Tuesday, November 29, 2011

More Things You Didn't Know About Me

It wasn't as cool as this but you get the idea
1. In the 1950s, my father bought a kind of run-down cabin on a couple of lakefront acres at Lake Tahoe. It was a small, narrow two-story affair, with exterior walls of unfinished cedar logs. A wall-sized river rock fireplace heated the house. At first, you had to hand-pump water from the lake into the kitchen sink, but that got remedied later and we had real running water. The kitchen stove was a wood-burner, the kind you see in old movies, where you have to stick a little lever into a slot to pick up the plates on top. I don't know how my mother cooked on it for a family of eight, but she did.  My father sold the property a few years later for, I think, $45,000, when he needed the money for his business.

2. My first dog when I was six or so was named Edward. He wasn't really mine, but I thought of him that way. He was an English Shepherd mix, and I was so shocked when he bit me one day after I took away a chicken bone. A couple of years later, he bit a neighbor kid and had to move to a ranch, where he lives to this very day. That euphemism is in my permanent lexicon.

3. Local ranchers used to buy odd lots of lumber from my father's sawmill in Plumas County, CA, and they all paid cash for these small purchases. The cash accumulated over the years, and my father, the mill foreman and my cousin decided to split it three ways. Since it was unrecorded income, my father wrapped his share--a stack of $100 bills--into an aluminum foil packet and hid it in the freezer. The freezer malfunctioned one day and saturated the currency, so my mother put the bills on the kitchen table to dry. This was on the day my father's childhood friends from Lakeview, Willard Leonard, came to visit after maybe fifty years.  As Mr. Leonard came through the front door, someone turned on the swamp cooler in the kitchen, and the $100 bills floated all over the place. He gave my father a weird look and said he guessed Dad had hit the big time.

4. Okay, I know this was supposed to be about me and it's been about my father. He was named J.K. Metzker, and my nephew who just died was named after him. J.K (the younger) was outrageously funny.  He did things like call up my brother (his dad), and in a fake voice say there were problems with the credit card, totally fooling my brother no matter how many times he'd do something like that. He would also con the flight attendants on Southwest into letting him do the passenger announcements and announce they were heading for Mexico City instead of the true destination. Like that. In his 1918 Lakeview High School yearbook, my father wrote that his ambition was to become the next Charlie Chaplin.

5. My closest friend ever, not counting my wife, was named Bino. He was four and I was five when we first met. His family had just moved into the neighborhood and he was standing on the porch when I walked over. He threw a block of wood and it hit me in the forehead, but things went uphill from there. We were touring Europe in 1970 when I got my second military induction notice. I would later get a third. When the draft lottery was instituted, I drew 310, I think, and he drew a 305, which meant neither of us would be drafted.

6. My Uncle Fred owned a whorehouse. This was probably the biggest don't-ask, don't tell of our family lore. It was called the Triangle River Ranch and was located on the border of Washoe and Storey counties in Nevada. A local hood, Joe Conforte, operated the place. When Bob Moore, the D.A. from Storey County conducted a raid, the whores would all run to the Washoe County side, and when the Washoe County D.A., Bill Raggio, raided the place, the whores all ran to the Storey County side. This is a true story.

One day, the two D.A.'s got together. Bob Moore got the court order while Bill Raggio stood by with the torch and they burned the place down. Joe Conforte moved a few miles away and opened the infamous Mustang Ranch. Uncle Fred repaired to his home and lodge on the only privately-owned land on the Paiute Indian Reservation, where the family still lives and runs the Crosby House.

Bill Raggio became the most politically powerful man in Nevada.  Bobby Moore became a good friend many years later and used to go abalone diving with us in Little River, in Mendocino.

And that's enough for now, don't you think?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Post I Can't Write

One of life's greatest rewards is becoming a parent, but before that stork flies out the window, it wraps you in an invisible Cloak of Irrational Fears.

One of them is that your baby will die of crib death (SIDS). Never mind that the odds of this happening to your child is extremely rare. The fact that it can happen terrorizes any parent into checking a sleeping infant every thirty minutes or so.

The very idea of something happening to harm your child never leaves. The invisible Cloak of Irrational Fears isn't something you ever get used to. In fact, it seems to get heavier and heavier as the years go by.

On Monday, members of my family got the call that every parent fears most. My nephew, J.K., was struck by a car and killed. Though we have not lived in the same city for many years. J.K. was very much a part of my children's, my wife's and my lives.

I would like to go into this some more, but I just can't. I can't write about the adorable wife and three little boys he left, nor the grieving father and cousins and aunts and uncles and friends since kindergarten, not to mention the entire community of Reno, Nevada, where he was a television sportscaster.

If I were a stronger and better man, I would write about the injustice of it all. Why it couldn't have been me instead of J.K. Why drunk drivers need to be impaled. And this is not to mention another furious diatribe against the possibility of the existence of God I should get into.

In fact, I'm only writing this because my daughter wrote a couple of lines on her blog, which shamed me into doing something.

And quite honestly, I've already written more than I thought I could. I'm still too far into my reality distortion zone to do much of anything, really.