Sunday, May 29, 2011

Happy Memorial Day Weekend

The weekend definitely started off with a bang. Inclimate weather seems to always bring them out but a baseball jamboree didn't hurt much. Starting early, the flow was steady to strong most of the morning and not stopping until around 1 to 2 in the afternoon.

It was one of those days that you love and hate all at the same time. You love because it is the day that the bills are paid. You hate because of the physical wear that it brings. That and there are always problems that need to be solved on the fly. And today was no different.

At one time, I was cleaning up a mess in the back room trying to make way for yet another large party when one of the cooks stuck his head out of the kitchen and yelled, "Lyle, can you help clear out the pass bar?".

The pass bar was so full of dishes that they were beginning to stack them on the corners of one another. I grabbed tickets and began to sort out the various dishes to the respective wait staff. One of our better girls was off for the weekend and with the back room being used so much, it seemed to throw off the flow a bit. When there are so many tickets up, it is always a chore to match the tickets with the orders. Which omelette is which? Do you need to sauce a dish or add gravy to the hash browns? Is the toast ready? Where is that server? It is almost like putting together a puzzle.

While I am working, one server sticks their head in and asks for a smoothie to be made. Another asks for a special price. Yet another says they are going outside for a smoke...."No, not until this is all done!". The cooks have it in high gear and are filling up the pass bar just about as fast as I am clearing it out. "I just put that order in!", one of the servers complained. I can feel the sweat on my brow as I work to clear up this log jam.

I am just about to the clearing when the new cashier comes up. He is visibly shaken and tries to explain his problem. I quickly grab him and head back up to the cashier station. He is confused over a gift certificate issue and has not paid a customer enough change. I quickly assess the situation and hand the man a five. He smiles and thanks me, heading out the door. I look up and notice that the line now is very long and since the new cashier seems a bit stressed, I take over and give him a break.

Once again, just like in the pass bar area, there is one problem after another to solve. I can see why this has flustered him. Cards not running properly, people wanting to pay for only parts of the ticket leaving me to work out who owes what. People wanting to pay for part on credit card and other parts with cash. While others are confused over charges on their ticket. Some towards the back of the line seem to be grumbling a bit over the length of the line. I understand that as when you are finished eating, you just want to leave.

One man asks me quite a few questions as I ring him up. I realize from his questions that he is new so I ask him if it is his first time. "Yes, it is!", he says, "My cardiologist recommended you. He said the food was awesome but then after he said that, he said that maybe he should not let me know about this place because their are so many good things on the menu that I should not be eating.". I told him that we could always make his meal cardiac friendly. "Heck no!", he says, "That would ruin the flavor.". So I asked him what he thought about his first time. "You know, I have always looked up here at this building coming out of Costco and have wondered about it. I am so glad that I came. I loved it! You know, I watched one of the California Omelettes go by as I was eating. I can't wait till the next time so I can try one of those out!".

As I worked, I mused over the fact that he cardiologist had recommended us. I recalled back last year when I picked up my buddy, Frank, after his colonoscopy (sp). I was sitting in the corner of his room as he was waiting for the doctor to release him. The doc walked in and announced, "You are good to go on down to Jake's and fill back up again on one of their delicious meals.". He seemed shocked as Frank introduced me to him and I thanked him for the referral. "I love your food.", he said.

Between busing, seating, pouring coffee, cleaning up messes, talking to people, making coffee, directing people, making decisions, sorting out food, and taking out orders; the morning seemed to fly by and soon Trinity showed up to do some work in the office. She asked if I wanted to share a sandwich for lunch. I was so exhausted that I was not hungry but I knew that I needed to eat. I stopped for a second and wolfed down a half sandwich realizing that I was more hungry than my brain was telling me.

I was just about to head to the bank to drop the deposit and get some change when I was informed that we were almost out of salsa. That is a needed component of many breakfast dishes and I know we will not be getting a delivery until at least Monday so I head out to the local wholesale grocer to pick some up.

On the way back, Trin calls me in tears. "Harry had heart attack.", she says. My first question is did he make it. She answers that he is in the hospital and is in the same room as Gene was in the week before. Gene was Harry's best friend who passed away and we held his service in the diner.

I headed straight up to the hospital and arrived at his room not to far behind his family. I stepped into the room and just watched as they stood around his bed. His son looked over and saw me. He said, "Well look who showed up.". Harry's wife, Joanne gave me a big hug and thanked me for coming over. We all stood around Harry's bed as he told the story of what had happened. He had been offloading hay and had just finished and gone in the house when he felt pain in his chest. He said he then got cold sweats and so he sat down and called 911. He was so fortunate that he called as the heart attack was a large one and the paramedics rushed him into the hospital. Honestly, he was about the last person that I would expect to see in that situation. Harry always watches what he eats and stays so slim and trim.

I excused myself knowing that this was time that he needed to be with his family and headed home myself. I looked out at a yard that was getting kind of long and knowing that I might not be able to get to it next week, grabbed the mower and did my home chores. As I took off my shoes afterwards, I felt the tiredness creeping up on me. I knew that I might be needed for supper as we were one person short. Ricci had said that their would be no problem as Memorial Day weekend Saturday evenings are traditionally slow.

I layed down on the couch for just a second and was woken up an hour later staring into the panting face of a small fluffy Mia. Her two paws up on the side of the couch, she was looking at me with a worried look on her face. When she saw my eyes open up, she quickly gave me a lick, and scooted out of the room. My watch told me that it was time to get my shoes back on and head back to the diner.

Like Ricci had said, the diner was slow and so I ordered up supper, a couple of prime rib tacos. I made sure to tell Ricci that she was right and I was wrong before I headed out. I stopped at Safeway and picked up a movie before arriving home and once again slipping out of my shoes. Judy joined me and with my feet up, I began enjoying a nice movie at the end of the day. day was not ended. A buzz of my phone sent me a text message from Trin. "Help! We need you back here.". I called and she informed me that they were slammed. "We are putting people in the back room.", she said. "Don't put any more back there." I told her.

