Category Archives: Adventures

Poi oh poi

Another box checked off the “try this and find out what it’s all about” list.

Hey, they aren’t all bad. I find I love kimchee. It does have a smell like something gone off, but it has nothing of that not-food taste I find in most vegetables, and especially none of the revolting cloy characteristic of cole slaw. I last had a school lunch in second grade, and I can still remember the nauseating taste of cafeteria cole slaw nearly half a century later. Menudo, on the other hand, not so good; it was like a rich taco-flavored soup with a strong acid refluxiness on the finish. I never need to eat the latexy cow stomach chunks again. In fact, I need never to eat them again. Same for muktuk, which I admit I am still mystified some cultures see as food. Black pudding? Good stuff. Ouzo? Tastes exactly like Nyquil to me, or liquid black licorice, than which same I think I’d rather eat cole slaw. With that abomination among condiments, Miracle Whip, so as to get two barfs out of the way. Vegemite, Marmite? Always have one of the two around.

So yeah, I try things. I’d long wondered how to find poi, which is taro paste, until Brain Trust here (living in Portland, a city with a substantial and diverse Asian population) finally hit upon the notion of an Asian grocery store. “Sure,” said the customer service counter person, “it’s over in produce. Tends to vanish fast, though.”

Well, we do have plenty of Pacific Islanders.

Turned out it hadn’t vanished. They sell it frozen in twist-tied bags. Package includes instructions for thawing and serving it. I took a close look; in frozen state, a sort of mauve block roughly the size of a package of frozen peas (but hopefully less repellent). I grabbed one, went off to get a jar of kimchee as well, and checked out.

First lesson: the twist tie was more of a suggestion. It slipped off sometime during the ride in my truck, causing leakage in the plastic grocery bag. Joy. Package fully secured, I went about the rest of a frustrating afternoon: medical appointment with practice that hires dumb admin staff. Stuck in traffic due to eternaconstruction that has been going on for nearly two years with no discernible progress. Used shocking language several times to describe fellow motorists, shaking my head in sad disdain and hoping they lip-read the filth flowing freely from my voice box. Waited in line at post office only to find out that insured mail had evidently been tampered with en route. Said screw it, no haircut; I want to go home now and have a cigar and let this afternoon be over.

After a moderately relaxing cigar, during which I found out that my day’s dinner workup was dashed and I’d have to come up with something else, I decided to try the poi. I also opened the kimchee, on the logic that if the poi was too awful a single bite of kimchee ought to clear away the taste. If not, I could have poi for dinner with a side of kimchee. Couldn’t lose. I extracted a mostly-thawed corner of the mauve block and popped it into my mouth.

I’d like to report that it was delicious, or gross, or weird-tasting, or even ralphtacular. Those would betray your trust. Reality was far blander; one might even call it the ultimate in bland. Compared to this stuff, Wonder Bread is a flavor burst. So is plain pasta. I’m serious. So far as I could tell, poi has no taste at all. It’s completely neutral. It had the consistency of fine hummus, but less flavor than plain steamed rice or even plain tofu. It didn’t smell bad; it didn’t taste bad. It didn’t smell like or taste like anything. It has about the flavor of distilled water.

I am still trying to determine how someone sat down one day and said, “Hey, maybe if we pound this root up into purple paste, it’ll be edible.” Maybe you have to grow up with it. It does, however, explain why Hawai’ians have so embraced Spam: if this was the alternative, any would treat Spam like a boon from on high.

Anyway, I tried it so you don’t have to unless you feel driven. It won’t hurt you, but it probably will not leave you wanting another dose.

Narrow gauge, open mind, numb nuts

There haven’t been any posts for a couple of weeks because Deb and I went on vacation. We drove to Colorado via Utah, then back to Oregon via Wyoming and the Teton Valley (Idaho). Part of it was to celebrate our anniversary, part just that we needed a getaway and one can rely upon Colorado for natural beauty.

