Archive for the ‘Lessons on Loving’ Category

          After 31 years of matrimony, Elaine still believes romance is very important. Vitamin R she calls it, good for building strong love muscles. I am a believer too, but my faith is weaker.  Still, I believe that she deserves romance and as a couple we probably need it, the problem is  I have never been a natural Romeo. 

If watching Gonzaga basketball at the bar counted like I think it should, then I would have no problem finding places to squire my lady about.  Elaine,however, gives me no  romance points for taking her to watch a game while we have a bite to eat and a drink. The Super Bowl at  Sullivan Scoreboard did not even count.

So I have struggled through the years to find places in Spokane that  help me look and feel more romantic. Lucky for me, we  found the perfect spot the first summer we were married . Back then we were trespassing as we snuck onto the empty grounds of Riblet’s Mansion on hot summer nights.

No one was living there at the time and apparently it was undiscovered by other local lovers since we always had it to ourselves. It was mighty easy for even me to look like Valentino as we cuddled alone under the starry summer sky looking out over the Valley lights that stretched out for miles in every direction. Like I said, it has always been a  lucky place for me, especially back in the early days.

Those hot, home run nights only lasted a few summers  as new owners bought the place and began transforming it into the Arbor Crest Winery. We were there when they started their summer Sunday night concerts years ago and have been going ever since.

Though it was more exciting when we had it to ourselves, it has remained our sure-fire date night destination. With all the vino and  vistas and vibes, I am sure lots of Viagra finds its way down into the bellies and beyond of many  middle-aged men who know which direction things are headed. Though I would not know of such things, I do know there is no better setting in this area as far as we are concerned.

Our favorite local performer has always been Sammy Eubanks and we try to never miss when he plays there. He sometimes dedicates our favorite song, “Austin City Limit Sign”, to us and we slow dance together with eyes closed and we are for the moment once again all alone. It is the only time I lead Elaine by the hand up onto a dance floor, normally she is tugging me up by one ear.

The one wedding that we had the honor to attend at Arbor Crest was so beautiful that even I, who puts weddings a close second to funerals in order of places I don’t want to be, was glad to be there. You talk about a romancer enhancer, Elaine had stars in her eyes as we slipped off to the spot we had been alone on many nights the summer following our own wedding 30 years before. The only thing that night that made my own eyes  starrier was the amazing buffet and open keg.

Now it appears the place is going to get even better this summer. According to one of my sources who heard it from one of their sources who heard it from one of their sources, Jackson Browne has signed on to perform there to raise money for charity this summer. 

There is even a rumor drifting about that Bonnie Raitt might possibly show up this summer. I have loved her even longer than I have loved Elaine, though in a purely platonic and professional way. For that matter and in the same regard, I have loved Jackson Browne longer than Elaine.

Rest assured that if the rumors bear out, Elaine and I will be there adding to our rich treasure chest of cherished moments at the mansion. But just as assuredly, our favorite song of the summer will be the one Sammy serenades  as we dance with closed eyes and go back to our hot summer nights long ago when we had Spokane’s  most romantic spot all to ourselves.

Amy and Joey Tilton's wedding at Arbor Crest was over the top under the big top tent. It is a great place for special memories. Elaine and I know this firsthand, though ours cost considerably less and were way more private.

Amy and Joey Tilton’s wedding at Arbor Crest was over the top under the big top tent. It is a great place for special memories. Elaine and I know this firsthand, though ours cost considerably less and were far more private.

