Monday, April 30, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 04/30/07: Monday, Deliberations, Comic and Tragic

1. Every night I put a baseball game on XM Radio and am almost impervious to what's happening in the game and am more interested in how each play by play announcer and fellow analyst narrates the game, an especially difficult task in baseball when almost the entire game lacks action. Tonight I listened to Rick Monday. Average.

2. I observed, mostly, and offered a few highly non-binding observations to the Denali editorial board as they deliberated over what written pieces to publish. I'm the magazine's literary advisor.

3. I gave as compelling and comprehensive a lecture as I have ever given today, addressing the complexities of Act III in King Lear. Recent trends in instruction tend to discourage lectures, but today I said to hell with trends: I let it rip. I sensed my students were captivated. I hope so.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 04/29/07: Dog Park, Suds, Sweet

1. Snug was a model dog at the dog park: he stayed close to me, was at ease with the other dogs, played and ran and exercised, and each time I called him, he came.

2. Snug was a model dog at "Suds 'em Yourself". He was muddy from playing in the mud ditch at the dog park and he calmly, patiently submitted to being bathed and dried. He wasn't bothered by the other dogs either.

3. Snug was a model dog when we arrived home. He's been sweet, restful, quiet, and cooperative with the Deke and with the Corgis.

(Did he really go to WINGS?)

Snug Stars in the "Dog Park" Episode of *The Outer Limits*

Sunday Scribblings: Snug Goes to WINGS

This week's Sunday Scribbling prompt is wings.
Here, in Eugene, OR, an organization called WINGS provides educational seminars for those who "are searching for something more — more meaning and purpose, healthier relationships, personal and professional success, deep fulfillment, more fun!" WINGS envisions a world "where people act out of conscious choice, love and respect, not fear."

I have never done a WINGS seminar. But not being WINGed is not the point. The point is that those I know who have completed WINGS seminars, emerge glowing, at least temporarily, with genuine heartfelt joy and are washed in calm and, for a while, gaze deeply into my face when listening to me. They also wear pastel clothing.

Well, my dog, Snug, has struggled sometimes with making conscious choices whether to act out of love and respect rather than out of fear. He can be territorial about food and he consciously chooses sometimes to use his growl voice rather than his in-the-house voice and he aggresses toward the other dogs, our Corgis.

Sometimes when Snug feels confined, he consciously chooses to lunge at the Corgis, sometimes acting more out of fear than love and respect. One time he consciously chose to leave teeth marks in the back of Charly's neck. He consciously made bad choices on other occasions.

About 98% of the time, Snug made conscious choices out of love and respect when extending himself to the Deke (my wife) and to the Corgis, but that 2%, yes, that 2%, is 2% too much and I've been working with Snug to channel his conscious choices made out of fear into conscious choices made out of love and respect. I tried to help Snug search for healthier relationships and more fun!

Something clicked in Snug. It happened it Kellogg when I consciously chose out of love and respect for my family community to visit them over spring break. Snug began making better conscious choices. Yes, he used his growl voice with Sadie and Peaches a couple of times at Silver Valley Girl's house when he consciously chose to feel claustrophobic a couple of times. But he consciously chose to back off quickly. As you can see in the picture above, Snug consciously chose to openly share love and respect for Silver Valley Girl as they consciously prepare to choose to kiss.

Later, when Snug realized that InlandEmpireGirl was consciously choosing to fear that Snug was going to pull the angel food cake off the table that InlandEmpireGirl consciously chose to bake for her family community members to dip into an Idaho Spud fondue, Snug consciously chose to retreat out of love and respect and leave the angel food cake on the table and chose to build a loving and respectful relationship with the rest of us by consciously choosing to put his animal desires aside and think about the happiness of the family community rather than himself.

This transformation in Snug has been very welcome. When I returned from Kellogg, the Deke almost immediately recognized the conscious choices Snug was making and she consciously chose not to fear Snug so much and consciously chose instead to act out of love and respect for him.

At first, we thought Snug had consciously chosen to come to know the Lord. We liked that idea, but the Deke had an "Aha!" moment one day while I was consciously choosing to work, in order to strengthen the financial security of our family community.

"Raymond," she said, "I know what's different about Snug. He went to WINGS!"

I think she's right. To celebrate how he has become a leader in his life, I'm going to consciously choose to gift him with a new dog collar. A pastel one.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 04/28/07: Labor, Christmas Program, Rest

1. I continue to discover more and more sites on the WWW related to work, the history of labor, and photographs about work. I keep hoping some of these discoveries will help my students in their studies and research.

2. Pinehurst in my Dreams got a big laugh out of what happened in the hour or so before we performed together as Santa and Mrs. Claus. (The story is here.)

3. Quiet day. Research. Blogging. Baseball games on the radio. Snug. It helped balance out a work week that left me worn out. I can feel the batteries recharging.

Moral Dilemma: Kellogg High School 1972

A few days ago, Pinehurst in my Dreams and I were reminiscing about our high school days at Kellogg High. We have our thirty-fifth reunion coming up, that includes the classes of 1970-73, and we seem to be warming up for the big days on July 20 and 21.

P-Dreams asked my if I had had a role in the KHS production of "Brigadoon" in the spring of 1972. I told her I did and that I would blog a story about it. It's a story I'll never forget and that helped me a lot to understand the adult world.

I had a very small role as a stage actor in "Brigadoon". I was a village guy named Stuart Dalrymple and had a very brief solo singing moment.

More important, I was also the production's stage manager. Students, under the direction of our art teacher, Mrs. Gunther, had done a lot of work painting flats that were mobile and were to be brought in and out at key times in the production to provide different backgrounds when the play's location changed.

I was given charge over a small group of guys. We worked on moving the flats as gracefully and noiselessly as possible and on being sure we knew which flats came in and out and what point in the play.

I was told I had a lot of responsibility.

A problem surfaced. I had qualified to compete at the Idaho state level in declamation in Radio Speaking. I had scored superiors at both district and regional. But, the state competition occurred on the same Saturday that we performed "Brigadoon".

The declamation advisor's name was Miss Lucille Parsons. Speech and declamation occupied her whole life. She frequently voiced her view that debate and declamation were regarded as inferior enterprises by the high school. She complained loudly about athletics. She felt drama and music were given more priority. This angered her and she was jealous.

At the time that I realized that I was committed to two things I couldn't do at the same time, Miss Parsons was not at school. Her mother was ill in southern Idaho. She was helping her mother. The state competition was being held in southern Idaho, so she was going to meet the state qualifiers at the meet.

When I realized that I was in a dilemma, when I realized that no matter what I decided to do, it was going to cause a combination of inconvenience and disappointment, I began to consult with adults at the college. I talked with Mrs. Faraca, who was the drama teacher. I talked with our music teacher, Mr. Lange. I talked with the Mr. Dutton, the vice-principal. I might even have talked to the principal himself, Mr. Triplett.

They all told me the same thing. I had to decide.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had to stay in Kellogg and fulfill my obligations as stage manager and play my small role of Stuart Dalrymple. I knew that my role as Stuart Dalrymple could have been easily replaced, but I thought I owed my allegiance to the company of the musical to carry out the responsibility I had been assigned as stage manager.

My way of looking at it was that to go to state in Radio Speaking would be the pursuit of something that affected me individually, but didn't really affect anyone else.

To bail on Brigadoon would mean someone else would have to learn the ins and outs of moving the flats, the guys would have to learn to work with someone else, and someone would have to learn, in a short period of time, my role, albeit a small role.

So I stayed.

Not long after the Brigadoon weekend, my mother went to southern Idaho on Idaho Education Association business. Miss Parsons was also a delegate. She cornered my mom and yelled at her, angry that I hadn't come to the state competition. None of my mother's explanations worked. Miss Parson's wouldn't be comforted.

