This week brought some happy differences from the mundane run. Not at all to give the impression that life is mundane though. The longer I live, the more I realize it is just like beauty, all in the life of the beholder. There are those people wandering their lives thinking they are a nobody and with nothing great in their character or soul. Then there are those people who find fascination, excitement, and life in all there is about them. They are a different breed.
Somehow, I feel like in Richmond, I walk through a load of people with no excitement in their lives. Life is a labyrinth for them to wander and walk. There are so few who are in it for the game, and the experience.
The great Samuel Clemens, a fascinating man. One who watched the every move of those about him with great detail. Their every movement captured their personality for him. That is one of the things that made him such a great writer. He was able to take those little details and wind them into a story and make the characters that much more real.
Suppose it would be the experience of the riverboat pilot which would teach you even more closely to watch the details of the water. The slightest quiver could mean life or death. Just his assumed name of Mark Twain shows a certain yearning.
Earlier this week I was able to pick the brain of a man who I found to be very fascinating. A silent man in the past, but who gave voice this week. I wanted to hear his story. So I started to inquire and found some wonderful stories.
Having William Borah fresh on my mind, I was thinking of the honour of the President of the United States coming to visit you in your home state. Senator Borah toured with him and introduced him to all audiences that he was presented before. For some reason this has really lingered with me the past weeks. President Roosevelt paying one of the greatest honours to a man of the opposite party. President Franklin Roosevelt went to Republican Idaho and toured with its Senator. It also showed the distinction of Senator Borah. This really has hit home with the latest election.
So it was with greatest delight that I wandered through the mind and history of Mel Thompson. Learning he moved with his family to Nyssa, Oregon in the mid 30’s. They moved up there and basically homesteaded a new territory. Knowing many of my own family would move to that same area within the next 10 years I really sought to pick his brain.
Family history and my delving into history met ironically in the mind of Mel. He told of the experience when he was still in school that the President of the United States came to town. Yes sir, little Nyssa, Oregon welcomed the President. I knew who one of the men was who traveled with him, the same Senator Borah.
These stories come to life for me when I can go to the places these events happened. But they come so much more alive when I know a person and can learn from firsthand experience. Like sitting on the porch of the Price home in Malad, Idaho where Senator Borah visited with Helen Daniels Price’s father.
Having been to Nyssa several times in my life, the latest just in 2005 when I traveled out there with a visit to Parma. The Amalgamated Sugar Factory, with which Dad was closely tied for a good 25 years. Cannot forget the Sharp family members who moved, and some of which still live in Malheur County. The Fort Boise replica is not far away either. Oh, and the elusive Rhoda Christensen Davenport Pappas Halan who wrote letters from there, but that is the end of the story. I have found no more.
All truth can be circumscribed into one great whole. That truth certainly extends beyond the theoretical. That truth engulfs us into it as well. Funny thought, to consider ourselves the truth, but in essence all things are truth. Whether we like or live it or not; even our lying is in truth and will be treated as such. Our lives mingle, intertwine, and are very much related to each other. How could one ever conceive that their actions don’t affect another? President Roosevelt, Senator Borah, and in the school yard where the children were let out from class to go out to the street to see the President’s motorcade prove that point. One of those children had a face, had a personality, and had the name of Melvin J Thompson.
Last weekend, we went to Washington to attend the temple, to see Amanda’s grandparents, and to witness of a baby blessing. It was a great weekend, but turned even better when Amanda’s grandparents came to stay with us for an evening. An honour I would be willing to give a lifetime to do with one of my sets of grandparents. (I suppose I am giving a lifetime to do so!) It will yet come to pass and I will cherish that day.
We attended the Washington Temple Saturday morning. Amanda and I were asked to be the witness couple for the session. That was our second time. Shanna just thought that was something else. I wish I could have done an endowment with any of my grandparents, living I mean. It bothers me even still today my Grandfather, my only living grandparents, chose not to come to our sealing. For what reason I do not know, and probably prefer not to know. There again, how woven our lives are together. That the mere presence, or absence thereof, would so affect me. What if Mel Thompson had not been in the audience that day? Who would ever have known? Nobody would have known, but now I do. Somehow it rings a siren to my soul and brings back me back to the reality of the past. It seems so far distant sometimes. But now that nameless face has altered my life some 70 years later. Even further, all those who read this will be altered to one degree or another, by this events significance. That says nothing of all the other individuals present that day. How many of them told that experience later in life, how many wrote it down, how many family members recall that event today. I would venture that at least one somewhere, somehow, even if from a recorded record.
