Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 01/16/18: Generous Orthodoxy, Tough Life in the Silver Valley, Relaxing in Christy's Shed

1. Theologian Hans Frei coined the term "generous orthodoxy". It's an approach to church life that adheres to church orthodoxy while, at the same time, exploring ideas and actions that go beyond orthodox principles and does so with the intention of helping the church become more compassionate. Generous orthodoxy tries to balance loyalty with conscience. It respects the body it is working to heal.

In Episode 9 of the first season of the Revisionist History podcast, found here, Malcolm Gladwell frames the story of Chester Wenger in terms of generous orthodoxy. Wenger was a Mennonite pastor until the church stripped him of his credentials because he officiated the wedding between his gay son and his son's partner.   Wenger explained his theological and biblical rationale for signing his son's marriage certificate in an open letter to the Mennonite Church, here.

The Deke and I listened to this podcast this evening. I'd listened to it before and, again this evening, I was moved, both emotionally and intellectually.

2. Earlier in the day, the Deke and I went to Coeur d'Alene. Robin cut my hair and we got talking about growing up in the Silver Valley and about her experience when she moved back to Pinehurst a few years ago to help her father as he died of kidney failure. She deeply loved and respected her father for all the hard work he'd done as a gyppo miner at the Bunker Hill and for how his hard work supported their large family. It was grievous listening to her describe how renal failure reduced her father to a shadow of the robust man he'd once been. It's the kind of inspiring and sad story I hear often in the Silver Valley, especially as friends tell me about more and more men they worked with in the mines and the woods, men who worked hard their whole lives,  and now are in tough shape, often because of that work, or have died.

3.  Today Christy and Everett put the finishing touches on the inside of the shed they've been working on for the last several weeks. The new rug is on the floor. The furniture is arranged where Christy wants it. It's well lit, heated, and quiet. The shed sits in the back yard and is a comfortable, cozy space, perfect as a place for Christy to read and write and relax and for Christy and Everett (well, and Tucker and Riley!) to have a quiet place to relax together. This Sunday, Carol, Paul, the Deke, Everett, Christy, and I will get to experience how the shed works as a place for Sunday's family dinner.

The Deke and I visited Christy and Everett in the shed after dinner. We had a good visit and it was fun to see Christy so happy and proud because this shed project is working out so well and is shaping up into just what Christy wanted when she envisioned transforming the shed into a restful and comfortable space.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 01/15/18: Coffee at the Bean, Better Sleep Ahead, Deep Beef Soup and Deep Podcasts

1.  I was getting some writing done when my phone rang and it was Ed. He was up in Osburn getting some payroll business done and wondered if I'd like to grab some coffee at The Bean. I sure did. So, we met, enjoyed our coffee drinks, and worked hard to solve the world's problems and came up a little short.

2. The Deke and I hustled out to the Wellness Center around noon and worked out for over an hour. I was especially eager to exercise. It had been six days since we'd been to the gym. The last two nights my sleep has been uneven, restless, and I knew exercise would help me sleep better. I had a good hour. I increased the intensity of my cardio session on the recumbent bike and focused on machines that worked out my legs and abdomen.

3. Last Friday, I started cooking a new batch of beef broth in the slow cooker and it's been bubbling away for the last few days. The Deke decided to make a vegetable beef soup and it was ready to eat late this afternoon. The depth of the beef broth combined with the mild sweetness of the carrots and corn and baby potatoes staggered me. We have plenty of this soup stored and I can hardly wait to dive  back into it again. Soon, I'll get another batch of broth going, this time with chicken. 

After dinner, we relaxed in our living room. The Deke knitted. I worked on a home photo gallery project. We listened to four episodes of Malcolm Gladwell's podcast, Revisionist History, episodes which covered topics as wide-ranging as huge tax breaks for L. A. County private golf courses to a deeper look at the 1954 Brown v Board of Education of Topeka case to a surprising examination of Bill Hudson's iconic 1963 photograph of a policeman, a German Shepherd, and a black teenager
and the statue, "The Foot Soldier", inspired by the picture.  If you go here, you can click on either season of the show, scroll down, and see a list of Revisionist History episodes and click on anything you might want to listen to. Everything the Deke and listened to this evening came from Season 2.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 01/14/18: Back to Yoke's, Food Prep and Flock of Seagulls, Family Dinner

1. I realized this morning that I didn't buy everything I wanted at Yoke's yesterday, so I returned this morning to purchase some ginger root, green onions, more broccoli, sugar, and a few other things in preparation for cooking tonight's family dinner.