One thing we did, which I had never done, was take the narrow gauge train from Durango (Colorado) to Silverton and back. One would never do this for practical means: it costs about $90/each round trip in economy, and it’s three and a half hours to go about 45 miles each way. But for those of you who have heard of this excursion, and wondered what it was like, I can now tell you.

We could have paid double for what presumably would have been a more comfortable ride. Our rather spartan coach car had padded seats, but they weren’t very pleasant for three hours of sitting. In fact, to my alarm, I lost all sensation down below. It took a couple of days for it to return, which is not something I had envisioned. If you are riding in coach, my advice is to bring some pads.

The train pokes along at about the speed a cyclist might ride, so there is lots of time for photography. If your seats are on one side headed for Silverton, they will be on the other during the return to Durango, so you will get both sides’ views. You will also be treated to a few steam expulsions, because the coal-fueled train has to stop and blow off steam to both sides. I hope there are never any animals over there to get scalded. The train also stops at a zipline adventure place and a couple of other locations, in addition to three watering stops from pipes rigged up to stream-fed catchbasins. While its public presentation is as a pure tourist line, the train serves communities along its length for some freight and milk-run passenger service.

The coal smell isn’t as strong as I expected. I wouldn’t want it all the time, but for a finite period I found it immersive. A brakeman gave us instructions (mainly, don’t stand on the platforms between rail cars) and warnings about cinders. The combustion kicks off small cinders that tend to get into riders’ eyes. He assured us he carried eyewash materials. I got a couple cinders, but nothing serious. They weren’t hot.

By late September, Silverton (never a thrill a minute at the best of times) isn’t a very big attraction. It’s mostly tourist traps and dirt roads (no pavement), and there’s nothing there you couldn’t get just as easily in Durango, plus half the shops are closed up for the season. The purpose of this trip is not to obtain two hours in Silverton; the purpose is to ride an old school train through the mountains. We had a nice time, except for the wasp moment. As our car sat in Silverton half-boarded, with all the windows open, a wasp entered the car and buzzed Deb. She is not allergic, but is highly apiphobic. As the wasp headed for the car’s rear, she ran for its front, commanding me to slay the creature. I am not apiphobic, but I hate being the center of a bunch of strangers’ attention. Didn’t matter; what mattered was my wife expected me do courageous battle against the marauding insect. I radiated resignation and ennui as I heaved my numbed regions out of the seat and followed the wasp to the back of the train; one swat with my Thor Gasket cap and it was on the floor, one smoosh of a sneaker and it was no longer among the living.

Upon my return Deb questioned whether I had truly slain the beast. She finally accepted my insistence that I had observed its smashed body. In hindsight, I should have offered to go get the corpus delicti and show it to her, as that would have made her cease to question me.

Overall impression: it’s a beautiful if very lengthy and uncomfortable ride, and in late September the aspen are in full fall color mode. Just remember that it’s a seven-hour round trip sitting on a train, and be sure that you want to spend seven hours on a train. And that you brought cushions to sit on.

Deb got hundreds of great photos, and we both appreciated the novelty of the trip (me especially when sensation returned to all suitable parts of my body). On top of it, when we got back to Durango, we had a great dinner at the Strater Hotel in spite of the fact that some nincompoop had just ruptured the gas main to the entire Durango area. How could this be?

How it could be was that we knew the Strater from our anniversary dinner the night before. It had been phenomenal, as near to dining perfection as one is ever likely to experience, but we wouldn’t normally go back to the same place the next night. We did not have much choice. When the gas is out, most of the restaurants have no real choice but to close down. Not the Strater, which is made of sterner stuff. They reviewed their menu, came up with an abbreviated version, set up a grill behind the establishment, and the show went on. And it was just as good as the night before. If you’re ever in Durango, and you don’t hit the Strater at least once, you should have stayed in Ouray (pronounced your-EH). I admired the way the restaurant combined business opportunism (thinking of a way to be open for a whole townful of tourists with dinner money to spend and very few places to spend it) and a high standard of food and service. And no, they didn’t raise the prices of those menu items. The Strater would be a success in downtown Portland. In Durango, I doubt it has an equal.

