Saturday, June 30, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 06/30/07: Hell, Pain, Shave

1. Hysterical: My stepson Pat is going to Burning Man. For me it would be five days in hell, but he's wanted to go for several years. Lord. Pat will be a burner.

2. I read Bee Lavender's poignant memoir, Lessons in Taxidermy today. By age thirty, she had suffered enough disease and trauma for a roomful of people and her book chronicles her trials without a trace of self-pity and in eloquent, illuminating prose. It also opens a window to working class life on what I gather is the Kitsap Peninsula. Her trials are engrossing. Her writing is beautiful. What I liked most about the book was that it did not invite me to say, "Bee, you are so courageous." Instead I reflected on the impact so many cuts and intrusions into her body had on her heart and soul and mind. It's complicated.

3. No more beard. What a pleasure. I had shaved off my beard last summer and was asked to grow it back for my role(s) in Othello. I was too self-conscious to shave it during the school year. Inevitably, a freshly shaved beard draws a lot of comments. But now, in the hermitage of summer, I shaved it and look forward to lathering my face again with a shaving brush and feeling the scrape of my razor against my neck and chin and bracing my skin with after-shave. I had also grown tired of how I looked with a beard. But that's another story I'm not sure I'll ever tell.......

Kareem Abdul ATM

Friday, June 29, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 06/29/07: Dump, JBelle, Sit/Stay

1. A chair in our living room had just gotten plain ratty and foul looking after almost nine years of dogs, cats, a squirrel, and a variety of human beings using it, and today I drove it to the dump and watched with some glee and some remorse as I dropped it into the landfill.

2. I finished "Water for Elephants" and went over to JBelle's blog because I knew she had cited her favorite passage from the book. She cited a beaut, but it was her short introduction of the book that caught my attention. My mind has been turning over and over her insight that it's a story of captivity and freedom. Indeed it is, at every level, through every plot line.

3. It was time for Snug to eat. I planned to feed him in my room. I had him sit on my bed. I said "Stay." As I left the room, he jumped off the bed. I said firmly, quietly, "No, Snug. Stay." He got back on the bed, sat, and I went to get his food. He sat and stayed until I returned. He stayed while I put his food down. I waited a few seconds. Not until I said, "Okay" did he jump down and start eating. I'm very proud of his sit/stay progress. I'm very happy about it, too.


Weird...Our Family Car is a Legacy!

In the spring of each school year, I team teach with Margaret. One day while we were walking to class, she said to me: "I talked with (name withheld) last night at a get together and she said to me, "Margaret, what do you want your legacy to be at Lane Community College?" Or maybe she said, "What do you think your legacy will be?"

"Raymond," she continued, "I was speechless. I've never thought about it. Do you?"

"Well," I drawled, "what do
I think my legacy at LCC will be? Like what will they say about me after I leave?"


"He should have lost weight. Can I have his office? I like the skylight. Uhmm. Why'd he wait so long to go?"

Margaret laughed. "I know. Who works with a legacy in mind?"

"Well, evidently (name withheld) does."

We arrived at class.

I really admire (name withheld) and she if does such good work out of working with a legacy in mind, then bully for her.

But, I'm not a legacy guy.

I'm not a legacy guy for a couple of reasons.

First of all, I think having a legacy in mind, or being preoccupied with it, can corrupt one's work. I don't know if it corrupts any of my fellow teachers' work, but I think it does for people in leadership positions who make decisions with how they will be remembered in mind.

I'll leap to the presidency of the USA. Maybe it's just pundit talk, but it does seem to me that each president I've been old enough to be aware of (Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush) have been preoccupied, to some degree, with protecting their legacies and have informed or not informed the public about events and goings on with their legacies in mind.

I do not single out George W. Bush with malice. He's just the man in office right now. But, how many of his and his advisors' decisions to go to war and to stay at war during his presidency have been made with his legacy in mind, with the idea of how he will be remembered by history?

Is it possible that we have continued to be at war in Iraq because Bush doesn't want a messy exit and an admission of an ill-advised mission as part of his legacy? Is it possible, or is it probable, that the Bush administration does see that this mission has become a fiasco, but that they'd rather see the next presidency saddled with the difficulties and loss of face that pulling out would give that president's legacy?

Clinton seemed obsessed, from what I've read, with his legacy and suffered humiliation, eventually, because rather than telling the truth, he put enormous time and energy into protecting how he wanted to be remembered.

That's one reason why I'm not a legacy guy. I don't want to find myself making decisions or doing things one way or another out of concern with how I'll be remembered at LCC, as if I will.

The second reason I'm not a legacy guy has to do with how I experience and think about time in relation to my work.

I almost never decide what I'm going to do in my job with the future in mind, except the future of my students. I am concerned that what I ask them to read and how I teach them to write will improve their futures, both academically and personally.

But, it's not about my legacy. Regarding time, and what I do in my work, I am very focused on the present moment. What I do in class, how I work with each student, and how I devise each assignment rises out of what I think needs to be done at that moment. It's why I very rarely take notes to class to lecture from. It's why I change things all the time in the course of the class I'm teaching and revisethe class calendar about three or four times each quarter.

I try to do what's right at a given moment, given the circumstances of a particular class and of any particular student.

I'm not thinking about my future or trying to carve out a predetermined place for myself in institutional history at LCC, a history, by the way, that I will be on the fringes of.

I think about this a lot. I wouldn't, except as a sports fan I'm always hearing commentators talk about athletes in terms of their legacy. I'm always reading or hearing about governmental leaders talked about in the same way. The same goes for people in other lines of business, whether jounalism, business, medicine, research, etc.

I think all of us are at our best when we do what we determine is the right thing in the moment we are living in.

I think consciously trying to shape one's own legacy distracts from the present moment. We have no idea by what values or within what framework those who look back on us, if they do, will remember us. We have no control over that.

What we can, to some degree, control is how we work to be honorable in the time frame we live in right now.

I should think that if one does what the moment calls for as honorably as possible, one's legacy will take care of itself.

Three Beautiful Things 06/28/07: Space, Circus, Blazermania

1. I created more open space in my office by selling more books. It's a relief to me to move things out of the house, especially out of my office. The Deke and I are into total harmony on this point: neither of us is a collector or a pack rat.

2. I am enjoying reading "Water for Elephants", the first choice at Huckeberries Online's initial foray into having a monthly book club. It's also fun to do some reading unrelated to my job.

3. Could the drafting of Greg Oden mark the rebirth of Blazermania here in the state of Oregon?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

What Are the Features of a Capricorn? Sunday Scribblings

This week's Sunday Scribblings prompts responses with this question: What's your sign?

I got to thinking about being a Capricorn, The Goat. How about if, instead of reading what the characteristics of a Capricorn are according to astrologists, I reversed and I said, here's what I am. If you are a Capricorn, you must be like me.

