Seattle Prep Class of ’58 Reunion – Episode III

food & drink, reunions, September 21, 2018

I called Pat Bader early in the day and arranged to pick him up at four-thirty, in Kent which was, more or less, on my way to the Reunion at the Chateau Saint Michelle Winery in Woodinville. I hadn’t been in the valley since college, and nothing looked familiar. I was detoured, and lost three times before I found his home. Pat’s wife, Dee, whom I met in Midland Michigan in about 1968, hugged me and we visited for a few minutes before heading out. She warned us, “They are expecting lots of detours and a massive backup starting tonight around Kent, because of highway construction You guys need to be prepared for some major delays.”

***

As we drove down the hill, I told Pat, “You are my navigator. Your number one job is to get us to the Reunion, back to your house and then plot a course on my iPhone that will skirt the Kent detours and heavy traffic on my journey back to Burien.

I had my doubts regarding the wisdom of that assignment after we missed the Woodinville turnoff, then missed the entrance to the winery and circled around several residential neighborhoods before landing in the winery parking lot.

***

Jerry Dinndorf, the guy who tirelessly put this thing together, greeted us when we entered the cavernous wine tasting room, nearly an hour late. I scanned the room looking for a familiar face or two without finding one. There were nearly one-hundred guests there, mostly gathered in groups of three or four, sipping wine and chatting.

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Roche Harbor

As Jerry nudged us over to the signup table, we spoke briefly about the construction business in the Northwest and how Roche Harbor was a lot nicer back in the day when it wasn’t so popular. Jerry’s wife and another pleasant lady, neither of whom I remembered, said hello, then happily registered and name tagged us.

Pat, Mr. Social Butterfly, pasted his name tag to his shirt and disappeared into the crowd. I wasn’t expecting that. I guess I unconsciously expected him to point out and identify these characters surrounding me whom I had little recollection of. As I backed away from the signup table, I suddenly felt totally out-of-place among this noisy crowd of silver-haired Prepsters. I knew they were my high school classmates, but I suspected they weren’t sure who I was, or why I was there. I felt like an interloper at a stranger’s wake.

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Jake fishing in Alaska’s Bering Sea

My survival instincts kicked in, and my eyes darted around the room until I found a safe haven. I quickly made my way over to a quiet corner and sat down with my back to the room. I’m a pretty tough old bird, a hard-nosed industrial contractor, and an Alaska commercial fisherman when time allows. So, I didn’t understand my girly, sophomoric reaction to the threat of possibly being rejected by those from my past, whom I respected.

I suspected my fear of being rebuffed flowed from my becoming an author late in life. I, like most authors, are paranoid about being rejected by our readers. It comes with the job.

I took a couple of deep breaths and allowed my Seattle Prep philosophy training to rise to the challenge. I recalled my Jesuit mentors drilling into us: Never give up the pursuit of a  worthwhile goal. Question what you see and hear, determine for yourself what’s real and what’s not. Get into your adversary’s head, discover what he’s thinking and why; then act upon that knowledge.

I realized that my brothers here, had spent four years at prep, and had been hanging out off and on for the last sixty years. They were just continuing their comfortable, long term friendships. I, on the other hand, spent less than a year at Prep, and then disappeared from their lives. Now, sixty years later, I want to be a part of their inner circles? I thought, What’s the matter with me? Get over it, I haven’t earned my stripes. They’re not ignoring me, they just have no idea  of who I am. If I want to make the evening a success, I need to take the lead, and re-introduce myself to my classmates, start a few conversations, and have some fun.

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Jake and Charlie Ralls

As I got up to join the party, a big guy approached me saying, “Hey Joe, it’s me, Charlie Ralls. I loved your book, JAKE THE PRODIGAL SON. Your story grabbed me, and I couldn’t put it down. The book paralleled my life in so many ways, I had to read it twice, and I’m about to read it for the third time.  Good job, Man.”

Boy, was I glad to see him. I was completely taken back and didn’t know what to say. We were in a couple of classes together at Prep. We weren’t close, but I admired his prowess as a Prep Panther football star. I couldn’t believe he remembered and approached me.  I wondered, How in the blazes did he find out about my book and what motivated him to buy it?

He asked me lots of questions about my life and we talked about his challenges growing up. We discussed the book for about twenty minutes. Charlies loved the opening sea story, my seminary antics, the chapters dealing with Seattle Prep, and the drama between my father and I over the years. He said, “I had no idea you were such a scoundrel when you were in the seminary.”

We laughed, and the conversation turned to some funny antics we both got into trouble for, back at Prep. He reminded me that I had saved his butt more than once in Latin class by slipping him some crib notes minutes before Mr. Brandt, the Jesuit Latin teacher, asked him to recite a passage from Caesar’s speech at the Forum. My unexpected encounter with Charlie Ralls, who we just called, “Ralls”, broke the ice. We often addressed each other by our last names.

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F. Michael Fischer

As we headed towards the bar together, my old buddy, Mike Fischer, appeared out of nowhere with a shit-eating grin upon his face and slapped me on the back. We joked for a few minutes until his girlfriend, Linda Lowe, distracted him. He moved on saying, “Let’s talk when things settle down.”

That did it. Jake Winston was back and ready to live large tonight.

