You mean you used the whole thing?

I’ve had two experiences with chiropractors, enough to make me very leery of the profession. I won’t detail all my leeriness here, except to point out that it doesn’t all relate to the validity or lack thereof of the discipline itself. One of mine was making fairly outlandish claims, the other was actively milking me and ripping off the insurance company, and the collective experience caused me to shy away. But if it works for you, or has worked for you, then wonderful.

One of those experiences led to me making a fool of myself in a most amusing way, and as we all know, that is meat and drink on the ‘Lancer.

My first chiropractor was a very libertarian/LDS fellow, and somewhat of a True Believer when it came to his field. My second was also LDS, a Chinese immigrant with a heavy accent. No big deal to me, but helps paint the picture. In that situation, I had given chiropractic a second try due to some nagging back issues. At one point, we had the following conversation:

“I also want you to take hot baths with some vinegar in them.”

“Hmm. Okay. How much do I use?”

“Just go get a two-gallon bottle of apple cider vinegar.”

“All right, I guess. Why does this help my back?”

“To be honest, I don’t know why, but it does.”

“Well, I’ll give it a try.”

So I did. I bought a two-gallon bottle, ran a hot bath, and dumped in the contents. Pretty overpowering when mixed with the hot water. I don’t think most people could have dealt with it. I soaked in it as long as I thought worthwhile, then stood up and showered off the remaining vinegar water. About that time, my wife came past the bathroom.

“What the hell have you done in there?”

“The chiropractor said it would help.”

“I’m having my doubts about this chiropractor. But I’m also having doubts about your common sense. It stinks big time in there! I’m turning on the fan!”

I gave my standard reply to most forms of expressed environmental discomfort, from feedlots to cold weather: “Aaaaaah, it’s not so bad.”

“You’re a freak.”

Well, after about three of these treatments, I could see how the cost of this could add up. My back wasn’t improving, and this was an unenjoyable way to bathe. On my next chiropractic visit, I expressed doubts.

“You may not notice a difference right away.”

“Well, I am noticing a couple of differences. For one, the smell is overpowering and not very pleasant. For another, I’m not sure how long I can afford putting two gallons of this stuff in the bathtub.”

He looked at me with incredulity. “You mean you used the whole thing?” This guy was generally the picture of composure and calm, but I could see the shock on his face.

“You told me to. You said go out and get a two-gallon bottle of it.”

He held back laughter with great self-control. “I only meant for you to use about a cup of it!”


After I left, I’m confident I ended up as one of the funny stories he tells when he gets together with other chiropractors for herbal tea and recommendations on how to push endless supplements on customers. But for the record, if your chiropractor suggests you put vinegar in your bath water, do take time to ask him or her how much exactly to use per bath.

Spar treatments

Deb and I can be very juvenile. I’m talking ‘mocking Phil Keoghan’s accent’ juvenile.

For those unfamiliar, Phil is the New Zealander who hosts The Amazing Race. He’s balanced, entertaining, and has a reality show that is intriguing without appealing purely to vicarious sadism (Naked & Afraid) or glorifying the stupid (Jersey Shore). His accent isn’t heavy, but it does append an R to all words ending in an A sound. Thus Uchenna and Joyce became Uchenner and Joyce, etc.

On each leg of the race, the first team to finish gets a special prize. Sometimes it’s money, sometimes it’s a Productplacementmobile from Uncle Henry’s Car Company, but usually it’s a trip for two from Travelocity. Not all the trips are to someplace stupid like Nassau, either. Some actually go to interesting places, and all the trips seem to include a spa treatment, so Deb and I start heckling as the racers hit the mat: “Ready for your spar treatments?” Phil begins to tell them what the trip entails. “Shut the hell up about the ziplining, Phil, get on with the spar treatment!” Phil actually omits the spa treatment. “No! This is fake! It isn’t a trip from Travelocity without a spar treatment!”

