Portland Bound

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My Kitchen Table, Houston January 30, 2017         

“It was the best of time. It was the worst of times.” ( A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens)I’m afraid the rest of the paragraph has little or nothing to do with my time spent back in Houston.

It was the worst of times, because my Mother, Gretchen Campbell passed away.  She was declining for many years into the depths of dementia.  For all those years, we were devastated to witness the slow escape of her soul from her body. That time is over now and she is at rest.  Her funeral was well attended by her neighbors and friends and even the workers from her nursing home where she became beloved during the last six years.  Her body is buried beside my father, with a dual marker that she chose.  That marker has waited almost twenty years to finally bear her date of death.

Let me once again thank all those who came to honor her memory or sent condolences from afar.

gretchencaracas600dpi-5

Gretchen at our apartment in Caracas.  She came to help Lulu with infant Louis while I was working on a seismic crew in the Jungle near Lake Maracaibo

My dear wife was instrumental in making the arrangements in my absence and I would be lost without her.   I am not worthy of such a selfless, loving and caring spouse.  Nevertheless, I will stay with her forever and find new ways to let her know that she is the guiding light of my life and deeply loved and cherished.

I’ve included some photos of Lulu and her entourage:

 luluandcats 

Lulu attended by Guardcat Tuxedo and Joleen, acting as ballast to prevent her floating away.

catinaboxThe “middle” cat, Pepper relaxing in her chosen comfort zone.  (Pepper ain’t the sharpest knife in the drawer)

This was the first time I have delivered a Eulogy.  I could not bring myself to speak at my father’s service, twenty years ago.  I am perhaps a different (and better, we hope) person now. I saw this as a debt both to Gretchen and to my Father.

A lot has been written and discussed about visits from spirits those who went before us.  It is my belief that those spirits live on in our memories.  That can be as mundane or sublime as you care to make it.  I see it as proof of what sets humanity apart in the Universe.  Many were the times – during the decline of Gretchen – that my Father’s Spirit spoke to me and said (more or less), “Thank you son, for taking care of Gretchen”.  I don’t mean to say I heard a voice actually articulate that idea.  But, it was no doubt Dad’s memory that put the clearly defined message in my head.

We broke the with tradition that direct family not serve as pall bearers because there were few able to serve.  My thoughtful and loving Uncle Mark attended as Senior Honor Guard while my son Louis and good friends Bill and Eddy assisted me to carry the coffin.

   May She Rest in Peace.

It was the best of times because I was again able to see my family and a few dear friends.  These time are like brief interludes when my life reverts to a ”normal” existence. It would be better said that the “normal” has become something unusual, apart, remote from present-day existence.  Whether this walkabout will change my life is no longer a question.  The only mystery left is how far from I will end up from where this all started.

The transition began without my permission or acceptance and it continues until I find another path in life.  The Walkabout is by its very definition a temporary and fleeting time, after which a new, enriched (enlightened?, developed?, mature?) person lives on in the body of the unsuspecting, unprepared child who started out.

Truly, I am an orphan now.  My attention to previous generations of nuclear family has been reduced to memories.  My attention must now turn to my children and their progeny. Once the baby of the family, I have become nothing less than a Patriarch.  I’m new at this job and I hope I can get a handle on it soon.

Spirit Airlines Flight 217, Houston t Los Angeles, January 31, 2017

If you have ever flown on Spirit Airlines, you know that the process of booking a flight is a study in incremental spending.  Not just your passage onboard the plane, but also your luggage, comfort, convenience and even hunger and thirst are all commodities with dollar values. These values increase as you get closer to the plane.

Just the barest of carry-on luggage costs between thirty five if you can manage to buy it from home and fifty five dollars if you get it at the kiosk at the airport.  To sit in a seat that will not cause deep-vein thrombosis over a three-hour period cost me $18 on the first leg and $12 on the second (LAX to Portland).  Both flights were less than half-full so that money was wasted, as it turns out.

I will arrive late today in Portland and extract the truck from the towing yard. From there, I log in as a driver and then await an assignment.  I don’t know any details of where I will be in time or space after that. This life is like the title song from Paint Your Wagon.

Where am I goin’?

I don’t know

When will I be there?

I ain’t certain

What will I get?

I ain’t equipped to say

But who gives a damn?

…We’re on our way

Los Angeles Airport (LAX) , January 31, 2017

Well, now I seem to have lost my driver’s license.  I have my valid passport for ID and remember the eight digit DL number that I have had since 1972.  That has been enough before and I can only hope it will be at every stop.  The Company has a copy of the license, which I have requested they send me as an attachment I can print at a truck stop or show on my iphone.

cdlmangleThis is the “copy” the Company made at Purgatory.  The Alert Reader (most of you) will notice that the details (especially numbers and dates) have been cleverly “mangled” for public presentation – to prevent ID theft.  However, the basic quality of the “copy” has been preserved.

