SEATTLE PREP CLASS OF ’58 – episode 2.1.19

adventure, food & drink, Humor, reunions, Travel

Columbia River Brewing Co.



During the cocktail hour at the Prep Reunion, I had several brief encounters with Mr. Meet and Greet, F. Michael Fischer, but we never had an opportunity to have a real conversation. In fact, I spent more time with Linda Lowe than I did him. I’m not complaining, Linda was a lot better looking than Fischer. As Pat Bader and I were leaving, Mike stopped me and asked if we could get together the next time I was in Portland. I enthusiastically agreed.

When my son Ryan’s family was with us in Hawaii for Thanksgiving, he asked if I would help him put a new concrete foundation under his one-hundred-year-old garage in NE Portland. It sounded like a challenging proposition and I’m always up for that despite being seventy-eight, so I happily signed on for the project. Somehow I forgot about it, until he called me in mid-December asking, “When are you coming, Dad? We need to get started on the garage.”
I scratched my head and responded, “I’ll talk to Elizabeth and let you know.”
Elizabeth and I tossed around a half dozen options for a departure date. It was a busy time of year. Christmas, New Years, Rose Bowl, parties, dentist and doctor appointments, work commitments, etc. The process reminded me of a favorite saying Elizabeth’s Dutch father taught me years ago. It goes like this: “Make a plan, talk with the wife. Change your plan, talk to the wife. Abandon the plan, talk to yourself.”

Just before Christmas, we settled on a January 16th departure. Elizabeth booked passage on Hawaiian Air Flight 26, from Honolulu direct to Portland. I was excited to make this trip. Not only was it an opportunity to be with family after the holiday rush, but it was also a chance to meet up with F. Michael Fischer. I fired off an e-mail to Mike and invited him to lunch. After I pressed ‘send’, I leaned back in my chair, sipped my beer and thought about the trip.

Larry McHugh & Steve Windell

The Seattle Prep 60th Class Reunion had a grip on me in a way that I really didn’t understand. It brought me back to an idyllic world that I had left so many years ago with no anticipation of ever returning. If Pat Bader, Mike Fischer, Jim Bradley, and Dan Regis hadn’t urged me to attend, I would not have gone. But I did go, and now I am dealing with the challenging aftermath of that decision.

The aftermath was that I wanted to communicate in some meaningful manner with my long abandoned brother Prepsters who had graciously received me back into the fold at the reunion. I realized that there was no other large group of individuals in my life that I felt this way about. Certainly not Rotary, Church, work, or the kids Boy Scout troop. I had made plenty of good friends and trusted associates in my life over the years, but they lacked the unique bond and sense of comradery that I had with these greying Prepsters back in the day.

It was a pivotal moment in our lives. A special time of naivety, trust, puppy love, fearlessness and simple joy that preceded growing up. I was hoping that by renewing my friendship with F. Michael. Fischer, who seems to know everybody, we could together reestablish some level of relationship with some of you proud Prepsters. Perhaps through occasional small informal get-togethers, e-mails or even the old fashion way, just call each other. And so I was looking forward to exploring that concept. To the dozen of you who have already taken that first step, and reached out to me, I thank you.


A week after we booked the flight, Harry Jay Follman, my long-time friend, and construction partner, called and invited Elizabeth and me to meet, and hang out with him in LA. His wife, Sharil, and fourteen of his dearest friends, who happened to be an extraordinarily gifted group of pot smoking, beer guzzling, aging Northwest musicians, including Rollie G. Storbakken and my friend, Brother John.

Jay had rented a high-end Hollywood Hills home for the week leading up to the Rose Bowl, and as a long time Husky season ticket holder, he had scored eighteen tickets to the big game. The prospect of partying with these guys got me excited.

A few days later, as I was contemplating how best to present this opportunity of a lifetime to Elizabeth, which would take the place of the Portland trip, the phone rang again. It was our twenty-year-old grandson, CJ, who wanted to spend a week or two welcoming in the New Year with Grandpa and Grandma before school started. I thought, this superseded the Rose Bowl.


