The Summer of 1998 Part VII

Two days of solitude finally came to an end for Bill and me, as the anticipated arrivers began to filter in, including Blaine boy. For yours truly, it was like a genealogy category on JEOPARDY…”This is Jake. What is a grandson?” That one was pretty easy, but the “former-this”, the “ex-that”, and the “I’m the real father” all made me feel like I was on a family carousel. As with the Botkin clan, it was déjà vu all over again…every time we have a gathering, there seems to be more kin popping up. Well, what do you expect? They’re eastern Tennesseans. Hey folks, just kidding. To add to the merriment, brother Franz and friend Kirk arrived to complete the family round-up. It’s funny how people use their expertise to worm their way into an unfamiliar crowd. Bill was in the midst of cooking dinner when Franz spontaneously grabbed a cleaver and started chopping up zucchini and throwing it into a hot skillet. The two of them were in tandem at their culinary best. I sat in helpless inertia, watching Franz impersonate Julia Childs. It was a good feeling, seeing him fit in so well. The former solitude melted in the midst of a moveable feast.

Franz took me on a tour of an area above Truckee with the appropriate appellation of Tahoe/Donner Estates which included one residence of friend Kirk Short, a two-story dwelling situated about 8,000 ft. a.s.l. with a commanding view of the Sierras…. snow-capped, of course. Franz couldn’t wait to show me what his friend’s life style had turned into – the absolute magpie. I mean to tell ya’, that Kirk had glommed everything imaginable in electrical equipment, plus an amalgam of accoutrements, most of which defy description (nick-nacks beyond belief). I felt like I was the proverbial “bull in the china shop”, that “If I break it, I got to buy it” syndrome. In the natural order of things, one accumulates more as one grows older.

Kirk’s possessiveness had obviously gone ballistic. For a few moments, I took the time to assess my own situation in regard to what was worth keeping in the last fourteen years that I had been living at Apt. no. 415. Aside from the restoration of two bicycles, two typewriters, and a 1940 Pontiac, all my prized possessions were my art and architectural work, plastered on the walls and packed in portfolios…that was it. Heck, I could pack everything in Ol’ Baleau and be on the road, just like that, I’ve always thought. I’ve always tried to keep the excess baggage at a minimum.

Besides the phalanx of paraphernalia, there was one more curiosity – a three-foot square appendage on the rear of the house with three in-swinging, glass-paned doors. Franz and I were both stupefied as to its function. Kirk later clarified its purpose in a most simplistic way: it was a “mud room”. It all made sense then. We left the house of clitter (my conjugated word from litter and clutter) shaking our heads in disbelief. As the saying goes: “One man’s trash is another man’s ……”.

Our entourage descended upon Reno for the final big day of “Hot August Nights”. Franz spent the entire afternoon with his left eye shut, recording everything on his VCR, and justifiably so. It was his first exposure to such an array of Detroit Iron displayed in all its gloriously reflective glass, metal, and chrome. Surfaces were buffed to a high sheen so that we narcissists could admire its mirrored metal. The 1950’s models were always the élan of the collection, looking like rocket-launchers with 38D cups. I was actually amazed that Franz recognized some of the ’50s beaus, since his idea of a classic was a BMW with more than a hundred miles on the odometer.

After gawking at the tens of thousands of dollars passing from bidders to owners in the auction section, we hoofed it over to the Olive Garden for a “Friends at the Round Table” feast. We clinked our wine glasses and toasted Bill and Lynn Botkin for being a gracious house guest. We kept the sommelier on his toes for a few hours.

We opted to motor down Virginia Street and find parking spaces behind our favorite hotel/casino (I can’t remember the name…oh, the Pepper Mill, that’s it), where we could walk over to our favorite grassy knoll to watch the parade of cruisin’ classics. It’s one sensation to see those classics in a static position, but to actually see and hear those inimitable designs of Harley J. Earl, Lee Iacocca, Raymond Loewy, and others, roar and rumble right in front of you…that was spell-binding.. The outer-limits of Franz’s VCR tape was incomprehensible…the beat rolled on. The sun set behind the Sierras and we all hiked it up back to Donner Lake. It was one grand day.

The next morning, we had a cornucopia of breakfast supplements, thanks to the Julia Childs duo of Franz and Bill. We were intermediately entertained with the tapes playing on the TV of the previous day’s escapades…I thanked Franz for taping it all.

A bicycle knows no boundaries. I always feel as free as a bird on the ol’ Puch. One day I biked the entire length of the south shoreline of Donner Lake, a roller coaster journey in effect. I used some gears I didn’t know existed on the old velocipede. The joy of that jaunt was scoping in all the different dwellings, some of which seemed to defy gravity as they perched on their steeply sloped sites.

Only in California could one find such an extravagant use of lumber to build a house with a view of some body of water (the Pacific coast being the extreme example). The south shore was strictly a summertime habitat because of the mountain ridge that loomed above them. It was appropriately dubbed “The Antarctica Estates” since there was practically no sun during the winter months (the high northern latitude plus the low arc of the sun….did you get all that?).