"can you see the head?" : things i heard at the library: an occasional series, # 39

At the Port Hardy library, we serve many marginalized people. They are poor, street-involved, struggling with the intertwined impacts of intergenerational trauma, mental illness, and addiction. The most common impact we see is alcohol addiction. The reasons are no mystery: alcohol is cheap, legal, and readily available. 

I have no doubt that many other people in our community -- people we don't see at the library -- also struggle with alcoholism. The difference is they are able to do that behind closed doors. When you're unhoused, your struggles become public. (We also see many unhoused people who are sober.)

Our staff call the police or ambulance at least three times each week, and we are only open five days. A week with five or six calls is not unknown. A week without any calls is unusual. Often people fall asleep and become unresponsive. Often people become abusive. Often... all kinds of things.

I personally am very calm and accepting of these occurrences, but many people find them triggering and extremely stressful. We document every incident, and I use that documentation to advocate for our staff.

It's in this context that I share this story, one both horrifying and amusing.

On this particular day, staff at the desk alerted me that there was a customer in the public washroom in obvious distress. We grabbed the phone and went together to the washroom; we could hear wails and moans coming from inside. 

I knocked on the door, "Are you OK in there? Do you need help?"

"Yes, yes, please!"

"Do you need medical attention?"

"Yes, help me!"

My co-worker called 911 and we went off to find the spare washroom key, since the public key was in the washroom with the wailing customer. Co-worker called 911 while I opened the bathroom door a bit. The customer was on the toilet with her pants around her ankles, moaning and crying. She said, "I have a kidney stone!"

While we waited for the ambulance, remaining on the phone with the dispatcher, the customer asked if she can speak to the 911 person. I gave her the phone. They were on the phone for what seemed like a very long time, maybe 5-7 minutes. 

The customer then hung up, pushes past me, saying, "I'm having a baby right now. The baby is coming!" 

What the---?

I try to get the woman to stay in the washroom, but she won't go back, pushing both me and co-worker out of the way -- on her way out of the library. It is raining outside, she is half-dressed, and she says she's having a baby. 

I say, "Please stay inside where we can help you," but she swatted me out of the way. 

She walked outside, her clothes dragging behind her, walked to the parking area, and lay down on the asphalt, on her back, in the rain. 

As this was happening, the phone rings, and it's the 911 operator calling back. I tell her, "She's outside now. She says she's having a baby?"

The operator says, "Yes, she may be going into labour. Can you see the head?"

Can I see the head??? 

Do not tell me that a woman is actually going to have a baby in the parking lot in the rain. Co-worker and I looked at each other like, What the actual fuck?!

I went over to the woman, my heart pounding, thinking I would hold her hand or I don't know what. 

Meanwhile some community members who know the woman tell us that she is not pregnant, that she believes she is pregnant and often believes she is about to give birth. Clearly this is part of some mental illness. 

I could exhale.

As this was happening, the ambulance arrived. They took over and my staff and I went back inside to write our reports.

I am usually pretty cool about these incidents, but this one got me going.

Can you see the head??? That's one for the books.


something strange (but good) is going on with this blog

In early 2020, I lost a wmtc post that was important to me and had a lot of comments. 

Allan and I were able to re-post the post itself, but in the process, a huge chunk of the blog disappeared. Coincidentally, I had recently done a back-up using Blogger's export/import function -- the first time in years, which is awful and scary. 

However, the most recently exported file wouldn't upload. Blogger's import/export function was always problematic, and Allan and I (and several other bloggers) used the Blogger Help Community to bring this to Blogger's attention.

Eventually Blogger fixed the export/import issues. But I was still never able to upload that one backup file. 

The upshot of all this: thousands of comments on this blog between July 2006 and May 2019 were lost. I was gutted. 

A few weeks ago, for some reason I checked spam comments, something I hadn't done in a very long time. I was astonished to find 95 comments there -- all from 2006, by people who were regular readers and commenters at the time! Lost comments had returned!!! 

I was able to put the comments through, and they appear normally on those old posts.

Since then, I check spam comments daily or almost daily. The folder always contains old comments by known wmtc commenters, and I put them through. There have been about 250 so far.

This is a very welcome development!!

It's possible that Allan and I inadvertently hurt this process -- one we never could have anticipated -- as we were repairing damage to wmtc. Many URLs have changed. (That's why I updated many internal links.) Now I wonder if lost comments will appear for posts with changed URLs. If comments on those posts do come in, will they post when I moderate them?

