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2000 Highlights: Getting Paid to Not Play a Guitar

T Overleaf Bonfire1

My 2000 year-end letter where I talk about getting Elderhostlers lost in a parking lot and getting paid to roast marshmallows and to not play the guitar. Only in America.

December 2000

Dear Friends and Family,

Another quiet year on the coast. About the most exciting thing that happened was a nut case ramming into the Discovery, the ship I work on. If he’d been heading a few degrees differently he would have rammed the Coast Guard boat sitting next to us. Two people were injured and the Discovery sustained enough damage that it’s had to be pulled out of the water for a few months while repairs are made.

Consequently, I started teaching natural history for Lane Community College’s (LCC) Elderhostels. For those of you unfamiliar with Elderhostel, it’s a fabulous program for people 55 and older. They hold classes around the world on everything from Archaic Archaeology to Zen Zoology. In January LCC asked me to be one of the two instructors (they usually have two or three instructors per session) for a one-week program on Whales, Lighthouses and Storms. I said I’d do it, but when I saw the list of occupations of the forty participants, I was terrified–three were retired biology professors. Let me amend that–two were retired biology professors, and one was a retired chairman of a biology department. Amazingly, everything went fabulously. This had more to do with the Elderhostelers, though, than me. As I soon learned the group was a pretty typical Elderhostel group. All were eager to learn (although I learned more from them than I taught), and best of all they enjoy life in general. Afterwards, LCC asked if I’d teach another program in February–this one on Forestry and Pioneering History. I think it was during that session that I learned how patient and good-humored Elderhostlers are. I won’t get into the details outside of saying that somehow, after leading them on a nature hike I managed to get a group lost in a parking lot. If anything, it seemed to endear me to them even more, and LCC asked me to teach another program … and another … and next thing I knew it was practically a full time job since they hold over 24 a year here and they want to use me in some fashion in all of them.

Elderhostel West

Then there is my “night club” gig. It’s the strangest job I’ve ever had–and, as many of you know, I’ve had some pretty strange jobs. It’s complicated story that began a few years back when the Overleaf, the classiest hotel in Yachats, asked if I’d give nature walks on Friday and Saturday afternoons. To make it worth my while, they paid me big bucks. They also had a campfire in the evenings tended by a surf bum who came from North Carolina to take advantage of our surf–if you can imagine that. When he found better surf–surprise, surprise–they asked me to tend the fire and tell stories while serving the makings for some-mores on a pewter platter–and, of course, they’d keep paying me the big bucks. I brought a $5 guitar to the fires and I didn’t play it. Weekend after weekend people came to hear me not play the guitar. I thought the gig was up when my boss called me in to say that visitors–most of whom were repeat visitors–were complaining about the program. Their complaint? It ended too early. He wanted to know if I would hang around the fire for four hours a night four or five nights a week and not play the guitar?–and, of course, they’d keep on paying me the big bucks. I said, sure, maybe I’d even take guitar lessons. “Don’t do that,” my boss admonished. “If you had any talent, we might have to fire you.” Only in America.

Hope all is well with your and yours. Happy Holiday.

T-

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