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.”

Tuscany

INSPIRATION, Thomas Glanville author, Travel


TUSCANY, ITALY

By Thomas Glanville

Published June 8, 2018

On December 7, 2003, I married Lorraine, my fourth wife and we spent our honeymoon on the ship, Pride of America, cruising around the Hawaiian Islands. When we arrived back home, there was a letter from my son David waiting for us. Inside the envelope was a vinyl map of the world with an arrow lying on top. His message said that we were to tape the pointer to the map at a place in the world that we wanted to visit, and wherever that was; he would send us there. At first, we thought maybe Africa or England, but after we saw the movie, “Under the Tuscan Sun”, we chose to go to Tuscany, Italy. We called David and told him our choice. He said, “Since we had to stop in Paris anyway, we should spend at least five days in Paris, and he would make all of the arrangements. He told each of us, “Only bring a backpack, a small carry on, black shoes, and dark clothes. Although you love America and T-Shirts, you don’t want to look like a tourist.”

David called back a couple of hours later and said, you’re booked into Paris with a four-hour layover in Detroit. Then, five days later you’re on a flight to Milan, Italy for ten days in a beautiful villa. We thanked him profusely. That evening I said to Loraine. “Maybe we could get my old friend John to meet us at the Hotel next to the Detroit airport and have a long lunch with us. I haven’t seen him and the kids in years.” Lorraine said, “Sure, that sounds like fun, call him.” I did, and John and Rose were excited to hear from me and couldn’t wait to see us. We agreed to meet at the Airport Hilton around three o’clock.

***

After a ten-hour, red-eye from Honolulu, we landed at Detroit-Metro and walked over to the Hilton. John and Rose were waiting for us in the lobby. We had lunch at the Hotel café and laughed and joked about old times when we used to work together.

I reminded him of the time he told me his house was getting too small for his growing family and he couldn’t afford to buy a bigger house. They had fifteen kids living at home, two-years-old through mid-twenties. I suggested that instead of looking for another house, he should put a second story on the house he has now. He agreed, and a couple of friends from work and I helped him on weekends and evenings. Two months later it was done.

He told the story about the time he invited me over to his parent’s house in a rough Detroit neighborhood. He wanted me to meet his mom and dad and experience a homemade Mexican dinner. We had a great time, they were wonderful people. When I left to go home, my pickup was up on blocks, and all four wheels were missing. We laughed about it this afternoon, but it sure wasn’t funny then. Two hours later, we said goodbye and returned to the airport.

***

eiffle towerWe landed in Paris, got through customs, and were surprised to see David waiting for us at the airport. He had a taxi waiting to take us to a small hotel. Although we couldn’t check in, we could leave our baggage there, David called a taxi and we took off. I was surprised to see the Eiffel Tower just across the street from us. It looked like a series of steel lace tied together. I’d seen pictures of it, but never thought I’d be here staring at it. We took the elevator to the top of the Tower. Wow! What a view of Paris we had from there. We took the elevator down a few decks to a restaurant where we had lunch.

After a delicious lunch, David took us to a fancy chocolate shop in the neighborhood where he often shopped for paintings and all kinds of things. We bought a box of candy and munched on it during the subway ride to the famous Musee du Louvre. It was just across the street where we were staying. 0503181001I held my camera high and took a picture of the Mona Lisa over the heads of a large group of tourists viewing her picture. The attendant yelled at me, “No photos are allowed!” We had a snack in the museum’s café and returned to our hotel.

 

David told us not to wear sneakers only black walking shoe and black clothes. Do not wear t-shirts or shorts that say “I Heart the USA”. Lorraine wore shoes she said looked like nun shoes. They were great for walking but she did not like them. The first nun she saw with shoes just like hers, they were off, and she bought some sexy red strapped shoes.

When we look in any store windows, we were not to lean or put our hands on the glass. The two things not to do was a sure sign you were a tourist. In France, I guess you do not want to look like a tourist. Just one look at me and you could sure tell I was a tourist.

