Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Holdem for the wall

Monday used to be my day off. Back in the truck stop days, it was kind of a special day for both Judy and I as I would have the day off and the kids would be in school. It was also the quietest day at that location.

But, things changed when we moved out to the new location. First off, the day became busier as to our location to local medical facilities. People would go to their doctor fasting and afterwards come to the diner to fill back up. Judy and I knew the crew was strong enough to handle this and initially kept up same as before making it our one day off together.

This did not change much when I started playing poker for Habitat for Humanity in the evenings as the day was pretty much over when I headed in for the games.

Then came the Band of Brothers. One of them contacted me asking if they could come in and use our back room for their lunch. I came in that first day and greeted this man who had brought these guys in. They seemed like a nice bunch of guys and I was pleasantly surprised when they asked to come back in the next week. I knew that they had moved from place to place and just figured that was what they wanted to do having read their article in the paper.

Then they asked to come in for the month and I began to think that it could be a bit more permanent. My friend, Dave Pica, then asked if we would mind if they made it more permanent. He also invited me to join them as I was a veteran myself. He was a Marine and asked me where my Navy hat was. I smiled and said I didn't have one. The next week, he had one in his hand and gave it to me. As I placed it on my head, I saw something on the bill above my eyes. I took it off and looked at a Marine sticker that he had placed under the bill. A laughing Dave said, "Now every time you look up, you will see the Marines.".

Dave had cancer and soon was to weak to come to the meetings and all to fast left us. By then, he was near and dear to my heart and that hat still sits on my desk, the sticker still attached to the bottom of the bill. Dave's picture and Marine certificate still grace the walls of that initial room that the brothers began to meet.

Now, Mondays are the busiest and longest days of my week.

I started off around 8 AM and had a bite to eat as I talked with Jim of the weekend and events that we had coming up. Trin had come with me and we left for a quick trip to Walmart as she needed some things there. Upon return, I quickly began moving things around to facilitate the move the main floor diners to the back room. Right at 10, the back room quickly filled up and Judy and I moved fast to assist the two waitresses who were now serving on both floors. We soon had to set up a sheet for people waiting to find a seat. One of our regulars noticed some friends sitting at the big table and joined them helping us keep the flow going.

As this happened the brothers began to spill into the main floor and find themselves seats and I set up the microphone for Zin's announcements. Before we knew it, it was 11 and as we worked to get orders out of the window and to the back tables as quickly as possible, I could hear the pledge of allegiance going on marking the start of the brothers lunch.

Soon things there were going strong and the line for the buffet was going around the room. Jim manned the serving while Judy and I assisted Cindy in covering the room and the same with the other two girls, Mary and Penny who were serving in the back room now. The time seemed to fly by quickly as we poured coffee, sorted and set up dishes to be served, and served dishes to tables when the waitresses were busy with others.

It was soon time for announcements and I was called back out on the floor to assist Zin with his many announcements of coming events. I put on the POW/MIA coat that was to be the first prize in evenings poker tourney for the traveling Vietnam wall and showed it off hoping to talk more guys into showing up and playing. I remember telling them that I hoped to have 30 players and thus make $300.

The back room settled and Judy and I both rested against the wall as the announcements were finished and the drawing for the weekly 50/50 was announced marking the end of the weekly event. We then talked with various brothers while we broke back down the room and made ready for the return of the customers to it. By 1PM, we were pretty much ready and invited customers coming in the door to come on in to our main floor while remnants of the brothers still sat around with their last cups of coffee.

Shortly, we had everything done and Judy and I left to go back to the house. On Sunday, we had bought some trees from Bimart and wanted to get them in the ground before the rain hit. By the time we got the holes dug and the trees planted, it was time for me to run down to get Jay after school.

We stopped by his house for his Lacrosse gear and then onto the diner to get the back room ready for the nights big poker event. While I was driving, KTVZ called and asked if they could join us for the evenings event. She asked me if she could interview me and I told her that I hoped to have an official member of the group that was bringing the wall to the area there. I gave her Susan Free's name and laughed as I volunteered Susan for the interview knowing that she had never been on TV before. "I got her on radio for the first time last week and she did great there.", I told the woman. I told her that I was sure that Susan could do it but if it didn't work out, I would gladly give her her interview sound bites.

