Thursday, June 4, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/03/20: Monthly Blood Draw, Loved Cooking Dinner, Fired Up by Music BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1.In support of my candidacy for a kidney transplant, I stopped in for a quick visit at the Shoshone Medical Center this afternoon. I carried my little white box with a blood draw kit inside. Brandy drew a vial of blood from my left arm and it goes to a lab in Spokane. It's not tested. It's on hand in case an organ that looks like a match for me pops up. I do this blood draw once a month. It's easy. My feeling of relief when finished is out of proportion to how simple and painless and pleasant this visit turns out to be, every time.

2. I also made a quick trip to the liquor store where, among other libations, I purchased, for the first time since moving back to Kellogg, a bottle of Jameson's Irish Whiskey and a bottle of ginger ale. Later, I started a cooking project and, to add to its pleasure, I poured myself a whiskey ginger and got down to the business of making a pot of black bean chili.

The recipe I used called for carrots and potatoes and I said, "No way. Debbie and I love sweet potatoes." I had just purchased a couple so I poured some cans of black beans, a couple cups of water, a bay leaf, and two chopped sweet potatoes into the Dutch oven and let them simmer for a while.

In a skillet, I cooked up chopped garlic, onion, celery, and miniature orange sweet peppers and seasoned it all with coriander, cumin, oregano, chili powder, and red pepper flakes. I added in some Triple Sec and honey. Once cooked, I added this mixture into the Dutch oven along with a can of diced tomatoes and let it cook very slowly. I'm not sure how long it simmered, but when Debbie finished her FaceTime session on the deck, I boiled a batch of Mrs. Miller's Old Fashioned Kluski Egg Noodles and served the black bean chili over the noodles. We loved it.

This dinner was another attempt of mine to fix something like my hot lunch favorite, Witches Brew. Fixing this meal tonight also grew out of talking with Debbie about wanting to make something akin to Skyline Chili (the Cincinnati treat!) -- but we'll wait on that for when we have ground beef in the house and I'll serve that batch of chili over spaghetti, not egg noodles. (By the way, one of my regrets in life? During a week long visit to Cincinnati in 2005, we stayed just blocks away from Skyline Chili on Ludlow Ave. and I didn't eat there.)

3. I was fired up late this afternoon. I was fired up while cooking dinner, really happy to be making some (quasi) Witches Brew. I loved the switch from one favorite, George Dickel Rye Whiskey, to Jameson, another favorite.  I hadn't sipped on a Jameson/ginger for months. Peak pleasure.  I upped my fired upness with music: first, while cooking, I played Pink Floyd's album Wish You Were Here and then put on one of my favorite Pandora stations, Edgar Winter, and listened to songs ranging from "Radar Love" to "Midnight Rider" and, of course, "Free Ride"!

In today's limerick, Stu pays homage to some nicknames that were well-known at one time in Kellogg. If you were around here back in the day, I hope you'll remember them:

Nicknames are used now and back when.
Like “Jake” is used time and again.
Perhaps, “Facts”, can apply,
Policeman labeled “One-Eye”!
Or one fellow who bowled a THREE-TEN!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/02/20: Poetry and Being Quiet, Corruption, Hep B Vax BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. Late this afternoon, on a day I spent thinking a lot about the grace of being quiet and of silence while there's so much sound and fury in cities, towns, and, for me, especially online -- in both my Facebook and my Twitter feed --, I turned again to the poets William Stafford and Robert Bly. On the dvd Bill and Diane sent me, featuring the short film, Every War Has Two Losers, there's a second feature. It's an hour long. It's called A Literary Friendship. It features Stafford and Bly reading a few of their poems and talking about their lives, their thinking, and their writing -- why they write and how they go about it.

I don't know exactly in what year(s) this project was filmed. Stafford died on August 28, 1993. That's the only time marker I have. I bring this up because everything they said about poetry and its place in the world addressed the very same kind of fury and agitation we all know is taking place right now.