2. The food preparing pretty much consumed my afternoon. I had quite a bit of chopping, slicing, and mincing to do: cucumbers, red onion, yellow onion, garlic, cilantro, ginger, limes, and red pepper;  I cleaned and shelled a pound of raw shrimp. I also made a dressing for the cucumber salad, a sauce for the shrimp fried rice, and peanut sauce for the roasted broccoli. Saturday night I shelled and chopped a pound of peanuts, so that was ready to go.  This was fun work. Listening to 80s alternative rock music made it even more pleasant as memories from around thirty-five years ago rushed in as music by Flock of Seagulls, Modern English, The Thompson Twins, and a host of other groups played over the Bose.

3. I rimmed mason jars with fresh lime juice, filled them with ice and put them in the freezer a couple of hours before we started having drinks. Just before Christy, Everett, Carol, Paul, and next door neighbor, Jane arrived, I cut wheels out of lime peel, put a wheel in each glass and mixed our guests gin and tonics. While the others had a cocktail and visited, I put a baking sheet of olive oiled and salt and peppered broccoli stalks into the oven to roast and dished out helpings of cucumber salad in small bowls. Once roasted, I put some broccoli on small plate for each guest and topped the broccoli with peanut sauce.

While the others ate their appetizers, I sauteed onion and garlic in oil and white wine, did the same with the chopped red bell pepper, and then added the shrimp and let them cook until pink. I moved the onion, garlic, red peppersand shrimp to another pan and kept them warm while I scrambled several eggs. I had made rice for this meal back on Thursday with chicken broth that had been bubbling for several days and added it to the eggs and returned the shrimp, onion, garlic, and red pepper back into the original skillet and drizzled stir fry sauce over it. When it was all hot enough to eat, I made everyone a bowl of shrimp fried rice and topped each bowl with chopped green onions.

This turned out to be a superb family dinner. Everyone enjoyed the meal as well as the choice between mango sorbet or coconut and pineapple ice cream (or both!) for dessert.

This was our first dinner party in our new kitchen and we all loved our new kitchen's roominess.  Even with the dining table expanded to accommodate seven people, we didn't feel cramped. 

As tonight's cook, I appreciated all the room I had to move around in this kitchen. I also enjoyed having a good amount of counter space to prepare cocktails, two appetizers, and a main dish.

We have been slow getting curtains on the window and things hanging on the walls, but once we do, I'll post some pictures.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 01/13/18: I Now Know Jack, Sunday Dinner Prep and Old Music, Simple Meal

1. Here's Jack:

This morning, I was sitting in our living room in my night clothes writing away and I saw this sweet dog wander through our front yard. I went to the front porch and he wagged his tail and sauntered up the steps and joined me, happy to let me pet him and scratch under his chin.

He had on a collar, but no identifying tags.

I couldn't let him in the house because Maggie and Charly would go ballistic.

I needed to get dressed and grab a leash, hoping my new friend would wait on the porch for me.

He didn't.

So, once dressed, I walked the neighborhood. Jane, who lives next door, told me she saw Jack walking west, and so I headed west and north and after about ten minutes, I spotted him back at the corner of Mission and Utah.

"Hey, Buddy! Come on, Buddy!" I cried out and he wagged his tail and galloped up Utah Street to me and I put a leash on him.

I returned home and the Deke took a picture of him and she and Jane commenced efforts to find the owner.

I'm not quite sure what Jane did -- I think she contacted a woman in town who "knows all the dogs" -- but it turned out Jack has been a happy wanderer before, the all-knowing dog person identified him, and got Jane and the owner in touch with each other -- or something like that.

