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Diving In The Couve, Or Charlie And The Chocolatte Store

“Careful!” I shouted over to my friend Charlie.  “You’re swaying on that ladder like a metronome!”

“Thanks Mom” he replied.  “You just handle your end of those lights.”

It was two days after Christmas and the Hamers were already taking down the lights and decorations that Charlie had so recently put into place with his usual eye for perfection.  I had no idea how he had accomplished this task by himself, and so I asked him how he had done it.

“Caroline helped me put all of this up” he replied.  “She has a better eye for detail and the aesthetic than I do.”

I doubted that statement.  Charlie Hamer has such a definite knack for attention to detail that I once accused him of having been toilet trained at gunpoint.  That being said, I also knew that Charlie’s wife, Caroline, also had a keen sense of what she wanted, and I was certain that she truly had played a considerable role in arranging the display.  How big a part she played in the actual installation of those lights however is what I had my doubts about.

“So” I asked, “did she supervise while you put this up?”

“Nope” he replied.  “She got up on a ladder and pitched in.”

“Wow man, I’m impressed!” I shouted to him.  “This end has to be eight feet up.  It didn’t bother her?”

“Why should it have?” he shouted back.  “She wasn’t on your end.  She was on mine.”

Charlie and Caroline’s house is build on a hill.  The front of the house is at street level, or maybe just a bit higher, but the northwest corner of the back of the house rises to a height of twenty feet.  The triple extension ladder upon which Charlie was now perched was lodged against the fence between his and his neighbor’s property, and soared up at an uncomfortably steep angle to just above the roof of the house.

“You’re kidding me, right?” I asked.

“Nope” he answered.  “So stop your whining and let’s get these lights down.  I don’t like it up here any more than you do.”

An hour later we had finished our task.  The lights had been catalogued, rolled up neatly, and stashed in plastic bins.  We had returned to the dining room, where it was a good deal warmer and safer than dangling eight to twenty feet in the air on a thirty six degree day with a ten mile per hour wind.  Charlie and I were seated at the table and Caroline was finishing the assembly of a platter of leftover baked ham, pickles, cheeses, crackers vegetables and other goodies.

“Caroline,” I said.  “Why did you want to take these lights down so soon?  Putting them up had to be a bigger job even than taking them down was.”

We’re replacing them” Caroline replied.  “We’re getting rid of the old incandescent lights and getting LED ones.”

“Why?” I asked.  “Isn’t it wasteful to throw away good lights?”

“No, it isn’t” she replied as she brought the platter over to the table.  “It’s more wasteful to keep burning the old lights.  We’ll put up the LED’s next year.  We’ll sell the old ones, and what we get for them plus what I estimate we’ll save on electricity, we’ll give to Share House.  They’ll use that money to help people who don’t have a house to put any lights on in the first place.”

“You’re a saint” I said, and then as I took my first bite of ham and cheese with jalapeño jelly between two crackers I added “and an angel.”

Don’t talk with your mouth full” she said laughing, as she brushed off my compliment. “You boys eat while I fix us up with some hot chocolate.”

“Hot chocolate?” I responded, ignoring her instruction about talking with my mouth full.  “I don’t think hot chocolate is really my favorite beverage to have with a feast like this.”

“Don’t speak to quickly” she replied.  “And don’t speak with your mouth full.  Are you hard of hearing?  I’ve got a little surprise for you both, so just  eat and let me work.”

“A surprise?” Charlie asked, pretending to be hurt by this revelation.  “I thought that we weren’t going to keep secrets from each other.”

“A girl’s entitled to one or two secrets, Charlie Hamer” she replied with a playful sniff.  Now you two just help yourselves while I put on the finishing touches.”

Charlie and I applied ourselves to the platter of goodies, and after a few minutes and several more ham-and-cracker sandwiches she set two steaming mugs of brown fluid in front of us.  “Hot Chocolate, boys” she said, and then returned to the kitchen, where she picked up a small plate and brought it over to the table.  “And truffles.  Dig in.”

“Uh, thanks Caroline” I said, “but I’m not really a big chocolate guy.”

“Yeah, I know.  You only like coffee thick as mud.  Manly stuff.  Well, like my nephew once said about sushi; ‘Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.’”

I looked over at Charlie, who had already picked up his mug of chocolate and was blowing on it to cool it down.  “You drink this stuff?” I asked.

“I do when Caroline sets it down in front of me” he replied.  “She’s usually right about things like this.”

I looked at Charlie skeptically, then down at my chocolate, and then back at Caroline.  “So, did you try the sushi?” I asked.

“Yep” was her one-word answer, which I matched with a similar one-word question.

“And?” I asked.

“And I told him that it tasted like crap.  Prometheus went to all that trouble to steal some fire from the gods and give it to us, it makes no sense to me not to use a little of it to cook our food.  Still, I earned the right to judge it by trying it.”  She nodded at me as if her statement had sealed all conversation on the matter.   “Your turn.”

I couldn’t argue with her logic, so I picked up the mug, blew on it for a minute or two, and then took a sip.  Instantly I felt like a kid again.  “Wow, this is good!  I don’t usually like candy and stuff like that, but this is good.”

“I thought that you’d like it” Caroline said just a little bit smugly.  “And just wait until you try your truffle.”

“Do I have to?” I asked.

“Do you have to what?” she asked.

“Do I have to wait?”

“It’s customary to have dessert after the main course” she said, ‘but we don’t stand on formality here.  Knock yourself out.”

I picked up a truffle from the plate and looked it over.  It was a smallish ball of chocolate dusted with crumbs of some sort.  “What is this one?” I asked.

“That’s a rum with hazelnut” Caroline replied.  “Thats hazelnut bits that the truffle’s dusted with.”

I took a small bite and allowed the chocolate to melt in my mouth, releasing the flavors of chocolate, sugar, rum and nuts.  The ingredients blended as the chocolate melted and became one unique, delicious flavor.  “Did you make these?” I asked.

“Wish I could” she replied.  “There’s a little place on Main Street, just south of Mill Plain Boulevard, called Fleur Chocolatte.  It’s where Compass Coffee used to be.”

“Oh, yeah.  I know where you mean.  West side of Main, right?”

“Yep.  That’s the place.  The guy who owns it used to be an ironworker.  Now he mixes and blends and dips some of the best chocolates in Vancouver.”

“Ironworker, eh?” Charlie cut in.  “Those are some tough guys.  Tough as nails.”

“I suppose” Caroline said.  “This one has a pretty good touch, and makes a respectable cup of coffee, too.”

