Friday, January 22, 2010

Link to Haiti Links

I suppose most folks have chipped in for Haiti efforts by now, but if by chance you were waiting or feel like adding more chips, the Gearboat Chronicles this week has agencies recommended by a local guy out here who's wise in the ways of how things work, or don't, in some cases, in that part of the world. He's recommended organizations and I recommended his recommendations. Read all about it here.

Meanwhile, lay your eyes on this lovely portrait of the old pickup, Betty Ford, looking fetching in morning light. She's a striking old gal.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Abracadabra & A Blizzard of Stars

With apologies to Art Linkletter and William Cosby, I find myself passing along things kids say.

My wee niece Claire (pictured here in superheroine's blurry because she's moving so fast. She's a superhero.) says ‘Abracadabra’ when asked what the magic word is. I plopped that in my last Chieftain column, so I’m going with the short version here. But I must point out that not only is that off the cute charts, it’s absolutely accurate and I thank her for straightening me out after all this time. ‘Please’ isn’t even close to the magic word and I just hope I’m not so old that I’ll never be asked again what the magic word is, because I cannot wait to lay an Abracadabra on someone. I’ve been trying to instigate this by being rude lately, but so far no dice.

So I saw a friend who saw the Abracadabra thing and she passed this one on…

It’s a cold, frosty morning. Real cold. Real frosty. My friend’s granddaughter is taken outside by her grandpa and they take in this expanse of glittering sparkles of ice as the sun is coming up.

“Grandpa,” she says, “it’s a blizzard of stars…”

Man, I wish I could come up with that. It’s too bad we learn to talk right.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Buenas Dias, Wallowas

A lot of mornings, I go for the two-course breakfast of a cup of coffee and a look around. Some mornings them mountains out beyond my back yard look awfully purty. Now and then, they’re fetching enough that I go get my camera.

And in the interest of supporting Wallowa County tourism, I’ve widened the angle on these morning shots to include our new scenic attractions. Those rail cars there.

WC has relied on tourism for some years now, dangling the landscape out there to entice people to come take a look and spend a few bucks. Then we made it even better by storing rail cars. Beautiful. Simply beautiful.

There has been talk of putting together a scenic rail cars of Wallowa County calendar, and I’m no fancy photographer, but you can get a sense of how majestic it will be by my snapshots here.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Use your turn signals, Claire...

My niece Claire is only two and a halfish years old but already knows how to drive. And not just little regular cars either -- look at the steering wheel on that thing. It's like a tugboat. She's not even in kindergarten and already has her CDL.

The real little one is Anna. She’s like 5 minutes old. They didn’t let babies into the place we were at, so her mom had to disguise her as a woodland creature.

The other two ladies are my sister, Jessica, and Ma Rombach.

Claire’s driving them to ‘the pumpkin patch,’ she said. Little holdover from Halloween.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Path to the Rose Bowl...and a mysterious government facility

I’m writing this just hours before kickoff of the Rose Bowl game. I might wish the Ducks good luck, except my family are staunch Oregon State supporters and would drive me from the family estate with hurled stones if they caught wind of me aiding or abetting any U of O activities. So you’re on your own, Ducks.

You always hear what a big deal it is to get to the Rose Bowl, but I was just there a week ago or so, and I have to say, it’s really not that hard. I wasn’t even trying.

I was driving the Winnebago north for Christmas, towing my Toyota truck, so that makes me roughly 50 feet long, considering 29-feet of Winnebago, plus the truck and tow bar. And that’s a lot of long when you’re merging over to make your exit in traffic. And if I ever catch the son of a witch who pushed me off my exit, forcing me south toward Los Angeles, I fear for him. I do. I would recognize those headlights anywhere. And there are many, many tortures I wish to visit upon you, you dog.

So anyway, there I was in the holiday spirit, asking Santa to let me apply a crowbar to every joint belonging to that jackass driver who, in retrospect, I should have just side-swiped and laughed while watching his car burn in my rearview mirror . . . but I took the first exit to double back and get another shot at my onramp.

Took a right. And another. Then wondered why there were bleachers facing the street I was on. Lots of bleachers facing the street. Odd. Until I saw “Parade Route” signs and remembered I was in Pasadena.

Then I ended up in the parking lot of the Rose Bowl. And took that picture you see here.

Later, I would ask directions from a lady walking her dog on how the hell to get out of here, and she told me, and I quote: “Oh, it’s not hard at all. Go up here, take a right at the first electric stoplight, and it’ll put you on the freeway.”

Electric stoplight? As opposed to, say, candle power? I didn’t get that, but followed her directions and went for miles through neighborhoods, finally saw a discrete sign promising the freeway, then all hell broke loose.

I thought I was rolling up to an onramp, but then it looked like one of those inspection stations where they ask if you have any live plants in your car.

But it was a security checkpoint, with guard booths, and a man ran out waving his flashlight at me, ordering me to stop. Here, then, is a transcript of our chat:

“Back that thing out of here, this is a government facility…”

“I’m just looking for the freeway.”

“Well, you missed it, it’s two streets back. Turn that thing around and get it out of here.”

Turning a Winnebago around with two lanes of room is not possible unless you have a helicopter or a crane. He wouldn’t let me go through his gate to turn around and I was sworn to never, ever, try backing up with a car on a tow bar behind a Minnie Winnie. The tow bar manual was adamant about this. Something to do with automatic, cataclysmic jack-knifing of the vehicle, the seas boiling and the sky raining blood.

“I can’t back it up.”

He didn’t believe me. People were going by flashing their security clearance and he was waving them through while losing his shit.

I explained I could unhook the truck and then turn the Winnebago around Austin Powers-style, pulling a little bit forward, a little bit back, until I heaved her around.

“O boy, what a mess . . . what a mess . . . if an emergency happens and you’re plugging up the entrance, I’ll . . . O boy, what a mess . . .”

It occurred to me then that this resembled a not-very-good action movie where I was supposed to gain entrance to a government facility by pulling up in a motor home, playing the rube and regrettably insisting I must get past the gate to turn around, thereby fooling the security guard and somehow stealing top secret information or plans to a rocket.

He’d seen the same movie and wouldn’t let me near the gate. I was, in fact, a rube who was insisting I couldn’t turn around without going past his gate first, and thankfully I didn’t get tasered and he seemed to believe I was just a dumbass who missed the freeway onramp, not a threat to national security.

So I set a world record for unhooking a Toyota Tacoma, doing four burnouts in a Winnebago to turn it around in a tight space, then re-hooking a Toyota and getting the hell out of there.

And that was my evening in Pasadena. Hope it goes better for you, Ducks.