Meanwhile, Jack and I were out for a walk around the west end of Sunnyside when my phone rang and it was the Deke, telling me Jane had located the owner and that she was coming to our house to pick up her dog.

Sure enough, Jack and I ambled back to the house and soon a relieved and grateful woman showed up, told me her dog's name was Jack, and told me that "the gate got opened somehow" and Jack went for his stroll.  She and Jack live about six or seven blocks away.

I was happy to see Jack back with his owner, but, I'll admit, my feelings were very similar to when I let Harriet Potter go last June as she flew from Dulles to Portland: let's just say I would have loved more time with each of these sweet dogs.

For those who might have forgotten Harriet Potter, I'll post her picture at the end of this post.

2. I spent more time today planning Sunday's family dinner and went to Yoke's and found everything I wanted. Back home, I remembered that I have a peanut sauce recipe I like a lot and upon reviewing it, realized I'll need to return to the store in the morning to pick some ginger root and I also need the green onions I forgot today. Otherwise, I'm ready to go and helped myself toward Sunday's cooking project by shelling and crushing a pound of peanuts while listening to a variety of music, including Pink Floyd's album, Wish You Were Here, some New York City rock and roll like Patti Smith's "Gloria", Television's "Roadrunner", and Velvet Underground's "Rock and Roll".

I wanted to listen to an album by the Crusaders I owned back in around 1978, but I couldn't remember the name of it, even with the help of an Amazon music search, so I played some random Crusaders' cuts. I did remember owning Joe Sample's Rainbow Seeker and enjoyed listening to it and recalling the two and a half school years I worked at Whitworth right after I graduated from Whitworth and how I loved that job and the many students I worked with. A lot of those students were into Bob James, Chuck Mangione, Joe Sample, the Crusaders, George Benson and other similar musicians of that time and so was I. It's a lot of fun bringing those days back through this music.

3. The Deke roasted some chicken drumsticks with baby carrots and baby potatoes and made a simple green salad and enjoyed this delicious dinner together, happy that such a simple meal brought us so much satisfaction.

Oh! Here's Harriet Potter:

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 01/12/18: Huge Snowflakes, Transplant Story on *Radiolab*, Happy Friday at the Lounge

1. Big, wet snowflakes promising an inevitable sloppy mess fell as I made my way down Cameron Ave. in the Sube this morning to meet Buff, Ed, and Scott for breakfast. Jerry was plowing snow in Wallace and Ed, Buff, and Scott had plowing on their minds. I wouldn't go so far as saying that I felt left out because I don't plow snow in the Silver Valley for McGillivray Environmental like my other breakfast mates, but when I returned home after eating, I immediately shoveled our sidewalks and driveway -- maybe so I'd feel a little bit like one of the guys . . . .

2. This morning, the Deke and I listened to an episode of Radiolab entitled "Match Made in Marrow" about the relationship that developed between an atheist woman and a Christian man about a year after her donation of bone marrow saved the man's life. As the two got to know each other, their philosophical and theological differences widened while their friendship deepened. I'll leave it at that, but tell you that if you'd like to listen to this episode, it's right here.

3. I spent much of the early afternoon putting together another batch of broth in the slow cooker, using beef soup bones I purchased at Stein's along with the leaves of celery I trimmed from stalks the other day, carrots, an onion, and a couple or three bay leaves. I also sat down at the kitchen table and planned out the family dinner I will prepare on Sunday and made a shopping list, hoping that a local store carries sweet chili sauce -- if not, I found a recipe for making my own.

Around three o'clock, the Deke dropped me off at the Inland Lounge where I met up with Ed and we yakked with Cas and Tracy. Ed left before long and I was going to head up to Radio Brewing to meet up with the Deke, but she texted me with a directive: stay put. Soon, in strolled the Deke with Liz Menke. Debbie had called Liz and invited her to be her drinking/knitting partner at Radio and they decided to hoof it down to the Lounge -- and, soon, Liz's husband Mitch arrived, too. 

I had a great time at the Lounge as people from my deep Kellogg past as well as my new Kellogg present strolled in to have a couple of drinks and enjoy the good vibe at the Lounge.

