Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 10/25/16: Mom Update, Butterflying a Chicken, *Goliath* vs Farm to Table

1.  Christy texted me this morning that Mom had had a rough night, mainly because the hospital staff couldn't open a port in her arm for her antibiotic IV. They worked on it until late into the night and early morning before giving up. It meant Mom didn't sleep well and her arm was sore from all the attempts. It all makes sense to me.  I've been in the same situation myself, but, in my case the staff finally succeeded.

Later in the morning, Mom and Christy called me from the Shoshone Medical Center and Mom and I had a good talk. I know she was tired, but her voice sounded pretty strong and she had a complete grasp of what was going on.  She's taking her antibiotics orally. She is able, with help, to get out of bed and do things like visit the bathroom.  Her infection is getting a little better every day.  Late in the day, Carol sent out a picture of the infected area, and, yes, it is grisly looking, but even in a little picture on a smartphone, I can see it's getting better.

The Deke and I sent Mom flowers and Christy sent me a picture of them and it's a gorgeous bouquet. I couldn't be happier with JB's Country Garden Floral and Gift in Kellogg.

2.  Until this afternoon, I had never butterflied a whole chicken and roasted it flat. I looked at a video of how to take out the backbone, succeeded, boiled the backbone and squeezed half a lemon in the broth it created, and after generously seasoning the chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and thyme, roasted it in our twelve inch cast iron skillet at 450 degrees F with cut red potatoes around the bird. I poured the chicken lemon broth over the chicken about three times while it roasted and was very happy with the flavor this gave the meat and the spuds.  No one was here to eat the chicken. I ate the wings and single slice of breast and I'll take the rest over to the Diazes tomorrow and Molly can build a dinner around it.  This little cooking venture was really fun for me.

3.  I finished watching Season 1 of Goliath.  Then I went back and watched certain scenes again and I will do that some more over the next few days.  I wasn't quite ready to let go of watching this cast at work, especially Billy Bob Thornton. I enjoy very much watching movies and serial television shows (and read fiction and watch/read plays) as a believer. I let the world unfolding in the story be reality and don't weigh the reality created in the story against any notions I might have of what's real in the world I live in.  The words "that could never happen" never cross my mind.  Why?  Because it just did happen, right there in the story! It was fun for me to enter the world and reality of this story, to spend about 7 and a half hours with people the likes of which I have never known, moving through a world way outside my own, facing dangers and dealing with higher stakes in life than I will ever face, I hope.

And it all came to a conclusion and I guess Billy McBride (Billy Bob Thornton) will take on another big challenge if this project is going to have a second season.  I'm curious.

True to form, I did not let Goliath be the last thing I watched before falling asleep. I watched another episode of Chef's Table and learned the story of farm to table pioneer and advocate Dan Barber and his Greenwich Village restaurant, Blue Hill. The episode excited my imagination about possibilities for improving the flavor of what I cook.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 10/24/16: Mom Update, Back in the Pool, *Goliath* vs Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

1.  Christy called me today with an update on Mom. Mom's got a ways to go before the infection in her leg heals. She'll be in the hospital for a while longer because the wound needs continual attention. Mom's spirits seem pretty good, according to Christy. With help, she can be out of bed and walk a bit. She's getting a little feisty about this and that, always a sign that she's feeling better.  She, and we, her kids, sure appreciate all the support from friends and family near and far.  People are good.

2. It felt really good to be back in the swimming pool today, jogging in place, doing jumping jacks, stretching, getting in a lot of movement. I tingled and felt refreshed for the rest of the day after today's class ended.

3.  This evening I descended deeper into the darkness of Goliath as more and more layers of corruption in the law firm Billy McBride (Billy Bob Thornton) is up against were peeled away and the rot at the heart of the munitions manufacturer the law firm represents was exposed.  The series is a melodramatic portrayal of ruthlessness. This kind of melodrama is both unnerving and fun at the same time: for me, it's unnerving to enter into a world rife with so much lust, greed, vengefulness, deception, perversion, and cruelty, but, it's fun to watch actors like Billy Bob Thornton, Maria Bello, William Hurt, Molly Parker, and the other cast members tear gleefully into their roles, making the David/Goliath conflict bigger and bigger as Goliath grows and the odds stack more heavily against David.

Before I called it a night, I took a break from the illicit world of Goliath and watched the first episode of Chef's Table.  Ahhhh.  The world of chef Massimo Bottura, in his restaurant, Osteria Francescana, located in Modena, is one of light, laughter, artistry, and love. By diving into the world of Massimo Bottura and Lara Gilmore, his wife and business partner, I went to sleep with images of corruption replaced by images of joy and vitality and intriguing food far beyond the reach of any dimension of my culinary experience, either in the kitchen or at the dinner table.

