Saturday, May 30, 2009

Journey Across America, Day Five

The photo shows the Rockies heading into Bozeman.
We make up on Day 5 in Butte, looking at a five hour trip to Spokane. We exjoy a fine breakfast and chat with Dot, get our oil changed, and hit the highway.
We stop in Missoula for lunch, then head for home. The hours seem to move slower the closer we get to Spokane.
Finally, our drive comes to an end at 2 pm as we pull up to our home. We are very excited to be home.

Journey Across America, Day Four

Miranda wakes up in a cranky mood and we are in the car by 7 a.m. The trip across North Dakota is on roads that are flat and nearly empty, with a speed limit of 75. We get breakfast at Starbucks in Bismarck, famous as the city where I took the AP test. We also see a sign announcing the continental divide at an elevation of 1,400 feet. This makes me laugh because the divide in Montana is more than 6,000 feet up.

I also tell Miranda I nearly died on this stretch of I-94 decades ago when i was driving to a basketball tournament in Fargo. My Camaro was blown into a 360-degree turn on icy roads, but i kept it on the highway, straightened out, and kept on going. Telling that story always makes me feel like a Duke of Hazzard.

The landscape includes several statues of giant cows that we like.

We have a series of unfortunate stops in Eastern Montana. We pull off the road in Glendive after we see a McDonald's sign, but are told the restaurant is out of business and can find no other fast food joints. We drive an hour down the road to Miles City, where we find an excellent DQ. We eat, but forget to gas up the car. That means in another hour we are pulling over in Hysham to get gas. Three stops so soon is unprecedented for us.

I had hoped to stop at a Ralph Lauren outlet store in Billings, Montana's largest city, but we see no signs on the highway for it so we blast on through without stopping.

The snow covered spires of the Rockies suddenly appear, and two hours later we are in Bozeman, where I attended Montana State University.

We pull off for a walk in the charming downtown, and Cappy makes friends with numerous dogs. We eat a fine light dinner at a sidewalk cafe, then hit the road for 80 more miles to Butte, my wife's hometown.

We are staying with my mother-in-law Dorothy, and have a fine visit before falling exhausted into bed. I am troubled because the car is running very hot.
the photos show me in Bozeman, and Miranda in Waterville, just because we need a pix of her

Journey Across America, Day III

Thursday morning we are up early, and then plow through morning traffic towards Wisconsin. The tolls keep piling up as we cross Illinois, but end when we reach Wisconsin. However, those slick travel plazas also end, leaving us to exit the highway into strange towns when we need gas or food. One plaza is named for WWII correspondent Ernie Pyle, and this prompts me to contemplate how we journalists have become a simpering pile of stenographers worried about our 401Ks. Pyle, who died in the war, was a real reporter.

I drive for three solid hours, then pull over at a truck stop. We buy a bag of cheese curds and wheat thins for lunch, and i call Kon and wish him a Happy Birthday.

Miranda then takes the wheel for more than four hours, which is too long to go without stopping. We get to Minneapolis-St. Paul, and decide to drive through the city into the western suburbs before stopping. But traffic is heavy and this takes longer than expected. We finally pull off the road when we see a Quiznos, but it turns out to be closed. We spot a grocery store across the street and park there.

Miranda goes in first, while I stay outside with Cappy. But Miranda takes longer than expected, and I am dying to hit the can. So I go around to the side of the building, and relieve myself on the pavement. I look up to realize that I am actually standing on a hill in full view of eight lanes of I-90 traffic. I also have to hold my right arm straight out to keep Cappy from jumping into the spray, so it looks like I am signaling a left turn while peeing. This becomes the iconic scene of the trip so far.

When Miranda comes out, I run inside to buy some chicken wings, and we hit the road again. I tell Miranda about my outdoor evacuation, and she is silent for several miles.

We stop for gas in Sauk Centre, Minn., hometown of novelist Sinclair Lewis, eviscerator of small town mores. There are lots of signs announcing this connection, even though Lewis was brutal in his assessments of such places.

We had planned to put in an 11 hour day and stop in Fargo, but when we get there we decide we have a little more energy and push on for Valley City, ND. We reserve a room at a dog-friendly Super 8, but I am disappointed to find no national chain casual dining restaurants. I eat a charmless hamburger at a truck stop, while Miranda subsists on half a chocolate chip cookie. Our dinner costs $8, and the room is $80.

We fall asleep early after 12 hours of driving.

the photo shows North Dakota from our car window.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Journey Across America, Day II

We successfully completed our stay at a hotel just outside Erie, Pa., in which we had to sneak Cappy in and out of the room because they did not allow pets. We carried Cappy in a big bag. But the night was nerve-wracking because she would bark everytime someone walked down the hallway, and we were certain we would be kicked out. and also fined $100.