I took another sip of the hot chocolate, which had by now cooled enough to drink.  I like for my hot drinks to be less than boiling, and now I could fully appreciate the full, rich flavor of the chocolate and sugar and; what was that other flavor?  I had to ask.

“A little butter and cream” was her answer.  I got that idea from Mike.  You like it?”

“Mike?” Charlie asked.

“Yes.  The owner’s name is Mike.  He’s there all day, making and selling the chocolate and coffee.”

“Well I like it a lot” I told her.  “Is it super expensive?”

“That depends on what you call super expensive.  It’s no more than any other coffee place.  I suppose that if you judge it by the cost of a cup of coffee at Leroy’s,” and at that Caroline wrinkled her nose in exaggerated disgust, “yeah, it’s expensive.”

“Now don’t go knocking Leroy’s” Charlie interposed.  “Best darned grease in Vancouver.  Don’t knock it until you try it,” and at that Charlie and I shared a high five.

“Pigs will fly first” Caroline sniffed.  “The truffles cost what any other treat at a coffee shop would cost.  No, I don’t think it’s expensive at all.”

By now Charlie had picked up and devoured his own truffle; a brandy and raspberry concoction.  “Are there any more?” he asked.

“Not here in the kitchen, but there’s plenty more down at Fleur Chocolatte.  Maybe you can pick some up the next time you come back from Leroy’s.”

“Maybe I will,” Charlie replied.  “Maybe I will.”

 

 

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Diving In The Couve, Part II

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATTE STORE

“Careful!” I shouted over to my friend Charlie.  “You’re swaying on that ladder like a metronome!”

“Thanks Mom” he replied.  “You just handle your end of those lights.”

It was two days after Christmas and the Hamers were already taking down the lights and decorations that Charlie had so recently put into place with his usual eye for perfection.  I had no idea how he had accomplished this task by himself, and so I asked him how he had done it.

“Caroline helped me put all of this up” he replied.  “She has a better eye for detail and the aesthetic than I do.”

I doubted that statement.  Charlie Hamer has such a definite knack for attention to detail that I once accused him of having been toilet trained at gunpoint.  That being said, I also knew that Charlie’s wife, Caroline, also had a keen sense of what she wanted, and I was certain that she truly had played a considerable role in arranging the display.  How big a part she played in the actual installation of those lights however is what I had my doubts about.

“So” I asked, “did she supervise while you put this up?”

“Nope” he replied.  “She got up on a ladder and pitched in.”

“Wow man, I’m impressed!” I shouted to him.  “This end has to be eight feet up.  It didn’t bother her?”

“Why should it have?” he shouted back.  “She wasn’t on your end.  She was on mine.”

Charlie and Caroline’s house is build on a hill.  The front of the house is at street level, or maybe just a bit higher, but the northwest corner of the back of the house rises to a height of twenty feet.  The triple extension ladder upon which Charlie was now perched was lodged against the fence between his and his neighbor’s property, and soared up at an uncomfortably steep angle to just above the roof of the house.

“You’re kidding me, right?” I asked.

“Nope” he answered.  “So stop your whining and let’s get these lights down.  I don’t like it up here any more than you do.”

An hour later we had finished our task.  The lights had been catalogued, rolled up neatly, and stashed in plastic bins.  We had returned to the dining room, where it was a good deal warmer and safer than dangling eight to twenty feet in the air on a thirty six degree day with a ten mile per hour wind.  Charlie and I were seated at the table and Caroline was finishing the assembly of a platter of leftover baked ham, pickles, cheeses, crackers vegetables and other goodies.

“Caroline,” I said.  “Why did you want to take these lights down so soon?  Putting them up had to be a bigger job even than taking them down was.”

We’re replacing them” Caroline replied.  “We’re getting rid of the old incandescent lights and getting LED ones.”

“Why?” I asked.  “Isn’t it wasteful to throw away good lights?”

“No, it isn’t” she replied as she brought the platter over to the table.  “It’s more wasteful to keep burning the old lights.  We’ll put up the LED’s next year.  We’ll sell the old ones, and what we get for them plus what I estimate we’ll save on electricity, we’ll give to Share House.  They’ll use that money to help people who don’t have a house to put any lights on in the first place.”

“You’re a saint” I said, and then as I took my first bite of ham and cheese with jalapeño jelly between two crackers I added “and an angel.”

Don’t talk with your mouth full” she said laughing, as she brushed off my compliment. “You boys eat while I fix us up with some hot chocolate.”

“Hot chocolate?” I responded, ignoring her instruction about talking with my mouth full.  “I don’t think hot chocolate is really my favorite beverage to have with a feast like this.”

“Don’t speak to quickly” she replied.  “And don’t speak with your mouth full.  Are you hard of hearing?  I’ve got a little surprise for you both, so just  eat and let me work.”

“A surprise?” Charlie asked, pretending to be hurt by this revelation.  “I thought that we weren’t going to keep secrets from each other.”

“A girl’s entitled to one or two secrets, Charlie Hamer” she replied with a playful sniff.  Now you two just help yourselves while I put on the finishing touches.”

Charlie and I applied ourselves to the platter of goodies, and after a few minutes and several more ham-and-cracker sandwiches she set two steaming mugs of brown fluid in front of us.  “Hot Chocolate, boys” she said, and then returned to the kitchen, where she picked up a small plate and brought it over to the table.  “And truffles.  Dig in.”

“Uh, thanks Caroline” I said, “but I’m not really a big chocolate guy.”

“Yeah, I know.  You only like coffee thick as mud.  Manly stuff.  Well, like my nephew once said about sushi; ‘Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.’”

I looked over at Charlie, who had already picked up his mug of chocolate and was blowing on it to cool it down.  “You drink this stuff?” I asked.

“I do when Caroline sets it down in front of me” he replied.  “She’s usually right about things like this.”

I looked at Charlie skeptically, then down at my chocolate, and then back at Caroline.  “So, did you try the sushi?” I asked.

“Yep” was her one-word answer, which I matched with a similar one-word question.

“And?” I asked.

“And I told him that it tasted like crap.  Prometheus went to all that trouble to steal some fire from the gods and give it to us, it makes no sense to me not to use a little of it to cook our food.  Still, I earned the right to judge it by trying it.”  She nodded at me as if her statement had sealed all conversation on the matter.   “Your turn.”

I couldn’t argue with her logic, so I picked up the mug, blew on it for a minute or two, and then took a sip.  Instantly I felt like a kid again.  “Wow, this is good!  I don’t usually like candy and stuff like that, but this is good.”

