer system. He was always argumentative and promoting gold, but rarely worked. A particularly bad tantrum got him escorted out of the building. He sued over anti-Semitism by Herb who was the president of his Synagogue. Claim denied, justice was served.
Arnie mostly programmed. Arnie and I worked at another insurance place next,UI3, as did Pat. They were employees, I consulted.
Chuck was the health actuary. He looked like a badly made bed, but his wife was gorgeous. They rode to work on his motorcycle.
Mike was an all around helper. He didn’t advance at UIC because he couldn’t pass exams, as bright as he was. He had the endearing habit of calling me Mr. Doug as a compromise between formal and informal.
At work, I quickly learned that part of the reason that I took the job was a big mistake. They didn’t want a good administration system, they wanted one to support pyramid marketing. The idea was that UIC would heap all of the commission money on one person and let him do the rest of the work.
I left to learn Life / 70 in Austin in December. Actor George Hamilton was on the plane, very friendly. It hit 100 degrees while I was gone. After awhile we got used to the lesser variation in seasons compared to other places we had lived. To my surprise, after getting used to it, I could seem cold there. The Life/70 representative at UIC was no fun and hard to work with.
Barry, a Terry Bradshaw lookalike, was the hired gun project overseer who did not seem to know data processing or insurance. Example – he said keep all the punch cards we used to construct the system. Out of order, as they were, would be worse than useless. The attractive (I’m a guy) and smart Margaret, known to me as MF told me that what he was getting paid was “chump change” – he made most of his money other ways. After he left, he was charged with extortion. I don’t know the details, I can hope that the bastard did hard time.
In no particular order, the mistakes, oddities, and evil – some of this may be difficult to understand for a non-professional, but take my word for the foolishness or bad practices:
They paid more than 100% first commission so an agent could pay the premium on the policy the first year, let it lapse the second and make money while the company lost – small if the insured lived, big if he died.
Hired a marketing guy who may have been a crony of the officers. He said “Copy this policy from his old company. The policy was nothing that we were prepared to sell. He was fired almost immediately and sued, for among other things, loss of consortium.
On disability policies, sent out scant payment reminders to those who were on disability in hopes that the insured would miss a payment and the company could quit paying disability.
They largely sold policies so they could get good reinsurance (insurance paid by another insurer to UIC under certain events) because they got a better deal than keeping the insurance.
The portfolio was so complicated because, in part, UIC was a sucker for agent groups that came along with wild schemes.
After the chief actuary had me prepare a document showing how the company was doing, he buried it when it looked very bad. They didn’t want a paper trail when they were trying to sell the company.
A major product of UIC was two tier annuities. I called them two tear because of a likely policy holder reaction. The product was built around the advertising claims. You could get a high interest rate (not emphasized – on only part of your money) or interest on all of your money (not emphasized – but a low interest rate). In addition to the product’s trickiness, it was hard to administer because the interest rate varied by when payment were made into it, not since it was issued.
Another big product was deposit insurance coupled with an annuity. The combination exploited a loophole, which I think that has subsequently been closed. After a large first year payment (getting the agent a big commission), a lower continuing insurance payment was accompanied by an annuity payment, which made the total payment equal to the first year insurance payment. The uneven insurance payment allowed low or non-existent cash values on the insurance part.
Because the actuaries could not trust the EDP people to program reinsurance with the overall system, they programmed something in APL, a language with weird symbols not available on a normal keyboard to run reinsurance on a mini computer parallel to the mainframe system. Despite being separate systems, they were supposed to be consistent with each other (heh, heh). At some point all of the mini data was lost and all the data had to be reentered. There were also health insurance systems that had similar problems.
The company philosophy, according to me, was “Put a deposit on it and reinsure it on the mini”.
An accountant always had a way to change the numbers higher or lower, whichever was needed.
After the new system went live, my job was done. I dabbled in product development and valuation before our time ran out.
Understatement – I didn’t like my job. I was drinking a couple of stiff drinks when I got home. I tried the headhunter that got me the job. She had died of a heart attack. She had been quite overweight. Went with someone else who got Steve (weirdo) a job at UIC2 (unnamed insurance company 2) I might have wanted. The headhunters thought that he was more their type because he had a family. I quit the headhunters. I got an interview with a company that was just as crappy as the one I had and an offer for a job that I didn’t want at the same pay at a better company. An executive of UIC went to another company and offered me work, but I wanted to take Mike with and he wouldn’t go. Except for one in Phoenix, they were all in LA, and I wanted out.
About the same time, the owners of UIC were angling for a sucker to take it off their hands. As a result, they started shedding employees to make the company look better. I angled to get fired so I could get severance pay, but no go. I had to quit, but I arranged to take the day off after the Fourth of July, which got me paid for the holiday. After I left I found out that the personnel guy committed suicide. No information on the reason.
What I thought was a good idea turned into bad feelings. I offered Mike free rent in our place until we sold if he paid utilities and painted the walk. He decided that it was a bad deal for him and didn’t finish painting the walk. When I tried to call him later, I could not get through, a bad ending for someone that I liked.
I had angled for a short term math teaching position at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo between LA and San Francisco. Fun fact – San Luis Obispo transit was SLO. It was probably a really bad idea, but Sharon rescued us. Just before I had to take it or leave it, she got an offer to work the Bay Area office of A.S. Hansen, which she took.
On our way north to Marvy Marin, I was happy to see LA in my rearview mirror. I noticed that a low grade headache that I had for all of my time there was going away.
While writing this, I tried to track what happened to UIC, but could not.
Marin 1983 1997
Word Count 10,271
We got into a condo in Marinwood on the north end of San Rafael just south of Novato (we sometimes called it Nevada). We had driven the van with a few possessions, but most of our stuff was moved professionally. We had lost money on selling our house in LA, but Sharon’s employer A. S. Hanson “made us whole” by tossing in some money, adjusted for taxes.
Marin was known for its connection to Buddhism, New Age and Pop Psychology, particularly south Marin – Sausalito and Mill Valley (of song and book/movie “Body Snatchers fame). Mill Valley was walkable for us from Corte Madera. After the fact, we found that Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick lived there not far from us. Her house burned down, a fireman stole a guitar from the house and she left for LA.
I started off doing some work back in LA for unnamed insurance company two UIC2. I checked on some annuity info for them and later programmed a crude profit study in Fortran. That ended up being the start of my last significant money maker. This company had been sued successfully by UIC1 (unnamed insurance company 1, my former employer) for copying its crappy annuity product, so not a good place.
A little later, Rick from UIC1 got a job at an insurance company to the north of us. We had an extra bedroom, so he moved in and we split the rent.
Geography lesson. Most of Marin County belongs to the Marin Agricultural Trust (MALT) or the Water Department and not buildable. It is bordered on the West and by the Pacific, on the south by The Golden Gate of bridge fame, on the east by the San Francisco Bay and on the north by Sonoma County. The population is quite small despite being so close to San Francisco.
While we were there we didn’t get the use out of the van that we thought, because we didn’t camp much. We went through a Chevy Celebrity which was ugly and made uglier with a bad maroon approximation. It drove us crazy one time with an electric aerial that started to raise and lower repeatedly. We had to pull a fuse until we could get another. Our Ford LTD was OK, looked good and performed adequately. Our last two cars were “Cadillac” Cimarrons. Our first was a four cylinder and the second was a six. The four got better mileage, the six had more pep. I think the first was “Woodland Haze”. Oh, those name makers. “Cadillac” is in quotes because they were tarted up Chevrolet Cavaliers. Despite their bad reputation, we liked them. The second went well over 100,000 miles for the next owner. One of them let us down in Roseburg Oregon when the ignition modules failed. I had not heard of such a thing, at the time I thought cars still had points which needed to be set periodically.
Close visits aside from the aforementioned beaches:
Angel Island, so called “Ellis Island Of The West”. Sharon stayed there overnight once with the nature guides. Walking around the island was a nice hike.
Muir Woods, known for redwoods were close by. Named after nature photographer John Muir.
We walked the famous Dipsea course when the race was not run. It goes from close to the bay over a ridge and lots of steps to the beach and back.
When we stayed at Steep Ravine on bluff by the coast with Johnnie. That evening a raccoon stole a potato that were roasting over a fire and then later checked on us through our open door.
We did the wine tours of Napa Valley, particularly for out of town visitors. We didn’t buy much, because we are cheap, and Two Buck Chuck was good enough for us. Buena Vista, started by a Hungarian, is in a cave and was the first of the wineries in the area. We liked Gundlach Bundschu both for its ambience and the name which we changed to Goodshoe Boogalu.
We walked along the bay past Larkspur Landing past a giant metal sculpture of Sir Francis Drake towards San Quentin. We passed on the tours of Alcatraz.
A scenic drive took us past the Civic Center which was the last designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It was developing leaks while we were there and required work. The movie Gataca had scenes filmed there. We took a road which went to the bay and passed small islands on the way to China Camp.
We got ideal conditions on a fishing boat which got us close to gray and humpback whales and blue whales in the distance. Dolphins, a loggerhead turtle and a lion mane jellyfish were bonuses. The guy running the boat mentioned a big whale. I asked him if size mattered. He said “God, I hope not”. The waters caused a lot of ralphing up including a guy filming for a local TV station.
About half the year we had a monthly pancake breakfast at West Point Inn up a trail on Mt. Tam.
Bodega Bay and Bolinas are on the coast to the north. Bodega Bay is famous for being where “The Birds” was filmed and a pleasant getaway. Bolinas is nothing special, but famous for wanting to be left alone. The road to it is usually unmarked because the residents keep pulling down the sign. Point Reyes National Seashore is between the two. At least a couple of its features are named after Sir Francis Drake because it is believed, but unproved that he landed there. The lighthouse is a treat for the eyes at sunset.
A couple of times we treated ourselves to a night at Embassy Suites where we got a room, drinks and breakfast for a reasonable price.
Longer trips –
We continued to head south to Morro Bay for enjoying the beach and getting out of town. We could either go quick and easy on 101 or the scenic coastal route with a fine deli, San Simeon Castle and another fine beach with close by California live oak. All of those deserve more words. We stopped at the deli in the center of nowhere several times which had two entertaining guys and good food. Think that it closed, but can’t remember its name. San Simeon is famous in myth, legend and the national consciousness, in part because of its association with William Randolph Hearst. One can almost feel the presence of the grand people who lived here. There are parallels between San Simeon and the Pittock Mansion in Portland which is a grand building with great views and built for another publisher, Mr. Pittock. Los Osos (Spanish for bear) was a fine place of interesting vegetation. We once startled a a couple of yoga women doing I’m not sure what. Much of California is now covered in the Australian eucalyptus. The menthol aroma is fine, but the tree easily breaks, burns and kills. The Los Osos where we saw the women has a tract of native California Live Oaks.
Once at Morro Bay we could enjoy ourselves on the beach or our traditional climbing of the small, local Black Mountain. Favorite eateries Whale’s Tale and the Hofbrau for sandwiches and beer.
We had one or more trips to Mendocino where I had gone with Roy during my U of O years. It was us, Larry and Janet, Rudy and Julie (my name Judy and Rulie). I had quips – mixing llamas with motorcycles, they became Yamahas-has. First day I asked who I got to sleep with. We were not that kind of crowd.
We took a day cruise of the Sacramento Delta. Not very exotic. Yosemite and Kings/Sequoia National Parks were much more impressive.
We did actuary business in Chicago and Orlando.
We visited my parents a couple of times a year, either stopping in North California along I5 or driving straight through. We had favorite places in Mt. Shasta (town), Weed and Yreka. A few times we drove to Mt. Lassen and checked out the hot springs. The view of Mt. Shasta (the Mountain) was impressive for a hundred miles or so from the freeway. On one of those trips, I reconnected to cousin Jim and wife Phyllis in Klamath Falls where he taught at Oregon Institute Of Technology.
Sharon’s father and brother-in-law stayed with us at different times and my Aunt Mary Rose stopped by with one of her daughters. Sharon took periodic trips back to Michigan and went with brother Gary and family from our place to Disneyland and back.
The parental units visited us a couple of times. Until he was seventy, my father seemed quite spry, but then went downhill rapidly, probably because of his weight. A top five sad moment happened when I had to help him out of his workshop in the basement. He had to realize then that his life was coming to an end. I flew to Portland later when he had to move attached to a catheter. I flew back days before he died at eighty-one.
As a reward for a software sales, I bought a tuxedo, which I still wear, with out without all of the various parts. Adjustable waist – woo-hoo.
SPECIAL BONUS SECTION – THE REALLY BIG TRIPS
In 1988 we signed up to switch houses for two weeks with Chris and Vicky in England. I had never been to Europe, but Sharon had spent a semester in Bonn Germany, which at the time was “The Capital Village” before Germany was reunified. Off we went with two carry-on suitcases.
We flew over Greenland from San Francisco and landed in Heathrow and rented a car. We were kept awake on the flight by French teenagers that we switched seats with. Brave Sharon did the weird wrong side of the road driving. It took awhile to find our way out. Our first stop was at a bed and breakfast where we had odd sleeping hours from jet lag. In the morning we had fried eggs, fried bacon, fried coffee (possible exaggeration). Next stop our home in the small town of Dousland 10 kilometers northeast of Plymouth.
English food deserved its reputation, but I suppose that they are not to blame for the English cereal Wheatabix we got from a miniscule grocery which was WAY past its expiry. Going with ploughman’s lunch (bread, cheese, onion, pickle, greens) or fish and chips was not too bad.
Over the next few weeks, we met our English guides, friends of Chris and Vicky and traveled a bunch. The house had some things that surprised us – hot water had to be turned on when you needed it (efficient) and an electric lawn mower which I should have not used (ran over the cord). Two of our guides were George (not that one) and Dorothy Harrison. The language was frequently difficult. Because there were no closed captions, we had no idea what was happening on East Enders. Scots also difficult.
I found Dousland in Wikipedia. Even that source does not list a population, it is so small. During that August it was very wet. A local came out of her house to apologize to us. We spent a lot of time walking around the surrounding Darmoor National Park. We were told that a lot of the lands were “Commons” shared by people with sheep subsidized to keep them from moving into overcrowded cities. There were frequent over flights of jets and a bombing range, and an old prison where prisoners from the Napoleonic wars were housed. When out walking in the Moors which was the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Hound Of The Baskervilles”, Sharon started to sink into the peat. We all yelled “Keep Moving” and she was OK. Despite numerous fictional treatments of people dying by sinking into quicksand or moors, it doesn’t happen. You can wreck legs or back being pulled out. A forest that we intended to wander in had so many attacking flies, we gave up. A British “treat” sold out of vans is a candy which seems to be pure sugar. A lesson we learned quickly – walk then go to the pub, not the other way around. There was no problem finding pubs. Advice – ask for their Best Bitter. No problem finding American whisky.
Because we had a railpass paid for while we were in the USA, we used that a lot which saved us from either renting a car to drive on the wrong side of the street or pay individual fares. We noted that Britain had turned to private cars later and to a lesser extent than the US and they too had given up on some rail lines and converted them to “rails to trails”.
Our English travels took us to Bath where we saw no Roman baths as we had expected, the scenic Lakes District of west England, famous Penzance at Lands End, Stonehenge and of course London.
Stonehenge wasn’t as impressive as I had imagined. A local (to Portland) rich and legendary road builder, Sam Hill, made a better one out of concrete as a memorial to WWI (dry sense of humo(u)r here). Legendary Camelot is rumored to be somewhere in the vicinity of Stonehenge.
We saw the usual touristy things in London and spent a night after our return to England. What impressed me most were the Rosetta Stone and Egyptian displays based on their importance to world history and Buckingham Palace on our return to England. Many soldiers with rifles, probably because of the “troubles”.
We took a double-decker bus to Plymouth. Can’t remember much about it, so probably not too impressive.
We got out of England just a little, mostly Scotland. We just stuck a toe in Northern Wales. A friendly guy on the train spoke Welch to entertain us. All I remember is piles of rock, possibly from mining, but could have been natural. In Scotland, we saw the castle in Edinburgh, went through Glasgow and got as far north as Aberdeen where it was cold, even in the middle of summer. We crossed where Hadrian’s Wall was, but didn’t see anything.
My notes indicate something that I have no memory of – we met with a few UK actuaries to compare notes on practice. I didn’t expense the trip on my taxes.
Throughout Britain we saw the ruins of industry, possibly bombed, possibly obsolete, as well as thousand year old castles and churches. Despite the high population density, there is a lot of empty space.