Maybe because lately I've been contemplating even more than usual the virtues of being quiet, of silence, it was inevitable that as I listened to Bly and Stafford read their roughly thirty year old (or more) poems, that I would hear almost all of them inviting readers into stillness, the stillness of nature and of one's own inward life.

In his poem, "On the Oregon Coast", dedicated to William Stafford, Robert Bly depicts the vastness and fury of the ocean. The ocean becomes a metaphor, pointing our attention beyond itself to giving us a concrete experience with fury, and how, in the midst of turmoil (and tumultuous times), one feels small. It's hard to read fury or understand it. It's overwhelming. We can do something, though. Bly suggests the following in the poem's third and final verse:


Remembering the fury, it is up to us, even
Though we feel small compared to the loose
Ocean, to keep sailing and not land,
And figure out what to say to our children.


Bly's poem does not imagine us paddling in the disorderly, or, as he puts it, "the loose" ocean, frantically trying to row our way back to land. He imagines us sailing. To me, it's a calm, even quiet, image of persistence. Sailing is not ignoring. It's a duty. It's "up to us". We sail in the fury. We sail "though we feel small". Our purpose is to grow wiser in our sailing, to "figure out what to say to our children".

Later I listened to a TEDx talk on YouTube given by Coleman Barks. In just twenty minutes, Barks summed up much of what I've heard him say in other presentations about the Sufi poet Rumi and his relationship to Rumi. I loved hearing Coleman Barks again, loved traveling back to the years at LCC when I taught World Lit and the poems of Rumi were (for me) the ecstatic core of the course. Listening to Coleman Barks -- well, I sat here and did not try to escape the fury and unrest and confusion of the last week, of the last few months. I felt small. I kept sailing. I was home alone. (Debbie was visiting a friend.) I was quiet. I cannot quell our nation's agitation nor can I quiet the agitation of those near me. I can quiet my own agitation, though, and can hope that in this quiet there is some measure of grace.

If you have any interest in experiencing some of what I did today, here are some links:

The film, A Literary Friendship is on YouTube, here.
YouTube also carries the William Stafford documentary, Every War Has Two Losers, here.
Robert Bly's poem, "On the Oregon Coast" is here.
And, the Coleman Barks TEDx talk is here.

Feeling small became a focus of mine today. Rumi wrote this short poem about feeling small. It's a Coleman Barks translation.

This Great Love Inside Me

I am so small I can barely be seen.
How is this great love inside me?

Look at your eyes. They are small,
but they see enormous things.

2. My late afternoon foray into the worlds of William Stafford, Robert Bly, Coleman Barks, and Rumi were a welcome shift from how spent the rest of my day. I finished reading All the President's Men and, in doing so, finished swimming in the troubled and furious waters of the Nixon Administration from about June, 1972 through about November of 1973 or so. As I thought about this book while reading it and when finished, I kept coming back to the idea that laws and regulations form the basis of a social contract between all of us. For this contract to work, the parties living and working under the rule of law must, for lack of a better word, cooperate with the purposes of the laws -- or, if the law is unjust, work to change the law. The chief threat to the upholding of the law in All the President's Men was power -- the efforts made on Richard Nixon's behalf to win the presidency and to hold on to the power of the office.

This social contract becomes fragile when it's ignored, scoffed at, regarded as naive, seen as an impediment, and cynically exploited. Although the book All the President's Men never discusses political science or theory, never examines the nature of the law and the social contract, to me, the primary thrust of the book was dramatizing what happens when the law is disregarded, broken, and the social contract erodes.

3. Political corruption, fury, and calm and ecstatic poetry didn't define the whole of my day. There's also that matter of protecting myself from Hepatitis B, especially if I go on dialysis or go through a kidney transplant. Today I went to the clinic up on McKinley and was injected with Hepatitis shot number two of three. My last shot of this course will happen on, or soon after, August 30th.

