Friday, December 31, 2010

Why, this is our chef.

  When I was younger my mom and dad bought a farm. I was around 4 or 5 and it was a life changing event. It define myself back then as a child. It was nice on the farm I remember the trees and the neighbors. It was a happy place of my childhood. My dad went to work at Hanford for about ten hours a day and then he would come back to the orchard to change the water and work until night fall.
  I can remember the first time we culled the chickens. If you have ever wondered if chickens would run around with their heads cut off with said axe. I can assure you that they will. I can remember chancing them around until there fell over dead.  I didn’t desire to chase them anymore after that; I did not desire to be around them live much alone dead. Zombie chickens hunted my dreams for months after that.
  I can also remember the frogs. They would keep you awake all night of you let them. Every time the clouds came out they would start their serenade.
  We lived there until my dad decided he had enough. There wasn't enough profit in the orchard for him to leave his job and the apples just weren’t selling to make it profitable. When it came time to sell they told me of a story of when they went to Canada to meet the people that wanted to buy the land. It seemed odd but they wanted to do the paperwork up there. Dad head off with my mom and best friend and drove the better part of the day. They had been invited to stay the night at their house that turned out to be an estate. When they went to the door the people asked who the man was with them.
  Not missing a beat my dad explained that, "Why, this is our chef."
  They nodded their understanding and let them in to there very large mansion. That night my parents slept in am master suit with a huge walking closet and a King sized bed. My dad's best friend slept on a single size bed in a servant’s quarters off the kitchen. By description it had the room had been the size of the walk in closet.
  When they left the next morning all he could say was, "Couldn't you have told them I was your lawyer."
  I drove by the land a few days ago and thought of that story. It made me laugh to thing he had to spend the night in a basement of a mansion. Just because my dad jokingly said he was their cook. He is just lucky he didn’t have to cook any meals.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cave lake

  My parents like to travel when we were small. Loading up the truck and heading off in the great big camper, it was a large, ‘ten and half footer.’ About the biggest and heaviest camper made. I remember one trip to Reno we took once. It was when I was 10 or so and we didn't want to go there in one day. My mother on the other hand did her best to make my father go as far in one day as she could. She would make him coffee and sandwiches. So he would drive through lunch. I remember sitting in the back following along with a map. I was getting late and I knew it was my job to find a place to camp up ahead. (Late meant just afternoon, because the camper became very uncomfortable when it was hot outside.)
  I spotted a place on the California and Oregon border. It was campground called Cave Lake. On the map it didn't seem far and it looked like it would be a state camp ground which back in those days meant free or close to it.
  We started up the hill and were there in a half hour. We got there just about 2 pm and set up camp.  My brother and I were responsible for job for leveling the camper using the jacks at the corners. While my mother fixed the kitchen and prepared the camper. This meant putting things back in the counters that rode on the floor when we went down the road. Dad would fix a fire and pay for the site. In about fifteen minutes we would be sitting at the table in them camper wondering what to do next. Mom would demand what we had planned would not be inside them camper.
  Lee and I headed off to see why they had called this place Cave Lake. It was quiet here. I remember it being a Wednesday. The weekend traffic was still a few days off if there was and to tell about ever then. The cave was covered in Griffith from the local highs school kids. It was a lonely place. We didn't stay long and it turned out that was for the best. On our way back we ran into my father. Well he was on the other side of the stream. It wasn't alarming to run into him. What was alarming was he was holding a gun.
  Later we found out that this was cougar country and that didn't mean football. There were at least two of them walking around the camper. We were not that scared but my brother had to sleep inside the camper. My brother Lee usually liked to camp in a tent, next to the truck and not far from the fire.
  When we left we got the chance to see one of them on the road as we left. It was frightening, to see the size o the animal.
  I suppose that not all my blog posts have a point but if I had to declare one about this post. It would have to be that it was a slice of what life was like back when my parents were still alive. Back when I was younger. We didn't stay in motels and KOA's (expensive camp grounds) we were at home next to a river on a back country road. Trees or no trees, we always found something to do. Sometimes we would have to wait for our view. Which meant as the sun set the really view started, the milking way, the stars and the deepness of space itself.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Down and Out in Seattle