I was in Miss Parson's speech class. It met the last period of the day. The first day she was back, she told me to stay after class. In my naivete, I thought the state declamation tournament was water under the bridge.

Not so. For twenty minutes, Miss Parsons, purple in the face, yelled at me, accusing me of having broken a promise, of lying to her, and of caring more about music and drama then I did about declamation.

I tried to tell her I hadn't broken a promise, but she repeated again and again that I had PROMISED her I would go to the state competition.

My friend Tom Arnhold (who I wish would come to our reunion) had waited for me in the hall. When Miss Parsons was done with me, I left the room and he was visibly shaken, pale.

"You O.K,?"

"I guess."

"Jesus. She ripped you."

"I know. But I was right."

I still think I was right. Ever since this happened, I've tried to put the group, whether my family, a class of students, a company of actors, or any other group I feel allegiance to ahead of my individual desires.

To me, this is what it means to be moral.

Miss Parsons never brought up this matter again. She treated and evaluated me fairly for the remainder of the speech class.

Moreover, when high school graduation came, she mailed me a graduation card. I don't have it any more, but it had a poem on it about the value of having the courage of your convictions and standing by what you think is right.

Today I went to an area of Kellogg High School's website and found out there is a Lucille Parson's Memorial Scholarship available. There ought to be.

By sending me that card, Miss Parsons showed me that she, too, understood that I, too, suffered in my deliberations in deciding not to go to the state competition and that sometimes principles larger than our own desires, including hers, were at work in the world.

I didn't feel vindicated when I received that card. I was deeply touched. It was a generous gesture beyond my undersanding at the time. Looking back, I now know it had to have cost Miss Parsons to send me that card. She had had to humble herself, put aside her enormous pride. Through the card's poem, she told me she respected what I'd done. I'll never forget her for that.

I learned today that graduates of Kellogg High School who pursue higher education can earn a Lucille Parsons Memorial scholarship. I hope recipients learn something about her when they earn this aid.

Ponderosa Pinings: Me and Mrs. Santa Claus

If you are a reader of Silver Valley blogs you've got to go visit Ponderosa Pinings where a fellow 1972 Kellogg High School graduate, Pinehurst in My Dreams, has been writing smashing posts about her childhood in Pinehurst and Smelterville. Her memory is sterling. I am already indebted to her for how much she remembers about our first and second grade years at Silver King Elementary School that I had forgotten.

Recently, she wrote, here, about when she and I were Santa Claus and Mrs. Santa Claus in the Silver King Christmas Program in the first grade. I have a short story to add to her memory.

Playing Santa Claus in the Silver King Christmas Program was my second big role in a row. The year before, at the Kellogg Kindergarten end of the year pageant, I had played Mother Goose's cat, which had me in every scene of the Mother Goose pageant and gave me the chance to chase the three blind mice.

So that our family could properly enjoy the Silver King Christmas program, we went to the Sunshine Inn beforehand for some dinner.

I remember thinking that I needed to eat plenty so I could be a good, fat Santa.

Therefore, I counted the number of French fries I ate. I wanted to please Mrs. Morical. After dinner, I walked into the Mrs. Morical's classroom and announced:

"Hi! We went to the Sunshine Inn for dinner and I ate a hamburger with lettuce, tomato, and a pickle and I ate twenty-three French fries."

I stuck out what little belly I had and did what I thought was a great imitation of Jackie Gleason. I was dramatizing how perfectly fat I was after twenty-three fries to play my role.

I remember Mrs. Morical laughing, giving me a squeeze around the shoulders, and helping me get packed into my Santa Clause suit.

I remember thinking back to this when Robert DeNiro gained forty pounds in order to play the washed up Jake LaMotta. It was my first experience with Method Acting.

Quiet Sickness: Earl Dotter, Photojournalist of Americans at Work

In the course I team-teach on American Working Class Literature and Research Writing, I'm always searching for sources to help expand my students' learning beyond what we do in class.

I thought this was a particularly poignant picture from Earl Dotter's book:

The Quiet Sickness by photojournalist Earl Dotter

Mr. Dotter first encountered what was to become the inspiration for this book's title in a humble textile mill community in Greenville, South Carolina. As it turned out, the village's cotton mill workers had contracted Brown Lung disease as a consequence of exposure to cotton dust while on the job at the local mill. Byssinosis victims cannot usually sleep through the night due to constant coughing brought on by the disease. The community had these signs erected to help victims rest at any time of day.

Quiet Sickness sign (TX43-F26-78)

Scroll down here, and you can survey other pictures from his book from different categories.

Three Beautiful Things 04/27/07: Treat, Strange, Twilight Zone

1. I've been trying to lose a little weight, but at our Literature Dept. assessment workshop today, I couldn't resist these foot long buttery croissant bread cinnamon twist things.

2. Two of my fellow teachers talked about how they work to make subject matter strange. In other words, they try to help students see something from a new perspective. When we see something as strange, we step back, have a new perspective. I was very stimulated by this discussion. I thought how this is precisely the strategy of satire; no duh, Raymond: the movie is called, after all, Dr. Strangelove!

3. I fell asleep early last night with Classic Rock on the Top Tracks (Channel 46) channel of XM Satellite Radio. Every so often, a tune would wake me up and I'd have the experience of being in the past, trying to figure out where I was, realizing I couldn't be there, coming back into the present, and then playing an internal game of Name That Tune. I love these half asleep travels from one reality to another to another, fueled by Rock Tunes from thirty to forty years ago!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 04/26/07: Out of It, Mandrake, Major Major Major Major

1. In our American Working Class Lit. and Research Writing course, I have been drawing upon the major themes of worker invisibility, worker intelligence, the power of collective thinking, and other ideas to help students frame their first research papers that will explore sources we have studied like Harlan County, USA or The Gospel of Wealth or other readings we've done looking at labor history. Jason, a partying student who is often late for class, has his head down often, and who hasn't been very attentive asked me a question that, in the context of this class, absolutely killed me off: "May I write about the merger between the ABA and NBA?" I nearly laughed my head off, but instead I asked him if he's seen the assignment sheet for this project and talked with him for a while about Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Maurice Lucas, and other players who came out of the ABA into the NBA and made a great impact. Too bad it had nothing to do with the course or the literature we are studying!!

2. My students' writing on Dr. Strangelove and our discussion in class tonight was terrific. What a pleasure that they enjoyed the movie so much and wrote about it so intelligently.

3. Likewise, our discussion of Catch-22 was fruitful. I think they are understanding satire at a very deep level. It's very gratifying.

Three Beautiful Things 04/25/07: Charlie Steiner, Colonel Cathart, King Lear

1. Listening to Charlie Steiner call the play-by-play of the Giants-Dodgers game on the radio.

2. The psychopathic worry of Colonel Cathart that feathers in his cap will turn into black eyes.

3. King Lear's moment of recognition as he shivers and suffers on the heath, suddenly thinking, for the first time, of the homeless and hungry who were once his subjects and realizing that "I have ta'en /Too little care of this."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 04/24/07: Jethro Tull, MLB, Reunion Approaching

1. Top Tracks on XM Satellite radio played song after song that I loved to hear tonight, ranging from "Locomotive Breath" to "I Need a Lover (Who Won't Drive Me Crazy)"

2. Listening to Major League Baseball on XM Radio while grading papers. I care somewhat who is playing, but just the sound of the announcer and the background sound of the crowd humming and bat cracking and the slow pace of play is relaxing. Tonight I heard the Red Sox and Cubs lose, which I didn't like, but the sound of it happening was deeply satisfying.

3. Imagining 35 year reunion, trying to imagine how it will be to see Kellogg High School graduate from the Classes of 1970-'73, a large number of whom I had, and I'm sure will have, high regard for. I keep trying to imagine what people will look like and look forward to talking about how things are going and sharing stories about how things used to be.