David and Lorraine wanted to go to the bottom floor of the museum. Not me, I said. “I will just look around down here on the first floor.”  Just people watching was fun. The bottom line for me; I did not like Paris very much.

***

After a five day stay in Paris, it was time to move on to Italy. We showed the customs officer our passports upon landing in the small Italian airport. He asked, “Where are the rest of your bags?”

“There is nothing else!”

“You came from America, and that is all you have? Get outta here!”

The lady at the rental car place had our car and a map waiting for us when we cleared customs. She also gave us explicit directions on how to get to the village of Greve and Le Maurice street, where the two-hundred-year-old villa, Le Maurice, was located. Lorraine selected it because it seemed to have a fascinating history. It was also recommended by the young couple who owned a ‘Make Your Own Wine” store in Kailua. They had just returned from their honeymoon there.

***

hostsWhen we arrived at the villa’s gate, I rang the bell, and the two brothers, Elio and Gian Piero, the owners, welcomed us. After petting their dogs and engaging in some welcoming chatter, we asked, “Can you show us our rooms.”old bldgIt was located just off the patio on the ground floor. It had a large common area, bedroom, and bath, as well as a small kitchen. The furnishings were elegant, and there was a vase of beautiful flowers from their garden on the table. We unpacked and settled in and relaxed. A couple of hours later, refreshed, we went exploring. There were spring flowers in bloom everywhere and the trees were just starting to bud. There was a large vineyard down in the valley, which we planned to visit in a day or two. That evening we sat in the garden and watched a colorful sunset and went to bed tired from our journey.

The first night the old bed had some silk type of sheets on it. We had just gotten in bed and when we pulled the sheet and blanket up we heard a big rip. We looked and the top sheet had a large rip in it. In the morning Lorraine said she had to tell the guys we ripped their sheet. She took out the book with English an Italian words.  When she got to the word that meant rip was on a word that meant broke. We went to breakfast on the first morning she gave the note to Elio He could not figure out what the note said. The French lady who was staying there said,”Let me look.” She looked it over said, “The newlyweds broke the sheet.” Everyone clapped. It took me awhile to get Lorraine out from under the table.

***

Day 1:

At five-thirty, the sun, which was just peeking over the hill, woke me up. After a few minutes, I got up, leaving Lorraine to sleep in late. I grabbed a banana, a bottle of water and left a note saying that I had gone for a walk. Outside it was bright and cold, around fifty degrees, with dew on the vegetation and a light mist hanging over the valley. I left the villa behind and walked up the road, which got steeper as I climbed.

flowersThere was a plethora of wildflowers, mostly poppies, on both sides of the narrow, winding road. If I stopped and peered up the occasional, long cobblestone driveways, I could see the tile roofs of a few homes here and there, which were set way back off the road. Several of the houses had ancient masonry religious shrines with a picture of some lady and a baby where the driveways met the street.  I called these pictures “An Italian mama and baby.”, There were dusty artificial flowers in some of them.

crossAbout a half-mile up the road, there was what appeared to be, an abandoned driveway with a big mound of weed-covered dirt blocking its entrance. The weeds were almost as tall as me, but if I pushed them aside with a stick, I could make out a good sized, red adobe cross.  It was mounted on top of some kind of a masonry structure, which I couldn’t make out. The cross was nearly four-foot-high, and it leaned severely to the right. I wondered, what it was a part of, and why was it in this empty field? I snapped a picture of it and moved on.

A short way farther up the road, there was an ancient stone building that turned out to be the local winery. Its stone walls were covered with flowering vines. There were a dozen stone steps, which were built into the wall, leading to the top of the wall. I’d seen enough for one morning and decided I had best get back to the villa, Lorraine would be up soon. As I passed the abandoned driveway where I discovered the cross, I decided to return the next day to investigate further. I wondered, What else of interest was behind all those weeds and debris?

***

T on porchAfter breakfast, Lorraine and I drove to the little village of Grave. It sported a good sized, town square, which featured a church at one end, several non-descript stores, a bakery and a sidewalk cafe at the other end of the square with two and three-story apartments flanking the square. We bought a large loaf of olive bread and a hunk of cheese at the bakery for supper that night and took off to discover what we could find in the area. We followed the road east for several miles, but there was little of interest except for vineyards and farmland.

