Monday, September 21, 2015

Vancouver, Washington, then and now ...

Another of the Lewis Street Motels

A better conversion than most of them:

Note the painted out sign ...

The archaeology of roads

            Pasco, Washington, is a grubby little town in Eastern Washington. It’s plagued by a steady flow of illegal immigrants. The schools are poor quality. The police force is a mix of experienced officers who do their jobs well and self-entitled trolls who do not respect the laws they were hired to enforce. (I’m thinking of one officer named after a recreational area.) Still, it has its attractions. When we drive up to Uncle B’s, I always stop in Pasco, assuming I have time. For a store … with used books and junk. The store is as grubby as the rest of Pasco, but it does have books. So I stop.
            Probably someone familiar with Pasco is mentally protesting. There are ‘nice’ neighborhoods in Pasco. Yes, sort of, mostly low-cost but newer houses. I won’t discuss that with you. Pasco is a pit. A big smelly pit.
            But elsewhere on this blog I’ve mentioned my interest in road archaeology. I find abandoned and changed-use roads fascinating. I walk long disused trails, logging roads, dead streets and ghost towns. It’s relaxing and fun. Pasco has interesting ‘road bits.’ The main route through Pasco is Lewis Street. Back in the day US route 410 (long since abandoned or re-designated) ran through Pasco using Lewis as its route. On the east end one can find a series of motels and cabins from the 1940-1950 era modified into apartments. Rerouting traffic around the village killed the motels.

2015 E. Lewis

This motel was updated at some point. Many of them were given new siding and a coat of poor quality paint. This one is full of Mexican immigrants, families that stuff themselves into a single room.

The old gas stations are mostly gone. This one (at Cedar and E. Lewis) remains, though they no-longer pump gas. It was a salvage yard for a while, and some of that junk remains. Pasco tolerates the mess. They have other things more urgent to tend to, such as the mentally ill street people that are dumped into residence homes and left to wander the streets, steal beer, and throw rocks at cars.

This is all that remains of a gas station directly across the street from the one pictured above. It appears that the tanks have never been remediated.

This is another of the old motels, now apartments. Vacant lots testify to others now demolished. Every city has its blighted areas, I suppose. Pasco has more than its share.

