Thursday, January 21, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 01-20-21: Today's Inauguration, Braising Pork, *World of Wonders*

1. Until today, I'd never seen a Presidential Inauguration. As a boy, I was always in school. As an adult, I was either at work or, if not working, lived in a household without a television. So, this morning, I tuned in, shortly before the swearings in of Vice-President Harris and President Biden. I didn't expect to be choked up so often. Lady Gaga moved me. So did Jennifer Lopez. So did Garth Brooks. Tears rolled down my face when Andrea Hall signed and spoke the Pledge of Allegiance. Amanda Gordon astonished and moved me. Our son-in-law Hiram, who played in the last two inaugurations with the President's Own Marine Band, had this one off, so I didn't need to strain my eyes trying to find him, but I sure enjoyed the band's performances. 

I'll always miss living near Washington, D.C. Most of all, I miss the great variety of people who live where I lived for three years. Washington, D.C., and the surrounding suburbs, enriched me as I heard so many different ways of speaking, heard so many languages, saw so many different ways to dress and wear one's hair, lived where I could shop at food markets from around the world, eat the cuisine of many cultures, and have conversations with people whose backgrounds and ways of experiencing the world differed widely from mine. As I watched today's Inauguration, I know that what moved me, in part, was that the variety I cherish so much in the USA was on stage. I know that neither an inaugural program nor President Biden's inaugural speech will unify our country. I don't expect that. But, this inauguration and President Biden's speech set a conciliatory tone and established a yearning for unity in our country. That moved me. 

2. For maybe twenty minutes, I listened to some analysis of the Inauguration, but decided that I didn't really want to hear people talk about it. I wanted what I'd experienced to settle inside me, uncommented on.  The small chunk of today's proceedings was all I wanted to watch. I wanted to preserve it within me. I didn't tune in for the music, speeches, and fireworks that I understand came later in the day. 

Instead, I cooked for a while. I took out the small pork roast I marinated in green curry, let it warm to room temperature, and then I braised it for several hours on the stovetop in the the green curry that I didn't use in the marinate. 

Overall, cooking the roast this way was a success. I removed the pork roast from the braise, cut it up, put some rice and pork in a bowl and poured braise over it. I enjoyed this dinner and am beginning to think that a kind of curry pork soup might be coming up next.

3. Having finished The Yellow House, today I read most of Aimee Nezhukumatathil's book, World of Wonders. The book is a series of short lyrical meditations. Each meditation focuses on a single flower or tree or insect or animal or another subject (e. g. monsoons, being a mother for the first time) and Nezhukaumatathil connects what she sees in the natural world with her personal experience, giving much attention, inevitably, to her experience as a brown-skinned girl and woman in the different parts of the United States where she's lived. It's an intriguing and beautiful way of exploring the wonders of the natural world and of writing a memoir. It's unlike any book I've ever read. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 01-19-21: Marinating Pork, No Tidy Ending, Tree House Concert BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. I'm hoping that the small pork roast I took out today, covered with a Thai rub, poked slits in with a paring knife, and marinated in my recent green curry will braise well on Wednesday. I'm looking forward to the results of this experiment.

2. I finished The Yellow House today and admired that much like the subject matter of the book itself, Sarah M. Broom's memoir did not draw to a tidy close, suggesting that the impact of living in New Orleans East and of Hurricane Katrina is ongoing, never reaches a neat conclusion.

3. I poured myself a small drink, what I'll call a "limeless margarita", by combining Cointreau and 1800 tequila over a little ice and tuned in to tonight's Tree House Concert. Bill took us back to some of his early songs, including the great, "Mornings", and read beautifully from the poetry of Robert Bly and introduced us to an old Arabic and Islamic form of poetry called the ghazal (pronounced "guzzle"). 

The concert ended just as the nail-biting game between Villanova and Seton Hall was drawing to a close, so I got to see the Wildcats, after a 27 day Covid pause, squeak out a 76-74 win. 

Win.
Win. 

Here's a limerick by Stu: 

A day like no other is here. 
There’s moping by some, others cheer. 
But regardless of view, 
Your future’s all up to you. 
Let’s learn from mistakes in our rear.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 01-18-21: Dental Spa, New Orleans East, Natural History

 1. In contrast to the torturous experience dental appointments were in my youth, over the last twenty years or so, thanks to advances in dentistry, I've begun thinking of these visits as going to the dental spa. I am relaxed, cared for, and cleaned up. It's almost entirely painless. Afterward, my mouth feels fresh and my teeth look better. My regimen of brushing and cleaning is working. Today, my exam was a positive one and I'll return for another cleaning in May.

