Last call at the Treetop Grill

We hear from local meteorologists that today’s superb weather might be the last we get this summer. Cold winds are on the way, even now they race through the valleys of the southern part of the Olympic Peninsula on their way to spoil our Labor Day weekend. We dined al fresco on our little deck this evening, because it’s likely to be our last opportunity to do so.

Mara sat on the little wicker loveseat out there and shucked the corn, and I fed Emilia while Angela made burgers on the barbeque, which sits on our deck too close to the house and underneath a low fiberglass roof, which makes my fireman brother nervous.

A new face in town.

A blimp went by, the Farmers Insurance blimp. I’ve seen it around town a few times lately, and I’m trying to warm up to it. There was only one blimp when I grew up around here, and that was the grey, and later blue and grey, Goodyear blimp. Actually there were several of those, but only one of them ever showed up here, and only once a year at the beginning of August, so looking up in September to see a completely white dirigible with the legend FARMERS on it feels a little like I’m not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

It’s been such a short summer. Really we only got any decent warm weather at the end of July, and so soon we’re being run off the beach, as it were. Already the globular, speckled fall spiders have spun webs among the deck furniture and have settled in. We had to incommode several of them to set up a dinner table out there. 

I took a moment to let the moment soak in. If I know the Northwest (I do),  we’ll get a few warm days again, and we may use the barby all winter long, but it won’t be the same. If this was really the last I get of summer I wanted to remember it.

The burgers were perfect — nice job Angela! — and the corn was sweet and tender. Yellowjackets came and begged until we put a few large chunks of burger to the side, where they bit off chunks bigger than their heads and, grasping the meaty provisions with four or six of their legs, careened into the air like little helicopters with drunken pilots.

Pitmaster Angela fires up the grill for one last summer fling.

Neighbors down the street were out on their porches. Some girls in the rental house across the street were moving out, making last trips to the trunks of their cars with odd-shaped items. They’ll be replaced by a new covey of female students probably this very weekend. We have quite a nice little view of the neighborhood from our deck. Mostly we look out on a wall of light green leaves formed by a row of deciduous trees — I think walnuts — a few yards down the hill in combination with several very tall Lombardy poplars to the south. The escarpment of holly and English laurel in the yards behind us finish off a sort of green-canopied corner surrounding us. We could call our little outdoor dining nook the Treetop Grill. 

Golden sunlight lit the tops of these trees, as well as the brick tower and steeple of Blessed Sacrament across the freeway, and the far clouds — piles of cumulus — above the Cascades, which in summer we can just barely glimpse through the foliage,  took on a worn ivory look that would later deepen to mauve and finally disappear into night.  


41 Responses to “Last call at the Treetop Grill”

  1. 1 Janet September 3, 2010 at 22:34

    Sounds like a nice end to the summer. But let us hope we get a few more warm days. There’s still strength in that sun as Ian and I found out on our walk around Ballard today.

    • 2 jstwndrng September 3, 2010 at 22:37

      Welcome back Stateside, Janet. Yes, Ballard tends to collect heat, being somewhat of a bowl. You may be walking briskly to stay warm for a while, but like I said, I believe we’ll get a few Indian summer days before Halloween.

  2. 3 leatherhead109 September 4, 2010 at 07:17

    Our leaves here are already turning and beginning to fall. Fog is heavy in the morning and drifts about until noon at least. My old Ford coughs a bit a start up, …(wait, it does that in the warm days anyway).

    • 4 jstwndrng September 4, 2010 at 20:30

      We don’t get fog like we usedta here. I remember that September was always marked by foggy mornings burning off to really wonderful, almost hot days. I used to find that my truck started up better on cold winter days than on summer days. I don’t know.

  3. 6 Marni September 4, 2010 at 17:56

    I’m clearly insane because….by and large, I thought it was a pretty great Seattle summer, weather-wise! I am however counting on our usually brisk in the mornings/evenings-warm and sunny during the days early Fall, so maybe I’m just thinking ahead in my looking back, if that makes any sense.

  4. 7 jstwndrng September 4, 2010 at 20:33

    Well, I’ve always thought you were crazy, Marni, but not because of your assessment of the seasons’ agreeableness. Yes, you did just hand me that one. I think “Thinking Ahead in My Looking Back” should be the title of your memoirs. I want a signed copy.