It's fun to remember places we could dine in Kellogg many years ago and Stu commemorates some of those places in this limerick:

Lots places to grub from the past.
Like the “Fish Feed” on Friday’s din’t last.
Pik Kwik’s counter, The Boat,
Corner Drug, get a float!
Miner’s Hat had sit down or leave fast.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/01/20: Remembering William Stafford, Reading History, Not Saying Much BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. Once I finished writing in my blog this morning, I watched the half hour documentary featuring William Stafford, Every War Has Two Losers. It's one of two documentaries on poets by Haydn Reiss that Bill Davie and Diane Schulstad sent me as gifts, knowing my love of documentaries and of poets. The second dvd features Robert Bly.

Stafford dedicated his life to pacifism in a variety of ways as a poet, teacher, family man, and a conscientious objector to World War II. He performed alternative service in Civilian Public Service camps from 1942-46 in Illinois, Arkansas, and California, working in forests, building roads, and laboring in other ways.

The film examines the connection between William Stafford's quiet pacifism and his poetry and features readings by Robert Bly, Alice Walker, Maxine Hong Kingston, Naomi Shihab Nye, Coleman Barks, and others. I particularly enjoyed Coleman Barks, not only his reading, but the way he spoke of Stafford as writing in the tradition of Zen poetry, as a mystery poet. Over the years, I've admired the spareness and simplicity of William Stafford's poems, but had never thought of his work in the way Coleman Barks described.  Over the years, I've enjoyed Coleman Barks talking about mystery poems, especially the work of Rumi.

I no longer own any of Stafford's books of poetry. It's time to order some from the library and enjoy his poetry again with this fine film in mind, to read Stafford anew, and think about him as a spiritual descendant of worldwide mystic traditions.

2. I pondered Every War Has Two Losers for a while and then gave over to many hours reading All the President's Men and am close to finished. Maybe it's because I'm 66 years old and don't have the oomph I used to, but again and again, as I read this book, I'm impressed with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's dogged pursuit of learning as much as they can about the Nixon Administration and the Committee to Re-Elect. They worked long hours. They knocked on doors. They worked the phones. They faced rejection, anger, scalding public criticism (especially from Ron Ziegler), and experienced long periods of stalemate, of being stuck, of running into dead ends. Yes, each reporter took an occasional vacation, but, most of their days were occupied with slogging. They didn't give up, even though they experienced regular discouragement and powerful push back. 

In the course of reading All the President's Men, my admiration for the movie's screenplay and its production has grown. I'm particularly impressed with how the screenwriters compressed several events into single ones and translated other events from the book into more cinematic scenes by changing their location or improvising on what the book says happened. Inevitably, the book's story and movie's story overlap, but I love how the screenwriters adapted this book into an independent work of art with pacing, superb cinematography, narrative structure, and devotion to the visual details of Washington, D.C. and the D.C. suburbs that is an intelligent, captivating, and authentic work of historical fiction. I might have to watch the movie again for the 400th time soon after I finish this book.

3. It might seem, because I don't write political or social commentary in this blog, that I am living with my head in the sand as our country contends with the pandemic and as chaos erupts in cities across the U.S.A. I'm paying attention. I'm reading. I'm listening. I tend toward taking small bites of these stories. I come to understand events much better looking back on them rather than while they are happening, so I am wary of much of what I read or see reported as it happens.

Mostly, I'm quiet.

I find that I'm so uncertain about what's happening with the pandemic and in the streets of places I love -- Eugene, Portland, Spokane, New York, Washington D.C., Seattle, and others -- that  were I to say more than I do, I wouldn't really know what I was talking about.

Here at home, I'm more willing to sort things out by talking a bit.

Debbie and I discuss things. I listen. I wrestle within myself. I feel what I feel.

Before going to bed tonight, Debbie and I talked until about midnight.

It helped me sleep.


To commemorate the release of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967, Stu gives us this limerick:


An album this day first appears.
Released in “this” country to cheers.
First came to U K,
And after that day.
The world knew the name “Billy Shears”!

Monday, June 1, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/31/20: Yoke's, Beef Stroganoff, Puzzles BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. Debbie and I worked together to create a grocery shopping list. I did my best organize the list around sections of the store, doing my best to get in and out of Yoke's as efficiently as possible. It's a challenge these days at Yoke's. For a couple months or so, contractors have been redesigning and remodeling the store and items are in new places.  I covered the lower half of my face -- have I mentioned that Debbie made my face covering from fabric left over from when she made our kitchen curtains? -- and I'd say I did an above average job of being efficient. I slowed myself down enough to admire the remodeling job. It seems to me to be coming right along.