Of all the structures spread across our little spot on the globe that someone long ago euphemistically labelled “The Inland Empire”, there is one building that towers above the rest in the landscape of my life. Other buildings perhaps were more significant like the Baptist church at 8th and Pines that Elaine’s and my parents religiously attended during our youth.
Significant also is Sacred Heart Hospital where we were born and where I have gone to visit many loved ones through the years from my grandfather who passed there when I was 5 to my youngest child who had an appendectomy there not long ago.
But the building I am most fond of by far is the Coeur D’ Alene Resort. We are here now for our anniversary and I am sitting in room 342 as I begin this story while Elaine is in the bathroom mid-way through her tedious task of prepping for public presentation. Sometimes it seems I could write an entire novel while she wades through this job.
Less than 100 feet away is the room we slept in the night we eloped. Thirty years ago I got down on one knee after dinner in the small house she and her sister rented from their grandfather. After an 8-month courtship and a life-long friendship, I knew it was time to live together. Both being Baptists, that meant matrimony not shacking up. She said yes and after a 21-hour engagement, we wed at the Wedding Chapel on a warm and sunny afternoon.
Even though it was only a moderate-sized hotel called the North Shore back then, it was the perfect spot to spend the most important night of our young lives.
It was the first night either one of us had spent at the hotel but The North Shore was a familiar and favorite place for both of us. Though we did not know it growing up, the North Shore, like Pines Baptist Church was a place our families were serviced on Sunday. Throughout our childhoods on special occasions we gathered with our grand folks at the hotel’s penthouse restaurant, The Cloud Nine, and partook in a Sunday-only, family style repast of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans. While I miss nothing as much as the grandparents we ate there with, the food comes as close as any I have ever had.
The North Shore was great and still remains hidden right where it has always been, but it was a mere a shadow of its present self. Three years after our nuptials night, Duane Hagadon and company transformed the place into The Coeur D’Alene Resort in 1986. It was a bold and breathtakingly area-changing move that gave the world a classy new destination to discover and it gave us Inland Empirates a world-class destination in our backyard. Amazingly, they replaced the old Sunday best-meal-for-miles with a new improved version that has easily retained the title to this day.
Being a rather classless fellow who took the recent closing of The Old Country Buffet like a death in the family, I have been head over heals since that first I time I pillaged my way through the Dockside’s ultimate Sunday brunch, swelling like a tick on a hound dog as I gorged like it was my first meal in days. Through the years it has been that place for me that Jesus talked about here on Earth with acres of delicious meats and salads and desserts gloriously laid out each Sabbath. If I did not know better, I would think the Son of Man himself was back there in the kitchen performing culinary miracles.
Then there has been our annual Thanksgiving getaway since back in the days when all four of the kids could strap onto me like barnacles on a whale as I slogged through the pool like a mighty behemoth with the aid of water’s buoyancy magic. For them it was a trip of wonder with the parade and fireworks and pageantry of Christmas trees. There was always breakfast with Dad while Mom did what she never got to do at home, sleep in. We never had to leave the hotel if we did not want to, though we always did to catch a holiday movie which too often for me was Harry Potter.
Those days are behind us now and it is back to just Mom and I but the Resort is still here for us. Just like our marriage, the old place is better than ever. If you have not seen The Resort since the remodel last year then you are missing something amazing. They put in a huge aquarium with beautiful coy fish bobbing boredly back and forth with the sun shimmering down through a massive new skylight on their confined but very eye-catching existence.
A little further down the lobby a new water feature cascades at the entrance of the elegantly opened up and transformed Whispers Lounge. Like everything about this heaven away from home, the new trappings of the lounge are suave and comfortable with its bank of windows to the south dramatically letting in the marina and then the lake with the mountains filling up the background. To the west Hagadone’s office hovers over the lake, propped up on all four corners by massive log pilings.
For years I have pictured him in there working away and I have dreamt of walking in and introducing myself. I picture shaking his hand and thanking him from the bottom of my heart for giving me and my wife and our children a wonderful place to accrue memory after memory. It will never happen but I can content myself by going down to his lounge and tipping my glass to the man with my bride who has just now finished making herself beautiful. As always it was worth the wait and as always I found something to keep myself busy with.

Outside the long gone Wedding Chappel. Our other alternative was the Hitching Post, which seemed like a name more fitting for people tying the knot for the third or fourth time. Elaine would have nothing to do with it and the Wedding Chapel turned out to be romantic.

Outside the long gone Wedding Chappel. Our other alternative was the Hitching Post, which seemed like a name more fitting for people tying the knot for the third or fourth time. Elaine would have nothing to do with it and the Wedding Chapel turned out to be romantic.

The drive to the hotel was even shorter than our engagement and one night honeymoon. We would later take that 76 Vega on a real honeymoon around the entire country, travelling 6200 miles and burning an entire case of oil.

