Friday, September 3, 2021

Well, It’s Happened Again

I return to the fold

 

About every four or five years I get the itch.  I’m astride a perfectly good motorcycle – in this case, a flawless Yamaha Super Tenere (which I’d named Enrico) – when someone pushes out the next gotta-have – in this case, Moto Guzzi’s revised 2021 V-7.  Classic lines.  Throw-back style.  A bit more power than last year.  Italian mojo.  (Enrico has a whole lot going for him, but mojo isn’t very high on the list.)  Driving by our semi-local Guzzi dealer – making sure not to have gear with me so I can’t test ride, because I know what always happens when I test ride something – a beautiful gray V-7 Special sits gleaming in the western sun.  “If only it was blue,” I think.

 

Six weeks later, I swing by again, hoping beyond hope that there won’t be a blue one there, but alas…

 


…now one sits in my garage.  (Regarding Enrico, the shop in Windsor made me an offer I could not refuse.)

 


 

I’d purchased a lightly used 2007 B1100 Breva several years back, rode it for well over 10,000 miles and from the day I traded it in, regretted not having a Guzzi in the garage.

 


 

My taste in motorcycles has ebbed and flowed over the past 50 years.  A BMW RT was a great mile-muncher and my KLR introduced me to a family of black bears crossing a fire road.  The GSA was a wonderful all-purpose machine that carried me 600+ miles a day on several occasions.  And Enrico ran like a clock.  But the Breva had a degree of character none of the others seemed to offer.  And as I found myself less comfortable throwing my leg over the high seat of the Yamaha and more at home in the passenger seat of the Subaru for touring with my wife, something a bit smaller seemed in order. 

 

The test ride of the V-7 transported me back to my first real bike – an ’82 BMW R65 – simple, light, agile, and straight forward without a lot of things that you could adjust but that I never adjusted. 

 

 

Today, three days into ownership, I decided to shake things out on a familiar route.

 

The first photo-op came in the Dry Creek Valley where harvest was just beginning.

 


Next, I paused at a picturesque red barn that has been the backdrop for first photos of former bikes.

 


 

In my twisted world, a new motorbike isn’t truly christened until it has carried me on sweeping curves through the redwoods along the Russian River to the Cape Fear Café in Duncan’s Mills.  And that’s where it’s happened again happened again.

 


I’m setting the Special (now named Mariolanza for the way the exhaust note sings) on the side stand when a large man taking big striding steps crosses the parking lot.  Uh-oh, I’m thinking, What’d I do to this guy?  Then he calls me ‘brother.’  He tells me of his newly purchased V-85 TT Touring and the good trade-in he received on his Griso, all of which was interesting, because it always is.  I say always because I remember parking that Breva and, nine times out of ten, being approached by some someone who either once owned a Guzzi, now owns a Guzzi, or would like to own a Guzzi.  They always have a story to tell.  The conversation always starts with “Beautiful bike, man!”

 

 

And my V7 Special is.  Fluid.  Lovely.  Italian.  And lovely.  ‘Mariolanza’ reminds me so many grand yesteryears and begs me to ride so many tomorrows.  It’s a pleasure to be back in the community.

 


Notes:  Purchased the V-7 at Sonoma Euro-Cycle in Windsor, Ca and felt I was treated professionally, fairly and with good doses of humor and motorcycle tales: https://rideeurocycle.com

 

Stop by the Cape Fear Café for breakfast or lunch.  I believe their home fries may be the sole reason God created the potato: http://www.capefearcafe.net

 

© 2021

Church of the Open Road Press

 

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Memory of the Mt. Harkness Lookout


Crossing Paths with Edward Abbey

 

“Trudge” or “Trudging.”  It is the word that I didn’t get right in the fourth-grade spelling bee at Rosedale School.  What a stupid word, I thought, ranting to myself: Who’d ever use the word trudge?  I’ll never use the word trudge!  (Curiously, in ninth grade, I would hold similar concerns about the entire concept of “algebra.”)

         In August of 1966, I found myself trudging up the trail that led from Juniper Lake to the top of Mount Harkness in Lassen National Park.  We’d been camping at the lake for nearly a week, and this was the first day that it wasn’t raining.  Dad got us on the trail.  “The view at the top will be spectacular,” he said.

         Mom had somehow forgotten her fancy Vasque hiking boots at home, so with her feet swaddled in Keds and socks with plastic Wonder Bread bags slipped over the socks to serve as waterproofing.  She made it about a mile up the hill before she grumbled, “Enough!” and sat down on a rock in the sun.  Brother Beebo, as I recall, stayed with her while Dad and I soldiered on.