The night before we left England, we went to a bar and met a couple consisting of a former American serviceman and his English wife. We went with them in their van to another bar where he parked the van beside the police station. A bit later he was arrested for drunken driving. Making matters worse, he was a guard at the prison. His wife let us off by a phone both far from home where we had to call a taxi.
Next day we took a boat from Plymouth to Brest(?) in Brittany France and from there to Paris. Along the way we saw the White Cliffs of Dover, but don’t remember bluebirds. We had Eurail in addition to Britrail. Traveling from country to country in the European Union (Britain was in then) was easy with a passport.
In Paris we schlepped our suitcases to the nearest pension where we got a room where we stayed for two or three days with a bathroom which had an undivided shower and movable bidet. I don’t remember which arronidissment it was, but it was Rive Droit. My failed French did us little good.
We did standard tourist things – Notre Dame, ride the Metro, Louvre (got a peak at Mona Lisa – big whoop), the Arche De La Defense (an odd building with a hollow middle) and an outdoor Rodin display (we learned that his female assistant should have received more credit for his works).
Because it was August, Paris was largely bereft of the French.
We took a TGV for Lyon (?). The very fast train can go 374 km/h normally and has the record for regular trains of 575 km/h (to get mph, multiply by <> .6). We did not get the sensation of going that fast.
Just across the border into Switzerland we stopped for a little while in Geneva, the home of important international organizations and a beautiful place on a lake. It is the second most populous city in Switzerland and the largest in the French speaking section. Interlaken and all of the lakes and mountains of Switzerland blew me away. At some place along the way we took a break for a walk in the hills and visited an Alpen Zoo. For a peaceful country, there were a lot of soldiers with scary rifles.
Austria had similar scenery. We didn’t go any farther east than Salzburg, either because of time constraints or because Vienna would be similar but larger than those two towns. We did take a side trip to Ice caves by train, bus, tram and foot. Because I’m not a classical music guy, Vienna’s past would not have been big for me.
On the way to meet Sharon’s host family in Bonn, we stopped in Koln / Cologne and climbed the Koln Tower which Sharon had done in her student days. We enjoyed beers in Muchen.
We stayed overnight with Sharon’s host mother and sister. Sharon spoke German so that helped. We drank schnapps – yum. Later Sharon kept in touch with the family for awhile.
We caught a train to Hamburg where we slept. The train was loaded on a ship to Denmark. We wandered around the city and saw the famous Little Mermaid statue, but were too cheap to go to Tivoli Gardens, which we regret.
We were also too cheap to go to the Elsinore Castle in Helsingor Denmark, but we did take the free (with Eurail) ferry to get in fifteen minutes of Sweden.
The way back to London was through Hamburg, Dusseldorf, Koln, Aachen, Liege, Oostende followed by another long flight home.
We did and saw a lot, but we didn’t touch Ireland, Poland (Sharon is Polish), much of Scandinavia, Vienna, Elsinore, Tivoli, Netherlands. Sometimes cheap, sometimes just a choice.
We still exchange Christmas cards with Chris and Vicky.
During our time in Marin, we got into serious cruising. Many of them were on Princess which gets us exalted status on future cruises. Pictures from the cruises show a couple of relative youngsters. Our earlier cruises were quite a bit different from those today. The prices have not changed as much as might be expected, but the quality is lower. Less or cheaper entertainment, fewer free exercise classes, expensive optional restaurants. Then we got daily news briefs on paper, now we can pay for internet connections (we get some free based on our frequent cruising with Princess). There is less formality in dress and dining.
During my first few cruises I regularly stuffed my face on the copious variety of food and gained weight. I’ve become more circumspect.
As this is written in the age of Corona, cruising may die.
In 1985 we got to the last of the fifty states (for us) Alaska. Vancouver BC, inside passage (kind of like a river with islands to the west, BC to the east, Juneau (small town), Skagway and Haines, fjords & glaciers (watching glaciers calve – woo-hoo), Ketchikan (known for rain) and back. The usual tourist stuff with possible kayaking and whale whatever watching. Foreshadowing – a return was close to deadly.
South Pacific 1991
Our next couple of cruises were supported by my parents. My father wanted to go and was in poor health. Mother thought that we might be needed, but we were not needed a lot.
In 1991 we went through some usual spots in Hawaii and then on to Tahiti and Bora Bora where we snorkeled. Because there was much time between stops, we took in a lot of books, food and entertainment.
It was at the beginning of the first Iraq invasion (a war crime of large proportion to later be exceeded by the son of the perpetrator). My mother cried when the news came in, probably thinking of her brothers going off to war in WWII.
We took the cruise boat from LA to Hawaii where we stopped in Lahaina and Honolulu. I excelled at Huki Lau and won the blindfolded male contest. We sailed by Christmas Island to Bora Bora and Papeete in Tahiti. We were visually treated to flying fish, a sting ray sighting and southern skies after crossing the equator including the Southern Cross. We flew back to LA. In my paranoia many of the passengers looked like terrorists seeking to blow up the plane in revenge for the Iraq invasion. Customs was crazy back at the airport.
The settlement of Polynesia is an interesting story and somewhat controversial. Whoever went there brought pigs.
South America 1993
The second cruise that my parents treated us too was the east side of South America. We started by flying to Miami where we met them and then to Buenos Aires. Odd but our guide there was from Eastern Europe. Buenos Aires was not at all like I had imagined. The expected colorful place with people tangoing in the street was a drab place of big gray concrete apartment building. The original adobe buildings have all worn away.
We were too cheap to take the excursion to Iguassu Falls, a regret now.
Montevideo seemed small for a capital city, but then Uruguay is a small country.
We didn’t bother with the next stop at Santos, port for Brazil’s largest city Sao Paulo.
Rio De Janeiro may have been the best / scariest. Our tour bus took us to Ipanema. There were lots of women who would qualify as “The Girl From Ipanema”. There were thousands on the beach. Perhaps the scariest few minutes of my life was taking the tram to the top of Sugar Loaf. You get up in two steps from ground to lower rock to the top in a tin can. I looked it up; it is 396 meters high, about the same as the Empire State Building. Felt like two miles, while others were grooving on the scenery, I was staring at the floor of cable car. The top was pleasant, but then we had to go back down. I think Roger Moore (James Bond) / Richard Kiel (Jaws) and the Simpsons did scary stuff supposedly on the cable cars.
Recife is a former slave port close to the farthest east part of South America. From this point on the people were of all colors and mixes, individually and within families. Native Indios, blacks and white.
Entering the Amazon River, we were greatly slowed down by the flooding upriver. Because the ship needed extra power, the noise made sleeping difficult. We stopped in Santarem (for some reason listed as Santana in our itinerary). Possibly related, garbage had not been picked up which caused a plague of vultures. The city was more rustic than the huge urban center we had seen.
In Manaus where quite different tributaries join to form the Amazon, we took a walk in the rain forest. This was billed as an adventure tour, but most of the passengers went shopping or too the old opera house.
We had walked for awhile and I made the mistake of saying something like “Where is the rain” and was immediately drenched. Before I could pull up the hood on my jacket it filled with water which then ran down my back as I put up my hood. A woman with a red hat had dye from it run into her contacts.
We borrowed a hair dryer from someone so we didn’t have to fly in wet pants. Off to Houston and hence to home. Did we stop in Panama City?
We “entertained” my parents with our talent show acts. I was John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, pointless doubled by a real dancer and Sharon was Pavarotti in a fat suit and a sweating wig.
Panama Canal 1995
Start in San Francisco, first stop Cabo San Lucas where we see pelicans and frigate birds. There may have been some cerveza. On to Acapulco where Folklorico entertained us. Later it was alleged that they stole some costumes.
Our best stop was in Puerto Caldera Costa Rica. As we heard at most stops, the main problems were crime and bad politicians. They have two main meals, rice and beans and beans and rice. We were disappointed that we saw very little wildlife while in Monteverde Cloud Forest. While riding in the bus, we passed a lot of widely separated small farms. Costa Rica is known as the good Central America country – stable with no military. It has a lot of émigrés from the USA, so many that there is English language radio, TV and newspapers. There are a lot of immigrants from Nicaraguan, which is poorer.
We won a couples costume contest by cross dressing. Sharon padded her crotch and did pushups.
When we started going through the eight hour crossing of the Panama Canal, we thought that we would watch every minute from the deck. After awhile, we got bored and watched on cabin TV. The ship hit the side of the canal and had to be checked when we reached the Caribbean.
We stopped in Curacao where we bought liqueurs, including Curacao.
We were supposed to stop in St. Thomas, but because of hurricane damage we were rerouted to St. Barts which was less damaged. St. Barts is a rich person’s island, but because we didn’t want to pay lots of money to see their places, we just wandered around.
Our last port before the mainland was San Juan so we could eat at a MacDonald with US currency. We checked out the San Juan Baptista (St. John The Baptist) fort.
Atlanta to San Francisco and home.
Our most frequent cruise was Alaska because of cost and convenience. This one took us Victoria, Vancouver, Sitka, Juneau, Yakutay Bay (for glacier watching), Ketchikan and back.
END SPECIAL BONUS SECTION
The Mountain Amphitheatre on the side of Mt. Tam seats four thousand. It has other events, but the big deal is a play every summer. We walked up sometimes, and rode a bus other times. “South Pacific” arranged an over flight by planes and “The Wizard Of Oz” had a balloon attached to a crane.
I aged out of current music while I was there but still listened to oldies.
Besides the Marin Headlands there were other military installations at the south end of Marin. We walked the Golden Gate a couple of times, but the gas and diesel smells made it somewhat unpleasant. During the bridge’s fiftieth anniversary we tried to walk the bridge, but the crowds were so thick that we had to stay on one end. The weight of the people flattened out the bridge.
When Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) was constructed, the planned extension to Marin was aborted for financial / political reasons, which made the Golden Gate Bridge a check point going south. When we got there the toll was around a dollar. It has escalated immensely. The traffic flow changed a lot while we were there. Because it was difficult to afford Marin, many people who worked in Marin came from the north. As a result, the population of Sonoma grew a lot, and the major traffic shifted from Marin south, to Sonoma south. Whenever there was an accident or suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge, traffic came to a standstill. Partly because it was so hard to get into and around San Francisco and partly because it didn’t appeal to me, I spent little time there except for museums and parks (particularly Golden Gate). We did like to go eat at the Cliff House which was by the remains of the Sutro baths. An earlier Cliff House and the housing for the baths (which were still there) had burned.
We later discovered that a trail in the “twin city” of Larkspur was an old railroad route from the days when people rode a train to a ferry to get into San Francisco. Larkspur (erroneously named after lupine) was a nice two mile loop walk. Iris, who we met after a year or so had a fine house there. Deer liked to eat in her backyard. It had at least a couple of cheap restaurants, one for breakfast and one for lunch. The theatre showed art and foreign movies a lot closer than San Francisco.
The beaches did not amount to much. The main one was Stinson about twenty miles away. It was a pleasant, but slow drive through hilly country. It was rarely warm and didn’t have much to do. The Marin Headlands north of the Golden Gate. It had a military installation during WWII but was abandoned when we were there. Quite scenic and one of the routes to it offered great views of the bridge. We could not get to the Tennessee Valley beach by car. It was a two mile walk from the parking lot between two ridges with impressive rock at the end.
The literal high point of Marin is Mt. Tamalpais, which was the beauty in our window in our house in Corte Madera. Originally 2600 feet in elevation, it was lowered to around 2580 feet for the installation of radar which looked like a giant golf ball. We hiked on it and climbed it to the top.
There are three main climate zones in Marin County – coastal (including condo), northern heat, and southern marine, wetter and foggier (our house). Despite that classification, there were numerous microclimates. Marin is filled with ridges which affected both temperature and rainfall. We called the northern zone Santa Rosa weather for the much hotter city to the north, and the colder weather Sausalito weather. Some days were Sausalito and some were Santa Rosa where we lived. Freezing was rare and snow at sea level was extremely rare, but we saw snow on Mt. Tam more than once. We had droughts during which our lawn died and heavy rains and flooding.
I had said that if we moved to Marin for Sharon’s job with the same employer / different office, I’d be a househusband. True to some extent. I did pick up some of the domestic duties such as laundry and vacuuming. . My attempt at employment in San Francisco was blocked because their actuarial work was done in Cincinnati. I interviewed for a job in Orange County which was stupid because it would uproot Sharon’s burgeoning career and put me back in Southern California for a job for which I was poorly suited. I pulled the plug there before the company could make a decision. My interview about a job at Rick’s company ended up with a “you’re overqualified” which I suspect was being diplomatic “no”.
We both had part time jobs. After Sharon quit what had become “Mercer Meininger” (I called it Merciless Ming) Nancy got her a part time job on a messed up pension plan. She had a tortuous time sorting it all out and it took more time than expected. One of Sharon’s colleagues got me a job at San Francisco Community College teaching statistics. It was not fun. It reminded me that I didn’t want to teach and only lasted for one class.
Sharon was more successful in Marin than I was. Her well paid consulting job made it possible for me to get sporadic income. She also became a nature guide following up on a summer internship she had way back in New Hampshire while in college. She took grade school students on the nature walks for the Terwilliger Nature Education Center led by Elizabeth Terwilliger (who lived to be around one hundred). After a break since college, she stared playing clarinet again with a community band.
I followed Sharon’s example as a volunteer.
I was a docent at China Camp. The following is from a speech at Portland Old Boys.
A Tale of Shrimp, California, China, Culture, Sociology, Geography, History, Politics, Law, but not Much Sex
In the early 1800s around Canton and the Pearl River In China life was miserable. The area was dominated by Britain and the people were subject to poverty and disease. Gold was discovered in California in the late 1840s. The misery of their homeland and the lure of making $500 and returning home attracted many Chinese from the area to prospect for gold. In addition to the usual hazards of mining all foreign miners were subject to a foreign miner’s tax, so for most of the Chinese mining didn’t pan out. A lot of Chinese worked on the western part of the transcontinental railroad, but that ended with mass terminations when the route was completed.
The immigrants then worked in laundries, cigar making, mining and brick-making as well as becoming merchants. Back at home they had been rice farmers and shrimp fishers. For hundreds of years before Europe they had used a hand cranked fan mill, which improved over the ancient method of separating the hulls of grain from the edible portion. Their method of processing rice is adaptable to shrimp preparation. They could use an implement, which resembles a lawn roller to crack the shrimp’s shell and then use the fan mill to separate shrimp meat from the shell.
China Camp State Park in San Rafael on San Pedro point is a remnant of one of the 30 shrimping villages around the San Francisco Bay, which once shipped millions of pounds of shrimp. The shrimpers at China Camp were originally drawn to McNears brick making operation nearby [which is still in operation]. According to the 1880 census there were 419 men, 19 women, 20 boys and 11 girls living at the village.
Work at China Camp consisted of loading shrimp brought by the tide into junks and sampans, spreading them on the shore to dry (later a diesel oven was used), cracking the shells with a roller, and then separating shells from the concentrated shrimp meat with the fan mill. Some whole shrimp went to San Francisco for shrimp cocktails, most of the dried meat was sent to China for sale at $.05 a pound and the shells were used as chicken feed – at that time Petaluma to the north was billed as the chicken capital of the world. At that time, shrimp was not as popular in America as China.
The Chinese settlement was largely independent of white America. They built their own buildings and grew their own foods. The Chinese diet was then, and maybe now, healthier than Americans’ diet – vegetables, chicken and pork that they raised. At least at the beginning of the camps the Chinese had the traditional half head shaved and a pigtail. If they could not go home with a nest egg, they at least wanted to have their bones shipped back. There was little mixing and much of the contact between cultures was through lawyers. Homework – how does the 1800s Chinese immigration compare to Mexican immigration today?
[Environmental note – newer planks in the buildings were narrower than old ones. The largest redwoods were harvested first.]
The once sizable Chinese population in the west was largely reduced through laws preventing intermarriage, immigration and a mostly male population. Acceptance of Chinese was boosted much later by the attack on Pearl Harbor. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Bad thinking, but still largely accepted.
Chinese fishing camps faced another couple of problems. Pollution limited the catch. Italian and Portuguese fishers successfully pushed legislation to outlaw the shrimping method because it entailed a bycatch of young fish.