Meanwhile the old comments continue to appear, and I continue to put them through. I have zero information on why this is happening. 


what i'm reading: my notorious life by kate manning (madame restell, fictional version, nonfiction to follow)

I read this book last year, and have been recommending it nonstop, so it's about time to commit it to wmtc.

My Notorious Life was an obvious book for me to love -- or to hate. 

Much historical fiction feels contrived to me. An author takes a period of history, writes a piece of fiction, often a romance or family saga, and grafts the two together. I often see the scaffolding too much. 

I'm particularly sensitive to this when the subject matter is important to me. This book qualified on so many levels -- women, abortion, New York City. If anything had felt inauthentic to me, I couldn't have read it. 

I am happy to report that I loved it. 

Kate Manning seamlessly blends a dramatic story with historical people and events. Based on the life of a woman  who was known as Madame Restell, My Notorious Life tells the story of a child of extreme poverty who rises to fame and fortune, and who may be thrown back into poverty, and into prison -- not without several twists and turns, the outcome of which is never certain. Manning's Madame Restell is a very compelling hero -- daring and courageous, and also deeply principled and compassionate. 

Manning brings the reader into late 19th Century New York City, a world of extreme income inequality, where women have little control over their reproductive lives. In other words, a world with all too many parallels to our own. But there are striking differences, too. We can see the progress our society has made -- and the consequences of that progress being reversed and undone. When women are unable to control their reproduction, they suffer, children suffer, and society suffers.

Manning also manages to pull off something that must be incredibly difficult, given how rarely it is achieved. She weaves all the issues -- poverty, class, the treatment of children, women's autonomy, pregnancy, childbirth, abortion -- into a dramatic story with a great plot and several subplots. There are no soapboxes, no billboards. The lessons are gleaned through story.

On our recent trip to Powell's City of Books in Portland, I stumbled on* a title that practically leapt out at me: Madame Restell: The Life, Death, and Resurrection of Old New York's Most Fabulous, Fearless, and Infamous Abortionist by Jennifer Wright. I immediately put a copy in my basket, wondering how I had not heard of it before -- not realizing that it was published only last month. I will be reading it and writing about it soon.

* I was hunting for Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex Differences (2010) by Cordelia Fine. I found that book, Madame Restell, and The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service (1995) by Laura Kaplan. I hope to read all three this year.


judy heumann, rest in power

Judith Heumann, one of the founders and primary movers of the disability rights movement, died recently at the too-young age of 75. 

Judith Heumann was a force of nature. She was the consummate activist -- a brilliant communicator, a charismatic organizer, and a warm, compassionate, attentive person. Judy was the kind of person that made you want to do more, to be better. 

She is one of the leads in "Crip Camp," the brilliant documentary about a summer camp experience that radicalized a group of young people with disabilities, and became an incubator of the disability rights movement. If you haven't seen it, I hope you will. 

At the very beginning of my foray into the disability rights movement, I attended an event where Judy was speaking. I don't remember much about it -- we're talking 35 years ago -- but I remember being riveted as Judy spoke. She gave me so much clarity about the intersection of feminism, human rights, and disability rights -- that indeed they were all the same thing. 

Here are some obits: The New York TimesNPRThe Guardian. Judith's own website is here.

The headline from the NPR obit is "Activist Judy Heumann led a reimagining of what it means to be disabled". 


what i'm reading: empire of pain, the secret history of the sackler family

Buried on page 364 of the hardcover edition of Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty -- almost two-thirds into the book -- is one sentence that, for me, defines the most important piece of this urgent story. 

The opioid crisis is, among other things, a parable about the awesome capability of private industry to subvert public institutions.
Empire of Pain is about many things. It's the saga of a peculiar, insular, and enormously wealthy family. It's an exposé of extremely dangerous and widespread corruption in the medical profession. It's about greed -- rampant, predatory, insatiable greed. 

But if there's one thread -- one lesson -- running through every aspect of this book, it is exactly what that sentence states: how the rich and powerful can buy any public institution, and the tragic, criminal consequences of that corruption. Consequences that mostly go unpunished.

Every check on power, every watchdog agency, every hard-won safeguard -- fought for by people's movements and enshrined in law -- can be bought, their goals upended and perverted to the bidding of the ultra-rich.

There are many honest people working in every level of these institutions -- people who are passionate about what they do, who care deeply about justice, people who fully intend to faithfully carry out their duties. Prosecutors, agents, scientists, administrators who value and serve the public good. But all it takes is one former administrator who has been guaranteed a wealthy retirement, one corrupt official placed in a powerful position by the dynasty (more rightly called organized crime) -- one phone call -- and all their work is erased.