         The trail was rocky and muddy.  Rainwater and snowmelt often filled the path.  Frequently, after tiring of slipping and slogging through the muck, I’d try walking through the ankle-deep green grasses at the side of the trail where the footing was even worse.  The leather boots I wore I’d about grown out of, and they weren’t waterproof. I felt huge blisters forming on my cold, cold feet.  But Dad prodded me onward.  The meaning of that word from the fourth-grade spelling bee was becoming clearer and clearer with each step.

         At a fork in the trail, I paused and looked at Dad.  I remember peering down upon Juniper Lake and thinking, if not saying, “Okay, we’ve gotten to a nice view.  Can’t we turn back?”

         Dad pulled a trail guide from his pocket and, as he pointed up the trail, he read:  The last section of the trail switchbacks up a cinder cone… “Don’t you want to hike on a cinder cone?”  “No.”   Hikers can feel the grasshoppers dance at their feet…  “Don’t you want to feel the grasshoppers dancing at your feet?”  “No.”  Once on top of the slope, the trail continues to the fire lookout.  The fire lookout is staffed in the summer months and hikers are welcome to visit and learn about fire monitoring. “Don’t you want to learn about fires and stuff from the ranger?”

         That sounded interesting, and I was off.

         As a kid, I was not a big fan of switchbacks.  Wouldn’t it be easier to simply climb straight up the hill?  And on the north-facing glade on Mount Harkness, that’s what I did, short-cutting two or three of them.  The combination of the slope and the elevation squeezed the breath out of me pretty quickly.  Panting, I waited for Dad to catch up, taking in the view of Lassen Peak to the west, a promontory called the Cinder Cone to the east and a number of lakes that dotted vast reaches of forests. A pair of gray birds that squawked like blue jays zoomed in and out of the scrubby trees that grew nearby.  And there were flowers.  It was like springtime in August.

    


     

The fire lookout atop Mount Harkness appeared like a great rustic lodge constructed of reddish-black boulders and rough-hewn timbers.  The closer I got, the more magnificent it became.  Only two stories in height, the thing seemed to loom over the mountain’s top.  The lower level was made of those boulders, quite possibly gathered from this very mountaintop.  A steel door was centered on one face of this basement, and I don’t recall if there were any windows.  A wooden staircase climbed up one side leading to a catwalk that circled the outside of the structure.  From the ground, I could see that the entire top floor was framed in great windows, offering a view of, well, everything.  

         I stood at the base and looked up.

         A slender man with a thin beard appeared through a door to the upper level.  He looked at me, then glanced to see Dad several yards back.

         “Okay if he comes up?”  Dad must have nodded, because the next thing I heard was “Come on up, kid.”

         I climbed the stairs and circled the lookout on the catwalk.  Mount Lassen was close enough to touch.  Juniper Lake seemed directly below us and Lake Almanor, on the opposite side, almost as close.  This may have been the first time I understood the concept of ‘seeing forever’ that Robert Goulet sang about on the radio and Dad sang about in the bathtub.

         The inside of the lookout was dominated by a table placed in the middle of the tiny space.  Atop the table was a map with a weird looking sighting devise I learned that was used to pinpoint the location of a “smoke.”  The interior was rustic and spare.  Under the windows was a wire-spring bed, a tiny refrigerator, and cooktop, some primitive cabinets and shelves filled with canned goods and books.  Mostly books, and a flute – which seemed out of place – just like the one Helen Sweet played in beginning band back in Seventh Grade.  All the woodwork was painted a pale green, about the same color as the Park Service trucks and Jeeps I might have seen earlier.

         “Candy, kid?”  The ranger dug into a drawer and pulled out a butterscotch round.  “Is that your mama you left down on the trail down there?”  He pointed.

         “Uh huh.”  Not only could he see everything from up here, but he also noticed everything.

         “Was that you I saw short-cuttin’ up the switchbacks?”

         I gulped.  He noticed everything. “Uh huh.”

         “Well. I’d like you not to do that on your way back down.  It causes erosion because wears out the vegetation that protects the mountain side.  If the mountainside goes, so does my house here.”  He made a circle with his hand as he said this.  “So please just trudge on down the trail like a good scout on your way back to camp, when the time comes.  Understand?”

         “Uh huh.”

