Sunday, April 22, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 04/21/18: Enthralled, Stashed Beer and Edgar Lee Masters, Dinner with Everett

1. I am now reading Joseph Mitchell ravenously. I had no idea that when skyscrapers were sprouting and new bridges were being built all over Manhattan in the early 20th century, especially the 1930s, and that members of the Mohawk tribe from the Caughnawaga Reservation made significant contributions to this construction. Furthermore, I had no idea that these workers fanned out across the country to work on other steel projects nor did I know that many families from this reservation settled in North Gowanus in Brooklyn, in a neighborhood known today as Boerum Hill. This particular Joseph Mitchell piece, "The Mohawks in High Steel" had me darting all over the World Wide Web, looking at maps, viewing historical photographs, reading articles published about the vanishing of the Mohawk people in Brooklyn. Moreover, in my mind, I tried to retrace my steps of the miles I walked back in late June and early July of 2012 in Gowanus and Carroll Gardens and Boerum Hill and Cobble Hill and Atlantic Avenue and the food I ate and the beer I enjoyed at the ChipHouse in this general area in Brooklyn. I felt caught between the deep gratitude I felt for having spent all those days in Brooklyn and a deep longing to return.

I learned a lot more from Joseph Mitchell today: about terrapin farming in Georgia on a farm near Isle of Hope, GA; about clam harvesting off of Long Island; about beefsteak banquets and the differences between East and West beefsteaks in Manhattan; about Manhattan loneliness and quiet despair as portrayed in a handful of Mitchell's short fiction stories. I have just started his fictional account of a young boy observing the local KKK in North Carolina, the state where Joseph Mitchell was born and raised.

2. The Deke and I made a quick visit to the Inland Lounge around 3:00 to say hi to Cas and Tracy and to have a little outing before we bought some groceries at Stein's. Brett came in and sat down a stool away from me at the bar and after a quick moment of making sure we recognized each other, he asked me something he asked the last time we saw each other: "You remember that time when you were in high school and I was just a little kid in the neighborhood and I found all those beers stored in Jacobs Creek in the culvert up by the high school and I was too young to drink it and I found you and told you they were up there and then a day or later or so I went back to the culvert and the beer was gone and I bet you went up there and drank it? Right? Remember?"

I didn't remember that. I know I didn't drink that beer. I only drank beer about four times during my high school years -- by the way, the first time was near that culvert in Jacobs Creek near the high school in August of 1969, but Jimmy, Windy, Hink, and I got our beer that night from Dick, the Kellogg swim team coach, but we paid for it -- we didn't drink someone else's stash.

Brett and talked more about Kellogg and his mom and dad and suddenly Brett said, "You taught the English Arts all those years, right?" "Yes I did." "Then you know Edgar Lee Masters and The Spoon River Anthology?" "I sure do." "I consider myself a Kellogg historian and that's what I want to do -- write the Kellogg version of The Spoon River Anthology. God! I love this place." Before long, the take and bake pizza Brett ordered over the phone from Yoke's was ready for him to pick up and take home to his mom and dad and it was time for the Deke and me to go buy groceries. I shook hands with Cas, said farewell, and the Deke and I left the Lounge.

3. Christy and Carol went to Moscow today. It was Moms' Weekend at the U of Idaho and my sisters joined up with Cosette and Molly and had a fun day together. The Deke and I invited Paul and Everett over for dinner. Paul texted and said he wouldn't be able to make it, but Everett joined us for a dinner expertly prepared by the Deke: stovetop grilled pork chops, a broccoli and cabbage slaw salad,  beautifully sauteed zucchini, and a small glass of red wine. We had a good visit with Everett for nearly two hours before he decided it was time for him to get back with the dogs and cats next door.  Not long after, Christy and Carol arrived back in Kellogg.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 04/20/18: Fast Cars at Sam's, Remodel Decisions, Return of the Deke

