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Monday, June 30, 2008

Hang Up and Drive

My View From the Porch

We’re going to Astoria shopping this afternoon so I’ve been sitting on the porch thinking about what all we need to buy and making my list. It’s 30+ miles round trip to Costco & Fred Meyer, but if we keep the number of trips down it’s worth the savings on the gas sold at those two establishments to make it worth the occasional trip, not to mention that the price of groceries is better than here on the Long Beach Peninsula.

Yesterday I had a dear friend come to visit from Oregon. We talked a lot about the price of gas and how it’s changing how we live. This morning the radio reminded me that as of midnight tonight driving while talking on a hand held cell phone in the State of Washington becomes a ticket-able activity. The fine will be $124 with the exception of emergency calls. Law enforcement cannot stop you simply for talking on your cell phone, but they can pull you over for another infraction—such as running a red light—and add the cell phone to your list of fines.

I don’t know how many times I’ve sat at an intersection watching cars run red lights and more than half of those folks are yakking away on a cell phone. If it’s that important to make a phone call, pull over and do your talking otherwise wait until you get to your destination! Whatever did we do when had to look for a public telephone and dig out the coins to make a call? There’s no denying that cell phones are handy and keep us in contact with those we love or need to talk to, but let’s do it someplace other than the road.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Jazz Musette: A Family Jam!

You know, that fresh, passionate, new love and everything it brings? Where your eyes are brighter, your step is springier, and your heart is light? Where your dreams (whether they are alive in the day or night) are sugared with that sweet, sweet love? Colors are brighter, the breeze is softer, the sun is warmer?

I saw this love tonight in the form of the band, Jazz Musette, featuring our very own Lorraine Hart, blogger mama and writer wonderful. That passion for music, performing, and the love shown amongst the band members was totally fresh love, no kidding, as described above. With pure passion observed, it was a delight to see and experience their music and harmonies. It was my maiden voyage at 6th Avenue's Jazzbones, too, on Sunday, June 29th and with Mom and my little girl, Erin, in tow, it made it all the more special.

Jazz Musette played a lively and inspired set to benefit the Tacoma Waldorf School. Families and other patrons swayed to the music, enjoyed the food and drink, and laughed at the comedic antics of the wonderful Ms. Hart. Mom, Erin, and I sang along with some Jazz Musette originals (brilliant, let's hear it for "Coyote!") and old classics (our faves were a little Van Morrison and Leonard Cohen). I was THRILLED when my pal Lorraine dedicated a song for me! Wahoo! It rocked the house, I was practically crying and laughing at the same time. Love, love, love!

The band was great, but it was extra special to hear Lorraine and her daughter, Anna sing so beautifully. Those gals can SING! And Lorraine has the hips, gyrations, and dance moves of someone 1/3 of her age. And I am completely serious. Lorraine can out dance me any day of the week.

And my extra treat? I got to visit with fellow AWESOME and WONDERFUL blogger Mizu and her husband who attended. Cool!

Wanna see a great band with passion and a lot of "HART?" Check out the Jazz Musette website and catch a gig! Hey, I'll make it easy for you--click HERE. It will be worth it, trust me!

Thanks gang! So, how do I sign up (or start!) the fan club?

Tacoma, You're So Weird When It's Hot

Tacoma, when it gets HOT, you get weird. Case in point. I went out for a walk late this morning. Here's what I saw:

A young, buff guy running along at a good clip, shirtless, sockless, but wearing a ski hat! Advice: It's hot out. Dude, what's the deal with the hat? A baseball cap or a little thin beanie--cool. Ski hat? Wrong season.

Young children who dressed themselves in seasonally INAPPROPRIATE wear. Kiddos, aren't you roasting in your sweatshirts and jeans? Advice: It's hot out. Parents--I know you want your children to be independent. I know you probably think, well, if they dress dumb for the weather, they'll learn. I get it. But c'mon, intervene! Particularly, if you have a regularly contrary and/or senseless child. (I know, I have one).

Ladies, you love your tank tops and the spaghetti strapped sundresses. Great. But girls, seriously, if you are "endowed" I don't really want to see that or know about it. Advice: It's hot out. I get it. You love your summer wear. But summer wear tends to be in thin, guazy or sheer fabrics. Get some support under there, girls. Trust me.

Gentlemen, why are some of you wearing leather belts to belt your shorts and tucking your shirts in tightly? Isn't that uncomfortable and sweaty? And what's the deal with the tube-style socks with shorts? Advice: It's hot out. Consider a breezy shirt and skip the belt? (Of course, I hate belts, so this advice is probably not sound). Please lose the tube socks. There are so many other options.

It's hot out. You know what? Who I am to offer advice? I am too warm to care. Tacoma embrace summer. Do whatever and enjoy.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Summer Arrives at the Beach

And the Weather On My Porch

It’s a beautiful morning at the beach. The wind of yesterday has died to a breeze and the Sun is casting her light down the Columbia; catching on the bluff above Ilwaco. Her shine has not yet reached our yard so I’ve got the water going on my new lilacs. If you step out into Elizabeth Street you can see the Sun shining on the boats in the harbor. It is still quiet enough to hear their engines start and growl out of the basin toward a fishing day. The birds are waking up and having breakfast on my lawn. At least this year I kept them from building nests around the porch. I love the little things, but do not like having to scrub the pooh off the porch!

Nine times out of ten, if it is sunny here it is also windy. Yesterday it was a bit excessive with the Wind swirling around my L-shaped porch and whistling like it was winter. My new hanging basket took a thrashing. If the wind remains as still as it is right now it will definitely reach 80 today. Yesterday the wind kept the temperature in the low 70s which was perfect for yard work.

JR has not arrived yet to work on his place across the street this morning. Yesterday I wandered over and found out what they are up to. They are selling out most of their property and moving to Yuma, AZ. The only portion they are keeping is their little rental apartment and the big pink garage they are turning into “a beach hut.” This winter he told me they fell in love with Yuma. So far JR, who is a contractor, has built at least three houses they expected to live out their days in. They plan to sell them all including a large one on the bluff over the harbor and move to the desert. I confess to not finding the desert so enchanting and certainly nothing compared to the ocean, but many folks retire there. Just last winter my cousin and her husband bought a place there. I am glad JR and his wife are keeping their property across the street and that we will catch a glimpse of them during the summers.

I don’t believe that there are near as many tourists on the Peninsula as past years. There are only five cars at Heidi’s Motel down the street. Perhaps they are just waiting for the Fourth of July. There is plenty to do here for the fourth. Ilwaco will have food, music and fireworks on the 5th. Long Beach has a big fireworks display on the beach on the evening of the fourth and Ocean Park has a parade and fair during the day. One of the realty agencies goes around the Peninsula the night of the 3rd like the 4th of July bunny leaving a little American flag in everyone’s yard.

Last night was a good evening on the porch. It was the warmest evening since I arrived here and I could hear a party going on up the hill where a new house is being built. We do have to be mindful of mosquitoes and I had the citronella candle burning. There is marsh area near enough to breed them, but most come from my neighbor Rose’s yard where there is a little old pond. I need to go on a commando raid with the cooking oil. I have compassion for most creatures, but not mosquitoes and the itchy bumps their feasting leave behind.

But just now I have a long list of things of things to accomplish. Tomorrow I will have company on the porch and there’s plenty of cooking, straightening, dusting and vacuuming to be done not to mention the four more bags of Uncle Malcolm’s Weed Wompin’ Mulch I purchased yesterday. Thanks for stopping by on this pretty morning.

Friday, June 27, 2008

"Under Our Skin" Private Screening, July 24th.

When was the last time you watched a movie that could save your life, or the life of someone you love?

I know it’s not May…and I try not to be a one-note neighbour…but this is important. Thursday, July 24th, at 7pm there is to be a private screening of “Under Our Skin,” a documentary on Lyme (both medical and political) at the Harvard exit Landmark Theatre, 807 E. Roy St., Seattle. This is a one-time only event, with an hour-long Q&A with Dr. Marra M.S. N.D. before the movie’s start. The tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the theatre.

