Those Were the Days


Russia House. The movie. It was recently on TV.  Great thriller. I remember seeing it on video shortly after it was released. Little did I know at the time that several of the supporting cast members would surface 25 years later as some of my favorite British film/TV actors. That’s a fun part of watching old movies.

When I was very young, I didn’t understand my parents’ thrill when an older film popped up on TV. I always assumed their enthusiasm for all things World War II and farther back was because it was of their generation; an intense period in history that none of the rest of us could, or ever would understand.

Now that I’m in my 50s, I think I get nostalgia. I am giddy when I see a Laugh-In rerun (there are only a few of you who know what a “rerun” is). Seeing 70s era films and TV shows with groovy chicks, like I wanted to be, with their long, stringy hair, parted in the middle (which my hairline would never do), dressed in hip-huggers and halter tops make me wistful. It brings back memories of Krishnas singing and dancing in the street. Vietnam war protests, Flower Power stickers, and Michael Jackson, when he was just a cute kid I had a crush on; when he was just a sweet boy in a boy band with his brothers. Doin’ the Hustle at 7th grade cotillion instead of the Waltz or Foxtrot (my mother was so shocked), Watergate-blah-blah-bah, sneaking into the family room after everyone was in bed to watch Saturday Night Live (with the volume barely audible so as not to wake my parents), the Cold War and loving how naughty it felt to sing aloud “Back in the U.S.S.R.” when my father was in earshot. Standing at the school bus stop all through the full eclipse of the sun, seen only from my corner of the world at the time.

Every generation is sentimental for days gone by. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have at least one complaint about how much things change from their youth to their adulthood. I suppose Millennials are approaching a time when hearing an early LL Cool J song will bring back memories of how computers used to be these heavy, giant blocks of putty-colored plastic and the internet was something you dialed into from a modem that made loud electronic noises (and downloading a file took at least 30 minutes).

But, if you think your world is moving too fast, think about my grandparents.* For literally hundreds of years before they were born, the only way you got from Point A to Point B was on horseback, or on a horse-drawn wagon of some kind. For hundreds of years, that was how it was done. Then, one day, you hear about these things they call machines; this thing they call the Automobile. Hell, that’s nothin’! They put a goddamned man on the moon! (as one grandfather would have put it). You think things are changing fast these days? Try living in a time when horse drawn carriages, oil lamp light, no electricity or running water were the standard, and had been for generations, to the discovery of molecules, atoms, industrialization and putting a man on the moon, all in the span of 70-some years. It’s a wonder my grandparents entire generation didn’t curl up into a fetal position in an all-out, mass nervous breakdown.

My point is, if they survived the whip-lash change of pace, and challenges to the absolutes they thought to be irrefutable with the modicum of grace and civility they were able to manage, so can we.

So can we.

*All four of my grandparents were born in the 1880s to 1900 and died in the late 50s through the early 80s. 


OLWG #4: Dig Down Deep? Maybe Not.

I’m taking the essay approach to the Online Writer’s Guild prompt today. The prompts are: 

  1. Time to excavate our relationship
  2. A twenty dollar shine on ten dollar boots
  3. It’s a handicapped spot

Ah, the dreaded, “we have to talk.” We’ve all been there. But it shouldn’t be dismissed as a twenty-dollar shine on a pair of ten-dollar boots. The time comes when all relationships need excavating in order to get reacquainted with what forged and molded them in the first place.

Couples expect, at some point, they will have to open up and reveal themselves in order to determine either how to carry on, or if it is time to come apart. It’s the unspoken understanding when we enter into a romantic relationship. But, other relationships undergo a similar journey of discovery, or at least, ought to.

Professional relationships, advisedly, don’t wander into the touchy-feely, emotional-needs-being-met realm of human interaction, but they need examining nonetheless. You can have a department full of smart, experienced, talented, hardworking souls, but if they are not getting along, their potential won’t be realized. We all can attest to the ultimately destructive power of a snarky, gossipy workplace.

Now, friendships…Well, that’s tricky. Unlike romantic or working relationships, drilling down into what makes a friendship tick is not required. You hit it off with another and the two of you get along. It’s as simple as that. Contrary to other relationships, it’s unnecessary to explain the reason why a friendship works. And, when it doesn’t work anymore, that’s that. You part company.

