Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Westside Park

There was this place, just down the street from the house I grew up in, that was the best to play in the world. Westside Park, right on 156th between the Banks' house and The Meadows housing development. There was playground equipment and a play field, and a great huge thicket of blackberry bushes cut through with tunnels and forts. The focal point of the park was the trails and the woods. Pardon me, The Woods. The park was developed near 156th but then it stretched all the way down to Marymoor Park to the east. The Woods were situated covering a wooded gully with trails on the south ridge and down the middle, kind of. The trails on the south side of The Woods went all the way to Marymoor, the ones in the middle petered out about halfway down. Looking at it now on Google Maps, The Woods look entirely too small.

Is it possible that the park shrank in the lat 20-30 years? Global warming?

The Woods were huge when we were kids. We would spend hours down there, doing who knows what, but having a great time doing it. Stinging nettles were a risk, the old well (a giant ring of concrete) was a spooky old thing to explore, and the trails were fantastic. They were narrow and slippery in the rain, and running down them or racing down them on bikes was like nothing else. It was a gas. We had dirt clod fights (Deano and Shawn), firework fights (Dean and Andy), and the best snowball fight ever (The Honeywell family).

At some point, someone hung a huge heavy rope from a branch near the well. It was the best, and most dangerous, rope swing I have ever used. The take off and landing was a super steep bank and the apex of the swing was out over this huge concrete cylinder. You could play it safe and take off low and not get a lot of height, or you could get a running start and peak out about thirty or more feet over the floor of the gully. People were doing crazy stunts; hanging on with one hand, flipping upside down, riding two at a time. It was way too much fun. Until Jeff Peterson fell off over the creek that ran down the middle and had to be pulled out by the Redmond Fire Department. The firemen went to length of cutting the rope swing down. Someone hung it back up soon after that, but it was never the same. The Woods were, but the rope swing became more of a legend than anything else.

Several years ago, right around the time my parents were selling the house on 156th, I went back down to the park to see what had changed. The blackberry bushes were mostly gone and the trails had all been 'improved' to wide gravel walking trails, in order to improve access to The Woods. Everything in The Woods seemed so much smaller to me. As a kid this was a HUGE expanse of forest, some place that you could get lost in for hours on end. As an adult you realized that you could see housing developments and houses from one end of The Woods to the other. These houses had always been there, it was that as kids you were able to block them out of your sight and not let them get in the way of your fantasy land.

Westside Park and The Woods were the best playground a kid could ask for. Name me another place where you and a friend could build a scale model of a suspension bridge and then blow it up with fireworks (Andy and I). Just because you wanted to see what would happen.

It was a great place to spend a childhood and I wonder where that place will be in my kids memory.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Dangers of Color Blindness

It was early spring in 2001 and I was having a hell of time getting rid of a nasty cough. It had been hanging around for months, just kind of lingering and never really going away. The coughs had not, to this point, been productive. In other words, I wasn’t hacking up massive loogies all over the house I was just coughing. I had been going round and round with my doctor about what was going on. Since I was the picture of health in every other regards, he was thinking it was some kind of bronchitis or some such thing, treating it with stuff that you would normally get for asthma or something. These had little to know effect. Like I said, it wasn’t knocking me out, it was just really annoying.
            February becomes March and I was settling into a new job with great benefits in downtown Seattle. One morning over breakfast I had a huge coughing fit and hocked up a big wad of junk from the cough and my wife looked across the table and asked to see it. [Side note: My wife has a long history of sinus infections and other related miseries, she is somewhat of an authority on crap that comes out a persons respiratory system.] I need to point out that I color blind, standard red green colorblindness that afflicts 7-10% of the male population, nothing big but it looms rather large over this next bit. So I show the tissue you to her and she says, “You know that;s blood, right?” I had no idea. I just thought it was dark phlegm from what ever infection had taken root in my chest. The color blindness really worked against me here, as if I could see red and green effectively I would have (maybe?) noticed the blood a little earlier. Or not, since I am a guy and we have a tendency to ignore all but the most serious health issues.
            So I call the doctor and head down to Kirkland to see him. The whole blood thing has kind of freaked them out and so we do a whole work up, for what seems like the 10th time, and add the element of a chest x ray. The x ray tech allows me to keep my shirt on, it was an orange cotton Grammacci shirt, with an embroidered logo on the left chest. The film gets shot and I head back to the exam room to continue reading Car & Driver, it was an article comparing performance wagons and we had just bought a VW Passat that was part of the review, so I was quite interested to see what they had to say. About the car, I was not thinking about the x ray at all. Time passes and Dr. Billett comes into the room, very concerned about my shirt and wanting to make sure that there is nothing in it or on it that would foul the x ray. There wasn’t and I asked what the concern was about and he said the first of many things we heard in the coming months that you NEVER want to hear from your doctor. Dr. Billett said that they were concerned about a ‘spot’ in my lung field.
“Huh” I said, in a rare moment of brilliance, “So, what, there is a dime sized spot in my lung?”
“It’s a little bigger than that.” He replied, and quickly followed that up with a question about how soon I could get to Evergreen Hospital for a CT scan?
Seeing the writing on the wall, I allowed as how NOW was a good time, and they got me set up for a noon-ish appointment. I now had a few hours to kill and a very pregnant wife at home that I needed to bring up to speed.

