adventure, autobiography, INSPIRATION, September 24, 2018, Travel, Uncategorized

shutterstock Alaska AirI was somewhere over the Pacific Ocean traveling from Honolulu to attend my Seattle Prep sixtieth class reunion. I wasn’t expecting much since I had attended Prep for less than a year. Gerry Dinndorf, the reunion chairman, a casual acquaintance, sent me an invitation which I ignored until four more classmates, Parker, Mike Fischer, Dan Regis, and Jim Bradly, also encouraged me to attend.

I was moved by their interest in seeing me since we hadn’t spoken in sixty years. I thought if I went, I would probably not know anybody besides them, but we were good friends back in the day so why not go. I may never see them again.

Elizabeth reminded me, “You guys were good buddies in high school, and they are reaching out to you, Jake. You owe them the courtesy of showing up. Besides, it will be an opportunity to see your brothers and sisters.”

I agreed, bought a ticket and e-mailed my sister, Alisha, to see if she would put me up for a few days. Not only would she do so, but she offered to host a dinner party for my four siblings, cousin Kitty, and their wives, and husbands the night following the reunion.


During a mediocre airplane lunch, I ordered a cup of coffee and a cigar. I got the coffee and a smart ass remark from the stewardess. As I sipped my coffee, I got to thinking about life, death, family, and friends. I just turned seventy-eight, and when you do that, you can’t help but think about stuff like that.

Seattle 1962

Seattle 1964

I reminisced about how I had left Mom, Dad, the family, and Seattle behind in 1964, fifty-four years ago, to follow my passion, that of becoming a world class builder. Although I returned to Seattle briefly in 1968 and again in 1985 for a few years. The rest of the time, only Elizabeth remembers where we were. She sometimes reminds me that we lived in twenty-six different homes in two countries, and ten states. Needless to say, I lost track of my siblings and many friends, and they lost track of me, but we always kept our three boys, and six grandsons close.

Alisha set out to masterminded my return to the family in 2014. She started a friendly dialogue with me via e-mail when I was in Hawaii. First, it was a happy birthday greeting, followed by Marsha Rossellini’s and Fran’s funeral notices. It went on from there to develop into an ongoing, e-mail relationship which culminated in an invitation to a family reunion, and crab feed on the beach in front of their home in 2015.

I was reluctant to attend because I had been away for an awfully long time, and I perceived there were unresolved issues between my siblings and me over my handling of Doc’s estate. Trust me, you never want to be the executor of an estate. However, I gritted my teeth, put on my big boy pants, and flew into Seattle for the event. I had several reasons for doing so. Cancer and a heart issue threatened to send me packing to my maker, and I wasn’t sure if there would be another chance to be with them, and see what they had done with their lives. I didn’t verbalize it, but if there was going to be a crab feed on the beach, and possibly a boat trip to Gig Harbor, I was going to be there.



Monica, Alisha, Gary- Her Husband, Ziggy,  Jake and Fr. Ethan seated.

I was surprised and grateful by how the family embraced me. Not an unkind word was spoken, and I could feel that special love that only families share with one another. I realized that the bond we shared as children, not only truly stood the test of time, but played a role in shaping our lives. Because of that remarkable 2015 reunion, I am tonight returning for the fifth time.




As I stepped onto the airport curb a little after eleven p.m., Alisha was waiting to whisk me away to their Burien home on a high bank fronting on Puget Sound. Gary was down for the night due to an early morning appointment, but their little dog, which I call Pussycat, was there to greet me with a wagging tail. I think he smelled Elizabeth’s cats on my jeans.

Having nothing much to eat all day, I was hungry and thirsty. Alisha poured me a drink and made me some giant prawns, which were brushed with wasabi and oil, and wrapped in hot bacon. Oh, so tasty. I ate four of them as we talked story about family, work, and the upcoming week’s planned and unplanned events until 2:00 a.m.



Three Tree point in background

When I rolled out of the sack about nine the next morning, she had coffee, a coke, and a delightful pastry from the local patisserie waiting for Pussycat and me on the deck. When Gary returned about ten, we talked for a few minutes, he handed me the keys to his truck, and I was off. I was feeling kind of guilty about using his truck for the better part of three days, but he graciously insisted it was no problem, he would drive the Mercedes. Alisha had suggested if I wanted some one-on-one time with my sister Monica, and brother, Fr. Ethan, it would be best if I spent a few hours with them at their home before the Saturday dinner which was sure to be a hectic, loud, free-for-all. I agreed.


I headed up I-5 to Monica & Tommy’s condo on the Edmonds waterfront. I got lost as usual, but after thirty-minutes of wrong turns and backtracking, I found the place. We hung out at their new, gorgeous condo which is situated above the Port of Edmond’s  new marina a few blocks south of the Edmonds/Kingston ferry dock. Just being there flooded my mind with pleasant memories of years past when there was not much there besides the ferry dock, a big oil tank farm, the Northern Pacific railroad tracks, and the old  Edmonds Yacht Club.

