Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Disposer Blew and the Water Flew

So there I was Sunday night staring blankly into a sink full of dirty bowls and pans left over from Gwynne's excursion into peanut butter cookie cooking excellence. I had just finished my second beer of the evening and normally would be cracking the third one within moments. For some reason I decided to roll up my sleeves and dispatch that dirty batch, the grunt's share of the cooking project.

As I broke out the scrubber and dish soap Gwynne gave me a strange look but went back to her book. Within minutes I was done, the feeling of having accomplished my largest project of the weekend fresh in my mind. Just before cracking my third brew I rinsed out the sink and, the water still running, turned on the disposal. A noise that didn't sound like the thrashing of mangled carrots, celery stalks or cabbage leaves assailed my senses. In a flash I reached over and turned off the disposal letting it's grinders come to a halt. With that innate fear-part of my DNA telling me not to do it, I lowered my left hand (I'm right handed) into the drain. I immediately felt metal that was not the disposal manglers. I gripped the remains and pulled it out. A spoon! A measuring spoon! Gwynne's measuring spoon, part of a set that she has had since she and her mother began baking cookies and cakes many years ago. The thin metal utensil (probably tin) looked like a piece of gray broccoli that had been run through a jet propelled Cuisinart.

She looked at me from the kitchen table and said, "That looks like the remains of my measuring spoon set." "Yup," I said, "I think this is the tablespoon." I fished out some more memories of her childhood and she identified each spoon size. I was suddenly aware that the water was still running and that my feet were getting wet. "I wonder where the 1/2 teaspoon is," she murmured as I stared down at my feet and belatedly turned off the water. "I think I know," I said as I opened the cupboard door underneath the sink. As water dripped out of the cabinet I crouched down and looked at the disposal. I gritted my teeth and said, "blank!"

Sticking out of the side of the disposal, like a piece of shrapnel blown through the housing of an unlubricated transmission from a 1971 Ford Maverick, was the 1/2 teaspoon. Water forced it's way through the opening and dripped onto the floor of the cabinet. I quickly pulled the garbage bag, Windex, Comet, Fantastic, grease jar, sponges, brushes and floor wax out of the cabinet and soaked up the water with every towel in the kitchen. Realizing that the next day was MLK Day and a holiday I resigned myself to what I was going to be doing on that Monday; buying a new garbage disposal and installing it like I did a couple of years ago when the old one seized up after an overdose of potato peels. Just what I'm great at; on the job plumbing. Yah right. I mopped up what water I could and cracked that third beer.

The next day we stood in the aisle at Lowe's staring at the garbage disposal (also called a food waste disposer) display weighing our options: the Insinkerator (which I'll call the ISE) or the Badger. The difference between the two names (which were both built by ISE) was like the difference between a Lexus and a Toyota. The ISE looked cooler, was quieter and had more options. The Badger was the stripped down version, basic looking and after activating the shelf-mounted display, noisier. Gwynne said, "I never liked the old one, it was way too loud." I'm now thinking was this a plan to sacrifice her treasured measuring spoon set for a quieter and cooler looking disposal?

OK, that left the ISE which offered models that included everything from racing stripes to a double barreled carburetor to leather seats to the high def version on the Satellite locater. After doing everything but take it for a test drive we settled on the Evolution Spacesaver version with Sound Seal & Multi Grind Tecnoligia, (whoops I meant Technology, I was reading the French description) with a 5/8 horsepower motor and racing hubcaps.

I was aware of a guy like me lurking in the background as we made our disposer decision and as we were leaving I noticed a small plastic container of plumbers putty and a few pieces of plastic pipe that had been placed on one of the nearby shelves. The putty container looked familiar and I stopped and picked it up, inspecting it. My fellow do-it-yourselfer glanced over from his disposer inspection and said, "That stuff is mine in case you were wondering." I didn't take offense as I knew it probably took him an hour to find his supplies, another hour to choose everything and God knows how many hours it was going to take to glue and connect it all to his new ISE or Badger. Suddenly I recognized where I had seen the container of plumbers putty; at home, downstairs in the basement inside one of our storage cabinets. "Yah," I said to the guy, "I've already got some of this at home; your going to need it to seal off your sink gasket." He stared at me as I put down his putty probably grinding his teeth at the presumptuous know-it-all. "He'll probably put it in upside down," I thought.