Can you imagine working on a case for five years -- five years of painstakingly hunting, tracking, and collecting evidence, five years of investigations and depositions, five years of building a case to demonstrate an irrefutable truth -- and it is all wiped out, by one phone call? 

That was inside the Department of Justice. On the outside, there are the activist families -- families who have endured brutal loss, and who use their pain to fuel a movement demanding change. What despair and frustration they must feel, when their work becomes almost irrelevant.

Families who have lost loved ones to opioid addiction are not very present in Empire of Pain; they are only glimpsed on the sidelines. That's not a criticism. There are many books about the victims of the opioid crisis, but this isn't one of them. This is about how the crisis came to be. 

How the elder Sackler learned his craft -- and made his first fortune -- by marketing "mother's little helper" -- Valium. 

How later Sacklers invented a drug that they knew was highly addictive, then dispatched an army of hardcore salespeople to seduce doctors with dangerous lies. 

How the Sacklers bought FDA approval, and how that falsified approval was used to scaffold ever-increasing dosages in an ever-expanding network of addiction and greed.

How august cultural institutions didn't ask questions as Sackler millions rolled in. 

How, no matter how widespread the wreckage and how profitable, it was never enough. And how the Sacklers refused to take even a shred of responsibility, and tried to publicly frame themselves as victims.

And because they have enormous wealth, they were able to game the system, sailing gently away on their billions. 

Is it any wonder that most people are cynical and apathetic? As a reviewer writes in The New York Times, "Simply put, this book will make your blood boil."

Last year, I wrote about Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, another extraordinary work of nonfiction by the same author, Patrick Radden Keefe. I read Empire of Pain at the end of 2022 and beginning of 2023. 

Both books are true page-turners. While I'm sure most wmtc readers do not share my enduring fascination (slightly downgraded from a 10 years of obsession) with Ireland and Irish history, Empire of Pain is a book that everyone should read. The implications of this story extend far beyond the evil Sacklers, and into the systems that govern our lives.


a note about subscribing to wmtc by email

This is an note for wmtc readers who subscribe to the blog by email. 

Zoho, the service I am now using to handle the wmtc mailing list, allows three "campaigns" (sends) per month on their free level. This will sometimes be enough for one email per post, but sometimes it will not be. This means that subscribers may receive a "there are new posts" email referring to more than one post from the previous month.

I don't see any way around this. As I've mentioned many times, it seems ludicrous to pay a monthly fee to have my (free, ad-free) blog sent by email. So, please scroll down.

oregon family visit, part 6 and final (portland to port angeles to victoria)

On our way out of Portland, we stopped at the home of R, the well-known baseball writer who Allan had met at Powell's. By sheer coincidence, he had some research materials that he was looking to re-home -- on the exact topic Allan is currently working on! Amazing! This took us to a lovely-looking Portland neighbourhood called St Johns, across the St Johns Bridge. (No apostrophe. Must be related to Grants Pass, Oregon.)

This lawn sign was outside R's home.

When we stopped for gas, coffee, and tea, the counterperson asked me if I would like a free banana. I was like, "Sure, and... what?" 

He said: "When you buy a drink, you get a free banana. Coffee? Free banana. Energy drink? Free banana. Coke? Free banana. Hot chocolate? Free banana." He said about 10 of these. Responding to my surprise, he said, "Free is a taboo word these days." I said it was great to give away a healthy snack -- and it seemed like he had never thought of that (the healthy part).

I went back to the car with my coffee and banana, told Allan about the bananas, so he came out with his tea, banana, and a donut. Poor Allan never got to Voodoo Doughnut, his second favourite place in Portland, so a gas station donut would have to do. That's what happens when you spend your whole day buying books! Technically he could have gone to Voodoo after our dinner at St Jack -- their downtown location is open 24/7 -- but we ate a lot and the thought of donuts was unappealing, even to Allan.

The drive from Portland to Port Angeles is pretty interesting. Passing (what appears to be) giant pillars topped with folk art, which we see when driving for Oregon family visits, I finally looked them up: the Gospodor Monuments. Because this is America, where even driving hazards are praising Jesus.

At roughly Olympia, you leave I-5 for the 101, and wind your way through Olympic National Forest to Port Angeles. It's a beautiful drive, through tiny remote villages, with beautiful views of water and dense forest. I was surprised to learn that the water is Hood Canal. Surprised, because I was looking for a human-made canal, but Hood Canal is clearly a natural body of water, and way too big to be an actual canal. It's a natural waterway -- a large fjord, one of the basins of Puget Sound, and part of the Salish Sea.

