Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 01/30/07: Arctic air, Nap, Techies in Black

1. Cold, blue, clear day: ice crystals in the air, breath visible, sight lines long and clear.

2. Afternoon nap necessitated by last night's long stay at the theater, rehearsing.

3. Tech crew dressed all in black, moving invisibly, taking props on and off stage, looking professional, mysterious, assured: they know it all falls apart without them.

Three Beautiful Things 01/29/07: Catharsis, Deportee, Soda

1. Matt plays the Duke in Othello. He's done early in the play. He watched the play tonight past his departure. He wept three times during the production. He wept as he told the cast how powerful he found their performance. He said people who saw this production would be better human beings. We witnessed catharsis taking place in our fellow actor Matt.

2. I might be able to help Vasil not get deported to the Republic of Georgia.

3. During our dress rehearsal tonight I changed out of costume and put on my street clothes so I could go out to the pop machine and purchase and drink a Diet Pepsi. We are not to leave the building or drink anything but water while in costume.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 01/28/07: Mansions, Coffee, Motorcycles

1. The Rev. John Bishop, the retired Bishop of Idaho, preached a beautiful sermon on the absurdity of grace and the infinitely huge mansions that comprise the house of God, where by merely knocking, all are welcome. The whole idea of closing the house is not Jesus' conception of his Father's house. It's the nonsense of us, the followers of Jesus.

2. Molly was working at Starbucks when I was done at church. I did not know this. She treated me to a free coffee and scone.

3. Motorcycle students buzzed around in a circle in the Lane Community College northeast parking lot behind the theater and I remembered that I plan to join this class this spring with the hope that when I visit North Idaho, I can join my friends on a leisurely ride up the North Fork of the Cd'A River and on to the top of Thompson Pass operating a motorcycle instead of riding on the back of Ed's or Scott's.

Three Beautiful Things 01/27/07: Rambler, Shadows, Rebounding

1. I want this car.

2. Snug and I as shadows.

3. Kids playing with adults on a sunny day in Monroe Park.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Othello: Off Stage

While audiences pay, of course, to watch what happens on stage at a play, I enjoy what happens off stage during the building and performance of a show. The only thing I don't enjoy is off-stage love drama when members of a cast start up romances or when cast members end romances during a show's run. But, short-term intimacies are inevitable within a cast and I accept such will happen.

Here, in these pictures, is what I'm interested in. It begins with the technical dimensions of the play. Whereas the actors provide the heart and soul of a play, tech. provides the spine. Without this spine, the actors' work would collapse.

The big props get built in the prop shop:

Like this bed.

The pillows on the bed where Othello murders Desdemona are red, at least in rehearsal, and suggest the violence gushing out of Othello's jealous soul, even though his murder of her is bloodless:

If we could perform this play in black and white, then the red pillows would be black and match the color of the murdering Othello's skin color as well as suggest the color of mourning:

Where does the tech crew place the bed on stage? Spike tape tells them where:

The action is illuminated by dusty, ordinary looking lights:

Gels are often placed over the lights to create numerous effects by casting a variety of colors onto the action and the props:

The lights are run from the light board:

Large props come from the prop shop and small ones from the prop box:

Like this bell whose ringing tells the audience that alarm and chaos have taken over (note, too, that actors and techies also enjoy marking walls with comments):

It's hard to have chaos and fighting without swords:

This lantern brings the smallest light to a very dark and deadly scene:

Off stage, some actors spend off time reading sheet music:

Some study the play's script:

Others prefer lighter fare:

Some are sustained by water:

Others by Pepsi:

Pizza is popular:

Many enjoy junk food:

And last Sunday, some of us wanted to keep an eye on the Patriots/Colts game; no matter that the reception in the concrete bunker of our downstairs theater foyer was not so good:

What else do the actors of Othello do while off stage?

Chip decided to be emo, and asked me to snap a photo of him:

Ramsey was reading until the sight of Chip swinging Shena around arrested his attention:

Tyler studiously keeps a journal:

Karyssa covers her eyes and looks inward:

Scott reads a magazine:

And I left the green room for a while and experimented taking self-portrait pictures:

Friday, January 26, 2007

On My Blindness (Part 6)

It's funny what goes through the mind when in a mortal crisis. When I was in the bottom of the roaster, I envisioned the Kellogg Evening News newspaper story telling the story of my death, illustrated with my senior picture. A great basketball player, Tommy Brainard, had been electrocuted in a whirlpool in December, 1967 and his picture had been on the front page. Somehow I was thinking I'd be afforded similar treatment.

I also was stubborn. I refused to pray. A voice inside me was telling me to go ahead and die, but not to do what my young mind thought of as cliched. Looking back, it's weird to me that here I was on the porch of death and I was imagining how my death would be treated in the local paper and thinking about whether praying for deliverance from death would be an original approach or not.

Similarly, after I survived, different people encouraged me to write about this experience. At Whitworth College, a handful of people saw a Christian analogy in the way I was in deep darkness with light shining above me and in the way I climbed toward the light to be saved. One faculty wife, and later a faculty member, who was beginning her career as a writer, encouraged me to submit my story to Guideposts.

She said that it was just the kind of story they were looking for, that they would pay for. I couldn't do it. I just could not see my experience in terms of a Guidepost rescued by the Lord tale. I couldn't see my story as a way to inspire others to come from their own darkness into the light of the Lord. I still can't. Such a story felt inauthentic to me.

Others thought I should write it up in a mythological way. They saw my experience as an embodiment of Joseph Campbell's hero's journey. I agreed. I had fallen into the pit as an unformed young man and rose out of this darkness and suffering into the a stage of life that was more mature. But, again, however much truth lay in seeing my experience as the hero's journey or could be explained as the embodiment of Jungian archetypes, I resisted writing it up this way. I never did.

I'm glad I didn't. The most authentic way for me to regard my experience was through the perspective of existentialism. I learned about existentialism in the fall of 1973, the fall following the accident. Existentialism, especially as expressed by Sartre and Camus, taught me that I had an obligation, if I were to exercise my freedom as a human, to make meaning out of my life myself.

This appealed to me deeply. I didn't want external sources like the Bible or Joseph Campbell or Carl Jung to make meaning out of my experience. I went to work to make meaning out of what had happened.

In short, and I'll write about this in future posts, Camus and Sartre forced me to confront the emptiness I had seen inside me when I was blind. I hadn't realized that any thinkers or writers saw this emptiness as a shared human experience. I hadn't thought that I had responsibility to make meaning out of my life. I hadn't thought that if I were to devote myself to anything in life, it would be my responsibility to live with what I decided and live with the consequences.

I had never been confronted with anything that felt so deeply moral in my young life.

So, I began to examine myself and my life and began the conscious effort to make meaning out of my life.

I didn't want my inner life to be empty.

I wanted my life to be meaningful.

I started my conscious search for meaning by reading fiction, poetry, and drama of the 20th century. The literature appealed to me because it told me that I was not alone in my sense of alienation and in my search for meaning in life. The internal darkness and emptiness I confronted within myself when blind turned out to be understood by these writers as a universal human experience.

I found this reassuring and stimulating.

Three Beautiful Things 01/26/07: Geese, Burma, Leah

1. The soccer field below the Blue Door Theater at Lane Community College was covered by geese this evening. With a honking whoosh they took off and flew north and then east. There they go:

2. I have never worked with a student from Burma before and in my conference today with M., I learned a great deal about Burma and the difficult conditions people live in there.

