Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Three Beautiful Things 07/31/07: Monster, Steaks, The Queen

1. Frank Peretti has written the sixth draft of his screenplay adaptation of his novel, "Monster". I was invited along with Silver Valley Girl, PKR, and two others to read the script aloud so that Frank could hear what it sounds like. Frank owns a house and grounds overlooking the west Silver Valley. The house is luxurious to me. Ponds, waterfalls, decks, impeccable landscaping, elegant furniture; I rarely spend time around such luxury, so along with reading the script, the environment made for a rare experience.

2. Frank's wife Barbara barbecued steaks the size of small roasts. I don't remember ever having such a large steak for dinner before.

3. I was completely absorbed by Stephen Frears' movie, "The Queen". The story of the queen's relationship with Tony Blair and the delicate negotiations surrounding the death of Princess Diana made for superb drama and the performance of Helen Mirren was, as it always is with her, unforgettable.

It All Comes Back to Me When I Watch Helen Mirren

During the summer of 1993, my second wife took a trip back to Palau, Micronesia. She had been there earlier for much of 1992 on a sabbatical from her job as a librarian at the University of Oregon and would go back on a permanent basis in 1993 to build a library collection from the gound up at Palau Community College. Our marriage was lousy. This separation, for a variety of reasons, sealed its doom.

In her absence, I watched scores of movies we never would have watched together and I went on a Helen Mirren kick.

The movie that kicked off my kick was the 1980 feature "A Long Good Friday". It's a fairly convoluted movie with multiple plot threads, but the main story involves a London mob king name Harold, played by Bob Hoskins.

Helen Mirren plays his mistress, Victoria. She is posh, elegant, refined, cool, steely, intelligent. She's all that Harold isn't. He's coarse, vulgar, undisciplined, rash, violent, but rich. Victoria keeps him under control when others can't, but not even she can keep his gangland empire from crumbling.

In retrospect, I now know that this was a perfect Helen Mirren role. Starting with this movie, Helen Mirren played role after role in which she is a gorgeous, contained, and powerful companion to a man who needs these qualities to balance out his own madness. Never in these roles is the Helen Mirren character submissive to these men. She exercises great power in guiding these men, often working to keep them out of trouble and sometimes asserting herself, as in "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover" to ultimately get even with a monstrous man.

All of my memories of my Helen Mirren kick and her deep strength as an actor came back to me today as I watched her play Queen Elizabeth II in "The Queen". As is so often the case, Helen Mirren plays Queen Elizabeth with a stoic, impervious exterior, but throughout the movie small glances, the aversion of her eyes, a hand running through her hair, or a particularly quiet, but emphatic drop of a pen reveals that she feels much more within than her exterior seems to portray.

The movie is about the death of Princess Diana and the royal family's response to it.

I had just begun going out with the Deke when Princess Diana died. On Saturday night, the Deke came over to my house and we fixed a smashing scallops dinner and watched "Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould." We didn't make to the end of the movie as we started kissing for the first time.

The following morning, the Deke came back over to my house, a surprise to me, on her son's bicycle. I hadn't been able to sleep much after she left and was watching ABC's World News Now and heard about the Princess' death. The Deke learned it from me.

At the time, Princess Diana's death didn't have much of an impact on me. My first wife had gone gaga over her wedding and I knew others who loved Di, but I arrogantly considered myself above such things and had kept my distance from all the drama of her life.

That all changed today. Watching this movie, something emotionally in me cracked. The pictures of Princess Diana, the thousands and thousands of people bringing her flowers, the crowds along London's streets as her casket was carried to Westminster Abbey, the sight of Elton John coming into the Abbey and my knowledge of the moving song he wrote for her all combined to soften me, to even touch me with regret that I had distanced myself so much from her charitable deeds and the deep love people around the world felt for her.

Somehow, Helen Mirren's portrayal of a resentful queen who put aside her private feelings and spoke to the nation of Britain about the loss of Diana moved me to feel differently. In the movie, Elizabeth's shell cracked a bit. She saw that she had not understood the love her nation felt for Diana.

Watching the movie took me back to my history watching Helen Mirren. No movie I've seen her in has been forgettable. I seem to remember what I was doing and where I was when I've seen her movies.

Likewise, I know where I was and what was happening when Diana died and today the memories of broken marriages, of my first wife's love of British things, her enchantment with Charles and Diana, of a wife in Palau, of beginning a relationship with the Deke that would soon turn into marriage, all of these landmark events in my life all intersect with Helen Mirren, her movies, and the memorable way she acts.

I didn't expect so much feeling and nostalgia and memory to come flooding back today. But, I should have known.

"The Queen", after all, starred Helen Mirren.

Monday, July 30, 2007

XM Radio at Night

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Three Beautiful Things 07/30/07:Raymond Pringle, "Heavy Metal", Taking the Camera Off Automatic

1. An earlier commenter, using the pseudonym Raymond Pringle, identified himself to me today and I hope I'll be able to get together this summer with Jon Etherton for a cup of coffee. We appeared in the KHS production of "Kiss and Tell" together. He played Raymond Pringle.

2. At 2 a.m. I finished my viewing of the documentary, "Heavy Metal", a look at the metal pollution in the Silver Valley. It's a compelling story. Many of the interviews were good. I found the script, the visual style, and the soundtrack of the film overwrought. I thought it hyped a serious subject that doesn't need the hype of a melodramatic voice over, flashy visual effects, or a heavy handed music soundtrack.

3. I'm starting to mess around with manual settings on my digital camera. My subject today was Snug.

Three Beautiful Things 07/29/07: Camera Man, Camera Depth, Snug Revival

1. I had a fun time videotaping the Sixth Street Melodrama's production of "Nightmare at Dream Gulch....or Wake Me When It's Over, even though I'm on record as not being in favor of videotaping live theater!

2. I've decided to go deeper into the workings of my Powershot A530 camera and see if I can improve my photographs and maybe prepare myself to one day purchase a more sophisticated camera.

3. Snug is lethargic in the heat. When the temperature drops in the evening he is a new dog and especially enjoys chasing a deflated soccer ball and returning it to me, repeatedly.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Acting and Writing: It and Not It

In his book Being Peace, Thich Nhat Hanh explains how a thing is not so much what it is but what it isn't. Take a piece of paper. It is made up of a tree, and rain that fed the tree, the clouds the rain fell from, the logger who cut down the tree, the food the logger ate, and on and on. When we look at a sheet of paper, we see everything. But none of it is the piece of paper, but without all that the paper is not, there would be no piece of paper.