    • 8 Marni September 5, 2010 at 11:42

      Wait- you’ve obviously not read my critically acclaimed and NYT bestselling memoir, “It’s an Imaginary Life: Ravings from Inside the Straightjacket”; I’ll Fedex a signed copy over to you tomorrow, with love and my apologies!

  5. 10 Kip September 5, 2010 at 07:15

    This may sound a bit crazy (handing you another one Matt!), but I miss the Seattle summers. In Boise we get summers with temperatures upwards of 90, and the fact that it is a dry heat makes it no less uncomfortable for this transplant. It was cooler this year, with only 6 days so far over 100, compared to 8 last year and the year before. And that’s still cooler than 2007, with 16 days over 100 (temps checked with NOAA). That was the summer Ami was pregnant with Claire, and that was no fun for her! Of course, all that heat makes for some GREAT thunderstorms! Since tomorrow is the only day I don’t have to work this weekend, we’re off for a Sunday Drive on Monday…we’re headed to the mountains to see if some Idaho leaves are changing. And we use are grill all year long…I love cooking outside when the snow falls!

    • 11 jstwndrng September 5, 2010 at 17:10

      I was going to pull out the “dry heat” chestnut, but you saw it coming. Your road trip in search of pre-Autumn color sounds wonderful, like one of our adventures. You must have a hot grill if you can cook in snowfall. If we get snow this year I’ll think of you gleefully grilling.

      • 12 leatherhead109 September 5, 2010 at 19:00

        Grilling at sub-zero temps is the bomb!! …(to use a more recent vernacular). But I also like the reference to a “dry heat”. In the midst of a good snap of – 30, you will like as not hear a Fairbanksan mutter something like, “at least its a dry cold” when try to get door to open on the car at 5 am. Usually said with great sarcasm, while thinking of the weather report.

  6. 13 jstwndrng September 5, 2010 at 20:47

    I imagine that if I lived in Alaska — or visited (it will happen someday — I would spend all my time chuckling and snorting and chortling and snuckling about Alaskans’ understated brand of humor. But “at least it’s a dry” sense of humor.

  7. 14 Kip September 6, 2010 at 07:01


    Yes, I knew the “Dry Heat” chestnut was afoot, as that is the one thing I am now used to. The humidity of an 80 degree day now is about all I can take, I can’t imagine the 90+ day y’all have been blessed with the past few summers! And yes, we sport both a gas and charcoal grill, so we use the gas in the wetter times. Ben, although I have spend a few moments in single digit temps at our local ski hill, that is nowhere near the amount of time needed to get to complain about it. As my folks say, you must be wrapped up like Nanook of the North all winter long!

  8. 15 leatherhead109 September 6, 2010 at 08:51

    Kip – New folks to the Arctic generally swath themselves up a bit. Known as “Cheechacko’s” (native American or pioneer American origin), they often over heat. After acclimating, you find it odd that you can stand to be outside at -40 without a coat for a bit. It hurts…but darn it, bundling up is such a pain. When grilling off the porch in -20 degrees I often am just in shorts or whatever. But at -38 or so the propane begins to have trouble coming out of the valve and you find yourelf fuelless.

  9. 16 Kip September 6, 2010 at 17:38

    Ben, While not used to such low temps, I have found that over the past 17 years working nights at a ski resort, I need fewer and fewer layers to keep warm. One too many layers can really start a sweat, especially when skiing a 300 pound person down a slope with thick, heavy snow in a toboggan. I’m sure it’s different when it’s -20, and you face a raging fire…how does one layer for that…well, standard turnout gear not included…..

  10. 17 leatherhead109 September 6, 2010 at 20:27

    300 pound person? Are you on the downslope side of this person? As for fighting fire in the cold, we don’t really don anything different because we can’t wear anything underneath that would cause us to overheat in the heat. You really don’t feel the cold until you’re worn out, adrenaline locker is empty and your sweat begins to cool. Then ….it gets cold.

  11. 18 jstwndrng September 6, 2010 at 21:16

    You guys want some tea or anything? A biscuit?

