18 September 2014

Not being Christie

The old border collie lay at the door of The Thicket Cafe and Bar in Ukiah, Oregon, ignoring us as we passed to go in.  "That's Pete," the bartender commented. "He's waiting for Christie to get off work. Used to be her boyfriend's dog, but when he up and left, Pete wouldn't go with him."

Pete lifted his grizzled head to examine the faces of all outgoing customers, just to be sure he didn't miss his person-of-importance. He turned down my offer of a treat, sighing as his head sank back to a rest.  Not Christie...why give precious attention to a person who is leaving? No. She's not Christie. 

Not being Christie is mainly what I remember from Ukiah, Oregon.

15 September 2014

Antelope and bioterrorism

When we drove through Antelope, OR, population 48, there were people out visiting in front of modest homes, the temperature cooling and the shadows lengthening in the late September afternoon sun.

It would've been fun to stop at the recently re-opened Antelope Cafe, given them a little business, soaked up some tiny town atmosphere, but we had to move on. At the edge of town a herd of antelope raced away. What a quiet, remote place.

Does Antelope, OR, sound familiar to you? Maybe. Nearby Big Muddy Ranch was notable for being the location of John Wayne/Katherine Hepburn's movie Rooster Cogburn... until it became infamous as the site of the largest and first confirmed bioterrorism activity since 1945.

I say "infamous" but who really remembers this?

A drive-by greeting to 2,000 followers, by Baghwan Shree Rajneesh. He owned a fleet of Rolls Royces, several aircraft, and a landing strip on Big Muddy Ranch. Photo by Samvado Gunnar Kassatz ©1982, used with permission.
In 1984 the cult of Rajneeshpuram, in an insane attempt to lower voter turnout, added salmonella to the salad bars of 10 county restaurants, and in glasses of water handed to two county commissioners: the Rajneeshis were trying a creative way to elect 3 of their own to the County Circuit Court. They sickened 750 people.

The Rajneeshis also had the largest wiretapping operation ever uncovered; the NSA could take lessons from these guys. There's even more; if you don't believe it, go here. Crazy. If this stuff happened now, in a post 9-11, post-anthrax world, there would be a national panic attack.

It did happen, and is now a weird little footnote in national history. Antelope has returned to quiet solitude, and people forget. Well, maybe not the 48 people who live in Antelope; I bet they remember.

13 September 2014

Shaniko, OR

It was hot and dusty; we'd been on the road for a good 4 hours when, feeling the need for ice cream, we came upon Shaniko, OR.

Shaniko's heyday was in the early 1900's when it was a thriving center for the wool industry. It contains some charming old buildings, many abandoned and for sale.

Interested in buying it? Go here.
This hotel was fixed up by a wealthy history buff from the Portland area, but after contentious dealings with the locals, he closed it.  The flap was interesting enough to be a New York Times article a few years ago.

Still, you can get ice cream from a little shop owned by the mayor, and you can find antiques and t-shirts down the road.

 It's a pretty great place to take pictures.

 If you like old weathered stuff you should take a stroll around Shaniko.

 Were they just pulling my leg, or was this for real at some point? I thought maybe it was true.

 Then again, a ghost town that contains yarn bombs shouldn't be taken too seriously.

 Cups and bowls on an old chuck wagon.

 Ceiling of a sheep herder's wagon.

 Every old western town needs a jail.

Step right in.

I love this wood stove. Maybe being in jail would have been cozy.

 I was crazy about a fire engine, which seemed like it ought to work.

 But like Shaniko itself, although it had a lot going for it, somehow it just didn't run.

Shaniko is one of those places that is just on the edge of survival. A hundred years have passed since it was a bustling town, and mostly it is in pretty tough shape. 

Yet there are those who live there, love it, and try to make a go of it. This rustic little cabin is nearly ready to be rented out for intrepid visitors with a taste for the old West.  I'm tempted to try it out next year. At least I know I can get ice cream if I need it.

02 September 2014

My mother's hats

My mother was a city girl, moved to the country. She was a fashion diva in America's Dairyland, a beauty who walked the runways in Midwest fashion shows of the late 1930's. She could work high heels, gloves, blazers, and hats with the best of them. My mother is now transitioning into a care facility for Alzheimer's patients.

Three weeks ago a mysterious big box, weighing practically nothing, appeared by the front door.

My mother's hat collection.

Most afternoons I put one on and walk around in it.

I like this little wool derby but it's a bit small.

I've been looking for a mannequin so that I can properly photograph these hats, but nobody has one for sale.

So that's why there is an overload of selfies.

One afternoon I practiced with my camera on an auto timed mode and tried on hat after hat. In the middle of this my phone rang.

It was my brother, the one who had sent me the hats. Telling one wildly odd anecdote after another, he never fails to make me laugh.