I arrived to find another group of approx 10 heading back into the back room. There were tables up front but they were all dirty. I quickly went to work, filling up four buss tubs as I cleared off the tables that were soon sitting with yet more customers. One man stepped in the door and announced, "I hear your prime rib is awesome. I hope you are not out of it yet.".

I stopped Ricci and made her tell me that I was right and she wrong and we all worked to get the evening supper under control. My time was spent similar to the morning but different in that the crew was smaller making some of the problems even more acute. As the crowd began to thin, I found myself up at the register. I asked one lady how her meal was and she said, "ok". "OK scares me.", I returned. "What was wrong.". She then began to tell me that one of her burgers was a bit burnt. I asked her if she ate it and she said, "Of course, I was hungry.". I took some money off and she thanked me informing me that she had once owned a restaurant on the coast. As she put the tip on the charge slip, I wondered just how true that statement was when she gave the server around a 4% tip. If she had indeed owned a restaurant, she would know that the government makes the waitress pay taxes on at least 8%.

I checked with the girls later on that table and we quickly surmised that they just wanted a discounted ticket. They had stopped by many times and were told that everything was great. I helped them buss the table where the dishes looked as if they were almost licked clean.

With the evening shift under control, I left around 8:30 and headed home. Judy had finished the movie so I started watching it alone. I dozed on and off but caught most of the good parts of the movie waking up with some of the more startling parts. I then pulled myself to bed. I lay thinking back on the day and was very soon out like a light.

Four hours later, however, the light came back on. And here I am typing out my day. Maybe I should lay my head back down. After all, in a few short hours, this will start all over again. At least today, we close at 3.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Ocean

I go there nearly every quarter. It is my place to go for a break. There are many reasons that I like it there but the most is the relaxing powers of the ocean itself. We always get a place right on the beach, open up the windows, and let the ocean itself lull us to rest and sleep in a sort of Sense R Round. It is where I sleep the best and deepest.

First is the air, cleared by miles and miles of open ocean. No dust and dry particles as it creates a sort of natural humidifier.

But it is that sound. One that cannot be duplicated by any fancy sound device. I agree that some of our newer Surround Sounds can come close but nothing matches the real thing. It is like a huge choir backed by an even bigger orchestra.

When I am there, I often think of August Rush. I hear so much in those sounds and they seem to lift me, wrap me in their big arms, and rock me to sleep.

When I was there recently, I slept all of the night through. Well, at least most of the night. We had Mia with us. I would awake to two small paws on each side of my ear and a wet tongue licking me. "Mia, do you need to go outside?", I would ask. The reply was jumping up on top of me, looking down, and groaning. It is funny, she is Judy's dog except in the middle of the night.

But, shortly after we had gone out so she could do her business, I was back in the arms of the ocean. If we ever retire there, we need to find a place close enough to hear her.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Service

I awoke in the morning with a sort of revelation in my head. Earlier on in the week, I had been called and informed of the passing of my friend, Gene. I was asked if they could use the back room for his service. Then, on Thursday, I was shown where that was put in the paper. I realized that the back room was not going to be able to handle a group the size that I expected. We would need to turn over the front room to them.

Lots of thoughts began to flow through my mind as I processed all of the problems involved in doing such a thing. I also weighed the pros and cons with the pros far outweighing the cons. After all, the main room was where Gene usually went. The day was suppose to be warm leaving the deck as a good option and if we used the back room, no one would be able to go out there anyway.

I hit the ground running as soon as I arrived at work. How to set up the room. Who to get to transfer the regular customers to the back room as they all arrived. Gerome from the funeral home called and I was happy to hear his voice knowing that the service would go off well under his guidance and care.

By 10, I was going strong with things happening all around me, needing my attention. It was one of those moments when everything seemed to be happening at the same time. I knew that I needed to just relax and go into my zone, handling the problems as they came in front of me. Sort of using the multi directional thinking that I had taught myself years ago to handle what others might call multi-tasking.

Lunch came soon and I sat down at the counter with a friend. It was just like I would do with Gene from time to time and it made me pause a bit in the experience to take more time to take in the moment. This man next to me was very close just like Gene was and I realize that one day, it may be him going away also. I tried to focus on the moment but soon realized that his hearing aid was not allowing him to hear me very well, so I just moved back a bit knowing that just sitting there eating with him was a form of communication of it's own.

At 1, we began turning over the floor to the coming service, moving new customers into the back room, and cleaning off the coffee counter for a place to set up the food for the event. I moved the lectern behind the counter where the Band of Brothers usually set up and plugged in the amplifier and microphone. Gerome was to show up around 1:30 to make sure that his part was ready to go.

I was out running an errand, when the diner called me. Gerome was there but there was a problem. He had been in an accident and needed to just drop off his stuff and head to the hospital. I quickly handled my errand and returned to the diner. The priest was at the door greeting people who had arrived for the service and I took him to the side for a second to discuss the plans. He told me that he would open the time with a small talk and then he was suppose to turn over the mic to Gene's friend, Harry. There was a problem, however, in that Harry had just called and was home sick. I quickly agreed to take the mic and say a few words about my old friend and then turn it over to anyone who wished to say something about Gene. I realized that without Gerome and without Harry, I was pretty much on my own now. I was going to be officiating the service. There was no time to prepare and no time to stress, it was just happening.
I remembered the story that I had written a few days ago about him and quickly printed off a copy intending to use it as a sort of notes as my mind was so preoccupied that I really wasn't sure what I was going to say. I soon realized that just reading the story would probably be the best thing to do so I folded it up and placed it in my back pocket.

