FAMILY REUNION DINNER
I got up late Saturday morning and made myself a cup of coffee and got a coke out of the refrigerator, I could hear Alisha and Gary downstairs. When we sat down to a big breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, and fruit, I told them about the highlights of last-nights reunion. I assured them, “As much fun as I had at last night’s high school reunion, I was super excited to share dinner tonight with my brothers, sisters, and their spouses.
Ziggy was supposed to be here from Wenatchee at three. I could hardly wait. I was counting down the hours. Three o’clock came and went, no Ziggy. Finally, about four o’clock, The little dog, I called Pussycat recognized the familiar sound and scent of the big white Cadillac that just pulled up to the front door. It let out a loud yelp and scurried down to its safe haven under the bed.
A few minutes later, the door burst open, and brother Robert, Wayne, Ziggy the third, was standing there loaded down with gifts. He sets down a box containing a couple of bottle of two-buck-Chuck, an oversize, day-old chocolate cake, and a used copy of “Fear” which is a disrespectful expose about his hero, “The Donald.” The four of us moved out onto the deck, to soak up a little sun, joke, and catch up. Pussycat reappeared and sniffed the air. When it was sure Ziggy’s dog wasn’t invited to this party, it joined us on the deck.
Then it was into the Cadillac, and on to the five-o’clock Mass down the street at St Francis Catholic Church. We were ten minutes early, so we spent a few minutes with the Pastor, Fr. Dick Hayatsu, before entering his church. Fr. Dick, as they call him, was in the seminary with Fr. Gordie and me back in the fifties. He was a year ahead of me. Alisha was a lector and was on the St. Francis’s finance committee. Fr. Ethan sometimes filled in and said Mass there when Fr. Dick was off doing something else. We enjoyed joking with him for a few minutes before we entered the church. Behind that, inscrutable public continence was a holy man and a hell of a nice guy with a sense of humor.
Since 2015, St. Francis Church became my annual spiritual gathering place for sharing a moment with our mom in Heaven, and my brothers and sisters. Every year we came together for a few precious minutes as a family here in this house of God. Mom knew some of us went to church and some of us didn’t. She was never one to interfere in our decisions and lives, but she was our Mom, and not above quietly nudging us to do the right thing when things appeared to be going in the toilet.
As I returned from Communion, I bowed my head and thanked God for finally facilitating my return to Mom and the family. It was important to me because I knew some of us would not be around much longer.
After church, we hurried home to greet the rest of the family. As we slipped into the driveway, Cousin Kitty and her husband, Pete was already there, Monica and Tom were right behind us. Monica followed us into the house with Mom’s potato salad which Tom made. Pete and Kitty followed them with a tray of fresh oyster pupus. These hand-picked, succulent, Olympia oysters, picked off the beach in front of their home in South Puget Sound were prized for their size, texture, and taste of the sea. They were best consumed raw with a vinaigrette or cocktail sauce.
After the seven of us noisily entered the house and excitedly greeted each other, I followed the oysters over to the bar and ended up in the kitchen with Kitty and Alisha. Kitty and I got an opportunity to talk one on one for a few minutes as the rest of the family crowded into the kitchen, and around the bar for pupus and drinks.
We revisited our youth, talked about growing up together as a family, her cheerleader days at Queen Anne High, mutual friends from back in the day, and our college days at UW. We recalled time spent in the “Greek System.” She was an Alpha Phi, and I was a Phi Upsilon. Our houses were across the street from each other a block off of Fraternity Row. We laughed about the night I crashed the “Buffalo” into the Alpha Phi house’s stone rockery as I was bringing a date home after too many beers at the Century Tavern. The Buffalo was my ’52 Pontiac which I bought from Jen Grosser for two-hundred-dollars.
Ziggy and Alisha listened to our conversation, then joined in. When Fr. Ethan arrived, I left my drink behind and greeted him at the door. I don’t think he had Sarah, his dog with him, but he was wearing this cool shirt which the kids at Blanchet had made for him. It was emblazoned with “Hey Father” and an image of his three dogs.