He had serious news about our mother, whose situation continues to worsen. How strange to be wearing her favorite red hat as I photograph myself hearing this news.

Wearing your mother's hats takes you to a different time and place.

But mostly? Mostly it is simply just wonderful fun.

29 August 2014

New car


Me and my father-in-law
 First there was the Chevy panel truck that we bought from a plumber. It only had one seat, for the driver, but lots of room in the back for camping. It worked perfectly from Wisconsin to Colorado, then Wyoming and back again. It was sold to a friend, along with an accordion.

Then there was the old crummy green Chevy wagon that we lovingly drove into the back woods of Wisconsin as graduate students. But it exuded fumes into the interior and when our first child was born it didn't seem like a great idea to drive him around in it. So we got a used Plymouth Horizon 4-speed. Fun and economical but not quite big enough when the 2nd baby arrived. 

For wood-hauling we also had an enormous old Ford pick-up; it felt like you were maneuvering an ancient fishing boat on stormy water, very hard to stay going straight.

We got a used a Reliant K-car, the worst decision we ever made (repairs, repairs, repairs).  The first new car was a mini van, which was good for hauling 3 kids and a couple of big dogs. Hasn't every family burned through a mini van or two? There was  the '84 Volvo sedan given to the kids by a dear Alabama neighbor and driven to Oregon where it committed electrical-system-hara-kiri 2 miles from home.

The other kid-car was the indefatigable '94 Nissan Sentra, driven to New York, then to NJ where-sadly-a tree recently fell on it.  The insurance company is now willing to pay 1800 amazing dollars for it.

 Then there is the used '93 Ford Ranger pick-up, which we found in Auburn, Alabama, and still have.

And of course the 2001 Subaru, very useful, and so much more fun to drive than the minivan. There have been many great adventures in the Subie, but for quite awhile we've known that another car was imminent. The Subaru has 184K on it. Driving the 2 hours to Portland is not fun; when you turn the radio on there is so much road noise and rattling that you can't hear the music. 

Here in the West, public transportation is not an option...sooo... what car to buy?

I hate car shopping. What do things cost? It's all negotiable, like being a Peace Corps volunteer buying stuff on the street in Afghanistan, which I also didn't like. Except that you are spending huge, serious amounts of borrowed money. Car places try to make it more pleasant by having friendly sales staff and offering free popcorn and ice water, which helps a little because I do love popcorn machines and wish that I owned one.

After the first go-round of negotiations, we walked out. The car was perfect, but there had been a glitch in the online price and it seemed like a bait-and-switch. We needed time to think, and hoped the dealer would do the same, and indeed that's what happened.

In the end we got the car, a Jetta Diesel that should deliver upwards of 40mpg on the highway. It is black and shiny. The dashboard makes sense, shifting is easy, the ride is quiet, and the car doesn't tell me where to go or what to do. (I don't like those cars that talk.) I think we will be friends. I dig the power plate, but that's the dealer's name; the real plates will come in a couple of weeks. Best of all: we just got a new car and now we don't have to think about it for 15 more years.

17 August 2014

The wedding

The last of our much-loved guests have left, the flowers have been sorted through until there are just a few still-presentable beauties, the bottles were recycled, leftovers consumed, and I have just looked at my camera. Daughter J's wedding, already receding in time, was a beautiful dreamy thing that I will always cherish, and even though I managed just a few photographs, well, the day is vivid in my mind. It was two-thumbs-up for her wedding at The Thyme Garden in Alsea, Oregon.
Here are a few details so that you can see too:

There were wedding bells, tiny ones, for every guest.

There was music, a swing band including the father of the bride, my husband.

 The venue was an herbal garden tucked away in Oregon's Coast Range, about 30 minutes from home. It shimmered, buzzing with honeybees, in late summer glory.

 The cake was lemon with cream cheese frosting, decorated with exquisite woodsy sugar-leaves.

 This child scored a fondant acorn and a delicate sugar oak leaf. I feel sure that she will remember these details forever.

 The groom is Canadian, and his mother and aunts baked a fruit cake with caribou, birds, and even Calvin-the-family-dog on top.

 Flowers were brought by the armfuls from the local farmer's market that morning. Dahlias!

 The bride's 2 year-old nephew had a quiet moment with her abandoned bouquet. Where did she go?

 There she is, dancing with her handsome husband...

 ...and (can you believe it?) her 96 year old grandfather. He made the long flight from Chicago to Oregon in fine fettle.

There was a real wedding photographer there, taking what I know will be amazing photos, and for that I am so grateful. I spent most of the time in a haze. The wedding was the sun and I was the planet Venus orbiting nearby, warm with the proximity, but watching from a distance.

I drifted through the weekend in an elated state, lit by the conflagration of family, friends, and love: a magical condition with an unexpected sharpness that brings me close to tears even now.

This wedding has passed, but may its loveliness and inspiration remain a part of all who were there.