  Life wasn’t always good for me. I struggled through the early 90’s living homeless for a while.  It wasn’t the kind of normal homeless you would expect. It really is a misconception to think that being homeless means sleeping on the street or in a park.  I slept in an abandoned house through a winter in Seattle. The house was had no electricity or heat. For some of the coldest days I could remember.
  I went to college those last few months finishing one last quarter before giving up on Seattle. My Grandpa died and my aunt past not long after, the weight of the deaths, college and the general fact that I had no home. Caused me to leave Seattle and never look back.  I can remember waking up in my room and my hair was stuck to the window seal, frozen from the moisture of my breath and the freezing temperature from outside. This was in stark contrast to how it was in my parent’s home, Warm and inviting. They had no knowledge of just how bad my living conditions had become.
  It started a house sitting job but once I moved into one of the bedroom. Things started to go down hill. I lost the gas first. The bill was so large that the gas company would turn it back on even in my name. The power went off when I was visiting my parents. I came home to the rotting smell of bad meat.
  I dumped it into the Garbage and it sat there for almost a week. By the time the garbage men came round to pick it up. It was almost unbearable. The men throw the cans up onto the lawn and never picked up the garbage again.  That is how the garbage collection stopped.
  Water was the last to go, a pipe broke and water filled the garage. I turned it off for the last time one day before school.
  When you live this way, you must rethink how you live. There are things you take for granted, water to wash your hand, water to flush the towel, heat to stay warm, and lights to see by.  I struggled at first but soon figured out ways around this.  I was still going to College. My grades never looked better. I left early, and went to a Texaco for breakfast. I had a gas card and would use it to eat breakfast and dinner.
  I would get to school early around 7 am and head to the gym. I didn’t want anyone knowing how bad it was getting so I would workout in the weight room each day and shower there at school. I can remember those showers the hot water, the chance to feel warm again.
  My day ended up like most, I would go to class and stay late doing my homework in the library. It was small for a college Library but I like the fact I was warm. It was a stark difference from how I was in high school. I left the library and headed to Kim’s Tae Kwon Do school. I worked there for a little extra money. It was nice to stay warm. I would sell memberships and workout for free. Master Kim knew that I had trouble and helped as much as he could. He even let me stay a few nights there in the storage room. The school was a lonely place. By the time my Grandpa died I was starting to get used to living in the abandoned house. Eating where I could and struggling to get home each week. My dad never really knew how bad it was until he got a phone call from a school counselor.
  I had made a mistake. I had seen a sign in his office window. It said counselor. He was a job counselor for the college. I walked in and broke down on his desk. He was very understanding and if he would have sent me any where else I would have jumped from bridge. He took my under his wing so to speak.
  The man informed my father of my slight nervous break down I was experiencing in his office. When I had told him of my problems the man behind the desk thought I was trying to leave school. I just needed some one to talk to about what I was going through. He called up my records and found I had a 3.5 average. He called one of my teachers and she told him that I was her best student. (I was never sure which one that he had called.) He wanted to take me home. (200 miles, Back to Sunnyside)  I told him I wanted to stay and finish my finals. I did well and soon I was on my way home.  I never went back to graduation, never went back to sell my books. That last day there was spent picking up my stuff and saying goodbye to my friends and Master Kim.
  I look at Seattle and miss it sometimes. Those years had taught me something about life that still comes into play all these years later. Like the people that went through the Great Depression I was changed.  I have made mistakes and it wasn’t the last time I was homeless, but it made me a better person and very frugal. I have my house now to thank for it. I also have the skill to see what is on my financial future. I saw the housing crises coming before my country fell in the 'Great Recession.' I was even able to buy a house while everyone was losing their’s. (I didn’t by a fore-closer, the house sell made money.)
  When I se trouble coming I circle my wagons. Budgeting my bills, paying down on my credit cards and saving every bit of extra cash I can. It all adds up. When the savings is gone I will switch to credit. When the credit is gone. I will have thought of something else to do from money. Even if it is just to keep the lights on, the gas coming, and the water flowing.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Life, Death and Japanime

  The other night my son and I were watching Japanime on television and an important character died. He had covered his head to avoid the deed, but could tell what had happened. I don't hide death from him. He watched his grandparents pass away. On some level knows that it is a fact of life.
  He turned to me and uncovered his head. He started to speak so I paused the show.
  "Dad, I, I miss grandma," he announced.
  "Me too," I cried.
  "I also miss Connie's  puppy."
  I stopped in mid-tear and asked, "What puppy?"
  "The one that you took back to Connie's."
  I laugh then. Causing my boy to slap my shoulder. He shocked me then.
  "Miss grandma more, and grandpa, too."
  I sometimes wonder if he understands my feelings or he is just planning with them. Either way it makes for a good story.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Tail # 5, Coco

