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March 14th, 2017

09:27 pm - Surfside Symphonies…
The confluence of Daylight Savings, a full moon, and a friend’s birthday seemed like as good a reason as any for a road trip to the ocean. [As if I ever need an excuse.] So with the Chuggernaut loaded up for whatever Ma Nature might throw our way, we headed off for the coast.

We had rain of one sort or another most of the drive out, but nothing too onerous. The last of it [for awhile, anyway] passed through shortly before we reached our destination on the beach of the Long Beach peninsula. The clouds were still hanging out, though, and hanging out low, so we kicked back for the evening enjoying how they highlighted the sounds and smells of the surf. Sunset? We don’t need no stinkin’ sunset!

After that un-set came the real treat: The sound of the surf was shunted to the background as a chorus of cacophonous croakers took center stage. It’s been decades since I’ve heard the little leapers put on such a concert. The last time was probably at Howell Lake when it was more informally [but acuraterly] known as Howl Lake. [I swear I did not partake of the platter of the amphibious choristers served up by one of my fellow campers on that trip!]

North Head Lighthouse

The next day was almost and occasionally sunny. We spent the day and night at the beaches, jetties, and lighthouses of Cape Disappointment, a peninsula that juts into the mouth of the Columbia River where it spills into the Pacific Ocean. We had nowhere else to be, and no particular time to be there.

Our cabin on the shore of Lake O’Neil was on the river side of the peninsula, over half a mile from the open ocean, so we didn’t hear the surf that night. Instead the rhythmic patter of the rain that arrived soon after dark provided its own soothing lullabye on the roof of our cabin. [And the frogs were back!]

It wouldn’t have mattered after 03:00 or so, when the leading edge of a Pineapple Express came howling in off the ocean. Luckily the worst of the wind blew through in a few hours, but the rain would be pummeling the coast for the rest of the week. With that in mind, we quickly packed up the Chuggernaut and headed back to Long Beach for another incredible crab omelet at Benson’s. [Highly recommended!]

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

If we’d have had a schedule, we’d have been ahead of it when I pointed the Chuggernaut homeward. At least that was the intent. It seems I “misremembered” where to turn off for my alleged shortcut… Suffice it to say I’d have been better off crossing the bridge to Astoria and cutting across Oregon than navigating the route I eventually took. [Sure, kid...] To make matters worse, the van died in Kelso about a mile before finally reaching I-5.

This had happened before on several occasions, but not in over a year and a half. Fortune smiled on us though, despite my rapidly souring mood. The Chuggernaut had lost all power to steering and brakes along with the engine, but I managed to coast the beast into a parking lot out of anyone’s way.

Luckily the past had left me prepared. After a few minutes oscillating between muttered curses and deep breaths, I dug up the old can of starter spray still buried in the road kit, then popped the cowling and air filter.  A half-dozen squirts down the carb’s throat later [does anyone remember carburetors?], and the Chuggernaut roared back to life. The beast stayed alive as we threaded our way through Kelso to the interstate. I was confident once we hit the open road the van would be fine. At least until we had to slow to urban speeds again. But at least then I’d be a LOT closer to home.

Maybe... The rain was constant at best, and when it wasn’t coming down hard it seemed like it was, thanks to the spray spewed by the constant convoy of tractor-trailers. We had barely gone a dozen miles on I-5 when it became painfully obvious that there was something wrong with my driver’s side wiper. It still functioned, but it looked somehow crippled and made an even uglier noise than usual. It was impossible to tell what was going on with it while in motion, so the decision had to be made: Do I pull over to check it out and risk the Chugger dying again, or hope for the best and pray it holds together? What was the worst that could happen in the pouring rain on an interstate full of semis? I made my way to the right lane and hoped for an exit. Thankfully the wiper held together for the three miles it took for one to appear.

For the first time that day since ordering the crab omelet, I'd made the right decision. The retainer clip for the wiper blade was gone, and half the blade’s frame had worked its way off the mounting post. I doubt it could have gone another minute before flying off completely. I was able to use the clip from the passenger-side wiper to re-secure the blade to the driver’s side post. Then I cut a piece of shoelace and laced it through the frame of the passenger-side blade and lashed it to its mounting post. It looked like it might hold, but even if it did come off on the highway it wouldn’t necessarily lead to our immediate deaths… but it held up fine for the rest of the ride home.

The beloved and accursed Chuggernaut

The question now was: Would the engine cooperate? I’d left the motor running while I repaired the wipers, and so far, the beast was holding idle. Would it choke out winding up to highway RPMs? It gave a disconcerting burp and a hesitant cough approaching the onramp to re-enter I-5, but I was able to move to the shoulder, drop it into neutral, and rev the engine a few more times until the Chuggernaut regained confidence. It seemed to run well the rest of the trip, but it was a tense drive back none-the-less. I relaxed a little once we reached SR16 in Tacoma, and a little more once we cleared the Narrows bridge. But even though the rain had slackened, the traffic thinned, and there were no more spraying semis, I didn’t relax completely until I parked the Chugger in the garage.