CJ was a good kid determined to earn enough money to return to college in Oregon this spring. His head was screwed on straight, and he had a great sense of humor. He was a hard worker, and intent on becoming a biologist. He lived with us last year while working as a baker at Safeway and attending community college. He’ll never forget last summer’s adventure where he worked as a greenhorn aboard Harry Jay Follman’s gill-netter, the Erica Lynn, during the Bristol Bay salmon run, followed by a six-month construction job in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. It is important to us that he succeeds and it pleased us as we watched him do so.

CJ showed up at Honolulu International Airport the day after Christmas with a tattered, dripping wet, duct taped cardboard box filled with gifts. Among the treasures were two big, angry, Dungeness crab and a dozen live Olympia oysters. I asked, “How on earth did you get this passed the Agriculture inspectors? They are scared crapless that foreign species will alter the aquaculture of the Hawaiian waters.”

CJ chuckled and said, “I argued for over an hour with the Ag. inspectors, and almost missed my plane. Finally, in exasperation, I blurted out, ‘Have you guys not met my Grandpa, Jake Winston? These two crabs haven’t got a chance of surviving long enough to pollute anything. He will have them in a pot of boiling water before the front door slams shut. The oysters? Grandpa has an Acme Oyster Shucker, and there will be nothing left but empty shells by the time the crab is cooked and cleaned. The inspectors looked at each other, laughed, and waved me on.’

‘.

As we sat around the kitchen table watching the crabs boil and unwrapping gifts, CJ sheepishly announced that he had visited the Grotto in Portland. It’s a sixty-two-acre Catholic sanctuary dedicated to our Sorrowful Mother. He reached into his pocket, pulled out two religious metals he had purchased there, and gave them to us. Mine was a St. Peregrine metal, the patron saint of cancer patients. When Elizabeth got up and hugged him, and he returned the hug, I realized how close we had grown. I was looking forward to spending time with him, crabbing, fishing, boating and hanging out, but that was on hold until he had made the rounds visiting friends, exploring his old familiar haunts, and loading up on Hawaiian poke, malasadas, custard, and mochi.


A friend dropped us off at the Honolulu airport Wednesday, the sixteenth. We were a little nervous about airport delays due to Federal Government shutdown, but it was an unusually smooth and efficient passage through TSA. We boarded a brand new Airbus A330 and took our seats in the back of this awesome plane. It had Wi-Fi, a plug-in for my electronics charger cable, and a cool device that positioned my iPad on the seat back in front of me, allowing me to easily type a response to my editor’s incessant comments on my forthcoming book, The Raising Of The Ruth Ellen.

It was a warm eighty-five degrees when we left Honolulu. In contrast, it was thirty-eight degrees when I stepped onto the curb at Portland International in my thin Aloha shirt. The bitter cold and rain squashed my plans for family side trips, bike rides, picnics and crabbing on the coast. In fact, the cold was debilitating for this happy, Hawaii Kahuna, forcing me to focus on the foundation work and indoor family activities.

I’m freezing!

When the foundation work was underway, I decided to venture out into the cold, hit a few restaurants, and attending the train show at the Expo Hall with my son and grandson as I waited for F. Michael Fischer to respond to my e-mail invitation.

Model steam engine at the train show. I had to own it.

My first luncheon was with my grandson and Elizabeth at the Hawthorn Fish House, my go-to place for a seafood lunch. Fried oysters and catfish, oh so good. The next day, burgers with the family at the new ‘Super Deluxe Burger’ a spin-off of “Big Little Burger”

A few days later, my son, Ryan, treated Elizabeth and me to lunch at MOTHER’S, a high-end bistro in the Embassy Suites Hotel downtown, close to his work. When I walked into the gorgeous Victorian lobby, I realized that when I was with Baugh Construction in the ’90’s we remodeled and upgraded this old Portland landmark.