Our families were tied a little more closely that day in Washington and the following convo. The drive back to Richmond brought out the stories of childhood in Pingree, Idaho; Nyssa, Oregon; and Ogden, Utah. The stories included excursions to the Pacific and World War II and running into Mel’s brother at Pearl Harbor from Air Craft Carrier #77 to his training at Farragut in northern Idaho. His missing attendance at the Laie, Hawaii Temple by one day was told followed by his bouts in learning telegraphy for the railroad. Even those appear to be the most ordinary have a life to tell. Sadly, it is in the eye of the storyteller that plays just as much of a role as that of the listener. The listener has to seek and find connections, living what is true empathy. In return, the speaker has to give of himself in such a way for the other to experience it.
Is it any wonder the gospel works the way it does? Not only does one have to be prepared to receive, but the giver has to be prepared to give. Otherwise neither will give nor receive and both will most certainly not be edified. One side operating just doesn’t work. It falls on deaf ears, or is droned out before even arriving at the other party.
Too often there are those who are giving for the wrong reasons make it strained. Those who seek it for the wrong reasons ruin the experience.
Anyhow, it was a fascinating lesson, and I was able to come and grasp some more of the 60’s. I have really struggled coming to understand the 70’s and 70’s. I just cannot tell why. Even though I was born in the late 70’s, there seems to have been some type of disconnect.I have been fully engulfed in Richmond, Utah in 1961 and 1962 through the eyes of Lillian Coley Jonas Bowcutt. The lifestyle of a lady in her 60’s though just does not seem to portray the era. Especially this is true in a community which was still very rural and in some ways behind the times. I just cannot seem to get the culture of the time. 50’s, 40’s, 30’s, I feel like I have a very good grasp, like experiencing through proxy. In stepping backwards farther, I struggle to back further and feel it is due to the 60’s and 70’s. Honestly though, I have not much desire for that time. I don’t know why. So I push further back into the 20’s and 1800’s without it.
Anyhow, I never really got to pick Shanna’s brain much. I got Mel on such a roll that he was not about to give up his shine. We both were so enjoying it while the others just slept, knitted, or did something else. So I regret not picking apart Shanna’s past, which I am sure holds many interesting experiences and stories. Perhaps another day, with the right experiences will open that book.
They spent the night, and we had breakfast together before Amanda went to school and I went to work. Mel, Shanna, Dennis, and Gwen toured the Museum of the Confederacy and St. John’s Church. We invited them for dinner, of which they accepted. We made white chili for their dinner. They loved it, we put it over rice with corn. In the end, games and conversation were out as Dennis seemed not very desirous to stay. So we bid them adieu and wished them well on their drive home.
It was an experience I will not soon forget. It is a rare thing such experiences happen. So much has to align for such events to occur. A man I had viewed as so quiet proved to be very perceptive, keen, and wise.
I don’t like the tone of this little blog, so I think I will be leaving. I feel like I am condescending or portraying some type of sage. Which I am not attempting, but failing. I am so weak at words it is frustration. What I would not give to have the power and verse of Mark Twain or Hugh Nibley.
The same day, I met a man named Bob Livingston. A representative from Louisiana that served in the house for over 20 years. If I remember right, he was even Speaker of the House of the United States for a short time. A powerful man in the United States who served for a third of most people’s lives. (While there are hundreds of people in the U.S. government and I have come to learn it is just another job, it still holds a mystique) He sat with me for a few moments and was so concerned about his blackberry he couldn’t even visit for a whole five minutes. Another man who influenced millions of lives, but in lasting tribute will have little more than name recognition to go with his face in my life. Do we recognize the influence we could have on people, but due to our own concerns and selfishness do not take the opportunity to reach out more often.