1.  Breakfast at Sam's this morning was a lot of fun. Our server loves telling us about her vacations (soon she's going to Palm Springs), her casino trips (whether to Worley, Spokane, or Las Vegas), and her love of vehicles -- her love encompasses vehicles ranging from golf carts to fast cars. I don't know much about cars, but this morning she was fired up because (I think she said) she's going to purchase a car of her dreams, an orange (or is it rust?) Dodge Barracuda. She had a picture of a Dodge Barracuda on her pocket computer and was downright giddy as she showed it to each of us around the table. Later, when some other customers arrived, she showed the car to them, too, and, to be honest, our server is such a wonderful woman, so good at her work, so unpretentious, and so fun to talk with and joke around with, that everyone is really happy for her that she's had a good turn of fortune in her life and can take these vacations, golf trips, casino outings, and buy fast cars. And, she loves working at Sam's.

2. After Shawn left the other day, I went out back and looked again at the back of the house and I doubted that there was room to mount an awning in the way we had planned. I texted him and asked him to drop by, at his convenience, to see if agreed with me. Shawn called this morning to see if we were up and about so he could check on this. He was also troubled by the fact that he'd estimated a cost for bathroom tile that was was under what he found out the actual cost was. He wanted to talk face to face about this discrepancy with us and with Christy (we are both having bathroom remodels done at the same time).

What it all came down to was that we want to do as much business locally as possible and tile at the Furniture Exchange costs more than it would at Lowe's or Home Depot. The Deke, Christy, and I hardly had to think about it when we told Shawn we'd pay the higher price and buy the tile here in Kellogg from the Furniture Exchange. Shawn hung around for a while and shot the breeze over a cup of coffee after we made this decision and after we decided that mounting an awning on the back of the house wouldn't work. Shawn has been consistently conscientious with us in every aspect of the work he's done on our house and I was, one again, very appreciative of his conscientiousness today.

3.  Having been gone for a month meant that the Deke hadn't been to the Inland Lounge for quite a while, so we went up right as it opened at three o'clock so we could shoot the breeze with Cas and Tracy. Not long after we arrived, Ed came in and enjoyed a beer or two and ordered Nancy some food from Wah Hing and all three of us saw other people we knew -- Ed and Jim (Sr.) Miller, Mike Grebil, Mr. and Mrs. Glen Higbee, Clarence, Betty, and Brian Moore, and the Inland Lounge scene grew into a very enjoyable crowd of mostly people our age and older enjoying one another before either going across the street for a burger at the Elks or up the street to dance at the Kellogg Senior Center.

When the Deke and I arrived home, I fried three strips of bacon and then put frozen green beans in the skillet and let them cook together. I roasted a sheet of sliced onions and baby carrots. I then prepared the two of us each a small flatiron steak. Steak. Green beans with bacon. Roasted carrots and onions. Our dinner crowned a nearly perfect day.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 04/19/18: Taking it Easy, More Joseph Mitchell, Salmon with Spinach and Mushrooms

1.  This morning, at some point, I asked the Deke if she wanted to do something today. She didn't, really. She wanted to take the day to continue to get acclimated to PST some more, rest from all her travels over the last month, and take it easy. That sounded good to me, so I joined her in taking it easy, napping, and having a quiet day around the house.

2. This book, Up in the Old Hotel, I'm reading is a long book. Joseph Mitchell writes copiously in long paragraphs about his subjects and I love feasting on all this detail, whether he's describing the Manhattan cityscape or bringing one of the persons he's profiling alive. The pieces are a bit long. I'm reading this book very slowly and I enjoyed indulging in the world of NYC gypsies again. His first gypsy profile centered on Johnny Nikanov, presented as the king of the gypsies. The second longer profile focused on women gypsies and their elaborate schemes to con unsuspecting and troubled women out of all kinds of money. It was painful to read how they were able to trick entire life savings out of some of their marks, but, again, the detail and the depth of Mitchell's reporting fascinated me.