Monday, November 7, 2011

What Would You Do?

When the allegations against a former football coach broke over the weekend in State College, PA I was horrified on the part of the victims and wondered how this could have happened. As I read more of the story, that horror was joined by a great disappointment in the actions of these ‘shapers of men.’

Ideally, each of will act in the best interests of those below us, be it in stature or station in life. Again, I said ideally and I understand where idealism falls, which is just above naiveté in the grand scheme of things. We cover this altruism through a series of cut outs in our daily lives; giving to charity, tithing at church, donating to the food bank, etc. How we would react, and the actions we would take, when presented with the real world chance to rescue someone or remove them from peril, is something that most of us will deal with as an intellectual exercise only. Thankfully.

What must have gone through that graduate assistant's mind as he saw an older man violating a young boy in the showers at Penn State? We will never know, but we can postulate what OUR reaction would have been. I will never be able to grasp why that young man did nothing to stop what he saw happening. I will never be able to grasp why he did not call the police. I will never be able to grasp why his father did not tell him to call the police, and instead offered the counsel of reporting this act to the head football coach. I will never be able to grasp why the head football coach felt his only obligation was to report it up his chain of command. I will never be able to grasp why the athletics director never saw fit to contact the police. I will never be able to grasp why the president of the university never thought to ask the hard questions as to why the school was banning this retired coach from bringing children on to campus. A punishment that the athletics director had said was all but unenforceable. There are so many factors that I will never be able to grasp but there is one basic one I will never be able to understand. That is why did none of these men stop for a moment and act like decent human beings and bring this action to a swift and final halt.

All it would have taken is for one of these men, men that are counted on to shape the lives of young people as a course of their chosen vocation, to pick up the phone and press three buttons. 9-1-1. Instead, they all chose to act in a manner that protected their own narrow self-interest. The GA gets to keep his job and not drag the name of a coaching icon into the mud. The coaching icon gets to protect his protégé and handle these actions outside the bright lights of the public eye. The AD gets to avoid a scandal that would tear his iconic football team apart, and feels that he is protecting the institution. The university president gets to cloak himself is plausible deniability and say he never knew the true nature of what had happened. At each step of the way, each individual who could have taken action to protect that little boy chose instead to take action that protected themselves. The may acted correctly within the structure of the law, but they abjectly failed every moral test the situation allowed for. 

It is our moral obligation as human beings to protect the defenseless. In this instance, an instance now stretching back more than twelve years, the institution of Penn State and the people employed there failed this moral test abysmally. 

One question that kept coming up in my mind was this. If you had witnessed what this GA allegedly witnessed, how would you continue working for the man and institution that acted so feebly in reaction to it? I cannot imagine the moral conflicts that must be at play to rationalize that.

