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.
Ted Carlin intends to walk clear across Oregon this month, and I’m jealous.
He also plans to spend a couple nights at the Sky Hook motel in Mitchell.
This guy is really trying to goad me.
Not intentionally, perhaps, seeing as how we’ve not met.
But I don’t care about that.
The Sky Hook is my favorite motel.
At least it’s my favorite motel that I’ve never stayed in.
There is, most obviously, that name.
I’ve driven past the Sky Hook probably half a hundred times, and whenever I see that neon sign I think briefly of Kareem, flicking the ball softly, just high enough to foil Walton or Gilmore or Lanier.
The thing about owning a four-wheel drive rig is that without even
trying you can get into situations that you would avoid like the
hantavirus if you owned a lesser vehicle.
Many of these situations, sadly, involve a significant risk of multiple fractures.
The current crop of off-roaders, I’ll concede, is somewhat less malignant in certain ways than its predecessors.
Computer-controlled nannies such as traction control and anti-lock
brakes can extricate clumsy drivers from predicaments that would have
left their forebears high-centered on somebody’s front porch.
As a result, four-by-fours, if they can’t actually defy physics, can temporarily stun it with a sharp blow to the chin.
They can also, to put the matter in less pleasant terms, get you into a mess which no stack of microprocessors can make right.
As I meet with people throughout our council, I have been asked why
I, or we, did not respond to the editorials and stories about the
recent verdict against the Boy Scouts in Portland.
At the court’s direction, we have been, and continue to be,
restricted in communications about this case. Because this matter
continues, the Judge has asked that the Boy Scouts of America refrain
from comment on the specific allegations.
However, I must comment and respond to the mischaracterization in a
recent editorial (in a different publication) that we are not concerned
about protecting youth.
As a movement Scouting does care very deeply about the safety of our
members and all youth, and always has. Abuse is a huge problem in our
society. According to Childhelp.org there are 3.2 million reported
abuse cases in the United States every year. We are one of only a few
agencies that has a rigorous, nationwide system of background checks of
every registered volunteer leader and employee — conducted through an
independent service — which attempts to keep out of the program those
individuals who should not be leading youth.
The unemployment rate in Oregon has been in double digits for the
past year, but it seems as though many politicians in the nation’s
capital are focused on creating frustration and gridlock instead of new
Bipartisanship isn’t completely dead, though. Recently, I joined
with members of both parties, including Republican Senators Richard
Lugar of Indiana and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, to introduce a
bill that will both create jobs and lower monthly energy bills for
families and businesses.
It’s called the Rural Energy Savings Program and it works like this:
Rural electric co-ops like the Oregon Trail Electric Consumers Co-op in
Baker City will administer low-cost loans to help families and business
owners afford the up-front costs of energy efficient renovations. The
families and business owners will see their energy bills go down, and
can pay off the loan out of these savings. In fact, they can pay it
back with a charge on their electric bill, so they don’t even have to
pay an additional bill.
There’s a heap of roads in Eastern Oregon and I’ve gone the wrong way on quite a lot of them.
And sometimes even when I take the right turn I come to a bad end.
Usually rocks are involved. Sometimes there are snowdrifts. Always
there is profanity.
I have at any rate become accustomed to running into trouble —
literally, in many cases — when I set out to cover great distances by
motor vehicle without ever putting a tire on pavement.
Which goal I continue to pursue, afflicted as I am with a sort of
cheerful stupidity, despite my frequent flirtations with disaster.
I strive to prepare properly for these outings. For instance I own
enough maps to wallpaper my whole house. (I have in fact experimented
along those lines, but my decorative efforts were rebuffed, and
resoundingly, despite their obvious educational value.)
But though I grasp the basic idea behind a map, I am helpless to
decipher, with any reliability, the overwhelmingly detailed guides the
BLM puts out for the millions of acres it manages in the southeastern
part of the state.
It seems to me not so long ago when most every Second World War
veteran I met looked hale enough to still wield an M-1 Garand or drive
a Sherman tank.
But that era, however near it might feel to me, has passed us all by, inevitable as the tides.
There is nothing to be gained from pretending otherwise.
Although I’ll bet some of those aging fellows still get their buck.
The math is simple, and blunt.
The war ended in August 1945.
Even allowing for those soldiers and sailors who turned the
military’s flank, as regards the minimum enlistment age, it’s unlikely
that any veteran is younger than 82.
Which means even those men, who probably took up a weapon before
they ever handled a shaving razor, have already been defying the
actuarial tables for all of half a decade.
I keep waiting for Charles Manson to get involved in politics.
Yes, the old lunatic is still around, although he doesn’t make the news much these days.
Manson is 75 now. And judging by the most recent photograph I’ve seen, he probably has to strain to achieve anything like the wild-eyed glare that earned him such infamy during his murderous heyday, when even a president, without provocation, once mentioned him during a press conference.
Yet the Manson mystique — his brand name, if you will — could still carry a certain cachet, I think, if only Charlie would cast his lot with one side or other of the political spectrum.
As a villain, Manson has few peers among the living or the dead.
And villains have rarely been as valuable, when deployed as political pawns, as they are today.
Hitler, for instance (who was, by the way, Manson’s favorite world leader), is launched so often as a propaganda missile that it’s hard for somebody who is at all deficient in partisan zealotry to figure out just whose side the fuehrer was actually on.
Or would be on were he still alive.
Every now and again, while I’m standing in my kitchen and chugging a
glass of cold tapwater, I think about the journey these refreshing
ounces had recently made through many miles of concrete pipe.
I wonder whether I’m quenching my thirst with the bounty of Mill Creek or of Goodrich.
Probably this is a riddle which has no solution.
Baker City diverts water from fully a dozen streams and springs, and
it all goes into a pipeline that spans more than a dozen miles between
the mountains and town. I suppose that by the time the liquid flows
from my faucets it’s been mixed up as thoroughly as a well-made martini.
(And as mixed up as I would be if I had just knocked back a couple of those.)
It seems to me rather wonderful that when I wish to see where my
water comes from I need only look west at the forested slopes of the
Were I asked to name my favorite animal — and I’m still waiting patiently for that particular query — the list of candidates would certainly include the American pika.
Whether this diminutive mammal — it’s about the size of a squirrel, only more adorable — would win, I can’t say.
I’m rather partial to the mountain goat, to name one competitor.
Also I have long harbored a peculiar fondness for the fisher.
I say peculiar because I’ve never actually seen a fisher, which is a sort of weasel, in the wild. It might well be that if I ever do see one I will come away feeling rather cheated, like a man who is told again and again about a certain charming woman and then, when he finally meets her, is chagrined to realize she has the personality of a bobcat that has one foot caught in a trap.
And she has bad teeth besides.
Of course it’s conceivable that I wouldn’t impress a fisher, either, were one to ever catch sight of me.
Not that I care what a fisher thinks.