Monica reminded me that when we were kids aboard the Frisky II, Doc often laid over at the yacht club here on Friday nights before heading up into the Islands. I remembered that we would wait for Mom and Dad to go up to the club for drinks and a late dinner, and we would sneak up to the RR tracks, put pennies on the rail and gleefully wait for the big Diesel engine to smash them into souvenirs.

Tommy and I shared war stories about our health challenges, and talked about the summer we added a family room to their Mountlake Terrace home years ago. The conversation turned to boating, as it always does when we are with the family. Tommy was an excellent, cautious skipper and ran a couple of pretty big boats, like forty-five footers.

Tom's boat, crop

my homemade sailboat, Monica, son Jeff, daughter Kim, Johan Fisher, Doc & Tom’s wood boat.

I teased him about his first wood boat, but he didn’t think I was amusing. We both felt that Doc was a little jealous of his boats which were much bigger than the Frisky II. Regretfully, we shared our concerns about how getting old left us a bit unsteady on our feet and how that made boating a challenge. What can I say, Tom hadn’t changed a bit, and he’s the greatest.


monica, Jake & AlishaI hadn’t spent much time with Monica over the last sixty years, and so my dimming memory of our early days was that she was a quiet, serious, and stand-offish young lady. I recalled that she was a no-nonsense kid, with a mind of her own, and an unwavering determination to get what she wanted. She had no qualms about taking on Doc when he was out of line, being a bully, or mistreating our beloved Mom.

It wasn’t until today that I realize that she played an important, but passive role, in my early development. She taught me to be my own person and not to take crap from anybody, growing up isn’t a popularity contest. Despite my foggy memories, today she was a gracious, outgoing delight to be with, I thoroughly enjoyed her, and I was glad she was my sister.


After lots of talk story about boating, family, and our lifestyles, Monica said, “I’m not about to cook for you, so if you want lunch, come with us. We arrived at an upscale bistro on the Ave which I remembered from our last visit. Tommy insisted I order the calamari fries and the lobster bisque. The calamari was excellent, but the bisque needed some work. Monica had a delicious looking Italian bruschetta with all the trimmings.

Engels Tavern

Engles Pub

After lunch, we did a drive-by of a landmark Edmonds tavern which Tommy wanted me to see, Engels Pub. We drove by the condo on the hill their friend, Mike, from church, lived in. They said they had many good friends in the neighbor hood, including a gal from Hawaii. We said goodbye about two, and I was on to my next adventure.




I continued up I-5 for Clear Lake to meet Harry Jay Follman, my construction partner in Hawaii for the last fifteen years. A half hour south of Mt. Vernon, I called him to see where he was. He responded, “Hey Full Share, Glad you called, I’m on my way to Mt. Vernon to meet my attorney to wrap up my Father’s will. Meet me at their law offices in about thirty minutes. it’s just north of the old Highway 99 bridge in an old bank building, you’ll find it.”

I was surprised when he asked me to sit in on the meeting with his lawyer as they took care of business. His Dad had been a Washington State superior court judge for years and had just died at ninety-three. I’m not sure why he wanted me there, but I was, and sometimes you just don’t ask a friend why.


The meeting took longer than expected due to a lot of talk story coming out of Jay which had little to do with the business at hand, but it was fun to sit and listen. On the way to his Clear Lake office, I struggled to keep up with him, as he darted in and out of narrow county roads at breakneck speed, to avoid the construction work on Highway 9. You talk about Mr. Toad’s wild ride. We arrived in one piece, an hour late, for our meeting with his Chief Financial Officer, and new General Manager. They were about to give up on us, and go home. I was anxious to meet these guys, and I think it was mutual. We enjoyed talking about the construction company and what the future held.



Jay Follman’s deck overlooking Clear Lake

About six, I followed Jay to the nearby Harry Jay Follman Manor which sits on a bank, seven-hundred-feet above the shores of Clear Lake. It’s surrounded by several wooded acres. Their property was very similar to Athena and Gary’s. Jay was interested in learning more about their proposed tram to the beach. I dumped my bag in the guest room overlooking the lake and dock and joined Jay on the deck.

Harry Jay FollmanJ on the Erika Lynn

Skipper Harry Jay Follman aboard the Erika Lynn.

Jay is an exciting character and adventurous soul. As a young man, he was a USA Olympics’ team downhill skier and later raced sprint cars up and down the West Coast circuit. For the last thirty-five plus years; Jay fished the annual, Bristol Bay Salmon Run aboard his thirty-two-foot gillnetter, the Erika Lynn, and answered thousands of fire calls as a Clear Lake volunteer fireman, fire chief, and paramedic. He’s also a talented guitar player and singer. When he and Sharil do Johnny Cash and June, it gives me goose bumps.



