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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
“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.”