On our most recent return visit to Idaho, to celebrate Mom’s 90 years of life with about that same number of people, all of us acutely fond of each other, despite all manner of religious, social, political and economic viewpoints on salient issues of the day, we found ourselves wanting a guitar. Present at the party were a number of too-well-behaved teenagers, their calm demeanor perhaps due to the presence of a surprising number of kinspersons (more than enough to cause us to keep our distance from any other group so configured) who are either presently employed by, or recently retired from, agencies that are part of what we call “the legal system”.
Name the first ten occupations you can think of in that system, and we’re pretty sure at least six were covered. In short, we felt our perimeter was secured. All we felt was needed was a guitar for the youngsters to use as a mojo, to fend off paranoia, a wholly unwarranted response in this crowd, but understandable among the youth.
One of our oldest and dearest friends (yes, we have many), Boise musician and songwriter, Jack Gish, was the obvious guitar-getting go-to. We’ve known Jack for nearly five decades, and during that time, we even shared lodgings on three different occasions. The first time (and this is a real exciting ‘nother story) in Winchester, we met Jack on the premises of the boarding house, shortly before we (not him) were incarcerated for violating the local “Sunday open container law.” Like we said, “real close, whole ‘nother story.”
We called Jack up, catching him dividing his time between practicing for his gig later that night, and selling the family farm to the tune of hearts breaking all around. Jack, as expected, didn’t even take a breath, “Sure! I got one. Come on over! It’s about time.”
So we went on over. It didn’t matter that we hadn’t exchanged more than a few dozen words online, or seen each others’ faces in nearly 25 years. It didn’t rankle Jack that we’d come back to live in Boise for two years once, visiting everyone in town except him and Lois and maybe two other people (and they were disgusting).
“Come on over, it’s about time.”
A sea of guilt flowed between those two Meridian addresses and we swam every soaking inch of it, going over. Jack embraced us at the door, and it was as if the years between this visit and our last one just vanished, so great is the sense of our affectionate brotherhood.
We stammered, “We don’t see how you can forgive us for being in town for two years and not coming by even once!”
The next words he spoke were like so much of what he says and writes into his songs (and he was not talking to himself, it just seems like it when we write this way), were these:
“Jack, one thing I’ve been fortunate to have in my life is confidence in my friendships.”
Never much inclined toward prayer, it startled to hear the next word that floated to the surface of our rapidly drying and vanishing sea of guilt, was,
Jack produced a guitar, and we returned to the party with it, already looking forward to the return visit, only a little more leisurely one. The youths at the party proceeded to jam. The kids filled the pool with squirming flesh. The party lasted two days for some, five for others. Mom came early and was last to leave. She might’ve stayed longer, but grandson Nikita’s graduation was coming up fast in San Francisco, and she needed to get back to Colorado to check her traps first.
The reader can be forgiven at this point for wondering, “What the feck does this have to do with the Market slide show?!” The answer is: nothing and everything.
The last year in which we lived in Seattle was 1986. We had found ourselves jobless in Idaho, and cast into that state of disgrace referred to in academic circles as “ABD”, an acronym some say means “all but dissertation”, but those who’ve been there understand to mean “almost beaten dead”. There are few remedies, but the one most often tried is the road trip back through time. One makes his way to a place of past glory, sometimes also termed “employment”.
We bailed out of Pocatello for the nth time and pointed the Pinto toward the Sound of Puget, clueless about what moves might be made, should we make it there. We stopped in Boise long enough watch the Challenger explode with all aboard, and to subsequently be evicted by our dear friend and benefactor, Ruth Wright (RIP) for filling the old manse with the smoke of burning vegetation; me with mine, and Jim Owen (RIP) with his. Sans resources, we continued our sojourn to Market Mecca.
It’s well established that you can take the boy out of Idaho, but you can’t take Idaho out of anything. We calculated that old friends from the Gem State would just naturally be starving for news from “home”, and because we were merely starving, tit seemed a promising vein to work. Scant ten years had passed since we had been co-workers with Stan Jonasson at Idaho Heritage, and equipped with his contact information, we called him up almost before we pulled into town.
We had plenty of history with Stan; shared interests and warm relations between us during our term of residence in Boise had the result that Stan didn’t hesitate to offer us a place to crash in his small but light and airy pad on Queen Anne Hill. It didn’t hurt that we promised to pay a hundred a week to stay there as soon as we got on our feet, The fact that the most upright we managed to get while we were there included callused knuckles, so Stan never got a penny from us for the month we occupied him.
It was not the money, or anything to do with money, that punctuated our welcome at Stan’s. We don’t remember the exact details (conveniently perhaps), but we may have listened to one of his phone messages from a sweet and pleasant-voiced caller, one of Stan’s female acquaintances. He was annoyed, despite always having the most amiable disposition of those around, so our behavior gave even us the creeps.
Bumbershoot had come and gone and our one-day job delivering the Seattle Weekly to newsstands from Ballard to the U District had lost its novelty. We were growing concerned that, if we kept selling our blood, we might exhaust the supply, and it made us restless.
The capper was our keen awareness that, untrue to our promise and best intentions, Stan hadn’t received so much as a nickel from us, nor had he asked for any. Also, because living a healthy and environmentally conscious lifestyle was Stan’s credo, finding a 32 oz bottle of Coca Cola in his fridge was the last straw. Even though all he did was stand for several minutes staring at its radioactive aura, It was clear what was coming.
We deserved eviction, and it was the gentlest in history, we’re certain. No date was decreed; the apples were ripening in Entiat; Ramblin’ Rex had landed a sinecure in a well-fruited orchard; we made our exit in the middle of the night and headed east.
In the years since, many opportunities to settle the debt we felt we owed to Stan have come and gone, despite that he has never, by word or gesture, given us to feel a moment’s discomfort over it. We are aware of his current circumstances, which include being the sole caregiver to his nonagenarian mother, volunteering at the public library, and generally being kind to others as a matter of personal inclination.
We have made it a habit not to specify the sums pledged by our backers for this project. We know people give what they can afford, if they feel we are worthy. Nor do we attach any significance to the fact that a certain aged relative of Stan’s was for a time the state treasurer of Idaho, a state since broken by a long series of ideologues and posturers for a piece of the public purse. What we can do here today, though, with heartfelt respect, affection, admiration and gratitude is to make a promise that we will surely keep,
“Stan Jonasson, There is a fat, fresh, radiation free, no-GMO Chinook salmon in your future!”
We love you back!