Finding Independence

I missed my turn the other day on my way from a doctor’s appointment in Corvallis to Fred’s place in Albany, but it turned out well. Shortly after I decided I was about to end up in Portland if I kept going, I turned east and discovered Independence, Oregon. What a great place. It’s farm country, with signs advertising blueberries, peaches, and raspberries, with furrowed fields of squash, corn, hay and perhaps hops. Googling the town’s history, I find this town of 7,905 souls was once the hops capital of the world. It’s beautiful, and they’ve got beer; what a place.

Located 10 miles southwest of Salem on the west bank of the Willamette River, it was first settled by Oregon Trail travelers in June 1845. They named it Independence after the Missouri town where many of them had started their journey. Over the years, it’s had its ups and downs. A flood in 1861 devastated the town, but the people rebuilt on higher ground, and many of the wonderful old buildings there now date back to the 1880s. New highways took traffic away from Independence, but that allowed it to keep its quiet, old-time feeling.

Independence has preserved its . . . well, its independence. It’s got all the amenities of a great small town, libraries, parks, an outdoor amphitheater, stores, banks and all that. It’s close to Salem, only an hour from Portland. Yet it looks like a small country town, much like my native Santa Clara Valley looked before the electronics industry turned it from the Valley of Heart’s Delight to Silicon Valley.

Driving down the old Corvallis Road, I passed vast fields being watered by giant sprinklers on wheels, horses, cows, the Hilltop Cemetery and even a housing subdivision named “Green Acres.” I wonder what houses cost there. I plan to go back with my camera, but this time I won’t be lost.


She’s a good dog, really she is

The other day I took my dog Annie to the beach. Who should be unloading his dog from the van next to my car but my vet, Dr. Hurty with his wife and daughter. I immediately glanced at Annie’s midsection and realized she was still a little chubby. Oh, I wanted her to obey me perfectly, but what dog is calm when she arrives at the B-E-A-C-H? She flew out in an explosion of legs and tan fur, scratched up the back of Honda Element and pulled so hard I almost fell down.

“She’s solid, isn’t she?” the vet said.

“Yes,” I gasped, struggling to hold on. Bellowing “Heel!” right now would do no good.

We hurried up the dune and down onto the beach, where the wind had whipped the sand into peaks and valleys. The tide was way out, but we followed the water until Annie was knee deep and clearly wanted to go farther. My shoes and socks were already soaked, so we walked and ran and jumped waves and then sat for a while in the sand. Coming in for a face lick, she covered me with the stuff. And then we walked up the trail back to the parking lot. By then, Annie was behaving perfectly. Heel, sit, stand, down, wait, no problem. I really wanted the vet to see it, but as we approached our car, he was driving away.

She can be good. Really she can.

In a small town like Newport, you run into someone you know every time you leave the house. Back in San Jose, your dog might poop on someone’s lawn and you might ignore it, knowing no one would ever trace it back to you. But here, I have learned the value of carrying plastic bags. I don’t dare leave the poo, not when the person coming up behind me is probably somebody who knows me from church or a writing class or some story I did years ago. We leave nothing but footprints. And maybe a little drool from the dog’s long, dripping tongue.

When we got home, Annie ran out to meet her brother Chico. He immediately sniffed her legs and feet, as if to say, “Hey, where did you go?” Panting, tongue still out, she just grinned.

Dogs go wild

My adventurous dog Chico, the big black one with the red collar, has a new hobby: touring the neighbors’ house to see what he can find to eat. This can be a real surprise to the neighbors, who tend to leave their door open on warm days. I hear tell Paula was taking a nap the other day when she suddenly became aware of someone staring at her. No, it wasn’t her husband Pat. She awoke to find Chico’s big brown eyes fixed on her. Surprise!

I was down the road apiece with his leash and a pocket full of Milkbones while she got up and hauled Mr. Chico back home, locking him in the dog enclosure with his sister Annie. Hearing the gate clang shut, I hurried home. Pat, watering his new lawn, explained what had happened. Thank God he laughed.

Okay, once is okay, but then yesterday, Chico escaped twice. The first time, I found him near the mailboxes eating a slice of wheat bread. Uh-oh. The second time, I went straight across the street and knocked on the siding by the open door. Who greeted me? Right, Chico. He had just cleaned out the cat’s food and was slurping up his water. I don’t know where Pat and Paula were or if they ever discovered they had a visitor again.