“I thought that you’d like it” Caroline said just a little bit smugly.  “And just wait until you try your truffle.”

“Do I have to?” I asked.

“Do you have to what?” she asked.

“Do I have to wait?”

“It’s customary to have dessert after the main course” she said, ‘but we don’t stand on formality here.  Knock yourself out.”

I picked up a truffle from the plate and looked it over.  It was a smallish ball of chocolate dusted with crumbs of some sort.  “What is this one?” I asked.

“That’s a rum with hazelnut” Caroline replied.  “Thats hazelnut bits that the truffle’s dusted with.”

I took a small bite and allowed the chocolate to melt in my mouth, releasing the flavors of chocolate, sugar, rum and nuts.  The ingredients blended as the chocolate melted and became one unique, delicious flavor.  “Did you make these?” I asked.

“Wish I could” she replied.  “There’s a little place on Main Street, just south of Mill Plain Boulevard, called Fleur Chocolatte.  It’s where Compass Coffee used to be.”

“Oh, yeah.  I know where you mean.  West side of Main, right?”

“Yep.  That’s the place.  The guy who owns it used to be an ironworker.  Now he mixes and blends and dips some of the best chocolates in Vancouver.”

“Ironworker, eh?” Charlie cut in.  “Those are some tough guys.  Tough as nails.”

“I suppose” Caroline said.  “This one has a pretty good touch, and makes a respectable cup of coffee, too.”

I took another sip of the hot chocolate, which had by now cooled enough to drink.  I like for my hot drinks to be less than boiling, and now I could fully appreciate the full, rich flavor of the chocolate and sugar and; what was that other flavor?  I had to ask.

“A little butter and cream” was her answer.  I got that idea from Mike.  You like it?”

“Mike?” Charlie asked.

“Yes.  The owner’s name is Mike.  He’s there all day, making and selling the chocolate and coffee.”

“Well I like it a lot” I told her.  “Is it super expensive?”

“That depends on what you call super expensive.  It’s no more than any other coffee place.  I suppose that if you judge it by the cost of a cup of coffee at Leroy’s,” and at that Caroline wrinkled her nose in exaggerated disgust, “yeah, it’s expensive.”

“Now don’t go knocking Leroy’s” Charlie interposed.  “Best darned grease in Vancouver.  Don’t knock it until you try it,” and at that Charlie and I shared a high five.

“Pigs will fly first” Caroline sniffed.  “The truffles cost what any other treat at a coffee shop would cost.  No, I don’t think it’s expensive at all.”

By now Charlie had picked up and devoured his own truffle; a brandy and raspberry concoction.  “Are there any more?” he asked.

“Not here in the kitchen, but there’s plenty more down at Fleur Chocolatte.  Maybe you can pick some up the next time you come back from Leroy’s.”

“Maybe I will,” Charlie replied.  “Maybe I will.”

 

 

 

 

Diving In The Couve

Charlie and the Chocolatte Store

“Careful!” I shouted over to my friend Charlie.  “You’re swaying on that ladder like a metronome!”

“Thanks Mom” he replied.  “You just handle your end of those lights.”

It was two days after Christmas and the Hamers were already taking down the lights and decorations that Charlie had so recently put into place with his usual eye for perfection.  I had no idea how he had accomplished this task by himself, and so I asked him how he had done it.

“Caroline helped me put all of this up” he replied.  “She has a better eye for detail and the aesthetic than I do.”

I doubted that statement.  Charlie Hamer has such a definite knack for attention to detail that I once accused him of having been toilet trained at gunpoint.  That being said, I also knew that Charlie’s wife, Caroline, also had a keen sense of what she wanted, and I was certain that she truly had played a considerable role in arranging the display.  How big a part she played in the actual installation of those lights however is what I had my doubts about.

“So” I asked, “did she supervise while you put this up?”

“Nope” he replied.  “She got up on a ladder and pitched in.”

“Wow man, I’m impressed!” I shouted to him.  “This end has to be eight feet up.  It didn’t bother her?”

“Why should it have?” he shouted back.  “She wasn’t on your end.  She was on mine.”

Charlie and Caroline’s house is build on a hill.  The front of the house is at street level, or maybe just a bit higher, but the northwest corner of the back of the house rises to a height of twenty feet.  The triple extension ladder upon which Charlie was now perched was lodged against the fence between his and his neighbor’s property, and soared up at an uncomfortably steep angle to just above the roof of the house.

“You’re kidding me, right?” I asked.

“Nope” he answered.  “So stop your whining and let’s get these lights down.  I don’t like it up here any more than you do.”

An hour later we had finished our task.  The lights had been catalogued, rolled up neatly, and stashed in plastic bins.  We had returned to the dining room, where it was a good deal warmer and safer than dangling eight to twenty feet in the air on a thirty six degree day with a ten mile per hour wind.  Charlie and I were seated at the table and Caroline was finishing the assembly of a platter of leftover baked ham, pickles, cheeses, crackers vegetables and other goodies.

“Caroline,” I said.  “Why did you want to take these lights down so soon?  Putting them up had to be a bigger job even than taking them down was.”

We’re replacing them” Caroline replied.  “We’re getting rid of the old incandescent lights and getting LED ones.”

“Why?” I asked.  “Isn’t it wasteful to throw away good lights?”

“No, it isn’t” she replied as she brought the platter over to the table.  “It’s more wasteful to keep burning the old lights.  We’ll put up the LED’s next year.  We’ll sell the old ones, and what we get for them plus what I estimate we’ll save on electricity, we’ll give to Share House.  They’ll use that money to help people who don’t have a house to put any lights on in the first place.”

“You’re a saint” I said, and then as I took my first bite of ham and cheese with jalapeño jelly between two crackers I added “and an angel.”

Don’t talk with your mouth full” she said laughing, as she brushed off my compliment. “You boys eat while I fix us up with some hot chocolate.”

“Hot chocolate?” I responded, ignoring her instruction about talking with my mouth full.  “I don’t think hot chocolate is really my favorite beverage to have with a feast like this.”

“Don’t speak to quickly” she replied.  “And don’t speak with your mouth full.  Are you hard of hearing?  I’ve got a little surprise for you both, so just  eat and let me work.”

“A surprise?” Charlie asked, pretending to be hurt by this revelation.  “I thought that we weren’t going to keep secrets from each other.”

