Escape from California



My family goes back to the Spanish settlers of the 18th Century. In high school I told a foreigner I identified first and foremost with being a Californian. Being an American was secondary. I loved both, but my romance with California became like the ache that comes from your girl sleeping around. California's heading off to the honkytonks one more time is why I lit out.
My wife and I planned to leave after the grandchildren woke. They were too young to think anything other than we were just going back across town. We didn't allay the impression.

"See you soon, my sweetheart!"

"Love you, buddy boy!"

They stood on the porch and waved. They waved until we couldn't see them any more.

We drove north on Interstate 680. With rush hour traffic abating, we crossed the Carquinez Strait Bridge. We caught I-80 near Vacaville (or Ca-ca-ville as a friend in Florida prefers it), and took the I-580 cutoff to Interstate 5.

Today vs. Yesterday
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I used to think that a highway's Interstate designation meant that it crossed state lines. Not necessarily, but every Interstate is part of a 47,000-mile web of freeways that connects the whole country, touching nearly all major U.S. cities.
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Construction and maintenance of the longest super highway system in the world is 90% federally funded with the states picking up the remainder of the tab. The Interstate system benefits the lives of all Americans, regardless of whether they drive cars, because it is almost impossible to receive goods by land, sea, air, rail or dog sled without some point of the distribution requiring road transport that is facilitated and made more efficient by an Interstate. The official title points to another incalculable benefit—the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense
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Highways. For decades after President Eisenhower championed their construction, they comprised the most expensive public works project in the world, generating $6 in revenue for every tax dollar spent. An inestimable number of jobs was created. A slight measure is the number of jobs in roadside restaurants, an increase of 7% over the percentage of growth of the national population for the same time period.

In his first year in office President Barak Obama and his Congressional allies committed to spend more tax dollars than went into the Interstate, but don't hold your breath waiting for returns, either in revenue or lasting jobs. President Obama quadrupled the debt he said he wanted to cut.

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In the name of getting the economy back on track the President urged Congress to pass a 787 billion "economic stimulus package." The Congressional Budget Office calculated that the package actually blew through 862 billion. Even now the estimate is being revised upward. Regardless of the amount, it all needs to be paid back with interest.

The tax dollars you and I sent to Washington propped up failing car companies. The CEO of General Motors, Ed Whitacre, says GM has paid America back. What Mr. Whitacre leaves out is that the payback is not with earnings but with public money saved for GM in a Treasury Department escrow account. GM is still mired in debt. An intended consequence is that loser car execs and the United Auto Workers Union have great incentive to fatten the campaign coffers of those in Congress who bestow favor upon them.

Badly managed financial institutions were also bailed out and gratefully contributed to the campaign war chests of politicians like Barney Frank, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, who was supposed to be watching over them. Indeed, he was.

$150 billion was thrown at a hypothesis called Global Warming. Even if the concocted data of politically motivated scientists were remotely true, those billions won't affect infentismalbe climate change.

Until very recently millions were granted to ACORN to perpetrate voter fraud. ACORN has been disbanded, but the Department of Justice has joined the cause, refusing to prosecute Black Panthers “monitoring” voting stations with clubs.

Now the federal spenders have enacted a $1 trillion-and-escalating health care reform bill that no elected official has read. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was head cheerleader for the legislation, saying, "We have to pass the bill so that we can find out what is in it.”



She still doesn't fully know. She used what reading time she had to broker sweetheart deals with fellow House Members to exempt special voter interests from the bill's more onerous provisions. Over in the Senate whole states like Louisiana were given a pass on having to help fund the bill. Questioned about the make-it-up-as-you-go-along procedures and lack of promised transparency during the reconciliation process between House and Senate versions, Pelosi's factotum, Representative Alcee Hastings, recalled Thomas Edison's experimental technique of endless trial and error. Hastings compared scientific invention with the legalities of bill passage, dodging logical hurdles, and without a blush said, "There ain't no rules here."