 

 

Seattle Prep 2018 - 01

 

This reunion dinner was more than a social event to me. It was a lot more. It was a celebration of the accomplishments of an extraordinary group of Prepsters who had used their God-given talents to make a difference in the world. The class of ’58 delivered to the world: Judges, lawyers,  doctors, engineers, filmmakers, authors, teachers,  merchants, law enforcement and fire department leaders, financial gurus, Mafia Dons, military leaders, missionaries, builders, and even a high-level IRS auditor. We had traveled the world, sailed our yachts, fished the seven seas, climbed mountains and tended to the ill and homeless. Tonight, was a time for celebrating, laughing, hoisting our glasses and maybe even shedding a private tear for our brothers who were no longer with us.

As Ralls and I entered the dining room and found our separate pre-assigned tables, he poked me, “Let’s continue our conversation after dinner”. I agreed, and when I spotted Pat Bader three tables away, I grinned and gave him thumbs up. The happy-go-lucky Joe Douglas, AKA Jake Winston, was back.

Joe James & Duke 2I took my place at table #2, an embarrassing, eight-top table with only two couples and myself in attendance. The rest of the places were for no-shows, I guessed. Dave McCauley, Joe James, and their wives joined me there. These two guys, along with Pickering, Ralls, and Riggs, were the Prep Panther football heroes. Joe James remembered me, and said, “We had a hell of a good time together at Prep together, I’m glad I met you.”

I asked him, “What did you do for a living, and what do you do for kicks, Joe James?”

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Barkley Sound B. C.

“I taught high school English for nearly fifty years. We’ve had a vacation place up in Kingston where we go out in the boat, fish, and go crabbing. We have even been to Barkley Sound a time or two. What have you been up to all these years?’

I replied, “We had a place on Eagle Harbor which we sold when we moved to Hawaii nineteen years ago. I miss the Northwest, and Barkley Sound, but I continue to fish and crab in Hawaii. We have a large species of crab know as Samoan crab or mud crab. It’s may be even better eating than Dungeness.

 

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Steve Windell

I don’t think Dave McCauley remembered me, but the five of us chatted amicably before dinner and listened attentively to the master of ceremonies, Steve Windell.

Just before dinner, Jim Bradley approached the Diaz and solemnly acknowledged those Prepsters, who had left this world since the last reunion five years ago. I said a prayer for Tom Coughlin, my good friend from St. Margaret’s grade school and Prep.

We were now down to fifty-some alive and kicking classmates. I hadn’t seen Jim since college, and I wouldn’t have recognized him if he hadn’t been on the program. Like many of us, he was heavier and having a little trouble getting around.

Kelly Pickering took the podium and gave the dinner blessing. He was a tough S.O.B  in high school, and the last guy I would expect to be giving the invocation. However, he did a great job and made the point that we were spiritual beings on a human experience, not the other way around. I thought, Good job Kelly.

We marched off to load up our plates at the thirty-foot long buffet table. I cruised the table to see what my choices were, circled back, and selected a Filet Minion, sautéed asparagus and a green salad. I was more than a little disappointed for paying seventy-five bucks for a serve-yourself, limited-selection buffet. I guess I have been spoiled by the many Hawaiian luaus, pig roasts and first birthday parties I have attended. However, it did include complimentary wine.

After dinner, I scooted over to Jim Bradley’s table and pulled up a chair. He seemed happy that I had made the trip. He introduced me to Larry and Bobbie McHugh, and the four of us had fun exchanging Prep experiences. Bradley told me, “I retired, after a long career of running my business, Saxton Bradley. Marian and I recently sold our Magnolia home on 42nd street, which was down the street from your brother, Father Gordie’s house, and moved to Bellingham. I’m going to miss running into Father Gordie. He was someone special, nothing like his big brother.

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Larry McHugh

Larry was a financial guy, and Jim pointed out he was also an accomplished piano player. When there was a lull in the conversation, Larry said, “I’m reading your book, Jake The Prodigal Son. I’m half-way through it. and enjoying it. I love the photographs. That’s as far as I got. Is your pal in the book, called Parker, actually  Pat Bader?”

“Yes.”

“I thought so,”

Larry played for us as the event came to a close. “He’s good, darn good.”

I asked Bradley, “What became of my buddy, Jerry Firnstahl? I’ve been trying to track him down.”

“I heard Firnstahl was in a Jesuit seminary for a year or two sometime after prep. He dropped out of sight for years, re-appeared, and bought a farm somewhere around Arlington. I  heard that Jerry died in a horrible farm accident a couple of years ago.”

I responded, “Holy crap. Firnstahl, Brian Egan and I  were best friends back in the Prep and SU days.”

“I didn’t know that you knew Brian, but I grew up  with Firnstahl, Egan and his weird older brother, Ray. We hung out all through grade school and high school.”

“What are Brian and Ray up to these days?”

“Brian is living in Eastern Washington. He was a teacher, like his Mom, and Ray died young.”

“I always thought Ray was a little odd, but when he traded in his cherry ‘56 Chevy, Belair for a piece of crap, French Renault. I realized there was something seriously wrong with the guy. How did he die?”

“A serious case of orneriness.”

“Do you remember Firnstahl’s ‘39 Plymouth coupe?”

“Of course, it was a baby blue hot rod and a chick magnet.”

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’39 Plymouth coup

“I wanted a car like that so bad, and I did find another ’39 Plymouth coupe. It was a junkyard  beater with a blown engine. I bought it for twenty-five dollars, rebuilt it with a Dodge truck engine, and equipped it with moon hubcaps, a pair of glass packs, a set of  snap-on white walls, and  a thirty-nine dollar, ‘Earl Scheib’ paint job.”

Jim asked, “Is that the one you sold to Paul Maffeo?”

“Yes it was.”

“Wait a minute, Jake. I remember your daddy gave you a brand-new ’58 Ford when you were at Prep. What happened to that?”