So, with this approach to astrology in mind, if you are a Capricorn, you:

* Battle depression
* Get married often, but find the number three to be a charm
* Are prone to temporary blindness following an industrial accident
* Are prone to contracting meningitis, but through a combination of luck, pluck, and determination, survive
* Are a mediocre athlete, but love to follow sports
* Love to read and learn
* Love to write and blog
* Are shy, a bit reclusive, but thrive on speaking and presenting to large groups of people
* Love dogs
* Are a mediocre poet and actor, but love poetry and theater
* Are a mediocre photographer, but love to take pictures
* Are dedicated to amateurism
* Are plagued by feelings of being inferior
* Are a mediocre musician, but love to listen to music
* Live in a city away from home and long to live at home again
* Hold darkness and suffering in too high of esteem
* Love traditional comedy, stories of reconciliation, consummated love, and healing
* Love to make people laugh
* Enjoy being made to laugh
* Enjoy low stakes gambling
* Enjoy the casino scene
* Apologize too much or not often enough
* Have spent long periods of your life seeing baseball as life's controlling metaphor
* Have more friends from your past than in your present
* Love serious movies, depressing movies, and documentaries
* Enjoy literature and movies that you hear pretentious people enjoy, but try not be pretentious
* Like turning things upside down
* Have had more success in your professional life than your personal life
* Live under the ruling planet of Kellogg, Idaho

If you are a Capricorn, and since all Capricorns share the same characteristics, I've just described you.

If you'd like to read how others responded to this prompt, visit Sunday Scribblings.

Lane Community College Flowers: Abstraction

I enjoy abstract paintings and photography because they relieve me of the intrusion of shapes and figures and give me the pleasure of color, sometimes pure color. A few months ago I photographed quite a few spring flowers at Lane Community College. Here's what they look like abstracted from representation, seen primarily for their color. All I did was use Picasa's multi-exposure function:

With some digital enhancement, the collage looks like this:

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 06/27/2007: Crayons, Pins, Trust

1. Tara and I had a good session over her research essay. She brought Zach and Ashley with her and when they got a little tired of waiting for their mother, I pulled out a couple of large sketch pads and the bag of crayons, charcoal sticks, pastels, and other art supplies I keep in my office and they went to town. When Tara and I were finished, they weren't and these two restless kids who wanted their Mom and me to hurry up, suddenly were a bit dismayed they had to leave!

2. I hadn't bowled for about seven years. But Russell is getting married on 07/07/07 and wanted his bachelor party tonight and wanted to bowl and then go eat Thai food. I was pretty rusty the first line, but as I worked up a little sweat and got a little lubricated, I began to feel myself get into a little groove and started knocking more pins over.

3. A very positive sign the medication is working: The Deke had a family matter weighing on her mind and trusted that I would be engaged in a conversation with her. It had been a while since we had such a talk. She's trusting me.

Impressionistic Collage of Lane Community College Flowers

Collage of Lane Community College Flowers

I met a student in my office today to help her finish her research paper, and on my way to the car, I photographed some flowers:

Did George W. Bush Hit the Nail on the Head?

Think he's right, here? ". . .maybe our men and women in uniform just aren't what they're cracked up to be."

Three Beautiful Things 06/26/2007: Lugging, Relaxing, Scarfing

1. I lugged a couple boxes of books into Smith Family Bookstore to sell. These books needed to move on and it opened up more space in my office. Round 2 tomorrow.

2. I ran into Louise at the casino. I hardly ever see anyone I know there. Louise only plays one machine, "The Enchanted Forest". She's like me, I found out. She plays to relax and take her mind off things. It's not about winning money: if it were, it would kill all the fun.

3. More than the ribs from Laughing Stock Farms were juicy good. We had pasta tonight with sausage sauce. The sausage was another tasty item in the box of pork we purchased. I see there's a roast in the icebox. What special occasion will this roast grace? I can hardly wait.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Trolling the WWW

*Tired of traffic problems? Easy solution: honk.

* Gaydar -- it's biological, read here, listen here.

* Think you know how to read? Tom Lutz reviews writers who want to teach you how, here.

* Do ya think Caesar Millan is the alpha dog trainer? Michael Blowhard takes a look at Victoria Stilwell and directs readers to her website.

* All's fair in sit and heel: Michael Blowhard also looks at the Pontifex Maximus himself, The Dog Whisperer, Caesar.

* My old friend and witty blogger, MyrtleBeachRamblings, records a never before now revealed conversation between Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth II.

* How to understand a spritied two year old? Student of Life gets some help from her summer reading, here.

Three Beautiful Things 06/25/07: Blog Fame, Taxonomy, Book Club

1. InlandEmpireGirl's summer reading list was mentioned and linked at Rebecca's Pocket, here.

2. The names of a couple of neighborhood flowers stumped me and Victoria came through and I completed by blog post, here, and the rose campions and Jupiter's Beard are identified!

3. The Huckleberries Online blog has started a book club. Our first book will be "Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen. Huckleberries is here, the book, here.

Monday, June 25, 2007

A Picture Review of My Neighborhood Walk with Snug

Snug and I went for an early afternoon walk today. I took some pictures that didn't make the cut because I set my camera wrong. Food for Lane County handed out free sack lunches and parents and children came over to Monroe Park to sit in the sun and eat. Children splashed in the park's wading pool, laughing, kicking up water, grateful for a warm, blue summer day. A music ensemble gathered in the shade of a Douglas Fir: guitar, clarinet, sousaphone, and flute. I'd never seen a woman in the park with a sousaphone, transporting it on a trailer behind her bicycle. But those pictures were all blurry. I'll get the settings right next time. But, here are some pictures that did pretty much turn out:

Snug is ready and happy to be out for a walk.

I used to grow rose campions in front of the house and loved their radiant petals:

Jupiter's Beard gives this spot a needed spray of color; I enjoy how they give the dreadful pavement around it some sense of life:

Eager lilies in Monroe Park:

Lily up close:

This poppy, I don't know, its petals are so delicate, its middle eye so wide open, maybe in wonder. What do you think?

I like this rose as it's about to open. I like the promise it holds before it's fully revealed:

These people's lovely porch is enhanced by these zinnias:

The people living in the stretches of houses near this sidewalk neglect their yards. I like it. I felt like I was in the woods walking down a verdant path:

You can't tell from this picture, but this is a Christmas mug. You can see the rest of the dada here:

For years, to publicize things in Eugene, notices were stapled on telephone poles. Now most of those producers and groups publicize their events electronically. It was fun to see two groups still doing it the old-fashioned way:

Snug's had it:

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 06/24/07: Constance, Ribs, Finally

1. A friend, Connie, whom I haven't seen for several years dropped in today and we had a great visit about things old, things new, and dodging bullets.

2. We buy farm fresh pork from Laughing Stock farm and the package we bought Friday included ribs. The Deke cooked 'em up and the tender meat fell succulently off the bone.

3. I've procrastinated getting some money things done and today I started to tackle these projects and could feel the anxiety proctrastinaiton causes me begin to lift.

Three Beautiful Things 06/23/07: Install, Whew!, Henry's

1. I recently purchased a compact laser printer and even with my growing experience with USB cords and CD-ROMs and installations and Paxil, I was a bit anxious about getting the printer up and running. I succeeded.

2. I finished the epic drama of getting my office/the room where I sleep organized, cleaned up, sorted out. Whew.

3. I bought Hiram a six-pack of Henry Weinhard's Private Reserve lager, trying to help him get as full and rich of an Oregon experience as possible. Since I quit drinking, I can only enjoy beer now by smelling it or by vicariously participating in another's enjoyment. Hiram took a long first draw from the bottle. My knees knocked under the dinner table. He set the beer down. He smiled. "That's really good." I responded casually, "Good. Glad you like it."

