Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Off to see the Atlantic

Going to visit family in New Jersey for a couple weeks. See you mid-August!

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Revisiting Fryin' Time

A ways back I mentioned the old saw about "hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk." Well, today it was 104 degrees. What better time to give it a try? Big Jack, being an engineer, told me all the reasons it wouldn't work. Darn if he wasn't right! I hate when that happens.

What were they thinking?

Exciting (hee hee) news from my part of the world. Local paper front page article (I’m not joking here) screams “100-pound bomb given to Goodwill”! Goodwill employees were contemplating what to do (CD holder? Book shelf?) with the 4 foot long “really cute crate” that had been dropped off several nights earlier, when some one actually read the words stamped on the crate. “100 POUNDS” on one side and “CLUSTER FRAG. BOMB” on the other. Opps!! Sure enough, inside the crate was a “3 ½ foot tall bomb with a rotor and a string dangling from it.” Police were called and moved the device to the Richland landfill. Personnel from the 53rd Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit later decided it was an “inert training device”. Police decided to keep it “for educational purposes.” Wonder if they gave a monetary donation to Goodwill for it???

Friday, July 23, 2004


In this fast-paced day and age, there’s a lot to be said for the sheer joy of contented moments. Be it a place, a room, or a state of mind, a body needs to be able to contemplate life. A place to rejuvenate and be calm. A place to be inspired, to make plans, to converse with God.

Our place is a little camping spot close to Cle Elum, WA. Not quite an acre in size it is located in an area which contains an eclectic mix of year round homes, vacation homes, mobile homes and trailers. Some are kept very nice and some, well, aren’t, but that’s a different story.

On entering the development, one is greeted by a most strange and colorful sight - a large totem pole. No Northwest Indian ever carved this pole. Perhaps it was the work of a frustrated Seattle Boeing engineer, because the top carving is a jet plane! No evidence of Washington’s other big employers though - Bill Gates’ Microsoft and Starbucks coffee!

Following the road to the right (15 miles an hour, please!), one can look to the left and see a lake inhabited by ducks and perhaps beavers. Strangely enough, I’ve never seen humans in, on, or fishing from the banks of, the lake.

After following the road for a short while and then taking a left, one arrives at Camp Garvin. There is a grassed parking area which contains lots of wild flowers in the spring. The camp is shielded from the road by a band of trees in the front and on the left side. (Our own personal woods - pure joy to a desert dweller like myself.) On the right side is our neighbor’s small cabin. Take either the long or short driveway and one arrives at a grassy area bounded on the far side by a shallow stream and more trees.

Here is where the serious relaxation begins! One can choose a lounge chair in the sun, the picnic table on the porch, or even the comfy couch in the small (252 sq ft!) cabin. Future options in the planning stages are a deck and a hammock. All that’s necessary now is sunscreen, a cold drink, and a good book! If it gets too hot, just putter over to the stream and step in. Instant popsicle! (A very interesting sensation of having your feet in ice cold water, while the rest of the body is sun warmed and a bit sweaty!) If more serious cooling is needed, stroll to the banks of the nearby Yakima River.

For more activity, there are always board games or yard games. Or, our friendly hounds will be happy to accompany you on a walk around the neighborhood. Excitement is available in the form of an ATV with a very willing teenage driver. Hang on tight!!!

As the sun sets over Camp Garvin, out comes the BBQ. Delectable cuts of steak or marinated chicken from the butcher shop in Cle Elum are cooked up and enjoyed. Next on the agenda is a campfire with marsh mellows roasted to sticky perfection. Perhaps games, Nintendo or a DVD movie will follow. (No cable TV, though, that would spoil things!) Then it’s off to dreamland. Ahh...”roughing it” was never so much fun...

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Fresh Strawberry Pie

This is outstanding! Found at

6 cups fresh strawberries
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 9-inch baked pie crust

Mash 3 cups strawberries in large saucepan with fork or potato masher. Add sugar and cornstarch and bring to simmer over medium heat. Stir until thickened and clear, 3-5 minutes. Blend in lemon juice. Remove from heat and let cool. Add remaining 3 cups strawberries. Spoon into crust. Chill. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

History and Good Eats

Just a few more words on the McMenamins empire and then it’s on to other things. Here’s some info on a couple more of their historic properties.. Grand Lodge is located in Forest Grove, OR. It was opened in 1922 as a Masonic and Eastern Star Home for the aged. In 1926, a children’s cottage was opened for orphans, but that only lasted a few years. Apparently, “relations between the elderly and the children” were “less than harmonious.” Imagine that!! Grand Lodge became part of McMenamins in 1999 and opened in 2000. Like the other historic properties, it has a hotel, restaurants and bars, movies, music and other events. To tempt your palate, the breakfast specials this week include eggs benedict florentine and cheese blintzes. Lunch/Dinner customers have a choice of grilled steak burrito, muffuletta wrap (ham, salami, provolone and olive relish in a four tortilla), buffalo burger and vietnamese style hoagie.