If you would not know it, I was giving a tour this week and while explaining the Capitol Ceiling (which is always accompanied with my looking around while explaining rather than peering up a dozen noses) and I recognized a man sitting on one of the benches on the outer parameter. I excused myself from my tour group for a moment to go say hello to the Governor of Idaho, my beloved home state. I walked over, shook the hand of Dirk Kempthorne, and introduced myself. He looked pensive and contemplative. I somewhat regret having visiting with him as he seemed almost melancholy, but I was thrilled with the opportunity. Here was a man who took a few moments to say hello and learn a little about me. He did not brush me off and seemed somewhat interested. This man, while definitely with his own thoughts, took a few moments out to focus on the one. He will have a much more lasting influence than the President of a small nation or Speaker of the House. Nevertheless, many don’t like the Governor, but he seemed much more willing to care about other people than the first two.
In that tour group that I excused myself from was a former Senator of the State of Oregon. Neil and Mary Bryant were a different breed though. They were engaging, willing to share of themselves and learn of others, and even reached out to meet others. They and their friends Neal and Linda Huston were fun to take on the tour as they were so willing to get along and be a part of society. They are good individuals who loved to learn. He tried to stump me on historical facts of the United States of the Pacific Northwest (which my knowledge is not very good, I just got lucky that I knew his answers). They were by far the best people I met that day. While not as impressive in stature of the world, they left an impression that will be much more lasting.
With all that said, I want to recognize some of those who have affected my life the most. Colleen Jonas. Father in Heaven. Jesus Christ. Milo Ross. Sandra Jonas. Amanda Hemsley. Brad Hales. Kathy Duncan. Ted Tateoka. Kevin Orton. Nicole Whitesides. Laurel Hepworth. Marie Lundgreen. Kathryn England. Anna Badger. Chris Horsley. Megan Duncan. Dustin McClellan. James Cazier. Tom Kunzler. Altan Hardcastle. Warren Crane. Gene Hansen. Lorn Duff. I am sure there are more, many more. Thank God for good souls who reach out and connect with people. Who care more for others than they do for themselves. May God forever bless those who have affected my life and may I return the favor to all I come in contact with.
A wonderful weekend in Portland. A much needed break in the drive to Preston, Burley, or Logan every weekend. Tom, Erika, Seth, and Gabriel Kunzler all went with me. We left Thursday afternoon and wound our way to the center of the blue state. The sun set on us in Pendleton so from that point on was mostly not too interesting. I saw a couple of the dams on the Columbia river, and they were beautiful with their shimmering lights. I dropped them off in Gresham and made my way to my Sister Becky’s house. They moved to Portland about two years ago onto Peacock Lane and purchased a 1920’s Tudor House. They have been fixing it up ever since and have it almost done, all except the kitchen. It is a beautiful classic home. She has decorated it with the pastel and rich colors which were popular during the 30’s and have been coming much more back into style. I have always loved the Art Deco colors. Joe, her husband, was in town because he had hurt his back. The constant stress of traveling, meetings, working, and various other things sent his back into little spasms which have laid him up for a few days and probably will for weeks.
Friday I awoke and visited with them for some time. I was given a full tour of the home and the neighborhood. For lunch we went to a authentic German restaurant which was very good. I enjoyed my sauerbraten and spatzle. I did not partake of the beer, but enjoyed an amazing raspberry lemonade. I had to stir it every single time I wanted to drink so the raspberry would not all be in the bottom. There were even seeds in it!
That evening I was privileged to attend the swearing in of Molly Bordonaro. She is the new U.S. Ambassador to Malta. Her husband is part Maltese so I suppose that is one of the factors that put her in favor with the President. The story goes that every time she has met the President, she has been pregnant. That supposedly endeared her to him as well. I don’t know if it is because a pregnant woman would require more effort to do those sorts of things, or the nobility of motherhood. It was an interesting affair. Those who were supposed to be attending with me missed their flight so I ended up flying solo at the affair. It was a good experience. I met and come to know many more people. I also met fellow associates from The Gallatin Group for the first time. Shelley, Julia, Chris, Kent and his wife, were all there. Greg Walden of U.S. House of Representatives spoke and conducted. Also speaking were Senator Gordon Smith. I did not get to visit with Senator Smith as he was always cornered by other individuals. He did give me a hello wave as if he recognized me, but I really don’t think he placed where he knew me from. I was sad his wife, Sharon, was not there. It was a great evening. They took so long to get dinner going after the event that many people left. I decided to do the same. After all, hanging out with some snobby and increasingly drunk lawyers was not my thought of a great continuing evening. It was interesting how I would start visiting with people and my being an intern caused them to quickly lose interest. However, it was fun to have one man come up to me and was so interested after he found out more about the Gallatin Group. He started telling me all about what he does and his business and a myriad of details like I was a founding partner. He must have missed the fact that I was only an intern in our first introduction. He gave me his card, his personal cell written on it, and other little notes and requested us to remember his business. My personal preference is still friends first, then business. I seem to have misplaced his card too.