    • 20 jeni September 10, 2010 at 15:54

      You guys are making me laugh. I am in total agreement with matt’s weather assessment, by the way. i’m going to have to start driving over the mountains once a week to find some blue sky…yeesh!

      • 21 leatherhead109 September 10, 2010 at 16:12


        Nice of you to drop in, Matthew asked us to welcome all additional commentee’s feel comfortable with the banter as he will be out-of-web for a time. Have a seat, biscuits are in the tin and he put the tea pot on before departing.

  12. 22 Louis September 7, 2010 at 04:00

    Thanks for bringing me home again, Matt. I know what you mean about warming up to the Farmer’s blimp. After all the years of having just the Goodyear blimp lazily growling above our heads, it’s always a little strange to see an un-Goodyear blimp. But just from the picture you posted, that Farmer’s blimp is a fine looking blimp. It has a quality to it that harkens to a different time..perhaps a time when the Farmer’s agent used to stop by the house for a cup of coffee and to discuss the family’s policy. I recall that it was always the Goodyear airship Columbia that used to spend summers in Seattle. At that time, I believe Goodyear had three airships in the U.S.: Columbia, America and the smaller Mayflower. I think there was one overseas as well called the Europa. But, in keeping with the line of comments here, I may be crazy…

    • 23 jstwndrng September 7, 2010 at 08:36

      WOW!!! I don’t know how you did that, buddy, but that’s amazing. I feel like Captain Kirk when the bridge monitor in the Enterprise is taken over by some alien harbinger. In case y’all’r not seeing what I see, there’s a yuge YouTube movie of the airship Columbia in the comments right here. Not a link, but the thing ipso.

      Yes, the Columbia was the one we used to get here. Haven’t seen her in donkey’s ears. And yes, the Europa was overseas. The image I used in my original Blimp post linked above was actually a shot of the Europa back in the early 70s flying over Germany. There were plenty of shots I could have used of the newer Columbia in the new livery (more blue and less grey) but I wanted one of the old grey blimps from my childhood.

      And Lou, you’re definitely crazy. Must be the dry heat down there.

  13. 24 Louis September 7, 2010 at 08:35

    That caught me by surprise, Matt. I just pasted the YouTube link onto the page. I didn´t expect the video ipso to appear! chiz

    • 25 jstwndrng September 7, 2010 at 08:37

      And I just realized after watching this that that is surely your own compilation — yes, I verify on the YouTube page that it’s a Rocco Caramello production — what a sweet little video. Once again you’ve managed to find a perfectly enthralling match between music and images. Bravo Lou!!

  14. 26 Kip September 7, 2010 at 19:03

    Cool video indeed! I did not know there was a Shamu blimp, or one with the the Rolling Stones logo! Ben, sometimes uphill, sometimes downhill with the heavy load…the downhill was mostly as a rookie. As time on the patrol goes by, one can delegate, and as a former toboggan instructor, many of the interesting ones become “Training Runs”. And I guessed in my head correctly about the layering thing. Matt, yes, tea and biscuits would be nice, but I’m of to play the Grand Piano! And Marni, I would like a copy of your book as well!

    • 27 jstwndrng September 7, 2010 at 21:53

      I love how I’ve posted about hamburgers and the two “Rescuers” among my readers are twenty comments deep into a discussion of which is the luckier end of a fallen snowboarder to be on. You boys carry on, I’m going to start working on the next post.

    • 28 Marni September 9, 2010 at 09:14

      Wait for the soon-to-be-released leather bound, limited edition- you won’t be disappointed!

  15. 29 Kip September 8, 2010 at 05:19


    I have often marveled at the turn some of the posts take. It is amazing that you can start such interesting conversations, and I must say I always look forward to each and every one….even if we don’t take a left at Albuquerque.

    • 30 leatherhead109 September 8, 2010 at 11:57

      Tarnashion!!! I just got the end of my moustache caught in the dad burned keyboard!!! (Thinking of left turn at Albuquerque led me to Yosemite Sam). Kip, I once had to climb a ski lift to rescue skiers caught on a jammed lift at -30. My left arm froze half way up and I had to visually check each rung as I looped it to see if I had actually a hold of it. That was the first time I ever went up a ski slope on a snow machine. Almost went off the backside as the ski patrol dude leap a few moguls. …Nice biscuits, Matt and….oooh I like the tin!