Kennedy School is located in Portland, OR. It opened in 1915, when the area had few people but lots of rabbits. (There was a law that made it illegal to shoot rabbits from the street car.) Many of the students lived on the outskirts of the city, without benefit of electricity, water, sewer or telephones. The school was much used in the community, until its last year of 1974-75. Although there were many opinions of what should be done with the facility, the McMenamins were able to acquire it and start renovations in 1997. In October of that year, the “original principal’s bell was rung on the front herald the old school’s new beginning...” Some choices from the menu: for breakfast, lemon ricotta pancakes with marionberry sauce or a breakfast banana split. For lunch or dinner, try Tandoori chicken salad, pizza marguerite or a pesto veggie calzone!

Olympic Club Hotel & Theater, built in 1913, is located in Centralia, WA. It has 27 renovated guest rooms, a theater pub and the New Tourist Bar. Next door is the 1908 Olympic Club saloon, pool room and cafe.

Hotel Oregon, located in McMinnville, OR, was built in 1905. Among its many incarnations are lodging, “restaurant, lounge, dance hall, bus depot, Western Union office, beauty parlor, soda fountain.” The rooms have been named after some of the colorful characters that used to frequent the place.

The newest McMenamins will open at Old St. Francis School in Bend, OR this fall. Former class rooms in the circa 1936 building are being turned into “lodging rooms, a pub, brewery and bakery, movie theater...and a Turkish bath -style soaking pool.”

So take your pick, but where ever you are in OR and WA, a McMenamins probably isn’t too far away!

Thursday, July 15, 2004

White Eagle Saloon

As promised yesterday, here’s some info on another fine McMenamins establishment. This is the story of the White Eagle Saloon and Hotel at 836 N. Russell in Portland, OR. Now, I immediately go for the history of the place, and a wild history it is!. At its beginning back in 1905, the Eagle was nested in a working man’s neighborhood that included the docks, railroad shops, factories and mills. It doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination to picture the place! Lore has it that the Eagle even had its own trolly stop. When approaching it, conductors would call out, “Next stop, Bucket of Blood” because of all the fisticuffs that occurred there. Apparently, besides “pool, cigars, poker, liquor, beer” there were other recreational opportunities that included a brothel (upstairs) and an opium den (downstairs). By the 1970's, hippie long hairs and working men coexisted. The place has moved into the new century as a good place to “dance with a beer in hand.”

For those gastronomes (is that a word??) out there, the specials this week range from chicken (lemongrass, caesar wrap or Athens wrap) to stuffed burger (beef, jack cheese, green chilies, avocado mayonnaise). Soups (different one each day) include beer cheese potato and African peanut chicken. Cheap eats from 4-6 pm. My favorite title there was Scooby Snacks (mini-corn dogs with mustard and ketchup). Yum. I’m getting hungry. Too bad Portland is 3 ½ hours away from the Tri.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004


A recent AP article in our local paper (affectionately, or not, nicknamed "The Tri-Cycle Herald") highlighted the careers of Mike and Brian McMenamin down Portland way. Since 1983, the brothers have been building an "empire of pubs, theaters and hotels" in Oregon and Washington. Their idea is to build family-friendly establishments, not just bars. The 53rd McMenamins will open this fall in Bend, OR.

Now, I love a good meal (and, rarely, a glass of wine) as much as the next person, but I salute the brothers today for reasons other than gastronomic. They are heros of mine for their historic preservation ethic. That's right! The brothers have sunk a ton of money into keeping history alive in the Northwest.

Take, for instance, the Edgefield in Troutdale, OR. This establishment was constructed in 1911 and for 50 years or so served as the Multnomah County Poor Farm. For 20 years after that it was a nursing home. It closed in 1982, and lay rotting until the brothers bought it in 1990. Over the next 4 years, they transformed it into "a European-style village, including lodging, a pub with a move theater, fine dining, a winery, a brewery, distillery, golf course, gardens, vineyards, artwork, meeting, wedding and banquet space, and special events year round."

Now, I have to admit, that the one time we strolled around the grounds, I did have a bit of trouble reconciling the laughing, happy crowd with the depressing former uses of the complex, but maybe I was just a bit melancholy that day. Be that as it may, tomorrow: the White Eagle.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

It's Fryin' Time Again.....

(apologies to Ray Charles, may he rest in peace.)