Where I read, and why I might wear a helmet

Maybe this is not the expected answer, but I don’t do most of my reading in some deep-burnished law-library-looking place that screams “weighty matters.” I do have a library, but the space is more about a vista of historical and world travel books on Ikea-designed shelves, and a large leather recliner containing several heated massage devices. I can turn it up so high I can’t read even large print.

It’s beautiful there, but I find it inspires me less than do the great outdoors. Most of my reading is done in a cast-off Adirondack chair under two of fourteen lodgepole pines. I watch towhees forage, squirrels re-enact the Looney Tunes gophers, and chickadees dart about. I listen to the sounds of ravens, crows, and falling pine cones. And if I am fortunate, those cones do not hit me. (If it begins to rain, or there are excessive pine cones, I move to a plastic chair mostly sheltered by the eave.)

My back patio is about 10′ x 30′ of poured concrete, just outside the library window, looking at a back yard that is sort of like Chile. It slopes up a lot, has tall pines, and has one short and one very long dimension. I’d say my back fence is about 120′, but from my Adirondack, I could hit a badminton birdie off it. Except: if I wanted a shuttlecock, I’d probably just pick up a pine cone and use a tennis racket.

Every couple of minutes, the lodgepoles shed a cone. At that stage of their lives, the fertile cones are heavy, sappy, and probably weigh as much as a cell phone. I am tempted to counsel my patio guests to wear headgear. They may choose from an old US Army steel pot (with liner), my old lumber mill hard hat from back when I was a burly young cog in the workforce (supports pulled out for the suitable jaunty angle, crudely taped US flag image on the front), or if they ask correctly, my Russian Army chapka (which I can’t even wear unless it’s -5° F). I got rid of my hockey helmet a couple years back. They can have the steel pot or the hard hat.

Deb and I quit our most dangerous tobacco vices last Christmas, but I still enjoy cigars (not constantly, and never inhaled). It is not as safe as no tobacco ever, but if you asked your doctor whether it would be better to have a cigar now and then, or to chew daily, you can guess how she would answer. Same for huffing chem-laced mass-market cigarettes vs. a daily cigar: no one’s going to endorse tobacco, but less is better, and very little means less risk. So I get a big glass of iced tea, gather up my current book, pick out a robusto, and spend forty minutes of quality time with the towhees, re-enacting squirrels, ravens, and plummeting projectiles that would surely draw blood from my shiny pate. As I do it, I get a dandy read.

You should have seen it one time, cone hit the shed roof, bounced, landed straight in an empty aluminum bucket. Right next to Leo, the miniature Schnauzer, who does not handle sudden bonks well. Couldn’t call and make that shot in a hundred years.

Nothing against reading in the library, and in rainy Aloverton, Oregon, I treasure a comfortable place to commune with literature. But when weather permits, I find, I do some of my most thoughtful reading with ravens rawking, squirrels squirreling, towhees poking, and lodgepole pine cones passing through the branch bagatelle.

One of them will have to draw my blood before I’ll yield to the steel pot.

Harold’s sneakers

I used to know a guy named Harold, whom I met through my good friend James. Well, Harold had issues, though he wasn’t a bad guy at heart. In short, Harold was a perpetual, seemingly compulsive liar. He would brass through any lie even when presented with plain evidence to refute it. Harold was convinced that he had been a very important member of a secret special ops unit. If the subject of a language came up, he claimed to speak it fluently. Harold lied about so much that one believed nothing he said, and one was surprised whenever a truth leaked through all the fiction and horseshit.

Even so, I never expected he’d burn a friendship to get a couple grand, but live and learn. He still owes me that money, plus interest, ten years in.

