Saturday, January 3, 2015

Blow-drying the frozen water pipe

January 1, 2015

An inauspicious start to the new year. It's not bad enough that I caught a bad cold and had to miss out on leading a five-day Nordic Club x-country ski trip to Black Butte Ranch. New Year's is already a bummer. Now I wake up and realize that for the first time in four winters on the houseboat, I forgot to drip water from the faucets last night, and now I have no water. The pipes are frozen.

I send a woeful email to my neighbor Mary and she tells me to get a hair dryer and blow hot air on the water pipe coming from the moorage line into my house. Where's that? I ask. Still in my pjs and bathrobe, I open the door while I'm talking to her, step on the stoop, which happens to be icy and I slide and crash to the walkway, my hand now bleeding and starting to turn black and blue. Mary hears the thud and says she'll come over. She points out the above-pictured pipe, surrounded by icicles, and heads on her way to brunch.

I get dressed, find a hair dryer and am sprawled on the walkway blowing hot air on the soon-melting icicles, thinking the whole while, hair dryer + water = electrocution, so I'm careful not to get it wet while holding it. My next-door neighbor Keith comes out, takes one look at me and says, "Frozen, eh?" I think it's hilarious that the sight of me blow-drying my pipe is obviously the most natural thing in the world -- in the world of houseboat-dwellers, that is. Every few minutes I go back in and check to see if the water is running, and after the third time it gushes out and I remind myself to put up signs by my faucets so I don't forget again.

Front page: Tom and Claire love story

Tom Hallman, Pulitzer-Prize-winning writer for The Oregonian, had heard about the love story of Tom and Claire Hekker and it took a long time to convince Tom to be interviewed and let their story be told. The journalist came and did a lot of interviews -- was this story ever going to appear? Finally, on Christmas Eve, it was the front-page feature. They are my neighbors two doors down. They have been sweethearts since grade school, married for 66 years, raised 9 children, but Claire has Alzheimer's and this year had to move to a care facility, so this would be Tom's first Christmas without her, and he is having a tough go of it.

The story is quite lovely. You can read it at
and the site has a heart-wrenching video titled “The Long Goodbye: Love, Dementia, and Beethoven in A Minor," with Claire playing the piano and Tom talking about what's happening to them.

This is my fourth Christmas on the houseboat. I saw Claire daily, but she never remembered who I was. I looked familiar to her, but she never recalled my name (even though one of their daughters is named Donna) nor where I live. Today I talked to Tom and he said Tom Hallman told him this story has gotten something like the third-most number of responses ever, and people have been calling Tom constantly since it appeared. I remind him that one of Tom Hallman's other heart-warming pieces turned into a book and movie. I asked him what actor would he want to play him and he laughed.

Jack Dwyer and Sarah Jane Scouten House Concert

                                                                    Photos by Wendy Temko

On the afternoon of Sunday, December 21st, the Winter Solstice, I hosted another house concert. Returning Jack Dwyer, along with Sarah Jane Scouten of Montreal. Sarah Jane came out to visit her folks for Christmas in Vancouver, B.C. and she and Jack created a Pacific Northwest tour and I was the Portland stop. The concert began at 2:00 so it would end at 4:30 with the sunset, with the river as the backdrop the whole time. They were both quite fabulous, singing and playing together and separately, and it was especially wonderful to hear Sarah Jane perform in person songs that she wrote and recorded on her CDs. As the concert was nearing the end I felt a twinge of sadness, not wanting it to be over. About 22 people attended -- some old friends I hadn't seen in a long while -- and we had homemade snacks and drinks at the intermission. When I thanked them at the end for filling my house with such marvelous music I teared up and Sarah Jane came and hugged me and said that if musicians didn't move people, they weren't doing their job.

Here's how I described them on the invite:
About Jack:
Jack Dwyer is a virtuoso mandolin player and singer/songwriter/guitarist who delights audiences with well-honed arrangements and flights of improvisation. His debut album with Tim Connell (Mando Planet, 2013) won praise asEvery tune is delivered with spontaneity, drive, passion, and obvious joy. You can’t ask for a better album than this.  Hermon Joyner, Mandolin Magazine
About Sarah Jane:
This is the only Portland stop on a Pacific Northwest coast tour for Montreal-based singer/songwriter, guitar- and banjo-player Sarah Jane Scouten. Her latest album, “The Cape” earned nominations for 2014 Traditional Album of the Year and Traditional Folk Singer of the Year. “Beautiful delivery and phrasing, imaginative narratives, and excellent musicianship. Sarah Jane is not to be missed.” Sheesham Crow, Sheesham and Lotus
See them on YouTube:;
Check out their websites:;