This Buddhist way of looking at reality informs my teaching of writing. I try to help my students see that what they do when they are not writing is what makes them writers. Do they read? Are they awake to the world around them? Do they get good sleep? Are they curious? On and on. None of these things is actually writing, but without reading and being awake and getting good sleep and curiosity, there would be no writing.

Similarly, the non-acting elements of acting are what make actors.

In my involvement with the theater, I've seen actors' performances suffer because they treat acting as only what they do when on the stage. They don't understand that whatever they are doing when not acting affects their acting.

The examples are obvious. Sleep affects acting. Getting drunk affects acting. Actors need to be sharp and sleep deprivation and intoxication dull an actors' sensibilities and their gestures and movements. I wish I could see one performance of the plays I've been in when each actor came to perform and had not been drunk the night before or had not stayed up late partying or even playing video games.

This came to mind because a very troubled man was playing a role in the Sixth Street Melodrama's production of "Nightmare at Dream Gulch...or Wake Me When It's Over". Now, while technically he did good work in his role, I watched him, not knowing the trouble in his life, and could tell his performance had a bitterness to it; I experienced him as a dark cloud or even a black hole in the cast.

A couple of weekends ago, he ran afoul with the law and was put in jail and had to be replaced in the play.

I saw the play today with the new actor playing his role. The whole performance was better, despite the fact that the new person didn't have the talent the troubled actor did. The cast's energy was freer. The show had a lighter feel and the cast seemed much more relaxed. They seemed more trusting of each other. The new actor did not bring the brooding elements of her non-acting self to her acting or to the play.

It wasn't the troubled actor's acting that was hurting the play. It was the non-acting elements of his life, which, ultimately can't be separated from his acting.

Often the Buddhist idea of everything is connected is scoffed at as a weird idea that teaches a kind of false and dreamy harmony.

It doesn't teach that at all. It teaches, in fact, that one of the most difficult and demanding elements of life is our connectedness with each other and with the world of nature and with inanimate things.

It's a philosophy of consequences. We just cannot do what we do and expect it to be isolated from others. Everything affects everything else.

Studying and learning more about the it/not it reality of life has heightened my moral sense. It's also sharpened my writing and my acting. It has helped me understand myself as a steward of my life as a teacher. What I do when I'm not teaching deeply informs my work as a teacher.

I'm always writing. I'm always acting. I'm always teaching.

Even when I'm not.

Family Over Principle

If you read my recent post on videotaping live theater, then you'll appreciate this.

This afternoon, I'll be videotaping the final performance "Nightmare at Dream Gulch" and the Sixth Street Melodrama as a favor for Silver Valley Girl. It's the play she wrote and that PKR directs and that they both play lead roles in.

Three Beautiful Things 07/28/07: Lawn Crisis, Coffee, Playing Smart

1. Mom gets pretty worried about her lawn. Her lawn mower won't start. I was going to try to get it to start. Suddenly, the morning a Truth from the Heavens was revealed to me. Silver Valley Girl's youngest daughter, Kiki Aru, wants to mow Mom's lawn. She'll use PKR's mower. There is peace in the kingdom.

2. I had coffee this morning with Pinehurst in My Dreams. I have blogged about when she was my wife in the first grade. I played Santa; she was Mrs. Claus. We graduated from high school together. We talked about all kinds of things this morning and had a very good time. You can check out her blog here.

3. Ed and went to the Cd'A casino today and I had another one of those wonderful times. The conversation with Ed was terrific on our drive down and back and for only twenty-five bucks, I played for about six hours or so tonight. I played a wide variety of slot machines and stayed well within my budget. It's my favorite way of playing: never gunning for any big payout, but playing for low stakes and just enjoying the variety of the different games and their power to entertain me with their different visual and sound effects.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Silver Valley Girl's Back Yard

From her brother's perspective, here are some photos of Silver Valley Girl's back yard. It's hot. It's July 28th.

From the back yard is a lovely view of Haystack Peak:

Kind of quirky, huh? The girl statuette gazes over the top of the sink planter:

I tried to play ball with Snug, but he decided he'd rather cool off under the trampoline:

I told Snug: "Now drink plenty of water in this summer heat."

Snug wants to go inside Silver Valley Girl's cool house, but takes a moment to admire his image:

Here's a perspective I enjoy of Silver Valley Girl's tri-colored beech tree:

Friday, July 27, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 07/27/07: Cassie, Evening Breakfast, Time to Write

1. Cassie, the friendliest, sweetest, most solicitous postal service worker I've ever been served by helped me get a package together to send to the Deke.

2. Waffles, eggs, bacon for dinner.

3. I had a long stretch of time today to catch up on writing emails and writing blog posts. A nearly perfect day for me to just have time alone to work on these things, lying on my back in bed.

Pops Say the Darndest Things

Go here, and read how one dad's table manners talk was inadvertently PG-13, if not R-rated.

Stripping Zinc: Sibling Assignment #29

Silver Valley Girl assigned InlandEmpireGirl and me the following topic: Share some information you learned about the Silver Valley as an adult that you had no clue about growing up as a student in Kellogg, and then how this information changed your thinking about the Silver Valley.

InlandEmpireGirl's piece is here. When Silver Valley Girl finishes the last Harry Potter novel, is done with the melodrama, gets her kids off the church camp, and temporarily relinquishes her role as busiest person in the universe, she will write hers and I'll post the link!

I hired on as a stripper in the Bunker Hill Zinc Plant in July of 1971. I was seventeen years old.

I walked into the cell room at about 2:45 p.m. It was scorcher outside and the cell room was about ten to twenty degrees hotter.

A light fog of sulfur dioxide gas suffused the cell room. The atmosphere was vaguely metallic. It was as if tiny pellets of zinc crept up my nose and into my throat.

Jim Hawkins broke me into this new job. Slowly, painfully, I grabbed a hook and raised my first zinc-covered cathode out of a cell, gingerly place it on the drainer, reached back clumsily for a new cathode, and replace the one I had just pulled out.

