Tag Archives: idaho

Erection Day in Idaho

That is not a typo, and believe it or not, this is not a partisan political post, but a satirical one.

I had an interesting Idaho Erection Day. Today is Erection Day for two reasons:

  • It is the day of the Idaho primaries, which will determine the outcome of the November balloting formalities foregone conclusions.
  • It is the day when all the robocalls culminate, each candidate seeking to convince me that his penis is more conservative than the penes of his rivals.

Thus, Erection Day.

My Erection Day began with a few robocalls encouraging me to vote for someone or other. I determined that robocalls are unaffected by one’s responses. One can curse at high volume without changing anything. One can accuse the candidate of shocking and hopefully illegal acts with livestock, pets and members of the immediate family. I tried. Nothing changes the robocall.

Had to take the White Lightning, my Toyota truck, in for an oil change. On the way there, I drove past an enormous funeral home with landscaped grounds. It is Erection Day, so the lawn was studded with political signs. For one man: the incumbent and running-for-re-erection Ada County Coroner.

Stopped to pick up mail, and discovered a notice in the mail from Vicky McIntyre, who is evidently the Ada County Treasurer. The notice advised that I had better pay my property tax by a certain date, lest I suffer financial penalties and gods know what else. Strange? Yes, considering that my property taxes are paid from a reserve collected by the mortgage holder.

Drove past many signs extolling the conservatism of various male organs owned by politicians. Didn’t see any for those clowns who were on the gubernatorial debate, though I think it would be shortsighted to assume that this means their penes are less conservative. I’m pretty sure both those guys would run your head through a wall for that, at least.

Stopped by credit union to ask mortgage representative about the property tax bill. Genial inquiry is met with friendly eyeroll. “Everyone’s getting them. Everyone.”

“But how can this make sense? These people are inept! What the hell’s wrong with this Vicky?”

“You’re right, it doesn’t. But have no fear. We still plan to pay your property tax from your reserve on this timely date.”

“That’s good to know. But I don’t even see how they can spend all this money sending out completely useless notices? This person is supposed to be the treasurer, and this is how she spends the money?”

“Maybe her penis is less conservative than those of others, sir.”

Okay, the nice young lady did not actually say that. But it would have made my day if she had.

Call up Vicky’s office. Vicky’s representative blames the entire thing on the credit union. In her view, the Ada County Treasurer’s office is not at fault for sending out what are probably tens of thousands of spurious tax notices, and the associated costs. To hear her tell it, no one at Ada County was responsible for noticing that they were generating a mailing very significantly larger than the expected norm.

I am beginning understand why there’s a lot of drinking in Idaho.

It’s 3:27 PM MDT, approximately eight hours prior to my traditional cocktail hour, and I find myself tempted to have a belt. I should not, and won’t, because I have work to do. But I’ll probably tune in to the news later to discover the erection results, and if and when I do that, I will most likely decide that I am permitted to have something to drink before they begin.


Crápo Appliance

Back when I lived in Seattle, I hung out with a tinkery, Gyro Gearloose guy named Aaron. We had some common interests, including paganism and gaming. He had a strong creative streak and breath that had been known to slay raccoons at thirty paces. One has to take the rough with the smooth, as we say back home.

Alert: this story has me being astonishingly juvenile.

Sometimes Aaron’s tinkering didn’t go too well. His girlfriend lived up in Lynnwood, not far north of me in Shoreline. One day he phoned me to let me know that his efforts to accelerate the defrosting of his lady’s freezer had led to a malfunction. His notion to employ a flathead screwdriver seemed to have been the cause. He now needed to purchase her a new refrigerator, as she was rather a testy type. Budgetary concerns dictated that he select a used appliance, and getting to the heart of the matter, I owned a truck. (This was in about 1995. The truck, drolly nicknamed ‘the White Lightning,’ was five years old. I’m still driving it.)

Sure, Aaron, I’ll go help you haul your used refrigerator. I drove up and picked him up in the Lightning. There was a place in Bellevue, somewhere out toward Redmond, that he felt would have what he needed. Off we headed, his directions mostly effective, and we pulled up at a little strip mall outside a business whose sign proclaimed it: CRAPO APPLIANCE SERVICE.