  When I was in college I decided I needed a friend. I answered an advisement in the post about a four month old cat of questionable heritage. They had called her a Persian but it looked like mostly North America Heinz 57. You know a little of this and little of that. He looked it in the face but everything else was wrong, stripes on her flanks mostly. What I bought was a cat and not a show specimen.
 She was a tan to light brown with a black face and very fluffy. I paid the lady 10 bucks for her. Don't ask me why. After a few weeks with that crazy cat I almost took her back and demanded a refund.
  I had got her on a Monday and by Friday we were friends. Not a strong bond but just friends. I guess I had the Stockholm syndrome to thank for that. What choice did she have?
  I had enlisted my cousin’s help for the weekends. I was just out of high school and I need have the monster watched. My parents didn't like the idea of cat in their house. So much so my father built an enclosed in the back yard for cats. Note it wasn’t for the just a few hours, if someone brought a cat over the cat stayed in the enclosure.
  Coco hated the dogs at my parent house so I thought it best to leave her with my cousins. After a few weeks I asked my cousin what he had thought about my cat. He laughed and said he had no idea what to think about the cat. When I asked, “Why.” He explained that I always dropped he off before he got home and she vanished for the weekend. He was certain that she didn't get out. When I got there on Sunday she heard my voice and I took her away. It was like that for months.
  She seemed happy. Other than the fact she was crazy. She was very unforgiving for a cat; if you disappointed her she would get ever. My roommate caught her and his cat on the cat tower and sprayed them with flea spray. So she responded my peeing on his pillows on his bed.
  I wish I could have blamed his cat for it but it turned out that he caught her. She was one to hold a grudge and she started pulling tricks on my roommate. Rubbing up against his leg only to strike at him like a snake. Push things off the counter when he was trying to cook. Note she wouldn’t do anything to me. Until I started locking her in my room just so the man could get some rest from her.
  One weekend I went to pick her up and she was gone. I searched my cousins house for her and she never came out. Weeks later they opened the sliding glass door and she ran past then halfway scaring my cousin to death. She had held up in my cousins house and made a successful escape into my cousins backyard.
  They called and when I got there she was just skin and bones. I ended up giving her to my aunt who release her into her house and I am not sure if she ever saw her again.
  It is hard to take in animals that have bonded with someone else. They don’t understand that you are there to help them. In their little understanding of the world you are responsible for taking them away from their families. They don’t understand that their families had given up on them.  I have learned this over the 20 or so rescues in as many years.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

LaVerne by James Farnworth

Oh, here is to my father,
He was loved by my mother,
Hailed by my brother,
Adored by my sister.

Once a hell raiser,
He could have been no other,
His tales brought laughter,
Not to mention, his humorous manner.

He was a man, he was a real charmer,
The wood worker, the carver,
The old man farmer, the share cropper,
The constant barterer.

A hero construction worker,
He was a problem solver, he was the fixer,
A real pack master,
LaVerne was his names given by his father.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa

Fathers are not happy being Saint Nick.
Wanting one more candy cane to lick.
Feeling oh so uncomfortable, all most sick.
In that red suit wondering, why it has to be so thick.

With a clock tic and a clock click.
The father must be, oh so quick.
Leaving the red piece of his suite on the brick.
So Santa’s family wouldn’t know it was just a trick.

Friday, December 24, 2010


  Our lives are like a puzzle. From when we are little we are giving pieces to that puzzle. Our parents start off by giving us our first pieces. Don’t do this or don’t to that. Some people would all them the boundaries or morals. For this, I call the borders to the puzzle of my life.
  As I grew, I received more pieces from my church, from my parents and even more from my school.  With help, I put them together and I ended up a full Border.  As I grew, a picture of my life started to form. Every experience added to this picture. The image grows clearer and clearer every year.
  From my first kiss to the kiss I received this morning from my wife. From the first time I walked to the last hike I took with my family.  It all added to the puzzle. Good things and bad things all coming together to form this image I have of the past. There are more than a few dark spots that I wish to forget that form the shadows and shade of my puzzle.
  Then there are the blank spots, you would hope they are pieces to come. But you know that they are missing. That lost friend, that child that was giving up, that charm that you lost that belonged to your father, and the many other missing pieces to our lives.  Maybe it is that top love on Miss Starks Heart to Heart. Maybe it’s the lost family member that went to war and never came home. Maybe it is pieces that were seemingly thrown away. Like a foster brother that you lost or even a silly as a pet. The pieces add up and you worry if you puzzle will ever be finished.
  If you have been reading my blog you will notice that I have been kind of a dark place lately. I miss my parents and friends. I whine about it all the time in my head. I miss those Christmas of yesteryear that my friends complain about today. I miss Christmas dinners, pies and fancy fudge. I miss financial stability that seems to be getting shaker these days. All this has added a lot of shading to my puzzle, making this a most shiny and dark Christmas.
  Then the other day, thanks to a little help form Google and Facebook. I found several of those pieces. It was like a presents from Santa. You know the ones. You come down from your bedroom and there next to the tree was that bike, that train, or that missing puzzle pieces you always wanted back. So thank you Santa, Google, Facebook, and God for granting my puzzle pieces from Christmas. I am a true believer in the Christmas Miracle once again.  So Merry Christmas to all of my Facebook friends, my family, my Brothers and sisters, my Florida family and my new family, my wife, my child, my stepchild, my missing child and my nephew , who I love like a son.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bake pies and they will come