From the press release:
A dramatic tale of microbes, medicine and money, this eye-opening film investigates the untold story of Lyme disease, an emerging epidemic larger than AIDS. Each year thousands go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, told that their symptoms are “all in their heads.” Following the stories of patients and physicians as they battle for their lives and livelihoods, the film brings into focus a haunting picture of our health care system and its ability to cope with a silent terror under our skin.

From the Director’s Statement: Andy Abrahams Wilson
Perhaps this film project, which has endured over two years and 350 hours of footage, is my penance for the way I treated my twin sister when she was sick. But I also recognize a good story and know a good deed: By CDC upper estimates alone, Lyme disease may be the fastest growing infectious disease in the country, dwarfing AIDS and West Nile Virus combined. Like my sister, today thousands of patients are told that their symptoms are “in their head” or a result of stress, depression, or “unknown etiology.” They live with chronic, debilitating illness. Left untreated, some die and others take their own lives. Most go through a ceaseless maze of doctors and diagnoses, with few answers and often no insurance coverage because Lyme is not recognized as a chronic disease.

Our film tells the hidden story of Lyme disease, while shining light on the deep, dark fissures in our healthcare and medical research systems. It is meant to open eyes to a danger under our skin that has gone far too long ignored.
Awareness literally will save lives.

More and more, my daughter and I are approached by neighbours, by audience members, by readers of this ask questions and to share their own stories. Numbers quoted by the Washington State Health Department are woefully lower than reality. This is what happens when uneducated doctors are led astray by CDC surveillance guidelines...and the IDSA's blind eye to chronic Lyme.

We extend a particular challenge to the resident and attending doctors of University of Washington's Harborview Family Practice Clinic and their Roosevelt Family Practice Clinic to attend this movie. My daughter would like to look you eye-to-eye, now that she is out of her wheelchair and seizure-free. You owe it to your oath and the good people of Washington State.

I love the Taste of Tacoma!

If you are looking for me today, you will find me at the tasteoftacoma! I have attended this annual event in beautiful Point Defiance Park every year since it began. The first year was held in downtown Tacoma which was fun, too. When I used to live it Ruston I would walk from our home to the Taste of Tacoma and one year I attended seven times! While I have not been able to break that record, I do attend at least twice every year. I love the food, seeing the arts and crafts and bumping into people I have not seen in a long time. I like to see the new food vendors and try something new to "taste" each year. What a great annual event, Thank you Tacoma!

Tacoma Waldorf School Benefit Sun. June 29th.

Jazz Musette is a family band. Our drummer, T3, is the son of our bass-player, Bebop, and our back-up vocalist (when she's able) is my daughter Anna. We'd like to invite you all to a family-friendly gig at Jazzbones this Sunday (June 29th.) in support of the Tacoma Waldorf School. It's a great school, with great heart and very involved parents. You can check out this website for their educational philosophy.

The doors will open at 6pm and the cost is $15 for admission, part of the proceeds benefitting the kids. We'd like to thank Jazzbones for their community spirit! If you would like to support Waldorf's endeavor, have a Sunday dinner out complete with show, and meet a few of our Blogonias from "In Your Neighbourhood," come and join us for the fun. Join us for the kids and parents of the Tacoma Waldorf School. It's about family.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Lightship Restaurant May Not Be the Right Ship

A Review From My Porch

This afternoon was a beautiful afternoon at the beach for sitting on the porch and taking a break from watching “Winds of War”. Frequently my mother and I watch a series, generally a Victorian or Regency set. This summer it is WWII. Maybe because I’ve been working on my garden for my dad and uncles who fought in the Pacific. Maybe because I’ve lost so many from that generation.

The prediction is for eighty degree weather tomorrow and Saturday and seventy-five on Sunday. A friend is coming for the day Sunday to escape the heat in Portland. We are happy to oblige by providing lunch and a tour around the Peninsula. There’s a new bakery in Oysterville and a new book shop in Ocean Park.

I’ve been trying to get the flower beds so I don’t shame myself in front of folks with better yards than I. I even planted a tomato plant in an old wheelbarrow. With tomatoes being a dicey purchase these days it seems like a smart idea. My mother laughed and called me a strange little girl. It’s good to have her back to her usual self!

A chicken in the oven was wafting the smell of rosemary and poultry out the door and making us hungry. Just as I was thinking about starting the rest of dinner a neighbor of my mother’s, whom we had invited to go out to dinner with but had a previous engagement, called to say that her engagement was cancelled. This caring woman has been a godsend to my mother on more than one occasion, most recently when my mother was hospitalized. Yesterday was her birthday so I’d promised a nice birthday meal as my gift to her.

We decided to go to the “Lightship Restaurant”. It sits on top of the Edgewater Inn on the beach at the 10th street approach, also known as Sid Snyder Drive. It is a favorite place of my mother’s as well as her friend. We like being able to see the beach activity while we eat. The food there is very good. My mother had devils on horseback, her friend steak, Amy fish & chips and I salmon. Our waitress was courteous and prompt and I had no complaints where she was concerned, but another waitress engaged in an activity best left to the bathroom and quite unnerved us.
This young woman, who has worked there for a year or more, arrived and began spraying and fingering her hair into a rat’s nest right in front of the dining area. The rest of the staff seemed nonplused about her routine which I found extraordinary when there is a perfectly good women’s bathroom at hand. Had she been our waitress she would have received a very small tip in deed. Instead she got a discreet note. I have always recommended the Lightship because of the view and the chowder. I still recommend the food, but beware the waitress with the amazing hair!

Grit City Ballerina Is In The House

The Gritty City Woman has taken up ballet. Seriously.

I had my first adult basic ballet class with the Jo Emery Ballet School last night. When I asked Jo about the class, she warmly welcomed me to join the group and said that the class is very loving and gentle. So, I have wanted to try a dance class since forever (the last time I did ballet was at age eight). I require “gentle” and I dig “loving.” I was in. I eagerly purchased my pretty pink ballet slippers right after I signed up for the class.

Now when I told others what I would be doing, I got lots of laughter and snickers. Some thought it was an “I’m almost 40 years old” thing. Sure, it is a little. I just want to dance. I loved watching my 6 year old daughter practice. It looked fun and like good exercise.

So, off I headed to ballet class, in the heart of gritty South Tacoma by the train tracks, not knowing what to expect. Jo said I could wear whatever I wanted, as long as I had ballet slippers. I wore my favorite twill shorts that I got in Hawaii that were dyed in beer. I had on my favorite Lucky Brand T-shirt with a ying-yang symbol and a huge number thirteen on it. I had my long hair loose with a small barrette to hold my bangs back.

I was happily met by Jo and other members of the small class. The class members were so kind and many of them had been taking classes for a long time. They were from all kinds of professions and backgrounds. I felt happy to be there despite the fact
that everyone else had on nice, confident looking, dance style clothes (except me, who looked like I’d been to the beach) and that I was also the youngest person there. But hey, I thought I should be able to do this. I am me. I should be able to keep up. No problem.

We started at the barre. I liked that. The stretching felt great, the music was mesmerizing. I goofed up some moves here and there, but recovered. It was a good start and I was working up quite a sweat despite the cooling fans blowing near by.

And then we moved to the floor. Yikes! This was tough for me. When the class went to the right, I went to the left. Sometimes my feet wouldn’t go the way I wanted them to. I was sweating like a pig and getting tired. My hair was in my way, my shirt was too hot, my shorts started to chafe, and my slippers felt like they were pinching my toes. But I did it. I did leaps! Spins! Jumps! The other dancers and Jo, moved gracefully and beautifully. AWESOME! I looked like I was doing some kind of bizarre martial arts. But so what! I didn’t fall down, hurt other people, or break equipment. The class graciously reached out to help me and encourage me when I struggled. It worked. And I worked. And when I got some steps right, it felt like I was flying in the sky. I worked hard and when I left for the night, I had some stiffness and soreness, but in a good way.

When I got home, I kicked back with a nice, ice cold beer. Ah, dance! The Gritty City Woman way!

So, back I go next Wednesday to give it another go.

I will be chronicling my dance experiences here sometimes and on Stop by and join the fun and laughter as I embark on my summer of dance! Thanks Jo and the gang!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


And the View From the Beach

Last night I drove my mother to the beach before taking her home. It was cold and windy, but the sun had not quite slipped behind the fog bank headed in. When we parked the car we saw two boys to the south frolicking in the waves, deeper than I allowed my children. The one time Joshua went in chest deep I nearly had a heart attack. Of course I thought of the teenager who lost his life last summer at the same spot.

