Archive for the ‘Up Close and Personal’ Category

My Turn!

Thursday, December 6th, 2018

“Well, hot damn!  Last night it was my turn to take a ride to the hospital in an emergency vehicle.

“What’s going on?” they asked when they got here.  Standard question.  But it was hard to explain.

“We were watching television after dinner and the entire wall started moving to the right.  Then it was back.  Then to the right.  If I looked elsewhere, same thing.  If I closed my eyes, everything seemed fine.  Except for the nausea and…”

“So, you were dizzy?”
“No.  Not exactly.”  And I explained again.
“Vertigo, then.  You were experiencing vertigo.”
“Maybe.  But that’s not exactly what it was like.”

Meanwhile, I was freezing and they were plastering me with sticky things so they could monitor my heart.  “Everything looks good.  You have a bundle branch blockage but you probably know about it already.”

“No, actually, I don’t.”  “Oh, it’s nothing to worry about.  You probably wouldn’t have known about it for another two or three years.”  OMG!

Finally, they took me on the gurney out to the aid car.  I was shivering, waiting for the promised warm blanket, while we rode interminably, I thought, to Ocean bean Hospital.  “It’s never this far when I’m driving,” I thought.

First, the paper work – “medications you take?  Have you eaten any banned foods lately?  Romaine? You don’t look 82! Here’s a vomit bag if you need it.  I’m going to put more heart monitors on you.  I’m starting an IV – saline solution. Can anyone come to get you from the hospital?”

The promised warm blanket turned out to be the thinnest of thin covers (was it paper?).  Better than nothing, I guess. There were thicker ones in the ER but still I was goose-bumpy.  The nurse turned up the thermostat, asked me the same questions, gave me a pill for nausea and something by IV for dizziness.  Or was it the other way around?  The doctor came in.  Looked me over.  Ordered a chest X-ray and a bunch of blood samples and other stuff…  Nyel called.  He was fine.  Worried and feeling helpless in his wheelchair.  But fine, otherwise.

“Don’t worry about me,” he said.  “Back atcha,” I said.  “I’m fine.  Just freezing.”

About 11:30 they called me a taxi.  16.9 miles to Oysterville – a non-stop talking trip (driver not me.)  I was freezing.  I was glad I’d gone to the ATM yesterday.  I’d better go again today…  Nyel was up and waiting for me when I finally got home!  What a guy! Tomorrow an appointment with my primary care doctor.  I hope he doesn’t say “vertigo” but, if he does, I hope he can get to the bottom of why.  I’m still freezing.

A Little Wierd… But Nice To Know… Maybe!

Monday, September 17th, 2018

Hurricane Florence

Yesterday morning when I checked my FaceBook page, there was an information box at the top which said that my cousin Mona and my friend and former student Chelsea “had marked themselves safe during Hurricane Florence Across the Eastern United States.”  While it was very welcome news, it seemed a little Big Brother-ish to me.

My immediate reaction was “How do they know?”  The ‘they’ of that thought process was a faceless entity, definitely a Big Brother look-alike, so to speak.  But, on reflection. I realized that somehow Mona and Chelsea had been given an opportunity by the ‘they’ of FaceBook to weigh in so that their friends could be apprised of their status.

Readying Suppies at Fort Bragg, NC

I am grateful.  But, being the glass half-empty personality that I am, I immediately wondered about other friends and loved ones in the Carolinas that I haven’t heard about – those without FB but, more crucially, those with FB.  Did they opt not to weigh in?  Or are they among 670,000 people without power?  And, if that’s the case, what other problems are they facing?

All-in-all, I’m feeling like a little knowledge is not entirely satisfactory.  I’m trying to take the attitude that “no news is good news” and I actually wish our media would subscribe to that philosophy, as well. The constant hype, the worst-case scenarios, and the repetitive visuals of the most dire situations wore me down in the first day or so of the impending disaster.  And now FB gets into the act!  I’m feeling a bit gobsmacked in Oysterville and am turning off, tuning out, and reverting to the age-old policy of hope for the best!