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Things Fall Apart: Sibling Assignment #25

Our sibling assignment this week is to write about a camp or camping experience. Silver Valley Girl's piece is here. InlandEmpireGirl is unpacking from her writing retreat and snapping pictures of her homecoming (here) and now has posted her piece here.

At first, I was going to write about a drunken camping trip three friends and I took to Priest Lake in late spring in 1974. In the interests, though, of blogging integrity, I don't know how much of it I can remember. I do, know, however, it took us eight hours,(over twice the normal time) to drive from Kellogg to Priest Lake. We missed a turn somewhere and got past Bonners Ferry, near Canada, before we realized it. It was the kind of young men's boys' weekend outing that we were fortunate to survive.

But, I digress.

For three straight summers, 1965-67, I went with Troop 300 to boy scout camp at Camp Easton on Lake Coeur d'Alene.

One activity we decided to try was going on a wooden raft outing on the lake. The idea was that we would lash logs together to build a raft, complete with a canvas sail, and let the wonders of God take us out into the lake and back.

The first year our troop did this, we followed the raft building directions we'd been given, lashed a raft together, and headed out.

We must not have read the directions quite right. Or maybe we were lousy lashers.

I don't know.

We got a ways out into the lake, a pretty significant distance from shore, all with life jackets on, were singing "I'm Henry the VIIIth, I Am", and the raft began to deteriorate.

We scrambled. We Our scoutmaster, Vaughn Evans tried to tighten the fastly loosening knots as the logs strained to pull farther and farther apart from each other.

It was a lost cause.

The raft collapsed. All we could do was guide the carnage back to shore.

This was quite a job. A breeze made the logs hard to control, but we rounded them up, and made our push.

I was one of the first, with a fellow scout or two, to get a log to shore. On second thought, maybe I just got myself to shore, sans log. That was probably the case.

I must have forgotten, at that point, that part of the scouting code that encourages a boy scout to help old ladies across streets and to go back in the water and help fellow scouts and the scoutmaster guide logs to shore.

I found a rock and took a sunbath.

I don't think I was alone.

Vaughn Evans, our scoutmaster, was a pretty mild-mannered guy.

Not that day. My suddenly surfer boy move to get dry and soak up some rays enraged him.

He came unglued and used some language that probably turned Sir Robert Baden-Powell* and Stanly Easton over in their graves.

Beyond a tongue lashing, I don't remember any other punishment, but if we'd lashed that raft together as well as Vaughn Evan tongue lashed me, we could have floated on that lake forever.

*the founder of the boy scout movement

Friday, June 22, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 06/22/07: Cleaning, American Shakespeare, Pancakes

1. I've spent much of the day cleaning and organizing my office at home which means sorting through books and reacquainting myself with cd's and dvd's I haven't thought about for a while and looking at book titles, remembering the experience I had reading things, wondering why I haven't read others. Indeed, an archaeological dig.

2. I listened to a radio program Sparky downloaded on a cd for me entitled, "Shakespeare Becomes American" and it verified one thing I've read and heard before: before large performing halls became popular and Shakespeare became sacred, robust and bawdy and shortened versions of his plays were very popular among the working class as popular entertainment. Recent movie versions have, possibly, moved us back in that direction again.

3. Molly made pancakes late in the afternoon. They were powder out of the box pancakes. I hadn't had pancakes for a long, long time. Mercy, I enjoyed them with butter, peanut butter, and honey on the first two, and as I prepared the other two, I remembered where the Karo syrup was and poured a bunch of that over the peanut butter. It really hit the spot and made me want to fix some not powder out of the box pancakes and get some real maple syrup.

Cartography: Sunday Scribblings: I Have a Secret

This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt is "I Have a Secret". Read more posts here.

When I found out that MarmiteToasty (her spectacular blog is here) lives in Hampshire, the first thing I did was start searching the World Wide Web for maps so I could place her geographically.

In graduate school, I'd procrastinate by spending hours in the Map and Aerial Photography library and peruse Forest Service maps of the Panhandle National Forest and take imaginary trips on old roads up Senator Creek or to the old cedar grove near Eagle.

Maps fire my imagination, whether it's a map of London or Cincinnati or running my finger along the different routes the Deke and I travelled two summers ago when we drove to Kellogg and then to Cincinnati, on to Hendersonville, NC and then to Chicago and back to Kellogg again. Maps help me relive and enjoy again the modest travelling I've done.

All that said, I have a secret longing to be a cartographer. But, I'll never be one in the compass, sextant, telescope, computer software sort of way.

And that's fine.

Instead, I'll continue to satisfy my secret longing in other ways.

Every term at Lane Community College, I map out a course of study for my students in the different courses I teach. It's why they are called courses. I map out a path for the students to walk on as I lead them on a mapped out course toward learning to read more knowingly, write more critically and creatively, and think more deeply.

I write this blog to add to the map of my experience. Many areas of my experience remain unmapped, unchartered. Each day, whether it is mapping out Three Beautiful Things or mapping out my relationship with my family or mapping out old friendships or things I did in the past, I am the cartographer of my memory and of my emotions and I invite anyone who reads my blog to explore this daily map. I keep adding new latitudes and longitudes.

I am also always mapping the course of my thinking. This map has few straight lines and many dead ends and switchback curves. The mind is difficult to map, if it's active. The mind moves by association, doubts itself, digs deeper, travels old roads, tries new ones, occasionally follows a straight path, and is restless.

Charting it is difficult because its territory is infinite and ever changing. There's no foreseeable end to its many streams, rivers, creeks, lakes, and seas. Mapping one's mind means always charting temporary territory, territory whose boundaries will shift, whose lands will sometimes disappear, and whose towns and cities will sometimes pick up and move to whole new states and countries, sometimes without warning.

I will not be a cartographer of the physical world.

But, my secret longing to be a cartographer is deeply satisfied by mapping the metaphysical worlds that are not visible, but are the most profoundly real worlds I can try to map.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 06/21/07: Thick, Disaster, Blowhards

1. I've been obsessed, mildly, with Jethro Tull's "Thick As a Brick". After listening to it repeatedly on Napster, even going to sleep with it on the other night, today I downloaded it on my mp3 player and could walk around the house listening to it and perform some pretty lousy air bass, guitar, and flute.

2. I devoted more time than I have in months to getting my home office cleaned up and organized. It's a messy, cluttered, dusty, junky, scattered, disorganized, unkempt, disheveled, hurricane wracked, flood damaged, sun baked: an avalanched disaster. I managed to keep FEMA out of it.

3. Michael Blowhard over at 2Blowhards does an "Elsewhere" piece about two or three times a week and he provided a link to my "Blummin' It in Bonners Ferry" post. It makes me very happy to be Michael Blowhard-worthy! Look here for Elsewhere and here for the Blowhards blog itself.

Office Archaeology

Raymond Pert's Desk at Home
I wonder what it means.

At my office at school, I wrote myself a note, each word in an oval and a shaded in star by "Wash", with a list of plays under it. It looks sorta like this:



Glass Menagerie

I don't know what moleskin is. I don't know if there is such a thing as moleskin wash. Did I used to know? Did I pick some up at the store? Does moleskin wash have something to do with the plays I listed below?

I write myself these notes on rectangles of paper I cut from unused class handouts. They are scattered randomly all over my office.

