Sunday, November 28, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 11/27/2021: King Henry V and Performative Politics, Imagination and Everyday Play Acting, Rum and *The Wire*

 1. In preparation for our next Zoom session on Sunday, Nov. 28th, I watched the last episode of the first season of The Hollow Crown, a solid made for television adaption of Shakespeare's Henry V

The creators of these episodes of The Hollow Crown streamline Shakespeare's original plays so that they run for just over two hours rather than three by cutting lines from speeches and cutting back and cutting out original scenes. Just for the record, I have no problem with this and enjoy watching these episodes as they are and I enjoy ruminating over some of the cuts.

In the episode I watched today, the producers cut out a very long, difficult, and pedantic speech given early in Act I by the Archbishop of Canterbury outlining, for King Henry, a justification for going to war with France. I won't get into that justification here in any detail, but the Archbishop's speech and King Henry's staging of it at court  comprise a perfect example of a phrase I see used a lot in contemporary political analysis: performative politics.

If I understand performative politics, it's a phrase used to describe times when politicians are not so much making a substantive argument or presentation during a legislative session or a committee meeting or in front of camera outside the chambers, but are putting on a performance, sometimes with props, as a way of  appealing to and pleasing their supporters. It's a common practice in American politics, but I'll give an international example: the so-called Nikita Khrushchev shoe banging incident at the United Nations in October of 1960. Khrushchev's shoe banging was for show. It was performative. 

Likewise, in the beginning of Henry V, King Henry, I think, has already decided to go to war with France as a way of uniting his fractured kingdom behind a war effort that will take their minds off of domestic problems. He stages, or performs, his concern that he wants to do so with a clear conscience and so, very publicly in court, pretends to listen to the Archbishop's convoluted justification for war. He then publicly asks the Archbishop if he can proceed in good conscience and, true to his role in this performance, the Archbishop says he can. Keep in mind that the Archbishop has already promised to help fund this war and that the Archbishop wants to please King Henry because Parliament is considering levying a tax that would financially cripple the Church. The Archbishop wants King Henry to scuttle this bill. 

In The Hollow Crown, the production cuts right to the chase. King Henry simply verifies with the Archbishop that he can, with a clear conscience, invade France. The Archbishop and the King's performance at court is cut out of this production. (It is, however, again for the record, included in Kenneth Branagh's 1989 movie, Henry V.)

2. After watching this episode of The Hollow Crown, I posted some questions and statements for our Westminster Basement Study Group to ponder, if they want to, about the play. Shakespeare's treatment of history, his creation of a heroic King Henry V, his simultaneous contesting of King Henry's heroism within the play,  his questions about the nature kingship itself, and his portrayal of the impact of war upon everyday soldiers invigorates me. Even more so, I love Shakespeare's continual exploration of the power of human imagination and his preoccupation with the ways characters stage plays within his plays. I mean, it's common knowledge that in As You Like It, Jacques declares that "all the world's a stage". But Shakespeare doesn't stop with merely declaring this maxim (cliche?), he returns to it time and time again, giving us scene after scene in play after play when characters enact occurrences for other characters to see as a way of shaping their perception, of persuading them that something is true -- even when it's not. Sometimes these very miniature plays within Shakespeare's plays are entertaining, just like you and I perform little "plays" for one another by reenacting things that have happened, do imitations of one another, and pull pranks. This exploration of imagination and play acting runs throughout The Hollow Crown and it's a crucial element of what makes Shakespeare's history plays more than just a chronicling of Shakespeare's version of England's past.

3. My head and heart full of Shakespeare, I fixed myself a kind of funny dinner mixing fried corn, a broken up salmon patty, and golden couscous topped with Bragg Liquid Amino. Later on, I tried out a couple of rum drinks I thought up -- but they might be real drinks, too. I don't know. For my first cocktail, I mixed rum, Coca Cola, half and half, and cinnamon and enjoyed this concoction. Then, in the bottom of a glass, I mixed rum, hot chocolate powder, half and half, and cinnamon, poured boiling water over it and added some butter to the glass. It was kind of a variation on a hot buttered rum. I enjoyed it too. I enjoyed these nightcaps while messing around on YouTube, playing videos of scenes from The Wire. At first, it was an Omar Little night, but I finished with scenes involving the enigmatic and fascinating Lester Freamon. I was ready to go back and watch the whole series again. 

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 11-26-2021: Cornbread Dressing Breakfast, Keeping Copper and Luna Happy (I Hope), Just Show Up

 1. I started the day with some writing and a small day after Thanksgiving breakfast. I like dressing and fried eggs, so I heated up some cornbread dressing and fried two eggs and enjoyed bits of dressing dipped in egg yolk. I added some bite to my meal with a small scoop of cranberry sauce.

2. Periodically, Luna and Copper's litter pans need to be emptied, scrubbed out with soapy water, and refreshed with brand new litter. When it's warmer outside, I rinse out the pans with water from a hose. Today, I figured out how to do this job indoors. We don't have a utility sink, so I filled one half of our two section bucket with soapy water, emptied each litter pan, scrubbed them out, and rinsed them with a little shower water, kept the rinse water in the pans, and poured it into the other half of the divided bucket. I dumped the bucket outside when I was finished. 