Sharil Follman having fun.


Sharil is a sweetheart, She retired after a long career as a licensed, drug and alcohol abuse counselor at the family owned, Follman Agency. She now devotes her time to being with family, especially the grandkids. She’s also a hell if a piano player.

Their son Jack, a fledgling Los Angeles screenwriter, just put his first movie in the can, which Will Smith, the actor, bankrolled. It’s scheduled to debut at Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival in January.


BJ & crab crop

BJ in Hawaii

As we waited for Sharil to get ready to go to dinner, our conversation turned to BJ, my 20-year-old, six-foot-five grandson, a smart, hard-working kid who is a charmer. He’s sometimes shy, sometimes outgoing, but always articulate, opinionated and fun to have around. He’s determined to earn the thirty-thousand-dollars needed to return to Oregon State University full-time to continue his pursuit of a biology degree.

Jay saw something special in the lad the first time they met in Hawaii a few months before, and subsequently stepped up to the plate, invited BJ to spend a day at Follman Manor to see what he was made of. Jay and Sharil liked what they saw in him.

BJ w: fish crop

BJ, a deckhand aboard the Erika Lynn.

Jay sent him out on the Erika Lynn, to fish the Bristol Bay Salmon Run as a quarter-share deckhand. Based on his performance on the Erica Lynn, BJ scored a five-month position on one of Jay’s construction crews in Dutch Harbor, working long hours for good money.

I remembered that as much as Elizabeth and I wanted BJ to succeed,  we knew he had to do it on his own. We could possibly open the odd door for him, but then it was on him to make it happen.


I was proud of my grandson when Jay told me, “I knew BJ had it in him, I wasn’t surprised that he did well.” I wondered what I had done to deserve an extraordinary friend like Harry Jay Follman. I meekly muttered, “Thanks, Jay.”



We drove up to the Oyster Bar Restaurant, overlooking the San Juan Islands on Chuckanut Drive in Bellingham for a late dinner. Kumamoto oysters, Oysters Rockefeller, fried oysters, a bowl of mussels in pesto sauce for the table, followed by a Petrale sole, and King Salmon  entries. It was a gastronomical event.


We stopped at a Mom and Pop grocery store for lime-aid popsicles and soda half-way home about eleven, followed by a tour of Jay’s new steel fabrication shop, and a short visit with happy-go-lucky, brother John at midnight. who was up watching Gunsmoke on late night TV.


JD crabBack at the house, Sharil keep saying, “I’m going to bed.” However, she kept staying for just one more story, My favorite Sharil story was how she came to meet and marry Jay. I also enjoyed the retelling of some of the adventures Jay and I had shared, including crabbing in the Bering Sea, and being thrown off our private jet in remote Cold Bay, Alaska,


JD & J .




The following morning, we all sleep in until ten. Jay and I had coffee and talked about the business for an hour, then we headed over to Evelyn’s TAVERN in Clear Lake for breakfast. Jay introduced me to Billie, the cook, and Hillbillies’ brother, the bartender.

While we waited for breakfast, consisting of hamburgers, a salad and a soda pop, in the outdoor beer garden, Jay greeted a scary looking homeless man, Sleepy Joe, who was cutting through the beer garden on his way to his home in the brush. He was living in an abandoned camper back which was hidden in the woods behind Evelyn’s. Sleepy Joe was a gifted guitar player and composer who had fallen on hard times years before. He played with the band at Evelyn’s most Saturday nights. He and Jay talked about what he was up to and how his songwriting was coming. When Jay asked, “Do you need any money, Sleepy?” He responded, “ You know that I do, but I’m not going to ask you, Jay. You know me better than that.” Jay tossed him a hundred-dollar bill and said, “Don’t spend it on drugs.”

“I don’t do the drugs no more. Thanks, my brother.”

I asked Jay, “Why did you do that?”

“I sometimes stop by Evelyn’s on Saturday nights and toss a hundred-dollar bill in the band’s tip jar when I leave. I missed last week, that’s the band’s tip. He gets the whole thing this time.”


Stay tuned for Episode II:

It includes: Father Ethan, The Metropolitan Grill, The Class of 1958, The Family Reunion, and Ivar’s Salmon House.



autobiography, food & drink, October12 2018, reunions, Travel

I arrived in Seattle about three o’clock, and was late for my get-together with brother Ethan, but wanted to take this opportunity to check out some of my old haunts on the way to his home. I hadn’t re-visited the places that had defined several important events in my life. It seemed now was the time to do it. It was important to me to revisit these places since I had written about them from memory in my book, “The Prodigal Son,” and I was curious if I got it right.

I left I-5 and slipped through the Mercer Street corridor headed for Magnolia, I couldn’t believe how Amazon’s coming to town impacted the sleepy Lake Union neighborhood of my youth. It was awful.


