Monday, December 9, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 12/08/19: Return to the Fort Ground, Hunt Gulch Visit, Zags Win During Magic Carpet Ride

1. When I was a student at NIC, I enjoyed drinking beer and playing pool at the Gray family's Fort Ground Tavern, near campus, and I enjoyed it when Dad and I went there. It was a blue collar bar, popular with men who worked at the nearby lumber mills and other industrial places. For example, I spent a lot of time with a woman in 1984-87 whose father worked at Kaiser Aluminum in Trentwood. He frequented the Fort Ground Tavern. So did old men, maybe retirees, who sat at the bar, chain-smoked unfiltered cigarettes, and cast a wary eye at me and other college dudes who walked through the door.

Back then, I enjoyed day drinking at the Fort Ground Tavern, dropping in after classes, usually with Bacco, shooting some stick, ordering cheap pitchers of Rainier, and, sometimes finding Kellogg's own Mike Hauser, back home, going to NIC, after being terribly wounded in Vietnam, enjoying his own frosty pitcher of beer and ready to rack 'em up with Bacco and me.

One night Stu and I went to the Fort Ground Tavern and ran into Spike. Greg H., a muscular slow pitch softball home run king, was also there and, as the night deepened, Greg said something that evidently offended Spike's sense of family heritage and he wanted to fight. For all I know, the offense happened in the parking lot -- or else we all stumbled out there -- and Spike was ready to rumble. Well, Stu and I knew Spike's fighting history in the Silver Valley. It was not good. Neither of us wanted to see Greg H. pummel Spike. The details are fuzzy, but somehow Stu (or maybe the two of us) got Greg and Spike to enter into mediation and Spike left with his face and body intact.

For Stu and me, our night at the Fort Ground was over and we headed to Denny's where I devoured a patty melt, fries, and a few cups of coffee, my favorite post-tavern meal back then.

The old Fort Ground Tavern closed about 14-15 years ago and soon the new owners remodeled and renovated it into a homey new establishment now called the Fort Ground Grill.

When Ed, Mike, and I met this morning at the Fort Ground Grill, I hadn't been there since my junior year at Whitworth when Dad and I enjoyed a few post-game frosties after an NIC-CSI basketball game.

This morning, the place looked so different to me in its layout and decor, I was having trouble remembering what it had been like forty-five years ago. But, no problem. I didn't need to remember. I set my mind to the task at hand: breakfast.

Mike, Ed, and I not only enjoyed yakkin' at the Fort Ground, but we were very impressed with the attentiveness of our servers, the friendliness of the place, and, most important, how delicious our food was. I ordered Eggs Benedict Florentine and every drop of the Hollandaise sauce -- even the glob I splashed on my shirt -- was terrific, the eggs were perfectly prepared, and the hash browns were crispy and tasty.

I see that this renovated Fort Ground Grill closes at 8:00 in the evening, suggesting to me that if someone insults your family heritage and you are spoiling for a fight, the Fort Ground Grill is not the place to come. Things have quieted down at this grand old spot.

2. After breakfast, Ed, Mike, and I congregated at Ed's house in Kingston, piled into Ed's Camry, and blasted up Hunt Gulch to visit Becca and her husband and baby, Mara, and Cleeve. Sue was with a bunch of our Class of 72 classmates in Coeur d'Alene. Becca and her family live in Reykjavich, Iceland and, over coffee, Mike, Ed, and I learned more about Iceland and, off to the side, I had some good conversation with Cleeve.

3. Before tonight's family dinner over at Carol and Paul's, Christy, Everett, and I watched Gonzaga and the University of Washington play a tight and exciting basketball game in Seattle. Thanks to some superb ball movement against the Huskies' match-up zone defense that resulted in some easy baskets and thanks to Killian Tilley and Joel Ayayi scoring clutch three point shots late in the game, Gonzaga held on to the small lead they held for most of the game and defeated UW, 83-76.

When I sat down at Christy and Everett's to watch the game, I didn't know that I would be going on a Magic Carpet Ride tonight, but, sure enough, seated alongside play-by-play broadcaster Roxy Bernstein was Mr. Ride Captain Ride Upon Your Mystery Ship himself, the Commander-in-Chief of Carpe Diem, Bill Walton.

At selected moments during the game, Walton commented on the basketball action.

But, if you listened, tonight's Bill Walton acid trip into interstellar space included, among other things, his long, heartfelt tribute to Bill Russell, a sweet story about his mother and a library book, intermittent discussions of books by Timothy Egan (Walton seems especially fond of A Pilgrimage to Eternity), a thumbnail history of basketball players who came from Philadelphia, and his frequent citation of an unnamed poll or study which named Washington as the finest state in the USA. I thought surely, at some point, the old Dead Head would detour from his usual jam band discussions and comment that the Huskies' Nahziah Carter is Jay-Z's nephew, but I guess, for now, hip-hop isn't on trippy Bill's radar.

After the game, we made our way to Carol and Paul's and Carol greeted us with a festive Tom and Jerry, a family tradition. Carol served a green salad, a bowl of savory, delicious, and slightly boozy bourbon meatballs, and a cauliflower side dish. We had a piece of banana cake for dessert. 

Christy and Everett are broadening Riley's horizons these days and brought him along to see how he'd get along at Carol and Paul's house and with their dog and cats. I don't think the cats ever appeared. It took Riley a while to really pay much attention to Sadie. Riley seemed nervous about being in an unfamiliar place, understandably, but he had a lot of human support and made it through the evening just fine, albeit with some bewilderment and whimpering.

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