It did not occur to me at the time that this might be someone’s real name. I honestly thought that this was a shining episode of truth in advertising, like Rent-A-Dent. “You want a crappy appliance? We’ve got lots of truly crappo stuff! Best prices in town!” I wondered why I had not seen commercials for this place, with loud guys boasting that they’d beat anyone’s price.

I also fell apart laughing. Came completely unglued. Embarrassed hell out of Aaron, who was there to pick out a used refrigerator. I couldn’t stop. Tears flowed. I followed him around, doubled over and gasping for breath. I was still a hot mess as I helped him wrangle the device into my pickup, a miracle that I didn’t just drop my side and fall to the ground laughing. I was a complete spectacle. I complimented the store clerk (and possibly owner) on the forthright honesty of the name, at least in between gales of laughter. Thinking that no one would ever believe this without proof, I snagged a business card, which I carried in my wallet for years and still possess. On the card, there was an accent aigu (á) over the A in CRAPO (which is not the correct phonetic mark, by the way…it should be a horizontal line, like an en dash). The clerk grumbled at me, “It’s CRAY-po.” I must not have been the first sight of this kind that he’d seen, though I might have been the most shameless.


I didn’t find it easy to drive the truck back to Lynnwood, because I kept having giggle fits, guffaw seizures and high-pitched cackling events. I suppose Aaron was somewhat amused by how this struck me. In any case, since it was my truck, he didn’t ask me to shut up. It wouldn’t have worked anyway.

If karma exists, it may have caught up with me. Evidently ‘Crapo’ is a common and prominent LDS family name here in Idaho, like ‘Allred.’ In fact, one our distinguished solons by that name recently made the news. For getting a DWI at Christmas in D.C. Yeah. Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), stay classy and true to your beliefs. Keep telling us all how to live.

It’s a good thing that all happened before Youtube, or someone might have memorialized my transformation into a werehyena, and they could probably make trouble for me out here.

Oh, well.

D&J’s excellent adventures: Idaho State Capitol

I have never before lived in a state’s capital city. For me, it has never been a casual errand to visit a capitol. Now it is–and it’s more casual than I imagined it could be.

In Boise, the Capitol is laid out at the end of a very long, straight arterial that crosses the Boise River. Unshockingly, it is called Capitol Boulevard. Few capitols are easy to miss (Colorado’s gold-leaf dome is more like impossible to miss), but Idaho’s takes the visibility cake.

It also eats your accessibility cake, at least in terms of parking. We parked at a meter one block away. From the outside, it looks like an unremarkable American capitol with the traditional central dome. Given Idaho’s mining history, I’m surprised they didn’t gold-leaf this one. Maybe they thought it was too flashy. We climbed the high stairs. The only evidence of exterior security was an Idaho State Police cruiser pulled up outside, far enough away that I couldn’t see if it was occupied. If it was, its occupant showed no interest in us. I prepared for the metal detectors, interrogation, grim-looking State Police officers demanding ID, asking our business and making sure we went nowhere unescorted by an armed peace officer.

Nothing. No one. Silence.

Not just no police; no hired security. No one. We could have stripped to the skin and reclothed ourselves at some leisure without being interrupted (although I’ll bet there’s a security cam that would have thwarted that). Just a sign letting you know that this was the Idaho State Capitol, for those incapable of figuring that out on their own, and ‘please be respectful.’ (At least they did address the issue of nudity, however obliquely.) A map placard showed you how to find whichever office you sought: Attorney General, Lieutenant Governor, Governor, House Chamber, etc.

“So we can just wander around?” asked Deb.

“Yeah, evidently no one cares, but obviously we can’t go in any offices.”

“Screw that. I want to see ’em.”

“Not this again.” Deb is unshy and unprone to embarrassment. I am shy and very easily embarrassed in some ways, especially by excessive forwardness. I was in no way dressed to walk into any official office. Deb simply does not care.

A person or two happened by as we ogled the striated scagliola (a form of synthetic marble) Corinthian columns supporting the dome, the interior top of which we could see. Something up in the top looked like R2-D2, and I said so. She didn’t even call me a ‘nutburger.’ There was a lot of natural marble as well: some greyish with charcoal veining, some crimson with cream veins (Oklahoma fans might say that’s the only thing would like to remember about Boise, heh).  Credit to the designers, builders and recent remodelers: it was majestic, exquisite without being gaudy. They let the marble speak for itself.