On the drive, we passed a hand-made sign for "Weatherin' Heights", a drive-in movie theatre, a giant sculpture of a moose made of car parts, an oyster farm, and the tiny hamlets of Potlatch, Quilcene, Hamma Hamma, Lilliwaup, Skokomish, Blyn, and Agnew, among others. We (finally) ate the delicious leftovers in our cooler, which included sandwiches of prime rib roast, bleu cheese from Rogue Valley Creamery, and albacore bruschetta from Gumba. Those are some serious leftovers!

We arrived in Port Angeles in perfect time to wait for our ferry, cross to Victoria, then wait a very long time to clear customs. You haven't lived until you've been trapped in a car with my partner complaining about having to wait. It's a good thing I like him so much.

The beautiful Coast Victoria had upgraded our room to an even more beautiful king suite with a water view. There was also a personal greeting card and some baked treats waiting for us in the room. The room was (is: I'm there now) so lovely, and all I wanted to do was get in my pajamas and enjoy it. We've been planning to eat sushi in Victoria -- literally talking about it for weeks -- so Allan picked it up and we ate, read, and relaxed in the lovely room.

The upgrade also includes breakfast -- not your typical free hotel breakfast, but a real meal in the Blue Crab -- so we're skipping our usual brunch at Jam Cafe. That would have been unthinkable, but after a week of nonstop eating, we can deal with it. 

Plans for today: driving, shopping in Campbell River, more driving, and... puppies!!!! We can't wait to see Cookie and Kai.


oregon family visit, part 5 (portland)

Our full day in Portland was almost entirely about books and food, with a little shopping-I-can't-do-at-home thrown in. I thought I was going to do a bit of tourism -- the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden was calling -- but I ran out of time and energy. As my mother used to say, spending money is exhausting!

We had an excellent breakfast at The Daily Feast (half of mine is waiting for me in the room fridge), then briefly split up. Allan met an acquaintance -- a well-known baseball writer who he has emailed with off and on over the years -- at the Powell's cafe, and I went off to buy shoes. 

Shoe-shopping is an issue for me. The last time I bought shoes for work or for going out was also the last time we were in New York, for Springstreen on Broadway in 2017. I order sneakers (exercise footwear) online, but I haven't been able to find my go-to shoe brand in Canada, and none of the big online shoe retailers ship to Canada. (If readers know otherwise, I'll be very happy to be wrong!)

I had the idea to look for shoes in Portland, and found that the big department store Nordstrom -- which recently made headlines in Canada for closing its Canadian locations -- carry Munro shoes. I reluctantly decided I needed to spend some time in Portland shopping. 

Nordstrom turned out to be very near our hotel, so after breakfast, Allan went off to Powell's and I went to Nordstrom. I got the full-on, personal-attention shoe salesman treatment, which was lovely, and came away with three pairs of shoes. With the exchange rate, the shoes cost as much as our hotel -- but they'll last a lot longer.

I popped back to the room to drop off my loot, and then: to Powell's with my list! Last time we were here (which was our first time in Portland), I somehow ended up without The List. I reconstructed some of it and bought several books, but this time I was prepared. 

I hunted down many titles, all nonfiction. With the exception of a few favourite authors, I get whatever fiction I read from the library, and older fiction I can get through interlibrary loans. I do read some e-books, but again, mostly fiction. My List is chock-full of nonfiction, and finding some of them used is perfect. 

Finding used nonfiction is also a way of winnowing down The List, as I find titles and decide I'm not going to read them. Usually that means the book is too specific -- the topic interests me in a general sense, but the book is on a level of detail beyond my interest. In my personal book-listing universe, this title then gets a strikethrough.

I had fun in Powell's, occasionally running into Allan, and also stopping for a coffee break. Allan and I cashed out together, and took books back to the car -- then Allan, predictably, went back for another round. I can spend a few hours there, but Allan can spend the whole day, and then some. 

I was about to walk back to the hotel when the name of a store intrigued me: Made Here. The store looks like a crafts fair -- tables showcasing the work of all different vendors -- but without the vendors themselves. Everything in the store is made either in Portland, Oregon, or the Pacific Northwest. The space is free to the creators, all items sold on consignment. That is very rare. And I learned that the store is the project of Michael Powell -- the husband of Emily Powell, who own's Powell's City of Books! What an amazing legacy they have created for this city! 

