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Articles written by Kirk Ericson


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  • These Times

    Kirk Ericson|Jun 6, 2024

    Note: I’m taking three weeks off of paid labor, so this space will be filled with reruns of some favorite columns. The following ran in the Dec. 23, 2021, edition. Fresh, unfocused-group content returns June 27. This is a story about a gift my father gave me when I was 5 years old. This memory is as true as any memory can be that’s summoned from a long-gone Christmas. I’m child No. 4 in a four-child family, and when we were wee our family was the type that put Christmas presents under a Chris...

  • These Times

    Kirk Ericson|May 30, 2024

    Carrie Brownstein, a singer and the guitarist for the punk group Sleater-Kinney, and the co-creator and co-star of the off-kilter TV series “Portlandia,” lived four homes down from us for a few years in Olympia. You know how hard it can be to find a movie or show that anyone of any age in your house will watch on TV? Mrs. Ericson and I discovered, when our youngest son was about 14, that we all liked “Portlandia.” For a couple of years on New Year’s Eve, we watched “Portlandia” episodes all...

  • These Times

    Kirk Ericson|May 23, 2024

    Kathryn Hamilton Wang remembers the dinner parties in their Shelton home on Grant Avenue. The plates were of fine china, bracketed by sterling silver, and their guests’ lips cusped the elegant rims of Waterford Crystal. “Appetizers and drinks were served ahead of time,” Kathryn, now an Olympia resident, wrote me in an email. “We girls [Kathryn is the oldest of four sisters] helped pass the hors d’oeuvres which might include stuffed mushrooms or ham and egg balls. We’d fill trays with these...

  • These Times

    Kirk Ericson|May 16, 2024

    I received a text Thursday morning from our youngest son, Ryan, a 19-year-old almost junior at the University of Washington in Seattle. His text included a photograph of the Quad, a pastoral rectangle of stone and flora on the campus that’s hemmed in by Gothic academic buildings. The rectangle is filled with cherry trees, finely tended grass, and it’s segmented by several brick walkways, all precisely considered and precisely placed. You feel smarter just walking through it. But the pho...

  • These Times

    Kirk Ericson|May 9, 2024

    “Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing.” — Clive James, author When I was a youngster growing up among the sticks and hicks of Eastern Washington, an adult volunteered some of his precious time to tell me I didn’t have any common sense. I can’t remember what behavior prompted the comment, but I do remember wondering what “common sense” could mean. I wondered for so long that I finally decided that...

  • These Times

    Kirk Ericson|May 2, 2024

    Happiness is merely a momentary suspension of dread. -------------------------------- Here’s an extreme manifestation of liberalism in America in 2024: Pet owners get angry at you for using the wrong pronoun for their pets. -------------------------------- The key to a long marriage is making sure your spouse marries the right person. -------------------------------- You don’t need to lift weights to build muscle mass. The weight of gravity is available to all of us, everywhere, pretty much all...

  • These Times

    Kirk Ericson|Apr 25, 2024

    From “Gloria and the Riddle,” an episode that aired on CBS in October 1972: Gloria: There’s this father and his son and they’re driving along in the car. The car crashes and the father is killed. Edith (Gloria’s mother): Oh, that’s so sad. Archie (Gloria’s father): Oh, geez. It’s only a story Edith. Gloria: Anyway, the father is killed, and the little boy is badly injured so they rush him to a hospital and take him into the operating room. The surgeon walks in and says, ‘I can’t operate on this...

  • These Times

    Kirk Ericson|Apr 18, 2024

    “In 1858, three days after the first Atlantic [telegraph] Cable connected New York and London, The New York Times asked if the news would become ‘too fast for the truth.’ ” — From the book “Lincoln on the Verge: Thirteen Days to Washington” “Too fast for the truth.” That phrase should be stamped on every cellphone, tablet and laptop sold in this country. It could read like this: “Warning: This product is too fast for the truth. Wait before forming an opinion on information presented.” Before...

  • These Times

    Kirk Ericson|Apr 11, 2024

    “When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.” — Abraham Lincoln The grand unified theory in physics is the belief that there is a single explanation that can predict all the behaviors of all the forces in the universe. Theoretical physicists are searching for that elegant explanation of why forces behave the way they do, from the subatomic to the outer bands of the universe. Could there be a grand unified theory for the world’s religions? Could there be a thread t...