3. Leah, a former student and current tutor, is all right now. The last time I saw her, she was in a wheelchair. It turns out she had a blood clot in her leg. She recently spent nine days in the hospital to get things rectified. She's back on her feet. Today, she needed a ride to the doctor and on the way she told me about how her family is doing and the Shakespeare productions she has seen at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. We also talked about our pets. It was a great ride to her appointment.

One Unbelievably, Truly, Genuinely, Incomparably Beautiful Thing (01/26/06)

1. After my 9:00 Intro to Poetry class today, my superb student Faith asked me if I were going home to get a shoe. I didn't understand what she meant. She instructed me to look at my shoes. Here's what I saw:

Who me, absent-minded? What a beautiful thing to be a stereotype!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 01/25/07: Prudence, Fog, Enlightenment

1. My message light was on my work phone. It was the Deke: "I saved $4.78 at Albertson's." Hang up. I laughed hard. Maybe you can tell we joke a lot about the money the checker at the grocery store tells us we save as we are checking out.

2. The LCC campus was foggy when I arrived and I took some pictures of the Boy with a Tree Growing Out of His Head Seated in a Chair Way Too Big for Him.

3. I held individual conferences with about half of my WR 115 class today. I understand two students' struggles better now: I did not realize that for A., English is his second language and I did not previously know that P. has Asperger's Syndrome. Having discovered this will enable me to work better with both students.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 01/24/07: The Boss, Connections, Slurpy DP

1. At the end of the Research Writing/Literature of the American Working Class course two years ago, I dropped Sam a note and offered him my Bruce Springsteen LP's. I never heard from him and forgot I made the offer. I ran into Sam today outside the Blue Door Theater and he asked me if the offer still held. You bet it does. We'll make the transaction soon.

2. I enjoy the way we are seeing how Martin Luther King, Jr., the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh, and the writing and thinking of Robert Grudin and the idea of copia all interrelate in WR 122. I'm hoping my students begin to see that when ideas are profound, there's a way they have deep commonality.

3. I purchased a Diet Pepsi from the machine that sits outside near the theater. The machine is subject to the elements. My Diet Pepsi was slushy and I pretended like I'd bought a slurpy and enjoyed the icy can of soda.

Planet of the Blind

I mentioned earlier that my series of posts on my experience with short-term blindness was triggered by Stephen Kuusisto's book Planet of the Blind. He has a blog by the same name, here.
His wife, Connie, was kind enough to pass this information on to me and I promised I'd pass it on to you. He's a very good writer and a fascinating man.

Boy in a Chair with a Tree Growing Out the Top of His Head

The Lane Community College campus has a sculpture I'm obssessed with. It is a boy in an oversized chair sitting, thinking, and he has a tree growing out of his head. Here are two views of the sculpture that give you some sense of the piece's proportions:

My students have written about his piece of sculpture in a variety of ways. Usually the see the tree growing out of his head as a portrayal of learning. I agree. This picture, showing the boy's face in both light and shadow suggests to me that learning has its light and dark aspects:

I photographed him as the sky turned gray:

And at night:

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

On My Blindness (Part 5)

(This is the fifth installation of an ongoing series of posts describing the events surrounding an accident I had at the Bunker Hill Zinc Plant in July, 1973. You can read the other installations, here, here, here, and here.)
I entered Kootenai Memorial Hospital on Tuesday, after a night in Kellogg's hospital. I was released on Saturday. The doctors' primary concern had been my eyes. They sent me home, confident that the surgery that removed the burnt layers of cornea from my eyes had been successful and that once the cornea regenerated I'd have full sight again. That turned out to be true.

Once back in Kellogg, at home, I started to get sick. I began to vomit. Before long I had vomited out the contents of my stomach and I was in the grip of dry heaves. A fever set in. It was spiking. I started having fever dreams, most of them accompanied by the "Live and Let Die" by the Wings; it was in my head all night long.

By morning, Mom called the hospital to say we were returning. Mom became an ambulance driver as she listened to me wretch and hack in the back seat.

My temperature was about 104 degrees. Sweat poured from my whole body. We learned at the hospital, eventually, that I was suffering from toxic pneumonia. I don't know why, but my body's reaction to being exposed to the sulfur dioxide and hard metal dust was not immediate. Had my body been in shock? Does it just take a while for sulfur dioxide and zinc and cadmium and the other metals to turn the respiratory system toward pneumonia? I don't know.

What I do know is that I was in more trouble six days after my accident than I had been in its immediate aftermath. I know that I was on the cusp of being sent to the University of Washington. I know that my case was unique because it's rare for a person to have as long of an exposure to sulfur dioxide as I did: usually people get right out of it because it is so repugnant and if they don't, they are killed. Rarely does a person fall in the middle of escape and death.

In consultation with the University of Washington, my doctor in Coeur d'Alene treated me with respiratory therapy. I could barely handle sucking in the medicine from the machine. My bronchial tubes were so irritated that I couldn't fill my lungs with air.

I couldn't sneeze. I had the sensation of needing to sneeze several times. I couldn't pull it off. Finally, after several days in the hospital, I sneezed. What a great feeling! What a relief!

My illness ravaged my frame. I entered the hospital weighing around 170 pounds. I left weighing about 140. I could barely walk. Just a few steps left me doubled over, winded, fighting for air.

My doctor recommended that I not return to Kellogg immediately. He didn't think the Silver Valley air would be good for me. In addition, the streets around our house were being torn up in a dusty mess while natural gas lines were being installed.

We went to Spokane to stay with my Grandmother. Fields were being burned on the Rathdrum Prairie. I just couldn't seem to find good air! But things were better in Spokane and my out of hospital recovery began.

It was awful. Grandma's house was tiny. I couldn't walk without doubling over from her living room to the kitchen. Grandma fixed me my favorite dinner: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, garden grown green beans cooked with bacon, cucumbers and tomatoes in vinegar and oil. It all looked so good and I ate heartily and threw it all up.

My eyesight was still dim. My sister, Carol, was only ten years old and I asked her to read me the baseball box scores. She read me scores. Then I would say, well how did Bobby Bonds do and she would read across the Bobby Bonds line and answer me. I asked about the other Giants and the dreaded Dodgers and other teams.

Carol was so patient. I wanted to walk outside. Carol went with me. I made a snail seem like a hare. I could barely move, but I wanted to build my strength. She patiently walked at my side. My goal was to make it around the block. Eventually, I did and Carol was my chaperone.

After a few days, we went back to Kellogg and I continued to recover and my eyesight strengthened.

But, I had only begun my internal exploration set in motion by being blind. This exploration kicked into a higher gear in the fall when classes started at North Idaho College.

(Stay tuned.)

Three Beautiful Things 01/23/07: Knight, Tech, the Dancing Machine

1. When Texas Tech basketball coach Bob Knight feels secure and isn't under (perceived) attack, he is a pleasure to listen to. Driving home from school today, I listened to Dan Patrick talk with him and enjoyed it. At his best, Knight is an engaging, perceptive, intelligent, self-depracating guy and the dark side recedes.