***

DAY 2:

The next morning, I was up again at the break of dawn. I left a note, grabbed something to munch on and walked up to the winery. When I reached the cross, I stopped and stared at it. I couldn’t figure out why it was there, and what it was mounted on. When I reached the winery, I turned around and headed back to the villa. When I got to the old driveway in front of the cross, I looked to see if anyone was coming. I was alone, so I walked around the pile of dirt and stepped over the chain blocking the driveway.

shrine front.jpg 8When I flattened the tall grass, I could make out what looked like an old brick structure with this cross on top. I was curious, so I made my way over to it. It was like a shrine of some kind, about eight-foot-square, and ten-foot high.I looked in it and found a painting of an Italian mama, her baby and two angels on the back wall. The top half of the picture was in fair condition, but the bottom part was faded from the sun. There was an old mason jar laying in front of the painting or print; I couldn’t tell which. I wondered who built the shrine and why they would let this once beautiful structure fall into ruin like this? I cleaned up the interior of the shrine, tidied up the area around it, and piled all the trash up behind the bushes.

When I got back to the villa, I told Lorraine what I had found. She asked, “What was it that attracted you to it, and what motivated you to clean the place up?” I thought for a moment and said, “I don’t know.”

***

Day 3:

ThomWhen I got up, I walked up to the winery as usual. When I got as far as the shrine, I entered the property and stood there looking at it for a long time before continuing on to the winery. On the way back, I picked some wildflowers and arranged them in the mason jar, which I had cleaned out, and filled from my water bottle. I also cleaned off the plastic cover protecting the painting from the elements. I thought, Why in the heck am I doing this? This is the first shrine I had ever seen. Loraine was right. Why am I attracted to it, returning again and again, cleaning it up, and even putting fresh flowers before the painting? I still didn’t have the answer to that. After breakfast, we took a long aimless drive. When we came to a road crossing, Loraine would say, “I wonder where that leads to?” I’d respond, “I don’t know, let’s find out. After a few miles, we ran into some horseback riders that waved us down. They ask where is so an so place. We told them “We don’t know, and furthermore, we don’t know where we are.”

Thom2A few miles further we came to what looked like an old castle. The roof had caved in and some of the stone stairs had fallen. There was a big cross that seemed like someone had put there after the castle had crumbled.  We could see that the road continued on across the hills for miles. We hung around for a while then headed back to the villa. Before we left, I stood on top of the hill with my arms in the air just like in the Sound of Music.

***

Day 4:

On our fourth day in Tuscany, I woke up early and walked up to the winery as usual. On my return, I picked a handful of the many flowers of all kinds and colors that were everywhere. When I got to the shrine, I stopped and put the fresh flowers in the mason jar, and remained for a while, wondering why this shrine had me hooked. Was it because we were both old? When I returned to the road, I heard the sound of a motor scooter and stepped off to the side to allow an old man on a motorbike to pass me. I waved good morning to him, and he waved back. A few moments later, an old lady following him on her scooter rounded the curve. I waved at her also, but she gave me a dirty look and continued on.

TowerThat afternoon,  we went to the market.  When we entered the produce area, I saw a notice that stated we had to put on the gloves that were furnished before picking up any fruit or vegetables. I thought that was odd. A lady told us, “Whatever you pick up you can not put back down.” In other words, you touch it, you bought it. We bought lettuce and other things to make a salad and put them in bags.  I walked around the aisles looking for salad dressing, and yelled at Lorraine, ”I wonder where the salad dressing is at?” Suddenly the store went silent, and a French lady said very loud “You can take the American out of America but can’t take the American out of them”.