  When I was young I grew up with my parents and family always around. During Christmas I can remember my father making fudge and giving it out for Christmas to our friends and family.  It was a Christmas tradition of sorts.  It was a way to share and taught me a lot about cooking.  I loved those times. Other Christmas Traditions were the cooking of the Christmas pies. Dad would start the day before making upwards of thirty pies: four Apples pies, 10 Pumpkins, 4 Cherries, and many more. I used to think that was what Christmas was all about and I was wrong. I learn over the years it was about sharing yourself with others. That is why my dad invited so many people to our house on Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. 
  I miss those times. I wouldn’t give the memory up for the world unless I was offered a chance to do it again. I mean go back on last time and celebrate Christmas with my mom and Dad. I would make sure my sister Linda was there and my uncles and aunts that have sense passed on. I miss them all. Christmas time reminds me of them and it makes me sad to think that my family is gone now. 
  Even family that I once thought that I would always be connected to, are just distant memories. They hold nothing for me or my small family. One of my Uncles once told me I wasn’t part of his family anymore. He looked at me strait in the eye and said this. It hurt more than anyone could have hurt me with a knife. Soon after that my father was dead. If only I had done anything to deserve the treatment I could apologies and set a seat at their table. 
  I guess the sins of a father and family will never be forgiving. 
  I guess I will make my own way.
  I guess I will have to make my own traditions and live with the quiet memories of yesteryear.  Being satisfied that life was meant to be this way and try not to cry so much around my little family around Christmas time. We all make our beds and one day it will be my turn to lie down and hold still.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Flatmate's and Terrorist

  My brother went off to college when he was 18 years old. He packed his things in late August and headed to Everett Washington, getting a job a Denny’s and ending up in a nice Condo with a man that was studying to be a chief. It was cool visited him there in that Condo over looking the plush green environment. I fell in love with Seattle. I was young and didn’t know any better.
  Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with Seattle. It is very nice place to live as far as cities go, but for me that is the problem. I grew up where the speed limits are 25(and people drove them) and the people are not walking on the sidewalks two abreast.
  He must of like living there up until the Feds kicked the door in. He was asleep on a Saturday morning and heard a knock and then a boot hit the door. It wasn’t quite like the movies, but close. He made it to the hallway wrapped in a blanket just as the door flew off its hinges.
  Seconds later he stood toe to toe with several men pointing guns in his direction asking him to drop the blanket and raise his hands. It would have been fine if he we wearing anything underneath the blanket. Once the office controlled the area, everyone relaxed a little and he was allowed to get dressed under the watchful eye of a police officer. They asked who he was and why he was there. He noted at the time they wouldn’t tell him why they were there but to his defense they were the ones holding the guns.
   He went out and they were starting a search of the place. They man in charge asked him to leave.
  “I have no where to go,” answered my brother.
  “Go to breakfast,” ordered the man in charge.
  “I am broke,” answered my brother, watching the men turning the couch over and dumping things out of the cupboards.
  Without missing a beat, the man produced $20 bucks and said, “Go to breakfast.”
  He headed off to work keeping the man’s money. As he left he was amazed at how many police cars were in the small parking lot of his Condo. There was the Sheriff department, the police and several unmarked, FBI and probably ATF vehicles. His neighbors watched him leave. What they must have thought?
  Once he got to work he noticed that a unmark police car was in the parking lot watching him. He had thought it had been too easy.  They had thought that he would head over and warn his friend. But they were mistaken about my brother. He really didn’t know the man that he lived with. He like many people answered advertisement in the paper.
  Later, he found out he had been living with a man accused of several bombings in the Seattle and surrounding area. Back then they didn’t call them Terrorist. But that was exactly what he was. By the time he returned half of his flatmate’s property was gone and my brother’s things showed signs of being ran sacked. It had been a sting and he was lucking that the FEDs had known he wasn’t involved. He didn’t stay there long after that moving on to better pastures and less ATF officers.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Red balloons

  My son came home the other night from the Cub Scouts with a balloon. I found out later, reading my wife’s post that he had received it playing a game at the end of the meeting. I watched him bounce it around keeping it in the air for a long time. He was quite good at it, in fact, I found myself joining in..
  It reminded me of the games that my parents would play while watching Television.. That was our family time. We would relax in front of the television sometime talking and sometimes bouncing balls in to the air. I know how silly it sounds but if there was a balloon in the room my entire family was keeping the
thing aloft with our fingers tips alone.
  It didn't stop at Balloons either we would throw balls and dog toys back and forth all while keeping track of the progression of the program. We didn‘t have the fast forward option that my wife and I have today.
  Soon the dogs would be running to retrieve the toys and tugs of war would start. It was a surprise if we watched anything at all from beginning to end.
  It was our way of sharing an evening and getting our minds off the days events. Back then we had one working television and two radios. It wasn't like it is today; at my house we have 6 high definition televisions ranging from 19 inch to 48 inch screens. It is funny I can remember my father saying the same thing about yesteryear.
"When I was a boy we didn’t have TVs in every house and we went to the neighbors to listen to the radio. And there was one channel. And we walked up hills both ways to school, in blizzard conditions and that was in July."
  Okay maybe he didn’t rattle on but he did say those things just at different time.
  One day my son will be telling his boy that his dad used to tell him how it was, but for now I am content bouncing the ball one more time and watching my son tap it back into the air.