This afternoon it was jammed with yuppies and business folks. I even spotted a couple of high-end hookers at the bar who abruptly left with a couple of local brutes as I sipped my clam chowder. I got food poisoning on Pastini’s spaghetti and meatballs on Thursday. Dinner at Salty’s on the river by the Airport with my son Mike and his wife rounded out our restaurant hopping. Harry Jay Follman’s long-standing offer to come down and take me to the eclectic, 1930’s Mary’s Club in the Pearl District fizzled out once more.



When the foundation work was started, and I still hadn’t heard from the Man, I called F. Michael Fischer and gave him a bad time about not returning my e-mail invitation for lunch.

New garage foundation

Michael, who lives in Vancouver, WA, apologized, profusely. He mumbled some lame excuse and agree to round up Linda Lowe Dunn, who lives in Beaverton, OR and meet Elizabeth and me at the Columbia River Brewing Co in Portland’s Hollywood district. This post-reunion coming together of old friends just had to happen.

We had so much to say, and so little time to share our lives and thoughts at the reunion. I realized that if I let this opportunity to kibitz with the Fish get away from me, time would erode the likelihood of ever reuniting with my Prepsters brothers. So, when Mike and Linda greeted me with big grins and hugs, I was moved by their welcome, and hopeful it would bring me and my brother’s closer together. We all grinned from ear to ear as we settled into the cozy wooden booth in the nearly deserted pub. Linda asked, ”Where is your wife?”

“She’ll be along shortly. She was shopping with my daughter-in-law, Michele this morning.”

Michael delicately asked, “What happened to your nose, you’re bleeding? Were you drunk this morning and cut yourself shaving?”

That got a big laugh, and we delved into reminiscing about the Class of ’58 reunion. As the conversation petered out, I asked, “What became of Tom Coughlin?”
“He got a law degree and had a successful practice here. Several years ago, he left his practice and opened a hardware store on one of the islands, maybe Vashon where Sean Malone hangs out. He had a heart attack and passed away about five years ago.”

I asked, “did you see Dinndorf’s e-mail picturing his ’39 Plymouth? He wrote that he seldom took it to school because of the cost of the driving in on the ferry. Maybe that wasn’t the only problem. Check out this photo I found on the net the other day. Pretty funny, huh?”

During a pause in the conversation, I politely asked, “Michael, have you read my book, or even purchased it?”

I could tell by the embarrassed look on his face that he hadn’t, so I persisted in giving him a bad time. He responded by grinning and giving me the finger. We laughed, and he poked me saying, “You’re not the only big shot author to come out of our class, Mr. Smart Ass. Dave Boulanger wrote an engrossing book about his life with his father. Bryan Saario also wrote at least two books and is working on a third. Sean Malone writes for the Vashon Loop newspaper and produced a cool documentary called, Alone And The Sea. Steve Windell has a book coming out containing dozens of black and white photographs of the Oregon Coast. I think Larry McHugh also has a book in the works.”

Since we were both a little fuzzy about the Prep days and it was three years before Linda came on the scene, we moved on to our Seattle University days together. Mike said, “What the hell were we doing in ROTC? We weren’t officer material, Hell we weren’t even fit to be foot shoilders.”

I responded, “We didn’t have a choice, Knucklehead. It was during Vietnam, and a required college course, which got us a deferment. Do you remember the time the ROTC Colonel caught me waxing my ’39 Plymouth while on duty during the ROTC troop review and parade at the old stadium a few blocks east of campus? He ripped me a new butthole in class the next morning in front of everybody. I wanted to crawl under my desk.”

I do remember that most of us were ambivalent about ROTC, but Mick and Jerry Flynn were gung-ho. Mick was a career Army officer and Dinndorf is still serving in the Marine Corps Reserves as a LtCol.”

