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Weddings Are the New Treasure Hunts

September 4, 2013 Leave a comment

     My daughter is getting married December 1st.  She is not in her home state at present and will not arrive home until the end of September.  Phone contact is spotty as she works in the mountains.  Texting gets through once in awhile.  She wants a big, white wedding with a dinner and dancing and formal attire and her groom is bringing his guests over from Europe.  We don’t even have a dress yet.  

Anybody who has ever put together a wedding recognizes the insanity of the above paragraph.  

How will this all happen, you say, in such a short amount of time?  Jesus, that question is why I am frazzled, writing for therapy, and have been drinking coffee in my nightgown since 2 this morning.   Well, apparently, I am doing this.  

Yesterday was the day from wedding hell.  After having two venues fall through (Ashland Springs Hotel who insisted I sign a contract saying that -if the wedding never even happens at all – I STILL owe them very penny of the 5 grand it costs) and Callahans Lodge whose owner was all smiles and gave me a grand tour and told me it  would easy, the banquet rooms free with just the cost of the dinners, everything done for me, no worries – sent me off in a cloud of euphoria – and THEN HAS NOT RETURNED MY CALLS AGAIN FOR THREE WEEKS!    I had to venture out and look for new places to have a wedding.

Firstly, most people marry in the summer.  I now see why.  Theoretically you could just host the thing on your dang lawn if all else fails.  In the winter you are forced into hotels,  restaurants, wineries.  bed and breakfasts that are massive enough to host you inside, churches, –  mmm –   how about under bridges?  bus stations?  the airport lobby?  big coffee shops?  after hours at the mall?   –  These things now pop into my head at odd moments.   Sort of like a facial tic or something.

We aren’t religious and, even though I would work with a church, my daughter states she “has no emotional connection with a church.”  Well – Gees!  Does she have an emotional connection with a hotel?  I don’t know.  I am getting snarky now because I am on the line alone now.

Do you know how you order invitations these days?  You call a printer.  He is nice, but refers you to his wonderful comprehensive website.  He tells you that – AFTER the final draft has been approved – it will take two weeks to print these out.  He gently disengages from your gasp of tortured surprise.  You go to his website.  How many forms of invitations for weddings can you find one ONE little local printer’s website?  1,112.    Yup.  I am supposed to choose from over a thousand invitations for my daughter’s wedding.  And, whoa be to ME if I choose incorrectly.   A pissed off bride is NOT what you want arriving home end of September and living with you for the next year or so until they get on their feet.  Uh uh.  Want to do it right.

I visited tons of places yesterday.  Started at the Jacksonville Inn, a historic hotel restaurant in downtown Jacksonville, Oregon.  Nice guy named Platon (he is Greek and charming!  Calls everyone,   Daaahling!)  is the event planner.  He showed me the dining room and it was fine.  Bride and Groom could marry in one part of the room in front of the fire and dine in the other part.  Would work great.  Where would we dance, I asked?     “Oh, Daaahling!  You can’t dance in this hotel.  It was built in the 1800’s and the floors would not take contemporary pounding music.  Somebody would go through the floor with Gangnam Style, you know, daahling?”  

   Paton was helpful, though.  He got into his address book – he knows everybody.  I went out on his referral to a  historic mansion – beautiful, but $2,000 just to walk in the doors.  Food, decorations, everything on top.  Figured the wedding would be open ended cost time.  Too Scary.     On to a winery.  Beautiful views, lovely facility, same drill.  $1,500 just for 3 hours of rental.  Includes nothing.  Another money pit.  A beautiful suite of rooms in Medford regularly hosts ballroom dancing.  Our wedding would not be that big, but I wondered if they maybe had a smaller set of rooms or something.   The guy asked my wedding guest number.  I told him it could be as small as 25.  He just kept laughing.  “We could stick you in a corner?  Which corner would you prefer?”  

    Okay, today I have some tenters coming.  Yes, tenters.  They could make me a big tent on the lawn or something.  We’ll see.

    I am sure everything will be okay.  The lady from Callahans might decide to call me after 3 weeks.  Maybe she had the flu or something.  Jacksonville Inn could let us dance on the street?  Ashland Hotel could drop the contract because who else is going to put a wedding on a Sunday night mid winter?  

Invitations?  I will just open my browser onto the Printer’s website, pick a midway  price point,  close my eyes, put my finger on the screen and – choose those!  Oh, woops, those were for recommitment ceremonies – okay try it again.   How about …..those?  Well, pumpkin is a little weird for the color.  I’ll try it again.