2. Debbie and I have two packages of steaks remaining from the bulk beef purchase we made from a local rancher a couple of years ago. I chuckled this afternoon as I cut two of the steaks from one of the packages into small cubes as I started to make Debbie and me a batch of beef stroganoff. Why the chuckle? I thought of Dad, not only because he died twenty-four years ago this weekend (June 1, 1996), but because he was a steak purist. My Aunt Lila used to use sirloin steaks to make Swiss steaks. Dad regarded this as a mortal offense against the beef steak. Sirloin steaks were created to be broiled or grilled, served medium rare with a baked potato and a salad. That's it.

Well, sorry Dad (RIP), but Debbie and I decided we'd rather eat these steaks as a part of a larger meal. So I sliced these steaks into small pieces, seasoned them with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Montreal seasoning, and seared the chunks in the Dutch oven. I removed and set aside the meat and sauteed about a pound of sliced mushrooms and removed them. I had chopped an onion and four garlic cloves and cooked them for about five minutes. While they were sizzling, I combined two cups of water with two teaspoons of Better than Beef bouillon in a bowl. Once satisfied the onion and garlic were tender, I added back in the beef and the mushrooms, poured the bouillon mixture over it and added some Worcestershire sauce and red wine vinegar to the mix.

I let this mixture simmer, covered for about 50-60 minutes and toward the end of this time I added a pint of sour cream mixed with three tablespoons of all-purpose flour and stirred it all together.

While the sauce lightly bubbled away, I boiled a batch of Mrs. Miller's Old Fashioned Kluski Egg Noodles, drained them, and Debbie and I lined our bowls with noodles and poured the beef stroganoff sauce over the top.

With all apologies to Dad, the New York steak tasted awesome in this stroganoff -- and, using this cut of meat reduced the cooking time at least in half in contrast to using stew meat or round steak

I doubt Dad would be persuaded!

3. When I wasn't shopping or cooking today, I retired to the Vizio room and later to bed and completed two acrostic puzzles. These puzzles are fun. I hope they are sharpening my mind. I do know they take up a lot of time and time goes by quickly when I work on them. They make my decision to spend so much time indoors a pleasure.


Today is National Barefoot Day and, in its honor, Stu wrote a limerick: 

It’s good to know don’ts from the do’s.
Like after you burp, say “excuse”.
On days like today,
With formal clothes you can say.
I think I’ll just pass with the shoes.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/30/20: Double Narrators in *Bleak House*, Chopped Salad and Quinoa, Back to Watergate

1.  I finished Bleak House today. I started the book fifteen days ago.

The novel has me thinking about a lot of things and I've started reading a little bit of the vast amount of scholarship written about it.

Right now, I'm pondering the way the story of Bleak House was told.  The novel features two different narrators.  The first narrator tells the story omniscently. The second narrator, Esther Summerson, tells her part of the story in the first person, looking back. The Esther chapters read like a memoir. Esther's narration is limited to telling what she experienced over the years this story occurs, but the other narrator is unlimited by time and space or involvement in the story's action. This narrator tells us stories Esther is unaware of and this narrator is much more of a social critic, a commentator, on the world of London and the broader world of England.

The omniscient narrator is wary, world worn, weary, and both knowledgeable about and soured by the social and economic conditions of London and England, especially the legal system and the poverty and filth of Tom-All-Alone, a grim, crowded, decrepit London neighborhood.

Esther journeys into Tom-All-Alone and bears witness in personal ways to different characters who live there and to the violence, illness, and squalor in their lives. Likewise, through several characters she knows, Esther also experiences the corruption of the legal system.

But, Dickens explores more than the gross injustices, meanness, and depravity of the world of Bleak House. He dives deep into the kindness, generosity, compassion, love, and decency that is alive and at work in this novel's world. Without even a hint of self-congratulation, as Esther narrates her parts of the novel, she emerges as a touchstone of goodness, as does her guardian, Tom Jarndyce, and others in the Jarndyce sphere.