Representative Hastings made an important point when he brought up the prescription drug program touted by President George W. Bush and passed through a Republican Congress with a “doughnut hole” of deficit funding that is supposed to be made up for by future generations. Republican and Democratic Administrations in the past and their lackeys in Congress have always wasted money. The difference this time is the scale—the deep dark vast abysmal depth of the financial hole we're expecting our great-grandchildren to dig us out of.

During one breathless moment, Speaker Pelosi predicted millions of jobs being created by health care reform. Doubtless, the government will need lots of bureaucrats to create red tape for any new doctors and nurses who may be trained and to provide loopholes for insurance companies that already control the health care system. Since everyone is now required to have health insurance, the companies will use some of their windfall profits to kickback funds to friends in Congress. Columnist Mark Steyn points out that health care reform in the U.S. brings all the inefficiencies and waste of the British and Canadian models and adds the Chicago touch of being thoroughly corrupt from the get go.

But Think Positive
To calculate jobs created or saved by the entire stimulus package, Washington's wishful thinkers combined exaggeration and guesswork, then trumpeted economic recovery in spite of rising unemployment, bankruptcies and foreclosures. Prognostications were pinned on the 2010 stock market briefly stuttering upward, compared to the dumps of 2009, as well as in a slight increase in consumer spending that is quickly abating and in a portion of the unemployed being rehired by businesses—approximately 170,000 workers compared to a total of about three million who lost their jobs after the stimulus kicked in.

I know a guy who makes a couple of grand a week on the construction of new runways. He benefits from federal stimulus money. So do airlines and air travelers. I read in the
San Francisco Chronicle that some federal money will go to adding a long awaited fourth bore to the Caldecott Tunnel. These are good things.

But they are small things. In total about 4% of the stimulus is going to infrastructure. The rest is thrown at studies of bugs, marijuana and the sex life of female freshmen, a bar for a steakhouse, new golf carts for a country club, etcetera and so forth, with teacher benefits shoved into a military appropriations bill. In other words, Washington continues to work us over. During the fanfare that opened federal money bags, President Obama claimed the support of economists, by which he meant academic theorists who never had to ply their wares in the workaday world. About 75% of economists who work for corporations, including General Electric that received federal bailout money, say the stimulus did little or nothing to create jobs.

Among signs of failure is a very disturbing one—prices have moved upward. It is unlikely that even the appearance of recovery will sustain itself beyond the short term or will not take us anywhere near earlier prosperity. The dollar has lost 10% of its value against major currencies, with much sharper decline inevitable as the government keeps printing paper to cover unprecedented debt. The head of the Congressional Budget Office made it quite clear:

The deficit is unsustainable.

My wife and I don't expect anywhere in the nation to get significantly better under present mismanagement, but California lawmakers are hell bent on speeding up the train wreck.

Fiddling Around

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Public employees vote for officials who roll over when it comes time to negotiate contracts. Few politicians fight for ordinary people; they fight to get re-elected; and that means making special interests happy. Whether it's an Arnold Schwarzenegger or a Gray Davis in Sacramento, or any other of the midgets in charge of California's counties and cities, public employee unions back the elections of the vote-whores who help them. In consequence the salaries and benefits in the public sector outstrip comparable jobs in the private sector. And in case you haven't noticed, government workers get longer vacations than ordinary folk.

Teachers like to say that the money that goes to education "is about kids," and a few cents out of every educational tax dollar may have some classroom benefit. As for the rest, the California Teachers Association throws lawyers at every attempt to force disclosure of just how much teachers can expect to receive in pension and health insurance benefits during the years when they are retired. It is contractually almost impossible to fire incompetent ones when they are working. It is estimated that what they rake in when they're officially not working makes them millionaires. So it is that California descends into a debt trap in which their isn't taxable productivity in the state, now or in the future, to ever pay what is owed. IOUs are given to teachers who have less than five years sonority or they are simply laid off. The political hacks won't demand better performance from teachers with tenure or legislate needed cutbacks in what is paid to them.