We suck. But now that we have our own spar, we can give ourselves spar treatments. And I’m learning to maintain this spar, which is a process. I’m going to present what I’ve learned in mock softball Q&A format.

Q: Is it a lot of work?

A: Nah, except that draining it and refilling it is a little involved. Sometimes I’ll close some of the jets for more pressure on the rest, but that’s easy.

Q: My cousin had one and they all got a rash.

A: Let me guess: your cousin is one of those braying donkeys who ridicules anyone who takes time to do things exactly right. He fell down on the maintenance, didn’t think he had to worry unless he could see floating green things, and met cautions with derision. Now his whole family is on antibiotics. Right?

Q: Is it that risky?

A: Not if you stay on top of the maintenance. If you don’t, it changes from a chemistry project to a dermal immune biology project. If the water doesn’t get treated, it will develop an algae ring. We found that out when we first moved in and took a look before starting the treatment process, and I had to scrub that crap off.

Q: What is the maintenance?

A: Weekly, run a test strip and add chemicals as necessary. If the water level has dropped enough that the filter intake is rasping, add some water. Every four months, drain the whole thing and refill it.

Q: Can you put bath salts in it?

A: I’m told you can, but haven’t tested it myself. I may test it one day just before it’s drain/refill time, just to see what it does to the chemical balance.

Q: Is it spendy to operate?

A: Between the electric bill increase, water bill bump, and the chemicals, I’m told $750 per year is typical. So yeah, kind of spendy to do right.

Q: Do you have to leave it on all the time?

A: Yes. If you’re going to take it out of service, you shut off the breaker and drain the water. It runs on its own cycle for heating and filtration.

Q: Aren’t you worried that people’s kids will pee in it?

A: No, because no minors are allowed in it, ever. Age seventeen and your eighteenth birthday is tomorrow? Sorry. Tomorrow you can. But your child is special and mature and wonderful? I agree, and when she is eighteen and a young woman rather than a girl, we will welcome her. Hot tub = adults place, at least under the lodgepoles.

Q: You expect me to believe you’ve never done it, when you were by yourself?

A: It would immediately cloud up the pool. Therefore, since there are only the two of us, my wife would know. But even if it were just me, no, in fact I would not add urine to a large reservoir in which I planned to soak several times a week for four months, nor would you. I have learned that it is wise to take a leak while changing into one’s bathing suit. It would be horrible to have to get up, go all the way inside, and come back out. Especially in winter. But adults would do that, whereas kids might be too embarrassed, and just hope to get away with it, figuring they can always say they’re sorry and adults aren’t allowed to hold things against them. Problem: no matter how sorry they are, I still have to drain/refill it, and sorries won’t help reduce the cost or headache of that.

Q: But that’s unfair to my snowflake, who is more special and mature and wonderful than all others! Yes, she’s only six, but she would never do that!

A: Here’s the situation. Yes, your snowflake is wonderful, a joy to know. However, children will go to absurd lengths to avoid embarrassment. An adult will make an adult decision (and trust me, there are adults I wouldn’t let near the thing). If the water gets contaminated, I will have to spend a lot of time, money, and effort that need not have been. No, it wouldn’t cause me to hate your snowflake. Yes, I understand that snowflakes make mistakes. All the understanding in my soul will not eliminate my sudden requirement to do a full water change, well before I would otherwise have had to. So, since I recognize that children are children–yes, even yours–and since I do not want to have them learn a life lesson at the cost of me having to pretend not to be very angry while doing an early drain/refill, no kids in the tub. It’s much easier that way than explaining to Parent A that Snowflake A Jr. can’t get in when we let Parent B’s Snowflake B Jr. in. No discrimination, no exceptions, no kids, not even your special angel.

Q: It must be great in winter.

A: In some ways, yes. The only drag in winter is the interval between getting out and getting back in the house. Nothing like standing outside in freezing weather, in your bathing suit, trying to wring as much water out as you can. I think we will get enormous thick terrycloth robes made from actual towels, so that people can dry off by putting them on.