One final thought, as the consuming public we will b able to put this out of mind and sleep easy at some point in the future. For the men who failed so miserably in this story, they will have to try to sleep at night knowing that failed the basic test of human decency. It is something that they will have to live with for the rest of their lives. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Story a Day - Day Three

It was the first time any of them had been on stage before. Well, on stage and in front of a live audience in any event. They had grown up together in the small group of homes to the east of town, really depending on one another for entertainment more than the TV, radio, or internet. They ran through the woods, harassed the farm animals, and in general caused their parents quite a bit of grief. Bobby was the oldest but he wasn’t the leader, not by a long shot. John was the leader but he was also the smallest of the group. Drew was the one everyone looked to for the plan, in the event that they had to plan something. Vincent had tools, his dad was a mechanic and a maker, and he knew how to use them. Bert was the second girl of this little group and the one that kind of held them all together. She lived on the biggest farm in the area, not that she or her folks had any ideas about farming, but the huge piece of land gave them all the running room they needed. Unlike what you’re thinking, they didn’t have some catchy name or club that they called themselves. They weren’t the Five Fingers or the Farmhouse Gang or anything like that. They were simply a group of kids that fate threw together before they hit puberty and they managed to stay close through the turmoil of their teen years and beyond.

As middle school gave way to high school, the games the group played changed as well. No longer were they playing make believe Star Wars games or trying to collect as many bugs as they could in the afternoon. High school meant they were just hanging out and trying to help each other through the minefield of high school social circles. Bobby had an attention problem, John was picked on by variety of groups, Drew fit in very well all over campus, Vincent could not get his mind around the academic side of school, and Bert was just trying skate through un noticed. These issues seemed to disappear when they got together on weekends and during breaks. Romance never quelled their connection with one another, nor were the assorted boyfriends and girlfriends ever really connected to the group. It was a comfortable connection for all of them, something that felt like family and home and love and safety and security and happiness without being any of those things. There were ups and downs to be sure; depression was as common amongst them as with any of their peers, but they knew how to pull one another up and support each other. Then high school gave way to college and they all prepared to move on without each other.

Each of them graduated without any real issues, although Vincent needed some help from his folks to pull that off, and made their plans to really ‘start’ their lives. They all went in different directions, with Bobby and Drew going to very nice private schools, John and Bert headed for state colleges, and Vincent thought he was heading for the Air Force but a failed physical brought that idea crashing to a halt. Instead, Vincent went to a small school to find something to do. Holidays and summers enabled this little group to maintain their connections and maintain them they did. It’s no that they didn’t form solid relationships during this period of time, it’s just the power of their friendship, formed so early in their lives, that just kept them coming back together. Through the ups and the downs of their college and post-grad careers the stayed close and continued providing the support that old friends can. They got rolling in their careers, really getting their lives started this time, and still the friendships stayed strong. Bobby went into architecture and design, working for a residential firm in Portland, cranking out starter homes and housing developments. John got through a solid law school and moved into an associate position with a firm in Sacramento doing consulting work on environmental law. Drew failed out of the private college just before her senior year and got her degree from a directional state university that was nearby. The degree did not carry the cachet of the diploma she wanted but she landed a job doing cop writing in Seattle, it could have certainly ended worse than that. She learned the hard way that she and drinking did not get along. Vincent, much to his surprise, worked his way through an electrical engineering degree and a computer science masters. He was working for an automotive engineering firm in LA, building control systems for the next generation of SUVs. Bert surprised no one, not that she was trying to, by graduating early and becoming a high school English teacher and track in rural eastern Washington. Still, after all that college had shown them and the friends they made there, this group still managed to find the time and put in the effort to get together every year for a week of catching up and making plans to save the world. Twenty years had passed since those first fall days of getting to know each other and they still all reveled in each other’s company and camaraderie.

There were marriages and divorces. There were tragedies and successes. There were deaths that affected each of them in their own ways. But the strength of their friendship endured. Late night phone calls from one to another as they tried to make sense of the world and the people in it. Long-winded and misunderstood email chains that spilled salt into old wounds and created some new ones. They each depended on one another for different things in some respects, but the same thing in general. They were a family. Maybe not in blood or paper, but in the emotional bonds with one another, they certainly were.

Family is a funny thing. Some have it thrust upon them by people that would just as soon not see if it wasn’t for Mom and Dad. Others spend their lives looking for it in places not likely to provide it; like the inside of a bottle or in a chemical reaction. There are some that try to buy it and find that money can buy a great many things but it falls short when searching for family. Then there are these five kids. They were just looking for someone to play with, someone to hang around with, and someone that wasn’t going to make fun of them. They found those things, but they also found a family that just waiting in the wings. There was no blood relation, there was no paper binding them together, but there was a family created in the hearts and minds of those kids that was as strong as any other family out there.

