Where You At?

The answer, right at the moment, is: traveling.

It’s time for one of those this-is-what-I’ve-been-up-to posts. I’m currently airborne, between Portland and Minneapolis. Then I have an inappropriately long layover in Minneapolis (3.5 hours) before I hop onto my second plane and finish the flight to Baltimore. My final destination is Annapolis, Maryland, where I will teach for Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) again this week. As always, I am eager and grateful when they ask me to teach. Though retired, I have grown to love this connection not only to veterans, and my old capacity to assist those in need via federal laws governing disability benefits, but also a connection to the employment world.

Mt. Hood on the horizon in the sunrise over Portland. You can see the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers.

VFW has asked me to teach court cases again. I believe they may have discovered my niche. Each time I teach, I am told the topic. Next I educate myself with all the latest law changes and procedures and expectations and trends, then create my teaching materials to include a slide show, some in-class exercises, some test questions, and a list of legal references. I submit it all for review, and work with course administrators till we fine tune it all, then I begin practicing. I have taught health topics like traumatic brain injury and the musculoskeletal system, but they found out I love the court cases. I just love them. I read every word, fascinated by how the judges approach each case. Thinking within the structure of the Rule of Law makes intrinsic sense to me, and I have a knack for it. I follow along easily with the detailed unraveling and interpreting of text from VA law, even explicit VA-centric definitions of individual words. It reminds me of what I most loved about geometry proofs; “if this is true, and that is true, then this must be true.” I would have been a great lawyer.

In preparation for this week I have become familiar with 7 new court cases and I look forward to teaching VFW employees about them, in hopes that they will be able to pass on this information to the vets they get to work with.

I got a panoramic shot in order to capture them all. Volcanoes from left to right: Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens (the low flat-topped lump beside Rainier), Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood.

But let’s back up in time.

Danny Bernardo and Marielle Young in Young Americans; photo by Jingzi Zhao.
Jessica Ranville stars as Achokayis; photo by Jingzi Zhao.

During March we saw two plays in three weeks at my favourite playhouse, The Armory. We saw Young Americans, about American immigrants, by a new favourite playwright, Lauren Yee, and Where We Belong, a story that curiously is able to combine Shakespeare and a North American Native focus by Madeline Sayet. I didn’t get photos at the shows, but I did get photos of some street art near where we parked.

Later in the month we saw a great rock concert. Pedro is so good at tagging along to all the stuff I schedule for us. He goes with me without complaint. I try to do the same for him when I can, and we got the opportunity to go to a rock concert and see his favourite band, Badflower. I ended up liking Badflower, and I really love the band that opened for them: Des Rocks. My raving about this night prompted my brother Tanner to look them up and he bought tickets to a show to see them in Missoula. Pedro and I have the time off, and are going to head up to Missoula in July to see Badflower again, when they open for Incubus.

March 23 it snowed. March 25 it snowed again. The weather of the world is topsy turvy. This year, it manifests as never-ending snow at my house. Not like there is a lot. And not like it doesn’t clear up in a day or two. But. I am so tired of snow.

I got a new earring for my left pinna. I have a whole tale that goes along with my last earring. Possibly that legend is why I kept it for so long. The earring was gold, and I usually wear silver. Worse, it has a regular post back, and it has been poking into my head for most of my life when I sleep on my left side, or put my head on Pedro’s shoulder. I have a scar where the dumb earring has wounded me repeatedly for thirty years. For as smart as I am, I sure can be dumb. It finally occurred to me that I could save myself much irritation if I replaced the thing. I chose a silver hoop: the right colour and no post to stick into my head. I found a titanium hoop for high quality and low chance of infections, and so far I love it.

I’ve had the other one since 1989. I was 19 years old and in the Air Force and girls getting earrings in places other than earlobes was a hot trend in the 80s. I read Air Force regulations to find out what I was allowed to do to my body. The laws governing earrings were clear: only small, post-type earrings were allowed (i.e. no dangly bits, no hoops), and no more than three posts total at any time. Perfect! I could keep my posts in my earlobes, then add a single post to the top of my ear.

