Valley Meanderings

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Ah, the joys of the holidays; they almost bring tears to the eyes.

Before I slide into my Grinch mode, I have to admit there are

many positive aspects to the holidays, such as giving to others. It could be in

the form of donations to Toys for Tots, or contributing to a holiday basket for

a needy family, or even just putting in some volunteer time with a

local agency.

But it seems like there are always those particular, memorable

events that cast a pall on the whole proceedings. Shoot,

some of them even involve giving.

For example, a member of our staff has their phone

service through the world famous GTE. In the spirit of

giving, the corporation has decided to donate

umpteen gazillions to charitable programs this year. How are

they raising the money, you ask? Not out of pocket; oh no, that would annoy

the stockholders.

They're raising the funds through a $1 surcharge tacked onto the

customers' phone bills. According to our staff member, there is a

declaration elsewhere on the billing statement _ in small print, natch _ saying that

if the customer would prefer not to make this mandatory donation, they can

call the company. Such a deal.

Enforced philanthropy notwithstanding, there are other aspects

of getting in the holiday mood that stand out, such as putting together the

logistics package required of a family holiday visit. In my case that meant

a 14 hour pre-Thanksgiving drive to the Oregon Coast and back to retrieve

my three young `uns.

If you want to get direct, personal information on the condition of

our traffic and road infrastructure, there are few better methods than trying

to drive long distances in and around a holiday. You see it all on the

freeways and backroads, heavy traffic mixed with heavy rain and poor

visibility, and, gee, I wonder why that car in

front of me is weaving back and forth.

One area that stands out is the incredible volume of traffic on

Oregon State Highway 18, a.k.a. "The Million Dollar Highway," which

connects Portland/Tigard/Newberg/McMinnville with the Oregon

Coast and two _ count `em, two _ huge casinos. I guess some people's idea

of holiday tradition is to jump in the car and not head over the river and

through the woods to grandmother's house, but instead to the nearest slot machine.

Then there's the weather, which adds to the driving times but also

contributes to large doses of cabin fever once you're safely home with

your loved ones. After spending a hectic four days entertaining your kids

and giving them quality time with their grandparents, the younger

daughter never fails to appropriately sum it up by saying, "I'm bored." Guaranteed

to put a smile on the most seriously holiday-hardened face, don't you know.

Other holiday joys come to mind, such as attempting to shop the day

after Thanksgiving. Or, venturing out the weekend after Thanksgiving to

find the perfect family Christmas tree, and finding out that six individuals

related by blood and/or marriage don't necessarily constitute a quorum.

It could be worse, I guess; I didn't have to venture into Seattle or

worse yet, SeaTac. And even though the counties of Lincoln and Tillamook

in Oregon had major flood problems, closing several roads to the coast

for the return trip _ the casino parking lots were still full, though, for

some strange reason - I managed to get the three junior Morgans back to

their mother, who was undoubtedly thrilled. Then came the long drive back,

which is suitable for reflection … such as why are people driving in

zero-zero conditions on a freeway with kids loose in the back seat and a cell

phone jammed under one ear.

As an aside, I saw what was probably the ultimate in holiday

driving bad habits a couple of weeks ago at a local supermarket parking lot.

Imagine if you will a late-model Taurus, two youngish mothers in the front -

probably in their mid- or early-20s _ with three kids loose in the back seat

bouncing off the doors … pulling out of a handicapped spot. And no, they

didn't have the appropriate handicapped parking placard.

It boggles the mind.

Still, all of this is undoubtedly forgotten when everyone gathers

around the TV for that big game, or the entire family musters at the table for

heaping amounts of turkey with all the side dishes and trimmings (or, tofu,

for those of that particular persuasion), or _ a few weeks hence _ gathers

around the tree to open presents.

So, I guess this is still a truly magical time of year. From all of us here

at the Valley Record, here's hoping your holidays have been and will

continue to be warm, enjoyable and particularly blessed.

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