I blew the automatic transmission drag racing on Magnolia Boulevard one night, and Daddy took the Fairlane away.”

We all laughed, I got up and announced I was going to mingle with my Prep brothers.

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Jerry Dinndorf & Mrs. Riggs?

The first table I hit had eight folks enjoying desert and coffee. I recognized Jerry Riggs sitting next to his wife Maureen, and introduced myself. He seemed to recognize my name, and then he grinned and said, “Joe, long time, no see. You live in Hawaii, right? You lucky dog. My sales territory years ago was the West Coast and Hawaii. I sold fasteners and other construction products over there out of my store in Mapunapuna.” Later that evening, I believe Jerry Dinndorf awarded Maureen a bottle of wine for something.

I introduced myself to Sean Malone, Bill Evans and their wives. We had a strange conversation about our hot rods back in the day. I think he said he had something to do with either Firnstahl’s ’39 coup or Maffeo’s hot rod.

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Jake’s ’50 Ford

He asked, “Do you remembered selling your ’50 Ford convertible, stick shift to our Seattle U classmate, Allen, who lost his right hand in an accident as a kid?”

“I do, but I felt bad about it. I tried to talk him out of it, but he just kept after me until I relented and sold it to him.

 

 

I tapped Kelly Pickering on his shoulder. When he turned around, I told him who I was and complimented him on saying grace before dinner, “I was impressed by your spiritual side. I just always thought of you as a tough football player.” He told me that grew up in a religious family and he had recently attended a three day ‘Spanish inspired retreat,’ and it changed his life. The wives around the table seemed to be delighted that I, and a few others, were making the effort to circulate and share a few words with the tables. They mostly wanted to know who I was, and where did I live.

A classmate at one of the tables, I’m not sure who, asked, “Were you with Pat Bader at St. Edward Seminary before you transferred into Prep?”

“Yes, that would be me.”

Did you know David Doyle? He was a good friend who left St. Martin’s Academy and entered the seminary about the same time you and Pat were there?”

david boyle copy“I didn’t know David when we were at the seminary. However, three years ago he contacted me though an internet site called “Classmates”. He was living on the Big Island and working at the Volcano National Park as a photographer. Elizabeth and I were living on Oahu.

He confided in me that he had been a heavy smoker, and developed a series of serious cancers, one of which was about to take him out. David wanted to spend some time with me, a fellow seminarian, before he left this world. We were both looking forward to getting together, but he passed away before we had a chance to do that.”

IMG_6424 copy .    IMG_6420 .     Lert-Rt Joe Thibodeau Bryan Saario Carl & Linda Jension Charley & Floran Ralls2018 - 26 copy

I felt a sense of brotherhood among those of us there. I realized that the bond we shared was indeed something extraordinary. For some of us, our minds and bodies were fading, but we were still Prepsters, and damn proud of it.

I returned to Bradley’s table when I saw the wait staff serving dessert and coffee. For seventy-six dollars, I was damn sure I wasn’t going to miss out on the desert and coffee. Wait, there was coffee, but no decadent chocolate cake at my place. I looked around the room for a caring waiter to correct this unforgivable blunder, but they had all disappeared into that place where waiters go to avoid the beckoning of their charges. I guess it is a power thing. I sipped my coffee and glanced jealously at my table mates, who were enjoying their deserts and smiling about something I wasn’t privy to.

Bradley couldn’t stand it any longer. He grinned a conspiratorial grin to Larry and Bobbie, reached under the table and presented me with my dessert. We all got a laugh at that.

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Tuscany

Before I could dig in, Sid Flor, whom I believe was there with Caryl, stopped by our table to catch up on our news, and talk about his recent trip to Northern Italy. We had all been there at one time or another, and shared notes about our take on the best restaurants and places to stay. We often joked about Sid being the Godfather, but I was never sure if it was a joke or not. His mustache, frequent trips to the old country, his references to his suspicious friend Guido,  caused, me to wonder about who he really was.

 

san juan joe & patA few minutes later, Dan Regis, who was there with his wife, pulled up a chair. He regaled the table with a tale about Pat Bader, myself and him being shipwrecked in the San Juan Islands the summer of our freshman year at Seattle U.

Sid asked, “Do you remembered Jake’s houseboat party, the night of 1962 Columbus day storm? The wind tore the houseboat loose from its flimsy moorage. Only a few of the guests managed to escape, before the wind blew the houseboat with the rest of us aboard, out into Lake Union. Thank God the Harbor Patrol rescued us and towed us back to shore before we capsized.”

I spoke briefly to Mick Flynn and Joni. Mick said, “We will be on Oahu in January for a golf outing. Could we get together for lunch or dinner?”

“Of course, that would be fun. You have my number, call me.”

I hadn’t seen Mick since our Freshman year at Seattle U. I remember one afternoon when I was over at his parent’s house with Bradley, John Howell, his brother Jerry, and a couple of other guys. I don’t remember why we were there, or even why I remembered that event.

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Paul Maffeo

On my return from the men’s room I ran into Paul Maffeo, who was helping himself to a second cup of coffee. “I got to tell you, he looked like he was homeless, standing there in rumpled khakis, an open blue sweater and his shirt tail hanging out. I didn’t know what that look was all about.”

My kid sister, Terry, who is a senior stockbroker at UBS, told me over lunch at the Metropolitan Grill earlier today, “Paul Maffeo was, and still is one of the movers and shakers in Seattle’s financial world. I knew of him when he was a senior VP of both Piper Jaffe and UBS before he moved on.”