         The ranger’s hair was long and messy and his beard untrimmed.  He wore heavy green trousers and a khaki shirt.  He had a badge pinned to his chest which meant he was the authority.  A shine or a twinkle in his eye told me I wasn’t in much trouble for having left the trail, but I knew I wouldn’t do it again.

         “You have any questions?”

         My mind raced.  How do you get groceries?  Ever see a fire?  Ever see a bear? Do you stay here all year?  Does it get cold up here?  Does anyone ever come to visit?  What do you do in your spare time?  What do you do when you do see a fire?

         “When you have to pee, what do you do?” 

         The ranger laughed.  Dad, by now, was standing in the door.  I’m sure he was embarrassed.  Come to think of it, I probably was, too.

         “Well, kid,” the ranger said.  I’ve got real limited facilities up this way.  Down over to that stand of pines they built an outhouse.  A privy.  But I don’t use that when I have to…” he looked at Dad. “…urinate.  Out around this way,” he pointed, “there’s some rocks I use most of the time.  Sun shines on it and evaporates most everything.  Wind blows any stink away.  And then, you want to know what’s funny?”

         I nodded.

         “Around dusk the deer come up this way and lick the salt off the cinders…”

 

 


The late Edward Abbey was one of the west’s great environmental voices of the middle part of the 20th century.  His novel The Monkey Wrench Gang became a classic of the movement.  Other works are clearly based on his experiences in various back-country domains, including Black Sun which centers on the despair of a solitary lookout stationed on the rim of the Grand Canyon.

         Having read almost all his work, the last book of his that I picked up was his journal called Confessions of a Barbarian.  On page 203, it reads:

 

September 13, 1966 – Mount Harkness: The deer – bony scrawny starving things, like giant mice, stare at me in motionless fascination when I play my flute for them – not amused or amazed, or puzzled or frightened, but simply… fascinated: silent wonder.  They gather around the lookout and in the crater below in herds, as many as fifteen or sixteen at a time, counting fawns.

         Giant vermin, they’ll nibble anything for a taste of salt – they even lick up my urine from the cinders…

 

© 2006, 2021

Church of the Open Road Press

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

LAST FRIDAY’S CLOSE CALL

Treatise on the potential hazards wrought by 

wearing riding gear to the lumber yard 

while driving a Subaru…

 

 

I was not on the Yamaha.  I was in the Subaru.  I’d just left the Home Depot in a town twenty miles distant and, given that I was in the area, decided to swing by the European motorcycle dealer who, among other things, marketed Moto Guzzi, to ask howcum he didn’t have any Guzzis on the floor.




The gent in sales was someone I’d run across before.  Not here, however.  Richard, his name is, owns a renowned motorcycle soft gear manufacturing company that happened to recently relocate to in my very (little) city.  A couple of months back, I was eye-balling a state-of-the-art BMW parked in front of his shop.  

 

“Wow!” I said, “That thing looks like it just came out of the showroom!  How many miles on it?”

         

His wife who’d come outside responded: “37.”

 

 

Fast forward to last Friday and Richard, who claims his wife actually runs the business – advertising, sales, manufacturing – Richard, when he bought the Beemer noticed that the staff at the Euro-shop was a bit thin.  

         

“Need help?” Richard had asked.

         

“Nope,” was the reply…

         

… until he returned to buy a smaller BMW for “the boss.”

         

Bottom line? For the past couple of weeks, he’s been part-time in sales at the bike shop.

         

“So,” I say, clad in sneakers and shorts and a t-shirt and with a 16’ Stanley Powerlock tape clipped to my belt, “are you all still carrying Guzzis?  I see other dealers in your group have ‘em but you don’t.”

         

“We carry ‘em when we can get ‘em,” Richard replied.  “We just can’t get ‘em what with the pandemic and all.”  Then he added, “We only have one right now.”

         

None were listed on the website, so I was a bit surprised.


Promotional Image from Las Vegas Euro-Sports
“It’s a V7 Classic.”

         

“2021?”  I’d been drooling over the 2021 online for quite some time.

         

“I think so.”

 

 

Moto Guzzi is the essence of motorcycling.  Lots of character.  Timeless design.  Italian mojo. Not a lot of power or grunt or speed, but as the motorcycling press says, “If you’re buying a Moto Guzzi, that’s not what you’re looking for.”


 

Promotional Image from Moto Guzzi

Guzzi is currently producing three or four models each with a few iterations of design, color, or bling.  Of all the Guzzi models, the V7 is the essence of Guzzi’s “essence of motorcycling.”  Simple.  Sound.  Beautiful.


Not me.  Yet.


