The Hometown


The other night sitting at the PC listening to Iris DeMet’s song Our Town from the Infamous Angel album (which  closed out the final episode of the popular television show Northern Exposure) and when “…now I sat on the porch and watched the lightning bugs fly but I can’t see too good I’ve tears in my eyes, I’m leaving tomorrow but I don’t want to go I love you my town you’ll always live in my soul…” played the old hometown, Saint Clair Shores, Michigan popped in mind.  I was last in Saint Clair Shores, on Lake St Clair, in May 1998 staying 12 months completing a circle opened in 1980 when a planned two month stay in Eugene, Oregon to visit my Brother David stretched into 17 years.  Perhaps because of the sudden departure, St Clair Shores and Michigan where never far from mind during this time on the west coast but as long time partner Alfred and I began going in opposite directions the urge to move back home blossomed and so in the winter of 1995 I drew up plans but set no date.  A couple of coincidences occurred at this time one a quote I know not where I found it or whom it is by but the text referred to one can home not to pick up where one left off but rather to “sanctify memory” and the other “When you are lost, the most sensible strategy is to go back to the point of departure…” from the essay, New West, True West in the book Under Western Skies by Donald Worster.  Both quotes gave me chills of a good nature as if finding them at this particular time was a push forward so, in May 1997 with a packed to the ceiling Volvo DL car I navigated eastward and headed home.  Initially, I planned to stay in Michigan but with Alfred and me resolving our differences I agreed, in one year’s time, I would move and meet him in Portland, Oregon as time was needed to reconnect with the family and home I so abruptly left, Dad, Sister Linda, Brother Tad, nieces Cindy and Heather, brother in-law Doug, and Michigan.  Unbeknownst when I arrived in 1997 that my stay would prove a boon to Dad’s moral which suffered a major blow when he started having seizures of the unknown kind, doctors thought these linked to smoking and drinking and possibly the unexpectant passing of Mom from a heart attack just as the two were planning to retire.  Timing Mr. Jim, Timing.

The sabbatical was great!  Some may connect with many friends for old-time sake but I only chose one to represent all my friends in St. Clair Shores as I had changed so much in 17 years and felt trying to catch with everyone not worth the effort.  I phoned good friend Ed whom I’ve known since the 1970’s and arranged to meet him at his son’s birthday party, his current and former spouses where there and for the two hours there it felt like old times; I walked home that night with one chapter in my life closed and I sensed the opening of a new one”…this old town ain’t the same now nobody knows his name, times have changed, still he rides…” Journey, Still He Rides.  During the few times away from family I rode my bicycle to two local beaches one Metro Beach and rode along the wooden boardwalk, past shuffleboard courts, an inside pavilion, and nature trails, all frequented so much in days of yore and the occasional elementary school field trip.  The other, Memorial Park being much smaller is more for the Sunday stroll, family picnic, or occasional dunk in the waters both on Lake St. Clair which from time to time close due to E. coli contaminated waters.  While home both were closed to swimmers for just this, sad.

I took up a job with Linda and Doug in their upholstery shop in New Baltimore, Michigan north of town doing the grunt work and some minor upholstery which I loved!  This was fantastic doing something I’d never done before nor knew how but managed.  I revisited the St. Clair Shores Public Library (libraries are my church) where I spent many hours of youth  researching this countries space program, in The Michigan Room reading up on this Great Lake State and of the Copper Country on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  Alfred flew in for the 4th of July holiday, his first and only trip to the state;  there was so much I wanted to show him but being that he was in town for just a few days we settled on a partly with a mutual friend who had flown in during this time as well. The friend, Donna, resides in Phoenix, Arizona where her family moved from St Clair Shores in the early 70’s when her father’s construction business moved.

In the fall, the upholstery business dropped so to keep the cash coming in I took a job at a local bookstore and loved that just as much but, before my first day Dad and I drove 12 hours north to his hometown of Atlantic Mine, Michigan which was the icing on this cake of recollection as the village, surrounded by pristine woodland and sparsely populated, is in the heart of the Copper Country which was this country’s first mineral boom starting in 1844 my “Shangri-La.”  Last but not lease I made contact with Brother Tad and his wife Carol.  I experienced the joy of a humid Midwest summer, the spectacular fall, bone chilling winter with some snow thrown in, and the rebirth that is spring with which my journey ended and I repacked the Volvo DL, again to the ceiling with belongings, and back to the west coast where Alfred moved to in 1996.

Today, the want to visit St. Clair Shores and Michigan is not as intense; I do use the internet to check in from time to time keeping the hometown and state at my fingertips and perhaps this is way the urgency is not there however, the journey I took in 1997/98 was that of rediscovery, rebirth and of securing a place that will, “…always live in my soul…”

copyright 2013, jim pykonen

While working on an unrelated story Las Vegas and the following came to mind


Late Arrivals

Confused by signage stating Interstate 215 and McCarran Airport East/West, I continue south on Interstate 15 past the exit. “Damn, I missed the exit for the airport. I’m not going to miss this flight,” I shout.

“Don’t stress it, if we’re late we’re late we’ll just have to catch another flight,” Al responds, calmly and in control.

