Laughing all the way — Paradise Lost

September 4, 2015

NEW  — 10 a.m. Sept. 4, 2015

I mentioned in a recent column that we would be road touring the vast and empty spaces of southeastern Oregon and jumping the borders between Washington and Idaho before heading home. It was a great trip. The vistas were endless, and road signs that declared “No service for the next 45 miles” were abundant. It was paradise.

DetmerColumn 20150800But here’s what was not paradise: the fact that we’d planned the trip as a series of one-night stands. It seemed like a great idea when we looked at the map, but in practice, we realized that the Wake Up/Pack Up/Leave model was not for us. From the start, it was clear that this was going to be a trip to the Land of the Lost. Witness:

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Laughing all the way — Grounded

July 2, 2015

Most of our friends are world travelers, people who fill up their passports and have to get fresh ones before their expiration date, folks with high-six-figure frequent flier miles who go to Singapore for a weekend of shopping and lead tours to Italy, Argentina and South Africa to enjoy food and wine. These friends have family abroad, think nothing of flying over the pole and visit Kenyan orphanages after starting nonprofits to benefit them.

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On the other hand, The Sainted One and I are quite excited about our summer vacation. We’ll be celebrating our 30th anniversary and my 65th birthday with a road trip through Eastern Oregon and Washington, with stops at the Painted Hills, John Day Fossil Beds and a microbrewery festival in La Grande. We’ll spend two nights in Joseph and our last night in Wenatchee. As our virgin passports gather dust at home, we’ll be making dust of our own, following thin dotted lines on maps in search of something interesting, visiting small town bars and chatting with the regulars, searching for geocaches, and because we’re Vacation Book Bingers, plowing through two or three books apiece. Read more

Say ‘cheese!’

April 30, 2015

It’s time for a new picture.

I’ve had newspaper columns for nearly 15 years, and I’ve always promised myself that I would try to keep the picture accompanying it fairly current. This the result of having won a charity auction get-together with a columnist and being surprised by the lined face of the person I saw at lunch versus the smooth face that I saw in the paper at breakfast.

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Oh, the irony…

January 2, 2015

I have, for more than 25 years, donated blood. My own blood, by the way, if that wasn’t clear. I’ve filled the plastic bag at Puget Sound Blood Centers, in school auditoriums and in my current favorite: The Bloodmobile that shows up at the Newcastle Y every eight weeks or so.

Yes, it can sometimes be a bit time-consuming, which is why I was elated when I opened the PSBC website and saw a large button that said, “Donate online!” For a nanosecond I pondered how it might be accomplished — Via USB port? Would one need broadband? — and then I realized that they had yet to find a way to siphon my blood over the ethernet, but instead were seeking monetary donations.


The Sainted One gives plasma, and his blood type is such that it mixes with all other types, which means that his plasma is as coveted as Seahawks season tickets at the 50-yard line. When he’s due for a session we get a persistent but pleasant phone call a day from a volunteer until he books it. He gets his own TV and blanket while he donates.

Admittedly, I do get cookies and a choice of drinks when I’m done, so it’s not as if my needs are ignored. I always choose V8 because it makes me feel like I’m replenishing what I’ve lost. They have yet, however, to stock the little bottles of vodka that I keep requesting.

But something has begun to mess with my desire to donate. My iron levels are sometimes not high enough for giving. For a quarter of a century I’ve had the right stuff, and even though I’m not eating differently, and even though I love kale, spinach, seafood, a good steak and Almond Roca, my numbers have gone down. According to the folks at the PSBC, that’s not unusual, especially for women. And according to my doctor, my levels are not “low” by medical standards, so there’s nothing to treat.

So here’s where I take a moment to apologize to the white-coated PSBC technicians who prick my finger to get the blood drop for the iron test. I sit in the tiny room that feels eerily like a Catholic church confessional, and because I believe in mind over matter, I will chant in my head: “Be the iron. Be filled with lots of iron,” and then I’ll wait breathlessly for the result. And here’s why I apologize: Because when I don’t pass, I swear like an inebriated longshoreman in spite of all attempts to amicably shrug and say, “OK. Maybe next time.”

The Bloodmobile will probably be rolling around again in January. I am now taking a 65mg iron tablet a day. I’ll show them, those #!!?#?##!!!


You can reach Pat Detmer — who will give her signed book to anyone who donates at the Newcastle Y Bloodmobile for the first time in his or her life — at

Son of Cargo Pants

October 3, 2014

DetmerColumn 20141000This is a sad time of year for The Sainted One, and it’s not because he’s turning 75. He’s melancholy because he will no longer be wearing his beloved cargo shorts. Read more

Laughing all the way

July 31, 2014

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Jack and the ice cream man. Uh, woman. Truck. Small open vehicle.

I recently wrote an article about the overhyped tests that you can take to find out how old you really are. Who needs a test? While watching my 32-month-old grandnephew Jack a few weeks ago, I easily found out how old I really am, and discovered the same about him.

I am 8. Jack is 52.

Jack is a very smart, thoughtful and cautious child who went directly from observant silence to sentences like, “Mom, did you play with dollhouses when you were a little girl?” and who often begins conversations with, “Mom, I have an idea …”

I watch him every Tuesday for a few hours, and on that day several weeks ago, the stars aligned, the Summer Gods smiled and the ice cream truck came to our neighborhood while I had him. Jack was at the kitchen table eating blueberry yogurt when I heard the unmistakable sound of summer treats approaching. I popped up from my chair and cried, “The ice cream man! The ice cream truck!” Jack looked up from his yogurt. “Jack! The ice cream man is coming! The truck is on the way! Can you hear it?”

Jack heard something all right: me, yelling at full volume from three feet away.

Grabbing some money and heading out the door, I asked The Sainted One to keep an eye on our charge. I ran down our steep driveway and looked up the street. The truck was stopped at a cul-de-sac north of us, and our Good Neighbor to the West and her Lovely Daughter were paying for their purchases. I ran back up the hill, grabbed Jack from the porch where he was now waiting, and tugged him towards the street, but before we could get there, the truck took a tight turn and puttered away from us.

Hearing my wail of dismay, Lovely Daughter chased it up the street and around the corner but had no luck finding it. At the same time, The Sainted One was backing down the driveway to go to the store. Or so he thought. His new mission was to follow the sound of the truck and bring it back.

Jack and I hurried up to the main street so that we wouldn’t be bypassed, with me jabbering the whole way about summer and ice cream men and trucks. Within minutes, the truck slowly approached us with my husband in the car behind it, pushing it along like a sheepdog herding Merino sheep. Jack solemnly held my hand as the parade approached. I could almost hear his thoughts:

“I’m pretty sure that’s not a truck. I can’t define precisely what it is, but it is not a truck.”

“That is not a man. I distinctly remember hearing ‘ice cream man,’ but that is a woman.”

“That is not ice cream as I know it. Where is the ice cream? I see only frozen treats.”

Because Jack remained mute, I followed the suggestion of the ice cream woman and bought him a cartoon character Popsicle featuring bulging blue jawbreaker eyes that scared the hell out of him. He wouldn’t touch it. The next Tuesday, I chopped it up, put it in a bowl and gave it to him with a spoon. He liked it just fine.


You can reach Pat Detmer — who also used to get very excited when Santa came by in the fire truck — at