This method worked perfectly. It also made me feel good. I'm diligent about scooping Luna and Copper's clumps and other bits out of the litter boxes at least once a day -- sometimes I do it twice. I want them to have as clean as possible a place to do their business. Now, not only are the pans scooped out, they are fresh, scrubbed out, and clean. I wouldn't doubt if my attention to their litter pans makes me happier than it does Luna and Copper, but I let myself think they appreciate it. 

3. Around 12:30 or so, I vaulted into the Sube and blasted over to Coeur d' Alene. Stu and I met at the Mobil station on the far east end of Sherman and I drove the Sube to a side street, parked it, and got into Stu's truck. 

We then drove to Yates Funeral Home in Hayden (first we went to the wrong Yates home on 4th St.), arrived a little late, but experienced the bulk of Mike Windisch's funeral service.

I admit, I'm not 100% faithful to this maxim, but I try to live by the words, "Just show up". 

I began to live by this maxim over twenty years ago while working at LCC and took note of certain people who just showed up at plays, retirement celebrations, lectures, memorials for those who had died, and other events and how impressed I was that they were there, even if they weren't particularly close to the presenter, the cast, the retiree, or the deceased. Their presence was a demonstration of support that made a lasting impression on me.

So, when Stu told me earlier in the week that Mike Windisch had died, I began to think that I needed to show up at his funeral, even though I never knew Mike Windisch. You see, Mike Windisch's brother, Don, is a lifelong friend of mine and is married to Jeri Robinson, another lifelong friend, not only of mine, but of our family. In fact, I can't remember a single day in my nearly 68 years that I didn't know Don, thanks, in the beginning, to Sunday school, or Jeri, thanks to our mothers being friends from childhood in Orofino and our dads being friends from childhood in Kellogg.

In showing up to this funeral today, yes, I paid my respects to Mike, but Stu and I attended largely to support Don and Jeri with our physical and loving presence.

As so often happens when I don't make excuses and stay home, but just show up, great things occur.

Today, for example, I learned what a great man my lifelong friend Don's older brother was. Mike was a generous, adventurous soul, a devoted husband and father, and a person eager to extend himself to the aid of others. His son and son-in-law told moving stories about Mike's good nature, his positive attitude, and his habit of going well beyond what might be expected of him to help others, especially in his job running the resort at Sun Up Bay on Lake Coeur d'Alene.

All of this was beautifully reinforced in the slide show commemorating Mike Windisch's full and well-lived life. 

Because Stu and I showed up, we got to talk for a long time at the reception with Don and Jeri.

Stu had to get home after the reception for good reasons, but thanks to just showing up, I got to meet with Jeri and Don for a beer (a PORTER from Kona Brewing!) at Paddie's. After we got in some very solid yakking there, we sashayed over to Cosmic Cowboy and continued our awesome conversations over dinner (and, for me, a pint of 10 Barrel's very tasty Pub Lager). 

I spent the afternoon with three friends I've known for as long as I've been conscious: Stu, Jeri, and Don.

It was awesome. 

Having had such a heart warming time with lifelong friends today underscored to me that whether it's a reunion, Thanksgiving at The Lounge, a funeral, a family wedding far away, a couple of nights with friends at the casino, online gatherings like the Tree House Concerts or once every two weeks ZOOMiing, playing trivia in Spokane with friends I've known for decades, and so many other things, it matters, it matters a lot, to just show up. 

As a postscript, let me add that I had been so stimulated what happened this afternoon that when I arrived home, went next door and fed Grayson (Christy's cat), and sat down with Debbie in the living room, I so enjoyed the quiet of our house and conversation with Debbie that I decided not to watch tonight's game between Gonzaga and Duke. I wanted to wind down The game would have wound me back up. I checked the score of the game throughout its progress, but as much as I love watching college basketball, tonight I loved spending a quiet evening in meandering conversation with Debbie even more. 

Friday, November 26, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 11-25-2021: Dressing and a Bloody Mary, Awesome Thanksgiving Dinner, Thanksgiving at The Lounge

 1. After some morning coffee and a little writing, I leapt into action in the kitchen and prepared our Thanksgiving cornbread dressing. I baked the cornbread itself on Tuesday and on Wednesday I dried it out at 200 degrees in the oven, making it a little bit toasty and crunchy. Today, I chopped up an onion and four celery stalks, cooked them in olive oil and butter and a little salt until tender, and then added four minced garlic cloves and cooked it all another half a minute. I poured this mixture into a bowl, got out scissors and snipped parsley into it, added sage and thyme and ground pepper, and then added the cornbread. I stirred it all up and added a half a cup of half and half and then some more milk to soften it and transferred this creation into a baking pan and topped it with five tablespoons of chopped butter. 

You might be wondering why no turkey, why no chicken stock -- well, I made it vegetarian on purpose because our niece Molly doesn't eat meat -- and, I tend to enjoy vegetarian food a lot! 