Today I tour another winery!    It is historic.  It is affordable.  It is set up exactly like a neighborhood bar, though – kind of looks like  Cheers inside – I know because I have been to “tastings” there.    I can just SEE my Mormon sister arriving for the wedding.  Oh,  crap.  Maybe not.  

Wish me luck, people.   And if you know of any abandoned old haunted houses or anything – I will be happy to check them out.  I could RENOVATE for the cost of this wedding.  

Kaye D Proctor

 
 
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Book Review (Yeah, Book Review Bitch)

August 28, 2013 Leave a comment

 The Forever War

Joe Haldeman

Before I begin a review on this book, I want to explain why, in heavens name, I feel compelled to write a book review on ANY book.

I am a book addict. If I am not absorbed in a book, I feel unfulfilled, dissatisfied, vaguely unhappy. Books somehow plug that emotional cavity that is empty and aching without a story to fill it up. This function is served for some (my kids for example) by television or movies or even gossip. For me, it always has been books. When I am reading a good book, I am content. When I put down my book, I can’t wait to get back to it. I get through my dreary activities of daily living just to make it back to THE BOOK. When I finish a book, I begin my quest to find another.

Usually fiction. I can get into a good biography, but it has to be a damn good biography. It has to be as good as – well – fiction. History can be very diverting, too. Also stuff like travel books. These work because they TAKE you someplace. Sort of like, well, you know, ‐ fiction. You’ve got the idea.

Where does one find suitable books to salve the soul? Oh, my! This should be easy. Well, it is not. A few sources of book recommendations include: A friend can tell you about one they loved (usually unbearably trite!). A bookstore can display the best sellers (this just means a bunch of good folks have been hoodwinked into buying stupid books !) My ipad can tell me about the same shit the bookstore is peddling. Websites like Good Reads can narrow it down for you (are publishing companies paying these people?) You can find literary lists like “100 best books of all time.” Man, that is a crap shoot let me tell you.

Okay, before you think I am an egomaniac with the fixed notion that I am the only arbiter of good literary taste in the universe, I must humble the tone here. I am sure that these books appeal to a great many people and these great people of whom there are many are not wrong. They are just not ME. Or YOU. So, they pick the books that rang their chimes – maybe 100 years ago by the way – and it just doesn’t set the bells off for me reliably. Of course, some of the novels from lofty lists of all time literary achievements, DID strike a cord and even construct a sonnet in my brain or the strains of a symphony. So, I am only saying that these types of lists are well intended and researched and the recommendations have stood the test of time, but still offer a roll of the dice. If there is any good news from the “100 Best Lists”, the books recommended are typically cheap these days or gathering dust at your local library.

Oh, yeah, libraries. I forgot that one. I seriously did. Unless you live in Oregon you probably have never had your libraries shut down. We had ours shut down for the better part of a year due to lack of funds. That was a year where many peopleincluding me – broke their library habit. This is a shame and I will get back to it, I promise. Hey, I am retired now. Maybe I will volunteer.

Okay, I know I was reviewing a book and got sidelined, but I MUST say a few words about libraries. They are my lifelong friends. When I was a young girl, I could walk to our town library. (a small rural town in Idaho). I thanked God everyday that we did not live in the countryside because if we did I could NOT walk to the library (and I might have to feed pigs or something, too, but that is a whole different topic). From about the age of 8, just walking INTO a library produced rapture. My heart rate speeded up, seriously. Sometimes my hands and feet perspired. I probably had the same reaction a junkie has just before they plunge the injection needle or a sex addict walking into an Adult Video store. The sight of all of those books with stories in them – stories of people I would never meet or understand otherwise, of lands and cultures I would probably never see – times that I would never live in – ideas from outside my claustrophobic community. The library was my window to the world and being raised in a very restrictive religion among folks who prided themselves on uninformed faith based opinions, it represented the intellectual’s equivalent of holy sanctuary. I spent hours there just selecting the books I would read and invariably checked out as many as they allowed – and once as many as I could carry because I couldn’t make it home with the whole stack and my sister had to help me back to the library to return a few thick ones so I didn’t strain my back.

And, now to the book review. “The Forever War.” How did I find this book? Most book stores have a Staff Picks shelf. I actually find these fairly reliable. I have good luck with the recommendations and many of them I see on the shelf are ones that I have already read and enjoyed very much so the credibility is again bolstered. I hadn’t read The Forever War because it is science fiction and I don’t get around to reading many of these. Also the title is somewhat dated now. Forever War made me remember the great science fiction that I HAVE read and prompted me to start adding some of these titles back into my reading time.

