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The morning when we all sought comfort in the familiar

It was a beautiful day.

Everybody seems to agree on that.

The clear skies mattered, too.

And not just because the sunshine that brightened Sept. 11, 2001, both in New York City and in Baker City, created an illusion of tranquility so dramatically different from the reality of that day.

Black smoke shows up really well against a backdrop of pure blue.

We didn’t have much high-definition TV then.

We didn’t need it.

Rewriting history: The curious cases of Gordon Zimmerman

Gordon Zimmerman’s 4 1/2-year tenure as Baker City manager can’t reasonably be described as tranquil.

In the span of less than a year after he started work here in November 1998, Zimmerman was cited twice for harassment outside a nude dancing business in Nyssa, where he had worked as city manager.

Zimmerman was a longtime critic of the business, and he had picketed the place.

The Baker City Council didn’t punish Zimmerman for those incidents.

But in July 2001 the Council, having lost confidence in him, put Zimmerman on probation after a motion calling for him to resign failed by a single vote.

Yet compared with the troubles that have befallen Zimmerman this summer in Oakridge, the Lane County town where he was hired as manager after he resigned at the Baker City Council’s request in March 2003, his time here, despite the periodic turmoil, seems almost peaceful.

Are you really on vacation if you have a press conference?

President Obama started his summer vacation right about when mine ended.

The timing was purely coincidental, of course.

The republic probably would endure even if my periods of leisure happened to coincide with the president’s.

At any rate, I suspect my time off was rather more relaxing than Mr. Obama’s has been — even though none of my destinations was as tony as Martha’s Vineyard.

I’d rather listen to train whistles than a salesman

I don’t hate train whistles.

Not all of them, anyway.

In the depths of an overnight blizzard, for instance, when the curtain of snow muffles outside sound and the furnace hums softly inside, the warning sirens from a passing locomotive seem distant and unimportant.

Even, I daresay, pleasant, rather like the frantic yodels of coyotes heard at dusk from a desert camp.

The piercing blast from a passing freight at 2 a.m. in August, on the other hand, with the windows open to invite the breeze, and the only competing noise-makers an anemic cricket and a couple of diminutive frogs, strikes me (and my cochlear region) as an altogether different matter.

Political ambivalence, and pondering the Porsche 911

By Jayson Jacoby

I keep trying to whip myself into firm political fighting trim yet I can’t seem to escape the flabby state of ambivalence in which I have long ossified.

It must be pleasant to confront the great legislative matters that affect hundreds of millions of people and conclude, with the absolute certainty of the zealot, which is the only correct and righteous course.

I’m convinced, at any rate, that dispatching weighty topics with such conviction is a lot more fun.

My allegiance in college athletics, for instance, is as stolid as a granite monolith.

I’m an Oregon Duck.

On any autumn Saturday, then, my outlook is crystalline: I yearn for the Ducks to win. And this desire is not sullied by even the slightest wonder about whether, just maybe, an Oregon loss might be beneficial.

This ability to distill any situation to two answers, whether those be win and lose, or right and wrong, is quite liberating.

Preparing to blast some unwanted visitors to smithereens

The doctors are so exasperated with my failing body that they’ve decided the best option, medically speaking, is to bombard it with sound waves.

I was initially excited about this, despite the tactic reminding me of how you might go about curing a stubborn puppy of a persistent barking problem.

Just maybe, I thought, I can trick the insurance company into buying me a front row ticket for a rock concert — you know, so I can press right up close to the speakers and let the torrent of acoustic energy effect the needed repairs.

On Oregon's death row, trying to die with dignity

It’s a lot easier to kill yourself in government-approved fashion in Oregon if you’re a terminal cancer patient than if you’re a convicted double murderer.

Which seems to me a curious situation to prevail in a state that doesn’t trust people to handle certain other, rather less vital tasks.

Pumping fuel into our cars, for instance.

It’s not that I expect Oregon to treat a person on death row, and one who’s at death’s door, as identical cases.

That would be inappropriate, even a trifle silly.

A slightly chilly parade that warms a parent's heart

The weather for the Miners Jubilee parade felt more like Halloween.

So did the bag of candy I was clutching.

I had to maintain a firm grip on the thing just to prevent it from vomiting a glut of cheap paper and empty calories all over the sidewalk.

This single act, besides its potential for saddling me with a citation for non-nutritive littering, would have obliterated the trust I’ve accumulated with my daughter, Olivia, over her four years.

I haven’t seen her quite so excited since she figured out how to “steer” her grandpa’s powerboat.

(You don’t want to water-ski behind that vessel, let me tell you.)

Of course there are few four-year-olds, at least among those I’ve run across, who can maintain any measure of tranquility when people keep tossing candy bars and chewing gum right at their very feet.

The salmon return (sort of), and Harry Potter departs

I’ve never landed a salmon. Well, there was this one coho that I manhandled out of the cold case at the grocery store.

But in truth the coho wasn’t all that feisty.

Although I doubt I’d be able to raise much of a ruckus either if I were wrapped like a mummy, only with plastic instead of musty canvas.

And my head and tail cut off besides.

I don’t have any real prospect of filling this yawning gap in my anadromous angling resume.

I don’t own a fishing pole, for one thing.

Or a reel.

Government turns to corpses to cure recalcitrant smokers

In concept, I’m all for cramming more corpses into the design of warning labels for carcinogenic consumer products.

And I have no problem, per se, with packages that show a person smoking a cigarette through a hole in his throat.

But I’m not convinced the federal government needed to go to so much trouble — I don’t expect it’s all that easy to arrange corpses for photo shoots — to explain to Americans that tobacco can kill you.

Which notion pretty much epitomizes the term “common knowledge."

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