We had a few laughs about the many raunchy houseboat parties we threw on my Lake Union, primitive, floating home where Pat Bader, BJ Michaelson, Stan Strikers, John Dynes, and few other Prep and SU guys moved in and out of, over the three years that I rented it. Mike pointed out, “Although the neighborhood was a little sketchy, and the toilet and sink emptied directly into the lake, the fact there was usually a batch of green beer brewing in the bathtub and a twenty-one-foot sailboat tied up at the back door available for a pleasant afternoon cruise with a couple of SU girls made it attractive.

We were just warming up to one another when a pushy, elderly waitress with dangling earrings and long blue fingernails interrupted and demanded that we order lunch. I thought, Is she pissed that we’re drinking sodas instead of the eight-dollar house brews? What’s the rush? There are only a few customers in the place and it’s noon already. Mike hemmed and hawed, scratched his nose, and ordered a brisket sandwich with baked beans. Linda ordered vegetable soup and toast.

Just then, Elizabeth, my wife burst through the door with Michele, my daughter-in-law. We introduced everybody as the fuming waitress crossed her arms and impatiently waited for the greeting festivities to get over with. Michele left for home, and we all settled back into the booth. The waitress snarled, “Alright now, what do you two want? When it was obvious we didn’t know what we wanted, she barked, “Order the Ruben and baked beans, you can share it.” Elizabeth gave me a puzzled look. As I glanced at Mike, she jotted something on her pad, turned on her heels and returned to the kitchen. I said, “What the hell was that?”

Elizabeth asked Mike, “Do you remember the night you and Eileen and young Michael were living in a house in the hood by SU ? Joe left me in the car that dark night as he stopped by to see you about something. Apparently, you guys got into the beer and forgot about me for nearly an hour. When somebody knocked on the car window, I was scared to death until I recognize it was you. Boy, was I glad to see you. You and Jake ended the evening crooning “A wild Irish rose to Eileen and me.

Linda told us she and MaryJo Shepard were roommates in her freshman year at the SU. Elizabeth lit up and said, “They were our house guests a few months ago. Mary-Jo married BJ after graduation. He ended up owning three pharmacies in the Seattle area. We had a good laugh about the time BJ got pissed off, moved out of the houseboat, and tossed a dead cat into the attic on his way out. The stink was driving us crazy until we finally found it.

I asked Linda if she remembered the Houseboat parties. She said not so much, but she vaguely remembered attending at least one party with Paul Maffeo. Linda asked, “What became of Stan Strickers? He was a tall kid with a happy-go-lucky attitude. I liked him.” I commented, “He attended SU and lived on the houseboat for a short time. Sometimes he accompanied Pat, Janet, and me up to Canada to hang out with Elizabeth. The last time I saw him, he was dating Elizabeth’s cousin, Janet, who was Pat Bader’s sister. I haven’t seen him since ’63.”

Mike asked about Johnny Dynes whom he hadn’t seen since he and Carolyn divorced. Mike was surprised when I told him, “Johnny was in the Seminary with Pat Bader and I. His nickname was Johnny Be Good until he got tossed out mid-way through his college freshman year for a really dumb stunt he pulled. They still talk and write about that incident, and now refer to him as “Dynamite Dynes.” The last time I saw him he’d fallen on hard times and Carolyn was working through a serious illness”

The waitress broke up our conversations as she delivered lunch. She slapped a plate of two shriveled up ribs and a cup of chili beans before Mike instead of the brisket sandwich and baked beans he ordered. Miss Sunshine shoved a bowl of soup across the table to Linda, startling her. Linda asked if it was vegetable soup because it looked like tomato soup, when the waitress said yes, she accepted it but after two bites, settled for the toast. Mike politely said he would keep his. Elizabeth and I accepted whatever it was she put before us and kept our mouths shut.

Kailua Beach

Linda told us that she lived down the street from us in Hawaii back in the day. That was a surprise and got the girls comparing notes. Elizabeth and Linda seemed to have a lot in common, church, gardening sports, and social assistance. Once they got to talking, there was no stopping them. Mike and I feigned interest in their conversation for several minutes and then returned to reminiscing. We laughed as we retold some hilarious stories about Seattle U adventures with Paul Maffeo, Dan Regis, Pat Bader, and others.