2. I suppose it was inevitable. Sarah M. Broom moved back to New Orleans and rented a small apartment in the French Quarter. In writing The Yellow House, she is driven to investigate as much as she can about her family and about the city's neglect of New Orleans East, especially after Hurricane Katrina. Living in the the French Quarter greatly improved Sarah M. Broom's proximity to government offices, the public library, and other place where she could dive into property records, zoning regulations, and other documents along with being not too far from where her mother lives, fairly close to her brother Carl, and within reach of the lot where the yellow house once stood before the city demolished it. 

I didn't quite finish this book last night, but I'm close. It's difficult for me to sum up the level of neglect and indifference Sarah M. Bloom describes and how invisible the poverty, dilapidation, and despair of New Orleans East is, especially after Hurricane Katrina. Almost the only time any one pays attention to this ward of New Orleans is when killings happen -- and so, as with so many urban areas, in the public eye, crime, especially murder, comes to define these places. 

3. I'm starting to think ahead about what to read next. It's possible that the book I enjoyed most in 2020 was Lucy Cooke's The Unexpected Truth About Animals. I've been reading history, poetry, fiction, and memoir. I have more history, a biography, more poetry, and another memoir piled right next to me here in the living room to read.

But, I think I'm going to focus on plants and animals for a while. I'm definitely going to read Aimee Nezhukumatathil's World of Wonders next. I have two books about whales in my bookshop.org shopping cart and today I discovered a writer who lives in Spokane, Ben Goldfarb, and his book about beavers looks irresistible. I might welcome a break from reading about humans and spending a few weeks in nature. 

Monday, January 18, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 01-17-21: Vigorous ZOOM Talking, Enchilada Dinner, Windstorm and Family Trees

 1. Bill, Diane, Val, Bridgit, and I jumped on ZOOM this afternoon. Part of our discussion was spent talking about history and how knowing what's come before us over the span of our nation's history creates some context for the Jan. 6th occupation of the Capitol building. 

Later, we veered into a discussion of art, especially poetry and music, and the marketplace. We bemoaned the marketplace, lamented the inevitable influence of money. The marketplace and its appetite for profit dictates what art is readily available for us: what music we hear, what performers are accessible, what poetry gets published, and so on. At the same time, we expressed gratitude for writing groups, small music venues, small publishers of books, small magazines, Live Facebook, and other other ways, mostly under the radar, that we can experience the arts. It was also fun talking about live performances being almost always preferable to music made in studios, the power of producers, and how fortunate we've all been to hear so much superb music in coffee houses, taverns, small rooms, living rooms, and other more intimate venues. 

This discussion of the arts was connected to the work Bill is doing right now to self-publish a volume of his poetry. The project has taken a significant turn in the last few days since Diane, at Bill's request, became more actively involved helping Bill edit the volume. Bill and Diane explained how Diane advised that maybe Bill's original concept for organizing the book and his initial ideas for which poems to include needed a second look. As a result, the project is moving in a different direction that Bill seems happier with, a direction made possible by Diane's honest articulation of how his original approach affected her. 

These discussions were awesome. 

2. Christy prepared incredibly delicious chicken enchiladas for tonight's family dinner. She also prepared a stunning shrimp cocktail for a starter. Carol and Paul provided chips and salsa, sour cream, and guacamole to augment our meal. I was in charge of cocktails and, thanks to Debbie, introduced a new vessel to drink from and a new cocktail to our Sunday proceedings. First, Debbie sent us all a silver insulated Yeti tumbler for our family dinner cocktails -- the drinks stay cold and undiluted -- the ice doesn't melt. Second, a little bit ago she told me that she's been enjoying a variation on the Moscow Mule made with tequila -- it's called either a Tequila Mule or a Mexican Mule. I found a simple recipe that includes Cointreau, which I keep on hand, and we all agreed that it was a superb cocktail.

3. I had quite a day for great conversation today. Christy, Carol, Paul, and I were all over the place this evening. We dipped in and out of the subject of the current national news, but actually gave more of our attention to wind storm stories (who has power? what trees have fallen? who served community food?) and to the histories of different people in Kellogg. When we discuss who graduated when, who is married to whom, who was married to whom, who left Kellogg when, who lives in what house where, who used to live in what house where, and so on, an onset of Silver Valley vertigo comes over me. It's funny. 

