Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Memento Mori, Part One

Annette on the Mickey Mouse Club, 1956
Many men my age, entering pubescence in the late 1950s, developed a fondness for Annette Funicello, one of the original Mouseketeers--Walt Disney's personal favorite on the show. The most juvenile reasons for our attraction seem especially immature now that that beautiful and, by all accounts, gracious lady has recently died from complications of multiple sclerosis.

Several years ago my friend Bob proposed that our annual summertime hike be to a nearby alpine lake called Annette. In discussing this plan, the name of the lake brought to mind our innocent inamorata of long ago, pictured so sweetly to the right.

We were initially under the impression that Annette had already died. When we learned she was still alive, we--half jokingly--decided to make the hike into an homage. Undeniably tinged with irony, this act gained a kind of sheepish authenticity as we went along. 

It was a sunny and just cool-enough day when we began. A perfect trail followed Humpback Creek through the hemlock forest, and then switch-backed up to where the rocks of high ridges crumbled slowly into a sparkling green lake.

Four miles, two thousand feet to go
After lunch we posted our tribute: a sandwich bag-encased picture of Ms. Funicello on a tree at the shore. We had forgotten to bring anything to attach the picture so, to accomplish this task, I whittled small wooden spikes that we hammered with a rock through the edge of the bag into woodpecker holes on the trunk of that spruce.

I took a picture of Annette's view from this spot. We imagined her gazing out over the restful waters and gaining some peace from her body-wracking disease. 

At least that was how I explained our dedication in an email, accompanied by the photo, to her website.

To me, all this that we were doing seemed weirdly both cheesy and authentic at the same time, and all of a piece.

Within a day or two I received a gracious reply from Annette's husband.  He had communicated our action and intentions to Annette herself, who wanted him to relay to us her gratitude. We later learned that at this point Annette had not been able to speak for several years.

Approaching Annette Lake
A kind of bizarre but funny side note to this nostalgic exchange is that I was put on a mailing list that led to another female former Mouseketeer living in southern California forwarding to me wacky far right conspiracy screeds. 

Regardless of this unsolicited response, and in the face of our wives considering us to be acting foolishly, we paid another visit to Annette Lake last year. The picture we had left there was gone, whether from human or climatic agency, it was impossible to say. To commemorate that visit, we carved a kitschy slogan into the trunk of a dying tree: “Annette Funicello Forever.”

Somehow we really meant it, too.

On April 8 of this year, Annette died. My friend and I decided that another, final and more sincere pilgrimage was in order. We made the trek yesterday.

[To be continued.]

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Summer Jaunt Through Oregon, Part 3 - White Water

We fuel up on Dr. Pepper at Fossil's general store.  Leaving town the road gets serious--twisting and climbing.  There continue to be a marked paucity of cars, but we pass a lone cyclist sweating up a winding incline, shadowed by a pace car advertising the Race Across Oregon. This guy must have been either an outlier or lost, for we see no others on bikes.*

It's not long after that, though, that Eduardo begins losing power in fourth gear.  I drop down to third--nothing. Second--still nothing but sputters, until he comes vrooming to life as I downshift to first--thank God--sustains that wee bit of power up into second, and we crawl--barely--over the top of the hill.

Even coasting down the other side, Eddie begins sputtering again, and that's the way it goes for 75 miles and nearly 2 hours all the way to Maupin, most of that on a road that looks on the map like the convoluted slime trail thrown by a conga line of drunken worms.

Eduardo's vapor lock unlocked my own primitive, deeply felt fears of auto abandonment, making every incline we faced a worry it couldn't be climbed, and we would be stranded miles from anywhere, in this heat, at an increasingly late hour of the afternoon.

My trusting and capable wife fortunately did not share in my tension. It was not until we'd finally pulled into Maupin's Oasis Resort, that I was able to relax. A tasty plate of fish and chips and a bottle of Ninkasi's Total Domination IPA worked their magic, although I had to stuff tissue in my ears to keep from hearing a leaking toilet all night.

Surprisingly well rested, the next morning I used a teacher appreciation discount to pay for nearly half the cost of getting wet and having a blast on the Deschutes' white water rapids--Wapinitia, Box Car, and Oak Springs--highlighted in the video above.

Columbia, rolling on
No problems with Duardo this morning, even on the long climbs to The Dalles for lunch. On the afternoon and early evening trip back home, below the travesty of dammed-up Celilo Falls, we followed along the mighty Columbia for a while, the two hundred year old trail of Lewis, Clark, Sacajawea and Charbonneau. Tried to remember more than just the chorus to Woody Guthrie's, "Roll On, Columbia."

It's surprising, though, how long we stayed entertained belting out, "Roll on, Columbia, roll on.  Roll on Columbia, roll on! Your power is turning our darkness to dawn, So roll on Columbia, roll on!!" plus a lot of humming, and then one more time from the top.

*Back home, through the magic of interconnectivity, I discover at that location and time the bicyclist must have been either Robert or Scott Swanson--Team Sloth--subsequently to finish second in the two person relay class of this race in which "competitors climb over 40,000 feet [!] in their 515 mile campaign to reach the finish line in Hood River," according to the website.

