2000 Notebook: Transition IV

27 January 2000
Two Friends
This is what happened a couple of days ago:

A fishing boat, Two Friends, sank some ten kilometers off the coast of Maine. One person survived; two people, two friends, died.

The person who survived was a replacement crew member for a dear friend of mine, who told me of the demise of his two friends.

I thought I'd write something about the tragedy, and began reading about the sinking. Harry, the owner, survived for forty minutes after the boat went down. The Coast Guard rescue helicopter arrived sixty minutes after the boat sank. (Two Coast Guard stations, one fifteen minutes from the sinking, one twenty minutes away, were shut down because of budget cutbacks.) The more I read, the worse it sounded.

I can't write about this.

28 January 2000
The Keys to Success
I just concluded what turned out to be a worthless project at an alien compound today. It was a pleasure to walk away from the disaster, an exit I formalized by turning in the three keys I'd been issued. (I used one key to unlock the front door of the laboratory, and one key to unlock the inner door. I can't remember what I was supposed to do with the third key.)

Now I am again only carrying two keys: one to my laboratory's secret entrance, and the other to my equipment closet.

The first key is entirely unnecessary, since access to the laboratory's outer ring is granted or denied based on infrared retinal scans. I'm the only one who still has an old-fashioned key, even though it no longer works. The other key is almost equally unnecessary, since I rarely touch my cameras these days.

Turning in my keys to the alien compound felt wonderful. Having as few keys as is reasonably possible is a key to success.

29 January 2000
1972 Was a Very Good Year
I went to a great dinner party last night. Bert, one of the guests, was leaving town and he was clearing out his wine cellar. Yummy yummy yummy!

"Wow!" I exclaimed, "a bottle of wine from 1989. I think this may be the oldest bottle of wine I've ever sampled."

"Really?" asked Bert. He was trying very hard not to sound like a wine snob, but he wasn't doing a very good job at it.

"Well, I once had a memorable wine that was bottled in 1972," I said.

"Oh, 1972 was a very good year for most wines," Bert replied. "Tell me, do you remember what varietal it was?"

"Apple. It was a bottle of Boone's Farm apple wine. I know it was from 1972, since that's the year in which I drank it," I explained. "It was lovely, I split it with Suzie, then we laid in a ditch and counted the stars. And that was before I'd even heard of Kurt Weill."

"I'm afraid I'm not familiar with the Boone's Farm vineyard," said Bert. "Perhaps I shall try one of their offerings some day."

I know he won't, so I didn't tell him that the sugary, fizzy concoction is almost undrinkable after one's eighteenth birthday.

30 January 2000
Aunt Jean's Last Political Act
I rendezvoused with Chris for a few drinks after he returned from a trip to Illinois for a family funeral. Before I could offer the obligatory condolences, though, he announced he'd had a great time. I asked him how he could have a great time a funeral, and he told me.

It seems that his Aunt Jean left two wills with different requests for what her survivors were to do with her ashes after she was cremated. One request was fairly standard: she wanted her ashes spread around the base of a tree in the family arboretum. Chris honored her wish, but saved half the ashes to satisfy a second, and much more interesting request.

Chris explained that his Aunt Jean had always been politically active in her home town of Evanston, Illinois. She was a smart, strong woman who made "public service" a misery for some of the more incompetent and/or corrupt apparatchiks who festered in city hall. If the Evanston bureaucrats thought they'd seen the last of Aunt Jean after her demise, they were wrong.

Chris and his cousin drove to Evanston city hall on a snowy January day. Chris kept the engine idling while his cousin took the last of Aunt Jean's ashes up the steps to main city hall entrance. After he was satisfied all the police officers were on one of their frequent doughnut breaks, he poured the remainder of her remains on the steps, where they'd be tracked into and through city hall.

Chris told me he took a moment to admire his aunt's initials, "JH," in the snow, before he and his cousin sped off, laughing.

31 January 2000
As Stakespeare Said
There are a lot of things I don't understand about a lot of things; the raison d'être of an entourage is one of them. I thought about entourages today when I saw a story in the newspaper about the boxer Mike Tyson, who is perhaps better known for his criminal record, and for his brief but well-documented foray into cannibalism.

The story told of how Tyson arrived in England with his entourage. I'm not really certain, but I think a boxer's equipment consists of a pair of boots, a pair of shorts, a pair of boxing gloves, a tooth protector, a water bottle, and perhaps a bandage or two. I estimate everything would fit into a small suitcase, or perhaps a gym bag.

Anyway, the newspaper account I read talked about a young man named "Crocodile," a member of Tyson's entourage. Crocodile, dressed in combat fatigues, gave an impromptu press conference to a gaggle of reporters. One of the reporters mentioned Tyson's rape conviction, a remark that prompted Crocodile to bellow out a memorable quote: "As Stakespeare said, 'Let him who has not sinned cast the first stone.' "

With his booming voice, Crocodile may have been Tyson's speech coach. Like most members of the entourage, though, I suspect one of his primary roles was to provide light entertainment.

1 February 2000
I was walking through Portland telling Johann a long story when he suddenly interrupted me.

"Tretminen!" he shouted.

"Say what?" I replied.

Johann pointed to a large dollop of dog shit, and explained that "tretminen" is German for "contact mine."

I shall have to add tretminen to my embarrassingly small German vocabulary. If I'm lucky, I might even get to use all two words in a sentence: "I experienced the pleasant sensation of schadenfreude when I watched LaBudde step on a tretminen."

2 February 2000
Wine Death Talk
Tom Stockley and dozens of others died when Alaskan Airlines Flight 161 spiraled higgledy-piggledy into the Pacific Ocean at a trillion kilometers an hour. Crash-kersplash. Everyone died. These things happen.

Stockley wrote about wine (wrote on wine?) for the Seattle Times for over thirty years. His premature(?) demise led Gerald Boyd, a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, to make an entirely silly statement: "Tom was really the voice of wine in the Pacific Northwest."

How ridiculous! Wine is the penultimate ventriloquist; it speaks through everyone it enters.

(A cheap bottle of Foxhorn 1998 Merlot wrote this, not me.)

3 February 2000
Driving to Paradise Without Another Me
I was driving up the winding road to Paradise at Mount Rainier; I was driving very, very slowly. The road was remarkably free of the ice and snow that formed two-meter high barriers on either side of the narrow path, but I was nevertheless very nervous. Although I've driven on this lovely route on and off for over a quarter of a century, it's been a year or two since I've driven a car, almost a decade since I've an automobile, and much longer than that since I've motored on snowy, icy roads.

As I rounded a hairpin turn at less than twenty kilometers an hour, I wondered what it would be like to have the twenty-four year old David Rinehart as a passenger, the David Rinehart who used to drive this road at three times the speed I'm crawling.

He'd certainly have some advice for me: drive faster. I'd have some advice for him, too, but I'd keep it to myself. I know he'd ignore almost any well-intentioned suggestions that came his way. He always did; he still does.

It's probably just as well for both of us that we will never meet.

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©2000 David Glenn Rinehart