This stuffing didn't need meat or meat stock. Even unbaked, when I sampled it, I could tell it was rich, savory, and flavorful with a most pleasing texture thanks to the cornbread.

To celebrate having the dressing ready a few hours ahead of putting it in the oven, I fixed myself a V-8 vodka Bloody Mary with celery and pickled asparagus and salt and pepper. For some reason, I really enjoy a Bloody Mary on Thanksgiving Day and it was fun to sit and sip on this one before I cleaned up dishes. 

2. Christy celebrated Thanksgiving today with Tracy at a handsome airbnb in Walla Walla. Cosette was tied up with work at the University Inn. But Debbie, Molly, Zoe, Carol, Paul, theater pal, Carl, and I all gathered at the Roberts' house at 3:00.

Debbie had employed techniques to roast the turkey on Wednesday and store slices in the turkey juices overnight and she headed to the kitchen to put the pan of turkey and the cornbread dressing in the oven and she got going on the gravy. Once the gravy was under control, I stepped away from social time in the living room and made us each a cocktail.

In keeping with the Thanksgiving tradition of eating cranberries, I mixed us each a Cranberry Moscow Mule, a simple combination of vodka, cranberry juice cocktail, ginger beer, and lime juice garnished with a wedge of lime. 

It was an easy, refreshing, and just festive enough Thanksgiving cocktail.

We sat down to dinner. Carl brought three bottles of old-ish homemade wine that was, I think, left behind in the basement of the Jameson/Sweets building, a property Carl has purchased. None of us knew if this wine would be any good, but I was eager to find out.

I liked the first bottle because it had a kind of musty quality. Oddly enough, it reminded me of the peaty quality in some single malt scotches. I'll admit, the way this wine had aged made it not taste exactly like wine any longer, but I enjoyed its uniqueness and the way it kind of reminded me of drinking scotch. 

I had an even more unusual response to the wine (or "wine") I drank from the second bottle. It tasted remarkably like one of my favorite wild ales, Russian River's Consecration, a dark ale aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. I suppose that means that as a wine, it was not very good, but, to me, the way it had aged and, I suppose, deteriorated, tasted great. I didn't care that it wasn't much of a wine any longer. I loved the sensation that I was back at 16 Tons enjoying the rare pleasure of drinking a glass of Consecration or a similar sour/wild ale. 

Our dinner was awesome. The turkey was the most flavorful and moist I'd ever eaten. Carol used buttermilk in the mashed potatoes and they were perfect as was the gravy Debbie made. We had a superb side dish of roasted vegetables and the cornbread stuffing turned out tasty. 

We retired to the living room after dinner. Carol and Paul sang the song "At This Table" for us. Carl is a musician (and a piano tuner, by the way) and he played a bit on Paul's guitar and did a little singing, too. Our conversations were wide ranging. We talked about our kids and families, education, and music, musicians (especially Hiram!), and performing - and about the challenges of trying to make a living playing music -- and what one turns to having given up on that. Carl told us about how he came to purchase the Jameson/Sweet's building, the challenges of owning such an ancient property, and his hopes for what he might do with it. 

Our Thanksgiving get together was calm, relaxed, invigorating, nourishing, and peaceful. Everything worked: the food and drink, conversation, amiability, generosity, and laughter. 

I could tell we were all thankful for such a comfortable time together.

3. Cas and Tracy put on a Thanksgiving dinner at the Inland Lounge every year, carrying on a tradition, as I understand it, started by Chilly, the Lounge's owner before Cas took over. In the past, I've enjoyed going to the Lounge early in the day for a Bloody Mary and a little food. 

Debbie and I dropped into today's Thanksgiving party at The Lounge after we left Carol and Paul's. 

I wanted to have one of Cas's Thanksgiving Day Bloody Mary's and enjoyed it. Eddie Joe joined us at the bar and we had a fun time yakkin' with him. Bob told me things got pretty busy in the afternoon and that they had plenty of food for everyone. Several people left with take home boxes and bags and the vibe at The Lounge was happy and energetic. 

Debbie and I didn't stay long, but, for me, I loved wrapping up Thanksgiving Day as a part of the long standing Kellogg tradition of the Inland Lounge offering a buffet turkey and prime rib dinner to anyone who walked through the door. 

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 11-24-2021: Moving Stuff Along, More Thanksgiving Preparations, Sharing a Righteous Stout

 1. I muscled three containers of old old old yard waste that's been sitting on the east side of our house since Moses parted the Red Sea into the bed of Christy's pickup and loaded up some items she wanted dropped off at St. Vincent de Paul's. I dropped off the donations and then went to the dump where I added our ancient twigs, leaves, and weeds to the big compost bin there and took care of a piece of wood and a snow blower cover that I should have left off earlier in the week along with some cardboard. 

I love moving things along that don't belong any longer around our house or Christy's house. Today's trip satisfied this love.

2. Back home, I put the cornbread I made yesterday in the oven at a very low temperature for a couple of hours to dry out and I'll turn it into a pan of cornbread dressing Thanksgiving Day. Debbie had volunteered to roast a turkey and she uses a day ahead method and got that done and transformed a part of the carcass into turkey vegetable rice soup. I sampled a small amount of the soup. It is rapturous. 