When there was a pause in the banter, Michael got serious and spoke about his thirty-two years managing the Vancouver Sears store. He loved it and it was rewarding to him in so many ways. He is a people person and a smart guy. His personality was perfect for the position, and he would probably still be there if the big shots at the main office didn’t make some bad decisions and offer attractive early retirement packages to their key employees. Michael took the deal and moved on.

I asked, “How’s your son, young Michael, doing? I haven’t seen him in a very long time.”
Mike’s face lit up and he fondly replied, “Michael has worked most of his life. He’s a hard worker and his employers like him. He’s no young chicken, he’s in his late ’50’s, and just recently retired.” I think he said from his job at the convention, or Exposition Hall.
I glanced at my watch, it was 1:05 and we were expecting company at the house at 1:00. I said, “We have to get going, Mike, but before we do, I need to ask who is the mother hen that coordinats the formal and informal coming togethers and group activities of the class of ’58, and stuff like that? I’d like to talk to him.”
“Nobody really. Dinndorf put together the 60th reunion. I don’t remember who led the previous ones. As far as I know, there is nothing planned any time soon. However, I’m thinking about getting the local guys together for an informal lunch this April. Why don’t you come over? A few of us have hosted these lunches every couple of years in the past. About a dozen Prepsters usually show up. You know what? I’ve seen some of the comments from the guys on your blogs that were e-mail copied to the class. They seemed to enjoy reading your blogs, and they have encouraged you to keep them in the loop. If you would be willing to continue that, it would at least be something that we could all enjoy together and share comments on a common, convenient electronic platform we’re all familiar with.
I thought about what he said and I understood that by virtue of my long absence, I had abdicated my position as a full-share class of ’58 Prepsters. To fully return to the fold, this Prodigal Son needed to re-earn his wings in a humble, subtle manner. I realized that I could possibly do that with a monthly or bi-monthly blog tailored to the time we shared at Prep. And so, I decided to consider that move. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
As we walked out of the restaurant, I told Mike, “Follow me over to the house and I’ll give you an autographed copy of Jake The Prodigal Son.”

Cancer, sometimes it’s a wake-up call – part II r 1

INSPIRATION

I survived the triple bypass, recovered, and they sent me home a few days later. I was doing fine until about a week after I got home when I took a turn for the worse. For no apparent reason, I was having difficulty breathing. My feet and legs were swollen. I was and coughing and wheezing badly. That night I was unable to keep anything in my stomach, including my meds. When my temperature hit a hundred, Elizabeth called the doctor. He told her, “I’ll stop by in the morning. In the meantime, make sure that he’s keeping down his medicine. If his temperature goes any higher, call 911.”

About two a.m., I felt an electric-like jolt shake my upper body. I awoke with a start and curled up in the fetal position. I could feel my body starting to slip over to the other side. It was a weird sensation. My breathing became shallow, and I could feel my pulse rate slowing. I was neither hungry nor thirsty, and the ever-present pain was no longer in the forefront.

sunet orangeI felt a short wave of warmth sweep through my chest, followed by a pleasant, lingering numbness. A sense of calm and peacefulness settled on me. I just wanted to sleep. My brain slowed down time and intertwined reality with shadowy hallucinations until they became one. Defining moments in my life, both good, and bad flooded into my mind, as hundreds, maybe thousands of memories, raced through my mind, each one replacing the previous one in milliseconds, and there was no going back.

My slide into eternity slowed and then stopped. An unpleasant piercing sound interfered with the slideshow in my head and annoyed me. Suddenly, I felt something or somebody shaking me. That annoyed me further. I whispered, “Go away, and leave me alone!”