As we were leaving I'm sure Gwynne was wondering what I knew about sink gaskets and why I would have plumbers putty in my arsenal of fix-it tricks. I was wondering too because I couldn't remember when I had ever used the putty before and if I hadn't then how could I ever have installed a garbage disposal? That question was answered after we had returned home, I had unpacked everything and was reading the installation directions. I looked at the circular flange mounted to the bottom of the sink then, using my Christmas gift flashlight, looked in the cabinet underneath. Yup nothing had changed, the the disposal was still there with the 1/2 teaspoon protruding from the housing's wall. I could see a mounting bracket that was somehow attached to that flange inside the sink. I looked at the instructions again; all twenty-six detailed steps when it started to dawn on me. I stood up and looked closely at the flange again. Stamped into the gray steel on the top of the curve was the word IN-SINK-ERATOR with ISE DISPOSER printed on the lower part of the curve. As if seeing it for the first time in my life I turned to Gwynne as said, "I didn't put this in!" Seated at the kitchen table again, she looked up from her book and said, "Right, I think Jim Curley did."

"Oh blank," I said again. Jim Curley, the Einstein of appliance installation. This is a guy who could build a washing machine from the ground up with his eyes closed and one arm tied behind his back. If he had gotten into computers he'd be the guy you would call to restore your hard drive after it had frozen into a chaotic mess. If he had been an auto mechanic he'd be fixing a custom NASCAR engine while riding underneath the car on a skateboard. He always showed up to a job in a freshly laundered blue jumpsuit, a smile on face and all the right parts in his pristine white van. I hated him because he was just cheerily too-o-o-o good and he was retired.

I stared at the installation instructions which rivaled blueprints for construction of a nuclear reactor and contemplated either begging Jim Curley to come out of retirement like Michael Jordan, tracking down my own plumber/appliance installer or tackling the project myself. I read through the twenty-six detailed steps again then stared at Gwynne who was again happily immersed in her book. "We can do this," I announced. She looked at me over the tops of her glasses. "We?" she said.

So with Gwynne narrating, "If you are replacing an existing disposer, continue to Step 2" (yup that's us), and me plumbing I detached the old disposer and lowered it to the cabinet's floor. "Hey it's a Badger," I said noting the label on the budget version of the ISE. "That's why it was so noisy," said Gwynne, Ms. Disposer Expert. At Step 4 we reached the electrical part which is as scary as putting your hand inside the mouth of a real badger or a garbage disposal. She said, "There's all kinds of exclamation marks and warnings that say, WARNING: SHOCK HAZARD!! I cringed inwardly and outwardly and since I didn't want any communication problems in regard to whether or not I had a chance of being electrocuted, I read the instructions myself; at least five times. Steps #4 & #5 basically involved turning the power off at the source (these are code words for knowing where to find the breaker box). This is the way for the electrician (ME!) to avoid the chance of suffering any lasting effects from what would amount to be an INSIDE THE HOUSE LIGHTNING STRIKE! Since brain damage or paralysis were not options I was considering for the plumbing project Gwynne and I perfected a system of plugging her hair dryer into the plug outlet on the disposer on/off switch, turning the hair dryer on and me turning breaker switches off and on in the basement. I could hear the hair dryer (which doesn't have a muffler) running all the way in the basement as I turned breakers off and on. Three of the breakers were marked Kitchen and none of them turned the hair dryer off. This was confirmed by Gwynne, calling downstairs, that YES the hair dryer was still running. (That means that the electricity is still running LIVE to the disposal!) Finally I noticed an unmarked breaker switch at the lower level of the box and I turned it off. The hair dryer's noise immediately subsided! ALL RIGHT! I HAVE A CHANCE OF LIVING THROUGH THIS!

From there our luck changed as: 1. I detached the electrical connections from the disposer, 2. realized we could skip immediately to Step #17 as we could re-use the existing mounting assembly because we were using an ISE model and 3. Charlotte, our twenty-two year old daughter, showed up early for a home-cooked dinner. I was getting ready to re-attach the electrical connections to the new ISE as she inspected the instructions. "Hey dad be careful," she said. "There's a WARNING: SHOCK HAZARD! thingy here when you're doing that electrical stuff." I thought, "It's too late for that." "Thanks," I said, "I'll be careful."