Kellogg High School Reunion: Classes of 1970-73 (Part 1, Music)

This summer, the KHS class of 1972 marks its 35th year since we graduated from high school. Our class has been, you might say, reunion crazy. We had a ten, a twenty, a twenty-five, and a thirty year reunion and we decided that for our thirty-fifth, we'd see if members of the classes of '70, '71, and '73 wanted to join us in two days of socializing, horseshoes, softball, volleyball, swimming, catered food, and dancing.

Through my blog, I've heard from a few people who are coming and I hope to hear from more.

These reunions are deeply gratifying. It's inspiring to see what fine people we Kellogg graduates have become. At the reunions I've attended, the air has been electric with goodwill, a genuine desire to learn how each other is doing, and a lack of pretension that has made me wish they wouldn't end.

But, now, the thought of seeing friends from the classes ahead of us along with the class one year behind us has me tingling all over.

I think I know exactly what this tingle is about.

I looked up to so many kids whether my age, a class behind, or kids older than I.

I always thought others knew what they were doing and I didn't. Yes, I was good for how Rico Carty batted the night before against the Reds or what Tito Feuentes' batting average in May was and I knew how many points Jeff Mullins scored the night before against the Pistons.

But, when it came, to say, music, I felt lost. I looked up to great musicians at Kellogg High, especially the ones who played in a Tiajuna Brass-like band called the Taco Benders.

When it came to music, I had no confidence, especially in buying LP's. I lived in fear that I'd go to a record shop and buy a Bread album and then find out that the members of the Taco Benders would hear about it and laugh, and I'd learn that the music of the moment was really The Steve Miller Band.

I was so relieved in 1970 at DeMolay Concave in Boise, when, after finding out that Gary Puckett and the Union Gap were in town, that the Taco Bender kids wanted to go. I'd never been to a live concert before. I was a ninth grader. I heard these guys talk about going to Spokane and hearing Steppenwolf and Three Dog Night and Chicago and I wanted to hear a concert live.

It was the best night I'd ever had, but I was afraid to express too much joy. I took my cues from the Taco Bender guys. Thank goodness they were enjoying Gary Puckett. That relaxed me. But they saw things I didn't see. They were wild about the drummer losing a stick midway through, let's say, "Young Girl" and playing out the song with a single stick.

All I noticed was that the songs sounded just like the did on the radio.

I was ecstatic that the Taco Bender guys let me hang around them in the band room or at DeMolay so I could hear them talk about Blood, Sweat, and Tears or Cream and then I'd feel more confident that I was buying music I could talk about and feel good that I liked it.

I sure didn't want to get caught saying something stupid, like "Did you guys hear that album by the Archies? Can you believe what a great song "Sugar, Sugar" is?

I hope a bunch of the Taco Benders will come to this reunion. I'd like to find out what they are listening to these days and show them that I've got some pretty good CD's and mp3 files up my sleeve as well!


Monday, April 23, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 04/23/07: King Lear, Strange-22, Home

1. It's been a day dominated by King Lear. An hour and a half of discussion this morning with my ENG 203 class about all that King Lear is stripped of and one of my students noted that it's a play in which stripping happens all the way around for Edgar, Gloucester, Cordelia, Kent, and maybe others. I'd never thought of that. What a pleasure to always learn new things . . . and always the most pleasurable when my learning comes from my students.

2. More discussion with my next office mate about Dr. Strangelove. It's like Catch-22. The viewpoints of those works has me seeing absurdity, especially bureaucratic absurdity everywhere and I want to articulate the absurdity like these works do!

3. My stepdaughter, Molly, slept here in the basement last night. She just wanted to be home. I like that she thinks of this house and the dogs and how welcome she always is as home. I'm always happy when she or the other kids come over. I'm glad they haven't let go of this place as home.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 01/22/07: Sheets and Blankets, Participation, High Spirits

1. I went to the laundromat to get my bedding washed and dried in one fell swoop. I was wearing my Boston Red Sox cap. A guy I didn't know was listening to the game. First, his wife told me A-Rod had just struck out. Then the guy himself told me the Yankees had just taken the lead and that he was a Giants fan and we talked about how Barry Bonds homered again today.

2. I opened a forum for students in American Working Class Lit and Research Writing to post comments intended to help them get better acquainted and three students posted this evening.

3. My stepdaughter's mother-in-law and the Deke have become very close friends and Mary came over for dinner tonight and it was a jovial time and a very good meal. It lifted all of our spirits, whether or not our spirits needed lifting. It's a grand feeling.

Kellogg Wildcat Basketball

Rhonda emailed me about American Working Class Literature and Research Writing this evening and in response to me telling her I was having a good weekend she wrote, "I am also enjoying my weekend. I've been playing hoops so it's been Grand."

Too often, probably, I think back to when I was a Kellogg Wildcat. I played from 1969-72. It was a barren time for the Wildcats and by the time we had modest success in 71-72, I was a benchwarmer.

I belonged on the bench. So, my ruminations about Kellogg Wildcat basketball don't have anything to do with whether I was being treated fairly.

I think more about how little I really understood basketball. I watch, read about, or listen to games these days and I wonder how we Wildcats might have done had we known some things then that I know now.

What I think about most is that all I really thought about in1969-72 was offense. All of my fantasies had to do with hitting jumpers. All I practiced was shooting. Defense was an afterthought. I know now that teams of lesser athletic talent make up for it by playing hard-nosed defense.

I wonder if our coaches might have drilled us more on defense, drilled into our heads and drilled us in pratice. Playing defense requires excruciating conditioning and great mental strength.

When I played for the Kellogg Wildcats, I think we thought of defense more in terms of glamorous things: steals and blocked shots.

Our defensive liabilities take me back to the night my senior year when the Kellogg Wildcats lost to the Wallace Miner at home, in Andrews Gymnasium.

My most vivid memory was of Steve Grebil, a Wallace senior, putting the clamps on our leading scorer, Don Knott. Grebes was on top of him all night, annoying him, not letting him get his shots, taking him out of his game. Grebes was not a superior athlete. Don Knott was. But Grebes was driven. He didn't score much that night, if at all, but I thought he was the MVP of that upset win.

I look back and wonder what Wallace coach Norm Walker said to Grebes in the week leading up to that game. Did he challenge him? Did the Miners work more on conditioning? Did he scout Don Knott and know his tendencies and did he drill those tendencies into Grebe's head? Or was it just the way Steve Grebil did things?

(Perfect moment. Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker's just came on a Napster playlist: "I Won't Back Down.")

Grebes wouldn't back down.

Grebes makes me think about how willing I was to back down as a basketball defender. I was a defeatist not a defender. I felt inferior to my opponents. I just figured I'd get beat because I was slow afoot and, I know now, I was either ignorant of how to play good defense or the ways I'd been coached to play defense just didn't stick.

When I did play, I got embarrassed often on defense. I was a easy defender to back door. The idea of denying an opponent from going where he wanted to go never crossed my mind, even though players on other teams denied me from going where I wanted to all the time.

I was a zone defense guy. The confrontations were not head to head. I had an area to take care of. Teams usually worked to score from the outside against a zone. I was less exposed.

I watch how aggressively teams, especially good teams, play defense. They swarm. They double team. They anticipate. They create offense out of their defensive sets. Most of all, I see coaches who devise defensive schemes.

It's what I'd like to have back when I think about being a Kellogg Wildcat. I'd like to go back and be a player determined to defend aggressively and be on the floor with other guys who bought into the same idea. I'd like to be better conditioned. I'd like to feel the pride that comes with playing tight defense. I'd like to be a part of a team that dictates what the other team does because of a defensive mindset that won't allow that team to do what they want.