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Volunteers augment police and fire services across America, but there is no big city in California that wants to rattle emergency responders with the fact that they may be way too costly to keep on payroll. Once the cops and firemen retire (contractually at much young ages than private sector workers), they often migrate to states where the cost of living is lower because for one thing public employees aren't paid to live like royalty.

It is the pols in Sacramento who should be leading the way by cutting their own salaries and pensions, and that of their aids. And why not make it retroactive for retired predecessors who presided over deficit years? Then the sanctimonious could deservedly take the high ground to ask for needed sacrifices, like a tax increase, or better yet, closing down a dozen university campuses rather than voting to subsidize the tuitions of illegal aliens. Generally, society gains little from most students who go to college, especially those majoring in liberal arts. Kids are there to avoid growing up. They lose themselves in a culture that glorifies drugs, alcohol and casual sex. I'm not here to stop them. I just don't want to help pay for it any more.

No one who could put weight behind, "Enough is enough," can see the high ground because minds are darkened. Leaders may have good educations, regurgitating the ideologies of Marxist professors, but there is no wisdom. Wisdom is a moral attribute. At root of the monetary problem is a moral crisis. It is wrong and nonsensical to spend more money than you have. But if you don't believe in right and wrong, if you believe sense is anyone's heartfelt opinion and morality means blind tolerance of everything, you're not going to wise up to the laws of economics.

Or you are wised up and have decided to make a devilish pact with chaos and fear. The goal is to kill self-reliance and have more and more people needing public money, either as employees or as welfare recipients, and thus become in times of desperation more convinced that only the state can care for them, or to plaintively call for global government to do the caring. How this kind of caring plays out can seen in any Communist country. Individuals have no intrinsic worth, only groups who agree with the government. Rights to make moral choices and form free associations must be curtailed, along with private initiative and property. All this for the sake of a common good, meaning for the good of the governing elite calling the shots.

The bureaucratic response to the British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a nod in the direction of socialized arrogance and inefficiency. Help from thirty-three countries was initially rejected by President Obama and his advisors. Entrepreneurs with innovative solutions for clean up, many of them proven effective on a small scale, were laughed off. The Coast Guard blockaded private simmer boats because they may or may not have had the mandated number of lifejackets for crew members.

The California equivalents of fiddling while Rome burns is requiring the use of condoms in pornographic movies and condemning Arizona for trying to turn back the tide of illegal immigrants. Sitting in air conditioned state offices and raking in high dollar salaries blinds the fiddlers to the ugly civil war going on in Mexico between the
Federales and the drug lords. Or perhaps some drug money is being quietly funneled to the politicians who say it's OK to have an open border for criminals.



Meanwhile the California
apparatchiks increase taxes on the incomes of people their constituents believe are better off. 150,000 Californians out of an adult population of 26.1 million pay 50% of the state's taxes. For every one of them there are 100 to 150 voters eager to OK bond issues with no thought to how they will be paid. The majority of Californians on welfare don't think there is any connection between the food on their tables and their working neighbors. They believe it is due to the largess of a favorite Parteiführer, but that in no way makes recipients grateful. When unemployment benefits run out, when being on welfare means more difficult access to over-extended aid programs that offer fewer services, it is doubtful that the disgruntled will wait patiently in soup lines, cloth caps in hand ala the 1930s.

Burning and looting are more likely.

For those reasons and more, my wife and I believed we needed to find relative sanctuary for the rest of our family. The choice of sanctuary wasn't as much about physical location as about values—a place where most people most of the time honor God and country without coercing anyone else to follow suit; where there are fewer entitlements and people who believe they deserve them; where crime is less and prisoners don't have to worry about being raped; where schools expect students to read and write; where politicians have to know constituents. We hope we are wrong about needing sanctuary. We can't coerce anyone to follow us. But unless our move at least pointed to place where our grandchildren might be better protected, there was no point to leaving the joy their lives had given us.

"See you soon, my sweetheart!"

"Love you, buddy boy!"