I remembered that he and his Seattle U girlfriend, were occasional guests at our houseboat parties. We laughed about the ‘39 Coup, and the houseboat. We reminisced for a few minutes and returned to our tables.

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Arco’s Prudhoe Bay Facility

Bryan Saario and I talked briefly about his adventures in Alaska as a boy, and his long-forgotten encounter with a brown bear. I told him, “Alaska is like a  powerful drug, It can hook you, and never let go. I too had spent  time in Alaska and been chased by a bear or two.”

I was involved in building three of the North Slope refineries in the eighties, including Arco’s massive facility at Prudhoe Bay. More recently I have been in and out of Dutch Harbor several times on construction projects.

 

SaarioBryan told me about the time he spent in Palestine on a medical mission, and that he believed the Palestinian People were getting a bad rap.He has authored two books, “Holy Land Conversations,” and “SISU,” and he is working on his third book. As he left, he handed me a copy of  “The Class of 1958 Directory De Biographies”. I thumbed through it and wondered, Why I wasn’t in it? I had sent in my biography in on time, but I thought, No big deal… At least, not until Steve Windell awarded a bottle of wine to Terry Kearns for having traveled the farthest to attend that night’s festivities. I thought, Terry and his wife came from Austin, Texas which is 1,500 miles from Seattle. I, on the other hand, flew 2,700 miles from Honolulu to be here tonight. But then who’s counting?

A few weeks after the reunion, Bryan e-mailed me saying he was “impressed by my authorship,” and set me a few pages of a draft he was currently writing to look over. I was moved by that gesture.

As the evening was ending, Duke McCauley took the floor and regaled us with Prep Panther Football stories and why you didn’t want to mess with Coach Goodman. He reminded us of the horrors of goofing off and having to accompany Father Weissenberg to the boiler room for a beating. I guess that wouldn’t happen today.

Larry McHugh and I tried to taunt F. Michael Fischer into leading the room in a chorus of “My Wild Irish Rose,” but he wanted nothing to do with it. I told him he was a chicken and Larry  pleaded with him, but nothing doing.

I hadn’t seen Pat Bader since we arrived at the reunion, but about 10:30 he found me and said, “This I pretty much over, let’s go.” We passed Ralls on our way out. He told me, “You need to keep  writing, and we needed to stay in touch via e-mail. When will your next book be available?”

ruth ellen

The Raising of the Ruth Ellen

“My next novel, The Raising of the Ruth Ellen, will be published early next year. When I was young and stupid, I raised this fifty-seven foot fishing vessel off the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. A close family friend, Blake Ryker, was lost at sea when the Ruth Ellen went down off of Cape Mendocino. The insurer wouldn’t pay the widow’s insurance claims without evidence of the deceased remains. It’s a sad, but great story.”

As we left the room, I waved and said, “See ya, my brother.”

***

We walked out to the parking lot with Terry Kearns and his wife. When he told us that he was still working for the state of Texas. I asked if he knew Ann Richards, the spunky Ex-Governor of Texas?

He chuckled and said, “I sure do. Remember the speech Ann gave at the Democratic National Convention in 1988. She became an instant celebrity when she referred to George W. Bush as, ‘Poor George. He can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.’”

We laughed, and I told him about the night I was in the Little Rock airport cocktail lounge, with a couple of associates, waiting for a plane back to Birmingham. A very tipsy, older woman entered the bar with a name tag on her lapel identifying her as “Arkansas Secretary of State”. We thought we would have some fun and asked her to join us for a drink. President Clinton was under fire at the time, for his tryst with Monica Lewinski. I asked, “Was there any truth to the insinuations that President Bubba was a philanderer when he was the  governor of Arkansas?”

She giggled, swallowed her martini and said, “Where ya’all from, Mars? Whenever Hillary was out of town, there was a steady stream of State Trooper’s cars delivering young women to the back door of the Governor’s mansion. That’s all I’m going to say about that, until one of you boys buy me another drink.”

***

On the way home, Pat and I discussed our evening’s adventure.  I admitted after my initial apprehension, I had loosened up and had a ball. I visited with most of our brothers, but there were a few whom I didn’t get a chance to talk to; like Phil Perry, Joe Thibodeau, Bill Evans, and Jim Carrol. I would have liked to have caught up with a couple of guys who didn’t show up. Mike Cahan; His brother married my cousin Kitty. I would have liked to visit with Gary Merlino. We were both in the construction business, and he was a distant neighbor of my sister who  spoke of his permitting issues with the city that occasionally made the paper.

The ride from Kent back to my sister’s home in Burien, was a nightmare. I should have been home by 11:15, however, I got caught up in the detour traffic, had trouble seeing the directional signs in the driving rain and glaring headlights. I can’t explain how, but I ended up in Tacoma, Federal Way, and God only knows where else before I found my way home at 12:30 am. exhausted from a memorable evening.

*** THE END ***

 

 

 

THE WINSTON’S HIT THE BEACHES – travel

adventure, food & drink, Humor, reunions, Travel Hawaii

I got an e-mail from Alisha in mid-November, “Hey Jake, we want to come and spend a few days with you and Elizabeth in Hawaii on December tenth. Can you find us a hotel close by your place suitable for your siblings, Gary and me, Ziggy, and Ethan. Monica and Tom are in Arizona and won’t be with us. It has to be on the beach, and we want three separate rooms.”

I told her, “There are no hotels on the Windward Side, but you could rent a home and/or an Ohana,” (An Ohana is a mother-in-law apartment on the house property. It’s illegal, but never-the-less, tolerated, and very common.)

