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Monday, September 20, 2010

One Ringie Dingie, Two Ringie Dingies…Gladys Gets a Bell…

Vintage 2010

Over the weekend we visited another Valley, the Walla Walla Valley, and the quaint little town the citizens loved so much they named it twice. Walla Walla is like Monroe as it, too, provides free parking. It differs, however, in that while Monroe and Snohomish seem to be big on frowzy antiques, Walla Walla is keen on wine: many businesses promote the area’s wineries—nearly a hundred in the immediate area.Fruit of the Vine In fact this little town, home to the historic Marcus Whitman hotel, is surrounded by vineyards. One could spend an entire week visiting tasting rooms, sampling the wide range of varietal and generic blends vinified  from grapes grown in the Walla Walla Valley. North Star wineryFor those who enjoy this sort of thing—we remembered our trip to northern California, the Napa and Sonoma Valleys in the ‘70’s—the touring of wineries these days can become an expensive proposition: we discovered some wineries charge a tasting fee of eight/nine dollars, and even though the fee is deducted from purchases, at some wineries you’re still paying close to fifty dollars a bottle for a specialty red, a hefty price for a bottle of wine, especially if your pocketbook is accustomed to the more comfortable feel of “Gallo.”

One morning we decided to visit Dayton, a little town northeast of Walla Walla devoted to the wheat industry. Dayton’s renown is “The Gateway to the Blue Mountains.” I visited Dayton back in 1989 and this weekend’s visit confirmed that this little burg, like the Blue Mountains themselves, is impervious to change. Well, perhaps that’s not entirely true: on our exit from Waitsburg, a nondescript suburb of Dayton, we encountered some strange wildlife—as if we had visited south-eastern Washington by way of Cairo. Quick Abdul: dromedary or a bactrian???local wildlife Strange it was indeed to see a camel sans desert sands but instead a part of the landscape of golden grains.

It is customary, you know, to return from a trip with souvenirs for those who you “wish could have been there.” Sometimes instead of seeing the sights yourself, it seems you spend an inordinate amount of time looking for knick knacks to bring back to those left behind. Nestled in among the tasting rooms in downtown Walla Walla was a delightful little toy store. I believe this establishment was called “The Blue Octopus” ( I’m sure about the cephalopod, less certain about its color, but there was a large blue octopus painted above the door front). This toy bonanza ran high to nostalgia, and I hearkened back to kiddom when I picked up a kaleidoscope, held it up to the light, and watched through the peephole as one colored snowflake after another formed with each twist of the wrist. Remember when you tried to share a particularly impressive configuration with brother, sister or friend? You never knew for sure if they were viewing the same snowflake; just the slightest motion in the exchange from one hand to another and your spectacle would dissolve into another color, another shape.

There were little bags containing jacks and a rubber ball. Oh, those winter days in the fourth grade when classmates and I would wile away our recesses sliding those spiky little objects into “pigpens,” deftly moving on to “double bouncies,” “around the worlds,” and scooping up singlehanded all twelve jacks in one fell swoop. And I even imagined the sharp pain of the puncture wound you sustained when a stray little toy reverted to weapons status—you found that missing jack with the sole of your bare foot.

Marbles. Bags of them, too, complete with rules for a variety of games, some I’d never heard of, involving those desirable glass orbs. No mention, however, of “playing for keeps” where a bulging pocket or an empty one at the end of the day depended on your shooting skill.

Who hasn’t had one of those kits where you drop the colored rocks into a bowl of magic liquid and watch the miracle of their sprouting into spectacular little stalagmites—your very own miniature Bryce Canyon geologized right before your wondering eyes.There were tins of band-aids, each a prophylactic strip of bacon, “man-daids,” most certainly. I resisted the temptation to stick my forefingers in those Japanese finger trap tubes, the selfsame kind we used to haul out of the “fish pond” at our elementary school carnival fundraisers.

Ah, but these appealed to me. Just selfishness, pure and simple. On I browsed, looking for just the perfect souvenir, one that had special substance and meaning beyond the sentimental, something practical, something with lasting impact, something for that special someone. And then I found it. A rush of emotion came over me, that special feeling when you know you have happened upon that rare gift, the one that has eluded you forever it seemed.Gladys's souvenirA bike bell for Gladys! She who has been mute all these years of riding the Valley to and fro. She who has had no voice with which to back sass those fancy hi-tech velocipedes as they flash by, leaving her in a condescending backwash of Spandex and sunscreen. Ill-equipped, she, for witty repartee or sarcastic barb. Yes, it warms me to say, Gladys has a voice now, a cheery ting-a-ling with which to regale whomever she passes (or more often’s the case, whoever passes her).

Bell's OnSo what your ride has those snazzy white walls tires, Tony Broer. My ride can make music, sweet, sweet music, and she can hardly wait to serenade you and yours.

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  1. Great post! Yay for Gladys! I'm so happy you've given her a voice. I've been meaning to get a bell myself, as I hate having to verbally communicate with other trail riders, "On your left!" A nice ring of a bell would better suit my tendency to be an introvert...and I like to keep it that way. :)

  2. Thanks, kiddo, I went ting-a-linging about in the Valley this morning before the rains came. I was able to give a cheery greeting to a few of the Valley folk. Disappointed, though, when I ting-a-linged Tony B who was hoeing the raspberries in the field opposite his house. Several peals, I gave, but no response. I guess I'll have to look around for an ooogah horn to get a rise out of Tony. Dad

  3. I like the photos. Some of them remind me of the Napa Valley here in Cali! Amusing stories, too! I look forward to more blogs.