Straightening up my office the other day, I felt like an archaeologist, digging through the history of my life, the artifacts being these numerous scraps of paper with notes to myself.

I know what I meant when I wrote: "Two copies of a letter of support for Connie Stahl".

Connie was a very insecure, loud, highly motivated student of mine in her forties. She'd been in a lot of trouble with the law with substance abuse. She was putting her life together, working out a difficult past, doing all she could to be a good mother to her teen age son.

But she blew it. She violated her probation. She was sentenced to return to the penitentiary. She wanted letters of support. They failed. She's locked up again; no mercy for Connie.

I was listening to the radio online. Modern English's song "I Melt for You" came on. I jotted down the band and song title.

I have many scraps with titles of movies and books students have recommended to me: "The Devil's Backbone"; Kyoko told me I should see "A Woman in the Dark"; Brooke recommended "Battle Royale" by Koushun Takami;Jeremy Hicks was excited about Daniel Boorstein's "The Creators". More recommendations. More scrap notes. I haven't read any of these books yet nor seen the film. I forgot about the notes.

Students today don't read? Don't watch serious films? My archaeological dig evidences quite differently.

Students also listen. I found a note card. Laura gave it to me in the fall. She had been recording things I said in class that she thought were funny, eccentric. She lost the long list, but she found a note card with the following things I said in WR 121:

"I've never been inside the head of a ferret."
"I am teacher, hear me roar."
"If I told you I was driving to Utah, you'd think I was a stoner."
"I am a messenger from the land of WR 121."
"Here, let me smell your courage."

Why did I say these things? To keep things moving in class? To keep my students' attention? Because I cannot constrain myself from being an idiot? I'll have to dig more....

So many more notes: lists of Iranian movie directors, notes about Juniper's back problems, an address of a student to whom I promised my Bruce Springsteen LP's, this cryptic scrawl: "I don't have time for some shit for brains", my stepson's bank account number, my stepdaughter's SS number, an oval around these words: Chaolin Soccer and Kung-Fu Hustle (more movies? books? I'll put 'em in a search engine later)...or this, why did I write this: "There's a dead possum run over by a truck on Marcola Rd and it's called OFAM"(?).

Twice I wrote this note: Mutual Assured Destruction.

I know why. I was teaching Dr. Strangelove. The movie satirizes Mutual Assured Destruction. But twice? And I know I took that note to class so I wouldn't forget.

I'm less trustful of my memory all the time. I can't put things away. If it's out of sight, it's out of mind. Both my offices, at home and school, are littered with piles of books, magazines, personal computer cords, speakers, headphones, CD's, DVD's,change jars, bills, coffee mugs, Speed Stick deodorant, Nivea skin cream, a battery recharger, auto repair receipts, Netflix envelopes, stapler, XM Radio receiver, two pencil sharpeners, floss picks, a picture of Molly and Patrick, wireless router.....

And notes, notes with phone numbers, paper grades, addresses, odd jots, all to help me remember things I don't remember why I wrote down.

Maybe the Deke remembers about the moleskin and the wash.

I sure don't.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 06/20/07: Turmoil, Iwo Jima, Curry

1. With my school year finished, I have time to watch movies. The Squid and the Whale runs 80 minutes so I watched it before dinner. It's the tale of a family disintegrating and peers closely at arrogance, infidelity, and the impact of divorce on the family's two boys. While the story line was strong enough, I thought the movie was an actor's dream project. Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney played the adults searingly and the young actors playing the sons perfectly portrayed the suffering of these two kids caught between the sparring of their parents.

2. After dinner I watched director Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers. My, what a movie. It cross cuts between the horrific battles on Iwo Jima and the way three of the flag raisers were exploited by the U. S. government to get the public to buy war bonds. The movie is about human bonds, especially between men at war. I love Eastwood's movies. They are complex, sometimes uneven, but there's a quality of honesty at their core that inspires my spirit and my thought.

3. Speaking of dinner. Hiram's Pecadillo inspired the Deke to go all out with a chicken curry of her own invention. Groans and moans of pleasure complimented and complemented the coconut milk, peanuts, baby Yukon potatoes, baby carrots, onion, spices, chicken and rest of the Deke's exquisite creation.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 06/19/07: Fasting and Praying, Relief, Palouse Envy

1. I've posted all my grades. I could still receive a research paper by email in the next five minutes. I've set 10:30 as a taffy soft deadline for the stragglers since grades are due at midnight.

2. It's been warm/hottish in my office reading and grading papers, calculating those final grades, fasting, praying, hoping my decisions are correct. BUT, just as the sun had disappeared, Snug and I went out for a refreshing walk. The neighborhood is quiet tonight. A yard party hear, two mommy families leaving another get together there; the mood was upbeat. Snug got worn out. He'll drop into a deep dog sleep tonight.

3. If you haven't been over to my sister's blog, she has some pictures of her drive through the Washington Palouse country on her way to Pullman. Her pictures made me fight off the cardinal sin of envy. They are here.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 06/18/07: Dan Loves Chocolate, Nicole, Grace Period

1. My next door fellow instructor, Dan, lost his grade record sheet for one of his classes. Anne McGrail brought chocolate cake left over from her wedding shower. Dan was panicked, looking high and low for his grade record sheet. I went to the faculty are to sample the cake. I could see Dan had had some chocolate cake before me. His grade record sheet sat unbothered by the cake.

2. Nicole came to my office to retrieve her Shakespeare final and ask for a letter of recommendation. She has many wonderful possibilities ahead of her, including having been accepted at Loyola-Marymount. She's an intelligent, grounded student with an inquisitive philosophical mind, largely inspired by her Christian faith. She loves Shakespeare and wrote beautifully about his plays.

3. One by one, students who needed a little more time to work on essays are getting them in. This small grace period makes things so much easier: no incomplete form to fill out, no change of grade form to fill out, no unnecessary retaking of a course, possibly taking a future seat from someone who needs the class, when giving the student a weekend and a couple of days to finish was all they needed. A little grace really does clear up a lot of clogging.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 06/17/07: Weeds, Pesto, Ferrell

1. Hiram, Molly, Deke, and I worked for about two hours and jerking up the weeds in the backyard, creating a haystack on the concrete patio, a satisfying outcome of a small commitment of time and good work.

2. Deke fixed pesto for pasta and an anitpasto. What a refreshing, satisfying meal.

3. I enjoyed Stranger than Fiction tonight. I enjoyed its exploration of narrative fiction and how genres work and it's the only movie I've ever seen Will Ferrell star in and I enjoyed his portrayal of the Macon Leary-like* IRS auditor who breaks through the confines of his mechanical life and learns to live a life of vitality, especially as he comes to learn his death is just around the corner.

* The terribly emotionally shut down central character of Anne Tyler's The Accidental Tourist.

Eccentricity: Blumming It in Bonners Ferry: Sunday Scribbling

When I've acted eccentrically, it's been my attempt to cover failure.

When I was in high school, I played basketball and baseball. The older I got, the less successful I was.

First, a little back story. I played basketball for the Kellogg Wildcats in North Idaho. We Wildcats loved imitating other players, mostly NBA players, and mostly players with eccentric shooting styles, but also our high school opponents.

