Archive for the ‘Friendship’ Category

Some Circles Have Sharp Corners

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

Azmi Shawa

As I looked around the room yesterday during Azmi Shawa’s ‘Celebration of Life,’ I involuntarily took note of all the familiar faces in the crowd.  People we’ve known for years and years.  People ‘of an age’ – as was Azmi.  I couldn’t help but wonder which of us would be attending similar celebrations for the next in line.

And I thought about circles.   Congruent and concentric and intersecting circles like I learned about in Plain Geometry with Mr. Patterson in 1950 at San Rafael High School.  Circles of friendship and circles of influence, circles of sharing – the circle of life.  We encircled one another with our arms – hugs of caring and hugs of shared memories.

Willie Marsh

Not many hours afterward, Willie Marsh died.  This time, though, my thoughts cut right to the chase: “Too young!  Too many lives left to touch!  Too soon!”  Here was a circle that had an unbearably sharp corner.  Right now, it seems as though it’s a corner that can never be turned.  Perhaps the community’s many hugs will help — hugs for Berta and Marian and for all of Willie’s big family and many friends.

…and the town’s filling up!

Friday, April 14th, 2017

Headed for the Beach

In Oysterville, it feels a little like it did thirty or forty years ago when most of the part-time residents would show up on holiday weekends.  Nowadays, with our ever-increased mobility, home-owners and their friends and family seem to come and go whenever the spirit moves – not necessarily for special occasions only.  But… yesterday, as the town started filling up, I had a little bit of déjà vu.

            For starters, I think the Accuardi family is planning to be here in force to celebrate Fred and Gail.  They have sold their Red Cottage after twenty years of careful stewardship and their large family is gathering to wish them well and to say ‘arrivederci to Oysterville’ – at least to this chapter.  Martie and Steve at the Captain Stream house will continue the family’s connection with the village with energy, enthusiasm and next generations – “as God intended” as our friend Te would say.

Line-Up at the Dock

In the Red House (not to be confused with the Red Cottage) Cousins Abby and Dan Ronco and kids (the sixth generation of Espys) have arrived with friends.  Their plan is to have an Easter Egg Hunt throughout the town on Sunday.  I hope the weather cooperates, but knowing my intrepid cousins, a little rain and wind won’t slow them down.

Other folks are in town to take advantage of the long overdue clam season.  We haven’t been out but we understand the digging is great.  We’ve already been offered some freshly cleaned clams from neighbors Tucker and Carol!  (Sometimes there are advantages to being old or infirm.)

Beach Driving

And, of course, there are all of the ‘regulars’ –those spirited neighbors who are here every-weekend-no-matter-what. Plus, those who live here full-time but have been away for parts of the winter.  Add us all up and the town seems a-bustle.  As my folks used to say, “It feels like Old Home Week.”  Throw in a bit of intermittent sunshine and we can almost imagine that spring and summer are on their way after all!

So far… better than good!

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

Marta’s Package

Even though I’d had a bit of warning, the package that arrived in the mail yesterday took me by surprise.  A belated birthday present from step-daughter Marta!  The ‘warning’ part had been a phone call from her while she was shopping at some sort of ‘everything’ store near her home in Marin County.  She asked me about the kinds of hats I like and favorite colors in socks and preferences in snacks.

Marta’s Wrapping Paper

“Not berets or ball caps,” I said.  “They point right to my sticky-outie ears.”  And we laughed.  “Yes, striped socks are great,” I said.  “And blue denim color, not navy, is best.”  We laughed some more.  “Snacks?  Salty, not sweet,” we said in unison.  More laughter.  She told me upfront she was on a quest for my belated birthday but, apparently, what stuck in my mind was the fun of talking to her while she shopped.  So, when the package arrived I was clueless – until I saw the return address.

In typical Marta fashion, the wrapping paper was hand-decorated, the card designed and fashioned by Marta and there were signs and messages throughout.  I smiled – even laughed out loud – as I opened each item. Two pair of socks, a jar of my favorite freeze-dried decaf coffee, and a package of Tex-Mex nibblies.  I could hear the echo of Marta’s giggle with each rustle of tissue paper.

