Tag Archives: Elks Lodge

Failure to launch

I went to the 2009 Walla Walla Balloon Stampede, having never made first contact with the hot air behemoths, and I wasn’t disappointed. The evolved quickly, from reams of lifeless fabric spread on the ground to fat and bright living beings, puffing with hot air and then quietly lifting off into the air. One by one they drifted up, their engines roaring in short bursts until the humans with two feet on the ground can barely discern what color they are. And everyone watching seemed a little in awe of the balloon beings, but perhaps we were just still fuzzy from getting up so early.

This year I woke up pre-dawn to get ready for more balloon stampede viewingship, but was disheartened when my fellow watcher texted me to say it was sprinkling outside. Sprinking, I thought, so what? I pulled up the Web site for the event and saw that indeed, the launch would occur “weather permitting.”

What does weather permitting mean, I asked my friend. Baseball weather or football weather? As a sports enthusiast who has dabbled in both, I know that there is a big difference. Only Charlie Brown plays in a downpour, but I can recall football games in Alexandria in which we had to crunch through a crusted-over ice field in January, with the coach bellowing at us, “We came to play!” I’ll just note here that this coach had been a linebacker for the Detroit Lions in the mid-80s, so clearly, he knew all about hard work and winning.

We decided to forge ahead, crossing our fingers that some random precipitation wouldn’t mean disaster for our less dense friends of the parachute-fiber variety. At 6AM sharp, we drove to the fairgrounds.

Parking was too easy. If the launch were set for 6:30, more people should be here by now, I figured. We came across one older couple walking toward us, back to their car. They looked deflated [sic].

“They canceled because of the rain,” she told us, looking fairly dry. Perhaps she’d dodged every drizzle drop on her way across the field.

We turned around and saw four more senior citizens, who informed me that they’d followed us here, figuring we would lead them to the balloons. This is funny ha ha and funny strange for a few reasons, including:

  1. There’s nothing about us to signal to other drivers that we’re interested in this event, like a neon sign over the car reading “Balloon Freaks,” a bumper sticker saying, “I brake for balloons,” or a personalized license plate.
  2. The balloon launch was at the Walla Walla Fairgrounds, which are pretty large in a town that’s pretty small. There’s really no need to tail another car on the off chance that they’ll lead you to a very well marked place in the city.
  3. Someone was more clueless than we were.

Faced with having woken up especially early and wanting to make the best out of the morning, we headed over to the Elk’s Lodge. While this may at first seem completely arbitrary, let me just note that hey, I’ve mentioned it before in this blog, and I have a curiosity about it, but more importantly, the Elk’s Lodge has been hosting Ed’s Diner since Ed’s had a fire last winter. It’s nice of the Elks to give the staff the capacity to stay employed while the structure is being renovated, and Ed’s makes a helluva good greasy spoon breakfast. It’s just a shame that the life-size statue of Elvis didn’t survive the fire, because I’m sure the Elks wouldn’t mind having his presence in the middle of their ballroom.

And what a ballroom it was. We walked in needing a second wind and hoping to find it on the other side of made-to-order eggs. I looked around and wondered to myself just how many people had had their wedding receptions here. All of the tables were empty save one in the far corner that had something like a dozen older men I presumed were Lodge members. I have to imagine that all of these groups—the Elks, the Masons, the Rotaryians, or whatever they’re called—are having trouble finding new members because all of these people were eligible for AARP.

We may have been the second table of the morning, but apparently I underestimated how many other disgruntled balloon watchers were following us, because within five minutes, 50 other people arrived at the makeshift diner-in-an-old-man-lodge. Seriously, there was one waiter and 18 tables with hungry patrons. Some people looked like they were considering bum rushing the fake elk next to the front door, hoping to find French toast inside like one stores candy in a pinata. Fortuitous for us, we’d already placed our order with the cook in the back before the mob took over the space. I enjoyed my mushroom omelet but my friend walked across the room to get some ketchup, and I waved down a fellow customer who was helping himself to the fresh pot of coffee at the waiter’s station. Hey, we Walla Wallans have some initiative, especially when it comes to our caffeine consumption.

All in all, it was an adventure. We took turns with our individual elk photo ops, and I went back to bed. Maybe next year.

Come see our Furr Ball on Saturday

In DC, amusement was going to the National Portrait Gallery just to see Steven Colbert’s picture hanging over a water fountain next to the men’s room. In Walla Walla, anything goes. Such it is that driving by the Elks Lodge in September bestowed upon our eyeballs the following notice:

WED CHIC AND DUMP

Instructions for a short-lived marriage a la Britney Spears? What to do immediately after exchanging vows so as not to die of embarrassment after drinking too much the night before?

No. The sign is shorthand for Wednesday, Chicken and Dumplings. Such is the flavor of titillating humor in these parts.

To be sure, there are other notes of hilarity. The man who works at the muffler shop on 9th Avenue is also a folk artist, crafting human-sized and -like statues from the leftover car parts. As Drew Bledsoe of former NFL quarterbacking fame is from Walla Walla, there’s a muffler man to his honor, as well as a guy reading whilst perched on a toilet. The toilet itself is the standard porcelain contraption, and not comprised of rusty metal. And the proximity of the two is not a statement on the artist’s opinion of Bledsoe. The New York Store, which used to be downtown on Main Street and is now in “Eastgate” near the edge of town, sells western ware, an intentional misdirection known to make at least one native New Yorker burst into tears upon reading the sign. But for Walla Wallans, it’s a hoot, if not popular enough to sustain sales that can make the rent payments in the more expensive part of town.

A chiropractor in town also changes up his black-lettered sign every so often as well. These are more existential in nature, the humor only coming into play if one is already equipped with the sort of wit that would allow for a good snort after reading whatever he’s put up there.

WE’LL SCRATCH YOUR BACK SINCE YOU CAN’T SCRATCH OURS is something I would write, if I’d lost my mind and was a mad scientist chiro guy.

A colleague of Susanne’s nodded in my direction at a cocktail hour last Friday, “cocktail hour” meant in all seriousness and not as a joke, for the purposes of this blog. I greeted her with a smile.

“You’ll have to check out the Elks Lodge before Saturday,” she told me, in the same kind of tone as “Mick has some really good shit on the street right now and you better get there before it sells out.” I asked if it was camera-worthy and was assured that yes, it was.

What could surpass WED CHIC AND DUMP?

Furr Ball sign

“The furries are coming to town,” said the colleague, with fake astonishment.

“It’s like that CSI episode,” I said.

The Furr Ball, as it turns out, was a fundraiser for the local Humane Society. Paintings and other art were auctioned off at the event. One of the pieces was done by the as-yet-still-small child of a friend, and sold for $300. It must have been like something by that child prodigy that nobody believed could really paint, although now that I look at it, her work sold for $24,000. That’s probably one dollar for every homeless dog and cat in the city confines.

However, this child is better, for many reasons, I’m sure, but one of those reasons is this—she made a lawn sign for my write-in campaign for city council. She also managed, in 5 or 6 places, to include the greeting “HI” to whomever paused to read the sign, and for this, I decree that I’m glad my supporters have taken a stand against mud-slinging. Such a scourge on our democracy, those negative campaigners. Let it never be said that Everett Maroon slung any mud toward his opponents, even if he did refer to them as “jackasses” a couple of blog posts ago. That was only meant for incumbents who left the 30 inches of snow in Walla Walla unplowed last winter.

So, I suppose we try to take everything with a dash or pinch of dry humor. As opposed to wet humor. Since you know, it’s a desert.

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