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Seattle, Washington, September, 1998
Dear Editor,
I am back from the triathlon in Penticton, where Jeremy placed 333rd out of 1496 racers, and did survive. It was an incredible time. I got the tiniest taste of why these people do this to themselves. There is a community among them. There is pageantry and a mystique, and a great respect for one another; in a sense, a sort of knighthood. They have standards and they help one another, whether they like each other or not. And so forth. It was a very hard time for a lot of reasons but rewarding in many ways.~Penny Paragruman

© 1998 by Penny Paragruman

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Somewhere in cyberspace, September 1998
Dear Editor,
A teacher gave her fourth- grade students the beginning of a list of famous sayings and asked them to provide original endings for each one. Here are some examples of what they submitted:

The grass is always greener when you leave the sprinkler on.
The grass is always greener when you put manure on it.
A rolling stone plays the guitar.
A bird in the hand is a real mess.
No news is no newspaper.
It's better to light one candle than to waste electricity.
Better to light a candle than to light an explosive.
It's always darkest just before I open my eyes.
You have nothing to fear but homework.
If you can't stand the heat, don't start the fireplace.
If you can't stand the heat, go swimming.

Never put off till tomorrow what you should have done yesterday.
A penny saved is nothing in the real world.
The squeaking wheel gets annoying.
We have nothing to fear but our principal.
To err is human. To eat a muskrat is not.
I think, therefore I get a headache.
It's always darkest before 9:30 p.m.
Early to bed and early to rise is first in the bathroom.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a blister.
There is nothing new under the bed.
Don't count your chickens- - -it takes too long.
Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry, and someone yells shut up!
~contributed by Catie Burns

*******

Little Fort, British Columbia, October, 1998
(postcard of golden leaved aspens along a river)
Dear Editor,
Fall is here! We're in a serious drought. People are losing their wells, and are forced to look for springs or other sources of water -- buying it in bottles, going to laundromats (no easy thing, since they are 30 miles away!) and sharing bath water -- just like in the olden times.

The trees still have most of their leaves. Aspen and paper birch are golden or canary yellow -- a shocking contrast to their white trunks and limbs, and to the dark evergreen of the conifer forest. Because of the drought, cedars are showing the most stress of the trees but all the plans, birds, and wild animals are affected. Everything is thirsty and/or dried up. With neither berries nor apples for the bear to fatten up on for winter, they are reduced to eating grass and rose hips (wild rose fruit.) This passes through them undigested, looking like fruit granola. (Only a silly naturalist would check out these "spots" of interest!)

I haven't been able to work on my herbarium as the specimens are in such bad shape. That will have to wait for another year. I have been making baskets and experimenting with native plant fibers. The First Nation people used to make cordage from [obliterated by post office bar-code]-weed, dog bane, and stinging nettles. My hands are calloused and cracking from all this earthy work. These are not the soft hands of a city woman.

Tonight I go look for the Big Dipper. The mountains and that horseshoe our lake, snuggle those stars like gems in a ring setting.~Laura Snyder

© 1998 by Laura Snyder

********

September 1998, via e-mail

Excerpts from a 1915 teachers magazine listed the following rules of conduct for teachers of that day. (A few may still apply!)

You will not marry during the term of your contract.
You are not to keep company with men.
You must be home between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., unless attending a school function.
You may not loiter downtown in ice cream stores.
You may not travel beyond the city limits unless you have the permission of the chairman of the board.
You may not ride in a carriage or automobile with any man unless he is your father or brother.
You may not smoke cigarettes.
You may not dress in bright colors.
You may under no circumstances dye your hair.
You must wear at least two petticoats.
Your dresses must not be any shorter than two inches above the ankle.
To keep the school room neat and clean, you must: sweep the floor at least once daily; scrub the floor at least once a week with hot, soapy water; clean the blackboards at least once a day; and start the fire at 7 a.m. so the room will be warm by 8 a.m.[Editor's note: Whew!]

From The Federalist Brief, Vol 98-39, 29 September 1998

© 1998 by Publius Press

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Dows, Iowa, October 1998
Dear Editor,
Here's a sample of my new project, Western Architecture:

Frank Lloyd was Wright,
but Buckminster was Fuller.

----That's all for now! Thanks and Best Regards.~Otis Luce

© 1998 by Cayuse Press

Letters from All Over

Paris, France, July 1998
Dear Editor,
"Watch out for the Paris pickpockets," said my wife. She'd lived in Paris before and she knew what she was talking about. I scoffed at her caution, knowing I'd been through the crowded streets of New York, London and Tokyo without any trouble. But I was all wrong and she was so right! I had my billfold in my hip pocket, and buttoned too, as I went through a turnstile at the Etoile Charles DeGaulle underground. Suddenly, a scruffy, thin looking guy slipped up behind me, crowding into the turnstile with me. I felt busy fingers fiddling with my hip pocket and there was nothing subtle about it, either. I pushed on through, breaking loose from the fingers. I turned around and the guy disappeared into the shadows. I felt back at my hip: my pocket was unbuttoned, but the billfold was intact. I buttoned up again, and surged on. A half a minute later, my train pulled up, the doors opened and I boarded. This time, a second person pushed in behind me. Again busy fingers at my hip. I reached back to protect my rear pocket, spun around and faced the culprit. He turned away like nothing had happened! I knew my wallet was still in place, but I was mad as hell. Two attempts in a half a minute, and both ham handed at that! As we pulled away from the station, I wanted to cuff the guy upside the head. But I know if I tried, he'd probably make short work out of an old man like me. (At least I could have bled all over his shoes. I could have done that very well.) Before I reached the next station, I switched my billfold to a front pocket. Haven't used my rear pocket since.~Jay Smith