“I hope these fill the bill… a little munchie, a little drinkie, a little fashion wear!” the card said.

Marta’s Card

I thought back to my birthday on February 28th.  Nyel was in the hospital for five days and I was right there with him.  When he worried about how I was spending my 81st, I told him I’d make up for it by finding a way to celebrate all year long.  So far, so good.  When we got home in March, my friend Maggie gave me a special birthday luncheon and the guests even brought presents!  And then a bit later in the month, our friends Petra and Michael took us to a belated birthday lunch in Astoria!  I felt blessed.

And now it’s April and… make that so far, so much better than good!

Sheltering in Oysterville

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

Rainy Day Vista

“Oh, good.  You’re home!” came Cate’s voice over the wire.  “Aida and I are on a walk in Oysterville and it just started to pour.  Can we come by?”

Over cups of tea we spent an hour talking, talking, talking – mostly, of course about Aida’s Willapa Bay AiR residency.  Much to her delight, it has given her the opportunity to complete the second draft of her second novel.  The manuscript is ready for translation from Farsi to English, the first step on the road to publication.  It’s a love story – an immigrant and a U.S. citizen and their struggle to overcome ‘the cultural divide.’ A topical subject, for sure.

Aida told us, too, of the difficulties Iranian citizens have in getting a U.S. visa.  Since we have no embassy in Tehran, it is necessary to take the expensive flight to Dubai to be interviewed by U.S. immigration authorities. The wait for an appointment is incredibly long.  Had it not been for intervention by Willapa Bay AiR’s founder, Cyndy Hayward, Aida’s March residency would not have occurred.  As it turned out, she arrived two weeks early after quickly making her travel arrangements as soon as Trump’s first immigration/travel ban was blocked by court order.

Storm Shelter

I was a bit taken aback to learn that yesterday was the final day of her Residency.  Where did the time go?  She leaves today for a month of travel – seeing friends across the United States and revisiting New York where she spent time several years ago.  While there, she hopes to make some useful contacts that will ultimately lead to the perfect translation of her book.

Our hour went too quickly.  Aida was delightful – warm, enthusiastic, incredibly chatty.  I thought back to my first knowledge of her – back in the fall of 2016 when she had been accepted to the Residency.  I think it was my February 1st blog that ‘broke’ the news that she might not be able to come because of Trump’s travel ban — the first of the headlines that caused a stir far beyond Oysterville.

Aida and Sydney

It was heartening to learn that Aida had “met so many wonderful people” while she was here and I greatly regret that it never worked out for us to get to know her earlier — despite the possibilities of  Friday Night Gatherings or dinner or even a House Concert.  Who’d a thunk it would be the blankety-blank rain that would bring a visitor from clear across the world into our house?  Thanks, Cate, for knowing that there’s always shelter here!

Breakfast with Jim and A Talk with Tom

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

42nd Street Cafe

This morning we headed south on Sandridge shortly after dawn’s early gray.  It was pouring.  It was cold.  And it was way too early on a Sunday morning.  Nevertheless, I was looking forward to our breakfast date with Jim Sayce.

Our rendezvous point was the 42nd Street Café.  Jim and I used to meet there now and then when I was working on the Sou’wester issue, “Place Names of the Long Beach Peninsula.”  That was a couple of years ago, and I think those meetings, like this one, were at my instigation.  For certain things, there’s no one’s brain better to pick than Jim’s!

This time, I wanted to talk to him about an old photograph.  It’s one that I’ve had for some time and just ran across again.  Although it is labeled and I know exactly where it was taken, I can’t quite figure out some of the geographic details.  Since there are few people who know more about the physical changes that have happened historically in our area, Jim was my go-to guy.  And besides, I really like the Eggs Benedict at the 42nd Street – a ‘Sunday morning only’ treat.