By the way, David Gelb directs Chef's Table and he regards the series as a follow up to his splendid documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a movie I thoroughly loved.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 10/23/16: Road Trip to Eastern MD, Mom Continues to Heal, *Goliath*

1.  With the sky blue as a robin's egg, the Deke and I vaulted into the Sube and admired the beauty of Maryland on a drive east, across the Chesapeake Bay, to the towns of Cambridge and Salisbury.  In Cambridge, we went to a riverside park hosting a kite festival and admired the variety of kites; in Salisbury we went to the Evolution Brewing's Public House. I enjoyed a glass of Exile Red Ale and, after I split a bowl of crab soup with the Deke, I ate as perfect an order of fish (cod) and chips as I've every had, and, for dessert, I enjoyed a 4 oz. sampler of their black, toasty, sweet, and dry Russian Imperial Stout simply called, Cathy.  On our way back, we stopped back in Cambridge at RAR Brewing for a half a beer. I tried their Bucktown Brown.  We loved our day of touring Maryland and wrapped it up at the chez Diaz where Molly had fixed a superb meatloaf dinner.

2. While on the road, the Deke read me updates Christy sent me about Mom and everything is moving in the right direction as her infection continues to heal and as she hosted visitors during the day. Christy assured me that even though the picture of the infection looks grisly, it's improving and healing. It was great to know that Mom continues to get better.

3.  The other day at, thanks to a tweet of theirs that intrigued me, I read a review of a new Amazon series, Goliath, featuring Billy Bob Thornton as Billy McBride, a former high-powered lawyer whose life has bottomed out. He lives in a motel room, spends most of his time in a bar, and practices little law. But, a case comes his way that pits him against the powerful law firm he helped form years ago. I watched three episodes tonight and I'm hooked, mainly because I enjoy Thornton's work so much and he's playing a character perfectly suited to his gifts as an actor. If you've read my responses to movies and TV shows in the past, you know that I'm not tough on shows and I had little trouble surrendering myself to the reality of this show, the world it creates, and letting myself get involved in its melodramas and inner workings.

One fun fact:  the title Goliath? Ha! For Billy McBride, the story of David and Goliath doesn't come I Samuel, but from the pregame prayer in the championship game in the movie,  Hoosiers.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 10/22/16: Pumpkin Ale Fest, Into the Bistro, Mom is Improving in the Hospital

1.  The Deke and I attended Old Line's Pumpkin Ale Fest and bought a ticket for a single pour, but before we decided what to have our cup filled with, we enjoyed complimentary samples at about five different breweries' stations.  Not all the beers at the festival were pumpkin, but all were seasonal, I'd say.  I had my small plastic cup filled with Expect No Mercy,  a bourbon barrel-aged Scottish Ale from Oliver Brewing in Baltimore.  I enjoyed its sweet character and I love the boozy warmth beer develops when it's aged in barrels -- whether rum, bourbon, wine, or another kind of barrel.

2. The Deke and I took our plastic cups into the bistro and sat down in a booth and over the next ninety minutes or so, I enjoyed two small glasses of, once again, barrel-aged ale.  The first was from up the road, Laurel's Jailbreak recently brewed their double IPA, Big Punisher, in barrels once containing Old Line Smooth Amber Bourbon. Soon this beer will be gone and I wanted to enjoy at least one more snifter before it disappears. I also enjoy Abita's Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels.  I think it's called Bourbon Street and I savored a small glass of it.  It was a festive afternoon at Old Line. It inspired the Deke and me to plan a drive to Chesapeake Bay on Sunday.

3.  Back home, I got a phone call from Christy, updating me about Mom.  Mom has been in the hospital since early Tuesday morning. Her lower right leg got infected at home and caused a series of problems.  She is getting better and is ready to have us kids write a bit about her illness and ask for support. She is also ready for visitors at the hospital. She will be in the hospital a while longer as the infection continues to clear up and as she undergoes rehab.  It was a great relief to hear from Christy that she's doing better.  Earlier in the week, Mom had some very rough days and nights.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 10/21/16: Brookland Stroll, Lunch at Brookland Pint, Beer with Maceo

1.  I leapt into the Sube and rumbled down to the Brookland neighborhood to walk around, just to continue get a feel for the place.  I sort of did that.  I enjoyed strolling along Monroe Street, on into Edgewood, past the fancy Monroe Street Market development, and over to the American Catholic University area and I took some time to gaze at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and thought about ways to take pictures of this building and other places nearby. I kept my camera in my bag because a rain storm was moving in and I wanted to duck into a joint for lunch and a beer before the rain started.  When Nate visited a few weeks ago, this was the neighborhood I was going to show him (with a bite to eat at Brookland's Finest Bar & Kitchen),  but it turned out to be a much better idea to stroll the National Mall.  I have decided I want to go to Brookland's Finest with someone else -- maybe the Deke and I will go there.