“A girl’s entitled to one or two secrets, Charlie Hamer” she replied with a playful sniff.  Now you two just help yourselves while I put on the finishing touches.”

Charlie and I applied ourselves to the platter of goodies, and after a few minutes and several more ham-and-cracker sandwiches she set two steaming mugs of brown fluid in front of us.  “Hot Chocolate, boys” she said, and then returned to the kitchen, where she picked up a small plate and brought it over to the table.  “And truffles.  Dig in.”

“Uh, thanks Caroline” I said, “but I’m not really a big chocolate guy.”

“Yeah, I know.  You only like coffee thick as mud.  Manly stuff.  Well, like my nephew once said about sushi; ‘Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.'”

I looked over at Charlie, who had already picked up his mug of chocolate and was blowing on it to cool it down.  “You drink this stuff?” I asked.

“I do when Caroline sets it down in front of me” he replied.  “She’s usually right about things like this.”

I looked at Charlie skeptically, then down at my chocolate, and then back at Caroline.  “So, did you try the sushi?” I asked.

“Yep” was her one-word answer, which I matched with a similar one-word question.

“And?” I asked.

“And I told him that it tasted like crap.  Prometheus went to all that trouble to steal some fire from the gods and give it to us, it makes no sense to me not to use a little of it to cook our food.  Still, I earned the right to judge it by trying it.”  She nodded at me as if her statement had sealed all conversation on the matter.   “Your turn.”

I couldn’t argue with her logic, so I picked up the mug, blew on it for a minute or two, and then took a sip.  Instantly I felt like a kid again.  “Wow, this is good!  I don’t usually like candy and stuff like that, but this is good.”

“I thought that you’d like it” Caroline said just a little bit smugly.  “And just wait until you try your truffle.”

“Do I have to?” I asked.

“Do you have to what?” she asked.

“Do I have to wait?”

“It’s customary to have dessert after the main course” she said, ‘but we don’t stand on formality here.  Knock yourself out.”

I picked up a truffle from the plate and looked it over.  It was a smallish ball of chocolate dusted with crumbs of some sort.  “What is this one?” I asked.

“That’s a rum with hazelnut” Caroline replied.  “Thats hazelnut bits that the truffle’s dusted with.”

I took a small bite and allowed the chocolate to melt in my mouth, releasing the flavors of chocolate, sugar, rum and nuts.  The ingredients blended as the chocolate melted and became one unique, delicious flavor.  “Did you make these?” I asked.

“Wish I could” she replied.  “There’s a little place on Main Street, just south of Mill Plain Boulevard, called Fleur Chocolatte.  It’s where Compass Coffee used to be.”

“Oh, yeah.  I know where you mean.  West side of Main, right?”

“Yep.  That’s the place.  The guy who owns it used to be an ironworker.  Now he mixes and blends and dips some of the best chocolates in Vancouver.”

“Ironworker, eh?” Charlie cut in.  “Those are some tough guys.  Tough as nails.”

“I suppose” Caroline said.  “This one has a pretty good touch, and makes a respectable cup of coffee, too.”

I took another sip of the hot chocolate, which had by now cooled enough to drink.  I like for my hot drinks to be less than boiling, and now I could fully appreciate the full, rich flavor of the chocolate and sugar and; what was that other flavor?  I had to ask.

“A little butter and cream” was her answer.  I got that idea from Mike.  You like it?”

“Mike?” Charlie asked.

“Yes.  The owner’s name is Mike.  He’s there all day, making and selling the chocolate and coffee.”

“Well I like it a lot” I told her.  “Is it super expensive?”

“That depends on what you call super expensive.  It’s no more than any other coffee place.  I suppose that if you judge it by the cost of a cup of coffee at Leroy’s,” and at that Caroline wrinkled her nose in exaggerated disgust, “yeah, it’s expensive.”

“Now don’t go knocking Leroy’s” Charlie interposed.  “Best darned grease in Vancouver.  Don’t knock it until you try it,” and at that Charlie and I shared a high five.

“Pigs will fly first” Caroline sniffed.  “The truffles cost what any other treat at a coffee shop would cost.  No, I don’t think it’s expensive at all.”

By now Charlie had picked up and devoured his own truffle; a brandy and raspberry concoction.  “Are there any more?” he asked.

“Not here in the kitchen, but there’s plenty more down at Fleur Chocolatte.  Maybe you can pick some up the next time you come back from Leroy’s.”

“Maybe I will,” Charlie replied.  “Maybe I will.”

 

 

 

 

 

Diving in the Couve

What follows is the first of a series of conversations that I have with Charlie Hamer, an old friend of mine.  Charlie enjoys eating at restaurants, not as a food critic or a connoisseur, but as a simple working man who has learned to enjoy the pleasant things of life.  The title of this series comes from the idea of seeing the many places where a guy might get a plate of food in Vancouver Washington and surrounding areas, picking one and just diving in.  I hope that you enjoy the short stories and are inspired to try, or avoid, some of the places that Charlie mentions.

 

I had breakfast with my friend Charlie Hamer this morning.  That’s not an unusual occurrence.  Charlie is an old friend of mine who long ago paid me to help out on his construction projects.  I wasn’t much good at the construction trades but I poured a lot of energy into my work.  He paid me enough to attend and graduate from a community college with a degree in a much less physically demanding line of work than construction.  Charlie told me that he admired my dogged determination to be useful when it was obvious that the work didn’t come to me naturally, and I have been grateful for his generosity ever since.

Usually we meet at some restaurant or other around town.  Charlie loves to eat out, even though his wife, Carline, is a very capable woman in the kitchen when she has time to cook.  Charlie is best kept out of a kitchen.  He went through a couple of pretty rough years a while back, and a remarkable waitress at a remarkably unremarkable restaurant in downtown Vancouver played a big part in his process of rejoining the world of the living.  He has had a special place in his heart for restaurants, restaurant food, and the people who work in restaurants ever since.

On this particular day I had Charlie sitting at the small, square table in my small, square dining room.  I had cooked up some sausage and eggs, fried potatoes and collard greens.  Hey, I’m Southern, and that’s what you get at my place.  Charlie was just happy that I didn’t put grits and sardines on the table.

“I had some real food last night” he said, inferring that what I was serving him was not real food.

“Come on man” I retorted.  “You’re packing away my groceries fast enough, and this stuff is better than what Tank cooks for you down at Leroy’s.  I’ve eaten there once, and I know.”