Saturday was an interesting day as well. Joe and Becky took me to breakfast at “No Fish! Go Fish!” It was really good food and I thought everyone was friendly. The owner came out and visited with us most of the time. Afterward on the walk home they informed me that Shawn was gay. I remember the thought crossing my mind, but it didn’t really matter to me. They went on to tell me about Shawn and John were one of the first couples in Portland to be married. It was a few months ago, I guess just short of their one year anniversary that their marriage was declared unlawful. He seemed like a nice man, I did not have any problems with him. I have to admit, if he can cook that well, I really don’t have any problems with him. It then led to a discussion of people and their reactions to the gay segment of our society. We also discussed how people treat them as individuals. Without going into the political side of the argument, we basically agreed on one thing. Somehow in our denunciation of the actions of these people, we as a people somehow find it Christian to treat with utter disdain this people. Being so entrenched in our way of life and our notion of right and wrong, being entrenched in our opposition forget there are people’s lives at stake. While I will never entertain the lifestyle that these people espouse (pun intended), it does not mean at all I should ever treat them as subhuman. Becky and I discussed an individual we know who would find it completely unbearable to even be in the presence of Shawn. They may be okay to begin with, but would fester and before long say things which they should not say. Or flat out ignore him the entire time.
As part of the discussion Becky told me of a story of a member of Joe’s family. Who considers himself a good Christian. However, because Becky has not been “active” in a religion that she somehow is sub Christian, or unable to think in Christian terms. What is worse, he proclaims to be a Christian while treating his family in ways that are plain rude and inconsiderate, if not verbally abusive. He made the comment that since Becky came from a family of divorced parents that she would have the same inclinations towards divorce. He had the nerve to ask her what she thought or what she was doing to avoid a divorce. (This was before her and Joe married) He then went on to counsel her about Christian living. She informed him that while her parents may have divorced, she had two sets of Grandparents who were not. Plus they were more Christian than he could ever hope to be, and they didn’t have to go around proclaiming it to everyone.
On the same note, there seems so many people who are so set on protecting the Christian way and lifestyle that they have forgotten to live it. While we do not permit any form of adultery, it doesn’t mean we still stone everyone in the street. Which is the equivalent to what some of these professing Christians do. Moreover, it extends to the conservative party in many ways. They are so set on providing the perfect life, what they determine to be the right way of life, they don’t care who they stone along the way. I do not agree with their lifestyle at all, but I cannot force them to live my way. If I don’t like it, well, suck it up and get on with it. I remember the scriptures talk about gathering to people of similar beliefs. Of leaving Babylon and letting them go on to their own destruction. I cannot remember any scriptures whatsoever that talk about transforming or making Babylon live the the Christian life. We keep that up we will end up with a state similar to the history of the Catholic Church. Many, many Catholics, but most simply in name. Heck, lets go back to Constantinople and force all of Rome to be Christian. Oh wait, we are already headed that way. Suddenly I sound very blue! I am not either party. In some ways I am Constitutionalist, other Fundamentalist, others Republican, and yet others Democrat (heaven forbid! Utah higher education failed here!! Pass some more laws!). Too bad Utah State does not teach down any particular line. Randy Simmons, don’t let the Utah State Legislature find out. Lets stick with the basics of the Constitution and let people govern themselves. Even better, Common Law, which I advocate always is much better to the governing of society than Statutory Law ever was. I think some in this country are beginning to see this.