Monday, December 20, 2010

My dog Oreo, Part 2

  My dog was less than a year old when I pick her up from the pound. She took to me like Velcro. We would take walks and watch TV together.  She was like a extra girlfriend, no really.
  If I drove a car she would sit up in the seat next to me and watch the world go by.  She would sit in the middle of the couch and growl if anyone tried to sit next to me. It was the same in the bedroom, she would sleep in between my wife and me. She was worse than my 6 year old son.
  She was smart for a dog. They say dogs can be as smart as a 5 year old.  My dog was a bit smarter than that.
  One day, I came home to find the dog treats on the floor and empty. They had been on the counter when I had left for work. I didn’t think anything about it until it happened again. The kitchen wasn’t large but the countertops were tall. Like 32 inches.  4 inches taller than most. I had a chair from the kitchen table sitting in the middle of the kitchen  and there was no way that Oreo could get on to the counter to get at the bag.  I didn’t have a cat back then go she didn’t have an accomplice. In later years, she had been know to use a feline accomplice, I only say that because I don’t want to write a retraction.
  So, I set a camera up to trap her. When I saw it I could believe it. She would go over to the table and push a chair over to the counter and then jump up on the chair. Then she would search the counter for treats and pieces of breakfast. When she jumped off the chair, she would launch the chair back towards the table.  I had taught her to do tricks but that was nothing compare to her problem solving ability.
  She was Benji smart.
  Once I couldn’t find her when I was packing for a trip. I finally found her in the truck of my car waiting to go. She is just lucky I was planning on taking her with me. She loved car rides. I had a convertible and she would ride on the rag top. Sitting as a parade princess only looking up to the admiration of her fans.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Request Part 4

  From the moment, Rob Jones stepped from the airplane he was on a mission.  He would find as many people touched by Markus as he could. Moving from the sidewalks of the airport, he headed to the Tri-met. It wasn’t long before he was in the shadowy streets of downtown Portland.  It rained here as much as Seattle but it seemed a little warmer.  
  Pioneer Square was filled with activity. He moved past the crowds and towards the sidewalks and alleys. He watched the crowds dissipate as he walked with his head down and collar up. This wasn’t his town and if it were anyone’s it would have been Markus’.
  Markus was a bum, begging for money to make his way. He wasn’t a drug attic or and alcoholic for that matter. He was a helper of men. He didn’t preach to his fellow sidewalk urchins. In fact, Marcus did his best to make their lives better. ‘It was his eyes,’ Robert thought, ‘they were kind and fragile.’ Most people that went by him would give him they change in their pocket.
  He in turn would held to the local McDonalds, buying sacks full of food and walking down street passing out warm food to anyone who looked hungry.
  Robert paused at a corner and showed the wallet size picture out to a man sitting on a small piece of cardboard.
   “I don’t know him,” answered the man.
  It was Robert’s dress and the way he held himself. He looked like a cop and sense he brought no other close this was going to be more difficult. He stood over the man in contemplation before sitting down beside him.
  “I said, I don’t know him,” responded the man as he watched the officer get comfortable.
  Robert shook his head and could already tell why the man sat on cardboard. The concrete was cold and was already stealing body heat. “I am a cop, but I am not from Portland,” he said, showing his identification.
  “Why are you here looking for…” he said, stopping just short of saying Markus’ name.
  “I am here looking for people that knew Marcus. He is dead,” Robert said, bluntly.
  The man got quiet and Robert could tell he was about to cry. He held out his white handkerchief and the poor man just laughed and grabbed for his grey one from his breast pocket.
  Robert watched him wipe his eyes and blow his nose before saying, “How?”
  “Heart attack over in Boise,” Robert answered folding in tear catcher into a small square and placing back into his pocket.
  “So why are you tell me this,” asked the poor man.
  “I need your help, on Christmas day I would like you to form a group together that will be willing to go to his funeral.”
  “Yeah, but how would we get there,” he asked.
  “Let me worry about that, behind the fountain by 2pm, I will make sure they get there,” Robert answered referring to the fountain near the Saturday market.
  “Why are you doing this,” he whispered.
  “I have my reasons.”
  “Okay, but how do I know you aren’t trying to pull some prank on us.”
  “Have faith brother,” he answered, lifting himself to his feet and rubbing his buttocks with both hands.
  The poor man just stared off across the street.
  Robert knew that there wasn’t a need to wait for an answer. That was Markus’ way and what he would have said, “Have faith brother,” and walk away.
  He talked to many street people that day. Some would run for him others would stay and talk to Robert. Once they found out about Markus. They would all break down. Markus had been here, he had touched the hearts of these people. No one knew Markus before his troubles but he was a good man.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Tamale Lady