The State of Washington has a definate split personality when it comes to climate. Outsiders know it as "The Evergreen State," which is only partially correct. The nickname fits the west side of the state, which is blessed with copious amounts of rain. (Also the home of Costco and Starbucks, but I digress.) Copious water brings on lots of trees and moderate temperatures. This works until the Cascade Mountains split the state. Rain does not often venture over the mountains. Welcome to the desert of eastern Washington! The dry side. Miles and miles of treeless countryside inhabited by sagebrush, rattlesnakes, jack rabbits and little else. A secret well kept from tourists. (One might argue that there is lots of farming, but that is only possible because of the dammed up waters of the mighty Columbia River and tons of irrigation pipe.) Summer brings hellishly hot temperatures to eastern Washington. Over 100 degrees F. HOT! Burn bare feet on sidewalk HOT! Run from air conditioned house to air conditioned car to air conditioned office HOT. The strangest sound is the lack of sound. No kids playing (unless there is a pool nearby). TOO HOT! Only sound outside is the gentle hum of air conditioners. HOT enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk? Hmmm.....I'll let you know.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

American Chopper

Caught American Chopper on Discovery Channel last night. OK, so I'm not exactly in the demographic group they might be hoping to attrack. So what! Who cares! Truth be told the program works on three levels: (1) they build the most outrageously macho choppers ever. (Maybe my brother's life-long love of bikes has rubbed off a little on me.) (2) being a social science major, I love watching the interplay between Paul, Sr. and Paul, Jr. Watch Sr. roar like an old lion defending his turf! Watch Jr. gripe, placate and generally try to appease him! Watch the rest of the guys hide behind various parts snickering and trying not to let on how entertaining it all is! Watch tempers mount, things being thrown, doors being slammed! Should be required watching for every father/son! Last but not least: (3) As a native easterner who became a westerner at age 20, it's always fun to re-vist the place, feel a bit homesick and hear those great New York accents.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

There was a time...

There Was A Time. . .

. . .when Sunday was a day of rest. No stores were open, no housework done. After church, the family piled into the green Chevy and headed for points unknown. We meandered by country farms where animals grazed contentedly. We explored old towns with colonial houses and white steepled churches dating back a hundred years. Each bend contained a surprise - perhaps a pond overgrown with cattails, a country store advertising ice cream or a mysterious, boarded-up house. Too soon, tract houses encroached on the fields, roads widened, cars sped up. Back to civilization . . .until the next Sunday Drive

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Daughter Kerry suggested Life of Pi as a great read. Wow! This is not your usual summertime potboiler of love, lust, corporate greed and what ever else is on the NY Times best seller list. No! This book takes the story of one shipwrecked boy, adds one Bengal tiger and various other exotic animals, stirs well enough to make you question the meaning of life, then punches you in the gut with a twist of an ending.

Pi is an Indian boy growing up by his family's zoo. An ideal life? Not exactly. One only has to read the funny account of how Pi got his name and his nickname to realize that children the world over have the same problems. Pi decides to embrace not only his Hindu gods, but the Christian, Jewish and Muslim gods too. Impossible you say. Not for Pi. All are comforting to him. Whose to say he's not right? If God is so big, couldn't he take on many incarnations? Perhaps he is sitting in his heaven right now, watching humans bicker over who is right, shaking his head and saying, "You guys just don't get it."

Life is pretty good for Pi until his Dad decides to move the family and the zoo to Canada via an old Japanese freighter. The voyage begins, but a shipwreck occurs and soon Pi, the tiger, a hyena, an orangutang and a zebra are the sole occupants of a life boat. Who survives? Who outwits who? In this exciting story, the reader feels as if he is right there with Pi, figuring out how to get safe water, catching and eating raw fish, enduring the storms, the hot sun and the days that go on and on.

I won't ruin the ending. Suffice it to say I was ready to throw the book across the room. What in the world does it all mean? Is it the truth or a fairy tale? Is it a hallucination or a vision given Pi by God to enable him to survive? I contemplated a character's assertion that "If we can function with either of two stories, why not choose a better story?" But what, than, of the truth? Can there be different truths for different individuals? Or is the truth sometimes so searing that it is unbearable for mere humans to withstand? Is it OK, then, to fall upon the story as a kind of psychological salve to regain order, sense and control of our world? Read the story and decide for yourself......

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

A new adventure....

After reading other blogs, I've decided to take the plunge and see if I can create my very own personal blog. So far so good! I've always enjoyed writing, reading, flowers, nature, camping, old houses, new towns. I've lived in various places across this great land of ours and traveled to many other scenic spots. Sometimes I get philosophical or a bit maudlin, but most times I try to look at the bright side of life and try to live in a way to make a difference in this old world.....