Lake Union 2018


Houseboat 1960

Jake’s houseboat on Lake Union, 1960

Looking north towards where my 1960’s twenty-five-dollar-a-month rented houseboat was moored, all I saw was million dollar floating homes and expensive yachts. It was a far cry from the days these dilapidated, tiny homes were inhabited by college students and hippies, and the toilets and sinks emptied directly into the lake.

Space needle

When I approached the Seattle Center, I spotted the Space Needle looming over me. I remembered  when I was working for NWC in 1968, and they had something to do with building the Space Needle. I got a call from the Needle’s restaurant manager, “Help, the restaurant deck stopped turning this morning. You have to fix it. We are booked for tonight, and it has to be turning by five. I sent a couple of millwrights over with instructions to fix it, and have it done by five. The Restaurant did open on time and the next day I asked my guys, ”What was the problem?”“That whole restaurant is on a turntable driven by a little one-quarter horsepower electric motor and gearbox. The motor failed, and we replaced it.”

As I passed Izzy’s Bar across the street from the Seattle Center, I thought of the many nights we used to spend at this high-toned beer joint which was built for the Seattle World’s Fair crowd. It was no longer there.

I dropped down onto Elliot Ave and pulled into the parking lot of what used to be the old XXX Barrel restaurant. Doc’s buddy, Bill Ruff, owned it, and they had the best barbecue beef sandwich on the planet. I remembered doing the design and drawings to remodel it into a Hawaii themed restaurant and cocktail lounge. I was a twenty-year-old, starving architecture student at UW, and needed the money. I designed it and oversaw the construction for five-hundred-dollars. They named it the “Tiki Hut.” Ziggy used to be a part-time bartender there. Today it’s a sleazy looking Chinese joint.

37th. JPG

Mom, Monica, Auntie Patsy & Grama

I turned onto the Garfield St. Bridge, where I spotted Pete’s old house on the bluff. He was my childhood best friend. I drove through an unremarkable Magnolia Village and turned onto 37th street, where I stopped for a moment to look over our family’s first house. We lived there while Doc was away fighting the war and a few years after he returned. It hadn’t changed much since this old photo was taken in the late ’40s.

I drove up the hill and turned onto West Viewmont Way, and stopped in front of the Winston family’s second home, which Doc bought in 1950. It was a large ranch style house overlooking Puget Sound. I always thought it was a status thing for him, after all, he was a doctor. I hated doing the yard work and cleaning the pool. I marveled at how, as a teenager, I was able to back his car out of the garage, and up the steep driveway at night without Doc hearing the car, and catching me. Actually, he did so once, but that’s an unhappy story for another day.

23 ft houseJPGI drove north to the house that I designed, and Doc built on a narrow, abandoned City alleyway off of W. Viewmont, and a few blocks from Ethan’s home. It was selected as the Seattle Time’s “House of the Month” in 1964. Doc bought me an old ’57 Chevy Bel Air for my troubles. It was the best car I ever owned.

My short detour and tour confirmed that my memory had served me well, and I got it right in the book. It also caused me to realize that the easy, un-crowded lifestyle of my youth was over. I knew I couldn’t handle Seattle’s traffic on a daily basis. Great place to visit, but I don’t want to live here.


gordie croppedcopyEthan and his dog, Sara met me at the door of his 1940’s, tiny Cape Cod home. It looked out-of-place surrounded and dwarfed by the two and three-story, multi-million-dollar, modern homes, which had replaced all the other original houses in the neighborhood. Jim Bradley lived a few doors down. He motioned for me to sit in his favorite spot on the ratty, torn, duct-taped, ancient sofa next to Sara. Ethan has never embraced materialism, and it’s my guess the sofa will be with him until the end.

Ethan's modelIt seemed like there were model ships everywhere. It was his hobby, requiring a steady hand, precision, and patience. He was good at it, I never could have done that, but if you have the plans, I can build you a refinery.

I was anxious to spend a couple of quality hours with him. Although we hadn’t seen much of each other over the years, Since we reunited, I have come to rely on his sage advice, focused perspective and well thought out responses to issues dear to me about God, life, death, family, and even writing and publishing.

Hey Father! cropWe cut to the chase, and I brought up the subject of his book,  “Hey Father!”, which did well, and went into a second printing. I asked him. “Why was your book so successful?” He responded, “I told my stories from my heart with love. I spoke simply to what occurred and how we accepted it. It wasn’t about me; it was about my students and their journeys. I merely transcribed what happened, and commented on it. We didn’t do any marketing. I believe my book sales were based on a word of mouth networking among the many folks I had encountered at Blanchet High.


I told him my first book, “Jake The Prodigal Son” initially sold well, and got dozens of great reviews. However, when sales dropped off dramatically, several months later I guess I was a little paranoid, and disappointed. I was considering abandoning writing, and not finishing my second book, “The Raising of the Ruth Ellen,” which was in the final editing stages.