2. Slowly, patiently, and, I think, surely the tech. dimension is taking shape in our production of Othello. I love seeing the props, sound cues, movement of props and other tech things fall into place. It's as if a play has a triple spine or backbone: script, acting, tech. When all three click together it's genuinely awesome.

3. Starr Kelso posted a video of Gene, Gene the Dancing Machine from the Gong Show at his blog. Watching it before I left for school today got me revved up for work. Man. I loved the Gong Show!

Monday, January 22, 2007

On My Blindness (Part 4)

I reached the top of the ladder welded into the roaster and Roger Grosvenor and other Zinc Plant workers pulled me out. I don't know if the ambulance was there at that moment or if it came later. What I do know is that my body was convulsing. I know I was so overcome by sulfur dioxide that I couldn't speak. I know that my sight was diminishing. It was as if the world around me was wrapped in cheesecloth. I know that someone put a mask of oxygen over my face. I know that I hated how the oxygen felt. I pushed it away. My respiratory system was so dominated by sulfur dioxide that oxygen felt alien. It hurt. Someone forced in on me again. I could only resist it so long.

Dad rode with me to the hospital. I remember nothing about that ride except that I could feel the eeriness of death. The quiet was heavy. I was hacking. I was going blind. It was as if I were tottering on the edge of a girder on a skyscraper being built. I thought I might fall any moment.

We arrived at the hospital. Dr. Whitesell was the M.D. attending to me. He was a drunk. His hands were shaky. I joked with my mom and dad about "old shaky". I joked about feeling worse in the morning with my hangover than I did right then, gassed. A nurse gave me a shot. No more jokes. The shot put me out. I went into a deep sleep.

I woke up later in the afternoon. I couldn't open my eyes. They weren't bandaged. They were, by the power of my body, sealed shut. I found out I'd be going to Cd'A in the morning for eye surgery. I don't remember if the Kellogg doctors knew that my cornea had been burnt by the way the tears became sulfuric acid or if I found that out the next day.

Dale Costa, son of Dick Costa, proprietor of Dick and Floyd's, drove me to Cd'A. An eye specialist removed the damaged tissue, bandaged my eyes and my blindness continued.

I was assured by the doctor that eyes heal quickly. He assured me that I could expect a full recovery. However, he said, I would have patches over my eyes for the next five days. I would be blind.

During those five days, because the external world was not available to me, all I could do was turn my vision inward. My blindness initiated an intense self-examination, a self-examination beyond my capacity to understand. For many years, I sorted out what happened during those five days. Here's some of what happened:

First of all, when blindness forced my eyes inward, I saw a void. Emptiness. It was if I were seeing a huge open sky over the expanse of the sea. It was as if I were standing at the far east end of a desert and looking west. It was as if a cloudy night had fallen over the Palouse and I was in the middle of a wheat field and it was inky dark with no star or moon.

Looking back, it was unsettling to me that I had created so little tangible meaning in my life. The positive side of this emptiness was that I could see, in retrospect, that I had plenty of emptiness to fill.

The unsettling part was that I had constructed so little.

Therefore, the overwhelming sensation of being blind for those five days didn't have much to do with the external physical world I couldn't see.

It had much more to do with the invisible inner world I had, until then, largely ignored.

Three Beautiful Things 01/22/07: Costumes, Recovery, Angel

1. Othello costume parade. So much color! So much variety! So much genius!

2. Snug is recovering nicely. His wound already looks better. He's wiped out. So am I! He is wanting to be physically closer to me, even more than usual. I hate having to leave the house to go to work. I want to be home with Snug while he gets his feet back under him.

3. Angel came by today to ask for a recommendation for financial aid at the U of Oregon. It is very gratifying to think that a few words of support on her behalf might result in this lovely, intelligent student having a slightly easier row to hoe if the University will financially aid her.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 01/21/07: Snug Injury, Photo Taking, Wucky

1. Snug and I went to the Emergency Vet Hospital to make sure a wound Snug suffered at the swiping paw of a cat wasn't too serious. Dr. Mark McConnell treated Snug: he's a University of Idaho grad and I had on my North Idaho College hoodie and we had a good talk about Idaho. The best news is that Snug did not suffer serious injury.

2. We had an eight hour rehearsal today for Othello. I took Snug with me and we had a lot of free time to walk together and I took a lot of pictures. I enjoyed most taking pictures of the sculpture of the small boy in the huge chair with a tree growing out of his head.

3. Rick Wainwright, one of my favorite friends when I was in junior high and early high school commented on my blog post about the 1970 Kellogg-Wallace baseball season. (The picture at the top of that post is of the 1971 team.)

On My Blindness (Part 3)

I am working on telling the story of how I was blinded working at the Zinc Plant. I described the accident here and wrote some of the background here. I'll write some more background in this post. Soon I'll write about what I experienced being blind and see where this thread within my blog goes.

I am writing as honestly as I can about this time in my life and aspects of my life surrounding it. I don't blame myself for this accident. I do not regard myself as having been a competent mechanic's helper, but that's unrelated to the accident. It's a part of the context of the accident that I am reporting. Likewise, the days leading up to this accident did not cause me to have this accident, but provide a picture of what my life looked like in the summer of 1973.

The only outlet for playing baseball in Kellogg after being too old to play American Legion ball was slow pitch softball. I don't know quite when slow pitch softball got popular in Kellogg and Coeur d'Alene and other places, but it was all very well organized by the time I was 19 years old and joined the Dick and Floyd's team.

The most fun part of playing slow pitch softball was the tournaments. In the summer of 1973, Dick and Floyd's team travelled to Lewiston and Missoula for tournaments.

I rode to the Missoula tournament with Keith Green and Don Knott. Keith had cassette tapes of the Beach Boys and travelling with Keith meant lots of sunflower seeds and at some point a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. And it meant beer. I don't know how much beer we bought to get us the 130 miles to Missoula, but I know we drank the whole way and sang "California Girls" in lust/fantasy voices about 100 times and ate tons of sunflower seeds.

Once in Missoula, we checked into our motel room and hit the bars. Don and I went to the Knotty Pine and played pool, tried to strike up some people to bullshit with, and eventually we left. We had a bunch of change and on our way back to the motel, we gave some guy about four dollars in change in exchange for a cigarette apiece.

When we returned to our room, we were locked out. Instead of going to the front desk and getting another key, we passed out at the threshhold. Eventually, some of Kellogg ballplayers found us, helped us regain consciousness, and put us to bed.

The next day, Dick and Floyd's eventually got ousted from the tournament after winning a game or two and losing two. Being ousted meant watching other teams play and drinking. For some unknown reason, I bought five fifths of Boone's Farm Strawberry wine.

It was hot in Missoula. It was late afternoon. I was hungover from the night before. The Strawberry wine was easy to drink. I got drunker and drunker. At some point, I decided to try to throw the third or fourth bottle of wine I drank into a large waste can near homeplate backstop.

I missed. The bottle shattered. Kids of ballplayers were barefoot and playing around the area of the broken glass. One of my sober teammates, Wayne, intervened and picked up the glass. I was too drunk to help. No one was hurt. My teammates took the rest of my wine away.

Similarly, when Don and Keith and I rode together from Kellogg to Lewiston, we drank all the way. Once there, I went with Dave Braun to the Stables, a bar in Lewiston where my dad had once tended bar and did a lot of drinking in college.

