We drove past an abandoned homestead the other day and my wife, Lisa, said that looking at the place made her feel a little sad.
I understand what she means.
It’s hard not to come off a trifle melancholy when you see a pile of
weathered wood, crumbling concrete and rusted cans and realize that on
some distant day children probably scampered happily around this very
patch of ground.
Where today, like as not, you’d end up needing a tetanus shot if you got to messing around.
There are of course quite a number of homesteads in Baker County, and most of them could reasonably be described as abandoned.
And it’s likely that some of the people who did the abandoning were only too happy to be leaving.
This particular encounter wouldn’t have piqued my curiosity except that
the homestead in question stands astride what seems to me an intriguing
intersection — one which is technological and social as well as
I have for the greater part of two decades lamented the inexplicable sports radio wasteland that is Baker County.
But just lately I have detected, like the ghostly whisper of a distant AM station at night, the slight sound of optimism.
It’s called the Johnny Ballgame Show.
And it is, in the estimation of the Baker City and La Grande
stations that broadcast it, “Eastern Oregon’s only live and local
sports talk radio program.”
I have heard nothing that refutes this claim.
The program, hosted by John Mallory, airs weekdays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on 1490 AM in Baker City and 1450 AM in La Grande.
Mallory graduated from La Grande High School in 1998. He earned a
degree in radio/TV digital media production from the University of
Idaho, where he did radio play-by-play for the Vandals and started his
talk show in 2007.
I’ve tuned in a handful of times, and listened to maybe 90 minutes of Mallory’s program.
It is what it purports to be.
And it’s rather better than I expected.
Hollywood can plunder TV until the end of days for all I care, but when
filmmakers taint the legacy of Mr. T. . . . well, every man has his
And with the arrival on the big screen of “The A-Team,” my tolerance
for the movie industry’s machinations has at last been exploded into
Which, now that I think about it, was the inevitable fate that awaited
the lair of every bunch of haplessly stumbling bullies whom the A-Team
And there was at least one of those per episode.
You know the type of villains I mean.
They fired more ammunition in 40 minutes of broadcast time than a band
of South American mercenaries goes through in a coup attempt, yet
nobody ever suffered a bullet wound.
Since June 1 of last year, the most frequent question I hear is, “How’s that three days a week working for you?”
In short, it’s working very well, thank you.
A year ago this month we reduced our publishing schedule from five
days a week to three in order to cut our delivery and newsprint costs,
but also retain our resources — our people — so as not to reduce the
quantity or quality of local news or customer service to our
And it’s working. Support of our subscribers and advertisers has
been terrific. We have increased the page count in each of our issues
and provide a two-section newspaper instead of a one-section paper each
publishing day. That has given us more color pages, and added more
advertising and inserts to every issue. Subscribers get three beefy
issues now instead of five thinner ones.
We kept our subscription price affordable, the same price as in
1997, but increased the price of store and rack copies to 75 cents.
Although simple economics would say that we should lose customers by
raising the price, every single issue of our rack and store copies have
sold more than the previous year.
The demise of the movie rental shop is nearly complete, and for the
consumer another minor thrill has been replaced by a few dull taps on a
I lack any legitimate grounds for lamenting this trend, however.
In fact I am as complicit as anyone in the eradication of a business that once seemed ubiquitous.
I have a Netflix account.
I have not browsed the aisles of a rental store for at least a couple of years.
(Although in my defense, neither have I ever acquired a DVD from a large, inanimate box.)
The recent announcement that Movie Gallery is closing its Baker City
rental store saddened me largely because it reminds me that I have
lived long enough to experience a commercial and cultural trend from
its infancy clear through to its current death throes.
It’s not that I feel old, exactly.
But I’m more aware that 40 years (almost) is a pretty fair spread of time.
I imagine people were afflicted by a similar twinge a century ago
when Ford really started cranking out Model T’s and the dominance of
the horse was clearly on the wane.