We just smiled and put our purchases on the checkout counter. The clerk at the register started yelling at us in Italian. We didn’t know what he was all excited about until Someone in line behind us said we were supposed to have weighed the things we bought, selected the picture of the item on the screen, and applied the barcode sticker that popped up to the bag. He led us over to the produce scale babbling in Italian, then he asked in broken English, “Where you from?” Lorraine said, “Hawaii.” He smiled and said, “Oh, okay!” As we left the store, everyone clapped. It seemed we were the show for the day.

***

Day 5:

I slipped out of our room without waking Loraine and headed up the road. I heard the old man’s scooter coming, so I stopped and waited. When he came around the corner, I waved, and he waved back. The old lady was not too far back, I waved at her and just got the same dirty look. I thought if she came by tomorrow, I’d give her a Shaka, the Hawaiian sign for hello and thank you. I walked to the winery and again on the way back I picked some flowers for the shrine. On the way back to the villa I was thinking about the old lady and how I could make her wave or even smile. I wondered if the Shaka sign could possibly mean something dirty in Italy.

After breakfast, we went for a drive. We turned onto the road that meandered up towards the mountains and soon encountered a traffic sign indicating a one lane road ahead. When the light changed, we could continue up that section of road, but the cars coming down had to wait for us. About a half mile up the road, when we made a sharp turn to the left and then to the right, We notice there were people putting up tents in a church parking lot. We found a place to park and learned they were setting up for a big wine tasting event. We followed a brick driveway around to the back of the church where the local wineries were setting up tables in front of a long row of apartments.  There were eleven tables holding bottles with signs describing the types of wines and the wineries they were from.

wineWe walked over to the signup tent where some people were standing around. I paid the fee and they gave us two glasses with ribbons attached to put around our necks. The street was soon filled with happy people. Lorraine met a woman who spoke English, they talked for several minutes and decided to go around to the different tables together and sample the wine. That was fine with me and I said, “See you gals later.”

I walked around for a couple of hours and checked out the other tables on which were displayed local artwork and all kinds of things for sale. I needed a restroom, but I couldn’t find one anywhere close by.   I entered a cafe on the corner and asked if I could use the restroom. The owner said, “No way, my friend, but if you make a reservation for lunch you can use it.” I made a lunch reservation and returned to where Loraine and her new friend were wine tasting. It was 12 o’clock, lunchtime when I found them sitting at a table sampling wine. If I had waited any longer I would have to pull them to the cafe in a wagon. Most folks smell the wine, swirl around in their mouths and spit it out.  Their motto was if it goes in their mouth, it goes down, not out. We had a great lunch and headed back to the villa.

***

Day 6:

wine tasting 2Our sixth morning here was misty and overcast. On the way back from the winery I picked some flowers and again stopped at the shrine. While I was there, something came over me, and I felt compelled to dismantle the shrine, and number the bricks so I could reassemble it on my return to Hawaii. When I returned to the road at the usual hour, I waited for the scooters to pass me. When I heard the sound of a motorbike coming down the hill, I smiled in anticipation. However, I was surprised when the old lady rounded the curve without the old man. I thought maybe he got up late or wasn’t working today. I gave her the shaka sign, and I was rewarded with a big toothy smile and a happy wave. It worked! When I got back to the villa, I told Lorraine I was thinking about bringing the shrine to Hawaii. She smiled and said, “You must be crazy! That would be a huge job. Have you figured out what the attraction is?” I told her, “Maybe part of it is, I just can’t let it fall into ruins, and it’s a shame that no one is taking care of it?”

***

Day 7:

Day seven, I went to the winery as usual. As I was about to turn around, I changed my mind and continued on to explore. The road had some big curves in it. The boys at the villa told me that walking through the narrow curves was dangerous. The cars and trucks drive way too fast. Although they toot their horns going into the curves, it can be hazardous.