3. When she went to Coeur d'Alene not long ago, Debbie bought about six 12 oz cans of a variety of beers. We like to pop open a can during the day and share it. Today, we split a can of 10 Barrel Brewing of Bend's delicious Pray for POW Winter Stout. I liked how this beer's ABV, at 7%, was not technically an Imperial Stout, but it behaved like one with big coffee and chocolate flavors, beautifully balanced, and with a subtle touch of berry underneath. 

It's a smooth stout, warming, but for the beer lover who likes a bitter bite at the finish, the Pray for POW delivers. When my cat Luna wants to be fed at 4:00 in the morning, she bites me lightly, careful not to break my skin. Likewise, the bitterness at the end of Pray for POW won't break your skin, but it reminds you to take notice that it's the slight bitterness that draws us to drink coffee, eat dark chocolate, and enjoy a well-brewed beer. 

*Every once in a while I forget to mention something in my daily blog posts. Earlier this week, I watched the Netflix documentary, Count Me In. The movie featured interviews with several rock music drummers. It explored these musicians' love for drumming and how they got into it more than it explored technical aspects of drumming. Each of the drummers is engaging and fun to listen to and I enjoyed that the movie made it a point to interview women drummers as well as men and addressed the ignorant preconception held by too many that drumming is a man's gig. 

Far from it. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 11-23-2021: Thanksgiving Preparations, Oregon Struggles and Gonzaga Prevails, Halftime Party -- and More!

 1. I'm in charge of cocktails and dressing for Thanksgiving dinner at Carol and Paul's and today I fixed the cornbread I'll use in the dressing so it can dry out and I bought what I need for our Thanksgiving premeal cocktail. The cocktail will be one I've never made before, but it's simple, and I'm keeping it a surprise just for the heck of it. The cocktail is not special, has no meaning or history, but I like it to be a mystery.

2. Roger P. texted me today and asked what I thought of the upcoming Oregon/St. Mary's game. I told him I thought the Ducks were out of sorts with all their new players, that this early in the season they hadn't come together yet as a team in contrast to St. Mary's, a team composed of all returning players. I told him I thought St. Mary's might very well chalk up a win for their team and for the West Coast Conference. 

It turns out I was correct. The Ducks struggled tonight to get into any kind of flow on offense and their early season lack of cohesion carried over to their defense, too. St. Mary's was the much sharper team and they defeated Oregon, 62-50. 

After the Oregon game, I joined the rest of the nation's college basketball fans to watch Gonzaga play UCLA. 

Toward the end of the first half, Byrdman asked Terry T. and me to share out thoughts about the game and I told him that I was having a halftime party with Debbie. Well, that halftime party turned into a party that was so fun that I never returned to the game, but checked the score on line a few times to make sure nothing major or miraculous happened in the second half.

So, my thoughts about the game are confined to the first half.

My thoughts as the first half unfolded began with Drew Timme. 

When Gonzaga played Texas on November 13th, their whole offense went through Timme. He was being covered by one Longhorn in the post and this approach to defending him was futile and, by game's end, Timme scored 37 points. Gonzaga then played a short string of lesser opponents after the Texas game and Timme played fewer minutes, didn't get as many touches inside, and more players got involved in the Zags' offense.

I figured that tonight, against such a high quality team as UCLA, the Zags would go back to what worked so well against Texas and would run their offense through Timme again.

That didn't happen. Instead, Gonzaga demonstrated that its squad is very versatile with plenty of firepower across their starting five and on into their bench.

Timme had relatively few touches in the first half, only took five shots from the floor, and scored only a handful of points.

His teammates, however, were scoring from all points of the compass.

The Zags played swarming defense. They turned UCLA over several times. Chet Holmgren either blocked or affected UCLA's shots inside. UCLA's experienced and usually sharp shooting veterans seemed rattled, nervous, and missed a high volume of shots and Gonzaga's shooters were hitting a high percentage of their shots, scoring in the paint, sometimes on layups, hitting three pointers, all with relatively minimal contributions from Drew Timme. 

Byrdman texted me that UCLA seemed nervous. I responded, "so did Texas". 

One of the reasons I find it difficult to imagine how a game like this will take shape is that I don't know how, on the mental or emotional level, one team will affect the other.

It's a small sample size, but if Gonzaga's presence rattled Texas and UCLA, making both experienced teams nervous, it would seem that the Zags are, to some degree, intimidating to their opponents. 

Last season, I saw this happen when the strong physical eventual national champions Baylor played. Baylor's quickness, physicality, and sharp shooting intimidated opponents.

I have to admit, though, that I have never thought of Gonzaga in this way, as intimidating. 

It's early in the season. As teams improve and gain confidence, they might be less nervous playing the Zags. I don't know. All I do know is that I would never have predicted that UCLA would have had to battle not only the Zags tonight, but their own nerves.

Ha! What do I know?

