Local Lifestyle

Thursday, Oct 04 2012 05:56 PM

HERB BENHAM: It's beautiful, but I was a little Ida-homesick for Sue

By The Bakersfield Californian

Air travel can have an awkward moment or two and my first came last Friday after my flight to San Francisco had been canceled and I wanted to visit the bathroom without my carry-on bag.

I looked around to see if there was somebody I could ask to watch my bag. This is tricky because people generally think you have an atom bomb in your bag that will go plu*#ey as soon as you hand it to them.

I was flying to Boise and then driving to Twin Falls for some family business. The second dicey moment came in the flying itself, which seems like a miracle to me. I still don't understand why planes don't routinely fall out of the sky and land on their backs. Each time a plane takes off and lands, I feel like I have cheated death yet again.

Since the flight from Bakersfield to San Francisco had been canceled, I had four hours until the next one. I spotted a Blimpie, and, 700 calories later, had downed a breakfast burrito.

I was happy. Four stolen hours in an airport with a Blimpie and "Cutting for Stone," a book I recommend if you're looking for a good cry.

I saw Marcie Smith, wife of Bob, on the flight to San Francisco. We complimented one another's kids, swapped news and then retreated to our newspapers.

Landing anywhere, but especially in Boise, is a pleasure. The Boise Airport is clean, well-organized and easy to navigate. That goes for the state too. Not much litter on I-84 and not too many cars either.

"It's too bad you didn't see the pretty part of Idaho," said Jane, a business partner of my father's. "You should see Stanley."

Stop right there, Jane. Flat can be beautiful. Empty is beautiful. No people is beautiful. No trash is beautiful.

Towns include Bliss. What can go wrong in Bliss? When you wake up in the morning you think, I live in Bliss. I am brushing my teeth in Bliss. I am eating a breakfast burrito in Bliss. Bliss is at the end or beginning of every sentence.

I drove by a town called Hammett. I have a friend whose last name is Hammett. I wondered if the inhabitants of Hammett were hard working, loyal and honest. If they were, this Hammett was the right Hammett.

The town of Wendell was right down the road from Bliss and Hammett. I have a friend whose first name is Wendall, spelled with an "a." Was there music playing in the streets, did the town have a wry sense of humor, was it courteous and did it value its elders? If so, this Wendell -- though not spelled the same -- was the right Wendell.

I liked Idaho. Its towns were named after my friends, and the people were as wide open as the countryside.

"You have to visit Shoshone Falls," said the mother and daughter in the take-out Thai restaurant in Twin Falls, where I had drunken noodles and some sweet Thai iced tea for lunch.

Later that afternoon, I went to Shoshone Falls, which is 212 feet, 45 feet higher than Niagara Falls. I had no idea. They've been keeping that one under their hat.

Dinner was the Canyon Crest Restaurant perched on the rim of the Snake River. The moon was full and rising above the gorge.

I ordered the blackened Clear Springs trout with shrimp jambalaya, smoked tomato sauce, fennel salad, lemon-chive vinaigrette.

I had a moment of melancholy. It was our 33rd wedding anniversary, but this visit to Idaho had been a solo trip.

"Why don't you send a picture of the full moon to your wife," said the assistant manager.

I did. I sent her the full moon from Idaho. The full moon and my heart, relaxed as it might have been after the delicious trout and a glass of sauvignon blanc and one of malbec.

I pretended she was sitting next to me, being unusually quiet and that she liked the view and the cool summer breeze as much as I did.

Sunday, I headed home. I reversed course, driving through Wendell, Hammett and Bliss returning to Boise and then flying to San Francisco. For lunch, I ate a Kahlo from Klein's Deli in the San Francisco Airport, a sandwich that included chicken salad with mango, chutney, almonds, raisins and a dash of curry.

Life is food and food is life, and I don't want to miss either one.

We landed in Bakersfield at 6 p.m. Sue was waiting at the curb. Thirty-three years and there was still cold champagne in the fridge.

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