Day Twenty-Three … Strangers No More

I had intended to visit my friend Neal at his home in Kimberley, BC, but his mom was sick in Longview, Washington, so that was where I headed to after leaving Beryl.  Maxine is 88 and still living in the home that she and her husband built.  How cool is that?  I wanted to see Neal but didn’t really think things through.  How would I feel if I was ill and here comes a stranger to stay overnight?  She was kind to me but it probably was an effort.

Neal and I went to a local pub for a talk.  These pub visits seem to be a growing trend for me.  We had a good time, catching up, but it was time for sleeps.  Out to the parking lot, where Scarlet looked a little tired after our long drive over White Pass.  I reached into my pocket for the key and … nothing.  Nowhere to be found.  Neal had advised me months ago to buy a little Hide-A-Key container but someone I know didn’t follow through.  We were both tired and stationary.  My mind flooded with implications.  Head down, I walked back into the restaurant, out onto the patio and gazed down into the dark below our table.  Some indistinct black thing winked up at me.  Happily, it wasn’t a clod of dirt.  So transportation was easily arranged.

The next morning, Scarlet and I were back over the same dry mountains – lots of sagebrush greeted me.  And one narrow stretch that was perched on a slope scared me.  I gripped the wheel like a vice, which of course isn’t the suggested strategy in the drivers’ manual.

I saw a fellow hitchhiking in the opposite direction.  He had a beard and crutches.  I felt for him.  At the same time, I realized that I wouldn’t have picked him up if he had been going my way.  Even after all that hitching I’ve done, all those years ago, my empathy wouldn’t have been enough to give him a ride.  I’ve thought lately that I don’t have much fear in me anymore but I guess I’m wrong about that.

On my first trip over these mountains, I had missed the pullout for the Mount Rainier viewpoint.  Boo!  Rainier is so beautiful, with glaciers adorning its peak.  Now eastward bound, I was determined to get a photo.  Tantalizing slivers of glaciers over lower hills beckoned me until there’s the pullout and spread before me was the full meal deal.  Indescribable.

As I drove through the little town of Packwood, Washington, I saw a sign for a bakery.  Naturally I demurred (whatever that means).  Okay, I actually partook of a chai latte and a big chocolate chip cookie that had emerged from the oven only a few minutes before.  A young female backpacker smiled at me and said that she loved my T-shirt.  It says “Get High On Mountains”, appropriately enough with white print on a green shirt.  I smiled back and said something silly.  I went out on the deck and plunked myself down on one of those wooden Adirondack chairs.  To my right sat a middle-aged woman who was talking to her husband in the next chair.  Usually I’m the one who starts conversations but she turned her body to face me and started in on some topic.

For awhile it was just Marcia and me kibbitzing but soon Larry joined the fray.  Their son Scott has Buddhist leanings (I used to, but now I’m standing up straight).  He’s a very quiet guy but apparently has amazing presence.  His friends just want to be near him.  They feel him.  How very cool.  And Marcia’s brother Bill was in a longterm committed relationship with another man.  I loved hearing Marcia talk adoringly of her brother, with no hint of any bias against gay folks.  Bill wrote a one man play about his homosexual life and performs it himself all over North America.  Marcia was so proud.

I was getting hungry in the late afternoon and planned to stop in Spokane, Washington for supper.  Anyway, I’m zipping down the highway when I see advertisements for Ritzville, including a sign for … Ta da! … Jake’s Café!  Oh my goodness.  I’m not the type to pass up an opportunity like that.  I had a taco salad, Diet Coke and (trying to resist the pull of dessert) a piece of the most incredible coconut cream pie.  I talked at length to Kim (a customer) and Tara (my waitress).  They both took a copy of Jody’s book.  They both were openhearted humans.  Tara told me that Jake had died years ago and I volunteered to be the new Jake.  I told them all about auditioning for Jake’s Women and my fetish for seeing multi-performances of the play.  They both laughed with me.  Or was it at me?  Can’t remember.

I ended my day in Clark Fork, Idaho.  Wait till you hear about my breakfast the next day.  Actually, you will have to wait … until tomorrow.

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