I did have fun one time, when Harold showed up at my door unannounced, wearing his green beret (which was draped on the wrong side). I did not miss a beat. “Little girl, I’d like two boxes of thin mints, and two boxes of the peanut butter dream cookies, please.”

Before entering, Harold raised a middle finger, signifying his disapproval of my greeting.

Another time, Harold got snowed in at my place during a freak Pacific Northwest westside snowstorm. He was stuck there for three days, during which he managed to get my sliding glass door stuck open due to ice, thanks in turn to his frequent need to go out and smoke. Since he had trudged some distance through the slush to reach my place, he had arrived with very wet sneakers, which he removed. My carpet would never be the same again. Harold’s sneakers had a legendary stench, and he was now walking around my place in his wet socks. He claimed to have contracted some sort of jungle fungus in the tropics. I suspected he probably just hadn’t changed his socks often enough.

When I awoke the next morning, and went down the hall, my nostrils cringed before the assault of Harold’s fermenting sneakers (probably almost ready for la remuage et le dégorgement). This will not stand, I told myself. My solution was silent, swift, and sure. I dug three quarters out of my laundry coin jar and scooped up a scoop of laundry detergent. I looked at Harold, pointed at his shoes, then to my door. I sat the coins and detergent on the table and went back to my room, hoping that my body language had conveyed the full urgency.

The funniest one, though, was when James needed his house painted, as he feared he might need to put it on the market due to illness. Harold and I teamed up to paint the house. Now, James had a small mutt named Willie. Willie, an inoffensive creature to anyone partial to dogs, annoyed me and I paid him no attention of any kind. Willie did not care. Willie liked me anyway, and for that reason, James liked me. This was a pretty hot day, Harold had rented a paint sprayer, at the use of which he was inept, and we weren’t having a very easy or clean time.

James, being the good guy that he was, ordered pizza for all of us. (He was too frail at that point to help paint the place. He would eventually need a transplant, which would buy him some more years before we lost him.) Harold and I were glad to go inside for lunch. I was so tired, sweaty, and hungry that I didn’t even care that Harold had removed his sneakers.

We all shared a jovial pizza lunch, eating our way to the crusts. Willie expected that this would be his snack time, and began to get a little eager. James chastised him in that piercing nasal voice I miss to this day: “Willie! Good dogs get, and bad dogs don’t!” Willie, no fool, resumed his patient wait. Soon James pitched a succulent pizza crust in his direction.

I swear to you that this is true: it landed directly in one of Harold’s shoes. I would not fictionalize something like this without telling you so.

James, of course, had not meant to do that. Willie’s reflexes caused him to dart for the thrown food, and within six inches of Harold’s footwear, the dog halted as if he’d hit a force-field. Willie stopped, examined the situation, sniffed, and backed off. He gave James the mournful canine look that says ‘You are such a fucker,’ and trudged away in sorrow.

When it registered what we had just seen, that was probably the best laugh we all ever had together.

It’s how I like to remember James, a man whose eulogy I would one day have to deliver.

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!”

“Oh.”

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.

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.

Passing knowledge on, Baja Canada, and eating a bag of Dick’s

Now and then I take an authentic business trip, defined as travel that can without question be construed as related to my work. I am allowed to enjoy them, though, and I did this one. On Friday I headed north from Portland toward the forests south and east of Tacoma to visit a couple of my favorite clients: Shawn Inmon and Heidi Ennis.

Heidi recently released her first book, a nuanced and well-researched Native American historical fiction tale set just before 1800. I liked everything about working with her. She is a homeschool mom with a background in education, and her daughter and son are outstanding young people. Walking past the Latin declensions on the whiteboard headed toward her kitchen, I can see why. I love history, and any time children are interested in history and reading, I become a teacher on the spot. We had lunch, then spent several pleasant hours in questions and answers. Had it been feasible, I’d gladly have stayed longer.