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 01-16-21: Grievous Discovery, Family Dinner Prep, Sarah M. Broom Leaves City Hall

 1. This morning, I was letting myself be transported back to the two years I taught at Whitworth in the early 1980s (1982-84) and to the other years of that decade when I lived in Eugene by listening to 1980s New Wave Music on Pandora. Two Thompson Twins songs, "Hold Me Now" and "Doctor, Doctor" called up memories of a memorable student of mine from 1984, Brian Senter. He was in two of my classes (The Family in American Drama and Intro to Lit). About ten years after I left Whitworth, Diane Anderson and I  went to see him perform in the play "Bus Stop" at the Seattle Repertory Theater (I think) and two times after that Brian looked me up in Eugene when he was in town to visit another former Whitworth student, Richard. After his second visit, I lost track of Brian and so today I put his name in a search engine and his obituary came up. Brian died in an automobile-pedestrian accident in 2015. 

This news stabbed me. I am a slow feeling person. I am entering into a long slow grief now. From reading his obituary, I know Brian served his students passionately and with love, lived faithfully in the embrace of the Orthodox Church, was a beloved husband and father, and was deeply respected and admired. Knowing he lived well gives me solace. Knowing he died is grievous.

2. I will mix our cocktails for family dinner on Sunday. We will be having enchiladas, chips, salsa, and other similar food, so I bought a bottle of 1800 silver tequila at the liquor store and stocked up on limes and ginger beer and am prepared to make everyone a Mexican Mule, but, if anyone so desires, I can also whip up a quick Cointreau margarita.

3. I read more of The Yellow House today. Sarah M. Broom worked as long as she could in Burundi. She returned to New Orleans, though, and worked as a writer for the mayor, Ray Nagin, as the slow and painful recovery from Hurricane Katrina proceeded. The city was a mess with its piles of refuse, badly compromised street draining systems, houses either destroyed or in disrepair, its growing number of homeless citizens, its relief programs mired in bureaucracy, and more. Sarah M. Broom left this job after six months, exhausted, concluding that working for city hall placed her on the wrong side of the fence. She returned to New York to reclaim her voice, a voice temporarily lost to producing words for Mayor Nagin to speak. 

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 01-15-21: *The Yellow House* and New Orleans, Green Curry, Sirloin Tip Pork Roast

 1. As I move deeper into Sarah M. Broom's lyrical, evocative, and disturbing memoir, The Yellow House, I am growing increasingly absorbed by her style of writing and what she writes about. While, yes, her story focuses on her family's history, her mother's story, the stories of her eleven siblings, and on her own experiences and inward thoughts as she matures out of childhood and adolescence into adulthood, this book is always about New Orleans. 

I should say it's always about New Orleans East, in case when I wrote "New Orleans" you immediately pictured the French Quarter, elegant hotels, jazz music coming out of one joint after another, countless vendors selling hurricanes and margaritas dispensed from slurpee machines, some of the world's finest dining, and, of course, the exuberance of Carnival concluding with Mardi Gras. 

The yellow house of this book's title is in New Orleans East, a vicinity of New Orleans fifty times larger than the French Quarter and the site of exaggerated promises, shoddy development, dashed hopes, and water. When the levees first broke in late August and early September of 2005 as Hurricane Katrina pounded New Orleans, the first place to be submerged in unimaginably deep, filthy, toxic, and powerful surges of water was New Orleans East. Sarah M. Broom lived in Harlem in 2005. She worked for O Magazine. But several family members endured Katrina. 

Reading the stories of her family members, I thought back to the time of Katrina. I was in suburban Chicago. I went to a barbecue where I sat in stunned silence as people at this get together, professional, upper-ish middle class suburbanites, could only blame the victims of the storm, especially people like Sarah M. Broom's family, black, getting by, people of limited means. "Why didn't they just leave? I don't feel sorry for them. They chose to stay. Why do they live there anyway? Don't they know it's below sea level? What did they think would happen?"

The people at this party, as well as a man I later dined with at Denny's after a Bears football game, were completely hypnotized and outraged by the one thing the television networks seemed most obsessed with: looting and other crimes. The people I was around feasted on rumors about and any footage the networks showed of black people acting in ways that confirmed their cruelest preconceptions of black people being uncivilized and lawless. They delighted in having these preconceptions, in their minds, confirmed. 

Sarah M. Broom tells a different story of Katrina as experienced by her mother and some of her sisters and brothers.  It's about separation, desperation, fear, escape, relocation, helping others, togetherness, love, rescue, and, ultimately, relief that, in time, all were accounted for. 

By the way, not once in her book does Sarah M. Broom ask readers to feel sorry for her or her family; nor does she solicit our pity. Whatever a reader feels rises out of the story's details, out of Sarah M. Broom's eloquence.