Eggs Benedict

Speaking of food… I think that’s the only reason Nyel went along. He said hardly a word during our more-than-two-hour breakfast but he listened attentively – which is good.  I’m at the point where another pair of ears helps a lot.  As for Jim – he talked plenty, but then he always does.  For all I know, he came for the food too…  No matter.  I learned a bunch.  And for the record, I talked plenty, too.

The photograph is labeled ‘Ilwaco, July 4, 1910’ and it’s one neither Jim nor I have seen anywhere else.  I’m thinking about using it as the centerpiece in my next Observer column which is due a week from now.  I’m not sure exactly the how of it, but the photograph is too hard to archive without first sharing it. It probably won’t please my critics (well, just one that I know of) who have told the editor that my columns contain “too much history.”  My uncharitable thought is that he/she probably qualifies for a position at the current White House.

Jack’s Country Store in Ocean Park, Washington.

On our way back to Oysterville, we stopped for a few minutes at Jack’s to get some salad stuff and so I could interview Tom Downer about his April 6th Oysterville Schoolhouse Lecture.  His subject: “Jack’s Story.”  I arrived home feeling enriched all the way around.  What fabulous people live in our midst!  Now if only I can do justice to what I learned…

The Gathering Place

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

A Party of Jays at T&C’s

When I was growing up, there was always a place in the neighborhood that was like a kid magnet.  There was the Heckes House (or the beach in front) in Oysterville or the Reading House in Alameda or the Dangerfield’s in San Rafael. But never our house.  I always attributed that to the fact that there were siblings (and often their cousins) in those other places.  The homes I lived in were more adult-centered.

As an only child, I didn’t give the ‘gathering elsewhere’ phenomena much thought.  It was just the way it was.  And when Charlie was little it was the same in our neighborhood in Castro Valley – except for the occasional convergence on our swimming pool on hot summer days, there were more possibilities for fun where families were larger.

Mom and Bambi Heading for T&C’s

I don’t think about that ‘gathering’ aspect of our lives nowadays.  We are mostly too occupied with other things to spend hours and days just hanging out with friends.  Hip-hopping over to the neighbors to find out if they can come out and play evaporated, as Corinthians suggests, when “I put away childish things.”

But, lately, I’ve noticed that there is another type of magnetic gathering place here in Oysterville.  It’s where our furry four-legged friends converge.  Not all at once, but fairly consistently throughout the year.  The deer and the bear, the raccoons and various other critters (even our chickens!) seem to gravitate to Tucker and Carol’s place.  I know that they come through here, too.  We see the chomped leaves of our camellias and the scat on the lawn but the furry folk don’t often hang out and pose for pictures here.  Not like at the Wachsmuth place around the corner.

Yesterday’s Seed Thief at T&C’s

For instance, for the last few days Nyel has been doing wild bird seed duty while Carol and Tucker have been gone.  He goes over about at first light (a detour after his chicken duties) to open the smokehouse door and the plastic tub of birdseed and scatter a cup or so in the yard.  Yesterday, he had been beaten to the punch by a saucy little squirrel who had managed to pry that plastic lid up and probably thought he had died and gone to heaven.  He didn’t scamper off immediately, either.  He took time to pose for several pictures first – if a bit belligerently,

I’m sure the magnetism has a logical explanation but I think it’s a subtle one.  Kids and animals instinctively know the most welcoming places.  It’s no doubt a measure of my curmudgeonliness (is that a word?) that I’m sorta glad it’s Tucker and Carol’s place, not ours.

Can T&C come out to play?


Living Vicariously

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

In This Week’s Observer

I’m so glad my friend Ruth Chamberlin is writing a column in the Observer!  And I’m even happier that it is about her amazing family.  I love love LOVE reading whatever Ruth writes and I have an almost visceral reaction (in the best of all possible ways) to learning more about her remarkable life with husband Burt and their eight (count ‘em EIGHT) adopted children – an international, multiracial group of kids, now ‘grown and gone’ (or as ‘gone’ as any of our children ever are.)