I then called Susan to warn her so that she would not be overwhelmed by the situation. and shortly after Jay and I arrived at the diner so did Susan and our VVA rep, Robert who was there to make sure that the event was legal. For it to be legal, we must have a non profit organization to head the event up.

Before I knew it, it was time to take Jay to his practice and I realized I was not going to have time to eat a proper supper and I laughed at myself as I fixed yet another cold cheese sandwich as I ran out the door. I laughed because I had done the same thing earlier at lunch time. It is kind of a standing joke for me and meals lately. Either I am to busy and they sit in the window for a while before they are eaten or I am grabbing a couple of slices of cheese and putting it between a folded over slice of sour dough and running out the door. Christy, our head line cook is always teasing me there. "You own a restaurant and you hire us to cook and then you eat a cold cheese sandwich!", she laughs.

Upon arriving back from dropping off Jay it was, last minute things were set up and I instructed Susan on how to do the chips while Robert began to sign up people and take their money. KTVZ arrived and I introduced her to Susan and helped her find a place in front of the sign to interview as we finished off all the last minute details. I worried as not that many people were there and we were only 30 minutes away from the start.

I jumped out on the main floor and helped Terry and Chris serve our dinner customers and some of the early arrivals then I paid my $10, grabbed my chips and found a spot where I felt that I could play and assist with the chips if needed. Just before the start and as the TV interviewed Robert, I announced that a couple of us would be leaving for a funeral of a friend in the middle of the tourney. "If we are lucky enough to still be in it, you can just push our blinds in while we are gone and we will play with what we have left upon return.".

As we began to play, the lady from KTVZ moved around the room taping our playing and fun. I was between a couple of our regular players, with Ray, one of our better players to my right. I had some lucky early hands and had plenty of chips by the time the first time the blinds were ready to go up. Ray went all in and lost allowing him to rebuy another stack of chips. We allow that in the first fifteen minutes of the game to sort of spice up the game and make it more fun.

Zin and I had planned to leave for Ray's funeral at around 7:45 hoping to be at the event for the military honors part right after the mass. By 7:30, I had a healthy stack of chips and looked pretty strong. I didn't know how long it was going to take us away from the event so I figured that I would play loose and one of two things would happen. Either I would go out or I would have a stack large enough to last till I returned. After the first hand, I took two other players out and dramatically increased my stack. The second saw me loose half of the stack and I watched as the time grew closer. With a strong Ace 10 suited in my pocket, I pushed all in. Mike, who was to my left called me and flipped over two queens. Without picking up another Ace, I was soon out, grabbed a candy bar and shot out the door with Zin.

We arrived at the funeral just as the casket was being rolled outside for the military honors. We quickly parked the car and joined our other brothers as we solemnly watched our brother be wheeled out in front of us. As the leader of the honor guard, fellow veteran Bob Cusack, called the guard to attention, we snapped to a salute as the guns were fired and taps was called. Tears welled in my eyes as we said our official good bye to our brother and my friend, Ray Harmon.

Before leaving, we stopped and talked to Ray's oldest daughter asking her to come to one of the Band of Brother meetings so that we could present the family with some things. I gave her my card so that she could inform us of which meeting one of the family members could make.

As we drove back to the diner, Frank began texting me pictures of the winners on the final table as they held up their prizes. By the time we arrived, their were only three players left. Soon, it was heads up and Mike (the same one who had taken all of my chips), walked away with the win and the jacket.

Some of the guys stayed behind to help me reset up the tables for the next day and shortly after 9PM, I was locking up my office and heading home. Another long and busy Monday behind me, My eyes closed quickly as my head hit the pillow and for a change, I slept the entire night...surely a sign of exhaustion or a complete and profitable Monday with us raising just over the targeted $300.

I guess you might say just another Monday.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Sigh....As I stood in the crowd at my old friend, Earl Depue's funeral on Monday, I thought of that old adage that is often said of how things like this happen in threes. I began to wonder if that was true, who might the third be. It took less than a day to find out.

I was called by my buddy, Zin, yesterday with the third and it hit hard. His name was Ray Harmon. Zin and I had just visited him the week before. He was in the senior home off of Division street. We were directed to Ray in room 1. As Zin and I walked in, Ray was laying back on his bed. He didn't look to bad except that he had lost a bit of weight. When he talked, however, he still had that boom in his voice. He was one of those men who when he talked the bass in his voice amplified making his presence more commanding.