© 1998 by Jay Smith

*******

Strasbourg, France, August, 1998
Dear Editor,
We're on our way back to Paris after a five day train trip. We began in a clockwise circle, went up north to Holland, then over east to Germany, then west back to Paris. The first stop was Amsterdam, a loser from the start. The place was stocked to the brim with tourists. It seemed grubby, next to Paris. I picked out a three star hotel, paid a four star price and got a one star room. It looked like Anne Frank's attic -- gloomy with walls sloping up to a low ceiling. I was waiting for the Gestapo to barge in any moment. Enough said about Amsterdam.

The next day was unseasonably cool and dark when we pulled into Cologne, Germany. I liked the place immediately. The massive cathedral (750 years old) towered over us wherever we went. At first, I thought the church was a museum. It was a city block from entrance to altar. We walked in and were bowled over by the majesty of the place -- with a high mass in progress! Though we saw row upon row of pews, most of them were full. With a little searching, we found places to sit. Stained glass windows rose forty feet up and above them, another row soared just as high. An immense organ with gleaming silver pipes and as big as a railway boxcar hung high on one wall. Suspended beneath it, we saw a man in a glass compartment, playing the instrument's complicated keyboard and stops. Great God what sounds we heard! It made the hair at the back of my neck stand on end.

At daybreak the next morning we took a train southeast toward Munich, and followed the Rhine past Koblenz and Mannheim. We went past rocky gorges and sunlit castles high on the hills. There was more sunlight in Munich, but it was still cool for mid-August. On a Sunday morning we sat behind a church sipping dark German coffee with bells pealing here, there, and everywhere. We walked around to the front of the church, and heard even more bells ringing from several other churches along the street. Gongs were coming at us from three directions, and it was really impressive.~Jay Smith

© 1998 by Jay Smith

*******

Bangkok, Thailand, September 1998 (End of monsoon season)
Dear Editor,
Whenever an air passenger passes through Immigration here, either coming in or leaving the country, you must pass by the Thai Immigration desk. More often than not some stiff backed, shoulder tabbed officer gives your visa a once over. Sometimes this might take minutes on end. They love stamps over here. First they stamp your visa, then add a slip of paper, staple it in your passport, stamp that as well. They look at your face, check it with your passport photo to see that it matches. Since I've lost over 100 lbs since my original passport photo was taken, they give me second look just to make sure it's really me.

I've come to notice that whenever the officer finishes my passport, he hands it back to me with a bit smile. After this happened a few times. I asked my wife about it. It seems some years back she had to make out a lengthy form as to wy her husband was living permanently in Thailand. She wrote something to the effect that her father was ill, she couldn't leave his side, and her husband could live without her. Besides, she said,"He loves Thailand with all his heart." This notation has stayed on my visa, every Immigration officer sees it, hence the happy smile.~Jay Smith

© 1998 by Jay Smith

*******

Bangkok, Thailand, October 1998
Dear Editor,
I have to preface this note by apologizing for calling your journal "Plowshares," instead of "The Horsethief's Journal." [Editor's note: That's okay. We make that mistake, once in a while, too, in our dreams calling it The Atlantic Monthly, or Granta, or The New Yorker...]

But then, didn't I call you Laura once? [Editor's note: Yes. She got our letter, and we received hers.] I've got a grievous fault here, so bear with me. I even do it in Thai, that is, thinking one thing, but saying something else. Example: I might want to buy two bananas from a vendor. I'm thinking song (two) but I say salm (three) and the guy hands me three bananas. It goes like this all the time. Did you notice my above cross-out? I'm still not sure...

I've never mixed up my present wife's name with my first wife. I would be asking for sudden death if I did. Incidentally, this is an awful habit for an aspiring writer. Like a tightrope walker with a trick knee; actually a nervous tightrope walker with a trick knee.~Jay Smith

© 1998 by Jay Smith

Omaha, Nebraska, September 1998
Dear Editor,
Howdy! We are here, somewhat settled and getting acclimated. Let's see...We moved in with Stan and Jenny on Wednesday the 19th of August. Derek stayed home while the packers came in to pack. (It was a family; mother, father and son. They contract out.) They packed from 8 a.m. until about 3 p.m. Thursday I took the kids up to the house and we got there right before 8 a.m. By 9 a.m. the movers had not arrived. Derek had the dispatcher track them down. They were at the wrong address! All my neighbors were alarmed. I couldn't even care. We had gone too far to go back. The movers finally arrived just before 9:30 a.m. The truck was backed up to our driveway and the cab was almost to the cross-street, taking up nearly the entire length of the cul-de-sac. The driver was in charge, handwriting an inventory of everything that went into the truck. One guy was responsible for loading the truck and two hauled everything out.