Q: When you go to drain it, do you just siphon out all the water?

A: It’s easier to buy a cheap sump pump attached to a long hose. My drain hose burst this time, oh joy, so I need a stronger one. I want to send the water right into the eave-trough drain, not into the yard. Once I drain it, I climb in with a turkey baster and slurp out any residual sand or dirt or crud. Then I refill it, put in a new silver nitrate stick, change the filter and put the dirty one in a bucket of horribly caustic filter cleaner, and flip the breaker on. Once the water hits about 85º F, I can start the treatment process whenever I’m ready. No spar treatments until I’m happy with the balance.

Q: What do you treat it with?

A: The test strip checks for chlorine level, alkalinity, pH, and calcium hardness. It gets an ounce of chlorinator (which will boil off each week), however much baking soda it takes to raise the alkalinity (which will typically raise the pH as well), some more calcium if it needs it (shouldn’t, except when refilling), and three ounces of shock sanitizer. Thus, we are hitting biology with silver nitrate, chlorine, and shock (potassium peroxymonosulfate). On the first treatment, it’s a gradual process that requires several tests to get the alk and pH where they belong, without overshooting the sweet spot.

Q: Does it get gross when it’s time to drain and refill it?

A: Not with regular maintenance, but it will get sudsy. This is caused by the amount of total dissolved solids plus whatever action has happened on skin oil, stray pine needles, and so forth. If it starts to look like a bubble bath, it’s time to replace the water.

Q: Do you have to shower before you get in the spar?

A: No, but if you’re filthy, it’s the logical thing to do.

Q: Is it worth all that?

A: The expense and effort amount to about $60/month, five minutes once a week, and a couple hours of work three times a year. The payoff is when your whole body aches from a lot of lifting or hoisting or driving or walking, and you can get into a place that will dissolve the pain away. The payoff is when it’s freezing out, and you gaze up from your little amniotic cocoon through lodgepole boughs at the stars and moon, hoisting a libation with your best friend in a non-glass container. The payoff is the ability to make guests feel welcome and relaxed. Yeah, I’ll make that trade.

Q: Any advice for people thinking of getting one?

A: Spend a weekend at a resort where your room comes with a hot tub. Go hiking and get really sore, then come back and hit the tub. If you find you love that feeling, that’s a good sign. If you find you never want to go anywhere else but in and out of the tub, that’s also a good sign you would like and use one.

Get one with a lot of jets and enough pump to power them; pointless to get a tub with skimpy jets. Don’t get it from Costco, because everyone who sells them through Costco seems to go broke, which means no one to call with questions down the road. Look into buying a used one, because quite a few people don’t like them as well as they’d imagined, and wind up selling them at just-get-rid-of-it prices on Craigslist. (Don’t buy one without a manual and a copy of the original receipt, so you know the model, manufacturer, and store that sold it. Or if you do, make sure it’s very cheap.)

Make sure your electrical system can handle a new breaker, because there needs to be one hardwired and probably dedicated solely to the tub. Fairly sure it gets its own circuit, so spring for a professional electrician. Needs to sit on a very sturdy surface, such as a concrete pad; hope you have one. Plan to have a pro come out and walk you through it the first time, so s/he can check out its operation, answer all your what-does-this-dial-do questions, and tell you how to maintain it.

My favorite travel writers, and why

Travel writing is my favorite genre. In your bookstore, it’s usually near the travel guides. Barnes titles the section ‘Travel Essays,’ which I guess is about right. I’m not much influenced by the Standard Favorites; for example, I don’t happen to have an opinion on Bruce Chatwin. I think I read one of his books, or at least part of it.

I look for the right combination of insight, humor, and wry misadventure. I am easily turned off by a pretentious title. I don’t mind if the author is a scoundrel, as long as I don’t adjudge him or her a coward. I want to learn more about other places while following an adventure, and I want to believe what I’m reading.