Our favorite player to imitate was a star at Wallace High, our chief rival. Bob Blum ran up and down the court with his fists high on his ribs and his elbows pointed straight behind him. When Bob Blum was introduced as a starter at the beginning of each Wallace game, he leapt up, raised his fist, and greeted his teammates "rah rah" style.

It may not sound funny to you, the reader, but we found it hilarious, and imitated him all the time, at basketball practice, in the halls at school, at dances, anywhere.

In our Kellogg way of talking, we called it "Blumming It". When I go to my high school reunion this summer, I guarantee that a handful of us will, when we see each other, Blum It.

My junior year in basketball, by midseason, I had been relegated to the bench.

It hurt me. I compensated with eccentric behavior.

For example, late in the season we Kellogg Wildcats made our annual trip to Bonners Ferry, in North Idaho, nearly to Canada. In the Bonners Ferry gym, both teams' starting five was introduced in a spotlight.

Three of us on the Wildcat team wore a warmup jersey that didn't match the others. These jerseys were about six years old and were white with "Kellogg Wildcats" written in cursive font.

We called these warm ups the "albino". No good players wore the albino. I loved wearing the albino. It put me in my place as a scrub and made me stand out. I found it eccentric and funny.

In Bonners Ferry, our starting five was introduced in the spotlight. On this night, when the last starter had been introduced, I leapt up, raised my fist, threw my elbows straight back, and joined the starters in the spotlight, wearing the albino, faked rah rah enthusiasm, and shouted, "Let's go! Let's go!"

I startled the starters.

I pissed off our coach.

My benchmates doubled over laughing, especially as the spotlight exagerrated the shadow of my elbows thrown back.

I returned to bench and they all gave me skin. "You're fucking crazy, man!"

I Blummed It in the Bonners Ferry spotlight.

I masked the pain of my decline as an athlete by being eccentric.

It's been a lifelong practice.

Maybe another time I'll tell other stories, but that's it for now.

For other Sunday Scribblings on Eccentricity, go here.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 06/16/07: Cast, Relaxed, Peccadillo

1. My teaching schedule in the fall keeps me from being a spear carrier or some other minor role in the LCC fall production of King Lear, BUT I went to the first cast meeting today and listened to a first reading of about three scenes. Oh my! Sparky has cast the play beautifully and even this early I could feel great chemistry among the cast and could easily imagine these seated actors making their way through the language in a cold reading becoming becoming splendid characters in this huge and mighty play.

2. This quarter I decided to forego giving as much energy to my blog and more energy and commitment to staying caught up in my paper reading and grading. I've been much more relaxed and with grades due on Tuesday, I've read every paper handed in to me as of now. Some stragglers with still hand in papers in the next couple of days, with my blessing, but I do not have that feeling of being overwhelmed and anxious as my grade submission deadline approaches.

3. Molly's boyfriend, our guest for the next month, fixed a wonderful Cuban dish, Peccadillo, for us tonight. It was exquisitely simple and down home. It was a well-spiced tomato, ground beef sauce flavored with green olives and served over jasmine rice. It inspired talk all through dinner of other dinners we could prepare and eat in the coming week. Nothing fancy. Just more good meals were being discussed and planned. Hiram's presence is invigorating our family life.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 06/15/07: Past is Present, Shakespeare Heart, No Relief

1. The far south end of LCC's has a TV where students can relax. I came through that area and "I Love Lucy" was on the screen. I thought I was in kindergarten, spending the afternoon at Margarite Gallaher's being babysat in Smelterville. Then I came through again and there was Eddie Haskell on the screen and I thought I was in Kellogg at 14 E. Portland eating a bowl of popcorn with Mom and InlandEmpireGirl, laughing at the duplicitous Eddie hatching a plan of deceit with Wally. TV Land does its best to resist the arrival of the 21st century.

2. My. What a pleasure to read my Shakespeare students' finals as they write about comedy and tragedy in King Lear and The Tempest with the phrase "Out of the Heart of Darkness, Into the Heart of Light" as their prompt.

3. Detroit spanked the Phillies tonight, but Lord their relief pitching remains shaky. In the late innings I wondered if 12 runs was going to hold up! The Phillies kept chipping away, even when they were down 11-3 and 12-4, but, in the end, the Tigers held on. The Tigers sorely miss injured fireball reliever Joel Zumaya. Surely the Tigers can't depend on on scoring in double figures night after night. It's a beautiful thing when they do, but they are asking an awful lot of their offense. (But, then, so is division leader, Cleveland!)

Three Beautiful Things 06/14/07: Bits, Fire, Voice Over Guy

1. I played a few sketches from "A Bit of Fry and Laurie" tonight in Lit. of Comedy and it was fun to hear the class laugh uproariously at some of my favorite bits. I've been watching their stuff for almost fifteen years and hoped it would work with my students.

2. Cassie is on fire. She really wants to work for fundamental change in how our country recognizes and treats the poor. Her research paper explored possible ways of doing this and her passion for her topic made our conversation about her paper a joy.

3. I made my debut as a voice over guy! Sure, it was only two sentences for a promotional film for the college, but it was fun going into the studio and saying my two lines about five or six times before Ashley decided it was, "Perfect!".

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 06/13/07: Exile, Enduring Truth, Denali's Future

1. Molly's boyfriend, Hiram, is our houseguest for the next month or so. His family left Cuba and came to the USA following Castro's take over. I learned more tonight at dinner about Hiram's family's exile from Cuba and their getting settled here.

2. Kelly Mac and I had a fascinating talk about Christianity and other ways of seeing and understanding eternal truth.

3. I am the faculty literary advisor for our college's literary and arts publication, Denali. Finances, strain on workload, and other factors inspired our division chair and about half a dozen faculty to sit down with the last two editors and being to talk about ideas for the future of Denali and how the quality of the publication can be further improved. I wish the journal could stay in Lindsey and Lindsay's hands for a long period of time. It won't. They will move on to other things. It will be difficult in the future to find editors with their ambition, dedication, talent, and intelligence.

The Onion: Ripping People Like Me

Would you find it odd to learn that the people in this life I often find the weirdest and the ripest for satire are people who share my world view?

My world view is to the left of center with a strong seasoning of libertarnianism and a devotion to the Christian faith. I don't know exactly how that can be, but I'm pretty much done trying to explain my own, let alone anyone else's, contradictory nature.

I've always loved fun poked at Christianity, and relished any satire of the denomination I belong to, Episcopalianism. There's so much to make fun of, ranging from the absurdity of the virgin birth and resurrection to, in Episcopalianism, the garb of the clergy, the wide variety of social and ecclesiastical positions that Episcopalians hold, the consumption of alcohol (when two or more Episcopalians are gathered, there's always a fifth), and so on.

When I was in college, I used to get my hands on the Wittenberg Door from time to time, a Christian satire publication, written and published by Christians, and I loved it.

When it comes to politics, I realize that people I admire and agree with are totally lampoonable (is that a word?). Peace demonstrators, pro-choice fanatics, feminists, enforcers of political correctness, Affirmative Action: at a level not difficult to unearth, it all has levels of silliness, whether the silliness is being exposed by Rush Limbaugh or Jon Stewart.

The vehicle I trust most for satire of all kinds, whether political, social, sports-related, media-related, or realted to current pop events is The Onion.

