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Thursday, February 29, 2024
Feb. 29, 2024

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Press Talk: The good, the glad, the ugly

2 Photos
This is summer chinook in a white wine, garlic, fresh basil, olive oil sauce over fettuccine.
This is summer chinook in a white wine, garlic, fresh basil, olive oil sauce over fettuccine. (Lou Branaccio) Photo Gallery

The good

Tucked into the back end of a Walmart parking lot I’m anxious about what is about to happen.

A few days earlier I drove the 100-mile round trip to the Bridge of the Gods, but all I have to show for it is that you’ve-seen-it-before photo of the mighty Columbia River.

So this time I became marginally smart. I made the call.

Joe’s his name and selling fish is his game. The good stuff. The really good stuff. He’s part of a tribal network that can sometimes work the river when others can’t.

“I will get ahold of you,” is all I can squeeze from him. That’s it? With chinook salmon rarer this year than a WSU championship I was hoping for something more definitive to sooth my nerves and eventually my palate.

You see, it’s been a long time. We’ve been stuck out of town in Florida for the last 18 months because of the pandemic. And — sure — I love me some grouper, redfish and mangrove snapper. But there ain’t nothin’ quite like wild-caught chinook.

So even though Joe said he’d call me — you guessed it — the next day I was calling him.

“We are checking now, thank you,” he tells me.

• • •

I’m pretty sure I’m getting on Joe’s nerves so my wife Maley and I schedule a coffee with old friends whom we know from Florida. They live in Ridgefield now, and bought their joint for cash after unloading their Seattle place for a tidy profit.

We’re exchanging old stories and tall tales when my phone rings. It’s Joe.

Sorry guys, I gotta go.

We crank up the Fiat to meet Joe and collect my fish but I’m hoping I can avoid that trip back to the Bridge of the Gods. Joe tells me he has a big delivery to make in Portland so — yeah — we agree to meet in a Walmart parking lot.

So here we sit. Now I shouldn’t be anxious. Joe has always come through when he said he would. But, hey, mistakes happen. (This is foreshadowing if you read to the end of this column.)

After 20 heart-pounding minutes, Joe arrives. At my request Joe has already filleted my 17-pound beauty. I settle up, grab a quick selfie of the both of us (Facebook is quite demanding) and step on gas to get home. Dinner awaits.

I cut the garlic, pinch the basil and add the white wine sauce. In a separate pan I saute chunks of the summer chinook. We boil the water for the fettuccine, bring it all together and mangiare.

Did I tell you this was the good stuff? This is good. Real good.

The glad

When we came to town in 1997 we didn’t realize how lucky we were.

Newspaper people used to travel quite a bit. I had previously worked in Florida, Washington, D.C., New York and California. But our final — and best stop — was when we settled down in a small enclave in Salmon Creek called Quail Park. It was ideal — just 161 homes — and something happened last Saturday that kicked it up a notch.

One of our neighbors said I should stop by Margaret’s house later that night. Britnee Kellogg would be putting on a show.

Wait. What? You mean Britnee Kellogg from “American Idol”? Over two seasons she wowed the country. She didn’t win but went deep into the competition. Today she opens for some pretty big country acts and — of course — performs her own shows.

So she’s going to be in our neighborhood? Playing? Really?


We wandered down to Margaret’s. And there was Britnee. Standing in front of a garage, playing guitar and singing. We sat down with about 30 other neighbors and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Britnee — who hangs her hat in Felida — has this weathered, honest voice that is quite becoming. She sounds as though she went pretty far down the rabbit hole but managed to find her way out. And we’re all better off because of it. She mixed originals with standard country music. Truth is, I’m a “Born to be Wild” kind of music guy, but if you get a chance to see Britnee perform, take it.

We sure were glad we wandered down to Margaret’s.

The ugly

When we finally got back to Vancouver a few weeks ago the first person we met wasn’t an old friend, a good neighbor or a trusted former colleague.

It was — dramatic pause required here — the cable guy.

You heard that right. As we were ubering (is that a word?) home from the airport we had arranged for Comcast to meet us upon arrival. Hey, who wants to miss an episode of “Master Chef”?

Sure, they tell you it’s easy to hook up your cable box, but we’ve always been skeptical. So we call the professionals. He finished his handiwork and we were set.

Until we weren’t.

Apparently we were given the wrong box. But after a few grueling hours on the phone they said they would ship us the proper cable box and we’d be set.

Until we weren’t.

Yep, we actually were skeptical things would go well because we also have Comcast at our Florida winter home and maybe — just maybe — they might be sending that new box to our Florida home. So we began messaging a Comcast representative who assured us it was coming to our Salmon Creek home.

Until it didn’t.

Sure enough, the proper cable box was sitting on our Florida porch with no one to retrieve it. Now we’re back on the phone again with Comcast and they tell us a truism: Mistakes happen.

But I counter with … Agreed, but you give us the wrong box (that’s one mistake), assure us the right box is coming to our Salmon Creek home (that’s two), then send it to our Florida home (that’s three).

To top it all off, they felt it appropriate to remind us that we’re responsible for that box sitting on our Florida front porch.

Look, we’ve been with Comcast for more than 20 years, so we clearly like them on some level. And they did eventually make everything right.

But — come on, ladies and gentlemen — that was ugly. Real ugly.