There are signs posted along the beach approaches here warning tourists of what the locals already know. There are rip tides that will suck even the strongest swimmers out to sea and on their way to Japan before they know it. Generally it is the person who goes in to assist a struggling swimmer who ends up perishing so having a parent or grandparent standing on the beach is not assurance of safety. One year five girls got out past the breakers and began to struggle. The grandfather of one of the girls went in to help. The Ocean Park Fire Department managed to get the girls in safely, but grandpa was unconscious when pulled from the water by the Coast Guard. He was Life Flighted to Harborview in Seattle where he later died. Last evening was by no stretch a warm evening and in any case the Pacific Ocean off the State of Washington is always cold. If the rip tide does not get you, hypothermia will.

I watched the boys as I walked the dog and after I got back in the car. Normally we’d sit there and listen to KMUN’s “Where’s My Pajamas?” program. It was nearly time for the show to start and I was relieved that the two boys seemed to be heading in. Then I realized that there were three more males bobbing around in the water and the first two headed back out. All were diving into the waves and very nearly out as far as the farthest breaker. I could not decide if the other folks standing on the beach were the parents or even with these youngsters.

I texted my husband who was on the graveyard shift at Seattle Flight Service and asked what the tide was doing. It was going out. Despite the fact that I have decided opinions regarding child rearing I try to not interfere with people’s parenting styles, but the two people standing on the beach, if in fact they were the parents, didn’t know what they were doing. Then I couldn’t believe my eyes when the male figure moved into the ocean with a very small boy! I dialed 911.

I explained to the dispatcher that while none of the boys or man in the water appeared to be struggling; that I was concerned that the tide was going out and that they were very near to being beyond the breakers. The dispatcher said she would send an officer. To my relief by the time he arrived they were coming out of the water. I explained my concern to the officer who had a little talk with the parents. My hope is that those parents will be more careful of their passel of boys and that someone is around the next time an unwary tourist decides to take a swim. Swimming on the Long Beach Peninsula ought to be confined to the motel swimming pools.

The ocean is a beautiful and powerful lady which is what calls us down to her shore. Her power must be respected. To those of you planning a get-away to the Washington coast, be smart and stay safe.

Garden & Garlic Dreams

And the View From My Porch

It’s gray this morning in Ilwaco, but I have hopes of it burning off later and being as sunny as it was yesterday afternoon. The view from my porch changed over the weekend. Besides making progress on our new garden, the folks across the street spent the weekend tearing down their aging fiberglass green house. The grandson probably had the most fun banging away with his hammer. My husband enjoys demo as well. I confess to being more on the “preserve and enhance” side of DYI.

It was a busy weekend at our house in Ilwaco with little time for sitting on the porch and little alluring weather. On Thursday my daughter-in-law and grandson arrived from Gig Harbor. My mother came home from the hospital on Friday and our friends Jo and Jon came from Gig Harbor as well. On Saturday afternoon my husband Dave came down and our party was jolly, giving us the warmth we lacked outside.

Saturday we walked to the Ilwaco Farmer’s Market where we bought vegetables for dinner. There was no tuna or sturgeon to be had for dinner as it’s too early in the season. Not wanting to end our fun we drove the fifteen miles North to Ocean Park to attend the N.W. Garlic Festival. The garlic festival was what had drawn Ana down this weekend, garlic being her favorite food.

Though it pains me to say it, the N.W. Garlic Festival was a bust. There were plenty of booths selling crafts and food booths with the usual fair fare, but blessed little garlic. It was disappointing to Ana, Jo and Jon and irritating to me since it was fifteen miles each way. About the most garlicky thing about the festival were two gentlemen dressed as garlic and wearing top hats. We purchased nothing other than some good teriyaki which we ate in the car parked on the approach, the wind being cold. Ocean Park needs to come up with a new name for their June festival—“Summer Solstice For Most of Us” perhaps?—but until they have more than two booths selling garlic products and a few food booths featuring garlic, they need to drop that word from their title.

We got our lawn mower woes straightened out, the lawn mowed, and a portion of the sod dug from my remembrance garden. I put together the plaque for my father and purchased white and purple lilacs for his brothers and their wives. Their plaques await assembly. I might just do that today.

Best of all, Monday my mother felt like getting out, coming over and sitting on the porch. We borrowed Amy’s foot stool from her cottage and tucked a down comforter over her legs and there she stayed for a long time until the Sun disappeared behind the clouds and the cold breeze that has been the theme here since I arrived, made its appearance at the turning of the tide. Our few snatches of sunshine have been divine and having my mother join me on the porch made it feel more like summer, but a bit more warmth would be appreciated here on the coast.

The view from my porch is gradually changing and my dream of a place to remember those whom I still love so dearly gradually is taking shape. I’ve got my father’s plaque put together and two more for aunties and uncles to stick in the ground and hopefully Dave will get the rest of the sod dug out before long and I can add more things.

Just now there’s laundry and dishes to do so I’ll mosey back in the house. Stay cool up there in Pierce County and thank goodness Summer seems inclined to join us.


My day began with one of the patients telling me that she had been thinking about me earlier that day with great joy. WOW...

To make the day unbelieveably, overwhelmingly beeutiful, my friend, F, had invited me to join him for dinner at the Red Robin. I was so very pleased. I had expected to come home, after work, tired, go to the kitchen and boil or micro-wave whatever I could put my poor, tired hands on. But, now, my friend was taking me out to dine at the Red Bird. WOW... Check out those certificates...

Early evening... as Louis Armstrong sang, "The joint (Red Robin) was jumping." Families out for a great evening with their children. Friends looking forward to being quickly and courteously served.
And Fred was smiling as we headed in.
Isn't he one beautiful dude...WOW

All day I had considered all kind of healthy options... a chicken burger without cheese, a big salad; but I finally had to go with my inner overwhelming desire... Fred ordered a cheese burger, and your friend, Joseph, from Houston, Texas, ordered a chilli burger... check out (stop that lip smacking and that drooling, where's your napkins) Fred's burger and salad above WOW

That chilli burger took me back to my early years in Seattle, at home, where there was always a simmering pot of red beans and chilli and a humongous size pot of rice waiting for me and my cousins when we got back from school (I would eat a bowl of chilli and rice for breakfast too) WOW

Are you ready for my giving you a taste by taste critique of that burger.... WOW
Enjoy the video...

Sunday, June 22, 2008


I invite my neighbors to share stories and pictures of students of color who have successfully completed their high school education. I was moved to do this for two reasons:
1. recent conversations I have begun
2. the few news reports I have read that focus on students of color who succeed
3. the lack of conversation about the strengths of our educational systems in America

I was moved by this article that appeared in the TNT Saturday, June 21, paper copy and online. The two women students in this article are African American; the two men students are White American.

State requirements? These seniors met them

DEBBY ABE; Published: June 21st, 2008 01:00 AM

They did it.
Each of the four Class of 2008 seniors The News Tribune followed this school year met new state graduation requirements to pass the WASL writing exam or pass math classes.
This spring’s senior class was the first in the state required to meet standards on the reading and writing sections of the 10th-grade Washington Assessment of Student Learning or a state-approved alternative.
Seniors also had to fulfill a math requirement by passing the math WASL exam, passing an alternative or, if they failed the math exam, trying the math test again and passing a year long math course.
They also needed to complete a culminating project, have a plan of what to do the year after high school, and amass the traditional course credits required by school districts and the state.

Here’s how the four South Sound seniors fared.

School: Washington High School, Parkland.
Age: 18.
WASL history: Tried but did not pass any required WASL sections in 10th grade. That summer, she retook all the sections and passed the reading section. She attempted the writing and math sections in the 11th grade and passed writing.
The challenge: Pass a year long math course in her senior year and retake the math WASL, though passing the exam is not required.
Result: Graduated. She met the math requirement by passing two semesters of “segmented math,” a new class designed by the state to teach WASL concepts. She attempted the math WASL but was still awaiting her score.