Depending on the emotional depth of a friendship, unearthing what lies at the heart of a platonic bond can be misconstrued as a rude intrusion of privacy. There is a point at which that level of exploration feels pushy. I suppose it’s why we differentiate one type of friendship from another. Someone is just an acquaintance, for example. A friend of a friend. Other friends are considered akin to a sibling or close relative, signifying an emotional union. These friendships may be able to tolerate, “we have to talk,” moments, but, in my experience, only to a certain extent.

What’s fascinating about true friendships is their endurance and a high level of tolerance. We give our true friends leeway; a get-out-of-jail-free card we don’t typically hand out to our lovers and co-workers. Our true friends can commit some pretty egregious errors, even betray us, before we decide to sever our ties to them. It’s like being unconcerned if an able-bodied person parks in a handicap spot. It’s wrong, but, hey, whatever. And, our true friends can go for weeks, months, even years, without contact, but once reconnected, it can feel as though no time has passed. No one ever seems to resent the lack of communication. Try that with your sweetheart and you’ll definitely be greeted with, “we have to talk.” Probably over packed boxes and a returned set of house keys. The workplace certainly has a “zero tolerance” for lack of communication. It’s usually cited as the primary cause of workplace dysfunction, or why errors were made.

This isn’t to say friendships don’t take work. They do. Friends have to navigate hurt feelings, misunderstandings and negotiate neglect, by simple virtue of the fact that all relationships need care and feeding. Friendships may have it a easier than others, but all relationships take work. It is the price we pay for being a sentient creature.

I blatantly ignored the clock this time. Sorry! I need to go back to writing these during lunch hour.


The “Real” Twin Peaks

Snoqualmie Falls and Salish Lodge

Snoqualmie Falls and Salish Lodge, on my little day trip, May 2017

Until the day I took a little Sunday drive a couple of weeks ago through the Snoqualmie Valley, I had no idea there was a new “Twin Peaks” series about to debut. I stopped at a place in North Bend for lunch and asked what all the “Twin Peaks” signs were about. North Bend served as one of the backdrops for the series. The “twin peaks” is actually Mount Si and the mountain ridge behind it, directly at the foot of which North Bend is situated. And the “Double R” cafe/diner in the series is a cafe in the middle of town. Still there, of course. But, after 25 years, the height of the show’s popularity had long since waned, so to see so many signs was odd. My waitress filled me in.

Hearing about “Twin Peaks” again made me think about Salish Lodge and Snoqualmie Falls, both prominently featured in the opening credits of the original series; the lodge standing in for the Great Northern Hotel in the series. It’d been a long time since I’d stopped at the falls, so decided I’d take that route home instead of the freeway.

The Salish Lodge (according to the Lodge’s website) was originally built in 1916 as eight-room inn; a rest stop for folks traversing the Snoqualmie mountain pass. That much I can believe. Unlike today’s 45-minute drive from the city, the trip in 1916 would have been a long journey around Lake Washington on old wagon and cattle trails…in a wagon pulled by horses, for the most part. At least, as I imagine it was. Even after the advent of the automobile, the trip would have been several hours. In 1988, just two years before the premiere of “Twin Peaks,” the old inn was completely re-built as a boutique hotel, spa and up-scale restaurant, and reopened as The Salish Lodge.

I’ve stopped to see the falls only a few times in my life. The last time I’d stopped was some years ago. Maybe as much as ten. It was summer. There’s a trail that goes down the steep foothill from the state park, and I hiked all the way down to the river bed. That time of year, in late August, you can get pretty close to the falls,  as the river is running fairly low. The falls aren’t as spectacular as a result, but it’s still a pretty sight. Somewhere I have pictures from that visit.

The visit before that was a couple of years before. Spring, maybe. Friends of the family won a bid at a silent auction for a tour of the hydroelectric power station. The station, built just before the falls, right across the river from the lodge, is a walk back in time to the Industrial Revolution. Most of the 100 some-odd year-old turbines and machines—all of which are subterranean, along with most of the facility, which is massive—still function, generating electricity for the local power utility. It was a fascinating experience. I asked a park volunteer if tours are still offered, but he said they discontinued them several years ago.

The only other time I’ve been to the falls and the lodge was another decade, or maybe fifteen years before those two visits. It was one for the memory books. I was in high school, or maybe college and it was either Mother’s Day or my mom’s birthday. The restaurant has always been popular with the Sunday Brunch set, especially for special occasions, and going out for brunch was always a favorite activity of my mothers’s.

As we took our seats, the wait staff closed the cafe curtains, blocking the view of the top of the falls. Now, getting a table at the window is tough to score. My father would have had to make a reservation weeks, if not months in advance. So, you can imagine his indignation.