In another piece I read today, Mitchell eulogizes a favorite old gin mill, Dick's Bar and Grill, located on a narrow street near the Brooklyn Bridge, but now closed because Dick opened a shiny new bar with nearby. Mitchell laments the loss of the grittiness and chaos of the old place and can hardly bear that the new establishment is so nice. And clean. And polite. And orderly. 

3.  When the Deke is out of town, I cook for myself, I experiment with food a bit, and I enjoy it, but I don't have to cook very often because a roast or a chicken or a pot of turkey soup will last me three, even four days. Now I am getting back into the swing of daily cooking for both of us. Today I sauteed a half a pound of sliced mushrooms in one skillet and wilted a container of fresh spinach, dampened with balsamic vinegar, in the other, combined them, and put them on a plate and covered them with aluminum foil. Meanwhile, I roasted a head and a half of cauliflower florets at 400 degrees for nearly a half an hour.

When the Deke returned home from doing some window shopping at Furniture Exchange and having a glass of wine at Hill St. Depot, I seared a small chunk of salmon on the gas range grill. In one of our wide and shallow bowls, I created a bed of the spinach and mushrooms, halved the salmon chunk and placed each chunk on the bed, topped the chunks each with a slice of lemon, and created a circle of cauliflower around the salmon.  The Deke and I were astonished that such a simple meal could have so much flavor and texture and be so pleasing.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 04/18/18: Money Morning, Dad's Blue Datsun Pickup, Radio Brewing

1. The Deke and I wanted to get some financial things in our life clarified, so we had a money morning today. I enjoyed everything we did: we discussed outstanding obligations, assessed how our situation looks today, and started a wish list. I paid bills. We also realized that we needed to Shawn about the next remodeling project that is starting next week. I texted Shawn, invited him over this afternoon, telling him we needed to make sure we had everything he was doing and what it would cost straight in our minds.

2. While Christy and the Deke were attending their book group this afternoon, I hustled over to Yoke's to buy some beer for Shawn's visit and pick up a few other things. While strolling by the onions, garlic, and avocados, I walked near a man wearing a Yankees cap with a toothpick in his mouth, a man older than I am. "You're Woolum, aren't you?" I didn't recognize him. I said yes and I think he could tell I didn't know who he was. "Hello, I'm Rich Edwards. You remember that little blue Datsun pickup your dad had years ago?" "Yes!" "Well, I sold your dad that pickup. He said he wanted it to go golfing." I shook my head in marveled disbelief and we stood there for several minutes and Rich told me was shopping because his wife had slipped on the ice back in February and broken bones in her leg. He thought she'd be healed up some time this summer. We shook hands and I headed off to the dairy cooler and he headed toward the lettuce and carrots.  (By the way, if you were to look back several days on this blog, you'll read that I met Rich's cousin, Kelly, at the Inland Lounge on Saturday.)

3.  Shawn dropped by. I popped open each of us a bottle of Ninkasi's Believer, a fine double red ale, and we got everything straightened out and, if I'm not mistaken, we made additions to the project. After Shawn left, the Deke and I decided to go uptown to Radio Brewing. We grabbed a stool at the front bar, each ordered a short strong ale, and some food. For the first time, I tried the delicious chicken pot pie at Radio and the Deke enjoyed a salad. It was fun just to relax together after being apart for a month and continuing to get caught up about what we did while apart and starting to look at what the near future looks like for us.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 04/17/18: Spiffing Up the House, Off to GEG, Driving the Deke Back to the Valley

1. I got up this morning and figured what with the Deke coming home this evening, it would be the perfect day to clean the house. I cleaned the stove, counters, dishwasher, sink, refrigerator (inside and out); I dust mopped the floors, vacuumed the living room rug, and cleaned the bathroom; I laundered our bedding and made the bed. I wrapped things up by going to the store and purchasing the groceries the Deke had asked me to have on hand. I put the groceries away and surveyed the house, satisfied with a good day's work. The place looked pretty good.

2. I took off for the Spokane airport (GEG) a little bit early so that I could fuel up in Coeur d'Alene and grab a sandwich, having sort of forgotten to eat a meal during the day.