“Don’t knock Tank’s grease and salt” Charlie said while pointing a fork menacingly close to my nose.  “I don’t know anyone else who can turn out a breakfast that you can either eat or use to lube your differential gear with equally gratifying results.  You oughtta show some respect.”

“Yeah, yeah” I said, and refilled his coffee mug.  “So where did you eat last night?”

“It’s a place called Rally Pizza.  It’s down in what used to be called Garrison Square.  You know, the strip mall that Caroline picked up for cheap back when we began dating?”  My blank look was all Charlie needed to see.  “It’s that place where we tore half of it down, restored the remaining half and rebuilt the first half from the ground up.  It’s called ‘The Mill’ now, and has a bunch of new restaurants and businesses there.”

“Oh, yeah.  I know where you mean.  It’s just west of Peace Health Hospital on Mill Plain, right?”

“Yeah, that’s the place.  Give me some more of those potatoes.”

“Man” I said.  “You got a hollow leg or something?”

“Shut up and give me the spuds” he replied.

I handed the bowl of potatoes to Charlie.  He spooned out the last of them onto his plate and returned to his main point.  “Anyway, there’s a pizza place there and I tried it for the first time.  Caroline and I took Lucas, her nephew.  Kid is a linebacker for Washington State and eats like a horse!  I ordered this thing called  Pizza Bolognese.  Lucas got a pepperoni and Caroline got a salad and some roasted vegetables.  She abstained from the pizza; said that she had to maintain her girlish figure.”

“Is the food any good?” I asked as I chewed the last of my sausage.

“Yeah” Charlie replied.  Pretty good.  The crust is thin, and I’m used to thick crust pizzas.  The toppings are thin too, but I found that I liked the combo a lot.  I didn’t think that I would, either.  You know how I like a small mountain of pepperoni and sausage and shrooms and jalapeños and so on.  Well, I wondered how this pizza was going to fill me up.”

I looked at the last of the potatoes which followed the eggs and sausage patties that had proceeded them into the bottomless pit that was Charlie’s stomach and wondered how a thin crust pizza could fill that void.  “And did it?”  I asked

“Yeah, it did.  I ate the whole thing, to be sure, but it was light enough that I didn’t feel like I was stuffed, and filling enough that I didn’t feel like I needed any more.”

“Humph” I grunted.  “Maybe I’ll try it.”

“You could do a lot worse” Charlie said.  “Lucas’ pepperoni was a little more substantial, but the same thin crust and tasty sauce.  He killed his pizza too, and had half of Caroline’s roasted veggies.”

“She didn’t eat any pizza?” I asked.

“Naw.  She ordered a Market Salad, and they brought a big bowl of salad that was meal enough for her, and a nice helping of roasted veggies; looked like sweet potato and carrot and stuff like that.  She couldn’t finish half of the roasted veggies, and Lucas polished them off.”

I picked up an armload of empty plates and bowls and carried them to the sink.  A fresh pot of coffee sat in the coffeemaker and I brought it over to the table and refilled our cups.  “So” I asked.  “You intend to go back?”

“Yeah, I’ll go back there.  You know, it’s not like a flavor explosion in your face, but it’s a good, mellow pizza at a good price.  The service is good too.  Yeah, I’ll go back.”

“Maybe I’ll give it a shot” I said.

“I recommend it” Charlie replied.  “Good drinks and desserts too.”

After that Charlie gave off a loud belch (“That’s old Walt’s influence on me” he said) and we went on to a different topic.  I made a mental note however that I would soon go to Rally Pizza to check it out for myself.

 

The Fire Next Time, Part II

In Part I of “The Fire Next Time” I wrote of one instance involving fire that was warm and fuzzy and two that could have ended badly.  In Part II I will share three more stories; one which ended badly, one which could have ended badly but did not, and one that left me scratching my head.  My first story, the one that ended badly, is the story of Hank Snell.

All of us kids loved to play with fire when I was young, and some of us were more inquisitive and adventurous than others.  I don’t know who it was that first learned about holding a lit cigarette lighter in front of a can of hairspray to create a serviceable blowtorch, but it wasn’t long before everyone was doing it.  In no time at all spider webs and model towns made out of popsicle sticks and plastic model airplanes and automobiles belonging to siblings were being incinerated by a horde of little fire starters who were imitating Carrie White decades before Steven King wrote a novel with that incendiary young lady’s first name for a title.

Anywhere, at any time of the day or night in my neighborhood of East San Diego, one might see a jet of flame piercing the air, making an alley or the Park or somebody’s back yard when their parents were away at work look like flares erupting from a Saudi refinery.  When I look back on the kids that I hung out with in my neighborhood, it’s a wonder that nobody ever got torched by an errant eruption on the part of a careless associate.  Hank was the one exception to that history however, and it was Hank himself who turned out to be his own worst enemy.

In the course of time we all grew tired of the buzz that we achieved by lighting up our San Diego neighborhood with Spray Net and Aqua Net blowtorches.  Something had to be thought up to take that trick to the next level and, sure enough, somebody did.

I don’t really know who that somebody was.  Maybe that person saw a circus act on television – I’m not aware of a real circus, other than my neighborhood of course – coming to San Diego.  Maybe they saw a sideshow at the County Fair featuring a human flamethrower.  I know that I saw a sword swallower and a fire eater there, so a flamethrower is possible.  In any case an evolution of the hairspray trick was needed and a cadre of intrepid teens in our neighborhood, which included Hank Snell, stepped up to the plate.

The new trick went like this.  A person would get a mouthful of rubbing alcohol, light their Zippo cigarette lighter, and blow the flammable liquid through the pilot light to create a human blowtorch.  The trick was sometimes successful but oftentimes it was not, so an improvement was made right away.  That improvement came in the form of taking in a mouthful of lighter fluid and then repeating the established steps.

The result was electric!  On every attempt, the highly flammable lighter fluid would blaze into an impressive bloom of flame as it was ejected forcefully through the lit Zippo.  Several kids found the courage to do this trick, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that several kids simply lost what few marbles that they had left.  Either way, it was an awesome display and none had a more spectacular delivery than did Hank.

Maybe he was just full of more hot air than were the rest of us, or maybe he tricked us and employed gasoline in his act.  I don’t know, but Hank could create a fireball that looked a lot like “The Gadget” which was exploded at Trinity in New Mexico in 1945, just before it’s two siblings were dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

But all good plans have a fatal flaw.  Hank’s fatal flaw was that he failed to take into account the wind.  Therefore, one fine day he was demonstrating his oral pyrotechnic prowess to a group of friends and blew his blowtorch straight into the wind.  The wind returned the favor and blew the flames right back into Hank’s face.