Geezer on the Beach!

Current Mood: Floating...
Current Music: Little Feat: "Old Folks' Boogie"

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March 10th, 2017

11:31 am - TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE?
I started off with my normal routine when I first awoke this morning. I turned on the radio, padded off to the kitchen to start the coffee, then promptly fell back into bed. Awhile later as I was floating back towards consciousness, I became vaguely aware of the news coming over the radio. The president had resigned in disgrace; the controlling party was in chaos, and the president's top advisor was facing criminal charges.The ensuing reflexive shot of adrenaline launched me into full alert - only to be let down just as fast.
They were talking about South Korea.

Current Location: Dreamland
Current Mood: Disappointed
Current Music: The Beatles: "Strawberry Fields Forever"

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December 7th, 2016

09:07 am - Mom
I still miss you Mom. Hard to believe it's been twelve years - I still find myself reaching for the phone to ask about a recipe or the latest episode of "Mystery" on PBS. I still feel your active presence in my life; I feel your smile when I excel and your encouragement amid the disappointment when I fall short. You're still the Angel on my shoulder, whispering in my ear, illuminating the road I must take through the darkness.

Blanche Marie Regueira Gleason
April 6, 1934 - December 7, 2005.

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November 22nd, 2016

11:50 am - Gettin' there!
It's been warmer than usual, but otherwise pretty typical for November: grey and wet. The clouds cleared this morning [NOT typical for November] enough to get a glimpse of what's been going on up in the High Country. It's considered a good year if we can ski on Thanksgiving. Judging by the view from the front porch, it looks like that's possible, but we may have to work at it. The snow level appears to be down below 4,000 feet, but it'll be a lot more fun if it drops to 3,000. [Just so it stays above 2,000 feet!]

Current Mood: Excited
Current Music: The Chairman: "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow"

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November 11th, 2016

11:46 am - Veteran’s Day
My first sea-going command was the USS LaSalle [AGF-3], was also known as the "Galloping Ghost of the Arabian coast." At the time, she was the only ship in the Navy painted white and the only ship in the Navy without a home port. "AGF" was the designation for a "miscellaneous command ship"; but all of us who served aboard her knew damn well that it stood for "Always Getting F*****d."

My second sea-going command was the USS Fox [CG-33]. Originally designated as a Belknap class guided missile destroyer [DDG-33], she was later re-classified as a guided missile cruiser. Though she didn't take me to as many places [or adventures!] as the LaSalle, she more than made up for it by bringing me here to Bremerton and the Great Pacific Northwest, for which I am eternally grateful.

USS Fox [CG33] chases down a Washington State Ferry while returning to Bremerton from sea trials.

Receiving my first medal

Current Mood: Proud
Current Music: "Anchors Aweigh" [Of course]

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October 20th, 2016

06:17 pm - Cross Words for Crosswords
Did anyone do today’s* NY Times crossword puzzle? ¡Mádre de Díos! Is it really Thursday?

I am addicted to crosswords. In addition to a big cup, I need them to kick my brain into gear to start my day. The New York Times is the gold standard of crosswords, and the puzzles are supposed to get harder each day of the week; Mondays being the easiest working up to Saturday’s skull-f***ers. After staring vacantly at this morning’s puzzle for ten minutes, I had to check the day – yep: it’s only Thursday…

¡Mádre de Díos! I do believe this morning’s puzzle is the hardest I’ve ever done in English. I finally solved it, without any outside resources, but - ¡Mádre de Díos! When I was working, I’d finish the “warm up” puzzle in addition to the NY Times and finish reading the rest of the local paper in the one hour it took to cross the Sound. But today -  ¡Mádre de Díos! – I can’t tell you how many hours I piddled away until the last box was solved.

The New York Times is known for often having themes to its puzzles. Sometimes they’ll give a clue to the theme, other times, not. Today they did. Sort of. The clue they gave took up the three longest answers in the puzzle. The clues for 17, 36, and 60 across read: “Trap #1 (2 and 3) to solving this puzzle.”


The answer: “Anagram the first word in each clue.”  So before solving the answer, it was first necessary to solve the clue. For instance, the answer to “Heads seen on Halloween” was “orange”. Yeesh!

I must admit, I didn’t get all the anagrams before finishing the grid. Maybe I’ll go back and hash them out just to spite Will Shortz…

*Our local paper reprints the NYT puzzles one week after their original publication.

Photosketch copyright EdBookPhoto.com

Current Mood: Smugly satisfied [Is that redundant?]
Current Music: Todd Rundgren: "Eastern Intrigue"

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September 16th, 2016

11:21 pm - Strolling...
I went for a fine walk in the woods today along the North Fork Skok. I don't know if I've ever seen the flow so low. The good news is I've never had an easier time fording Four Stream; the bad news is that Ma Nature did some redecorating and plopped a small mountain of old-growth driftwood on some of my favorite campsites. A landslide prompted by a wildfire also chipped in to rearrange Ma's furniture. Luckily, at least two small campsites survived on the fringes. Anyhow, the first picture is today's; the second is a more typical flow from June.