What’s next: Attend community college, then transfer to the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Career goal: Lawyer.
Advice to high school students: “You have your ups and downs. … Don’t give up.”
Parting words: “I’m excited to graduate. I had a long journey.”

School: Graham-Kapowsin High School, Graham.
Age: 19.
WASL history: He passed the reading section in 10th grade, but not the writing or math. He passed math in the 11th grade, but not writing. He missed meeting the writing benchmark by 1 point on each attempt.
The challenge: Pass the writing section or complete a “collection of evidence” consisting of specific class assignments demonstrating knowledge and skills tested on the WASL. He has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – problems concentrating and staying focused.
WASL preps: He took a communication arts class and was tutored by an English teacher hired by Graham-Kapowsin to help students pass the reading and writing WASL or the alternative.
Result: Graduated. He met the standard two ways – by submitting a writing collection of evidence and by passing the writing WASL exam. He scored 18 on each effort; the minimum needed to pass either measure was 17.

What’s next: Hang with friends this summer before he leaves Aug. 26 for Air Force boot camp in Texas.
Reaction upon learning he passed: “I was happy. I was like, ‘Yes!’”

Advice to high school students: “Work hard. Pay attention in class.”

School: Spanaway Lake High School, Spanaway.
Age: 17.
WASL history: Passed the reading and writing portions of the WASL, but has been unable to conquer the math section.
The challenge: Complete a year long math course this year and retake the math WASL, though passing the exam isn’t required.
Result: Graduated. Passed two semesters of geometry. She retook the math WASL but just barely missed passing.

What’s next: Attend Pierce College, then transfer to Eastern Washington University.

Career goal: Clinical psychologist.
Reaction upon seeing a passing math grade on report card: “I was excited. Really happy … That was the only question” of whether she’d graduate.

Advice to high school students: “Just study really hard … and don’t worry about it too much.”

School: Curtis High School, University Place.
Age: 19.
WASL history: Attempted but did not pass the three required WASL sections in 10th grade. Retook the test in 11th grade and passed reading and math.
The challenge: Pass the writing WASL or his writing collection of evidence in English, even though it’s his second language. Deshkin emigrated from Mordovia, Russia, to the United States in September 2003.
WASL preps: Took 12th-grade English, English as a second language and an English class for students who failed the WASL.
Result: Passed the WASL writing exam. Stopped preparing the collection of evidence once he learned he passed. To graduate, must still pass one English class.

What’s next: Probably take the needed English class in summer school to earn his diploma; go to Tacoma Community College in the fall.

Career goal: Software programmer, information technology specialist or video producer.
Reaction at not being able to participate in Curtis’ commencement: “I wasn’t upset. We’re moving this month to a new house in Fircrest. We need a lot of time to do work on the new house.”

He’s confident he will pass another English class to graduate.
Reaction when teacher told him he’d passed the writing WASL: “I was really, really happy.”

Debby Abe: 253-597-8694



Friday, June 20, 2008

Hot Times In The Summertime

School's out for the summer for my Lil' Bitty Gritizens! As promised in my previous post, the kiddos and I celebrated Grit City style with a kid-requested trip to downtown Tacoma. We lunched at the Harmon Brewery and Restaurant. Stuffed with pizza (my girl), chicken strips 'n' tater tots (my boy), and a veggie burger and signature fries (me), we shimmied down Pacific Avenue to Hello, Cupcake for dessert (I got a perfect dozen of a mish mash of vanilla and chocolate combinations and a couple of red velvet cake variations for good measure). We slowly plodded up the hill to the car, full and warm in the refreshing sunshine.

I love going to downtown Tacoma. My daughter in her crazy Hawaiian dress, my son in his mismatched shorts and tee, pretend-flying his Star Wars toy X-wing fighter down Pacific Avenue, and me, giggling in my head at all the varieties of fashion on the street. Some folks were BUNDLED up in coats, rain gear, long pants, and sensible shoes (poor things haven't recovered from Junuary). And then there were the sun-folk wearing skimpy tank tops, multi-hues of flip-flops, and barely there mini-skirts. I even saw a young guy wearing the tightest pair of jeans I've ever seen on a human being. EVER.

And all the while, traveling home,the kids snoozing in the back seat, I listened to the smooth tunes of the lively, local, eclectic KUPS 90.1 FM. I didn't recognize any of the music, but I love the intro to one dreamy song: "When you've burned everything down, it's time to set yourself on fire." Then the wispy voiced singers started singing about lost love.

Only in Grit City.

Happy first day of summer, y'all.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Can anyone tell me how to get a hold of the brother. He got some definite opinions about affirmative action which just absolutely blew me away... You may find yourself facing these types of notions sometimes yourself... White males are being exploited; Blacks have got more than enough right now... The system favors them and that is reverse racism...

Here's Mr. Pirkle's article:
Federal Way Mirror
No link exists between diverse Federal Way School Board and better education
BILL PIRKLE, The Pirkle Report
Published: June 18, 2008 2:00 PM
Updated: June 18, 2008 6:56 PM

The concept of diversity was born when set-aside contracts and employment quotas for minorities came under legal attack.

The problem for the Civil Rights Movement was, how do we continue to discriminate against white males in this new legal environment based on reverse discrimination? The solution to the problem was the idea of “diversity.”

There are colleges that routinely turn down a white person for admission whose grades and test scores were higher than a minority who was admitted so as to have a diverse campus. Although that may sound nice despite the fact that a harder working student was discriminated against, it leaves unanswered a fundamental question: How does a diverse campus improve academic learning? Seems to me that the professor’s delivery would be color blind.

The last incarnation of the Federal Way School Board had four white men and one white woman. There were three Mormons, a majority. Yet little was accomplished. This school board lineup has two white women, one black woman, one white male and one black male. That seems pretty diverse, and if school board diversity is the answer to our problems, I would expect to see an improvement in standardized test scores. Standardized scores like the WASL are important since the teachers tend to give good grades to make everybody happy. It’s called grade inflation and is the teachers union’s answer to better education.

I would pose a derivative of this question to the school board. How does a diverse school board improve WASL scores? Let’s look at it logically, a thing that is rare these days where logic takes a backseat to emotion. The school board implements policies that improve learning. How does a diverse school board come up with better policies than a non-diverse school board? Hopefully, a diverse school board would be color blind.

We can assume that the most diverse school board possible would not have any white men of Anglo heritage. If there was such a person, then the school board could be made more diverse by replacing him, since diversity really means non-white.

Yet the connection between diversity and good education policy remains obscure. If there was massive discrimination in schools, one could assume that their policies would end it. Yet the minority kids go to the same school, use the same books and have the same teachers as the other kids. It’s the law.

If you think that there is discrimination in schools, the solution is not to make the school board more diverse. The solution is to go into federal court and file a discrimination suit for civil rights violations. That this is not being done means there is no evidence to support that assertion.

Diversity may even be harmful. Everybody brings to the school board their values and their agenda. As you increase diversity, you increase the complexity of the negotiations as we experience what we call agenda conflict stemming from value system conflict. We see this daily in American politics as the government is now deadlocked between liberals vs. conservatives, rich vs. poor, old vs. young, minorities vs. non-minorities, the legal American vs. the illegal Americans. Every law passed becomes a compromise of interests, making the law virtually useless at solving the problem that gave it birth. Yet we can claim a diverse government.

The fact is that we can no longer govern ourselves.

Hopefully this will not happen at school board meetings, but it is certainly possible.

We should remember that the goal here is better education for our children and not a diverse school board. If there is a link between a diverse school board and better education, someone should be able to express that link in words. I challenge anyone in Federal Way to write an article for The Mirror that explains this link. The gauntlet is tossed.

I know that I will be called a racist by even posing this question. I know this because racist labeling is the final refuge of those who can not defend their position with a logical argument.