The Deke and I returned home, ate leftover chicken casserole, and a little later Christy came over for a couple of beers and visited for a while.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 01/11/18: Moving the Files, Soupless Chicken Casserole, No Static at All

1. The Deke and I decided we would use the file cabinet Mom had in the basement and not move it. We had considered purchasing a smaller one and putting it in the front bedroom on the ground floor. Today I organized our files, got rid of a few obsolete ones, and, most important, moved all the files out of the plastic basket I've been using and out of the front bedroom -- a very satisfying project and one that has now given us more room in the front bedroom, making it even more hospitable to being turned into a sparely furnished office.

2. When news flashed on Facebook a week or so ago that the Iron Chef of Clackamas County, Terry Turner, had made a tuna casserole without using condensed soup, I remembered having once done the same back in the old days when we lived in Greenbelt, MD.

I have been making a chicken broth in the slow cooker since Saturday. A day or two ago, I thought the meat was getting dry, so I removed it, but the broth kept bubbling away and darkening, getting more intense. Today I used the broth, in addition to water, to make rice and then used the broth, undiluted, and built a chicken casserole, guided by the tuna casserole recipe I used in Greenbelt. That recipe is here.

When the Deke and I ate the casserole, I wished I ran a test kitchen because I wanted to see if I could figure out ways to give this casserole a little more kick, some added pizzazz. Maybe some white wine in the sauce? Maybe it would have more kick if I'd had the Dijon mustard on hand the recipe called for? Maybe different vegetables? Spinach? Broccoli? I used corn, green beans, carrots, celery, and onion. I'm not sure. Since I don't have a test kitchen, I'm going to do some reading and see if I can figure something out and test it next time around.

I will say this, though: using the chicken meat and the broth was awesome. So is making tuna or chicken casserole without condensed soup. Making a sauce with flour, milk, and broth is lighter and much less salty.

3.  Listening to Steely Dan's Aja and a variety of cuts from their compilation album, Citizen Steely Dan, made cooking all the more enjoyable. I didn't exactly break out the hats and hooters or rev up the motor scooters, but I had a lot of fun reelin' in the years while I cooked away.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 01/10/18: Visiting Dr. Jones, Shopping, Return to Jethro Tull

1.  This morning I met with my new nephrologist, Dr. Kristie Jones, at the clinic uptown. I hadn't seen a nephrologist since March, 2017, and I am very happy to be getting back into the routine of regular visits. Dr. Jones and I talked about my kidney history and she liked what she saw in the December, 1, 2017 bloodwork I had done for my primary care giver. She liked what both of my other nephrologists have liked -- yes, my kidney function is at 19%, but it's been at this level or slightly higher for several years. She likes the stability. In addition, my blood work reveals I don't have other problems and it's especially good news that I don't have diabetes.

2. When I shopped at Yoke's and Stein's today, I had winter on my mind and bought a couple of small roasts, a whole chicken, beef soup bones, and other groceries that we can turn into meals that bring warmth and comfort to these chilly days.

3. Christy's friend Chris hosted a dinner this evening to celebrate Christy's birthday. The Deke was invited and so I had some time at home this evening to myself and enjoyed listening to music that I enjoy, but that the Deke doesn't so much. I especially enjoyed playing the entirety of Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick and their quasi-compilation double album from 1972, Living in the Past. When I started college at NIC in the fall of 1972, I hadn't listened to much Jethro Tull. I'd heard a few cuts from Aqualung, but not much else. But, John Soini and became friends during the school year and he introduced me to Living in the Past and for the next several months this album played in my head continuously. On some weekends, its songs ringing inside me made working in the Zinc Plant cell room a little more tolerable. Tonight, I realized it had been many years since I listened to side three of Living in the Past ("By Kind Permission Of" and "Dharma for One") and tonight it awakened an old Jethro Tull ecstasy I hadn't felt for many, many years.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 01/09/18: Sticking With It, Christy's Birthday at the Blackboard Cafe, Vito and Ukes at Wallace Brewing

1. Late this morning the Deke and I bounded into the exercise room at the Wellness Center. I had a solid workout. I'm not quite to the point of sweating pools, but I am increasing what I do in reasonable increments. This morning I worked out harder on the recumbent bicycle than I ever had and I had a good session strengthening my arms and chest and abs on different weight machines. The best thing that's going on is that the Deke and I are sticking with it and working out two or three times a week.