Joe Haldeman wrote this book in 1974. He is a Vietnam War veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart. He also has a huge knowledge of physics and currently is a tenured professor at MIT, but teaches writing, not science. He has written many books since this one and all have critical acclaim. People who read science fiction are probably rolling their eyes right now and pronouncing me the village idiot because I only just now discovered him But, hey, I did. And, there may be other wandering idiots who could use a tip.

The book is said to be an allegory of the Vietnam War. Okay, if they say so. Honestly, I didn’t get that. It is just a great book about lots of things, human nature being central. Human sexuality also goes center stage and Haldeman’s beliefs about sexual orientation are surprisingly forward thinking for a book this old. And, the nature of war, of course, and the soldier’s place as pawn in a game plan written almost entirely without his welfare in mind.

The book is written in the first person,  the narrator’s inner dialogue supplying all we know about the complicated world (even to him) we are traversing.   You like him immensely and  want to jump into the book and make sure he gets out okay. But, the militarized world described in the novel is so treacherous, so high‐wire and rigged, that the reader is just forced to hold her breath and watch Private Mandella give it his best shot. Because of the nature of space travel, Mandella’s life spans centuries although he ages naturally. We meet him at 20 and say goodbye at 40 something , but hundreds (thousands?) of years pass while he is in the military service. The world changes and changes again and then becomes unrecognizable and Haldeman makes it all sound not only plausible, but almost inevitable. The book was frightening in that respect. I suppose much of science fiction answers the question: What will become of us?

Forever War finds a commonality today, I think, with us oldies. I am 61 and trying to decipher technology that changes every week. I no sooner feel competent than the game changes and young people lead the way in an incomprehensible labyrinth of electronic gibberish. The only thing stable is the inherent instability of trusting anything to remain the same. Private Mandella would arrive back on earth hoping to find a job only to learn that people no longer worked. Everybody not fighting a war was just pensioned out. He would arrive again to find that nobody lived on earth at all, the atmosphere too compromised. He would join a new regiment in space and learn that – since he had traveled 600 years from his last assignment – everyone was now either a well adjusted homosexual or a pervert. Mandella also falls victim to the same trick most of us have suffered during our lives. We get promoted based solely on survival. We can never quite figure out how we end up in charge and the yoke of power is not what we expected. We regret every evil wish we have ever cast upon former bosses. We see things from new eyes. At the end of the book (spoiler) Mandella broadcasts to his troops “This is Major Mandella” and then asks himself why that always sounds to him like a bad joke. I am new at this reviewing business and don’t want to ruin it for anybody. Just saying that the book cost me next to nothing on my ipad. It was a surprise to me that I liked it so much. It got me back into science fiction as a genre. It represents excellence. The author is a brilliant, sardonic, scientific minded man who can also spin a good yarn. I will read more from him. 

I read TONS these days.  More later on other titles I loved.   Maybe a mention of books I just finished without loving so much and even others I bought and then couldn’t get through it.

On My Tombstone, please carve  TELL ME A STORY

Kaye Debra Proctor,

 

 

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One Woman’s Right to Vote

October 19, 2012 3 comments

One Woman’s Right to Vote

I was 21 before I could vote and this luckily coincided with a Presidential Election! It was Nixon’s second term. His challenger, a principled, soft-spoken man named George McGovern, seemed like a savior to me. He would deliver us from the unpopular Vietnam War. Although few Americans were in favor of the conflict, it was viewed more as a messy liability to conservatives that must result in victory lest America lose face in the world. To liberals, it was a moral abomination that should end immediately even with our heads bowed in supplication. At 21, I was newly split from my family’s life long fealty to the Republican Party and was convinced that George McGovern should and would win the election.

Well, I was living in San Francisco at the time. We were all convinced that George McGovern could win.

I don’t remember how much information I actually had then about McGovern’s chances. I did read newspapers and watch television and I am sure the polls told us something about how well he was doing, but I was very young. What did polls matter when moral certitude was on your side?

Two weeks or so before the election, I walked over to a little office downtown run by the League of Women Voters. Their ads said they had pamphlets and literature that explained issues and offered helpful advice about how one might vote. They did offer their own opinion up, but they also tried to explain both sides. I took all the pamphlets they had. I remember they even charged a small fee for one particularly thick one and I paid it. I was desperate to be an informed citizen. Yes, really.

Looking back on that young woman, my former self, I like her. She was earnest, honest, hopeful and a believer in the democratic process. (She breaks my heart a bit now, as she has changed a lot.)