Anyhow, Saturday afternoon Becky and I made a trip to downtown Portland. What a great city. Their buildings have style and design. They don’t all look the same. I applaud the Portland urban renewal belt. It is helping revitalize the city. While Portland may claim to be the most green city, they have some serious roads yet to make in their downtown area. Some streets had trees, others without. Some were hot concrete jungles, others were nice, shady, beautiful areas. What a beautiful city, hopefully that will spread throughout the rest. You get so far out of the downtown and it is a dump. In fact, driving into Portland Thursday night, I had a fight between two end up in the road and I nearly ran them over.
Well, off my little soapbox about politics. Saturday night Joe and Becky took me to dinner with a couple of their friends. Hal and Mindy seemed like a great couple. She teaches acting or something like that at Portland University. I don’t remember what Hal does. Since we were in a big city, I told Becky of my hankering for some good Indian food. Especially if I could get a donner kebab. So we met Hal and Mindy and ate at this great Indian restaurant. There were not any donner kebabs, but I had this amazing chicken korma. We ordered and somehow my future marriage came up. It then came knowledge to Hal and Mindy that I would be married in an LDS Temple. So cornered me and asked if I was excited about learning all the secret stuff that happens therein. In jest I assured her I already knew. Becky told her I had already received my endowments and that this was just the sealing. They did not know there were multiple ordinances performed in the temple. She turned to me and asked if I would tell her the secrets. I told her I could share with her those things which are in the scriptures and thereby give her a general overview of what takes place therein. I went on eating my appetizer and realized they wanted it now. Well, for the next hour I taught them the overall scriptural ideas of the endowment. They found it utterly fascinating. Hal at one time was quite the scholar on the ancient tabernacle in the wilderness so I did the discussion completely from there and the Temple in Herod’s day. They really liked how I kept tying the Old and New Testaments together and were apt to asking questions before I could even finish a topic. Finally after nearly 2 hours we had gone through the endowment. Washing, Anointing, Garments, New name, Adam and Eve, covenants, and finally the sealing. What was great was the promptings I felt of the Spirit to where I could nearly quote entire passages of relevant scripture. Obviously I did not reveal any of the signs, keys, or tokens. Mindy as a acting instructor found the theatrical portion ideas of the endowment to be very interesting. We discussed some of the ancient plays recorded in the scriptures, Greece, and Becky even brought in this one part about the Native Indians. It was a very fascinating conversation. In discussion of the covenants portion of the endowment, I discussed why the covenants were sacred and why we do not reveal or tell them. Hal made the most interesting of all evening on how he missed the rituals of organized religion. He commented how he noticed there was a certain mystic, power, in the ritual. I instantly thought of some Hugh Nibley and thought to refer him, but did not.
The conversation moved away to politics. They were noticeably impressed with the clarity the endowment made. They said they would think about it and next time definitely have more questions. Perhaps I may be able to refer them to the missionaries next time. However, after the discussion of the temple, they then asked what my political leanings were. Especially since they liked the way I thought. We ended up discussing marriage, abortion, stem cell research, death penalty, republicanism, democracy, the proper role of government, and a whole host of things. Joe and Becky were much more a part of that conversation. By the end of the evening I just barely finished my food and we all had a great time.
That evening we were plum tired out. So we decided to go to bed early. However, Becky and I stayed up and talked about family, genetics, and traits until nearly midnight. It was a good bonding experience.
Sunday rolled around and I finally awoke and got ready for the day. I had blueberry pancakes with Joe and Becky and then headed out to pick up Tom and Co from Gresham. It was good to see Chad and Morley again. They are good guys. Rather than going home on I-84, we chose U.S. 26. It was a beautiful drive. We found the church in Madras but they had it earlier in the morning and there was not an afternoon ward. We tried again in Prineville, but they were just letting out of church when we got there. There are two wards, but the second ward started at 11:00 AM so that put us too late. In the end, we were not able to attend church. We tried. There were some really cool little towns on the way like Mitchell, Dayville, John Day, Prairie City, Unity, Vale, Nyssa, Parma, Notus, and back to home. It was interesting to drive through Nyssa and see the Sugar Factory there. I have known of it all my life with my Dad’s association with Amalgamated Sugar. I have recently heard much of it working for The Gallatin Group and watching DR-CAFTA with Amalgamated and their closing the plant this year.
Today found me back at work and loving my job. This is my last week, so there are some bittersweet feelings there. Nevertheless, DC will prove to be fascinating and interesting.