I thought perhaps I needed to move on to something more rewarding, but first I needed to hear an unbiased, knowledgeable, opinion from my brother, and fellow author, before making that decision.

Fr. Ethan told me, “Jake,  your book is a good one. It is an incredibly, interesting story,  well told and hard to put down. You definitely have  a talent for writing, and every blog you send me is better than the last one. Yes, I certainly encourage you to keep writing.”

I gratefully accepted his opinion,  and concluded that since “Jake The Prodigal Son” was a decent, if not excellent book. The decline in sales was a marketing issue, not a writing one. My confidence returned and I was fired up to publishing ‘The Raising of the Ruth Ellen.”

I asked, “Would you write a second book?”

“I don’t think so. It’s a big undertaking and a time sink. To be honest, my motive to write ‘Hey Father!’ arose from a desire to have my name on a literary work in the Library of Congress. Don’t ask me why.  I have thought about writing another book from time to time. If I did so, it would be centered on the many unusual happenings during marriages I have performed. It would be a funny, thoughtful and sometimes adventurous series of short stories.”

Ethan knew I had just dodged another bullet last month when I survived my fifth cancer in seven years. This time it was liver cancer. Although I seldom spoke of it, he quietly asked if I remembered him telling me about a passage of the Talmud which goes like this, “Each child is sent into this world by God with a unique message to deliver, a song, a personal act of love to bestow…”

“Yes, I do. In fact, I often use it when I’m teaching RCIA, (Catholic Religion for adults.) or talking with my grandkids.”

“Well, Jake. We don’t know what your message is, or when it will be delivered. However, I would suggest that God has gone to a lot of trouble to keep you on this earth, so your message must be pretty important. Just  relax, have faith, and keep doing whatever it is that you are doing.”

Changing the subject, I asked, “Do you have any regrets for selling your boat?”

“No. I’m still drawn to the water. I guess I always will be, but now I’m content to go out occasionally with friends, I always enjoy our annual cruise to the Tides in Gig Harbor.”

He started to tell me one of his corny old jokes, which he’s so fond of repeating. I told him. “Save it for Athena’s dinner party Saturday night. Oh, by the way,  if you’re finally ready for some new material, I had a couple of good jokes I could let you have. We laughed; he looked at his watch, and said, “I have to go I have an event to attend. I’ll see you Saturday.




As Ethan and I left the house, he said, “It’s rush hour. So, stay off of Interstate-5. Take Elliot Ave to the Alaska Way Viaduct and follow it out of downtown to highway 509, and  Burien. There would be much less traffic.” In the back of my mind, I remembered being with Ethan the  year before when he got horribly lost taking that same route, and we ended up at the White Center garbage transfer station.

I was making good time down Elliot Ave, and I was glad I listened to Ethan. I turned onto Western Ave, and lined up in the right lane to enter the Viaduct, which was about a mile south. A block up Western Ave, I slammed on my brakes when I encountered total  gridlock. I was frustrated by the traffic jam, and ticking clock not because of the stress of crawling through traffic, but because I had an unspoken agenda, which had eluded me for the past three days. That being, enjoying a takeout plate of Ivar’s fish and chips.  It had been on my bucket list for over two years.  Tight schedules, and commitments had blocked me from doing so at the Ivar’s Fish Bars in the airport, in Edmonds and twice again in Burien. Today I planned to reach the Burien Ivar’s before five, sample enough fish and chowder to satisfy my craving and memories, but not spoil my dinner.

ViaductI looked at my watch; it was already after five, and I was going nowhere. I reluctantly set aside my quest for fish and chips to another day and tried to figure out how to get out of the traffic mess. I remembered when I was a teamster driving a truck in Seattle during college, I knew my way around pretty well, particularly the waterfront. I made the first right turn and followed the Alaska Way truck route south. I zipped alone for a half mile, before encountering a detour which took me off Alaska Way and shunted me under the Viaduct, directly into another gridlock that included the backup for Ferry loading traffic.

Ivar's copyThirty-minutes later, Alaska Way was still on my right as I crept along the detour. Suddenly, I spotted the flagship of Ivar’s empire and legacy, “Ivar’s Acres of Clams.” It was seeming within reach, a mere few yards away; but alas, I could only gawk at it, and inhale the delicious fragrance of its fishy goodness as I crawled slowly by. There was no way to get there without abandoning my vehicle in the middle of the road and making a run for it; which I did consider before moaning, “Oh! the irony of it all!.” It nearly broke my heart. I never spoke of my disappointment to my hosts.