“We apologize,” our waitress whispered to him, “but someone….fell…from the cliff last night and we just got notice the recovery crew will be bringing up…the body. Right here; outside the windows.”

Nobody “fell,” of course. Our waitress was making an effort to be discrete. Big beautiful water falls the world over are a common choice for suicides, and Snoqualmie Falls are notorious in our area for such, so none of us were surprised at the news. And the reason to close the curtains was wise, not because it would be an unsettling sight to see a body being lifted up from below, but because the lodge was built as close to the cliff ledge as possible, leaving precious little distance between the building and the cliff drop; only 3 or 4 feet. So not only would the sight of a rescue crew hauling up a dead body be an awful sight over Mimosas, Crepes Suzette and table-side prepared Italian sausage and gouda cheese frittata, but the sight of such only a foot or so from the window would be particularly disturbing. My parents, possessed of healthy sense of humor, simply laughed off our dumb luck.

However, about fifteen minutes later, our waitress returned all smiles. The recovery team used another route, she told us, as she and the other wait staff pulled back the curtains with a flourish.

“Voilà! Enjoy!” she gushed, and walked away.

Five minutes after that the wait staff came back into the dining hall, en masse, rushing to close the curtains again. My father learned later that the recovery crew said they’d look for another place to bring up the body in order to shield guests, but did not find one. Unfortunately, the restaurant manager misunderstood the message.


A Time and Place for Everything (or, Not the Time or Place for This Thing)

surpriseSo, there I was, enjoying dinner at one of my go-to neighborhood places. I was happily tucked in a corner reading a novel on my Kindle; a lovely early work of Michael Ondaatje. Lulled into a complacency as the novel’s story unfolded—in Ondaatje’s wonderfully lyrical way—I was mildly surprised when I found myself in the midst of an erotica scene.

Now, stumbling into an elegantly crafted erotica scene in a book you are reading is something you don’t want to do when you are in a public place. But, if you happen to stumble upon such a passage while reading in public, what you really don’t want, is someone to silently walk up behind you and gently touch you on the shoulder, as my waiter did.

“Everything OK? Need anything else?”

My skin ignited the instant he touched me. Every tiny hair bristled as the surprise of his skin on mine rolled all the way through my body, down to my toes. I could feel the otherwise still air move over me, as if a very soft breeze wafted through the dining room. I recoiled and shot him a surprised look.

“Sorry! I was trying not to startle you!”

I waved a dismissive hand and muttered, “No worries.”

“Anyway, do you need anything else?”


“Nope,” I said, “I’m good,” shyly shaking my head.


Stop it, I hissed in silence to my frantic hormones, as they continued to jump up and down on my reptilian brain stem. Not the time or place.

My brain and hormones fell silent, but kept buzzing about.

Anyway, I reasoned, desperate to calm my nerves, he’s actually not all that good looking. And way too young. Stop it!

The hormones cooled their tantrum. My skin desensitized. My brain, now cajoling, urged me to take a long draw off my glass of wine; take a deep breath.


I skipped to the next chapter.


Marisol’s Favorite BBQ Place

E&M“Beware. When they say Blackberry barbeque ribs, they mean it.”

Evan looked up from his menu at Marisol, waiting for an explanation.

“And the ‘slaw always needs salt,” Marisol continued.

Evan took a slug of his beer and looked at his glass. “Suppose the beer’s flat, hm?”

“It is?! They always tap a fresh keg wh…”

“Whoa! No, it’s OK!” Evan laughed. “I was jus’ sayin.”

Marisol’s eyes were wide with confusion.

“Because you were warning me about the food,” Evan explained. “I, like, thought, ‘oh, and I suppose the beer’s flat.’ I was kidding.”

“Speaking of beer,” Marisol blurted, “they serve a glass of wine with a mini glass jug thing.”


“Ya know, one of those little,” Marisol gestured with her hands, “like they do wine things at Crate & Barrel? You know…wedding gift stuff?”

“A carafe?”

“YES! A mini carafe!” Marisol sat back in her chair with a satisfied smile. “Like, that tall,” she gestured again with her hands.

“Instead of a glass?”

“NO! That’s just it! They serve it with the glass!”

“I don’t understand.”

“Neither do I.”

Their order of baby back ribs slathered in a deep purple sauce with a side of coleslaw arrived at their table. Evan took a bite of a rib and rolled his eyes back in his head. It was just about the best thing he’d ever had. He devoured his share of the ribs, careless of purple sauce smearing all around his mouth.