Our initial conversation went something like this:

Zin: Hey Ray, my man, what are you doing.

Ray (smiling as he sees his two friends): Hell, I don't know.

Me: Don't you want to be here, buddy? (Stupid question)

Ray: I want to go home, Lyle.

He went on to explain that they had sent him here since they felt they could not help him any further in the hospital but felt he still needed supervision. We chatted and joked with our dear friend and shook his hand as we left with the knowledge that he was truly missed at the Band of Brothers meetings.

I am not sure if I recall our first meetings. I know that I took an immediate liking to him as you can tell genuine and Ray was surely that. He always had a smile and a shake from that huge hand. He was easily a favorite of both Judy and I.

The longest conversation that I recall having with him was in the clinic as Judy was in the doctors office while Ray and I sat in the waiting room. He was there because every time he stood, he got dizzy. This never stopped and only got worse. Whatever the cause was probably what finally took him.

He was one of those guys who you just felt at ease with, who was easy to talk to, and I can still hear that booming bass voice resonating in my ears:

"I want to go home, Lyle".

Ray has gone home ...and I really miss him.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


I know most of you read this blog to see my perspective of life inside the restaurant. But, for me, I began writing this as a diary of sorts. If you want to know me, reading my musings can often give you a perspective of my life and things and people that affect it.

Earl Depue was one of those people. A little over two years ago, I went to the funeral of his wife, Dorthy and wrote of that experience. I wrote that in the middle of the night and now, I find myself laying in bed, thinking of him so I decided to get up and collect those thoughts.

As a youth, I was afraid of Earl. I thought he was one of the toughest guys around. I remember well going to church after coming back home to Central Oregon in the early 80's. I was shocked to see Earl sitting in the pews. I remember thinking how strong a woman Dorthy must have been to get him there.

Later, as we opened the diner, he began stopping by while coming into Bend for medical appointments for him and Dorthy. He would ask me to sit down and in our conversations, I began to learn his heart. I truly enjoyed those conversations and looked forward to seeing him. He was still tough but he cared, was proud of his family, and deeply loved Dorthy.

As the years went on, it became harder for him to stop and I saw less of him. I think I only recall one time in the new building and that was before Dorthy's death in 2008.

I was walking though a quiet diner just last Sunday afternoon after I had shut it down. As I walked through, memories of times and people rushed through my head. I looked at pictures and noticed things that brought back memories of specific people. And now, when I look at our dark table tops in the back room (the same tops from when Jake first opened back in 1976) and see the dark brown coffee cup sitting on them, he will be one of those memories For it was sitting at one of those tables and talking over a cup of coffee that I remember him the most.

Friday, April 16, 2010


His name was Richard. Some of the girls called him Mr. Poole. But over the last few months, he has become a regular fixture at the end of the counter every morning. You would often find him there laughing with the group or arguing over some trivial piece of news or politics.

I remember when he first started coming in. He had a bit of mean look about him, a sort of protective crust. Now some of my waitresses are pretty good at seeing through those salty exteriors and realizing there is a heart beating underneath. They become a challenge to them. Dick was one of those challenges. I remember one of them taking me over and introducing me to him. Before she brought me to the table, she asked me to invite him to the Band of Brothers meeting on Monday. "I think that is just what this guy needs", she told me.

I invited Dick and sure enough, he showed up that next Monday morning. And just about every Monday ever since. He bought a coffee cup to keep the price of the coffee down on his visits and Cindy put his last name on the side of it. He would often forget and leave his cup there and the girls would wash it out and put it to the side for him. This little act of kindness soon grew into a firestorm and before I knew it, many of the brothers were getting their names put on the sides of their cups and were hanging them on cup hooks that one of them had brought in and asked me if they could put up on one of the walls in the back room. At first, I didn't like the idea but I was talked into it with a simple, "Come on, it's for the's for your brothers".

A group of the brothers began helping Dick out. There were two main things that he needed. First was medical care. Dick had breathing problems. The second was housing. He was staying with his son who was out of work and he worried that he was causing him too much of a hardship. Some of the guys walked him through the steps to get him medical while others, including myself worked to garner ideas for his housing. He had recently applied at a local retirement home and had them send a reference to me since he did not know that many people here. I filled out the form and sent it off just last week.