When the shrimp fishing died, the owner, Frank Quan turned to sports fishing. In 1977 the camp became a state park. He still lives there and fished until recently. The camp includes a residence for him, a dock, a diner and a museum.
Sidebar: The John Wayne movie Blood Alley about China was filmed here in a bit of irony. [Oddly, known drunken brawler Wayne ended up replacing Robert Mitchum because of the latter’s brawling.]
Sidebar 2: The Baker Museum, in addition to many other exhibits, has some of the history of the Chinese in Northeast Oregon, the same area as the infamous Chinese Massacre.
Sidebar 3: Will China Camp stay open?
Sidebar 4: An article in the Oregonian commented on the high level of mercury in the San Francisco Bay.
Sidebar 5: Another recent Oregonian article mentioned Chinese buried in Portland who have been held up in China awaiting reburial. At least originally, the Chinese immigrants wanted their bones to be shipped back.
Finally The Last Sidebar: Very close to home Chinese laborers made charcoal for the Lake Oswego smelter in what is now Tryon Park.
Thanks to the original docent, the late Bill Cox whose enthusiasm was contagious and to Helen Sitchler, who carries on his work and supplied many of our handouts.
For a short period before we left California, I was a greeter at the Marin Mammal Center in the Marin Headlands. Driving home had great views of the Golden Gate where ads were frequently filmed because of the view. Another treat was viewing the quail and other birds that wandered by. The center treated wounded seals, dolphins and such which had landed on the coast. The job was bad for me because I answered phones, and my hearing was going bad. Two calls stick in my mind. Someone wanted a cat treated because he thought it was the Marin Mammal Center, and another person on April 1 called about a message from C. Lion (sea lion – get it- he didn’t).
I don’t remember how it came about, but I got a consulting job at UIC3 (unnamed insurance company close to or in Santa Monica where I worked on a particular product of growing popularity, Universal Life. UL was liked for its flexibility of death benefits and premium payments. That led to a job for someone with my qualifications to work on a administration system. I spent years commuting back and forth from Los Angeles to my home in the Bay Area. The car I drove didn’t have cruise control and the four hundred mile drive could be torture on my knees. After a few years of driving down to LA for a week early in the morning and driving back at the end of the week, they didn’t want me anymore and I didn’t want them. UIC3 executives came from another company that closed or was shut down for shady practices.
Between trips to LA, I made the mistake of letting Batface out one night. He was missing for over night which scared us a lot. When he came back in the morning he was in bad shape, but we thought that he would be OK. During my next trip to LA, Sharon called to say that he had died from an injury. A top ten bad moment in my life. He was such a joy.
To get back on horse (or cat), we got siblings from the Humane Society, Pooch and Boots. Before we took them to get neutered, Boots (male) had been trying to mount Pooch (female). We think that she never forgave him. Smaller Pooch was the dominant one. He had to really try to bury his turds deep (a show of submission) and when he was in a lap, if she wanted in, he left. Pooch had the interesting habit of holding conversations with us when we left. While sitting on the credenza next to the door, she would meow at us on the way out. If we responded, she responded. This could go on for awhile. After losing Batface outdoors, we mostly kept them indoors. Boots had a heart murmur and after we heard a thud from our bedroom, I found him dead on the floor. Pooch seemed to get along without him quite well for the rest of her twenty and a half years.
A little later we inherited and outdoor cat. Orville, lived with an elderly couple who were known as environmental champions. Before the couple died, he started courting us by running in front of us and falling down. It was endearing, but dangerous. When they died, he became our outdoor cat. After awhile he moved to another house on the street. He was so likeable; we couldn’t hold it against him. His legend was that he had changed houses before and was around 25 years old when he died.
As the LA commute wound down, I ramped up programs for actuaries. Eventually I had a whole suite of programs in Basic / DOS for actuarial use, up to modeling whole life insurance operations. I was limited by being a one man operation who neither much of a programmer or salesman. Income was ragged – no sales for months and then thousands of dollars in a short period.
I checked with Rick to see if someone could improve my programs. Scott was the answer. He had a steady job at the time and was satisfied with a split of the take. He was not a math or actuary guy, but was good at making the input and output professional.
HAS (Hawley Actuarial Software) made two sales trips. On one we started by flying into Chicago (sister), rented a car, stopped in Louisville (UIC1 gang) and went to Detroit (Sharon’s family).
The other one started off driving towards Sacramento and quickly running into a lot of snow and slowing us down to a crawl. We veered south and went as far east as Atlanta (stayed with second boss at Morehouse). I don’t remember much about it, but we stopped some places in Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Denver (National Farmers Union and Sharon Sister), Tennessee, Alabama (rain so hard we pulled off the road). There was a hard rain in Oklahoma, but I don’t remember stopping for any insurance companies.
We went to several actuarial meetings and got vendor’s booths. I hated it but felt I should do it. I tried ads in an actuarial publication and advertising rulers “HAS you got it”. There was one thing that I had fun with – the HAS newsletter. It started as advertising updating clients and others on the product, but I got bored and it changed to being mostly commentary and jokes. It got to be more popular than the product I was pushing.
Before we left Marin, the business was near death. The actuarial consulting firms that had previously wanted to sell their expertise decided they had to offer software for sale. The world had moved to Windows and I had no knowledge thereof or interest therein. Further, I had come to dislike actuarial and life insurance business because it was largely a scam.
I talked to another unnamed company UIC4 and maybe did a little work for them, but could not get a steady job there. It was a place making bad insurance policies for other companies. They moved from Sausalito to Novato and seemed to be prospering before the California Insurance Department shut them down. Their leader then died in a one person plane crash. I think that it was suicide to avoid disgrace and worse.
While we were in the condo, I had what at first seemed like a paranormal event. One morning I saw two Batface cats in the building. After a long appraisal I determined another, skinnier black cat had snuck into our home. Not paranormal, but Batface had some discontent and had urinated indoors in the wrong place.
Before we decided to leave the condo, Rick had moved out. It seemed like time to buy a house. Where we ended up was largely determined by the urban geography of Marin. Generally, the farther south one gets in Marin, the more expensive the real estate is because of the ease of getting to San Francisco. Ignoring the less accessible small places away from the bay working my way south along US 101 – Novato, San Rafael (both about the same population), Corte Madera-Larkspur, Mill Valley, Sausalito. San Anselmo, Ross and Kentfield are a group of small towns a bit west of 101. Tiburon and Belvedere are very expensive places on the Tiburon Peninsula. We compromised on convenience versus expense and moved into 13 Council Crest Drive in Corte Madera (Spanish for “cut wood”). Council Crest had neither a crest nor a council. After we moved in we found that it was built on fill in what had been a marsh. The fill was from a close hill. The cut from said hill was turned into a small development while we lived there. According to real estate records, the original price of the house was around $20,000 in the early fifties. We paid much more in 1984. I checked Zillow for a current price (3/12/2020) $1,304,000. Should have rented it out rather than selling it in 1997.
We rented a van to move our stuff and I loaded it lopsided so we drove the few miles south with the van listing to one side. Loading everything into the van, we were really whipped. Our good fortune was that some new neighbors helped us unload it. Sharon got stuck (with some hired help) of doing a lot of the heavy lifting while I was out of town.
More about the house – 1404 square feet, two car garage, two tall palm trees in the back. When we had it, there were small palms in front that died, and orange, fig and lemon trees in the back that we did not take good care of. After a few years they gave up producing fruit. I used one bedroom as an office. The back yard was fenced with a foot wide raised growing area, but otherwise lawn. The front yard also had a growing area with geraniums, but was mostly lawn. When the drought hit, we let the back yard die, but maintained the front yard. While we were there we replaced the dishwasher and windows, and had the floor refinished. Because water would condense on the walls in cold weather, our bedroom walls became covered in black mold. We had the walls insulated which solved that problem. We got a deal on a hot tub and spent many evenings there watching the raccoon wonder past the back fence.
We had the best neighbors ever in Corte Madera. I mentioned new neighbor John and his family that helped us get settled. He worked on set design. After some tenants moved out of the house to the right, Larry, Becky and their two young daughters moved in. He was a banker, now retired. The Vincenzo, Claudia and daughter CeeCee lived on the left until they broke up. Both physically very attractive Italian and French respectively. Steve and Victoria and two sons lived across on the lagoon. He was famous in lighting circles. Gabe, Zekia and son also lived on the lagoon. He had worked for Clipper airlines. He was a friendly Turk with great stories. “Iraqi (could be Iranian – it was a long time ago) archaeologists dug down to layers a thousand years old proving that Iraq had radio a thousand years ago.” Turk responds “Turkish archeologists dug down to the two thousand year level and found nothing. Turks invented wireless.” There were at least a couple of “social security” couples – unmarried because they would get smaller benefits. John of the older couple John and Margaret, distributed surplus / old groceries, gave use the healthy good because he said his old clients only wanted junk food. He gave me great advice I wish that I had earlier when I could have used it. “Don’t ever grow old”. One house was inhabited by a lone old woman who never seemed to have company and was rumored to be a drunk. I would talk to her from time to time. When she died her household was emptied into a dumpster and that was the sad end. We did not get to know some of the people on Council Crest and some of the houses turned over as the older people died. Karen and Kevin were among the younger ones. The two expanded to children all with names starting with K and cats.
The neighbors that we have been closest to over the years were a couple of houses away towards the north end of Council Crest. Larry and Janet had both previously been married, and gotten married to each other fairly recently. Janet’s daughter was living there when we moved in about the same time as we did. They noticed us walking past their house and talking to their cats Smoke and Sally. After naming us the walkers because that is what we did, they invited us in for wine, and the relationship went from there.
We would walk to Tony Romas and the Pepper Mill together for drinks and food. The Pepper Mill was famous for several things. Cars from their parking lot got the most DUIs of anywhere in the county. Our sometimes observed method was that rainy days deserved a night at the bar.
When they had short term housing on the other side of 101 we had pleasant walks with them to Ring Mountain, a low peak (oxymoron).
Larry took us on a ride in his small plane around San Rafael. His scary comment was “If we make past the power lines, we’re probably OK.” We had a beautiful view of fog pouring over Sausalito.
Beyond that there was the back packing trip and other hikes that we took together. We met Julie and Rudy through them. They were an East Bay couple who eventually wrote their story of “The Stumbling Stone” him a cop who was the son of a German Nazi and her who is Jewish writer. More on them later.
Larry and Janet moved when Larry built their own house a mile or two away in the hills. Later they had temporary quarters in the east bay while their ranchette close to Wellington in Smith Valley Nevada was built. Larry picked that place because of Nevada’s lack of income tax and their place had an airstrip. He kept busy with projects and Janet got a job teaching.
Sharon has stayed in touch with all of them because Rudy and Julie bought a cabin in the North Coast Range in the Mendocino National Forest. Julie started the annual “Hen Party” there in 1998 which some women including Sharon sleeping, drinking, eating, hiking and hanging out. With some interruption and a change of location it has continued to today with Janet, Julie and others.
Larry bought our worn out Cimarron for a thousand and many years later sold it for $1.
After a few years, I decided to take an exercise class. It was run by a vivacious woman named Iris who also had taught a class in Spanish at Tamalpais High. I had a lot of fun there and sometimes we would go out to drink, or run for a mile or two, something I had never done. As we got acquainted Sharon also joined the class and we began to socialize. Her house was on Madrone a street which had been the home of the late Janis Joplin. It is the only street that I know was built around trees. Some were a foot inside the street. Because of all of the trees there was not much sunlight. As with much of the area deer would wander into the yard and eat the vegetation. At the time Iris was divorced with three children at home. We are still in touch and have “Body By Iris” shirts which are quite tight on us. In a short period of time in the last few years she has lost her ex, her boyfriend and one son.
Diane led on a senior class that we took for awhile at the Marin Community Center, which was a walk for us.
Ken and Ellen of Larkspur have put us up at their place and we have put them up with use. The walk to their place was easy when we lived in Corte Madera,
Johnnie was a softball and tennis player as I was. He was a headhunter and wife Fran was a real estate agent who sold our place in Corte Madera and introduced us to our Lake Oswego agent (foreshadowing). They adopted an Asian-Caucasian baby to mimic their ethnicity. Later they traveled around the world followed by touring the US in an airstream trailer. A few years ago when they visited us I got my iconic “Dude” hat.
We met Nancy through Sharon’s work. She was quite the runner before her feet or legs betrayed her. When we knew her she was doing benefit consulting in London and San Francisco. We have lost track of her.
Mike and Bernie were one of our favorite couples. We were shocked when she said they were separating. We learned that she felt he married her only because she was pregnant. Last we heard he remarried and moved to the east and she had a rich boyfriend.
Mike had led us on fog walks. During full moons and foggy nights, we could wander the hills with some visibility while above the fog level. Spooky and lovely simultaneously.
A new experience for us was all of the fairs in the Marin towns. It seemed that all of the towns had at least one a year. Unhealthy food, small carnival rides and vendors. Good times.
A downside to living in California is the disasters. We got through the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 which caused massive damage to our immediate south. Sharon was on the ferry when it happened. She said it felt like the ferry had hit something or had engine trouble. I was at home and it felt like the house (on fill – a bad thing) shook for minutes. A few things fell down, but nothing worse happened. In 1991 we could see the Oakland fire across the bay. For awhile I thought there would be disasters on odd years. That didn’t happen. Forest fires like the one which destroyed Paradise California got worse after we left. We have explored Paradise as a place to retire. It was lovely.
Our house was very conveniently located. One thing that made it cheaper than the houses on the other side of the street was that they were on the lagoon side. Years before we got there boating on the lagoon was a big deal, but it was not common when we got there. We could not get a good view unless we visited somebody on the expensive side of the street.
The house had a great location. When we got there, there was a failing shopping center within a hundred yards of us. When it went bankrupt it was taken over at no cost by someone else and completely redone. It had the last live Montgomery Ward and Woolworth’s that I ever saw. They soon died. Various restaurants came and went. One of our favorites was Tony Roma’s where we got onion loafs. Across 101 to the east, Hahn center started construction. It is on the edge of a marsh close to the San Francisco Bay. For months or years, we could here pile drivers sending underpinning into the ground for the buildings. The mall was anchored by Nordstrom’s and Macy’s with all the trimming of a typical mall including a food court. Originally we could get $.25 cent coffee at Nordstrom’s. There was a tower for long range viewing. We had about a two mile walk which went past (or into if we wanted food or drink) both centers and through the marsh.
I saw Robin Williams with one of his series of wives in the closer mall around Christmas. He warned me away with a death ray stare. He had gone to Marin Community College and a man who knew him then was not impressed by him.
Within easy walking, we could get into the woods; go to the post office and library. The theatre where George Lucas went to watch his movies (he had it too loud) was within a block, and our first gym and then a Gold’s gym were close. We had plenty of restaurants and bars to go to. We liked the Pepper Mill (also in Reno and Las Vegas). For years we could get a carafe of wine (out of a box) and snacks from barmaids dressed like Playboy bunnies for a total of $10. We got drinks on the house twice, the only place that has ever happened to us.
Softball fields and tennis courts were close by as was the very large Piper Park. We played tennis, but not well. For a few years I played old person softball, also not well. After some backbiting and general ill will, I quit, but not before I tripped over first base and knocked myself out temporarily and was destroyed while the guy from third base ran through me as I played catcher and hurt me all over. The season that we won, I was off to Disney World on business for the last game.
Ping-pong in our garage was an easier game that we could play with each other or neighbors.
I was fairly healthy while in Marin, but I started to have trouble with my joints, both knees and left shoulder. The sequence of general pain started on my right side working thought should, elbow, knees, feet and then working up my left side. After donating blood for a long time, I was disqualified by Hepatitis B. I didn’t believe it until my doctor confirmed. I never had symptoms and it didn’t endanger me. My mother said that I had been jaundiced at some point, and I had ingested some questionable things, but despite what doctors expected, I had never done injected junk or indulged in interesting sex. Another diagnosis which has never seemed to be a serious problem – anemia. Sometimes my weight went up thirty pounds. Despite all that my stamina and strength were good with a fair amount of hiking and weight lifting.
Marin was thought of as a hotbed of new age, pop psychology Buddhism. The murder of Artie Mitchell in Corte Madera was not in keeping with that image. Jim and Artie Mitchell ran the infamous porn house, the O’Farrell Theatre in San Francisco. Jim got off claiming that he feared that Arnie would kill him. Iris knew some of that crowd.