When they first came into the living room, they were all smiles (thinking, "This is going to be easy.") Eyebrows shot up when they found out there was an upstairs. Eyes got big when they saw the stacked boxes from the loft areas. Mouths became flat and firm when they surveyed the garage. Apprehensive looks were exchanged while walking through the back yard.

They began. The couch and chairs were shrink-wrapped. Loose items like bikes, dining chairs, tables, tools were wrapped in blankets and taped shut. The truck was methodically stacked, 12' high, one row at a time. It was amazing. I had nothing to do but be available. They put a rocking chair out in the front yard for me. The kids played at the neighbors houses, playing, and being fed everywhere they went. The movers finished right around 8 p.m. They were in foul moods. As they were walking down the driveway Derek ran after them, panic in his voice, calling out, "Did you get everything out of the cellar?" The driver stopped, mid-stride. He began walking again, pretending not to have heard. One of the men spun around, eyes bulging, jaw to the ground. Derek began to laugh. Isn't that cruel?

We left Seattle in the mini-van about 8 a.m Saturday morning. By the time we stopped for coffee and bagels it was 9 a.m. We arrived in Missoula that night, as planned. It took awhile to locate a room, but the kids and the cats were pretty well behaved, considering how far we'd driven. While taking the male cat in, he jumped away from me, clawing, and I accidentally unlatched the leash to his harness. He was gone. We never did find him. I felt just awful. Fluffy did great the rest of the trip, and is settling in with us now.

The rest of the trip was less traumatic. We met a Japanese-American family in Idaho that were on their way to visit family in Minneapolis. They were from Lynwood and we had fun taking pictures at the freeway rest stop. Ought to be a good picture of all of us outside the bathrooms! We had a fantastic pizza and lemon Caesar salad and local microbrew in Missoula and a buffalo burger in South Dakota. We stopped at Wall Drug in South Dakota and took a quick peek around. It is like Ye Old Curiosity Shop. [Editor's note: Ye Old Curiosity Shop is a fantastic warehouse of weirdness on Seattle's waterfront, owned and operated by the same family for 99 years.] We made great time and drove an extra two hours on our third day and arrived in Omaha a day early.

(Thank God I had that last good coffee while in Seattle. Oh, my.) What do I like about Omaha? Well, there is a lot of chirping of crickets, sounds of locust and other bugs. The blackbirds fly in every evening, making a racket. The turtle doves are so nice to listen to. We've seen grasshoppers, frogs, rabbits and red squirrels. The weather is very warm and humid -- but here we have air conditioning. It is fun to drive past cows, sheep, and horses and see all the farms. Many of the grocery stores have dry-cleaning, banking, mailing, and pharmacy all in one. They also sell liquor in the stores! They also insist on walking groceries out to the car. The other evening it began to rain so they tagged my groceries, gave me a number, and I simply drove the car up to the front of the store and unlatched my trunk. My groceries were located and loaded for me! I loved it. [Editor's note: That would be a full-time job here in Seattle.] Also many stores not only have handicapped parking (have not seen a lot of abuse of those spaces) but also provide special parking for new and expectant mothers.

Yesterday I drove to four Asian grocery stores, one Latino grocery, and one Italian wine and cheese store. The first Saturday of every month a Japanese store orders in fresh sushi, fish and vegetables. They sell out before noon. A Thai and Laos store orders in fresh vegetables every Wednesday. The owner insists she gets "everything," but when I questioned her about basil, Kaffir lime leaves, tamarind, galangal root and some eggplants, she said, "Oh, maybe not that." (Maybe next week I'll find out what "everything" means.) The Latino grocery was wonderful, and had fresh tomatillos and tamarind. They also had a wonderful bakery and fresh chorizo sausage. The Italian wine store had 8 oz. balls of fresh buffalo mozzarella for $5.00 each! Ouch! If I can locate some fresh basil, I'll be in heaven. The tomatoes out here are spectacular!

Last weekend we did a lot of driving around and also went to the Saturday Farmer's Market in downtown Omaha. It was fun. At the market, we pulled right up into a parking space, shopped the market finding fresh basil ($1.00 for a big plastic produce bag), tons on cilantro, tomatoes to die for, lots of types of eggplant, fresh flowers, Brentwood furniture, doughnuts, and so many other things. The kids were able to walk around with us, often not even holding our hands. We also went to walk around Con-Agra and enjoyed the lake, fountains, waterfalls, fish, butterflies, dragonflies, watching the tourist boat, trolley and the bicycle carts that held 2-6 people. We found a public herb garden that was pretty sad. But we also found a woman that sells herbs. She gave the kids some seeds to plant whenever we found a house. But that's a story for another letter! It's been a very busy and fun last few weeks! I'll keep you posted if anything momentous happens! ~Rosemary Wolff

© 1998 by Cayuse Press

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