And, on the other side of the questions…

Wednesday, September 12th, 2018

I’ve been interviewing people these last few weeks for my Observer series “Our Greats and Grands.”  I don’t think I’m very good at the job though Lord knows I’ve done scores, maybe hundreds, of interviews in my time.  I thoroughly enjoy the whole process – getting to know my subject(s), finding out what’s important to them, hearing about their area(s) of expertise.  And, I love the writing part – trying to capture a little of the emotional content behind the facts.  Telling someone’s story from their point of view.  Recording the history for posterity.

But… as I say, I’m not especially good at it.  I think the fault lies in my limited listening skills.  Or maybe, nowadays, my limited remembering skills.  I find that I get involved in the conversation and that’s not always conducive to documenting the facts.  My friend Cate uses a teeny tiny tape recorder in addition to taking notes – a good idea but way too time consuming to go back and, essentially, “reconduct” the interview in order to double-check facts.  So, I begin every interview by forewarning my subjects that I’ll be getting in touch with them – not only for fact-checking, but also for the additional questions that are sure to pop up as I begin writing.

This morning, though, the shoe was on the other foot.  I was the one being interviewed.  A reporter from Cannon Beach was doing the questioning.  Fortunately, she had one of those lovely little tape recorders.    Even more fortunately, she brought a friend with her who turned out to be my cousin.  Small world!! I’m pretty sure I got my facts straight but I’m also sure I didn’t stay on track very well.  It was way too much fun!

Oh!  And the article?  You’ll have to wait until the next issue of Our Coast which comes out next Spring.  Until then… I think I’ll look into a little tape recorder.  It makes the interviewing process seem so easy!

Portland’s finest? Maybe not…

Monday, August 6th, 2018

From “Envisioning the American Dream”

I grew up secure in the knowledge that “the policeman is your friend.”  I had complete faith in the smiling men in blue uniforms who were occasionally directing traffic at busy intersections and I had no doubt that if I got lost or frightened when I was walking home from school, I could go to a policeman for help.

Though I spent almost forty years repeating those same platitudes to young children in my teaching years, I have to say that I no longer believe them.  Not as a general rule, anyway.  Never mind that I still love English mysteries involving the cheerful Bobby-on-the Beat and I am horrified and heartbroken when policemen are killed in the line of duty.  But, over the years, I’ve had some unhappy experiences with policemen that have made me feel… well, wary.

New Age Nightmare

Once was in the ’60s in Oakland, California, when my (then) husband and I were frisked and our car was searched as we left an artist friend’s studio that happened to be on the “wrong side of town.”  That experience resulted in an apologetic phone call from Oakland’s Chief of Police and a “we are so sorry” letter from Oakland’s mayor.  Unfortunately, neither letter nor phone call erased my lasting, negative impression.

A decade later in Castro Valley, California, I had occasion to call the police about a break-in attempt.  Their response was prompt and efficient but when one of the uniformed men came back a few days later, ostensibly to see if I was all right, and then asked me for a date (“Are you hitting on me?!!!”) my faith in the friendly boys in blue was shaken further.

Saturday evening in Portland we had a police encounter that was actually frightening and gave me just a tiny taste of the fine line many people walk these days.  We were driving west on Burnside following our GPS instructions for how to reach the Benson Hotel.  We were well aware of the protest activity down at Waterfront Park but there was absolutely no spill-over in the area where we were.  Traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian, was moving as usual.

The disembodied voice of our GPS told us to turn right at the upcoming corner which we did.  But before our turn was complete, a large uniformed policeman loomed toward us gesticulating and scowling and  shouting.  We couldn’t distinguish his words over our GPS and the air conditioner but the expression on his face left no doubt as to his intent.  Nyel put the car into reverse immediately but had to ease back into the stream of traffic we had just left.  Meanwhile, we felt totally threatened and vulnerable.