I have about 150 pages to go in this enthralling memoir. When I wrapped up my reading, Sarah M. Broom had just quit her job at O Magazine and moved to Burundi. 

2. I took a break from The Yellow House and wrapped a cubed block of tofu in paper towels to drain the water from it. Meanwhile, I heated up a couple of tablespoons of green curry paste, added two cans of coconut milk, two tablespoons of soy sauce, fish sauce, and brown sugar to it. I had chopped up some fresh basil leaves and dropped those in along with about three dried kaffir lime leaves. I had sliced an onion and added the slices to this mix and put in the tofu cubes and let it slow cook until the onions were tender. 

Earlier, I had made cooked a large batch of chewy white rose rice and not only did I enjoy a bowl of this green curry over the rice for dinner, I have plenty of leftovers. I hope I remember to add green beans to this curry. Maybe some broccoli, too. I just wasn't thinking very clearly when I made the original batch. 

3.  Once a month, Carol and Paul make a trip to Costco and pick up whatever I ask them to. Today, I requested something I've never bought before. A couple of weeks ago, Carol and Paul prepared a small pork roast for family dinner and mentioned that it was one of three or four small roasts that come in a pack at Costco.

Christy gave me several tins of rubs for my birthday and I decided that a pack of these roasts would be perfect some experimenting with them. 

I haven't made any decisions, yet, but the thought of moving my cooking in yet another direction excited me today when Paul delivered the groceries I ordered. 

Friday, January 15, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 01-14-21: Game Changer, Reading in the Sunlight, Power Returns - So Does *Midnight Diner*

1.  Last night, Christy told me something I'd never thought of. (Get ready. It's one of those things almost every person I know would have known.) She told me that our neighbor Jane told her it was a good thing I had a gas range because I could manually light my burners. In my long and patchy life, every single time I've lit up a burner on a gas range, I've used the built-in electric starter. 

First thing I did this morning when I woke up in front of Christy's fireplace, stretched out in her recliner?

I watched a YouTube video about lighting a gas burner when the power is out. 

Christy just happened to have an unopened Bic long-range butane lighter on hand, gave it to me, and, once I'd shaken the morning cobwebs, I returned to my refrigerated house, fired up the Bic, turned on a burner, put the flame next to where the gas comes out, and PRESTO!, I could boil water and cook.

I immediately made Christy a thermos of boiling water and myself a cup of coffee.  I nearly filled the Dutch oven with water, put it on the most powerful burner, and brought it to a boil so I'd have some hot water for miscellaneous things I might want to do later. 

Knowing I can manually light my gas range's burner is, to quote Debbie, a game changer. For you reading this, it might be hilarious that I could so ignorant not knowing about lighting the burners manually. That's okay. Really. I can take it. Laugh it up! For me, it's just a simple case of better late than never having learned such a game changing fact.

2. With the power out, I was grateful that today turned out to be mostly sunny day. The natural light in the living room made reading easy and, as the sun moved west, more and more warmth poured into the living room. I dove back into The Yellow House. I'm loving it. I comforted myself with a bowl of steaming oatmeal with raisins, blueberries, and peanut butter with milk. Cas texted me to make sure I was doing all right. Like Carol and Paul, his power had been restored at home and at the Lounge earlier in the day. He also offered Christy firewood if she ran low. 

Not being able to busy myself with much else and being physically fairly comfortable, I leaned into the power outage. I read. I napped in the living room chair. I updated Debbie once in a while. I did the same with Stu. 

I was especially grateful for the sunlight.

3. Around 3:00, I heated up the marinara sauce and meatballs I had left over from Sunday's dinner and I boiled about 3/4s of a pound of penne, thinking that I was ready for a hot meal and knowing Christy would, no doubt, also enjoy this food.

Then, just before 4:00, after 32 hours, the power popped back on. The furnace kicked on. Slowly the house warmed up. 

I thought of two things: I can run the dishwasher and I can catch up on my blog. 

Christy came over with a container and returned home with penne and meatballs. 

As I was blogging away, Terry and Stu both sent me messages about the Zags game that had started at 6 p.m.

I was so eager to catch up on my blogging, that I forgot all about the basketball game. 

Power outage amnesia.

I decided not to flip it on. The house was quiet. I was enjoying writing. So I kept an eye on the score online, got a few more messages from Byrdman, Terry, and Stu, and got caught up.

When I turned in for the night, I watched one episode of Midnight Diner in bed, a sublime, moving father/daughter story. I didn't watch any others, contemplated what I'd just seen, and felt happy that I had decided about a month ago not to binge watch this series, but to watch it one or two episodes at a time so that each elegant story sinks in.