2. I ducked into a place I've heard a lot about, Brookland Pint, for some Buffalo wings and a glass of D.C. beer: Three Stars Brewing's Double IPA, Pounding Trees. As a dessert, I enjoyed one of my favorites, a 4 oz. pour of Goose Island's Belgian Wild Ale, Juliet.  I was very happy to see that Brookland Pint had a Logsdon beer on tap, Straffe Drieling.  Logsdon is brewed in Hood River, OR and was one of my favorite of all brewers back in the old days in Eugene and I hadn't seen it listed on a tap list anywhere since moving out here.  Today, I wasn't in the mood for a spicy triple, but I will be keeping an eye on Brookland Pint's beer menu to see if they pour Logsdon again -- or often.

3.  Well, it's not that far from Brookland to DC Brau so I popped over, got myself a pour of On the Wings of Armageddon, plopped myself down at a small empty table and as the place filled up, Maceo asked me if he could share the table I was seated at. He plopped down and we fell into easy and fascinating conversation about all sorts of things ranging from his service in the Peace Corps in Senegal to the world of beer in the District of Columbia to his four visits to the newly opened Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, including visits to the museum with his parents.  We had a great talk and I wouldn't doubt if we sit down over beers again some time.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 10/20/16: Lilies In Bloom, Unexpected Conversation, Photographs and Fiction

1. I hopped in the Sube and rambled down the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens to meander around and see what the ponds and the dying lotus leaves look like in mid-October and to see if any waterfowl or turtles might be basking in the sun. I didn't see any animals, although I heard several turtle splashes and I was actually astonished by one pond, the only pond, with lilies still blooming. Scroll down if you'd like to see pictures.

2. As I was leaving, Hoang, who works at the visitor center, was sitting on the porch and asked if she could see my pictures and I showed her my shots and then we talked for at least an hour about writing -- I read an excerpt of a book Hoang is working on and told her a bit about this blog. We also talked about a variety of other things ranging from international travel to Bob Dylan to Shakespeare and many points around and in between.

3.  Separate from each other, Dan and Nini wrote emails to me about the bike picture I took in color in Savannah and I wrote back to them about how I didn't know what the factual truth of that picture is, but I enjoyed that the one in color, and another one of the same subject in black and white, told so many possible stories, primarily centered around the bike and the sketch of the woman attached to the bike.  The power of the pictures really has little to do with the facts -- that's the power of fiction -- and my guess is that we experience photographs much more as fiction, in the best possible sense of the word, than we do as fact, as we create stories in our minds about what's happening in a picture.

Here are the bicycle pictures. When I took them, I thought they were portraits of the woman in the pictures and it's been fun to have these email conversations about the bicycle and the sketch.

After the bike pictures, I'll post some pictures from the aquatic gardens.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sibling Photo Assignment #9: Comfort at the Aquatic Gardens

Christy gave us the latest Sibling Photo Assignment:

"Create a series of photos that depict a sense of comfort."

You'll find Christy's pictures here and Carol's here.

I go to water and wetlands in order to feel a sense of comfort. Today I went to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and these pictures, if they don't depict a sense of comfort, are, indeed, pictures of what I saw that comforted me.

Three Beautiful Things 10/19/16: A Malcolm Gladwell Day, Friendliest Cashier Ever, Commemorating David

1.  As I made some breakfast, cleaned the kitchen, put my laundry away, and reorganized drawers in my dresser, Malcolm Gladwell, yes, Mr. Outlier, Mr. Blink, Mr. Tipping Point. He was in my head by way of my ear buds, his voice coming out of my smartphone, as I listened to episodes of his podcast, Revisionist History, here.

In "Food Fight", Gladwell looks at the impact that serving students gourmet food has on whether Bowdoin College can admit intelligent students who are not of the upper middle class or upper class, in contrast to Vassar College, which serves students in its dining hall lousy food, but is committed to helping less affluent students attend its school.