I sat on this spanking new silver-gray V7 (it also comes in a drop-dead gorgeous blue) with its luxurious brown leather seat and chatted with Richard about the roads he’d ridden in his 74 years tooling around northern California and the west, and the same ones I’d ridden in my nearly 70 years.  I thought about doing ‘em all over again on this piece of rolling artistry.  The seat of the Italian beauty cradled my posterior, and I was flooded with memories of the time and the miles spent on my ’07 Guzzi Breva – a roadster I never shoulda let get away.  All the while I’m thinking, “This is why I don’t bring my riding gear to the Home Depot.” 

         

That said, had the “only one we have right now” been in that drop-dead gorgeous blue, I probably woulda had to figure something out.  And it’d probably be sitting in my garage right now.

         

Close call, indeed.

 

© 2021

Church of the Open Road Press

Monday, June 21, 2021

MY LITTLE DOG TOO

… a true-to-life rescue story…

 

On a recent Sunday, we were the humans of a second dog for about 45 minutes.  Because he was a stray who, like our lab-mix Edward, sorta found us, I named our new dog “Too.”

         California’s State Route 175 heads east from US 101 at Hopland.  It alternately winds through foothills and races across fertile valleys of vineyard and ranchland.  Were it not for a 17-mile stretch of crumbling, twisty pavement over the Mayacamas, it might be considered a shortcut to somewhere.  Just shy of those mountains, the Sanal Valley is home to the industrial strength Ray’s Station Winery.  175 shoots a straight line across this valley’s floor and travelers pick up the pace from around 30 miles per hour to above 65.  

         That Sunday morning, we were powering up along the stretch when our eyes were distracted by a tiny tan and white dot cris-crossing the pavement near the winery.  We slowed, as did an on-comer.  Drawing near, we found the wandering dot was a tiny dog – perhaps a chihuahua-terrier mix of some sort – darting here and there, into and out of the traffic lanes, likely confused but surely in danger.

         “Oh, we need to stop!” Candi said.

         “No, we need to keep going,” I replied, knowing we had somewhere to be at some specific time.

         “It’ll get run over!”

         “Keep going!”

         “I can’t live with that.”

         Candi pulled into a wide spot and idled the Subaru under a spreading oak.

         Reluctantly – because I know how these things have ended up in the past (apologies to Edward) – I hopped out and while crossing the highway, palmsed down approaching vehicles to encourage them to slow.

         I positioned myself between the little dog and the pavement.  He warily scurried about on the dirt shoulder.  At times, I could approach and lightly scratch his head but was viciously snapped at if I attempted to scoop him up or slip my finger under his tiny red collar.  No tags dangled from that collar but the collar told me he belonged to someone.  With each of my futile attempts at capture, he would gyrate away.  A couple of sport bikes whistled by, then an F-150.  I knew couldn’t let the dog make it back to the road.


Not the real dog, but he looked a lot like this one...

         “Grab Edward’s leash!” I hollered across the highway.  Edward, by now, knew something was up.  He was peering out the side window of the Sube witnessing in horror, I’m sure, that his humans were about to violate the first commandment: that being thou shalt have no other dogs before me.  (Apologies to Moses.)

         Candi snapped the leash around the red collar – couldn’t seem to match the clip to the collar’s D-ring – but the little guy apparently didn’t cotton to such constriction.  He rolled over on his back and kicked and snapped at us from the dust.  We retrieved a towel from the car and tried to wrap him up, but he didn’t particularly want to be wrapped up.  Finally, we fashioned a bit of a noose by looping the leash through the leash’s loop on its people end and slipped the thing over the little guy’s head.  Tightening it no further than simply secure, the miniscule critter suddenly relaxed.  Five minutes of soft murmurs and gentle rubs on the head and then belly, and the little guy was ours.  

         With a cell tower in sight, I placed a call to Mendocino County Animal Control.  Closed on Sunday.  This seemed as outrageous as a dump being closed on Thanksgiving. (Apologies to Arlo Guthrie.) But my call was patched through to sheriff’s dispatch.  Explaining the circumstance, the dispatcher, once learning that the locale was a state highway, forwarded my call to the CHP.  Upon finding that we’d already secured the animal and it was no longer a potential hazard, the CHP rerouted my call to Animal Control.  Nowhere was where we were going and there was somewhere we were supposed to be.

         Apparently, the dog was now ours.  Placing hands on each side of his heaving ribcage, Candi carried him across the road at arm’s length and placed him in the footwell of the Sube’s passenger seat.  He’d calmed appreciably by this time.  Perhaps it was trust.  Perhaps he knew he was no longer in danger.  Maybe he thought he was going home.  Our home.