I expected Bleak House to be a darker and grimmer novel than it actually is. Yes, Dickens plunges his reader deep into this novel's world of disease and poverty and into its cynical and labyrinthtine legal system. He also plunges deep into the human capacity to feel and comfort the suffering in others, to minister to others and nurture physical and spiritual/emotional healing, and to experience love, love between family members, love for one's neighbor, and romantic love, too.

Dr. Samuel Johnson's 18th century biographer, James Boswell, recorded Johnson to have said, "By seeing London, I have seen as much of life as the world can show."

Dr. Johnson's nugget is tasty bit of hyperbole, but I felt much the same after reading Bleak House.

It was as if as much life as the world can show, its most grim and its most generous dimensions, are set out before us in this one novel.

2. Debbie and I have been limiting our visits to the grocery store to about one every 7-10 days and, today, we are very close to needing to replenish our pantry, especially our produce.

But even with our limited supply, today  Debbie made a chopped salad of celery, carrots, cabbage, cashews, and garlic. She made a dressing of olive oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, tahini, sesame seeds, and sugar. Debbie also prepared quinoa. So we each fixed ourselves a dinner bowl, combining the chopped salad, dressing, and the grain. It was perfect.

3.  I've seen the movie about 150 times, but never read the book. So, this evening, I started reading All the President's Men. Woodward and Bernstein write in a prose style that is like Charles Dickens' style in one way: it's in English! It will be fun to do some easier reading before I return to 19th century England and read Wilkie Collins' novel The Woman in White once it arrives from Better World Books.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/29/20: *Bleak House* and Fate, Leftovers Transformed, Monty Python and Opie BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1.  For much of the day, I confined myself to the Vizio room and plunged deeper into the tangled story of Bleak House. I am about 90% finished. Oddly enough, I'll be disappointed to finish. I'm experiencing Bleak House as less driven by plot than I might have expected. That's a funny thing to say about a copious novel with countless stories all going on at once. It's remarkable how Dickens keeps them all going, with story lines beginning throughout the book. Many overlap with other stories. Others come to a conclusion -- or seem to -- but are resurrected and take on a new life and then, like Coal Creek flowing into the North Fork of the CdA River, become subsumed in a larger story.

Dickens' returns again and again to the way his characters, and, I'd say, human beings, can become cancers unto themselves. The cancer (my metaphor, not Dickens') originates in one's past. It might be a dark secret. It could be an act of neglect. It might be a habitual way of behaving. It might be the station or the conditions into which a character is born. Whatever it is, this cancer becomes a terrible reminder that, from Dickens' perspective, the past never goes away. Things that happened, things characters did, live in them, often haunt them, shape their personalities, define their masks, and, most importantly, shape their destiny. The good news is that this applies not only to wickedness and injustice, but also to deeds of kindness, of benevolence. Goodness, too, can become a habit. It can also shape one's fate.

With all of this in mind, I'll spend Saturday seeing how this epic tale concludes. There are plenty of questions to be resolved, or left open ended, as I work my way to the end of Bleak House.

2. Debbie transformed previously transformed leftovers into another transformed soup. We have almost finished what started as Portuguese stew. I've lost count of the different ways Debbie has made it into another meal. Debbie also made a leafless (chopped?) salad made of zucchini, Kalamata olives, red onion, feta cheese, and walnuts. She dressed it with a snappy vinaigrette, one I would wager Debbie invented on the spot.

3. I put down Bleak House and joined Debbie to watch less than an hour of news and unrest. I prefer to read about turmoil and look back on it rather than watch it occur live on television and was grateful when we switched gears.

For some unknown reason, something moved me to put Monty Python and the Holy Grail on. As we got further and further into it, I suddenly realized that, over the years, I had watched parts of this movie, but hadn't, to my memory, watched the whole movie straight through.

It's brilliant. It's brilliant not just because its satirical sketches are funny, but also because it's not escapist. As satire, it reveals human folly and the human bent toward violence. Watching it was hilarious and sobering simultaneously.