  • These Times

    Kirk Ericson|Apr 4, 2024

    If you met your spouse at an orgy, you’d probably tell your kids you met at a big party and leave it at that. “Lisp” is a cruel word. That word describes a condition that seems designed to invite mockery of lispers when they try to pronounce their affliction. Many Americans have no desire to be rich. It seems sacrilegious, even heretical, to live in the United States and not want to be rich. Overheard at the gym I go to, involving two high-volume men in the locker room: One was compl...

  • These Times

    Kirk Ericson|Mar 28, 2024

    If you could have been present at an event that occurred sometime, somewhere in your life, what event would you choose? What would I choose? Thanks for asking. ■ I would have liked to be in the South Pacific on April 12, 1970, when the Apollo 13 astronauts put their feet on the flight deck of the USS Iwo Jima. Much of the world had been riveted by the struggle to return the crippled ship to Earth after a malfunction aborted its mission to the moon. Imagine witnessing those men who had spent the...

  • These Times

    Kirk Ericson|Mar 21, 2024

    Our spring, our vernal equinox, arrived Tuesday at 8:06 p.m. “Vernal” means “of or relating to spring.” “Equinox” means “the time when the sun crosses the plane of earth’s equator, making night and day of approximately equal length all over the earth.” So says Merriam-Webster. “Oh, the storm and its fury broke today Crushing hopes that we cherish so dear Clouds and storms will in time pass away The sun again will shine bright and clear.” So sings the Carter Family. The precise time, in thes...

  • These Times

    Kirk Ericson|Mar 14, 2024

    I didn’t vote in the March 12 presidential primary. It’s the first time in years I’ve intentionally not voted. I’ve voted in 56 elections since the general election of 1992, according to my voting record at votewa.gov. The site doesn’t show you how you voted, just that you voted. For comparison, Mrs. Ericson has voted 68 times since 1992. In matters of citizenship, and civility, she is better than I am. The way Washington’s presidential primary ballot is arranged, if you voted for a Republican...

  • These Times

    Kirk Ericson|Feb 29, 2024

    Two months ago, a plastic freezer bag appeared on our front porch. Inside was a 100% Merino wool, long-sleeve black undershirt, with the tags still attached. All that was written on the freezer bag was "KIRK" (with the last "K" turned backward), with no hint who it was from. It had to be from someone who knows me well, well enough to know I have an affection for Merino wool, long-sleeve shirts, possessions that come free, the color black, and that I wear a size large. And perhaps the person was...

  • These Times

    Kirk Ericson|Feb 22, 2024

    The world is not going to hell. It’s not going to heaven, either. It’s going to where it’s always been going and where it’s always been: Planet Earth. This world of ours is a mix, a kind of impure puree. Sometimes, the heaven part coagulates at the top, and sometimes, the hell part’s at the top. That’s the ebb and recharge of the universe’s experiment with Homo sapiens. Many of us humans have worked hard to learn how to exist amid other Homo sapiens, and many of us have worked hard to destr...

  • These Times

    Kirk Ericson|Feb 15, 2024

    I've lately been asking people how many people in the United States have died of COVID. Their answers are generally way low - before I checked the stat, my answer was way low, too. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1,176,639 people died of COVID in the United States from January 2020 to February 2024. More than 1 million Americans dead. Imagine. That's almost double the deaths from the Civil War. "So, again, when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days i...

  • These Times

    Kirk Ericson|Feb 8, 2024

    “But if Christ hadn’t delivered his Sermon on the Mount, with its message of mercy and pity, I wouldn’t want to be a human being. I’d just as soon be a rattlesnake.” — Kurt Vonnegut, “A Man Without a Country” Imagine, if you will … It’s circa 30 A.D. and Jesus Christ is in his late 20s and starting to make a name for himself. He’s on a hilltop near the Sea of Galilee and a crowd has gathered to hear the carpenter deliver a major speech. Among the assembled is an old man named Strange. He’s t...