I was in the very private act of withdrawing from life, and I wanted and needed my space. As the shaking and noise continued, my sense of euphoria slipped away and was replaced by a voice. It was Elizabeth’s voice. I could make out bits and pieces of what she was saying. It sounded like, “Please don’t die. I need you!”

I felt terrible for Elizabeth. I didn’t want to leave her. However, I was pretty sure that I was on my way out, and there was little I could do about it. I opened my eyes a crack, as Elizabeth tugged and pushed me into a sitting position. Despite my weak protestations, she then yanked me out of bed and helped me take a dozen steps into the living room where I dropped in a chair, exhausted.

Elizabeth’s intervention slowed my spiral into the unknown, but it also awakened the pain that was racking my body. She covered me with a quilt, put an ice pack on my brow and forced me to swallow my medicines. All I wanted to do was to return to that twilight zone where there was no pain, and I had gotten a glimpse of my mom. Elizabeth had other ideas. She forced me to stay semi-alert throughout the rest of the night, as she prayed and waited for the dawn and the arrival of the doctor.

shutterstock_Jesus at doorAs the early Monday morning sun rose in the East and lit up the living room, I was slumped in my chair, zonked out on pain medicine and drifting in and out of lucidity. I thought I heard someone knocking at the door. That familiar tap, tap, tap signaled to me that it was Jesus out there knocking on my door once again. It had to be Him. I was apprehensive and fearful, but I knew that I must open the door. I whispered, “Jesus. Please come in!”

I heard a commotion at the door and closed my eyes. Then, He was at my side. Jesus had a distinct, but faint, odor of spaghetti, meatballs, and garlic. I liked that. It broke the ice, and my fear subsided. I didn’t dare to open my eyes. I wasn’t worthy to look Jesus in the eye. It didn’t matter because I could feel His presence. It was a powerful sense of pure love, agape love. I started to tell Him how sorry I was for so many things, but He hushed me. He already knew what was in my heart. There was no need for words. He forgave me for everything, spoken and unspoken. Then, Jesus was gone. I sighed and fell into a deep sleep.

When I woke up a couple of hours later, Elizabeth looked me over carefully and took my temperature without saying anything. When she was satisfied I was all right, she sat next to me and said, “Okay Jake, what happened? You were a little scary this morning.”

“The only thing I remember for sure was that I heard somebody knocking at the door. I knew it was Jesus, and I told Him to come in. I don’t have the words to describe what happened after that. I am now at peace with my Maker. A wonderful sense of joy fills my heart, and my pain is gone. This is the best that I have felt in a week.”

“That was Fr. Michael at the door, Jake. He came by to bless the house. When he saw you slumped in the chair and mumbling to yourself, he was alarmed. He went down to his car and got his little black bag and administered the last rites to you. Do you remember that?”

“No, all I remember is time stopped when Jesus was with me.”

“Fr. Michael also anointed me with the ‘oil of the sick.’ Then he blessed the house and the cats.”

Dr. Moore came by later that morning as he promised. He examined me and told Elizabeth, “Jake appears to be on the mend. His temperature is normal, and he no longer exhibits most of the symptoms that you described over the phone. Did you take him to the ER?”

“No, but his symptoms improved greatly after the parish priest gave him the last rites early this morning.”

“That’s just remarkable. Somebody is certainly watching over your husband. If the symptoms return, call me.”

CANCER

INSPIRATION

CANCER:
SOMETIMES IT’S A WAKEUP CALL!

SES5When I was a young lad, I entered a Catholic seminary where I spent nearly four years studying to be a priest. Late one night, I pleaded with God to give me a sign that I should continue to the priesthood or do something else with my life. I sat in the dark, looking up at the Heavens for three frustrating hours, waiting for His answer. When it was apparent that no response was forthcoming, I concluded that God had no interest in me. I angrily shouted at the heavens, “If you have nothing to say to me my Lord, I’ll have nothing further to say to you either. I’ll see you on judgment day.” I left God and the seminary behind the next morning. For nearly fifty years, I never looked back or uttered a meaningful prayer.  As time passed, I came to understand that it was a mistake to abandon my Maker but I had neither the courage nor the motivation to correct the wrong.

