Mid-Life Crisis Trip

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Entry 18: Crosswords and dirty laundry

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Okay, the whole lame "Bite of Salem" thing is forgiven because Salem has got a pretty cool Farmer's Market. The Saturday one is about two blocks from our house (it meets again on Wednesday, but that one's about eight blocks from our house).

In addition to the usual household dust-gatherers (garden decorations, coffee cups, wind chimes) and the expected fresh produce (the "farmer" part of "Farmer's Market") there's a half-dozen places to eat and at least as many musicians scattered across the parking lot where it's held.

In fact, they should have hung the "Bite of Salem" banner in front of the Farmer's Market and they would have had a better event.

And this area (the Wil-LAM-met valley) seems to be Berry Berry Good for berries, as they have blueberries, blackberries, strawberries (still!), marionberries, and raspberries for sale. Robert stocks up on berries and cherries and strolls home.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Laura returns (briefly) from her autoharp gathering at Thousand Trails in Florence, unpacks in a whirlwind of activity, rearranges stuff in the kitchen cupboards, and re-packs a suitcase for a five-day visit to Seattle.

She reports that the gathering was a treat, as it is every year—even with the long detour to get there because a tanker spilled its entire load of gasoline (sorta like a gold bullion truck crashing these days), which closed the road between Eugene and Florence.

Her dad dropped in on Friday for dinner and the concert (Ray Frank, Ivan Stiles, and Mike Herr). At her dad's 80th birthday party, he asked her to listen to a cassette tape featuring a dobro. He'd never seen or heard one, and wanted to know which of the instruments playing was the dobro.

Coincidentally, Ray Frank's wife played her dobro at the concert, and afterwards he got to see it up close with a little bit of history. He stayed for the jam until almost midnight. (For those of you similarly dobro-impaired, it is a type of guitar with a steel resonator built in that makes it louder. Back in the dark ages of pre-electric guitars, it was handy if you needed a bunch of people to be able to hear you play. Our lawyers encourage us to note that "Dobro" is a trade name of the Gibson Guitar company and refers to a specific brand of resonator guitar.)

A Thousand Trails member became enchanted with the autoharp after watching and listening to all the jams during the gathering. She asked Laura how she could get one inexpensively. Laura explained at some length all the different options for locating a starter instrument, ending with, "And maybe somebody will give you one. That's how I got my first 'harp."

The next day, someone gave her an old but still playable autoharp that was donated by one of the gathering participants.

The Oracle at Delphi has got nothing on Laura.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Because of our cheapness (and anticipated lack of income) we had to rent a place that doesn't have a washer/dryer actually in our apartment. And there's nothing like moving a hundred or so boxes to put you out of the mood of buying them ("Oh good, one more thing to lug around!" is our reaction to that concept).

There is a washer/dryer in the complex, but what with moving and all, we've gotten a bit behind the curve in the laundry department, and the prospect of spending the day shuttling back and forth to the laundry room isn't too appealing.

We wanna blitz that laundry, so we head for a laundromat!

If, like us, you haven't been in a laundromat for 30 years, we'll fill you in:

It's pretty much the same. Except that some genius finally figured out that the number one question in everybody's mind is "How much longer until my wash is done?" All the washers and dryers have timers on the front that tell you how many more minutes you have to go. So instead of checking at 10 minutes, 20 minutes and then forgetting to check for half an hour, you know exactly when it'll be done.

Plus, the laundromat we're at is very posh—they have chairs and tables and a fancy TV and even a snack bar (hot dogs for 75 cents!).

Five minutes after we arrived and got our laundry started, two dozen young people (late teens) burst through the front door carrying sacks of laundry and bounding all over the place.

But without making a sound.

It was a "Twilight Zone" moment until we realized that they were all deaf and chattering away in sign language (turns out they were at a summer camp for deaf kids and had a week's worth of summer camp laundry to deal with).

You know, when you turn the volume down on teenagers, they're much easier to tolerate and we sat and happily read while they gabbed and told jokes and exuded hormones.

5:00 pm

We walk to the independent movie theater (there's the multiplex and this indy theater and that's it for movies in urban Salem) to watch Word Play, a documentary about crossword puzzles, which is way more interesting that it sounds.

Specifically, it's about the guy who edits the New York Times crossword puzzle (Will Shortz) and who also runs an annual crossword puzzle tournament. You get to watch crossword puzzles being constructed (and then solved by various people, including Prez Clinton).

At the end is the 2005 crossword puzzle tournament and we found ourselves rooting for various contestants ("No no! That won't fit!"). Very cool movie, and we recommend it even if you don't like sports.

Tues, August 1, 2006

Our first rent check in Salem is due!

And it's sobering to realize that it's less than our monthly grocery bill used to be (rent = $620; grocery bill = $700). We save the 39 cent stamp by walking the three blocks to the property manager's office and handing it to him.

We've decided that the only thing worse that packing is unpacking. At least when you're packing, you know where everything is going (into a box). When you're unpacking, you have to decide (or remember) where each thing should go.

This gets very old very fast and makes for slow progress. Still, we plow along and the piles of boxes slowly disappear.

Wed, August 2, 2006

To take a break from unpacking, we head over to the Wednesday Farmer's Market in downtown Salem. For the Wednesday market, they shut down a street running through downtown and turn it over to the market (they take their markets very seriously here).

It's pretty much the same deal as Saturday's market, but with fewer musicians AND

Monastery Mustard!

Yup, the Benedictine Sisters of Mt. Angel have gone into the mustard-making biz and are selling it for five bucks a jar at the market. It's a tough choice between "Heavenly Honey" and "Hallelujah Jalapeno," but we finally settle on Heaven (and it's pretty darn good mustard, too). And there's a free picture of a nun on every jar!

Robert refrains from asking if they have "Ruler Rapping Raspberry" because, frankly, he doesn't really need to piss off any local nuns.

If you need to order up some holy mustard for your pantry, you can check out their web site at www.monasterymustard.com.

Along the way, we get a closer look at the golden figure that tops the state capitol. It's definitely a guy and he's holding a golden axe in his right hand. It's hard to tell what he's got in his left arm (Laura says a coat, Robert thinks it's a salmon).

So maybe it's Joe Oregon the Axe Murderer? We need to take a tour of the capitol and find out...

Thurs, Aug 3, 2006

Laura decides she's sick and tired of unpacking (plus she's got some basketball games to attend), so she packs up the car and heads up to Seattle.

This leaves Robert free to lounge around—er, unpack lots of boxes and be very industrious.

And gaze out the window at Mill Creek and—look! A mama duck and her three ducklings! Swimming upstream like crazy while mama quacks to keep them all together (and away from the cats prowling the banks).

Laura found a place on-line that tells us to look for chinook salmon running upstream around Sept or Oct, which sounds pretty cool. This is the closest Robert's been to nature since camping out as a Boy Scout (which he never much cared for, and it was more about pouring Kool-Aid on campfires than about nature, anyway).

Robert's soon-to-be-boss checks in, and we find out that they don't, technically, have an office yet. And, actually, they haven't started looking and, gee, maybe they should get started, huh? Heck, there's still three weeks before Robert starts working, so there's plenty of time (Robert finds this encouraging—"People who plan like I do!").

Robert & Laura
Mid-Life Crisis Trip