After a dream-like week of nordic skiing, snow-shoeing, wine drinking and eavesdropping, I woke yesterday to “the most depressing day of the year”, according to Matt Lauer on TODAY.  Well, I already knew it was most depressing as I had to leave paradise/McCall, Idaho.  Matt’s reasoning was that this was the first Monday of the new year, most people had to go back to work in the salt mines, and everyone realized they’d spent way too much $$$ over the holidays.  Bills, bills, bills.

As added weight, all of us were starting that dreaded day #1 of the latest diet craze.   Gag.

And then there are those ubiquitous dying poinsettias—brown leaves scattered everywhere.

Tears in my eyes, I packed up the Chevy Captiva rental that had proven NOT good in the snow, took one last look at the breathtakingly beautiful view from the great room, slammed the door shut, and headed out of town.

What’s even worse was our destination–Nampa, Idaho.  I hope you have never been there.   This bedroom community outside Boise boasts a huge sugar beet factory that smells up the entire Treasure Valley.  It is the kind of odor that makes newcomers driving into Nampa blurt–
“Oh my god!  What is that smell???”

The saving grace was that we would be staying with my infamous brother Biff and his zany wife Cheryl, who happens to be great in the kitchen.  They always insist we nest in their guest room and offer the warmest of Idaho hospitality—spuds and all.

But the cute couple does not always agree on matters.

It’s freezing cold in Nampa just like most of the rest of the country, so Biff has some sort of pellet fire blazing.  We all plop down around the flames to catch up and slurp some libations.  Twenty minutes or so into the gathering I notice a vibration throughout the room, and a dull, roaring sound coming from out of nowhere.  Now dripping in sweat, I think I might be hallucinating, when Cheryl shouts at Biff.

“What the heck is that noise?”

“It’s just the pellet stove, dear.  When it gets too hot the screen vibrates.”

“No you’re not”, Biff orders.  “I can fix this problem in no time.”

A few hours later, he’s done as promised and we all head into the kitchen for dinner—a savory “Chicken Divan”.

“This looks great!” I drool.

“Oh it’s just a recipe my friend Janny shared with me” Cheryl  replies.

“This is NOT Janny’s recipe, dear.  This is YOUR original recipe, and you know it,” Biff insists.   “Her’s has cashew nuts.”

At this point I leave the room to wash my hands, splash some cold water on my face, and take a deep breath.

Now, don’t get me wrong, these are nice, hilarious, god-fearing people.  They simply agree to disagree.

On matters like whether or not Pearl the old mutt should be shampooed weekly, whether or not her diet is causing what they call “tooting” and a foul aroma in the house, or if they should keep the litter of five kittens that is hanging around on their back patio eating the food left out for the two large cats they actually own.

We make it through the evening and all retire for a good night’s rest in the hothouse.

Come morning, Biff makes the coffee too strong and gets animated about one of his tall tales and Cheryl asks—

“Biff, do I have to medicate you?”

I actually thought his story was amusing and his jumping up out of the lounger only added to the historic performance.

Sadly, I had to hit the road again for the airport and home.  As I pack the Captiva (again) I notice Biff is reading the obituaries in the morning “Idaho Press Tribune”.  (A “rag”, Cheryl calls it.)

“Holy cow, he bellows.  “Melvin Moore* died!”

“Not Melvin Moore?”  Cheryl cries.  “How sad!”

“Didn’t he go to St. Paul’s with you, Biff?”  I inquire.

“Yup, and he was a great guy for many years.  Wife, two fine kids, good job, nice house…

Then one day he goes ballistic and ends up in prison.  And I don’t know if I mentioned this, Cheryl, but he used to call me collect from jail.  But I’d just hang up on the operator.”

“WHAT??”  Cheryl screams.  “You should have talked to him Biff!!!”

“I don’t accept calls from prisoners”

Biff declares as he pours another cup…

*Name has been changed to protect the guilty.



  1. RAL says:

    You did well – surviving the cold, relatives and entry into 2014. And you paint a rosy picture of Nampa (and no, have not been!).

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