I coughed. Sweat drenched my shirt. Strippers around me were pulling cathodes and replacing them at four times the speed I was. After pulling seven cathodes out of my first cell, I awkwardly dragged the plates two at time on to my truck and cautiously powered my cathode truck forward. I'd heard stories about new strippers cross banking trucks, turning their truck into a five foot long electricity conductor, and being thrown to the ground by the current.

Ten cells later, I swerved my truck of sagging cathodes to the stripping room. The other strippers' plates were stacked upright and tight on their trucks. Mine looked they'd been stacked on the truck by a drunk.

It took me an hour to strip the zinc off the plates of my first load. I saw other guys come in, strip their zinc, stack and leave three times in the time it took me strip and stack this one load.

When I got home, my right hand was cramped closed from gripping the hook and then the stripping chisel.

Dad gave me the first beer I ever drank at home.

Before this day, I had no idea what the men in the Silver Valley really did to earn a living. Whether on the Smelter highline or punching roasters or mucking in the mine or pouring anodes in the anode shack, I had no idea just how intensely hot, dirty, and hellish work was at the Bunker Hill.

One day Dad's Bunker Hill identification card was lying on the television at home. The date of birth on it said 1929. I knew he'd been born in 1930. I asked him about it.

"I lied. I wanted to go to work and told them I was seventeen, not sixteen."

Jesus, I thought. Dad came to work in this hellhole in 1946 when he was only sixteen. He did what I'm doing now. Twenty-five years have passed. It's the same hellhole.

During one of my first weekday day shifts in the cell room, I saw my dad. He was a maintenance shift boss and needed to come to the cell room to check on a job some of his guys were doing.

I hardly recognized him. He was wearing safety glasses, dirtied by the SO2 mist. He was in work clothes, wearing a hard hat. He looked grim, more serious than I'd ever seen him.

I don't know if he knew I was nearby. I heard him give some cell room guys shit and his speech was laced with the f-word. He used every other form of profanity at home, but the f-word was off limits. So was crude sex talk. Here at work, I suddenly discovered, his speech had no such limits.

For the first time, I saw my dad as a worker, as someone with expertise, as someone who knew the inner workings of this damned place where I was just starting and where he had worked for most of the last twenty-five years.

He seemed alien.

After about a week or ten days, I got the hang of pulling, replacing, loading, stripping, stacking zinc.

My body adapted to the work conditions. I even got to where I could stand to eat my lunch and could take breaks to eat it.

I also adapted my thinking about my dad and all the other men who worked at the Bunker Hill.

I began to realize that for at least eight hours a day, the men in the Silver Valley suffered the danger, indignities, hard labor, and stress of metal industry labor.

The strikes made more sense. The drinking made more sense. The reckless recreation and gambling at the Playfair horse track in Spokane made more sense.

It all came together in that grim look on Dad's face. I saw that face more in the work place and began to notice that it didn't really go away when these men left work.

I learned to recognize the Silver Valley look. I've never forgotten it.

This was not so much a change in my thinking about the Silver Valley.

My days in the Zinc Plant began my thinking.

POOF!: Sunday Scribblings: Phenomenon

This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt is the word "phenomenon". Read more here.

"I wish someone had taped that. We were really good tonight."

In my very occasional work as an actor in live theater, I hear this comment often from other actors.

Back in 1995, I played Polonius in Tom Stoppard's "Rozencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead".

Our production got off to a rocky start because the actor playing Claudius and our director, who played Ophelia, were seriously injured in our dress rehearsal. Claudius carried Ophelia off stage and down some insecure stairs and he tripped, sending Ophelia flying. She landed on a concrete floor. She suffered head injuries. For years, she could no longer act because she lost her ability to memorize and retain lines. Claudius tore up his ankle really badly.

We lost both actors and had to work new actors into the play, starting opening night.

By the second week of the run, our cast regained our identity and we had a local smash hit on our hands.

Closing night, we put on a phenomenal show. The run was over. We struck the set. The stage was bare again. We were back in street clothes. The phenomenon of "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern" was, POOF!, gone.

We didn't have a recorded artifact of our energetic, stirring show.

I'm glad.

To me, the sublimity of live theater is that a troupe of actors creates a tangible reality, lives in it, draws an audience into it, and then POOF!, it's gone.

The live play is a phenomenon fully available to the five senses. For the couple of hours of a play, no other world exists except the reality of the play. It's a dream reality, a phenomenon of the imagination.

A live play makes things unseen visible and then they are invisible again. The physical reality of the production disappears and makes its home in the imagination and memory of the players and audience.

For years, I resisted buying a camera because I didn't want visual reminders of phenomenon I had experienced. I wanted those phenomenon to live in my dreams and to take on a life of their own in my imagination.

It's the same way with the classes I teach.

One term, a student of mine suggested I write a book grounded in my understanding of Shakespeare's plays. He was so devoted to this idea, that he audio taped a whole term's worth of my lectures and class discussions.

He gave me the tapes. He had recorded the phenomenon of this particular Shakespeare class.

I've never listened to those tapes.

I never will.

Like the phenomenon of passing through a day, each moment passing unrecorded into the next, some phenomenon sticking, to be remembered, most of it passing away, POOF!, gone, I prefer my classroom instruction to be so focused and so responsive to the phenomenon of each moment, that I do not want a record of what I've done in the past.

It's why I rarely bring notes to class.

Once recorded and edited on film, a movie remains a fixed phenomenon. We watch a movie, might see it multiple times, but it's no longer a fluid reality. The actors' performances are no longer in process.

Live theater is the opposite. Each performance is a new and different performance. Actors continue to grow into roles. Rehearsals continue on off days and the performance is further honed. Actors and tech crew make new discoveries.

It's a new phenomenon each time the cast and crew dive into it.

It's why I cannot watch the DVD of our cast's performance of 2005's "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

What I experienced as a fresh phenomenon with each performance is now frozen into a single phenomenon on a DVD.

I'd rather have those performances live in whatever is left behind in my memory and emotions after they, POOF!, disappeared.

Three Beautiful Things 07/26/07: Golden, Scholars, Slot Variety

1. The wheat is ripe, like a rolling lion's mane, on the drive between Worley and Moscow. Gorgeous, especially with the staid Palouse pines watching over it. I loved my drive from Kellogg to Moscow this morning.