With the electrical completed I figured we'd be done after attaching the new ISE disposer to the old Badger mounting-assembly then connecting some hoses. "Wrong you rookie amateur you're going to have to "pay your dues," the do-it-yourself Gods were whispering to me. With Charlotte narrating, as Gwynne had gone back to her book, I connected the Anti-Vibration Tailpipe to the disposer then prepared to mount the new disposer underneath the sink. First I inspected the old Badger and lined it up with the new mounting bracket which I didn't need because, as you may remember, it was identical to what was already connected under the drain opening. "Piece of cake," I thought as I screwed the two parts together. Charlotte nodded, seeing how the two pieces fit snuggly just like in the instructions.

Not able to fit into the cabinet, I balanced the new and heavy ISE in the palm of my right hand and pushed it up toward the mounting ring. I couldn't see if the two pieces were fitting together but I turned the disposer anyway expecting it to seed into the bracket, but it didn't. I couldn't get my left hand inside the cabinet to take the weight so time after time I pushed up only to have the ISE fail to fit then drop out of the hole. Charlotte could see my dilemma and offered encouragement but couldn't really help. Gwynne looked up from her book but she's real smart so she didn't say much.

Finally while taking a break with my right arm quivering uselessly, Charlotte bent down and inspected the connection I had made with the old Badger and the new mounting bracket. She turned them back an forth no doubt remembering the old adage her father had told her many years ago. "Righty tighty, lefty loosey." Scooting across the floor she said, "Dad move over to the other of the cabinet and let me slide in there, I'll help." I shifted over with the disposer in my lap and with a young girls flexibility she shimmied all the way into the cabinet and helped insert the new disposer into the mounting bracket. "OK turn," she said. I did as directed then she said, "Turn it the other way, to the right, you've been turning it to the left." I pushed up and twisted and the ISE locked tightly into place. "It's in," she said, able to look from her position directly at the connection.

"Well no kidding," I said laughing. I looked at my red-haired partner stuffed next to me in the cabinet and said, "I appreciate you showing me how to install a food waste disposer." "Hey dad any time you need any help just call," she said looking very smug. Gwynne looked up from her book and offered her congratulations. After connecting the drain and waste pipes we gave our new ISE a test drive and it performed with whispering perfection. I guess this shows that anything a certified plumber/appliance guy can do three amateurs can do just as well. Plus I've got a full container of unused plumbers putty all ready for the next project.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Good Flicks & Guilty Pleasures

There are all sorts of classifications for rating movies. Some reviewers use the basic, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor or Bomb rating system. Others use stars from zero to five with a 1/2 a star as a way to further define a movie. Roger Ebert, who is my "go to guy" for movies, uses the "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" rating system. In other words he recommends you either go to the movie or don't go to a movie. Back when Gene Siskel and he hosted "Sneak Previews" on PBS you could just about guarantee that if they both gave a "thumbs up" to a movie that it was worth going to see and you were probably going to like it. If they split on their ratings of a movie then you were gambling on whether you were going to like it and if they both gave it a "thumbs down" then you got what you deserved when it turned out to be a pooch.

One of the many things I liked about the show was the prickly relationship the two articulate men had with each other. They seemed like guys who were very different but had a common bond in their love of the movies. Guys who wouldn't necessarily hang out in a bar together but would enjoy a conversation about John Ford or Orson Welles. They were similar in that they were both very smart, they both had quick, knowing wits and certain aspects of their individual personalities represented the "everyman" in their reviews. There were times when one of them got a little "high-minded" and the other would bring him back to earth with a sarcastic comment or a pointed look. It was funny to watch Roger as Gene talked about how a movie could have been better if the scriptwriter had done this or that or how another actor could have interpreted a character better than so and so. Finally Roger would say "Fine but that's not the movie we're reviewing; thumbs up or thumbs down?" You could see Gene's frustration at Roger's bluntness but invariably he would give a thumbs down because the movie didn't quite measure up to what he thought it could have been. After watching the two of them for years you learned to read between the lines when they gave a guarded thumbs up or thumbs down. Like maybe the hesitant thumbs up was because of a director's reputation (Scorsese) or the marginal thumbs down was because a movie was too violent (UNFORGIVEN).