From the Portland Police Museum Collection

We saw no signage to indicate that the street was off limits – there were other cars parked on both sides, though at the moment, there was no traffic.  The policeman continued to snarl and shout.  Rolling down the window to explain or ask his directional advice was obviously not an option.  Our adrenalin levels?  Maxed!  The cop’s?  Apparently ditto.  If we’d been other than a little old gray-haired white couple, what might he have done?    It was a terrifying and mystifying encounter that made me more-than-ever sympathetic to all those who deal with that sort of overwhelming anger/fear/testosterone-in-uniform every single day.

We made our right turn at the next street over and proceeded the three or four blocks to our destination without further incident.  (And, I might add, no evidence of police presence along our route.  Was that guy confused about where he should be??)  My take-home memory:  the policeman is not my friend.  Not in Portland.

The Warp and The Weft

Sunday, June 24th, 2018

Cliff House Today

If I knew anything about weaving, I’m sure I could use its particular vocabulary metaphorically to describe my anticipation for the day ahead.  But I don’t so I can’t.  Not succinctly or specifically, anyway.  I can only say that I’ve lived long enough now to realize that certain threads have followed me since the beginning.  And even before.

Cliff House , 1878,

They are part of the tapestry – no, more like a simple wall hanging – of my life.

Take the famous Cliff House in San Francisco, for instance.  We are going there today to meet my old high school boyfriend (never mind that neither he nor I knew then that he was gay) for brunch.  The Cliff House is familiar territory to me, but not as an eating establishment.  I remember gazing at it from the time I was a little girl on the rare occasions that I got to go to Playland at the Beach.  As much fun as Laffing Sal and the Roller Coaster and the Fun House were, I always longed to go to the Cliff House.  But not so much the Sutro Baths.

I think that desire had to do with my grandmother.  She had grown up in the 1870s and 1880s in East Oakland and, since her father worked in San Francisco, outings across the bay to “City” and even to the redwoods in Marin County, were still fond memories.  I remember begging her for stories about “when she was a little girl” and the Cliff House was among the images that stuck in my mind.  I was also fascinated by a small wooden box with the Cliff House etched and hand-painted on its lid. It was the container for the paper dolls she and her friend Mary Wallace made when they were just my age – probably eight or nine.

Cliff House, 1954

A decade later, I worked summers at the Cliff House Gift Shop.  I remember selling dozens of teacups and saucers (“Lovely to Look At; Delightful to Hold; If You Should Drop It, We Mark It Sold”) to the busloads of tourists and eating my lunch in a room behind the Manager’s Office.  Once in a while, I’d treat myself to a corn dog (were they 10 cents?) from a stand just outside the front doors and once my dad stopped by to take me out for coffee.  But I never set foot in the Cliff House Restaurant.  I was saving my money for college expenses and the items on that menu were out of my league.

Today, though… brunch with a friend of seventy-plus years!  At last!  I don’t know if the Sutro Baths still exists but they are not on the agenda.  Just as well.  A bathing suit was not among my threads this trip.

No Icing Needed!

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

Well… it’s all over but the shouting and we didn’t make the cut.  Not that we expected to, exactly.  Back in February, the Observer and I submitted my “Stories from the Heart” series for consideration for the Pulitzer Prize under the “Local News” category.  We didn’t really think there was a chance.  Not even a remote one.

On the other hand, we were proud of the series.  We knew that it had captured the attention of the ‘world beyond’ – the Seattle Times, the New York Times Magazine. Even the BBC!  Big stuff for our little corner of the world.  And that, after all, was the original intent – to cast some light into the shadows here on the Peninsula.  To raise awareness.  To prompt some discussion and, perhaps, some change.

Stories from the Heart

So… we spent a few hours filling out the application form.  We agreed not to talk about it.  It would make a nice surprise if, indeed, we won.  And otherwise… not much use in saying anything.  Not even to the people that had been urging us to go for it.  After all, winning would only be icing on the cake.

Ours was one of 2,400 submissions.  There were only 21 winners – one for each category.  I’m not sure how winners were informed.  The rest of us find out by default – if our names didn’t show up on any of the lists or in any of the news articles that came out yesterday then we didn’t win and we hadn’t been finalists.   I found was told in an email from Matt – subject line “It was worth a shot.”  Indeed!   We didn’t need the icing.