I have set up the Remote Captains Desk here where I can access 110 volt power, right next to the garbage can.  Fortunately, I am quite comfortable sitting yoga-style on the floor and typing on top of my carry on.

captainsdesklaxThe Captain’s LAX office.

 

Attempting to initiate a replacement from the DPS has so far resulted in an automated questionnaire that I can answer from memory, except another unique number of 11 digits that appears on the license itself.  The voice tells me that I do not qualify for phone renewal, which is of course NOT what I was seeking.

 

Spirit Airline Flight 990, Los Angeles to Portland

This is a classic case of a Rookie Mistake, a Rank Amateur Blunder.   I have managed to avoid such a faux pas in all my previous travels.  Imagine if I lost my ID in Jakarta or Singapore.  I did have my passport stolen, in Caracas, early in the travel game.  I was violently ill and barely able to walk, but I managed to hide my malady enough not to get banned from travel.

A photo lab across the street from the Consulate made me a passport picture.  I had asked the lady if my hair looked OK and she replied to the effect: “Sure, sure.  Now please stand behind the chair while I take your picture.”  In my weakened state, I wandered off and back to the Consulate before I looked at the picture.  My hair was a caricature of a Phyllis Diller fright wig.  That, combined with my pneumonia-like pallor and sagging face, combined with a State Department crinkle seal that embossed my face, all conspired to make the most hideous passport photo you could imagine.

I took to warning ticket agents about my ugly likeness as I handed the document over.  Most of them dismissed my warning as some sort of vanity on my part until they actually saw it.  Their reassuring sentence usually went something like this: “Oh, don’t worry, Mr. Campbell.  In this business we have seen every….AAAH!”

I was cursed to carry that passport over at least four continents before it finally expired.  Now that I think about it, my current passport has a picture of a man 60 pounds heavier than me who is wearing prescription eyeglasses.  Still, I can point out certain facial features (scars, that is to say) that I picked up in an attack of Shingles about twelve years ago.  I was unaware – until said attack occurred – that Shingles is a sort of relapse of Chicken Pox.  If you never had the latter, you needn’t worry about the former.  Apparently, the disease hides in your spine until you get older and stressed.  It only attacks one side of the body, so only one one side of my face was so inflamed that my eye was swollen shut.   I wore a pair of wrap-around sunglasses at work until this disfigurement abated.  One colleague made a joke in the elevator about Steve, the International Man of Mystery.  So, I whipped off the sunglasses – just for fun.  His shocked reaction satisfied my wicked sense of humor.  I was also limping as a result of a blood clot in my leg. He asked about that and I explained that it was totally unrelated.  I was a pitiful sight, I reckon.

 

Loves Travel Stop #499 I-84 Exit 17, Troutdale, Oregon

I called the towing yard to check if someone would be there to let me in after 5 o’clock, which is about the soonest I could be there.  The answer was, “maybe”.    I don’t know if I need to settle the account or not or when that will be possible.  I’m fine with waiting until morning since I have been up since 5AM two time zones to the east.  As long as I can get into the truck, life can continue as what passes for normal over the road.

The flight to Portland was also half full.  In a demonstration of what I have long known is the Luck of the Campbells, my aisle seat was on the only row where three people were assigned.  It was also across the aisle from a colicky baby.  Usually I am also seated behind the first man to recline his seat (and last to un-recline, when the attendant has to remind him as the flight is ending).  He is always a tall man (and this one was), so that his head will intrude even farther into what other people call “my personal space”.  Ha!  His seat was incapable of reclination!  That luxury IS available – at extra cost, of course.

Fortunately, after takeoff I could abandon the $12-extra seat and claim a whole row to myself.   Unaccountably, the plane arrived 40 minutes early and I was able to get to the Tow Yard before closing.  My trailer has been appropriated by another Company driver, but the tractor is still there.  The engine diagnostic tells me that there is water in the fuel and demands that I connect an Engine Service Tool (computer) before it will tell me the three problems it could have displayed on the dash, but won’t.  The APU that charges the batteries, supplies 110 power and keeps me from freezing at night has a diesel-powered generator that tries mightily, but cannot start.  A call to Road Rescue and they advise me to “Get a load and get out of the Northwest.   We will schedule you to visit a ThermoKing (APU) shop.”

   The lack of a trailer makes it difficult to convince anyone to assign me a load so I can take that advice.  I did drain the fuel filter settling bowl where water accumulates.  Then I drove to this truck stop where I am patiently awaiting assignment while unpacking, cleaning and organizing the truck and – of course – writing for you, my Loyal Readers.

Over The Road,

Steve

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