What a dog. I took him on a walk through Mike Miller Park here in South Beach the other day. I’m trying to expose both dogs to new places. This may have been a mistake. I can’t believe I got back to the car with no broken bones or sprained ankles. The narrow loop trail through trees and over bridges was almost all up and down, fretted with tree roots, slick with mud. Chico was like a runaway train. The ups weren’t so bad. He pulled me up. But the downs had me screeching as he pulled me down just as quickly. My two big feet could not keep up with his four massive paws and I knew I was gonna die.

By the end of the walk, he had begun to figure out that he had a big clumsy human on the other end of the leash. We rested together on damp wooden benches along the trail. Somehow we made it back to the car, and Chico didn’t eat the people on the bridge who backed away in fear as we roared past while I hollered “Heel!”

Meanwhile, back at home, Annie, the tan one with the dirty blue collar, was digging more holes. She can get her whole head and shoulders in them now, but it looks like she’s having so much fun I don’t have the heart to stop her. I let her dig, I rake the dirt back into the hole, and then she digs again.

Then Chico comes home and they beat each other up, like all brothers and sisters do.

Dogs sure know how to have fun.

On the way to Albany

Leave it to natural urges to force me to discover a gorgeous place on the way to my husband’s nursing home in Albany. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I pledged to explore new places along the way. Needing a restroom bad, I pulled off Highway 99W at Hyak Park, a Benton County park about a mile south of Albany. It’s right on the Willamette River, which that day was flowing bottle green under blue skies. In addition to a boat launching site, it offers a wonderful picnic area, a fascinating bridge, and an old tower that must date from the years before 1971 when the park was the Adair Water Intake Park of the Adair Air Force Base. As I walked in the grass, tiny flies flew up around my feet, but they didn’t bother me. I checked out the viewing platforms and could have stared at the river all day.

I have no doubt there’ll be more stops along Highway 99. Not only are there numerous parks with bathrooms, but the area is full of flower nurseries, farms, and old barns that scream “take my picture”.

In a few minutes, I was in the heart of Albany, trying to remember which street requires that I suddenly merge left or wind up at the police station, and then I was at Timberwood Court, where everyone was dressed in red, white and blue for the Fourth of July party. Balloons bobbed around every table in the picnic area, and hamburgers were coming off the barbecue while staff scurried around slathering sun tan lotion on the residents. It was hot! I provided the entertainment, singing and playing guitar. I pulled out my patriotic songs, even the Star Spangled Banner, which I should have pitched a little lower. As I saw that high note coming up, I thought, uh-oh, but I took a deep breath and went for it. No big round of applause like at the football games, but nobody complained either. It was a nice party, which included many family members of the residents.

Where will I stop this week? Wait and see.

Singin’ in the Wind

Join me in this little ditty to the tune of “Singin’ in the Rain”.

I’m singin’ in the wind,
just singin’ in the wind,
what an allergized feelin’,
I’m sniffling again . . .

I’ve done it five years in a row, played at the annual charity garden tour and at the Toledo Wednesday market. Why do I keep coming back with the fantasy of perfect weather, an attentive audience, and notes coming out of my throat like I’m some kind of angel? The reality: it’s hot, freezing or raining, and always, always windy. The few people who really listen tend to talk to me as if I could sing, play the guitar, and carry on a conversation at the same time. I’m usually planted right under a giant flower pot or on the grass in front of a lush flower bed, so my throat feels scratchy, and my mood gets cranky as I try to control pages of music that keep wanting to blow away.

Meanwhile people keep saying I have a beautiful voice and isn’t it a wonderful day? Yeah, peachy keen.

Why do it? I could say I’m singing for a worthy cause, but mostly I want the publicity and it fluffs my ego. Maybe somebody who takes my card will ask me to sing inside on a stage where people are quietly listening instead of asking what they put on that azalea to make it grow so well.

Also, it’s good practice, and this time I got to try out my new amp (love it) and the new action on my old guitar (love that, too).

When they call me next year, I should say no, but I probably won’t. I’ll throw on a hat, take an antihistamine and off I go . . .

Singin’ in the wind,
just singin’ in the wind.
Why do I do it
again and again?
I’m playin’ my tunes
on weekends in June,
just singin’ and snifflin’ in the wind.

Copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2009 😉

Playing with the Toledo symphony

The wind blew a percussive bass into the microphones, soft cymbals in the breeze blew under my shirt and riffled my sheet music. Children called to each other, birds sang a descant, and dogs barked tenor harmonies. Behind and below me, the train shuffled like blocks rubbed against each other. As I reached the finale of my song, the whistles blew and the whole orchestra came together. Shortly after that, the umbrella fell to the side, the tip hat blew across the stage and my music stand wobbled like a late-night drunk. The clouds turned dark, threatening rain. But I sang on as nearby listeners applauded and vendors selling their photographs, quilts, bird houses, plants, baked goods, and jewelry, held onto their wares lest they blow away. As I walked the street after my performance, many said they had loved my music. I never get enough of that.