In "My Little Hundred Million", Gladwell wonders why ultra-wealthy donors give their money to schools like Princeton or Stanford who are already very rich (and don't need the money) rather than to poorer schools for whom such gifts would be transformative -- and would be of great help to students of lesser financial means.  I loved listening to Gladwell contrast soccer, a weak link sport, to basketball, a strong link sport, as a way of illustrating the good that might be done if wealthy donors invested in schools who really need their money.

In the last episode I listened to, "Blame Game", Gladwell calls into question whether the unintended acceleration problem that plagued Toyota several years ago was a mechanical problem in the automobile. Gladwell argues it might very well have been a driver problem.

I find Gladwell fascinating -- I have a grain of salt by my side as I listen to him -- but, then again, no matter what I read or listen to, I keep that grain of salt nearby.

2.  I don't know her name, but she is about the same age as the Deke and I and she works the register at the liquor store half of Old Line and she always greets the Deke and me in the friendliest possible way. Today, the Deke and I came to the Old Line separately and the friendly cashier greeted me and wondered where the Deke was.  I told her. Later, she saw the Deke headed back to the Old Line Bistro, but was busy and couldn't say "hi!" from her work station, so, a little while later, she made a special trip to the bistro, came to our booth, and greeted the Deke.  No wonder we love this place.

3. Had he not died in November, 2009, today would have been the Deke's brother David's 58th birthday. To commemorate the occasion, the Deke and I raised shots of Maker's Mark in his honor at the Old Line Bistro.  Our server, Liz, took this picture:

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 10/18/16: Staying Home, Podcast Binge, Looking Up in Savannah

1.  Today was a stay home and rest day after four days in Savannah, arriving home after 1 a.m., and not going to bed until well after 2 a.m. Now, I'm unpacked. I did my laundry. Mostly, I tended to my mind and spirit, working with pictures I took and listening to podcasts.

2.  The Southern Foodways Alliance posts a podcast every two weeks called Gravy.  Each episode explores ways the food, culture, politics, traditions, and life in the South intersect. Since arriving at the Savannah Airport Monday evening, flying to Atlanta and Baltimore, and arriving home in Greenbelt, I've listened to four fascinating Gravy episodes.

First,  "What is White Trash Cooking?" looks admiringly back at the life and some of the recipes of the late Ernest Matthew Mickler, author of the loving tribute to the recipes of poor, working class, rural people in the South called White Trash Cooking.  You can listen to it, here.

Then I listened to "Repast" the story of Booker Wright, a proprietor of his own bar in the black district by day and a waiter by night in Greenwood, Mississippi, who gave an interview on a 1965-66 NBC documentary called "Mississippi: A Self-Portrait." His account of his experience as a black man working in an upscale whites-only restaurant made him an unlikely hero of the Civil Rights movement and inspired the composition of a recently composed opera which premiered in Oxford, MS in 2014 and was later performed in Carnegie Hall.  The episode is structured around Wright's story and the music of the opera. The podcast is here and you can see video of the 1966 interview, here.  There's more to Booker Wright's story than I've written here or than the podcast tells and as a search of the World Wide Web will reveal.

I learned more about Chinese immigration and the introduction of dried shrimp and dried shrimp powder into Louisiana cuisine by listening to the episode, "Dancing the Shrimp Dry: How Chinese Immigrants Drove Louisiana Seafood".  You can listen to this episode, here.

It turned out that I saved my favorite Gravy episode for last.  Caleb Johnson tells the story of coal mining in Alabama through interviewing his father, Ronnie Johnson, and by focusing on the contents and the packing up of his dad's lunchbox. This episode hit home. Ronnie Johnson's story closely paralleled the stories of miners in Kellogg and the Silver Valley as well as those of us who worked on the surface in, say, the Zinc Plant or the Lead Smelter.  The episode is titled, "The Leftovers in a Coal Miner's Lunchbox" and it is here.
(By the way, this would have been a perfect episode for Margaret's and my students in the American Working Class course. )

Just for the record, I also listened to part 3 of the "Who is This Restaurant For?" series on Sporkful titled, "One Sign in Arabic, Another in English" which examined a Korean restaurant in Gowanus, Brooklyn, a Middle Eastern eatery in Astoria, Queens, and a vegetarian cafe in the East Village in Manhattan.  It's fascinating to listen to how these chefs constructed their restaurants to be inviting to as many potential customers as possible -- and the challenges they face doing so.  Want to listen?  Just click here.