We stopped in a posh suburb of Cleveland to visit one of Miranda's school friends. Their estate was lovely and large, and Cappy got to run around for an hour while we enjoyed homemade scones and visited.

Then we made a hard push through driving rain past Toledo and into northern Indiana, the 7th state we had entered (Maine, New Hamp, Mass, NY, Penn and Ohio). I wanted to stop at Notre Dame for a pix of touchdown Jesus, but Miranda was not interested. Perhaps as punishment, a brake warning light went on as we passed through the industrial hell of Gary, Ind., and the car's power flickered. But it continued to operate and we limped into downtown Chicago, lost and a little spooked. I was able by dint of my earlier residence in the city, and the fact that i was a student of Lewis and Clark, to locate Greektown, and we pulled into the dog friendly Crowne Plaza hotel, where the room cost $150, plus $50 for the dog and $36 to park the car. But something, this did not feel as much as the dozens of highway tolls we paid all day long.

We had a dinner date with lindsay tanner and paul driscoll, old friends from my days as a reporter in Chicago. Lindsay is Miranda's godmother. I took Cappy for a stroll through Greektown before dinner.

Tomorrow, we have about a 12-hour campaign to Fargo. I'm thinking of offering Miranda money if we can get on the road by 9 am.

West to Greatness!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Journey across America, Day I

Day one of our drive from waterville, maine, to spokane went off with nary a hitch. After spending the night in the kind of hotel where Earl Hickey and Randy might live, I was picked up by Miranda at 8:30 a.m. and we drove down to Portland, Maine, with Miranda at the wheel.

Being poorly prepared, we realized that we had no maps in her car, so we had to sort of wing it to get where we wanted to go.

We drove through New Hampshire to the Massachusetts Turnpike, and across that state. However, my desire to glimpse the many historic cities along the way was thwarted because you cant see anything beyond the lush forests that line the highway.

after paying what seemed about $100 in tolls, we crossed into New York state and motored through Albany. we stopped at these spectacular places along the New York Thruway that included numerous restaurants, bathrooms and gas stations. That made for 20 minute pit stops in which all major business was completed, and we tore through the miles.

I drove for several hours from near Albany to Buffalo, then Miranda made the final push from Buffalo to a strange little town called North East, just outside Erie, where we had a reservation for the night. The whole place looked deserted, except for some ominous locals, and the only place we could find to eat dinner was a Subway. I, of course, fretted loudly over this distressing turn of events. The reason I love to stay in chain hotels is they are surrounded by chain restaurants and other chain stores, and that makes me feel safe. If you have to navigate the dangers of local businesses, then this whole tourist thing have to be re-evaluated.

anyway, we visit a friend of Miranda's in Cleveland tomorrow, then on to Chicago for a night of eating at the Greek Islands and reminiscing about the past.

Friday, May 15, 2009

the end is near

Continuing my quest to protect right living, I wrote this recent story about efforts to ban smoking of golf courses. You heard that right. Don't worry, I am fighting for all of us