I didn't watch the second half thanks to mixing myself a very good martini and yakkin' with Debbie.

What impressed me most in the first half, though, was Gonzaga's versatility. Tonight, they proved themselves a multi-dimensional team: quick and persistent on defense, able to protect the rim inside, a sound rebounding team, fast, skilled, and unselfish in the open court, and able to score points on offense in the paint and from long range.  Gonzaga converted 39% of their three pointers, as close as they've been lately to the magic 40% mark and made nearly 80% of their free throws, another improvement. 

Am I ready on November 23rd with over three months left in this season to crown Gonzaga as national champions in April?


And since I don't care about the weekly polls, don't care that tonight the Zags solidified their #1 ranking, with Duke looming ahead on Friday, I am hardly ready to claim that Gonzaga is the nation's best team.

That's decided on the court, not by rankings, and I want to watch and enjoy games, not spend time thinking about votes and who's #1 in a poll.

That said, Gonzaga's performance tonight in the first half was stellar. 

I enjoyed it a lot.

3.  I also enjoyed partying with Debbie! I mixed Debbie some Buffalo Trace Bourbon with Cointreau and orange bitters, made myself a dry gin martini, and we gabbed about family stuff, our kids back east and their Thanksgiving plans, and had fun talking about how much we enjoyed living in Maryland with all of its variety, beauty, and complexity. Talking about Maryland came up because I had made a few nostalgic comments about life and friends in Eugene and that led us to talk about what a transformative decision it was when we decided to leave Eugene. Living in Maryland opened up experiences for us that were fun and stimulating, others that were difficult and frustrating in ways different than we'd ever known. How could I leave this conversation to return to a basketball game? Ha! I couldn't and before long we were not only talking about the past and our love of Maryland, but about the near future and what might lie ahead for our future enjoyment. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 11/22/2021: House Clean Up, Marcella Hazan Returns, A Nailbiter and Two Blow Outs

1. Today was a house cleaning day. Zoe washed woodwork for us. Debbie did a lot of cleaning and reorganizing in the kitchen. Debbie and I took down curtains and Debbie laundered and ironed them and we put them back up. I vacuumed. I also made a trip to the recycling bin at Jacobs Gulch and made a trip to the dump for Christy and me in her pickup. 

Debbie spearheaded an effort that was much more than spiffing up -- we got some detail work done in the house.

2. Debbie asked me to make "that pasta sauce with an onion in it" and so I made today's version of Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce. I combined diced tomatoes, a generous slab of butter, an onion cut into large pieces, red pepper flakes, dry basil, and dry oregano in a pot and and cooked it all slowly for at least an hour, maybe 90 minutes. It turned out great and I made a batch of spaghetti to pour the sauce over.

3. I watched the thrilling completion of Ohio State's last second win over Seton Hall, 79-76 and most of Oregon's demolition of Chaminade, 73-49. Even as Oregon cruised to its win, it was against an inferior opponent and I thought the Ducks, at times, looked out of sorts, not quite in synch as a team just yet. Coach Altman, as is annually the case, is working to mold together a team with a handful of returning players and a slew of transfers and it will be a while, I think, before the Ducks are playing their best basketball.

Is Gonzaga playing their best basketball? They lost 55% of their scoring from last year's team and Coach Few is working to figure out his team of elite freshmen, a few transfers, and a handful of returning players. 

Tonight's game was not helpful in assessing Gonzaga's progress. They played a struggling and far inferior Central Michigan University team and routed them, 107-54. CMU had no answer for Gonzaga's inside dominance. The Zags' defensive pressure confused and intimidated Central Michigan. My guess is that Coach Few would like to see his team shoot a better percentage from beyond the three point line and at the free throw stripe. The Zags shot just 28% from beyond the arc and converted just 58% of their free throws.

Neither stat mattered tonight. The Zags dominated CMU in every other way, but in their Tuesday, Nov. 23rd tilt against UCLA, it's possible that a poor showing from distance and mediocre free throw shooting could be a detriment. 

We'll see.

I'm hoping both UCLA, a team of highly experienced and elite players, and Gonzaga play as well as possible and that it's a highly competitive contest. That matters more to me than who wins. 

Monday, November 22, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 11-21-2120: Watching Villanova and Arizona, "The Fall Follies", Party at Radio Brewing

 1. Here are my two quick observations after watching some college basketball today. First, I'd like to know what Villanova Coach Jay Wright is thinking about the stamina of his starting five and sixth man Caleb Daniels. These six players played all but five minutes of the Wildcats strenuous game against Purdue and, just like on November 12th against UCLA, Villanova lost a double digit lead in the latter stages of the second half and lost the game. Today Purdue defeated Villanova, 80-74. Villanova's players showed signs of fatigue in their errant late game shooting from the floor and by missing free throws.  The always reliable Collin Gillespie made a costly mental and physical error late in the game, making an ill-advised crosscourt pass that a Purdue player intercepted and dunked. 

Now, yes, Purdue has a superb team, make no mistake. It appeared to me that the difference in team depth marked a key difference between them and Villanova today. As the game entered its final minutes, Purdue was fresher and springier and bolted by Villanova for their great win. 