Marisol lifted her napkin to her face. “You want to…” making delicate dabbing gestures. Evan took a swipe of his face with his napkin.

“Uh, yeah…just a … bit…” Marisol continued to coach. Evan took another swipe, finishing off with an exaggerated dab to each corner of his mouth. Marisol laughed.

Pleased with his performance, Evan ate a forkful of the coleslaw and made a playful face. “You’re right! Needs salt!” giving his dish several aggressive shakes with the shaker.

Marisol couldn’t stop smiling. Evan ate the ribs with happy abandon, like a baby shoving its first frosting laden birthday cake in its mouth by the fistful, and didn’t wince when she pointed out the mess. She liked that. And, he agreed the coleslaw needed salt. Bonus points!

The waitress stopped by. “Everyone OK?” Evan bobbed his head. Marisol asked, “Can I have a glass of Cab’?”

The two of them giggled, anticipating the weirdly precious sight of a single empty wine glass served with a single service carafe of wine. When it arrived, they busted out in big laughs.

Marisol and Evan never grew tired of reliving their first date with friends and family. For every holiday or special occasion of their sixty-three marriage, Marisol set the dining table with her Portmeirion Pomona china with the wild blackberry pattern, and instead of proper wine glasses, the mini carafes Evan gave her as a wedding gift. With straws, of course, which was their children’s contribution, because when they were little, they couldn’t manage drink their milk out of the carafes without spilling.

To Whom It May Concern: I swear, I was working on this story for a few days now. It is not a call-and-response. I swear!

Fog, Sun, Wind, Lightning and Rain

…and that’s just the last 12 hours!

Yes, I write about weather a lot. But, think about it: weather is the essential stuff of drama! If it weren’t, then the perfectly coined cliche, “It was a dark and stormy night…” is meaningless.

I want and need to be mindful of the horrific floods in the MidWest this past week. I don’t want to belittle actual tragedy. But, what went down today in my corner of the world was the stuff of so many fantasy fictions.

First, it was the fog. Thick, “pea soup,” coastline fog; the like we rarely, if ever, see around here.  Warm, dense, grey cloudy mist that leaves droplets of water on window screens and a strip of clear blue sunshine on the east horizon. I was completely catapulted back to my California coastline childhood.

By mid-morning the fog had rolled back to the west, as such fogs do, and the first absolutely clear blue skies and bright sun of the year warmed our world all the way up to 70-degrees. Seriously folks, that’s something, given the icky fall and prolonged winter we’ve had. It was hard to believe the forecast was for a sudden drop in temperature and heavy rain fronts, one after the other.

But, this is the Pacific Northwest, and the weather can change that fast. I took a break about 4pm and walked outside. To the north the skies remained clear and bright, but to the south, the skies were not only dark with storm clouds, they were infested with lightning strikes. An hour and half later I was making my way home and the skies had become so dark, every car had its headlights on. Nobody had windshield wipers that could keep pace with the torrential waterfall of rain. I guarantee you, all of us were hoping lightning would not strike the power pole next to where we were driving.

As I write this, the heavy rains and thunderstorms have finally past. It’s been just over 12 hours since the fog I woke up to, an the temperatures have dropped from 70-degrees to 45-degrees. And, another clap of thunder just rolled through the heavens. What an incredibly dramatic day it’s been! So cool.

Rained Out

rained out copyToday they announced Seattle received the most rain since they started recording rainfall in 1895; a 122 year-old record for measurable rain from October through April. Nearly 45 inches. And April isn’t over yet. You guessed it; rain is in the forecast this week.

Now, that’s measurable rain, folks. Not the misty, or occasionally drizzly, or sporadically spitting rain, but the steady, “measurable” downpour.

Hey, rain happens. You live in this part of the world, you accept it. Like those who live in the northern mid-west who know a thing or two about snow, we know a thing or two about rain. The difference is, once spring comes to the mid-west, snow goes. Around here, spring comes and the rain just gets warmer. Summer comes, and the rain just gets that much warmer.

The saying goes in the Great North-wet that summer doesn’t actually start until July 5th. The 4th of July is often cloudy, cold and miserable, but the next day the clouds are gone, the sun is high in the sky and we finally get to bask in dry warmth. It is from that point forward that summer sets up camp for the duration of the season, often lingering well into October.

So, we hold fast during the long winter and soggy spring, impatient for summer to arrive, like lost-at-sea sailors, sure that any day now there’ll be the longed for sighting of dry land on the horizon.