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) _ For the cigar-smoking golfer, 18 holes and a stogie rank with peanut butter and jelly or gin and tonic among life's ideal combinations.
¶ That's why recent efforts across the country to ban smoking on public golf courses are being greeted by those players like a triple bogey. In the balance between individual rights and public health, weekend duffers feel authorities have become unreasonable.
¶ The city of Spokane just tried to ban smoking on its four public golf courses, only to be stymied by an outcry from players and smoking rights advocates.
¶ "Golf and cigars go together like a hand in a glove," said Dale Taylor of Tacoma, president of the Cigar Association of Washington, a smokers' rights groups. "That may be the only time some people smoke."
¶ Washington state is among the least hospitable places for smokers, with no smoking allowed in any public indoor space, or outside within 25 feet of a door or window. But the proposed smoking ban on public links has struck a nerve, in part because of the vastness of golf courses. Playing a typical 18-hole course, such as Downriver in Spokane, means traveling easily more than three miles.
¶ "If I was just walking and somebody was 300 feet away, I'm bothering them?" avid smoker and golfer Greg Presley told the Spokane parks board during a public hearing. "We've got to have some common sense."
¶ Evidence of the illnesses caused by second-hand smoke has led to widespread bans on indoor smoking nationwide in recent decades. The great outdoors is now at the forefront of campaigns led by smoking opponents, and hundreds of places ban it in outdoor restaurants, parks and beaches, said Annie Tegan, of the Seattle office of Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, which seeks to limit smoking.
¶ Because bans are enacted at the local and state levels, it is difficult to determine their exact number of them. Tegan knew of about a dozen communities that have banned smoking on public golf courses, including San Francisco, Glendale and Pasadena in California; Hawaii County, Hawaii; Bloomington, Minn.; Goshen, Ind.; Abilene, Texas; and Arvada, Colo.
¶ The Hilo Municipal Golf Course is the only public course on the big island of Hawaii, and last year's ban on smoking in all public parks, beaches and other recreation facilities has not been popular, said assistant pro Sharol Ayai.
¶ "There's big-time complaining," Ayai said. "The golfers will still smoke because most feel it is unfair. We all pay taxes."
¶ Ayai said the ban, which does not apply to private golf clubs, has not had much impact on the number of rounds played at the course, in part because it is ignored.
¶ Some communities that tried to ban smoking on golf courses, like Thousand Oaks, Calif., relented after complaints by golfers, whose fees support the facilities.
¶ "You really have to stretch things to imagine you are offending anybody when you are outside smoking cigars," said Gordon Mott, executive editor of Cigar Aficionado magazine, which includes a monthly feature on smoking and golf.
¶ Some non-smokers oppose outdoor smoking bans as intrusive government.
¶ "It's a disgusting habit, but people have a right to make choices," Spokane resident Joel Bark told the local Parks Board during the public hearing.
¶ Patrick Reynolds of the Foundation for a Smokefree America acknowledged that moving the anti-smoking fight from indoors to outdoors was "cutting edge."
¶ "But these are in fact reasonable laws," Reynolds, grandson of tobacco pioneer R.J. Reynolds, said. "Second-hand smoke causes lung cancer."
¶ The bans also are aimed at reducing litter, he said.
¶ Smoking bans also have been imposed on spectators at pro golf tournaments. Last month, there was a no-smoking zone for the first time at the Masters. The U.S. Open in 2008 at Torrey Pines banned smoking by spectators because San Diego had banned smoking in its parks, beaches and public golf courses. But players were allowed to smoke.
¶ With little advance notice, the Spokane parks board voted in March to ban smoking in all city parks, including golf courses. An existing law already prevented people from smoking near playgrounds, swimming pools or other parks facilities, so the board didn't think many would care when it decided to ban smoking entirely, parks spokeswoman Nancy Goodspeed said.
¶ They were wrong.
¶ The outcry from smokers and libertarians was swift, and prompted the board in April to stay the ban on golf courses while it studies the issue further.
¶ "We heard from everyone and their brother, on both sides," Goodspeed said.
¶ The board will wait for people to calm down before taking up the issue of smoking on golf courses again, she said, adding that may be a year or more.
¶ Presley, who said he has smoked and played golf for five decades, hopes it never comes up again.
¶ "There's plenty of fresh air out there to share," Presley said. "Everyone pays taxes."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Hawaiian Shirts, the Story

Here is a copy of a story that I wrote that moved this week on the national wires, explaining the importance of Hawaiian shirts:

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) _ Spring is here, and that means the season has arrived for tropical print camp shirts, better known as Hawaiian shirts.
¶ After a harsh winter, a change of attire can spark a change of attitude.
¶ "The minute you put them on, you feel a little more relaxed," said Doug Wood, chief operating officer of Seattle-based Tommy Bahama, one of the nation's top sellers of upscale versions of Hawaiian shirts.
¶ Hawaiian shirts have been riding one of their periodic waves of popularity in recent years, thanks to the influence of surfer chic. Despite their humble 1930s origins and iconoclastic image, Hawaiian shirts are a serious business and subject of academic study. And they are popular everywhere, said Linda Arthur, a textile professor at Washington State University in Pullman who has written several books about Aloha shirts, the preferred name among aficionados.
¶ "The Aloha shirt has covered the globe," Arthur said.
¶ Aloha shirts were invented in the 1930s, when mom-and-pop tailors in Hawaii began making Western-style garments out of a common material, colorful Japanese kimono fabric. The shirts at first were sold to tourists, but eventually caught on with locals.
¶ Students at the prestigious Punahou School on Oahu, whose graduates include President Obama, started ordering such shirts to wear at school functions.
¶ The shirt industry grew during World War II, when products from the mainland were in short supply in Hawaii and people had to create their own fabrics and make their own clothes, Arthur said.
¶ This sparked the heyday of Hawaiian shirt genius Alfred Shaheen, who developed methods that allowed the shirts to explode with multiple colors and built his own fabric factory.
¶ Shaheen, who died last December at 86, is crediting with transforming the shirts from tacky souvenirs into works of art, and spurring mass production. Brightly colored rayon shirts made by Shaheen and others in the 1940s and 1950s, known as Silkies, have become collector's items, selling for thousands of dollars today.
¶ Manufacturers at that time tried to make Hawaiian shirts cut especially for ladies, but found that many women preferred wearing the men's cut. In that respect, the shirts were gender-bending, Arthur said.
¶ The Aloha shirt also played a role in one of the most popular workplace innovations, casual Fridays. The city of Honolulu decided in 1965 that it was OK for employees to wear Aloha shirts to city offices, laying the groundwork for a trend that later swept the nation.
¶ "Now the average man in Hawaii wears an Aloha shirt every day," Arthur said.
¶ Not everyone is a fan. Glenn O'Brien, style columnist for GQ magazine, believes Hawaiian shirts lost much of their artistry when they went mass market.
¶ "At best they are a `go to hell' item, like wild colored country club pants, that assert a man's token rebellion against conformity," O'Brien wrote in an e-mail. They are not appropriate outside of pool or beach parties, and for no office unless it "sells ukuleles or mai tais," he said.
¶ "I think they often represent a sort of desperation for leisure," O'Brien said. "I think of the doctors from `MASH' wearing them as they drink their martinis before the next load of wounded comes in."
¶ The shirts are loved or reviled from Moscow, Russia, to Moscow, Idaho. A recent heated debate on involved why men wear "awful Hawaiian shirts."
¶ "They are incredibly ugly and make men look effeminate," complained a poster named Irinka.
¶ That prompted a person named Apache to post the famous Nick Nolte arrest photo, with the disheveled actor displaying wild hair and an impressive Hawaiian shirt. "You call THAT effeminate?" Apache asked.
¶ Hawaiian shirts loom large in popular culture. The movie "From Here to Eternity," set in Hawaii, featured stars like Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra and Ernest Borgnine wearing the shirts. Elvis Presley wore a Shaheen-designed red one for the cover of his 1961 album "Blue Hawaii."
¶ President Harry S. Truman was a noted Hawaiian shirtman. Al Pacino rocked one in "Scarface." The character of Cosmo Kramer from "Seinfeld" wore them.
¶ Homer Simpson perhaps distilled the essence of the shirts when he told Marge: "There's only two kinds of guys who wear Hawaiian shirts: gay guys and big, fat party animals."
¶ California surfers of the 1960s embraced the shirts at a time that saw more abstract designs and unusual styles, including a cropped Hawaiian shirt called a jack-shirt that fit like an Eisenhower jacket. The 1970s brought a focus on ethnic designs and patterns, and the '80s brought Tom Selleck in "Magnum, P.I."
¶ Selleck wore them so well that entrepreneur Greg Chambers was moved to start a mail order company called Mad Gringo.
¶ "Thomas Magnum is the male species at its most potent," Chambers said, even though Magnum took the radical step of tucking his shirts in _ a move not recommended today.
¶ Wearing Hawaiian shirts pays immediate dividends, said Chambers, who operates his company from Omaha, Neb., "the middle of the big island."
¶ "People are nicer to you. They speak slowly and tend to enunciate, and everyone says `Nice shirt!"' Chambers said. "It's the only article of clothing that men can compliment one another on and still sound macho."
¶ Chambers said he keeps 10 to 12 Hawaiian shirts in rotation at all times, and believes every man should own at least two.
¶ "If you own just one, people tend to say `there's Jim in the party shirt ... again,'" Chambers said. "And if you stretch beyond three, people start in on the `it's so sad to see someone give up like that. His poor wife!'"
¶ The nation's rising affluence in the 1990s sparked a demand for high-end Hawaiian shirts, often now called "Resort Wear." Many of those '60s surfers eventually ended up in the Silicon Valley, where their relaxed clothing style became the de facto work uniform of the dot-com revolution, Arthur said.
¶ That prompted a group of business people in Seattle to launch Tommy Bahama, a clothing company built on the image of a fictional Hawaiian shirtman living in a cabana house with no worries, but selling shirts for $100 or more.
¶ Whether wearing a Hawaiian shirt to work is acceptable depends on where one lives. On the West Coast, it's nothing special. In the buttoned down East Coast, it marks one as dressing outside the box, Wood said.
¶ Tommy Bahama got a boost when actor Bruce Campbell, of the hit TV show "Burn Notice," wore his personal collection of their shirts exclusively in his role as Sam.
¶ "I am a Tommy Bahama guy," Campbell told reporters recently. "Tommy Bahama, write that down, because we want a bunch of free shirts."
¶ Campbell got his wish. The company struck a deal to provide the show with clothes.
¶ Campbell aside, Hawaiian shirts may be heading into a period of decline, after a long period of rising sales, Wood said.
¶ "It seems to be a polo time," he said.
¶ One reason is that, try as they might, most men can only own so many Hawaiian shirts, he said. On the other hand, when a Hawaiian shirt design melds into a perfect blend of colors and patterns, all bets are off.
¶ "I don't care if the market is hot or not," Wood said. "I can't make enough of them. They blow out of stores."
¶ ^___=
¶ On the Web:
¶ History:
¶ Hawaiian shirt mail order: