Category Archives: Memories

Road Trip

Crossing the Siskiyou Pass, there’s a spot about 4 miles north of the California border where you come around a sweeping turn and are suddenly faced with the majestic Mt. Shasta in all it’s snow capped glory. After many long hours of driving, and with many more to come, it’s this moment when I get that overwhelming feeling of having come home. Maybe it’s the summers spent with my family on and around the mountains and lakes of the Shasta/Trinity forest or those late teen years hiking with friends throughout Lassen Volcanic Park, but simply seeing this peak brings a great comfort to my soul.

Of course once you’ve passed through this beautiful paradise, you drop into the upper Central Valley of California and for the next hundred miles you can’t help but want to turn the car around and head back north. It doesn’t take long before the miles upon endless miles of alfalfa and olive trees begin to take their toll. Not to mention the unbearable heat and horrible roads. It was this desolate landscape that slapped me back to the reality of this unexpected trip home, my fathers impending hip surgery.

After 10 days of hospital visits, cleaning, moving furniture, cooking and generally getting Pop’s house ready for his return with a walker and various other accoutrement, and sure he was in the good hands of his girlfriend, I was ready to head home. I dreaded getting back on that same highway now that I wasn’t in a hurry and I wanted to relax and enjoy the trip knowing everything was under control. So, I did a little mapquest query and found that heading West across the SF Bay and North, along the Redwood Highway would only add about 3 hours to my drive. I hadn’t taken that route in over 15 years and the choice between driving straight flat roads in 90+ degree temps, with the air conditioner on full bore revisiting those Olive trees, versus winding mountain roads, windows-down-fresh-air and Redwoods…towering Redwoods…spectacular, towering Redwoods, was a no brainer.

By the time I hit Sonoma County the Grateful Dead were moving me merrily down the road and all the stress of the previous week started to fall away. Before I knew it I was through Garberville and turning off the highway to drive along the Avenue of the Giants. This stretch of road is magical and driving through the filtered sunlight under those grand Coast Redwoods it’s as if time stops. The centuries old trees appeal to my soul, calling me close. It’s impossible to not stop and touch their beautiful bark, feel their strength, lie beneath them. That rich, woody scent fills me with a peaceful energy clears my mind. This was a journey I hadn’t realized was necessary until this very moment.

Getting back into the car facing another 7 hours of driving suddenly seems welcome and I continue out to the coast, the trees falling away and then…returning, in between short views of the Pacific Ocean and the smell of salt air. With the marine layer now moving in, blotting out the sun, I roll up the window and smile at just how far I’ve driven and how many different climates I’ve experienced since departing the Central Valley with it’s brown hills, scrub oak and dry heat earlier that morning. However, the marine layer also reminds me of Portland and the fact that I’ll be living with those gray skies soon enough so it’s time to head back over the coast range and into warmer weather for the night.

I turned East just after Crescent City and continue on the Redwood Highway toward its terminus in Grants Pass but first there’s one last stand of the big trees in the Jedediah Smith State Park before I reach unknown territory. Well…unknown to me. I’ve never driven beyond the park and was thrilled to have chosen this point to cross back to the valley. The road runs alongside the Smith River and the canyon is beautiful. It wasn’t until this point that I really missed having Mark and the dog along. Not that I didn’t want them along to begin with but here were so many opportunities to swim the dog and enjoy this narrow canyon. I’m already plotting a way to drag them down there for a long weekend of camping.

The canyon finally opens up just after the Oregon border to yet another surprise: the Illinois Valley. This area is home to many budding vineyards and its gently rolling hills, rivers and quaint little towns remind me of Sonoma County before the population boom of the late 80’s.

Of course I did have to get home as our friend Bill Hawley was arriving in Portland that very night so I said farewell to my mini-vacation and hit the I-5 at Grants Pass. Once the sun set, I started to feel the weariness of such a long drive…and not feel anything in my left foot so I decided it was time to find a place to sleep. I purposely stopped in a small town with nothing to distract me, found some dinner and promptly went to bed so I could be up for the quick three hour drive to Portland early the next morning.

Although the purpose of the trip was not a pleasant one, I was able to make it enjoyable by taking the scenic route home. It was nice to visit places I haven’t seen in many years even if only out the car window. Spending time in the Redwoods and the trek through Shasta/Trinity brought back many fond memories and those are sometimes best experienced in solitude. Back home now it’s as though I was on a little magic ride through time and still I’m filled with peace.