2. Today was Christy's birthday. She decided she wanted to eat at the Blackboard Cafe in Wallace. It's a handsome, cozy, comfortably appointed cafe that serves breakfast on the weekends, sandwiches during the day, and mostly Italian food from 5-8. The Deke and I joined Christy and Everett to (further) celebrate Christy's birthday and we all loved eating at the Blackboard.

We started with a small plate of tapenade and the olive spread was the best I've ever tasted. I wish I had it in front of me right now so I could better identify the different tastes, but I can attest to the fact that each bite of crisp crostini topped with the olive spread was a pleasing explosion of the earthy flavor of black olives complimented with garlic, lemon, and other flavors.

I ordered carbonara, thanks to the famous article Calvin Trillin wrote years ago in The New Yorker making a case for making spaghetti carbonara the national meal on Thanksgiving. (His essay first came to my attention when I heard him read it on the podcast, Burnt Toast. Click here, and you can hear him read it, too.)

Until tonight, I'd never tried pasta carbonara. The Blackboard Cafe makes carbonara with linguine. It's shot through with bits of bacon -- not crisp--and dressed with a garlic, lemon, parmesan egg sauce that further enhanced the pasta and put me in a dreamy mood as I savored the sweetness of the bacon, the bite of the lemon and garlic, and the richness of the egg and cheese.

As a gift to Christy, Blackboard co-owner, Luanne, brought out a homemade square of chocolate peanut butter cake and the four of us split it. We all moaned with pleasure as we dove into this creamy, nutty tasting, chocolate-y blast of delight.

3. I guess some nights the Deke and I can't quite enjoy ourselves enough.

After this blissful dinner, we headed down the street to Wallace Brewing, hoping that the latest iteration of Vito, Wallace Brewing's annual barrel-aged English strong ale might still be available. It had been released around Thanksgiving and for all we knew, it had sold out by now.

But, no.

Vito English strong ale, this year's batch aged in scotch barrels, was still for sale, so we enjoyed five oz. pours of this sweet and warming ale and had a great time yakkin' with Cathleen, who was serving the beer; then, before I knew it, I'm almost certain the Deke had organized the women who were at the brewery for a just concluded monthly Tuesday night ale and yoga class into an upcoming ukulele get together where the Deke will bring the instruments and teach those present how to play.

What a night in Wallace. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 01/08/18: Radio from D. C., *Uncivil*, My Favorite Electric Guitar Player

1. I stayed in today. I wasn't ill or tired. Nothing was wrong. I listened a lot. The Deke and I listened to programming on WAMU-FM, the NPR station in Washington, D.C. It was fun -- and I felt wistful listening to weather reports and other announcements about things happening in Washington, D.C. Hearing Here and Now hosts Robin Young and Meghna Chakrabarti again triggered some sweet memories of driving around the D. C. area in the Sube while listening to Here and Now. I flashed on drives to the Aquatic Gardens, Hung Phat in Wheaton to shop for Asian groceries, Union Station, Brookland, Rock Creek Park, and other places, all of which I loved.

2. The Deke and I listened to several episodes of the podcast Uncivil. The podcast explores how the United States' Civil War continues to be waged, not with armaments so much as with stories. Each episode the hosts, Jack Hitt and Chenjerai Kumanyika, address widely held ways of understanding the Civil War by looking at original documents and by talking with researchers and people whose ancestors lived during the War. They examine such questions and the stories connected with them as whether the Civil War was fought over states' rights, whether slavery was an inefficient system, why monuments to Confederate leaders were built, what impact movies like Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind have had on our understanding of the Civil War, what view of history is embodied by the Lost Cause perspective, and many others.  The podcast is only a few months old and you can look at a list of the episodes that have been produced so far right here.