Bicyclists were not quite as bad as the Mitchell brothers, but they were bad. Mountain bikers made secret bike trails in water company land where they were not allowed. Street bikers terrorized pedestrians and drivers running stop signs and sometimes hit people or cars. On the plus side, they inspired an early story of mine and one of the first published “Bike Killer” which was accepted in 2014 by a publisher which died before publication, then by a publisher that then died and eventually twice more by publications that are extant. The story of writing is somewhere in this blog “Amateur”.
Larkspur Landing, which had started up in 1977 was about a mile and a half by foot away from our house. On the way in you passed the famous tracks where Dirty Harry jumped onto the bus in order to catch the bad guy before shooting him in an abandoned quarry. The shopping center waxed and waned while were around, but usually had a couple of restaurants that we liked. Its best features were the ferry to San Francisco and Marin Brewing Company with lots of craft beers and pepper poppers.
Besides many restaurants in Sausalito, Larkspur, Mill Valley and Corte Madera that we can’t remember, one stands out – Buckeye Grille off 101 in Mill Valley. It was in the news lately (3/23/2020) because someone left a $2,000 tip when it was closed for the corona virus. Scoma’s upstairs in Larkspur Landing had fine seafood. Sharon favored calamari. Margaritaville was a franchised Jimmy Buffett place in Sausalito. Caprice had $1,000 wine bottles. We got something else.
The twin towns then and now. Checking Wikipedia, and our visits over the years, not much has changed. Larkspur has slightly more people than Corte Madera, but both then and now the population is either slightly over or under 10,000 respectively. It has been a few years since we have been there and are much less connected than we used to be.
At the end my elderly mother could use us in Portland and I thought we could make a bundle on selling our house. Yes, but not as much as those that bought it from us. We also had a lot of free time, but our friends were too busy or disinterested in playing with us. Before we left we visited San Jose. Until then it had been a place to drive through as fast as possible to get to someplace else. We visited the top two attractions for us – Rosicrucian Headquarter and the Winchester House. OK places, Google if you want to know more.
A van took most of our stuff (lots of books), we sedated Pooch for the trip and left our TV which didn’t fit in the trunk on Claudine’s porch.
Lake Oswego Oregon (1997 – )
Word count 16,000
Abbreviations which are probably repeated LMPH – the Hospital With Too Many Names / Legacy Meridian Park Hospital, EG – elevation gain in feet, POB – Portland Old Boys.
Before we moved to the Portland area, we came up to look around. When we went through McMinnville, we did a quick check on real estate, but the traffic was so horrible that we didn’t pursue it.
Housing And Neighbors
While we were in Oregon, we got an offer on our Corte Madera house. It took a long time to sort out because of questions about the roof and asbestos, but it worked. We thought of living in Portland, Salem or Vancouver, which were all somewhat close to where my mother lived. We ended up in Lake Oswego. We were going to rent while orienting ourselves, but we couldn’t get approval because we had no available rental or mortgage history. We had paid off the Corte Madera place so long ago that the payments were not found. Then we made the mistake of getting a condo based on our happy experience in Denver. It was in the planned development Mountain Park around an extinct volcano Mt. Sylvania (958 feet high). It is a planned community started in 1969 with about 26,000 people in a square mile. Many things went wrong while we were at the Avocet:
Before the movers got there, we found out the front door lock didn’t work and had to get in through the back door. We needed a locksmith fast because the movers were about to get there. The weather that day in November was gray and gloomy. We wondered if we should have moved.
Despite Lake Oswego being primarily in Clackamas, the northern part of Mountain Park where we lived is in Multnomah County, a higher tax area. A small part of Lake Oswego is in Washington County. What a mess.
Street sounds were annoying.
At our higher elevation, we got more snow and ice, making walking and driving more difficult, particularly because it was so hilly. One day I helped push cars uphill that couldn’t get traction.
Windows that needed to be replaced the inspector should have told us about.
A really bad condo HOA.
Paying for both condo and Mountain Park fees.
Avocet siding replacement and our condo window replacement (not mentioned in the inspection).
A nice balcony.
Walking around was always hilly so good exercise. We could walk into South Portland, to a couple of local shopping centers or to the top of Mt. Sylvania which afforded good views on a clear day.
The place was only 1100 square feet, despite being advertised as 1500, and the 1500 included some questionable space.
We stayed there longer than we should have, but finally started looking for another place. We tried to get into downtown LO (which will stand in for Lake Oswego) which is very convenient to parks, shops and transportation for awhile, but this was close to the top of the real estate market (2003) and places where we were looking were either absurdly expensive or crap shacks. Living on Oswego Lake was a million dollar plus deal. Eventually we settled in Lake Grove, an area which had been unincorporated until it was unified with Oswego, forming Lake Oswego. Lake Grove may have been the less rich side of Lake Oswego, but million dollar McMansions were going up close to us before the 2008 recession, replacing reasonable houses. People had signs “Not for sale” to discourage real estate agents. Some of that returned at the end of the recession.
Our new address was fairly quiet because of being a block from the busy Boones Ferry. Boones Ferry is named after a relative of Daniel Boone. Some streets in the Willamette River area have ferry in the name because they connected to ferries crossing the river.
We talked to our neighbors to be before we moved and asked if there were any problems, because of our apprehension based on living in the condo. There must have been some bad neighbors in our house to be, because we were asked more than once if we were noisy. We are not. It had several previous owners in its short history.
This time since we were just moving about two or three miles away, we kept the same zip code and phone number. With the help of friends, we moved ourselves. I made many trips in the six months it took to sell the place for a low price. The next buyer was a better shopper than we were. I spent some time doing some repainting part of the condo.
We have several standard short hikes that we can take from home. There are the East and West Waluga (pronounced [by me] as WAH – LOOO – GAH). Iron Mountain Park trails (introduced later) are about half a mile away and get us some elevation. Pennington Park a block or so away gets us a creek. We have access to the Lake Grove Swim Park (but don’t swim there – it is the place that I get cheap hot dogs) based on our address. It is open only a couple of months a year. It seems like a throwback to the 1950s. There is a loop which takes us past the Swim Park and along the Lake.
Aside from birds (many corvids – crows and jays), and squirrels we have seen deer a few times in the neighborhood and a coyote at least once. There are encintina newts in Iron Mountain Park.
The former owners were not very good about preparing the place for us, so we had some minor fix ups. I think that the aforementioned owners bought a place that we had looked at and decided was too much for us and needed too much work. We had a shed in bad shape torn down.
We knew that the cedar shake roof needed replacement and got that done fairly soon. The drive way which was already cracked, got worse from the weight of the shingle loader. We made a mistake in thinking that we were using a firm recommended by friends, but it was one with a similar name. Somebody else replaced the gutters. Much later, after we inherited some money, we went back to a company that installed pavers to replace the driveway and more. The company had lowered the price because we got the next bid during the great recession of 2008. Some of the problems that we have come from building on a formerly marshy area which was filled. As we were told that that the lawn might have buried trees that were cut when the lot was created. That was confirmed when a mole dug up rotted tree parts.
My fun with Shower repair inspired the horror “Shower Of Power”.
The paver people swore that the buckle pattern in the driveway would remain obvious because of its different color and the driveway would not sag. They lied on both counts. The buckle pattern, which is also on my writing card, represents some of our initials – D, H, J and S.
Our other major expenses in rough order of price – dish washer, dryer, installing a staircase to the attic, floor insulation, fences, front and back decks, A/C, and furnace. We have gone through a couple of maintenance people for HVAC before we found a keeper. The first was the installer who had to fix the furnace after only two years and the second claimed to have replaced a part which he refused to show us. The floor insulation caused a leak which was repaired, but we still have a loose piece of wallboard in that wall.
When we thought that some animal was trying to get in through the vent, a crawl in the crawl space found loose ductwork and McDonald’s wrappers. I made a temporary repair with duct tape before learning that duct tape is no longer used on ducts, and we had a professional redo all of the ductwork connections.
There are five houses on our common drive way. If or when the driveway has to be redone we are all equally on the hook…Normally, there is plenty of on street parking. The five houses are a part of seven which were built in 1987. All of them had infamous L-P siding which went bad and was replaced by Hardiplank.
Despite our efforts to get to know our neighbors, we only regularly communicate with the people in the other four houses on our driveway and from the house on the other side of our back fence Bob and Katy. They replaced a single mother whose son liked to throw things over the fence. The new neighbors have co-operated on tree trimming and our common fence. In the short time that they have been there, they have had three sons.
I tried to get work, but not very hard. In July 1998 I officially retired. I paid actuarial dues for awhile, but it didn’t do anything for me but cost money, so I quit and am no longer an accredited actuary. No regrets.
The going counterclockwise, the closest house to ours is home to Nader and Shoreh. Their daughter has grown up and left home since we moved in. Because I was interested in their heritage and suspected Persian, I asked my Persian correspondent Sam if those were Persian names. He said they were and meant rare and famous respectively. Eric and Shelley live on the other side of them. They also have a daughter who has left home. Margie lives in the next over from them. We share feral cat feeding with her. More later. The last house is a rental. A fellow who worked in Seattle, thought that he might come back to live there, but when that didn’t happen, he sold to a landlord group. The first renters started feeding the four gray cats in our area, which Margie and the two of us took over when they moved out. The next renters seemed to be a nice couple with two young sons, but he cheated on her and they moved out. The third and current set is a young couple, who have filled in on cat feeding when we and Margie are out of town at the same time.
Shortly after we moved, we sold the Cimarron (fake Cadillac) to our former neighbors for a pittance. The kept it for a long time and then sold it for a $1. My specs for our next car were American sedan with a stick shift and a six cylinder engine. About our only choice was 1998 Ford Contour. So for $18,000 and change we got it. The experience was a mixed bag. It was a decent performer and got average mpg. It wasn’t AWD, couldn’t carry much and had to have a gas tank replaced and ventilation worked on. I feared what would happen after the warrantee ran out, but didn’t want to pay for extended coverage.
Specs were adjusted based on our experience. On one of our hikes a friend let me drive his Subaru Impreza. Subarus are not American cars, but some are built in the USA. All of them are AWD and have adequate cargo space, so we got our first Subaru, a 5 speed 2000 Outback on 9/11/1999 for $21,000. The trade in for the Contour was abysmal. It had a sunroof and our first car computer. We were quite happy with it. Its major problem was a transmission replacement (that will come up again). When we started snowshoeing, it was good for us and other passengers. We traded it in on a 2005 model on 9/11/1999 when it had 84,000 miles. We were coming up to the time that an expensive new timing belt was due and decided to get something new. That one cost $23,000 and was much like our previous Subaru. We had some leaking joints (not us, the car) which set us back a few hundred, and the wiring harness had to be replaced when we couldn’t open the hatch. When the A/C went out we were lucky that it was caused by something hitting it from the ground and the $2,000 (?) the repair cost was covered by insurance. When the clutch started to go, we sold it to my Boring cousin Jim H. for $2,000 on April 5, 2018.
Sometime during the Subaru years we got a 1994 Geo Prizm stripper, which was a Toyota Corolla with a makeover, made in Freemont California. It was left with us while a friend went east to look after her father. We just had to pay for expenses which were significant because it had no service records. On 02/14/2005 we bought it from her for $1,000. By 02/04/2007 we had problems starting it and our local Les Schwab was no help. We gave it away to charity.
When I got my first IRA minimum distribution, we decided to get a second car. The specs this time was an economy hatchback. After working up a comparison sheet for all of our choices, I came up with a Ford Fiesta which we bought for $16,000 on 9/24/2013. Pluses – good mpg, fair cargo space, small, attractive (subjective), cheap. Minuses – slow, limited cubbies, few features.
We decided to get a “greener” car (it is silver). We weren’t ready for a totally electric car. After doing my homework, I decided on Chevrolet Volt. After looking at a lot of ads, I decided to go for a high end model for a change. We followed up on an ad for a $36,000 car. We got it on 8/22/2017, but hated McLoughlin Chevrolet – lowballed the trade in to the extent that we almost walked, made us wait a long time before talking to the honcho and then after we bought, ran out of electricity on the way home, and had a dent they wouldn’t fix.
The pluses – good storage space, about 60 miles of pure electric followed by 40+mpg, all the safety features, good speed (have not tried sports mode yet), maintenance is cheap and infrequent. The minuses – hatch is tough to close and does not have a windshield wiper, still don’t understand climate control, no cd player, expensive OnStar and Sirius. Overall, the best car that we have ever had, but they don’t make them anymore. We spent about a thousand for the fast charger. As of 5/11/2020 about 25,000 miles.
Most of my plans don’t work, but deciding to wait six months before jumping into anything did. During that time we investigated the area and hung out with my mother. At first she was in an apartment in our old haunts in NE Portland. We were nervous about the stair that she had to navigate to her second story apartment. For awhile we did the night driving, or to places that she wasn’t used to. Later we took her car (she agreed, but later said that she hadn’t). At the time driving from our place to hers on the other side of the Willamette was 18 minutes and 13 miles. The driving in Portland had gotten much worse.
Later we found her a place in Lake Oswego. I liked that one because we could user her small outdoor pool. A kind downstairs neighbor helped her out some. It was easy to walk to, but we usually drove.
Her next stop was at Summerfield retirement apartments in Tigard. She couldn’t get into most places, because she smoked, and even at Summerfield there were very few smokers and she had to smoke in her room. When we tried to clean the first apartment, it was coated in tar. During her time there she needed to be hospitalized once or twice. Had to quit smoking in the hospital, but would restart as soon as she could. Don’t start kids.
She stayed with us when she broke her ankle, slipping in her bathroom. Oops. It was tough to accommodate smoking. We did some shopping for her, eating with her, driving for her. We took her places until close to the end. One of her requests was to run on the beach a last time. She didn’t want visits during weekdays because that was the time for her soaps.
We had a lot of people for her 90th birthday at her old grade school Kennedy, which had been converted to a McMenamins, a local chain of movie theatres / restaurants / hotels. A friend held a “prom” at Kennedy. People from their twenties to their sixties got down to a fine band. Most of the McMenamins had been converted from something else and had lots of quirky art.
One Sunday in January 2009 she called saying that she was very ill, but Sharon had the car at band practice. Later she got a ride to the hospital. We were told that she could stay there or go home. I was afraid of what would happen if she went home, so we planned to pick her up the next day. Around midnight we got a really scary call which turned out to be the idiot hospital asking about her meds. A little later that night we got the call. She had died of pneumonia. Later yet, we got a call from Oregon Hospital and Science University, because she had pledged her brain as a part of a study. We later found that her brain had declined (it wasn’t obvious to us) and that she had one or more subdermal hematomas. She had not told us about all of her falls. I’m convinced that she would have lived to be a hundred instead of close to ninety-five if she hadn’t smoked. We scattered her ashes on Cannon Beach OR (named after a cannon found there), famous for Haystack Rock. Some of them blew onto us. My father’s ashes were scattered in at least three of his favorite places.
I can’t explain what she meant to me.
After the six month period, Sharon and I started volunteering at a park that we had seen earlier, Tryon. It is partially in Portland, Lake Oswego, and unincorporated Clackamas County and partly in unincorporated Multnomah County. Various concerned citizens got it started in 1970 to save it from development. It is named after early settler Socrates Tryon who originally lived there. Tryon Creek and smaller creeks run through it. Tryon Creek starts miles away and terminates in the Willamette River. The topography is filled with canyons, ridges and plateaus.
I started working at Booktique, a used book store which support the LO library (I’ll use LO to indicate Lake Oswego), and Sharon restarted community band with the Tualatin band.
Our time spent hiking has been the biggest deal for us.
I’ll come back to all of those things, but first – cats (not the musical).
Pooch lived long enough to have a twentieth birthday party (which she did not attend) which had lots of our hiker buds eating chocolate – hazelnut milkshakes at a local Burgerville (a Vancouver centered local chain). She is the one that held long conversations when we were leaving our Corte Madera house. The last few years of her life we had to inject her with subcutaneous fluids. She liked us equally and slept beside me in cold weather, Sharon in hot weather. At the end her heart was beating rapidly, she was mostly deaf and blind, but still a good buddy. Before she was put to sleep in 2005she had no fluids where she should and fluids where she shouldn’t have. Very tough to say goodbye.
Our plan was to go cat free and see the world. Thinking about seeing the world, when it came to the details, made us tired. In 2009 a friend left us a cat to foster because the cat’s person had died with no plans for the cat. Harriet, the hairy pet, was the mellowest being ever. Most cats get squirmy when carried up stairs. She was just fine with it. We couldn’t find out much about her age or condition, so we don’t know how long that she lived. One of her quirks was sleeping beside me, but pointing in the opposite direction. She made it until 2012.