Hank got cooked like a deep fried turkey, or at least he looked that way.  Eyebrows and eyelashes were gone, but luckily the skin of his face did not burn into the dermal layers.  He looked plenty well done however, so his friends helped Hank to get home and then bailed out as soon as his parents took him off of their hands.  They had no interest in waiting around and having to answer embarrassing questions.  Hank was transported to a small hospital on El Cajon Boulevard; Hillside Hospital, I think it was, but I’m not sure about that one.  There he was treated with state of the art aid and, on the next day, received visitors.

I wasn’t with that group, but a friend of mine was.  He told me that Hank looked like the Mummy with all of his dressings, and that patches of red and blistered skin, all slathered in some sort of shiny salve, was visible.  Maybe a blister or two was dozing something for good measure.  I can’t testify to the truth of this account, but the story went on to tell of Bill Killman, one of the biggest, meanest and craziest kids in the neighborhood, passing out at his first sight of Hank’s face, and cracking his head open on the foot of Hank’s hospital bed.  I have heard that story from enough sources to believe that it is probably true.

On another occasion I experienced an episode that could have gone bad but somehow didn’t.  Jeff Brained and I were fooling around with matches close to the wall of the garage behind his house.  Jeff lived in the middle house of the three that were tucked in between the church on the corner of 44th and Wightman and the Park.  When they build the Park, or the Highland and Landis Recreational Center as official types preferred to call it, they took out most of the houses on that block, and Jeff lived in one of the few that remained.

I don’t remember what we were burning; it could have been just about anything.  The problem was that we didn’t find a place to burn that was sufficiently far from the weeds which had grown up after the scanty rain of spring and summer, and were now a foot or more tall and dry as a bone.  Predictably, the fire got into the weeds and was soon spreading towards the garage and the alley behind it.

Jeff and I were not very different from most of the other kids that we knew; that is, a couple of tacos short of a combo plate.  But soon even we could see that the situation was getting entirely our of hand.  We began to try to stamp out the flames, but with zero success.  Then we tried to kick an area free of weeds between the fire and the garage and weed-choked alley (which did not run the entire length of the block, and was therefore little used and thick with weeds), but that too was a futile endeavor.

At this time something happened to me for the first, but not the last, time.  On occasions of extreme stress I would sometimes sort of lose touch with reality.  I would go onto some sort of auto pilot, and while I still functioned in a normal manner at those times I would simply lose the memory of what had transpired.  This happened once or twice again in my teens, a few times in Vietnam and a few times in the first years after I returned to San Diego and civilian life.  It’s weird, and it hasn’t happened again for a long time now, but it happened the first time in Jeff’s back yard.

I think that Jeff ran and got the garden hose while I continued to thrash away at the flames, but I don’t really know that for sure.  One moment I was imagining the garage and perhaps more than that going up in flames, and the next I was standing in a patch of blackened soil, the fire thoroughly out.  I know that I had kept stamping at the fire because my tennis shoes were sort of melted and my jeans were blackened and singed.  Beyond that I didn’t then and still don’t know what happened.  If I ever run into Jeff I’ll have to ask him.

The final story of this round of tales took place in my own back yard.  I was probably twelve years old and, as I often did, I had a small fire burning in the middle of our back yard.  Now, I may not have been the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but I knew how to keep a safe fire.  Well, my own back yard at least.  Anyway, I had a small fire going and I was sitting on a big chunk of wood and tending my blaze while I daydreamed of pleasant things.  I still do that, by the way.

At some point the sound of sirens from a fire engine broke into my consciousness, and I began to think of putting out my little fire and riding my bicycle to what certainly must be a bigger show.  I scanned the horizon for smoke but saw none, so I resumed paying attention to my fire and my daydreams.

The siren grew louder and at last I decided that something seriously exciting was happening nearby.  Once again I looked all around for smoke, and once again I found none.  Getting back to my fire and my daydreams however was now out of the question.  The sound of the siren grew until it seemed like it was very nearly on top of me.  There was a good reason for that; it very nearly WAS on top of me.

The siren was turned off and moments later three gigantic firemen in full uniforms, with boots and thick clothes and those big, wide-brimmed fireman helmets on top of huge heads with scowling faces, came thundering around the corner of the house, burst into my back yard, came to a dead stop, and then looked around for the fire.

The only fire was my little affair, hardly big enough to cook a hot dog over it.  I stood by the fire, stunned and stupefied, looking for all the world like I had no idea what was happening.  This, no doubt, was because in fact I had no idea what was happening.

“Where’s the fire” one of the firemen asked me.  I looked around, hoping that a neighbor’s house was burning.  Alas, all that I could see, besides every kid that I knew running from the Park and lining my back fence, pointing at me and beginning to laugh, was my little Boy Scout blaze.

Pointing at my weak flames, I told him “I guess that’s all the fire that there is around here.”

Fifty seven years after the fact I can still remember the look of disgust on the fireman’s face.  “Well” he said.  “We got called to put out a fire, so let’s put out a fire.”

They brought a hose into the yard; not one of those big canvas affairs, but rather a smaller rubber hose which nevertheless had a good deal of pressure.  The fireman pointed the brass nozzle at my fire, pulled a lever, and blasted my little blaze out of existence.

Later, when my mother got home from work, she quickly figured out that our next door neighbor was the party who ratted me out.  She was a little bit odd under the best of circumstances, and she virtually never operated under the best of circumstances.  She was certain that I would eventually burn the neighborhood down.  I suppose that I might have gotten a little ash on her laundry once or twice, so that didn’t help things much.  My brother was in the house at the time, and he said that she was looking out from a bedroom window as the firemen ran up our driveway.  He said that she had a smirk on her face.

Which brings me to the end of Part II of this account of my early love affair with fire.  In Part III I will share two or three more stories that revolved around fire, and then put the topic to rest.

The Cobra

We who work in the medical field know that we may deal with unpleasant realities on any given day.  People don’t usually come to the doctors’ offices or clinics or hospitals to prove that everything is right in their world.  In fact, most of the time the reverse is true.  As a result of this hard truth, we medical workers develop an odd sense of humor in order to deal with the stress, much in the same manner as law enforcement agents or military personnel or others doing those jobs that most people wouldn’t want to do.  Some call it ‘gallows humor,’ and I suppose that is as good a description of it as any other.