The day of voting, I was elated. I would be a voter today! I would help decide the fate of our great nation. I was discontented at work and wanted to get out early to go vote, but I did not get lucky. The secretarial grind went on until the clock was straight up 5 o’clock. I was already starting to lose the light, when I set out to my designated polling station.

The address I was given took me to an old hotel in the “tenderloin” section of San Francisco. It was once respectable, but now the home of vagrants, alcoholics, down at heel humans to state it kindly. I checked the address twice, not quite believing I was meant to vote in this establishment. Having taken the 10 city blocks at a brisk clip, I was panting and regretted not sufficiently catching my wind before entering. I needed speed, though. God forbid I would miss my chance to give George my vote!

The lobby was furnished with old chairs, mostly overstuffed and all in disrepair or ragged and filthy. The chairs themselves seemed elegant next to the residents they contained. The permanent renters had descended from whatever hell they inhabited upstairs to watch the voters file in. Entertainment had never been so good at The Uptown Hotel. I glanced over at the wrinkled faces, toothless smiles and hairy visages and then looked away in a concealed wince. Jesus.

There were three people sitting at a table officially labeled “Voters Check In Here.” Thank God! They looked like stable, employed adults. The sole woman of the group asked my name and I felt vulnerable saying it in this place, but offered it up politely – Kaye D. Elder. They verified my address and smartly matched me up on their voter rolls. I was actually impressed that they found me. I would not have been surprised if they said they lost the E’s and I would have to just wait four years.

One of the men, identifiied by a safety pin badge saying Proctor, rose importantly up from his folding chair and said, “Come this way.” He lead me over to one of the four voting booths. All of them were empty, I noticed. I had absolutely no experience with voting booths. He nudged me inside this ridiculous little curtained container and I was faced with a machine that seemed comprised of switches. He affixed a form to the top of it, adjusted it down over pegs until it was alligned, and I could see that a switch corresponded with each vote.

He said, “Just pull the lever after you vote.” The lever was a big handle on the side. Oh my! I could not have been more nervous to fly a jet plane. I unfolded my spiral notebook sheets from my purse. On each issue I had written down my votes in advance so that I could just efficiently proceed and would not hold up anyone or cause another citizen inconvenience or unnecessary wait time. (Oh, Lord, I was SO earnest.) The first measure was not one that I cared much about, but I flipped the switch to correspond with Yes and pulled the big lever to lock in my vote. Well, I thought! One down.

Footsteps sounded outside my private voting sanctuary. Then, without warning, the curtain opened. It was the man who escorted me in. “All done then,” he said? “ I will take your ballot to store.”

I was aghast. I blurted, “No. I just started.”

Now, he was off balance. “You pulled the lever. You have locked in your votes.”

“But, I haven’t even voted for the President yet.”

A voice sounded from the gallery in the lobby. It was more of a croak. A woman said, “Don’t matter! Nixon already won anyway. Didn’t you hear? It is all over. You didn’t need to even come in.” The force of her proclamation caused her to cough and hack and then blow her nose loudly. The room broke into murmurs of protest (“Mimi, you are not supposed to talk!” and “Leave Mimi alone. She is just telling the girl the truth.”)

Everyone was staring at me – the sole late voter – now exposed for public ridicule, showcased in the curtain of my PRIVATE voting booth. I was mortified.

The man read my expression and offered, “You are supposed to wait until you are finished voting to pull the lever. Now I have to go and record an error and start all over. Do you want to wait?”

I should have just picked up my purse that I had placed on the chair and run out to the safety of the night. But, no! I was a voter. I knew all the issues and I was prepared and it was my right to vote as a citizen of the United States of America! I said, “I would like to finish voting if I could. I am sorry.”

He huffed a bit, but performed his “extra task” without too much strain that I could see. He came back, affixed another form to the machine and yanked the curtain closed. My back was swimming with sweat now. I had not only disgraced myself, but my candidate – the wonderful and charming and completely CORRECT PERSON for the job of President had already lost. Tears streamed down my face and I was very grateful for the privacy – at last – of the booth. I concentrated as much as I could, worked through all the measures, the minor public servants, the major public servants, the statement that I was who I said I was and then – finally – I flipped the switch beside George’s name. What the hell did old crone know anyway:? She is probably drunk or high or something. George did NOT lose. Nixon was a creep and a coward and a liar. Our country would NOT put him back in office. I wiped my tears, blew my nose on a tissue and pulled the fucking lever – this time for real.