Well, the moment my First Sergeant saw the new cubic zirconia stone in the gold post in my upper ear, he began puffing about it. There were complaints; there were referrals up the chain of command. But I was smart and had prepared. I smugly pulled out the books, and showed anyone who fussed that I was 100% within compliance for Air Force regulation 35-10 (which governed appearance). This was not satisfactory. Military authority discourages any kind of individual distinction that comes from accessories, hair, makeup, adornment, clothing, etc. So I was told to take it out regardless, and I would be hearing more about it in the future. It took a few months, but once I had illuminated the problem for Strategic Air Command, they set about correcting it. Eventually the resolution was set into print, I was informed of the new rule: to the previous wording, which had not been changed, they added the phrase “in the ear lobe.” My new earring was now out of code. For the hours I was at work, the post came out, but as soon as I was off duty, I pressed the gold post back through the tender hole in my ear. This painful step was repeated for a year till the poor hole had a chance to fully heal and stay open. To this day I recall the incident as a source of pride: Air Force regulations were changed specifically because of me.

Sunshine on freshly fallen snow.

The first days in April, Pedro’s employer hosted a short conference here in Portland for employees flying in from around the country. It would be held at the McMenamins Edgefield that I have blogged about. Though I had no business at the conference, I decided for fun to drive out to the Edgefield and stay one night with my man. It had snowed the day prior at my place, and when we arrived in Troutdale, there were about 4 inches of snow on the ground and on vehicles. Snow, snow, snow.

Entrance to McMenamins Edgefield. This was the next day when I left, so the snow had melted.
On the McMenamins campus
The door to our room. I went to the front desk and asked what the Amazing Grace reference is for our room. I was told that they do not keep any information about specific rooms.
Room 215 has themes of bagpipers and the song Amazing Grace, the words of which are on the walls. Not sure what it means with relation to McMenamins or this property though.

Pedro stayed in the famous Room 215. His co-worker explained before the conference that she had discovered that the Edgefield is haunted. In particular, room 215 is apparently haunted. We recalled this information from when we stayed there before and got a historical tour of the grounds. Pedro called to ask if he could reserve the room for himself and it worked! We were really hoping for a ghost sighting, but it didn’t materialize. I could have sworn that I heard the door open in the middle of the night, but I looked and it was closed. Pedro’s laptop computer screen refused to display anything the whole time he stayed there, though the machine was working. That’s the most we could come up with for supernatural activities. It was a disappointment.

We had a nice evening, then when he took off to go be responsible the next morning, I played like it was a spa day. I wore a robe outside, over my chicken-lady swimsuit, and walked over to the spa to enjoy the soaking pool in the low light of morning. I relaxed until it was time to return to the Black Rabbit restaurant and get copious amounts of coffee and some hearty food. Then I left and went to the cherry trees, which I already posted about.

Pedro’s birthday present then came up: a night at the Keller Auditorium for a road show from one of his favourite TV programs called Impractical Jokers. It’s a whole show about lifelong friends who play practical jokes on each other. In person, they pretty much just relived some of the best memories of their history together. It was so fun to see them in real life.

At the Impractical Jokers show
This was last week when I left my house to go get a haircut.

I was messaged out of the blue by an old high school friend who invited me to a gathering of high school friends at her house near Boise, Idaho. She and her husband host it somewhat monthly, but this time she knew a particular friend of mine, Amie, would be able to make it from California. On an off chance, she wanted to know if I could make it from Oregon. I checked the calendar. There would be time to head over there and get back in time to fly to Baltimore. It’s a 9 hour drive though. I checked my frequent flier miles, and I had enough to get a free ticket! It was decided then.

{To keep you updated: I have now arrived in Annapolis and checked into my hotel room. I’ll finish this post before I go to sleep.}

About that time I was messaging another friend, who is the mother of my musician friend, Marcus Eaton. She said, “It would be great to see you sometime if you are ever in the Boise area.” I messaged her and said I’ll be making a quick trip. She volunteered to pick me up from the airport. I messaged my brother and SIL and mentioned my plans. Voila! I had a place to stay.

So yes, I boarded a plane Friday at 5:30am and flew to Boise. Those are the gorgeous sunrise photos I posted at the top. I flew home yesterday. And today I boarded another plane at 5:30am to cross the country. Needless to say, I’m a bit sleepy.