Lots of Love and Benign Neglect

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018


Nyel’s truck, called simply ‘Truck,’ has been with us for just about as long as “us” has been a part of our lexicon.  It’s a 1991 Ford and once upon a time it was new and shiny black.  Now, never having had the benefit of a garage or other protected-from-the-elements-space, it has faded to a dull gray color – mostly.  There are spots of the ‘r’ word which, when mentioned, Nyel vehemently denies.  Or has until now.

Yesterday, he reluctantly admitted that rust might, indeed, be the problem with the front bumper.  It’s in imminent danger of falling off – a situation that I only learned circuitously.  For several days now Nyel has been haunting the junk stores – one of his all-time favorite activities – and come to find out, he was looking for jack stands.  Whatever they are.  Needed, he said to lift Truck up so he can get to the place where he can make the repair.

Listing Bumper

But, he could only locate one jack stand.  So, this morning he informed me he has a new plan.  He’ll use the car jack he has, take the front wheels off Truck, one at a time, slide himself underneath and get to the heart of the matter that way.  “No problem.”

I, of course, was horrified.  A guy who needs a cane to stay upright when he walks and who can’t get up if he happens to be down… a guy with no strength in his arthritic hands… a guy…  Yep.  It’s definitely a guy thing and I had to pull out the bitchy wife card.  It took a little arguing but I think Truck is going to limp into George’s this morning and get in line for the necessary repairs.


I hope that ‘necessary’ is all they do.  Once we had to take Truck somewhere for something (you can tell how little attention I pay to that poor old vehicle) and someone had the audacity to clean the lichen and moss away from the window wells.  I think that set ‘evolution’ back a number of years – no telling what kind of habitat would have been established by now had they left that furry gray-green growth alone!  We were horrified.  After all, benign neglect is one thing but it doesn’t have anything to do with unconditional love.  Not when we’re talking Truck.

Muddling Through

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018

Sick Sydney

This whole role reversal thing ain’t what it’s cracked up to be.  I’m a lousy patient.  Nyel apparently failed Nursing 101.  The last ten days have been hell all the way around.

For me it’s been fever, coughing, chills, coughing, sweating, coughing, shaking, coughing, twenty-four-seven.  No appetite.  Not thirsty.  Tired, tired, tired but only able to sleep in snatches.  Cough myself awake.  The diagnosis was bronchitis.  It surely is something worse. Bronchitis sounds so ordinary.  This is not ordinary.  This is the pits.

Watchful Nyel

Nyel comes to the doorway periodically.  He stares at me.  Then he goes away.  I know he feels he should DO something but he hasn’t a clue.  Could you get me some water I ask.    Could I have some juice I whine.  I’d like to try some hot tea.  He’s accommodating.  I’m cranky.  Why do I have to ask I say. I can’t read your mind he says.  Maybe you could take my temperature I say.  Not with the cat thermometer for god’s sake I say.  Maybe I’ll feel better tomorrow.

I don’t.  But by some good fortune, Nyel is still in the doorway.  Or sitting nearby in a chair.  He hasn’t filed the divorce papers yet.  Even though he must be sick of hearing this wretched cough.  But still I’m a bitch.  You’d think after spending 100 days in the hospital last year, you’d have a clue, I say.  He looks so sorry.  I feel terrible.  In all ways.

Comfort Food

Today is Day Eleven.   But who is counting.  I think I’m feeling a little better.  I’ve eaten dinner two nights in a row, now.  Lamb chops, baked potato, peas.  Last night made-from-scratch mac-and-cheese and spinach for a veggie.  Nyel is the best cook in the world.  I slept pretty well last night.  Nyel hasn’t moved out yet.  God is good.  We might make it after all.

The Day I Entered My 83rd Year!

Thursday, March 1st, 2018

Birthday Girl – Photo by Tucker Wachsmuth

Yesterday was my 82nd birthday!  That’s hard enough for me to believe but when I consider that the day marked the first of year 83 on this watery old planet, I find it quite mind-boggling.  Happily, I don’t think about those numbers very much; there are so many more interesting things to occupy my mind.