Finally cat free. Oops. In 2013 other friends needed a home for a cat whose person had become senile. So we got fat orange “Honey”. The cat had become honey because the former owner couldn’t remember his name. He now has two names – Honey at his vet and Kitzhaber (long for Kitz and because he wouldn’t be a good governor either [disgraced John Kitzhaber reference]) with us. Former person overfed him, so our first job was to get him to eat less.
We have got him from 18 pounds to 15 pounds. He has an automatic feeder which works sometimes. I’m in charge of his output.
At first he wanted out. For one thing, he thought he was an outdoor cat and for a second, he wanted nothing to do with us and his new home. Shortly after he moved in he broke through a second story window rolled off the roof and kept going. After a few days of looking for him, we found out that he was just across the street stealing food from a neighbor cat. I caught him in a raccoon trap, and cat proofed the house. He may be lulling into being careless, but he has not bailed again.
He loves the editor lap and spends a lot of time there. He has come to tolerate me. Recently I’ve trained him, or he has trained me to rub his belly as well as his back. I’m still risking flesh and blood depending on his mood. He seems to be in decent health for a middle aged male. We share a similar defect – a heart murmur. More on my health later. Don’t know which of us will live longer.
Not our cat, but Stumpy (tail) Earl used to love the two of us up on one of our walks. His people moved away. We found this out through old man Gary taking walks with his dogs. He is on his third since we have been here, Hershey.
Until late 2019 the feral tribe of gray cats had remained stable. Sharon named them White Legs, Tabby, Big Guy and Fuzzy based on physical characteristics. When it was our turn to feed them, I would see anywhere from zero to four cats coming for breakfast. Despite our long term relationship, they would never allow us to get close, but we did enjoy watching one or more of the tribe in our yard or next door. Of the original tribe, we still see White Legs sometimes, Fuzzy rarely and the other two not at all. We don’t know if they found another restaurant, died or what. Cats have been killed by coyotes in our town. A couple of replacements may be feeding at the same trough, Black and Black and White.
5/25/2020 Kitzhaber broke out through a different screen when Black and White offended him by being too close to the window that Kitz was looking out. When cornered by Sharon, K freaked and scratched her good.
Cats have inspired “Cat’s Religion”, “Kitten On The Keyboard”, “Cat Of Hanley” and “Cat Tales” in Strictly Short Humour”.
Back to our activities after introduction to Lake Oswego. Sharon started with the Tualatin Valley Community Band in 1998. In 1999 the LOCMB was organized to play one concert at the end of 1999. That worked, so they kept going. Sharon is a charter member and spent some time on the board. She left the less convenient TVCB. Traditionally up until 2020 there have been four concerts a year 7:30 – 9 on Sundays except for the Fourth of July concert. A typical concert has classical numbers, marches, and popular medleys with some obscure things thrown in. They are free, but donations are solicited. They are held at a local high school, except for the Fourth Of July. A subset of the whole band plays before the concerts and there have been dance parties played the last few years.
Dale was the conductor until 1999 when Dick took over, but the new guy hasn’t had anything to do in 2020 yet. All this year’s concerts so far were cancelled due to the pandemic.
After a couple of years one or two of the original ushers died or was disabled. Since then I’ve done program and donation duties. A few of the band members have died, one by suicide.
In the beginning mother Sue would go with us, but she wasn’t up to it after awhile. Bad stuff – Sharon closed the car door on her fingers by accident.
Band highlight – Being invited to play at the national community band convention in Ramon California, and, as a result, applying for and winning a national community band award. Lowlight – ending early and dramatically when theatrical sets stored on top of baffles above the stage fell on the band in the middle of a concert.
In the spring of 1998, the two of us got involved in Tryon Park about five miles from us. Sharon, after deciding against stewardship, signed up for being a nature guide as she had done in Marin. I started many years of stewardship which was ivy pulling one day a month and trail improvement one day a month. Each gig was three hours long.
The ivy removal consisted of pulling the vines, getting as much root as possible and piling them off the ground. When I started most of the park was covered in ivy, even though our boss Phil had been working on it for years before I got there. If one calculates the number of person hours to remove, say four hundred acres of ivy, using as a rule of thumb, fifty square feet per person hour and 43,560 square feet per acre, one gets a very large number.
Like the ivy, some trail had been improved before I got there. With typical Portland rain, parts of the trails became inches deep in water or mud in the long winter. Our job was to lay down a thin layer of pea gravel to toughen the trails, and make water bars and trenches to divert water off the trail. The gravel was dropped by park personnel at various places along the trail by ATV type vehicles, and volunteers would move it by wheelbarrow or bucket, depending on the terrain and then spread it with shovels. The rock got embedded by pounding with the shovels and walking on it. Water diversion was done with shovels and picks. Carrying a shovel in the park inspired to me write “Dig” which was fully formed in my head before I got home. It is in Yellow Mama as well as this blog.
A typical work party would have about ten people in it. For years, I was the only one besides Phil who lasted long.
After a few years when the trails were complete rocked, we went to mostly ivy pulling, with trail maintenance during the winter.
In some order, I started working on Wednesday afternoons for a couple of hours, the work parties increased to every Saturday, three of us worked on Sundays, and regular Saturday work parties ceased, and a hard core few went out on Saturdays.
I started Wednesdays because my Wednesday was already taken up in the morning by my job at Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center (the hospital with too many names – more on that later). A fellow hiker, Larry M. also worked that Tryon shift. We mostly did the other things besides pulling ground ivy – some trail work, removing ivy from trees, digging up European clematis and poisoning or digging up or poisoning the stumps of non-native hawthorn, holly and laurel trees. When not killing, we planted native shrubs, trees and ferns. During those years, I was working at Tryon about nine hours a week.
Sunday work parties were much the same as Wednesday work parties. I asked Phil when and why we started Sundays. He couldn’t remember.
Phil started to slow down. Despite his drive, he was ten years older than me and had lung problems. Towards the end of our joint work parties, I would go ahead of him to work sites and find things to do along the way while waiting for him to catch up. Larry M., who was nine years older than me, quit shortly before Phil died in 2017 after 25 years and 25,000 volunteer hours Diane took over after apprenticing for a few years and a variable number of us from two to seven of us now go out every Saturday without sanctioning from Tryon. An official work party goes out twice a month without us.
I have not put in much time at my “adopt a plot” in the last few years after devoting hundreds of hours earlier. The plot is several acres of the park that I maintained. In addition to stewardship, I did time on parking duty, using GPS to improve maps of the park, and helping with family events.
I found a speech that I gave at Portland Old Boys that covers some of the same ground that this does on Tryon. It is in this blog under “Stewardship at Tryon Park”. Another non-fiction in this blog and published at Wilderness House about a pleasant sighting in the park is about escaped goats – “Freedom”.
In my years there I’ve been stung by bees multiple times, had thorns painfully embedded in my fingertips, irritated by stinging nettle, fallen down in various ways, gotten soaked, and overheated to the extent of panting like a dog. Two particular ivy events stick with me. One was on a broad limb about five feet above the ground. To get at it I had to climb to the limb and then work my way out on it. The other was ivy embedded on a log across a creek. I intended to walk out on the log to get rid of the ivy, but I soon found out that the ivy was all that was holding the log together and gave up. Good times.
We have made adjustments during quarantine by working in a part of the park behind the house of one of us. My total volunteer hours at Tryon are 4646 (5/17/2020).
Circa 2012 I started working on Iron Mountain Park about half a mile from my house. I had seen postings that requested volunteers. That job is only two hours at a time, maybe six times a year (also currently suspended for quarantine). We plant the usual suspects and remove ivy.
Iron Mountain Park is on a hill side north of Oswego Lake covering 51 acres. It adjoins the stables of the Lake Oswego Hunt Club. It is named Iron Mountain because ore was mined there for a smelter by the Willamette River. The main trail is where the ore was carted to the smelter.
After awhile, I got a position on the Friends of Iron Mountain board. Outside of the regular work parties, our leader Mike and I did most of the work on the “Thousand Tree Project”, removing ivy from a thousand trees per name. In 2014 all of us on the board got one of the annual Lake Oswego “Unsung Heroes” awards. That should make me sung.
As this is written there are plans for expensive updates to the park.
Our first hike from Lake Oswego was with the LO Park and Rec (LORD of the hikes) in January of 1998. We went to Sauvie Island just downriver from Portland. Sauvie Island is a small farming community and big gathering place for birds. Sauvie has 32 square miles and a population of a thousand. It was a miserable day and we had not dressed appropriately. Further, we thought Portlanders didn’t use umbrellas. It was an easy few mile hike and we were hooked.
Portland area people have close places to hike around Mt. Hood, northern Oregon coast, northern Willamette Valley and particularly the Columbia Gorge (Oregon and Washington). Washington mountains St. Helens and Mt. Adams are a little farther, but accessible for a day hike. We avoid hiking at the farther destinations and higher elevations during the snow season. In the summer, higher elevations provide more suitable temperatures.
In the spring, the Tryon associated Daytripper hiking started on Tuesday. For several years, we went on every one of the Tuesday and Thursday hikes if physically and geographically available. At one point I had the most combined Tuesday and Thursday hiking miles for the year. Over time, we became much pickier over which hikes which we would do; depending on how recently we had done them, the weather and the weather. We didn’t want to spend too much of our time driving and too little hiking and I don’t think that sitting down for a two hour trip home is healthy. Then there is how much worse the traffic is compared to twenty years ago.
For awhile we regularly hiked in Forest Park on Saturday, but they got cancelled and we had other Saturday activities.
When we started we may have been ten years older than the average hiker, but by now that may be reversed.
Some things are the same as when we started. Volunteers (and we started the first year) lead hikes and make up the hiking schedule with locations, leaders (usually one or two), 2nd meeting places, and driver donation, and LO Park And Rec puts together a brochure. We carpool to the location. At the hike, the leader introduces the hike and picks a sweep that ensures that no one gets lost.
Despite the two groups starting in 1980 and 1984, it still looks much the same. Julia, who is still alive, but inactive, got it started. Hikers and starting points have changed many times over the years. Because some hikers were up for the big hikes, a few years after we started, an alternate “ramble” was added. They were ideally something like less than 5 miles with climbs less than 1,000 feet (loose definition).
A big change caused a lot of acrimony. Originally all Tuesday hikes were sponsored by the Friends of Tryon Creek SP (the Daytrippers) and the outings were all planned and led separately from the Thursday group, sponsored by LO Park and Rec. One person pushed for dropping Daytripper hiking for several reasons. He thought that we needed a larger organization in order to be viable and better support. Sharon, from her Tryon connections, knew that Tryon did not insure the hike leader and did not have much interest in the group (after we dropped the association, the Executive Director wondered about the loss). Sharon mostly agreed, but wanted an orderly dissolution. At that point, LO had not even agreed to take on more hikes. This led to an absurd amount of acrimony to the point that the main opposition man, who had been possibly my best friend didn’t want to have anything to do with uninvolved me. This was a very divisive issue, and he and his girlfriend left town a few years later after avoiding most of their old hiking friends.
Since all the hikes are now under the City of LO, Sharon and a couple of friends have been doing all of the heavy lifting, doing all of the scheduling. We have cut back a little, and we don’t know what will happen and when because of Covid. Most hikers are old and retired and susceptible.
I don’t know how much we have hiked since 1998, but it is around a thousand hikes and many miles of hikes, so I’m not going to detail, I’ll just give some highlights.
Geographical note – much of the Northwest geography has been formed by the Pacific Ocean, the Missoula Floods and volcanoes.
The first year we were told that we should hike two mountains on the Washington side of the Gorge – Dog and Table. Note – most of this info is from William Sullivan books, the go to guy for Northwest Hikers and also a novelist. EG is accumulated elevation gain in feet and miles is the length of the rail in miles.
Table Mt: 3380 EG and 8.6 miles. This is the place of a landslide 550 years ago which made a temporary “Bridge Of The Gods” across the Columbia River. Very steep, flat on top, hence name. Trail down, at least formerly, was narrow and rock filled making falls and breaks easy. The road to get to the trail has grown longer and I’ve gotten older, so I’ve only done it twice.
Dog Mountain: 3000 EG and 6.9 miles (loop) – Hugely popular, so much so that during the best times, you must go by bus. It can be accessed by different trails with different levels of difficulty. Years ago we did it every year. Last time we did a partial climb, which wasn’t bad, but my knees were killing me on the way down.
Also in Washington Gorge: Beacon Rock 600 EG and 1.8 miles and Hamilton Mountain. These two are adjacent. Beacon Rock is an 848 block of basalt saved from being used as a quarry by a heroic citizen. It is popular with rock climbers and from a distance looks quite formidable, but a spiral trail, some places suspended in space lead to the top. Hamilton Mt. is 2000 EG and 7.6 miles
The Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge may be a little better for hikes because of the greater number of waterfalls, many of which are along the Historic Columbia River Highway which was the main road before I-84 The Multnomah Falls trail and its connections are preeminent. The main trail starts between the Columbia River and the falls. The falls are 620 feet high, but because one must climb higher than the falls to get to them, the total gain is 700 feet. The 2.2 mile up and down is a huge tourist attraction. During popular times it may be impossible to get in the parking lot. If one keeps going after the falls, one will pass other lesser falls and climb a total of 14 miles and 4,000 feet to the top of Larch Mountain at Sherrard Point where one can see several major mountains Rainier, Adams, Hood, St. Helens and Jefferson. It is the easiest 14 mile, 4,000 EG hike that I know because the inclines is fairly steady. I’ve done the whole thing three times. Once driving to the top we saw a bear running across the road. Thought it was a dog, a horse before knowing it was one crazy fast bear. You can’t outrun a bear, be faster than the other person.
A shorter, perhaps more scenic hike connects Wahkeena Falls and trail with the Multnomah trail with 5.4 miles, 1600 EG. A highlight of that hike is the stream that feeds the Wahkeena. Other connectors will get you to Angel’s Rest, Devil’s Rest and the Oneota Trail. These trails have lots of pointy rocks and can be hard on the feet.
Another hard rock trail is the iconic Eagle Creek (the big one, there is another one). 12 miles / 1200 EG. This is quite scenic, but much of the trail was blasted out of rock by the same people that built the old highway. There are many places with sheer drop-offs, some of which have hand cables. With my dislike of heights it is a little nervous making. You get a cave behind one of the falls and another close to the end that has two parts that cross over each other, hence Cross Over Falls. I led it on a very hot day when many people were out of water by the end. At lunch one time I kicked off a boot which rolled into a pool just above one of the falls. Without thinking, I ended up in the stream to retrieve. I didn’t go over the falls or die, but did have a wet boot all the way back. Just to the west is Munra Point 1800 EG in only 1.5 miles. There are scrambles and it is a little scary at the top.
Mt. Defiance is the highest point in the Gorge. When the hiking group has hiked it, they take a long drive to get close to the top, then take a 5 mile hike with 1100 EG gain to the top where there is a microwave tower for heating fast food (rare joke). Outside the hiking group, I’ve done it three times from the bottom. 4800 (I call it 5000)/12.1 mile loops. The first time nearly killed me. The leader may have thought that I was having a heart attack. Making it more difficult the last thousand feet of gain was in snow which obliterated the trail. The rest of the group was some sort of bionic creatures from a lab. The next was with a friend who wanted to go with someone who had done it before. We were temporarily befuddled by a timber cut that obliterated the trail. The third and last time was with a group of women who wanted to do a marathon (which I did as well for the first time). They just went up and then carpooled down. Friend Larry M. and I got down in only 2 hours 25 minutes, barely behind the drivers. I had intended to do it once a year. So much for intentions.
There are two approaches, Starvation (from the time a train was stranded in the snow in that location without food – nobody starved) and Defiance which refers to its keeping its snow longer. I have gone up one way and come back the other.
Mt. Hood has so many hikes; it is hard to pick out just a few. Note that many of these have great view for miles and are close to glaciers.
Ramona Falls is a fairly easy and popular one that we have done a few times 7 miles / 1000 EG. The falls are a thin covering over a cliff, at least when we have been there. It was a site of a bridge wash out that resulted in several deaths. One time we extended to Yocum Ridge. If we went the whole way (hard to tell because we ended up in snow and lost the trail) it was 18.4 miles 3880 EG, but a fairly steady incline.