If you only go to a movie because of the hunky, hottie star or the avant garde director then you have only yourself to blame if you end up going to a bad flick. As you no doubt have found out a name actor (George Clooney/THE GOOD GERMAN), a trendy actress (Sarah Jessica Parker/DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE MORGANS?) or award winning director (Francis Ford Copolla/YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH) is no guarantee that the movie is going to be worth your time and money to see. If you are willing to go to a movie without doing your homework then good luck.

Hey, I "get" the thrill of sitting in a bustling theater with the anticipation of seeing a good flick thick in the air; people are chatting with excitement as they glance back toward the projection booth while the ushers are encouraging movie goers to move to the center of their rows to fill up the dwindling empty seats. Finally the lights go down and we all sit in the dark impatiently watching the Coke commercials and previews of coming attractions, many long minutes pass, you check your watch when finally the MGM Lion or the Columbia Lady appear on the screen. Then.... the movie unfolds in glorious truth. You smile, you laugh, you nod, you hold back the tears, you jerk in your seat and stifle a scream or....something starts to turn in your stomach and it's not the mealy microwaved hot dog. You swallow and look over at your companion who is already looking at you. You each grimace but turn your heads back to the screen, optimistic that what you have seen so far will get better; but it doesn't. You trade looks with your companion again and you shake your heads. You look at your watch then settle in for the inevitable.... a bad flick. You gambled and lost because you didn't do your research.

You know how it happens. It could have been that cool trailer on HG TV that showed the only scenes worth seeing, or maybe it was that quick blurb on the radio that revealed the only two funny lines in the whole movie or maybe it was that big ad on that cool website showing those two attractive lovebirds or it was that dreaded endorsement from that geeky guy who has that cubicle next to you at the office or that suspect "can't miss" thumbs up from the friend of a friend; yup they sucked you in...again! You have to realize that in these days with movie admission being in the double figures along with the high prices of popcorn, jujubes, milk duds, hot dogs and pop you have to be careful about your entertainment investments. Plus, now that automated and online ticket purchasing have been instituted full body scans are probably the next option to keep smuggled snacks at a minimum; that's a few more bucks out of your pocket.

I can't help you in the chow department but if people do their homework they have a better shot at improving their movie going experience. One of those resources for checking out movies before you blow it again is a website called rottentomatoes.com. Their niche is to compile reviews from noted, established or "accepted" reviewers who have met a standard. Rottentomatoes gives individual reviews a numerical rating e.g. 25%, 60% or 90% then combines it with all the other reviews into a single numeric rating. A rating of 60% or higher is given a FRESH rating, signified by a plump red tomato and a rating of 59% or lower is given a ROTTEN rating, signified by a splattered green tomato. Along with their ratings the website provides trailers, industry insider stuff and other movie info. Check it out. Anyway it's cool because the key to it is you can check out the individual reviews and focus in on a particular reviewer (like Roger Ebert, Cole Smithey, James Berardinelli or Rossiter Drake) that you like, respect or hate. They have another feature which I haven't checked out yet that can compare what you like to individual reviewers. As an example you might find a reviewer you agree with 80% of the time so you would respect their rating as opposed to someone you agree with 40% of the time. This would be akin to you being at the movie and critiquing it without actually being there; like your own personal remote reviewer.

Be careful though because a high rating can also mean disaster. It means that a bunch of "experts" who spend a lot of their work and free time eating mealy popcorn and sitting in the dark think they have a greater understanding than the average viewer of movies and the movie industry. They may have met a star or two or a director or a gaffer or a best boy (you know all those people who get credited at the end of the movie as you are heading for your car) or they may have taken a film study class online or have ten pages written of a screenplay. Sometimes these folks get a little too serious about the whole movie going experience.