Like, trying to remember what chapters 13 and 14 in James G. Swan’s The Northwest Coast or Three Years’ Residence in Washington Territory were all about.  Not that I hadn’t just read them – like two days previously – but the details were a little foggy.  I was trying my best to recall them as I entered the Heritage Museum for the Community Historian class.  It’s my job to lead the ‘homework’ discussion first thing every Wednesday morning and I take my responsibilities seriously…

Birthday Cards!

So, imagine my surprise when Betsy Millard came into the room a few minutes before the starting time carrying a darling little cake with candles lit and the class began to sing “Happy Birthday!”  To me!  Needless to say, thoughts of Swan and his 1854 adventures went right out of my head!  And… there were a gazillion teeny tiny cupcakes that we could share, allowing me to bring that cake home to Nyel-of-the-Sweet-Tooth.  It was a grand start to a fun day.

The mail was full of birthday cards and, at last look, I had 152 greeting on FaceBook.  Wow!  Later in the afternoon, a ‘spring bouquet’ arrived from Charlie and an email from Marta saying a present was on its way.  I felt well and truly loved for sure!  It was really hard for me to remember that I had a couple of deadlines looming and writing projects to concentrate on.  But I got enough accomplished that I didn’t even hesitate when Nyel asked me if I’d like to go out to dinner!

Birthday Bouquet from Charlie

We headed for the Pickled Fish where I paid absolutely no attention to “healthy.”  Well, the Bloody Mary did come topped with what appeared to be a complete salad, and the Dirty, Dirty Fries had generous dollops of cheese on them (protein, right?) and the tomato soup was probably healthy, though it boggles my mind that something so delicious could also be at all nutritious.

Then… home for birthday cake and an episode of Jeopardy.  For once, we didn’t watch the news and that might have been the best birthday gift of all!

Meeting Myself Coming and Going

Monday, February 19th, 2018

Shoalwater Storytellers Poster, 1981

For someone interested in local history (that would be me), one of the strangest research experiences is to run into information about oneself (me again.)  It’s happened to me twice in the last few years – both times in totally unexpected ways and both times having to do with the Shoalwater Storytellers.

For those who weren’t around in the 1980s, just a tad of background information.  In the very early 80s, Lawrence Lessard (then the director of the Peninsula Players) and I established a small story-telling performance group.  There were six of us – Patty and Noel Thomas, Bob and Senta Cook, Lawrence and myself.  We did readers theater productions of local history.  “The Stage to Oysterville,” “The Hanging of Lum You,” “The Ghost of Mrs. Crouch” were among our repertoire

Cranberry Festival Brochre 1982

By the mid-eighties, everyone else dropped out, I shanghaied Nyel, and he and I continued the presentations.  Three or four years ago we turned over sets, scripts, and costume pieces to David Immel and Kitt Fleming.  Hooray!  We had retired from yet another fun but time-consuming responsibility!  Done!  It had been a good 30+ year run and we have moved on.

But then… I was doing some research at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum for a Sou’wester article on place names and I ran across a photograph taken in front of one of the Charter Offices at the Port of Ilwaco.  And there we were – Lawrence and I – costumed and caught in mid stride.  I think we were portraying “The Burning of the Bruce” – the story about the Bruce Boys’ arrival in Shoalwater Bay in 1852.  Great Stuff!  But… archived with historic information about the Port?  Wow!

1982 Cranberry Festival Brochure, inside

Yesterday, it happened again.  This time, I’m beginning a new book for the Cranberry Growers Association.  Although I wrote one of my ABCs books, C is for Cranberries” on the same subject years ago, any connection there might have been between Washington’s cranberry industry and Shoalwater Storytellers never occurred to me.  But, as I was going through a scrapbook provided by one of the growers, there we were again!  Right there in dead center of a 1982 brochure about the Cranberry Fair was a listing for the Shoalwater Storytellers!

Wow!  I’ve never made any bones about my age, but finding myself listed in the archives is beginning to make me feel like a bit of a relic!  In a good way.