Stopovers
Mrs. Andrus likes to keep to the main highways whereas I like to get off them. She would have taken breakfast at one of the clumps of fast food joints along Interstate 5, but I was driving, so we took a jog into Winters, a farming town in the Vaca Mountains. Hills really. It stills feels as if you are surrounded by the seemingly endless hazy flat land of the great Central Valley.

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We pulled up at the Putah Creek Cafe named for nearby Putah Creek. Thirty or more years ago my older brother Dan and I rented a canoe in Davis, fourteen miles east, and rowed a bit of the seventy-mile stream of water. A tiny bit. 150 yards to the nearest taproom. The creek's name is subject to debate, but if you drop the "H," you have a whore in Spanish, reason enough to check out the cafe. I can't remember what I ordered because one bite of my wife's bacon overwhelmed every other impression. It was thick and meaty and apple-wood smoked. It was the best I've had since my grandmother used to cut slices off a slab.

After taking a cholesterol hit, we headed north. It was mid-September. It was still hot.

The Central Valley ends at Redding. Beyond, the Cascades start with the abrupt rise of Mount Shasta, a volcanic mass that dominates the landscape for hours, inspiring names all around. A snow covered representation of the mountain and the logo, "It has'ta be Shasta," were on a brand of root beer when I was a kid, the first to be sold in cans rather than in bottles. A Maryland-based company started bottling water from Shasta Springs, and in 1931 began producing soft drinks. Seven years later construction began on damming the Sacramento River.

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We took a side trip to Shasta Dam where a campground lies below the power station on the west bank. The road to the campground transverses the top of the dam. An armed Pinkerton controls a retractable barrier at each end. 9/11 immediately shut down any access, and half the law enforcement in Siskiyou County, including the Sheriff, took turns on round-the-clock guard duty. On Lake Shasta warnings remain for boaters to keep 1,000 yards from the wall in case some water skier has ill intent.

While my wife hung around the cool of the visitors center, I walked the wall to get the kinks out of my legs and brain, exchanging a hearty pleasantry with the hired gun at the start of my walk. To the gunsole at the other end I toyed with asking if he had ever seen
The Dam Busters, the 1955 film about the Royal Air Force's destruction of Ruhr Valley dams during World War II. It was a black and white movie, so he probably hadn't seen it and therefore would not know the impossibility of a pleasure boat's carrying enough explosives to destroy Shasta...oh, perhaps crack the top of the wall a bit...but a British Lancaster with a 6,800-pound bouncing bomb would create enough concussion lower down to breach the wall and flood 160 miles of the Central Valley.

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On the way back I was thinking about how I should have done my bit for the War on Terror by keeping security forces educated, as I have done during my last eight flights when I was pulled aside to be patted down, or as now when another Pinkerton in a pickup slowly passed and gave me the once over.

Second thoughts crept in. During the Bush Administration leftists criticized use of the term "The War on Terror." Under President Obama the term was dropped like a woman stoned to death in Saudi Arabia. The present head of Homeland Security...another woman whose name sounds like Neapolitan ice cream...talks about "man made disasters." The pundits (educated but far from wise) seemed to think people such as myself would get confused by "War on Terror," assuming as it does that terrorists need killing, but begging the question, What is a terrorist?

According to our betters, terrorists are simply people who have a grievance or are misunderstood, just like the violent, run-of-the-mill criminals in our prisons. Terrorists are not Islamic radicals who want to slaughter Americans and Europeans, or convert by the sword Africans and Asians. Terrorists are not fanatics who call for
jihad or fatwa. There are, you see, many good Moslems, and people in Washington think we ordinary folk can't sort out the good from the bad, and the most grievous crime of all would be to try and therefore prove we are racists at heart. The bottom line is: there is no evil, and that's what we the confused don't understand. We don't see the moral equivalency between the United States and other nations, between blighting foreign lands with MacDonald's and Palestinians wiring their children to blow up Jewish pizza parlors.

I began to wonder. Is there some super secret profiling technique that can read my mind? Was that why the guy in the truck was giving me the fish eye? White. Male. Says, "Hi," when he thinks, Sure, we've embarrassed and humiliated prisoners of war (and, yes, sometimes water boarded them), but that is nothing compared to the systematic maiming and rape of civilians who disagree with the towel-headed dictator of whatever shit hole country the U.S. supposed to be equal to.