Both squinting in the sun. Trust me, Chris is even more beautiful when I don’t make her stare at the sun.

Chris hosted me at her absolutely gorgeous home and made me a cappuccino (can you believe that) and we talked and talked. Then she took me to breakfast. Then she shuttled me to my brother’s house.

My brother, Eli, and sister in law, Addie, were working from home. So I chatted with them during free moments, but also entertained myself, till it was time to go to the high school party.

I had managed to find a friend who lived in the Boise area who would be traveling to the gathering, and I hitched a ride with Katrina and her boyfriend. It’s just such a treat to spend a long time catching up with a friend from the 1980s. We were the first to arrive at the party. Over the next few hours, more and more people showed up and brought food for the potluck. In the end, 25 people or so were there.

I would watch them as they arrived, most of them local, and most who showed up had done so before at a previous monthly gathering. Their eyes would smile and scan the group, assessing who was there. Then eyes would light on me, “I haven’t seen YOU since high school!” I heard it over and over. So much fun. We had a tiny school and really got to know each other. Graduates from 1985-1990 showed up that night. (I am from the class of 1988 – the best one, naturally.)

I hitched a ride with Amie and Todd back to my brother’s house, so I got to visit with them during that ride too. Then Eli and Addie and me talked into the wee hours of the morning.

The next day I was able to ride with them to one of my nephews’ Little League games. So. Much. Fun!

I arrived home from Boise about 1:30 pm. Pedro was already there and had started a fire for my cat, Racecar. He was in the midst of working on the house. We are getting my house ready to sell. Yep, it’s happening that soon. I’m willing to give up my little paradise in Rainier for love. We hope to have all the cosmetic fixes done in a month or two. Then it’ll be on the market. Anyway, he worked on the house while I gave instructions. While he was busy with that, I unpacked from my Boise trip and re-packed for my Annapolis trip. I checked the chickens to make sure they are set for the week. We shared dinner and watched some of our favourite TV show: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the last season. Then we shared some nighttime snuggles till my alarm went off at 3:30 am today.

My Uber driver this evening was chatty. He said, “The weather has been crazy,” he said. “I love snow, and this is Baltimore. It snows here! But not this winter. This winter we have only had flakes in the sky a couple of times. The snow has not stuck to the ground all winter.” He shook his head in chagrin, as he drove me to my hotel in 80 degree Baltimore weather.

“I can tell you where your snow went,” I said. “It went to my house in Oregon. Sorry about that.”

15 thoughts on “Where You At?

  1. So much goings-on and so much fun! Happy for you. Just 2 immediate thoughts:

    1. All the people at the school gathering – including you – look so much younger than me and I know we are the same year.

    2. Incubusssss!!

    1. Two things back at you: 1. You are beautiful, and youthful in spirit, and I did not show photos of everyone there. 2. I thought you might like Incubus. I think Pedro’s gonna like this concert a lot. I hope it works out that we can make the road trip up to Montana this summer.

  2. Another fine photographic record. Dillon, at 35, is a US Veteran. That looks a marvellous breakfast, but McMenaminS are missing a trick with the lack of specific room information

    1. Oh, interesting that I did not recollect that about Dillon. I must have known at some point. Well, if he ever has a question about benefits of any kind – GI Bill, home loans, health care – I am available and will try to find resources for him. That’s the kind of breakfast I simply love. Potatoes, sausage, eggs, and coffee. You can’t go wrong. It’s hilarious when I travel to other countries and they offer stuff for breakfast like bean soup, or kimchi. Most foreign countries offer cucumbers and tomatoes for breakfast, and while it’s odd to me, I have come to appreciate that. Still, my heart really only wants the type of breakfast shown in the photo here, haha. I completely agree about the lack of room information. To me it would be an obvious service for guests, since each room is named for a particular person or thing.

      1. I haven’t mentioned Dillon’s position before. I think he has everything covered – now intending to stay here. I will pass on your offer, though. Thank you, my friend

  3. I love how you found your teaching niche, Crystal. It must be so much fun for you to be engage in this kind of work, as it sounds like it brings you a whole lot of joy.