Current Location: Soaking
Current Mood: Lilting
Current Music: Tom Petty: "Southern Accents"

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September 12th, 2016

06:19 am - Happy Trails [Heavy Sighs…]

My working schedule necessitated that what most call “lunch” be my main meal of the day, so I approached it differently from most of the usual lunch crowd. In the early days of my tenure, I had a rule to never eat at the same establishment twice in the same week. The culinary landscape within a walk of work was such I could easily stretch that to two weeks. But that landscape changed gradually over the years; the cumulative effect becoming quite drastic over the course of a decade and a half. So much so that in my last several years most days found me sustaining myself at Jimmy’s on Broadway, the restaurant in the Silver Cloud Hotel at First Hill.

This would not be the case if the menu and its execution weren’t top-notch; but that’s only half the story. The staff from top to bottom is an amazing group of people. They made me feel like pampered royalty and yet an intimate member of the family at the same time. Sure, I spent a lot of money there; but it went beyond that. This was evidenced by the gracious send-off they prepared for my retirement. (Considerably more than my employer of the previous fifteen years!)

First off, they comped my dream dinner: filet mignon with garlic-leek potatoes and grilled asparagus, complimented with a sublime split of 2011 Barolo d’Alba, finished off with a tangerine-mango-ginger sorbet drowning in limoncelo. All this would have set me back over $100 with tax and appropriate tip. And I was more than willing (and fully planning) to pay as much in honor of the occasion. But they would have none of it; they wouldn’t even let me leave a tip!

The Swag Bag

As if that weren’t generous enough, they put together a touchingly thoughtful gift bag. Each present had a symbolic significance. The wines were in recognition of all the grief I gave the beverage manager over the years. I constantly complained that their lone Washington State Syrah was only available by the bottle; so it was this bottle they presented me. (Eventually and thankfully other WA Syrahs replaced the Australian and Californian Syrahs that were available by the glass in those days.)

The Barolo was one of my favorites when I lived in Bologna. It was also my excuse whenever one of Jimmy’s staff tried to lay a guilt trip on me for patronizing their main competitor. “Well, I was really craving a Borolo,” I’d explain, “and y’all don’t have that here.” So they began stocking a very nice vintage, albeit in the split only. It became my guilty pleasure whenever I had a day so horribly rotten or a special cause to celebrate that justified indulging in the extravagance.

The food services manager and I happen to share an affinity for gin and tonics in warm weather. She claims to have brought in the exotic tonic water just for me, even though originally I made fun of it as “hoity-toity tonic”; or the “Empress’s new tonic”. At first I considered it a strictly superfluous status symbol, with no real effect on the over-all quality of the drink. I went so far as to wager that an honest person wouldn’t be able to tell the difference in a side-by side comparison. I lost that bet. I didn’t even need a sip to discern the difference; I could tell just by looking. It was more a matter of texture than taste; the hoity-toity tonic had bubbles that were a fraction of the size normally found in sodas, and it had considerably more of them. The effect was a velvet tickle to the palate that opened up the taste buds to focus the flavor. After my little experiment, the staff didn’t even have to ask for the up-sell.

The crew at Jimmy’s were well-aware of my fondness for the forest, and knew I planned to spend much of my retirement camping. A few years back I led the previous executive chef and his son to a hidden fishing hole in the Olympic mountains; so I guess they assumed I like to fish as well as camp. And of course there’s the association of “Gone Fishin’” as the antithesis of work. So the net and bug beater go towards those themes. The folding waiter’s corkscrew ties them all together.

Oh - and that sachet o’ snacks? That’s for munching while sailing off into the sunset on the ferry. Nice touch.

I’ll miss Jimmy’s; I’ll miss my family there even more.

Current Location: Sailing off into the sunset...
Current Mood: Nostalgic
Current Music: Vera Lynn: "We'll Meet Again"

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August 24th, 2016

11:06 am - A Little Heaven in a Hellish Commute...
I spend about four hours each day commuting back and forth to work. I figure I've made well north of 7,000 crossings over the years. I love to whine about it, but that's the only thing about it I love. Yet every now and then, it has its rewards. Here's the reward from last night's commute...

Current Location: MV Hyak
Current Mood: Weary
Current Music: Joe Walsh: "Theme from Boat Weirdos"

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July 31st, 2016

09:35 am
Well, I finally made it official: Thursday I turned in my resignation. My last day of Career #9 will be September 2nd. Career #7 [RETIREMENT!] resumes that day at 17:00 hours...

Current Mood: Ecstatic
Current Music: The Who: "I'm Free"

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