I can’t remember when I first met Ruth.  Probably ten years or so ago.  Diane Buttrell introduced us over coffee and blintzes at the Full Circle Café and I was soon reading her book, The Dancing Finn – a book of fiction, Ruth claims, but clearly drawn from her own rich experiences.  A few years later came the sequel, Laughter Left Over. I was already in love with her family if ‘in love’ is the right choice of words to describe your feelings for a remarkable group of young people you have never met.

The Dancing Finn

Summer before last, Ruth and Burt’s eldest child, Jordan, came to Ocean Park to visit.  He brought his young and very pregnant wife, Innocensia, for whom Ruth had a baby shower.  (I idly wondered if anyone had given Ruth a shower when Jordan was expected.  Or, for that matter, for any of the children.)  And, was it last summer, they all came visiting here in Oysterville with baby Errol just on the verge of walking?

Laughter Left Over

Ruth and I still meet for coffee.  We talk about our lives – our difficulties finding time to write, how our families are doing, our struggles with the aches and pains of aging (though Ruth is at least a decade younger… I think.)  But I still don’t feel like I know much about the hows, whys, and wherefores of her young life with eight incredibly diverse youngsters.

Next time we talk, I hope I remember to ask if she’s going to continue writing about their lives in her column.  I hope so.  And I hope her monthly articles are the beginning of another book – this time non-fiction.  It’s not a stranger-than-fiction story but it’s definitely a more wondrous-than-imaginable one!  Thanks, Ruth, for sharing a bit of your enormous, loving heart with all of us.

Mixed Blessings

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

Reader Board, 3/5/2017

The words on the reader board just south of the Shelburne Inn are more-or-less an inside joke – if an outdoors sign can be said to be an inside anything.  For those in the know, however, those words announce to the world that Laurie and David are back at the helm and that our imperfect world is back in balance… more or less.  The subtext is a mixed one – relief, disappointment, anxiety and hope, probably not in equal measures.

For a year or maybe less, the venerable old hotel has been under a lease-to-buy agreement with a management company.  Shelburne owners Laurie and David Campiche have had the Inn on the market for several years and were full of high hopes when the arrangement was negotiated but, as best laid plans often go, it didn’t work out the way they had imagined.  And now they are back to continue their almost fifty years of tender loving stewardship of Washington State’s oldest continuously operated hotel.

The Shelburne Inn

Speaking as a ‘community member,’ I couldn’t be happier.  While I was interested in the management company’s innovative marketing ideas (and was even involved in one of them – a ghost storytelling night on Halloween weekend), I have to say that I missed the comfort of the Shelburne hospitality we were used to.  I missed David’s friendly conversations at pub or dinner table, and I missed the welcoming, personal touches that both he and Laurie provided just as a matter of course.  Somehow, the hotel was beginning to feel like a stranger in our midst.

But, speaking as a long-time ‘friend of the family,’ I’m sorry it didn’t work out.  Everybody deserves to retire eventually – preferably at a time in life when they can still smell the roses.  And maybe those in “the hospitality business” (as they call it, these days) deserve a few relaxing years more than most of us.  After all, they’ve been looking to the needs and comfort of strangers day and night for all these years, to say nothing of keeping the grand old hotel propped up, spiffed up, and operating smoothly.  Time for their own share of R&R!

Shelburne c. 1900

“What are the warts?” Nyel asked me as we read the reader board.  “I haven’t a clue,” I said.  “We’ll have to ask Laurie.”  I can’t really imagine.  I think the Shelburne under Laurie and David’s watch is probably in better shape than it’s ever been since it was built back in 1896.  Builder Charles Beaver must think so, too.  He hasn’t been around for some time now – at least not that we know of.  (You can read about him in “The Man Upstairs at the Shelburne” in my book, Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula… but that’s another story.)

And speaking of school reunions…

Monday, February 20th, 2017

The Invitation

I’m not much for school reunions.  I’ve only attended two of my own — my 50th San Rafael High School Reunion in 2003 and my 50th Stanford Reunion four years later.  I loved them both but, truth to tell, the trek to California seems like a huge effort for that walk down memory lane.  An odd thought coming from me, the history buff.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve kept in close touch over the years with classmates from both high school and college and the memory itch is well-scratched.

