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  • THESE TIMES

    Kirk Ericson|Nov 23, 2023

    Annoying words and phrases infect our speech with frequency and tenacity, and I can’t stop it. I try, but I’m only one bro, one bruh, one dude, one dawg, one homeboy. But if I was king, I could send out a minion with a stiff back to proclaim, “Listen up, peasants. The following words and phrases are banned. Any of the king’s subjects heard uttering the following phrases shall be playfully chastised upon first and second offense, and on the third offense, the subject shall be drawn and quartered,...

  • THESE TIMES

    Kirk Ericson|Nov 16, 2023

    “To the earth you are scattered You’re going home, so what does it matter? To an atomic mind Scattered here while you travel time.” — The Kinks, “Scattered” My 64th orbit of the sun will be complete in a couple of weeks, and one thing that amazes me about this accretion of years is how slow it’s gone. I would have thought I’d be 100 by now. In the interest of taking stock from this vast vista, and sparing my survivors the burden of busy work, here’s my sanctioned obit: Kirk Ericson Kirk Eric...

  • Seeking change on our cities' streets

    Kirk Ericson|Nov 9, 2023

    I’ve made a promise to myself. If I ever see a homeless person sporting a sign that reads “Need $ for cellphone bill,” I’ll surrender $20 right there. There was a short period when I carried single-wrapped slices of Velveeta cheese in my back pocket to give out when someone asked for change. The cheese was left over from a Halloween when I gave cheese to trick-or-treaters who came to our house. One visitor asked for two slices, maybe because he wanted two cheese sandwiches. But mostly, I don’t...

  • THESE TIMES

    Kirk Ericson|Nov 2, 2023

    Compassion is its own reward. Dave Pierik, the office administrator and the longest-serving employee at the Shelton-Mason County Journal, has been joining us lately in the newsroom, making corrections on pages on Wednesdays, our get-the-paper-out-the-door day. We’ve learned he’s got a quick wit: ■ We were working on a front-page headline about the Shelton homicide suspects who were being sought by police during the first week of October. The A1 headline was “Homicide suspects at large....

  • THESE TIMES

    Kirk Ericson|Oct 26, 2023

    Oliver Svenningson is 8 years old. He’s the son of friends of ours, friends who used to be neighbor-friends, but they lost neighbor status when mother, father and Oliver moved to Germany in summer 2021 for a job. I told the father, Brad, a couple of years ago that he should be saving Oliver’s observations because Oliver makes comments worth remembering. Here are some Brad has sent me: October 2020: Oliver saw a woman and man working on their roof, and dad explained what was going on. Oli...

  • THESE TIMES

    Kirk Ericson|Oct 12, 2023

    We eventually become what we’ve left behind. I was at a bookstore in downtown Olympia two weeks ago to buy a book for Mrs. Ericson, and I found a paperback copy from one of her favorite authors, “Bel Canto” by Ann Patchett. While standing in the fiction aisle at that bookstore — Last Word Books — I flipped through “Bel Canto” and found a lavender-colored note containing a name and a phone number. I walked the note up to the fellow behind the counter and suggested he keep the note, in the remote...

  • THESE TIMES

    Kirk Ericson|Oct 5, 2023

    Becoming aware of the love around you is the only price you must pay to feel joy. A recent headline on the cover of a health magazine: "One woman's 8-year journey with nasal polyps." I didn't read the story, but I did imagine some of the wonderful places in the world she could take those polyps of hers. I was at Safeway the other day to get fish, and while I was talking to the fishmonger about something or other, he said, "You can't believe anything reported in the news. They're all bad." I...

  • THESE TIMES

    Kirk Ericson|Sep 28, 2023

    We had a trampoline in the backyard for our kids when those two kids were kids, and for 10 years I had to put up with safety Nellies telling me how dangerous trampolines are, especially ones not surrounded by netting. I heard stories about broken backs and quadriplegia and fractures and dislocated shoulders and broken teeth. I heard people cite statistics about trampolines being a leading cause of emergency rooom visits. Sometimes, those people shared their own involvement in trampoline-related...