I partied the next night at someone's apartment. I have no idea where I was or who I was with. Sunday morning, we had an early game and I played the outfield, unable to see our opponent's batters. I was still drunk.

Dick and Floyd's was eliminated in that game, but Don Knott's team stayed alive longer, so Keith and I drank all day, watching Don's team, waiting to see how they did and waiting to take Don home.

We all left Lewiston late in the afternoon. We stopped at bars all along the Lewiston to Kellogg route and drank beer in the car. At one bar, a woman walked in with an ice cream cone and I crushed it. We got kicked out. In St. Maries, we stopped at a store for more beer and Don swiped a helmet off the seat of a motorcycle.

I was nineteen years old, stupid, drunk, lacking a compass.

I was injured on July 23rd. The weekend leading into the accident was the weekend of the Kellogg Softball tournament. It was the same story as the road tournament. Drinking, drinking, drinking.

More Boone's Farm. Beers in the swimming pool parking lot with a guy who claimed to have played for the Spokane Indian baseball team. Ditched him. Off to Dennis Carlson and Rick Waldvogel's apartment and more beer and dancing to the blasting sounds of Spirit and their album, "The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus" and laughing when someone dropped a bowling ball in another part of the small apartment.

So, when I got up to go to work on Monday, July 23rd, I had been drinking, playing softball, and carousing around. Drinking, playing softball, and carousing around pretty much shaped my life, along with work.

That was about to change.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 01/20/07: Home Alone, Silver Valley Update, Let it Snow

1. For most of the day, I was home alone in a quiet house with three dogs and my laptop and I wrote about Mrs. Price and responded to comments I've received to this blog and spent time importing my bookmarks from Firefox into de.licio.us. It was like puttering around the house, but I was puttering around cyberspace.

2. Had a good talk with my mom and found out that her internal stove top burner is set on about medium to medium high when it comes to the new Wal Mart in Smelterville.

3. My sister thanked me for the nature photography book I gave her for her birthday and she emailed me some pictures she and her husband took at their house today up in northeast Washington state. Here's an example:

The Wonderful Mildred Price: Assignment #8

My sister Christy gave this assignment. Christy, Carol, and I are to write a remembrance of Mildred Price, the elderly woman Mom hired to babysit Carol starting in the fall of 1963. Carol was born in July and Mom went back to her teaching job in late in August or early September.
Mrs. Price came to our house to care for Carol.
When I got home from school on November 22, 1963, Mrs. Price updated me on all she had learned so far about the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

In July, 1963, Carol spent almost the entirety of her first month of life hospitalized. We nearly lost her. Mom needed a babysitter she could trust deeply. Mrs. Price fit the bill perfectly.

Mrs. Price made it possible for Mom to return to teaching so soon after Carol was born. Mrs. Price cleaned house, started dinner, ironed, showered Carol with deep affection, and took a break each afternoon to watch Dialing for Dollars on KXLY-TV.

Mrs. Price was the first Seventh Day Adventist I had ever really known. I'd never known anyone who went to church on Saturday. I'd never known anyone who bought Van Kamp's Vegetarian beans. Even at nine/ten years old, I could tell Mrs. Price was a paragon of virtue.
I also knew that the kindly, humble Mrs. Price was very serious about being a good person. Mom knew this, too.

Mom enjoys sweet things. She has never been much of a drinker of alcohol, but when she does drink, it's always a Grasshopper or a Hot-buttered Rum or a Stinger, something sweet, often a drink with a liqueur.

Back in 1963, if Mom were going to have a little smash, it would often be a small glass of Mogen David grape wine. Its sweetness fit Mom's taste in alcohol and it was much simpler than having to have booze or liqueurs around to make a mixed drink.

Mom didn't drink much. Therefore, a fifth or a quart of Mogen David could last quite a while.

But Mom noticed on a visit to the refrigerator one evening that the Mogen David bottle seemed to have come down a bit.

"Pert," she said to Dad, "I didn't think you liked Mogen David."

"Jesus, Mary," he replied, "that shit would knock a cat off a gut wagon."

"So you haven't been taking a nip?"

He made a throw up noise. "No, Mary. Not only HAVE I not been drinking it, I CANNOT drink it."

Second throw up noise.

"Well, I haven't had any for a while, but someone has. "

Dad got up from watching "Yogi Bear" and looked at the Mogen David bottle.

"You don't think...."Dad said.

"I guess I'll have to ask her," Mom replied.

Mrs. Price was adamant. She swore to my mother that she did not drink alcohol and besides she would never help herself to anything in Mom and Dad's house without permission. Mrs. Price was wounded by the suggestion that she would have been nipping on a wine jug with Carol under her care.

The level of the wine jug continued to diminish and the mystery persisted.

One day I heard Mom and Dad talking about it again in the kitchen. I must have turned pale or blushed. Mom asked me if I had been drinking from her Mogen David jug.

I was in the fourth grade. I looked down. "Yes. Sometimes I have a sip."


"Before I go to school."

"Sit down."

It turned out that I didn't really understand that it might be a problem for a nine/ten year old to take a nip from a wine bottle before school. I wasn't seeking a high. I just liked the grape taste of the Mogen David wine. It was kind of like grape juice, I said.

Mrs. Price was off the hook. Mom apologized. Mrs. Price laughed, relieved. I don't know of any other time Mrs. Price's moral character came under question.

So while I enjoyed the lunches Mrs. Price made for me when I came home from school for lunch during the World Series and always think of her when I hear the name of Officer Tippit the policeman Lee Harvey Oswald killed the day of the JFK assassination and regret the childish glee I took, when in the fifth or sixth grade, I used to use naughty double entendres in conversation with Mrs. Price and thought it was so funny that she didn't get them, but I'm never sure I've ever quite forgiven myself for nearly getting Mrs. Price fired because I enjoyed a nip of Mogen David wine before going to school in the fourth grade.

Friday, January 19, 2007

On My Blindness (Part 2)

July 23, 1973 was a Monday morning. I was working as a Maintenance Mechanic's Helper with Stan Baldwin. I was unprepared for this job. Helping a maintenance mechanic required a certain dexterity with simple tools like wrenches and being able to do simple tasks the mechanic required. I had no experience with tools or with repairing machinery or anything. I would have had to learn such skills from my father or in some kind of industrial arts class in high school.

Dad's attitude about employing such skills at home was "I do that shit forty hours a week at work and I'll be goddamned if I'm going to do it on my time off."

I was nineteen. The two previous summers I had worked in the Zinc Plant cell room pulling cathodes lined with zinc from electrolytic cells, stripping the plates of the zinc, and stacking the zinc. I was a stripper. It was shift work. Most strippers worked six days on day shift, had two days off, came back to work on 3-11 shift, had two days off, and then back on graveyard, had two days off, came back on day shift and continued to rotate through the three shifts.

I worked shift work while playing American Legion baseball. When I worked 3-11 I missed practices and games. When I worked day shift I played games after eight hours of hard labor. When I worked graveyard, I went to work after games. Sometimes games and road trips fell on my days off.

The summer of 1973, Dad lobbied on my behalf to get me work where I'd be working straight days. For a while I cleaned floors and emptied waste cans and did other odd jobs around the machine shop. Then I was moved to the roaster floors to work as Stan Baldwin's helper.