But underlying that humor, we medical workers remember that we’re working on flesh-and-blood people; people who have lives and histories, families and connections and, probably most important, simple human worth.  We will work like fiends possessed in order to snatch a patient back from the grip of death, and if death has just been dealt too strong a hand we will sometimes cry and pound our fist against a wall when The Reaper wins the table.

It is with all of that in mind that I will now share a story from my medical career of over forty years.  I have no intention of making light of a person’s health crisis, and will refrain from stating the patient in my story’s age, medical diagnosis (which I never knew anyway), location, or anything else that could possibly identify this person or cause harm or pain to him or any living relative or acquaintance.  This is meant simply as a bit of humor; the humor that I and many who do work like mine use in order to keep our sanity.

This story is entitled ‘The Cobra,’ and it is with reference to the spitting cobra that is found in Africa and Southeast Asia.  It began when I was called to perform an ultrasound study of the abdomen on a patient in the Intensive Care Unit at a hospital where I worked years ago.  As usual, I loaded gel and linen on top of my ultrasound machine and pushed it to the room where the patient lay.

Outside the door was a cart with gowns and masks and bonnets which are usually provided when the patient has some disease such as MRSA, Clostridium difficile, E. Coli, or any other such highly communicable disease.  As I was gowning up, the patient’s nurse came by and I asked her “What nasty bug am I protecting myself from today?”

“Oh” she replied.  “He doesn’t have any infectious disease that we know of.”

I looked at the cart and bright yellow gown that I was wearing and then asked the nurse “Then why am I wearing all of this?”

“He spits” she said.

“Pardon me?”

“The patient spits.  It’s a neurological thing.  We don’t even know if he’s aware that he’s doing it.  He isn’t aiming, as far as we can tell, and you’ll only get hit if you stray into his line of fire.  He just spits constantly, so this is for your protection.”

I had never heard of any such thing, and so with a mix of caution and doubt I pushed my machine into the patient’s room and set up to go to work on the right side of the bed.  I quickly sized up the situation.  The floor was indeed a swamp of spit.  His bedding had recently been changed, so there was only a general dampness to the sheets and blanket that covered him.  His head was turned to the left, so I plugged in my machine, pulled up my chair, lowered the blanket and raised his gown, and then began to scan according to my abdomen protocol.

“Left lobe of the liver; four pictures in the transverse plane, including the portal vein.  Now three views in sagittal, trying to capture the caudate lobe framed by the left lobe and the inferior vena cava.”

Just about as I snapped that last picture The Cobra, which name I gave to the patient as a part of the coping mechanism that I have explained above, began to slowly move his head from his left to his right, where I was sitting.  “Pffft!  Pffft!  Pffft!”  “Oh crud” I thought.  “They’re right!  He’s spitting and he’s turning toward me!”  

In Vietnam I had seen things coming my way; things that I had little or no ability to prevent.  In such circumstances I had to focus on survival, and so it was on this day.  “Think, Durden.  Think fast!”

The Cobra’s face passed the 90 degree mark and his liquid missiles were beginning to arc onto the right half of his bed.  My peril was undeniable and my reason nearly failed me.  At the last minute however inspiration broke through and took charge of the situation.

“Look” I said, pointing to the wall near the left side of his bed.  “What’s that?”

Gradually, by microscopic increments like slow motion on barbiturates, The Cobra’s head stopped its starboard progress and reversed course, and like a supertanker making a U-turn he began to roll his head to port in order to investigate whatever it was that I was pointing at, spitting all the while like a fireboat at a Fourth of July celebration.

I resumed my exam with a new sense of urgency.  Pancreas: Bam! Done!  Aorta: Bam! Done! Gallbladder: Well, sort of like a Bam!  Those things just take a little more time.  Then on to the right lobe of the liver, with many segments and structures, veins and ducts and such to evaluate.  The liver will slow you down, and time was not on my side.  Sure enough, before my last liver image was taken the fount of saliva began to once again track back to the right.  This time, however, I felt like I had a handle on the situation; it was that or I was cutting the exam short.

“Look” I said again, and with greater urgency this time, just in case he was catching on to me.  “What’s that?”  Again I pointed to the left and again, after almost getting my outstretched right hand spat upon, his head returned to a leftward arc, dousing that side of the bed, the floor, and the wall with a saliva rain.

Now I knew that I had this one in the bag.  I finished the liver and right kidney and began to shut down my machine.  This process didn’t take long and before The Cobra could turn to anoint the right side of the room I was outside, peeling off my isolation gear safe and dry and feeling pretty good about myself.

“How did you manage that?” asked a nurse as I snugly dropped my dry gown and gloves into the appropriate receptacle.

“Manage what?” I asked, being a confirmed and determined smartass.

“How did you stay dry?  Nobody else has done that.”

“Hey, no problem” I replied.  “Desperate times, desperate measures.  I used a decoy.”

I left the nurse scratching her head as I descended to our department to develop my film and show a pretty good study to the radiologist.

Walking the Dog

“Here I am, at the start of my hike up Dog Mountain. I got here at six thirty in the morning in order to beat the throng. I’m told that crowds begin to converge on this trail early, and the only way to get a parking spot at the trailhead is to beat the rush. It looks like I managed to do that. There’s a dozen or so cars here and all of them are empty. People must already be on the trail.

I guess I’ll get on the trail too. Rumor has it that it is a very difficult climb to the top of the mountain. There was one woman who said that it is not so bad as people say, but she’s an animal who could run to Albuquerque just to get a bowl of green chili stew and then run back before the evening rush hour, so I’m not putting to much stock by her description of it. Well, here goes.

 

Phew! It’s been only ‘up’ ever since the first step! And I really mean UP. The trail is not very wide and it is easily a forty five degree slope going up one side of it and a forty five degree downslope on the other. I have taken frequent rest stops, leaning on a walking stick that I made out of a young maple tree that was growing just across the backyard fence in my neighbor’s yard. He doesn’t care, and I hate having maples grow so close to my house. Their seeds and leaves clog my gutters, and the shade encourages moss growth on my roof. Yes, it serves much better as a walking stick; keeps me vertical when walking on the loose rock and helps me to propel myself forward and upward.

I was surprised by the number of people who passed me by. It’s not that I’m a mountain goat or anything like that. Heck, I’m 69 years old and I’m amazed that I’m this far up the hill in the first place. No, it’s the raw number of hikers that surprises me. Where do they all come from? Is anybody left in Portland or Vancouver? By ones and in groups they stream past me, and I step aside to let them pass. Actually, I appreciate the rest.