Barrett Spur 15.6 miles / 3880 EG This is a killer. For much of the way the trail is volcanic ash which sucks energy like sand. Then there is the steep wall of loose rock which invites broken ankles. After surmounting that, there is another pile of loose rock. I did it twice, but may not have done the whole thing. Would not do it again.
Paradise Park 12.2 miles / 2300 EG. Go west from Timberline Lodge, cross through a couple of canyons. At the end there is what I think of as a Rodan (flying monster of Godzilla movies) cracked egg, a rock about ten feet high. In the last few days (6/2/2020) someone writing about the rock referred to it as Split Rock.
McNeil Point 9.6 miles / 2200 EG Views and ends up at a rock shelter for mountain climbers. There are couple of junctions where one can get lost among various options. We’ve done it several times.
Cooper Spur 8.2 miles / 2800 EG Ends at tie in rock where real mountain climbing starts.
Illumination Rock 6 miles /3600 EG. This starts at Timberline Lodge and ends at an outcrop on Hood elevation 9500 feet. There is no trail, it is however you want to get there and it is all in the snow. Did it twice. Towards the end I took ten steps and sucked wind despite not climbing much.
Circumnavigating Mt. Hood (and St. Helens) shows up later.
In 2018 forest fires closed many trails. The biggest story was of boys who set a fire along Eagle Creek with fireworks.
There are parks all up and down the Oregon Coast. The best beach in Washington is the very long Long Beach starting at the mouth of the Columbia.
Mount Hebo 6.4 Miles / 1500 EG. Go through a forest before getting to the Mount. There is an option, a short steep scramble or a longer walk along a road. At the top is the remains of a radar station located here because it was the farthest north elevation on the coast where snow was rare. We led it twice. We were lucky on a scout and one of the hikes. A hike before did it was so miserable the group turned back. This close to a coastal city that we like, Pacific City, with a sports bar that has fine jo-jos and Black Butte Porter beer, the inspiration for “Dark”.
Neahkahnie Mountain – 5.1 mile /1000 EG. Again the stats are not too bad, but it is a rough, rutted trail, steep trail with some scrambles. Good views from the top. The Oswald West parking lot, commemorating the governor that preserved the beaches for the citizens, provides access to Short Sand Beach a favorite of my childhood. Side note – the prefix “Ne” on many place names is from the native language indicating a place and the rest of the word is a description thereof.
Cascade Head – 6 miles /1200 EG. Yet again tougher than it sounds. Not open year around because it is the gathering place of an endangered butterfly. Not too steep until close to the end and then very steep. Elk seen on more than one occasion and sea lions at least heard.
Saddle Mountain 5.2 Miles / 1620 EG The stats make it sound easy, but it is not. This is the highest point in NW Oregon. On a clear day, one can see Astoria and the Astoria – Megler Bridge across the Columbia, but clear days are rare. It is Saddle Mountain because on the way up, you go down into a saddle. The part after the saddle is steep and covered in loose rock. We have done this in good weather, mediocre weather and weather so bad that I was the first of only two people to go to the top where nothing could be seen.
Besides my editor and few current volunteers, there have been several hiking heroes. Joan led the lunch bunch for several years. After being in the formal hiking program for awhile, we started on this endeavor which filled in on Tuesdays between quitting in November and starting up again in April. Joan would organize field trips which would end up at various restaurants for lunch. We would see the National Guard at the airport, flowers at Alpenrose Dairy and things like that. When she aged out, Sharon took over and recruited anybody willing to set up a short hike and lunch.
A kind of LO special event hike involved hiring a bus to take to a farther location. Not driving allowed us to drink and eat on the way home. Hikers would bring snacks and wine. We used a bus for the McKenzie River, a tributary of the Willamette River where we hiked the trail to the lake which was the source of the McKenzie, Eugene where we visited a raptor center and climbed a local butte (either Spencer or Skinner) and Cottonwood Canyon a new (at the time) State Park in Central Oregon where a lot of us overheated. We climbed Smith Rock, famous rock climbing outcrop next to Terrebonne Oregon by trail, not by face, and got to see Monkey Face close up.
For circumnavigating a couple of local mountains, we needed several bus trips for each. On the Timberline Trail around Mt. Hood we had scary streams to cross and a least one person fell off the trail. Larry M. was very good about getting people through one creek. He pointed out which stones which were under a few inches of water needed to be used. For another crossing, I got impatient and fell in, but could then help others to the other side. The trail is 41 miles long, but our total for all of the sections was much longer because the bus let us off in places where we had to climb to the trail. Our friends Joyce and Gary B. wanted to do a segment that we couldn’t schedule, so we went with them and other friend Judy. Gary B. got us an extra two miles and thousand feet of elevation by going the wrong way from the parking lot. Because we were not up to a 17 mile round trip, Sharon and Joyce went back to the car and drove it to the other end.
The Loowit Trail around Mount St. Helens is thirty miles in length, but again we went farther because of not being delivered directly to the trail. This was well after the eruption, but the effects were still obvious. There was a lot of bare land. The Chocolate Water Fall started running while we were there. Sometimes of the year, it doesn’t run until the sun warms enough for snow to melt and supply mud. Larry M. and I saved the group some walking when we discovered that a detour was unexpectedly unnecessary. At the time, I was spry enough in the boulder parts to hop in front to find the best route when there was no trail. The method of bouldering was controversial – I liked moving fast to maintain momentum, others wanted to take it one rock at a time. We were warned before had that there were tricky slopes. I asked “Contusions, broken bones and bruise, or screaming to your death slopes?”, when I was assured it was the former, I was willing to go. On some of the slopes, I went ahead, so if I fell hundreds of feet, others would not try it. Oddly, looking back looked worse than when I was on said slopes.
Since January 1, 1999 we have done the New Year’s walk around Oswego Lake almost every year. It is about seven miles with lots of ups and downs. Some years have been miserable, some have been OK.
Michele was the lead volunteer and now she (strangely) organizes hike communication from her new home in Minnesota.
Stan, Keith and Mel were stalwarts of hiking, nice guys and Korean War veterans. I’m sad that they are all deceased.
Hiking inspired “Hiking Etiquette” and “Hike On North Gales Creek”, both in Strictly Short Humour.
Not all of our exercise was from hiking, but most of our friends are or were hikers.
Ruth and Sheldon took us under their wing shortly after we arrived. We did a little backpacking with them and stayed at their cabin along the Siletz several times before it was sold. The location plays a big part in my favorite story “Old”.
Jim S. and I swam and ran together with Frank (mostly a four miler along the Willamette) before a falling out. Jim S. also led me on some runs through Tryon. Pat is our snow shoe leader and good pal.
Quent was a TV producer for CBS and has a bunch of great stories from his career. Both of us ran the around Oswego Lake. Him quick and frequent, me slow and twice. The run is a ten click with lots of EG. He is now hobbled by a horrid disease, but still makes Quent’s Column for the Portland Old Boys newsletter. His wife Bee is a recorder star.
Gary B. and Joyce B. have an interesting story. When we met, they were together, but divorced and planning to get remarried. They live in Damascus where Joyce has done marvelous landscaping. Gary is a superannuated motorcycle racer.
They were told by their accountant that they needed to get remarried before they did wills. On a fine October day, we hiked up 6 mile, 2570EG to 7215 foot high Ollalie Butte next to Ollalie Lake where they got remarried. Friend Judy was the minister (a Buddhist) and Ray read an Apache poem. I was the ring dude and Sharon was the flower babe. We are unsure whether we were in Clackamas or Hood River County. They marched through a bower of crossed walking sticks. Judy’s friend from Rhode Island looked a little dazed because she was not used to a strenuous hike with lots of climbing. Ollalie was a later October hike when the top was frosted and cold. Few made it to the top that time. The second wedding took and they are solid hikers and shoers.
Al was a new hiker and a swell guy. He invited several of us to dances at his Elks lodge in Milwaukie OR. After we had known him and wife Bee for a short while we got the devastating call that he had died of a stroke while vacationing in Washington state. It was a real shock because he seemed healthy and full of life. A lesson to all of us.
Barbara and Alan were married to other people when we first met them, but soon after they were both widowed and ended up married to each other. Alan runs Portland Old Boys and Barbara has kindly hosted birthday parties for several of us.
Elmer and Joan started hiking with us a hike that I led, Tom, Dick and Harry, about ten years ago, and then became regulars as hikers and leaders thereof. In another heart-breaker, Joan died after seeming to be in good shape just two weeks prior.
Many of the aforementioned men are members of Portland Old Boys, and several of the people are now in retirement homes, particularly Mary’s Woods. When there is no quarantine, we visit every other Monday for a free glass of wine at their happy hour. We qualify because practical Sharon has us on the waiting list at their god’s waiting room. Personally, I’d rather (and I may) drop dead before that happens.
I joined POB, a men’s group that meets for breakfast and talks sometime in the 21st century and now am the social secretary. I’ve done a few of the talks, including “Balance”. A buddy there, Steve, did a presentation on Diamond Head, which we had seen several times from Honolulu, so the next time we were there we took the walk.
I’m a poor swimmer, but I did a bit of swimming in the 50 meter (?) at our when we were in Mountain Park. Because I’m very poor at coordinating stokes and breathing and I naturally sink, I backstroked. After that was no longer available, I swam in a Portland public park once, splashed about a bit in the pool at my mother’s first apartment in Lake Oswego, and body surfed in our visit to Hawaii in 2012.
For a few years we belonged to a local Providence gym. After they lost the only class that I liked, quit giving cholesterol tests and put a TV in the locker room that people wanted to use continuously and loudly, we quit. I got some dumbbells and a used stationary bike. I rode the bike for 20 minutes before Booktique for many years, but it is now a clothes hanger.
Next we joined a Snap Fitness, cheap, but no classes or showers. It did have full set of exercise equipment. With regular use, I got quite strong for a 60 something little man. The last few years we have had free gym at both Providence and our local 24 Hour Fitness from our health care provider. We did yoga at Providence and exercise classes with weights and cardio at 24 Hour.
Somewhere, sometime we got a used “8 Minutes In The Morning” by Jorge Cruise which has sets of exercises for specific body parts six days a week for four weeks. I did that regularly for years, but when my left shoulder went bad, I quit, then came back sporadically. Lately, we have done it again during lockdown.
For awhile after we moved into our house, I did curl with 35# dumbbells and maybe 400 pushups MWF. Restarted, it is 30# dumbbells and 200+ pushups.
In 1999 at the recommendation of friend Ruth I did my first marathon. Since friend Judy wanted another marathon and had done a couple when she lived in New Mexico, we walked the fifteen mile round trip on local Terwilliger Blvd. (eponymous Bob Terwilliger in the Simpsons) for practice. Later I finished the real thing and attempted a cartwheel at the end. In all I did four Portland Marathons with some combination of Boring cousin Jim H., marathoner at the time, and sister in law Cindi and her husband Ken. At the time, they were all serious marathoners, but now have limiting injuries. All of my times were around 5.5 to 6.5 hours. I didn’t practice much, but did improve through the first three. On the last one, I lost interest after a fairly fast half marathon after I crossed the St. Johns Bridge. Fatigued mind told me there was another eight miles to go, the size of a hefty hike, after all that I had done. I walked slowly the rest of the way and had my worst and last time. Earlier I had been discouraged that my times would only have been impressive in the 85 and up category. One of them ended with me being covered in a space blanket I looked so scary.
I was in many shorter races for a few years. I never like distance running, but I was seduced by its purported effects on health. A few of this were somewhat interesting. I did a Shamrock (around Easter) in shorts and froze my buns off. Never did warm up. A nameless (at least not remembered) run had beer at the halfway mark. Don’t know if it helped or hurt. Nike had a One Hit Wonder run in Portland that had people like Flock Of Seagulls and Devo doing their one hits along the way. Sharon did a different version. We had walkie-talkies but took a long time to find each other while just across the street. As one of the few in my age group, I got one of my two running trophies. I don’t think that they exist anymore, but I’d do more than the two Beat The Burnsides that I did do if there were. They were mostly downhill from the Portland Zoo to the east side of the Burnside Bridge across the Willamette. You could start when you wanted, but if you didn’t cross the bridge by 9am, the bridge opened and no bagels, no award. Nothing was timed, it was finished or not. If one wanted to live dangerous, the idea was to start as late as deemed likely to succeed. Not I, I left plenty early.
I rarely run anymore, I favor my knees over my heart.
There is both a Hood to Coast (200 miles) and Portland to Coast (132 miles) relay every year. The former is for serious runners, and the latter is limited to walkers. I did the walker in 2007 and 2008. Some people, such as my Boring cousin, did it for years and have a regular crew. In my case it was two makeshift operations. The thing is difficult for several reasons – it costs a lot, there is no marked off course, you compete with motor traffic, you unsuccessfully attempt sleep in a van or on the ground, and you must commit volunteers.
The first time we had a standard eight people on the team, and the second it was six. In 2007 one of my two relays was the longest and darkest. I was fortunate that a woman who was willing to slow down for me wanted company. The second time I got the last lap. With fewer people, we each had more to do and our time was slower, and I was slower. I had gained weight over the year, which didn’t help. For most of my legs of the relays I was around 13 or 14 minutes a mile – remember no running allowed.
Our friend Shelly had climbed Mt. Hood many years ago to qualify to be in the Mazamas, the venerable Portland Mountaineering club. I decided to qualify, chose a much easier goal – Mt. St. Helens which barely had the necessary glacier after its eruption in 1980. Ray a long time climbing leader was taking up an over 55 group. One woman was slower than the rest, so we would cool down while waiting for her to catch up, but it was a minor inconvenience. We had great weather, and it was really more of a hike than a climb. Ray dug steps in the snow as he went. Little did I know until I got to the top, that it wasn’t a hole in the top, but the whole north side was gone. A new peak was peeking out of the bottom. We were warned to stay away from cornices, and indeed a person at a different time fell from one and died.
The hike starts at Climbers Bivouac at 3700 feet elevation and goes to the current 8300 feet elevation, down 1300 feet from before the eruption. It took about six hours. I ripped flesh off my arms trying to arrest a glissade on the way down.
The next year Sharon and I did it together during mostly bad weather. She scraped her face while glissading.
2002 had both coed softball and snow shoeing. The initial softball lasted just one season for me. It was a coed team which had no age limit. I played right field to cause the minimum of problems. I tried to hit to opposite field to the other team’s weakest position. Weak arm, fair fielding, but batted fairly well. Maybe got one triple. I impressed with my speed. Next year the manager / coach brought in ringers and left me out even though I would have been happy to just be a practice player. Didn’t play softball anymore until 2018 when a male over 55 / female over 50 league was started. Few women played, it didn’t qualify as coed.
The new one has been much better for me, even though my ability has gone way downhill. I can’t throw hard, fast or far, but can run. In real games I play catcher, the least important position. In 2018, I missed league games and just practiced. 2019 I became a Diamond Dog. We finished mid-pack of four teams. My batting was fairly poor. Besides the hits, force-outs and outs, I had something like four walks and three strikeouts for the season. A plus – I’m way faster than some of the homerun hitters. Don’t know if anything will happen in 2020.
There are a lot of odd rules which are concessions to our limited time (always a double-header). The games is five innings, unless it isn’t (I don’t understand this). The batter starts with one strike and one ball. Runners don’t run to the bases to avoid contact, but they must run close enough to be tagged – a judgment call.
With my lack of size and elderly status, I can get respect for being able to just stand up.
For a few years, I played tennis at the local courts. I quit because the rates had gone up a couple of times, my only convenient time was late enough that if I played to the end it was difficult to sleep, and my bad game didn’t improve with practice. Side note – a regular player name Hossein was never seen after 9-1-1.
Snow shoeing has been much more consistent. Friend Pat went to a class and learned snowshoeing and has been leading us ever since. For several years we had about a dozen outings January through March about once a week. Scheduling is very difficult because we don’t want to go rain shoeing anymore and we don’t want too thin or deep and soft snow. Usually about ten go and we start in snow parks off US 26 or 35 around Mt. Hood. Show shoeing is good for us old people because it require little skill and one can suit his or her energy level by being close to the front making trail (difficult) or at the end walking on the trail. A typical snow shoe (easier are taken as we get older) could be 5 miles and 500 EG. A very rough rule of thumb is that a snowshoe is as hard as a hike with twice the distance and twice the EG. Usually we go on cross country ski trails while attempting not to ruin the ski tracks, but sometimes we bushwhack. Watch out for those tree wells! Depending on the route, we may get views of Mt. Hood or even Mt. Jefferson. Snow shoeing is where I learned that if there is one GPS, we know where we are, but if there are two or more we have no idea. People fall down, snow shoes come off, and we break through the snow into melted water underneath. For the last several years, the conditions have rarely been good, and I’m edging towards aging out.