Stage 5

Things are finally starting to calm down here and I’m feeling somewhat normal again. I know…normal is relative, but hey…I’ll take what I can get at this point.

Dad’s been moved from the condo into a nice little double-wide on the 15th green of the Bethel Island Golf Course. Yep, he’s high-falutin white trash now. He doesn’t play golf but he does drink and the clubhouse is just 120 yards away; you could hit it with pitching wedge if you were so inclined. The trailer is nice and more than sufficient for his needs and he has the help of a new girlfriend to make it nice and homey.

Did I say new girlfriend? Actually, she’s his childhood sweetheart from grade school in Arkansas. Really. It’s a long story but in the 50 years since they last saw each other they’ve somehow homed in on the same location and live barely 10 miles apart. They’re so cute together and happy as can be and I’m lucky to have an extra pair of eyes to keep watch over him.

Once we got Dad settled in, Mark and I drove the 700 miles home in one very long day, pulling a trailer full of my sister’s belongings. Sorting through all those items has had the greatest impact on me. With all the immediate issues resolved, the grief hit hard and deep. I could barely open a box without falling apart so it’s been a very long, low period that I’m finally pulling out of.

Most difficult was looking through keepsakes she’s kept since we were kids and despising the fact that I no longer have anyone to share those memories with. I can talk to others about those times but they’re just tales, stories of my past. Not a shared experience. I kept thinking how funny it would be to sit there with her looking through all this detritus; her robust laugh, tears streaming down our cheeks, both gasping for breath until she runs off to the bathroom trying not to pee her pants. Oh, yes, this happened frequently, and she didn’t always make it, which would only make us laugh all the harder.

So, I’ll no longer have Cheryl to remind me of details I may have forgotten or to share the knowing laughter of that experience. Reminiscing now is one sided, one dimensional, just hanging there in my mind to slowly slip away along with my memory…and a lot has already slipped.

Now the keepsakes inciting these memories have been placed on shelves, hung on walls or packed neatly away for future reminiscing; a little bit of Cheryl in each one of them.  It’s time to move on, step back into the world, get Cheryl out of my head…but keep her in my heart, where she’ll stay with me forever.

Sleep well, Sissy.

Lockdown

I received an email from the university today warning of a planned announcement and possible protest by PETA tomorrow. It reminded me of something I wrote shortly after starting work here all those years ago when we had another PETA visit. Oddly, this was before 9/11 and reading it now I can compare the security situation that day with what we now experience going to the airport. It also reminded me that I used to smoke. Something I tend to forget now that I’m a year and half clean.  Interestingly, this happened within days of my taking this position…I should have paid more attention to what the universe was telling me.

__________________

With the threat of animal rights activists showing up to demonstrate, the university has taken extreme cautions. I sit here in my office behind 2 locked doors. Outside the second door is the sign identifying this as the administration office. It has been covered with a large manila envelope.

Proceeding down the hallway, the only door unlocked is the bathroom door. Oh…and the elevator. Which you need to exit the building since you can’t get to the stairs without a key.

Once on the third floor where there is outside access, you will find uniformed police at every entrance/exit (locked of course). The officers are all in complete riot gear. In the parking lot just next to the building are even more officers hovering near a large bus (evidently for hauling the arrestees off to jail), and a whole stable full of horses. Maybe I can get a horsey ride to my car after work.

The big guy, my boss, is in his office which is locked too. To access his office you need to get through mine. Good Luck!

The big guy came to me just before lunch to let me know that I should lock my door just as an added measure of security. Even though I can see everyone that might come through the locked front door. His reasoning is that they could easily run into my office with a camera before I could get to my door to shut it. Damn…there goes my fifteen minutes.

Ya’ know…they have gone to great extremes to be sure and let the protesters know where to find the labs with animals. It seems to me that they should put all the police in front of the cafeteria. That would be the perfect decoy and the protestors would still have something to protest. “The killing of animals for food” or “I wouldn’t even feed this stuff to my dog”.

Oh well…gotta’ go put on my sunglasses and trenchcoat and grab my ID card so I can go outside and have a cigarette. I should be back in about 30 minutes if I don’t get stopped by security.