2 PM came and people were still coming in the door so we waited until we felt most had arrived. I looked over the floor and was glad that we had made the decision to move to the main floor. A quick assessment showed me a count of over 60 friends and family. I noticed many of his counter buddies sitting around the floor with other employees who had been very fond of Gene.

Around 2:15, I told the priest that we should get started and turned on the mic for him. The acoustics on our main floor are not the best and when the floor is full, the din of conversation noise can make it hard for a speaker to get the rooms attention. I also noticed that the plants in the middle of the floor, kept some from seeing the speaker. I moved the plants as the priest struggled to get their undivided attention.

He did a great job, comforting the family and speaking of his own knowledge of Gene. After a prayer, he turned the mic over to me and invited others to follow me with their thoughts and remembrances of the man we were honoring.
I introduced myself and showed them our memorial for Gene that we had set up. We had taken all of the chairs away from the counter except one. We had then placed a setting for Gene. Behind the setting, we placed a picture of him. To me, it was if Gene were right there with us.
I then read the story. I wasn't sure just how it would be taken but small laughter and nodding of heads soon made me realize that what I was saying was being regarded OK. After the reading, I turned the mic over to others who might want to say a remembrance or something. I noticed a friend, Ken, looking like he wanted to say something but just not sure. I encouraged him but did not want to embarrass him so I stepped back and waited.

The silence was deafening. I turned to the priest and whispered to him of the awkwardness of the lack of any noise. He said that sometimes people want to say something but they just don't feel comfortable. So, I went back to the mic and asked once more if there were any thoughts that someone might want to say. I also told them that I understood if they did not feel comfortable, that we could just contemplate of our times with him.
All it took was one. Then it was if the flood gates had opened. I tried to keep in my head who had raised their hands and his friends and family, one after another began to unfold a story of it's own. The most touching was his grand daughter who actually came up and used the mic. She struggled with emotions but her words were well placed. Story after story were spoken and I realized that many of them were being spoken to me. I was musing on that thought, realizing that by speaking to me, they were relieving their fears of speaking to the crowd. As I listened, Judy whispered in my ear that someone had arrived with Gene's ashes. I didn't know what to do, so I had her tell the priest knowing that I needed to keep my focus on listening so that the person speaking was kept comfortable.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that he had placed the urn at the memorial that we had set up for Gene at the counter. The thought of that hit me hard at first as it was as if Gene was right there with us. I looked around the room and noticed that it was affecting others in the same way with tears beginning to flow on some of their faces.

As I listened to memory after memory, I was reminded of a message that I had gotten earlier in the day from an old friend. This friend had recently lost her sister to cancer. She told me of the profound and extreme gift of being able to love and experience her sister through her sisters children and I realized that I was sharing that experience right here, right now by seeing my old friend in so many ways through these various thoughts and memories of his family and friends.

I think we all enjoyed the many thoughts and the ones who were able to speak were given a sort of release in being able to verbalize their memories. The space between the stories widened a bit and I realized they were coming to an end. I remembered back to a service that I had been to once, where the preacher truncated the thoughts to keep it on his time table and I did not want that to happen here. We were going to speak until all who wanted to had spoken.
When I was sure that all had had their chance, I thanked them all for coming and invited them to enjoy the food and each others company encouraging them to keep sharing amongst themselves. Today and the moment was to be about Gene.
Judy had taken pictures of the event using one of the waitresses cameras so right after it ended and while people were eating, I went back to the office and downloaded them onto my computer. I tried to burn a disc of them but for some reason, my computer would not finalize the disc. Worried that Ronnie, his wife would be leaving soon, I quickly put them on a thumb drive and presented them to her. She was quite surprised not realizing that Judy had documented the event as she had. Ronnie asked me for a copy of my story and I pulled the one out of my pocket that I had used telling her that I could make her another copy if she wanted.

4PM was closing in and we began to convert the floor back over as people would be arriving for supper soon. I felt good that the event had gone well.

I remember talking to the priest right afterwards. We discussed how it had gone and I told him that I appreciated his casual dress for the occasion as it was just as I knew Gene would want it. We talked of the ministry that Jake's has and I told him how much that was evident to me in that we had this service today and a wedding on Monday. "Oh, you mean Red and Vivian?". I was surprised that he knew of it but one of his places to visit is where Red is living.

Afterwards, I was talking with some of the guys who had taken their daily coffee club into the back room. We were remembering days past in Bend and at Jake's. One of them brought up the memory of another old friend from way back, named Ernie Beaver. I was taken back in time as I remembered that we had his remembrance at the diner right after it opened. Like Gene, this had been his place to go. I told the guys that although we had quite a few of those over the years, this had been the first time that we had actually had a service here.

And come Monday, we will have our first wedding.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tsunami Drill

On the second day, we all ended up getting up a little late. The day did not seem as nice as the day before but we decided to take a drive north to Pacific City. Judy had a walk that her and I had taken in January and wanted to show the kids.

We jumped in the car, stopped for coffee, and then headed up on 101. As we got closer to Pacific City, we noticed quite a few emergency vehicles and began to wonder if something special was going on. As we turned into the road to the town, we noticed signs along the road that stated what was happening. Today was the day for a Tsunami drill. That word has struck fear ever since the Japanese earthquake and especially Trinity was not real happy about what was happening. She said she worried too much about it already.

When we arrived at the Pelican Pub, there was media everywhere. TV, radio, and newspaper were everywhere. We parked next to the beach and I went back and talked to the Oregonian crew. They said the drill had already finished. I asked how it went and was told it was kind of non eventful. They told of a small plane who flew over warning people that you really could not hear. As we spoke, the plane came over again, announcing the drill. As the news crew had said, unless you knew what they were saying, you might get confused by it all.