This episode's featured dish was sauced yakisoba with a fried egg on top. This meal played an essential and profound part in this episode's story. I don't want to give how or why away. 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 01-13-21: New Book for the Power Outage, Christy's Fireplace, Sleeping with Cats

 1. I had settled in this morning, enjoyed a couple cups of coffee, was getting ready to head up to the clinic to meet my appointment with the nephrologist. My lab results came in this morning and I studied them, hoping that Dr. Bieber would agree with me that things still look pretty stable, albeit with a little slippage.

Then, around 8:00, the power went off.  Dr. Bieber's office called. My 9:00 appointment was off and we rescheduled. 

So, of course, I wondered how long this outage would last. The winds had been howling all night and continued to whip through our area all morning and into the late afternoon. The big tree in front of the Tall Pine drive-in in Pinehurst blew down. I hundred foot tree just east of Jim Byrd's house dropped across Maple Street in CdA. I began to realize that this windstorm was knocking down trees all over and wires and other parts of the power grid were also going down.

I began seeing notices that it could be anywhere from 36-72 hours before power would be restored in some areas.

So, I settled in.  I took the flashlight out of the Sube and put new batteries in it. Christy boiled water on her gas grill and brought me a thermos of hot water. I made coffee and, later, ginger tea. I got out a bunch of blankets. I put on gloves.

I also started reading a new book, The Yellow House, by Sarah M Broom. It's a memoir of her family's house located in New Orleans East, how her mother came to by the house, and the many many family members who either preceded her mother's purchase or who lived in this house. It's lyrical, touching, insightful, and bursting with vigorous detail about life in this part of New Orleans. I know where it's headed. In fact, today I got a foretaste of where it's going when I read the chapter describing the power and destruction of Hurricane Betsy. This book is headed toward Hurricane Katrina. Already, I feel like I'm reading a very specific family history that could have been a part of Spike Lee's devastating documentary on Hurricane Katrina, When the Levees Broke

2. Christy's house next door has a fireplace. Thank God. Around 7 or so, I left the darkness of my house and the growing chill and plunked myself in the recliner that sits right close to the fireplace. Christy had a roaring fire going. I got myself situated and we gabbed for a couple of hours about things local and things national. Yes, it was dark, but Christy had candles and other lights on that gave us some light. I was really grateful for the time we spent shooting the breeze and that I wasn't freezing.

3. I slept in the recliner under a huge and very warm comforter of Christy's. During the night, Christy's cats, for sure William and Grayson (unsure about Winnie), jumped up on me and warmed themselves on my chest. I loved it. It's been many years since I've had cats join me while sleeping.  I found several ways, with or without cats on me, to get comfortable in the recliner and got a good night's sleep. 

Three Beautiful Things 01-12-21: Finishing Up *Pretend It's a City*, Tree House Concert, Bedtime with *Midnight Diner*

 1.  I never read a movie review to determine whether I should see a movie. Sometimes, after I've watched something I will, out of curiosity, see what some reviewers thought. For example, after finishing watching the last two episodes of Pretend It's a City, I could tell from a headline or something that Brian Lowry of CNN had a different experience with these seven episodes of conversation between Martin Scorsese and Fran Lebowitz than I did.  I read his piece, and, indeed, about this series of seven short films, he wrote "it would take a great pretender to act like it's worthy of the time devoted to them."

Well, Mr, DJ, please cue up The Platters because I am a great pretender! Not only did I think watching and listening to Fran Lebowitz was worthy of the time I devoted to these seven short films, I would have happily watched and listened to seven more and possibly seven after that! 

I love listening to Fran Lebowitz riff on everything from people texting while they walk in Manhattan to the glory of reading books. I laughed, I thought harder about things, I loved how often she just killed off Martin Scorsese, often making him bend over he was laughing so hard, and I enjoyed that she has the encyclopedic knowledge about New York City and the many years of experience in Manhattan that she does -- and lets us know all about it!  

So, see? How about if I'd read Brian Lowry first and not realized that I have a nearly insatiable appetite for listening to Fran Lebowitz and that I enjoy listening to someone as magnetic and intelligent and experienced as Fran Lebowitz improvise, roam around, riff, and take us half way around the world as she discusses what's on her mind? And believed him? I might not have watched it. 

But what I've learned over the years is that when I watch things I, as best I can, let them be what they are and give all the effort I can to enjoying it. I don't impose notions of what I think the movie ought to be. This approach helps me enjoy a wide variety of movies and approaches. 

So, I will repeat for the 400,000th time on this blog: I would make a lousy film or book or restaurant critic. 