What happens next for these five souls, who knows, but they know that they will have each other to lean on regardless of what comes down the road to meet them.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Rory's Story #2

The old man made his way down the hallway of the nursing facility that had been his home for the past, what was it, twenty five years? “I’ve never liked this place,” he thought to himself, “the people are nice enough, but it’s not home.” His room was the last one on the right, far away from the nurse’s station and all the foot traffic. He liked that, he could do without all the busy bodies poking their heads into his room and making sure he was still breathing. He damn sure wasn’t going anytime soon, the implants made sure of that. He also liked the view from his room, you could see into the park across the street from his window, which was especially nice in the summer time. There, those two things exhausted his list of the things he liked about The Terraces, what kind of name was that anyways? The nearest thing to a terrace this place had ever seen was that wedding cake back in ’22 when the two geezers from the South End decided to tie the knot again. He thought it was a bad idea then and he thought it was a bad idea now. Two failed marriages was his limit, and those two were looking for success after three or four marriages each. Well, it had worked out in some respects, they died married anyways, although he doubted either of them recognized each other at the end.

He got to his room and took a seat in his reading chair by the window. Looking out aver the park in the late fall was nice, as you could still feel the echoes of the college kids playing in the meadow and see the shadows of all the people laying out in the sun. Now, the landscapers had gathered the leaves into a huge pile in the fire pit towards the center of the park and were getting ready for the annual bonfire that ushered summer out the door and welcomed winter to town. The bonfire was something the landscapers did every year, easier to get rid of the leaves and branches and all the cuttings this way than any other. It was something he looked forward to as it marked the calendar so clearly. He may have been the only person, outside of the Parks Department that watched it. There was something magical and cleansing about the bonfire, removing the memories from one year and clearing the plate for all the new memories that were to come. He liked that. That cleansing and creation that came with each new year, new season, new month, and new day.

The fire was roaring two hours later when he returned from dinner. The food here was nothing special, not that that was a big surprise. However, they did have great desserts every now and again. Tonight had been one of those now nights. The lackluster roast beef had been followed by a rather spectacular apple crisp, that reminded him of the apple crisp his dad use do make for family birthdays when he was a young boy. What was it about that dessert that stuck with him for so long? Was it the taste, the smells, or the fact that it was the only thing his dad could cook without reducing it to carbon? What ever it was, the apple crisp at The Terraces took him back. He had a good time with his Dad, not the idyllic moments of youth that are inevitably made into movies and TV shows, but a good time. Dad was a good man, not much of a cook, but he was a good man. It was Dad that had taught him how to find the constellations and to appreciate just how small we, as humans, were in the overall scheme of things. Recognizing that fact had helped him quite a bit in his life. His wives and children had never understood his fascination with that, his insistence that humans and insects occupied the same space in the eyes of the universe. That we were no more, and no less, important that any other thing on the planet had rubbed those close to him the wrong way over the years. He supposed that something to do with why he was sitting in his room, alone, watching the bonfire slowly burn down to coals in the park across the street. He had that effect on people; he just couldn’t let them get too close without saying or doing something to push them away. His kids, the ones he had not outlived at this point anyways, still sent cards and letters on occasion, but he couldn’t tell you the last time he had seen them in person. Some folks might be sad to hear that, but he was okay with it. His kids had treated him well and with respect, and he didn’t expect them to dote on him, not at this advanced age anyways.

The bonfire was slowing down now as the landscapers tossed the last of the branches and leaves into the pit. He took a look around the room, his home for these last, what was it, twenty five years and thought about all that had lead him to this point. A changed path here or there. A flower given to this girl instead of that one. Making that light but missing another. How did all those discreet things lead him to this place at this time? Or did they have any effect at all, was all this drawn up many years before and his path was his path, regardless of all the little things that conspired to change it. This was something he often thought of late at night, as he watched the stars make their appearance. He was tired, his bed was calling, but he just wanted to see ‘his’ stars, from his chair, and on his terms as he drifted off to sleep.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Rory's Story Cubes - Story #1