My second observation is that Arizona made a very good choice when the school hired longtime Zag assistant coach Tommy Lloyd to be their head coach. Lloyd inherited a talented Arizona team and had them playing together very well today. Arizona overpowered and crushed the highly touted Michigan Wolverines, 80-62.

2. Debbie and I got all gussied up and went to Wallace to watch Carol and Paul and the rest of the cast perform in a musical revue Paul composed called, "The Fall Follies". Paul dramatized himself as having been summoned by the ghost of one of the founders of the Sixth Street Melodrama, Sherrill Grounds, to put on a show paying tribute to the Ziegfeld Follies. Paul served as the Master of Ceremonies and was our teacher, in a way, providing information about the Ziegfeld Follies and also introducing a series of songs, three Will Rogers sketches, and an excerpt from the Fannie Bryce's radio program, The Baby Snooks Show.

I enjoyed listening to so many tried and true songs. Some of them made me think back to the "Follow the Bouncing Ball" cartoons we used to watch on television as kids. Watching Joy Persoon perform transported me back to our choir days together at North Idaho College and while I was enjoying watching and listening to her in the present, I also indulged in some warm memories of choir and Cardinal Chorale performances. I also enjoyed how the audience responded -- many laughs, enthusiastic applause, and great appreciation toward the end of the cast when the cast broke into "God Bless America" and audience members stood and joined in.

3. Originally, Debbie and I were going to the home of Pulaski Porter, the City Limits Pub and Grill, and have a beer and something to eat.

We changed our minds.

We drove back to Kellogg and dropped in at Radio Brewing. 

Radio has some lighter food to eat and that's what we were in the mood for and, as a bonus, Molly Roberts was working this evening.

We had a great party at Radio Brewing. I took a rare day off of the SAVE THE PORTER campaign and truly, madly, deeply enjoyed Radio's perfectly balanced IPA, the 43 is For Me, a satisfying ale brewed with all Idaho hops. I hadn't enjoyed a pint (or two and a half) of good old American/West Coast IPA for a while and this one really hit the spot this afternoon. 

So did our bite to eat: it was warmed pita bread with stuff to put on it I'd never heard of before and since Radio's current menu isn't posted on line, I can't tell you the name of it. All I can say is that it was perfect.

So was shooting the breeze with Molly, having a visit with Mike Pierce, and listening to the somewhat random songs that came over the Cake station on Pandora. 

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 11/20/2021: Happy Birthday to Paul!, Party #2 Back Home, I Haven't Been Everywhere

1. The high point of our Saturday occurred at Carol and Paul's house. Molly, Zoe, and Cosette combined their efforts to make a most delicious birthday dinner for Paul. The dinner featured a lemon-y shrimp and clam pasta dish, supported by a tasty fresh green salad and plenty of toasted and seasoned bread. After dinner, we moved to the living room where Paul fulfilled a birthday wish by joining together with his daughters to sing and perform a Ray Charles song, "I Got a Woman", addressed to Carol. We topped off the night with a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting made from scratch. We had a houseful! Cosette, Taylor, Saphire, Zoe, and Molly were at the table along with Laurie Roberts, Christy, Debbie, Paul, Carol, and me.  

2. Back home after dinner, Debbie and I did what I enjoy most: we split a couple 12 oz cans of craft beer. We started with Grand Teton of Victor, Idaho's Black Cauldron Imperial Stout, a smooth slightly coffee forward stout with subtle tastes of chocolate and dried fruit. The beer weighed in at 9.5% ABV. Its rich taste and plentiful alcohol content made me glad that I only drank 6 oz of it.

Next, Debbie popped open a can of Myopia, a Hazy IPA from Sawtooth Brewery in Hailey, ID. 

My approach to beer drinking was summarized by Stephen Stills in his song, "Love the One You're With". I do all in my power not to compare beers to one another, but to love the one I'm drinking at any given time. 

Now, as hard as I try to be faithful to this principle, the one style of beer that challenges me the most not to make comparisons is the Hazy (or New England) IPA and it's because of the dreamy, transformative magic carpet ride of awesome NEIPAs I have enjoyed in New York. Debbie and I got to talking about the various Hazy IPA bombs we loved at District 96 in New City, NY. We rhapsodized about the tall cans of juicy hazy splendor brewed by Industrial Arts of Garnerville, NY and that Debbie could buy in Valley Cottage at the nearby Foodtown Grocery. I had nearly hallucinatory dreams of the pleasure I've experienced drinking Softly Spoken Magic Spells from SingleCut in Queens, NY.  

I succeeded. 

After those memories of blissful New York Hazy IPAs washed over me, I drank from my six ounce glass of Myopia Hazy IPA from Sawtooth Brewery and I loved the one I was with. The Myopia was refreshing and pleasing. I didn't need it to be a knockout. It satisfied my enjoyment of citrus flavors, a hint of straw (or grass), and a pleasing bitterness at the finish. 

Debbie also enjoyed both of these beers and they both enhanced the fun and pleasure of our living room party and wide-ranging conversation tonight.