We wandered down the east wing, then the west, where the door to the Governor’s office reception was open. No one attempted to prevent our entrance. A fiftyish bleach-blonde receptionist smiled at us while on a phone call. Immediately to our left was the Governor’s office, no one present. Farther away and to the right was a desk with a State Police officer doing something on a computer. Minesweeper, perhaps, maybe Candy Crush. Deb wandered back to his doorway and pointed to a shadow box full of bullets (not rounds) on the wall behind him. “Are those bullets that were used in action?” she asked as I winced. He said it was just a display of various calibers.

Now the receptionist was off the phone. “So is the Governor a Republican?” asked my bride. Oh, good lord. I shrank away and took intense interest in a map of Idaho by counties, made of various forms of polished stone.

It was like Deb had asked ‘Did Jesus really exist?’ The receptionist looked aghast at the question, almost drew herself up a bit. “Yes, definitely.” The Capitol needs a trap door exit capable of rescuing up hefty, bearded visiting husbands at times like this.

“You’re in Idaho now,” added a suited baldhead awaiting some form of audience, opening stigmata on the hands of Captain Obvious.

These days, you can’t get elected janitor in most of Idaho without the letter ‘R’ after your name. A dead Republican would beat a live anything else; even a Republican dog (live or dead) would beat a human from another party. If he ran as a Republican in Idaho, Charles Manson would beat Mother Teresa (unless the latter were also a Republican, or unless Charlie came out on a platform of forcible gun confiscation and raising the minimum wage). Nothing factors but the party, and the only valid platform question is the candidate’s degree of passionate gun love. The challenger who boasts about having actual sex with his or her forty-five firearms has a big advantage over the incumbent who owns and adores a mere forty boomsticks, and only uses them for boring, lukewarm, lefty stuff like hunting, fishing, biking, militiaing, self-defense and making donuts.

“Is that his office?” Deb asked, pointing. Somewhere, Captain Obvious wept.

“Yes, he’s not in right now.” So one could determine by the lack of a vaguely georgewbushian presence named ‘Butch’ behind the desk.

“What part of the state is he from?” I asked.

“Right here. Caldwell, actually,” answered the receptionist. (Only later did I read that, when popped for DWI, his earlier varioush excshuses to the nyshe offisher included a claim that he had soaked his chew with Jack Daniels. Evidently time heals these sorts of political wounds in Idaho.)

Deb’s curiosity satisfied, we wandered back down to the east wing. The Lieutenant Governor’s office had a keycard entry, making it evident that one had to have a reason for entry beyond simple sightseeing. Considering how little most lieutenant governors actually do, that seems pretentious. In Washington, we had a former Husky football coach as Lieutenant Governor for so many years that he was not so much an official, but a habit. One year, the Libertarian candidate’s platform was that if elected Lieutenant Governor, she would immediately move to abolish the office and save the state several hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Delighted, I voted for her.

On our way back around the rotunda, a police officer stepped out of an elevator. “I wonder why they don’t have any security,” said Deb. “Maybe I can ask that guy.”

Oh, good lord. I whispered, “Deb, that’s not a ‘that guy.’ That’s an Idaho State Police officer.”

“I don’t care.” She means that. Over she went. “Excuse me. How come there isn’t any security at the entrance?”

The officer, a tall, close-cropped young blond, replied without missing a beat. “Because the Governor believes that this is the people’s house.” We thanked him and left. Far out in front of the building is a statue of Lincoln containing the Gettysburg Address. Abraham Lincoln is important to Idahoans. In 1863, he signed the act proclaiming Idaho a Territory. The day he was assassinated, he had considered issues related to Idaho. There’s also a statue of someone I’d never heard of, cited for ‘reimposing the rule of law.’ I’ll bet that if I looked it up, that was code for ‘busted unions by force.’ Some things don’t much change, some places. Trying to start a union in Idaho is like trying to start a gun show in England, or a pork barbecue place in Saudi Arabia.

And that was our trip to the Idaho State Capitol.