2. A researcher, Richard Benjamin, met with my long-time friend, Kenton Bird, and two other U of Idaho professors to talk about Silver Valley. The three professors are pros when it comes to North Idaho. I'm an amateur. But I loved being asked to be a part of this discussion and I learned a great deal about how North Idaho is perceived by a scholar, Dr. Benjamin, who is from the eastern U.S.A.. and by the other scholars at the table.

3. I made a little money go a long way at the Cd'A Casino on my way back to Kellogg and did what I love to do: won enough money to play a long time and on a wide variety of machines. This was a great day!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 07/25/07: Blowhard Blogging-Positivity, Lost Nephew, More Introverted Happiness

1. I check in at 2Blowhards every day to see what those middle-aged, graying amateurs are thinking about and today I was featured in a very positive way at the top of Michael Blowhard's first of what will be a series of "blogging-positivity". Here's what Michael said to kick off the series:
Enough with the negativity and mockery. The Communicatrix, Chelsea Girl, and Raymond Pert have shown me the way: Blog about something positive from time to time, damn it. Good for the mental health, and probably a ray of sunshine for visitors too. . . . Besides, it takes more guts to open up about what moves you than it does to scorn things.
Every once in a while, word comes back to me that my daily Three Beautiful Things has an impact. I'm very happy that M. Blowhard recognizes the guts it takes to open up about what moves me.

2. I found the myspace page and blog of a fella who was my nephew from 1979, when he was born, until 1981, when my first marriage dissolved. I learned a lot about how he is doing and about his father, my former brother-in-law, and their family. It was a bit of serendipity in this funny blog world that led me to his stuff. I really enjoyed finding out how he's doing.

3. The Deke has been hanging out at Mom's for the last five days and has done what we introverts love most: secluding herself in the basement or upstairs in the TV room and watching television. She loves Law and Order and The Closer and other crime dramas. I went to Mom's for dinner tonight and marveled at how relaxed and rested the Deke looks. She confirmed she feels rested and relaxed. She had a perfect vacation here in Kellogg. She hardly did a thing. She and I had some good time visiting and eating with my mom. Otherwise, she took time to herself to recharge and get herself ready to travel on Monday to West Point to see her daughter Adrienne and her husband Nathan. I'm very happy we live this way.

Taming the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River

I wish I could find a picture.

Drunk underage rafters, drivers, brawlers up the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River.

Their behavior, along with similar behavior from adults who should know better, has forced the Shoshone County sheriff's office into weekend emphasis patrol up the river.

Zero tolerance.

No public intoxication. No glass containers. No driving under the influence. No speeding. No lewdness. No indecent exposure. No fighting.

Sheriff Chuck Reynalds and his deputies are draining law enforcement dollars to tame the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River.

It's always been wild up the North Fork: auto fatalities, drunkenness, underage drinking at the Snake Pit, Albert's Place, and the King's Inn, diving off the silver bridge and the black bridge, keg parties, drugs, on and on. Swimming fatalities, diving injuries, bonfire burns: wild.

If it's always been wild up the river, why the emphasis patrol now?

I mean, take as an example, the Kellogg High School Class of 1972 one-year reunion.

Someday I'll have to have the VHS footage transferred to DVD and YouTube it.

It was a typical Kellogg kegger. Huge cups. Foamy beer. Bonfire. And, an early start. Memory tells me we had that keg tapped about one in the afternoon.

What's more, a person from elsewhere would have thought we all hadn't seen each other for ten years, even though most of us saw each other the week before. Beer. Hugs. Stories about the Univ. of Idaho, NIC, Whitman, the Smelter, the Zinc Plant, the woods: whatever school we were attending. Laughs. Loud, loud laughs.

A couple of hours in, a couple sheriff cars arrived. I'll have to look at the footage again sometime to see if two or three officers came.

The drinking age then was nineteen. Most of us were drinking legally. The underaged kids snuck into the bushes.

The sheriffs barely left their vehicles. They got out, sniffed the air a bit, and enjoyed Vesta and some of the other Pinehurst girls flirting with them.

We were being wild, but the sheriffs weren't out to tame us. I'm not sure what their concern was, but whatever it was, I guess they didn't see it.

They drove off laughing, waving, smiling.

In the Silver Valley, in 1973, law enforcement was much more lax than today. One night, actually in late 1972, a friend and I, only eighteen, had been drinking in Kingston and as we exited the freeway and drove up the off ramp to Kellogg, a city police officer stopped us.

We were drunk. We were in a compact pickup. The back of the pickup was littered with empty Lucky Lager bottles.

The officer asked us if we were on our way home. We told the truth: "Yes."

"OK. Get right home. I don't want to see you on the streets like this."

That was it. No citation, no warning; he just made sure we were going home.

One of my friend's Dad was an Idaho State Police officer. If he pulled over a drunk driver on I-90 and knew who the driver was, his instructions: "Pull over on the shoulder and sleep it off. Then get yourself home."

Those days are gone. More people are on the roads. More people are up the river. Fights, keg parties, drunk drivers, and other law breakers are not as isolated as they once were. More people live up the river. More is at stake.

There are more property owners up the river. More people from out of the area come up the river for recreation. Many must still think it's wild. There's more money up the river.

Wherever there's more money, more land owners, there's more at stake.

The North Fork can't be as wild any more.

It's got to be tamed.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 07/24/07: Introverts, Introversion, Introverted

1. My blog post on being introverted (here) attracted two lovely emails. One was from D. Mc who was a year behind me in high school and the other from a student at Whitworth College. Along with commenter John from Tennessee, we could have started an Introvert's Club...except we could never have meetings because we would all want to spend time in solitude.

2. My blog post on being introverted triggered a wonderful discussion at the dinner table tonight. Mom, the Deke, and I talked about introversion and maybe the Deke and I make more sense to my mom now. At Mom's house, Deke and I spend quite a few hours in separate rooms, either reading or watching television or writing. The Deke only lasted about an hour at Saturday's reunion picnic. The hour exhausted her. The time the Deke and I spend together is good, but we both prefer a lot of time alone. I don't think many of the thousands of books on successful marriages suggest this approach. They all have married couples yakking at each other day and night. We prefer being quiet.

