No. I’m not in trouble. Not yet, anyway.
We were just chatting about some people we knew and stories we’d heard. While we were talking, the Guv’ner slipped into the coffee house. I didn’t notice him at first, what with the storytelling that was going on at my table and all.
It wasn’t until the prosecutor left that I happened to move tables and saw the Guv’ner there with our state Rep. Bob Jensen. Bob’s a retired educator. He doesn’t create too much noise. In fact, I can’t recall anything of note that he’s done. He stands for all the right things and people are comfortable with him, and that may in itself be a testament to a job well done.
The Guv’ner on the other hand, well, he and I go way back.
He nodded as I walked by. I suppose he would have spoken to me if I had said something but I didn’t. I wasn’t being snotty, I just didn’t want to interrupt him or Bob. So, it was out of respect, not ugliness, that I didn’t speak.
The last time the Guv’ner and I spoke was years ago. He flew into town to do the obligatory tour of the Army Depot — that place 10 miles up the road where a private contractor (Washing Demil, aka Raytheon) is burning tons of VX, Sarin, and other highly explosive and chemically toxic materials.
The Guv’ner likes to pride himself on his environmental integrity. He talks a lot about it. He’s from Bend where they grow their trees tall and their mountains taller. But a lot of people were worried about the burning going on out at the Depot because of the “collateral damage” that would result because of the burning. Specifically, people were worried about the increase in cancer rates that such an environmental hazard would create. Nothing to say of just the sheer stupid things the private contract employees did — like the fellow who took vials of sarin home with him in his pocket.
But the Depot was going to employ lots of people and pay them big bucks. You can’t get people to work around toxic stuff – a pindrop of VX will kill a horse — without paying them some hefty wages. Of course, at the time they were selling the burn to Oregonians on the promise of those jobs, altho, the truth is that 40 percent of those who work at the Depot are coming in from across the river in Washington. Former Hanford employees.
I never wanted to report on the Depot because of the incestuous nature of the relationship between the U. S. Army and its private contractor and the Guv’nr and the Department of Environmental Quality. Orgies have never held much appeal for me either as a spectator or a participator. So when I took the job across the river, I made the news editors promise that I would never ever have to do the Depot beat. They promised.
And broke it 18 months later.
Newspapers are notorious for their lack of integrity when it comes to managing their own employees but who’s going to report on that?
So, by gum, if they were going to stick me on the Depot beat, I was going to do my job. And I did. I busted their balls. Every time they turned around there was some headline story about some foolishness they were doing. Like the guard who shot himself in the arm. Or the man who sat in sarin and ended up dead 9 months later. Or the time they accidentally set off the alarms and families throughout the region, who didn’t know it was an accident, duct-taped themselves in the bathroom for hours.
What they hadn’t all counted on was that I have lived in this area for so long even the pheasants talk to me. So when the Guv’ner did that obligatory tour, I asked him some tough questions in front of God and everybody and he gave me some flippant answer which I used to lead the story with and that’s how these lasting relationships are formed.
So when I was at the coffeehouse last week, sitting right near the Guv’ner, I heard him ask Mr. Bob who I was. Oh. Yeah, he said, then walked out the door without so much as acknowledging me, which is fine with me. Goes to show I did my job well if the Guv’ner takes to avoiding me in public places.
But Mr. Bob, well, he walked over to the table where I was sitting and said, “Where have you been? Haven’t seen you in forever.”
I told him I try and keep a low profile these days.
Then he spoke to a friend who had joined me. He said he remembered when I wrote all that nasty column about him.
“I don’t recall writing any column about you, Bob.”
I didn’t. Honestly. I can’t imagine what I would have written about him. He didn’t do enough of anything to capture anyone’s attention.
“Well maybe you just got some wrong information,” he said.
“No, Bob,” I said. “That would never have happened.”
I hate that. When politicians begin to fictionalize their own history.
“By the way,” I said. “I hope the Guv’nr does a better job this go round than he did the last.”
You see our Guv’nr is John Kitzhaber. He’s the same guy that was Guv’nr back when the Oregon National Guard wrote a report saying that they didn’t have trouble recruiting in Oregon, even though we have no military installations and are notoriously anti-military, because the unemployment rate was so high people were clamoring to become part of the National Guard. He was Guv’ner in 1995-2003 and now is Guv’ner again because Oregonians are if anything nostalgic and the rain on the West-side leaves mold in the noggin.
They’ve forgotten that long before the economic collapse of 2008, Oregon was leading the nation in unemployment based on per capita calculations. Which is why in 2005, Oregon, along with Louisiana, had the highest per capita number of people deployed with the National Guard. That state that gave us Mark Hatfield — the sole courageous Senator speaking out against Vietnam before it was popular to do so — was now leading the nation in military service.
Mostly because 18 and 19 year old kids couldn’t get a college education otherwise. And dads who once pulled the green chain in the local mills, needed some way to support their young families, now that the mills were taking hiatus.
Unemployment was a problem in Oregon long before it was a problem nationwide.
So it would stand to reason that in states like ours there would be plenty of wonderful ministries that serve the unemployed, right? Only Oregon also prides itself on being the most unchurched state in the nation. Not sure if we still hold that title but we did for many years.
Now, you’d think any Guv’ner who has been resurrected like Lazarus would be a Bible-thumping Believer but that doesn’t exactly describe our Guv’ner. That kind of politician is way up yonder to the North and West of us.
If you recall, I wanted to run for Guv’ner only Tim wouldn’t let me. He said I couldn’t win. I told him I didn’t want to win, I just wanted to run. Somethings are worth doing just for the fun of it.
Tim lacks a sense of humor sometimes.
(It just occurred to me that Mike Hyatt CEO of Thomas Nelson won’t like this post. He says people don’t read long posts. If you’ve stayed with me this far, thank you, sweetie. I do have a point.)
There has been a lot of talk about unemployment over the past two years. I’ve been in churches that hold a weekly meeting for the unemployed.They also offer seminars for building resumes, and computer skills, etc.
But I’m wondering, what about you? What kind of things have you done to help out friends or family who are unemployed? Or if you are unemployed, what sorts of things have others done that have ministered to you? Does your church have a ministry for the unemployed? Tell us about it.
Maybe I can pass your ideas along to the Guv’ner.