We capped off our night with The Andy Griffith Show.  Opie harbored a runaway kid from a neighboring town and Andy taught Opie lessons about loyalty and obedience and when it's necessary to bend the rules a bit.



Here's a limerick by Stu:

Past yearbooks aren’t all as they seem.
Pictures showing school pride in extreme.
Drill Team and Pep Club,
Plus, GAA’s a poor sub,
As not one single girl’s on a team.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/28/20: The Flexibility of Novels, New Bill Cunningham Doc, "Follow the Money"

1.  I dedicated most of this day, until about 6:00 this evening, to my continued reading of Bleak House. I remember reading or hearing back in my graduate school days that the beauty of the novel, as a form of story telling, is its flexibility. A novel can easily move its readers forward and backward in time, inside and outside the consciousness of its characters, give us events from a variety of points of view, and, among other things, move readers physically to any geographical location.

Seen this way, Bleak House is a flexible novel. Its astonishing the number of perspectives I've entertained on a wide range of subjects and the story has traveled from a variety of locations in London to Lincolnshire to Deal to India and other places. Dickens transports readers from the story's present moment into the past and character also dream and speculate about the future.

I think if I give most of one or two more days over to this novel, I'll finish it. I'll be much the richer for having experienced so much human life and experience through what happens to the multitude of characters in this story and how they think about and respond emotionally to all that they confront in their lives.

2. First Debbie and I enjoyed a delicious meal of combined leftovers. Debbie combined the already deliciously stretched vegetarian Portuguese Stew with leftover rice and the last of last night's Marcella Hazan tomato sauce. 

We watched watched news programming for a short while and then switched gears.

Earlier today, I scanned a CNET newsletter that listed what's available these days on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video and noticed that a new documentary on Bill Cunningham was available.

Bill Cunningham died in 2016. For decades he worked as a fashion photographer for the New York Times. Cunningham famously rode his bicycle around Manhattan and snapped street pictures of what people were wearing and his pictures were featured on a two page spread in Sunday's paper, accompanied by Cunningham's written commentary.

In 2011, a documentary (Bill Cunningham New York) was released about Cunningham's work and I was eager to see what this new one, The Times of Bill Cunningham, explored that would add to my enjoyment of Cunningham as a photographer and as a person of great enthusiasm and feeling.

The Times of Bill Cunningham featured a long and fascinating interview that Cunningham gave to Mark Bozek, the film's director, back in 1994. As Cunningham talked about his life before he ever started taking pictures, the movie took us back into Cunningham's days breaking into the world of fashion and his early life as a milliner. One thing led to another and Cunningham became obsessed with taking pictures, with documenting the world of fashion, and eventually landed the Times job.

When the movie ended, I told Debbie that the world of fashion is near the bottom of my interests in life, but that I could listen to Bill Cunningham tell stories, offer his insights, and look at his arresting pictures any day. I loved this movie. The Cunningham interview, around which the movie is structured, is fascinating. Cunningham is an irrepressibly animated and generous man, full of verve and humility. His love for New York City (and Paris) is bottomless. The story of his life compelled me to hang on his every word.

Soon, I hope Debbie and I will watch the 2011 movie, Bill Cunningham New York. I watched it not long after it was released, loved it, and am eager to see it again.

By the way, as I always say, I don't recommend movies or books. I enjoy writing about what I enjoy, but I never presume that my often private eccentric pleasures will be anyone else's. I know that watching a movie about an old guy who lives a Spartan life in a cramped studio apartment with a bicycle, a collection of cameras, numerous file cabinets crammed with negatives, piles of notebooks and memorabilia he's collected over the years documenting the history of fashion (and, in turn, the history of New York City [and, to a degree, Paris]), and who is obsessed with how people dress and taking their pictures probably doesn't sound that interesting to many people.

I love these movies, though, and I enjoy letting anyone know so who is willing to read what I have to say!