These thoughts are in the forefront right now because I’ve recently received information about my 60th college reunion.  Shall I?  Or not?  It’s scheduled for next October 12th to 15th – Homecoming Weekend, and involves a host of events.  Beginning with a “tailgate party” on Thursday evening and continuing Friday with a choice of “40 Classes Without Quizzes taught by top Stanford faculty,” the festivities include mini-reunions with dorm-mates, campus tours and, for the stalwart football fans, the homecoming game: Stanford Cardinal vs. Oregon Ducks.

Alena, Miki, Sydney

Tempting, to be sure.  Meanwhile, I’ll be having a school reunion or two of another sort.  In fact, the first one was on Saturday when Alena Short, Miki Frace, and I met for lunch at the Roo.  It was our first get-together since Alena moved back to the beach from Utah where she has been for the past twenty years or so!  We have vowed to make this reunion a quarterly event.

And, it’s a “school” reunion how?  Let me count the ways!  First of all, I taught Miki’s daughter, Dorothy, and Alena’s daughter and son, Chelsea and Zack, back in the 1990s.  In fact, in the early ‘90s when I had a multigrade first, second, third grade class, both Dorothy and Chelsea were with me for several years.  I can’t honestly remember if they were in the same grade or a year apart.  And to think that those ‘kids’ are now adults.  And Zack with kids of his own!

Ocean Park School: The First Seven Decades, page 131

Secondly, it was a school reunion because all of us are teachers.  I was actually on the interview team that recommended Miki for employment.  I don’t remember much about the interview process except that it was held in my classroom at Ocean Park School and Dorothy, then eighteen months old, crawled around the floor happily exploring what would soon become a big part of her world.

Alena didn’t get her teaching credential until she went back to Utah but, of course, I’d like to think that I had some part in encouraging her to do so.  Never in my wildest dreams (maybe not in hers, either) did I think that someday she would be back here teaching in the Ocean Beach School District!  I’m only sorry that we missed being working colleagues.  As it is, my retirement in 2001 might have been right around the time she began her first teaching job.

It was a grand reunion.  Non-stop talking and catching up with families, careers, and future plans.  First and foremost:  we plan to get together again soon to continue the conversation!

A Heart Happy Valentine’s Day!

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Dinner for Kings and Queens of Hearts

I’m not so sure our Valentine’s meal last night would make it onto Nyel’s heart healthy diet, but it surely was a dinner worth sinning (just a little) for!  Besides, the night before, Cuzzins Cheryl and Virg had brought chicken (that Virg barbequed on our Weber grill) and all the trimmings, right down to dessert-on-a-stick that was about as ‘heart’ily correct as you can get –   pieces of fruit that Cheryl had pre-cut into heart shapes!  Festive, delicious, healthy!

In fact, it was the dessert that made us think that we should really continue our visit (and our eating) on Valentine’s Day – this time, Nyel and I would ‘do’ dinner.  We had been hankerin’ for cracked crab so, after Nyel made a huge coleslaw salad, we buzzed off to the Crab Pot and splurged on four luscious looking crabs, backed and cleaned and ready to go.  We added a couple of baguettes and it was a dinner fit for the Kings and Queens of Hearts!

Let’s get cracking!

Three ounces of steamed Dungeness crab is said to be “heart healthy” but, of course, we have no idea what the meat of an entire crab weighs.  We are certain that the quantity each of us ingested must have ranked as Sin#1.  As far as calorie count and cholesterol (the bad kind) go, we might have been okay, but in the matter of salt… Sin#2 for sure!

The scales corroborated our fears in that department this morning – two pounds up for each of us.  (That amount of overnight weight gain, according to the cardiologists, is directly attributable to water retention which, in this case no doubt, can be directly attributed to salt intake.)

Heart Happy and Healthy Dessert-on-a-Stick

Today and moving forward we will redouble our vigilance.  But it surely is nice to bask in the memory of that heart happy meal with good friends!