  I lived for a time at an apartment complex in Vancouver, Washington with Jan (my wife). We disliked living there. More than once we were found our car broken into and my life threatened. I was even sprayed with mace just outside my back door by a police officer who said I was jumping out at him.  All I had did was walkout door in my socks to see what they commotion was in my back yard.
  It found city life as field mouse would like a colony of rats. Fun to visit but try not to get eaten. I had grown up in a town in eastern Washington. Population 12 thousand or so. It had its problems but nothing like where we had found ourselves living in Vancouver. It just didn’t feel like home.
  Until one day when I was sitting in my favorite chair enjoying a nice cup of coffee when I heard a knock at the door. It was no one that I knew  because all of my friends used the back door to get into my place.
  I opened the door and there was this little old Mexican lady, or would it be Latino Lady.  Anyways, she looked up and faded to shyness. “Sorry, sorry,” she said turning away and starting back up the stairs. In her hand she held a cooler.
  “Wait,” I called out to her.
  She looked back with no understanding what so every, but I did manage to get her attention.  I motioned her back and pointed at the cooler.
  “Tamales?” I questioned, making a motion like I was eating one with my hand.
  She nodded and opened the bucket of goodness.
  The smell was divine, I could even feel the heat coming from off the husked wrapped goodness.
  I motioned for her to wait and I left the door open as I ran for my wallet.
  Upon my return she asked Chicken or pork.  But not with her words. This 65 plus old woman use a bit of improvisation herself. She smiled and then clucked and oinked her question. Smiling again, then quickly turning to see if anyone noticed.
  I laughed and made a motion with my hand like a knife cut my fingers into two. She laughed and understood I wanted half and half.
  I ended up with 6 chicken and 6 pork tamales, at 10 o’clock in the morning. I covered them with salsa and when my wife got up she asked, “Where did you go this morning?”
  She pointed at the tamales on my plate.
  “Grandma, delivered them.”
  I never new the woman name, but each Saturday she would be at my door between 10 and 11 with a dozen Tamales.  She even started to being her Grand daughter to translate for her. I didn’t think she needed one we had already gotten along by ourselves for four Saturdays.
  Once I made that connection with my Mexican Grandmother it started to feel like home. I had grown up eating Mexican food. The Yakima Valley if known three things; apples, wine and Mexican food. That connection with the lady and the tamales gave me that connection I needed with home.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Camping and Tourism

  My dad was a camper by heart. He didn’t care if we use a tent or a trailer. He liked to camp. I guess he passed a little of that on to me. I used pack my car with supplies and head up into the mountains and disappear for a week at a time.
  My parents began to worry, so they would call my friends over and asked them to go with me. It was nieve of them to think my friends wouldn't tell me what they had done. It was about the solitude as much as it was about getting away from the civilization. I would pack my trunk of my car and head up into the Cascades. Stopping at campgrounds along the way. My favorite places to camp where bumping lake and at the foot of Clear lake.  Both campsites are gone now. Clear lake spot is a picnic area and the bumping lake spot was erased by a damn reconstruction project.
  There are more places in the Northwest that I have found over the years to pitch a tent. One of which, is Eagle Creek campground.  Over on the Oregon side of the Columbia River. I hadn’t really thought about that place as being prefect, but is sure was close. They green trees and wild life walking through and the fact that no one knew about it.  I would go on Labor day and 5 out of 17 campsites would be used..
  Until the television show, Ten Wonders of the West. Four of the wonders are within 100 miles of that spot and it was right in the middle of the Columbia Gorge. (Mount Rainier, Mouth Hood, Mount Saint Helens, and The Columbia Gorge) Worse yet, the programmed mentioned that camping hid away by name, along with the second most popular trail. Which is the eagle creek trail.
  We went there a few months back and it was crowned, and noisy.  People were camping three cars to a spot and don’t get me started about the trail.  Hundred of people walking the two or so miles to see Punch bowl falls. I was starting to wonder if it had been a mistake to have come here again, when I noticed my son sitting on log in the middle of the stream. He was having fun and that was all that counted. There were 10 Korean Tourist taken his picture. They came to take photos of Punch Bowl falls.  He just wanted to swim.
  We hike, took a cruise on a river boat, and road a train to the foot hills of Mount Hood.  By the time we came home I was glad we had went. It felt great even if the solitude was replaced with a tourist trap. Now to find a better camp ground with out the carnival.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

No Presents for Gnomes

A Christmas poem by James Farnworth

Nathan drove into the parking lot of the suburban mall, surprisingly, there weren’t many cars at all.
It was raining when he rose from his seat, so he grabbed his coat not missing a beat.
The dress jacket smelled of smoke and it really looked like a cloak.
He paused in dismay, if he should wear such a reminder of the unpleasantness and decay.

If his wife were here, she would have said, “I’m not going in with you smelling of old bread.”
Putting the jacket over one arm and then the other, as he was taught by his mother.
He shut the car door, which didn’t seem fit right anymore.
Stopping his progression a family of four came from the store as if there were no recession.

They were filled with celebration, even at the lateness of the occasion.
He forced a smile when they called out, “Merry Christmas,” as he turned about.
Opening trunk, hearing the sound of cracking, oil it was lacking.
Raising the lid he cried as he looked inside he suddenly felt feelings of dread.

There was the red bike, far larger than his son‘s trike.
It was picked out by his wife, to enrich his little boy’s life.
Stored here in the car, it was surly a great hiding place by far.
Lifting the present onto one shoulder for once he felt no older.

Walking into the store, he did not want to be there anymore.
He went straight to the returns sign, stopping at the end of the line.
Nathan did listen to the conversation, of the mother and boy, who interrupted his quiet contemplation.
It was a lean year for them, by the sound of their conversation, there would be no further meditation.