3. The documentary ended. I was in the mood for some George Dickel Rye Whiskey with bitters over ice. Debbie wasn't ready to hit the hay just yet. We didn't want to watch the news. So, we did what we love to do: we drank a couple of cocktails and, once again, viewed All the President's Men.

And you know what? 

It worked.

Again.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/27/20: Walking Our Bills, Esther Recovers, Marcella Hazan Returns

1. I wrote out some checks for bills today and took a walk to the mail box at the corner of Hill and Cameron and to the drop box at Avista to send them off.  I enjoyed getting my legs in action and getting my heart pumping a little bit -- that such an easy walk got my heart pumping told me, of course, that with the weather improving again, it's time to get out walking more.

2. In today's reading of Bleak House, Dickens continues to explore the impact the unnamed virus that kept Esther bedridden for several weeks has had on her appearance and her frame of mind. Her renewed appreciation of friends and the beauty of the natural world all but cancel out her dismay that she's lost aspects of her original appearance.  I enjoyed Dickens' description of Esther being outdoors again. She and Charley, her maid, make a two day trip to Mr. Boythorn's and Esther experiences the air, sunshine, smells of nature, and other delights of the outdoors as if she's been reborn, experiences them with a rapturous joy.

3. Debbie asked me to make us a dinner featuring Marcella Hazan's spaghetti sauce and I happily complied. I combined two 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes with an onion, peeled and cut into quarters, a dash or two of salt, and about 5-6 tablespoons of butter. I let this simmer for about 45 minutes, removed the onion pieces (we'll use them on Thursday in a separate soup), and we poured the sauce over he spaghetti I prepared. The sauce is the perfect combination of simple and delicious.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/26/20: (Photo Note) *Bleak House* Quarantine, Losing the Dorm Room, Bill Davie LIVE BONUS A Limerick by Stu

Yesterday, I wrote that, as soon as I secured a copy of it,  I would post a picture from our family burger feed on Sunday featuring Debbie, Paul, Christy, Carol, Zoe, and me wearing face coverings Debbie sewed. The picture is at the bottom of today's post. 


1. After a detour to a story involving, primarily, Mr. George and the greedy Grandfather Smallweed, Bleak House once again picked up the story of Esther's illness from a highly contagious virus.  Dickens writes an extended and insightful passage describing Esther's weeks of quarantine,  how the quarantine affects her psychologically, her very slow recovery, and her gradual reunion with those she loves and who care deeply for her as her health improves. 

2. We've been having some new things delivered to the house lately, including a table our Vizio can rest on in the living room. Today Debbie assembled the table. Our television no longer sits on a cardboard box. It meant giving up the dorm room look -- or the look of my apartment on Colfax Road in Spokane in 1982. Consequently, cardboard boxes, as well as some other recyclables, cluttered the garage more than I like, so I made a quick trip to the recycling bin across from the hospital and to the transfer station east of town and now our garage is a little more sleek again.

3. I put some golden raisins in the bottom of a cocktail glass, poured ice over them, added a blend of Meyer's dark rum and E & J brandy, and settled in my chair in the Vizio room for the next of Bill Davie's Tuesday night live hour long concerts from the second level of his and Diane's townhouse -- known as the Treehouse. 

I have tuned in to all eight concerts. I've decided not to send Bill requests. I like thinking of songs I'd like to hear and -- who knows why? -- when Bill plays songs I wish for in my imagination, it gives me a thrill beyond having him play any explicit request. For eight weeks, I've been hoping Bill would play "King of the Art" from his Phobia Robes album and tonight he did. After the concert ended, I joined Debbie in the living room, having refreshed my rum/brandy/golden raisin cocktail. I was unconsciously staring out the window and smiling. Debbie asked me, "What are you smiling about?" I snapped out of my reverie and told her that I was thinking about Bill's song, "King of the Art". I explained the story behind the song -- Bill getting knocked off an open mic by a self-absorbed fellow performer --, but I was also smiling because the song took me back to Bill performing a couple of house concerts at my place in Eugene (pre-Debbie) and, whether he played "King of the Art" or not, in my memory he did and tonight he played another of my favorite songs from that time around, oh, 1994-96, called "Radio On" and I thought of how, while Bill played in the living room at 940 Madison, I slipped into the kitchen, acting like, as host, I was getting food and drinks straightened out, but I really slipped out of sight to dance alone in front of the kitchen sink, reveling in the delight of Bill's songs. 


