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Wednesday, July 24, 2013


I like to make a memorable entrance to a party, and I want to do it NOW, before my friends get Alzheimer's and can't remember it. The best way is to come in with a BANG. That bang you heard was me parking my wife's car on top a small, medium-sized large rock. The rock itself wasn't that big, but it had a pointy top, and looked a little like that thing the Titanic ran into.

My intentions were good. There were a zillion cars parked in the driveway already, because we arrived late as usual. That is why whenever we ask, "What can we bring?" no one ever says hors d'oeuvres. I did not want to get involved in the whole driveway imbroglio. You should NEVER park in the driveway unless the host is a total a-hole with no friends.

So I do what I always do and say, "Honey, you get out here and I'll park the car somewhere safe." My wife already knows that my sense of danger is unparalleled, and so is my parking.

Meanwhile, this guy lives in the woods, where everybody thinks they're a big hero for not paving the road. That way their horses won't get a big pain in the asphalt, or whatever.

So the non-driveway parking options were limited at best. But I spotted the perfect Acura-sized clearing in the woods, like the Pilgrims had hewn it into the land just for me! The only potential problem was that rock sitting in the middle of it- it was more like something between a stone and a boulder.

I even got out to survey the rock. I did some quick calculations in my head, involving square roots, cosines and the Pythagorean Theorem. I got a 425 on my math SAT, so I didn't really know the Pythagorean Theorem from a hole in my ass.

I didn't want to get the car stuck in the soft Earth, so I revved the engine to about 6,000 RPMs and popped the clutch. I vaulted up the hill and would have launched the car into a treetop had I not planted the skidplate of the Acura dead center on top of the rock. If I had thought to factor the soft Earth idea into my calculations, I probably would have been okay. I put it into reverse, but by that time both wheels were spinning away on either side of the rock without a care in the world.

I got out of the car and panicked when I saw some smoke, but then I realized it was coming from my wife's ears. Yes she was angry with me, with that look that made me wonder if my organ donor card was properly filled out. I was angry too, with those dick-brains at Acura for designing a car with such crap ground-clearance.

I had this vision of a big hole in the oil pan, spewing bubbling crude as if Jed Clampett just shot a hole in it looking for some food. By the way, who looks for food by shooting holes in the goddamn ground?

My wife was already dialing AAA, or so I assumed, unless it was a good divorce lawyer in the event that the car wasn't the only thing on the rocks. I said no- let's try and get some of the party guests to help us push the car off the rock. I can't be the only idiot who has ever done this. My wife gave me that look that lets me know that she thinks I am something of a pioneer in the field of idiocy.

Since we're two and a half hours late, everyone is experiencing varying degrees of sobriety.

"Listen, folks, we're going to need some help, our car is on a rock."
"your car is in Iraq?"
"Oh man..."
"Not Oman- he said it's in Iraq...."
"No I ran it onto a rock."
"Iran? I thought you said it's in Oman?"

I immediately drank four beers so that we could all converse in the same language.

We recruited three volunteers to push the car, and approximately forty people followed us outside because they could not believe that we could pull this off without doing something life-threatening or mildly entertaining, or both.

Tom, sensing the opportunity to somehow extract his car from the driveway quagmire, started an avalanche of events that was nothing short of epic. At that moment, someone else had to leave the party. Three others had just arrived to the party, barricading both the driveway and the exit to my rock.

Everyone who was not involved in the rock fiasco was looking for whoever had the car that was blocking them in.

"Who brought the Cougar?"
"That's my wife, dipshit."
"Is that your Escort?"
"That's my wife's sister, fuckface."
"So you drove the Midget?"

"That's my kid, and I'm about to put your face where your ass used to be."

All of a sudden every vehicle, large and small, was fired up and moved 12 feet in whatever direction could most efficiently block the way of two other vehicles. Four other cars with no dog in the fight chose the exact moment to approach the area from different directions. It was a Rubik's cube of cars. It was a vehicular vortex. It was a motorized maelstrom.

Somebody's Dodge narrowly dodged a Ram, and vice-versa. Somebody's Mustang nearly ended up in a Rodeo. Somebody's Impala narrowly escaped a Safari.

The situation subsided for short window of opportunity, but there was an SUV with its lights on directly in back of my rock. When I looked in the driver's seat I noticed that she was using the valuable moment to floss her teeth while smoking a cigarette, something that I had not previously thought possible. I believe that she may have been dentally retarded.

We were finally ready to heave the car back onto level ground. There was much negotiation about exactly what "on the count of three" means. Not everyone at the party spoke perfect English, so the numbers also needed to be translated. I started the count: "One.... Two...." Everyone by that time was pretty tired of the whole operation and pushed the car off the rock before I even got to two-and-a-half.

It's a week later and my wife still gives me a derisive look when I tell the story, but say what you will; that rock is one of the few places I have parked that I didn't get a ticket.

Incidentally, the ground clearance of an Acura TSX is 5.9 inches.