Just then I heard honking. I stepped off the road, and a few seconds later a car came around the curve and passed me, at a fast speed.  I could hear the sound of a big rig, blowing its air horn, as it entered the curve. I stepped onto the edge of the road to get out of the way.  I looked down the steep bank at a grove of olive trees and grape vines in the valley below. As the truck approached me, it appeared that its oversize mirrors might clip me. I leaned hard against the cable guardrail, and the truck passed safely

With my weight against the old cable, it snapped, and I tumbled head first.  I landed face down into a clump of tall weeds and thorns, which stopped my fall into the valley thirty feet below. At first, I was afraid to move, for fear of plummeting further into the valley below, but I knew I had to do something. As I wiggled and squirmed into the fetal position, the thorns dug into my head, arms, and shoulders. When I managed to roll over on my back, I spotted the end of the cable close by and grabbed it. I pulled myself out of the thorns and got my head pointed towards the edge of the road. I got up on my knees, and half dragged, half crawled back up to the side of the road.

I was so happy to be safe, I almost forgot that I had left a big red rose for Lorraine behind in the thorns. I said, “I picked that rose for Lorraine and I am not going back without it.” I grabbed the cable and slowly repelled off the hill to reclaim the rose. Back up on the road, I brushed off the leaves, twigs, and thorns and headed for the villa.

On the way back I picked some flowers to put in the jar in the Shrine.

When I got back to the villa, Lorraine exclaimed, “What happened to you? What a sight you are. You have grass in your hair, grass stains on your ripped shirt and trousers and thorns sticking to your clothes.” I gave her the rose and told her the story. She giggled and said, “You should look in the mirror before we go anywhere. I did and had shower and change clothes before going for a drive.

***

Day 8:

I got up at 5 a.m. grabbed a water bottle and a cookie and walked up to toward the winery. The old man and lady drove by on their scooter. I waved and they both waved back with a smile. I plucked some flowers and stopped at the shrine and cleaned up around and inside it. I knew we had only a couple of days left here. I considered taking just one brick if I couldn’t take them all. I searched the clearing, but none were lying about, nor were there any loose ones on the structure.

***

I returned to the villa, after breakfast we drove to one of the nearby walled cities. By the time we got there and parked, we were in need of a restroom. There was this odd-looking metal structure that looked like a spaceship in the center of the parking lot. As we approached it, a door opened, and an elderly couple stepped out. The door closed behind them, and we heard what sounded like a fan, and a pump turning on, followed by the sound of water. When the noise stopped, I could smell the sweet smell an air freshener.

The couple told us it was a restroom and you had to pay to use it. We followed the instructions and put in the coins. The door open and I said, “Ladies first.” The couple interrupted, and told me, “You can both go in together, it’s quite big inside. When we entered, the lights came on, and the door closed and locked. There was a stainless-steel toilet with no seat. I repeated, “Ladies first.” Loraine responded, “No, you go first.” When it was her turn, she sat on the toilet.  and exclaimed, “Oh my goodness, it’s cold, and hey, where is the toilet paper?” I told her, “There’s a slot on the wall with a sign showing that you flip the lid up and the toilet paper is right there. I heard the toilet flush. When she got up, she asked, “Where do you wash your hands? “I said, “There are two handholes under the picture of a faucet. Put your hands in there.”

“Something just dropped on my hands, what is it?”

“It’s soapy water, wash your hands in it. The rinse water will come on shortly followed by an air dryer.” When we left the contraption, the self-cleaning racket started. We just smiled at the lady waiting outside and explained that the noise was the restroom cleaning itself. as if we knew it all the time.

shrine close up copy3When we only had two days left in Italy! I got up late, and had breakfast with my sweetheart, instead of walking up to the winery and shrine. When the conversation turned to the shrine, I asked, “What do you think I could take back with me as a remembrance of the shrine?”

“Let’s go to town and buy the perfect flower vase for your shrine. Then, you pick some particularly beautiful flowers to put in it and leave it there overnight. On our last day here, you retrieve the vase, and we’ll bring it back to Hawaii with us as a memory. That way every time you look at the vase, you’ll think of the shrine.”

***

Day 9:

shrine close up copyOn my morning walk, I spotted a bunch of red poppies with a single white one sticking up in the middle, a little higher than the rest. I picked a dozen of them, including the white one, and put them in the memory vase, and placed it at the foot of the painting of the Italian mama and her baby. I cleaned up in and around the shrine again and returned to the villa.

