Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Trucks are coming back. With gas going beyond $4 per gallon, people are starting to use their trucks for hauling goods. There's a payoff when you take a load to the dump, or move furniture, or haul gardening supplies -- that's why you need a truck. And we have, in America, the most beautiful and best trucks in the world.

But for going to the store, or to visit your friends, or getting to work -- we're not going to use the truck for that anymore. If all you have to do is haul your own personal body from one place to another, you don't need your truck for that. You park the truck and use one of those lightweight vehicles.

However, you still might want to impress your friends with your size, power, and brawn -- a growling pickup serves that purpose, but it's getting too pricey, and you can find other ways.

You could take an 8-pound hammer and hold it out at arm's length. You could keep practicing on that until you could outlast every one in the county. That's man tough.

And you can still use your truck when you have stuff to haul.

A Cup of Sugar. Here's another suggestion for those of us who fear Al Gore's New World Order. The underlying premise is that you go can back in time just as easily as going forward. Let's say you need a cup of sugar to make some brownies, and you're out. Or it's in the evening, and you notice you don't have enough coffee for tomorrow morning.

You can jump in the car and drive to the store, OR you can go to your neighbor's house and borrow it -- saving you a trip.

Another idea is you could call your neighbor before you go to the store and ask her if she needs anything -- saving HER a trip to the store.

Of course, she might be a he, and the neighbors might be these nice Pakistani people who moved in two years ago and you've been waiting for an excuse to get to know them. Mahmood and Yalda, the Pakistani couple, seem like nice people. He's a chemical engineer, and she runs an eBay collectible business out of their home, and they have children, like yours, of a similar age.

That brings us to the next concept.

Go Outside and Play. After school, instead of driving your little tykes to Brownies and Pee Wee baseball, and then going to pick them up, you can just fix them a snack and tell them to go outside and play. "How do you do that?" the children might ask. "Well, go outside and play is something you figure out by yourself, and you do it with those nice children who live next door."

But you might have to teach them a few of the old games, or give them a ball to kick around.

In summary. Use your truck to haul stuff. Make practical arrangements with your neighbors and be friends with them. Tell the children to go outside and play. That's the Frog Hospital plan for a better America. Al Gore also has a plan. But the best plan is the one you make yourself.

Charlie Berg lived in the house that isn't there anymore. Charlie died twenty years ago. After that some kids moved into the house and started growing pot in the attic. They papered the attic with aluminum foil and strung up Gro-lights, and started growing their little plants. But the old house had the funkiest wiring in town, so this was a very dumb idea. Pretty soon the house caught on fire, and the pot plants and the funky wiring were discovered by the Volunteer Firemen. Afterward, the house was condemned, but I don't know if the kids were arrested. Everybody knew they were growing pot in the attic because LaConner is a very small town.

Either way, the house was finished and they tore it down. They put in a double-wide trailer and a guy who runs a locksmith business in his van lives there now.

But when Charlie Berg lived there it was different. He was the master recycler and junk collector of all LaConner. Charlie could compost a car if he wanted to. Anything he touched started growing moss. He could turn an air conditioner into a broom closet, and he always had this mysterious, far away look in his eyes -- he saw diamonds and jewels everywhere. What a rich country! and it was all free! and he just had to go pick it up in his truck and then pile it in the yard. He would figure out what to do with it later.

They changed the rules in heaven when Charlie got there -- they let him have all the old cars he wanted. He's up there now turning Oldsmobiles into picnic tables.

Charlie's widow, Beth Hailey, grows flowers out on Best Road, and she sells them around town. I often see her driving her flower truck. She's a very good friend, although I have never actually talked to her. I just say hello. It's a community where you get to know people that way.

The Chicken Coop. Adjunct to Charlie's palace was a spacious, low slung chicken coop with a wooden floor. It was for the overflow people, because Charlie didn't just bring home junk, he also brought home people, and they flopped in the chicken coop for weeks or months. I stayed there. Many people, who later became substantial citizens of LaConner, drifted through there a long time ago. It would be called substandard housing today, but there used to be a lot of that -- cheap or no rent, something you could fix up.

It Didn't Flood. That was the newspaper headline after the hot weather caused a big snow melt in the mountains, but the river ran very high just the same. So, I asked Jim Smith, "If the Skagit River didn't flood yesterday, how many other things didn't happen yesterday?" Jim thought that was a pretty spacey idea, a real conversation stopper.

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