         Candi was pleased.  The puppy was pleased.  Grudgingly, I was pleased.  Edward, however, was not.  What other commandments do my humans choose to so willingly ignore?

 

 

Now what?  We couldn’t take him with us, and we couldn’t leave him there.  

         The little guy must have been a local.  The red collar told us so.  That, and he was too cute and too compliant to be a pup someone would abandon by the side of a state highway.  Well, most someones.  The little guy was a charmer.  In the footwell he was quiet and no longer feeling the need to nip or cower.  At one point I could swear a heard the slightest chihuahua-sized sigh of contentment as he settled against Candi’s feet.

         Across the road from the Ray’s Station Winery lay a farm or cattle ranch that likely dated back to the nineteenth century.  Not having given way to wine grapes, the fencing and distant barns said livestock.  They also suggested that whoever lived there might know where this little chi-terrier gentleman belonged.  As we wended along the gravel road between the snaking fences, I reached down into and rubbed the little guy’s head.  Craning his wanting neck toward my departing fingers, he seemed to say, “Please, sir.  I’d like some more.”  (Apologies to ‘Oliver’.)

         “What if there’s nobody here?  What if they don’t know the owner?”  Candi asked as we bumped along. “What if…”

         “I guess we’ll have a second dog.  I already know what to name him.”

         The parallel fence line widened as we approached a dusty complex of barns, outbuildings and corrals.  As we drove up, two men were heading out in an aging burgundy red Dodge pickup.  I suspected they didn’t get a lot of visitors out this way.  

         Lowering my window, I held up a hand.  “We found a little dog wandering about on the highway just now.”

         The driver looked at Edward.  “That one?”

         “No.”  Candi lifted the chihuahua and whatever-happened-to-be-on-the-block-that-day mix from the footwell.  “Do you know if he belongs to anyone around here? We’re on our way to somewhere and we really can’t or shouldn’t keep him.  Called the shelter but they were closed.”

         By this time, the rancher who’d been driving had stepped out of his Dodge.  Candi held up the rascal.  The rancher looked at the dog.  I suspect they made eye contact: man-to-dog, dog-to-man eye contact.

         The man considered, but only for a moment.  “I have two dogs already.  I don’t think having a third one would much matter.”

         He gently took up the dog, grasping him by his now-not-heaving sides.  

Not the real lap, either, but what does it matter?

         “Look,” I said.  “If you can’t find the owner or it somehow doesn’t work out, here’s my card.  E-mail me and I’ll come pick him up and take him to the shelter when they’re open.”

         Tucking the little guy under one arm, he took my card and nodded.  “This will be no problem…”

         “But if it is…”

         He nodded again as we turned and headed back toward the highway.

 

 

Once returned to route 175 Candi asked, “you said you had a name for him already.  What was it?”

         “Too,” I said, and I explained why.  Candi seemed to nod.  “Plus," I added, "when we go to the vet, the vet can refer to him as 'Your little dog, Too'.”  (Apologies to the Wicked Witch of the West and to Margaret Hamilton who owns that role on film and who uttered that iconic line.)

         After thirty-five years of marriage, my loving wife had long since grown more than a bit weary of my wit.  Presently, we began to consider the principal differences between dogs and humans:  

…Dogs are loyal.  

…Dogs are inherently trusting and true.  

…Dogs are protective and their love is unconditional.

         We agreed on these and quite a few others including: “A dog would never abandon their human by the side of the road.”

         Five miles up the hill, I was half-hoping the rancher would not contact me.

         Days later, the other half is still hoping he will.

 

© 2021

Church of the Open Road Press

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

ASHES TO ASHES

 

…another visit to Simpson Camp…

 

A lucky person finds his or her special Eden.  In my case, it is a place where the only sounds are of soughing pines and the occasional cry of a hawk, where the passing air is fragrant and fresh, where views stretch from my feet to forever, where memories are rich and fulfilling, where decades dissolve each time I visit.

 

Click on any photo to expand 'em all.


The old sheep camp near Mendocino Pass is that place for me.

 

In the 60s, our family met up with the sheep man’s clan for long weekends in the lost high country of the Coast Range.


 

An easily forgotten Jeep road wound away from the forest highway climbing to the top of a ridge that overlooked a sweeping glade and a distant stand of firs.




Mom and Ellie cooked on an abandoned Wedgewood.