Monday, July 8, 2013


Our siege of the Pacific Northwest continued as we rented a car to head down to Seattle. I wanted to use Enterprise car rental- “We’ll pick you up!” My plan was to call their office in Seattle, and tell them to pick us up in Vancouver. Enterprise had a few choice words about my plan, and I was surprised at some of their choices. Soon we were on the lovely Chuckanut Drive, which hugs the Washington coastline and ends up not far from the Skagit River, which, as our luck would have it, was where the Skagit River Bridge was sitting.

Our hotel was not far from the Puget waterfront. We walked over to catch the Underground Tour of Pioneer Square. It tells the story of one storey: After the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, the entire district was rebuilt on the second floor. Why? Because of the overflowing Crappers, of course. The new flushable commodes developed by Thomas Crapper backed up every time there was a tidal surge from the Puget Sound, creating a rat problem and a cholera nightmare. Now, a system of tunnels under the streets give access to the original brick facades of businesses long extinct.

We headed to Seattle Center and up the Space Needle, which doesn't have as much room as you would think, given the name. We returned on the monorail, another leftover from the 1962 World's Fair, when the idea of going four miles an hour seemed quite magical.

The Seattle Duck Tour was fun- a refurbished LST craft from World War II retrofitted with a quacking horn rolls through the city streets, then splashes into the water. How we would have frightened the Germans if we had only thought of the quacking horns in 1942. We trolled around Lake Washington, admiring great rear views of the skyline. We saw the huge houseboat where they filmed "Sleepless in Seattle." I wouldn't have gotten any sleep either- what if I forgot I was on a houseboat and went out to cut the lawn? Even worse because I have an electric mower.

We went to the famous Pike Place public market, where the merchants toss the fish around the stall with each order. No one was seriously injured but we didn't press our luck by going to the knife store.

Before hitting the road to Portland we stopped into the Seattle Aquarium, where we watched those ever-insouciant otters at play. They are always up to something, but I did beat one of them at a game of dice when the staff wasn’t looking. I won three fish and a watch.

In Portland, our last destination, we went out for a beer, which is an embarrassing undertaking. Did you want a wheat beer? What about a fruit selection, or one of our fine blonde ales? At the tavern we went through the entire list of what they were "pouring," from Eugene City Brewery Honey-Orange Wheat ale to Laurel Wood Organic Tree Hugger Porter. It was the first time I ever wished I was Archie Bunker.

On Wednesday we took a free walking tour through eastern downtown area. We learned much about the quirky lifestyle of Portlandia. The town was founded by two men from different cities, who flipped a coin to decide which one they would name it for. The other guy was from Boston, and if the coin had landed "tails," we would be standing in Boston, Oregon, and the traffic would be a hell of a lot worse.

From the Thompson Elk statue (which looks unlike an elk but much like a deer with a thyroid issue) to the Benson Bubblers (iconic public four-station water fountains found around the city), Portland abounds with whimsy. Did you know that in the mid-1800s visiting sailors were drugged, taken captive and forced aboard ships bound for China to work as slave crewmen? That is where the term "Shanghaied" originated, and parts of the underground "Shanghai Tunnels" where these men were kept are still there. I’m not sure the expression would have survived had the men been taken instead to the town of Cockermouth in England.

We rented bicycles for our ride through Washington Park. And by ride I mean that I pushed the bikes up massive hills while my wife cursed at me in a foreign language she does not even speak.

The Rose Garden at Washington Park is a test garden, which is like a zoo for different varieties from around the world. It must have been a multiple choice test, because there were zillions of them, all hoping to someday be in the tournament of roses, where they all get together and try to kill each other. Here we were able to stop and smell the roses; so much different than Seattle, where you wake up and smell the coffee.

A formal Japanese Garden is also an attraction at the park, and it is a great place for contemplation and deep thought. Here, as I reflected near the Poetry Stone I wondered: does Eastern philosophy make me look fat??

We had lunch at one of over 400 of Portland's famous food trucks, of every origin and flavor. My favorite was the Ethiopian food truck. As far as I ever knew, there IS no food in Ethiopia. People eat truck tires and suck sap out of trees with a straw to survive. Whatever food WAS left is now sitting in this A-hole's food cart in Portland.

What trip to Portland would be complete without a trip to Powell's Bookstore? The place is like a library, with over one million titles. They do not carry the whole book, just the title.

Thursday we walked the lovely waterfront of the Willamette River, a lovely name to call your river if it’s a girl. There was a Navy PT boat being refurbished, and veteran Ron Taylor gave me a fantastic tour of the work they were doing on the hull, and of the craft's power plant. Especially intriguing was the torpedo, which had its own compressed-air turbine engine, and spun two propellers in opposite directions for stability. I tapped it on the nose with a ball-peen hammer just for fun to see if it was armed. It was, and we were all blown to smithereens.

Vancouver was originally known as “Gastown,” a reference to “Gassy” Jack Deighton, who ran a popular tavern in the late 1800s. I case you are wondering, his nickname referred to his talkative nature, thus the gas exited from the front.