Ghost Ridge may be our toughest route with very steep hills of loose snow. At the top, which has a view of Mt. Hood, Pat puts up plaques for shoers have have died in the previous year.
I’ve had a couple of significant failures along the way. My attempt to learn Espagnol failed, although I still retain a few words. I tried to learn HTML (hot metal to me) for hiking publication assistance, but I’m stuck in the DOS / Basic world and could not make the jump to something that was primarily about websites rather than math and used three different programming languages.
Mid 1998 I started working at the Bookique a volunteer run book store that supported the Lake Oswego Library. I was introduced by my friend Shelley. At first I couldn’t get in, but then the manager had to leave, and the successor accepted me for the Friday shift where I have stayed these many years. During the many years I have mostly priced and shelved, but for many years I ran the cash register. During this time, we have had three managers. The current one is good. Until 2019, not much changed. Before that our hours increased a little, a few staff died, arrived or left, and we started to take credit cards. We have fun finding crazy book titles and art work. I have seen books there from the 1800s, including one by the author of Heidi. Favorite misfiled book – “I Never Promised You A Rose Garden” in gardening.
In 2019, Providence sold their center which included our store and their gym. Everything has been torn down, and new buildings put up (5/18/2020). Eventually there will be retail, restaurants and housing. That and other area developments continue to screw up driving here, as well as parking on the street. Besides our move, a long time colleague there died and a frequent customer was killed by her husband. Now I have a two mile drive to work rather than a three block walk.
I don’t get a discount, but I do buy a lot of my music and books there.
A couple of fellow hikers recruited me to be an escort at LMPH about five miles from home. After training in late 2000, I assumed escort duties, primarily running people around in wheelchairs, but also transporting mail, flowers, newspapers and lab samples. I called myself an unpaid escort, pusher and roll model (get it?). I had a couple of standard jokes that I used. When asked if it was hard work, I said that it was before wheels were invented and I had to carry people on my back and I would pretend discharges were deplaning – please bring seats to full upright position and extinguish all smoking materials and how to identify dogwood – by the bark.
Some downsides to the job – Possible infection, ostomy bags and catheters, sad situations (“they found something serious”), wheeling 400 pound people uphill, dealing with the man who could only say “yeah, yeah, yeah”, and the scariest – turning left on Boones Ferry from Lanewood. Upside – free breakfast and it was not that bad. The job was easy and most people were happy when discharged
There were about 300 volunteers at the hospital. I ran off 4 escort partners and several bosses last partner was with Ruth who was almost old enough to be my mother. After about ten years I became unhappy about some hospital decisions and quit. It was an unpleasant, unhappy break, but my one review was glowing.
My experience was used a part of a POB talk and was used in the Strictly Short Humour “Hospital”.
I got to Lake Oswego feeling like at healthy middle aged guy at 54. We had no more employer health coverage and were too young for medicare, so signed up at Kaiser. My blood pressure started to rise after being fairly stable at around 120/90. After a few years with Kaiser, our rates went up around 15% in two successive years, usual long waits for appointments and a cut in benefits, so we went looking for another choice. Our choice was probably a bad one. We got private insurance which didn’t offer much and I went with a close doctor based on the recommendation of a friend. I quickly started to strongly dislike him –
He got me an expensive drug for my blood pressure and then a more expensive one when questioned about the price;
The choice was one that he had samples for, a way prescriptions sales people to get you started on expensive drugs;
I later found out there was a cheaper generic;
Bills would come out six months after an appointment with charges that I couldn’t understand;
When asked about the rates it was implied that Lake Oswego justified the charges;
He had me come in frequently, but didn’t do anything productive when I was there;
My systolic went down 20 points after I left his office;
Final straw – he wanted me to wear a $250 pressure tracker for 24 hours.
When I backed out of the tracker, he fired me as a patient. I should have quit, but either way, it was good for me. He became an evil doctor in “Half”.
After a search of available doctors, I found a good one farther away. He got me on my cheaper generic drug. I had some painful knee and feet problems with him, but nothing too serious. There was a kidney scare that turned out alright. He was my doctor before and until I got on Medicare. He let me stall on my first colonoscopy until I got Medicare. He left the clinic and even though I liked him, I decided to find a doctor closer. A Legacy clinic was closer, two or three miles away, and associated with the hospital where I volunteered and in my network, so I went with them.
My first doctor there was like the return to the doctor that I had disliked strongly (hated is about 1% strong) for similar reasons, but then I got too good ones in a row. The first one was a male with whom I was quite simpatico. He was the one that got me to wear my knee wraps / supports, or as I called them “bracelets” (less than knee braces.
In early 2014 through the first quarter of the year I had crippling pain in my knees and feet. It would take five minutes to put on my shoes and I was reduced to using the walker that I had inherited from my mother. X-Rays showed moderate to severe arthritis and a broken patella from sometime in the past that I never knew. If I use the bracelets on longer walks or on a lot of pavement, I’m mostly OK. I still have low level pain at times and infrequent serious pain.
A few years later, lab tests indicated I had renal failure, which scared the hell out of me. I took a chance going on a long hike after the diagnosis. Subsequently, new labs indicated that I didn’t have a severe problem. The first labs were probably taken when I was dehydrated. Now, both of us are serious about our drinking, and much of it is green tea or water. I get my big glass or water first thing, then coffee, then tea.
A few medical events are unrelated to doctors. Just after we got to Lake Oswego and in 2011 in Dufur Oregon with a nature guide trip, I had extreme abdominal pains that were probably gall bladder related. After hours of staying in hot water (for some reason helps a little) I returned to normal.
I got shingles in 2000 when Sharon was at her hen party. It was just before climbing Mount St. Helens. Based on a description a fellow hiker had of the disease, I recognized what it was when welts showed up on half my abdomen. Before I recognized what it was, it was just an odd feeling that I thought might be a muscular problem. The person I called at Kaiser didn’t like being told what I had. I was given some drug and the shingles didn’t bother me much. Wearing a seat belt was a little painful. The doctor appeared nonplussed when I told him that it was the end of my career as a male model.
While we were in the condo, I got vertigo while sitting in my easy chair. Every movement set off violent vomiting. Sharon got the EMTs out. They knew what was going on, even though I appeared drunk. She took me to a hospital and they gave me something for nausea. I have had minor cases before and since, but nothing like that. Despite vertigo getting little publicity, after I had it, many people that I talked to had had it.
In 2017 I got the flu while on an Alaska cruise. While on the ship I started a dry cough and back at home went downhill fast. After I hit 102F, Sharon was advised to bring me to LMPH. I was admitted for bronchitis even though it felt like flu that I had before. That irritated me a bit. Being hospitalized for two days or so was far worse than the flu. I could barely move while connected to IVs. Later I was more isolated when the flu was diagnosed. I had to wear a mask (pandemic foreshadowing). Probably because of antibiotics I crapped on the bathroom floor. Towards the end I soaked my robe when the fever broke. That ruined all of the Fourth Of July events, and then around Christmas Sharon fell on the staircase and had an intercostal tear (muscle between ribs) and was in pain for 5 weeks. . We are happy that the holiday curse did not continue.
Weightlifting flies on the floor with 35# weights are probably the cause of a shoulder with a spur, arthritis, degenerative joint disease, calcification, and (my favorite) floating bodies. The tearing sound I heard while doing said exercise was probably from the hernia I was developing.
In March 2018 I came back from a work party with amnesia. I thought that Obama was president and didn’t know that we were selling our car. Sharon took me to LMPH where I was diagnosed with transient global amnesia. The doctor said that it is idiopathic (doc talk for we don’t know) and is somewhere between common and rare. After five or six hours I went home and was somewhat normal the next day. Having it doesn’t mean that I’d get it again, but I did the next March (so minor I waited it out). I skipped March 2020 for lack of interest.
2019 had a few bumps. I had a colonoscopy which I was told had several polyps, none cancerous. Oregon Clinic had me back in six months because the five day preparation was inadequate they said. That next one found one polyp and they excised an internal hemorrhoid, after which I bled copiously for several days. When they wanted me back for a third within the year, I balked and went elsewhere with a one day preparation and now hope to be done for five years.
Same year, while going to our close pub, I tried to bat a spider hanging from a web in front of my eyes. Oops, no spider, a vitreous floater. It has neither gotten better nor worse.
After many years of little dental work my old fillings have been going bad with great frequency. The dentist charges have gone up a lot, perhaps coincident with upscale quarters he moved into. Many fillings, crowns and one root canal have cost me enough to feed a small village.
I have gotten cheap glasses over the years, and my eyesight has not changed much. I have not adapted to bifocals, I use regular and reading glasses.
Because Sharon thought that I should hear her sometimes, I got fish helpers (or as some call them “hearing aids” when I was 69. I sometimes claim that one is for calls from the FBI and the other is for the CIA.
As of 5/21/2020 I’m an elderly man with high A1C (medicine people found something else for me to worry about), anemic (no cause found despite trying), controlled hypertension, a hernia, high cholesterol, bad shoulder, and pre-diabetes. Twenty two years have done a number on me.
Recently I’ve gone low carb and dropped to close to 150# after being 163+. My yo-yo weight has not been as extreme as some, but I have weighed under 150 and as much as 180 (possibly more, I don’t want to think about it). Recently I’ve added notches to my belt.
The phone health survey was written as “Health Survey” in Strictly Short Humour.
Learning from one’s mistakes – “Screwing Up” in Strictly Short Humour and “Lessons”.
Events and travel –
In August we had agreed to exchange houses with the Morleys again, and then changed our minds about going to England. Instead they stayed in our house and we went to Glacier National Park, on to Banff and Jasper National Parks. In Banff, we saw elk in the streets and squirrels stole food from us. In Jasper we saw markers on the way to a glacier. They had the year that the glacier reached the mark. The retreat was dramatic. Even though it was summer, temperatures got down to freezing overnight. We came along the east side of Puget Sound. Sharon fell and hurt her hip. We visited friends Becky and Terry in East Seattle and had a crab feed. We had to stall a little in order for the Morleys to finish their stay.
We had the fortieth Whitaker High School reunion. My aunt Corky died.
I had my last actuarial / programming project and was the auctioneer for sock monkeys. We still have one.
We had 1400 combined hiking miles.
The Texaribbean cruise started with the flight from hell. We made an unscheduled stop in Denver, and, because of some dust-up between our crew and ground crew, there was no available water, the toilets overflowed and we could not get off the plane. I made the news on our return when I was quoted as “nobody died” which was the best thing that could be said about the flight. The rest was good except for very painful sunburned feet from an open kayak from which we snorkeled off the Honduran Island Roatan. Because the bus to Chichen Itza took so long, we went to Tulum instead. Pretty cool, but no one was allowed on the pyramids. Cancun is more for party people than us.
We visited Las Vegas with some Madison people. Same as it ever was.
Crappy ending to the millennium. Went to a special New Year’s celebration in which we could not get any food. This was shortly before Sharon left for Detroit because her mother had just died. I got a partial refund.
Cruise 1 – Quickie from Seattle with Vancouver and Vancouver Island. Mother Sue and her friend Olivia were with us. Olivia and Sue would wonder why they were living so long. Olivia lived to be over a hundred.
Cruise 2 – Unique cruise from Portland. Just after clearing the Columbia Bar, the power went out. Someone onboard called 911 and got someone in Astoria. It happened at night and the waves hitting the boat prevented sleep. The cruise hit San Diego and Puerto Vallarta. Highlight – drinking, snacking and snorkeling.
Old HAS got moved to Hause Consulting and I got annual cash until I went on Medicare.
We went on our first trip to Stehekin Ranch off Lake Chelan. Lake Chelan is the fifty mile long site of two former glaciers. We took a ferry to get to the Stehekin Bus. We got lots of hiking and pies. We had to bring our own wine. A special hike was a 12 miler (now seventeen miles) that took us to the site of an old mine and Horsehoe Basin, a cirque with several waterfalls descending from the rim. We were all running out of water by the time we got back.
Other Stehekin excitement – rattlesnakes and planes dropping water to put out forest fires.
We were there when 9/11 happened. The site was so isolated; we only could get a few reports and rumors of what was happening. Because of the proximity of the Canadian border and the Pacific Crest Trail, people finishing the hike could not get into Canada at that time.
PSU had a College Bowl reenactment. At the 40th Madison reunion I was insulted by people who said that I hadn’t changed. At the time I was close to my high school weight.
Cruise with mother Sue and cousin-in-law Phyllis around Puget Sound.
Our turn to lead Lake Oswego hiking.
My affirmation “Are we here yet?” as contrasted to the “Are we there yet?” whine. I wrote the story “Here”in the Vernonia Trilogy about it.
Visits from Rick Tash and the Dressler family.
60th bday events including trip to Las Vegas, and school reunions.
2004 Deactuated – quit paying actuary dues and became a complete extuary.
Recognized by Oregonian in “Make A Difference Day’ for my Tryon work. They agree to use neither “issue” nor “impact”.
Mother’s 90th birthday we held at her old school Kennedy which is now a McMenamins.
Return to East Lake from my first Oregon time and the High Desert Museum
2005 Started early social security before I could be assassinated.
Ken and Ellen visited from Marin.
Visited the now-closed- Kah-Nee-Tah Resort. RIP.
Our trip mostly by bus started and ended in Chicago with the Johnsonbaughs. Train Museum, Tauquamanon Falls which Sharon last visited fifty years ago. The falls and huge industrial complex at Sault St. Marie, Agawa Canyon in Ontario by train, Mackinac (pronounced Macinaw) Island in Lake Huron and a dune buggy ride.
Midwest triangle – Rick and Harriett in Indianawfulus, Deans and Halls in Louisville, Sharon’s family in Detroit, Johnsonbaughs (UofO, Morehouse) south of Chicago.
2006 Cruise to Catalina Island, San Diego (boss zoo) and several Mexican ports with a little cold snorkeling.
Big trip starting with nature guides in Central Oregon. Shaniko was the center of sheep raising years ago and is now a ghost town, John Day where Doc Hay, a Chinese doctor treated Chinese and Euro-Americans in the first half of the twentieth century. When he was taken to Portland at the end of his life, his office filled with natural medicines was left intact and has been preserved. The contribution of the Chinese to American in the nineteenth and early twentieth century is frequently minimized. Fossil is named for the fossil bed behind the high school where I suspect that the fossils are manufactured. Fact – the fossil animal oreodont ate cream filled cookies.
Next stop Sumpter where gold was mined by a dredge for many years, then Seneca where Oregon’s all time low temperature was recorded (-54 F).
My Uncle Al, WWII vet died.
I lobbied for and got to be MC at my 45th Madison reunion. I was great, the audience sucked,
Janet B’s daughter’s wedding in Bear Valley.
Three of us from Tryon got a SOLV environmental award.
50th Whitaker reunion. We visited the old school which had become an American Indian social center. The gym / auditorium, concrete bleachers, and ball fields looked the same, but the playground equipment was missing. Oddly, people in my class were ten years older.
We took our second and so far last trip to Stehekin. We made it more interesting that time by hitting the Olympic Peninsula, the North Cascades splendor, Becky and Terry in Bremerton and Whidbey Island.
Woo-hoo Medicare. Picked HealthNet because of price ($0) and it covered LMPH (where I was still volunteering) and a doctor that I liked.
Visited Northern California and Nevada where Larry B. flew us to lunch.
With the help of neighbor Tai, I digitized my music, which has increased over the years to a large selection of rock, blues, big band and more.
Sharon had a GI bleed that landed her in ICU and scared the hell out of me.
We cruised to Hawaii and Kiribati (to satisfy the Jones Act). The Hawaii part was typical. In Kiribati, I stepped on a rusty spam can while in the fine water in the atoll. I worried about tetanus until I got home; because all that could be done for me in Kiribati was to clean out the wound. Kiribati has an interesting history and is probably in trouble with rising seas because it is so flat.
Down the coast to California through crappy weather to see Bay area friends and a visit to wonderful Morro Bay.