    1. Jolandi you are right that I am happy to engage in this work. It keeps the synapses firing. I get nervous every single time, which is funny. And then within 5 minutes of speaking in front of the class, I am in my element. By the end of the week, I am usually completely relaxed and confident. I guess I could have been a teacher for a career. I really think I need to live to be 300 years old, because there are so many things left for me to explore in this life. 🙂

      1. I completely understand where you’re coming from. 😆 It really is a blessing to have so many interests. And yes, it definitely sounds like you could have been a teacher, but trust me, teaching adults are far more rewarding. 😇

  4. I’m exhausted just reading all of this! Love the lore of Rm 215, too bad it wasn’t more “present” the night you stayed. What a full life. I think that’s the key, to keep broadening our experience and filling in the gaps with things we love. Also, I’m thinking I need to get there for a visit before you leave Rainier!

    1. Yes, we should take advantage of proximity if we get the chance. FYI, I am an hour and a half from Johnston Ridge Observatory. Also, I have never hiked Dog Mountain and a springtime wildflowers hike has been on my bucket list for a decade. That doesn’t really have to do with Rainier, does it? But then again, I’ve never hiked Mt. Rainier in my life, so while you’re thinking of visiting my part of the world, I also need to think of visiting yours while I’m still sorta close. My brother is in Seattle, so anything north can easily incorporate a visit to family.

  5. When you update, you update, Crystal! Of course a flight across the country is a good time to write— when you can’t do any of the other 3452 things you do to occupy your life. At least I am guessing that you wrote this on your way to Baltimore. Sleep was another option. Or thinking more about your class at Annapolis. Love to hear the Pedro stories. He’s a good man. And the fun you have together makes me think of Peggy and me.
    Laughed at the ear ring story. The new one is quite the dangly.
    We are in Sacramento. Peggy’s sister Jane, and my friend going back decades, died totally unexpectedly right after we got back from Egypt. Jane almost went with us on the trip. Her Celebration of Life memorial is next Sunday. We came out a couple of weeks early to help take care of her husband Jim so her kids could focus on sorting through things and preparing for the memorial. Sad times. –Curt

    1. Oh Curt & Peggy, I am so sorry to hear that you lost a friend. And just think there was a possibility that she would have made that trip with you. You are good to go and spend the time with Jim. Sad indeed.

      Just so you know, I’m not THAT busy. I only have 3417 things I could have been doing. Jeez. Don’t exaggerate. Sleep on the plane is an option for many people, but not me. I can never sleep on moving vehicles of any kind. Example: recent trip to Italy. We were flying first class so I was able to recline completely flat. It was an 11 hour flight overnight. I took sleeping pills and wore ear plugs and had a blanket over my head…still, I could only sleep about 2 hours. I simply cannot sleep on a plane. I can’t nap. My body is just so uncooperative. I’ll bet you liked that earring story! It’s just your kind of thing, haha.

      It is SO much fun that you two have met Pedro and that it’s easier for you to share our story as we grow together. Pretty darned cool that you were there from the beginning. 🙂

      1. First, thanks, Crystal. The memorial is going to held at Jane’s home on Sunday and will be something of a big thing since she did so much for Sacramento over the years. I wouldn’t be surprised if 150 people or so drop by. Many are my friends as well.

        Sleeping on planes is not my forte either. I always make sure I have my laptop and Kindle along.

        Yes, we’ve certainly watched the relationship bloom. 🙂 You are both lucky.

  6. I knew you had been moving at a pretty fast pace this year and I loved McMenamins. I visited it once with the OC Senior Center but the common bathrooms put a stop to staying the night. Also no rooms with 2 double beds. It’s a fun place all the same. Glad you got to see old friends and I am certain you would have been a good lawyer. Interesting what we find out late in life about ourselves. Have a great time. Hugs. M

    1. I love learning more about myself as I continue my life. Also, it’s fun to have others teach me about myself, when I remember to listen. It turns out that a lot of people were unhappy with the McMenamins choice for a conference. For those of us who feel it suits us well, it’s hard to remember that it does not suit everyone else. The company did allow those people to stay at a different hotel nearby.

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