3.  I parked in the cell phone parking lot and wasn't there very long before a text message chimed in and I read the magic words, "Got my bag".  I revved up the Sube and blasted my way to the terminal. The Deke swung her bag into the Sube and leapt in the front seat. We briefly embraced and soon we were headed to the Silver Valley, gabbing about the Deke's trip, family news in both the east and the west, how things are in Kellogg, and what we've each listened to lately regarding the news.  We arrived home tired, happy to be back together, and looking forward to a good night's sleep and being able to talk some more over our coffee in the morning.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 04/16/18: Christy's Slideshow Tribute to Mom, Organizing Paper, Braised Curried Chicken

1. My day was underway in the usual way -- dogs fed, coffee brewed, hot cereal nearly cooked, my daily writing begun -- when I see Christy has made a post on Facebook she had told us at family dinner was forthcoming. I stopped everything to watch it. It's a stirring series of photographs, a slideshow, accompanied by music, of Mom's Celebration of Life, the reception at Paul and Carol's that followed, the committal of her ashes, and moments from the span of her life from when she was a child to when she was in the nursing home. If you haven't seen this video, I hope you will watch it. It beautifully portrays the love Mom gave to those in her life and the bounty of love so many others gave her.

The video is right here.

2. I spent the day sorting out personal papers, reviewing bills, going back through papers of Mom's and deciding what to keep and what to dispose of, and doing some preparation for filing our 2018 taxes next year. I decided I didn't want to chase down tax documents in a year that I already have on hand now, so I organized them. 

3. I had a couple of chicken thighs on hand. I heated up oil in the Dutch oven and seared both sides of the salted, peppered, and garlic powdered thighs. Meanwhile, I made a mixture of coconut milk, green curry paste, fish sauce, soy sauce, and brown sugar. I removed the thighs from the Dutch oven, drained off the excess hot oil, and put lemon slices, cauliflower florets, and broccoli crowns at the bottom of the pan and put the chicken on top. I poured the coconut milk mixture over it all, put the lid on the Dutch oven, and let it all cook at 275 degrees. I checked the vegetables a couple of times, not wanting to overcook them and ended up removing them about ten or fifteen minutes before the chicken was cooked through.

This was a delicious meal, one I made up just by calling upon past experience with curry sauces and braising. I enjoyed the slight heat and the subtle sweetness and the spices of the curry sauce and especially enjoyed how the vegetables and chicken absorbed these flavors.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 04/15/18: Day Trip, Superb Family Dinner, To the Grocery Store (Finally)

1. Not long after I finished my morning routines, I leapt into the Sube, drove to Kingston, and picked up Ed. We pulled into the Cash and Carry store in CdA so Ed could pick up some supplies for the Subway restaurant Nancy manages and then we headed to the CdA Casino in Worley. We had a good ride down and talked about a lot of different things. Once at the casino, I played for a little while and it became obvious I was having a lousy day, so I quit playing before too long. I hate trying to spend myself out of bad luck! I won't do it.  I went to the deli and had a bagel and a cup of coffee, wishing I had brought a book, and wandered around a bit. Ed seemed to be having better luck than I did and I caught up with him before too long and enjoyed watching him play until he was ready to go. We had another great session of solving the world's problems on the trip back home and returned to the Silver Valley very early in the afternoon.

2. Christy hosted tonight's family dinner. We ate dinner in the shed she has worked so hard to have remodeled and that she has elegantly decorated. I especially enjoyed that we were in the shed while there was still daylight and and enjoyed the way light comes into Christy's space. Dinner was superb. We began with a glass of wine and a toast to Christy and Carol's success in changing their eating habits and their success at steadily losing weight. Our dinner was a masterpiece, all prepared within the limits of Christy and Carol's dietary plan. Christy slow cooked a meatloaf in the crock pot and served it with sides of steamed cabbage and a crisp, fresh green salad. Different things going on the next two Sundays will, I think, keep us from having family dinner. I'll miss getting together, and look forward to resuming in May. It's going to be really fun when (if?) the weather warms up and we can begin to eat outside.