Not taken for jury that awarded massive bucks to Addidas for trademark infringement. I had aged out by the time I got my next summons.
I was chosen for the second and last (probably lack of interest) community columnist. Editor pissed me off a lot for changing what I wrote and dismissing an analogy of Portland to some feudal kingdom. After wanting it badly, I quit early.
We saw the birds and coyotes in Malheur Refuge in its pre-occupation days. A bird, the bittern, pretends to be a reed. We hiked in and out of Wild Horse Lake, a lung sucker coming back out and got to the highest point.
Fields, a small Southeast Oregon town provided famous milkshakes and cheeseburgers. The brochure box was filled with bees.
We split off on our own and went through the Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge and saw you guessed it. Fact – antelope can run faster than they need to because their faster predator, the dire wolf is extinct. At Crater Lake we took a boat to and climbed Wizard Island and circumnavigated the lake. On the way home we hung out around the Umpqua River.
Mystery keys. Lost them in the ivy at Tryon because my pants had a hole. Looked twice, even with a metal detector. Replaced them. Found them the next week exactly where I had looked before. Aliens? Pranked?
106 F twice that year. Disappointed it didn’t break the record (107).
No balloons flying at the balloon festival.
Join POB. I gave a few speeches there.
Standard Alaska Cruise.
I got a phone telephone survey which cracked me up.
The year of the same Subaru tire going flat six times. We quit Les Schwab. I suspect instead of repairing the time, they made it worse. Had to get new tires.
Nature guide trip to the Wallowas and Baker. Saw kokanee spawning (laziest salmon – no time at sea). Rode the tram to Mt. Howard.
We got to see the famous Vaux’s Swifts leaving the chimney at Chapman School.
I was surprised while working at LMPH when someone asked if I was hospitalized in one of the rooms. Different Doug.
SW Utah was our first Road Scholar (AKA Elderhostel). Visited Janet and Larry B. in Nevada, proceeded down 395 with a stop at Mono Lake and then were guests of sister-in-law Cindi at Caesar’s Palace. Drove to St. George UT where we were the guests of Don and Barbara S. in high style. We visited five different National Parks, the highlight of which was probably the Hoodoos that Bryce do so well. There was a stop in Marin cut short by crappy weather.
Early foot and knee pain made me ponder “Intelligent Design”.
RIP Bill Martindale (Madison), Mark Hatfield (former governor and senator, talked to him at Booktique a few times), Jan Tucker (wife of former partner) and Russ Jolley who led some of our hikes and wrote the book (literally) on Gorge wild flowers.
50th Madison Reunion where I was DJ. No one had any interest in music.
Second Roads Scholar Sedona AZ center of lots of paranormal puckey. We got lots of hiking and saw caves that were used in earlier times by natives and bootleggers. Went with a lot of our hikers again. Flew into Phoenix.
We had a pictograph tour of the Gorge and a tour of the Yaquina River cruise from Newport OR. Tour of Central Oregon where I had a gall bladder attack that kept me awake while I attempted to ease the pain in the shower. I continued to be a crappy canoe rower in Lake Billy Chinook and had to be towed at the end by our guide.
It was a good year for being stung by ground hornets in Tryon. Good thing this was before murder hornets.
RIP Gary A. good high school and college friend (“Mad(ison) High Men” also a POB speech).
Ex-NBA players. We saw Chris Dudley ex-Portland Trailblazer around town. Met Jerome Kersey also Trailblazer at garage sale. Friendly guy, died a little later. Ran into Mel Counts where he was doing real estate at a restaurant. Also very friendly. The seven footer said some of his best friends were short (referring to me).
Emptying postal trucks at Lake Grove post office of food bank donations and hanging flower baskets happened on the same Saturday, as well as Tryon work party. Oh, my aching back. For many years I have dropped off hanging baskets starting at 5am on a Saturday in May and then (most years) gone around with the crew hanging them from lamp posts.
This was the year that we saw the rock pillars or cairns left by an older nude woman once a year along the Sandy River in Oxbow Park. The picture is in my twitter bio.
Our Roads Scholar that year was Death Valley. We had been there before, but this time we got in many hikes and saw the misnamed, underwhelming Scotty’s Castle.
We had another Dufur trip without the earlier problems and visited friends Don and Barbara at their camp up the Rogue River.
Our cruise was to Hawaii with sister-in-law Cindi and husband Ken. We saw old friends Wally and Jennifer in Honolulu and climbed up Diamond Head. We saw their son Brendan in Lahaina and I body surfed and daughter Meagan.
Song collection > 100,000
The Phil celebration / roast (“Stewardship In Tryon Park”).
Bad shoulder initially thought to be short term. I have learned better. Day to day not a problem. Doing my fantastic stunts (wall pushup / lots of pull ups) all gone.
Last (so far) Roads Scholar. This proved that they were decreasing in value for us. We went to a monastery in Idaho. OK hikes, Snake River and City of Rocks. Nothing really special for a North westerner, and could have seen them on our own.
Harriett departs, Kitzhaber / Honey (to the vet) arrives.
Our early social isolation got a short term break with a wedding in Damascus OR and an engagement in Corbett OR.
LOMCB plays at community band convention in Ramon, CA.
Death of Cousin Tamara, Aunt Mary Rose’s daughter and lunch bunch leader Joan.
Big year. I read Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” and am impressed/depressed/inspired. I pull some old stories that I wrote in the 1990s and find publishers, probably some wrong ones until I get Duotrope. The “Wild” related – “Mild”, “Wildest”, “Professor Haines …” and “An Open Letter To Cheryl Strayed. The whole story of writing is in “Amateur” and “Sam Kandej Interviews Doug Hawley”. Sister Alex’s writing may have inspired my writing as well.
Part of the reason to write is the excruciating pain that I had in my knees (swelling like melons sometimes) and feet (five minutes to put my shoes on). I mostly fought through it, but there were days that I used my mother’s walker. Knee bands suggested by doctor at the time, Dr. Lee, have helped a lot.
I decided that a beard went with writing. After I grew this ugly growth I got called Jerry Garcia, Unabomber, Mountain Man, Einstein (not for intelligence) and Santa Claus. Calling me Santa Claus is obviously wrong, I do not spread joy.
Cindi and Ken visit.
Big drama – a snow shoer had a heart attack on our White River shoe and had to be helicoptered out.
Recreational marijuana is legal in Oregon, and yet I have not used any. Still want to change that – maybe edibles.
Sharon starts slug studies.
We got to Sharon’s 50th high school reunion in Michigan. Lots of American cars and white people.
Several of us get the Lake Oswego unsung hero award for work on Iron Mountain Park. Are we sung now?
2015 First no shoe rather than snow shoe year. Condition vary every year, 2015 not much snow.
Very hot and A/C out for a month. A few weather records were set.
Fiftieth anniversary of the PSC record setting College Bowl. Story “Behind the Record Setting PSC College Bowl” couldn’t get published any closer than Massachusetts, a fact that irritated me greatly.
Visited Boring cousin in Yuma and stopped in the Anza Borrego Desert along the way.
20th annual Hen Party.
Saw salmon spawning and being eaten by several eagles in the Klickitat River in Washington and a mountain goat on Mt. St. Helens.
A couple of cop cars pulled into a Tryon parking lot while I was working. They unloaded an injured coyote and killed it while we went behind a shed. I wasn’t prepared for that when I went to work. Gunshots in the park are scary.
Enjoyed Eric Burden and the Animals at the Oregon State Fair. “We Got To Get Out Of This Place” was our theme song in Eugene.
LOMCB went to Washington D.C. to play in front of the Lincoln Memorial. We saw many other memorials as well. We got to see fireflies for the first time in many years. Boring cousin Jim and wife Phyllis came with.
Sharon got her wish of fifty years to see the Sea Of Cortez after reading the “Log From The Sea Of Cortez”. First we had to get through customs with hundreds of people at Cabo Airport and then ride a bus a lot. Sharon thinks that she either had food poisoning or got sea sick. I was constipated and then diarrhetic. We got premium liquor and OK food. Most of the animal life we could have seen in Oregon. We did visit one bay packed with whales where people got much too close to the whales. We did a bit of snorkeling, Sharon with baby sea lions. My wet suit had too long legs and was tight around the chest.
This was the year of the three-fer in Charleston Oregon on the coast. The nature guide trip was to Mt. Rainier. It was mostly overcast, but we did get to visit a bunch of marmots and on the last day we could see Mt. Rainier. At Hawkwatch on Bonnie Butte Sharon got to release a sharp shinned hawk.
Johnny and Fran come through with their Airstream trailer. I get my iconic “Dude” hat. It gets a lot of notice and has inspired me to do “Beg Lebowski routine. “You know man, like, that’s just your opinion man”.
I got a picture with a Sasquatch / Bigfoot in the White River parking lot on Mt. Hood before one of our snow shoes. It inspired me to write the “Prime” series. We were splashed by carp twice while sitting by Oswego Lake.
We start sharing the feeding of the ferals.
I got the quadrafecta of dropping flower baskets, hanging same, Tryon work party and unloading Postal Service trucks for the food pantry.
Friend, mentor and colleague Phil dies. He had 25 years and 25,000 hours of volunteering at Tryon.
Sharon had several 70th birthday parties.
Post-Alaska cruise flu hospitalization.
We witnessed an almost complete eclipse in downtown Lake Oswego. Very short, sudden coolness, oddly dappled ground.
As a donating U of O alumni, I got a close up view of the Rose Parade. First time ever for Sharon and possibly the first time for me.
Nature guide trip was to Winston OR Wildlife Reserve. Close views of buffalo, giraffe feeding and cheetah viewing.
New Volt, Zoolights, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry gingerbread display and Pittock Mansion (sort of a minor Hearst Castle).
The year that we had a new horror, A1C. I had my first ever Transient Global Amnesia (didn’t know the year or president for a few hours) for Easter. Not a stroke and the neurologist said that it wasn’t a bad brain for an old man. There were a few holes, which is why there are some things that I can’t, what’s that word? Sharon had her intercostal tear (muscle tear between ribs when she slipped on the stairs) for Christmas.
Many memorials. I had my 75th birthday three times, once because it conflicted with the Royal Wedding.
Sharon’s nature guide group went to local mountain resort, Sunriver. We stopped in at East Lake of Hawley family vacation fame. We got a got a guided tour of Zumwalt Prairie in Northeast Oregon. Cool birds and wildflowers.
Rose Festival had sexy zombies dancing and I got to dance with the Black Chamber Of Commerce and acquitted myself well.
Hikes were cut short because of a horrendous fire season.
We saw pyrosomes (you could look them up) at the beach and bee stung (Sharon at home on her booty and me at Tryon several times).
Lots of boogieing at summer concerts as has been the case for many years.
Sharon started raising mason bees.
I had a full season of poorly played softball.
Did my first readings at Synchronized Chaos events in Portland.
Began corresponding with Sam in Tehran who has helped my writing and set me up with this blog and tales.code.blog for his friends to use.
I couldn’t schedule a study of whether anti-social people such as myself benefit from phone calls.
Booktique, where we sell books, moved with the sale of the property where we were located, so I now drive a couple of miles rather than walk three blocks.
We went to a couple of celebrations of the record setting Portland State College team (“Behind The Undefeated Portland State College Bowl Team).
We hiked and visited Gary A.’s widow Rita in Sisters OR.
We had a good and easy cruise with Jim and Phyllis. Start in Seattle, then Astoria (no need to do anything there), San Francisco (Sharon visited a friend), Marin via ferry (saw Rick and a bunch of our old friends and some of Sharon’ hens at brewed in Marin – good times), Monterrey (got a shirt, went to the aquarium where we saw a member of the Booktique staff), Victoria (for a walk and a beer and satisfied the Jones Act) and back to Seattle.
Pandemic 2020 1000 Words
Covid struck the Seattle area January 21 at a nursing home. Despite POTUS being a liar, I did not take it particularly seriously until it struck our home town a little later. After that all hell broke loose. The last time that we rode in a car with anyone else was about March 11. Our trips have been so short that we have not bought petrol for our Volt since March. We have driven only 3762 miles after our last petrol purchase out of the 38819 mile total with 84 mpge. A Toyota RAV 4 Prime is on our wish list, but will not be widely available until spring. Long term we’d like to go all electric. I hope that it happens while I’m still driving. Our longest trip was to Seaside.
Things that did not happen:
Summer pop / rock concerts where we had boogied our butts off for many years.
Fourth of July celebration and Lion’s breakfast.
Gym classes, but there were some too restricted to interest me.
Christmas Tree lighting the day after Thanksgiving limited to a few and not much happened.
Park and Rec Softball – but we did play.
Lake Oswego Millennium Concert Band
Park And Rec Hiking – but a splinter group not including us did go
Visits to our friends at Mary’s Woods including Happy Hour (God’s Waiting Room).
Portland Old Boys cancelled all meetings. I don’t know if it will survive the pandemic.
No Oswego Lake walk for second year in a row.
Things that did happen:
Local walks in the neighborhood and some close parks.
Unauthorized softball – I was the oldest and the crappiest, but I had a few good games. The last practice was December 5, but I was busy with Tryon work.
The usual plus additional hours at Tryon and Iron Mountain Parks most of which was ivy removal. I’m working on getting 5,000 Tryon hours by the end of 2021. When Tryon was closed we had our work parties at an isolated part of the park adjacent to one of the work party’s house. Hours this year 233, lifetime 4830.
Visits with Boring cousin Jim and Phyllis.
Things that were modified:
Booktique was opened off and on. We worked on building a website inventory by bar coding where we could. People can order though the website and pick up at our store.
Without the gym, we follow our Jorge Cruise book for exercises six days a week with Sunday off.
Our Swim Park started early and had attendance limits. We went a few times, but they didn’t have any cheap and disgusting hot dogs to eat.
For Thanksgiving week we had pizza by ourselves. For many years we traded hosting with Boring cousin. Sharon has been doing lots of Zooming.
We found a couple of places where we could go to happy hour outside, one of the local McMenamin’s chain, Flyboy around the corner, and the Linn Pub. Many days were not conducive to drinking outdoors.
Vague plans of a grand tour for our fiftieth annual adversity came to naught.
Going low carb after Thanksgiving got me to lose fifteen pounds between doctor appointments and has kept me no more than a few ounces above 150# for many months (caveat – my scale and lowest weight of the day).
We had some unexpected expenses. Rewiring a lot of outlets and replacing old fences brought low by wind and rain. We thought that our refrigerator might be on the way out, but found that it just needed to be defrosted. While feeling lucky, we got hit by absurdly expensive dental work, tree work and plumbing expense (worsened by man of the house thinking it was easy to repair a leak).
The feral cats we had been feeding started to be scarce in 2019 and by September we had not seen any of them for awhile, so we stopped putting out food. Although they never let us get close, we enjoyed watching them wander about or just nap in our yard. Local domestic cat Tiger Lilly hung out with us until deciding there was no more food to be had. Indoor cat Kitzhaber seems to be doing fine. He did us wrong by walking on the stove top when we weren’t around, turning on the oven and melting a pan handle which set off the smoke alarm and stinking up the house.
One of my 2020 resolutions was to finish the Cities memoir to date, which I did at mid-year. The other was get a haircut which I did before the pandemic, followed by another in December. Before the second haircut, I had a new sensation. When taking off a shirt, I could feel my hair hit my back. In 2021, I resolve to get at least one haircut, get the aforementioned Tryon hours and write memoir sections for “Pandemic 2021” and I hope what will be “Post pandemic 2021”.
Nothing revolutionary happened in writing. Website aberrantword https://sites.google.com/site/aberrantword/ was forced to migrate and along the way got a few upgrades. The websites lists 374 publications (some unavailable) and one unpublished story. I was interviewed by Maysam Kandej and Spillwords. Most of my writing was short and most of my publications were reprints. I got into Hungary and Germany, both new. My favorite new journals are Dark Dossier, Terror House and World of Myth, all of which have published several of my stories. Terror House gets me a Hungary credit and Raven Cage gets me a Germany credit. Both are run by ex-pats. I have no current plans for writing in 2021 other than the aforementioned memoir additions and smart car holiday stories, extending the Christmas and New Year’s stories already written.
Editor and I are holding up fairly well at the end of 2020 while awaiting vaccinations, the end to the reign of terror that began in 2016. Editor’s brother Eddie is recovering from covid as I write this.
I got an unexpected complaint about Cities. An old friend was unhappy about the small mention he received.