  • THESE TIMES

    Kirk Ericson|Sep 21, 2023

    This is a column that ran in the Shelton-Mason County Journal on March 4, 2021. Of the 308 columns the Journal has published of mine, this one is among my five favorites. I’ll return with original drivel next week... —Kirk Mrs. Ericson and I were sitting on our living room couch recently while I did the crossword puzzle and she read the newspaper. This has become part of our morning plague routine. We sit on the couch in the early morning, drink coffee and I respond to comments she makes abo...

  • THESE TIMES

    Kirk Ericson|Sep 14, 2023

    Remember in spring 2020 when we started hearing the phrase “a novel coronavirus?” We don’t hear that phrase much now. This particular coronavirus has lost all its novelty. COVID-19 infection rates, and hospitalizations and deaths, have been rising around the country for the past couple of months. Some of the symptoms have evolved, but the disease remains. The Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved the latest dose to treat the current strain that’s going around, and those doses could b...

  • These Times

    Kirk Ericson|Sep 7, 2023

    A woman in our neighborhood many years ago was getting treatment for lung cancer. I saw her walking along the sidewalk in front of the house one day – she was getting chemotherapy or radiation, I can’t remember which – and she looked weary. We talked for five minutes in front of the driveway. She was a wonderful woman, full of that rare combination of optimism and contrarianism that’s hard to maintain over a life. At the end of our chat, she had a question. “Could you say a prayer for me?” Um....

  • These Times

    Kirk Ericson|Aug 31, 2023

    I have a friend who grew up rich, but through hard work, grit and some lucky breaks, she overcame it. When people were losing their senses of taste and smell during the worst of COVID, did their senses of hearing and sight improve? At weddings in Olympia, if the guests wear Birkenstocks, they make a point of wearing their best pair. I’m reluctant to get into the whole Jan. 6 insurrection thing here, but I do believe that flag poles should not be used to pummel someone. There’s a mental switch yo...

  • These Times

    Kirk Ericson|Aug 24, 2023

    A one-scene play It’s late afternoon in a principal’s office at an expensive private middle school. In attendance are the principal, an 11-year-old boy, and the boy’s mother and father. The boy faces possible expulsion for several alleged offenses. PRINCIPAL: Let’s get to it, shall we? We’re all here to figure out what will be most helpful … SON: I didn’t do it! Whatever they say I did, I didn’t do it. They’re liars. You can’t prove I did anything wrong! MOTHER (patting her son’s knee): Now, n...

  • These Times

    Kirk Ericson|Aug 17, 2023

    I’ve wasted enough time watching sports to know how they could be improved. Here, for your consideration, are some ways sporting events could become more entertaining … and violent. BASEBALL: I’d like to see a pitcher, just once, admit he hit a batter on purpose. Now they’re cagey about it, saying stuff like, “I didn’t mean to hit him, but you know, you’ve got to back up your teammates. You’ve got to send a message.” Sports announcers and reporters then repeat it and let the obvious lie go be...

  • THESE TIMES

    Kirk Ericson|Aug 10, 2023

    "We don't have to get fat, We don't have to get old. We don't have information that we have to withhold." -The Pretenders, "Let the Sun Come In" Mrs. Ericson and I are doing fine money-wise, but we definitely don't have helicopter rescue money. That thought arose as I looked up at Aasgard Pass, a muscle-bound stretch of slope that rises from the tourmaline-green shores of Colchuck Lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in the central Cascades, just outside of Leavenworth. That incline of nearly...

  • THESE TIMES

    Kirk Ericson|Aug 3, 2023

    We got a letter from the IRS last month. I nervously opened it, but it only sought our participation in a survey on what the IRS calls “taxpayer burden” – the amount of money and time taxpayers spend on preparing their taxes. That’s fine, but it should have said this, in large letters, on the outside of the envelope: “It’s OK! You’re not in trouble!” A woman out bicycling the other day was wearing a mask, but not a helmet, and it reminded me of what I adore about human beings. When I was smal...

  • THESE TIMES

    Kirk Ericson|Jul 27, 2023

    I've bought 10 cars in life, starting at age 17. All were used, save one, and only two had any dollar value when I finished with them. All, however, have story value. No. 1, 1977: A 1972 Volkswagen Super Beetle, which I bought for $1,200 from a used car lot in the Spokane Valley called Christian Brothers Automotive. At some point in the transaction, one of the brothers asked whether I was a Christian. Yes, I replied. "Good," he said, "we like to keep sales in the family." I asked what the car's...