The villa owners invited us, and three other guest couples to share a late dinner with them in their large kitchen on our last night in Italy. I watched Gian make noodles, and Elio cook the main course. There were six bottles of homemade wine on the table, each one a little different, and produced by our hosts. There were several kinds of bread to choose from, and a simple salad dressed with olive oil of course.  The other couples were from different countries, but we all seemed to understand each other well enough. It was a splendid dinner and a wonderful last evening in Italy. Later during the night, about three a.m., a thunderous clap of thunder shook the villa, lightning lit up the sky, and the rain poured down in buckets. It lasted at least an hour or so.

***

Day 10:

I got up at five am as usual. Grabbed a snack and some water and went off to walk to the winery for the last time. It was another misty morning after the storm, and everything smelled fresh and earthy. I said my goodbye to the winery and threw the old man and old lady a kiss as they zoomed by on their scooters.

When I got to the shrine, I was alarmed by the mess I found there. The vase had blown over but didn’t break. The white flower lay crushed, dirty and wilted. The picture was askew on the back wall, but not damaged. I cleaned up the mess and put the fresh roses in the mason jar. I knew this is the last time I would be here. I decided to remove the roses from the jar and lay them directly in front of the painting of my Italian Mama and her baby. I had grown close to but still didn’t know the significance of the art, or who painted the picture which I now thought was maybe Mary, Jesus, and the Angels.

shrine frontalI said my goodbyes, gave my shrine a pat and returned to the villa with the vase in time for breakfast. When we were packed, we left our bags on the porch and made a quick trip to the town center to say Aloha to the shopkeepers we had befriended and polish off some fresh olive bread dipped in olive oil at the bakery. When we returned to the villa.

I told Lorraine, “Something tells me I need to return to the shrine once more.”

When I got there, the first thing I noticed was that someone had been here in my brief absence this morning and cut all of the high grass around the shrine and olive trees, revealing a low stone wall that was hidden before. I went over to the wall and sat down a few yards to the left of the shrine. When I gazed at the painting, I was startled to see a third angel painted into the painting that I had never seen before. It was below the mama and looking up at her. This angel was bright and clear unlike the faded painting surrounding it. When I got up and stood directly in front of the shrine, I could no longer see the third angle. I returned to where I was sitting, and there it was again. I did this several times with the same result. I returned to the villa and excitedly told Lorraine what I saw. She asked, “How could that be?” I said, “Come with me. You have to see this.”

***

We entered the recently cleared courtyard containing the shrine and stood directly in front of the painting. I asked, “How many angels do you see?”

“Two.”

I told her, “Follow me to the stonewall over there and tell me how many angels you see.” Without hesitation, she said, “There is a third angel near the bottom of the painting. Loraine walked back and forth a couple of times and confirmed what she saw. I asked her, Are you sure? You’re not just telling me what you think I want to hear are you?”

“Oh no. I saw it. No question about it. I think that your infatuation with this shrine, and now this, must be some kind of sign from God.”

***

We returned to the villa in silence thinking about what we just saw, yet not understanding it. It wasn’t just the third angel that baffled us, but it was the whole thing. It was the way I was drawn to the shrine, how my infatuation with it grew stronger every day to the point that I took temporary ownership of it and worked diligently to keep it presentable for the Blessed Mother and Jesus who were portrayed in the painting. Then there was the nasty thunderstorm early this morning that wreaked havoc on the shrine but did little damage other than knocking the painting askew and dumping my memorial vase over. I’m surprised the vase didn’t break, and I wonder why only the single white flower wilted and died? That was certainly strange. And who cleared the courtyard this morning. I haven’t seen any other evidence that anybody had been on the property the entire time we were here.

***

We loaded our baggage into the rental car and said goodbye to the boys and the dogs. We stopped for lunch in town and then headed for the airport and home. After we had checked in and got our boarding passes, we had a two-hour wait to board the plane. We looked around the gift shop, where Loraine picked up and thumbed through a coffee table book of famous Italian painters. She poked me and exclaimed, “I found it! Thom, I just found it!”