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Back on the Interstate we stopped outside of Weed (pop. 3,024) to have lunch at The Black Bear. A couple of buddies from Weed High School started the Black Bear and now have a chain reaching into Arizona and Nevada. I've eaten at three Black Bears, and the food is better and the atmosphere more homey than bigger chains, but the fare is just as high in fat and refined carbs. The regulars made me look svelte as I tried to put away a club sandwich that was too big to finish.

Taking turns driving, we turned off I-5 and took U.S. 97 across the Oregon frontier. We wanted to reach Bend by sunset. Bend was where the future husband of Amelia Earhart did PR work, getting paid for how many mentions he could get of the town in eastern papers. I was in the middle of my hundredth scrunching seat contortion when I realized: I'm not twenty; I don't have any dex; the goal isn't to make Acapulco in one shot. I had matured, and so had my sorry backside. I did not feel nostalgic when we pulled into Bend, the place I thought I might settle five years earlier.

Flashback
Five years ago we lived in L.A.'s biological sink. Three things stood out. One was all around us. One was on television. One was in impressions we each received that we believed had supernatural origin.

One evening it took two hours in traffic to go to a function six miles away. No one had bombed a bridge. There wasn't an accident or an earthquake. No cops were dropping spike strips to shred the tires of a guy with no shirt. A perfectly normal evening.

A hurricane in New Orleans isn't abnormal, but Katrina was worse than most, and one of the indelible images was that of cars with full tanks of gas running out of fuel stuck on the on-ramps to freeways. People flock to the roads in disasters and war. You see their bewildered faces in documentaries in which they are pushing handcarts to...well, they don't really know...but away from the Germans, the Japanese, the North Koreans. Someday it could be from plague or a suitcase nuke or food rioting. Whatever the madness is, if the roads are packed, you're not going to get to where you want to go. Better to be already there.



Finally, I had a thought I sensed came from the Lord: "I don't want you in it, I don't want you of it, I want you out of it." I believed the "it" was the entertainment industry. With upcoming films like
Machete promoting race war, garnering name actors to star in it and a mainline company like Fox to distribute, coupled with the usual standbys of pornography, rap music and the occult indoctrination of children, I felt as though I was surrounded by angels gathering for the last days. Even if I were not a corruptor of the innocent (which is debatble) and even if I could escape being thrown into the sea with a millstone around my neck, I might drown in the splashing all around.

For almost a decade, every year getting worse, I had been hitting my head against rejections and excuses that seemed to have no rational basis. People who once might have hired me were retiring because their projects weren't cutting edge enough to titillate the appetites of those in charge of financing. A class action lawsuit filed by several writers has established a pattern of discrimination based on age. I would add, as would others, that being a Christian and politically conservative certainly didn't help. Liberal fascists abound in the industry, and they have messages they want to spew to the public: one of them is that people like me are dangerous fanatics.

My wife also had an impression. She was reading the Bible when a passage suddenly grabbed her attention:
The LORD our God said to us at Horeb, "You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Break camp and advance..." (Deuteronomy 1.6, New International Version)

We ran these impression by trusted friends and believed we had confirmation to move. We checked out Bend because it briefly looked as if our son-in-law might be transferring there. My wife and I loved what we saw of the high desert town. I was particularly impressed by a Goth girl. She looked mean as a snake as she came out of a coffee bar, threw down a gum wrapper and continued for about four paces before she stopped, turned around, picked up the wrapper and put it in a trash container. Her looks may have been inspired by the cultural sewage coming out of California, but her attitude was far from it.

Then, instead of moving to Bend, our son-in-law and daughter had babies. We were certain God wanted us to be wherever those children were. Aren't we always certain about what we want?

That put us in a small town in the East Bay, an easily walked mile from our grandchildren and within regular visiting distance of our son. It had been years since I felt so happy, especially in the summer when I could swim with my grandchildren under deep warm indigo skies. Traffic was better. People were less edgy. Couples had more babies than dogs.