3. I've been a cross between lazy and negligent about getting to the grocery store lately, so I braved this evening's monsoon conditions of wind and rain and stocked up on a few things at Yoke's. I'm especially happy to know that I have just what I need to fix myself dinner on Monday evening.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 04/14/18: I'm Pert Woolum's Kid, The Greek and the One-Eyed Elk, Chicken-Fried Steak

1. Last night, over at Corby's in Post Falls, Dave Corbeil mused that it was about time for his wife and him to hit the Silver Valley. The late Floyd Williams' wife, Mikey, was having an 80th birthday celebration at the Broken Wheel at 1:00 and he wanted to wish her well and see some old friends. Dave told me several times that I ought to come over to the Broken Wheel and I was vague in my response, but I knew I wouldn't go to this party because I didn't really know Mikey nor do I really know her sons. If I really knew Floyd's brother, Rollie, former North Idaho College basketball coach, it would have been fun to see him, but we don't really know each other at all. 

I did respond to Dave, however, that since he was going to hit the Valley, he oughta come up to The Lounge and see Cas and that I'd be sure to be there around three o'clock. Turns out that Byrdman also thought he might hit the Valley himself, and, true to his word, he did.

As the late afternoon unfolded at the Inland Lounge, it became a great scene. Dave Corbeil arrived. After he told Byrdman and me about his afternoon tour of the Kellogg bars up to that point he left us and started yakkin' with Kelly Edwards, an old friend of my dad and of Dad's old golfing buddy from Las Vegas, Joe Estes, and I heard Kelly exclaim from the end of the bar, "That's Pert Woolum's kid?" so I shuffled down to him, introduced myself, and he laughed and couldn't tell me enough how much he misses my dad and Joe Estes and kept saying, "So you're Pert Woolum's kid? I'll be damned."

2. As the scene continued to swell at the Inland Lounge, Cas was telling me a great story about
when he and Billy "The Greek" Manthos, whiskey flasks in their tuxedo jacket pockets, served as ushers outside some Catholic church at Ab's wedding in Missoula. Both of us were startled when about fifteen minutes later, who strolled in The Lounge? That's right. The Greek himself. The Greek waded through the crowd by the door -- Corby, Kelly, Ed Miller, John Sevy, Tom Sawyer, and others and made his way to where Byrdman and I were seated and told me all about how he'd heard I'd moved back to Kellogg, how he lived in CdA now, and how much he missed my dad.

Later, John Sevy added to the emerging theme of the afternoon and told me how much he missed my dad. Many of you reading this know that my dad was blind in one eye -- Joe Estes loved calling him a one-eyed fat man (and other colorful words to follow "one-eyed") -- and so John told me a story I'd never heard before. Dick Listoe and John Sevy hunted together. On one trip, John bagged an elk whose horns on one side of the rack were a bit deformed and a knot on the horns had grown over one of the elk's eyes. Dad caught wind somehow that "John Sevy had killed a one-eyed elk". Sevy got toward the end of his story and started laughing and said, "I sure miss your Dad. I guarantee you, if he were alive today and he walked in this joint, he'd see me and right away this whole bar would know that I was John Sevy, killer of a one-eyed elk." I laughed and told him that was a great story and agreed with him: vintage Pert Woolum.

3.  The crowd thinned out a bit and Byrdman left to return to CdA. Corby left. The Greek and others went across the street to the Elks Club where they were having a ceremonial dinner to honor longtime members, name the Elk of the Year, and other things. Ed was over there to receive his twenty year pin. I had told him Friday at breakfast to come over to The Lounge after the dinner, that I'd like to see him and Nancy and his pin.

So, I'd been nursing about one short V. O. and water every forty-five minutes over the last three hours or so and was starting to think I'd go somewhere for a quick bite to eat and come back to see Ed. My plan was to ask Cas to have Ed text me when he got there and I'd rush right back up.

