The Bing Crosby House

I recently returned from a family gathering in my hometown that I would have not been able to imagine as a child.

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When I was nine or so, my dad was a middle school teacher and studying for his doctorate. He often spent Saturdays at the Bing Crosby Library on the Gonzaga campus in Spokane, Washington. These sessions ended with his crossing the street to drink at the house of a friend. On some Saturdays my mom insisted he take a couple of his five kids with him—to relieve her burden and possibly keep him from drinking too much.

bing20I was infatuated with Gonzaga. In the sixties, the campus was home to some fine-looking young Jesuits. I remember them as well-trimmed blondes in slim gray slacks and light blue cotton shirts with the unfortunate clerical collars signaling they were off limits to my desire. In contrast, the flocks of formidable-looking nuns, their copious black robes rustling in the breeze as they left Mass, made me quiver in fear. I imagined the church, Saint Aloysius, to be a replica of heaven itself.

Later in life, my dad claimed, “I raised you kids to be independent.” I couldn’t argue. His neglect was sufficient to keep us from ever thinking about depending on him. Such was the case whenever he took his two oldest—my brother and me—along with him to Gonzaga. We followed him into the Crosby Library and were told to meet a few hours later at his friend’s house. My first stop was always the Crosbyana—a small room filled with Bing memorabilia the singer/actor had donated to his alma mater.

bing12My favorite pieces were the framed gold record “White Christmas” and his Oscar for Going My Way (which I recently discovered is a replica). I remember the room as quiet, cozy, and rather dark, but recent pictures—that I cannot show because they’re copyrighted—reveal it to be light and airy. I curled into a plush chair and imagined it was my room, a den perhaps in the mansion that was my home.

Afterward, running around campus with my brother, I marveled at the coeds and longed to live in the Madonna Hall dorm when I went to college. Unbeknownst to me, my future husband was a student at the time. I never went there, but 40 years later our son Harrison would enroll and live his first year in that same dorm.

My last surviving Spokane relatives—a brother- and sister-in-law—moved to Phoenix a decade ago, but live in a cabin on Newman Lake, near Spokane, during the summer. This past spring, I thought it would be fun to have a family reunion with them, our kids and grandkids. Their cabin isn’t big enough to accommodate many overnight guests, but the overflow could stay in hotels and spend days at the lake.

Harrison suggested I look for a vacation rental on Coeur d’Alene Lake where we could all stay together. Many of the cabins available online are rustic with photos that hint at large spiders and mice. I found a couple of luxurious places that, when split four ways, were affordable, but not available on our chosen weekend. I grew frustrated and hateful.

I backed off and let it go for a few days. One morning, I girded my loins to try again. I expanded the search to include Hayden Lake, a few miles north of Coeur d’Alene. Lo and behold, up popped the Bing Crosby House! Bing Crosby, the inspiration behind the Crosbyana Room, the oasis that had comforted me as a child.

My fingers trembled as I clicked the link. I found a 3,000 square-foot log house built in 1955, lovingly kept in its original condition by Bing’s heirs (including the kitchen appliances). With four bedrooms, three and a half baths, and a stone deck running the length of the back facing the lake, it was perfect. But it required a five-night stay. Given everyone’s busy schedules, we could only eke out three nights to be together. I emailed the owner (Bing’s granddaughter) and asked for an exception. She agreed. I was beside myself with excitement.

***

bing19Entering the circular driveway of the Crosby House, I got chills. It doesn’t look like much from the front, but upon entering I was awestruck by floor to ceiling windows spanning the western border with a magnificent view of the lake. In the expansive great room, the walls were made of bleached paneling and logs that stand vertically.

bing3The entryway had a framed page from an American Home magazine article written, I assume, soon after the house was built since there was no year is on the cover. Subsequent framed pages line the hallway. Each room holds a page about that particular room.

We took great delight in these. A highlight: as a rough and tumble kid in Spokane, Bing often got in trouble for fighting, most notably beating up a “boy who called his sister tubby (she was).”

bing18We fell in love with Mrs. Lemmon, Bing’s dowdy French cook who was cordoned off in the kitchen and, unless the swinging door was open, could not be seen from the living area. According to the article, whenever she heard Bing’s car enter the driveway, the tiny woman stood on her tippy toes, looked out the window above the sink and cried, “Mr. Bing, God bless him!”

bing16To me, the most unique feature of the house was the original draperies. According to the article, “Bing’s famous theme song, ‘Where the Blue of the Night Meets the Gold of the Day,’ is motif on the living room draperies, done in square Gothic notes from 15th and 16th century parchment panels of church music that hung over piano. In his bedroom, [the] tune changes to ‘Home Sweet Home.’”

It was thrilling to stay in Bing’s house, a place custom built for him, where he and his kids spent summers fishing and golfing. This was the perfect setting to gather a family who enjoys spending time together, a family far more wonderful than my childhood fantasies could have conjured all those years ago when I nestled into that plush chair in the Crosbyana Room.

katekid

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Seven Things Smarter Than Me

DSC025891. My Honda Civic. It has a warning light that looks like a like a horseshoe with an exclamation point in the center. The first time it came on, I panicked. Over the years, I’ve driven my share of crap cars that did odd things like overheat, not start, or get flat tires without warning.