Federal Way resident Bill Pirkle can be reached at

I decided that it was time the elders in this country starting talking straight to each other and I sent this e-mail to his e-mail address:
Dear Mr. Pirkle: I read your opinion piece with interest, sadness, and disappointment.
I am an African American male, now 67 years old (which means I am looking at my own mortality squarely in the face and I no longer have time to get caught up in I know better than you what is real thinking). So let me offer you a very brief outline of my experience.
I am a minister, committed to the belief that God loves us all and wants us all to care for and support each other. For thirty years of my life I had the honor of helping students of all colors to meet their needs at Seattle University.
During that time I went through my finger pointing, self righteous phrase, and I honestly believed that the Affirmative Action plan was meeting the economic needs of the white women and men who oversaw the programs and the universitites who used government funding to build departments (where predominantly white professors taught).
I, sadly, often participated in the ongoing divisions across the races that have kept us apart since the founding of this country. As a footnote, I think that the diversity issue began here when the first settlers and the Native people forced each other to kill each other.
What do you really think about interracial relations in this country... I mean, beyond the cliches about having some really good black, brown, yellow, and red friends (notice how the division between Americans always begins after we have said the friends' part to one another)
At the same time I did not pay enough attention to the wonderful white women and men, and the parents, faculty, staff, and students of all colors who worked very, very hard to become people who respected the life of learning, their gifts, and each other.
Sir, you appear to an individual who also will not see another fifty years. I earnestly invite you to move beyond either/or thinking, see both sides of our living and struggling in America at this time, and ask yourself this question: how do you want to be remembered when you have gone on to our loving God... as one who judged others or one who understood others...

Sincerely concerned for all of our children's well being, I am


Here is the response I got back from Yahoo
Hi. This is the qmail-send program at
I'm afraid I wasn't able to deliver your message to the following addresses.
This is a permanent error; I've given up. Sorry it didn't work out.

Sorry, I couldn't find any host named (#5.1.2)


Will someone please answer these two questions for me...
How can I contact Mr. Pirkle?
What is going on?

Shipping News

And the View From My Porch

It is a typically beachy morning on the porch this morning with high gray clouds that tease us. Will they burn off or will they drip? There’s a 10% of the latter and a good chance they will sit right where they are. Some mornings, when the surf is high, I can hear it two miles away. Some mornings instead I can smell the sewage treatment plant two blocks away at the port. This morning as there is no breeze to blow it elsewhere, the pungent creation of the community creeps toward the porch.

Most mornings I listen to the ship report on KMUN. One of the joys for me for being in Southwest Washington is being near to Astoria’s Coast Community Radio, three public radio stations that are community operated and so possess quirkiness similar to Northern Exposure’s KBHR. Actually, Northern Exposure reminded me very much of this community.

Tied as this community is to the Pacific Ocean and the Great Columbia River, the concerns revolve around fishing catches and the comings and goings of the giant ships who ply their waters. The mouth of the Columbia is known as the Graveyard of the Pacific due to the number of shipwrecks that have occurred on the bar. The advent of radar and GPS has reduced the number of wrecks, but bar pilots still scoot out to ships aboard their little tugs and provide pilotage for vessels coming in and outbound.

This morning the Galaxy Ace is inbound from Vancouver, B.C. to Portland, while the Beluga Skysails, the world’s first commercial container cargo ship partially powered by a computer operated kite, is outbound from Longview. Seven more ships will pass or dock in Astoria today.

Besides the Shipping Report each morning and usual NPR programming and BBC overnight, KMUN and her sister stations provide local programming that include an eclectic mix of music, bedtime stories for children, and old time radio shows from the 1930s and ‘40s. We don’t have cable here (especially since the television we use to watch movies on turned up its toes), we have radio. There’s a radio in the living room, a radio in the kitchen and two radios in our bedroom.

It’s chilly on the porch this morning and there’s a flower bed that needs attention after I’ve gone to visit my mother. Thanks for sitting on the porch for a spell.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ruminations on the Cycle of the Seasons and Life

And the View From the Beach

I was born in Kansas, about as far from the sea as one can get, but my earliest and best memories are of this Peninsula and the ocean. Old home movies show me as a toddler on the beach with bucket and shovel. Now similar equipment is stored under the stairs for my grandchildren. Our family has been coming here part and fulltime since my great-grandmother who rode the stage coach that ran along the beach at low tide from Ocean Park to Long Beach in the late 1890s. It may be sand, but our roots go deep here where we’ve laughed and wept and all the time that great ocean just keeps on rolling.

This season has been different from other years. I have routines wherever I am. I have a routine in Gig Harbor, a different one here. Here on nice evenings, after some quality porch time in the sun, my mother and I go down to the beach to watch the sun go down. Sometimes we get Amy to come with us, sometimes not. Always the dog gets excited at the prospect, but tonight it made me sad to think of my mother in the hospital and guilty at indulging in something she so loves. And yet the sea has always comforted me, this same beach I ran on as a child, learned to drive on as a teenager, and brought my children to when I’d nowhere else to go. In an uncharacteristic bit of cooperation Amy not only agreed to go with me, but was sitting on the porch when I returned from visiting my mother.

Although the Summer Solstice is Friday there is not a hint of her in the breeze which actually feels more like the backside of Summer in September. Where is she? It seems that our warm Winter gave way to a frigid Spring with no intention of making way for Summer. I bundled up like Nanook of the North and walked the beach with the dog, asking for healing for my mother so she can enjoy more sunsets on the beach—not so much for her, but for me.

Mother-daughter relationships are difficult. My mother had a tumultuous relationship with her own mother due to Grandma’s alcoholism. My grandmother’s disease outlasted her in the scars my mother bears which in turn molded her marriage and her relationship with me. At times the hurt little girl inside of her has been more like an extra—sometimes very ill behaved—child for me to deal with than a mother, but once I figured that out our relationship was transformed. I have learned to identify when she is in the place where she was when her mother lost control of her own life and I try to honor my mother’s right to hurt even at nearly 86. We’ve both mellowed with age. I’m sorry for all the years we spent butting heads, but am glad that about five years ago I got it. I got it before it was too late.

As sign hangs in my house here. It reads “I come to the sea to breathe.” So I went to the beach and found my breath.


I love being me... The me who enjoys having time set aside, with people I like and trust, to consider, in writing, my strengths and weaknesses--- and my understanding of my strengths and weaknesses take on a different, more complex shape each time I am invited to consider my strengths and weaknesses from a new perspective (this was the first time I looked at how I respond to stress given what I had discovered using the Enneagram Personality Assessment method, sharing with others, listening to what they had written about themselves, and discovering, in the sharing more about myself and others. For me this was a day of gift in so many ways.

Here is what I wrote about who I think I am when I "feel safe, accepted, relaxed, integrated, free, and alive:"

"I move with the moment. I listen; I ask questions; I will ask others to share stories; I'm candid.

If I am with the folks (other African Americans) I fall into my Southern, Texas way of speaking (slower, words sliding into one another, tone and words moving melodiously--- now deep, now high pitched, now, with a grunt, now with a uh huh or a 'thank you very much,' to emphasize my point. My stories and concerns focus on the issues that are most important to me...
1. concerned about racial discrimination,
2. shamed by other African Americans who 'make all of us look bad,'
3. excited when I consider African Americans who are showing themselves to be bright, creative, able to get over on the patronizers, manipulators, abusers, and exploiters,
4. sorrowing deeply for the Black children and young adults who are being set aside, abused, unjustly used,
5. excited and thrilled by the people of other races who get it... the sorrows, fears, and joys of being marginalized in our country;
6. and who put themselves on the line every day to make life here better for us all..."

Seeing so much of me on paper and having the opportunity to share with others is so very freeing... like I have felt often when I have sat around the fireside with dear friends on a cold, wet night, and just talked, listened, learned and loved... and all the time hoped that that fireside time would never, never end...

We met in Olympia at the Tillicum Presbyterian Center

Our speaker was the honest, open, truly well read scholar, Dr. Gretchen Gundrum, Ph.D. from Seattle University... I loved the way she spoke to us... didn't hide behind a podium or a bunch of papers... she knew what she was talking about and invited us to share our thinking and lives

The women and men,all members from varying Christian denominations, of the Spiritual Care Departments for the Franciscan Hospitals) attending were very, very bright, honest, open, caring, and willing to put themselves out there... weaknesses and strengths sincerely and serenely shared,

At a site that was surrounded by just the greenest lawns and the most beautiful trees:
And I end this post by inviting all who can to walk around the sacred space where I learned so much about myself and other human beings... WHAT A WONDERFUL DAY THIS WAS TO JUST BE ABLE TO BE MYSELF...