3. My blog post on introversion triggered a nice talk between me and Silver Valley Girl. She is so right: most teachers are introverts. It's funny. You'd think it would be the opposite. But, most teachers are reflective, imaginative, and intuitive. Outside the classroom, many are quiet. It's odd to me that many people think that it's a natural move for a teacher/instructor/professor to go from the classroom to administration. For this introvert, my one year of administration was very difficult: not quite a nightmare, but bordering. It's a funny world.

I'm Introverted: Anything Wrong with That?

<-----------> Extroverted

Tragedy <----------> Comedy

Quiet <---------->Boisterous

Romantic <---------> Political

Reflective <---------> Engaging

Imaginative <--------> Derivative

Intuitive <-------> Perceptive

Idealistic <-------> Skeptical

Neurotic <-----------> Manic

enjoy hearing from other introverted people whose jobs demand that they be extroverted.

This is the dichotomy I live in. Professionally, I make it work in my work as a teacher. Somehow, when I'm in charge of a classroom or when I act in the theater, my introverted personality becomes extroverted and I have a place in my life where I can open up and give myself over to free expression.

It exhausts me, but I do it and enjoy it.

This past weekend, at our Kellogg High School multi-class reunion, I was sharply aware of my introverted nature and of my shyness.

While inner tubing on the river, I was fine. I was with Joni, Wanda, Scott, Bruce, and Mike. I see all of these friends often, or, in Mike's case, have had several telephone conversations.

I was loose and free with these guys, being a smart alec, making lots of fun of my inner tube failures, listening to their stories.

Once I'd gone home and returned to the larger party, anxiety welled up at the root of my guts. I wanted to find a place where I could watch people, listen to stories, maybe even be approached by others, but I was scared to initiate conversation.

I'm introverted. I become more so the older I get.

I kept looking for places around the bonfire where I'd be in the company of one or two old friends. I avoided rings of old friends. When I did shyly join some of the rings, I just wanted to listen to people's great stories and laugh, but I didn't really have many stories to tell.

I spent my younger days, minus a few weekends here and there, studying. After high school, while friends were chasing girls they didn't know along I-90 with CB Radios or closing down bars and heading on road trips to Montana and shooting guns at cattle and tennis shoe-ing meals at small town cafes, I was reading Chaucer, studying the Old Testament, learning how to teach, and falling in love with poetry and history.

I couldn't work at the Bunker Hill any more. I had been disabled physically. So, I mainly went to school and wrote papers and studied. I spent a lot of time alone and grew to like it.

I know that my introspective personality has caused confusion because in certain situations, I can be effusive, even loud, and sometimes draw attention to myself.

Most of the time, this isn't true. I come off as distant, aloof. It's shyness. It's me retreating, trying to find a way to be left alone. It's a confusing dichotomy, to enjoy people, but to want to be left alone.

I came home from Friday night's reunion gathering exhausted. I was very happy to have seen people, but introverts find intense interaction with people, even good friends, exhausting. I was exhausted.

On Saturday, I looked forward to rejoining everyone, but I needed to nap beforehand; I needed to fortify myself and fight off the introverted temptation to skip the afternoon gathering. I had a great time, but I couldn't go to the evening gathering uptown at Dirty Ernie's.

I needed to retreat. If the bar was loud, I knew I couldn't face the prospect of having to raise my voice to talk to people. I enjoyed the other settings because I could talk quietly and be heard.

Introversion seems almost un-American, doesn't it?

The American personality is outgoing; slaps backs; moves easily from one person to another, smiling, open and expressive to all.

I've tried to be this way and it doesn't work.

I leave parties early. I don't talk much at meetings. It's very hard for me to get together with people I don't know well.

Five days of teaching each week, of happily going against the grain of my introversion, leaves me exhausted on the weekends.

I've quit going to church because I need to rest from seeing people. Sunday has become my Sabbath to be by myself. I know my priest doesn't understand. He doesn't understand my struggles with depression. Why should he understand my struggles with introversion, except to tell me another story about himself that's irrelevant?

My introversion at church has cost me being asked to preach any more. It will probably cost me my license has a lay preacher. I love to preach. It's that odd dichotomy again.

I'm becoming increasingly private, although I'll tell classes of students things I don't tell people in smaller social settings or one to one.

Communication on the Internet works really well for me.

That's it.

Maybe I'll have stories another time.

For now, I just wanted to confess to anyone who cares to read it: I'm introverted and becoming more so all the time.

If you know me, maybe that explains some things.

Thirteen Year Old All-Stars: Sibling Assignment #28

Because Silver Valley Girl's daughter Z2 turned 13 on July 15, I assigned me and my sisters to write about the number 13. Silver Valley Girl's post is here; InlandEmpireGirl's post is here.

Wallace's Jerry Lowen smashed a low line drive about three feet to my left. I was playing third base.

I had one of those moments athletes like Michael Jordan, Brooks Robinson, Wayne Gretsky, Joe Montana, and Kobe Bryant have all the time.

Everything went into slow motion. The baseball coming off Jerry Lowen's bat looked like a volleyball.

I dove to my left, my body completely stretched out. Smack! I snared Lowen's line drive.

I leapt to my feet and heaved a perfect strike to first base and doubled up the Wallace runner.

At age thirteen, I made my first and last great defensive play of my baseball playing life and it stands in my mind with glacier stream clarity.

We were called Babe Ruth baseball "Thirteen Year Old All-Stars". We weren't really All-Stars. We were just all the thirteen year old Babe Ruth players.

For the first time ever, I played baseball on the same team with guys from Cataldo, Kingston, Pinehurst, Pine Creek, Rose Lake and other spots in western Shoshone County.

I loved it. I got to know Krause and Lesterberg and Twidt and Whitaker and Finley and Taylor and a host of other guys who went to Pinehurst Junior High and who were strangers to me.

This tournament marked one of the last times I felt accomplished as a baseball player.

Not only did I make a diving catch and throw against Wallace, I had a great game against Lewiston #2.

You might not know, if you aren't from North Idaho, that Lewiston was (is?) the Idaho Jerusalem of youth baseball. Playing a Lewiston team felt like playing the Yankees.

Even if it's Lewiston's #2 team.

I used to pull off a little ruse as a batter. I batted left handed and took my warm-up swings as if all I could do was pull hits to the right side of the diamond.