I bought a pair of earrings and had a nice walk back to the hotel. "I bought a pair of earrings" -- another sentence I can paste in to all travel stories, along with "there was a bookstore Allan wanted to check out" and "...while Allan was off buying books".

Eventually Allan managed to leave Powell's in time for our dinner reservations at St. Jack. On a tip from a food writer online, I had booked two seats at the chef's counter, supposedly to watch the goings-on in the open kitchen. French food in a relaxed atmosphere at a counter: that is our kind of place. As it turned out, the counter was not a big deal. The small kitchen was bustling with precision choreography, but we couldn't really see anything. However, it was nice to be away from the main dining room, which seemed very noisy, almost raucous. 

St. Jack was probably the first serious French food we've had since New York, and possibly one dinner in Toronto soon after we moved to Canada. We ordered a variety of small plates. Most were very good; two were a bit strange or perhaps just unexpected. It was certainly the most expensive meal we've had in a long time, but living where we spend so little on food and entertainment, the occasional splurge is no big deal.


oregon family visit, part 4 (ashland to portland)

We stopped briefly at my mom's place in the morning. Allan was interested in some old family photos -- from my mother's childhood, and from family before I was born. (Allan does the genealogy thing. I do not.) We managed to identify everyone: my great-grandparents (who were still alive when I was born, but only briefly), my grandmother's many siblings, all of whom I knew well, and most of whom Allan met and remembers.

Saying goodbye to my mom is always difficult now, although I don't show that until we've left. I'm incredibly lucky that she's alive and well, and I always wonder if this will be the last time I see her. She will be 92 this summer.

We had an easy drive to Portland, stopping for a round of In-N-Out on the way. We're staying at the lovely AC Hotel Portland, part of the Marriott chain. I notice that hotels all do the "housekeeping on demand" thing now. This one doesn't even pretend it's because it's greener. Something to note, folks: housekeeping staff are scheduled and paid as required. Requesting housekeeping daily helps workers and their families survive. And who doesn't enjoy coming back to a hotel room with a freshly-made bed and a spotless washroom? Isn't that half the fun of hotels? You can always hang up your towels to save water and electricity.

Last night we had dinner reservations at a place recommended by one of M&M's friends: Gumba. It's a hip but relaxed space in the Alberta Arts District -- and they started out as a food truck, winning the city-wide Best Food Cart award in 2017, which in this town is really saying something. The dinner was easily the best meal of the trip so far -- and we've eaten well every day. We have a reservation at a different place tonight, but I kind of want to eat at Gumba again. (It was also very reasonable: two small plates and one (shared) large plate, plus two glasses of wine, for less than $90 before tip. That was a nice bonus.)

Today we have the full day in Portland. You know where we're headed first!

oregon family visit, part 3

On Saturday, we had a lazy day at the M&M homestead. The big outing of the day was to Harry & David, the specialty food store, where we all spent too much money and bought too much food. That night, our nephew and grand-niece, now 7 years old, joined us for dinner, prepared by our hosts plus David. (My nephew's partner, Sophia's stepmom, was out of town.) My mom was there, too, of course.

It's always wonderful to spend time with Sophia. I wish I saw her more, but at least we've seen each other enough that she knows me. Sophia is hugely into imaginative play, and she basically led us through make-believe scenarios for the entire evening. 

Today, Sunday, we had brunch at my mother's retirement community. We said hi to several of her friends and met some new folks. One gentleman asked if we were the Canadians, and said he spent time in Canada during the Vietnam War. His brother had gone to jail rather than fight in Vietnam. We exchanged some thoughts on war, peace, profit, and loss. I love to be around people who will proudly tell you they were a draft resister.

Another woman, wearing a beautiful Celtic pendant and a red tuque that matched her red lipstick, told us about losing her home in the 2020 fire. She found a new place in this community for herself and her cats, Mr. Max and Mr. James Bond.

After a brief afternoon rest, we all had an early dinner at La Bricolla, my sister-in-law's current favourite local restaurant. Highly recommended if you're in Ashland. At night, we played a round of Qwirkle with M&M... and so concludes the family portion of the trip.

As I always say, I'm so grateful that I now love to spend time with family. I didn't always have that in my life, and I value it very highly now. I'm super lucky.


oregon family visit 2023, part 2

The lovely little town of Phoenix, Oregon -- down the road from M&M's house -- was completely destroyed in a wildfire in September 2020. One business that rebuilt is Puck's Donuts

While I was getting a mani-pedi -- something I always do when traveling now -- Allan and Marty picked up donuts and spent some time in a used bookstore -- something Allan always does when traveling now.