“What did you find?”

“Look at this picture on page nine-eight. This painting is the same one that hangs in your shrine. It says here that it’s a famous painting of the Madonna and child by Filippo Lippi. The original hangs in the Uffizi Gallery, in Florence. Look here, “There are only two angels in the painting.”

***

It was a long flight back to Hawaii with two stops. When we finally got home and settled in, Lorraine picked up our mail at the post office. On the way home, she sorted through the mail and handed me a letter addressed to me. I recognized the address. It was John’s address, my old pal back in Michigan. I told Lorraine that something must have happened to brother John. They had never written us before.

When I opened the letter, it was from Rose. She wrote that John had passed away at nine a.m. on April twelfth. I knew they were very Catholic and had sent all of the kids to Catholic schools, so I decided it would be appropriate if I wrote her about my recent experience at the shrine. I wrote about everything that happened at the shrine in a long letter, leaving nothing out. I pointed out that the time of John’s death was three a.m. where we were in Tuscany, and that was the very hour of the horrendous thunderstorm.

***

She wrote back that my letter moved her deeply and made her feel better. She just knew that her John was in the arms of the Italian Mama. She added, “You might not believe what I’m about to write, but the day of the funeral I placed fifteen red roses, one for each child, and one white rose for John on his coffin. I am sure that Angel you saw in the painting was John, saying goodbye.”shrine close up copy4

Now it all seems to make sense why the shrine was calling me. God rest Brother John.

*** The End ***

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 ***

SEA STORIES

adventure at sea, autobiography, DARE TO DREAM, Fishing Bristol Bay, food & drink, Humor, INSPIRATION, Travel

This collection of stories runs the gamut from light and funny, informative to exciting, dangerous, thrilling, and scary.

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BRISTOL BAY – episode V – Farewell

Fishing the south line of the Bristol Bay’s Naknek R9ver can be terrifying and exciting as hundreds of boats fight for a place on the line.

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BRISTOL BAY – episode IV -Fishing the south line

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BRISTOL BAY – episode III – 24 hours to launch

After a week’s preparation, the Erica Lynn is checked out, provisioned, and ready to fish. We climb aboard as the mobile launcher comes to get us and launch us into the Naknek River

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BRISTOL BAY – episode II –

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BRISTOL BAY – EPISODE I – Naknek Village ‘

Naknek is the centerpiece of the Bristol Bay salmon run every July. Over a thousand gillnetters fish this four to six week seasons and fortunes are made by the tough old dogs who fight for every fish.

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https://jakewinstonauthorezine.com/h-j-follman/

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DUTCH HARBOR, ALASKA

Jake reminisces about past business related adventures at the desolate North Slope and more genteel Alaska cities.

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A young boy goes fishing in the family cruiser’s small dinghy in the early evening unaware of a school of gigantic manta-rays who are lurking just below the surface and stalking him.

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THE OCEAN OUTFALL LINE

An interesting story about making a difficult and dangerous repair to a severed ocean outfall line which dumps paper mill waste a half-mile out into into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Northern California.

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NORTHWEST BOATING HISTORY

Jake remembers his boating days from the 1940’s to the 1960’s. Some interesting and funny stuff.

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I FINALLY GOT MY BOAT

“You can take the man out of the boat, but you can’t take the boat out of the man.”

Jake chronicles his passion for boating over the years. A humorous look at Jake’s quest stay on the water.

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TAHITI

A ten-day cruise aboard a small luxury liner, the M/S Paul Gauguin on its maiden voyage through the Tahitian Islands begins in Papeete.

A SUMMER CRUISE

A college kid takes a summer job aboard the Thelma Rose, a one-hundred-foot vintage yacht that caters to the wealthy cruise crowd. When the captain and the kid lock Max Dumas, an out-of-control, antagonistic, drunken guest, in his stateroom, he escapes, threatens to kill the captain’s and the kid with a 357 Magnum. When Max takes on a school of dolphins, killing the female, all hell breaks loose.

https://jakewinstonauthorezine.com/a-summer-cruise/