3. At Paul's birthday party, Laurie, Paul's sister, told us that she presents her students with a weekly trivia question about herself and she awards the winner with a gift card from a coffee shop. For example, recently, she asked her students, "What two concerts did Miss Roberts attend in the last month?" (The answer: James Taylor [with Jackson Browne] and Amy Grant.) 

She also asked her students to guess how many states in the USA she had been to. 

This got me thinking about how many states I've been to. I'm not sure whether to count Arizona. I think I flew into Phoenix once on my way to somewhere else.  I've been through Nevada and Utah on Amtrack, but I haven't actually set foot in either state. The states I know I haven't been to are easier to list: Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.  

I do not plan on visiting all fifty states in my lifetime, but I can imagine making my first ever visit to some of the other states on this list in the upcoming years. 

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 11/19/2021: Good Kidney News and a Roundup, Debbie and I Spilt a PORTER, Solid Bar Talk BONUS: A Limerick by Stu

 1. My visit with kidney doctor Dr. Scott Bieber today was, as I thought it would be, short and enjoyable. After he asked me a few questions (any problems? short of breath? urinating okay?) and after listening to my lungs and heart and checking my lower legs for swelling (all good), he said, "Let's look at your labs." 

I knew Dr. Bieber would be pleased with my blood work, but I wasn't expecting him to say what he did. Here is an approximate quotation: "When I first saw you a couple of years ago, I thought for sure that by now you'd be on dialysis or be transplanted. I couldn't be happier with these labs. Your kidney function has actually improved since I last saw you. Your kidneys are really doing their job."

From reading my lab results on Tuesday, I knew my filtration numbers were better and I knew that all my other numbers were in range. 

We talked a bit about my slightly high blood pressure, but decided to leave my medication where it's at. 

Dr. Bieber decided that he'd like me to do blood work again in three months, but that he didn't need to see me in person and that if he saw any problems we'd talk over the telephone.

He wants to see me in May and I'll have more blood work done for that visit. 

So, a quick roundup, just to put this all in some perspective. 

I had a complete physical exam back in December of 2004 and found out that I had a non-symptomatic kidney disease. At that time, my kidney function was around 24 or 25%. There are five stages of kidney disease and I found out I was squarely in the severe range, but the good news, nearly eighteen years ago, was that I was a fairly young person and that the type of disease I have progresses slowly.

The disease has, indeed, progressed slowly and it's not progressed in a linear fashion. My kidney function numbers have gone down and come back up again. I had thought for years that they could only go down. 

Two years ago, when my kidney function was at 12% -- the numbers say kidney failure begins at 15% --, I figured, and so did Dr. Bieber, that dialysis wasn't far down the road and that a transplant loomed ahead. At the same time, though, because I was feeling so good, Dr. Bieber agreed with me that I should turn down an organ offer (which I did) and this led to me asking to put on the transplant's inactive list. 

I hope you caught this detail. The one constant throughout this time of kidney disease is that I've felt great. I've continued to experience no symptoms. No metallic taste in my mouth. No shortness of breath. No fatigue. As I've written 1,000 times on this blog, if it weren't for what we see in my blood work, I'd never know I had kidney disease.

This week, I had bloodwork done on Monday, Nov. 15th and my kidney function improved to 16%. That places me out of the kidney failure range and back to the severe kidney range. 

So, for whatever reason, here I am, closing in on 18 years since my original diagnosis. My kidneys are diseased but stable. They are making superb use of the limited function they have remaining. I am still on the inactive list for a kidney transplant. 

I chalk this good fortune up to the fact that I haven't developed any accompanying diseases. I'm not diabetic. My heart is doing well. I have, so far, not contracted Covid-19. Back in 2009, when I was hospitalized with pneumonia and c-diff, my kidney function fell by about seven points. I know how other diseases can affect my kidney function. But, back then, I recovered that function --- largely via hydration. My hope is that for as long as possible the rest of my system stays as healthy as possible and that my kidneys keep hanging in there, keep functioning in a reduced but stable manner. 

2. Debbie went to CdA today and made a quick stop at Pilgrim's and purchased several beers for us to split and sample. This afternoon, in order to help SAVE THE PORTER, we popped open a can of Cascade Lakes' Salted Caramel Porter, a fine beer out of Redmond, OR.

If a porter is going to be salted, flavored with caramel (or vanilla or other such flavors), my preference is that its presence is subtle. Debbie and I were happy with how subtle the salted caramel flavor was in this porter. When cold, we both thought the beer was a bit bitter at the finish, but as it warmed up in my glass, the beer's maltiness emerged and the bitterness receded. We both enjoyed this beer and I would definitely purchase it again.

3. Debbie and I were unsure what we'd do late this afternoon and on into the evening, but, around 3:00 or so, Ed texted me and wondered if we'd like to go to the Elks Club for burgers. We did and had a fun time yakking with Ed and enjoying the perfectly sized and perfectly cooked burgers off of Keith Greene's grill. We joined Ed and crossed the street and went to The Lounge. I didn't think we would stay long. Cas greeted me as I entered and immediately apprised of some bad news. He had a breakdown and couldn't keep his kegs cool until the repair guy came later in the week. Therefore, I would not be able to help SAVE THE PORTER.