But, no sooner did I devise this plan in my head, then Cas told me they had extra chicken-fried steak dinners over at the Elks and asked if I wanted to order one to be delivered for 12 bucks. Perfect! Cas kept my ice water glass filled. Julie delivered the dinners from the Elks. I didn't have to leave to have dinner! Then, lo and behold, just as I was about half way through my chicken-fried steak, Ed and Nancy strolled in. We didn't have a drink. Ed showed me his pin. We made plans to go to CdA and Worley on Sunday. Ed and Nancy left to go home. I finished my dinner, drank more water, and returned home. It was a truly epic late afternoon at The Lounge.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 04/13/18: Capone's in Post Falls, Downdraft, Corby's

1. I gassed up the Sube and rocketed west to the CdA, the Lake City, swung by Byrdman's house, and we headed out to spend a few hours in Post Falls, ID. Our first stop was Capone's for sandwiches and a beer. Neither of us had been to Capone's West before and it was fun to see that it's built, like the mothership CdA Capones, with dedication to neighborly atmosphere, tons of sports memorabilia, more beer taps than tables, and basic food: sandwiches, burgers, pizza, and appetizers.

2. When Byrdman and I arrived at Downdraft Brewing, it had just opened for the day and none of the Friday crowd had begun to stream in. We were served by the owner and brewer herself, Ginger, and it turned out that she is married to Josh Cantamessa, son of the late Jeff Cantamessa who was at the center of much that is alive and vital in Wallace. Byrdman's wife, Steph, is from Wallace and has been friends with the Cantamessas for many, many years and it was a blast talking with Ginger about Wallace and the Cantamessa family, as well as absorbing her beer expertise. She took us back to the brewing area and gave us a brief tour and, while in the tasting room, we talked about the different beer styles she brews and how business is going at Downdraft. Downdraft had closed back in November and Ginger and Josh reopened it as the new owners in January. It's my favorite kind of brewery: small operation, excellent beer, innovative beer ambitions, cozy, and very friendly. I look forward to returning. 

3. Every 4-6 weeks, a bunch of us guys who graduated from Kellogg High School meet up at Corby's in Post Falls for a couple of beers and to see the owner, Dave Corbeil (KHS, Class of 67). Today, Lars, Stu, Byrdman, and I met and Dave (Pappy) Corbeil came in later. He'd been to the funeral of former CdA Viking basketball coach, Dean Lundblad. He told us about some of the CdA basketball players who attended the funeral and the reception at the CaddyShack. This led to some great yakkin' about high school basketball in North Idaho fifty years ago and, at one point, the conversation circled around to how much better Kellogg's teams could have been if guys like Bob and John Pegg or Jack Morris or quite a few others hadn't moved from Kellogg to CdA or Spokane. It's sure fun to think back and relive times when we were kids, played a ton of basketball at the Y, and played other sports around the neighborhood, monitoring ourselves, organizing the games ourselves, and not relying solely on Little League or other organized leagues in order to get some games together. I guess the closest we come to doing that now is to organize get togethers like this evening's and talk about the playing we used to do!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 04/12/18: Quiet Day, NYCity Stories, Visit Next Door

1. I stayed home today. The corgis were at peace all day, doing little more than rising up from the prone position only to find a different place -- the living room rug, the queen bed, the love seat, or their crate -- to resume lying down. I listened to a variety of news podcasts, continuing to learn more about the multiple things going on this week with Facebook, Syria, and other complex stories.

2. I also retreated back in time to the 1930s and 1940s in New York City by returning to more profiles by Joseph Mitchell. I learned about gypsy life in NYC at that time, a man on a mission to eradicate the world of profanity, another man who tramped across the United States and wrote checks for as much as 25,000 dollars to people who poured him a cup of coffee or fixed him some food, and the Union League of the Deaf.

3. Finally, at about 7:30 p.m., I left the house and paid Christy and Everett a visit. We yakked for a while about Christy's trip to CdA today, my road trip yesterday, our upcoming house remodeling projects, and other things. It was a relaxing way to bring a very quiet and relaxing day to a close.