The last few weeks, Dick had been struggling with his health. I would ask him how he was and he would tell me not to great. He shared of his struggle to breath at times. It reminded me of another old friend a couple of years back just prior to his moving on and I recall musing after he had left the meeting early one Monday wondering if we were going to have him around much longer.

He was all smiles at the counter on Wednesday morning. He did not look good but he had not been looking great the last week or so. But he was happy and wished to inform us all that he had secured a room and was to move in this coming weekend. Judy noticed him gasping a bit and asked him if he was OK. He smiled and said, "Not great", but he was happy that he had finally found a home. The news had lifted him enough that even in his weakened state, he was happily bantering with the rest of the guys on the counter. Little did I know that that was the last time we would see him.

He asked his family that if anything happened to him to please inform his friends at Jake's so we received the call yesterday that they had found him that morning and he had passed on some time the night before.

I will miss the brightly decorated car that proudly stated he was a Marine. I will miss seeing that stooped over body walking through the door. I will miss the bright red Marine jacket and gnarly hat. I will miss the big smile and the banter with the boys.

Goodbye brother.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Coming Home

I remember well the two times our ship pulled into San Diego after an extended WestPac tour. The first time, in 1973, while we had been gone for just over 9 months, we had really not done anything major. We had made deliveries in Japan, Korea, Guam, Okinawa, and the Philippines and visited some pretty cool ports of call but all were just business as usual. While the war raged in Vietnam, nothing was needed and we remained on a stand bye status the entire time.

In 1973, when we pulled into the harbor, there were various signs along the way showing they knew we were coming, I believe something was hanging from the Coronado bridge, and the pier was loaded with people, flags, and a band. I remember the welcome feeling that I felt even though none of those people were there for me.

Fast forward just two years. It was 1975 and our ship had just played major parts in the evacuation of civilians and the pull out of Saigon. All hands on board were proud of our part albeit small and we had even won a couple of awards that were proudly displayed on the side of the ship's stack.

But this time, as we floated into the harbor, no signs were displayed, no flags were unfurled, and when we arrived at the pier, no band and just a few relatives were standing their waiting for us. It was business as usual and I remember the empty pit that it left in my belly. We felt like no one cared. Now, we got over it quickly and went about our business enjoying the fact that we were home.

Next week, we have troops coming home here. I remember well the send off at Mt View High School even though our Governor did not do his part so well. Now it is time for us to welcome them home and an opportunity for us here in Central Oregon to show them how much we appreciate them and their service.

The following PSA says it all. I know that the people of Central Oregon will step up to the plate and show them how much we love them and are thankful for their sacrifices. I know that I will be there:

The community is invited to participate in celebrating the arrival of Oregon Army National Guard soldiers – 41 Infantry Brigade Combat Team to our area on Sunday April 18.

"This is an opportunity for Central Oregonians to show their appreciation and line the streets with "Welcome Home!" signs and wave to the 350 soldiers being transported by buses from Ft. Lewis, WA," stated Rabbine Harpell, Bend resident and organizer.

The soldiers will be reunited with families at a Demobilization Ceremony scheduled at the Vince Genna Stadium at 1pm.

The community is also invited to attend the Demob ceremony and Change of Command 1-82 Cavalry presented by Governor Theodore R. Kulongoski and Major General Raymond F. Rees, The Adjutant General Oregon.

Organizers are spreading the word through phone trees and e-mails to schools, businesses, and organizations inviting everyone to display flags and banners and to gather on Main Street in Sisters at 9:45 am and on Wall Street in downtown Bend at 10:15 am to show an outpouring of well wishes and support to the soldiers as they drive by.

The Sisters VFW and American Legion Posts will be lining Cascade Avenue with American flags on Saturday morning April 17, to begin the weekend recognition of the soldiers return. The City of Bend will post the Bend Parade of flags in downtown along Newport Bridge, Wall Street and Bond Street in their honor.

"Camp Fire USA kids are very excited. They are putting all their heart and love into making signs to thank and welcome home our troops," said Trisa Lovejoy, CampFire USA Group Leader. Signs will be carried by the children as they wave to the bus loads of soldiers traveling through Sisters and Bend.