Against Lewiston #2, their defense twice bit on my bait. Their defense shifted to the right when I came to the plate. Both times, I hit long fly balls down the left field line and both times I tripled.

Two triples in one game against a Lewiston team!

We beat Wallace when I dove for the Jerry Lowen smash.

My two triples helped beat Lewiston #2.

We didn't win the double elimination tournament, however. My guess is that Lewiston #1 did, but I can't remember.

What I do remember is that for one tournament, for one three or four day tournament, at the age of thirteen, I felt like a complete baseball player, a good defensive and offensive player.

I cherish the memory.

I never felt so accomplished on the diamond again.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Two x Three Beautiful Things 07/22,23/07: Potato Salad, The Boss, Chase, Cold, Law and Order, Silver Valley Girl Wi-Fi

1. Sunday afternoon bbq at Mom's featuring hot dogs, hamburgers, melons, and, best of all, Mom's potato salad. The Deke and Reba make good potato salad; the catering service at Saturday's reunion picnic made good potato salad; Mom's is the best.

2. I was upstairs starting to read "The Agony and Ecstasy" when Bruce Springsteen's "Jungleland" came on the radio and suddenly the fall of 1975 was all over me: reading "Agony/Ecstasy" in Dr. Duvall's Renaissance history course; listening to "Jungleland" in my dorm room, feeling some odd affinity with the New Jersey lost souls, even though I'm from Kellogg; the Sox go down in seven to the Reds, and I listened to Game 6 while studying for Duvall's exam and missed game 7 to take my midterm (it was a night class); Patty Hearst captured; assassination attempts on Gerald Ford; I was a college senior and everything seemed so magnified and memorable and it was all over me tonight.

3. Snug chasing hummingbirds in Mom's back yard!

4. I watched "The Departed" and admired it, but was left unmoved.

5. I was more moved by two episodes of Law and Order, one which ended in a murder I found more shocking and upsetting than anything that happened in "The Departed".

6. I'm back at Silver Valley Girl's house and have total access to the Internet again. I have a lot of catching up to do!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Two x Three Beautiful Things 07/20 ,21/07: Flip, Flop, Bonfire, The Deke is Back, Wildcat, Model A

Special Kellogg High School Class of '72 Reunion Edition

1. Friday afternoon I took my first ever float down the North Fork. Unbelievable I'd never done it before and once I got on the inner tube, was it ever obvious I was a rookie as I flopped around like a croppie on a lake dock trying to get positioned on the tube and trying to get stable. I flipped once, hat went flying, sunglasses to the bottom of the river, sunscreen floating away. My friends complimented the perfection of my back flip. Lots of great laughs. I was happy to provide them.

2. New inner tube. Lost it, too. Everyone floated down the river and I staggered like Nick Nolte on a three day bender down the river, until I caught up to my friends who beached and waited for me. We all agreed: no more tubes for Pert. So we unloaded the raft used for coolers, with three people's help, I flopped into the raft, a cooler between my legs, and, as we floated along, my friends threw all their empty beer and soft drink cans on top of me because the raft was the litter boat, too. My nickname became TM, Trash Man. Lots of great laughs. I was happy to provide them. Maybe some Trash Man pix later.

3. Bonfire. Green sticks. Sausages. Salads. Chips. Friends I see often. Old friends I hadn't seen for over thirty years. The reunion kicked into high gear. Stories. Laughs. Embraces. Handshakes. Oh my! Feelings of affection and regret and confusion I thought were long gone welled up along with feelings of joy and respect and fellowship in the present moment....they all combined to make this first reunion night one of intense elation.

4. The Deke drove from Eugene to Kellogg. I called her while she was making her way around Lake Cd'A. Suddenly she said, "I gotta go. I'm about to have an accident!" Click. I started to shake and wanted to vomit and empty my bowels. I paced in my mom's living room. I started trying to call the Deke back: about ten or more straight times I was sent to her answering service. I started scanning the local news stations. Was there a wreck? How badly hurt were they? Nothing. Finally, my call to the Deke came through. "Are you all right!"
"Yeah, I'm at the Smelterville Wal*Mart."
"You didn't have an accident? Did you avoid it?"
"What? Oh. No. God, I'm sorry. I just had to get off the phone."

Then I understood. She meant it didn't feel safe to talk and drive. It was like shorthand for "If I don't get off the phone, I'm afraid I might have an accident."

I was so relieved. Cell phone service over the 4th of July Pass is lousy. That was why I hadn't been able to reach the Deke. She hadn't wanted to get back on the phone and hadn't meant for her words to mean what I heard them as.

The Deke got home I hugged and I had to relieve myself, take a nap, and be a little late for the reunion.

I don't remember when I've been so scared and worried.

It was beautiful to see my wife drive up to my mom's house and to get everything straightened out.

5. I'd had a story about a wildcat strike in the Zinc Plant Cell Room bugging me for years. I knew Mike Woodruff, the company's president's son was on the shift that went out on the wildcat strike. I'd heard different things about what he did and how he was protected because he didn't support the strike. I had a long talk with Mike. I got it all straightened out, though I'll probably pursue this whole thing more via email with him.

6. John Hopper took me for a spin in his 1930 Ford Model A. It's the oldest car I've ever been in and it was a real pleasure to ride and to talk with John about his interests and the whereabouts of mutual friends.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Two x Three Beautiful Things 07/18,19/07: Laptop Back, Tigers, Fires, Mowed Lawn, Fashion, Floating

1. I'm writing this post on my own laptop. It's back and repaired!

2. Tigers sweep Twins and win each game by one run.

3. I've finished Pyne's book "The Great Fires of 1910": it's a terrific examination of bureaucracy, the nature of fire, and the difficulties of fire/forest management. I think I'll be writing more about this in a longer post.

4. Mom's lawn's mowed. It's being unmowed started to take on a kind of Israeli/Gaza Strip importance.

5. Mom bought me two new shirts and two new pairs of pants. I can never get old enough to appreciate a gift from Mom, especially when it come out of the blue!