About 98% of the time, I just like stuff.  

I went a step farther with Pretend It's a City: I loved it!

2. With a short pour of Crater Lake Prohibition gin and a little ice in hand, I tuned into tonight's Tree House Concert and enjoyed another hour of Bill Davie playing and singing and reading poetry. He fulfilled a request from a friend regarding what poetry to read. Without looking, maybe even blindfolded, Bill went to his extensive poetry library and blindly pulled two slim volumes off the shelf for tonight's reading. He blindly grabbed Ron Koertge's poems off the shelf. 

The poetry break came after Bill powered up his concert with the great "How Long You Gonna Wait?" to open, later played the very timely "The Sun in the Windows", and ended the first set with one of my favorite car wreck songs, right up there with "Dead Man's Curve" and "Last Kiss". Actually, Bill's "The Man in the Dead Machine" is my favorite car wreck song because the car gets killed but Bill survived. The second set featured the great on my lips song, "Learning to Say Goodbye" and was begun and ended by two especially heart touching songs, "Father to Father #2" and "Night Sky". 

3.  The last two nights, instead of reading in bed before conking out, I've watched short features on Netflix. Last night, I watched two episodes of Pretend It's a City. Tonight, I watched two episodes of Midnight Diner. It had been a few weeks since I last watched Midnight Diner and am I ever happy I returned to this show. Tonight's episodes were both man and woman meet each other at the Midnight Diner stories. Both were sweet and tender and very different from each other. I really don't want to give any of either story away. I'll just say that I loved how both episodes opened up elements of day to day life in Japan that were interesting and contributed significantly to both love stories. 

What foods were featured? In Episode 6 of Season 1, Master served Katsudon, a rice bowl featuring deep fried pork cutlets with egg and Oyakodon, or "parent and child". It's chicken, egg, and scallion in stock and soy sauce served over rice.  Episode 7 featured Master's tomago sando or  egg salad sandwich. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 01-11-21: Vaccine Update, Plug It In the Wall Outlet, I Love *Pretend It's a City*

 1. On our sibling outing, Carol told Christy and me that she knew of people around town who had been vaccinated for Covid at  Kellogg's Panhandle Health District office in the last week. I read other rumors on Facebook about local vaccines. So, I checked it out this morning by rocketing over to the Panhandle Health District office. I had no expectations. I simply wanted to find out whatever I could. I arrived. The parking lot was empty. On the front door of the building housing the district office was a sign announcing the office was open, but the lobby was closed. I went to the door leading into the lobby and an employee leapt to her feet, left her desk, unlocked the door, and, when I asked her about vaccines, she told me they had run out and didn't know when the next shipment would arrive. 

No problem. I've been living with the mild expectation, from reading distribution plans, that my time for a shot would come in April. I'm fine with that, but will be happy if I happen to be inoculated earlier. I enjoyed how helpful the woman was who answered my questions, thanked her very much, vaulted back into the Sube, and blasted home again.

2.  Back home, I tackled my second big question of the day: why have I lost internet service in the house? 

Fortunately, Christy's signal from next door is strong enough that I can tap into her service (and she says that's fine with her).

So, I fired up the Ziply Fiber website, clicked the "chat" function, and almost instantly Amber came online. We got a couple preliminary questions taken care of and soon she asked me if my router was plugged directly into a wall outlet. No it isn't. It's plugged into an extension cord that's plugged into a power strip.

She wondered if I could plug it into an outlet directly. It took a very little rearranging of the Vizio room, but in just a few minutes I moved the router to the south side of the room, near an outlet, and plugged it in. Directly. 

Problem solved. The router evidently hadn't been getting enough juice the way I'd had it plugged in. 

I thanked Amber very much for her help and, after a little breakfast, got caught up on my blogging here at the mighty kelloggbloggin.

3. I heated up some of the spaghetti sauce and meatballs I made for Sunday's birthday/family dinner, added some fennel seeds to it, thinned it with pasta water, and poured in over a bowl of penne. I also poured myself a small glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. 

This simple meal somehow perfectly accompanied my viewing of Pretend It's a City on Netflix. It's a seven episode series. Each episode is under a half an hour long. Primarily, it features Martin Scorsese interviewing writer, public speaker, and occasional actor, Fran Lebowitz, who, for my money, is, if not a national treasure, certainly a Manhattan treasure. Lebowitz has lived, written, driven cab, hobnobbed, opined, and roamed the streets in Manhattan for over fifty years. In these interviews her acerbic wit, sheer verbal eloquence, shrewd observations, mighty, and sometimes blistering, opinions, and deep love and passion for Manhattan gives this series its richness, vitality, and, for me, irresistibility. 

