Vail Daily column: The Clarks’ party
August 15, 2014
The 16-foot inflatable, hard foam dinghy from Mike and Nancy Domaille's wonderful West Bay SonShip gently bumped the dock on Crane Island, and Laurie and I were off on another adventure.
I had just told Mike and Nancy that my autobiography was about finished, as we were transferring to Doug Rosenberg's eight-passenger golf cart driven by another favorite neighbor, Jim Johansson.
Our destination was Dick and Nancy Clark's newest cabin on Crane Island (the other cabin is historical and nearly 40 years old, hence the one built in 1997 is called the new cabin) that displays the largest collection of antique farm and logging tools in the living room of a private home I've ever visited — or probably anywhere. Just rare and fun to be adorning the living room walls. (Remember, this is a cabin with all the fun idiosyncrasies that entails.) Dick enjoys picking up a 1903 vacuum cleaner and asking his guests what they think it is, and, of course, it is never what they think it is. Vacuum cleaners have changed!
Laurie had called up our usual fun suspects for impromptu potluck suppers and found that 22 of the bunch could come. She just tells everyone to bring whatever they were going to have for dinner, and no one ever goes hungry.
The Clark family sometimes forgets that they have invited people for dinner, so hilarious things end up happening, as you can imagine.
This happened the first time they invited us to dinner in 1993. We were building our little cabin at the time and didn't have water, so we asked if we could come early and take a shower, and Laurie would bring the dinner. After our showers, we waited and waited, and finally started cooking the salmon that Laurie had brought. This was about the time Dick and Nancy showed up, finally remembering that they'd invited us. No matter — we've had many laughs at their expense ever since.
This time they remembered that we were going to show up. When we arrived, the dinner party was already in full swing on the porch of their house, which overlooks Wasp Passage. There were already about 10 people there when the next-door neighbor showed up with her mother and her son, and then the party really got underway.
The right side of half a full moon was high in the sky and laying its reflection across Wasp Passage as the ferryboat honks its evening hello and one of the grandsons is flying a radio-controlled floatplane. All of us were very impressed with the ability of the radio-controlled pilot of a small plastic airplane going back and forth over the water.
Half a dozen grandchildren younger than 10 or 12 were busy driving golf balls off of the Clarks' front porch trying to reach the water, when the grandmother from Minneapolis, who just happened to bring her violin to the party, delivered several lively tunes. It was then that we discovered she had played in the Minneapolis Symphony and her last name was Schuneman. Her father-in-law was the founder of June Schuneman's Department Store in Minneapolis that was the single largest sponsor of my ski films in all the years I showed them. One night a man named Otto Hollaus who ran their ski shop was able to dredge up 7,200 people to watch my movie all at the same time in the local ice arena.
Dick Clark, our host, has probably bought 75 percent of his antique possessions from the Goodwill and some of them are top-of-the-line items. He delights in wearing sweaters with holes in the elbows and drives a 1953 International Harvester pickup truck on Crane Island. As the master of ceremonies for this party, he started a vaudeville show with several different people telling stories, most of which ended in a disaster of some kind. They ranged from engine fires to stories that nobody could follow and then Dick hooked up his portable, eight-track tape player or 78 RPM record player, I'm not sure which, they are both so ancient at this time. Whatever it was, it screeched and hollered some not very good cowboy Western songs of the 1950s.
When there's a bargain, Dick and Nancy stock up on chairs from Goodwill for their porch. They had some lumber left over from when they built their house and had somebody make picnic tables for their large front porch. The picnic tables are 4 inches too high or the Goodwill chairs are 4 inches too short. They worked quite well because you don't drop any food between when you pick it up with your fork and get it into your mouth. You can just shovel it in!
Our friends, the Domailles from Rochester, Minnesota, were understandably quiet (but not quite staring with their mouths open — but nearly!) amid this unusual dinner party.
They did not actively participate in the floor show at the Clarks' house, but I could tell they were having a great time observing what they had never seen before!
Where else but on a private island with 64 pieces of property could such a diverse group congregate and have a such a great time? No conversation about what anybody did for a living, whose condominium in Palm Springs was the biggest, but just a general relaxing and an old-fashioned good time with a minimum of wine, beer, Diet Pepsi and a maximum of freshly caught Dungeness crab — most less than three hours away from the bottom of the sound.
The Johanssons had their grandchildren with them that were born and raised in Parumph, Nevada. Nancy's son Keith was there with two of his children, and he has become quite a talented videographer of wakeboarding and water skiing.
ENDING TO THE EVENING
As this very unique dinner party and floor show progressed, Keith got out his guitar and played some more contemporary music. As he started to play, Mike and Nancy had to leave because they had to take their dinghy from Crane Island to Roche Harbor, a distance of about 10 miles, and it was already almost totally dark. Mike is comfortable driving in the dark, having just brought their boat back from Ketchikan, Alaska, a distance of almost 1,000 miles each way.
When the Clarks were asking the guests to tell a story but I'm so tired of my own stories, having spent the last five years writing them all down for my memoir, luckily everyone else stepped up and made the evening so entertaining.
With our "water-borne pickup truck," a 26 foot Shamrock in the boat hospital in Anacortes, we depended upon Jim Johansen to deliver us across the passage to our home dock in the dark. What a wonderful neighborhood with wonderful neighbors who help each other out at the drop of a hat or a drop of a dinner/potluck invitation.
Filmmaker Warren Miller lived in Vail for 12 years, and his column began in the Vail Daily before being syndicated to over 50 publications. For more of Miller's stories and stuff, log onto WarrenMiller.net. For information about his foundation, The Warren Miller Freedom Foundation, go to http://www.warrenmiller.org.