It was early and we wanted to work up an appetite for lunch so we took the kids off down the beach towards the head just north of town. There was a path that ran up the side of the sandy knoll. As we began up the path, it reminded me of the last part of the trail to the South Sister. The sand was so soft that every step forward was greeted with a slip back of a half step.

With my head down and a yoga like slow breathing, I stepped foot over foot until I had reached the top of the steep path. I then turned around to look at the sight below. First I saw the rest of the family getting the same workout that I had just received. Below them was the flat beach that was lined with trucks and trailers waiting for their respective dory boats to return. Beyond that was the Pelican Pub and the town behind it. The waves out from the pub were dotted with the small bodies of the surfers who were waiting for that just right wave to catch.

We walked the path that lead us to an overlook of a small cove that had crashing waves coming in. It is so hard to truly explain the total experience that we had there. There was so many variables of both sight, sound, and feel. The sun was bright with the warmth of the back of our necks. Out in the bay, was the lead buoy that led the boats back into the harbor. It was letting out a low moaning mournful wail as the fog alarm seemed to be still warning people of it's presence.

The waves lined up to come in the small bay and you could hear them crashing into the reducing sides of the small inlet. The crashes culminated in a large low bass 'Woomf" as the waves crashed into the end of a cave that the waves were creating in the side of the hill. As the waves bounced back out of the cave, additional smaller crashes were carving a slice into the the hard sandy ground, creating a crack that threatened to separate the ground below. We stood in awe for a few minutes as we took in the beautiful scene below that Judy had been so anxious to share to the kids.

We then walked a little north to another area on the north side of the point. Jay and I joked with the girls trying to get them to take a picture of us attempting to walk out past the sign that said, do not go beyond this sign. Jay then wrote in the sand beyond the fence to let people know that he had been there.

We then walked back down the same hill to the beach and back towards the pub for lunch. I turned to take a picture of the rock and when I looked into the view finder of the camera, it is filled with the full image of a dory boat headed right at me. I moved to the side and took pictures as it leapt along the waves and ended up sliding along the beach to a stop. We watched as the fisherman jumped out and coaxed it onto the back of their trailer.

We then walked back to the pub and found us a table out on the deck overlooking the ocean and the surfers. As we studied the menu, we also watched the surfers as they came and went and enjoyed themselves in the waves. Some caught the waves just right while others crashed ugly seconds later. I don't think that I have seen this many surfers since watching them in Southern California.

We enjoyed the beautiful day and the great atmosphere until the clouds began to roll in and the rain chased us inside to finish our meals there. We had expected to take part of our lunch back to the house for supper was so good, that before we realized it, none of us had anything left. We then drove back to the house that Carrie and Jay could get packed up for their trip back home.

Jay needed to return his crabs to their homes in the rocks and the rest of us wanted to drive down to Depot Bay to see if we could see any more whales. We followed Carrie and Jay to the rocks and witnessed the return of the crabs and then said our goodbyes as they headed inland.

We drove to Depot Bay and watched as a small whale boat cruised to an area where a small whale was swimming around. As we watched and tried to get the right shot, I received the call that my friend, Gene, was no longer with us. They had contacted the diner to ask if they could use the back room on Friday for a service. I quickly agreed to this incredible honor.

We then drove back to the house where we once again enjoyed the beauty of yet another clear beach sunset. Our beautiful time at the beach was being punctuated by the explanation point of the view in front of us. As I took shots of the glowing ball as it dropped from the sky, I noticed others standing out on their decks, documenting this same awesome sight.

Our last day had ended and we would be packing up and going home the next morning.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Franky and Pearl

Sometimes I think Jay might become a biologist or something of that sort. He seems to love living things. From plants to fish to birds to .....crabs. On his first night at the beach, Jay went exploring and found two hermit crabs who he adopted for a couple of days.

He proudly showed them to me when we arrived on Sunday. As usual, Jay named this cute pair. Franky and Pearl were Jay's newest pets. They would crawl around his hand and up his arm seemingly enjoying his company.

We stopped at the dollar store and bought a bowl that became their habitat while they lived with him. He placed sea water and a variety of rocks and sea shells.

He knew that he had named Pearl appropriately when she could not decide which shell she was going to live in. She finally settled on the biggest and prettiest of the shells and you could almost see her placing her sign on the front....."Pearl's Pad".

Jay was loving his newest adventure. We all took a long walk on the beach right after settling in our house for the next two days. We had stayed in the house last year so it almost seemed like going back to an old home. During the walk, we watched a woman trying to get a sea gull out of an enclosed porch in the house three down from us. The gull just sat there on a table while she threw him food.

Our house which is called the beach house used to be the house of a doctor over here before they turned it in to a rental house. Three bedrooms and three baths along with two fireplaces and two decks over looking the ocean made this abode a very comfortable break. Judy and my bedroom was very comfortable with bay windows overlooking the beach. Judy opened the windows and we were lulled to sleep by the comforting symphony of waves that broke below us.

A fireplace in the room with a bathroom with jetted tub and walk in closet made the room a beautiful getaway of it's own. A filling supper of chicken and french bread from Safeway finished off the day.

The next morning, Jay and I got up early to tackle our beach golf course with a couple of clubs and some balls that we brought over. We noticed the gull still sitting in the enclosed porch so I went up to see if I could coax him out. It only seemed to agitate him more and I could see from all of the white spots in the porch that he had probably been there for a while. So, I decided to call services to see if someone could come out to help. I dialed 911. the phone rang....and rang....and rang. After 6 rings, someone answered the phone and said, "Can I put you on hold?". Before I could answer, I was on hold for .....4 Minutes!. When the operator finally answered, I said, "I am glad this is not a heart attack or something.". The operator then hung up on me?! So, I called back again. This time they answered very quickly and turned me over to the State Police and I was guiding them in when Jay came around the building and announced that he had done what no other was able to. He had freed the bird. He had coaxed it out with some of my crackers. The lady who had worked for hours the day before to coax him out, thanked Jay for his work. A proud Jay said, "You are welcome!".