Lil' Bitty Gritty Citizens!

The last day of school in the University Place school district is this Friday. I will have a 1st grade graduate and a 3rd grade graduate. Guess what my kiddos want to do on the last day of school to celebrate the end of the school year and the beginning of summer? Not what you'd think. They want to hit downtown Tacoma's Pacific Avenue and go to Hello Cupcake. This has been planned since May. They even discussed having lunch at the Harmon Brewery and Restaurant just prior.

Rock on! I am very proud of my little Gritizens! Way to go kiddos! School's out--Gritty City style!

The Garden Murders

Or the View From My Porch

Wednesday is the day the local weekly newspaper, the Chinook Observer, comes out. The coming weekend is going to be busy if gas prices don’t keep folks away. I was mistaken about the price of gas here on the Long Beach Peninsula or else it went up in the night Monday night. Yesterday when I took Amy to rent movies (a Tuesday ritual) it was $4.55. Well, you can get quite a bang for your gas buck if you come to the Peninsula this weekend there's so much going on. On Saturday there is the Beach to Chowder run, a 5K and a 10K run/walk followed by complementary chowder for participants and $5 for spectators. That will be happening at the Bolstad approach in downtown Long Beach. The run will be followed by the Doggie Olympics for dogs of all abilities and pedigrees so throw Fido in the car and he might get a medal if you don’t in the run. Garlic lovers listen up. This weekend is also the NW Garlic Festival which is being held at Sheldon Field in Ocean Park at the North end of the Peninsula with music, food, and various vendors.

The folks who own the place across the street were working on it yesterday. No, it's not the house in the picture above, although a contractor lives there, too. It’s a big pink garage with a tiny apartment rental attached. I’m glad they aren’t out there yet this morning. He’s a contractor so ought to know what he’s about, but they were having a rather loud disagreement regarding how the shingles were going on.

There are many Victorian houses within sight of our porch. There’s a particular one two blocks down that my daughter-in-law, to use her words, drools over. It has the fish scale shingles, a bay window, and twin behemoth oak trees flanking the front yard. An elderly lady used to live there. Sometimes her little white poodle would play in the white picket fenced front yard. When she moved along an architect and his wife, a retired school secretary, bought the place and we knew it was in good hands. A year or so ago the architect passed away, too, and his wife moved closer to their children. I don’t know who owns the place now, but sometime in the last week and a half they had the top half of the ancient oaks cut off, leaving two large pillars in the front yard. Someone was even more upset than I for red paint has been splashed on the sad trees. I don’t approve of vandalism, but I understand the sentiment. This was our first garden murder in the neighborhood. The second occurred yesterday.

This morning is just gray without the mist. It would be a good day to finish up the mowing I got started on yesterday afternoon once the heavy mist lifted and the sun came out. Unfortunately just as I was getting started on the chore our mower died. Now the mower is probably six years old so it is not as though it is brand new or anything, but the thing is, this is the second electric mower that has died when in my hands. It’s a good thing I could only text-message my husband regarding this death. Needless-to-say I am headed to Astoria to purchase a replacement this morning in the hopes that it will a) fit in my Neon and 2) I can get the lawn mowed before he comes down on Saturday without murdering anymore lawn mowers!

The triangle patch of lawn in the picture above (by-the-way it was taken with my cell phone and isn't half bad) is what Dave is coming to work on and where Lorraine's hollyhock seeds will ultimately go. It will be my garden of remembrance.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Parents and Kids: Check Out The Double Bill At First Lutheran Church

Looking for some fun activities for the kiddos this summer? Check out the double bill, theater and language arts, offerings at Tacoma's historic First Lutheran Church, located adjacent to beautiful Wright Park. Creative Arts Vacation Bible School takes place at the church August 11th-15th, 2008 from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM. Judy Hulbert, Artistic Director of The North End Children's Theatre and Theater Director at Lowell Elementary, along with husband Duane Hulbert, a University of Puget Sound Music Professor, and their two sons, will be teaching, producing, and directing their original musical, "Noah and His Wild Adventure." Children of all ages are invited and welcomed to participate in this exciting new production that features learning about theater, acting, singing, dancing, playing, and connecting the arts with faith. Space is limited, so act fast! The cost is $5.00 per child.

Ole' in the afternoon! The A.C.E. Language Institution presents Spanish Language Camp, also held on the campus of First Lutheran Church. This camp runs from August 11th-14th, 1:00 PM to 4:00 P.M. Activities for school age kids (must be at least a kindergarten graduates) include games, activities, crafts, songs, cultural exploration, and an imaginary trip to Cuba. Language and learning made fun and exciting for all. This camp costs $159.00 per child.

For children who would like to do both camps at First Lutheran Church, the church will provide a supervision while children eat a sack lunch from home. What a deal!

So, for registration and to sign up, please contact First Lutheran Church at 272-1538 or visit their website at

Getting a Jump on Summer

The View From My Porch

It’s foggy on my porch this morning with that sea mist that although delicate is able to make the grass too wet to mow. That will have to wait until the afternoon.

I’ve come here to my porch and haven by the sea early this year. The school year ended abruptly without the usual ritual of hugs from the students and organizing my desk. My mother, who lives six blocks away, is ill and in the hospital which is conveniently located across the street from her apartment. After 23 years cellulitis has struck again. That time my mother nearly died and spent a month in the hospital fighting the combination of strep and staph. They never did find the entry wound. They haven’t this time either, but at least it was caught early but not because of my mother’s vigilance—because of a sharp eyed fireman who answered the call when she toppled over Friday night. The fall did not hurt her but the Spirit was intervening to get her the help she would not seek for herself.

So the view from my porch is wet this morning. Down the street the neighbor has his big Ram truck for sale. Good luck on that. Unleaded here is $4.39. We won’t be running to Astoria willy nilly this summer. I haven’t been here long enough to tell if there are fewer tourists here this year. It’s early in the week. We’ll have to see what the view is like by the end of the week.

The lawn needs mowing, but will have to wait until/if the fog burns off. The predicted high for today is 57. Has anyone told Mother Nature that Summer begins Saturday?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Fifty Years and Going Strong!

A unique celebration was held at our church this weekend, a 50th celebration of the Ordination of Reverend Edward Sterling. Having grown up in Texas, serving in the military and moving throughout the United States, Father Ed (as we call him) has been a part of St Andrew’s Episcopal Church since 1980. It is an honor to have such a gracious man in our community always giving of his time and talents and witnessing his devotion to helping others. We celebrated this grand occasion with a service lead by two Bishops from the Diocese of Olympia and over seventy people from the congregation. I must say the highlight was the reception where four letters were read. Heartfelt, warm and appreciation best describes the written words from a Ft. Lewis Chaplin, Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma; Senator Maria Cantwell and President George W. Bush. Generous clapping, ooohs and awes were heard from the crowd after each letter was read. Father Ed was humbled by the letters and the support he felt from his biggest fans - St. Andrew's congregation who are proud to be a part of his gracious fifty years.

Handing It Over To My Father

I wanted to post this yesterday...but had problems with opening the file. For Father's Day, I wanted to post some of my eighty-six year-old father's writing...hope you enjoy the read.


I have been asked the question, was the Berlin Airlift merely a chess move in a political game of chance, or was it a great humanitarian endeavour ? The answer is a little bit more complicated than it may appear at first. Surely the Russians, when they closed all surface approaches to that city, fully expected their former allies, Britain, France and the United States, to quietly fold up their tents and sneak away into the night, retreating entirely from the Russian zone of occupation in Germany. They figured that the Allies would not risk going to war against the mighty Russian Bear, to defend a beaten enemy who had cost them dearly in men, material and almost all resources for close on six years. They were wrong !!

Although some far seeing individual had foreseen the requirement to have several air corridors leading into the divided city, no one really thought that a sustained airlift could possibly provide the massive amounts of food and other necessities to keep Berlin functioning. The Berliners themselves were of the same opinion that the British, French and American occupation forces would only make a token gesture before admitting defeat, and succumbing to the Russian threat.

