Pacific Northwest Interlude: The Legendary Pumpkins of Washington State

We’re sitting beside Commencement Bay in lower Puget Sound, enjoying a brunch with friends.  This is not a “brunch” in the way that the word is thrown around so often these days.  We’re provided with Mimosa’s that just keep coming like the tide and enough oysters and shrimp to drive a Maine shell fisherman turn green with envy.  No, this is a real Washington State brunch.

On our way home we drive through the lovely countryside that follows the Puyallup River.  This would be the river that would turn into massive mud slides once Mt. Rainier erupts.  But no one on the road today is thinking about that.  We’re just driving and gazing in awe at the sublime majesty of the mountain itself.  Rainier is a shy and bashful mountain, hiding its beauty behind clouds much of the time…but not today.  No, not today.  It sits in the distance, begging to be climbed, hiked around and admired up close.  The only problem is that it’s a National Park…and we know about National Parks these days, don’t we.

We stop at a Pumpkin Farm.  Halloween is about two weeks away.  My grandson is having his first touching experience with those strange orange globes that fill the field.

I am very fond of this holiday.  I recall Trick or Treating as a child in my hometown of Owego, NY.  Years later, I took my own children to these same houses.  I love dressing up as something I’m not.

And I consider pumpkin carving nothing short of a work of pure art.  I carve pumpkins like a professional ghost storyteller spins yarns of ghouls and witches.  But my pumpkins are not silly ones with grins and oversized teeth.  No, my pumpkins are carved like they belong in burial grounds of places like Sleepy Hollow and Cemetery Hill.  They are spooky, scary and malevolent.

I looked over the boxes of the $1.33/lb. variety.  The blank faces stared back at me.  Take me.  Carve me.  Make me horrid, they would say to me.

I felt like Michelangelo.  I saw a lump of orange and the demon inside would form in my mine.  I was the artist whose job it was to release this spirit from within.

I selected one that said the right thing to me.  I made plans.  I drafted designs.  And then I looked across the patch and saw my grandson.  How could I carve something that would frighten this pure innocent soul?  I was stuck in a dilemma.  Be true to my dark side or make my grandson giggle?

I bought the chosen orb and then rode home trying to discover a laughable and cute demon.

They have to be out there, somewhere.  After all, isn’t that what “graveyard humor” is all about?

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Travels 11: Is This Our Land?

I’m ensconced in Orting, WA. with my daughter, Erin, her husband, Bob, grandson Elias and my wife Mariam.  It’s one big happy family.  We’ve spent only one full day here and already I’ve managed to get caught in a hailstorm while walking across a Safeway parking lot.  We weren’t out in the Plains, facing the desolation while hearing the pelting of the pea-sized hail blast against the Aluminum siding of the R-Pod.  No, I was in a grocery store parking lot.  The only drama was that I was without my cell phone and was separated from Erin, Elias and my wife.  How did I deal with such an edgy experience?  Well, I trotted to the entrance of Safeway that adjoined the Starbucks.  I did what all semi-lost men do…I bought the local paper and ordered a Chai Tea Latte and settled in, waiting to be rescued by my wife. Sure as the snow on Rainier, she had made it back to the car at Erin’s house and returned to get me.  I even got a new tea mug out of the deal. It was on the Starbucks rack where I drank the Latte and it begged to come back to the East Coast with me on our return trip. As I reflect on the final drive to get here two days ago, I recall seeing something that made me think those Woody Guthrie thoughts about whose land this really is.  Passing through western Montana and into eastern Idaho, I saw coal trains that seemed to stretch from there to Detroit.  It would easily take me about 45 minutes to walk the length of these sinuous open cars filled with black chunks of black gold.  And, this was all strip-mined to make matters even worse.  I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as “clean” or “green” coal.  It’s a lie put out there by the Energy Industry to rape what’s left of our resources and get as much money out of pubic lands as they can. My simple question is this:  Who is thinking of the future?  The native americans had it right.  They took the long view and thought about what was to be left for their grandchildren’s grandchildren.  We tend to think about our next credit card purchase. The bill has to be paid in the end, one way or another. Image Image My educated guess is that this coal is from leased Federal Lands.  And I can’t get past the gate of Yellowstone National Park to watch Old Faithful. I want my National Parks back!