3.  For part of the time I listened to podcasts, I also worked with pictures I took in Savannah and I completed Sibling Photo Assignment #8. Christy assigned the three of us to find beauty by looking up. So wherever I went in Savannah, I looked up, sometimes way up, and, in the case of the portrait artist sitting behind the bicycle, only a few feet up.  Here are the pictures I posted to complete the assignment:

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Sibling Photo Assignment #8: Looking Up in Savannah

Christy assigned the three of us to find beauty by looking up and snap away.

Christy looked up through the trees, here. Carol looked up at rain, here.

On Monday, October 17th, I meandered around Savannah, GA and looked up, sometimes high above me and other times just a few feet up.

Three Beautiful Things 10/17/16: Savannah Photo Meander, Lunch and the Newlyweds, Uber Debut

1.  I woke up this morning feeling complete, happy to have been part of so much joy and fun since arriving in Savannah on Friday, very happy to have been a part of Scott and Cate's marriage.  With a day in Savannah to myself, I tried to express my happiness by taking pictures, walking to Forsyth Park, returning to River Street, and doing my best to compete a Sibling Photo Assignment where Christy told us to look up and take pictures of beauty above us.

2.  I dropped into The Savannah Taphouse on E. Broughton Street and after enjoying a cup of she crab soup and an order of Tex Mex eggrolls and a pint of Hop'Lin IPA from Savannah's own Southbound Brewing, a text message flew in from Scott, telling me that he and Cate were outside the Hampton Inn, so I hustled the few blocks over there and, much to my surprise and delight, got to spend another half hour or so visiting with Scott and Cate and revel in how perfectly everything went on Sunday and I got to hear more about their plans to wind their way up to Maine from New York over the next several days.

3.  I think it was while I was at Forsyth Park, but it might have been at another of the several handsome squares in Savannah, but I got to thinking about the fact that I needed a late afternoon ride to the airport and that this just might be the day to sign up with Uber. So I did. Eventually, I returned to the hotel, claimed my suitcase at the front desk, and soon Melissa drove up in her handsome Nissan Rogue and, before long, after a little conversation about Hurricane Matthew, we learned that both us are enthusiastic about beer and some good old beer talk made the trip to the airport go by in no time.

And, just for the record, everything from check in to security check to juicing up my phone and relaxing at a charging station to changing planes in Atlanta to returning to the Sube in long term parking at BWI went beautifully.
Here are a few pictures I took in Savannah.  I'd sure like to go back and take pictures in Savannah again.  I really think I'd do better now that I've been to Savannah once.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 10/16/16: Private Eccentric Pleasure, Joyous Wedding Ceremony, Mirthful Reception

1.  After breakfast, I strolled down to Savannah's River Street and succeeded in not spraining an ankle walking on the cobblestone.  After a little bit of gawking, I sat down on a bench, put in my ear buds, and listened to this week's episode of The Big Listen. It's here. So, during each episode of The Big Listen, the program features recorded phone calls on the Pod Line -- it's listeners talking about a favorite podcast or two of theirs.  This segment of the show is accompanied by a minimalist music sound track and for some reason the music gives me a nostalgic feeling (nostalgic? already?) and I always picture myself driving down Kenilworth through Riverdale and Edmonston and other D.C. suburbs in Maryland, crossing over on Decatur to Baltimore Avenue to head south to Bladensburg Road and a visit to DC Brau.  Many years ago I used to keep track of what I called my private eccentric pleasures -- and this morning that phrase from nearly twenty-five years ago popped back into my mind and I smiled, thinking about how that little bit of music and my feelings of nostalgia about driving to DC Brau combine to give me a perfectly private eccentric pleasure.

2.  The wedding ceremony went beautifully. For my part, I got choked up as I opened the ceremony, took a pause, gathered myself, and then proceeded forward just fine.  Both Scott and Cate were very appreciative of what I said to the guests about the role friends and family play in the marriage covenant and expressed a lot of gratitude for my charge to them in their marriage. It was a joyous ceremony, intimate, held outside of Savannah in a small historic chapel amidst oak trees with Spanish moss hanging from ancient branches, a perfect setting for Cate and Scott to join their lives as husband and wife.

3.  The reception dinner was held at Garibaldi's Cafe in Savannah's Historic District and it was a mirthful celebration of the wedding. Merriment reached its peak after we finished eating dinner and the dance music began. I wished I was a little younger, longed for the days back in the early nineties when I used to dance for hours without stopping at the WOW Hall, but, when the B-52s' "Love Shack" came over the speakers, for about four minutes I felt some of that youthful energy again and gave dancing my ass off my best shot.  It was really fun to see Barbie and Parsa and to meet Holly and talk more with Tom and enjoy great conversations about Eugene and good times around the theater and our affection for mutual friends.