After a rambunctious, happy hour, we gathered around the dinner table and waited for Father to say grace. He did it to us again saying, “Please hold hands.” When we were all hooked together in a circle, he smiled, and said, ”In the name of the Father…” We all scrambled to unhook ourselves to make the sign of the cross. He chuckled and said, “I got yah.”
After the reaction from the table settled down, he told this silly joke, “Two antennas got married, the ceremony wasn’t much, but the reception was great.” That got a laugh or two and a lot of groans and wisecracks. Monica and Kitty didn’t get it, Athena tried to explain.
Ethan asked if we heard the one about the kid who stole twenty-pounds of Velveeta cheese from the cheese store. The owner chased him down the street screaming at him, but the kid outran him and told his mom, “Look what I got, twenty-pounds of Velveeta cheese, It’s Mexican cheese.” She asked him, “Why do you think it’s Mexican?”
“The guy that chased me keep screaming, ‘IT’S NACHO CHEESE.’”
Somebody said, “Get a hook.”
Gary said, “If you want to buy Velveeta cheese in Ballard, you have to go to the gourmet store.” After a lot of laughing, we got back to saying grace. ‘Bless us our Lord…”
Somebody clapped and said. “Thank God that’s over.”
Tom complained, “That took longer than Mass last Sunday.”
Athena joked, “OMG, the dinner is ruined.”
We finally settle down, took our seats, and helped ourselves to some excellent wine and talked story as the girls served the salad, followed by a delicious plate of spaghetti, meat sauce, meatballs, and French bread. At any given time, two to four simultaneous conversations and comments accompanied by giggling and shouting competed for air-space.
Ziggy compliment the chef on the spaghetti saying, “That was really good compared to last year’s. I got to tell you last year’s spaghetti was a little sketchy. In fact, I’ve had better food in Jail.”
Gary responded, “Thanks Ziggy, son of Julia Child, we figured out how to satisfy your gourmet tastes, We just added two pounds of raw hamburger to the Prego tomato sauce.”
That got a laugh. Pete asked me if Hurricane Lane, which hit the Hawaiian Islands in late August, caused us any problems.
“Elizabeth, Cooper and I choose to return from the mainland the day and the very hour the storm hit Oahu. I was a wild ride as our nearly empty plane entered the outer ring of the storm. We got tossed around pretty good, and bounced twice before getting all our wheels on the runway.”
Inevitably, table talk turned to boating. Ziggy told the story of chartering a forty-foot, Caver, aft cabin yacht at Shilshole Marina for a weekend in Roche Harbor, “The leasing agent warned me to keep it under 2,500 rpm, or I wouldn’t be happy with the fuel bill. Of course, I didn’t. Come on, this is a fast boat with a planing hull. After my third scotch on the rocks, I nudged the throttle up to four-thousand rpms to impress the ‘Hippie Chick,’ and we were in Roche in record time, but nearly out of gas. It cost me over six-hundred-dollars to refuel. We returned to Seattle Sunday evening at a very slow 1,800 rpm.”
I told the story about a cruise to Blake Island with a load of California guests aboard the Frisky II. I said, “The small marina was crowded, and there was only one moorage available which lay between two big blow boats. I set the rudders straight ahead and skillfully jockeyed us into the tight spot by manipulating my twin diesel combination throttle-gearshifts. After lunch, we boarded the boat, and I instructed my twelve-year-old son and his friend to man the bow and stern lines, but not to untie us until I said so. Over the years some slack developed in the gearshift cables, and you were never sure if your engines were safely in neutral, or just slightly in forward or reverse.
I fired up the engines and immediately felt the boat slipping backward. I thought, How could that be? We are tied off with two lines, and we’re in neutral. I raced out back and saw that we were gaining speed straight for the sailboat off our stern. I glanced at the dock. The boys had untied us and were scrambling aboard. Seconds later, we slammed the blow boat’s dinghy into his stern. Their skipper was mad as hell. He dropped his cocktail and screamed at me as I raced back to the helm and shoved the gearbox into forward, and goosed the throttle. However, it was too late, when I looked back, the guy’s dinghy was gone. A moment or two later, I crashed into the sailboat off my bow, and all hell broke loose. Everybody was yelling, screaming, and waving pike poles ready to fend me off before I crashed into them. I passed a business card to the furious blow boat captain and told him the call me. I got the Frisky II under control and back into neutral and took a deep breath. I executed a textbook perfect maneuver to extract myself from the wreckage, and brazenly ran the gauntlet of pissed off, self-righteous, wannabe yachtsmen, most of whom were mere babies when I was routinely running the original Frisky.”