Why aren’t there more women on this list? Because this list focused on authors with significant catalogues. It’s not that there aren’t a lot of great woman-authored travel books; it’s that so many are one-offs, maybe two-offs. I’d love to see a woman be the next Tim Cahill, but there isn’t even a male next Tim Cahill.


Tim Cahill (USA). Hasn’t done much recently, I think due to a stove-up back and advancing age, but he’s my favorite. His story about fleeing from the Yogurt Riders in Mongolia still has me cackling. His travel is adrenaline junkie material, and he has the laconic restraint to let the situation’s humor speak for itself. When one’s deep-caving takes one through a muddy tunnel titled The Rectum, one doesn’t really need to comment. If I am going to go back and re-read someone’s travel book, it’ll probably be one of Tim’s. Good example: Road Fever, about his endurance drive with Garry Sowerby from Ushuaia to Deadhorse.

Tony Horwitz (USA). Underrated, and strong at investigating history as part of his travels. His account of partying with Australians in northern Queensland is another good example of letting the comedy speak for itself. And I’d say it takes some sand for an American with a Jewish surname to go prowling around the Arab world. Horwitz is that travel writer who can float back and forth between perceptive historical analysis and amusing travel tale with seeming minimal effort. Good example: Confederates in the Attic, about his time with hardcore re-enactors.

William Least Heat-Moon (USA). Rather well known, and I have a sort of odd history with him which I once detailed in a blog post. Another master of letting the comedy haul the freight without a push, and one of the sharpest observers ever to hit the road. One learns a lot while reading Heat-Moon, and his presentation style reflects a mind with a few extra creative wires that are missing from mine. Can’t go wrong with Heat-Moon. Good example: Blue Highways, America from non-freeways.

Tim Severin (Ireland). A stud. Tim Severin has set out to duplicate a number of historic voyages using craft as near to the historic vessels as possible, and to connect old legends to our modern understanding. Dry style, but the best part is realizing what he is doing, how difficult it is, and how much it has taught us about the methods of ancient and medieval mariners. One of his funniest books is about land travel, where he rode an Ardennes heavy horse from western Europe most of the way to Jerusalem. The adventures of the horse, a monster with hooves like bowling ball halves, are ongoing and uproarious in Crusader.

Tony Perrottet (Australia): like Horowitz, mixing historical understanding with great travel, and does so nearly as well. My only complaint is that he credits Mississippi with being last in tourism per capita among the states. I’m under the impression my home state, Kansas, is that honor’s jealous guardian. Come on up, mate, and you’ll see why “I took the family for an exciting Kansas vacation” said no one, ever. Seriously, though, off the Deep End is a good book, and he has yet to write a bad one.


Bill Bryson (USA). One of the best known, but one senses that Bryson is the biggest fan of Bryson’s wit. One gets the impression that he’d be smart not to return to many of the places he visited, given the way he sneered at them in print. But he really lost me when he wrote a book about hiking the Appalachian Trail, but did it in a bunch of effete bite-size pieces rather than take it in a single, awesome pass. That was almost as annoying as his book about travel in Britain, Notes from a Small Island, in which he complained rather too much for my tastes.

J. Maarten Troost (Netherlands/USA). His first few books about travels around the Pacific Rim were everything I like in travel writing. Funny, revealing, fresh in style. The most recent, however, contains a lot about his battle against alcoholism. Now, I don’t begrudge the man writing about his actual life as it is, and I applaud him for kicking the sauce. I just am not that interested in his struggle with his demons, beyond wishing him the same success I’d wish most people. I liked it better when he did The Sex Lives of Cannibals.

Redmond O’Hanlon (UK). Very well known, and is an unjust victim of my CSTT (can’t stand the title) tendencies. If one is interested in naturalism, give him an extra star, because that’s his academic background. I recently re-read his book about traveling in Borneo, just out of fairness, and I have to admit that the writing and storytelling are rather good in Into the Heart of Borneo.