I wonder, in how many states, one can do just as we did without anyone even seeming to consider it odd.


I’m including a bonus section here. I rarely talk about the spam I get, because WP catches most of it. I just have to push the flush handle once a day or so. The need to approve the first post from a new commenter eliminates nearly all spam. The typical spam is either a page of Chinese characters, or a short note in bizarre English that says something like ‘I very much to appreciate your web page which is the helpfulmost and fastest of its type.’ Some are borderline gibberish. If a character gets left out, or something else screws up, one gets an illustrative view. Here’s one such that I saved:

{I have|I’ve} been {surfing|browsing} online more than {three|3|2|4}
hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours.
{It’s|It is} pretty worth enough ffor me. {In my opinion|Personally|In myy view}, if all {webmasters|site owners|website owners|web
owners} and bloggers made good content as yyou did, the {internet|net|web} will bbe {much
more|a loot more} useful thazn ever before.|
I {couldn’t|could not} {resist|refrain from} commenting.
{Very well|Perfectly|Well|Exceptionally well} written!|
{I will|I’ll} {right away|immediately} {take hold of|grab|clutch|grasp|seize|snatch} your {rss|rss feed} as I {can not|can’t} {in finding|find|to find} your {email|e-mail} subscription {link|hyperlink} or
{newsletter|e-newsletter} service. Do {you have|you’ve} any?
{Please|Kindly} {allow|permit|let} me {realize|recognize|understand|recognise|know} {so that|in order that} I{may just|may|could} subscribe.


You probably drew the same conclusion I did: someone’s got a spam generator, and it’s set up to vary the text just enough to elude some Googling. Somehow, the sender left off a character and it sent the template rather than the letter the template was meant to generate. The English will seem almost right, but not quite be. And now you can see how it ends up that way.

Defining Idaho

The definition is elusive. Idaho has a million and a half people, slightly more than a third of whom live in or around Boise (BOY-see, not BOY-zee). North Idaho has its own identity. Idaho is only something like 25% LDS, but in parts of southern Idaho you couldn’t get elected dogcatcher without a Temple Recommend. It’s famous for preppers, gun fanatics, precious metal trading and potatoes (even the license plates announce this). Many of you have only heard of Idaho, never really been there. What defines it?

One must resist, as always, the tendency to generalize too much on a small sample base, but I’ve spent the past month arranging business with Idahoans, meeting them, having them knock on my door, and otherwise getting a feel. What defines Idaho, in my observation so far?

Rawboned. Your typical Idahoan is spare, rugged and inured to economic and environmental hardship. These are a tough people. Life in Idaho can be physically challenging, and I think it tends to run out those who can’t handle that. I’m not thinking this is a big retirement state, although Boise’s climate is just a shade harsher than that of southeastern Washington. That of other parts (Idaho is the nation’s 14th largest state) can be much harsher. I’m talking Montana harsh, and Montana harsh can sneak up on you and end your life.

Unguarded. Idahoans do not anticipate that people will gratuitously do them wrong just because they can. I have seen many examples of this and it seems representative, from driving habits to knocking on my door. Many places are this way, but Idaho seems a bit more so: people seem to assume the good. I’ve been around much of the state over the years (you cannot really head east from Washington without passing through Idaho). There is a certain refreshing goodwill to it all. A good example might be the seller of our house, whose financing went pear-shaped thanks to US Bank’s mishandling. Could we have kicked her out at closing? Sure, but since we did not need to, we did not. We didn’t need the house for a couple more days, and some discussion with others confirmed that we had followed basic custom by not being insistent when we did not need to. Needless hardassery in human relations is just not the way here, that being counter to a live-and-let-live way of life. Surely there are exceptions, but they are neither approved nor embraced at large.

Friendly. Everywhere I have been in Idaho–even the parts where being a jackass can get your head run through a wall, like Sandpoint–I have generally found friendly people. Consider this: if you have followed the blog for a while, you probably read of my pitiful efforts to buy champagne in Rexburg. This is a town that exists mostly for BYU-Idaho, where something like 95% of the population isn’t supposed to drink at all. That didn’t stop people from helping us figure out where we could buy champagne (and there is no poorer selection of it outside Saudi Arabia). People treated us helpfully even after this glaringly obvious self-identification as outsiders. And I did find the champagne (kicking myself really hard for not buying it in Salt Lake when I had the chance for a better selection). I see this even in Boise, the state’s largest city. If you need help, people tend to offer it, whether or not it might agree with their own world views.