The morning golf tourney went well with Mia enjoying chasing the ball. Jay and I began a new sport called beach golf hockey with Mia chasing the ball between us. Every time that I would hit, I had to work around a jumping Mia. This did well and all were enjoying themselves until Mia jumped in front of my pitch getting the ball on her right shoulder and twisting her face in a look of hurt and shock and turning me into the big beast. I felt horrible as Judy picked her howling body up. I had not hit hard but the hard ball had done it's job to well.

We retreated back to the house and prepared to head out to Newport to show the kids a pier that we had found on the south side of the river that people loved to crab off of. We had figured on stopping at the Pirate Coffee shop where we knew the owners down in Depot Bay but found them closed for Mondays so we just kept on going down to the pier.

We walked out on the pier and while walking down it, I noticed someone walking the other way that I thought I recognized. Sure enough, it was a photographer friend of ours from Bend, Vern, who was out for a walk with his wife. We chatted with them for a while and then enjoyed watching the locals as they brought in their traps and sorted out their crabs. Jay wanted so bad to join in and pleaded with me to get a license, go rent the equipment, and crab with him.

We walked back down the pier to the brewery that was at the parking lot where we left our car. We then went in and found their restaurant for lunch. I looked across the room and saw Vern again and went over to ask him for suggestions. It was there first time also but we talked of other favorites that they had in town and I logged them down for future reference.

After lunch, Jay and I found an ice cream parlor while the girls did a little antique shopping. We then headed back to our house in the now sunny beautiful day.

On our way back, we took a side trip down a small road that Judy and I knew of which ran across a very photogenic bridge. After taking some shots, we started back down the one lane road. Coming around the corner we spied a couple of vultures sweeping around the sky. Upon closer look, we realized there were over 10 of these ugly but gracefully flying beasts sweeping back and forth across the sky. I had never seen so many in one place before.

Trin and Jay headed down to the beach to play in the surf with the other girls going down to film their adventure leaving me in the warm house. I sat in the chair and was off to sleep in seconds. Sometime later, Jay woke me up. "Come on Papa!, we are going down to the rocks to find some more crabs."

The afternoon was beautiful and warm as we walked down the beach. Upon reaching the rocks, Jay began to scrounge around the pools. Someone yelled, "Look!". We all looked up to see a large whale jumping out of the water just yards from where we stood. Cameras were quickly pointed that direction with some more lucky than others and Judy yelling out....."I got it!". I was able to capture the moment also but the image ended up on the right side of my pic and could be easily mistaken for a rock.

Meanwhile, Jay had found two more crabs. "What are you going to call these guys?", I asked. "Well, I have named the first one after the man this town was named after. I named him Abe after Abe Lincoln. And the second is the smallest of them all. I call him Shorty."

On our way back to the house, we ran across another strange sight. Two ducks waddling down the beach. We took a few pictures before they decided they were in the wrong place and flew off.

We fixed ourselves some supper and Shorty danced on Jay's knee as we watched the sunset on the first full day at the beach. We could not get over how beautiful the day had been and how many cool things that had made the day so memorable.

We all watched a movie, staggering ourselves off to bed to refresh ourselves for the next day that we hoped would have even a small amount of the fun of the first.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


I don't recall the first time that I met him. It almost seems as if he has always been there. Sitting silently at the counter, having his one cup of coffee, and bantering with one of the waitresses or just talking quietly with another person. I had introduced him to quite a few of our regulars who like him just came in to be with one another. Through this interweave of personalities that grace our counter, Gene had become a friend.

Through funny coincidences, one of his closest friends; Harry; would often come in right after him and sit in the very same chair that he had sat in. Harry would ask if anyone had seen Gene and we would all get a chuckle out of the irony of it all. I remember the first time that I saw them sitting together. I walked over and introduced them with a smile. "Gene, this is Harry. Harry, this is Gene.". They took up the joke and shook each others hands saying, "Nice to meet you.".

As was the case with Harry, Gene and I had very little in common regarding our lives and political viewpoints. I felt that Gene must have been a union man as he seemed to have deep seeded Democratic ties but when we talked of things he seemed to on the surface agree with many of my conservative viewpoints. I told him once that he was actually a closet conservative which brought a smile to his lips when he said, "No way.".

Harry and I would often tease him over a radio host that he had much disdain for, Rush Limbaugh. We would accuse him of listening to him in private when no one else was around. On one birthday, I took a computer generated picture of Rush, wrote "To Gene, With all my Love, Rush" on it, and placed it in a picture frame. Gene would joke how it was put on his desk, pointing towards the wall. He said he might make a dart board out of it.

I knew very little of Gene's work life, only last week running into a mutual friend who had worked with him in the railways. The only thing we had talked about was a time when he had owned the store at Lake Billy Chinook. He told me that only to let me know that he understood some of the inner feelings of leading a crew and working with the public. He told me that he did not envy my position.

Most of the time, the crew and customers around him teased Gene. He seemed to enjoy the attention. I would always ask him if he wanted more coffee even though I knew that one cup was his limit. He would just smile and say, "No thank you".

In all of our time together, we only seemed to have one real deep serious talk. Gene had found out that I was battling cancer. In a very knowing way, Gene asked me how I was doing. When I said, "OK", he said, "Really, Lyle, I understand more than you know. You can talk to me.". For a bit, we had a very deep conversation of the fear and struggle that goes along with the word. Then, when someone outside our conversation stepped into our circle, he seemed to pull back from the deeply caring person to the smiling almost mischievous imp that loved to tease and be teased.

