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Where the grass is greener

I just got back from a trip to the Northwest, a place where Mrs. Doud and I once lived, and I want you to know that if you have in mind going up there permanently to reside, forget it.

This time of year, the weather is wet and cold, and the roads can be slick and dangerous if it snows. Besides that, if you are watching the Weather Channel, the commentators can’t wait to tell you how awful the weather is, and how much worse it is going to be.

Even when the weather is halfway decent, it probably will be raining before long, and you will be soaked to the skin.

There are a couple of days during June and July when you can walk around without an umbrella. They call those days summer.

One thing I did like about living in the Northwest was sailing.

Sailing is done in sailboats, and it is best if you do it in a sailboat that doesn’t belong to you. If you look in the sailor’s encyclopedia, you will find a definition of “sailboat.” It is this, or something like it: “A hole in the water into which the owner throws his money.”

A fellow I used to sail with, and who owned the boat in which we sailed, used to groan a lot about how much money his sailboat cost, just to keep the craft’s gunwales above the water. Gunwales — pronounced gunnels — are the parts of the boat that keep the water from seeping over the edges and into the boat, where it is supposed to be nice and dry.

If you want to get tired of sailing in a hurry, sail in a boat that has non-functioning gunwales, and soon you will come to be known as captain Wetbottom.

On this trip to the Northwest, I called my sailor friend and asked him if he was still taking his boat out. “I go out only when I’ve had a lot of whiskey to drink,” he said. “And only in somebody else’s boat. I’ve become a freeloader like you used to be, and I must say it costs much less than owning the boat.”

I will tell you one thing about the Northwest that is superior to California, and that is the roads. Northwest roads are smooth and well maintained, and the cost of gasoline there is somewhat less than what we pay here, where even our supposedly good roads are messes.

And, get this — in Oregon, they still pump your gas for you. I stopped for gas at a Mobil station in Ashland, Ore., on the drive north, hopped out of my car and grabbed the handle of the gas pump.”

“I’ll get that, sir,” said the attendant, leaping forward and grabbing the pump handle, as if he was going to hit me with it. I was astonished. Not only did he pump the gas, he called me “sir.” I thought only Joe Teran at the Chevron station at Yosemite and Pine did that.

But in Oregon, all the stations pump your gas for you, and call you “sir” or “ma’am” besides.

Oregon and Washington are both very green places, thanks to all the rain they get. And that’s okay for a while. But after that while, as you drive up and down the roads, one gets sick of green and can’t wait to get back to California.

So, I am glad to be back here, bad roads and all, among my friends.

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