Frances Mayes (USA). I suppose it isn’t really fair to characterize Under the Tuscan Sun and its spinoffs as travel books; they are more making-a-new-home-abroad books, though I consider those close enough as makes little difference. I just didn’t feel it with Mayes, as nice a lady as I’m sure she is. Too much about the food choices of the day, too froufrou-feeling for my preferences, and too much about Bella Toscana already.

Not doing any more of this:

Stephen Clarke (UK): it’s not that A Year in the Merde and its sequels are a bad reads. It’s that they look and feel like real travel books, yet are fiction. I am not interested in travel fiction, especially that which sort of goes around in travel essay drag and one only later notices the truth. I admit that I could have looked closer, and that the author cannot control where Barnes shelves his books, but I believe that they get shelved there somewhat by the author or publisher’s design, and I don’t like that at all.

In keeping with the feedback I received, I’ll let you look these authors up yourself if you desire. Future plans include lists of lesser known gems, women travel writers, writers about U.S. travel, and suchlike.

A question about talking about travel writing

The ‘Lancer has a numerically small but engaged audience, otherwise known as ‘a few people who seem to like much of what I post.’ This audience, being mine, deserves my solicitude and affection.

Here’s the question: if I wrote about travel books, would it be out of bounds if I didn’t do up links, and let people search them out the marginally less easy way?

I ask because all the following are true:

  • Travel is the most overrepresented category in my library. In very few areas does my library dominate the shelf selection at Barnes, and this is one of the few.
  • You could learn a shitload about the world from reading these books. That’s how I did it.
  • A lot of the best travel books are not done by Frances Mayes, Paul Theroux, Bruce Chatwin, or someone else who has done a lot of well-paid, pompously-reviewed writing. Nothing against any of those, but your typical travel writer is a one-off who doesn’t write any more. You will never find them without my help.
  • There is a reason that I positioned the travel endcap nearest my recliner in my library (though making sure that history was in clear sight). If I’m going to grab anything to re-read, odds are it’ll be travel.
  • If that’s going to happen–and it will, since I have no intention of being a book hoarder, and am very happy to re-read books–I could turn my readership on to a whole bunch of great stuff. Most of it probably didn’t sell, but the readership of the ‘Lancer is well aware that ‘didn’t sell’ does not mean ‘book sucks.’ It means ‘author couldn’t or wouldn’t market, and publisher didn’t bother.’
  • For me, writing is easy; getting links right is hard. I have to dig it up on Amazon, pare out the extraneous stuff in the link, highlight, copy, highlight link area, paste, hope that the paste was the correct thing, and then test to see if it works. I hate this.
  • I would write more about travel books if links weren’t a basic expectation, and if I didn’t dislike them so.

I solicit commentary on this subject. If I said “screw the links, look it up if you’re interested,” would that be a good trade for more writing?

Crouching lower, hitting filing

When we moved to the new place, for some months it was a house-sized Rubik’s Cube. Can’t get some of the furniture out of the garage until we make room for it. Can’t make room for it until we make some decisions about this stuff. Can’t decide about this stuff until we get that area squared away. Can’t do much of anything until we get the floors done. Can’t get the dining room worked up until we do the library. Can’t really get the garage work area in good shape until we get this and that out of the way. Etc., etc., etc.

We have battled through it despite the fact that it sometimes resembles a more comfortable, larger version of a Survivor immunity challenge. And the last obstacle to the library reaching its eventual beautiful state is the boxes of filing that we stacked in the back. Why did we do in such a way? Because we could take them out to the garage, but that would run counter to the goal of making room for my wife to park, yadda, yadda, yadda. But now we have excavated the file cabinet, situated it in my office, and it is time to sort it all out. What to retain, what to shred, what to recycle.