Everyone around him seem to love him for who he was. Judy had a sort of standing joke with him over a spoon. I am not sure where that came from as it seemed to be a personal joke between the two of them. In a card that we all signed for him the other day, she placed a spoon in it knowing that he would understand. Regardless, customers and help alike seemed to enjoy being around him. If I was sitting down with a meal, I would often sit next to him and we would banter back and forth, often about our wives and our kids. Deep down, I could feel the love that he had for his family as he knew that I had for mine.

On a Christmas card once, his close friend, Harry, had wrote to me a thank you note for what he said was being there for Gene. He said that Jake's met allot to Gene. I recall thinking as I read that the feeling was mutual. Gene met allot to Jake's.

In many ways, I have always looked at Jake's as a sort of mission. I have even made the statement that if Jesus were here today, he would be pouring coffee at our counter. We seem to have such a wide variety of people, personalities, and needs that grace it on a daily basis. Some quiet like Gene and others who seem to bring out loud talk and laughter from others around them.

I recall one customer once who stopped me as I was pouring coffee. "You are the guy on the radio", he said, "And this place is just like you said. It feels like home when you walk in. Do you pay those guys up at the counter to just sit there and joke and laugh with one another?". I smile as I realized that those same enduring parts of what is Jake's actually pay me to be there.

Gene went into surgery the other day. The surgery was lengthy and involved. Tonight, his body struggles to hang on. The doctors battle to keep the inner infection at bay and his family must decide on what is best for him.

I awoke a couple of hours ago with a deep pain inside. I knew it was a sort of sympathy pain for my dear friend who lays in the bed up in the hospital. I had so many enquiries yesterday, that I finally called Harry up last evening. His wife first answered the phone and when she realized it was me thanked me for what all I had done for Gene. She said that Gene's wife had told her that Jake's was the bright spot in Gene's daily life. I thanked her but reminded her that it was not me but the entity of Jake's itself....both employees and customers alike.

So, tonight, I find myself introducing you all to yet another angel who has graced my life. I pray for God's mercy and will in his situation. And for his family and the decisions that they must make. A tear wells up as I realize that at least in this life, I may never get the chance again to sit and talk with him. I wonder if their will be a big coffee counter in Heaven. I kind of hope so.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Tiptoe through the Tulips

Tuesday was our anniversary. 37 years ago, Judy and I were wed in a small chapel in San Diego by a gay guy with bad breath. I can still hear him tell us about the ring. "This ring goes round and round indefinitely and so shall your love go round and round indefinitely". Somewhere we have a tape of it all.

I asked Judy where she would like to go for the day and she decided to go to the tulip festival in Woodburn.

After a quick breakfast, we jumped in the car and drove over the mountain. When I arrived in Salem, I realized that I had forgotten to get the directions so I called our bookkeeper, Summer, who looked it up online. She then texted me the directions from Salem.

The directions seemed strange taking us north of Woodburn but I figured that I best stay with them. I was quite surprised when the road that it told me to take had no off ramp. I stopped at a rest stop just north of it and looked at the map there. It looked as if I could go slightly north and then double back down to the road so I gave that a shot.

We eventually found the road and began to follow the directions that lead us down, around, and eventually to the main road out of Woodburn. I wondered why we could not just have taken that from the town in the first place as it would have saved us nearly an hour of driving and figuring things out.

By the time we arrived at the fields, Judy was getting hungry. We stopped at the entrance and asked if there was food in the festival. "You bet", came the reply, "We have German and Mexican food. And tell them Bill sent you and they will take extra good care of you".

We parked and began looking for the food booths finding the German sausage booth first. Judy wanted Mexican so I asked the man if he knew where it was. "They are closed.", he said. "Hmm, Bill said that they were open.", I returned. He casually waved over to some tents and said, "Well, maybe they are over there.". I saw the Mexican food tent and as we walked away, I stated a little louder than normal. "Well, I was going to have a sausage but now I think I want Mexican.".

We found a real sweet Mexican lady and her daughter working their booth and ordered up some tacos. Judy was cold so she walked over to the coffee booth to get us a coffee. I paid for our tacos with a twenty and that became a problem as they did not have change. I told them I could get a smaller bill from Judy and they let me take my food with me. When I arrived back, the mother thanked me for coming back and paying. They were so gracious, trusting , and caring.

While eating our lunch, I noticed the sausage guy going out of his way with a smile to make sure that a table over from us was happy with him and his food and I wondered if it was because he had heard my earlier remarks.

Judy needed to use the bathrooms before we started our tour but we could only see chemical toilets around so we went into the gift shop and I asked if they had any indoor bathrooms. "No, the chemical ones are all we have.", she returned. Trying to be cute, I said, "Well, my wife here doesn't like peeing into holes.". Without looking up, she smirked, "That's all we have.".

As we turned and walked out, Judy said to me in a voice that the woman could hear. "I was going to buy something here but forget that. I think she is sausage guys wife or something.".

Judy reluctantly used one of the chemical out houses which by the way were decorated out front with bunches of tulips.

We walked through a small garden by the gift shop and took a few pictures before getting in the car and driving over to the main fields. The main field had a display visiting area out front with row upon row of color behind it. We took quite a few pictures as we walked around. The back drop of fields were a kaleidoscope of color.

Judy's camera attracted other camera buffs and she struck up a few conversations as to what Cannon camera was the best. She had her bag on lenses over her shoulder and changed them from time to time while I swept the view in my point and shoot. I smiled and mused to myself how I was to be a photographer for my profession earlier in life and how she is the one who has the bug now.

After an hour or so, I began to get bored with all the flowers as most guys would and began people watching instead. I enjoyed the expressions of some of the older ladies as they just sat there gazing over the beautiful sight. I bided my time while Judy shot, taking pictures for others and looking over the old steam engine tractors in the lot.