Characters. Idaho has lots. I am already meeting them. And since I qualify as one, and am encountering warm reactions to my quirkiness, it’s hard for me to escape a feeling that Idaho is used to characters, and kind of likes them, unless they are the type who call the cops every time someone is having fun, or who yell at kids (metaphorically) to get off the lawn. I would suggest that Idaho leans toward embracing characters, especially those who seem not to be overly guarded, and who show some evidence of a tolerant attitude (it being expected that there will also be other, very different characters, and if one wishes to be embraced, one has to plan to do some embracing).

Let’s be intellectually honest about inherent biases: I can’t say that much of the above isn’t true for observers who go to any place with a reasonably open mind and sense of goodwill. Perhaps it is. But it does seem to come freely and easily in Idaho.

I think we’re going to like this. I think we can fit in, and find our way here.

Basic education: Idaho’s nickname is ‘The Gem State,’ for the wide variety of precious stones found here. The motto is Esto perpetua (Let it be forever). I have no idea what they mean by that. It was the 43rd state (1890). The state song is Here We Have Idaho, which I’m not sure anyone can sing; it beats Washington, My Home, which I can attest that nearly no Washingtonians know, but shrivels compared to Kansas’s Home on the Range. The state bird is the Rocky Mountain Bluebird. The tree is the White Pine (also known as the Western White Pine), which in my lumber mill days we called the ‘Idaho pine’ and had to sort out from the Ponderosa Pine which was the mill’s focus. I told them from ponderosa by the lighter wood and the purplish knots, in contrast to the rusty brown of ponderosa knots. The flower is the Syringa (sah-RIN-gah), a broad white flower that grows from a big bush somewhat like a rhododendron (Washington’s state flower). Idaho’s state fish is the cutthroat trout.

My thinking is we could plant a couple bushes of syringa out back, without hurting anything, and it might be kind of nice.

Howdy, Idaho. Thanks for taking us in.

Driving from Boise

I drove down to Idaho’s capital, where we anticipate we will be living before 2013 is out, to visit Deb. She has completed her first week of work at a new job and we miss one another keenly, though we have a plan that depends upon me not just ripping up stakes and moving quite yet.

Boise is a 4.5 hour drive from here, if one wants to avoid falling foul of the Oregon State Police. When you have any tags but Oregon on your car, you very much do not want to make yourself an interesting person to pull over. The trip is mountainous, winding and beautiful. Reunion was joyful and came just in time for us to find a fun Lebanese place in Boise. Tried my limited Arabic on the staff, but none would answer in it. One may take that as a sign that my pronunciation was atrocious, or that they kind of try not to be too conspicuous–I don’t know.

The next day, we wandered around to some specialty stores related to hobbies of mine, which was quite fruitful, then headed to the Basque Block downtown. About the only place in the world with more Basques than Boise, we are told, is Euskadi itself (Spain’s Basque country). Stopped in at one of Boise’s more storied Basque spots, a tiny corner pub named Bar Gernika. (Accent on the second syllable–and yes, the name refers back to Guernica, of Spanish Civil War tragic fame.) I liked my paella and croquetas, and Deb enjoyed her selection as well. Lots of Basque flags there (looks much like a Union Jack but with a green background). Did not try my Spanish there; one suspects it is widely spoken, but as the language of what Basques would consider an oppressor, might be a real bad start with people.

Headed out earlier today, and decided to describe the travel, for those who have never been to this part of the world. A trip from Boise to the Tri-Cities of Washington mostly crosses northeastern Oregon on I-84, which can be formidable in winter even though the summit of the Blue Mountains is only just over 4000′. From Boise to Ontario, OR is fairly flat past croplands and medium-sized towns like Nampa and Caldwell, enjoying Idaho’s 75 mph speed limit. (I could not stop calling the former ‘Nampon’ in my mind. I may one day blurt it out.) At the Oregon line, speed drops to 65, shortly after which comes the climb up to Baker City, and the trucks begin slipping back shortly after crossing from Mountain Time to Pacific Time. Soon one sees the first of many breathtaking vales and valleys, which almost become dull: the majestic turns commonplace. One eyesore: an old lime plant in full decrepitude, looks like a lot of kids go where they would be wiser not to and mess around in the ruins. I guess kids need to do stupid things in order to adventure and learn.