She wrote, “Find us one. Okay? Ethan wants his own space on the beach and close to town where he can walk the streets, explore, talk to the local folks, and have a beer somewhere nice in the afternoon.”

Kailua beach rental

I hunted around for a day or two and came up with a few options of close by properties in the range of $3,500 to $5,000 for 4 nights within walking distance of  my seaside village. I was excited and appreciative that she wanted to be nearby to hang out with us, and I was determined to please her with the perfect beachside retreat.

 

I sent the rental information to her. After waiting way too long for a response, I re-read her e-mails, and it occurred to me that Alisha and I weren’t on the same page.

The accommodations she was seeking wasn’t going to happen in my little town. Having hosted lots of visitors over the last twenty years, we learned that the most successful visits occurred when our guests stayed in a hotel on Waikiki beach close to all the tourist attractions, restaurants, world-class shopping, and night-life. The mornings and nights were theirs. Mid-day and evenings were for all of us to be together touring the island, it’s many attractions and ending the day with drinks, puupuus, and dinner at our home.

I quickly sent Alisha links to three of the Waikiki hotels, which we sometimes spent a weekend at, with a suggestion that this may be a better housing solution. I was delighted when an hour later she confirmed she had booked three oceanfront rooms at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

The next day, Alisha sent me a bucket list of things they wanted to do, included hiking Diamond Head, driving around the Island, spending time at the iconic Pipeline and Sunset Beaches, visiting Pearl Harbor, the Arizona Memorial and of course hanging out with Elizabeth and myself.

***

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Hilton Hawaiian village

They flew in Monday afternoon and ubered to the Hilton. Alisha called about four and said, “We’re watching the first half of Seahawk game in the sports bar and were about to get a Uber over to your place.”

I magnanimously said, “No. I’ll pick you up at four-thirty” Although that was the hospitable thing to do, it turned out to be a dumb decision. Unbeknown to me, the town-bound Pali Highway was under construction and jammed. I arrived at the hotel forty-five minutes late. Gary, who was nervously waiting for me on the street, directed me to the proper hotel tower lobby within the Hawaiian Hilton Village’s massive complex, where the rest of them were huddled out of the rain anxious to be picked up. I thought, This is a hell of a way to start the visit.

***

Back at our condo, Elizabeth brought out the puupuus; crab dip, cheese, and fruit. I served drinks and put on the game. Elizabeth prepared Fr. Ethan’s favorite dinner; spaghetti, French bread, salad, and wine. We enjoyed a delicious, high-spirited meal and moved into the living room for coffee and conversation. We talked and laughed until nearly eleven, when Alisha texted for a Uber to take them back to their hotel thinking it would be thirty minutes before one got there.

When the Uber responded, “I’ll be there in four minutes,” Alisha didn’t know what to do. We had neither finished our coffee nor wrapped up our conversations. She tossed me a quizzical look. I said, “You’re fortunate to find a Uber close by this late at night, grab it.” There was a mad scramble to hug and say goodbye. I led them down the elevator and out into the street where the Uber was waiting.

I returned, sipped a beer and chatted with Elizabeth about the evening as she did the dishes and tidied up. I told her, “Everybody loved the spaghetti. Ethan had seconds, and Ziggy mentioned the mushrooms made it special, just like Moms.

***

diamondheadDiamond Head

Tuesday morning, Alisha, Gary, and Ziggy hiked the popular Diamond Head trail up to where the WW II bunkers were. Fr. Ethan disappeared into the bowels of Waikiki. Alisha called about one and asked, “Is it too late to drive around the island? The weather is pretty crappy, we’re tired and sore from the hike, and a drive sounds like a perfect way to spend the afternoon.”

“We can do that, I’ll pick you up in an hour.”

I told Elizabeth, “Let’s go get them and do the island tour. It’ll be a blast.”

“Hang on, Jake. We can’t get all six of us into your SUV, and taking two cars isn’t as much fun. I know you want to show them a good time, so, leave me behind. I’ll take a much-needed nap and catch up with you guys later.”

***

When I picked them up about two-thirty, I learned that Alisha had been looking all over the complex for Ethan, who had apparently disappeared somewhere into Waikiki without notice.  Since he doesn’t carry a cell phone, she left him a message on his room phone, and we were off.

I headed for the North Shore, planning to cross the Ko`olau Range at Kaneohe, but when I realized that Elizabeth could take Ethan’s spot in the back seat, I turned around and took the Pali back into Kailua instead which would get me there as well. I called Elizabeth and told her, “Ethan’s not coming, we’re picking you up in fifteen minutes. I joked, can you put together some snacks and drinks? These guys are hungry, and I don’t want to stop.”

She was waiting for us on the curb with a much-appreciated cooler containing snacks, left over crab dip, crackers, and a six-pack of cold Bud Light.

***

mac nut farmJPGOur next stop was the Nut Shop, a long-standing tourist trap that sucked you in with free Macadamia nuts and local coffee samples which are meant to intimidate you into buying their overpriced products. Understanding their shtick, we loaded up on the samples, looked around and bought a bag of nuts for the road. It was a good choice.

***

chinamans hat  Ko`o-aus

We headed north past Chinaman’s Hat and Koaloa Ranch where Jurassic Park was filmed. We zipped through Hauula. and  cruised up and down the half-mile regal stone and palm tree-lined grand entrance road to the Mormon Temple which I constructed several years ago. We left La`ie and were half-way to Turtle Bay when Alisha asked, “Can you show us a blowhole? I would love to actually see one. Oh, by the way, a rainbow is also on my bucket list. Can you produce one for me? She giggled and said, “A little one will do.”

