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Archive for December, 2013

So—phase I is completed and I’m ready for phase II. I know I can manage life on my own the next question is what do I want to do with the rest of it? There are many societal issues that demand attention; families who are homeless for whatever cause, health care for all our citizens, equal opportunity, the ongoing fight against any and all kinds of prejudice, responding appropriately to natural disasters, saving Puget sound, maybe all the oceans, the list is endless. These problems are all so gigantic they become overwhelming. Can one person make a difference? I hope so and am determined to add my voice and support and personal involvement at every opportunity. The first step in any journey is to actually move, commit, do something. Maybe I can even convince others to join in.

This time of the year we are inundated with requests for financial support from all manner of worthy organizations, some more worthy than others, some just scams. How to decide? Should I donate enough to one or two to possibly make a difference or give a little to as many as possible? If I win the lottery could I make all of them happy? Not likely, especially since I don’t participate in that fool’s game.

Less altruistic than the above goals and resolutions Charlize and I are ready for the next phase. It is a good thing that she is such a people dog because I am considering “dating” again.

Rosalie and I used to tease each other. We would claim the only reasons we stayed together were family, laziness and the fact that dating would be just awful.

“I cannot imagine you keeping a conversation going and being charming for a whole evening,” she would tell me. “How could you possibly date someone?”

“Well, you wouldn’t have any trouble talking,” I would respond “but if you didn’t feel anything for the person you were out with could you really continue to be charming?”

“Probably not, not much patience for that,” she would laugh. “Guess we’ll just have to keep each other.”

It was, of course, just teasing. She was always talkative and charming and wouldn’t have had any trouble dating at all. She was also much too kind to hurt anyone’s feelings. Conversely I tend to be taciturn and especially bad with “chit chat”. I can maintain a conversation of substance, if interested in the topic, but cocktail party conversation eludes me. Rosalie could and often did initiate a conversation and charm complete strangers. I expect I will have to rely on Charlize to break the ice and serve as a subject of conversation.

The good news is that given the realities of the life insurance actuarial tables there are significantly more eligible ladies than men out there. The problem is how to meet them.

Rosalie and I didn’t realize until the twenty-first century came around that we had a relationship, we just thought we were married. Still not certain I am ready for a “relationship”, however that is defined. Doesn’t seem like that much of a challenge says me, tongue in cheek. I’m relying on Charlize’s stamp of approval, of course. Love my dog, love me, or is it vice versa?  What are you laughing at Charlize?

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My travels with Charlize will continue. She is, after all, a great travel companion and provider of comfort and attention. I have searched to discover how to live on my own after so many years of being married to the same wonderful lady. During this past year I made a lot of choices, some good, some not so good, all were important to the journey.

I thought having a camping trailer while traveling around the country was a great idea. It was something I thought about from time to time over the years but Rosalie was never interested. We lived in an eight by fifty foot house trailer when first married and she was not interested in reliving that experience or anything resembling it. Within a few of weeks of her death I went shopping for the trailer I named Frog. During our first trip it was a fun new experience but reality started to settle in soon after. Driving on the open road pulling Frog was OK but extra concentration was needed when parking driving in inclement weather, especially high winds or pulling into a crowded gas stations.

Finding a nice RV Park during was not as straightforward as expected and it took me about half an hour to set up Frog and about the same amount of time to disconnect and get underway again the next morning. It also wasn’t inexpensive, fifty-dollars a night for most of the commercial parks. Then there was the task of emptying the “black water tank”, sewage to the uninitiated. The final blow was gas consumption. My truck, Old Blue, essential for pulling the trailer, was averaging about eight or nine miles to the gallon costing close to or exceeding four dollars a gallon.

Old Blue, although a year old when I purchased her, was also a reaction to Rosalie’s death. I was driving a ten-year old pickup truck while Rosalie drove a year old van. After her death every time I got into her van I started to cry. I was already anticipating taking a long road trip with a camping trailer, so I traded the van and the truck for a year old, high end, Dodge Ram 1500 four-door crew-cab with four-wheel drive and over-sized wheels. Old Blue was built for tough, manly activities. I was anxious to get out of our house and separate myself and my newly acquired rescued dog Charlize from Rosalie’s memory and palpable presence in the house. I was not yet able to clear out her clothes and other things. I needed to escape all those memories associated with all that physical “stuff” of hers. So there we were, me, Charlize, Old Blue and Frog, off to find, what?

During that first trip we wandered for almost six weeks and I was not yet unhappy with my choices. The second trip we took seemed to involve added hassles with Frog and the RV lifestyle. I began to think that the cost of RV parks and extra fuel might cover the costs of a lot of hotel rooms.  Even with the renovations I made, Frog was not all that comfortable, especially without utility hook-ups. Several times I just left Frog someplace and discovered travel was less complicated, less expensive, more relaxing. Gradually I came to the realization that a travel trailer, or any recreational vehicle, was not the choice for me. It was going to be costly but sometimes one has to admit a mistake, pay the price and get on with life. Frog was sold and gone. It cost me, but what life-lesson doesn’t?

Another reality was in store. I really liked Old Blue, but even when not pulling the trailer gas millage was an issue. On the best of days, on the highway at modest speeds, even with “Eco-Boost” I could only expect sixteen or seventeen miles per gallon. Then there were the garages. After I got her home I discovered Old Blue was five inches too long to fit in my garage at home. When trying to park in the parking garage at the Harborview Medical Center or at the building where my lawyer’s office was in downtown Seattle I found that I sometimes had to stop and back up to get around some close corners and into a parking spot without clipping a post or a big car parked in a compact spot. I discovered the deciding factor preparing for surgery on my ankle. With the specter of twelve weeks of recovery and not being allowed to bear weight on my left leg, I practiced getting in and out of the truck using just my right foot. I found it all but impossible because Old Blue was just too high off the ground.

So Charlize and I went car shopping. We found a new crossover SUV that was easy for me to get in and out of using just one foot. The sales people probably thought they we dealing with just another weird old man when they observed my strange behavior testing this ability. The new vehicle, actually a computer with four wheels, gets excellent gas millage, has enough room for Charlize and everything we might need for road trips. It’s also easier to keep clean. Was trading Old Blue for the new car another poor choice, made too quickly? I don’t know yet, but I’m glad I’m not struggling to get in and out of Old Blue on one foot, or stuck in the house because I can’t. The new car also fits into my garage.

So—the journey continues, life’s journey that is. Steinbeck travelled with his dog Charley searching to define the America of that time. My Charlize and I will continue our travels but my search to find out how to live without Rosalie is resolving. I still miss her every day but am becoming more accustomed to making my own decisions and finding something interesting and worthwhile to accomplish each day. I am more comfortable with the philosophy that each person’s life is a journey. Inevitably we end the journey alone and along the way have to learn to deal with the loss of loved ones. Both Rosalie and I lost our parents’ years ago and we cane to accept that as a normal part of the journey. Losing Rosalie was much more difficult but also part of the same journey. Losing a child would be devastating, but many others have coped with even that, I pray I never have to.

Charlize, I realize, has an easier life to deal with. She lives only in the moment. She obviously has memories of some sort of abuse but they only intrude when something happening in the present brings back those memories, for example when I correct some behavior I don’t think appropriate. I wouldn’t ever think of hitting her but someone has, based on the way she responds when I raise my voice.

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Confinement while my surgically fused ankle heals provides time for reading, perhaps too much. No– that’s not possible. Along with my infatuation with all of Steinbeck and Hemingway I am addicted to any publication that deals with the Corps of Discovery, the Lewis and Clark Expedition. I own at least a couple of dozen books dealing with those adventures.

While re-reading, I’ve lost track of how many times, the three volumes edited by Elliott Coues I, as always, discovered something new to think about. The history of the Coues edition is interesting in itself. After returning from the mouth of the Columbia River both Lewis and Clark promised to publish their journals but didn’t get to it. After Lewis’ untimely death Clark travelled to Philadelphia to find an expert to edit and publish the over twenty-seven separate writings, some only partial journals, that survived the trip. The expert he selected was Nicholas Biddle who in 1814 published; “History of the Expedition Under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark to the Source of the Missouri, Thence Across the Rocky Mountains and Down the Columbia River to the Source of the Pacific Ocean”. It didn’t sell well because a member of the Corps, Patrick Gass published his journal of the trip shortly after their return thus the story was well known.

Biddle trimmed about two-thirds of the journal entries to create his narrative.  Elliot Coues and his “expert copyist” Mary Anderson were granted access to the original journals late in 1892. Anderson deciphered misspellings and abbreviations and completed a word-for-word, handwritten transcript. Coues used her transcript to create “The History of the Lewis and Clark Expedition” first published in 1893. He added many footnotes based on his travels along the route, Gass’ publication and partial journals from other members of the Corps, along with much of the original information left out by Biddle.

Sorry too much information? I warned you that I am an addict. Anyhow during my latest binge of reading I re-discovered that in 1803, while in Philadelphia preparing for the journey, under Jefferson’s direction, Lewis purchased a black, male Newfoundland puppy for which he paid twenty dollars. The basic pay for privates in the Corps of Discovery was $5 a month while Captain Lewis earned $40 per month.

Newfoundland dogs are massive. Males can weigh 130-150 pounds and stand 22 to 28 inches at the shoulder. They have webbed feet and are powerful swimmers, bred to retrieve from strong ocean currents. They are great swimmers with a thick, oily, waterproof coat. When they swim they don’t dog paddle, the limbs move up and down in a sort of modified breaststroke.

Lewis’ dog was named Seaman, but errors in transcription of the journals identify him as Scannon in many writings about the expedition. He became a favorite of the Corps and functioned as a watchdog often warning of danger. Many of the Native Americans they encountered wanted to purchase the dog but, of course, Lewis always refused. One journal entry recounts a time when a deer was wounded by one of the hunters and jumped into the river to escape. Seaman went in after the deer, caught it, drowned it and retrieved it. He made the entire trip to the Pacific and back and legend has it that after Lewis committed suicide, or was murdered, at an Inn in Tennessee on his way to Washington, Seaman wouldn’t leave Lewis’ grave and died of starvation guarding his master.

What troubles me is how the dog survived the trip from the Western Slope of the Rockies to the Pacific. At many times during this portion of the trip the Corps faced starvation; sometimes subsisting on rotting dried and pounded salmon and various roots purchased from the Native Americans. This diet, when they could acquire it, made most of them ill. During this period it is estimated they ate about three hundred dogs, meat that the Native Americans of the Columbia watershed did not use but that the Corps apparently considered acceptable, if not tasty. What did Seaman eat during these times? The issue is not addressed in any of the writings that I can find.

I’ve discussed this issue with Charlize, what else do we have to talk about? She is concerned, as I am, that Seaman might have turned cannibal.

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