Friday, May 15, 2009

The Lighter Side of the Legislative Session--Getting Home

A bright ray of sunshine heralded the end of the legislative session last Friday: I was able to switch my 9:50PM flight out of Boise to the 5:20. I must admit, I was so happy at this prospect; I arrived at the airport more than two hours early. For those of you familiar with Gowan Field in Boise; you can sometimes get there, check in and board the plane in less than an hour. Tells you something about my desire to get back to northern Idaho.

My first week back home has been a flat out run between handling ongoing constituent concerns and tackling the job jar that has grown fat at home. A few well-timed phone calls interspaced with trips to Lowes and the supermarket still left me in a pleasant frame of mind.

It has been a cold and rainy spring, but it has made the grass so green, I have had to have a good look at the golf clubs and schedule several rounds of golf. I look forward to them. This is my first summer since my so-called retirement and gosh darn it, I want to get out on the links just a little bit more than I have been able to in many years.

Another reason I’m glad to be home: I missed our dogs. I’m not too proud to admit that I am very firmly attached to the dogs Cynthia and I have and we spoil them rotten. It’s all part of what makes a fun, warm home and what all legislators end up missing when they are gone for so long.

Thursday we welcomed my colleague Senator Chuck Winder of Boise along with his wife Dianne to our home in Hayden Lake. They made for delightful company.

This weekend I am looking forward to refreshing old and making new acquaintances at the upcoming CSG meetings, which are being held this year in Coeur d’Alene. The Council of State Governments is an important national organization which helps people become better legislators. I have visited some of these conferences before and I have always enjoyed the company of individuals from across this great land of ours. Except this time I get to sleep in my own bed at the end of each evening! With the dogs!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Lighter Side of the Legislative Session--Seeing Friends in Boise

Because the legislative session carried on so long, I had to move into the nearby Grove Hotel here in Boise. As the sessions have gone longer and longer, generally, I have found myself at the end of each session moving in to this hotel after my house lease expires.

The Grove is an exceptionally well staffed hotel and is popular with business travelers. I am now well-acquainted with many of the men and women on the staff. Some who work the hotel bar are quite good authorities on wine. I have known these people for these past five years and it is comforting to be familiar with them at this time of year. We’re all homesick and these people make things really helpful.

My routine now after the afternoon legislative session is finished is to go to the Grove for a change of clothes and walk down to the lobby bar and see what ball game might be on the television. If it’s a good day, I might eat there.

This past week was a bundle of good days. I had the good fortune of visiting with so many fellow northern Idahoans in that lobby bar; I felt I was actually home.

I spent a bit of two afternoons catching up with NIC President Priscilla Bell, who was in town for a conference announcing the terrific $16.5 million dollar biomedical research grant being shared by 10 higher level education institutions. She was of very good cheer and looking forward to getting in a round of golf at some point soon. I enjoyed our chats and hope Cynthia and I may golf with her and her husband this summer.

I also enjoyed an impromptu dinner with Robin Dyke of the Department of Labor, based in Sandpoint. We shared a drink the following day as well and it was so refreshing having a substantive chat in such a social setting. I was able to gain some very helpful insights about the economy in Idaho and it was heartening to hear her opinion that our unemployment situation may be improving.

In mid-week I was sent over a drink from my good friend Ron Nilson, who was in town with his lovely wife, Pam. He described for me a new massive vehicle, which I believe his firm designed and built, which is now the world’s largest ground tiller. This enormous device is built on the frame of a giant Caterpillar and is being used in gold mining in Nevada. Needless to say, his business is thriving.

Ron and his wife were enjoying their evening with Eve Knudsen, whom it was my pleasure to see again as well.

As if this wasn’t enough, I was delighted the following evening to see Dee Jameson of Hayden. It was a real surprise and pleasure to visit with Dee and hear news of his enterprises. Dee is a neighbor, but we had not had a chance to sit down of late and therefore it was a real treat to see him in Boise.

All of this because I went down to see if the Mariners were on TV…

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Lighter Side of the Legislative Session--Hotels

I usually prefer returning to Boise from Hayden Lake on Sunday afternoon, so that I can be well rested and prepared for Monday morning; particularly when the Senate convenes earlier, which is sometimes as early as 8 a.m.

However this past Sunday there were no available seats on the afternoon flight from Spokane. I had hoped, almost expected, the legislative session to have been over, so I did not buy a ticket in advance for my return.

Instead I was forced to fly in on Monday morning, which required me to get up at 4 a.m. and proceed from Hayden Lake to Spokane and to make my pre-6 a.m. flight. Clearly, here was a moment I was wishing northern Idaho and the rest of our state shared the same time zone—I do not believe I need to remind anyone of how much a single extra hour of sleep can sometimes make.

Needless to say, I was barely able to make it to Boise, check into my hotel and high-tail it over the Senate floor in time for roll call. But I did and once there, settled into a particularly long day of debate and considering of many bills, with only the briefest of breaks for lunch.

After adjournment late in the day I was asked to attend a dinner with colleagues and after what I would consider as short a dinner engagement as possible, I decided to retire to my hotel and room.

Upon arrival I entered the elevator and stared at the controls. I reached out with my finger, but could not remember what floor to choose. With today’s white Swiss cheese looking keyless keys, I had no clue to help remind me. The doors of the elevator closed and yet I still had not made a choice.

I finally had to open the doors and go to the front desk seeking help. I told the kindly girl at the counter I had forgotten my room number. She asked me what floor I was on as she began to check her computer and I must admit to sheepishly having to tell her I could not remember the floor either. With this she looked up at me and I could easily imagine she might have been considering whether I was the sort of person she could give this information to. After all, forgetting a room number isn’t so unusual, but forgetting the entire floor seems a bit careless. I thought she might be asking for my room key next to see if I was even in the right hotel.