I kidded Ethan about taking his meals for the last fifty years at the Taco Bell on Elliot Ave. He protested, “No. That’s not true. I may have done that for a while, but years ago I decided to mix I up and went to Wendy’s on a Saturday night after Mass. I was still wearing my collar when I ordered a five dollar bowl of chili. The cashier, a young girl, shoved it across the counter to me and said, “That will be $5.13, Father.”
I reached into my pocket and discovered I only had $5.00. I gave it to her with a sorrowful glance and said, “Sorry, but that’s all the money I have.”
She looked at me with a quizzical look, left my money on the counter and started to take the tray, with my chili on it, back into the kitchen. Suddenly, she turned and placed the tray in front of me, took my spoon and scraped the cheese off the top of the chili. She took my $5.00 and said, ‘Enjoy, Father.’
I didn’t know what to think about that. Was it an act of love or an insensitive gesture? Sunday morning, I wove that story into my sermon. Apparently, one of my parishioners, a high-level government official, who had business dealings with Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s, relayed my story to Mr. Thomas. Monday afternoon I received a call from Dave Thomas apologizing for the incident. I tried to explain that I didn’t take offense and I thought she was just kind. He seemed to understand but felt compelled to make up for it in some way.
An hour later, the region manager for Wendy’s called me, and apologized profusely and asked for the name of the store and employee who did that. Of course, I wouldn’t tell him. The next day, a courier delivered an envelope to my office at Blanchet High. When I opened it, I found a handwritten note from Dave Thomas, and a $500.00 gift certificate for Wendy’s signed by Mr. Thomas, himself. After that, I received a Christmas card from Dave Thomas every year after that until he passed away.”
We all remembered the Thursday nights after our occasional dental appointments, that we spent in the back seat of Doc’s Cadillac in the parking lot, as Doc conducted business as the Grand Exalted Ruler of the Ballard Elks Club. The friendly waitresses would bring us cherry cokes and French dip sandwiches until Doc stumbled out and took us home.
I said, “Quit complaining. You guys were lucky. You never got woken up, at two in the morning after an Elks initiation ceremony, to let the farm animals out of the back seat of the Cadillac and clean up the mess like I did. I mean there were ducks, chickens and once even a goat. I never did figure that one out.
Ziggy, who had plenty of funny stories of his own about Doc’s misdeeds, always came to his defense when the stories went to the dark side. He said, “Listen up, Doc did a lot of crazy stuff in the day, but he did a lot of unheralded good as well. A few years ago, I stopped at a garage sale in Wenatchee and wrote a check for something. The woman, who was in her seventies, looked at my check and asked, ‘Are you related to Dr. Douglas, the Seattle dentist?’
I thought, Oh shit, what has he done? I told her, “Yes, I’m his son.”
She told me, “When I was seventeen, a senior at Queen Anne High, I had a skating accident which knocked out my four front teeth. I took every penny I had, and walked into your father’s office on Queen Anne Ave., I asked the lady at the desk if I could see the dentist, and she said she would see if she could fit me in. I told Dr. Douglas what happened, that I looked like a freak, and the senior prom was coming up. He examined me, and said, ‘That’s a big job four extractions, a crown, and a dental bridge. How much money do you have? I told him I had seventy-four dollars and fifty-four cents. Dr. Douglas told me, ‘That’s just perfect.’”
This evening’s companionship, and especially Ziggy’s story moved me, and it made me realize the depth and breadth of who our family was. We had a compassionate side, as well as our driven side. Our self-effacing sense of humor made us fun to be with, and our spirituality, although sometimes latent and imponderable, was deeply embedded in us by Mom. And so, I was grateful to be here tonight, sipping my beer and enjoyed the light-hearted banter.
Gordy told the story about when he and his close friend, Monsignor Michael Ryan, were dining at one of Seattle’s better restaurants without their collars. The Monsignor was joking around with the waiter and teasing him as he often did. The waiter didn’t think he was funny at all and said, “You know what? I’m going to open my own restaurant.”