I took his news well and ordered a Miller High Life, the Champagne of Bottled Beers, and yakked with Cas, Tracy, Debbie, and Ed for a while. After a beer, Ed had to leave and I thought Debbie and I might leave then, too, but it turned out that having some time alone together at that moment was great for Debbie and me. It gave us a chance to talk more about my kidney situation and to look ahead and start sketching some very tentative plans for the future. 

Debbie and I have a long history of good conversations over adult beverages at the bar or in taprooms -- we worked out much of life over about four years time at Eugene's Billy Mac's, 16 Tons, and Cornucopia, Beltsvilles's Old Line Bistro, and DC Brau just over the Maryland/DC border. We didn't exactly work anything out once and for all at The Lounge this early evening, but it was just the right time to have a little time to ourselves and get started on some conversations that are certain to continue over the next several weeks. 

Here's a limerick by Stu: 

Wear checks and stripes on this day. 
Have white wine with your Mignon Filet. 
Argue merits of “lazy”, 
While on cartoons heap praisy! 
And when traveling pick roundabout way. 

Absurdity Day

Friday, November 19, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 11/18/2021: Labor History Over 100 Years Ago, Big Basketball Day for the Big East, Talking About Writing

1. I settled back into another chunk of The Cold Millions. I augmented the pleasure of reading this book not only by having Copper at my side, but by playing the SiriusXM channel, "Symphony Hall" while I read. I imagined that the various sounds of Mozart, John Williams, Back, and other composers helped easy Copper's anxiety, but I doubt I could prove that in any empirical way. So far, The Cold Millions is absorbing my interest. Its early chapters portray the cruel lengths the Spokane police went to in order to  suppress and punish labor unions, especially the IWW, for organizing in the Inland Empire. I'll leave it at that until I read more pages and chapters, but I can say that so far Jess Walter adroitly combines social history with a family story in a way that had me thinking I might enjoy reading another Charles Dickens novel sometime in the next several months.

2. I didn't watch a lot of DePaul's victory over Rutgers last night -- I want to read more about it -- but I watched the entirety of Xavier's thrilling victory over Ohio State. Yes, I admit, the Xavier/Ohio State game was, at times, a bit ragged with too many turnovers and other mistakes, but somehow for me that didn't take away from my enjoyment of the game's intensity and Xavier's steely determination to defend its lead, which it held from the beginning of the game to the end.

Xavier played this game without the injured Zachary Freemantle, a 6' 10" inside player who can stretch defenses with a sound outside shot. His replacement, Dionte Miles, played few minutes because right off the bat, he got into foul trouble. Enter Jack Nunge. Nunge transferred to Xavier from Iowa where he backed up last season's national player of the year, Luka Garza, but suffered injury to his knee(s) and missed the later stages of the season.

Tonight, despite his wobbly knee(s), Nunge came off the bench and played superbly, scoring 14 points, an   pulling down 14 rebounds, and blocking two shots. I was particularly impressed with how he managed his energy. His knee problems have kept him from getting into tip top playing condition and he played many more minutes than planned. He looked gassed a few times, especially at the free throw line, but, at the line, he slowed himself down, took deep breaths, collected himself, fought through the fatigue, and made a couple of especially crucial free throws late in the game.

So, Nunge made a might impact on this game. For much of the contest, though, Xavier team leader and scoring leader, Paul Scruggs was quiet. In the game's last 2:43 he burst to life, scoring ten points on two layups, four free throws, and, with 32 seconds left, a thunderous dunk over two Buckeyes. Scruggs is a very experienced player and knows what closing out a victory requires. Tonight, he was the ultimate finisher, taking charge of the game's final minutes, preserving Xavier's 71-65 victory.

The Gavitt Tipoff concluded with DePaul's win over Rutgers. The Big East Conference teams won six of the eight games played between their conference and the Big Ten. 

From what I saw, when Big East conference play gets underway in January, the action and the competition will be fierce and intense. I can hardly wait.

3. Debbie went with Christy to Diane's house for the monthly meeting of the Corner Book Club. After the book club dispersed, Christy and Debbie stayed around for a while and when it was time for Christy to head home, Debbie stayed behind to hang out longer with Diane.

Early in the evening, with Christy at home, Debbie texted me for a ride home and I dashed up to Diane's and they invited me into their conversation about writing and about Diane starting to write some stories about her experiences growing up.

Debbie and I talk about writing from time to time and it was fun joining forces to encourage Diane to keep at it, to get her stories down, and to tell her to tell the voices of perfectionism inside her head to shut up. 

Our conversation reawakened me to how much my writing instruction at LCC centered around trying to encourage positive attitudes in my students about writing, how much more my writing instruction was informed by books like The Tao de Jing, Thich Nhat Hanh's Being Peace, and Robert Grudin's On Dialogue than by the composition textbooks and books about how to write that, I think, were supposed to guide my instruction.