And, yet, when I can't sleep, I imagine myself being a Kellogg Wildcat again. Again and again I imagine myself on a fast break. Our opponent has gotten back on defense and has the lane defended. I get a pass on the wing, about fifteen feet out, along the baseline. I shoot. The twine snaps and I trot calmly to other end of the floor, like I do it all the time.

It's like counting sheep. It helps me get to sleep.

My fantasies are never about defense. Even in my dreams, all I want is the ball so I can swish another soft jumper.

Three Beautiful Things 04/21/07: Reunited, Flyer, New Blog

1. A while back a 1972 high school classmate commented on my blog without identifying herself and today I figured out who she was and now we are in touch.

2. I think I solved another problem related to the flyer at the reunion blog, here. It was a small problem, but I think I reasoned it out.

3. The classmate I wrote about in #1 started a blog, Ponderosa Pinings, and it's off to a very strong start.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 04/19/07: Home, Movies, Link

1. I served my office hour and decided I wanted to take care of school things at home and so I came home to Snug, Maggie, and Charly. I didn't attend the department meeting featuring one of our vice-presidents.

2. Dan Armstrong's office is next to mine. He teaches film studies. Every week, sometimes every day, we talk about movies. We talked about Dr. Strangelove today, and our excited voices rang up and down the hall way. We both love George C. Scott and Peter Sellers.

3. I know it's not that hard to make an image a link to a website with HTML, but I just learned how to do it last week and this evening, with a few missteps here and there, I made a link between the Wildcat image in the column on the right and the new blog I created for the Kellogg High School reunion, classes 1970-73, on July 20-21.

Sunday Scribblings: I Rooted for the Giants: A Look at Shakespeare's Comedies

This week's Sunday Scribbling prompt is rooted.

When I was a boy, Dad rooted for the N.Y. Yankees. I'm not sure why. He loved Mickey Mantle, maybe because legend had it that when Mantle got called up to play in New York he arrived with a cardboard suitcase and an Oklahoma way of doing things. Being a small town Kellogg guy, maybe Dad felt like he and Mickey Mantle were rooted in a similar way: beer drinking, late nights, uncomplicated world view, love of sports.

I parted ways with my father in 1962. I rooted for the San Francisco Giants. My hero was Willie Mays. Mays and I could not have been different in how our lives were rooted. I found Mays electrifying. He was an acrobatic player, powerful, fast, agile, and dramatic.

I began rooting for the Giants in 1962. They played the Yankees in the 1962 World Series. Dad rooted for the Yankees. He seemed more than disappointed in me. He was repulsed. Wasn't I like him, rooted in Yankee lore and love? Why, at the age of eight, had I betrayed him? Why did I become a fan not only of the Giants, but of the National League?

I can't explain it very well. All I know is that with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, with Matty Alou on third and Willie Mays on second, Willie McCovey tatooed a line drive off of Ralph Terry that Bobby Richardson, the Yankee second baseman, played perfectly and speared. The Yankees won.

I was heartbroken. My baseball rooting became rooted in heartbreak. The Giants would not return to the World Series until 1989, a Series shattered by the earthquake of that year. My sports fan life became rooted in rooting for the underdog.

Somehow, then, in my twenties, having rooted for underdog sports teams led to my love of Shakespeare being rooted in the comedies.

I began to realize, first of all, that most fellow students and professors thought of the comedies as inferior to the tragedies. They were the underdog plays to me.

As I studied the comedies more, I realized they were about timelessness, about time going on forever. They ended in marriage; marriage promised procreation. The comedies promised continuation. They often took place in a green world where miracles and reconciliation and forgiveness occurred, making the marriages and continuation possible. In the green world, time seemed to stand still. We were in a world made real by dreams and wishes and imagination.

In my twenties, my thinking was more rooted in baseball than Shakespeare. The two met. Time in baseball is not rooted in clock time. It's measured in outs. If no outs occur, the game continues for ever. Like in the comedies, where forgiveness and marriage bring characters to a place of security within themselves, bring them home, baseball is rooted in players leaving home and returning again.

Baseball is a green game, played on pastures that became enclosed by stadiums. I experienced baseball as a game of miracles, unexpected twists of fate. I understood comedy because of how my thinking was rooted in baseball.

Toward the end of his life, my father no longer rooted for the Yankees. They became too corporate, no longer a green world team, but a team of the city. By the time he died, we had come to reconcile ourselves to each other. I no longer rooted for the Giants, but even if I did, I think we both knew that our relationship was rooted in something much deeper than what baseball team each of us rooted for.

(I don't know why "comments" is disabled on this post. If you'd like to comment, email me:

Three Beautiful Things 04/19/07:Denali, Work Load, Strange

1. Lane Community College's literary magazine is called Denali and am the literary advisor. Today the vigorous, intelligent, multi-talented editor, Lindsey and I had a coffee together. I enjoyed the wide range of our discussion and am proud to support Lindsey's work.

2. Right now we English instructors teach a combination of three and four credit classes and in order to make our workload come out right, we have to teach an overload one quarter and slight underload the other two quarters. Winter quarter's overload taxed me. I am filled with more vitality this quarter and am doing a lot more for my students with my slight underload. I have the right amount of work right now. I'm much more relaxed, better prepared, and am giving my students much better and more rested feedback on their work.

3 My Lit of Comedy class watched Dr. Strangelove tonight. I love the movie. I glanced over the in class writings my students cranked out after thy the movie and the papers look terrific.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 04/18/07: Projects, Teaching, Stealin'

1. My Shakespeare students can present non-essay projects to meet what would normally be an essay assignment and I was proud and excited by the work they did today: one graphic design student made a spare, gorgeous poster for a performance of King Lear; another wrote and performed a searing song; another brought a mirror she shattered and etched lines from the play along with an image of the shattered King Lear; another wrote an insightful poem about the feelings driving Edmund. There were others, all good, all bringing beauty to the study of King Lear .

2. I spent all afternoon and evening working on a series of projects to supplement my instruction and hope that my students find these supplements helpful.

3. On Napster I found the song "Stealin'" by Uriah Heep and remembered the late Friday afternoons that Scott and I played this song before going to Jekyll and Hydes to drink beer and play pool and often to hit the road to go watch the Kellogg Wildcats play away games. Once we went to Sandpoint by way of Athol and in Sandpoint we drank at the Middle Earth Tavern and then enjoyed watching the Wildcats beat the Sandpoint Bulldogs handily.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 04/17/07: Coal, Annhilation, Nine Innings

1. I've seen the movie at least five times now and with every viewing I am more deeply affected by "Harlan County, USA". It's hard to argue against the assertion that this is the finest documentary movie in existence.

2. I've been previewing "Dr. Strangelove" for my Lit of Comedy class as we study war satire. As I grow older, I more and more deeply admire Peter Sellers' beauty as an actor. His ability to embody a character, let alone, in this movie, three characters is nearly unparalleled, imho.

3. I listened to the Detroit Tigers build a pretty good lead on the Royals, blow it, recapture the lead, and defeat Kansas City. It's a pleasure to have and XM satellite radio subscription during baseball season and fill my study with the sounds of radio announcers bringing the games alive.

Three Beautiful Things 04/16/07: Churches, Bose, Alex Supertramp

1. As much as anything, I enjoy having discussion with people about their churches and how things work in different churches, not only theologically, but also regarding how the place operates. Katrina and I have been having a wonderful email exchange on this very topic and it's been heartwarming and informative.

2. Nothing like a little bit of reasonable self-indulgence. I went to Best Buy and purchased some new speakers for my computer and XM satellite radio. Sweet.

3. I've just read short essays my WR 123 students wrote on Chris McCandless in the book Into the Wild. They are writing about Chris' feelings, thoughts, and understanding of himself in relation to class and his efforts, in that regard, to re-invent himself. I think highly of the students in this class. Their work in these papers surpassed what I thought they would do. How gratifying!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Are You Real Kellogg? Assignment #19

Mommie Dearest posted Are You Real Athol?, here, and so Silver Valley Girl decided that she and InlandEmpireGirl and I should write a similar list about the Silver Valley. I opted to focus mine on Kellogg. Read InlandEmpireGirl's list, here and overachieving Silver Valley Girl, here, who listed twenty-five plus an unnumbered 26th!

