I was going to post a lot more of my drivel but it came down to it being a lot of really personal stuff – the Reader’s Digest version is that we had a family reunion with my dad, my family, my siblings and their spawn, and some of their spawn’s spawn. There was just a ginormous screaming banshee (ban-sidhe, if you want to get technicallish) horde of kids running around.
We roasted a pig, or rather many parts of several pigs, in a pit overnight and ate ourselves silly. After eating, I went up to the house, put on my slacks, shirt, tie, cool shades, and one dress shoe and one sneaker, and led a memorial and prayer for my mom. It was hard, highly surreal, and didn’t hardly seem adequate. I’m very good at compartmentalizing so I’ve thus far avoided meltdown – perhaps I can suppress it forever, who knows? I read her last letter to me later in private, and that was tough, real tough.
Why the sneaker? Everyone asked that… “Why the sneaker?“
My answer was simple: “Because it would have driven my mother absolutely bugshit nuts.“ She was a very proper person – some would say “perfectionist” (erm-ahem) – but things had to be just so, or they would get under her skin. It was my last chance to try to get under her skin. I’m not sure many people understood my thinking, but I know she would have. I used to call her Felix and she’d call me Oscar.
We stayed for a few more days. One day we took off in the morning and went and put mom’s ashes where she wanted to be buried, with other family members. I told my dad that when I go, I want to be cremated and flushed down the toilet, because I’d make it to the ocean eventually. We’re a gallows-humor kind of family.
That night Cruel Wife and I got away to Eugene and had dinner at an italian restaurant I’ve loved since I was a kid. Unfortunately it has gone downhill since the last time I remembered it, but we did see something really bizarre next door:
Bare Bones – Self Serve Dog Wash
Only in Eugene… Lord, grant me the strength…
It brings up an interesting thing we noted while in my hometown. My hometown has grown but as they say, “the more things change the more things remain the same.” It has become yuppieville with a twist. All about town we found people sitting on street corners looking for handouts of one variety or another. One sign said:
Will wrestle your mother-in-law for donations.
I would almost pay good money to see that. I suspect there’s a street-fighter under that demure exterior.
Another said simply:
Will accept verbal abuse for donations.
At least they are creative. It is a sign of the times. Jobs aren’t as scarce as in Michigan, but they are hard to come by. In a town where a huge number of people were employed as millworkers, loggers, truckers, and related jobs, the downturn in the lumber industry has had a profound effect. It is still a town with character though, and probably always will be. Still, I wonder at the amount of (or lack thereof) self respect one has to have to set up a folding chair and a shingle to advertise that one is available for handouts or, best case, work. I don’t know about you but of the two people, one who sits on a corner waiting for an offer or the one that comes to my door actively seeking work… I’m going to hire the one who gets off his butt and is looking.
By Friday we were ready to go home. Before we could leave, though, I had some people I wanted to see.
We visited an old boss of mine who we will refer to as “Squatting Bear”, which is appropriate since he gave me the mock-indian name “Spitting Beaver” while I was a firefighter. I was given that name because I was a voracious consumer of sunflower seeds, so you can get your brains out of the gutters now, please.
He’s a cranky old Forest Officer, but the best damn boss you could ever hope for. Under the dictionary entry for “redneck” there is a picture of this guy, but he’d give you the shirt off his back, back you up in a fight no questions asked, listen to your stories, make you suffer when hung over (which he did one day, making me scrape paint in hot direct sunlight for hours), and tell the worst jokes in the world. He presented me with some patches to mark my time while in his employ. My proudest, since it came from him:
As Cruel Wife and I drove up to his house I said “Ten dollars says he brings up the ‘Spitting Beaver River Excavation Project’.” I was not disappointed.
The story goes like this, and it varies depending on who, exactly, is telling it -
It was a wet day. In fact, the summer had suffered from an excess of rain, which is saying a lot for the Willamette Valley. The State Color is “Rust” if that helps your imagination any. The fire danger was somewhere around minus 73 on the 0-4 scale.
In the between-fire down-times, one can only sharpen just so many pulaskis, shovel blades, chainsaw blades, or listen to the scanner while drinking coffee for just so long. Actual patrolling was possible but not even the animals were up to lighting fires, it was so wet, and we had already needed pulling out of a mudhole once.
So, we decided to loan some pent-up energy to a late afternoon project, one in which we would widen a creek-bed running down through a residential area (the boss’ back yard). We were excited to actually have something to do… a GOAL.
I was busy trenching a rocky and root-bound area, wielding my pulaski to pry loose and drag out rocks with wild abandon, and around 8″ deep, I ran into a really tough tree root.
NOTE: The pulaski referred to in this story is the very same one that would hit me in the head sixteen years later…
Usually putting the flat (mattock) end under a root and prying will cause the root to pop and then a hack with the blade will free the area of the root. This root would not pop. So, I opted to hack at it with the blade – ONE and TWO, only to find another one immediately below the first and hacked at that with even more force.
SPLAAAASHHHH-HISSSSSSSS!!! Water geysered into the air at least forty feet until the water pressure dropped off to nothing.
In my first two hacks I severed the electrical lines to his well pump. In the next hack I severed his main water line to his home and luckily did not electrocute myself while standing like an idiot in water up to the ankles of my boots and getting sprayed from head to toe.
My father, being an electrician by profession, was willing to make a call even at 5 o’clock. After listening to the whining, griping, drama-queen antics of my boss, dad and I decided to present ol’ Squatting Bear with a bill that was made to order. (click on the bill below for the large version)
We visited with more longtime family friends and then went back to my dad’s house, spent time with my sister and her kids, and then took off for Portland. I took a shot leaving dad’s house, which I always do when I leave the piece of land where I grew up. That there is a picture looking from up by the house down to the county road.
Once in Portland, we got a motel room, returned the vehicle (good riddance), put the kids to bed, and got rested up for an uneventful plane ride home.
Only gripe was that the pilot of the plane, Kaptain Kangaroo, bounced us down the tarmac and all the way to the terminal, but I’ve had worse.
If anyone knows of a useful solution to jetlag going east, please let me know. Three hours isn’t a lot, but it is enough.