Bong-of-the-Month Club

The final trimester of my junior year of high school I only had two classes. The remainder of the day I worked and took college prep courses. On days I didn’t work or have class, I was usually stoned by 10:00 and either studying or romping around the Santa Cruz Mountains with my buds.

One afternoon a friend and I were at Tower Records looking at the paraphernalia in their “gift shop” when the clerk asked if we wanted to sign up for the Bong-of-the-Month club. This was a brand new promotion and nobody had yet signed up for the first drawing that was to take place the following week. He showed us the bong they were giving away and we were captivated. We could just see ourselves smoking from this ceramic beauty. It had a gold and green glaze that swirled around a sort of moat just below the bowl. The moat held your stash and would catch the weed that fell away as you loaded the bowl. It was state-of-the-art dope smoking technology and it could be mine simply by dropping my name in a box. And, it was worth a whopping $35.00! That was more than 4 day’s wages in my $2.30 per hour part time job. I was quick to sign up!

A week later, I came home from school, put a record on the stereo and filled my pipe. I loved this time of day when I had no obligations and the house was empty. The neighbors were all at work too, so I could crank the music and do as I pleased without interruption or complaint. I had just finished smoking that first bowl of the day when the phone rang. I turned down the stereo and answered…

“Hello?”
“Is this Rodger?”
“Yep”
“Hi, this is Chris at Tower Records, you were here last week and entered a contest. Do you remember what contest you entered?”

It was a simpler time then and we were very careful.

“Yeah…some bong thing.”
“That’s right…and you’re the first winner of the Bong-of-the-Month club, congratulations!”

Pause…

“Really? Far out!” (yes, we used that phrase)

I couldn’t wait to go pick it up and called D to tell him the good news.

Twenty minutes later D and I were standing at the counter of the “gift shop” with big smiles and bloodshot eyes, anticipating the joy of taking that first hit off the new bong. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to win such a nice, expensive piece of paraphernalia. It was going to be a great summer!

The clerk took the bong from the shelf, set it on the counter, and told me to wait just a minute while he got the camera.

“Camera? For what?”
“Because we need to take a picture of you holding the bong.”
“Why?”
“So we can hang it on the wall to show that someone actually won.”
“Shit!”

All the care I’d taken to keep my smoking under wraps and now they want to hang a picture of me holding this massive bong on the wall at Tower Records for everyone to see. No wonder nobody had signed up! Duh!

Everybody I knew went to Tower including my parents. I could just see it…my mom coming into my room…“So show be that nice big bong you won last week”. I wouldn’t be able to lie my way out of that one, not with my picture hanging on the wall of the most popular record store in town. What the hell was I going to do? I tried to get D to take the picture for me since his parents were more liberal but he was busy reveling in the convenience of being runner-up. All the benefits of winning and no consequences…oh how I wish he’d won. I even tried to convince the clerk that it could ruin my life but he didn’t care, all he wanted was a picture to prove that someone took home a free bong. He finally convinced me to take the picture by telling me they would hang it behind the counter, which was far enough away that you really couldn’t make out my face. Well…that and the fact that if I didn’t pose, I couldn’t have the bong. Snap, flash and minutes later my likeness began to appear on the Polaroid film, looking like a deer caught in the headlights. A deer that spent the morning grazing on a crop of Humboldt County’s finest.

For the next six months the very mention of Tower Records would send a pang of fear through my gut. It was only a matter of time until someone would see my picture and promptly report it to my parents. But as the months passed and more pictures were added my fear began to fade. Eventually, the wall of photos began to include winners of other contests and promotions. If caught, I could now tell my folks that I had won concert tickets or a t-shirt, they’d be none the wiser. I was off the hook.

Years later, while drinking with my dad, we started talking about drugs. He knew by then that I had experimented but he didn’t know to what extent. He stopped me in my tracks with a comment about the Bong-of-the-Month Club and proceeded to tell me about a trip to Tower Records with my mom. While she was shopping he had stumbled upon a wall of photos. He thought he recognized me in the first picture but, being behind the counter, it was too far away to see clearly. I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was me.

So, dad, if you should happen to read this…Happy Father’s day from the original member of the Bong-of-the-Month Club!