I timidly opened the curtain and stepped out, pretending not to notice the bemused audience and the slightly pouty faces of the three volunteer proctors who now had TO DO EXTRA WORK. I said, “Hey thanks! I am really sorry.”

Old Mimi could not let the moment pass. “She don’t believe me,” she stage whispered to the room, “He already lost!”

I walked home with a slow pace, the sidewalk harder than concrete beneath my disillusioned feet. I walked past a department store that had televisions set up for people to view the results. I stopped and peered in the window. It took no more than a minute or two to see the caption scroll across the screen. “With East Coast and Midwest counted, Nixon proclaimed winner.” In those days, there was no rule that results could not be publicly broadcast before all the polls closed. Many Californians, indeed, did not bother to vote because old Mimi was right. All hope was lost. I wonder now just how badly McGovern needed to lose if the entire Pacific Northwest and probably most of the Mountain time people had not been discouraged from voting already.

You would think that after such a rocky start, I would have been reluctant to vote again. You would be wrong. I vote in every election, every time. I vote in the “big one” and I vote in the middle one. And, I try to weigh in on special ballots, too. I still believe, improbably enough, that my vote matters. I study issues and I talk about issues. I participate in internet chat groups now, but it was more informal processes before. I am the person who violates the rule that you should not talk politics at work (everybody violates that rule.) They say that politics and religion lead to arguments. They are right about that. So what? I also argue about religion.

Why am I so dogged and determined? Remember history.

When Nixon won that election, I was so sad. How could I have known, as I wept in that lonely voting booth, that Nixon would fly off in a helicopter during the second year of that term, forced out of office by public scorn. I remember that moment so well. He literally ran out to the helicopter, saluted us all watching his flight, and left the job that I did NOT endorse him for in the first place. American majority was dead WRONG. I was so glad to see his ass out of the White House and I thought, “I knew it! I knew it! I was right.”

And, so even though my guy sometimes loses the election, I never lose hope. There is a helicopter waiting for every President who disgraces himself and you just never know who it will land for, who will run out to its sheltering protection, and fly off to San Clemente until he dies. You just never know.

George McGovern was the right man for the job. You hear me, Mimi?

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Beware: Mormons Masquerading as Christians

September 4, 2012 1 comment

My family now has pictures of Jesus on their walls.  Every few years he changes, though, moving from a scarlet-robed Charleton Heston type to a cuddlier man clothed in fluffy homespun, his kind face turned toward his sheep.

When I look at their Jesus, I remember my childhood in this same house where a portrait of Christ on the wall was considered bizarre.  Only converts to the Mormon faith would tolerate Jesus icons, or people who were not tightly wound.  My family was fifth-generation Mormon and we knew how to behave.

At Seminary school, I remember a lecture on why it was against our religion to wear a crucifix.  My handsome instructor, Brother Dolan, pointed out that a Mormon girl wouldn’t sport a cross anymore than she would string a tiny guillotine around her neck.  He called it “execution jewelry” and, being 15, I agreed.

The prophet-saint Joseph Smith was everywhere in homes and churches then along with prints depicting the pioneers’ struggle to reach the Salt Lake Valley.  Joseph, reconstructed to mirror the current strong-jawed movie star image,  appeared with a glow around his head.

For many of us ex-Mormons, this Presidential Election time of spotlight on our church of origin is uniquely uncomfortable.  The Mormon face-lift rankles even more than usual.

When I was a little girl, my grandmother told me about her “other mother.”  Her name was Fanny and she was a convert from England.  Fanny came to help out in my great-grandmother’s house and stayed on as my great-grandfather’s second wife.  This would have been standard procedure in the community, but unfortunately, great-grandpa Edwin favored Fanny and built her a beautiful new house of her own where he spent more of his time.  When the federal government began arresting polygamists, he took Fanny and their offspring to hide in Mexico, abandoning my great-grandmother to fend for herself in a harsh desert land with 11 children.  That’s a face of Mormonism that isn’t depicted in missionary literature.

I can accept the Mormons’ colorful history, but not the pretending that it never existed.

African-Americans are now admitted to the church with full privilege.  I have clear recall of being taught that black people were genetically inferior and not suitable hosts for the restored Gospel.  Gays, by the way, did not exist.

The civil rights movement cured the church of their misconception regarding blacks, but women have not fared so well.  Still clearly inferior, women in the church are taught that since they have been “given the privilege of bearing children” they forfeit the priesthood authority.  I probably believed this was a good trade until, on a sweltering August afternoon, I experienced the privilege of birthing twins.  I’ll take the Priesthood.