I arrived at Alisha’s after six. The seventeen miles from Ethan’s to Alisha’s should have taken forty-five minutes, not over two-hours. IMG_6393Gary and Alisha could see I was frazzled and suspected it was the traffic. Alisha said, “You poor dear, let me fix you a drink. Gary is preparing some pupus that will make you droll.” I took my place at the table out on the deck, sipped a Bud Light, chased with a glass of Merlot. I gazed out across Puget Sound at Vashon Island and tried to erase my drive through hell, as my hosts scurried about the kitchen. I needed to relax and let the beer dissolve my tensions and simmering road rage. I gradually morphed back into my happy-go-lucky self, prepared to behave like a brother, and pleasant house guest. Gary and Athena soon joined me, and placed two large trays of delicious Italian bruschette, and a bottle of wine on the table. We talked and laughed until the wine and pupus were gone, and the sun dropped below the Olympic mountain range.


crab nye beach cropWhen we entered the dining room, and I saw the platter of beautiful, Dungeness crab, which Gary had bought at the local Vietnamese market, then cooked, cleaned and chilled for dinner. I was glad I never stopped at Ivar’s. I think I ate most of the crab by myself, but I still had room for my share of warm French bread, and lettuce wedges drenched in Mom’s homemade thousand-island dressing recipe.


While we were having coffee in the living room, Alisha said, “We have a surprise for you tomorrow, Jake.”

“What would that be?”

IMG_6405“You remember the Metropolitan Grill, don’t you?”

“Of course. It is arguably the gold standard of old-school, elegant, wood-paneled, Seattle restaurants, and it has always been one of my favorites. I haven’t been there in twenty-five years. Why do you ask?”

“Gary has another commitment so, you and I are having lunch there tomorrow at noon.”

The thought of a power lunch with my kid sister, at one of the five-star watering holes of the movers and shakers of Seattle’s business world excited me, and rekindled old memories.



When I awoke the next morning, I asked myself what was I getting so excited about. It was just lunch in a nice restaurant. Suddenly, I had an epiphany. I understood what today’s lunch meant to me. My kid sister, a successful stockbroker, had made her mark in the rough and tumble, “Man’s World”, of Seattle’s exclusive financial community. She had earned her place at the table of Seattle’s elite, although she seldom spoke of it. This would be our silent testimony and toast to her achievement.


IMG_6400Alisha and I parked at her upscale office building at Fourth and Marion and walked down the two steep blocks to the Metropolitan Grill on Second. The Maître-D seated us in one of the prized cozy booths in the nearly full, front dining room. I glanced into the long narrow, busy bar, noting that it was also crowded, as it should be on a Friday afternoon.

A waiter in tuxedo appeared out of nowhere, presented us with menus and took our drink order. When he returned, Alisha ordered the Friday lunch special, which was one-half of  a French dip sandwich and a green salad. I followed suit, but I added a cup of seafood chowder and a side of barbecue sauce.

IMG_6407 (1)The Metropolitan has its own unique energy, and the luxurious decor and attentive staff always made me feel special. I was proud to share that comforting feeling with Alisha today. We talked about Mom and how she taught every one of us that we were special, and instilled the drive to succeed in whatever we chose to do in life in us. I glanced up and thought perhaps she was looking down on us as we dined and talked. I told Alisha, “I think Mom is proud of us today.” We discussed some of the private events and feeling we held close to our hearts. Nothing heavy, but subjects like religious beliefs, which could be awkward if discussed around the family dinner table.

IMG_6408The soup was exquisite, that’s always a sign that there is an excellent chef in the kitchen. When they brought the entrée, I was surprised by the amount of thinly sliced prime rib that filled and overflowed the French roll. It was enough for two sandwiches. We ate and talked for almost two hours,

After espresso and Italian ice cream, I paid the check. As we were leaving, Alisha encountered a couple of girls she worked with. They seemed excited to meet her big brother. One of them was from Hilo on the Big Island. We chatted about Hawaii, our lunches, and why I was there. following a friendly farewell, we were off for our next adventure.


Alisha said, “Let’s walk down to the Pike Place Market. It’s only a few blocks from here. Remember how you always talked about the tiny donut shop that Mom used to take you to when you were little? Well, it’s still there. We’ll buy some donuts. There’s also a unique English crumpets store and a lovely flower shop close by. We’ll get some crumpets for breakfast, and flowers for tomorrow’s dinner table.”

“Sure. It sounds like fun.”

Six blocks, or a half mile later,  I stopped, “ I’m not going one step further. You go on, leave me here, I’m through.”

“No, it’s just up ahead; can’t you see the sign?”

“There is no sign, Alisha. I googled it. The market is another half-mile from here. I’m sorry to rain on your parade, but I’m not walking nearly two miles to get a donut. Sorry.”

limebikeJPGWe looked at each other sheepishly  and didn’t know what to say, or do next. Then, I noticed there were a few motorized “Limebikes” for rent in a rack on the curb. I said, “Let’s rent a couple of these bikes and finish our journey. It will be fun.”