 Lewis Street (Hwys 395/410) Looking East. Late 1940s

 Lewis Street - Hwy 410. East.
 Fourth Avenue near Lewis. About 1950

Saturday, September 19, 2015

From O. Reader

The Plot Thickens...
From a young age I have enjoyed detective stories. I probably started at kindergarten with Enid Blyton’s series about the Five Find-Outers, with the regular policeman called Mr Goon and portrayed as an idiot. Words like “politically incorrect” sort of come to mind today. Indeed, an internet search shows that contemporary reprints of the Blyton canon have censored them for the fragile sensibilities of modern readers.
But it was when I went up to the ‘big school’ that I discovered Agatha Christie. My obsessive nature had already kicked in, because I know that I read 36 of her books, probably straight off. How did I know? Because I made a list of everything she’d written up until then, and crossed them off as I read them. I know it totalled 36 because something snapped inside my head at that point, and I gave a scream, threw a book across a school corridor, and didn’t touch another Agatha Christie for many decades.
A contributory factor was no doubt discovering John Dickson Carr – the master of the macabre. For Carr, character was two dimensional, pure cardboard. All that mattered was the puzzle. He specialised in the principles of conjuring, and “magic” often featured in his plots. Impossible mysteries, particularly of the “locked room” variety, were his speciality. You could forget the cardboardity of character – all that mattered was not even whodunit, but HOWdunit?
I came to Carr via the radio. He’d lived in Britain for many years, and actually wrote many radio plays himself that were broadcast on the CBS network in the States. But Britain had a reputation for much longer plays than those normally heard on American radio – basically because the need for sponsors and advertisers never reared its head for the BBC. I remember being glued to my valve portable radio (the size of a large brick) under the bedclothes, listening to Carr’s The Hollow Man, hoping that a parent wouldn’t come upstairs and make me turn it off.
The Americans called The Hollow Man, The Three Coffins. This was a shame, because in a sense, it spoiled one of the plot twists. But there were two impossible murders in the same book.
A professor warns his friends that he may receive a strange visitor and be in danger. They are to watch the door of his study, but not intervene unless called to do so. A strange visitor does indeed come to the house, wearing a mask. Obediently they let him hammer on the professor’s door. The professor opens and there is a scuffle. The visitor forces his way into the room and the door is slammed shut. Concerned witnesses knock on the door but are told to go away. Then a little while later a gunshot is heard. Battering the door down, they find the professor dying on the floor from a gunshot wound. But – there is no gun. And no second person. He’s gone. He’s been the Hollow Man. There is no conceivable hiding place. OK, so the window is wide open, but there is snow on the ledge and it appears that only Spiderman could have exited that way.
Next chapter, a man is walking along the middle of a road in the snow. There are several witnesses to events including a policeman. A voice shouts “the second bullet is for you” and a gun is fired. They race to the man who has fallen down, shot in the back. The gun is lying in the snow a few feet from him – no fingerprints of course, and footprints in the ever-convenient snow show that no-body else had been near him.
Those were two of the three coffins in the American title.
Whodunit? More important, how was it done? WELL, I’M NOT GOING TO TELL YOU, AM I! You will just have to read the book, or cheat and Google it.
Another one was called The Reader is Warned - and the subsequent radio serial The Listener is Warned. It was all about a strange character called Pennick, who claimed he could think you dead. And if he did, you were! And - horror of horrors - THE NEXT VICTIM COULD BE YOU!
It was written at the start of the Second World War, and I guess the idea of thinking murderous thoughts and Hitler and Mussolini falling off their perch to order, sort of struck a popular chord in Britain.
It is probably safe to say that a modern CSI unit would make short work of the problem, but in Carr’s day it worked.
Carr, like all good detective fiction writers from the “Golden Age”, was a master of deception. It’s like the magician’s scantily-clad female assistant bouncing around on stage. She causes men in the audience to focus all eyes on her face (I said HER FACE, her face which is UP HERE) and their female companions in turn to glower at THEM – all to give the performer his edge in the art of misdirection. In like manner, Carr spun a convoluted web with added attractions that made you miss the “clues” that were staring you in the obvious. It meant that books were often read a second time, unless of course you cheated and read the end first!
Decades later I tried to return to Carr’s work, but apart from a couple of exceptions (the above two being examples) I now found much of the canon unreadable. So I sold off the collection to help pay for my daughter’s wedding. Did very well out of it too.
Nowadays, I still like puzzles, but character and wit of writing score much higher. So I read writers like Josephine Tey (Golden Age) and Ann Cleeves (modern) for character, and Simon Brett and Catherine Aird for wit – this is my favorite chewing gum for the eyes of the moment. The puzzles seem to do better as radio plays or as TV or film dramas.
As Sherlock Holmes never actually did say in the books – it’s elementary my dear Occasional...