This is where the average movie goer struggles with the difference between critically acclaimed movies that have received rave reviews from all the "name" reviewers but when viewed in the cold dark light of a movie theater they come up short. Is it because we, the average viewer, just aren't sophisticated enough to intuit the subtle shades of meaning in a French movie with sub-titles or understand the affected dialogue between the sophisticated co-stars (Ralph Fiennes & Keira Knightley/THE DUCHESS) or appreciate the retro black and white color definition that accentuates the moody atmosphere (another French movie with sub-titles), or celebrate the incredibly talented actor who can cry on cue not once, not twice but three times (Sean Penn/MYSTIC PIZZA)?

There is a difference between what is "critically acclaimed" and what is entertaining. Do people go to movies to be lectured with a boring point of view or to have some unsubtle political message jammed down their throat or do they go to get away from real life and laugh at stupid stuff or be scared witless or to be breathlessly inspired or to be eye poppingly excited? I think most people go to movies to escape for two hours and to be transported to a world they will never visit or experience. People don't want to leave a movie theater depressed or confused or sad; they want to be entertained. I "get" the thing about messages and craft etc. but that's for the pros not the typical movie fan.

You want to know what my definition of a great "flick" is? It's a movie that you like so much that you can't wait to tell someone, anyone about, it's a movie that you will pay to see again within a couple of days of viewing it for the first time, then you will by the DVD the following day, you will drop everything on a sunny summer day and watch it on cable to the hooting scorn of your wife and daughters and you will buy the soundtrack for it even if it was performed by Vanilla Ice or an American Idol drop out.

And finally there is that movie classification invented by Siskel and Ebert to cover that unique movie that seems to connect with you on a level that is hard to describe. This is called the Guilty Pleasure and once or twice a year Roger and Gene would devote their entire program to movies they liked but had a sliver of guilt attached to that opinion. (Roger/THE TALL GUY & Gene/BLIND FURY) This is a movie that no matter how guilty you feel about liking it there is nothing you can do to hide that affection. For whatever it's attraction; it's trashiness, it's "off the wall" humor", it's cool star or unbelievable villain; you just like it and tough for anyone else because this is your baby! It doesn't have to be on your all time top twenty or even on your favorites list and in certain company you might not volunteer your affection for it so you keep it to yourself; your treasured Guilty Pleasure.

Here's five of my guilty pleasures you probably will never find on anybody's top fifty list, what are yours? 1.VANISHING POINT 2. LIFEFORCE 3.THE HIDDEN 4. GOIN' SOUTH 5. MIAMI BLUES

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Scott's Memorial


Yesterday on January 2, 2010 in the most amazing outpouring of love seen in Madison Park since the passing of Judge John J. McGilvra over one hundred years ago, friends and relatives of Scott Earl McKee memorialized his passing. With people lined out the door of McGilvra's Restaurant and up East Madison Street over four hundred well-wishers told Scott stories and drank his beer.

As if respecting the occasion, the Winter Seattle weather turned unseasonably mild as Madison Park residents stood on the sidewalk renewing old acquaintances and introducing themselves to strangers. Under the sunny skies we all searched for the "Scott connection" and it was a joy when that connection happened with someone you had just met. Invariably the connection had to do with a lifetime neighborhood guy with a generous nature, who had the "know how" to fix things, possessed an easy smile and had the ability to explain things to people who didn't have a clue about driving a nail, opening a can of paint, turning a screw in the proper direction or turning off the electricity before sticking their finger into an electric socket.

Former school mate and UW football star Greg Alex, there with his wife and granddaughter, talked about Scott's old station wagon that carried his pals to school; Edwin Weihe attending with his wife Noreen, recounted Scott loaning him tools for 30+ years and Scott's wife of six years, Kay McKee, remembered Scott's joy of being a father to his new step-sons Parker, Colin and Andrew.

Scott's mother Lola McKee was surrounded by her daughters Jane and Jeri, their children Kelli, Daryl, Todd, Lisa and Bryan and cousins Kirk McKee, Betty, Jack, Paul and Sandi and her husband Bill. With all of these loved ones attending along with her Madison Park neighbors, Mrs. McKee seemed to thrive off the positive energy emanating from the crowd. She looked radiant as one old friend recounted seeing Scott walking down 41st Avenue East a few weeks earlier as the neighbor was on a run and Scott called out, "You're getting slower!" She laughed recognizing Scott's ironic wit.

