From the story Angelfish
Our rooms on the top floor are as we left them when Marjorie and I went off to college. On a small table between my bed and the window is my black, compound microscope still ready to magnify onion skin or amoebae. On the wall above my cherry wood dresser are boxes made from glass and stained plywood. They still hold arrowheads and coins.
Half the ceiling is covered by an Alaska state flag that Beth brought back from a trip to Juneau in 1959, the year Alaska became a state. It was a gift for my 15th birthday and came with a pamphlet telling the story of Benny Benson from Chignik, the 13-year old Aleut orphan who’d won the state flag design contest with his simple constellation of gold stars on a blue background.
From Marjorie’s corner bedroom, there is a better view of the stunning terrain. Through a gap in the poplars spreads a rumpled quilt of farmland reaching toward a butte above the Columbia River. A country music station still has its red and white tower atop the butte. Many years ago, the newspaper in The Dalles reported that high winds funneled up the gorge had blown the tower off its footings. What the paper didn’t report is that the wind was merely an accomplice to the chain whose other end was attached to the hitch of our friend Gordon Blancer’s Jeep.
“This was a pure act of hippy militarism,” Gordon explained years afterward, well aware of the inherent contradictions. “And this wasn’t something I needed drugs to do. There were higher motivations.”
To wit he’d just about had enough of Merle Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee.” When the tower crashed to the ground with a magnificent thud, Gordon was heard to exclaim: “In-a-Gadda-da-Vida-baby!”
On the outer sliding door to Marjorie’s closet, Janis Joplin’s image perspires in a pink, blue, and red haze. From the opposite wall, between the windows, a perplexed Judy Garland, as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, stares at Janice in black & white, as if to ask “what the hell?”
On Marjorie’s desk is a framed picture of Beth leading a mule at the Grand Canyon in 1952. This time, when I notice the photograph, tears roll down my face faster than I can wipe them.
Next story segment, Marigolds.