I thought, I know a place close by. If that’s important to her, let’s go. Without responding, I slammed on the breaks, did a squealing one-eighty degree wheelie, crossed the highway barrier, and pulled into the traffic just ahead of an eighteen wheeler who impolitely laid on his horn.

Alisha screamed, “Yikes!”

Ziggy spilled his beer and screamed, “What are you doing, Bro? We’re gonna die!”

Somebody insisted that Gary drive, but he politely declined saying he didn’t want to move because he may have soiled himself.

“You said you wanted to see a blowhole, right? I’m going to show you one that very few people know about except for Harry Jay Follman, me, and the locals.” We backtracked into the heart of La`ie Village, which is less than a block long, pulled off the road and climbed a narrow, windy road cut into the volcanic rock. When we reached the top, we followed Naupaka St through a middle-class Mormon neighborhood to the end of the road at La`ie Point.

la1ie pointLa`ie Point

As often as I go up there, it never looks the same and always takes my breath away. Somebody in the back seat exclaimed, “WOW,” and the car emptied out before I came to a full stop. The three of them enjoyed exploring the point and watching the waves crashing onto the rocks. Alisha worried that the kid out at the tip of the point could be washed away by the pounding surf.

blowhole

A Blowhole

la`ie point

Exploring La`ie Point

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An awesome rainbow suddenly appeared and filled the sky. It got larger, then smaller, it disappeared, then reemerged wider and brighter than before. It could have been a double rainbow. Watching this extraordinary display of nature, I realized how fortunate we were to be together sharing this moment with family. Leaving this unique and beautiful place in the sun was always difficult.

Rainbow

Alisha’s Rainbow at La`ie Point

I wanted to stop at Turtle Bay Resort to watch the surfers from the comfort of the familiar beachside bar, but it was nearly four, and Elizabeth was concerned it would be dark before we got all our sightseeing in. She pointed out that Pipeline and Sunset beach were Ziggy’s number one priority. I reluctantly agreed, and we headed for Sunset Beach where we lucked out and scored a parking space.

Sunset BeachSunset Beach

 Ziggy was excited to be there and walked west down the beach with Alisha and Gary towards the rainbow, where I told him Pipeline was. When he returned, he seemed confused and said, “That doesn’t look like pipeline. Are you sure, Jake?” Elizabeth stopped a passing surfer and asked, “Where is Pipeline?” He grinned, pointed east and said in an Australian accent, “It’s just around the point, Mate.” I was right about it being around the point but in the opposite direction.

PipelinePipeline is arguably one of the most sought out winter surfing beaches in the world, and currently the home of the Billie Bong Pipeline Masters Surf Contest. The parking lot was full. I dropped them off and drove the narrow, pot-holed, partially flooded, beach-front road, lined with expensive ocean front homes, and nose-to-nose dilapidated cars and pickups. I drove past the bellicose, bad boy surfer’s beach house, where Sonny Garcia lived, before I could get back on the highway and find a parking spot off the main road.

Ziggy went nuts. It was a huge deal for him. He dropped onto the beach and watched intently as dozens of the surfers waited for just the right series of waves. There were competitors from all over the world here, The famous veterans, and the not so renown. Both young and old surfers, including elderly Clyde who is Eddie Aikau’s brother. Eddie, who is famous for the saying, “Eddie would go,” was lost at sea swimming for help when a winter storm in the Maui channel capsized the outrigger canoe, Hokule`a.

pipeline 2 copy

A very happy Ziggy and Alisha at Pipeline.

I told Ziggy, “My personal preference is to pop on the third wave in a set.” When he didn’t respond, I noticed a far-away expression on his face. I knew Ziggy had been here years ago and wondered, What memories were provoking that big smile and happy face? And so, we stepped back and left him with his memories.

Elizabeth was right. If we had stopped at Turtle Bay, we would have missed this personal moment which was so important to my brother. A cloud burst sent us scurrying down the muddy path to the car and on to our next adventure, Haleiwa town. I wanted him to buy a raucous surfing shirt from the garish surf shop next to the Haleiwa Bridge, but Elizabeth, a seasoned shopper, had other ideas. After visiting several shops, They found what he was after.

I dropped everybody off at Cholo’s Mexican Bar and Grill about five. I parked and joined my guests who were milling about outside the bar and asked Gary, “Did you get a table?”

“No, they are full.”

CholosI said, “Give me a minute, I’ll get us a table.” I politely asked the Greeter at the door for a table, and he asked, “Are you here for dinner, Sir?”

I motioned to my party, and said, “No, we’re just here for a drink or two.”

“Well, it’s like this, Mister. I told your friend you can’t come in here. The bar is full,  and this area is the dining room. It’s reserved for diners only from five to nine. If you take a seat on the patio behind you, I’ll send a waiter out to take your drink order.”

“It’s raining out there, Dude. We’re not doing that. Let’s talk.”

We engaged in a confrontation at the door that was reminiscent of the Godfather saga. I’m not going there, but when it was over, The Greeter said, “Please come in, sit anywhere you want Sir. The chips and salsa are on the house, and Kimo will be your waiter.” He motioned to a waiter dressed in black and hollered, “Get over here on the double, Kimo. Take these good folk’s drink order.” He then left the building, disappeared, and we never saw him, or Kimo again.

I had assured Gary we would get a Margareta at this popular watering hole, and I was determined to do so. When Gary asked, “How did you manage that?” I realized I needed to be humble, so I just smiled and chuckled as we choose a table. I apologized about the lack of  waiter, and told him he would have to order at the bar.