The Israeli commando team’s deadly raid on a flotilla delivering aid
to Gaza happened, coincidentally, just a couple of days after I started
reading a book which influenced my reaction to the tragedy.
The title of the book, by Neal Bascomb, is “Hunting Eichmann.”
In case the name Eichmann is not familiar, the subtitle explains the
context: “How a band of survivors and a young spy agency chased down
the world’s most notorious Nazi.”
That being Adolf Eichmann.
Although Eichmann did not conceive the Holocaust — that infamy
belongs, of course, to a different Adolf — he was beyond question the
most prolific practitioner of the Final Solution.
Eichmann was to genocide what Henry Ford was to the manufacture of automobiles.
I’d like to believe that Chris Dudley can help to etch a couple more wrinkles on John Kitzhaber’s rugged face before Nov. 2.
It’s not that I’m rooting for Dudley.
I am in fact registered as an independent. My vote likely will remain in play until the cottonwoods have started to tinge yellow.
And anyway blowouts, whether in football or gubernatorial races, bore me.
Yet as much as I pine for a healthy tussle, I just can’t silence the interior voice which insists that Dudley, who couldn’t poll a majority from among his own party in the primary, has little chance to pull the monumental upset over Kitzhaber.
Maybe I could believe otherwise if the Democrats had gone for Bill Bradbury.
Or for anybody, come to that, except the denim-clad doctor who has a deft touch with a fly rod and who leaps to the aid of seizure-suffering debate watchers.
(Neither Karl Rove nor Rahm Emanuel has ever arranged a scene so serendipitous as the one that played out during a Kitzhaber-Bradbury debate in Eugene last month. Although I remain skeptical that somebody actually hollered, verbatim, “Is there a doctor in the house?” after a man in the audience fell ill.)
From 1981 to 1991 I served as Chief of Police in Coronado,
California. The southern limits of that city were just one mile from
the international border with Mexico. The problem of illegal
immigration existed then, though it pales by comparison to what exists
Because my city was impacted by the downsides of illegal immigration
we met regularly with Mexican officials, including the Tijuana, Mexico,
police chief and Mexican federal officials to discuss the issue.
In the mid 1980s, Tijuana was blessed with a very well-educated,
ethical and professional police chief who was quite knowledgeable
concerning crime problems in his country, demographics, and what the
future might hold in terms of the illegal alien problem. In our
conversations he made a number of predictions, many of them dire, and
most of which have come to pass over the years.
My futility as an elk hunter has finally attracted the attention of Oregon’s wildlife managers.
And if I may be so bold, belated attention it is.
Although I suppose they have wolves with a taste for mutton and veal
to worry about, and those sea lions munching salmon, and the occasional
coyote snatching suburban cats.
Still, the scale of my ineptitude in the pursuit of elk had some
years back attained the status of legend, at least in my view, and so I
can’t help but feel that the biologists have failed to give my constant
failure the recognition it deserves.
I’m not talking about buck fever, either. Or bull fever, as the case may be.
Any hunter can miss an elk at 500 yards.
(And many have.)
I rated myself as a pretty fair singer right up to the indelible
instant when I heard my naked voice, the protective filter of
accompaniment by actual musicians stripped away.
For some years previous I had often amused myself, as I suspect most
people do, by crooning along with the stereo while I was driving alone.
Which is about as realistic as playing Tiger Woods golf on a Wii.
Harmonizing with Lennon and McCartney, suffice it to say, ranks on
the difficulty scale right beside bisecting the fairway with a 300-yard
(Although Tiger isn’t staying on the short grass all that often these days, either.)
One day, for some reason I’ve forgotten (although a reason no doubt
spawned by the same hormone that leads high school students to use
Bunson burners for unorthodox purposes), I decided to try what you
might call an experiment in a cappella.
What resulted was a sort of auditory shock treatment that cured my
naivete, as regards my lyrical ability, instantly and irrevocably.
While I was belting out the chorus to some ’80s anthem — I think it
was Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian,” although possibly it was “The
Final Countdown” by Europe — I punched the radio’s “off” button.