This was the Toledo Wednesday Street Market, which happens all summer in Toledo, Oregon, a lumber mill town built on hills so steep that when I dropped my red steel water bottle getting out of the car, it rolled almost all the way down to Main Street, acquiring a new scratched and dented look. There was no way I could catch it; I could only watch and hope it ran into something before it fell into a storm drain or got squashed by a car. From now on, I’ll look at its scars and remember Toledo.

Once upon a time, Toledo was a happening place, the county seat and the main port of call for boats traveling up Yaquina Bay. Today, things are a lot quieter. It’s not unusual to be the only person walking down Main Street, but the city fathers and mothers have done their best to dress up the town. In summer, huge baskets of pansies and other plants hang from poles and fences. New restaurants and shops have opened, along with the many antiques shops. Artists welcome visitors for gallery tours, and Sam Briseño, who makes magical metal sculptures, has scattered colorful benches on the downtown sidewalks. Click the City of Toledo link for a list of events planned throughout the year.

I have been singing in Toledo one Wednesday every summer for years, thanks to host Frank Jones. It could be raining and cold, dry and hot, windy or not, but it’s always fun playing with the Toledo orchestra of natural sounds.

The street market continues every Wednesday during the summer from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with different musicians every week.

It’s an interesting life

Life has been interesting since we last met. Okay, it’s always interesting, but perhaps more interesting. For example, I had a colonoscopy last Thursday, which I am not about to discuss. If you don’t know what it is, Google it. As everyone says, the preparation is worse than the procedure. So true. But I do have a question: How come my husband got a muffin and coffee after his cataract surgery, and all I got was a tiny can of orange juice? He didn’t even have to fast for two days. Which leads to another question. I was going over insurance statements and discovered that the hospital billed over $200 for Fred’s post-op supplies. What was in that muffin?
Somebody ripped off 15 copies of my book Stories Grandma Never Told between the South Beach Post Office and the Seattle Bulk Mail Center. They sent back my box with a note and all the packing material inside. If the box had simply broken open, wouldn’t the packing material be gone, too? Meanwhile, I had a miffed distributor waiting in California and sent 15 more copies via priority mail. They arrived on Monday. He’s still miffed. I’m out $300. I hate to imagine what happened to the other books. Are they lying in a dumpster somewhere?
I have a new gig writing for a new airline mag for SeaPort Airlines, which recently started flying out of Newport. Suddenly I have to, like, work, but my first assignment is a story on the local lighthouses. Such hard duty going out to Yaquina Head on a warm, sunny afternoon to take notes and shoot pictures. But it is going to be a scramble to get four stories done by June 30.
I made my first post-move visit to my husband at Timberwood Court Memory Care Center in Albany, OR. It’s almost two hours each way. I’m stocking up on books on CD. Fred is settling in well at his new home. It’s a great place, with lots of activities, loving caregivers, tasteful décor and delicious food. But it isn’t home, and it’s almost two hours away from where I live, so I can’t visit nearly as often as I used to visit him at Graceland. Fred has forgotten so much, and he will soon forget me. Save the pity party; it’s just fact. It will be easier for him when that happens. For me, no, but that’s life.

I have resolved to stop on each trip to see something I haven’t seen before. I’ll report back, with photos.
On the way to Albany, I finally got my guitar in for servicing at Bullfrog Music Owner Kurt Dietrich has moved the store to 423 SW Third Street, so when you’re coming into Corvallis from the coast, it’s easy to find, easy to park, and, praise God, it’s in the same building with a Subway restaurant and public restrooms, everything a wandering musician needs. Plus Kurt loves to talk music, jam, teach, and sell guitars and mandolins. He promised I would fall in love with my Martin all over again. I believe him. Meanwhile, I bought myself a new Roland amp I can’t wait to plug into. It’s easy to carry, has all the bells and whistles I want and will make me sound so good.
My dog Chico has found a new place to jump the fence, and he has escaped four times in the last week. The neighbors are getting used to helping me corral him. Sometimes even a dog treat won’t stop him. He just loves to run, and I’m certainly getting my exercise chasing him around the neighborhood, calling, “Here Chico, Chic, Chic, Chic, cookies.” I’ll walk for blocks, then suddenly see him fly by, foot-long tongue hanging out, teeth showing in a big doggy grin as he zooms past me. When I finally leash him up, he shows no remorse. Sixteen months old and counting.