Gradually, though, it was clear that Lord wanted us to move on. What we want isn't always what He wants.

"Good-by, my sweetheart."

"I love you, buddy boy."

Into Oregon
It's amazing what Californians can do to a patch of high desert. The hardscrabble values of the natives don't attract Californians. Cheaper land prices do, and the fantasy that we can change the world to fit our image, and this time it will work. Everything will be beautiful and nothing will hurt.

We bring tolerant ways, laid back ways, feel good childish ways that are based on ideas that don't require much thought and with hardly a second thought can be transformed with a vengeance. Thirty, forty years ago it was cool to have gay friends. Now you're homophobic if you don't favor same sex marriage.

Once upon a time it was enlighten to march with the United Farm Workers Union. Now it's expedient to ignore the dwindling jobs and worsening poverty of farm laborers because the more trendy cause of environmentalism dictates that agricultural irrigation be curtailed in order to save tiny fish and slimy snails.

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Decades ago Californians emptied the loony bins, excusing anti-social nuttiness as free speech. We taught self-esteem instead of the Three Rs. We kept voting to tax and regulate productivity until it costs too much to do business. We let litigation scare off risk taking. We allowed mediocre politicians to entrench themselves. We bought into politically correct media that refused to question our decline and in bizarre twists of logic preached that it was good for us.

Oregon is worse. Values oriented voters in rural areas hardly count against the population of the urban belt between Portland and Salem which is pretty much California Cold. Throw in emigrants from the warmer climes, and there is a majority for assisted suicide, legalized pot, and the Oregon Health Plan. The latter is hemorrhaging money like bankrupt Commonwealth Care in Massachusetts and damn near bankrupt Tenn Care in Al Gore's home state. Oregon has the second highest jobless rate in the nation (at 12.4% it is sandwiched between Michigan's 14.1% and South Carolina's 12.1%). Public workers in Oregon average incomes of $83,000 a year or about 30% more than private sector counterparts. In the last three years the state racked up a $1 billion deficit, lost 40,000 private sector jobs and added 25,000 new public employees. The Democratic-controlled legislature gave public workers a $259 million pay raise, making sure the state thrives, as it were, as a socialist society in which citizens increasingly need the public trough to feed.

What happened was telegraphed with telling force in a 1982 Travis McGee novel,
Cinnamon Skin, by John D. MacDonald. McGee is in Utica, New York, with his friend, an economist named Meyer. They're trying to track down a man who is a serial killer. They're having dinner in a restaurant, and McGee studies the patrons.

Politicos, many of them young. Lawyers and elected officials and appointees. Some with their wives or girls. It looked to me as if a lot of city and county business might be transacted here. They had a lot of energy, those Italianate young men, a feverish gregariousness. I wondered why they seemed so frantic about having a good time.

Meyer studied the question and finally said, "It's energy without a productive outlet, I think. Most of these Mohawk Valley cities are dying, have been for years: Albany, Troy, Amsterdam, Utica, Syracuse, Rome. And so they make an industry out of government. State office buildings in the decaying downtowns. A proliferation of committees, surveys, advisory boards, commissions, legal actions, grants, welfare, zoning boards, road departments, health care programs...thousands upon thousands of people making a reasonably good living working for city, county, state and federal governments in these dwindling cities, passing the same tax dollar back and forth. I think that man, by instinct, is productive. He wants to make something, a stone ax, a bigger cave, better arrows, whatever. But these bright and energetic men know in their hearts that they are not making anything. They use every connection, every contact, every device, to stay within reach of public monies. Working within an abstraction is just not a totally honest way of life. Hence the air of jumpy joy, the backslaps ringing too loudly, compliments too extravagant, toasts too ornate, marriages too brief, lawsuits too long-drawn, obligatory forms too complex and too long. Their city has gone stale. As the light wanes, they dance."