***

In 2012, my doctors discovered I had an advanced stage of prostate cancer. They scheduled me for chemo and radiation therapy, but they made it clear that the prognosis was poor, and I would probably succumb to the disease within two years, sooner if it metastasized. My wife, Elizabeth and I were devastated by the news but it wasn’t our first brush with death. Elizabeth knew what to do. She went to work and got friends, family, and several prayer groups praying for me. I went through the five classic stages of impending death. I first denied it could kill me. Then when I understood that it certainly could, I got angry and yelled at God. “How could you do this to me!” Elizabeth settled me down and saying, “I know that your seminary day’s issues with God still plague you. I have never pried into that, and I’m not going to do so now, but I beg of you, whatever they are, get over them! God may be knocking on your door Jake, let him in! Get down on your knees and pray long and hard to the God you have distanced yourself from these many years if you want to live.” I knew she was right but I wasn’t ready to do that.  I slipped into a depression, accepted the possibility of death, and I hoped that Elizabeth and her prayer groups would prevail without me having to reconcile with my Maker.

***

oysters 2jpgNine months later, we received the results of a PET Scan. I was cancer free or at the very least, my cancer was in remission. Elizabeth and I celebrated the remarkable news with dinner at Hy’s Steakhouse in Honolulu that evening.  We were both ecstatic beyond words.  I toasted Elizabeth and all those whose prayers made this happen.  I knew in my heart that God had rewarded her for storming the Heavens in my behalf  and I was enormously grateful for the mercy He had shown to me, His prodigal son. but I was still not yet ready to return to God.

***

A few months later during lunch with a client at my favorite Italian restaurant, I started experiencing chest pains which I initially attributed to the spaghetti and meatballs. I decided to go home, take some Rolaids and a short nap before returning to work. When I was almost home, I broke out into a cold sweat, and my vision went blurry. I swung into a nearby hospital, checked myself into the emergency room, and called Elizabeth. After a series of tests and a treadmill electrocardiogram, the cardiologist told me I had severely clogged arteries and she was sending me via ambulance to Honolulu General for a triple bypass.

***

The next morning when the orderly came to deliver me to the operating room, Elizabeth asked me if I had made my peace with God yet?

“No! I’m not ready to do that yet.”

“Jake, you promised me that you would and this is the second time Jesus has knocked on your door in less than a year. He wants you back.”

“I know sorry, Love.”

shutterstock_gurneyAs they wheeled me down the hall, it occurred to me that I was nearly a hundred pounds overweight and clearly a poor candidate for heart surgery. I thought, I could die on the operating table in the next few hours. What will become of me?  Is there a place for a reasonably good man like myself, who had issues with his maker and hasn’t said a prayer in fifty years? I didn’t know, but I hoped so. Then I remembered The Blessed Mother had told the children at Fatima there were only three places in the afterlife. There was a Heaven, from whence She came, a purgatory for those souls cleansing their souls in preparation for entry into Heaven, and the fires of Hell, which was the destination of the damned. I didn’t know where I would end up but I was still not ready to let my maker in.

When they rolled me into the operating room, I got my first glimpse of the bright lights over the operating table and the covey of doctors and nurses dressed in blue gowns, caps and masks patiently waiting for my arrival, I panicked. I realized this was the real deal. Death was no longer a fuzzy concept that I spoke of with false bravado; this place and these people presented the stark reality of death and it wasn’t a pretty picture.

I thought about what Elizabeth said; She was right, my foolish, bull-headed estrangement from God had gone on way too long. I needed to squash my pride and somehow summon the courage to seek God’s forgiveness. As the anesthesiologist put his hand on my arm, I thought, hang on, give me a moment; this may be my last chance to end this absurdity.  Then, I felt a brief wave of euphoria sweep over me and everything went black.sunset turtle bay

*** End of part one of two episodes. ***

Stay tuned for part two on June 1st.