Here's another limerick by Stu:

Remember when “Boone’s” made a wine? 
Or “Green Springs” itself tasted fine. 
Or “Mad Dog” needs no glass, 
Take a swig and then pass. 
Early memories of fruit of the vine.






The thing I like most about this picture is that we didn't plan for it to look the way it does -- several people who've seen it think it looks like an album cover.  Christy wanted a picture of us wearing masks Debbie sewed. Zoe set the timer on the camera. Paul slid to the floor. Zoe stood near where she'd been sitting. The rest of us stayed in place and we accidentally ended up with this great picture. It was a moment of serendipity and good luck.


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/25/20: Remembering, Family Burger Feed, Back Home BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. I don't know if others do this, but I'm simply following my lights. I spent many years under the tutelage of and working alongside men and women who worked in service to higher education. I've reached the age now where many of the professors whose classes I took and quite a few fellow professors and instructors at the places I taught have died. They were on my mind today, starting with instructors who were my teachers at NIC. I thought a lot about professors I knew at Whitworth and the U of Oregon, where I was both a student and an instructor. I also memorialized deceased fellow instructors I worked with at LCC, both in the department and the division I worked in, and college wide.

It grieved me to think of how many of these influential people are gone. At the same time, I reached back and once again felt the happiness I experienced with so many of them, whether in the classroom or in pursuing our shared mission together of doing the best we could to be of service to our students.

My memorializing thoughts and feelings were also focused on the animals I've lost over the years. We lost both of our corgis in May, Maggie in 2019 and Charly in 2020, and I thought back to my life with Snug and also fondly remembered the many cats I've lived with, although not recently.

I saw posts yesterday on Facebook warning readers that there would be people like me, people who apparently don't know what Memorial Day observes, making posts.

I know what Memorial Day observes. I prayed thanks today for fallen soldiers, especially my uncle, William Earl Woolum, who was killed on the USS Selfridge at the Battle of Vella Lavella in October, 1943.

But, my mind also moved elsewhere, to women and men I knew in person as teachers and to animals I lived with and loved. These teachers and these dogs and cats improved and enhanced many lives, not just mine, and I enjoyed their company today, enjoyed the memories, enjoyed how grateful I felt.

2. Carol and Paul hosted a burger fry on the grill today for Christy, Everett, Zoe, Debbie, and me. We'd planned to dine outside, but rain forced us inside. We are all doing our best to keep physical distance from each other and Carol and Paul's living room is spacious enough that we could do that, but is also intimate enough that we didn't have any problem conversing. Christy brought potato salad. Debbie made a fruit salad. Zoe made home baked hamburger buns (awesome!). Christy made a rhubarb dump cake for dessert.

Debbie has made all of us face coverings for when we go out into public places. Christy asked that we all bring them to today's get together for a picture. Zoe set the timer on her (or someone's) cell phone and snapped pictures of us scattered across the living room, the bottom half of our faces covered. Carol posted the picture in black and white. Debbie cropped Carol's version a bit in a way I really like. I don't have that version of the picture just yet, but when I have it, I'll post it. It's a really good, unplanned, unchoreographed picture and sort of accidentally turned out to be awesome.

3. Back home, I returned to Bleak House. Dickens left his readers hanging by departing from the virus story line and, instead, he took us to London where a most astonishing and unusual death occurred in the building Mr. Krook owns and lives in. A hubbub followed.

After a while, I put down the book and joined Debbie in the living room where we talked for a couple of hours or so about all sorts of things, bringing a very satisfying day to a perfect end.


Today is Sally Ride Day. She was born on May 26, 1951. Stu commemorates this day with a limerick.
Sally Ride died in 2012. May she rest in peace.


Her bravery cannot be denied.
 And her feat was broadcast far and wide.
With resolve on her face,
She shot up into Space.
And the nation responded with pride.