At this point in late winter, the road is clear but the mountains surrounding are still quite snowy where one can see that the sun doesn’t strike directly for long during the day. There is usually a river near the freeway, or a snowy field, or a herd of cattle, often all three. Snow drift barriers are rarely out of sight; these look like fence sections leaning over, and exist to control the heavy drifting of snow–presumably onto the freeway, since most are close to it. North of Baker some miles, a sign announces that you’re crossing the 45th parallel. It feels compelled to explain that this means you are halfway between the Equator and North Pole, which says a lot about the state of geography education in this country. From Baker to La Grande is more very empty and pretty country, where the freeway sides are often far apart and many steep descents and climbs show up. In numerous spots, wide roadside areas advise that one may use them to chain up–indeed, in winter, carrying chains or having traction tires is the law in this stretch of the Blues. Even though it’s in the 40s, the wind at a rest stop is punishingly hard and cold, a reminder of what it’s like to make your living up here.

Past La Grande some miles, one begins to descend out of the Blues, and one sees those signs that are the clearest signs that one is in a mountainous part of the West: RUNAWAY TRUCK RAMP 5 MILES. Other signs set aside areas for trucks to check brakes, give speed guidance based on gross weight, and otherwise make absolutely clear that everyone on the freeway knows the danger. This is when it hits you. If in your rear view mirror (which you should check frequently), you see a semi barreling down on you at what looks to be 90 mph and accelerating, he hasn’t gone crazy or decided to bully cars (as trucks sometimes do, in my experience). He’s lost his brakes, is hoping not to roll his rig before he reaches a runaway ramp, and he can not stop. You can get out of his way, or die. The runaway ramps themselves are steep tracks into the mountainside located at bends which a runaway truck could not hope to survive at those speeds, paved with loose crushed rock (probably a couple of feet deep), to soak up the speed in conjunction with the steep climb up the slope. The first one I passed had numerous ruts, some all the way to the top of the ramp. If you weren’t checking your mirror before seeing that, you would start. Deadman Pass is along this stretch, and it’s not inaptly named. Just a couple months earlier this winter, a busload of Korean exchange students going to Canada from Las Vegas went down a steep embankment at Deadman Pass. Nine fatalities, dozens injured. To stay alive up here, one best look alive.

For my trip, happily, everyone’s brakes were fine. Coming down toward Pendleton (yes, home of the Roundup), one crosses wide farming areas on the Umatilla Indian Reservation. On the way there, I had seen a tribal police speed trap, and watched my speed carefully this time–but the only speed trap on the way back on Umatilla land was an OSP van hidden in a clever defile. From Pendleton to the Columbia is rolling high desert, heavy with sagebrush and offering the turn onto I-82 north for home. I pass at one point the hundreds of bunkers in which the nation once stored enough nerve gas to wipe out a fair percentage of humanity. I always feel happy when I’m onto the bridge and the sign welcomes me to Washington. I feel a little less happy when other signs start to harangue me about various laws, but I guess we need them. Limit is 70 in Washington on this part of I-82, which seems kind of symbolic that we’re partly like Oregon and partly like Idaho. Of course, as always, the Oregon license plates will tailgate one even more readily in Washington than in Oregon–they take deep personal umbrage at being impeded in any way, even if there are four other cars ahead, and will come up within a yard of your rear bumper. I’ve never figured out why they do this, but it got old a long time ago.

These drives used to be worse before the Ipod came along. I got four and a half hours of Viking metal quality time, though my truck is noisy enough that I must jack up the volume in order to hear anything over the background road noise. Pick up the dog from Rich and Betsy (bless them), drop off some Basque sausage for them (Rich is Pennsylvania Polish, thus the perfect tidbit), and home to some cold beers.

After four and a half hours in the saddle, with only one ten-minute leak break, I need them.