The Onion knows no sacred cows. Whether it's Barry Bonds, alzheimer's patients, welfare mothers, obesity, Hillary Clinton, the Bush Administration, illegal immigrants, Democrats, Republicans, Tom Hanks, Paris Hilton, PETA, the events surrounding 9/11 or anyone or anything else, The Onion will satirize it.

Media are always criticized for having an agenda, of favoring one social/political perspective over another. The Onion cannot be criticized for leaning one way or another. Everything is fair game and at least once a week I laugh out loud at a piece that I can't believe they actually ran because, by most standards, it is so irreverent, so politically incorrect.

It's this even-handed justice, of seeing everything as potentially ridiculous, that makes The Onion irresistable to me. If I ever start getting self-righteous or begin to see something in absolute terms, along comes The Onion and blasts it apart.

I was a teenager in Kellogg when the Sunshine Mine fire occurred and it was one of the most sober and grievous disasters in Idaho, if not USA history. In my adult years, I've tried to follow other mining disasters and try to understand the neglect and loss that causes and follows them.

So, I couldn't believe it when The Onion found a way to satirize mining disasters. If anything was going to say to me that The Onion went too far, it would be the following piece, but in some deeply comic place in my soul, I found this funny and it gave me a certain persepctive on these mining tragedies and the people who lend their support to those trapped and their families:

HARLAN COUNTY, KY—A candlelight vigil Tuesday night outside the Drum Ridge mine, where eight coal miners are believed to be confined, left an estimated 55 residents trapped with no means of socially acceptable escape.

Attendees said they had originally hoped that the vigil would last "two or three hours at most." But as the gathering stretched into its fourth hour in freezing weather with no word of the miners' fate, their faith began to waver.

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Area residents attempt to burn through their votive candle supply in an attempt to escape the vigil.

"I've been here a long time lending my emotional support, and I don't see any way out," Evarts resident Rebecca Sayles said. "I'm praying they find those men very, very soon."

With no food, a dwindling supply of hot coffee, the mine office's restrooms padlocked for the night, and the sole heat source the flickering flames of votive candles, hope was fading fast for a positive conclusion, or even just a conclusion, to the vigil.

"I can't believe it's only 10:30 p.m.," said South Wallins resident Pat Meacham, who said he had checked his watch nearly two dozen times since arriving. "The seconds, they feel like minutes, and the minutes, like hours. There's no end in sight."

Candlelight-vigil participants report that the presence of 28 relatives of the trapped miners is preventing an easy exit. One attendant noted that many family members were inadvertently blocking every route to the parking lot.

Many vigil participants reported a "suffocating" atmosphere, one worsened by the singing of church hymns and emotionally charged interactions with the miners' loved ones.

Though they were aware of the dangerous emotional conditions at vigils, many participants said they had ignored the warnings.

"I've been here four hours," said local realtor Margaret Clayton . "Every time I try to walk over to Mrs. Knauer to tell her goodnight, she has this 'the father of my children is trapped 350 feet underground' look on her face, and I just can't do it."

Attendees report that they have been "racking their brains," trying to think of a way to get out.

"The Stevens used the 'leaving to get more candles' tactic," local business owner Mark Peters said. "That was two hours ago, and I have faith that they were successful."

He added: "Right now, I'm praying for a miracle, such as an urgent phone call."

Near the five-hour mark, many attendees said they began to wonder about the rules, if any, of candlelight-vigil etiquette. Some were uncertain whether they could leave once news of the miners' fate was delivered, or if they would have to first wait for the emergence of a miner.

"I don't think I can leave until they find at least one of the miners," said gas station attendant Stuart Jenkins, who claimed that he was going to "pass out" if he didn't get to eat soon. "Maybe two, if the first one brought out is dead."

After the arrival of the WHAS-11 I-Team news van at approximately 11:30 p.m., the remaining vigil attendees reported that any hope for escape had been eliminated.

"I just want to go home," Harlan County resident Susan Rafferty said. "But now I'm cornered in every direction by the bereaved, and the whole state is watching."

Rescue crews, working feverishly to reach the trapped miners, asked to be allowed to continue their rescue operation without interruption.

"We understand that many in attendance are impatient," rescue worker Brian Turner said. "However, we can't stop every two minutes to answer questions about what kind of progress we're making, or how long we think it'll take to bring a drill from out of town, or what time the liquor store down the road closes."

When local pastor Michael Sloane arrived with 20 boxes of additional candles at approximately 12:20 a.m., adding untold hours to the vigil, one participant enjoyed a unique perspective. Ron Chernow, who had managed to escape from the candlelight vigil three hours earlier through a small opening in the emotional wreckage, spoke from his warm couch as he watched the live coverage on WHAS-11.

"My heart goes out to the victims of this awful situation," he said

Are there things that just should't be satirized? I don't know. But somehow I found comic relief in this piece.

I keep hearing that our culture has lost its sense of humor. Certainly I hear time and time again that there are things in life that just aren't funny.

The Onion helps me resist those hectoring, self-righteous voices. Sometimes it's laughing at things that helps me achieve an equilibrium within myself to feel sadness more deeply and helps me strengten my resolve in realtion to things in life I hold dear.

Sometimes I need a little distance so my feelings of grief and outrage and commitment can have a rest.

Laughter is refreshing. It doesn't cancel out my other feelings.

It helps renew and strenghten them.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 06/12/07 : No No, Hiram, Corgi

1. Justin Verlander no-hit the Brewers. The last Tiger ace to spin a no-no was Jack Morris, 1984. By the way, if you have a Hall of Fame vote, Morris belongs in the Hall of Fame.

2. Hiram arrived. Molly's Miami/Cincinnati boyfriend is now a member of our household until August. He made a good first impression on me. I wasn't in Eugene when he visited before.

3. I didn't know that Eric and Ann have a fluffy Corgi. They were on campus today to look at the sculptures on campus, I ran into them, and I met their wonderful looking dog. I'll bet they saw this sculpture, which I took another handful of photographs of on Sunday:

Spring and Winter

Sunday I took a stroll before the Shakespeare Showcase at Lane Community College and admired the spring blossoms. This poppy intrigued me. It was shy. I kept trying to photograph its open face, but each time I did, a breeze wafted the flower and closed its face again. I like how coy this delicate poppy turned out to be.

I'm not sure if this is another variety of poppy or what exactly it is, but I enjoyed the brushes of pink inside the white petals. Again, these blooms would not quite open themselves to be photographed, but were a little more bold than the poppy.

I think this is a variety of lily. I love its wide open smile. After the other blossoms were so reluctant, this lily was happy to pose and give my camera the full height and width of its inner beauty. It's also a stronger flower, less tossed about by the whims of the wind.

Tonight I went back and looked at these photographs from January 21st. It's odd. It's spring. All over campus a wide variety of flowers are opening and splashes of purple, white, pink, red, and yellow invigorate the college's grounds. Why then do I prefer these dead leaves barely hanging on this branch, ready to drop at any time? Similarly, I enjoy bare trees in winter more than leaved trees in spring and summer. I like the open space. I like the way light, a scarcity in winter, is unobstructed in winter. So, in contrast to the alive and vibrant colors of the flowers above, here is my preference: dying or dead leaves....

Three Beautiful Things 06/11/07: Heart Attack, Conferences, Kodiak

1. The Mariners were the caridac kids tonight. They blew a seven run lead against Cleveland, but scratched out a win just the same. I listened to the game on XM Satellite radio.