We finished our margaritas and drove around the point and stopped at the Waimea Falls. Ziggy wanted to see it for old-time sake. I was getting dark, and it was a pretty good hike back to the falls, so we just wandered around the grounds, and bought a photograph of the falls.

Waimea-falls-copy-1.jpg     IMG_6875

The Falls.                                   A heaieu, or ancient temple

I was having trouble seeing in the dark, driving rain, and blinding oncoming headlights on the narrow North Shore roads on the way back into town. I did the best I could with Ziggy’s help reading the traffic signs for me. We arrived in Honolulu about seven all in one piece. I exited the freeway just south of the airport, dropped down on the Nimitz Highway, took the Sand Island turnoff, and made my way down to the dark, menacing waterfront industrial area.

***

La Mariana

La Mariana’s Sailing Club.

I swung onto the waterfront access road, and skidded to a stop in front of a dilapidated looking building and ordered my passengers out of the car. Alisha protested, “No, I’m not getting out of the car here, I’m afraid. What kind of place is this, Jake?”

“This is La Mariana’s Sailing Club. Just get out, and follow Elizabeth. Ziggy will keep you safe. I have to find a parking place. You’ll love it once you get inside.”

la mariana frontJPGWe stood in line to get a table, and the greeter asked, “Your name please?”

“Dr. Jake Winston here, and I have a reservation for a table for five in the bar at seven o’clock.”

Of course, I didn’t, but the place was jumping, and she didn’t bother to check. She pleasantly responded, “Let me clear a table. It will just be  just a minute or two, Doctor.”

La Mariana 2When we sat down, the receipt and a cash tip from the table’s previous occupants were still there. Gary slipped five bucks off the receipt tray and jokingly offered it to me to pay for Ziggy’s share of the gas. That got a good laugh. We settled in and ordered margaritas, poke, onion rings, jalapeno poppers, and sautéed mushrooms

. Apparently, our visitors loved La Mariana’s. Ziggy even manned up and tried to pay the bill with a Huling Brothers Buick American Express credit card. That got more laughs, he hadn’t worked there in twenty years. It occurred to me that I hadn’t spent a nickel since they blew into town. I felt a little guilty, but only for a second.

la mariana 7 We went out the back way and stopped for a moment to look at the boats tied up in the marina in front of the bar. On the way back to their hotel, there was a lot of happy chatter about what a unique and fun place La Mariana’s was. Ziggy said, “It’s a great dive bar. I gotta go back.”

 

We dropped them off at the Hilton and got home about eleven. It was another great time.

***

Wednesday they hung out on the beach at the lagoon in front of the Hilton and rested up from the previous day’s adventure. About two o’clock they ubered over to the Arizona Memorial and took the Navy launch out to the sunken battleship, Arizona. Although the memorial structure was undergoing a long overdue renovation, the launch lingered at the site, and they didn’t miss much.

Arizonal memorial copyArizona Memorial

Arizona turret copy

Arizona deck gun turret.

When you look down at the sunken vessel, you can make out some of the deck a few feet below the clear water. Contemplating the last moments of the 1,100 sailors entombed beneath the waves will move you to tears. I always wondered what went through the minds of the millions of Japanese visitors who were drawn to the memorial.

***

When Elizabeth left for dinner and a play with friends, I drove into town to join the gang at their hotel room for drinks and a late dinner. I called CJ’s New York Deli which was on the hotel grounds to get a reservation. I explained to the local girl who answered, “My sister, who is staying at the Hilton, told me that it costs forty-six-dollars to park there. I can’t afford that. Do you have any suggestions where I can park for free?”

She chuckled and said in pidgin, “You local boy, Yah? Park next to shrimp truck in marina parking lot, and walk in from the beach side. That’s what we do. We’re located in the middle of the complex.”

I knew the shrimp truck. That’s where we parked and boarded the canoes when we practiced paddling for the Dragon Boat races. I was proud of myself for scoring an almost impossible free parking space in Waikiki. I justified my cheapness by rationalizing that although I used to be a big spender, now I’m just a retired businessman, living on a pension, and I have to watch every nickel.

After a fifteen minute walk to the hotel, followed by a frustrating thirty minutes of wandering around the Hilton Hawaiian Village without finding either CJ’s or their Kalia Tower, I sat down on a bench and muttered, “I should have paid the forty bucks and parked in the Kalia Tower. Just then my cell rang, it was Alisha. She reminded me I was nearly an hour late, and asked, “Are you okay, and where are you?”

“I’m in the village complex, but I don’t know where. There is a Japanese steakhouse next to me.”

“Stay where you are, don’t move, I’m sending Gary out to find you.”

Gary escorted me to their room for happy hour. We drank a beer or two, passed around chips and talked story. Although I never did learn where Ethan disappeared to the day before, tonight he was kicked back and relaxed. He chuckled to himself as he teased Ziggy about the possibility of losing his leg to leptospirosis after his dip in the ocean earlier that day. After a heavy rain, the runoff into the ocean can contain some dangerous bacteria. Ziggy took him seriously, jumped up and carefully scrubbed a wound on his leg with hot soapy water.

CJ'sWe had a pretty good dinner for twenty bucks a pop at CJ’s New York Deli. Geovanni’s shrimp, French dip, a pastrami sandwich, spaghetti, and casa dias for the lady. We continued to reminisce and had an interesting discussion about humility, one that never got resolved. Tomorrow would be their last day in Paradise, and they planned to hang out on the beach until three-thirty, then uber over to our place to watch the rest of the Ram’s football game and enjoy a farewell dinner. We closed up CJ’s at ten, said goodnight, and Gary pointed me in the direction of the beach.