Dad's intentions were good. He wanted me to have my evenings free to play softball and wanted me free of the gruelling demands of shift work. The problem was, I was unsuited for the work I was doing. I didn't know what I was doing.

My incompetence angered Stan Baldwin. We only worked together for about two days before I was injured, but already he had cussed me, sighed with exasperation, and pretty much quit talking to me because I was a millstone around his neck.

My incompetence didn't have much to do with the accident that occurred. The accident resulted from human error when the roaster flue was closed.

Nonetheless, I have often wondered what Dad thought, at my side, as I was given oxygen, was lifted onto a gurney, wheeled to the ambulance, and rushed to the emergency room.

He had wanted to make my work life easier. He wanted me out of the cell room. He had underestimated my incompetence. Like everyone else at the company, he hadn't imagined that a flue would ever be opened on a shut down roaster with workers inside. It had never happened before. Now it had happened to his son. I only know from later talking to friends of mine who got drunk with him the night of July 23rd how shaken he was as he drank beer and freely shared his fears and guilt, even as he tried to drown them.

Three Beautiful Things 01/19/07: Back to Poetry, Othello Surgery, Into the Wild

1. Thanks to the blizzards and ice storms and quarter inches of snow that befell Eugene over the last ten days, my Intro to Poetry class met today for the first time since last Wednesday and I loved discussing poetry again with my students.

2. The play Othello needs some trimming and I helped Sparky and Will go through the play and make some judicious cuts here and there to further reduce the play's run time.

3. Kelly dropped me an email to say that she had picked up a copy of Into the Wild at Smith Family Bookstore and loved reading it. I was thrilled that she enjoyed this book. It has been one of my favorite books to teach and to reflect upon over the last five to six years.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

On My Blindness (Part 1)

I am reading Stephen Kuusisto's memoir Planet of the Blind, primarily because I read an excerpt of it in Dog is My Co-Pilot: Great Writers on the World's Oldest Friendship. The excerpt told the story of Kuusisto and his guide dog, Corky. I was moved by this part of the book and so I'm reading the whole thing.

I had the book at rehearsal yesterday. Patrick Torelle saw it and asked me I had ever done one of those exercises where you replicated blindness by wearing a blindfold.

I said that I hadn't, but that I had been blind for five days.

He was curious about my experience. I decided to write about it.

I temporarily lost my sight on July 23, 1973 in a Zinc Plant accident at the Bunker Hill Company near Kellogg. I was working in a roaster on an overhaul.
In the manufacturing of zinc, the roaster is where the zinc concentrate is heated (roasted) at extremely high temperatures to separate the zinc from the sulfide and other non-zinc material. As you can see in the accompanying figure, sulfur dioxide and dust are a bi-product of roasting zinc ore. At the Bunker Hill Zinc Plant, there were five roasters, four of them in the area I was working. The roaster Stan and I were in for this overhaul was shut down, but the other three were operating.

The flue in "our" roaster was closed. This kept the sulfur dioxide gas and dust generated in the other roasters from coming in "our" roaster.

An operator saw that our flue was closed and forgot the roaster was shut down. He opened the flue. Gas and dust poured in on Stan and me.

We were at the top of the inside of the roaster on a scaffold. Our only exit was down a long extension ladder, to a ledge that circled the roaster's interior, to a small door just big enough for a person to crawl in and out of.

Stan started down the ladder. I waited for him to get down a ways. I started down the ladder. The ladder had come back on me when I went up it earlier. I was very cautious going down. The dust and gas blackened the roaster. When I got to the ledge, I couldn't see. I was disoriented.

I fell. I fell to the bottom of the roaster, about 6-8 feet, into dust. I stood up, hacking. I tried to call for help. The gas muted me.

I decided to die. I lay down, formed a pillow by putting my hands together in the shape of a prayer, lay my cheek on my hands, and closed my eyes. I passed out. I envisioned the story of my death on the front page of the Kellogg Evening News. (The audacity.)

Deciding to die saved my life. I had gotten underneath the gas. Outside the roaster, Stan had gone for help. Someone closed the offending flue. The gas was rising.

The roaster was too toxic for a rescuer. I was on my own. I stood up and began to feel my way around the inside of roaster's circumference. I'd never been in the bottom of a roaster before. Few had.

My sight was deteriorating. I would learn later that the sulfur dioxide combined with my tears to form sulfuric acid. It was like having acid rain in my eyes. They were burning.

But, I could see light above me. Workers who couldn't come to me were shining flashlights through the exit. Feeling around, I discovered a permanent ladder welded into the roaster. It went straight to the exit.

I was already weakened by having inhaled sulfur dioxide and zinc and cadmium dust. I pulled myself up the ladder. The guys pulled me out the exit. Oxygen was there. My dad was there. So was an ambulance. Dad and I sped to the hospital.

(Stay tuned.)

(If anyone reading this can explain the function of a roaster better than I have, please tell me so in a comment...and, if you don't mind, leave an address where I can email you. Thank you.)

My Dog Blog

A reminder: I take pictures of Snug, my English Springer Spaniel, every day. I post one of these pictures each day so I'll have a record of how Snug changes and how my picture taking changes over the course of 2007.

This photo blog is at snugdaily.wordpress.com

Three Beautiful Things 01/18/07: Jane King, Karyssa, Costumes

1. What a pleasure to run into Jane King on campus today! In her retirement, Jane has taken classes at LCC, including my Shakespeare course about twelve years ago, and has taken a keen interest in interdisciplinary learning communities and generously supported these efforts at the college. I have been in Jane's company at plays, lectures, my wife's performances, exercising at the YMCA, over food and drink, at receptions, poetry readings, and any number of other gatherings. Seeing her and having a chance to chat for a few minutes brightened my afternoon and sparked my feelings of gratitude for her good cheer and her service to education and to the city of Eugene.

2. I gave Karyssa a ride home after play rehearsal and enjoyed listening to her tell me about her forays into making wood sculptures.

3. Today I went for my costume fitting and I so much enjoyed going to the costume shop and having Heather hand me the exotic costumes I will wear as a Senator and as a gentleman of Cyprus: so much color and such an irresistable opportunity to feel like I'm someone else and living in the worlds of Venice and Cyprus centuries ago.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

No Longer a Shakespeare Scholar

Twenty-five years ago I was, in the small world of the University of Oregon's English Graduate Program, a promising scholar of Shakespeare and Renaissance Drama in England. For several ensuing years, I read Shakespeare scholarship, studied Shakespeare under terrific professors, attended a few national and international conferences of Shakespeare scholars. I became a teacher of Shakespeare at Whitworth College, the University of Oregon, and Lane Community College.

To me, what has marked much of my study, my attempts at writing, and my teaching during these past twenty-five years has been a lack of immediacy in my experience with Shakespeare.

My experience with his plays became so heavily guided or mediated by the writings of scholars and the instruction of my professors, that I often found myself wondering whether I was really working with Shakespeare's plays or if I was experiencing the writing about his plays come to life.

I went to many many performances of Shakespeare's plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. Often, in watching the performances, my mind was so crowded by interpretations I had read of the plays, that I came to the performances with fixed ideas of what the plays ought to convey. For example, when I went to the play *Othello*, I had a fixed idea, largely formed by reading scholarship, of who the character Othello ought to be and had trouble enjoying portrayals that did not fit with my preconceived ideas.