The Monsignor asked, “What are you going to call it?”
“Adults Only!” He turned on his heels and walked away in a huff.
I told the story about going to the hardware store last week to buy a handful of 30 penny nails. When I approached the cashier, she said, “Is that all you have?”
“I’m not permitted to process anything less than a quarter pound of nails, and this is less than one-tenth of a pound.”
“So, what do we do?”
“Well, you will just have to go back and get some more nails.”
I looked at the growing line up behind me, and said, “I don’t want any more nails.”
The line up behind me was getting restless, but it stood my ground. The clerk didn’t know what to do. I think she was considering calling security, as she waited for a supervisor. After a tense negotiation witness by a hostile crowd, we settled. I paid the fifteen cents for a quarter of a pound of nails and left.
As I started to tell another story, Tom groaned, “not another story, God help us.”
I said, “If anybody has a better story, raise your hand.”
Terry said, “Gordie raised his hand. Do you have a story, Father?
“No. I just want this to stop!”
That got a big laugh. Ziggy jumped into the gap and asked, “Do you guys remember JJ’s Pharmacy?”
A couple of us did, vaguely. Ziggy continued, “Sometimes after school at Lady of Fatima, I would ride my Schwinn bike over there and steal a ten cent Mountain Bar. One afternoon, the lady clerk, dressed in white with one of those cute nurse’s caps they used to wear, caught me red-handed and chased me out of the store. I jumped on my bike and pedaled furiously out of the parking lot, but she had me by the seat of my pants. I dragged her halfway across the parking lot before she and the pharmacist got the upper hand.
They called Mom, and she told me she was sending Dad down to get me. I didn’t like that idea, I knew I was going to get it. I started to tremble when I saw the Cadillac pull up. I got into the back seat because I thought that was safer than sitting right next to him. Dad never said a word, but he was going the wrong way. I thought, Where on earth are we going? We ended up downtown in front of the King County Jail. He said, “This is where you belong, get out!”
I told the story about how I wasn’t allowed to drive the family cars because of an unfortunate misunderstanding. That brought a cascade of chuckles. I continued, “However, a couple of times a month Doc would hand me the keys to the Cadillac and send me down to JJ’s to get him a half pound of hot cashew nut, then on to Ivar’s on the waterfront to get him a quart of clam nectar. He believed it was the chicken soup of the sea and would cure a hangover.
And so, we continued to talk story, joke and laugh at ourselves. Dinner lasted almost four hours, seven bottles of wine and a six-pack of Bud Light. Ziggy’s birthday cake for Monica and coffee ended a delightful meal service.
IVAR’S SALMON HOUSE
I was ecstatic when I learned on Saturday, that Ziggy wanted to have brunch at Ivar’s Salmon House the next day. We piled into the Cadillac and headed into town about eleven o’clock. Traffic seemed unusually heavy to me for a Sunday morning, but nobody else did. I was surprised when Ziggy led us past Ivar’s front door and around to the side where the take-out counter was. We waited in line with the public people and finally placed our orders. I enjoyed watching Ziggy squirm, stall, and fumbling for his wallet, before I felt sorry for him, stepped up and paid the bill which was less than a hundred dollars. Ziggy seemed relieved and said, “Thanks Jake, I won’t ask you to chip in for gas this time.”
We got our food and carried it out onto the deck which overlooked Lake Union. We sat down at a picnic table and grinned at each other. This afternoon was a trifecta for me. My dream of indulging in the succulent goodness of Ivar’s golden brown fish, scallops, oysters and shrimp was moments from happening. The quest for the holy grail of fried seafood had been attained, and now the spoils are before the victor, that being me. I was in the bosom of my college youth and gazing out at the shoreline where my houseboat, party central, was tied up in 1960. Not to mention, I was enjoying the companionship of Gary and two of my siblings.
I have a thing about eating hot food while it’s still hot. I look at the massive spread I had ordered and selected my favorite, which was always the deep fried oysters. I was expecting a platter of small to medium-size oysters, dusted with seasoned flour and lightly fried. What I got was four elderly, over-cooked oysters the size of baked potatoes. Two bites, and I was done.