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Photo Album

New to America

Princess and the Cat

 Red Dress and Red Shoes

Cheeks and Knees

 Luisa Marie von Sachsen-Meiningen

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Friday, September 04, 2015

Pixie Life

When I was first interested in my Pet Scotsman, and really too young to be thinking about boys, we would sometimes find each other near a boat launch. There’s a park nearby and a bit of wooded area. We would sit on a park bench and watch the boats drift or speed by. And we talked endlessly.
This was a bit of disobedience. If our parents had known, there would have been a minor earthquake …. felt clear in China. But we behaved ourselves. This is an important part of our life. Our chatter led us into the other's heart and mind. He was and is one of the few people to actually listen to me. I’m full of nonsense. I know this. He knows this, but he loves me for it, not in spite of it.
Other things happened too, not related to him. I crashed by bicycle down a steep embankment. A police officer saw me pushing my nearly ruined bike up a steep hill toward home. He dumped me in his car and my bent bike in the trunk and drove me home. I still see him sometimes. He is long retired but lives near my aunt and uncle, and when we drive there, I make a point of at least calling him.
Knobby Knees and I volunteered for an archaeology project that summer, and both of us were accepted. We got to play in the dirt and had loads of fun.
I suppose our first really serious conversation took place in a bowling ally. My oldest sister was part of a bowling team, and I tagged along. Knobby knees showed up with some of his friends and treated me to a Coke and fries. He snuck in a kiss, my first ever by a boy other than my dad, which I thoroughly enjoyed. And yes, I was too young to be kissing anyone but my family. But, well, we did.
My grandma moved in with us that year. She was old, spoke with a thick accent, and loved me dearly. She was my confidant and put up with my nonsense. That summer I was into biology in my own way. I decided to find out what life was like back in the distant when and told everyone I wasn’t bathing for two weeks. I didn’t either, even though I felt crawly and smelly. I had a bit of spaghetti sauce I refused to wash off, and was probably pretty crusty. Near the end of my experiment, gramma politely said, “Liebchen, a bath might be in order now.” I agreed and soaked in a hot bath for maybe a half hour or more. It was paradise.
I miss gramma endlessly. More, I think than my mother, and I loved my mother.
When KK was accepted to Georgia Tech, I was depressed. I was accepted at the local branch campus of WSU. It let me live at home and still get a quality education. But KK was off to the nether regions of the USA to become a “hell of an engineer.” Most of our loose change went into phone time and we burned up AOL’s instant messenger service.

My last year at WSU I moved into an apartment not far from my parent’s house. I shared it with a classmate, older than I by five or six years, and wild and emotionally unstable and lacking in good judgment. I felt like I was her mom some days, and nursed her through boy friend drama and bad decisions. We’re still friends.
Eventually Knobby knees moved back, and we where married. I’ve told something about that earlier on this blog. We lived briefly in an apartment attached to my parents house. (They’d just bought it) And though we had our privacy, we soon found a place of our own. In not many weeks, my grandpa died. He left me a house he had built in 1940, just months before World War 2 came to America. So we moved. My parents and his eventually moved to the same place. And though my mom died some years ago, my dad and his newish wife and my in-laws live within walking distance of our house. Two of my sisters and their families live here too. It makes it more or less cozy as family goes.
Babies came along. I like my babies, though they’re long past babyhood. They don’t appreciate how parents worry about their children. One of them finds it a bit annoying, but it doesn’t stop me from checking on them at night. They hardly ever notice.
Various relatives have come and gone. I like my pet Scot’s family. His mom and my mom were close friends. I loved his one uncle who encouraged me to write and helped me to become at least a little tolerant of other’s behaviors. And then there is his uncle Andrew who is naturally funny. He has a very dry whit. And my children think he is a font of love and humor.
In many ways I like his extended family far better than my own. There are expectations. One of my cousins lived with us for about 18 mos years ago. We resembled each other so closely, people thought we were twins. We email daily, talk on the phone frequently. She married a Frenchman (gasp!), but they live in NYC. He works for the United Nations. So we see each other at least once a year for a week or two. She’ll always be one of my best buddies.
My oldest has a love interest, or I should say he likes her. My daughter looks at him with some interest but sees real drawbacks to that relationship. I do try to cultivate good sense in my daughters. It doesn’t always take, but often enough to please me.
So how is your life?

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Elly Evans' Stunning Art

Visit Elle here and on Deviant Art

My thanks to Elly for permission to use her art work.

Why was the beach wet?

The sea weed.

USS Alabama BB8 [1898-1922]

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

From Harry


It’s so cliché. You are on a road trip on an interstate highway. Traffic slows to a crawl for no apparent reason and the child in the back seat pipes up…

“Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”

“No Maggie. No Maggie. No Maggie. No Maggie. No Maggie.”

One day Maggie will appreciate the irony of her question, but for now she just knows that Grandpa is laughing as the car inches forward and Grandma’s face is turning red.