I had some confidence in these preconceptions because they had the stamp of scholarship on them.

I am playing a very small role in *Othello* right now. I am watching more than acting. I am having a glorious experience. Because I have not been reading much *Othello* scholarship and because what I have read has receded from my immediate consciousness, I am having this unusual and most welcome experience of having this play come alive as if I've never seen or studied it before.

I have lost any preconceived notion of who or what the character Othello ought to be. Therefore, as I see Will, our production's Othello, develop this character, I'm seeing an Othello I've never really imagined before come to life. I can't be specific right now, but I'm seeing a whole different physical Othello, an Othello with mannerisms, facial expressions, emotional qualities at particular times in the play I have never thought about before.

It is exhilirating to experience this learning about Othello come from a live embodiment of this character as Will brings him alive. Will is reading lines in ways I've never heard them. I'm hearing words, lines, passages in ways I've never heard them.

When I was a scholar, I would have assessed Will's creation of this character based on what I'd read. Now, since I've resigned my scholarly pursuits, I am not assessing. I am seeing and enjoying an Othello come to life as Will creates him. It's a new Othello. I'm not measuring this Othello against a literary understanding of the character. I am enjoying him as he emerges, accepting him just as Will creates him.

In other words, I'm having a more immediate experience with this character and with this play than I ever did when I studied it in my office. I'm not thinking of the character or the play in terms of a class essay or in terms of interpreting the character or the play for a class of students. I'm simply experiencing the wonder of this complex creation of Shakespeare and Will.

I find it very hard to teach Shakespeare as literature any more. It has been the lifeblood of my professional life, and it seems an insufficient undertaking to me. I want to be a part of the immediate life of these plays and that occurs in performance, in being a part of seeing the play's production come alive in every aspect, from the boards and nails to the moving bodies creating action.

Maybe I'll get scholarly again with Shakespeare. I don't know. But, for now, I want to learn more about these plays from being a part of plays being produced and from acting. It's more immediate. It's more unpredictable. It's more risky. It is, in the end, for me, more alive.

Three Beautiful Things 01/17/07: Hanh, Herman, Copia

1. I hadn't met with my MW Writing 122 class for a week and it was wonderful to see them again. I was surprised how familiar they seemed to me, how many of their names I remembered, and how well we seem to be getting along. They collectively seemed excited about studying a little Buddhism and Thich Nhat Hanh's "Being Peace".

2. Herman told me he won $600 at Luckey's playing video poker. Herman's always proud of the way he takes his occasional video poker winnings straight to the bank and pays bills. Herman is also very proud of a ukelele tape he has. He told me this guy makes the ukelele sound like an opera singer. He promises to let me listen to it.

3. It's been a year since I've introduced students to Robert Grudin's ideas about dialogical thinking and his application of the ancient rhetorical trope "copia" to contemporary practices of critical thinking. I could tell his ideas were stimulating to my class. We are starting to roll.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Raymond, You Are So 2002

I check in on Student of Life's blog every day. Today she listed what she is listening to on her I-pod and it struck me in two ways. First, I at least had the illusion I got to know her better and, second, it gave me ideas for music to look into or revisit. So, I thought I'd list what's on my mp3 player right now. It's another way to blog about Kellogg. Somehow, the soundprints of Kellogg are all over this music:

*Allison Moorer: a Napster live performance of "All Aboard" I love the guitar work.
*Austin Hanks: "Sucker Punch"
*Brooks and Dunn "That's What It's All About" Gotta get "My Maria" on here
*Drive by Truckers "Marry Me" If you haven't found this southern grits band, they are smart.
*Eurythmics Pole dance version of "Sweet Dreams" "Missionary Man" "Would I Lie to You?"
*Gavin DeGraw "Chariot"
*Jon Nicholson "Love is Alright"
*Keith Urban "Making Memories of Us"
*Kris Kristoffersen "Help Me Make it Through the Night" (Drunk self-pity song?)
*Lucinda Williams "Righteously" "Be my lover don't play no game/Just play me John Coltraine" Let's see, what would I do to have those words spoken to me? Ahhhhhhhh!
*Merle Haggard "That's the Way Love Goes" "Misery and Gin"
*Ryan Adams "Chin Up, Cheer Up"
*Shannon Lawson "Bad, Bad, Bad"
*Shooter Jennings "4th of July" This is one of my favorite songs ever: a love road/RV song
*Steely Dan Greatest Hits
*The Alan Parsons Project the albums "Eve" and "Vulture Culture" takes me back to 1979-82
*Uncle Tupelo "Give Back the Key to my Heart" "Punch Drunk"
*Whiskeytown "Jacksonville Skyline"
*Wilco "Passenger Side"

Back in the immediate aftermath of the release of the I-pod, it was common for ESPN radio hosts like Sean Salisbury and Doug Gottlieb to act hip by asking athletes, "What's on your I-Pod, dawg?"

So, I'm a few years behind. And I'm not a dawg. I enjoyed reading Student of Life's post. Making Flippy Floppy is really good about posting his music (and restaurant) tastes. I'm hoping this is timeless: this sharing music pleasures.

Three Beautiful Things 01/16/07: Popcorn, King, Othello

1. I got too excited about making popcorn tonight and the top of the air popper blew off because of the kernel volume. I had to laugh at myself for my eagerness and promised to be more popcorn moderate next time.

2. The temperature in my 8:30 WR 115 classroom was 57 degrees. It was snowing outside. The campus was on the brink of shutting down, and did at ten o'clock. And, yet, in spite of the distractions of cold, snow, and closure, my students got involved in learning about Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail" and made excellent contributions to discussion. You won't catch me complaining about "these students today". My students today were wonderful and were wonderful in less than appealing conditions.

3. I watched a rough but moving run through of the last half of Act V of our production of Othello. It was moving. I felt an upsurge of emotion for the power of the acting and of confidence that we are going to have a very good show.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 01/15/07: Snug Running, Snug Bathing, Laundry

1. After a few months' absence, Snug and I went to the dog park on Crest Drive and I marvelled at how gorgeous Snug is when he runs and how much I love the way he invites other dogs to chase him. I want to write about and explain how it is I love Snug so much, but, for now, words escape me. I do not have words for why my heart stirs when I simply watch Snug run.

2. Snug and I went to Suds Em Yourself after the dog park so I could cleanse him of the mud that gathered all over his underside while at the dog park. Snug was placid and cooperative in the tub. He acted right at home and the looks on his face said to me that he loved his bath.

3. I had a lot of clothes and bedding to launder and I love going to the laundromat when I have a ton to do. I enjoyed how it was as if a bell went off in the neighborhood at about 12:30 p.m when staggering college students began to fill the place, carrying their laundry in back packs, orchard baskets, big cloth tie bags, and in black plastic bags. It was early afternoon and several of these young people looked like their day was just getting under way.

In the picture, Snug sleeps on my newly cleaned laundry.

Remembering the Sunshine Inn

When the party was over in 1992 and again in 1997 at the Class of ’72 20-year and 25-year reunions, I joined classmates over a wee hour in the morning plate of food at the Sunshine Inn. Coming back to the Sunshine Inn took me back to remembering the many, many weekend nights Dad tended bar there. I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever been to or seen another place quite like it.