3. From time to time, when it comes out that I used to spend a lot of time with the works of William Shakespeare, people often ask, "What is your favorite Shakespeare play." My answer is always the same: "The one I'm reading or working on in the theater or watching."

I got to thinking today that I have a similar response when I ask myself who might be my favorite electric guitar player. My favorite electric guitar player is always the one I'm listening to. Today, the Deke went on an errand and later went to an activity at the Pinehurst Public Library and, in her absence, I listened to electric guitar players. While I listened to Deep Purple, in those moments, Ritchie Blackmore was my favorite; then it was Pete Townshend; soon it was Richard Thompson; lastly, it was Mike Campbell.

Much like when I work with a Shakespeare play and the one I'm involved with seems, to me, to be the only play he ever wrote and is my favorite right then, likewise, when I listen to an electric guitar player, it is as if no one else ever played the guitar and that musician is my favorite right then.

Part of why I would be a lousy music critic is because I am lousy at comparing and contrasting. When I listen to a recording, I don't care how it stacks up against other work the group has done or other work the guitar player has done or the work of other groups or players.  All I care about is what I'm listening to in that moment.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 01/07/18: Power in Music and Art, Christy's Perfect Birthday Dinner, Long Hot Shower

1. After the Deke and I listened to two episodes of The Big Listen podcast and listened to one episode of Uncivil, the Deke went uptown to knit with friends at Radio Brewing. I seized the upon the couple of hours alone to once again return to the music of Richard and Linda Thompson. I played the entire album, Shoot Out the Lights, and once again marveled at how perfectly Richard Thompson's songwriting, Linda Thompson's longing and guileless vocals, and Richard Thompson's moody, often jangling and discordant electric guitar combine to explore the disillusion of brokenness when love and intimacy and togetherness disintegrate. I then turned my attention to their album, Hokey Pokey. It is one of the darkest albums of songs I've ever owned, written in the tradition of old British folk songs, and, once again, its heart wrenching to listen to Linda and Richard Thompson give voice to the world's harshness, but, at times exhilarating to experience how perfectly these songs are made, both instrumentally and vocally.

Saturday, I found a recording of the production of Sunday in the Park with George that the Deke and I saw and loved at the Hudson Theater in April, 2017. I didn't listen to the entire musical this afternoon, but I started with the song "Sunday" which ends Act I and listened to the entirety of Act II. I retrieved the lyrics to "Sunday" online and read them while listening.

It got emotional for me. I loved that afternoon at the theater. I love this song about the permanence of art, how the painting "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" endures, giving eternal life to a Sunday in a perfect park, even as those figures in the painting who lived this moment experienced it as fleeting in the same way their lives are impermanent in the same way our Saturday afternoon in the Hudson Theater experiencing live theater was fleeting -- poof! -- gone. The painting, though, is forever.

2. Christy's birthday is on Tuesday, but at tonight's family dinner, we celebrated her birthday. Christy requested a wonderful dinner: Old Fashioneds for cocktails followed by a Caesar salad and a meal of roasted chicken, rice  pilaf, and green beans. For dessert, Christy asked for a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Carol took two days to prepare this meal and told us she had a blast doing it. With Christy's assistance, Carol recently unearthed her copy of Julia Child's' book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking and committed herself, as much as possible, to prepare this entire meal following Julia Child's directions. 

Talk about wishing life were not a series of fleeting moments. I didn't want this dinner to end.  Everything was perfect. Carol wrote a detailed account of her two days of cooking, here, if you'd like to know what went into this meal and what Carol did in the kitchen to bring it to life. I'll just say two words: butter and eggs.

3. Before dinner and before the Deke returned from knitting, I took a long hot shower and thought a lot about the difficulties Mom endured in her last few months of life. I was happy that Christy, Carol, Paul, Zoe, the Deke, and others did all we could to make those last months easier and free of loneliness. All the same, I kept reliving how unfair it was that her legs gave out, that she was immobile, and I longed for that to have been different for her. It was all so confusing for Mom. So much of what she'd known in her life gradually disappeared and I ached for her, for how unjust it all was, and sought comfort in the hot water pounding on the top of my back and over my head.