Dancing through Bend
In Bend I couldn't find what first had attracted me—a barn-like store advertising guns and tobacco in ten-foot letters. Five years later there seemed to be more boutiques and bigger homes, everything overbuilt because the tech-and-leverage barons thought they were clever enough to keep boom times going forever. The wife pulled into a Seven-Eleven so that I could jump out to buy a map to re-orient ourselves to the town. At an intersection as I was turning the map this way and that, a woman stepped off the sidewalk and knocked on my window.

"Are you folks looking to buy a home?"

That was as close as I got to a panhandler with a "I'll work for food" sign. Score one for Bend. Another good thing was that the hotel where we initially wanted to stay was booked solid with National Guardsmen.

The third good thing—motorists cannot fill their own gas tanks. The task is reserved for service station attendants, assuring them minimum wage jobs. This is the kind of make-work legislation that actually helps people directly and doesn't require a lot of bureaucrats to administer. The additional cost to consumers is still less than what motorists endure in California where nozzles are fitted with vapor condoms. These are mainly produced by a single company forever lobbying for more refined environmental devices, and paying legislators a pretty penny to save our air. Environmentalism has its idealists, but on the legal and political end it is a racket through and through.

There was a thirty-minute wait to get a seat in The Deschutes Brewery Pub where bunches of young people held up the walls having no idea that time is always running out. My wife doesn't mind waiting because she has been hospitalized only once with a serious condition whereas I've flat lined three times. Not that I'm counting, but rather than argue, I simply headed across the street.

High_tides_bend_oregon

Mrs. Andrus followed. Some day she may not. I've been married to different women with the same name for forty-one years. They try to fool me that they're really one person, but this trip was bringing out a whole new woman. Exciting in some ways.

The fourth good thing about Bend is the High Tides Seafood Grill. The two starters we ordered—cup-sized portions of clam chowder and oyster stew—were creamy, delicately seasoned and soothed the appetite for anything more to eat. My oyster stew was so good, I had flashes of tolerance as the Californian at the next table gushingly described all the wine tours she had been on.

On the Road Again
Columbia_River_near_The_Dalles
The next morning we reached the Dalles, that section of the Oregon Trail that forced pioneers to barge the rest of the way down the Columbia River. Basalt and granite blocks stick out of sedimentary formations that line the gorge. Nowadays good highways rim the Oregon and Washington sides, and the air currents whipping in between draw wind surfers from all over.

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We bridged the river at Kennewick, Washington. We still had another night and hundreds of miles to go before we reached our destination, but here is where I want to pause.

Kennewick is the site of an archeological find discovered by two college students watching a hydroplane race in 1996. Their accident became serious business for Native American activists, federal judges and scientist from all over. The controversy was twofold. According to relatively recent law, ancient remains are supposed to turned over to Indian authorities who can give their ancestors dignified burials. Bone collectors at museums and colleges are not to stand in the way of cultural respect, and in many cases have had to give up ancient finds. But Kennewick Man had Caucasoid characteristics, and although claimed by the areas five Indian Nations, the DNA of those Native Americans was Asiatic in origin, while this boy, along with about nine other finds like him scattered across America, definitely is not.

kennewick
Speculation puts Kennewick Man's origins all over the map—from Europe to the southernmost Islands of Japan. What's clear is that some 9,000-plus years ago Caucasoid people were among the so-called First Americans. Given a tell-tale arrow wound, their neighbors weren't exactly friendly.

Some commentators use Kennewick Man to propose that racial distinctions are arbitrary, hardly definitive in spite of anatomy that tends toward some groups but not to others. Historically, race has been used by one culture to build walls against another. Or shoot arrows. I happen to agree, which is why I find such things as hate crime legislation, hiring goals and much of political correctness to be intrinsically racist and therefore repugnant.

But I'm in a minority. In way I am like Kennewick Man. An oddity. A relic. I may end up no more than a fossil frozen in the past. Or I may turn out to be part of a remnant of something that survives of better days and better people. There is no guarantee for the future, only the ache for what has been left behind.

"See you soon, my sweetheart."

"Love you, buddy boy."