Turns out this light is my car’s way of communicating that one or more of my tires is under pressurized.

Wow.

(I’ll spare you my issues with the car’s Bluetooth—just know that it mocked me to the point of wanting to beat it with a hammer.)

square2. The Square. As a board member for the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference, I recently (make that a year ago) volunteered to set the organization up with the Square for processing credit card transactions. With a week to spare, I ordered it and attempted to download the app on my iPad2.

The app would not download because my crazy old iPad2 had an outdated operating system. It needed iOS6.0 or better. I tried several times and was denied. I Googled it and followed some lying blogger’s instructions.

It seems the outdated iPad2 cannot be updated and the Square is useless on my machine. I hate them both.

iTunes3. iTunes. On those rare occasions when I download music, it adds songs I didn’t request.

There are a few delightful surprises like “Sugar” by Imperial Teen. I love that song. I also adore “One Moment to Another” by Jon Dee Graham and “San Francisco” by Secondhand Jive. Who are these artists who help me push through the barfing sensation when I jog? I must meet them all.

On the flip side, there’s a song that I do not like—a country-rock tune about “sweet Mary Lou was left standing at the altar.” I don’t want it, but don’t know the title so can’t get rid of it. Fortunately, I know how to skip it on my iNano (or whatever it’s called).

twitter4. Twitter. I Tweet and Follow, but I don’t often go to the site because I’m busy! I believe the point of Twitter is to allow busy people access to short messages and decide whether to spend their precious time reading links.

I wonder how it makes sense to follow 100 Twitterer’s when I don’t have time to even glance at their daily Tweets? I’ve got the shakes right now—I truly do.

iPhone5. iPhone. I had a non-smart phone for years before recently getting an iPhone. This prompted iPhone cultists to ask if I loved it, if I didn’t think it was the coolest thing ever, and so forth.

I guess.

I didn’t use it much until I discovered that I could download games like Sudoku and crossword puzzles.

Okay, so I’ll admit I like being able to access Facebook and the ability to take pictures. I recently discovered Instagram, which is fun. Early on I was able to get emails until one day I couldn’t. The phone asked for my password and after I typed it, told me I was stupid. I tried again and again.

I asked my kids for assistance. They gave me instructions in what sounded like Norwegian, and when I started to cry, they advised: “Google it.”

I followed Google’s step-by-step instructions. They didn’t work. On a trip to San Francisco, I stopped by an Apple Store. A friendly employee tapped about the screen, handed it back, and looked away while I typed in my supposed email password which—yes, you are correct—did not work. I tried again and again before starting to cry. He offered a goofy smile and shrugged his shoulders. (My only consolation is that my iPhone is smarter than him, too.)

As I left the store, I stared down my phone and hissed, “I don’t care if I can’t access email on you. I’ve lived a reasonably happy existence for decades without it and will carry on just fine you smarty pants bastard.”

selfcheckoutjpg6. Self-checkout Counters. The screen asks, “Do you have a bag?” I only have two items and don’t need a bag. But if I answer No, will I be charged for one? So I answer Yes and the woman inside the machine tells me to place my bag in the loading area. But I don’t have a bag and there’s no place on the screen to change my mind.

What to do? What to do?

Mumble curse words as I leave and wait in the Express Lane while playing a crossword puzzle on my smarty pants phone.

One afternoon I went into our very busy Safeway and heard an alarm blaring at the self-checkout stand. A man who looked like Jerry Garcia yelled, “Help me! Help me!” as he shook his arms over his head. I felt a deep connection.

roku7. Smart TV/Roku. If my husband ever leaves me before switching the Smart TV from the Roku to television mode, I’ll never be able to watch television again.

I’m certain I’ll add more to this list as I continue through life. My hope is that it will force me to become a better person by learning humility—and maybe discover the title of that song about how sweet Mary Lou was left standing at the altar.help

Taaka Goes Home for the Holidays

The Christmas season wouldn’t be complete without a special Taaka visit home to The Purity.

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Spreading cheer among some of my favorite things.

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If you haven’t tried Alden’s Vanilla Ice Cream, you must.

Gary's favorite section.

Gary’s favorite section.

Look! The Purity has coffee beans you can grind yourself!

Look! The Purity has coffee beans you can grind yourself!

If you don't want to grind your own coffee, pour yourself a ready-made cup.

If you don’t want to grind your own coffee, pour yourself a ready-made cup.

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Uh-oh, where’s the rest of Taaka’s family?

Haaka Taaka Christmas

Since the discovery of Taaka Vodka at The Purity, Gary, Wilson, Little Mister, and I have created a new Christmas tradition. It’s a game called “Where’s Taaka?” We take turns hiding and searching for the Taaka bottle among the holiday decorations.

Little Mister gets so excited that he has to be sedated.

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In the spirit of holiday generosity, I invite you to play along.(Warning: The game gets progressively more challenging when Taaka dons a disguise)

040508DSC_0019DSC_0010DSC_0008DSC_0014DSC_0005Some might ask what they can expect to receive if they discover all the Taaka locations.

Nothing.

Happy Holidays!