6. Scott called and we joked about all the things we should do on the river tomorrow when we float: carry bottles, throw them ashore and bust them where little kids are playing, draw as much attention to ourselves as possible, get in a bar brawl, etc. We were making fun of the floaters who have been arrested over the last couple of weekends. The Sheriff's office has had emphasis patrol up the river to try to quiet down the trouble. We'll float today and not cause trouble. We are too old and too wily for trouble.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 07/17/07: Melodrama, Scandal, Penelope

1. An emergency developed at the Sixth Street Melodrama and it was inspiring to see Silver Valley Girl and PKR deal with it so calmly and professionally.

2. I watched "Notes on a Scandal" this afternoon. Have I ever mentioned that I love Cate Blanchett? How about Judi Dench? Watching them work together is heavenly. The movie is disturbing. It'll be with me for a while, much like it's difficult to let go of "Othello". Judi Dench plays a predatory, lonely, single older school teacher who preys upon younger women for companionship and to fulfill fantasies she has of having them as her own. The character is pathologically devious and, more frightening, very intelligent. She's a kind of Iago.

3. My laptop is repaired and on its way back to Kellogg. I will continue to weave like Penelope until its return.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 07/16/07: F-Bombing at Otis's, Acer Odyssey, Heaven's Gate

1. Otis guest blogged at Mommie Dearest's blog about babies crying in movie theaters. I wrote an f-bomb laced rant about the parents who bring crying babies to church, movies, poetry readings, and other places that babies hate. Mommie Dearest read my comment and laughed to tears. Knowing that made my day.

2. My laptop needs to go to Simi Valley for repairs. Today the delivery man arrived so my laptop can begin its Odyssey. I wished it well. I really hope everything turns out all right.

3. I'm sitting on Silver Valley Girl's back deck in the cool shadow of the Silver Valley feeling a fresh breeze blowing through the Bitterroots watching Snug run and prance and rest and explore. I'm cooled off. I love my dog. I'm having a time of solitude. My sister's backyard is spacious and beautiful. I'm bloggin in Kellogg. Need I say more?

Life of Pi: Some Reflections

I read Yann Martel's novel, "The Life of Pi" last week and as I am sitting here bloggin in Kellogg, I don't have the book with me. This won't be an essay written for class, but some reflections I've had about the novel over the last week.

I'm not going to refer much to the plot. If you haven't read it, I won't spoil much. I hope you will still enjoy what I have to say. If you have read it, see what you think of what came to mind when I did.

"The Life of Pi" triggered in me a lot of thoughts about a lot of other books and poems. It was as if the book were filled with hyperlinks and when I clicked on them, the click took me to links in my memory. A predominant link was the following poem by Victor Hernandez Cruz:

Problems with Hurricanes

A campesino looked at the air
And told me:
With hurricanes it's not the wind
or the noise or the water.
I'll tell you he said:
it's the mangoes, avocados
Green plantains and bananas
flying into town like projectiles.

How would your family
feel if they had to tell
The generations that you
got killed by a flying

Death by drowning has honor.
If the wind picked you up
and slammed you
Against a mountain boulder
This would not carry shame
to suffer a mango smashing
Your skull
or a plantain hitting your
Temple at 70 miles per hour
is the ultimate disgrace.

The campesino takes off his hat –
As a sign of respect
toward the fury of the wind
And says:
Don't worry about the noise
Don't worry about the water
Don't worry about the wind –
If you are going out
beware of mangoes
And all such beautiful
sweet things.

Beware, the campesino says, of flying fruit. Fruits which are sweet and beautiful, but in a hurricane can be transformed into deadly missiles.

This is the reality of "The Life of Pi." Nothing in the story is either good or bad, helpful or dangerous, life-giving or life-denying: everything hold contrary qualities at the same time.

It's an ocean story. The ocean grows to metaphorically stand for an almost infinite variety of qualities, both concrete and abstract. But whatever it stands for figuratively, it literally holds within its power that which gives life and that which takes life away.

In this way, I kept thinking about "Moby Dick". Melville's story is his vehicle for exploring the mystery of God, often embodied in the great white whale himself, the whale whom Ishmael looks upon and sees "the inscrutable brow of the great white whale". Melville's understanding of God is as a being who is not only inscrutable, but who possesses all the contradictory forces of life: anger, revenge, calmness, giver of life, denier of life, a being who reveals himself and a being who hides deep beneath the surface of human sight, a being chased, fought with, battled against, a being needed by Ahab and scorned by Ahab.

Pi is a teenager. He is restlessly eager to understand the divine. He refuses to be confined by the practice of any one of the world's religions and sees in a way his elders cannot that dimensions of the divine exist in one faith that is not as apparent in another, but that if they are taken together, he can experience a clearer, though not full, experience with the inscrutable existence of the divine he longs to know.

Pi is a student of both theology and zoology (these apparent opposites co-exist in him). He is a young man of faith and reason; his ways of knowing and his understanding of reality combine the scientific method and leaps of faith. Thus, his long encounter with the ocean magnifies the co-existence of visible and invisible realities and of scientific as well as non-scientific ways of knowing.

In that he is a rather naive, but brilliant young man, thrust by circumstance into an alien world that calls upon his every resource to survive, the story, in its concrete detail, often called "Robinson Crusoe" to mind. At times, Pi also seemed to be a young Aristotle, or a young man of the Enlightenment, reasoning out problems, cataloguing his efforts, detailing his successes and his failures as a way of working to ensure his survival.

But, scientific cataloguing doesn't, and can't, capture the whole truth of experience. And faith and miracle and inscrutability cannot be expressed scientifically.

So, along with being a kind of religiously promiscuous Huston Smith-like guy, he is also a junior Joseph Campbell. He tells truth through story. His adventure becomes a myth. In order to understand his experience and, then, to be understood, he mythologizes his experience; he becomes a young Homer and his adventure is his Odyssey.

If you read the book, you'll see what happens when the investigators interview him and what they think of his version of truth. I'll only say that when they hear his mythological story and are skeptical, Pi tells another story.

Thus, the book "The Life of Pi" becomes a novel of competing narratives. One way to look at the two stories is to ask, like a journalist, "Which is true?"

I think Pi would have us ask another question, "Which is truth/Truth?"

After all, Pi is a seeker of Truth and he knows that what is true is often inadequate to the task of telling what is truth/Truth.

That's what the "Life of Pi" leaves us asking ourselves: what do we understand as truth/Truth and by what means to we investigate, express, and understand it.

Or, is there truth/Truth?