When I put my mind to it, I’m the world’s best office assistant. Fast typist, at least for a male. Natural organizer of files. Never run out of anything important, ever. Have the proper implements to hand, and take good care of them. Spare toner? One of each, on the shelf. Date stamp for bills. Special shelf just for tax stuff I will need next year. Another special shelf for bills, stamps, envelopes, address labels. Can’t stand fingerprints on my screen–if you’re with me in my office and you extend a finger toward it, I will grab a capped pen and offer it to you as a pointer.

For the last few years, in part, I haven’t put my mind to it. The important filing, I dealt with. The rest is a quagmire extending back into my twenties, much of it consisting of piles of paper-I-did-not-see-fit-to-bother-with, which accumulated until Deb or I shoved the whole thing in a banker’s box in hopes it would evaporate without giving off hazardous fumes. Magazines ten years old. Phone books three years old. Statements from banks that no longer exist. Wedding announcements from people who are now divorced. Empty envelopes…kept why for the love of pete? Old grocery lists. Annual privacy statements, which mostly tell me about the ways in which a company feels free to violate my confidentiality. Insurance that expired during the Clinton administration.  Investment statements. Reams upon reams and reams of crap, some of which I should keep.

Enough. I am done with warehousing paper that I don’t need. Will I ever need to review my GTE bills from the 1990s? Why, no; no, I will not. I am going to end up overheating my shredder again before I’m done with this. But it’s do this, and do it now while getting set up, or continue in this inefficient and slothful pattern. It cannot continue.

Oh, and I’m working on three actual work projects, one large and two small, and seeking to keep all three moving with emphasis on knocking the small ones out sooner rather than later. So I edit for a while, until I come to a point where I don’t feel right, then I dig into another banker’s box. File hangers salvaged. File folders’ old writing labeled over, and salvaged. Another big bin of recycling, ready to dump. Did I really keep that self-serving, insulting, condescending nine-page letter from a relative? Why would I ever want to read that again?

Spirits of crap banishment, I herewith summon, stir, and call ye up. Lend me the ongoing strength to continue muddling through this ocean of useless paper, sifting out the stuff that still matters, and make the rest go the hell away.

Official Oregon Relocation Questionnaire

I participate on a message board with regional forums covering most of the world. The Oregon and Washington forums in particular are full of bright-eyed folks who want to live in the Pacific Northwest. While I can understand that, they often have less than realistic explanations.

I originally drafted this as a post for the board’s Oregon forum, then decided I’d rather just share it with my own readership.


Official Oregon Relocation Information Form

Hi, we too are interested in moving to Oregon. We are drawn by the (check all that apply):

[ ] Great job market, so we have heard
[ ] Low cost of living, it just has to be
[ ] Excellent educational system (better than Mississippi)
[ ] Low property taxes (you should see California’s!)
[ ] Lack of sales tax
[ ] Beautiful scenery
[ ] Granola people
[ ] Trees (we are from Kansas)
[ ] Seismic activity
[ ] Great climate (we love [ ] rain [ ] sun)
[ ] Show ‘Portlandia’
[ ] Ability to have someone else pump our gas
[ ] Strange laws
[ ] Legal weed
[ ] Number of preppers
[ ] Bicycling
[ ] Sailboarding
[ ] Rajneeshees (we saw an old documentary)
[ ] Emptiness (we plan to live in south Malheur County)
[ ] Assisted suicide laws
[ ] Gay-friendly attitudes
[ ] Pockets of True Biblical Marriage outlook
[ ] Pendleton Roundup
[ ] Monsanto Roundup
[ ] Kicker
[ ] Punter
[ ] Long snapper
[ ] Other ________________________________

Our monthly housing budget is:

[ ] We plan to trade weed for it
[ ] $500
[ ] $750
[ ] $1000
[ ] Surely we can get a three-bedroom something for $1250
[ ] Under an overpass
[ ] We’re preppers, we plan to build our End Times fortress

Our children have the following special needs, for which we will want social services:

[ ] Autism
[ ] ADD
[ ] ADHD
[ ] Veganism
[ ] Lactose intolerance
[ ] Other child intolerance
[ ] Spina bifida
[ ] Attitude disabilities
[ ] Learning disabilities
[ ] ODD
[ ] SAD
[ ] Gaming addiction
[ ] Ketamine habit
[ ] Others (list all in this dinky space) __________________

We have the following number of pit bulls and other large dogs (and if you don’t like them, you suck):

[ ] 5
[ ] 6
[ ] 7
[ ] 8
[ ] 9
[ ] 10+, and if you falsely accuse our dog breed of being violent, we will have them rip you to shreds; they are sweet and loving and would never harm anyone

We are coming from:

[ ] California
[ ] Florida
[ ] Arizona
[ ] Texas
[ ] The East
[ ] A flat farmy state

We feel the following about soccer:

[ ] The beautiful game
[ ] Sport for communists
[ ] We think sports are stupid

We are very (check all that apply)…

[ ] liberal
[ ] conservative
[ ] tidy
[ ] slovenly
[ ] insular
[ ] outgoing
[ ] peppy
[ ] crabby
[ ] racist
[ ] guilty

…and would like to live only among our own kind.

In college football, we plan to root for:

[ ] The Ducks
[ ] The Beavers
[ ] The Vikings
[ ] Whoever is doing well
[ ] Our current team
[ ] The abolition of college sports, they suck

We simply must have:

[ ] Lots of green space
[ ] A view of mountains
[ ] A view of the ocean, or at least a river
[ ] A view of puddles, at least, for pete’s sake
[ ] All the things we have checked and specified

Will we be killed immediately for being:

[ ] From California?
[ ] Christian?
[ ] Conservative?
[ ] Gun nuts?
[ ] Screw you, I’m from Idaho, bring it hippies

We have heard that there is terrible gang violence and imminent danger. We can tolerate:

[ ] Not even a loose gum wrapper on the street
[ ] A little tailgating
[ ] Limited diversity
[ ] Petty theft
[ ] Regular gunfire
[ ] Regular automatic gunfire
[ ] All of it–we are a new gang looking for turf

We are willing to endure the following commute:

[ ] We expect to be able to live in our workplace
[ ] One minute
[ ] Five minutes
[ ] Ten minutes
[ ] Fifteen minutes
[ ] Surely there can’t be any commutes longer than fifteen minutes!

We are bringing the following savings to sustain us while we get established:

[ ] You’re kidding, I assume?
[ ] $50
[ ] $100
[ ] $500
[ ] $1000
[ ] Some stash
[ ] None needed, we raid dumpsters

So those are our needs and wants and hopes and dreams. Where should we live? Thank you!


Mr. Giro Nakagawa, 1921-2015

News comes to me of the passing of a longtime friend, Mr. Giro Nakagawa. I met his second son, Byron, in college; we hung out together, ran around in the woods at Fort Lewis together, gamed together, and drank together.

Mr. Nakagawa was born in the Seattle area, and grew up during the Depression. His parents had immigrated from Japan, which made them Issei (first generation) in Nikkei (Japanese American) parlance. That made him Nisei, or second generation, born an American citizen. His children would be Sansei (third generation). He graduated from high school in 1938 and eventually found his way to the Willapa Bay area, where he worked dredging oysters.

World War II came, and as a country we handled it exactly as American custom and tradition demand: by wadding up the Constitution and becoming crazy-ass paranoid. In this case, that meant that young Giro, like his entire family, would be sent to an ‘internment’ camp. He spent part of the war years farming beets in Idaho for a sugar company, then was drafted to help defend the country of his birth that had treated him in such a way. Fortunately, he did not see combat. When Mr. and Mrs. Nakagawa described the war years, they referred to it as being ‘in camp.’ When he came back, he met with prejudice in the Seattle area, and went back to oystering at Nemah, a tiny town on Willapa Bay.

Mr. Nakagawa married Miyoko in 1957. They had three children: Michael, Byron, and Noreen. I met the rest of the family in 1981 as a college freshman, when Byron invited me to spend Thanksgiving with his family. And therein arises a tale.