 

A SUMMER CRUISE

adventure, FOOD, Sea Story, Travel

A SUMMER CRUISE

As I finished my third year at the University of Washington, I landed a great summer job at an exclusive adult summer camp and fishing resort in the San Juan Islands. I was the cook on the Thelma Rose, the resort’s classic vintage yacht. They offered six-day cruises to their well-heeled guests aboard this eight-stateroom vessel. Mid-way through our third cruise, Max Dumas, one of the guests, became a problem for both the crew and the seven other guests. This wealthy, middle-aged man was an unpleasant, arrogant ass, who delighted in belittling and bullying the other guests, ordering the crew around and complaining about everything, including my food. One evening, when we were anchored up off Roach Harbor, Max missed the five o’clock cocktail hour on the fantail and didn’t answer the seven o’clock dinner bell either. Everyone seemed happy to be rid of him, as they dined on Dungeness crab cocktails, Caesar salads, and freshly caught Lingcod. Halfway through dinner service, Max burst into the Captain’s mess. He was very drunk and argumentative. He took his seat, knocked over the crab cocktail, spilled his wine on the man to his left and picked a fight with a diner who asked him to, “Be quiet and behave like a gentleman!” Max was incensed by that remark and threw his wine glass at him. The skipper had enough of Max Dumas. He whispered to me, “Help me get him out of here.” As we manhandled him down the stairs, he kicked me, screamed obscenities at the guests, and grabbed a bottle of scotch off the sidebar. As we locked him in his stateroom, he threatened to kill both the skipper and myself.

About ten that night, I finished cleaning up the galley and made my way forward towards my berth. Just then, Max kicked open his stateroom door and stumbled out into the narrow passageway, brandishing a 357 Magnum. I was scared crap-less and stepped into the head, locked the door, and hoped he didn’t recognize me. I realized what a stupid move that was, trapping myself in this tiny room behind a flimsy wooden door. I was terrified when Max stopped and rattled the doorknob, I held my breath until I heard and felt a fleshy thud against the door, and it became very quiet. I waited a few minutes, hearing nothing, I forced the door open a few inches and discovered Max was passed out on the floor and sprawled up against the door, blocking my exit. I froze when I heard a groan and a string of curses; he was awake and back on his feet. Fortunately, he must have forgotten about me in his drunken stupor, I could hear him moving away, towards the stern.

When I was sure he left the cabin, I quietly made my way up to the captain’s mess and peered through the window to see what he was doing. Max was standing high up on the stern bench watching a school of a dozen killer whales that were playing harmlessly off our stern. I heard three shots, followed by a soulful animal moan and furious thrashing in the water. The gunshots woke up everybody on the boat, and lights were coming on all around the bay. I watched as the remaining school of whales, circled, dove and darted in and out around the mortally wounded female until she died. Then, they came together and plunged deep below the waves. I knew these animals were smart, fearless killers, and we had not seen the end of them. Max seemed oblivious to what was going on as he swayed back and forth waiting for another clean shot. Suddenly, the eleven remaining angry whales rose from the depths of the sea as one, striking the hull of the Thelma Rose with a premeditated jolt that sent Max, their enemy, flying overboard into their world.

The skipper flipped on the searchlights, and we raced out onto the fantail and searched the dark waters for him. We spotted Max thrashing about in the blood-tainted water near the dead whale. As the skipper tossed him a lifeline, the school shot out of the water, leaping six feet in the air and pummeled Max.

shutterstock_ocraAlthough I was horrified, I couldn’t turn away from this fascinating display of animal vengeance and retribution. I watched them toy with Max as he screamed in pain and terror. A bite here, a bite there, then they dragged him under the water and tossed him in the air, as he gasped for breath. When the big male sunk his teeth deep into his adversary’s chest and shook him like a rag doll, I turned away and said a prayer for Max Dumas.

*** THE END ***