I spent three days in San Antonio, TX this week at the National Rural Economic Developers Association conference. While there, I took a great tour of the old Pearl Brewery, which became Pabst Brewing Company (PBC) for the last 15 years of operation, until it closed in 2001. This is where they brewed PBR, Pearl, Old English 800, Olympia Beer. You know, quality American beers. Kristine’s cousin Aaron lives in Austin, so he drove down to meet me for dinner before my flight home to Seattle. We decided to meet at the old Pearl Brewery, now known as The Pearl District.
When Aaron arrived, he told me something I never knew: he used to be the chief microbiologist for PBC in the 1990s. He proceeded to give me my 2nd tour of the old brewery in two days. I learned more about the brewing process in a few hours with Aaron than I’ve learned after decades of beer drinking. Part of the old brewery has been converted into the very cool Hotel Emma, which has a reading library for guests. On a shelf on the 2nd floor of that library are the old, handwritten brewer’s journals where Aaron, in pen, would record the tests of every batch of beer that came out of the brewery between 1993 and 1997. He taught me about the acceptable levels of bacteria and what his “TMTC” notations meant (Too Many To Count). It is likely that Aaron tested almost every can of PBR I consumed as a young man. If I knew then what I know now…
Aaron, former PBC Chief Microbiologist, reviewing his handwritten notes from nearly 25 years ago.
On Saturday, Ruby and I had some tense moments, which resulted in this declaration: “Tomorrow I’m taking the screens away forever.” Like many parents, Kristine and I struggle daily with the first world problem of how much screen time we allow at Fry Lodge. Are these devices hijacking our children’s minds? Are our kids being irreparably harmed by the amount of time they spend staring at screens? Are they getting enough exercise and interactions with real people? These are among the questions that kept me up last night.
This morning, Ruby brought me coffee in bed and said she had a proposal in mind. It involved buying her a guinea pig. I saw an opportunity. After breakfast, the Fry Family Quartet took a walk. Ruby and I paired up to discuss her proposal. We decided that she will pull together a presentation outlining her case for a guinea pig. It will include: goals, strategies for achieving those goals, ways to measure whether she meets the goals, and a timeline. On the walk, we came up with some strategies to address in her plan: 1) respectful attitudes (e.g., volunteering for chores, no parroting her mom) , 2) clean house (e.g., making bed, cleaning guinea pig cage, etc.) and 3) healthy lifestyle (e.g., Sunday walks with dad, strict adherence to limits on screen time).
As soon as we finished our walk, Ruby began her PowerPoint presentation. I caught a glimpse of her title slide:
GUINEA PIG: A Path to New Habits
I’m looking forward to this presentation.
“If you had to choose, would you rather underestimate or overestimate?” This is the type of question from Henry that formed the basis of our 3-hour conversation as we made our way to Lost Lake and back this sunny fall afternoon on Chuckanut Mountain. Henry had slightly underestimated how long the hike would take us, and I had overestimated my ability to keep up with this boy, who has benefitted from a soccer season of constant running. Neither of us minded the time nor the exhaustion, which were far outweighed by the scenery and conversation.
This fall, Henry has been enjoying regular outdoor adventures made possible by Wild Whatcom, Bellingham’s year-round outdoor program for youth. A few weeks ago, the program took him to Chuckanut Mountain; so today Henry acted as my tour guide along the trails he and his buddies had previously explored.
Along our path, we crawled inside “the cubby holes,” descended “the stairs,” and finally ate lunch while hanging our feet over a log jutting out into Lost Lake.
Throughout the day, it occurred to me that Henry has turned the corner to early adolescence. He easily shook off having accidentally submerged his boot into the lake, something that not too long ago would have ruined his day. When we became momentarily lost, it was Henry who proceeded with confidence to find the trail again. And, as we hiked 2 miles straight uphill, it was Henry who left me in the dust. Henry Fry, he’s not to be underestimated.
Henry and Ruby received both received a letter from their Congressman, Representative Rick Larsen, this weekend. Back in June, their friend, Sam, who lives in Maine, sent the kids some postcards to send to Larsen – reminding him to keep fighting to help preserve our oceans. They were thrilled to get a response. Thanks to Sam, Henry and Ruby for reminding us how it’s supposed to work. Oh, and Patty and Maria, we’re sure your letters are in the mail.
Henry returned from Mountain School a bit more independent than when he left. As expected, he learned about how to identify different types of trees and facts about Diablo Dam, which held the title of World’s highest dam for one week. Henry also learned he’s fully capable of taking care of himself. While at Mountain School, he was expected to get himself up, make his own breakfast and lunch and bathe as he saw fit – all things that we as parents are in the habit of either doing for him or constantly nagging him to do. One of my favorite stories from Henry was about how he was the only one in his dorm room who knew how to put sheets on his bed. He also got up early one morning to shower before the day started (the only one to do so). I had to ask: “Who are you and what have you done with Henry?”
Very happy to have H-man back at Fry Lodge. Hoping some of these new habits stick.
Comin’ down the mountain
One of many children
Henry left for three days of Mountain School this morning. Every year, his elementary school takes the fifth grade class to the North Cascades Institute for a few days to learn about the ecosystems and cultural history of the mountains. On this day in particular, I’m glad he will be screen free. Can’t wait to hear his stories when he returns.
In the summer of 1982, my sister, Kelley, took me to see Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. We somehow got the start time wrong and arrived too late to see the movie. Kelley quickly assured me that we could catch a later showing, so we went home with the plan of returning later that evening. At home, to kill some time before going back to the theater, we watched some TV. Coincidentally, a rerun of an old episode from the original ’60s Star Trek series was on. Better yet, it happened to be the episode that introduced the villain character, Khan, played by Ricardo Montalban. So, when we saw the movie later that night, we were probably the most prepared in the theater (with the exception of maybe some diehard Trekkies). It turned out to be one of my favorite movies from childhood, and I’ll always remember that my 19-year-old sister took her 10-year-old brother to see it.
That fond memory resurfaced this morning when Kristine told me about an article she was reading discussing the controversy surrounding the realness of Ricardo Montalban’s pecs in Star Trek II. By all accounts, they were very real. In the course of our research, we realized that, to celebrate the movie’s 35th anniversary, a director’s cut version is playing in Bellingham’s movie theater. We immediately decided we needed to take the kids to see it tonight. Before going, I insisted Henry and Ruby watch the 1960s Khan episode, “Space Seed” – the same Star Trek episode my sister and I watched in 1982.
Thirty-five years after seeing it for the first time, The Wrath of Khan was awesome. It was preceded by an interview with William Shatner, who vouched for Montalban’s pecs and told some good stories about the making of the movie. I’m pretty sure I was the most excited for the experience. Henry enjoyed it. Kristine made fun of some of the dialogue and special effects. Ruby fell asleep.
There’s an old Klingon proverb: Revenge is a dish best served with buttered popcorn.