Al and I have been together since 1980 and flew into Las Vegas from Camas, Washington on August 21st for a four-day celebration of my 50th birthday with family and friends in Sin City. Now, on August 24,th we race to the airport from old downtown having spent three hours gambling at the Fremont Street Experience instead of preparing for the flight home. We return the car rental in time and jump the shuttle to the airport dashing inside to the Delta check in counter where Karen assists us. After taking our flight information she calmly informs us there is not enough time to catch the flight and will have to re-book. Of all the cities one would think Las Vegas would have flights coming and going around the clock and after a brief discussion of the current time compared to airport clocks Karen holds firm; we accept Monday the 25th at 622am. Complicating the circumstance Al has a flight to Southern California on August 25th which also needs rescheduling. Damn gambling!

The axiom “be careful what you wish for you just may get it” bears fruit as I dreaded arriving home late on the 24th, driving Al back to the airport early Monday then straight off to work with little rest. Karen hands us our tickets and away we go to the baggage area to book a room at the highly recommended Terrible’s Hotel and Casino. After sharing a refreshing lemon muffin and cold water we book the room then head out into the evening heat to await the red shuttle from Terrible’s.

Arriving at the Casino we make our way inside to the reservation desk. Bells, lights, and shouts of success surround us as we check in; schedule a 3am wakeup call so as not to miss a second plane, then I head to the room to refresh but Al signs up for Terrible’s Player Club gambling package. Later Al joins me in the room, then we head to Terribles 2 for 1 Buffet, and we finish the evening playing penny slots with no plane to catch no schedule to keep, just the two of us enjoying true freedom. Both of us get on a winning streak, I cash in, go to bed but Al continues gambling making the room by 230am just in time to rest before the wakeup call.

I sip weak coffee made in-room when Al discovers his driver’s license has gone missing however turning the room upside down and explaining our dilemma to the morning manager yields nothing! With photo identification required to board Al suggests I go on ahead and he will follow later but I convince him otherwise, that surely the airport can help, they must run into this regularly. Damn gambling!

The bus ride to the airport takes 15 minutes but upon arrival the auto check-in is not online for another 15 minutes. While waiting we find a TSA agent, explain our situation and in a calm, composed, polite manner, he informs us the picture on Al’s credit card will work but the baggage will be thoroughly hand searched. I whisper, “See I told you we’d be able to work it out,” to Al. We sigh in relief. After completing the security check, with boarding passes in hand, we ride the escalator up to the boarding level passed empty slot machines. The time is 5am and we sit down to breakfast burritos and watch the sunrise over the tarmac. We lift off at 622am finally shaking the hot desert sand from our sandals.

At Salt Lake City we have a two-hour lay over I spend fighting off sleep while Al writes a letter to his niece chronicling the fun-filled weekend in Sin City. Now, as we climb to cruising altitude Salt Lake shrinks below and I have a strange sensation we passed this way not just four days, but weeks ago.

Touchdown is in Portland, Oregon at 1205pm under partly cloudy skies then a short ride on the blue shuttle to the Economy Parking Lot. Both of us, exhausted, find the Saturn; toss our bags into the trunk and eager to get home jump into the car but the battery is dead due to a light left on! While I try AAA Al flags down a fellow traveler who jumps starts the car sending us, finally on our way home to Camas. On the drive I reflect on the eventful weekend and smile

copyright  2013, jim pykonen.

a few minutes with bill o’really and dennis miller

 Around 8pm on January 23, 2013, bored, I began  channel surfing and stopping on Fox News(they are fair and balanced) as The O’Reilly Factor was on with Dennis Miller (called Miller Time and Dennis sounded like he had one too many Miller Times before the show) Bill and Dennis went over a Gallup poll taken between Sept/Dec 2012 about the happiest countries in the world.  After watching the show I now know why Dennis went to Fox News, just like their reporting, he is insulting and terrible!  Dennis, with index finger and thump clasped together and up to his mouth, made the sucking sound of someone smoking a joint then said that Columbia was the happiest because they light up Thai-Stick  and smoke it all the time, couldn’t be anything else could it  Dennis?  He and Bill laughed;  this what you call comedy?  By the way Thai Stick went out of fashion at the end of the Vietnam War and Columbia is best known for cocaine!  Anyhow as O’Really and Miller stumble down the list they come to Afghanistan being a happier place than the United States and cannot understand why Afghanistan is ranked above the United States.  Dennis says something about coffins parading down Main Street and O’Really laughs in agreement.  Wow, well maybe because Bill and Dennis are not in Afghanistan and the people do not have to decipher what is Fair and Balanced, eh? Maybe that is why they are so happy.  Apparently neither of these two fine reporters heard about the Legatum Prosperity Index that reported the United States as number 12 and Afghanistan as number 140 for 2012.  It is no wonder why some countries don’t like us with these two throwing such fine comments out.  Who does the fact-checking, O’Really and Dennis?  This may explain a lot and I bet that if they moved to a country other than the United States, American might move quickly up the Happiest Countries ladder; how about giving it a try just for kicks for a few years and then maybe we can truly celebrate Miller Time, eh?
More words later