Mr. Nakagawa was not a large man, but he had a powerful command presence. I learned this on the Saturday morning after the holiday. On Friday, you see, Byron took me out to party with his friends, and we stayed out pretty late. Until about 3 AM, as I recall, and we came home completely plastered. The Nakagawas had two living room couches, and we each were sleeping on one in a sleeping bag.

Since sleep compresses our perception of time, it felt as if I’d just collapsed in a beery haze when a command voice pierced my repose. “UP!” Still drunk, I stirred a bit, peered over at By on the other couch. He was in about the same state.

“UP!” came the former sergeant’s voice. I looked up to see Mr. Nakagawa in the living room wearing his red hunter hat. “I just shot an elk down in a valley. If you can stay out and carouse all night, you can also get up and work.”

Man, we didn’t have to be told a third time. By and I exchanged glances and got the hell out of those sleeping bags, right away. We staggered into yesterday’s clothes and followed Mr. Nakagawa out to his pickup. He drove us out onto a remote logging road where a couple of his friends (a term that probably includes everyone in Pacific County, because he was revered and cherished there) were rigging a pulley to a small tree.

Mr. Nakagawa led us down into a replanted Weyerhauser forest, with saplings about twelve feet high on average, probably lodgepole or ponderosa pine. The other men began to rig one end of a rope through the pulley and to Mr. Nakagawa’s trailer hitch, and we took the other end with us. When we reached the elk, maybe eighty yards down the slope, I saw that they had already gutted it. It was a medium-sized bull, the kind of thing you wouldn’t want to annoy during rutting season. He tied the rope to the elk’s snout, and as I recall, sent Byron slightly up the slope to help reduce entanglements. Then Mr. Nakagawa and I took our positions alongside the enormous carcass. It was a drizzly November morning in southwestern Washington, I was still quite inebriated, and we were laughing.

Our job was to stay with the elk as the truck dragged it uphill, helping avoid it getting hung up on anything Byron had been unable to clear from the path. Mr. Nakagawa bellowed up the hill to get things moving, and the elk began to slide uphill. We scrambled after it, trying to avoid getting caught between elk and obstacle while helping elk get past obstacles. Now and then, one of us would lose his footing and come up laughing. Four hours of sleep, tipsy, soaked, and I was having fun. At one point, when I fell on my ass, our eyes met and we laughed from the belly. That remains my enduring image of Mr. Nakagawa, a hearty laugh across a dead bull elk’s remains as they slid up the wet, grassy, pine-needly hillside, with us scrambling to keep up.

I later reflected that this was very characteristic of his way in life. He didn’t mind what his children did, so long as it didn’t get in the way of them pitching in. And if you were with his children, you were like one of them, subject to all the same privileges and expectations–and welcomed to all the fun.

By and I remained in loose touch; he stuck around in Nemah to help his parents as they got on in years. Mr. Nakagawa survived a serious health scare some fifteen years back, an aneurism if memory serves. In 1998 I got married, and though I hadn’t seen him in over a decade, I sent the family an invitation. Byron drove about six hours to attend, and his parents sent a very generous wedding gift. Strangely, I misplaced the check, and recently found it while unpacking. Very unlike me to misplace money. All I could think of was that I was sorry for having messed up their checking account; I hate it when I send people checks and they don’t cash them. When I went to spend the wedding night in a hotel with Deb, we left the apartment in the hands of my bros John and George, my old workplace crony and friend Chuck, Byron, and our late-teenage niece Kristen (who had been a bridesmaid). It tells you a lot about my friends that Kristen wanted to stay there, rather than at the house where the other women were camping out. She was the safest person in the Tri-Cities that night, surrounded by some of the very best men I know.

I will miss him, but it was an honor to know him. Deb’s and my hearts are with Mrs. Nakagawa, Mike, Byron, Noreen, and the whole community.


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