Fortunately, I was able to provide my name and with this I was given the information and my embarrassment was at an end.

I have resolved to book my return flight from Spokane earlier this weekend.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Leaving my digs in Boise

Just before I was to move out of my rented accommodation for the remainder of the session I was in need of listening to a KBOI radio broadcast. While the home was nice, I was not really sure of how to operate the stereo. I don’t think it had the AM band, so instead of trying to figure it out and miss portion of the broadcast, I moved from one living room into the living room sized front seat of car.

I’ve become a real fan of Nate Shelman’s show on 670AM here in Boise; in fact, I’m told you can hear this station clear across Idaho. His show begins at 4PM Mountain and goes on until 7PM. He was interviewing a colleague in the House, Raul Labrador. Raul and I don’t see eye to eye on immigration and I was eager to hear his views.

I had budgeted my time very well, I could listen to the entire program, tidy myself up and then drive off downtown for a meeting at 7:15, sharp.

The interview and the subsequent callers made for riveting listening. The ending was almost like a crescendo and as it did end I slapped my hands on the wheel, gunned the ignition and…nothing. It didn’t even crank. To my immediate chagrin, I realized that I had been using the battery in this vehicle to power this stereo system and this car uses juice.

I had no option but to knock on neighbor’s doors until I could find one who had a battery charger. My plans were off.

Going back into the house, it gave me the moment I needed to consider my actions, following the actions of my four little dogs. My wife and I adore our dogs and we treat them as most people do, like children. I thought we were good parents too until I saw what ‘modifications’ the dogs had made to a recliner. In short, they had eaten much of the back of the recliner and were making short work of it too. Embarrassment in the extreme. It was easy to see this recliner was historic member of the family and its replacement would be no easy matter. And the damage was too great to simply blame on their cat…

I moved out the next day…

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Lighter Side of the Legislative Session Revisited

I had intimated in my previous blog entry of not one, but two culinary fiascos to have befallen me in the past week or so. The second of which was a far more involved affair.

Like many men, I am an aficionado of chili. More importantly, I am an aficionado of my own chili and my ability to cook up award winning batches of it.

This story begins much as the last one: I set about finding the finest ingredients. As all good chili-meisters know, you do not use ground beef, but instead utilize fine steak, which you cut into small cubes and then braise. I then floured the meat and set about preparing the vegetables, including the spices that make chili what it is to so many. Fresh jalapeƱos, peppers, onions and chili flakes imported from Turkey itself.

Of course, I use a few of my own flourishes in the ingredients process which are proprietary and thus I will not include all of them here but to suffice it to say I have concocted flame-thrower chili’s which have humbled mere mortals.

After what was clearly several hours of work I prepared to fortify myself with a poured can of Guinness stout beer (also an ingredient in the cooking process) and a meaningful bowl of chili. The smell and color of the end product indicated to me that here clearly was another vintage with which I would be able to regale my friends in northern Idaho.

It was indeed hot…but…it was also…sweet. Extremely sweet. Uncommonly and unaccountably sweet. What on earth had happened? Perhaps some sort of chemical reaction to the blending of my own 25 herbs and spices?

As everything was still on the countertop I went through each of the ingredients. The countertop was a mess and the mystery impossible for me to detect, until finally I saw it: the flour I had so generously used with my beef wasn’t flour—it was refined sugar.

It was yet another reminder that I was in someone else’s home and they had decided to keep sugar in the container that I used at home for flour. Alas many hours of work lost in unsuccessfully combining dinner and dessert…

Sincere and heartfelt congratulations to Ruthie Johnson, whose appointment to the Idaho Commission on Human Rights was ratified Thursday in the Idaho Senate. It was a great honor and pleasure for me to carry her nomination.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Lighter Side of the Legislative Session

It’s my intention in my blog to highlight some of the lighter sides of being in the Idaho Legislature. Of course, it is a terrible recession and it has not been a pleasant legislative session in a number of ways, but nonetheless there are some moments when I do find myself laughing.

Being away from Hayden Lake, despite it being winter, isn’t always easy. During the session I, like the majority of my fellow legislators, must find temporary long-term accommodation. You get used to having to find this sort of thing and if you’re lucky enough to find a couple that winters in the south, you can sometimes find a situation where you can stay in the same place year on year.

For the past three years I have now stayed in the lovely home of a retired couple who are fortunate enough to spend their winter months in Mexico. I’m able to move in and essentially have free use of virtually everything in their home.

This year has not been without incident, however. There have been two culinary fiascos that have transpired due to my own inability to remind myself that while I do indeed feel at home, I am not really at home.

The first was a smaller mishap and involved my desire to prepare the perfect BLT sandwich. This entailed me getting the freshest of bread, gorgeous tomatoes and butcher cut bacon. I wanted this to measure up to the high standards I try to set for myself, as is befitting a man of my girth.

When it was time to assemble the sandwich I noticed trouble. The mayonnaise I found in the refrigerator was spreading unevenly and, worse, appeared to have pockets of mold. Horror of horrors unanticipated, I had no choice but to surgically remove the offending elements and hope for the best.

While I could not dispel the concerns of what could have been a gastrointestinal disorder coming my way, I nonetheless launched into the BLT. The taste was good, but still different. I could not understand it.

The mystery was solved when I cleared the kitchen and took the squeeze bottle of what I had though was mayonnaise and found myself instead holding a bottle of Heinz Tartar Sauce. I could hear my wife’s words ringing in my ears, “Read the label!”

Congratulations to northern Idaho resident Rayelle Anderson, who was appointed by Governor Otter to the Bing-Raffle Advisory Board. I was happy to carry her nomination on the Senate floor and was pleased my nomination was seconded by Senator John Goedde of Coeur d’Alene.