The schools of my girlhood in Idaho were so influenced by Mormons that pants were forbidden to females.  The church still teaches that a woman of any age must always wear a skirt to enter into the door of the chapel.

By the way, Bibles were not very evident in the Mormon homes of my childhood, either.  After all, the Holy Bible is only true until it contradicts the Book of Mormon, a higher wisdom.

The Mormon church has changed so subtly and with such skillful art that my family, who still believe, seem unaware of it.  When I comment on the new Jesus focus they look at me with bewilderment.   However, any Christian or other faith beliefs I have acquired since my liberation from Mormonism are regarded with suspicion or outright disdain.  If I am not Mormon, no matter how devout or solid in my faith, I am deluded, deceived, or otherwise influenced by Satan.   Certainly, I am not accepted or respected.

Neither, my  friends, are you.

Portrait by Anonymous

August 21, 2012 3 comments

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 Portraits by Anonymous

Our third day in Yellowstone Park.  Started out as glorious and then, as we approached Old Faithful, rain dumped out of a seemingly clear sky.  I don’t know how this happens up there in Montana, but magic must be involved.   Del found a parking space that was quite close to the beautiful historic Inn.   This is a miraculous feat in high summer, but my husband was known for doing the impossible, impossibly often.   We all ran for it.  Dad, mom, and twin girls, our hair and clothes soaked through even in the short sprint.

Inside, we watched the geyser for the second time this year, do what it is known for world wide.  Does it spout so high you can’t see the top?  Uh, no, actually.  It is a modest height, impressive but not overwhelming.   Does it roar and growl and rumble the ground before it spouts?   It is quiet and orderly, in fact.   Old Faithful starts low and then builds quickly to full height, then moves back down the scale until it disappears.   Why does such a predictable and orderly geyser garner such a rapt and adoring audience?   Because it is predictable.   The times of eruptions are posted inside the massive, historic lodge and tourists can stroll and eat and shop at the gift shop without any real fear of missing the spectacle.   Other geysers in Yellowstone can be much higher, screamingly loud and sulphur smelling, threatening in their sudden blasts and reach, and can shoot out at any moment.    They wow you!   They scare you into shouting, cowering and running.  But, you have to catch them doing their act and therein lies the problem.   Old Faithful is faithful and never disappoints its fans.

I love Yellowstone National Park.  I grew up in Idaho Falls, Idaho which is now less than 2 hours from there, but in the sixties it took longer.   Old two lane roads,  farmers pulling out on tractors and backing traffic at 10 mph until they reached their next field to mow,  old Fords and Chevys chugging along, their fat bodies resembling colorful beetles, all contributed to the slow caravan of Park worshippers.    Going to Yellowstone  as a child seemed more of a trip to me than it does now and I live in Southern Oregon.   But, oh is it worth the trip – from anywhere!  Nothing is like Yellowstone Park.  I won’t describe the beauty and the majesty because even a huge coffee table picture book like I have in my living room, does not prepare you for the solace, the spectacle,  and the grandeur.   Go see it.

Del also grew up in Idaho and was no stranger to Yellowstone.   We were  equally vested in our twin girls experiencing this bedrock of our own childhoods.  We warned them ahead of time that Yellowstone Park was not Disneyland.   It was an experience of the soul.  And, even though they were only 14  when we visited first, and we had taken them to many places in Europe, South America and even China, their hearts were nurtured there.  Yellowstone spoke to our offspring and why wouldn’t it?

As we watched the geyser out the grand picture window, rain trickled into my ears from the short minutes we had spent in the downpour.  “It is still raining, honey, maybe we need to get a rain slicker or something from the gift shop.  I think they are fairly cheap.”

Del nodded.  “Sure.   Get something for you and the girls.  I will be fine.”   That was so like him.   His white t-shirt would be damp for hours, but he would not even notice.   So, when the geyser finished its performance, the girls happily  strolled with me to the gift shop, and found what  looked like glorified trash bags that fit over our heads.   They were dazzling white,  and had a black etching of the geyser on the front.  At $2, I thought they were charming.  We put them on as we exited the lodge and kept the pouring rain mostly off as we navigated almost blind from the deluge to our car.