Even the Allied Triumverate suspected that an airlift, besides being prohibitively expensive, might possibly be beyond their capabilities, but were determined to give it a good try. At first the daily tonnage of supplies flown into the beleagured city seemed to verify those pessimistic forecasts. The sheer logistics of gathering the assorted supplies and providing the crews and aircraft to deliver the goods, seemed overwhelming but gradually the impetus grew, as more planes were diverted from sources around the older theatres of war. As the tempo increased, so did the enthusiasm of everyone employed in this huge task. There was also a noticeable change in everyone's attitude.

When the airlift first started, known variously as Operation Plainfare, or Operation Victuals, most crews were just following orders, and indeed many servicemen felt reluctant to provide succour to the former enemy...but complied anyway. I was one so inclined, but gradually my set of mind underwent a subtle change. Instead of flying on missions of destruction, we aircrews were now employed on missions of reconstruction and mercy. The enthusiasm spread rapidly, and soon everyone became involved in trying to increase the efficiency of the operation. The citizens of Berlin, belatedly and joyfully recognising these efforts, also contributed greatly with many more labourers and constructive improvements to Templehoff and Gatow airfields. A third airfield was then being built at Tegel to help reduce aerial congestion.

As this newfound trust developed, there was more awareness on the civilian side of the true commitment being made by the Allies. Realisation as to their way of life, compared to that in the Russian sector of Berlin, could be considered as the first weakening of the Communist doctrine. Later, when it came to actual voting in the free elections, this became very evident and the Red Party suffered. Little did the Russians realise that by creating the necessity for an air-lift in 1948, they were providing their former allies with a perfect training tool for future use in any similar emergency around the world. All personnel concerned with the logistics of such an operation were being given ample opportunity to perfect their knowledge. The greatest benefits were experienced by the crews of each aircraft in flight.

Although instrument flying, and so called blind landing approaches had been practised and improved upon over a number of years, the bad weather flying we experienced during the sustained airlift proved invaluable. In war time many operations had to be scrubbed because of bad weather. Too many aircraft had crashed, and too many airmen had died when attempting to land in conditions of poor visibility. I can recall feeling quite relaxed and comfortable a number of times when conducting a completely blind instrument approach to Gatow. The re-assuring voice of the experienced G.C.A. operator talking me down and telling me exactly where I was in relation to the runway, was a soothing experience which greatly reduced tension. More than once, just I was informed that I was now crossing the perimeter fence, my first glimpse of the runway lights, and the actual ground since take-off, popped into view a second or so before my wheels kissed the tarmac. Such blind approaches to landing would have been frowned upon, or prohibited in earlier days.

Had the Allies indeed been forced to go up against the Russians at this time, we would all have been at a higher standard of preparation and capability that they, because of the all round experiences gained during the logistical miracle. Fortunately we were never put to that test.

Of course in such an endeavour there were accidents, and fatalities. Such is the price that had to be paid, but we feel that the men and women who perished during this epic operation, did not die in vain. There were also numerous and humourous little episodes where valuable lessons were learned. Such as the following incident.

One very dark and snowy evening in March 1949, as I was taxying a heavily laden Dakota D.C.3 toward the take-off point at Lubeck airport, I was asked by the Air Traffic controller if I could stop and take a passsenger aboard for Berlin. Assured that he was authorised, I agreed and stopped on the taxi way. My radio operator hurried to the rear, opened the door, and set the steps in place for the passenger to climb aboard. Our cargo that night was several hundred bags of coal. As the radio man returned I asked him who, and where, the passenger was. "Oh, he is some high ranking officer, and he's sitting on one of the coal bags near the door," was his reply. "He will freeze back there. Go and tell him that there's a place up here beside me," I stated. A few moments later, a tall distinguished gentleman appeared, lowered himself into the co pilot seat, and strapped in. He then introduced himself as General McLean, a staff officer of the Canadian Army. His previously immaculate greatcoat, known as a service Pink, was liberally decorated with long black smears, where he had come into contact with our inanimate cargo.

Once we were airborne and the undercarriage fully retracted, we were immediately immersed in solid cloud-cover where severe icing conditions prevailed. I was kept busy for a while employing all de-icing rituals, There were several loud bangs as the ice centrifuged off the propellors and slammed against the metal fuselage. The rubber boots on the leading edges of the wings were similarly busy preventing any ice build up. For about ninety minutes, all the way to Berlin, we were cocooned in this environment, and the runway at Gatow did not appear in view until we were less than 100 feet above ground and a quarter of a mile from touchdown. Upon leaving us, general McLean expressed his sincere admiration for the crew's efficiency, and thanked us graciously as he exited the aircraft. He seemed totally unconcerned about the state of his pink and black greatcoat, and was assuredly happy to have both feet back upon terra firma. The more firma...the less terror!

One morning at Gatow the weather was foul with freezing rain and clouds were so low that tall pedestrians were ducking. Even the most experienced pilots were prudently awaiting some signs of improvement, enjoying the brief respite. Air Vice Marshal Bennet, of Pathfinder fame, was amongst those who were chafing at the bit. He had arrived in a new Avro Tudor air liner, and the moment he was given clearance to chance his luck he dashed off, performed a less than accurate pre-flight check and was soon lifting off from the runway. Once airborne he realised that the elevator locks of the Tudor were still in place, and he did not have full control in the pitching plane. With no other craft in the immediate vicinity, a rare occasion, he managed to fly around the circuit and landed safely. A crew member dashed out and removed the offending wooden locks to allow Marshal Bennet to depart without revealing his red face. All's well that ends well !!

On another occasion at Gatow, it was dusk as I taxied out to return to Lubeck for another load. I was behind a Yankee Skymaster at the time, as he asked for permission to line up on the runway for take off. The Traffic Controller answered, "Negative. Hold your position. We have one aircraft on short finals." Naturally he and myself looked out to our right, and spied a Royal Air Force York (civil version of a Lancaster) emerging from the low overcast with undercarriage fully down, flaps extended like huge barn doors, and his navigation lights blinking. Visibility was reduced by the light snow falling, and a blanket of snow covered the ground. Over the button of the runway, the York pilot rounded out a bit high, obviously misjudged his height slightly, and then dropped to the ground with a bone shaking jar. As the machine bounced back into the air the pilot gunned all four throttles in an effort to maintain control. Then he powered off again. Once more the York made heavy ground contact which caused a second bounce as it proceeded down the runway. The Skymaster pilot ahead of me then announced on his microphone, "Ah say there Kangaroo, when yuh gits to the end o' the runway, hop to the left!"

Of course the American crews were notorious for their habit of being rather verbose on the common radio frequencies.The R.A.F. rather frowned upon anyone "hogging the air" as they called it. Strict use of terminology and brevity expected at all times! I have known pilots hauled before the Senior Air Traffic Controller ( S.A.T.C.O. ) for minor breaches of this rule. Profane language was verbotten. There were times, though, when one appreciated the witticisms overheard in passing. For instance, amongst the various and many types of aircraft used on the Airlift, was a twin engined machine known as the Bristol Wayfarer. This was strictly a cargo freighter owned by Silver City's Airways based at Lympne in Kent. Used as a car ferry across the English Channel, it was a high winged monoplane with two powerful radial engines driving two props. It had a fixed undercarriage, a slab-sided fuselage, and two huge clam doors in the nose to expedite the loading and unloading of cargo. The crew compartment sat high above the nose.. It would never win any beauty competitions, but the pilots who flew it commented upon its reliability.

Descending toward Gatow one day clear of cloud, I saw this freighter plodding along. An American pilot who had been back chatting with one of his airborne buddies, also spotted the old fashioned Wayfarer and uttered these words, "Hey Hank, these Limeys are sure throwing everything into this operation. I just passed the Mayflower!"

One of the compulsory reporting points on the way into Berlin was radio beacon called Frownow ( phonetic spelling ) R.A.F. pilots reporting there would state, "Air Force 621 overhead Frownow, 5 point 5, I.F.R., Load coal," thus giving tower control information as to aircraft call sign 621, Position Frownow, Elevation 5,500 feet. In cloud. Instrument Flight Rules, Cargo Coal. The controllers would then know where to direct the aircraft after landing for unloading. Pilots would be instructed to change radio frequency for their final approach and to listen for their G.C.A. talk-down. An American pilot reporting over the same beacon would be likely to say, "Triple deuce, over frownow, in the soup, toting black stuff." Depending upon the load carried, these conversations could sometimes be very colourful.