  • THESE TIMES

    Kirk Ericson|Jul 20, 2023

    WE’RE NO. 51! In 2022, the number of (police) officers decreased by 70 to around 10,600 officers in Washington. The 4.4% drop brought the staffing rate to 1.35 officers per 1,000 people, putting Washington at the 51st lowest rate among all U.S. states and Washington, D.C., for the 13th year in a row, according to Steven Strachan, with the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. Nationally, the rate is around 2.31 officers per 1,000 people. — The Seattle Times, July 10, 2023 ATTEMPT...

  • THESE TIMES

    Kirk Ericson|Jul 13, 2023

    Hecidora Temisqueño was washing dishes in the early afternoon of July 4 when she saw a boiling column of smoke out the window. It was rolling toward her home. “It seemed like just seconds later, firefighters were at the door telling us to leave,” she said through her son, who interpreted for her. “I was scared.” And it wasn’t much later on that Tuesday afternoon that residents around the county started seeing firefighting aircraft sucking water from area bodies of water, including Oakland Bay an...

  • THESE TIMES

    Kirk Ericson|Jul 6, 2023

    I hate know-it-alls, but I really hate mass murderers. We need to get to the point in our nation where we can dislike people solely for the content of their character, not the color of their skin. My 95-year-old mother-in-law recently asked what I thought of her grandson’s girlfriend’s hairdo. “Actually,” she corrected herself, “her head is shaved, so it’s more like a head-do.” Do you ever say something to your child that you could never have imagined coming out of your mouth? It happened to m...

  • THESE TIMES

    Kirk Ericson|Jun 29, 2023

    Four Fingered Jacks: The best name I’ve seen for a fireworks stand. One Fourth when all four kids were under one roof, our father announced we would have a safe Fourth of July. He got some of us into the backyard, had us sit in lawn chairs on the concrete patio, and then perched a road flare about 50 feet away atop a wall separating one level of the backyard from the next. He popped the cap on the flare. I can’t recall whether I said or thought this when the flare burned out: “Is that it?...

  • THESE TIMES

    Kirk Ericson|Jun 22, 2023

    “Everybody says how easy it is to cook, but it isn’t any easier than not cooking.” — Maria Bamford “Did you ever hear about the Norwegian who loved his wife so much he almost told her?” — Author unknown “Bob Dylan always told me, don’t be a name-dropper.” — Chrissie Hynde “I would start a revolution, but I just bought a hammock.” — Zach Galifianakis “I wear this St. Christopher medal sometimes because I’m Jewish and my boyfriend’s Catholic. It was cute the way he gave it to me. He said if it d...

  • THESE TIMES

    Kirk Ericson|Jun 15, 2023

    File this one under “Beware of trucks bought from Canadian mines.” Mrs. Ericson and I were nearing her car in a parking lot a couple of weeks ago. She was several steps ahead of me when she depressed the button on her key fob several times to unlock the car door, to no effect. A fellow standing on the running board of a utility truck about 50 feet away started making noise, directed at us. The man’s truck was a working person’s rig, not one of those spotless Ford F-150s people buy to “protect th...

  • THESE TIMES

    Kirk Ericson|Jun 8, 2023

    Count on this: We'll soon have people who claim they developed PTSD from fighting in this nation's culture wars. One experience I miss about having babies around: Not being able to say "zero" when people would ask how old my not-yet-1-year-old kids were. Something true in America: Dystopia sells. Overheard rant on the street: "Incans made adobe out of bananas ... at least I think that's true." Invention idea: Shoes with a built-in odometer. That way, you might be able to say, "I got 700 miles...

  • THESE TIMES

    Kirk Ericson|Jun 1, 2023

    This is what I saw and what I heard. Two young men, who appeared to be in their mid-20s, were exceedingly drunk, judging from their muttering and their full use of the sidewalk's width to accommodate their lateral staggers. I was maybe 30 steps away, walking toward them. It was 10:30 on a Thursday night, May 18, and I was a quarter-mile from my son's apartment at the north end of Green Lake. I was at the end of a 5-mile walk from South Lake Union. Sanctuary was at hand and no one was around but...

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