In no particular order, here are my twenty:

1. You were born in the Wardner Hospital, which was in Kellogg.

2. When you went school shopping at J. C. Penney you only cost your parents about $15.00 because all you needed was a new pair of Dickies, a pack of white T-shirts, and a pair of P.F. Flyers.

3. You got a ride to work drunk on day shift on Saturday morning from a friend whose floor you passed out on and then after your shift you had to ask a fellow worker if he had time to drive you around Kellogg and Smelterville to find your car because you lost it some time, some where on Friday night.

4. You had read all the comic books and baseball magazines at Dick and Floyd's while waiting for your dad to quit drinking in the back so you could get home for supper, late.

5. You learned to play baseball on AstroDirt©, great training for the bad hop.

6. When you got drunk at the Kopper Keg and couldn't drink your last beer, you dumped in down a pool table pocket.

7. Whenever you went to the Gold Strike stamp store in Coeur d' Alene you always got lost trying to navigate the tangled web of streets and heavy traffic.

8. North Idaho College was your first experience with cultural diversity.

9. The center of social activity was the Kellogg swimming pool parking lot.

10. Your favorite T-shirt said, "Ranier: Breakfast of Champions".

11. Your first experience with wine was Annie Green Springs and your first mixed drink was Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill with 7-Up--a wine flip.

12. You had to go to college to have a pizza that wasn't frozen, eat an enchilada that wasn't canned, or have a steady diet of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

13. If you ever got to go to a big city, you explored it by going bowling.

14. The largest clothing department at J.C. Penney was work clothes.

15. The best meal in town was the toasted cheese sandwich at the Pik Kwik lunch counter with a Pepsi over crushed ice in a glass embossed with the cursive Pepsi logo.

16. Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Green River" was the greatest album ever released.

17. You chewed Copenhagen in class in high school because you could swallow.

18. Cherry Vodka.

19. You came to love the thunderstorms that rumbled in over Lookout Pass from Montana when once they made you hide under your covers when you were a little kid.

20. You left Kellogg, thinking you'd go far, went far, and now spend many of your waking hours wishing you were back.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 04/15/07: Zone, Heller, HTML Playpen

1. I went to the laundromat this evening and was in a zone. I felt like the Eddie Van Halen of clothes washing and drying mastery. I was like Eddie on his best night pouring out "Eruption", so good that I turned my back to onlookers so they wouldn't steal my cleaning, drying, folding techniques.

2. I'm starting to see Catch-22 in everything around me. I think that's Joseph Heller's point.

3. I opened my HTML playpen today. You can type messages in this box! The box I made!

Topic: Pert's HTML Playpen

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 04/14/07: Peace, Jennifer, Grebe

1. Today I decided to forego a trip to the laundromat and I stayed home, where it was just me and dogs and peace and quiet, and wrote blogs and read others and move another baby step or two ahead in my intermittent efforts to teach myself HTML.

2. My HTML efforts were accelerated by meeting a new person in the blog world. Jennifer wrote a wonderful piece for Sunday Scribblings for the new prompt, "Secret Indentity", here, and wanted to put a Thinking Blogger Award banner on her blog with a link to Thinking Blog imbedded in the image. I wanted to do the same. We had a lovely exchange and the upshot was that I figured out how to do it and helped her do the same. Jen's blog is wonderful, focusing on family matters, especially as she home educates her children.

3. I hadn't thought of Steve Grebil for quite a while. We played American Legion baseball together and he was a tenacious defensive player for the Wallace Miner basketball team, our chief rival at Kellogg. I had a lengthy dream about him and uptown Kellogg and the Union Legion Lanes bowling alley. It was like we got back together again and talked about old times.

Assignment #18: Recipe Memoir: Those Graduate School Days

InlandEmpireGirl is working on a recipe memoir book. She assigned Silver Valley Girl and me to make a contribution to her work with a recipe/memoir piece of writing. InlandEmpireGirl's is here and Silver Valley Girl's, here.

WHEN I WAS in graduate school and single between the years 1984-87, I took great pride in preparing and eating delicious, inexpensive, and healthy meals. I didn't have a car then. I walked or biked to my near downtown apartment, and on the way was the Kiva, a grocery store with good produce and a generous bulk food area.

I realized that I could make my somewhat meager teaching fellowship stipend go quite a ways if I ate at home, cooked with fresh vegetables, potatoes, pasta, noodles, beans, grains, tofu, and rice, and cheese. I was a vegetarian at home and a carnivore on the road.

When I was at my best, I reserved Sundays to prepare meals for the coming week. I froze meals, made others last two or three days early in the week, and had other easy to prepare food like tortillas and eggs on hand for those days when I miscalculated or wanted variety.

I think it was Christmas or my birthday in 1984 that InlandEmpireGirl gave me Nikki and David Goldbeck's American Wholefoods Cuisine cookbook as a gift. I learned more from this cookbook about preparing terrific vegetarian meals than I learned from any other.

I experimented with soups, casseroles, couscous, tofu stroganoff, pasta sauces, huevo rancheros, and other dishes. I actually looked forward to welcoming myself home and asking myself, "Dear, what's for dinner tonight?" and pulling out of the fridge or the freezer or preparing fresh, sometimes, a dinner I really loved.

I invited friends to my tiny apartment for meals. Sometimes students would come over. I was always proud that they enjoyed these simple meals and seemed impressed that I took good care of myself, despite a heavy study and teaching schedule.

The meal that stands out most clearly is the Cheese-Vegetable-Barley Bake. I love barley. I love how plump and chewy barley gets and it has a kind of meaty sweetness that goes well with a wide variety of other foods, both meat and vegetable. I've never put meat in this meal. I've enjoyed it just the way the recipe outlines it:

2 tablespoons oil
2 cloves garlic
1½ cups chopped onion
2 average carrots, sliced
2 medium zucchini, sliced
2 medium potatoes, sliced
½ pound eggplant, cut in ½ to 1 inch dice
¾ cups barley
1½ cups tomato broth (from drained tomatoes, or diluted juice or puree)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon oregano
2 cups shredded Jack cheese

Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet and saute garlic and onion until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add remaining vegetables and saute, stirring a few times, for 5 minutes.
Add barley, tomato broth, and seasonings; bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Transfer contents of the skillet to a shallow 4-quart casserole; stir in 1 cup of the cheese. Cover and bake for 45 minutes. Vegetables and barley should be tender. If not, replace cover and cook longer.
Top casserole with remaining cheese and return to oven uncovered, for about 10 minutes to melt.

I used to experiment with this dish by using broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, mushrooms, increasing the oregano (I could probably eat lawn clippings if they had oregano on them), adding some basil, and using cheddar cheese instead of jack.

This dish passed the most difficult test of all after the Deke and were married. At that time, Molly was in the 6th grade and Patrick was in the 8th. Adrienne was 19 and a vegetarian then. I knew she'd like it. But the middle schoolers? They did. I was happier that they liked this dish than I was when any of my friends or students came over. What a triumph in my new family with my new step-children! This dish was a confidence builder.

Thinking Blogger Awards

Over at The Thinking Blog (home page here), ilker yoldas started a new blog meme called 5 Blogs That Make Me Think. I've been tagged twice, to my knowledge, by InlandEmpireGirl at Gathering Around the Table and by Katrina at Notes on a Napkin. By clicking on the names of their blogs, you can see who else they nominated. Click on their names, and start reading two of my very favorite blogs, for their beauty of thought and their aesthetic beauty.