  • THESE TIMES

    Kirk Ericson|Feb 1, 2024

    It’s easy to be entranced by the innocent looks of toddlers. They appear to have no idea what’s coming at them. The wonderful thing about quitting cigarettes is you have the opportunity to start them all over again. When both our boys were living at home and would go out for the evening, returning after I went to bed, one of my first destinations the next morning was to check the shoe rack to ensure their shoes were there. Seeing those shoes always gave me a serene feeling. All was well wit...

  • THESE TIMES

    Kirk Ericson|Jan 25, 2024

    This is a story about how to improve your body’s existence. All you need is a floor and a rug. And a wall. I received an email last week from Nils Marcks von Wurtemberg, a friend a few years older than me. He lives in Sweden. His email reported his latest adventure … and its aftermath: “We have minus 13.5 degrees Celsius today in Stockholm. Tomorrow it will be colder. … Last Sunday I skated 40 km on the Baltic Sea with my long ice skates on quite soft ice, which was awful. I have never been so...

  • THESE TIMES

    Kirk Ericson|Jan 18, 2024

    We in Western Washington are in our hardest stretch of weather. It’s mostly freezing rain, showers, rain, more rain, drizzles, mizzles and downpours, and we’ve got another few months of it staring at us. Our cold and rain loom like an extended sentence in the hole. In 1989, I lived just outside of Washington, D.C., where I worked for Gannett News Service and was around people from around the nation. I’d often ask those people what they thought when they thought of our state, and a common answe...

  • THESE TIMES

    Kirk Ericson|Jan 11, 2024

    The light bulb in our kitchen started flickering last week and I realized I hadn’t replaced a light bulb in maybe a year. It used to be light bulbs going out was a constant irritant of modern life, but with incandescent bulbs being replaced by longer-lived fluorescent bulbs and LED lights, we can go months now without thinking about light bulbs. I brought this matter up with Mrs. Ericson. Remember when, I asked her, we used to put light bulbs on the list of things to get? Do you remember when w...

  • THESE TIMES

    Kirk Ericson|Jan 4, 2024

    The world is getting worse and better, and it’s all happening at the same time. Don’t generalize. Generalizing is always bad. The odor of a banana makes honeybees want to sting you, according to an interview with a North Mason beekeeper that ran in the Dec. 14 edition of the Journal. So … that’s one more thing you must keep in mind as you go about this hard and complicated life: Never attack a beehive with a banana. When dogs and cats suddenly find themselves in the middle of a sunbeam while l...

  • THESE TIMES

    Kirk Ericson|Dec 28, 2023

    The flagpole outside the PUD 3 building on Cota Street in Shelton is catty-corner (or is it kitty-corner?) to the Journal’s office, and our view from the newsroom gives us a wide view of that skinny pole. Several months ago, the flag went away. But that’s not what this is about. When the flag was at half-staff, we’d often wonder why that was so, and sometimes I’d go to the Governor’s Office website to dispel our wonder. If you type in “Washington Governor’s Office flag display,” then scroll to ...

  • THESE TIMES

    Kirk Ericson|Dec 21, 2023

    The scene: Several luminaries are gathered for Jesus’ 2023 birthday at the Prophet Muhammad’s house. Attendees include Guru Nanak Dev Ji, Abraham, Siddhartha Gautama, brothers James and Simon, Adi Shankara, Desmond Tutu, the Brahma, Zarathushtra, Mary Baker Eddy, Mother Mary, father Joseph, Father God, Mary Magdalene, Confucius, Zhaung Zhou, Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir and Rosalynn Carter. It’s a surprise party. Jesus opens the front door …) All: Surprise! Happy birthday, Jesus! Jesus: Oh, yeah. A...

  • THESE TIMES

    Kirk Ericson|Dec 14, 2023

    Here are some jokes for you. Some are ones friends have told me, some have been riding in my head for years and others I found by doing thorough joke research. Why can’t you believe anything an atom says? Because it makes up everything. A couple is lying in bed. It’s the middle of the night and there’s a knock on the door at 3 in the morning. The guy gets out of bed and opens the door. He comes back to bed and his wife says, “Who was that?” The guy replies, “Some stranger who wanted a push. I t...

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