The Sunshine Inn was, in part, a motel, but I was more familiar with the other part of the business that was divided between a family/truck stop/too-drunk-to-drive restaurant that was open twenty four hours and a bar/lounge/dance floor. As a kid, I spent some time in the restaurant. It had a horseshoe shaped counter, and booths occupied the two sides of the room.

A door cut into the east wall opened into the other half of the Sunshine Inn. Whereas the all- night half of the Sunshine Inn featured burgers and fries, breakfast all hours, and cheap spaghetti and meatballs, the lounge half featured the Jackass Room, a more formal dining area. Tables were lighted by candles, the atmosphere was dim lit and, to quote Dad, “classy”. The Jackass Room was presided over by a picture of Noah Kellogg, the prospector who owned the jackass that kicked up the ore at the spot near what later became the Bunker Hill mine. It also featured an open broiler. Order a steak, and you would watch it be broiled, and have it brought to your table with a plastic bull stuck in it, colored according to whether the steak was rare, medium rare, medium, etc. The word “rare” or “medium rare”, etc. announced, underneath the bull, how the steak was cooked. Every Friday night the Sunshine Inn put on a fish feed, a popular payday buffet, especially for those Catholics who were not supposed to eat meat on Fridays.

Dad loved to eat a steak at the Sunshine Inn. He always ordered a martini and a bottle of Lancer’s rose wine, a sirloin steak medium rare with a fully loaded baked potato, a green salad with Roquefort dressing, the very kind Mom still serves at home, and garlic bread. Mom ordered prawns. Christy and I always had a Shirley Temple. It was our cocktail.

Sig and Bunny Peterson owned and ran the Sunshine Inn. They also lived there. Just off the dance floor, Sig and Bunny had an apartment. They were always at the Sunshine Inn. They would come right out of their residence, onto the dance floor, and circulate, saying hi, drinking right along with their customers, and adding a sense of cheer to the bar. Sig always dressed in matching slacks and a golf shirt, and as the seventies approached, wore a white belt and white shoes. His eyes always had that filmy, fishy, bloodshot look that comes from constant alcohol consumption. He walked slightly bent over, was always flat bellied, drove a Cadillac, and always carried a short clear drink on the rocks, probably gin or vodka. Bunny, too, always had a drink. Her speech was slurred. I heard her speak in the morning, afternoon, and the evening and she always slurred her speech and laughed extraordinarily loud at things that seemed sort of funny, but not as funny as Bunny did.

Dad worked the bar with Paul Riep. Paul and Dad ran a friendly bar, both drinking from a bottle of beer all night long, laughing, trying to keep things peaceful. It was a challenge. I know of one middle-aged woman who often showed up at the Sunshine Inn with a short skirt and no panties, flashing customers up and down the bar. Jack Robinson, a lifelong friend of my Dad's, could be a belligerent drunk, who often called my dad to bail him out of jail, and, who one night tore the white shirt off my dad’s back before dad threw him out the door and into the custody of the Kellogg Police Department. I was shocked when Dad came home early that night, his shirt shredded, briefly explained what happened, put on a new shirt, and went back to his job.

I don’t know if Sig and Bunny ever came to our house. I can’t remember. But they had Dad over to their apartment on holidays when the Sunshine Inn was closed and they had football game parties. The first picture ever taken of my younger sister, Carol, was taken at Sig and Bunny’s when she was five months old. When I went with Dad, or with Mom and Dad, into Sig and Bunny’s apartment, entering from the dance floor, right by the juke box, which Sig let us play free on such days, I felt like I was visiting royalty.

You can't go to the Sunshine Inn now. It's closed. No one runs it. However, if you'd like to resurrect the old place, here's the number to call:

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 01/14/07: Laurie, Monk, Outside the Bun

1. My brother-in-law, Paul's, sister, Laurie, wrote me an email that provided another perspective on the wedding reception I wrote about, here. I was touched that she's been reading this blog and that she took the time to let me see that that reception looked different to her than to me. It was a kind and refreshing email.

2. While I was writing earlier this morning, I had half an ear on XM Radio Channel 70 and Wynton Marsalis giving a talk about Thelonius Monk. I didn't stop writing to give the program my full attention, but each time I did listen, my understanding of jazz and of Monk was bountifully increased.

3. I need to be careful about this one: Last year while working on and performing Much Ado About Nothing, I got in the habit of going to Taco Bell after performances for a midnight snack. We have not begun performing, but there I was tonight after rehearsal, ordering a taco and two chalupas and a Diet Pepsi. I could see my waistline increase right before my eyes. Until last year's Much Ado run, I held Taco Bell in disdain. Now it's another guilty pleasure!

Order of the Arrow: Assignment #7

I gave the assignment this time to me and my sisters. We are to each write about something we did before junior high with a friend or friends that when you look back on it, you say, "That was so Kellogg!"

I had to have been one of the least confident Boy Scouts in the history of the organization. Especially when I was eleven and twelve years old, I had little to no confidence in doing things with my hands and in Boy Scouts that included building a fire, putting up a tent, preparing a canoe to go out on the lake, or lashing together pieces of driftwood to build a raft, or, for that matter, lashing anything.

As a consequence of my lack of confidence, I relied heavily on Kenton Bird for help in doing scouting things. Kenton was a genius. He was the smartest kid in school and I had come to believe that if I followed his instructions, he could figure out anything that needed to be done. I like Kenton a lot, still do. He was a very good friend. Still is. And I depended on him to get me through our Boy Scout camping excursions.

At the end of the sixth grade, the now defunct Idaho Panhandle Council of the Boy Scouts of America in North Idaho organized a camping/trail clearing excursion on the David Thompson Trail. This was forty-one years ago and I'm not quite sure where we were. I'm thinking it must have been in the Selkirk Mountains. Almost had to be.

But here's what I do know: it was a Wilderness Survival Outing. It was an outing that would help meet certain requirements for the Wilderness Survival merit badge. Being a Wilderness Survival Outing, we were not allowed to bring tents. We brought plastic sheets and were required to construct lean-tos out of this plastic and natural materials around the site where we assigned to camp.

I had asked Kenton to be my lean-to mate. I knew I'd be lost in all areas of lean-to construction. I just didn't understand the lashing of poles and creating the right slant or any of that. I depended on Kenton.

I don't know if Kenton knew how much I was relying on him. Nonetheless, we erected a lean-to. Now, here's what I can't remember: I can't remember if it rained while we, as troop members erected these shelters, or if it started raining after dark.

Here's what I do know: out lean-to was not sufficiently slanted for the raindrops to run right off our shelter. Ours had a sag. The sag filled with water. The water broke. On a cold, late spring, North Idaho night, Kenton and I got drenched.

Our scoutmaster's pickup truck was nearby. I can't remember if we both got in it, but I know I did. Our scoutmaster must have known we were in trouble, because he let us in the truck and turned on the cab heater.

The next day was much better. We hiked the David Thompson trail and we did some light work helping clear the trail. We continued in Wilderness Survival mode, carrying our packs and eating very little.

That evening, the troops of the council gathered in a huge circle around a large campfire for a tapping in ceremony for the Order of the Arrow. I had no idea what was going on, only that scouts and men dressed in Indian costume were walking up to certain individual scouts and tapping them firmly on the shoulder three times: one (pause) (pause) two (pause) (pause) three. Then they were taken away.