Of special note to me is InlandEmpireGirl's nomination of our sister, Silver Valley Girl and her blog Silver Valley Stories, a sharp looking blog full of family stories, history of the Silver Valley, and other observations. Each day she takes a picture of the same tree in her backyard. It's fascinating.

My five nominees, in no particular order, are:

In Search of Walden by Student of Life. Back in October, I was playing around with the "Next Blog" feature of blogger, and up popped this blog. I was hooked. Student of Life is a former television news producer who now stays at home raising her son "Little Sunshine". Student of Life is a seeker. She's a direct, vibrant, intelligent story teller. She works vigorously and often humorously to sort out what life means spiritually, socially, and intellectually. I go to her blog every day and she never fails to stimulate my imagination and thought and often gives me a really good laugh.

2Blowhards " In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations." This 2blowhards self-description underplays these men's variety of subject matter on this blog. They are articulate, very thoughtful, and free-wheeling. A smart bunch of commenters post savvy responses and the site is a gold mine for other superb blogs. Michael Blowhard, in particular, is sort of obsesssed with immigration and loves pop stuff: thrillers, B-movies, YouTube, jazz, older pop music, and pictures NSFW. He's my favorite non-elitist bon vivant.

Dubya's Personal Blog I wish I had a dollar for every time these ingenious nuggets of satire made my sides hurt from laughing out loud. Poor old Dubya: he's a stand up guy who never quite gets it right and is genuinely perplexed to find himself commander-in-chief and leader of the free world.

Red Shoe Ramblings: 365 Days of Art "
No talk, just photos of my Daily Art Thangs" Deb Richardson takes a new photograph every day. I love her work. She posts a wide variety of photographic art, all of it immediately accessible, much of it rural, and charged with imagination, beauty, and soul.

Three Beautiful Things
"Every day I want to record three things that have given me pleasure. This 3BT site is the original Three Beautiful Things." Claire started it. I was inspired by her. She's a beautiful writer with a keen sense of observation and a deep love of life. 3BT has become a habit for quite a few bloggers who must, like me, find it fun to spread around some enjoyment and pleasure from each day.

I should add here that I daily read Huckleberries Online and am stimulated by more posters from that bunch than I could nominate within the five nominee limit. I decided to make my nominees "non-HBOers", but one day I'll write a post that brings them all to light. Maybe I'll just decide to do a second or a third "Thinking Bloggers" post!

Lastly, here's a request from The Thinking Blog:

Should you choose to participate, please make sure you pass this list of rules to the blogs you are tagging. I thought it would be appropriate to include them with the meme.

The participation rules are simple:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn't fit your blog).

Friday, April 13, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 04/13/07: Yossarian, Cats, Back on the Horse

1. I started re reading Catch-22 and remembered how wonderfully Heller combines the story telling beauty of a novel with the nonsense and illumination of the theater of the absurd.

2. Mel came over from next door and bade the Deke farewell. They've moved out. Animal Recovery took Leon's twenty-nine cats safely to a no-kill shelter. Mel claims they've all been adopted. Let's hope.

3. Asleep, Snug rolled off the bed. Bewildered, he jumped right back on. He didn't suffer post-traumatic bedfall syndrome.

Sunday Scribblings: Secret Identity

Sunday Scribblings posts a new prompt each week about Friday/Saturday and invites submissions. If you like writing assignments for your blog, check it out. This week's prompt: Secret Identity.

IMMEDIATELY, I think of Shakespeare's play King Lear. In the first act, the eighty-year-old king, in a fit of rashness, banishes the daughter who loves him most, Cordelia, and the subject most loyal to him, Kent.

Kent leaves. He returns. He disguises himself as Caius. Caius becomes Kent's secret identity.

I've thought long and hard over the years about Kent being in disguise and I've concluded that Shakespeare intensifies the chaos and danger of this world of King Lear by portraying the way that in a world of evil, those who are good must assume a secret identity in order not to be killed. But it's more than survival. Kent must deceive the king to serve him. He cannot do the good he wants to do with his actual identity. He must mask it. He must assume a secret identity.

It's one of my favorite and most complex ideas the runs through Shakespeare's play: virtuous deceit. In order to be good and to try to do good, characters like Rosalind, Friar Lawrence, the Friar in Much Ado About Nothing, Hermione and Paulina in The Winter's Tale, Puck, and others cannot be openly good. They have to apply poison to poison and cure deceit by being deceitful.

Shakespeare seems obsessed with how can one be moral in a mutable world. He distrusts the idea that moral codes should remain fixed or static when the world itself is always in flux. He never asks it outright, but implicitly he suggests that to make the best and most moral response, characters, and, in turn, we must be morally alert and flexible. We cannot apply the same moral code to each thing that happens. Shakespeare almost always portrays flexibility as morally superior to rigidness.

I act on this a lot in my work as a community college English instructor where I work with myriads of different students who come to my classes from a wide variety of contexts. Many of my students are in deep trouble of one kind or another. They might be freshly released from prison. They might be in deep poverty. They might be recovering from drug addiction. They might be starting over after divorce. They might be trying to gain confidence and purpose after having been beaten up and trapped in a cruel marriage.

As I work with these different students together in the classroom, I portray a fairly consistent identity as an instructor. It's an identity (or a persona) different than my one at home or when I'm playing poker with friends in Kellogg. It's a secret identity to people who don't know me as an instructor. My identity elsewhere is a secret to my students.

As an instructor to these many different students, I sometimes assume a secret identity with some of these students in my office or away from class. It's an identity I can't always show the whole class. More often than not, it's a more lenient person, a person who is willing to bend institutional rules, deceive the college, in you will, in order to help the student and possibly give the student a break.

Like King Lear in the beginning of Shakespeare's play, officers charged to run institutions are very suspicious of rules being bent or broken. They operate in an imagined reality where to treat people equally, you must treat them the same.

I know this isn't true. To treat people equally is to treat them justly. I treat my students equally in this regard. But justice and fairness can have multiple faces, and often in order to do the right thing, I must assume a secret identity, and like Kent, do what I think is right from behind a disguise or a mask.

This virtuous deceit, in my work and elsewhere, has done more to help me live with a clear conscience than any other factor in my life.

Assignment #17: August in Orofino

In our ongoing series of assignments to one another, InlandEmpireGirl, Silver Valley Girl and I all worked to tell a story using the phrase, "August in Orofino" (or "Orofino in August") three times. Mom was born and raised in Orofino, Idaho, a logging and water recreation town on the Clearwater River, forty miles east of Lewiston. Our family vacationed there every summer. In August. My sisters' pieces are here and here. I posted an earlier, heartbreaking post about Orofino, here.

IT NEVER cooled off in Orofino in August. No one, not Bob and Ronnie, Ted and Lila, Lura and Lyle, not Mickey, not Grandma, nor Ruby, John and Linda, not the Stanleys, not Norm and Jane Erbst, not Jim Bessent, no one had air-conditioning. Only the Rex Theater and bars that advertised air-conditioning in letters made of blue ice blocks had it.

Orofino in August was sultry: a blanket of Clearwater River humidity lay over Orofino in August, unrinsed for days, sometimes weeks, and everyone's house trapped the heat inside, tinny little fans feebly moving the damp air around.

The best way to cool off was swim, and in Orofino in August, Mary Stanley and InlandEmpireGirl and I walked the six block or so up a little bluff where the Orofino City Pool sat.

Mary Stanley had a sister, Pat, old enough to have a daughter my age. Her name was Molly. I can't remember her last name. I was happy to withstand the heat in August in Orofino when I knew I'd see Molly. Now, Molly's family didn't live in Orofino, but somewhere not far away, and they came to visit Mary Stanley's family quite often and the Stanleys lived next door to Grandma West, where we stayed every August in Orofino.