IMG_6882I was nearly out to the main road when I realized I was walking in the wrong direction through this fifty-acre complex of hotel towers, restaurants, and shops. When I turned around and  finally made it down to the beach, I sat on a bench for several minutes, catching my breath, and enjoyed the sights of  Waikiki.

Arriving back at my car, I noticed there were several groups of locals scattered around the beach and parking lot, playing ukulele, talking story and drinking beer. I thought, Oh shit, is my car still in one piece. I examined it for vandalism and made sure all four tires were still in place. Seeing that everything was in order, I felt ashamed of myself, and sheepishly waved to a nearby happy gathering of locals and went home.

***

QueensThursday morning, I was up at six. I had a procedure scheduled for seven at Queens Hospital to keep my long-running cancer in check This has been ongoing since 2012 and was just another day at the office for me, but terrifying for some.                                                                                                                                                   Queens Hospital

 

 

Thursday afternoon Elizabeth prepared  and seasoned the prime rib for the rotisserie as I watched the Ram’s game. Our guests arrived about four, took their places in the living room, chatted, and watched the game with me, as Elizabeth put out the puupuus and I made drinks. Ethan emptied a pocket full of soggy, beat-up peanuts into an empty dish and said, “I’m through with these, please enjoy.” I thought, Are you kidding, Ethan? A few minutes later, Ethan chuckled and cautioned us that the black cat had sat on the peanuts.

I put the roast on the rotisserie at four-thirty. Before long, the Trade Winds swept the succulent smells of roasting prime rib, fresh garlic and herbs across the room, whetting our appetites. Although the game was on, I don’t believe anybody was actually paying attention to it. There was the usual multiple conversations and joking going on, punctuated by laughing and groaning. If someone happened to notice the good guys score a touchdown, there was some hooting, hollering, and high-flying.

prime rib 2 copy copyI was a little paranoid about my rotisserie skills since the last prime rib roasting went terribly wrong. I swallowed my pride and reluctantly asked Gary, a great chef, for help. We checked the beast a couple of times together and agreed to pull it at 130 degrees. He cautioned, “You don’t want it too rare for French dip sandwiches. It needs to be about medium, or 135 degrees, after resting.”

 

It was important to get it right for two reasons. The Winston’s knew their French dips and were looking forward to this. I would be horribly embarrassed if it were not done to perfection. Also, I was fighting my way back from last year’s failure which ended up in the microwave before being tossed out.

prime rib 1copyWhen we produced a perfect, juicy, pink in the center prime rib, I couldn’t restrain myself and hollered, “Success, success at last!”

That exclamation brought Alisha into the kitchen, she looked over my shoulder as the  carving continued. I wondered, Why is she so interested? I finally realized it looked so good, she just wanted a tasteElizabeth toasted and buttered the buns, put the salad on the table, and make the au jus, as Athena assembled the sandwiches.

 

When all was ready, she announced, “Dinner was served,”

We all gathered around the table. Before he said grace, Fr. Ethan couldn’t help himself and laid a lame joke on us. Elizabeth countered with a couple of pretty funny jokes of her own which got big laughs. Ethan got serious and said grace, ending with, “Lord, be with Jake, Ziggy, and their surgeons during their upcoming medical procedures.”

I was more than appreciative for that invocation ending, and I’m sure Ziggy was as well.

French dip

The French dip was superb. Most everybody had seconds, including Father who is a light eater. Ziggy said, “It was the best!” Gary said, “Congratulations, you nailed it, Jake.”

Elizabeth served coffee and her specialty, chocolate mousse which they loved, followed by Baily’s Irish Cream. After dinner, we sat in the living room rehashing the week’s adventures. Alisha, Garry, and Ziggy were laughing about something that happened on the beach that morning involving Ziggy and a couple of chicks. I didn’t get it.

With Father present, we took the opportunity to pepper him with serious questions about life, death, Heaven, hell, and purgatory. We asked if a priest’s parents got a get in free pass to Heaven, and are the plenary indulgences a ticket into Heaven. Ethan calmly answered our question and put us at ease. Alisha called the Uber who arrived about eleven and whisked them back to Waikiki.

Hawaiian AirFriday morning, they checked out, ubered to the Honolulu airport and boarded a Hawaiian Airlines flight back to Seattle. It felt a little empty after they left, but we have many happy memories of their visit.

***

Four days before Christmas I got this card from Ziggy. It was a picture taken on the beach in front of his hotel on Thursday,  their last full day in Paradise. I immediately realized this was what they were laughing about Thursday night that I missed. I chuckled, “The little dickens, We can’t leave him alone for a minute.”

Frisky & Babes

 Ziggy chilling out on the beach.

*** THE END ***

 

 

 

 

 

             

                

EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE I’VE MET

adventure, DARE TO DREAM, food & drink, Gifted People I've known, Humor, INSPIRATION, Travel

John Wayne. What can I say. He’s been my idol and role mode l since I was thirteen.I met him twice, albeit briefly, and I’ll cherish our first encounter forever.

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ELWOOD

  • Elwood was truly one of God’s special people. Although he was a believer, he wasn’t particularly religious and seldom went to church. He’d lived an amazing life before falling on hard times. When I first met him, he was living in a cardboard box behind the Police Station. He always defiantly insisted that he wasn’t homeless, just houseless H was driven by an indomitable courage and sense of humor despite his circumstances. An inspirational story.
  • https://jakewinstonauthorezine.com/lunch-with-elwood-2/

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