I think it's fair to say that I just cannot get enough of reading or watching documentaries and movies about New York City and that listening to Fran Lebowitz tell stories, riff on her neuroses, rhapsodize about what she loves about New York City, bemoan what's been lost over the past five decades, and describe her financial life, defined by her simultaneous hatred of money and love of expensive apartments, fine furniture, and staggering personal library (over 10,000 books) moved me to feel astonishment, intrigue, and wistfulness -- and, more than anything, made me laugh. 

I watched five episodes this evening and the only reason I'm not looking forward to the last two is that I don't want this series to end. But, all will not be lost. About ten years ago HBO broadcast a documentary about Fran Lebowitz, directed by Martin Scorsese, entitled, Public Speaking -- and I just moved it to the top of my Netflix DVD queue (yes, I still have DVDs come to me in my mailbox!). I need to watch the DVD I presently have on hand and send it back so that I can get Public Speaking and enjoy more of Fran Lebowitz in action.

I think I'll add a note here at the end -- it's not uncommon, living in Kellogg, and being a (almost) lifelong westerner to hear people complain about obnoxious, arrogant, opinionated, haughty people "back East" -- maybe especially New Yorkers, but not exclusively. Fran Lebowitz epitomizes and embodies all of these complaints I've heard over the years. For whatever reason, these qualities that so many people I've known over the years find hard to abide, I enjoy. They do not mirror my personality at all. I'm mild mannered, more passive than aggressive, rarely opinionated, and try to be accepting and easy to please. So, when I sit and listen to, become enthralled by, and laugh out loud at and with Fran Lebowitz, it's not because we have much in common (aside from affection for New York City). I can't explain why I enjoy her and listening to other similar people. But I do. 

Monday, January 11, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 01-10-21: Making Sauce, Making Meatballs, Great Birthday/Family Dinner

 1. Christy requested that, for her birthday, we combine her birthday dinner with family dinner. She submitted her birthday dinner request: Old-Fashioned cocktails, a green salad dressed with the bleu cheese dressing that we have been enjoying for decades in our family, spaghetti and meatballs, and a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Carol went a step beyond and offered us slices of baguette with a variety of vinegars to combine with oil to dip the bread in.

I volunteered to make the Old-Fashioneds and that was easy.

I also volunteered to make the spaghetti and meatballs because I had never cooked meatballs and I enjoy making spaghetti sauces. 

The American Test Kitchen book, What Good Cooks Know, features a marinara sauce and meatballs recipe and I decided to give it a try.  

To get started, I finely chopped three onions, minced about ten cloves of garlic, chopped up parsley and fresh basil, and I put these ingredients in bowls. I opened four 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes and one 6 oz can of tomato paste. I measured out two different amounts of Parmesan cheese and put this in two bowls, measured out oregano into a small bowl, and measured out a cup of red wine.

I got the sauce started by cooking the finely chopped onion in a quarter cup of olive oil in the Dutch oven until the onion bits were golden, about twenty five minutes, I'd say. Then I added in eight garlic cloves minced and a tablespoon of oregano and cooked it until fragrant, no long.  I divided this mixture, one half for the sauce and the other for the meatballs.

Into the onion mix for the sauce, I stirred a can of tomato paste and cooked it for about a minute until fragrant. Then I added the cup of red wine and cooked this mixture for about two minutes. A cup of water came next, followed by the four cans of crushed tomatoes and I simmered all of this for about an hour. At the end of the hour, I added in about a half cup of chopped fresh basil leaves and a half a cup of Parmesan cheese.

2. During the hour that the sauce was simmering, I got going on the meatballs. To start, I tore up five slices of Dave's thin sliced Killer White Bread Done Right into a large bowl and poured 3/4 of a cup of milk over the bread. I got a fork and mashed the bread and milk until it was smooth, creating a panade. To the panade, I added the other half of the onion mixture, about a half a pound of ground sweet sausage, a cup of Parmesan cheese, a half a cup of chopped parsley, 2-3 minced garlic cloves, some salt, and 2 1/2 pounds of ground chuck.

I washed my hands, and, with my clean paws, I mixed all the ingredients together and then made three batches of meatballs. I only have one rimmed baking sheet, so I had to bake each batch separately in a 475 degree oven for twenty minutes. From the baking sheet, the meatballs went into the sauce where they simmered along with the sauce and finished cooking through.

My Dutch oven would not hold all of this sauce and all 33 meatballs, so I divided the sauce into two batches, put one batch in a smaller Dutch oven, and divided the meatballs between the two. 