By the time we got to the Falls at Canyon, the day had brightened and warmed up, but the girls and I kept our slickers on just in case.   Del’s t-shirt had almost dried out.   After “daddy” deftly negotiated yet another unlikely parking space, we eagerly hiked down to get a closer look at the exploding water off the Yellowstone River.   A mountain range on one side and the water on the other formed such a perfect view that Del got out his seldom used camera.  We were always so engaged that we forgot to take photos and photography was nobody’s forte in our family.  A group of people walked by – three or four – and Del instinctively targeted the man of the family.   He said “Hey sir, would you mind taking a picture of me and my family?”  This sort of thing usually embarrasses me.  I am quite private and do not like bothering people on their holiday.   But, Del always offered to take other’s pictures and I had to admit that a shot of all of us together is a nice thing to have.   Del backed us all up to the rail with our backs to the mountain range, grabbed us all in close.   Our hastily recruited photographer  smiled at us and then said, “Smile.”  He clicked and checked the shot, asked us to pose for another, and said, “There!”  He handed Del the camera.   We were off to finish the hike.

The girls had their 15th birthday on that trip.   Our  twins’ birthday always started as just a small celebration, but got out of control.  I mean, hey, twin girls for heaven’s sake and completely identical and gorgeous to boot.  So, the trip was all part of that celebration of lives so precious they took our breath away every time we looked at them.  August 24th, for us, was the day to celebrate over all others.

It was September 24th when Del did not come home to dinner.   I had it on the table as usual.   He was a dentist and his office was close to home.   Sometimes he had a procedure go longer and he was late, so I didn’t worry too much for the first hour.   The girls and I ate without him and preserved the part of the dinner we knew he enjoyed the most.   When too much time had passed, we went looking for him.   I won’t relate the rest.  It was the day the girls lost their dad and the love of my life was gone forever.

After the funeral, a friend recommended some grief counseling.   Donna, our counselor, asked me if we would spread Del’s ashes.  I said we would later, so we discussed where to spread them.  Yellowstone Park was agreed on as the ONLY place we could consider letting him go.    We knew he would like to be part of that land.  I guess just to further convince ourselves, I told  Donna about our trip and realized I had some pictures I hadn’t yet processed.

When I picked up the photos – processed old style because we hadn’t discovered digital yet, the shot of our family at Canyon Falls was breathtaking.   Backed by the mountains and lit by the brilliant sky, we are all four there, dressed in white – the girls and I in the slickers and Del in his bright white t-shirt.   The whole family looked like angels, but Del was the only one who had made it so far.   With Donna’s encouragement, I took it to a photographer who made the little photo into a 16 X 24” portrait.    It hangs on our wall to this day as our last family portrait.  Nobody – even a professional – could have taken a better shot.

And, the crazy thing is that it is a stranger who took this.  I don’t remember his face, I never knew his name.   But, he gave me the best gift for healing our grief that ever could be imagined.

This summer my twins will turn 20.   They are both working at Canyon Village in Yellowstone Park.  To them, it feels like heaven.   Their dad is always there in every blade of grass or breeze that blows.  And, through the kindness of a stranger, I wait for them here in Oregon, with the Yellowstone scene and our smiling faces always above my dining table and in my heart.

Why the Gym Raises My Blood Pressure (and not in a good way)

August 15, 2012 1 comment

Monday morning I pull on my exercise clothes, newly laundered, and righteously set out for a scant 10-minute drive to the nearby 24-hour gym. My family joined this a couple years ago due to convenience and availability of hours. The inconveniences are its smallish size and senior dominated membership.  Also, men are allowed.

Now, before anybody gets offended here thinking this is a senior or man bash, just hold on. I equally offend everyone if you read with an open mind. Why is it that I go off to the gym always planning on a successful and healthful workout and come back riddled with resentment? Let me walk you through it.

First up: I enter the gym and find that all of the treadmills are occupied. They are being trod by a legion of overweight females of various ages at roughly 1 mph. Some of them are reading while they stroll, others talking on the phone and one watching Kathy Lee Gifford. They are exercising their minds and their social skills, but their bodies not so much. Never mind. Running the treadmill isn’t really all that good for feet and knees, so I pass them by peacefully and claim one of the two stairmasters.

My stairmaster is the older one with duct tape, but I am content. However, on the new one next to me is a largish man sweating profusely, red faced and heaving in a way to suggest that he is already over his threshold. As I step on to my stairs, I see him reach out and turn his setting higher. I am alarmed. He shouldn’t be doing this. I know CPR but never want to use it. I turn my face away, refusing to be codependent. His health is his business. He starts to grunt at intervals. Uffggh!  Rruurreeeh! A stench surrounds me, sticking to my damp skin like smog.   He reeks. It isn’t a good sweat-stink, more like bad hygiene combined with heart medications.  I try to ignore it, but fail.
Nauseated, I quit the stairmaster and look for a more isolated machine.