I haven’t gotten out of the trees yet, but I’ve found a wide spot in the trail where I can sit down on a log, drink some water, eat a handful of trail mix, and appreciate the fresh forest air and the silence. Well, sort of appreciate the silence. The tinnitus that sings constantly in my ears prevents me from enjoying true silence. I cannot hear the cars on Highway 14 far below me however, and if a train has chugged by on the tracks that run along the Columbia River, I didn’t hear it. Only the birds, the occasional rustlings of what I presume to be small animals in the undergrowth, and the breeze blowing through the trees which surround me make any noise at all. And those are soothing noises, so that’s all right with me.

I’ve seen some wood anemones growing among the vegetation between the trees. At least, that’s what I think they are. They’re delicate little white flowers. I’m told that there are many, many more flowers further up the trail. I think I’ll get up now and go have a look-see.

 

Oh, good Lord! This stinking trail really does just go up. The leg of the hike that I just finished was a longer version of the first one, but I’ve finally found a proper place to take a breather. I’ve come out of the trees and found a cluster of boulders on an open spur of the hillside. A young couple was leaving as I arrived, so I have a sweet little spot to sit on with a magnificent view of the river rolling to the west.

I’ve got no idea how high I am but I’m looking down at the tops of some hills, and a barge on the river looks pretty small. There is a train on the Oregon side of the river that looks like one of those really little model trains; what are they? I think they may be H O gauge. I don’t remember. But it’s really small.

My legs are burning pretty good, but it’s a nice burn. The quads, which I know is actually a group of four muscles in each thigh, have not worked like this for a very long time; not since before the heart attack and surgery that I had three years ago. I’m happy to have made it this far, and if it doesn’t get any worse I should make it to the top in pretty good shape. My hip joints can get a little balky sometimes, but so far so good.

There is a profusion of yellow flowers that completely surrounds me. They grow straight up the hillside behind me, and straight down the hillside in front of me. They are quite beautiful but I have to confess a bit of disappointment. Long ago my brother and I were traveling through Arizona in the springtime and we pulled off to the side of a very rural two lane road, literally somewhere south of the middle of nowhere, to sleep for the night.

When we woke up the next morning we found ourselves surrounded by a riot of flowers of all shapes and colors. It reminded me of the room that the river of chocolate flowed through in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. You know, Willy Wonka. The Gene Wilder version. I’ve never seen anything like that before or since. I kinda thought that I might see something like that here, but I didn’t.

Well, time to pick it up. I’ve chugged down some more water and trail mix, and a couple of chunks of bison for a little protein. My legs are still tired but I think I have a little more left in them. Here goes.

 

Oh, man. I’m whipped! The last leg was insane! Most of the grade was steep, as it has been since I first set foot on the trail, except for one section about two thirds of the way through it. That one was steeper. And there were no switchbacks on that leg. It was a beast, and that’s what I called it: The Beast. The damned thing just went up. And up. And up. There were a few trees growing next to the trail that I could lean against in order to let other hikers pass by, or simply because I couldn’t take another step without rest.

I thought several times about cashing in my chips on The Beast. I mean, I’m not trying to prove anything here. Or am I? I have to admit that there’s a little pride at work here. I really want to say that I’ve mastered Dog Mountain, and this may be my last chance to do it. But first I had to master The Beast, so I’d rest and walk, rest and walk, rest and walk.

About two hundred yards down the trail from where I now sit I broke out of the trees and onto a vast sweep of the mountainside that was thick with a carpet of the ubiquitous yellow flowers. I took one picture of the hillside that included a tree, for the vertical perspective, and the horizon for the horizontal. The angle is easy to see, and it’s mind blowing. I’m now seated on a chunk of concrete on another small level area. Someone said that the chunk was a remnant of a Forest Service observation platform, and I guess it probably was. But how on earth did they ever get the materials up here?

More water, more rest, more bison and trail mix. The view is positively stunning. I am well above many of the hills and mountains in the Columbia River Gorge and the river itself is a blue ribbon running far below me. The sun has climbed in the sky and has grown rather warm, and I’m glad for my hat with a broad brim and a flap down the back of the neck, and also for the big, poofy long-sleeved hippy shirt that a friend made for me. My skin has been damaged by the years that I spent trying to put a tan on skin that refused to be tanned. I don’t do that any more.

The breeze is very pleasant. It flows up from under my shirt and out through the open neck and the long poofy sleeves, cooling me down and helping me to prepare for what I’m told is the last leg before the summit. The worse is over, some of the other hikers say. I certainly hope so.

 

Ah, the top! Indeed, the last leg was easier than The Beast, and otherwise quite doable. The only problem was that I am nearly spent from my earlier exertions. Man, am I tired! But here I am, on a rather small knob on the top of Dog Mountain. The summit is jammed with people, many of whom look as if they have just been out for a Sunday stroll. That somehow just seems to be wrong. I’m pretty sure that I would be exhilarated if I wasn’t exhausted. But the view from up here is beyond belief, and also beyond my pathetic ability to describe it.

The top of a very good-sized hill adjacent to the River is seen far below me. The Wind River meanders through its valley on it’s way to join the Columbia several miles to the west. You can feel the elevation, see almost all the way to Portland, over fifty miles away, and smell only the clean air blowing either up or down the Gorge. It’s hard to say exactly which way it’s blowing because of the swirls and eddies it makes as it curls around hills and mountains and bends in the mighty Gorge.

The best part of this has been that I have not experienced one iota of chest pain, and no more shortness of breath than one would expect for any other sixty-nine year old. Or a thirty-nine year old, for that matter. I’ve put my rebuilt ticker to the test, and it looks like my surgeon’s work is holding up just fine. I don’t take that for granted. Not one little bit. God and Dr. Martin have given me a few more years to run at peak performance. I’m thankful to both and determined to make the most of it.

 

Hah! Back at the trailhead. I’ve just made a seamless push to get from the peak to the parking lot, and at last I’m here. Downhill is almost as demanding as uphill. Almost. In fact, it can be more hazardous. I slipped in one pile of loose rock and fell right on my tush. I could feel my hip begin to tighten up immediately, and that made me nervous. It loosened up however, and the trip down was somewhat easier than the one up. The path back down is longer than the one that I took up, so the grade was easier, and that was a bonus as I see it.

And now it’s time to drive home, although a beer and a burger in Stevenson sounds good too. I may be sore as the dickens tomorrow but I won’t really care. From this day forward I will be able to truthfully say that I walked the Dog, and that makes it all worth it.