  16. 31 Kip September 8, 2010 at 13:30

    Wow, -30? I’ve not had the pleasure…and I’m curious as to why they would send you up the lift? At Bogus Basin (long story as to the name), the Patrol is trained to evacuate guests with ropes and metal seats. I can’t imagine asking a local firefighter to fetch out some of our guests….except for the firefighters that also patrol! And I am not a fan of the snow machine, either driving or riding, but I have done both, and have been towed up hill on skis a few times as well!

    It is good that my reference to Albuquerque did not get missed. Of course, I knew it would not. So, let’s skip the news boys, I’ll go make that tea…..

    • 32 jstwndrng September 8, 2010 at 14:02

      I SAW the left at Albuquerque reference, but I did not GET the Albuquerque reference. Please explain now. Is this from young country radio?

      • 33 leatherhead109 September 8, 2010 at 20:53


        The “Left Turn” was the coined phrase that Bugs Bunny always said as he popped up from his rabbit run at the beginning of many of the cartoons. Did I misunderstand? Could it be possible you do not recall this?

        Kip – When one has limited Ski Patrol resources, one trains the local fire department to assist. Climbing the tower to get the seat over the cable, otherwise, same operation. But at -30, the metal on the tower is rather nasty. Riding the snowmachine, driving the snowmachine,…priceless.

  17. 34 leatherhead109 September 8, 2010 at 20:56

    Oh, ..nearly forgot. Reason for rescue being that after -10 or so, the sweat of the physical effort of the sport, leaves the skiers subject to rapid cooling, therefore, rapid hypothermia. That was the rule. Lift malfunction after -20 was immediate evacuation. Had to do all that after a big burrito dinner at the firehouse once. Not good.

  18. 36 Kip September 9, 2010 at 05:26

    Thanks Louis! Priceless!

    Ben, I get the evac given the temp…I guess I didn’t realize the Patrol was so small that a little help from the local fire house was needed. Maybe the bigger point is that, as much as I like to ski, if the temp drops below, say, ZERO, I’m going home. Or at the very least the lodge for a warm beverage and maybe a burger.

    • 37 leatherhead109 September 9, 2010 at 14:46


      Currently I’m sitting in a warm office, the weather outside is getting very Octoberish and the idea of skiing in warm weather sounds enticing. But usually by the time we have enough snow to ski, ….its already SubZero!

      Matt?…..the,..umm..the biscuits, ..are they in the tin?

  19. 38 jstwndrng September 9, 2010 at 08:15

    I’d forgotten that Bugs bit. Thanks gents. And now, we’re off to the Oregon Coast for a few damp, grey days at the ocean. If you guys are going to keep sitting here jawin’, will the last one here turn off the heat under the kettle? Thanks. See ya next week.

  20. 39 Janet September 9, 2010 at 08:44

    Somehow this thread has segued from hot to cold. Just a note to Kip to warm up his feet as well when he nips in to the lodge for his hot beverage. Many years ago I used to ski in Vermont and it was my feet that froze first when the temperature got too low. Maybe the equipment is better now – well, I’m sure it is – it makes me shiver just to think of the primitive stuff we had way back then.

  21. 40 jstwndrng September 9, 2010 at 10:19

    Hi Janet,
    Thanks for commenting again. I don’t ski, but I remember my feet freezing when I was in the saddle. And my nose. Nose and feet.

    Hey, y’all. Will you guys check back once or twice between now and Sunday evening and just make any new commentors feel at home? It would only be people who have commented on my blog before, since any newcomers would get hung up in moderation. But I always like to acknowledge people’s comments. You know the drill. I don’t foresee too many more new hits on this post, but just in case…include them in the witty banter, eh?


  22. 41 Kip September 9, 2010 at 13:25

    Hi Janet,

    Yes, my feet are the first to get cold. As good as the equipment and new fangled fabrics are, there’s just no getting around cold feet for me. Although there are now battery powered heated socks and boot liners, I prefer to do it the old fashioned way, and go in when I’m too cold! When I’m working in the snow, I tend to generate enough heat to keep all parts warm, but as Ben mentioned, once the works stops the sweat freezes…an a trip inside is always welcome!

    Hope it’s a good trip to the coast Matt!

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