Sandpoint, Idaho, was never more glorious than this past summer.
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SHOPPING. My wife was not feeling well, so Phil and I went to buy furniture for my new condo up here. I hate furniture shopping so I do it really, really fast. I have full confidence in Sandpoint Furniture, the local store, to have great beds at great prices, so I just lay on three beds, found the one I liked best, and bought it.
Then, across the street to the local J.C. Penney to buy linens. As I looked at pillowcases, two adorable little girls were studying super high-heeled shoes with platforms. It was so cute. The heels were almost as tall as the girls. It was like a setting for a Norman Rockwell painting. The girls got all excited when they heard me talking to the saleswoman and presented me with two wrinkled scraps of paper to autograph.
I noticed that one of the girls had a really professional eye makeup job on her little face. “Hold on,” I wanted to say to her. “You don’t need to grow up so fast. You spend a lot of time being old and only a little time being young. Enjoy it.”
I have to be honest here. I think that one of the characters in one of the best movies ever made, The Last Picture Show, said something like that. It’s not original with me. By the way, Midland, where we just buried the immortal Barbara Duke, reminds me of The Last Picture Show. I find Texas extremely evocative everywhere, but West Texas is magical. I feel as if I could have been a stronger man there, though that’s probably wrong.
Then off to a sport shop to buy a bike for Phil. He is not happy with the used miserable bike I lend him, so he wants his own bike, and why not? We found him one he loved, made conversation with a lady biker who was riding the Selkirk Loop, a biking train I consider immensely trying, and then went back to home.
Rest, and then a rapid trip on my mighty Cobalt across the top of the lake to Bottle Bay. It was too crowded and I didn’t really enjoy it. Back to rest and watch Will Ferrell, shower, and then to bed. I don’t feel well.
WOW, THIS IS A HOT DAY. Phil talked me into an insanely long bike ride along a bike path paralleling Highway 2 and then we rode through the leafy west side where Tommy and I used to rent a home all summer long. We passed a shaded yard where a mom played with her small daughter. The daughter had flaming red hair. Her hair and the leaves and the grass and the swing set were a perfect tableau. The mother seemed so utterly at ease talking to me about the hair colors in her family. It all looked so wonderfully safe, I felt I had to take a picture, to try to capture it. To shroud it in amber.
Far, far from Capitol Hill. Far from Kandahar. Far from Oslo.
Then a nap and then a ride up to Priest Lake. I stopped in Priest River at my new favorite store, Mitchell’s, and bought tea. That store has ultra-friendly people. So does the Safeway in Sandpoint. The people are the main attraction here. Why are the people here so friendly? Why are they so totally, utterly different from the scared, scary suspicious, cagey people in Beverly Hills? Why? Why are they so incomparably more friendly than the customers at the Watergate Safeway? (N.B. The clerks at the Watergate Safeway are perfect.)
We got up to Hill’s Resort, took the Thompson out on the lake with the help of my pal and first mate, Tim Farmin, and raced north. It was incredibly beautiful. Pristine mountains, calm, balmy water and air, very little wake, and the smell of barbecuing spare ribs in the distance calling us into port. That Thompson is too small, though. I think I may need a new boat—a new, used, bigger boat—to keep at Priest. That’s my fantasy, anyway.
I have a lot of fantasies when I am in North Idaho.
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