When I volunteered to make the spaghetti sauce, I wanted to make one that would take a lot of time. I like to prepare slow food and I also like to serve and eat it. 

3. I packed up three quarts of the sauce, the ingredients for the Old-Fashioneds, and a pound of uncooked spaghetti and headed over to Carol's.

Upon arrival, I put on four quarts of salted water to boil and put on the sauce in a pot on the stove to keep it heated. 

I used my muller and crushed a single ice cube in each of the four Old-Fashioned glasses and shook out dashes of orange bitters onto the sugar and added a teaspoon of water to each glass. I stirred this and added, per glass, two ounces of Buffalo Trail Bourbon, put ice in each glass, stirred each drink to make it colder, and garnished each glass with an orange slice.

While the water crept toward boiling and the sauce heated up, I joined the other as we drank our cocktails and ate the baguette pieces Carol put out.

The water began to boil and I cooked the spaghetti, drew a cup of pasta water from the pot, and drained the noodles. With everyone's permission, I served the pasta and sauce all combined in a single large bowl. I began by putting a few spoonfuls of sauce (without meatballs) over the spaghetti, added some pasta water, and then once the consistency was about right, I added more sauce and meatballs to the spaghetti.

It was really good dinner. Carol put out red wine for us and we enjoyed our meal. Carol also had two slender, kind of tall shot glasses made for each of us. Each glass was inscribed with one of Everett's favorite sayings. Carol gave Debbie and me glasses with these famous Everett words, "Did you hear the one one about..." and "The first hundred years are are the toughest."


Three Beautiful Things 01-09-21:Up the River, City Limits French Dip, Prepping for Sunday

 1.  January 9th. Christy's birthday. 

For her birthday, Christy requested a sibling outing. As I wrote on my last post, we had originally planned to take abundantly cautious measures and make a trip to Spokane, but postponed that idea because of Covid closures in Spokane.

Instead, we piled into Christy's brand spanking new white Subaru Outback and headed up the Coeur d'Alene River. As it turned out, Christy gave her new car the pothole test. She opted for us to drive on the Old River Road once we got to the Bumblebee Bridge. The Outback passed the test. There weren't too many of us on the road or in the area. We saw the pickups and toy trailers of snowmobilers and one family was having a campfire near the road, seated in fold up camping chairs and enjoying a fairly mild January day.

We made two or three stops to get out and take pictures. But, aside from that, our trip featured a lot of yakkin' about a lot of different stuff, quite a few laughs, and couple hours or so of just having fun.

2. We left the river road and headed over Dobson Pass and came down into Wallace. We stopped at City Limits and Christy and Carol went inside to order our lunch to go. Christy and I ordered a French dip and Carol ordered a Cobb salad. We took our food back to Kellogg to Carol and Paul's house. 

I got to thinking. 

Since March 13th, the last time I ate at Sam's, I've eaten one breakfast outdoors at Le Peep with Mary in CdA, have brought home pizza on two occasions from Yoke's, and I shared a pizza from Papa Murphy's with Christy. Debbie and I ate some great snacks at Diane's one evening. 

If I'm not mistaken, every other meal I've eaten in the last nine months or so has been home cooked -- either Debbie or I cooked it here at home or my sisters cooked the meals. 

I've loved this arrangement. I've enjoyed cooking. I really enjoyed what Debbie prepared for meals while she was in Kellogg. It's been fun and tasty to have returned to having family dinners.

But, I would never have the ingredients at home, the sandwich roll, the thin sliced brisket, the Swiss cheese, nor the cup of Au Jus needed to make the French dip I ordered at City Limits.  I hadn't had a French dip sandwich since Byrdman and I went to The Dipper in CdA on Feb. 28, 2020. 

I loved my sandwich. It sent my memory traveling in two directions. First, I loved the French dip at Billy Mac's in Eugene and I thought about the many, many fun Thursday nights meeting up with friends there. I also let my mind remember a string of visits to City Limits, some of them were family outings and included Mom, some of them were outings Debbie and I went on, but all of them were special to me. Now I'll just wait patiently until the time is right (for me) to go back into the City Limits. I will enjoy dining, yes, and I'll really enjoy drinking some of their fine beers again.

3. Back home, I tuned into the Portland/Gonzaga basketball game, but only paid attention to it in spurts. The Zags clobbered the Pilots 116-88. Most of my attention was on looking over the recipe for the marinara sauce and meatballs I'd be making on Sunday, making sure I understood how the recipe worked and sketching out what I needed to purchase at Yoke's on Sunday morning.