2. I enjoyed very much working with three of my Research Writing students in indivdual conferences today.

3. Jose and I had a Kodiak moment.

Shakespeare Showcase: 1991 to ???

During the summer of 1991, I attended an evening of "competitive" improv. I think four groups "competed" with each other. It was much like "Whose Line Is It Anyway?", and judges awarded ratings to each group's performance. The groups coached by Judith "Sparky" Roberts (pictured above) particulary impressed me.

I was more cheeky in 1991 than I am now. So I wrote Sparky a card, telling her I was going to be teaching a section of Shakespeare in the fall and would she coach any of my students who might like to act our a scene from one of the plays we would study for the class.

Two students wanted to act. They gave their scenes in the basement classroom, with the only prop being a couch that was always in the classroom for Anne Marie Mauer who played Juliet.

And, so, that was the humble beginning of the Shakespeare recital.

The next quarter a group of students played the trial scene from "The Merchant of Venice". Sparky moved their performance to the Blue Door Theater. Their classmates and some of the actors' family members comprised the audience. They performed to one side of the Blue Door.

Over the years the recital grew. Sparky started making her acting students part of the recital. Then she started teaching an Acting Shakespeare class, and students from her class began doing scenes.

A couple of years ago, the recital became a Showcase. Posters were pinned up. The Showcase was advertised in local newspapers. Several years ago, an ensemble of musicians began accompanying the show. What had started as a decidedly amateurish night of acting has transformed into a more advanced night of scenes being peformed.

The theater department's Globe facade, seen above, now is erected for the Showcase. Sunday night students sang songs from Shakespeare plays. We had a full house of audience members. Nearly two dozen scenes were presented. Treats were sold at intermission.

What began as a modest class exercise has grown into a community night at the theater, with literature students (many acting for the first time), members of the community, and acting students performing scenes.

My role in the Showcase has diminished. That's fine. I no longer mc the event. I play silent roles when an actor needs an actor to address a speech to.

But, I'm proud. A cheeky note after a wonderful night of improv back in 1991 has grown into a full production with stage manager, production crew, Globe facade, and a full house audience.

I never saw this coming, but thanks to Sparky and a group of ambitious students hungry to act Shakespeare, the Shakespeare Showcase has turned into a sparkling night of theater and enthusiasm.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 06/10/07: Shakespeare Scenes, Noisy Party, Stilton and Apricots

1. Tonight was the spring term Shakespeare Showcase. They've been going on for sixteen years now. I'm going to write a longer post about its evolution in the near future, but I'm proud of what's happening with it, in part, because I hatched this project back in the fall of 1991 and it's become quite a show. We had a full house tonight!

2. The post-Showcase party was alive with good food, animated conversation, and a good buzz among the party-goers. I had to leave early because of my obligations tomorrow and, well, because of the animated conversation and buzz. It was a little too noisy for me, largely because I was tired!

3. K-Doe showed up at the house today with a chunk of Trader Joe's White Stilton cheese with apricots. She'd brought it to the Friday night English department party, I told her how much I liked it, and, wow, she showed up today to give me some more. What generous and lovely gift!

Three Beautiful Things 06/09/07: Backup, Tigers, Pizza Hut

1. I took the time today to back up all my files on my laptop today. Not a momentous thing. It's kind of like a long teeth flossing session.

2. I listened to the Mets and Tigers. The Tigers are nerve wracking. No lead is safe and they held on to win today, but their bullpen is suffering. I hope the injured pitchers get back soon. It sure is fun to have a good Tigers team to root for though. Before last year, the slump they had fallen into was painful.

3. Sometimes pizza just hits the spot. The Deke ordered a Pizza Hut pepperoni and sausage pizza this afternoon and a big bottle of Diet Pepsi and combination surprised me with pleasure.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

In My Room: Sibling Assignment #24

This week's sibling assignment comes from InlandEmpireGirl: Remembering a room: Think of a room from our growing up years. It can be in one of our houses, another person's house, or a relative's house. Write about remembering that room and why it was significant to you.

InlandEmpireGirl's post is here and Silver Valley Girl's is on its way.

When our family moved to what is now Mom's house in 1962, I was assigned the bedroom upstairs. It's a small room with a curved ceiling that peaks in the middle, but tapers down on the north side, following the pitch of the roof.

That room was the physical space where my imagination resided.

At first, when I was only eight years old, my imaginings were most dark and frightened. The room put me closer, as I perceived it, to thunder and lightning. When thunder storms would gallop in from Montana, I would crawl under my blanket and put my cheek in the small pocket formed my rump and hide from the noise. Some nights, lightning flashed brightly enough that I could see it through the blankets and I'd whimper in fear. I braved out storms. I didn't want anyone to know I was so afraid.

One night, a storm blew the outside storm window of my bedroom off its hinges and crashed on the sidewalk below. I bolted upright. Another night, the Day's minx next door was in heat, wailing like a starving baby. I had never heard the sound before and ghoulish pictures of creepy beasts haunted me all night.

As I grew older, the night frights subsided. My imagination switched to sports heroics. I had trundle bed about four feet high. It was perfect for making diving catches against the Candlestick Park or Yankee Stadium wall of the bedroom wall my bed rested against. I tossed a baseball out ahead of me and dove across the bed, making acrobatic catches, always to preserve a Giants' victory, whether in Candlestick against the Dodgers or in my version of the '62 World Series, where fortune fell on the Giants' side, not the Yankees.

Willie Mays and Willie McCovey and Jose Pagan and Felipe Alou will be happy to know that their '62 Giants won that World Series about 400 times in my bedroom, thanks to game saving catches I made on long drives by Mickey Mantle or Elston Howard or Clete Boyer.

I also loved to bring a blown-up balloon to my room. Then I could be a championship boxer. I tied the balloon to the string that fell from the room's one light bulb, and punched it with sharp left crosses, devastating upper punches, and crushing left hooks. I didn't pretend I was any boxer in particular. Names of boxers hadn't quite sunk in to me left. My opponents were nameless, too. I just liked boxing the balloon. One day, though, I smashed the balloon with too forceful downward chop and busted the string. I left enough string to grab and turn the light off and on, but my boxing days were over.

As I got older, I lusted for a Strat-O-Matic baseball game. Strat-O-Matic gave the player the capability of managing baseball teams and with rolls of the dice, players pitched and hit in alignment with their previous year's statistics. I often bought the Sporting News at Dick and Floyd's and would read over and over again the advertisement for Strat-O-Matic, but its price was out my range. Instead I bought a cheap knock-off game with mimeographed sheets and simple formula.

I had played Strat-O-Matic with Roger at his house, and my game was nowhere as sophisticated, but in the privacy of my bedroom, I didn't care. I took notebook paper and made a scorer's book and played nine inning games and diligently kept score, as if I were watching major league baseball. My cheap, uncomplicated game gave me hours of pleasure and kept my imagination alive as Richie Allen, Wes Parker, Wes Covington, Rocky Colavito, Johnny Callison, Jim Bunning, Gaylord Perry, and a host of other big league players visited the stadium of my mind and scrapped out nine inning games I could have them play with a roll of the dice.