The little boy only wanted something his mother had truly promised.
Soon it was his turn; it was all he did yearn.
He paused before going to the counter. The woman called out, “What is the Matter.”
Suddenly, the box was awfully heavy, so he gave the woman something to carry.

“Feel free to keep it or just returned it,” he found himself smiling as he said it.
He looked down at the boy who was now jumping for joy.
He didn’t wait for a response, not a greeting or thanks, for any lack of innocence.
He was back in the car before taking his next breath, oh where was his Elisabeth.

He laid his head on the wheel, starring into the distress, “Oh where, will I get my next meal.”
He was relieved that he found a home for the bike that was for a boy named Mike.
Halfway home the rain turned to snow with flakes the size of a quarter and sideways it did blow.
Shouting to the heavens, “White Christmas after all, even if you would have me nothing at all.”  

By the time he pulled into his driveway, two inches had covered the roadway.
He moved around the house being quiet as a mouse.
He could hear the snow flakes landing, as they showed signs of accumulating.
As he approached, the front porch, he wished he had some sort of torch.

He looked down at the plaster gnome, who had stood watch over home.
He looked right back with his unmoving eyes that held no lies.
He picked up the little gnome named Gerome.
The front mat was muddy and felt quit soggy.

The boarded door almost denied, but soon he was inside.
The room was dark and dank, it smelled as his coat had stank.
He moved to the couch and that crackled at his touch.
It was a lonely place and he felt such disgrace.

He held the gnome as he did his child that first day they had brought him home.
“I will miss my baby, little my boy,” he whispered with no joy.

  A note from the author. As we celebrate Christmas all cozy in our homes, lets not for get the people that have left their marks in our hearts over the years. Some may have passed and some will be with you to the last. The above story is a fictional story of how it would truly feel to lose everything. I hug my boy and wife each night before we go to bed. Merry Christmas from myself and Family.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Shiny Christmas

  Growing up in Sunnyside at my Parent’s house was a case study in frugalness, specially this time of year, when people were out shopping and waiting for snow. I would await the Christmas tree, it was the first sign of how many presents I would get, and if I was going to unwrap another one of my mother’s records. We had three types of Christmas’ that always ended the same. The First was the shining Christmas, and the most common. Then there was the green Christmas and least common was the ‘no tree’ Christmas.
  The shiny Christmas tree as I said before was the most common.  We would go up into the attic and pull down the decoration boxes and move them into the living room.  My father would remove the fake tree its box and stand it up in the corner of the living room.  He would bend the metal wire just so to maximize it appearance, not that anyone would mistake it for a really tree, after all it wasn’t like the tree today.  Pre-lit duplicate trees for over a hundred dollars, that looks as though you just cut it down from the forest.  It was nice for back then but it would never be mistake for a really tree.
  We would decorate it with all the decorations to cover the fact it wasn’t real. So much so it starred looking like a blob of tinsel.  That is why I call it a shiny Christmas.  The light would reflect so bad that is was hard to watch the television. Those years were the most common; we would sign Christmas card and later drop them off.  I can remember running up to the doors of our friends and family and tapping the card to the front door. Luckily, our family didn’t live far away those days.
  The fake tree was the first sign that it was going to be a lean year and presents would be smaller and fewer.   However, by Christmas Day, my dad would always have a large meal planned with 20 pies. I would forget the fact that I got a rewrapped record and just eat another slice of pie. We would be laughing and feeling the Christmas spirit by lunch.
  The Green Christmases were few and far apart. Dad would show up with a real tree and we would take out the decorations but this time we wouldn’t add as much. Mom wanted to see the tree. I believe on the leaner years we would cover the tree; so mom wouldn’t be reminded of the fact that it was a leaner year.
  Those Christmas’ were filled with toys, bikes, and better pies. Dad would invite more people for Christmas dinner, and we would stuff ourselves full of good food and cheer.
  The ‘no tree’ Christmas meant we would be sharing Christmas with someone else that year.  It almost always was a leaner year. We would leave our house and travel to my aunt’s house. I can remember opening my little gift and then watching my cousins open theirs. I dreaded these types of Christmas’ and couldn’t wait for the turkey to be done.  We would sit down at the kids table, eat turkey and watch the dogs line up outside the sliding glass door, waiting for scraps. There was always more food but fewer pies.
  This year, it started as a Green Christmas but I find myself looking for more tensile. In just a few days, it has become a very shiny Christmas. Whatever type of Christmas we were having: my parents did their best to make it special. I was too young to understand that our car broke down and the extra money saved up went to its repair or the countless of other reasons why it wasn’t going to be a Green Christmas. My parents are gone and so is my desire to have those big meals and multitude of pies.
  So, Merry Christmas, if I don’t see you and I hope that whatever Christmas that you are having, that you are sharing it with someone you love.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Disneyland trip that ended in hell frozen over.