Suddenly, a man dressed in loin cloth and with a ceremonially feathered head dress was standing in front of me. He looked stern. He raised his open hand slightly over his shoulder and tapped me three times. Two scouting-aged guys took me by the arms and led me away to where other guys who'd been tapped were gathered.

We were told what to do. We had to remain silent for the next twelve hours. We would be having an intiation into the Order of the Arrow in the fall at Camp Easton.

We had been voted into the Order of the Arrow by our fellow troop members.

We were honor campers.

I nearly barfed with guilt.

Looking back, I think of this as such a Kellogg moment. In Kellogg, I always felt in the dark about things. I just didn't seem to know what was going on in the bigger world and so I was often caught off-guard.

In this case, I was naive about Wilderness Survival camping.

I was clueless about the Order of the Arrow tapping in ceremony.

The scouts from Coeur d' Alene always seemed more worldly, more knowledgeable.

I felt inferior.

Only in Kellogg, I thought, would a scout who spent half the night in his Scoutmaster's pickup on a Wildnerness Survival Campout be elected to an elite group of scouts, chosen for their skill at camping.

Kenton was tapped in a year later.

Light My Fire

Kellogg Junior High School was a 7-9th grade school.

As I was finishing the ninth grade in 1969, I'd never kissed a girl. I'd had a steady girlfriend, Debbie Wakefield, whom I was scared to death of. That ended. I have chronicled my three week "relationship" with Joni White, here.

As ninth graders, we decided we wanted an expensive band to play at the school's last dance, a dance put on as a good-bye gesture by the ninth grade. The band was a Blood, Sweat, and Tears type band called the Rotations. I think they were from Seattle. We held a raffle and raised the money to hire them.


Kellogg High Schoolers caught wind of our coup and wanted to attend our dance. A senior, Janice Fike, approached me at church youth group one night and asked me if I had a date to the dance with the Rotations. Of course I did not. She asked if we could go together. My throat went dry. I said yes.

She's a high school senior.

"What am I doing?"

Two of Janice's friends also asked freshman boys to go, so we triple dated, in Janice's car.

I had just started a new job at Stein Brother's IGA grocery store and several of the employees were guys in the class of 1969, seniors. Boy, did I have to endure a raft of shit because I was going to this dance with one of their classmates: a lot of significant winking and elbows to the ribs.

Lord. I was a total naif. I'd never kissed a girl let alone done anything that would constitute a wink or a nudge.

I think this dance might have been called the Freshman Ball. I think we might have dressed up a bit for it. (If you went to this dance and are reading this, please comment and help me get the facts straight.)

I do know that Janice drove the six of us to the dance. I know that I sat in the front seat. I know that Janice instructed me to slide over and sit right next to her as she drove. It was, I suppose, an act of sex liberation, of courageous sex role reversal. Every day I saw girlfriends in cars and pickups with their boyfriends and those girls were sitting shoulder to shoulder with their boyfriend drivers. Never had I seen a girl driving with the boy sitting close to her.

But, there I was.

The dance was a blast. The Rotations were fantastic. I can still, these thirty-eight years later, hear them play "Spinning Wheel", "You've Made Me So Very Happy", "Ride My Seesaw," "Lady Madonna", "Born to be Wild", and "Magic Carpet Ride". The Rotations were a cover band. Thank goodness. Their songs were familiar. The dance was exhilirating.

The dance ended and Neil, Jim, Linda, Lynn, Janice, and I piled into Janice's car.

I figured it was time to go home.

I didn't know about parking.

I didn't know about going to a slightly remote place in a car to make out.

It seemed I was the only one in the car that didn't know about parking.

Janice drove to a spot she seemed to know well, up Vergobbi Gulch. She turned off the headlights and the engine, but left the accessories power on so we could listen to the local radio sation, KWAL.

My mouth was dry. I didn't know what was going on. I acted like I did. My knees trembled.

Once parked, Lynn and Jim and Linda and Neil got right to it. I could here them smacking.

I didn't know what to do.

Janice asked me something like, "How are you doing?"

I answered nervously, dully, a little too loud: "Fine."

The Doors were playing on the radio: "Light My Fire". I could feel the irony.

Janice put her hand behind my neck and pulled my mouth toward hers and we were kissing. The first thing I thought about was her braces. I didn't want my lips to get shredded.

I don't think Janice found me that satisfying. We made out for a while, not long. Janice was the first to want to leave.

She said something like, "I think we need to get these boys home."

I probably had a curfew. I doubt Jim and Neil did. I know the girls didn't. Janice was no doubt glad she could get out of parking with me.

Over the years, "Light My Fire" has been a ubiquitous song. Every time I hear it, the memory of that night and of my first experience making out arises.

It's not a bad memory.

But, I don't feel like Casanova.

Three Beautiful Things 01/13/07:Mocha, Clarkson, Dream Casino

It's been a while since I have given credit to where I discovered the idea of Three Beautiful Things. It came from Clare of Tunbridge Wells in England. If you'd like to look at 3BT central, visit her blog, here, and scroll down the right column and see all the participants in the world-wide movement!

1. I impulsively stopped by Dutch Bros for a Mocha, a drink I so rarely order that it's heavenly when I do. Dutch Bros did not let me down. In fact, I was so intoxicated by anticipation, I left a $1.25 tip for a $2.75 dollar drink!

2. I surfed the Internet to see how Kelly Clarkson's doing these days. I was disappointed that some of the gossipy sites that are guilty pleasures for me were mean about her short haircut. I don't think she looks like a sixth grader. I think she's very cute and has great rock and roll/blues styled energy.

3. I enjoyed a dream that featured an Albertson's grocery store that was also a casino and so it took me about twenty-five minutes to write a check for my groceries as I played these games that were triggered by pushing buttons on what looked like an enlarged scratch off lottery ticket. Exotic animals came to life and shook dice and did other gambling things. I didn't win.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Eugene Digs Out of Crippling Snow Storm

If you you've been reading this blog the last couple of day (here and here), you know that Thursday a severe blizzard struck Eugene, closing schools, unloosing chaos on our streets, and putting buses on snow routes.

On Friday, the snowfall subsided. Antarctic temperatures, however, slickened the roads and my place of employment was on a two hour delay. School didn't start until ten o'clock.

I decided today, Saturday, to go out in my neighborhood and examine the damage. At first, I thought it might be fun to wear snowshoes

or try out some cross-country skis, but conditions on the ground persuaded me otherwise:

It's been cold today as was yesterday. The temperatures have been near or below freezing. Today it was about 29 degrees when Snug and I went walking, so I thought I'd check out some of the local greenery, making sure it survived the storm. This rhody seems stronger than the blanket of snow weighing it down:

This rhody, in spite of being smaller, also seems robust and not too badly compromised:

The great thing about a snow storm is how children can go out and build snowmen. These pictures are taken from some front yards. The freezing temperatures have left these daunting figures intact, so you can see just how blanketed we were on Thursday:

Lastly, here are a couple of structures formed out of the snow in Monroe Park:

I think I can speak for all of Eugene when I say we don't want you to feel sorry for us. We are a city of survivors with a strong will to deal with adversity. We are grateful for the letters and emails of support we have received from around the country during this snow crisis.

With the long weekend and the weather forecast looking good, we are all hopeful that we will be up and running Tuesday and our city can get back to normal. Courage to us all.