The Oregon Army National Guard soldiers represent the nearly 2,700 troops with the 41 IBCT who have spent the last year in Iraq conducting missions such as convoy security, force protection, and assisting with the developing infrastructure.

Date: April 18 -
Map of Bus Route From Ft. Lewis WA- SANTIAM PASS - I-5 South to Salem (173 mi)• Take exit 253 for OR-22 E towards Detroit Lake/Bend (80.3 mi) Continue onto OR-126/US-20 E (47.2 mi)•
ETA - ARRIVAL IN BEND – 10:30 am•
Remain on 20/ HWY 97 S
DOWNTOWN BEND• Turn right at NE Greenwood Ave•
Turn left at NW Wall St•
Turn left at NW Arizona Ave
MOVEMENT TO STADIUM• Continue on NW Arizona Ave•
Turn right at NW Hill St 0.1 mi– (State HWY 372)–
Proceed under underpass•
Continue onto NE Scott St, 0.2 mi•
Continue onto SE 2nd St, 0.4 mi– (slight right)•
Turn left at SE Wilson Ave, 0.3 mi–
Cross HWY 97 Business•
Turn right onto SE 5th St
Turn right on SE 5th St
1-82 CAVALRYSUNDAY APRIL 18, 2010 1:00 PM

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Sailor

I received a call this morning from a lady who is going to interview my father for his service in WW2 and place the interview in the archives in Washington DC for access later from someone who might want to find out first hand from the people who had actually been there. She asked me if there were any stories that I remembered regarding his time that he might have shared with me. It brought back a memory of a story that I had written about him. The time of writing the story was shortly after the 9/11 attacks. I looked up the story and sent it to her but it made me think that others might want to read it also so I am posting it here as I often do for some of those stories that I have previously written. I submit it in it's entirety:

The Sailor

The morning was warm, the sky was clear and I can almost imagine the birds chirping in the trees as the young sailors mustered for their march to the pier at Mare Island in California that day. The young men were waiting to find out what ship they would be assigned to and fighting on in the monumental battle with the Japanese in World War II.

A young soldier from Central Oregon was in the group. He knew well of the two cruisers that were waiting in the dry docks for the crews that were being assembled. He had first seen them in his Blue Jackets manual in boot camp. He had wanted to be on one of them (the USS Portland) ever since that first day that he had laid eyes on them. Feeling that if must have been named after Portland Oregon, he felt that it would make him feel more at home.

As the Boatswain Mate marched them to where they would be chosen, he whispered over and over, “Please put me on the Portland!”. He wasn’t aware of whether or not he was being heard and found himself right in the middle of the formation as it assembled on the pier. Only one sailor stood between him and the line of separation that was drawn between what became two groups.

I can almost imagine him holding his breath and the sigh that came forward as he discovered that his side was to go on the Portland. He joined the Portland and was involved in many battles from the Aleutians to the Philippians to Okinawa. The ship served its country bravely during those campaigns. But the real story of the war was to be the other ship, The USS Indianapolis.

The Indianapolis was the ship that delivered the bomb that was to stop the war. In secrecy, the US sent the Indi with its precious cargo and after it had delivered its package, sent it back alone to return to the fleet. On it’s way; the Indi was sunk by a Japanese sub. Of the 1200 sailors on board, 800 survived the sinking and only 300 survived the sharks that picked them apart one by one in the warm ocean waters.

Now this story has special meaning to me because that young man was my father and even if he had survived the sinking, he could not swim. So, it is easy to say, that one sailor stood between him and certain death. And with that death, I would never have been born.

That story has also taken on extra meaning in the light of our recent events. Stories pour out of New York of people that were in the right place and others who were in the wrong. We struggle with how bad things can happen to some and not to others. We all realize as it strikes closer to home that evil and bad things can happen to any of us at any time.

We have been comfortable so long that we feel that it can not happen to us and when it does comes close to us, it shakes our very foundations and we realize that nothing that we have or nothing that we own is safe except one thing. And that one thing is God’s love. In Romans, the Bible states:
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

The days ahead are loaded with much uncertainty and at the same time, great opportunity. It is up to us to choose how we will react to both. May God’s peace be with you all.