 



When it came time to allow Mom her rest last year, this would be the place.  We left her shillelagh – a hickory walking stick she'd purchased when visiting Ireland – under a fallen log on the off chance her spirit might want to hike over to the Yolla Bollys and catch up with Dad who’d had a twenty-five year head start.

 

Scanning up the meadow to the top of the ridge, a copse of oaks stood “like a Greek Chorus,” Dad had said all those many years before.

 



The 'chorus' still stood in 2020.

 



From the vantage point of this little grove, on a clear day, you can see the fog hugging the Pacific coast forty miles to the west and the crest of the Sierra 90-plus miles east.  Eden indeed. Accompanied by my granddaughter and my nephew, I drove a stake into the ground in that stand of oaks. Eye contact with the two told me they knew why.

 

 

 Then, on August 16, 2020, all hell literally broke loose.  The word ‘literally’ is often misused – not in this case.

 

Source: CalFire


Folks at CalFire suggested that the August Complex fire started as a result of lightning strikes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if investigators ultimately found that the devil himself had slipped out of a fissure somewhere in eastern Glenn County and exhaled his damnable, fiery breath over 1,032,000 acres of mountain and range land.  Large areas of the Yolla Bolly and Yuki Wilderness would be burned.  And my little Eden lay smack in the middle of the largest wildfire California had ever experienced.

 

 

On a Monday in April 2021, we decided to revisit Simpson Camp, see what survived and maybe grab Mom’s stick.  Here’s what we found.  


Turnoff to Simpson Camp – May 2020:


 

Turnoff to Simpson Camp – April 2021:

 



View up the glade – May 2020:

 



View down the glade – April 2021:

 



Simpson Camp kitchen – circa 1966:

 



Simpson Camp kitchen – April 2021:

 



Ash from Mom’s hickory shillelagh:

 



The fire roared through the treetops and turned the grasses and skunk cabbage and understory to ash… 

 



…revealing artifacts (read: refuse) from earlier days…

 



…including a church-keyed Coors can…

 



… and a remnant of the old Wedgewood.

 



The trek up the hill would prove melancholy.  The beauty of my Eden was gone.




 

 

Or was it?  At the top of the hill, that copse of oaks was in the process of budding out.  And a little white fir had joined the chorus.

 



Taking a closer look…

 



Simpson Camp’s rebirth may be slow, and it may be painful but I’m thinking I’ll be close by to monitor things.

 

© 2021

Church of the Open Road Press

 

 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

COMFORT COOKING

 A brief Church of the Open Road remembrance…

 

Last night, I was preparing spaghetti carbonara and thinking of my late pal Bob.  Bob liked Coors Lite and Rush Limbaugh, but for those indiscretions I could forgive him.  Bob let me help him cook.

 

Working a split shift, Bob’s job was to open up the little school where he was the custodian.  He’d clean classrooms and toilets, mop up spills and the occasional vomit, mow the playing field, trim the trees, shovel the snow, freshen the paint, befriend the dispossessed kid and lock up again at night.  His hours were seven to eleven and two to six.  He rarely went home at lunch, because often times, he’d serve lunch and chat with students as they ate outside under a giant oak.  Sometimes, he’d even cook lunch – not for the kids, for the staff.

 

His Italian roots were not well buried.  On a regular basis, the little electric stove in the break room would bubble with his scratch marinara or buttery garlic sauce.  Occasionally, although I served as the little school’s principal, Bob would haul me in to sous chef for him, directing me in dicing onions or shucking clams. Just as teachers filed in at noon, his pasta achieved al dente and clams or meatballs were ready to be ladled on top.  Garlic bread was there for the sopping.  All that was missing was an appropriate Primitivo or Dolcetto.

 

Bob’s Italian lunches were comfort foods for us all.  As our country entered the Gulf War, Bob cooked.  If a student lost a mom or dad, Bob cooked.  When my tenure was coming to a rather rocky end, Bob cooked. The engaging aromas of a loving Italian kitchen helped pacify the angst brought about by any tumultuous news of the day.  

 


In the aftermath of last week’s insurrection and the assault on the capitol, I prepared this simple spaghetti carbonara, let its fragrance fill the house and reminisced about my late pal Bob.   I’d long ago learned that the difference between a janitor and a custodian is that while a janitor is charged with mopping and cleaning, a custodian, by definition, is one who “cares for.” 

 

As I cooked last night, I wondered if there was – anywhere – a Bob who might serve as the custodian of our democracy.



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Church of the Open Road Press