I spent most of the weekend with Shawn, who owes his success to a combination of work ethic and willingness to market. Marketing is a problem for authors (and not a few editors, ahem). To market well, you have to be ham enough to enjoy taking the stage, and you must not be embarrassed to stand up and announce an event or a giveaway or a new release. I would have a hard time doing that because I would find it mortifying to put myself out there that way in the assumption that anyone should care. Good marketers do it without the slightest embarrassment, and if Shawn thought that the best way to market his work was to base jump naked off Columbia Tower, he’d probably do it. (I may regret giving him that idea. Well, actually, he kind of prompted it himself, though not in quite that form.)

After a very pleasant dinner out with Shawn and Dawn, we spent the rest of the evening chez Inmon talking about his current projects and some issues we must overcome. In short, there are a couple of situations in the story that we can agree need to occur, but we cannot determine how to make them flow naturally. I’m a big opponent of ‘showing the strings;’ I consider contrivance to be a bad odor, and it emanates from so much self-published fiction. We are still working this through.

The next day, Dawn had a prior commitment, but Shawn had planned for he and I to attend a Mariners game at ‘The Safe.’ That’s a good name for a stadium with a big sliding roof that can close over the top of it, which I consider an engineering marvel. The Blue Jays were in town, so I knew to expect a veritable Hoserama. Yes, the Canadians outnumbered the USians, as they had the last time I’d seen a Jays@Mariners game. (It had been a while. I had watched it in the Kingdome, which was imploded quite some years back.) I hate the company who sponsors the Ms’ field, so I will not use their name, but The Safe is a very nice place to watch a game and I’d never been there. It felt a bit like a hockey game, with the playing of both national anthems (everyone stands up for both).

Our section of Baja Canada was just in the trajectory of sharp foul balls or bat fragments from a right-handed hitter, close enough to the first base line to discern facial expressions. Most of those in royal blue were drunk but not on their lips, and behaved very well. Props to the eh-team. As we were choking away the bottom of the ninth, I got some laughs by asking if we could pull our goalie.

Afterward, Shawn wanted to take me to lunch/early dinner. We’d originally planned to visit an old Cap Hill favorite, but to our general shock it was closed up tight. As an alternative, Shawn suggested we stop at Dick’s Drive-In. Dick’s is a Seattle staple of many years, well loved by many and with a reputation as a good place to work. Shawn told me about a homeless person whom he had once seen sitting on the sidewalk near the restaurant. “He had a sign that said HELP ME FILL MY MOUTH WITH DICK’S.”

“That’s great. Did you give him any money?”

“Definitely, I gave him a buck.”

“Good man. That deserves a buck at least.”

I hadn’t been to Dick’s in some time, and it was better than I’d remembered. After inspecting the bags to find out whose Dick’s belonged to whom, we sat down to eat in companionable festivity. A lot of people hang around Dick’s, some of whom are even there to have dinner. We spent the drive back southward working on plot issues. We have not yet solved them, but it was a good brainstorming session.

Normally, of course, the client would not be taking the vendor out to such an involved event, but this will tell you a lot about Shawn’s ethical standards. He has written some stories that went into charity anthologies. I edited them, but resisted his efforts to press payment upon me (duh). This arose out of him contacting me to notify me that he was planning to include those stories in some for-profit work, and that he therefore needed to pay me. I wasn’t interested in money, though I respected his punctilious honesty about the situation. He had already invited me to come up and visit, and attend a Mariners game with him, so he proposed to pay for my ticket. That worked out to a lot more than I’d have charged for the editing, but one can hardly say no to such a kind offer, and all senses of right action were thus satisfied all around.

I came home this morning very happy to see my wife again, but with the afterglow of a fine weekend’s business travel. Thanks to all my hosts for their warm welcomes. The best part of my work is the client relationships, and this weekend was a good example of why.