Between the two of us, we had trouble pulling up the Limebike app. When we got it, we  couldn’t remember our Apple passwords to unlock and activate the bikes. After about twenty-minutes of fumbling, I said, “Forget it. I’m going back to the Met. Meet me in the bar on your way back from the market.”

pedocabJust then, a pedicab pulled up next to us. We jumped in, and the young driver pedaled furiously up and down Seattle’s hills and deposited us at the Pike Place Market. We haggled over the fare on the way. He wanted forty dollars, round trip, I offered thirty. We settled on thirty dollars plus a tip. The haggling was kind of fun. The young man kept a close eye on us as he waited in front of the market, while we darted in and out of the shops. He wasn’t going to let us stiff him. When he delivered us, huffing and puffing back to Athena’s office, I asked, “How much?

“Thirty bucks, plus a tip.”

“How about a three-buck tip?”

“Come on, Mister!”

“Will you take our picture?”

“I’d be happy to.”

I gave him my iPhone, he took three photos, and I handed him forty bucks. It was worth every penny.


Stay tuned for Episode III:

It includes: The Class of 1958, The Winston Sibling Reunion, and Ivar’s Salmon House.

Anthony Bourdain


Anthony Bourdain is dead! An inspirational comment

A. Bourdainshutterstock_I was deeply moved when I learned that Anthony Bourdain had left this earth by his own hand on June 8, 2018. I didn’t want to think about it, but I couldn’t push it away, it kept coming back. I asked several close friends, “What do you think about Anthony Bourdain’s death?” They responded with, “What a terrible, selfish thing to do.” “What an ass, he left a twelve-year-old daughter and a significant-other behind to deal with that mess.” “Why? He had everything?” “He’s a coward. I hope he goes straight to hell, good riddance!”. I didn’t want to hear any of that crap. So, when another friend quietly said, “Don’t judge him, until you have walked in his shoes.” That comment intrigued me and I thought, perhaps my friend was right, I need to think this through.

A few days later I was at my dermatologist’s office for a four-hour appointment to remove a small skin cancer. The two surgeries took about a half-hour. I spent the rest of my visit in the waiting room with a dozen other elderly Haole (Hawaiian for foreigner) patients sitting around trying to politely ignore the white gauze patches on each other’s faces. When my thoughts inevitably turned to Mr. Bourdain, I bit the bullet and reluctantly decided to examine my reaction to his death.

Although we had never met, I knew a lot about him from reading his books and watching many of his TV episodes. The two things that shaped my admiration for Anthony Bourdain was his book, “Kitchen Confidential,” a sometimes, hilarious expose of the New York restaurant business. The second was a stunning episode of his “No Reservations” show, filmed in Beirut, Lebanon in 2006 during the Israel-Lebanon war. It was an incredible feat of journalism. As the camera captured the hysteria of bombs falling on Beirut, the show morphed into a tense, real-time war documentary. A fearless, steel-nerved side of Anthony Bourdain emerged, took charge and captured you, as you witnessed his escape to a U.S. Warship. The show won an Emmy.

I admired him, not only for being a world-class, traveler and storyteller, but for his shameless acceptance and portrayal of himself as a working alcoholic and druggie. There were no excuses or explanations forthcoming for his behavior. He lived his life as a fearless free spirit who did what he wanted to do and did so with unmitigated gusto. He wasn’t any boy scout, but then, he wasn’t a devil either. He was Anthony Bourdain living large. He was a cocky, funny, insightful, sometimes foul-mouthed, sometimes outspoken, man of the world and its kitchens. He spoke and wrote what he thought, there were no filters with Anthony. Sure, his comments about the outrageous people and situations he encountered in his life were sometimes unflattering, but he thought that was funny stuff and delivered it as such. Some of the recipients of his barbs characterized him as a mean, angry cynic. I didn’t buy that, Anthony always told it like it was, he let the chips fall where they may, and allowed the truth to entertain.

I recognized glimpses of myself in the way he saw the world, lived his life, spoke, and wrote. I somehow knew that I too had a jillion, entertaining stories to tell and if Anthony Bourdain could shoot from the hip and be successful, so could I. I didn’t need to go to finishing school and re-invent myself as a polished, articulate novelist, I just needed to get my stories out there and I too would do well. Stories filled with humor, enthusiasm, odd characters, and insight. That was the gift that he left me.

Enough of my grousing about dear, dead Anthony, He’s now deader than yesterday’s fried chicken, and will soon be forgotten by all but the few of us whose lives he touched. This story isn’t about Anthony Bourdain, it’s about me and my perspective about suicide. Up until today, I didn’t even want to think about why these folks did what they did. Anthony’s death changed that because I cared about him, and what would become of him in the after-life?

