16 Jul On The Road With Jill

Jill and I have been traveling the Pacific Northwest, which Jill has never seen. Actually, I haven’t spent much time here myself. So we did some touristy things, like visit Pike’s Market — Seattle’s huge city market, which features lots of fresh produce and fish. In Baltimore, our equivalent is Lexington Market. In Philadelphia it’s the Reading Terminal Market. In Cleveland, it’s the Westside Market. We bought two half-flats of berries and ate them within two days. I did my From Animal House to Our House thing at the fabulous Elliott Bay book store in Seattle but didn’t have the turn-out we had hoped for because the host organization got the date wrong: they thought it was two weeks from now.That’s my fault, really. I should have been in closer contact with them but it’s been really hectic out here because I’m still booking the final dates for the tour and I’m also filming the documentary about preservation. Oh well.

Seattle is a bigger than it may seem at first glance. It’s got lots of big-city features — upscale fashions, huge highrises, and jammed traffic. Portland, by contrast, is more whole grain and manageable (easy to get around in). The food truck scene in Portland is huge — there are city lots devoted to them and so, you can be walking down town and suddenly you’re in the midst of a dozen food trucks. Portlanders claim that theirs is a premier foody city and I won’t argue with that. So far the best pizza I’ve had on the road comes from Ken’s Pizza in Portland.

The big surprise in Seattle was the private tour we got from Jann and Sid, new friends who showed us the houseboat scene. Some of the houseboats date back to about 1900. I’ve added that to my documentary about preservation. We got a tour of the waterfront in Jann and Sid’s 1955 Cris Craft motorboat. Houseboat life is not as free and easy as you might think. The houses are packed tightly together, which means you hear your neighbors doing just about anything. Wildlife on the water is rampant: Seattle’s house boat people have to deal with otters lounging on the float-logs under their houses, where the otters leave fish guts and otter poop. Also, they have to screen their gardens to keep beavers from chewing anything that has bark. Racoons are a problem too — one homeowner found them trying to push a bag of dogfood out the cat-door in the homeowner’s kitchen. Most houseboats are really small, 600-800 square feet. Originally they were single rooms perched on log floats for loggers.

Spokane offered some surprises: Auntie’s bookstore is remarkable — housed in a former 100-year-old department store that has been impressively restored. As in most cities, we could have spent more time in Spokane. We fell in love with the Parkade, a circa-1960s ultra-modern highrise parking structure. If it’s not on the National Register of Historic Places, it should be. It’s so Jetsons! Now we’re driving East. I’ve rounded the corner on my book tour, heading back home, which I’ll reach in three weeks. Jill isn’t used to seeing so many high mountains — she’s never been out West (except to California). It’s fun hearing her ooo! and ah! We just discovered today that we’ll be together for another day. We thought Jill had to leave tomorrow. This means we get to visit a ghost town that Jill has earmarked.

The sad news this week is that we got a call Friday (the 13th) from Mary, the owner of the kennel where our boxer, PJ, was staying. She announced that14-year-old PJ had taken a turn for the worst and had to be put down. We knew this was coming but we didn’t expect it so soon. Mary loved the dog and was crying as she broke the news. A shelter dog, PJ had been with us for 12 years, well beyond the usual 8 for his kind. So we can hardly protest his leaving. He was most dear to Jill’s heart. Though a big, even fearsome dog, he could be timid and, in fact, suffered from separation anxiety. Once, when we were entertaining friends, PJ — sequestered upstairs — chewed the casing off of the door, he was so upset.

We got PJ as a guard dog shortly after we moved into our big old house. We had never lived in such an urban setting, so we weren’t sure how safe we would be. PJ certainly announced that we weren’t alone, but over time it became clear to us that we didn’t need him to guard anything. But one day we had just finished having a yard sale and I had left to run an errand but had forgotten to close and lock the front door. A short time later, Jill, upstairs, heard a noise downstairs. When she came down with PJ at her side, she saw, at the bottom of the stairs, an intruder. He took one look at PJ, who was growling, and he backed out of the house.

PJ liked nothing more than running full-out through a field. I’ve never seen a dog run faster and with such abandon. In his later years he attempted such runs, unaware that his body couldn’t keep up, and so he’d fall apart in short order and end up limping back, which is to say that his spirit never submitted to his limitations. Now, when I think of him, I picture him young and running with abandon. We will miss him much.