The drive to the hotel was even shorter than our engagement and one night honeymoon. We would later take that 76 Vega on a real honeymoon around the entire country, travelling 6200 miles and burning an entire case of oil.

Here we are in our hotel room on the first night we went to sleep together as husband and wife. The only thing better than falling asleep next to her each night has waking up next to her and appreciating again and again that she is there for me whatever the day has in store.

Here we are in our hotel room on the first night we went to sleep together as husband and wife. The only thing better than falling asleep next to her each night has been waking up next to her and appreciating again and again that she is there for me whatever the day has in store.

     On August 9th 1982 I took Elaine Clark out for the first time. As a timid, non-ladies man, I felt that I could use as much help as I could get and so I chose Cyrus O’Leary’s for its great food and exciting atmosphere. This was a night  of paramount importance to me, as I had been attracted to Elaine since we were kids. The 4-year-age difference between us, which seemed a huge chasm growing up, magically had vanished that summer when I came home from college to find the pretty little girl was a beautiful 18-year-old young lady, more attractive to me than ever. After a few months of shyly trying to get her attention as we separately attended dozens  of functions and get-togethers at the church we had both grown up in, I finally built up enough courage to ask her out and to my enormous relief and unbearable excitement, she agreed.

     Sitting across the table from each other on that hot summer night with the bustling activity of the packed Cyrus O’Leary’s swirling unnoticed around us, we fell deeply in love right then and right there. I know that for a fact because from that moment on we were as inseparable as smoke from fire. Later as we moved from our amorous meal, we decsended deeper into our own world as we held each other’s hand for the first time and walked down to the billowing, misty Falls and eventually found a secluded dark spot we deemed worthy of our first kiss. Later that evening, after we finally said good-night on her front porch following a barrage of moist kisses and smothering hugs, Elaine went inside and told her sister that she was going to marry me.  Nine months later her prediction came true when I got down on one knee and proposed in her living room. She said yes without hesitating and then asked when. I said I thought the next day would work fine, if she didn’t mind. We eloped the following day, April 26th, at the Wedding Chapel in Couer D’ Alene.

   Flash forward three years to find our marriage on the rocks. Elaine thought she no longer loved me and moved out June 12th, 1985;  by far the worst night of my life.  Though she was gone, I could not let go of her and I fought to win her back with everything I had. I bought and devoured the best book ever written in the history of mankind called  “How to Win Back Your Lost Love.” It was my gospel as I  followed every piece of advice it had to offer, losing weight,getting a haircut, buying a new wardrobe, listening to every word I was lucky enough to get her to say to me as though her every word was the most important thing I had ever heard in my life. To this day I thank God for leading me to that book that taught me how to get back the love that I had squandered. It taught me better than four years in college that you can find the answer to any problem if you can just find the right book.

   She came home one month later and so to celebrate and to try to rekindle our lost romance, I once again sought the help of Cyrus. It was another hot summer night and like three years before, the place was packed and we were obliged to put our name on the waiting list and then patiently do just that, wait. Cyrus has a  lot tables and we were not picky that night, any table in a storm. With my typical male trait of not paying attention to romantic detail, it was momentarily lost on me as the hostess finally came and sat us at the same table we had three years before that first night we fell in love. It was not lost on Elaine, however, as she burst into tears and melted into the realization that we were meant to be. Cyrus had confirmed it.

   That was 26 years and four beautiful babies ago, the youngest of whom is now 16. How could we not go back for one last date when we heard Cyrus would be gone forever after Sunday, September 11, 2011? We went for one last hot, romantic date on Saturday, their last night in business. I thank God and Cyrus, one of the many vessels He used to help Elaine and I come together, then come back together  and then stay together forever.

   Most of all, on that last of many, many romantic nights that  Elaine and I shared together at Cyrus O’Leary’s over the years, I was reminded of and thankful for beyond words that I had been given the extraordinary blessing of being as strongly attracted to and in love with my life’s love as I was on that first date 29 years before. And so now with God before us and Cyrus behind us, we just thank them both for taking such good care of us.

The last supper at our table.We thank God and his helper Cyrus.