On the hilltop in the distance the man saw a castle tower, or was it just another abandoned station along this forgotten border. He hadn’t eaten a full meal in days; the last bite had been at the riverside after he skirmished with those wandering archers. He had dispatched them with some trouble, and found all they carried was dried fish and nothing more. They were as desperate as he was, skinnier too. Butthat was days ago and many miles to the south. The archers were skinny, to be sure, but the had fresh look about them and their bows had not been used extensively. He took that to mean those souls were a warning line, to him and his kind, that they had best not get too close to the city again. The sun was setting over the mountains to the east; it was time for him to find shelter and safety for the night. He pitched his tent high in the canopy of trees in a valley he had been following for most of the afternoon. He wanted to keep an eye on that tower on the one hand, however the local wildlife had shown too much of an interest in his camp the night before. He shed his pack and used one of the bows to lace a line over the tops of the nearest tree. He was sure to retrieve the arrow; you never knew when dinner or lunch might cross your path. Truth be told, he was not much of archer when it mattered, but given the time he could take down a meal sized creature if he had to. In a battle, his archery skills would be more of a hindrance than help. Before he got up the tree, he set up his trip wire alarm; he was not going to be caught from below. He learned his lesson on that during his first tour of that far western island. He was a quick read when it mattered. He could see the sliver of the moons on the horizons, there would be enough light to see anything clearly, he could only hope that the local fauna had similar night vision handicaps. His tent fit right in the crook of his tree’s trunk and its neighbor’s trunk, and he had a commanding view of the valley below and the tower in the distance. He smiled as he remembered the adventures near his home from his youth. Not many trees at home, and certainly no trees like this, but the peace he felt looking over the forest was familiar and comforting. He settled in and activated the tent lock, that would keep him from falling from his perch, and began his meditation cycles. Slowly, like a tortoiseworking it’s way down the beach, he began to drift off. As always, keeping that one open to act as a warning if any attack came while he was trying to rest. He looked forward to the morning, when his hunt would begin again.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Phyllis Chambers Honeywell (1926-2010)


Phyllis Honeywell passed away in her sleep on June 15, 2010 in Kirkland, WA

Born on January 25, 1926 in Everett, WA to Dewey and Ellen Chambers, Phyllis graduated from Ballard High School in 1944 and the University of Washington in 1948 with a degree in English. During high school and college she was proud to buck rivets on the B-17 assembly line for Boeing. She married Stanley Honeywell in San Francisco in 1952 and then embarked on the toughest job in world, being an Army wife and mother. Phyllis directed family operations in Oklahoma, Germany, Texas, and Washington before they retired from the Army in 1963.

Phyllis and Stan settled in Redmond, WA and raised their family of six, where they spent the next 44 years. Phyllis was active in youth arts and sports organizations with all her children, and was an excellent and adventurous chef. She enjoyed spending summer vacations at Odlin Park on Lopez Island, something the entire family looks forward to every year.

After Stan retired from teaching, they traveled extensively through the western US, Canada, and Mexico. Phyllis was a voracious reader and a lifelong learner, something that she passed along to the whole family. Phyllis loved the arts, maintaining season tickets to the Seattle Symphony, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and various theater groups in Seattle over the years. She was also deeply involved with the American Association of University Women up until her death.

After Stanley passed away in 2007 and Phyllis settled in Kirkland, she embraced her dormant wanderlust and traveled extensively over the next three years. Excursions to Japan, Alaska, Germany, France, Spain, and Portugal with friends, family, and the new friends she would meet on each trip.

Phyllis raised six children and was an active participant in the lives of her eight grandchildren. Those children and grandchildren will always embrace individuality and curiosity because of the lessons she taught; secure in the knowledge that they were each her favorite.

Phyllis is survived by her sister Donna Halvorsen, daughters Cathy Smith (Tom) and Lisa Close (Len), and sons Scott (Lori), David (Melanie), Paul (Karen), and Philip (Amy). She is also survived by her seven grandsons and one granddaughter. She was preceded in death by husband Stanley, mother Ellen, and father Dewey.

There will be a memorial service at 3:00pm on June 24, 2010 at St. John’s Episcopal Church (127 State St.) in Kirkland, WA.

In lieu of flowers please make a donation to Hopelink ( or P.O.Box 3577 Redmond, WA 98073) or the charity of your choice.