Yesterday my wife and I took our grandchildren to the aquarium in Virginia Beach. Google Maps will tell you that it is a two-hours, eleven-minute trip from Richmond to the aquarium. Google has never driven I-64 through Hampton Rhodes with two four-year-olds. Maggie, who has recently (and finally) become potty-trained, announced that she has to potty. We had just past a rest area and by the time we got to the next exit with facilities she had an “accident.” We had spare clothes so it wasn’t a big problem.

Eventually we reached the cause of the highway backup, a major crash in the opposite lanes of the road. I count at least four cars that are totaled, plus several other drivable ones intermixed with police, fire, and rescue vehicles. There isn’t anything on our side of the road to hold up the traffic other than drivers who slowed down to view the carnage.

We told Maggie we would be going through a tunnel; the interstate travels over and under Hampton Rhodes (where the James River opens into the Chesapeake Bay) to Norfolk and Virginia Beach. That tunnel can be a horrible experience for drivers during rush hour, but at 2 o’clock in the afternoon it was a speedy part of our trip and Maggie loved it.  
 We finally reach the Aquarium. There is a sea lion pool just outside the entrance and that is our first stop to watch those graceful creatures. Inside we saw all kinds of fish, turtles, crabs, rays, sharks, and other creatures that can be found in Virginia’s coastal waters and the Chesapeake Bay. Spending time with our grandchildren is a wonderful adventure. One month ago I could not do all this. I was really out of shape, easily winded, but my dear wife and I have changed our eating habits, more green vegetables, less bread and potatoes, and lots of exercise. I was able to keep up with Maggie and Corbin nearly all day. 

There are two buildings that make up the aquarium. They are separated by a walkway over a smelly section of tidal marshland and down a path through the woods along a creek. Jayne asked one of the aquarium’s guides how far it was. “Just a short walk”, she was told. We walked out of building one into the bright sun of a 90+ degree day with high humidity. Okay I will admit I was already tired, but I was trying to suck it up and press on. A couple hundred yards later I was done, leaning on a railing, trying to catch my breath. 

I crossed another opening in the woods with the sun beating down and collapsed on a bench in the shade. Jayne and the children had pressed on, but I had decided to wait here for them (or die of heat stroke) to return from the “short walk.” My cellphone rang. Wife was mad that she had not reached the second building yet, although other people on the trail said it was “just a little further.” She suggested that I return to the car and drive over to the still unseen building two to pick them up. Looking at gathering storm clouds all too close overhead, I agreed that this was a good idea although the thought of walking in any direction was not appealing. I drank a little more bottled water and trudged back the way I came.

By the time I reached the deliciously cool air conditioning of the main aquarium building there was loud thunder and my phone’s weather app announced that “lightning has been detected near your current location.” Rather than linger and catch my breath, I hurried on through the building and across the parking lot to our car before raindrops started falling. Building two, it turned out, was ONLY a half-mile away. 

I would like to say that our drive home was uneventful, but it wasn’t. Some people will tell you that driving through Los Angeles on their highway system is pure terror. Others will tell tales of woe about traveling Interstate 95 through the gridlock of the Washington, DC metropolitan area. But these cities have nothing to brag about when compared to the Tidewater area (Hampton, Norfolk, Newport News, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, and Chesapeake) when it comes to roads. The main interstate is I-64 which travels East from Richmond through Hampton, across to Norfolk (via tunnel) and somehow bends around and turns West before ending. Where does it end? I am not really sure. It splits at several points into other routes. There is I-264, I-364, I-464, and I-664. I guess they skipped 564.

Anyhow we (well really me) decided to travel a different route home that travels to the South of the James River back to Richmond. We left Virginia Beach using I-264, somewhere merged onto I-64, and then discovered we were driving into downtown Norfolk going the wrong direction on I-364 (I think). Turning around near another great museum (Norfolk’s Nauticus with the battleship Wisconsin docked beside it), we weaved through interchanges, and off-ramps until we reached the relative peacefulness of US Route 460 that took us most of the way home. We ran through heavy rain at times, and made several more potty breaks for Maggie and Corbin. It was well past sunset when we brought our grandchildren safely back to the waiting arms of Mommy and Daddy. The kids had a great time. Grandma and Grandpa went home to bed.