In the new Puck's there are photos of the old store during and after the fire.

Later in the day we drove north to Grants Pass and visited the farm of Rogue Creamery, a local cheese business. We tried several delicious varieties of bleu cheese, which all tasted radically different; some I would not even have identified as bleu. 

We saw around 200 cows chowing down on fresh organic hay, and one coming in for voluntary milking by a robot. 

The cows are all RFID-tagged, so if the cow is choosing to be milked only to get more treats (which are given with every milking), they can't access the milking room. But if it's been a while and she's full of milk, she can walk in to the stall and get relieved of her bounty. It was pretty interesting, and it certainly looks like the cows have a nice life. 

On the way back, we stopped at another used bookstore. Among the usual paperbacks and whatnot, there were a large number of right-wing titles. There were a few progressive books, too, but I was taken aback to see this on the wall. 

Let me assure you that this is not directional signposting. There were no "left wing" books down the step. The books on display closest to the entrance were all about Hitler and the Third Reich.

On the drive to the farm and back, we passed two Confederate flags, a "Nobody Cares, Work Harder" bumpersticker, a huge wood COVID HOAX sign and more than one LET'S GO BRANDON. Given all this, it's obvious that sign was intentional. Of course Oregon is home to Portland, organic food co-ops, and all kinds of tolerance. But Oregon is also famous for militias and other wingnuttery.

In the evening, we met some of M&M's dear friends for drinks, and got a tip about a restaurant in Portland. My brother picked up our mom, and my nephew who lives nearby joined us, and we had a terrific bistro-style dinner at Bar Julliet

More food and more family to follow. 

oregon family visit 2023, part 1 (port hardy to port angeles to ashland)

Allan and I are in southern Oregon for a family visit. Last year I visited on my own, and Allan stayed home with the pups. Right now we have reliable dog care, but it's a temporary situation, so I figured we should jump on the opportunity while we could. 

We drove here, a lovely two-day road trip. Day one is Port Hardy to Victoria, then a ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles, Washington. We stayed over in Port Angeles, had a good diner dinner and breakfast, then drove on Highway 101, winding through portions of Olympic National Forest. It was a beautiful drive, through dense forest and tiny hamlets and many Indigenous territories.

At the Twin Totems Convenience in Skokomish, we found a treasure trove of retro candy and snacks, a walk down memory lane -- Good & Plenty, Mike and Ike, Pop Rocks, Hostess Cupcakes, Milk Duds, Watchamacallits, and etc. (These are things I mostly know from summer camp, as I was not allowed to eat candy!) They also carry every new variation on the current candies, like dark chocolate and mint Kit Kats and fudge brownie M&Ms. (Who knew?) Allan was thrilled to finally find the mythical Zero Bar of his youth. We completely OD'd on sugar and I'm pretty sure we'll be doing the same on the way back.

From the 101, we picked up I-5 and drove the rest of the way through southern Washington State, then Oregon. North of Grants Pass, Allan suddenly yelled, "Oh My God!," scaring the daylights out of me. A while back, we had stopped at a rest stop to use the washroom and stretch our legs, then forgot to make a second stop for gas. The gas guage was on E and blinking. We had never seen that before! 

We pulled off at an exit, and while Allan went to ask at an old motel, I checked Google Maps for the nearest gas station. We got conflicting answers, and I decided to trust Google over some rando. We drove very slowly, with our hazard lights on, to the tiny village of Myrtle Creek, where we were very relieved and happy to fill the tank. Crisis averted, potential nightmare turns into funny story.

When we made it to the Medford area, we met M&M, my brother and sister-in-law, for really good thin-crust pizza at Clyde's Corner, in the little town of Phoenix, then crashed early. 

The following day, we went to my mom's place, hanging out there and taking her for lunch at Brother's, my favourite Ashland restaurant. A wonderful surprise: she's doing better than I thought. My mom is 91 and has some dementia, but it seems much worse on our weekly phone calls than it does in person. Thanks to the constant, loving assistance from M&M, Connie able to live on her own and has a very good quality of life. 

That night we had dinner at Charm Thai Kitchen, also in the town of Phoenix. It's a tiny little unassuming place in a strip mall, and the food was great. Thai food is on the long list of foods we don't have in northern Vancouver Island, so this was truly a treat.

You may notice that my travel blogs are packed with names of restaurants. Eating well -- and diversely -- is very important to us these days. I love living in a small town and a remote region, but when we travel, we really want to eat!