Mingling in the jam-packed McGilvra's, hosted by owner Peter Johnson, were lifetime residents John Gallen co-owner of Best Buds with Brenda Lorentzen and her sons Rory, noted arborist & Ross seen on "Deadliest Catch" as a commercial fisherman; Jim Hagen and his family and father, Steve Day and his wife Kim(Hagen)Day, along with her sister Nan & husband Ken owners of Nanny's Daycare. Also attending was the Stephens' daughter Alexandra, former soccer star with the McGilvra Raptors coached by the legendary Will Lomen, the former champion runner and author of the best-selling novel DEVON LOCH who was seen holding court with wife and banker Gwynne Lomen and Sally and Burt Straight 30+ year residents of Madison Park who were known for their wild makeup, weird outfits and unconventional behavior in their rabid support of their daughter's soccer team.

Other lifetime residents represented were graphic designer Brad Ingham of Zeppelin Design known for inventing the award winning Kid Valley hamburger chain logo and Neil Murphy well-known entertainment entrepreneur hanging out with former Attic Manager Rob Gentry now a "community organizer" which gives him all the qualifications needed to run for President and Scott's pal for 30+ years Mike Lazzereti known Attic and Red Onion supporter. Laughing with Mrs.McKee was another lifetime resident, Madison Park raconteur & artist Dick Lehman and his wife Karen. Dick writes the Award winning column in the Madison Park Times that chronicles the history of Madison/Washington Park. Unable to attend but filing reports from a secret vacation site was noted Madison Park Blogger, Bryan Tagas, who moonlights as a banker and real estate dilettante.

Other lifetime residents seen were land barons Dick and Nancy Clark, their daughter Carrie and Nancy's sister Lexi Robbins along with a fine representation of the Robbins clan: sons Todd & Spafford, former valedictorian at McGilvra Elementary School, his sister Sarah, brother Howard and his son former Garfield football star Bo, all six foot eight of him. Real estate mogul Tom Maloney and wife Christine, the girls tennis coach at Holy Names were seen chatting with Tom's mother Jan owner of Park Travel for over 30 years.

Lifetime Madison Parkers architect Dan Clancy and his wife Adele schmoozed with their neighbors Dave Hutchens and his wife Jennifer the award winning designer who, along with Lola McKee, had a major hand in organizing the wildly successful Madison Park Book Fair this summer. Noted rock and roll stars Paul and Nancy Dobrin, career residents, modestly signed autographs amongst a hoard of rabid fans.

Keeping a low profile was petroleum recycler & former IBM executive Hoby Douglass who is in the Madison Park top five of people who solicited the most free advice from Scott McKee and is in the top 1% of people who still need to return borrowed tools.

Thirty+ year residents Dr. Steve Chentow and his lovely wife Laurel attended but had to leave early because Steve thought they had to pick the kids up from soccer practice. Attending solo was another former Garfield football star and McGilvra soccer standout William Schulze one of the heirs to the Schulty's sausage fortune.

Another former athletic star attending was McGilvra Bandit scoring machine Connor Casabeaux seen with his sister Andrea and his ravishing mother Erin Gailey a 20+ Madison Park resident and neighborhood insider. Her neighbor, 20+ year resident Linda Lesnick was there with her daughter Lauren.

Others honoring Scott were real estate grande dame Janet Rooks; 20+ year resident Kathryne "Kit" McGarry mother of crusading attorney Tim McGarry; Kay McKee's brother Bo Peck, wife Susan(Rolfe) and daughter Analise; Mark Lunsford and his wife Lynn who emmigrated to Madison Park over twenty years ago from the far away kingdom of Anacortes and Marcy Rawn who grew up on 39th Ave. E. and used to help Spafford Robbins with his ABC's.

To the unnamed hundreds who attended Scott's Memorial you are honored by your commitment to the first family of Madison Park, the McKees. It was a great day made even greater by the hope that Scott knew we all loved him and will never forget him. Meanwhile life goes on and as always Madison Park Hardware will open at 8 o'clock sharp Monday January 11th. Scott won't be there but the memories of him will never leave.