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Summer Jaunt Through Oregon, Part 2 - Fossil-Filled Hills

Clarno Palisades near Fossil, Oregon
After overnighting at a McAirconditioned Hotel, we carve a kamikaze trail through the desert center of the state, careening in slow motion among arid hills and cottonwood valleys, on an endless winding road from John Day to Antelope.

We pass under crumbling russet palisades where paleontologists have found fossil evidence of almost unimaginable changes over the past 50 million years, like tiny horses and huge bear-dogs, swamps and lagoons.

For much of this interminable ride--a "Journey Through Time" as it says on the Scenic Byway signs--we have the welcome accompaniment of the John Day River, flashing in the sun, reflecting the blue blue sky.  Outside the watered valleys, only sage and an occasional juniper grow up over dry, bleached bunchgrass coming up sparsely in the sandy soil.

John Day River
It is hot! But we are encased in our cool little car--Eduardo, AKA Duardo, Ed Man, Red Ed, Ready Eddie--who steadies us through to the standstill village of Fossil, and after that's when the trouble begins, in the middle of this strange and isolated region.

[To be continued.]

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Summer Jaunt Through Oregon, Part 1 - Hippie Sensibility

The rabbit hole doors of Kennedy School
A few days ago my delightful wife and I returned from a four day jaunt in Oregon.  We had our eyes opened in Portland when we spent the night at one of the McMenamin hotels--Kennedy School.

There are three levels to the Boiler Room
The Cypress Bar plays reggae
Anyone with even a little hippie still lingering in their calcium-depleted bones will have a blast wandering the artfully enlivened halls of a 100-year-old elementary school, pub crawling past the principal’s office, wood shop, and more recently installed soaking pool, until finally, drawn by an electric fiddle and guitar, you edge into the darkened gymnasium to dance with strangers and free music.

After an excellent brunch in Lake Oswego with my dear Aunt and cousin, we cruise a little too fitfully down the humidity of I-5 to Eugene, home of the (almost) National Champion Oregon Ducks.

Ken Scott's gazebo
There we visit with one of my charming wife’s childhood friends.  This lady, a former nun, has a very sweet deal living in a subsidized tower of apartments now beginning to accommodate us Baby Boomers. This is where we can take inspiration from the example of still vibrant residents in their late nineties--our parents’ age, if they were still alive.  

Eugene has an excellent transit system, and the large university ensures educational and cultural opportunities. Old hippies--a Willamette Valley constant--drive their pickups from farms and crafty covens, from sylvan havens all around, to Eugene's long-established Saturday street market. 

Our host takes us to a 4-acre garden she tends with many volunteers and a few paid staff.  Annually they harvest 30 tons of organic produce for the homeless and needy of Lane County.

Two of the Three Sisters from observatory roof
On the road again: Over the Cascade Mountains on a jaw-droppingly scenic byway we pass the fantastical metal sculptures of artist Ken Scott, and climb to miles of lava flows still barren after 1500 years.  

At a Forest Service vista we wager that the mountains we see are a majority of the iconic Three Sisters. A little later, we confirm this speculation at a CCC-constructed observatory. Looking like an igneous jumble, the historical landmark blends perfectly into the hard, rough, rusty landscape.

[To be continued.]

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Little 'Bombay Suntastic' Goes Down a Treat

The flower beds around here are over-full, even unkempt, but not in a bad way. This is the season when the denizens all lay about under the sun, in various stages of finery or undress, and begin to think about dropping their seeds.

Notice the lavender flowers of the possibly rogue verbena, top left 
Our 3rd and Dayton beds are both bordered by the complementary bluish hues of a petunia and small verbena. Inside and above them, the daisies flounder, spent, having passed over the baton for white to snapdragons, now fully risen, feisty and in their prime.

Golden yarrow punctuates each bed, and the possibly rogue verbena affects a harmony now not shown in the past, rising like fireworks--tiny lavender explosions--above the faded-to-pink milfoil, and orange, shedding whatever-you-call-‘ems.
Salvia launches slender purple rockets at our ankles as we walk by.

Amberboa is but a memory now, the Scabiosa, almost so. And did you hear the Delphinium have all been cut down?

A few azaleas, once admired as harbingers of better times, are now anonymous among a much more vibrant crowd.

The understory is also leavened by a little-seen plant whose name I just learned--Scaevola 'Bombay Suntastic'. Also known as 'Fan Flower', it is a sun-loving, easy-to-grow annual from Australia via Hawaii.

(There is a legend on the Islands that Scaevola came into being through the familiar agency of spiteful gods. To punish a young woman who angrily ripped the flower in two after a fight with her lover, the gods thereafter gave all Scaevola blossoms the fan-shaped appearance of half a flower.)

Finally, apologies to the many worthy plants for whom I do not yet have the vocabulary, and thus go nameless, but not unappreciated.

Let's give it up for all those flowers out there!

[This is the latest post I've made on a blog called "Flower Corners" in our fair town's online newspaper.]