Next was the deep-fried, jumbo shrimp. The shrimp was tasty enough once I dug it out of the thick-leathery, corn-dog like coating it was trapped in, and dipped it in either tartar or cocktail sauce and salt. The scallops suffered from the same indelicate preparation as the shrimp. A few bites of each, and I was done.
They couldn’t possibly mess up Ivar’ signature entrée, the fish in chips which was next. I had upgraded from the cheaper pollock and ordered Cod, one of my favorites. I dipped it in tartare sauce, and it was both pretty good, and as I remembered it. However, the wind which was churning up the lake had cooled it off, and after a few bites of cold fish, I abandoned it as well and turned to the Manhattan clam chowder. It was close to what I remembered, but a little starchy. The clam nectar was delicious. I chuckled as I thought of myself as the insufferable food critic, Monsieur Ego in the movie, Ratatouille.
I kicked back, sipped my clam nectar, and thought about my lunch, Sure I was a little disappointed, but being an experience dinner and philosopher of sorts, I realized that often the thrill is in the chase, not the quest. So, I was ready to scratch that off of my bucket list and move on. I also understood that the Ivar’s and tastes of Ivar’s that I knew as a kid were long gone and it was how a major Northwest franchise. It’s not about the quality of the food, it’s about the money. If you want a good seafood lunch in Seattle, try Chinooks at fisherman’s wharf or Anthony’s in Kirkland.
I remembered when they built the Salmon House in 1970 I didn’t think it would make it. Granted, it was on Lake Union, with a view of Portage Bay, but it was nearly under the busy, noisy, Interstate 5 bridge in an undesirable industrial area. When I was at the U, Many of us parked our cars there, because it was free and within a mile of campus.
There was an incident at lunch, which Ziggy got involved in, but since he slipped me fifty-dollars not to mention it, I won’t. Needless to say, we left in a hurry. I talked Ziggy into to giving me a brief tour of my old haunts on campus and in the U district. We cruised past the Northlake Tavern as we left the Salmon House. The Northlake had the best pizza in town back in the day. It was popular among the Architecture and Engineering crowd.
We swung by the original Red Robin next to the Eastlake bridge, I loved their burgers and cold beer, but it was a little expensive for me. I went to one of their franchised houses in Portland, recently. It wasn’t very good. The Century Tavern, “The Cench,” was gone. Boy, did we spend a lot of nights in that dive bar. I even took Mom and Dad there one night, what a disaster that was.
We entered the UW Campus off of 41st street and photographed Architecture Hall where I studied Architecture under Victor Steinbrueck in the early sixties. He was the guy who saved the “Pike Place Market from becoming a condo complex and designed the hourglass shape of the Space Needle.
We checked out “Red Square and the library. I recalled it was just known as the “commons,” or “The Square” when I was there. I remembered being was on the steps of that library when the University’s speaker system announced the death of John F. Kennedy in November 1963. The announcement stopped me in my tracks. I immediately concluded it was the Russians who took him out, and I was going to war.
We left campus and cruised Fraternity Row and headed down 45th for the freeway. A quick photo opportunity at the nefarious “Blue Moon” and we were on our way home. We got back in time for the second half of the Seahawk game and a light dinner of burgers and salad.
Ziggy retired about ten; he had a long drive back to Wenatchee in the morning. Gary and I talked about music. I share an eclectic song or two that was my favorite. I played a Kris Kristofferson version of “Me and Bobby McGee” for him that he recorded in a small venue in San Francisco that Elizabeth and I attended. Maybe a little high, he changed the final chorus from “Lau di da di, me and Bobbie McGee” to “Lau di da di, Mother F*g Bobbie McGee.”
Garry got out the guitar and played on of his favorites, “A pirate looks at forty” by Jimmy Buffet. I sang along, but objected to the ending chorus which Gary sang as “and I‘m gonna head uptown.” I had learned the ending as “I’m gonna find a hotel on Peach Street,” followed by the Atlanta crowd going nuts.
Terry joined us, and we jammed until two, thus ending a remarkable five days with family and old friends.
This blog is dedicated to our Mom, Alice Douglas who passed away on November 20, 1972.
Mom, we love yah!