In the corner, I locate the only thigh exerciser at my gym. Perfect! It is well away from the stench of the stairmaster.   Before I can get there, a very tall and broad senior woman lumbers over and heavily drops onto my machine.  Well, she is welcome. It certainly is the right of every female to avail themselves of this particularly female oriented equipment. She drapes her saggy rear over the seat and begins – STRETCHING?   She stretches flabby arms, torso side to side, bending from waist, neck, hands behind head, legs out, legs in.  Endless.  I am livid. She never once uses the machine for what it is designed for – a lady’s THIGHS.  I want to go over and remind her that stretches can be done anywhere, but this machine is unique to a purpose. Could she possibly stretch on a bench, I would ask her?  I look at her glassy stare, her mouth drawn into a scowl. Or, maybe I will just let her alone, I think.

Shut out of everything I love, I make a frantic beeline for the “pusher.”  This is the one where you plant your feet against a movable weight and push out. It burns your ass in a frightfully lovely way. I can always just feel my ass tightening and getting cute again. I set my weights and begin pushing. Out of the corner of my eye, I see him. He is the creepy old guy who comes to the gym to scope out females.  He is sitting on a machine that affords him a good view of the “female” type machines and pretends as if he is lifting weights, but I know that look. He is ogling. It is not always the same man.  In fact, it has never been the same man.  It is the just the man today who ogles. I ignore him, but he moves to the machine right beside me. I have burned my ass enough, I think. I am not intimidated by this triple necked skeez with greasy hair and elephant knees. Not a bit. I just am ready to move on.

I glance longingly across the room at my favorite unit.  It is one where you sit upright, and then push down on weights with your whole upper body, bending slightly forward. You feel the tightening of your midriff. My midriff!  Lost cause, but this machine always gives me hope. It is currently occupied by a beautifully groomed senior woman in full makeup and concrete silver hair (sorry seniors, just being honest) who is completely absorbed in the engaging act of picking at her manicured nails!  I stand and watch for a minute. Then two. Yup! She is very much focused on her cuticles and nothing more. I decide to get aggressive.  There is only ONE of these machines and will NOT be sacrificed to a nail picker. I move forward, and fix her with a disapproving stare. At some point, she picks up the irritation vibes I am shooting toward her, gives me an apologetic smile, and begins to actually exercise. Well, fine.

I am feeling really frustrated as I do a larger view of what is really available. I look at the flat bench, the one I need to do my sit ups and leg raises. I really need this, as my hips cannot seem to take a mat. On it is a 20-something man lifting weights. Why he needs to lift weights sitting on my bench is a question mark. He has a hoodie over his head even though it is 102 degrees outside these days and the gym’s air conditioner is having a hard time keeping up. He is sweating profusely even in the crack of his ass, this leaking out onto my bench and forming a shiny cesspool. I decide he can have it.

My energy level has declined significantly by now. I am feeling a bit discouraged. I check out the thigh machine again. Stretcher lady is gone, but a middle aged MAN has taken her place. REALLY?!!  Oh, come on!  Men have no interest in their thighs. We all know this. Don’t these men know a lady’s machine when they see one? I mean, I don’t go in their “weight cave” and dominate the pulley machine.  Shit no.  A female could be lynched for that.   Disgusting man!  I consider walking over and ogling him, just for spite.

One of the meandering treadmillers has gone home, bless her gum-popping soul.  I take her place. I turn it up to 10, and begin a run. I am so irritated by now that I stumble. Bad idea plus, embarrassing.   I turn it down pretending nonchalance.  I feel the strain in my knees and lower back now and berate myself.

Shamed, I go sit on a stationary bike in the bike rack (or Siberia as it seems to be). Bikes that go nowhere are always empty except for kids whose moms have taken them to the gym so mom can exercise without hiring a babysitter, which is against the rules. You can usually find a Barbie doll or two sitting in the bookrack.

Now my workout is so disjointed and unfocused that it is less than worthless. I begin stroking the useless pedals and then see a familiar face come in the door.  It is the “Kerm, the annoying self-promoting personal trainer, the guy that is always going to “help” you do your workout out of kindness and then corner you to arrange a few
sessions.  Oh, damn! I refuse to look at him. Too late, his shoes are beside my bike.

“Hey, Kaye! How’s your workout coming?”  I lie.  I tell him how much progress I am making and how much better I feel. In the process of lying, I realize how much I probably really NEED a personal trainer.  But, I will never tell him that.

I will only watch stealthily, my blood pressure pounding in my temples, until nail lady and stretching lady and ridiculous thigh man get OFF MY MACHINES!

Kaye Elder Proctor

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