Some nights, I could pick up a radio signal from San Francisco and then the San Francisco Warriors and their opponents could come into my room. I loved listening to their games and imagining what it looked life for Jeff Mullins to swish a jumper from twenty feet or Elgin Baylor to sweep across the key and extend his fingers above a defender and drop a finger roll for two.

These days still live today. I far prefer listening to all sports on the radio rather than watch on television. I subscribe to XM Satellite radio primarily because they broadcast every Major League Baseball game and now it's parks across the country I create in my mind, and instead of Willie Mays, the rooms of my imagination are populated by David Ortiz or Magglio Ordonez.

It's the same with NASCAR and major golf tournaments. I'd rather have the azaleas of Augusta National and the rigors of the US Open described on radio and feel the suspense of bumber to bumber cars speeding over 175 miles per hour described to me by broadcasters at each turn of the race track oval than watch on television.

I've never been a sports hero, but my mind and imagination are filled with the joy of my imagined triumphs, triumphs that have helped me sleep on restless nights and that have helped me experience in other endeavors just how vital and alive a life of imagination is. Ultimately, my imagination is the most important room of my life.

Spicy Blogging: Sunday Scribblings

This week's Sunday Scribbling prompt is spicy. InlandEmpireGirl's spicy piece is here. Silver Valley Girl might take a recess this week while in Washington, D.C.

A dozen years ago, or so, a girlfriend of mine had a son about twenty years old. One night he had watched the movie "The Usual Suspects". He called it spicy. He meant it was awesome.
So, I am pondering. What over the last year, has been spicy in my life? Here it is:

It's my regular old family. We all live modest lives. Silver Valley Girl, back left, manages a vet's office in Kellogg. InlandEmpireGirl, back right, teaches middle school in a small district in Inchelium, WA. I'm a community college English instructor. Mom, for many years, taught elementary school and then ran the Talented and Gifted program in Kellogg. She's retired.

What makes us spicy isn't flamboyance. It's not fame. It's not magnetism.

We get along and enjoy each other. That's pretty much it. It's spicy for me to be able to leave my home here in Eugene, OR and travel back to Kellogg and know that when I get together with my sisters and my mom, it'll be comfortable, good humored, and fun.

I wouldn't even say we are unique. Plenty of families get along.

Nonetheless, it's spicy.

I think my already good relationship with my sisters became spicier, more awesome, when we all started blogging.

I started blogging in October, 2006. I did it to give myself a writing discipline. My sisters read my blog and started learning more about me and so, first, Silver Valley Girl thought it would be fun to give each other writing assignments. We started writing pieces that met each others' assignments.

This evolved into my sisters beginning their own blogs. Voila! We all began to learn more about each other. I learned much more about InlandEmpireGirl's passion for gardening and cooking, in a much deeper way. I began to learn more about Silver Valley Girl's devotion to family and to her backyard tree.

I felt closer to my sisters. My respect, which was already in place, deepened.

We all posted photos on our blogs, and spicy became spicier. I began to see the world through my sisters' written word and how they see things through the lens of a camera.

Mom doesn't blog, but we have times when we read her things out loud whether about Christmas memories, tribute to her on Mother's Day, a tribute to her mother, and other things, and she has come to know us better.

The family who blogs together stays together? Maybe it's not that far-fetched.

I do know that since we all started taking this on, family life has been a lot more spicy.

It's awesome.

For more spicy Sunday Scribblings, go here. To read InlandEmpireGirl's blog go here. Here is Silver Valley Girl's.

Three Beautiful Things 06/08/07: Party, Sly, Looking Back

1. What a great party! Every year our English department invites faculty, current students, and students who have finished LCC and gone to the U of Oregon or elsewhere to have a potluck get together. I so enjoyed relaxing, talking, laughing, eating good food, and learning more about students present of from the past.

2. I was in a sly mood today and when I feel that way I'm even more of a wise acre than usual and today a bunch of us laughed about smart alec quips I directed at colleagues, especially my teaching partner, Margaret.

3. I read all the retrospective essays our Working Class Lit/Research wrote yesterday and it's especially gratifying that they learned more than they had ever known in our course, especially the history of labor about stories rarely told, such as the Pullman porters and the miners of Harlan County, KY and the Sunshine Mine.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Football in the Snow at Sunnyside Elementary

My sister, Silver Valley Girl, just posted a piece about her youngest finishing fifth grade at Kellogg's Sunnyside Elementary. She raised the question if any of her readers had a favorite memory from our days at Sunnyside.

My favorite memory happened in the fifth grade. A cold snap hit Kellogg. It was well below zero (F). The sky was cloudless. It was noon recess. It was too cold for the teachers to come out for playground duty. The snow was about a foot deep and crusty and dry.

We boys did something we could never do on the playground: we played tackle football. Our running in the snow and our contact with each blocking and tackling flushed our faces with warmth. We hardly noticed our freezing it was. No one got hurt. We got away with doing the forbidden and we all obediently filed back into our classes when the end of noon recess bell rang.

Football broadcasters complain bitterly when an NFL or NCAA football game has to be played in the snow. I don't. It takes me back to that noon hour scrimmage at Sunnyside Elementary. It was my happiest day.

2 x Three Beautiful Things 06/06-07/07: Terence Blanchard, Jefferson Radio, Alexie, Imagination, Classroom Pub Scene, Comedy

1. Terence Blanchard's "Over There" coming on Channel 70, XM Satellite Radio.

2. Rededicating myself to listening to Jefferson Radio, AM 1280 in my car. This comes after my decision not to listen to Colin Cowherd any more after his "bombing" of The Big Lead blog.

3. Listening to the "On Point" interview with Sherman Alexie as he dicussed his new novel, Flight.

4. Talking with my Shakespeare class about Shakespeare's portrayal of the imagination in The Tempest and how Shakespeare makes the audience the deliverers of Prospero back to Naples by imagining his trip back home into being.

5. Thursday was the last meeting of Working Class Lit/Research Writing. When class ended, many students did not want to leave and stayed in the classroom for over a half an hour talking with each other, mostly, and with Margaret and I, too. Not only did a very good educational experience happen, but a social one, too, in this class.

6. My Literature of Comedy students did a great job Thursday night with writing and telling the class what their definitions of comedy are. We compiled a comprehensive understanding of this magical genre by pooling together all the insights of this wonderful class.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 06/05/07: The Tempest, Classroom Anarchy, Potato Salad

1. I spent all evening reading my Shakespeare students' magnificent papers on Prospero's Epilogue in relation to his develop as a character throughout the play. I'm always a bit concerned with papers that students will simply feed back what they've heard me or classmates say in class. No way. Not these papers: they were replete with indendent and creative thinking. I learned a lot about the play as they focused on things I either hadn't thought of or had put away deep in the recesses of my Shakespeare memory.

2. I strive to develop an anarchistic classroom where power is de-centralized and students take over discussion and I become, to some degree, unnecessary as students pursue learning, discussing things freely among themselves and follow their own trails of thought, not looking to me to blaze the trails for them. This happened today in Working Class Lit./Research Writing as we discussed Raymond Williams theories of class and W. E. B. Dubois' concept of double consciousness. It was one of my most satisfying days of teaching. Students were teaching each other. I tried to stay out of the way.

3. I love potato salad. We are having a student/teacher potluck party this Friday and out of the blue Reba said she thinks she'll bring the potato salad she makes. I can hardly wait to try it.