Going to the swimming pool in August in Orofino with Molly along made my whole body smile. I showed off. I was over animated. I wanted to make Molly laugh. I wanted her to like me. I wanted all her attention. She made me forget the heat of August in Orofino. My focus on her, and her alone, put the heat out of my mind.

I splashed around with Molly in the shallow end of the pool. Somehow we came up with this way to play we both enjoyed. I took Molly by the ankles, pulled her toward me, lifting her legs up, and then I dropped her. She loved it, the gliding in the water when I pulled her and then being submerged when I let go. I loved this game because I locked my gaze on Molly's cute face and watched her eyes go wide as she swooshed and sunk, swooshed and sunk.

In Orofino in August, it cooled off a little at night and Molly and Mary Stanley and her sister Liz and InlandEmpireGirl and I played hide and seek and tag and Red Rover, Red Rover and other running and screaming games. Once Liz, who was older, teased me for liking Molly so much. "You sure like Molly, don't you Billy?" and in a moment of courage I just said (admitting my true feelings, which scared me to death), "So?" Then Molly knew for sure.

Each year, returning to Orofino in August meant being one year older and at some point, maybe the fourth or fifth grade,I didn't go swimming and playing with Molly. We seemed too old for the little kids' stuff we had done and we weren't into sneaking off somewhere and kissing in bushes or anything like that. We were in between being innocent little kids and horny teenagers. I ached. I still really liked Molly, but no outlet I knew of existed to act out my affection. It was over. And now, these forty-five years later, I don't even know anymore when the last time I saw Molly was.

August in Orofino was really fun: we brought home polliwogs from the polliwog pond at Beaver Dam; we rode Shetland ponies with the Johnston kids up Peck; it was August in Orofino when the Stanley brothers taught me how to play baseball, and for some reason started me out as a lefty batter, even though I'm right handed: I threw right, batted left for the entirety of my baseball days; we showered at Grandma's, a pleasure we didn't have at home; we ate cold cereal with fresh raspberries and half and half on Grandma's sun porch; we went to movies, like "Father Goose" and "River of No Return"; we ate ice cream at the Ponderosa Cafe; the library let us check out books; Dad and I went to Lewiston to watch the Athletic's single A baseball team, the Broncos play: I got Rick Monday's autograph.

All that was fun.

But I liked Molly best. It was Molly who made me really look forward to the trips to Orofino in August -- for the brief time our little kid fling lasted.

Three Beautiful Things 04/12/07: Kook, No Sex, Live TV

1. K-doe, Daisy and I met at Barry's for a few-wheelin', free-speakin' round of ice water, coffee, and peanut butter cookies and managed to keep our groove alive in spite of the interruptions of a slightly deranged woman who obviously wanted to talk. We didn't want to.

2. Lordy! Was it ever fun getting Literature of Comedy more fully off the ground with some darn good discussion of the sources of anti-war vitality in Lysistrata.

3. K-doe and Daisy take a course that meets in a television studio. I wanted to talk with them before our coffee meeting, to solidify whether I could make it to Barry's. They dumped class, but could watch the class they skipped on television. They sat home and laughed at me as they watched me live when I came not once, but twice into the classroom studio, during the class' break, looking for them.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Three Beautiful Things: 04/11/07: Madness, Sex, Waist

1. Thanks to having a long afternoon stroll with Snug, I got home after people started fighting next door and one of the parties stumbled onto our front porch braying, "Call 911" so the Deke did and the police restored order and I came around the corner with Snug and walked by the police and one officer was asking the other if he shopped at Albertson's.

2. Reading Lysistrata and thinking about the antithesis in the play between the mirth of sex and wine and the destruction of war.

3. Pants that had been fairly snug, fit better today.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 04/10/07: Trader Joe's, Scuffle, 10,000 Black Men Named George

1. My student K-Doe works at Trader Joe's and in a paper about her work she reported that certain Trader Joe customers exist who come in looking for certain foods and when they discover the food product is unavailable, they cry. I wrote her a disbelieving email about this, asking who would cry if gluten free low sodium wild salmon frozen marinara lightly salted free range cinnamon two buck chuck cabernet baguette vanilla soy Fat Tire Guatamalan grain-fed almonds have been discontinued at Trader Joe's?

2. I was grateful for police when they arrived to break up a teen age altercation while I was out walking Snug. I guy was flipping out, yelling at a girl to get out of his car and she wouldn't budge. I didn't see any physical violence, but the verbal abuse was ugly.

3. I have seen "10,000 Blace Men Named George" about five times now and I enjoy it more each time. It moves me. It's low budget. It has some cheezy moments. I don't care. It's a moving account of the unionizing of the Pullman porters.

Three Beautiful Things 04/09/07: Edmund, Autobiogaphies, Laugh

1. Reading closely, with my students, the Act I, ii soliloquy of Edmund as he argues his amoral devotion to Nature, nature which he defines as amoral, as the goddess of the strongest being the ones who survive. He is especially motivated by his hatred of custom which has branded his bastardy as base.

2. Reading my research writing students' intellectual, philosophical, educational autobiographies and learning about their backgrounds, ways of thinking, personalities, and experiences.

3. Making a stressed out Linda laugh when I said about a loud person we work with: He is risen, He is risen indeed. I think Sarah woke him up.

Monday, April 9, 2007

More Three Toots History

An anonymous commenter wrote the following about Three Toots Tavern:

My father was a firefighter for over forty years. He fought the fire at Three Toots and it was the only time as a firefighter he was seriously hurt. They were worried about the underground fuel tank. Since wood smoulders for so long, the next day he was back for what they called "mop up." A (large) tree limb that had burned almost completely off came down, dented his fire hat as it knocked him unconscious and won him a trip to the West Shoshone General Hospital. He spent the night, and was treated for a concussion and smoke inhalation.(His fire buddies brought the limb to our house where it sat in the garage as a trophy until the joke got stale).

If the poster of this comment would like to identify him or herself, I'd like to exchange more stories. Just email me at Thanks.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 01/08/07:Flowers, SnugBlog, Easter Sisters

1. Posting pictures of flowers in my neighborhood, here, and knowing I didn't post them all!

2. Dropping the new picture of Snug each day idea and just posting a bunch of new pictures at I had pictures saved that I didn't get on his site on a daily basis, so I just post a bunch of new ones, giving up the day to day idea for now.

3. Enjoying my sisters' beautiful Easter days via the fun and gorgeous pictures on their blogs, here, here, here, and here.

Three Toots Tavern and Gibbs Tavern: A Brief Pictorial History

I discovered about two months ago that one of my students, Penny, is the granddaughter of one of the proprietors of Three Toots Tavern, now gone, but which sat at the bottom of the Page road on the old highway 10 between Smelterville and Pinehurst. Her name was Hazel Russel/Barker. Her son, James Gilbert, ran the tavern. Three Toots was theirs from about 1948-1953.

Hazel also bought a tavern in Cd'A, whose name I can't recall, but she renamed it Gibbs Tavern. Many North Idaho residents remember this tavern well. Here are three pictures of Toots Tavern. Hazel is standing on the tavern porch in the first one.

The fourth picture is an interior shot of Gibbs Tavern. It's a picture of Hazel and her husband at the time, Russ.

Here's a more recent picture of Gibbs. Coeur d'Alene Fire Department personnel stand in front of it during a fire training and demolition burn.

Silver Valley Girl's Tree

Since Silver Valley Girl posts a picture of her backyard tree every day, I thought I'd join in and post a picture of her tree myself. These were taken from her laundry room.

Life's Maintenance

As a culture, we usually think of the routine maintenance of life as something done by the unpowerful. We ignore those processes, thinking that our resources are endless, and that our landfills are infinite. If the president had to do his own laundry, this would be a better country.
— Barbara Kingsolver
Best-selling author.
From Organic Style Nov. 2004

Easter Stroll with Snug in the Neighborhood

Theologically, Easter is about the Resurrection. I enjoy that the world of flowers has its own death springing into life this time of year, too. Today Snug and I went out to see how the resurrection was doing in the botanic world today.