Eventually, after 600 to 700 shots, Judy had her fill also and we headed out finding our own way out the back roads through Silverton and to the road back to Bend. As we drove through Mill City, we decided to take a side trip and see the river there. Something in all of the years that we have driven through the area, we had not looked at. The river was quite pretty there and we walked out over an old train bridge that has been converted for walkers and took pictures of the auto bridge from it.

Arriving home, Judy stayed at the house while I drove over to the diner and helped out with supper and got some of my own. Before I had left, I had posted on facebook where we were going and was surprised to find over 20 remarks on the post from friends wishing us a happy anniversary.

Before heading to bed, I uploaded a few pictures while Judy began working on her book full.

A very pleasant day filled with experiences and shared with the woman that I have shared my life with for 37 years. 37 years? Someone give that lady a reward for putting up with me that long!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


They sat not 5 feet from each other. Three heroes in my life. Not just in the same room but all that close together. What is the chances of that.

As I lay in bed, musing of that fact. I realized also the differences in these people and why they had impacted my life but still could not get over the fact that they had all been in the same room together at the same time.

One doesn't have that many heroes in their lifetime.....true heroes, that is and heroes become heroes for different reasons. But, they all leave a certain impact on your life. In my life, the hero tag is not given out lightly and today, I realized that one of these men had elevated his hero status while an other had, somewhat, diminished his (probably not that that fact matters to him).

One of them is an athlete. Admired by his peers, he climbed the pinnacle of his career, the hall of fame. His job places him in the public eye and that along with his career places him in a somewhat higher status of sorts. He attained hero status when I followed his career in college and in the pros and, even today, those two teams are my favorites. So, it was more of an idol thing that brought that status. I realized something today. I will always admire him for his accomplishments but he is not someone that I can or could just sit down and talk with over a cup of coffee. He is a nice man, but it probably has to do with so many people wanting to be his friend for who he is that he builds a sort of barrier around himself not knowing of their genuineness if that is a word.

The second is my father. And, I assume that most of us hold our fathers in a hero status for one reason or another. Mine taught me the value of hard work. That was not always taught in the way that I wanted it to but is there none the less. My chores were done before anything else happened.

He also taught me the value of the dollar and is responsible for my thriftiness even though he probably doesn't realize that. There is one big thing that he did once, that set my life on a course that brought me to the credit rating that I have right now. What he did was say no. I was digging through a box just yesterday of old pictures and realized that fact. I ran across a picture of me standing next to a car. I had taken the picture and sent it to him asking him to cosign so that I could buy it. I was so angry after he said no that I decided to show him and found an older car that I could purchase on credit, paid it off, and traded it up for a better one. I now have a credit score of over 800 which was started by those decisions way back then.

The third is a man who only came into my life in the past few years. He originally attained hero status for what he had done. He was willing to give up his life for the men around him. He actually dropped on a live grenade saving many of their lives. I have in my possession a copy of the letter of commendation that was given to him by the president when he was awarded the medal of honor.

But, recently his hero status has been enhanced for other reasons. While he is in his 90's now, he gives of himself unselfishly. He is willing to sit and talk with just about anyone and does not hold himself in high esteem in any way. He actually feels that he owes this country more than it owes him which is such a refreshing viewpoint in our somewhat entitlement society

Unlike the other hero, I can easily sit down with him over a cup of coffee and just talk. And in that conversation have the feeling that he cares for me as I do him. Recently, when he had his 90th birthday party, I was almost brought to tears when he asked Judy and I to join him in his family picture of the event.

So, as I walk away from this thought, I realize just how blessed a life that I have. I have many friends who lift up my spirits on a daily basis in one way or another. Some of them are closer to others and I have found that that close status does change from time to time.

I have a handful of heroes who became that way for various reasons. The hero status is not lost unless something egregious happens and to have three of them so close at the same time is not something that happens in ones life that often.

And, I am blessed to be married to a beautiful woman who today will be sharing an anniversary of 37 years together. A feat that puts us in an elite status in today's world. We will be spending the day together with a drive to the valley where we plan to visit the tulip festival.

When times get tough, these are the memories that I need to lean on.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Meeting Uncle Phil

I got up early on Saturday and drove to the diner for breakfast. Business was brisk and I ended up helping out a bit before taking off. I had my normal Hawaiian shirt on but this one was a bit different. It was my Oregon Ducks shirt. I was off with Carrie and Jay to the annual Oregon Duck Spring game.

Our drive over reminded me of how it is in the fall, with many others around us, decked out in green and gold with their flags flying. As we drove into the valley, we enjoyed the spring flowers and blooming trees. We were driving into Springfield, when Carrie laughed heartily. She told me of a house with a very junky, run down front yard. Right in the middle of the yard was a sign advertising their landscaping business.

The closer we got to the stadium, the busier the traffic got. I pulled off of the freeway and most all of the cars were in the left lane. I looked ahead at the light and the signs seem to say that both lanes could turn left so I crept up. I began my turn along with others to only realize that the sign was really saying that the left lane could turn two ways and my lane was suppose to go straight. I was not well liked when I crept over and pushed my way in. I said, 'sorry, but I am sure I was not well received.

As we crept down MLK Blvd, we listened to the announcer on the radio talk of our backed up traffic and I called Judy on the blue tooth to let her know we had arrived. I was watching the signs very close and the sign ahead said to turn right so I did. I found myself on a dead in road and , frustrated, I turned around and went back to the MLK. I then found myself stuck at a stop sign while the others who had realized that the sign was meant for the next block kept me blocked in my side road. I mused how that if I was in Bend, people would be letting me out. Finally, someone probably from our great interior, waved me on and I made the proper turn towards the parking lot only to find the lot was full. We turned off on a side street and found another group parking area and walked into the packed stadium area.