by Jan Farnworth
  I am sure we all have tales at least in the northwest about the ice storm that hit Christmas of  1996.  That Christmas was the year my mom decided to treat me and my two younger siblings to a trip to Disneyland.  We were all excited it was counting as my future graduation gift and our big family trip for the year.  To boot we were flying on a big airplane.  Now for me this was a real delight cause any other time I been on a plane was just a little puddle jumper that went from Walla Walla, back to Seattle or from Portland to Seattle.
  So time for the trip arrived and we all headed out to Disneyland.  The stay in California was relatively pleasant we did not stay in one of the really expensive hotels but my mom and her current boyfriend did splurge for some of the nicer treats that you can do when you go to Disneyland like breakfast with the Disney characters,  seeing the big Christmas parade, and getting all the autographs from the various characters in the park.
  We rode on all the famous rides, visited it’s a small world after all, and  even visited most of the other attractions near Disneyland.   The day arrived for us to head home little did we know what we were in for.  Now I was in high school so I did not pay much attention to the news or weather reports like I do now a days.  If I had I probably would have had an idea of what was going  on.  My two sibling and I settled on the plane for our ride back to Portland chatting on about what we did and what we wanted to do once we got back home.
  As we got nearer to Portland the pilot started suggesting that the weather was nasty and that he may have some difficulty landing the plane so we should all be prepared for a hard landing.  Okay no big deal later on though he made an announcement that none of us expected to hear.  Portland airport was incased in ice and the pilot would not be able to land.   Okay I thought he just turn around and take us back to warm California no big deal.   No we got routed to Seattle, my mom smiles and says that’s okay your sister will come collect us from the airport and we hang out with her tell we can fly out.
  Once we arrived in Seattle my mom and her boyfriend collected our baggage and located a payphone to call my sister.  After a quick phone call my mom relayed to us some very bad news.  Due to the ice storm my sister could not get out of her driveway to come get us so we had to stay at the airport.  Now we all thought okay this will be fine we get out on the next flight in a few hours or maybe early the next day.  My mom’s boyfriend was in the army so of course they would put us up and we just enjoy another day of vacation.  Well that never happened I am not sure if the hotels were all full or what but the army did not help us out with our plight .  I think they gave my mom some food vouchers but that about it.  
  My mom pleaded with the airport people but not much sympathy was to be found so for the next week me and my siblings along with my mom and her boyfriend survived in the Seattle airport till the big thaw happened and we got to go home.  Needless to say I did not fly again for several years and I worried each time I did that I would be stranded.  A word of warning always watch the weather and be prepared that things maybe not go exactly as you would of hoped.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tail # 4, Oreo, part 1

  It is funny, I place the part 1 in the title before I even started typing. There are some subjects that I know that I can’t complete in a mere 500 words.  Oreo was a dog that was a big part of my life for many years. In 1994, I decided, that I both needed and wanted a dog.  It had been a few years sense Buford had died.
  I took my girlfriend at the time down to the Yakima animal shelter and was surprised at all the animals in need of a home. I strongly suggest picking out a shelter dog, also bring a 20 to 40 pound bag of dog food with you.  It is always needed. Even if you don’t fine a dog it will help with the guilt that you will feel for leaving any of the dogs behind. If you every have gone to a shelter it can wrench at your heart and make you feeling like crying.
  I went back several times before picking a light tan and black dog.  I can remember the barking and the whining of each of those dogs.  The first time I saw Oreo, she was shy and stood back from the bars. I took a few minute to get her to come to the bars. She smelled badly and I must admitted wasn’t my first choice. She whined as I left. In fact I got emotional after that and had to leave. It bothered me to see how many pets were unwanted.
  The next day, I went again this time I brought a 10 pound bag of dog food. There was a sign asking for help from the pubic. It seemed to help my emotional state.  I walked in and the dogs seemed a little quieter. I found out that they had just gotten rid of a few dogs last night. (They hadn’t found home for them, mind you, they just need the room.) I asked how offended did they have to put down an animal. To my surprise the odds of a dog finding a home was near 20 percent.  A pit in my stomach formed.
  I started down the first hallway, determined to find a new friend.  I was tempted to take two and free them but they wouldn’t help matters. I was nearing the end of the last row and there was that little dog. As I approached the cage she rushed over and stood on her hind legs, wagging her tail.
  The guy up front was upset when I brought her into the main office and the tag that had been attached to the cage.
  “You know sir we don’t let you bring them up here until the paperwork is filled out,” he announced.
  I just smiled and stuffed that little stinky dog into my jacket and said, “There, I have a feed hand for the paperwork.”
  He relaxed and when he noticed my determination.
  Truth was I was walking out of there with that little dog, even if for some reason he would have said, “NO! DOG for you!” (Like the soup Nazi, on Sienfeld)
  I had no idea what to name her, all I knew she had picked me. Minutes later, we were off heading home, with the windows open, from the smell.
  Later, I found out that she was white and black not tan and black as advertised. I gave her bath and she came clean. (Truth was I gave her several Baths) She only had a few ticks and 50 or so fleas. But we took care of that.

And of course, to be continued.