I would swap every app on my cellphone for a single feature on my home phone.
Remember those tear-jerker TV commercials that AT&T aired in the ’80s, with the catch-phrase “reach out and touch someone?”
Well I don’t want to reach out and touch someone.
I want to reach out and shock someone.
And I don’t mean a figurative, emotional shock.
I’m talking physical shock.
Amps or volts or whatever it is that makes your eyes bug out and the fillings in your teeth ache.
Specifically I want to shock the person responsible for my phone ringing after 10 o’clock four nights running, jolting me out of REM sleep each time.
I don’t want to cause permanent damage or anything.
The warning sign was silent on the matter of heating soup, which got me to wondering.
Would the BLM mind if I plunked a can of sirloin and hearty vegetables into one of the steam-belching vents at Mickey Hot Springs and waited for the broth to commence to bubbling?
I suppose using these publicly owned taps into the Earth’s molten mantle for something as banal as preparing a hot lunch must violate some federal statute or another.
And probably more than one, what with the ample supply.
I stepped onto my back porch at noon of a recent day and instantly regretted that I had donned my down jacket.
This reliable garment, my faithful companion and protector during Baker County’s generally chilly and occasionally arctic winters, was suddenly superfluous.
At least it seemed sudden to me.
Just an hour or so before, when I got home for lunch, the early March sunshine brought only the weak warmth customary of the season.
Yet now that sun, at its daily zenith, jolted me ahead clear through the balmy spring and into torrid July.
I learned recently that quite a number of Portland buildings have Baker County faces, as it were.
I’m referring here to stone faces.
Specifically I’m referring to something geologists call “rhyolite breccia” but most everyone else, whose tongues are not familiar with words such as “breccia,” probably knows as “moon rock."
It came to me, in one of those rare and random numerical epiphanies, that I have worked at the Baker City Herald for more than half my life.
These occasions are rare for me because numbers and I have had a troubled relationship. A long one, too, that dates to my introduction to algebra, which was roughly akin to a teenager who throws up on his date’s dress while trying to pin on a corsage before the homecoming dance.
This relationship — the math one, I mean, not soiling a poor girl’s new gown — might have contributed to the early retirement of multiple math teachers.
It certainly emptied a lot of red ink pens. Although the teachers eventually resorted to the ink-saving tactic of just scrawling a question mark next to my answers. It was as though my attempted solution to the problems veered so far from any recognizable principle that even the experts couldn’t figure out what I was trying to do.
“Saturday Night Live” is the greatest TV show in American history.
I didn’t know, until Sunday night, that I believed this.
But then I watched NBC’s 3 1/2-hour extravaganza commemorating the program’s 40th anniversary, and was convinced of SNL’s unique position.
Actually I watched 2 1/2 hours of NBC’s 3 1/2-hour extravaganza Sunday night, and the rest later in the week.
The problem is the special started at 8 p.m. Most nights my eyes start drooping before 9 and my wife ends up nudging me and asking when did I learn to read with my eyes closed.
I’ll bet Dennis Richardson wishes Oregon voters picked their governor this February instead of last November.
Possibly some of the 733,230 people who voted for Richardson’s opponent, John Kitzhaber, giving Kitzhaber an unprecedented fourth term, also regret Oregon’s electoral calendar.
The initial scandal involving Kitzhaber and his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, started a month or so before the election, but it seems almost trivial compared with the revelations of the past couple weeks.
Most of the pre-election stories focused on things Hayes did years before she met Kitzhaber.
On a date that defines the term “depths of winter,” we drove most of the way across an Oregon which seemed to have persuaded itself that spring had arrived two months early.
Until we got home to Baker County, anyway.
The date was Jan. 25.
The route was the topographic roller coaster from Salem to Baker City via Highways 22, 20, 126, 26 and 7.
The more relevant numbers, though, are 4,817, 4,720, 4,369, 5,277 and 5,124.
Those are the elevations at the summits of the major passes along the way (in order, from west to east, Santiam Pass, Ochoco Summit, Keyes Creek near Mitchell, Dixie Butte and Tipton).
I was in a motel room in Meridian, Idaho, when I got the word that my brother-in-law, Bill Pennick, had been taken to the hospital after his heart stopped.
Bill died a couple days later, on Jan. 20, at Salem Memorial Hospital.
He was 41.
It seems to me not only tragic, but also ridiculous that a man who never smoked and was active and otherwise healthy should die at that age from a heart problem.
Have you ever read a Portland newspaper that described Baker City this way?:
“Baker City enjoys the distinction of never having had a setback by hard times. During the late years of financial and business depression Baker City continued her steady march to the front and she has trebled her population and quadrupled her volume of trade... a large number of commercial houses carrying heavier stocks of goods than those of any other town in the state outside of Portland. The national bank there does a larger business than any other banking-house in the state outside of the metropolis.”
The same publication had this to say of Sumpter:
“Counties of Eastern Oregon can boast of no place that is more solid, sturdy and assured of a brighter future than the town of Sumpter, at the head of Sumpter valley.
“Nestling among the wooded rolling foothills of the mountains, protected from the biting winter breezes of the north, in a spot that is a veritable garden of nature, is Sumpter. Climatically the Sumpter valley is one of the favored spots of earth, summer or winter. No extreme heat or cold comes to the sheltered city.”
The newspaper is The Evening Telegram.