My first encounter with a suicide occurred when I was about twelve. I overheard my parents whispering about my auntie who overdosed and left the world at a young age. My father indicated she was a cowardly, shameful, embarrassment to the family. In 1984, A good friend, and talented physician, Dr. Fredricks, blew his brains out on the beach a block from my office after his morning hospital rounds. In 1994, my friend Jack Temple, who lived next door to Kurt Cobain on the shores of Lake Washington, called and said that young Kurt Cobain committed suicide in his home next door.

lanikaiI was surprised to hear that funny man, Robin Williams, took his own life in 2014. I remembered occasionally seeing him enjoying his morning coffee and reading the newspaper outside of Kailua’s Kalapawai Market. Robin’s Hawaii home was in the exclusive Lanakai neighborhood, just down the street.

As I thought about these folks, it occurred to me they shared a few similar traits. They were all charismatic, brilliant, hard-working, energetic type “A” personalities. One of the common characteristics they shared was a high level of creativity. They could create something beautiful out of the mundane. Artistic ability was always one of the multiple talents common to each of them. Some were superstars or high-profile celebrities, others shunned notoriety. They used their God-given talents to amass fortunes which separated them from us ordinary folks and allows them complete freedom to do as they please with little or no boundaries. You would think it couldn’t be that tough to be a star. A life of hobnobbing with other celebrities, having tons of money and all kinds of folks clamoring to be your friend. Apparently, there is a dark side which often is an integral part of that lifestyle. Their world is not our world, and maybe that is the double edge sword that causes them to flail out for something which they can neither understand nor achieve.

IMG_0223Drugs and alcohol often fuel successful people’s dark sides. It starts with a harmless gulp of Jack Daniels behind the school, followed by their first puff of Pakalolo, (Marijuana). By the time they have risen to the apex of their careers, the subtle increase in drug and alcohol consumption has inevitably altered their brain’s circuitry. and they are no longer the same person. Mommy dearest is now a bitch.

The personal demons that have grasped control of their minds continue to twist and distort reality until it becomes an elusive seductress. Paranoia, unfounded fears, and intense anxiety erode their self-esteem and their lives become a lie. They descend deeper and deeper into an irreversible depression. When they realize the demos are there to stay, they know the future may be even more terrifying than the present. Their search for escape inevitably leads them to consider suicide, seemingly the only way out. Nothing else matters; lovers, family, friends; nothing.

A friend confided in me that he had once seriously considered suicide. He told me, “I was into whiskey, weed, and heroine pretty heavy. I had just lost my job and my longtime girlfriend. She told me she loved me, but I had to choose between her and the drugs. I knew I couldn’t stop the drugging and boozing. I was devastated. I loved her, and my life without her was a waste of breath. Knowing I couldn’t stop the drugging and drinking, I descended into a deep depression. I decided to get high, and off myself. I didn’t dwell on how this would impact my girlfriend, family, and friends. I didn’t care if it wrong, it was my life, and I was going to end it. I was done, it was over, and I was out of here. I passed out before going through with it. The next morning when I woke up, I forgot how pissed off I was.”

Many of these folks who choose suicide, do so in an altered state of mind. So, what becomes of their souls? Where do their souls go? Mary, the Mother of Jesus, emphatically told the Fatima children there is a Heaven, a purgatory, and a hell, and that’s where we go when we die. When I was growing up in the fifties, the church implied that those who choose suicide went to hell. Recently, they have changed their position, and subtlety suggest perhaps that is not necessarily so.

Recently, Pope Francis made this comment regarding suicide, “Some of the victims (of pedophile priests) have been driven to suicide. These deaths weigh on my heart, on my conscience and that of the whole Church. To their families, I offer my feelings of love and pain and humbly, I ask forgiveness.” Pope Francis has repeatedly stressed that God is a merciful God and as such, I’m sure mercy, love, and forgiveness will play a role in God’s reception of the tortured souls who take their own life.

A Catholic Paper printed an article recently about suicide, I paraphrase, “God understands the dark, hopeless place these tormented people inhabit. Some, He will welcome as a mother would welcome her newborn to her breast for the first time.”

I recently learned of a holy woman whom God gave the gift of being able to communicate with souls in purgatory. In regard to suicide, she once wrote, “When people ask me, ‘Are there any souls of those who committed suicide in purgatory?’ I respond, Yes, certainly, but not all of them are there.”

We all need to be mindful that God created us, and our lives belong to Him, not to us.  Therefore, it was clearly wrong for Anthony Bourdain to take his life, but it’s up to a merciful, all-knowing God to pass judgment on Anthony. We can only pray that God has a place in his house for a master storyteller.

This soliloquy brought a long overdue closure for me on this difficult subject, and I hope it will for those of you who have read it. In the words of Pope Francis, “Who am I to judge?”


 May God have mercy on your soul, Anthony Bourdain!

*** THE END ***

photo credits: Catholic Exchange, Jeannie Ewing

Bill Tammeus, how clergy help…