I had set up with a food broker to join him in the parking lot. He said just look for his car and that he would be by the main entrance. We walked around the lot for a while before giving up and getting in line to go in. We positioned ourselves close to one of the gates and made our plans in case one of us got separated. We would get as close to the field and the 50 as possible. As the gates opened, Carrie and Jay sprinted up the hill while I jogged behind trying to keep them in my sights. I likened it to the 'Amazing Race' that we all enjoy watching on TV. I was the old man who could not keep up.

But, as we got to the top of the hill, amazingly, I was right behind them and actually passed up Carrie keeping Jay in my sights. While most were trying for the 50, we ran over to the next set of stairs and found us three seats , second row, right on the 45. I plopped into my chair and waited for my leg to stop cramping from the tromp down the stair case when Jay said that he was hungry.

I thought it best to go get some food while others were finding them seats and we would be at the front of the line so we headed back up to the concession stands. We quickly found out what it was like to swim up stream, fighting the traffic all the way back up those steps. We stayed to the right but that did not matter, they had both lanes. Then after getting to the top, we crept along the wall through the masses that were coming in the side tunnel. We arrived at that very open stand and made our order. Four hot dogs, one popcorn, one small soda, and two waters. $32!! I pulled out my credit card only to be told that they only accepted cash. So, I scrounged around in my wallet and was relieved to find enough to pay the bill and we headed back to our seats.

And what great seats they were. We could see the whole field well from there and were right behind the white teams bench. We watched as the team came on the field and did their warm ups and referenced our program to see who was who. That really wasn't needed, however, as the two older ladies behind us knew all of the players by sight and pointed out many of them two us. They knew the team and game very well and did a good job of correcting the refs throughout it. "That was pass interference!". But, what made me smile was when one of them got a phone call from her husband. You see, they were at the game and their husbands stayed home. I chuckled to myself as the one lady turned to the other and said, "Bill wants to know if you guys want to come over to our place for a BBQ tonight". It was like the female version of a guy thing.

For the next two hours, we sat with 43,000 others and watched our beloved ducks scrimmage against each other in their special camo outfits. They dedicate their spring game to the troops and many of them were there and actually ran out on the field with the team. The game was fun to watch as we were so close that we could see the sweat on their brows, the expressions on their faces, and watched LeMichael James pull off one of his patented touch down runs right in front of us (That guy is fast!).

After the game was over, the troops lined up on one side of the field while the team lined up on the other. They met in the middle of the field and the team members gave their jerseys to the service man who in turn gave the player a commemorative coin. We were all blocked off from going down to the field until the players were all out of harms way and off the field.

The three of us then walked out on the field and took pictures from the various parts making sure that we got one at the Pac 10 logo which is soon to change to Pac 12.

We then walked out the tunnel where the team comes in from as it was the easiest way to exit the stadium. Jay and I made sure we hit the board above the entrance that all of the players hit on the way in that says, 'Win the Day'.

As we walked down the tunnel, a man and his kids nearly knocked me over trying to get by. I wondered what their rush was when I spied him right in front of me. We had been walking out, right behind Phil Knight. We waited while the family who had shoved me over got his autograph on their football and then I asked Phil if he would allow us to take a picture with him

He was such a nice man. He smiled and said, "Of course I will.". I shook his hand and thanked him and watched as he walked away through the crowd. Some realizing and getting pictures while others asking for his autograph. You could see that he was headed for the locker room and we headed around the building and the store so that Jay could get a souvenir at the store.

We then walked back to the car to see the biggest challenge of the day. Getting out of the parking lot. Everyone was so patient and all seemed to take their turns back and forth with only one person trying to keep his car up on the bumper in front of him so that the car in front of us could not come in. He reluctantly gave way, however, after I think his wife must have chewed him out or something.

The outgoing traffic seemed just as jammed as we headed out the freeway towards Springfield and the Santiam pass. I found myself in the fast lane as what I thought was the stop light for the turn. I needed to get over to the right lane but was stuck behind a slower car. I crept up a bit, trying to make my way over which just made him go slower. I realized that we were not up to the light just yet and backed off but only to find him swerve over into the other lane, slow down even more, and lower his window. As I drove by he put out his arm and told me that I was number 1. Carrie said, "I don't think that guy likes you much.".

We stopped at Albertsons for a quick bite and then home. A bored Jay had me count down the miles as we got closer to Bend. "How many more miles, Papa". "I am not sure, son". "You should always know. You are the driver.", he quipped.

Arriving home, I dropped off the kids and headed to the diner. They had just finished a rush and I helped them get set up as more customers streamed in the door. The next two hours were spent busing and setting tables, greeting customers, running the till, sorting out food, and trying to eat my own supper along the way. As one customer left, they told me that I should go eat my food before it got too cold. "A good manager never eats hot food.", I joked.

I finally sat down and ate while the room seem to settle around 8 or so. The cook came out and sat with me for a second while I downed my prime rib tacos that I had talked him into making for me. Three soft corn tortillas, topped with sliced prime, lettuce, and cheese. One customer stopped by and raved about the prime. He said that he had taken a picture of it and sent it to his dad who was very jealous.

The cook asked me how I enjoyed my vacation. "My vacation?", I asked. He said, "Yes, your trip to the game. You work every day so it was kind of like a vacation, wasn't it?". I smiled at his statement especially since I had started and finished off my day there at the diner.

I headed home and was just coming in the door when Carrie called me on the phone. Somehow, her keys had fallen out on the floor of the car on the way home. So, I did my fatherly duty and drove back over to her house with the keys arriving back home after 9 and pulling myself into bed for the night.

A great trip with my daughter and grandson, A fun game, and a memorable experience.