It’s been said that variety is the spice of life. I believe variety is life. Highlights of a variety-filled week:

Alumni Banquet

With Mom and Ann, 2008. Mom celebrated her 75th class reunion last Saturday!

Last week I mentioned I’d be attending Mom’s 75th high school reunion. Mom hosted a pre-banquet party for her classmates, all of them in their early 90s. I haven’t heard such a rowdy party since my own high school days. In fact, we had to throw them out so we wouldn’t miss the dinner. At the Elks’ building, 500 people were packed in shoulder-to-shoulder during cocktail hour. My cousin and I had to elbow our way to the bar to get a drink. Mom and her friends were far from the oldest in attendance; that honor fell to a member of the class of 1937!

In addition to Mom’s pack of rowdies I visited with friends from the 45 and 50-year classes. Aside from the 1973 graduates there weren’t many of us from the 70s. My dinner companions were Laurie, who, like me, played in the cello section in junior high and high school, and Greg, 5 years my senior and well-known in high school days as a member of a local band. In fact, Greg and several of his contemporaries were the after-dinner band. I would have stayed for the dance but Mom and her friends had worn me out.

Air Travel

Flying out of Seattle, WA, is not always as simple as it would appear. . . From the cover of Small-g City by S. D. Matley (artwork by Lee Kuruganti).

2018 has been a challenging year in terms of my experiences with TSA. You may recall the variety of admonishments and searches I was subjected to when Bruce and I flew back from Reno last March. If you missed it, here’s the scoop:

On last weekend’s trip, a short flight from Walla Walla to Seattle, I was “randomly selected” for a pat-down. Then I realized the wheels on my carry-on bag made it a mere inch too large for Alaska Airline’s brand new luggage policy. A kind baggage handler waived this for the west-bound flight so I didn’t have to check my bag and pay an additional $25. On the return trip, the bag was the least of my problems.

At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport I generally check in at one of the kiosks. All you have to do is key in your last name and flight number. Unless the kiosk program can’t find your reservation. Then you have to get in a line for “Assistance.” A long, slow line. The person who assisted me checked my slightly-too-large bag and issued me a boarding pass. She also handed me an application for Alaska’s credit card and pointed out that cardholders get to check the first piece of luggage for free. Hmmm. Is it possible that this new carry-on size limitation was initiated in order to boost Alaska’s credit card applications? I wondered.

It was nice to have something to wonder about for the next 45 minutes while I waited in line to go through the TSA check point. About 10,000 people were stuck in that particular limbo, I kid you not. When I got close enough to see the front line of TSA workers, the ones who check your boarding pass and ID, I could see that they were stopping the flow of would-be passengers at regular intervals, like they were unjamming a bottleneck before the luggage screening. When the herd was finally allowed to proceed I passed through the screenings without incident- -almost. I was stopped by a TSA employee just past the human x-ray cylinder. She instructed me to turn around and hold my arms out at my sides. The only thing she patted down was my visible right bra-strap. Was this an admonishment for tacky dressing or did she think I was packing a pistol? Suspecting that trouble was at my heels, I didn’t ask.

Which brings me to boarding the plane for the flight home. When the Alaska employee slid my boarding pass into the barcode reader, the reader requested confirmation of my seat number. After three unsuccessful attempts, the employee handed my boarding pass to the technician standing next to him. The technician furrowed his brow and, after trying a variety of overrides, issued me a new boarding pass. I got back in line. This time, the barcode reader said I was already on the plane. Back to the technician I went. He printed yet another boarding pass with a different seat assignment. Back in the boarding line, the barcode reader still objected. The technician waved me on in frustration.

On board, another person was in my newly assigned seat with a valid boarding pass. Someone was also in my originally assigned seat. I prevailed on a flight attendant to sort out the mess. After verifying my identity she showed me to an available seat. This should have been the end of the confusion, right? Wrong. As the clock ticked toward takeoff time, the man who’d worked the boarding pass scanner and the technician both came on board. Each was armed with a passenger manifest. According to their records, the flight should have had 64 passengers but 66 were on board. After considerable delay and a palpable rise in tension, they narrowed the offenders down to a mother and daughter who had purchased seats on standby. The mother was sitting in the seat I’d been reassigned to.

After a lost reservation, an extra $25 to check my bag, a TSA line worthy of the most aggressive holiday shoppers on Black Friday, an abbreviated pat-down and a tense session of musical airline seats, I was primed to accept a glass of in-flight complimentary wine. The flight attendant announced they’d be serving a Walla Walla rose. Insult joined injury. I’ll try most red or white wines, but I draw the line at pink.

Blood Draw Date

Variety keeps romance alive, even after 19 years! Nevada Slim Trio, 1999, with Bruce Matley and Bill Hamm. Photo by Michael Kinder.

Looking for a new variety of socializing? I highly recommend the blood draw date. Both Bruce and I had been signed up for blood work by our doctors, so we figured it would be more fun to go together, followed by a post-fast breakfast out. We arrived at the lab at opening, 7:30 AM. My phlebotomist was a serious middle-aged woman with dark circles under her eyes. I’m a tough customer when it comes to drawing blood and her first attempt failed.

“The vacuum was too powerful and collapsed your vein,” she said in funereal tones. “In future, request the syringe method.” She bandaged up my right arm, disposed of the first implement she’d used and pulled a much smaller needle-and-tubing contraption out of a drawer. After a successful draw from my left arm she looked at me darkly and said, “There will be a terrible bruise on your right arm.” As it turned out, there wasn’t.

If there’s a moral lurking in this story I can’t find it. However, I highly recommend the blueberry pancakes and Bacon & Eggs in Walla Walla, WA.

Return to Music

My first performance with the Nevada Slim Trio, 1999. 15 years later we thought we were finished. Not so. With Bruce Matley.

Sometimes you think you’re done with something, but really you’re not. At the end of 2014 we decided to take 6 months off from musical performance. We enjoyed the break so much we haven’t played “out” since. This week was different. One of our Prescott neighbors, one who has been a true friend, is facing his last days. Gene loves music, especially jazz and big band, but every kind of music brings him joy. We visited him in the hospital on Monday. Since then, he’s taken a turn for the worse. Wednesday, after clearing it with the hospital staff and Gene’s family, we visited him again, this time with a guitar and a few briefly rehearsed songs. He was awake when we arrived, though very weak and clearly in pain. The guitar caught his interest. We sang Tumbling Tumbleweeds, Sentimental Journey and Cool Water. Halfway through Cool Water he drifted to sleep. The lines of pain and worry eased from his face. I think the music brought him a measure of peace.

This is why, sometimes, you’re never really done with something. If you have the ability to make someone’s life better, you are responsible for using that ability. Variety is life. We need to come together to celebrate milestones. We need to turn life’s lemons into lemonade. We need to ease each other’s suffering. We need to capture joy through music and reunions and stories.

It’s not a matter of if your life will change, it’s when. If you look closely and think carefully, I believe you’ll discover a variety of ways to live through life’s changes, with joy.

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