Pilots like myself, flying the venerable old Dakotas, swear that they are one of the finest, most reliable and forgiving aircraft ever built. I can give you an example. Prior to boarding my aircraft at Lubeck, one very cold wet evening, my crew and I were soaked by the freezing rain. Completing our external pre-flight checks as quickly as possible in order to avoid further soaking, I checked that our cargo was securely strapped down to the strong points on the floor. It didn't look like much of a load. Several large steel wheel / gear / machinery parts which did not take up much space. I removed my heavy coat and entered the flight deck to commence engine-start, without consulting the freight manifest. That was a mistake.

Before long we were cleared to taxi, and then had permission to take off. There were a few inches of slushy snow on the runway as we commenced the take-off run. Acceleration seemed a bit sluggish even with full power, which I attributed to the state of the runway. However, as the length of our run increased, and the amount of runway remaining diminished to a dangerous degree, I realised that my machine was not yet ready to fly. I hurriedly selected 15 degrees of flap to provide more lift, and the willing old Dakota staggered off with literally just a few yards to spare. As our airspeed was barely above the stall I quickly retracted the undercarriage to lessen the drag, and we slowly climbed away. Too close for comfort. Safely on the ground at Gatow I found that we had carried a load intended for the four engined York transport!

The Russians were well known for conducting nuisance tactics to disrupt the flow of allied aircraft in the air corridors we used. One such occasion I noticed a Yak fighter heading toward me at high speed. His intention was obviously to make me veer away, and perhaps slip out of the safe, authorised corridor to become fair game for them. I assured myself that the crazy Russian pilot would not kill himself by crashing into me, and merely lowered my seat a couple of notches to concentrate on straight and level instrument flight. Once foiled of any reaction on my part, the Russian departed to seek other prey.

In May of 1999, my wife and I attended a reunion celebration in Berlin to mark the 50th anniversary of the ending of the Berlin Airlift. We travelled free as guests of the city, and were treated royally by everyone we met. It was most enjoyable to meet up with so many old friends, and the organisers worked very hard to ensure that every visiting veteran received the honours the happy Berliners felt were due to them. It felt strange to have Hausfraus come up to us in the streets to shake our hands, or to give us heartfelt hugs of affection. The closing ceremonies were also quite moving. All in all, a fitting memory of days gone by, and a job well handled. The Allies had shown the World that it could be done.

Jim McCorkle. Royal Air Force.


Saturday, June 14, my friend, Brenda F, took me to two churches, the Church of the Immaculate in Seattle and Holy Spirit Parish in Kent, Washington. At each church, Juneteenth Celebrations were hosted by Black Catholics.

What is the focus of Juneteenth? This description of its focus appeared in a program distributed at Holy Spirit Parish:
"On June 19, 1865, the Union General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas to inform inhabitants of the Civil War's end two months earlier. Tow and a half years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This finally free the lasgt 250,000 slaves whose bondage, due to the minimal Union presence in the region, had been essentially unaffected by Lincoln's efforts...

Observance of Juneteenth has traditionally tended twoards a church-centered celebration featuring food, fun, and a focus on self-improvement and education.

Althought initially associated with Texas and other Southern states, the Civil Rights Era and the Poor People's March to Washington in 1968, helped spread the tradition all across America-- to the extent that Milwaukee and Mineapolis now host two of the largest Juneteenth celebrations in the nation.

Today Juneteenth is promoted not only as a commemoration of African-Amercan freedom, but as an example and encouragement of self-development and respect for all cultures."

The celebration at the Church of the Immaculate, which had been my mother's very much loved spiritual home, touched me on every level:

The welcoming people in the community. Here is a picture of the chef of the day, Jeffrey Petrie-Williams. He put some deep, deep magic on that barbecued chicken.

The spirit of reverence and prayer that permeated the celebration. Here, Sharon Petrie-Williams, the director of the Office of Black Catholics for the Archdiocese, invites us to join her in prayer

The food was taste bud tantalizing and so, so, satisfying

And members of the Immaculate Gospel Choir got us singing joyfully together:

Thank you, wonderful people of the Church of the Immaculate and Holy Spirit Parish. I am looking forward to joining you for many, many celebrations during the next few years...

And, definitely, see you next Juneteenth!!!

Missing My Sisters

One of the results of growing up in a nomadic RAF family is that we're now spread all over, many miles between us. My parents and two of my sisters live just outside of Toronto, Canada, though the one sister spends half her year in England. I haven't seen them in four years. My brother lives down in L.A. and we haven't seen each other in ten years. Another sister (the closest to my age) lives in the southwest of France. We haven't been together in eighteen years.

Being the youngest, I bounced back and forth between living as an only child when my siblings were off at boarding school, and living in a rowdy pack of five during the summer and Christmas holidays.

Anyone who is the youngest in a family knows what it is to feel not old enough, or cool enough to be able to go on an adventure with the big kids. It seems to take a long time for ranks to even-out, especially when you leave the family at sixteen. It took a number of years to find myself...and a number more to discover that life had to be processed back at the family table.

Middle-age is the great equalizer.

Nearly four years ago, my two eldest sisters sent me a roundtrip ticket to Toronto as a birthday gift. During that visit with them and my parents, there was a magic day I'll never forget. We three sisters went for an adventure in Claireville Park, very close to the YYZ airport. We talked as we walked through the woods in autumn, kicking yellow leaves and pointing out the different birds to each other. Then they led me to their special place in the park.

Two straight rows of evergreens had been planted, one each side of the trail. As the trees grew taller their branches began to meet and make a welcoming, living, magic tunnel. Both sisters watched, smiling, as I began to understand their gift. In silence we watched the way shadow and light played through the trees and on each other's faces, as we slowly passed through.

My sisters tell me that they always see me when they walk in Claireville now. I love to think of them there. If I look at this photo my sister B. took, I can see them and feel closer than we've ever been, despite the miles.
Photo © 2002 B. Glancey

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Fathers Day!

Happy Fathers Day!

I'm fortunate that my Father is still around. The Old Buffalo (A term of endearment that goes back a long time) will be 81 years old on July 7th.

Let me tell you a bit about this man.

He left home early, lied about his age and joined the Army during World War II. His outfit was sent to the Battle of the Bulge right after training except for my Dad; he caught pneumonia and was sent to Texas. I'm not sure of the dateline but I know he was stationed in Alaska and in the Army of Occupation in Japan. By then, he was in the Regimental band, playing a Tuba. He never saw combat, but he was honorably discharged.

He came back and got a job in a car factory. That lasted several weeks and he quit became a cop in the city of Pontiac, MI. While walking a beat in downtown, he would routinely stop to steal popcorn from this cute little gal at the Eagle Movie Theater. Yeah, that was my Mom. They got married 59 years ago this month. In April of 1989, mom passed away from a stroke. Dad is still going strong. Later on, he started repairing the police radios and and retired from the city as the director of city communication systems.

He's a Past Master of Pontiac Masonic Lodge #21. He's still active in Masonic work and the Shriners. For a long time, he was in charge of the Provost unit of the Detroit Shrine. He was the leader of the their Brass Band for several years and he still plays his tuba with them. He is fairly savvy around a computer and writes snippets of his life story for our private family blog.

He was no war hero, although he faced down a few rough customers as a beat cop.

But he's my hero.

Growing up, we knew we were safe with Dad. We knew that he would move Heaven and Hell in order to protect us. We knew that he was there for us.

He worked a lot of long hours to support us. But we would save our pennies and dimes and we would take these fabulous family vacations – road trips that took us all over this country. The house always seemed to need a little fixing up and the money that might have gone for that somehow always wound up in our trip fund. Looking back from 55-years-old, those road trips were certainly a lot more fun than having a new bathroom. On one of those trips, we came out to Seattle. I was 13 then and I proclaimed that someday, I would live out here. Funny how that worked out.

The Old Buffalo and me on a boat last September touring the Thousand Islands between New York and Canada

There are four of us. You will be hard pressed to find four siblings that love and honor their father more than us.

Happy Father's day!