If you would like to read Bryan Tagas' Memorial of Scott on his blog click here.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Veteran's Day

I went to see my brother Terry on Veteran's Day and it's always the same. I try to be stoic and just say to myself I can handle it, but on the drive out my memories always turn to what a great guy he was and how I wish he was here so we could grow old together. I wish I had known the wife he never had and I wish my two daughters could have had cousins to play with when they were younger. Although I was two and a half years older he was bigger, faster and stronger than me. Oh yes, he was better looking too. Smarter? Probably me, by a nose.

Growing up and all through our school years we were best buddies. His friends were my friends and my friends were his friends. Our mother always said, "It's good for you boys to get along because you'll always have each other". We could not possibly have dreamed how horribly wrong she would be.

Whenever I would turn out for a sport he would come to all of my games, just itching at his chance to play when he was old enough. Then wouldn't you know it, by the time he was finished playing he would find a way to top whatever I had accomplished. One of the happiest days of my life was when I received a registered letter while stationed at Camp Lejueune, North Carolina. I was about a month shy of shipping out for Vietnam and seriously reconsidering my decision to enlist in the Marine Corps. Upon opening the envelope I found an Income Tax return check for a whopping $125 and a letter from my mother. My heart began to pound as I read her account of Terry's thrilling run in the District 10 Mile Championships. Although a fourth place finisher in the City Championships a week earlier, he felt he could beat the same City runners and the best from the rest of the District.

With a raucous following of his best friends cheering him on, one of whom had already qualified for State in the Mile Relay, Terry charged into the lead at the start of the final lap and fought off all challengers for the next quarter of a mile. After breaking the tape with a ten yard lead his friends, led by our mother, rushed from the stands and mobbed him. As I stood alone in the Base parking lot I shot my fist into the air and shouted with joy.

Two years later three of those friends and Terry had enlisted in the Marine Corps and were in Vietnam. They all made it back alive except Terry.

People gravitated to him. He was a young man with a special aura. I'm not saying that because he was my brother. Ask anyone. Girls liked him because of his good looks and natural charm and guys liked being around him because of the girls, his sense of humor and his easy confidence.

The summer before his sophomore year in high school we were visiting friends in California and while riding a bicycle one night he was hit by a car. Thrown through the air, he landed on his back and skidded into a three-foot gap between a fire hydrant and a telephone pole. When I found him he was in a great deal of pain but joked that he could see he was going to hit the fire hydrant so he maneuvered himself in the air to miss it. He had gashes on his back that required fifty stitches and five cracked vertebrae but he was alive and I thanked God for that. His injuries prevented him from turning out for football but the circumstances led to his successful high school running career and a college scholarship.

Our mother used to say that the way Terry landed was a miracle and the reason it happened was because God was saving him for something important. We all believed it. We used to call it the "Lomen luck". When I got back from Vietnam, sane and in one piece, I knew the "Lomen luck" was real. I could recount a minimum of six events that would have kept me from coming home alive. From comrades in front and behind me being killed, to being pulled into an underground river and almost drowning, to my missing a helicopter flight that was shot down, the "Lomen luck" protected me for twelve months and twenty-one days. The "Lomen luck" ran out for Terry after four months and seven days and it turned out God wasn't saving him for anything. Maybe he had already been called.

Somewhere there is a woman who might be married, has a wonderful husband and a house full of great kids or she might be someone who is happy to be by herself and puts her energy into a career that is extremely successful or maybe she is just getting by and has taken a lot of lumps from life. Whoever she is, every once in a while she is going to remember something that happened to her when she was very little. She might remember it because it is indelibly imprinted in her mind or maybe she remembers it because she still has a clipping from the Seattle Times or the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. At a quiet time the memory might be triggered by some unknown reason and she will drift back to a time when little girls played with dolls and dreamed of white knights from children's stories read to them by their parents or maybe as she watches her children splashing in Lake Washington on a sunny summer day or maybe she opens a special box and brings out that faded newspaper clipping and reads about a boy who pulled her from the water after she had foolishly waded out too far and stepped into a drop-off. At that moment she will wonder who that boy named Terry was, what he looked like and how his life turned out. She will nudge the memory and fantasize she knows Terry and that he will always be there to talk to and protect her. Then she will snap back into reality and go on with her life.

It is probably better that she doesn't know what happened to that boy because it would spoil the fairy tale.