Snug seemed happy to go!

A neighbor nearby has a lovely tulip bed:

Elsewhere, this tulip attracted my attention:

Here it is, upright:

Here is this tulip in the company of the other tulips in its bed:

I enjoyed these poppies growing in the midst of this rose bush:

This one seemed the most happy to have risen:

It's the fourth round of the Masters today, but you don't have to go to Augusta National to see a fiery azalea:
I admired this simple step leading to more steps and on to the porch:

Silver Valley Girl recently posted, here, about her love of lavender. I took a couple of lavender shots for her:

Happy Easter.

Three Beautiful Things 04/07/07: Fire, Hidden Jobs, Pullman Porters

1. An entire, uninterrupted day spent on my classes, with most of it spent gathering resources to supplement the readings assigned in the American Working Class Literature course. I hope some of our students will take more than a passing interest in the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York City. To explore this historic event in United States' labor history, go here and here.

2. For this course, I'm always searching for photography websites that show US workers doing their many various hidden jobs. You'll find an index to a handful of such photographers here.

3. On Tuesday, we'll watch the film "10,000 Black Men Named George", the story of A. Philip Randolph's impassioned efforts to organize the Pullman porters into a national union. You can visit the website of the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum here. Randolph was a primary organizer of the March on Washington in 1963, where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech. Life Magazine featured Randolph on its September 6, 1963 cover, here.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Tulips at Lane Community College

Sunday Scribblings: In the News: Safety at Work

This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt is "In the News".

In a perfect world, the conditions that lead to accidents and disasters would be in the news rather than just the disaster itself.

I'm thinking of this statement in relation to coal and other mines to begin with. Invariably, when a coal mine has a water break or when a collapse occurs, safety conditions in that mine are sadly lacking.

I'd like to see such lapses be in the news.

I realize that the conditions that lead to mine disasters are not nearly as dramatic as the disasters. I realize that if these conditions were in the news, it would not provide a heroic story line. I realize that if these conditions were in the news, it would lack the drama of a vigil, of anxious wives and lovers and mothers and siblings waiting night and day to see if their loved ones will emerge.

To me, the real story in mining towns and in other dangerous and extractive industries is the story of workers going to work every day to face danger and potential death.

In essence, every day is a vigil of waiting for the mothers and wives and others who are not underground or not in the woods and quietly pray that their loved ones will return home safe. I'd like to see these everyday stories of workers and what they face be more predominant in the news.

I know why these stories are not in the news. Part of it is the way we humans have to block danger out of our minds. In order to make it day to day, families whose members work in mines or steel factories or in high rise construction, have to act like their loved ones are not doing the work they do.

They probably don't want it in the news, either.

But, if the journalist is a watchdog, I wish there were ways that women in sweatshops and men in heavy industries had journalists as watchdogs for them. It might help make their work safer.

Instead, the dangers and safety short cuts and lax regulations remain out of the public eye.

They are never in the news.

Three Beautiful Things 04/06/07: Brisk, Morning, More Art

1. I was happy to have faciliated today's division meeting and we got out of there in 45 minutes.

2. Because I taught night school last night, I had a later morning today and I enjoyed not having to be out the door quite as early. Very relaxing.

3. I enjoyed taking more pictures of the sculptures that have arrived on our campus.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 04/05/07: Comedy, Chip, Hangover

1. I haven't taught Literature of Comedy for about five years and what a pleasure it was tonight to see the surprise on my new students' faces when they learned this was a course in love, community, family, healing, vitality, goodness, flexibility, reconciliation and not gags and goofiness.

2. I had a nice lunch with some of the students from the theater program, some of whom I hadn't seen since Othello.

3. Sitting in the back of the room, hungover, asleep off and on during class, Adam came to life and told the class valuable facts about Andrew Carnegie as we discussed "Gospel of Wealth".

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 04/04/07: Fish, Pod, Woman

1. New temporary sculptures have been placed around the campus of Lane Community College. I like this piece that is a fish inside of a sphere:

2. This piece is a pod with propeller-like figures that have been locked inside but now are being set free.

3. I like how light this figure is in the face and how much weight is in her breasts. It is as if her face defies gravity while her breasts are subject to gravity, as if she is heavenly and earthbound simultaneously.

Sunday Scribblings: Deepest , Darkest: A Look at the Silver Valley

Immediately this Sunday Scribbling prompt brought to mind Greg Olsen's book The Deep Dark: Disaster and Redemption in America's Richest Silver Mine.

Olsen's book chronicles the 1972 Sunshine Silver Mine fire near my hometown of Kellogg, Idaho. The fire killed 91 miners.

My memory of the Sunshine Mine fire and its impact epitomizes how I have come to understand my relationship to my hometown and my understanding of its meaning to me as a geographical, historical, and spiritual place.

To understand Kellogg, a person must see that historically it's a place defined by danger, death, and gravity.

When Kellogg was a working town, its welfare depended on hard metal mining and smelting and on logging. It's dangerous work. Every one of us who did this work, blasting rock, stripping zinc, running heavy equipment, felling logs, driving log truck, repairing furnaces knew that it was work that could injure him, seriously, at any moment. Wives and mothers and girlfriends and lovers who sent us out the door to go to these dangerous jobs knew we were going to dangerous work.

Danger burdens the body and the spirit. It's fatiguing. It's also a source of excitement. I saw reckless workers in the Bunker Hill Zinc Plant test safety limits, cross those limits, and express profane resentment for safety measures because flirting with danger was the only thing that made the grind of dangerous, dirty work tolerable. It was a way to separate oneself from workers who wouldn't take risks. I saw men get high by testing the limits of danger.

But, it takes a toll. Part of the deep darkness of the Silver Valley was that many men took their flirtations with danger in the work place into the social life of the Valley. Some picked fights. Others drove fast cars. Others snowmobiled, ran motorcycles hard, hunted. Most drank a lot of alcohol. It was as if men who faced danger all day needed something to keep the fires of excitement burning and something to take the edge off at the same time.

The drinking and the adrenaline pumping recreation added to the danger.

I often think of the old Silver Valley as the Valley of Death. Death was everywhere. The slate colored South Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River was a dead river, polluted by metal waste and sewage. The air was toxic, polluted by emissions from the metal smelters. Workers died too reguarly. Too many young men, when I was young, died in vehicle accidents, too often a consequence of high speed driving and too often alcohol.

Mining and logging require an intimate relationship with the danger of nature. Miners go deep into nature by going deep into the earth, into the intense heat; loggers are also in intimate relation with nature.

To be intimate with nature is to be intimate with gravity. The whole mining enterprise relies on gravity and is a fight against gravity. Gravity contributed to the buckling and shifting of the underground that resulted in veins of silver and galena and other metals; gravity makes timber necessary: gravity pulls down on mine tunnels and the tunnels need supports or timbers; gravity causes rockbursts; it pulls men to their deaths when they fall; it pulls rocks down and buries men when something gives way.

Gravity nearly killed me at the Zinc Plant when I fell to the bottom of a roaster. The zinc plant operation depended on gravity as the solution that would be charge with electricity in the cell room to make zinc, began at the upper regions of the plant and ran downhill toward the electrolytic cell room.

In the woods, it's all about gravity as trees are fallen and as these trees are cut in such a way that loggers must work with gravity to guide the tree to fall where there are no men nearby. Otherwise, these trees are so big, they crush whoever might carelesssy be in its path.

The woodlands around Kellogg are dark and deep. The mines are dark and deep. They are dangerous. They put men on the brink of death. Gravity is the killer in these places.

When I think of Kellogg and what has defined it as a unique place, when I think of what makes it a dark, deep place I think of danger, death, and gravity.