If you enjoy this kind of reflection, I think you'll enjoy "The Life of Pi."

I do.

I did.

Three Beautiful Things 07/15/07: Birthday Fun, Snug Talents, Deke Hits the Road

1. My niece Z2 turned 13 today and Mom prepared a wonderful dinner. My sisters posted pictorial tributes to Z2, including some embarrassing pictures of their brother....sigh. Silver Valley Girl's tribute is here and InlandEmpireGirl's is here.

2. Part of the pleasure of staying at Silver Valley Girl's house is playing with Snug in her huge back yard. For a long time, I tossed the ball and Snug faithfully returned it to me, sometimes even placing it right in my hand. This is a new development in Snug's young life -- and a really fun one.

3. The Deke is coming to Kellogg the weekend of our class reunion. It'll be fun to have her visit and meet friends from my graduating class I haven't seen in many, many years and to once again see friends I see more often and whose company she enjoys a lot.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 07/14/07: Taming Kellogg, 40 Bucks, Bullshitting

1. I just got back from walking Snug around the part of Kellogg I first remember as a boy. The house we lived in is still there, but a little bit more decked out than it was when we left it in 1962. Money tames neighborhoods. Everything along the street is more manicured, richer, tamer. I'll write about this in a blog post soon. Too bad? Not really. The West keeps getting tamer and tamer, brought more and more under control. It had to happen to Kellogg one day if this town was ever going to recover from the lost mining days.

2. A great day at the Casino. I didn't win anything, but I made 40 bucks last for about five hours. If I'm not going to win some money, this is how I love things to work out: play a lot of machines, stay pretty even, have some good payouts here and there, and survive. It's so relaxing.

3. Ed and I drove to the Casino together and we fell right into my favorite activity: bullshitting. Scott joined me and Ed at Quizno's in Coeur d'Alene, and the bullshitting got even better. Then Ed and I went back to the Valley and kept right on bullshitting. It's what I enjoy most about being back home: drawing upon years and years of knowing each other just shooting the shit.

Things Getting Hairy: Sunday Scribblings

This week's Sunday Scribblings topic is Hair. For more writings on this topic, go here.

The source of what I've learned about hair in relation to wild can be found here.

Hairy has long been a way to describe someone or something undesirable. The idea is this: as human beings have evolved, they have lost more and more body hair. To retain this hair is seen as wild or evolutionarily backward, less advanced.

I suppose it's why a scary roller coaster is called "wild and woolly". I suppose it's why, when I wore my hair well below my shoulders until about ten years ago, I was referred to as "that wild English teacher."

You might remember the hairy relief pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, Al Hrabosky. Hair flying, sporting a huge Fu Manchu mustache, he stomped angrily around the pitcher's mound, intimidating batters. He was nicknamed "The Mad Hungarian."

Facing Hrabosky was hairy. It was dangerous, frightening.

The flight of the Apollo 13 was a hairy situation when an explosion occurred on the space craft.

It's an odd presumption embedded in our language about hair.

And, yet, what is more sensuous than stroking the hair of an intimate? Or having one's hair stroked?

While thick, lush hair has been marketed as the most desirable hair for a woman, once the palms of love and the fingers of passion play wildly with the hair of a lover, the hair can be lush, thin, permed, straight, wavy, curly, dyed, cropped, tangled, kinky, or in dreads: it doesn't matter.

One lover touches the other's hair, and things can get hairy. Things can become uncontrolled, spontaneous, fun, tender, unruly....

I hesitate to narrate my own specific experiences with wildness and hair. I won't.

But I can say that when things have become hairy between me and a lover, when we have fired our passions playing with one another's hair, it was wild, but, to me, it wasn't backward or uncivilized.

It was supremely human. Things getting hairy in the intimate moments of love heightened my sense of being wildly human.

It never felt like I was less evolved. It felt like I was pushing evolution forward, beyond the measure or awareness of time.

Three Beautiful Things 07/13/07: Hot Soup, Hot Cookies, Hot Fires

1. When I was growing up, Mom warmed cold Kellogg winter Sundays by cooking navy beans and ham soup with homemade bread. Today the temperature went over 100 degrees and Mom cooked navy bean and ham soup. Was I complaining? No way. It hit the spot and I ate three bowls. Odd how sometimes what sounds like it would be exactly the wrong thing on a hot day turns out to be exactly the right thing!

2. Speaking of heating up the kitchen on a record breaking hot day in Kellogg, Idaho: today Silver Valley Girl baked chocolate chip cookies, and two or three other varieties of cookies. Heavenly. Heavenly. The chocolate chip cookies, especially, are heavenly. And once again, you'd think, who wants a cookie straight out of the oven on a 100+ degree day? Me!

3. The politics of fire. Stephen J. Pyne's book "Year of the Fires: The Story of the Great Fires of 1910" details the political bouts that raged at the turn of the century regarding fires and forest management, especially in the early days of the Forest Service. These arguments sound familiar: local management v. federal management. Business interests v. conservationists' interests. The 1910 fires roared through the Silver Valley and regions nearby, so the politics, the history, and the geography all interest me deeply.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 07/12/07: Chili Burgers, Didion, Cooling

1. Mom wondered if I'd like Nalley's chili with my barbequed hamburger. Memories rushed through me. Nalley's chili was perfect after Kellogg High School football games, basketball games, dances, or a night making out in my parent's Malibu. I'd get home around midnight and a can of Nalley's original chili satisfied my hunger. Tonight, while hogging down huge spoonfuls before slathering my burger with Nalley's original chili, all I could think of was how perfect Nalley's original chile tasted with Sunshine Krispy Saltine Crackers. Nalley's original chili was perfect on my two burgers, too.

2. Joan Didion writes associative prose and I have enjoyed following the many threads of her associative mind in her memoir "The Year of Magical Thinking."

3. Kellogg cools down. This week a heat wave sears the daylight hours,C but at night, Kellogg cools down. I've been other places during heat waves. Boston doesn't cool down. Cincinnati doesn't cool down. Neither do New Albany, Indiana nor Bloomington, Indiana. Hendersonville, North Carolina doesn't cool down. As the sun lowers, Kellogg cools down. It always has.

Store Review: Smelterville Wal* Mart

In reviewing a store, especially a multi-purpose store like Wal*Mart, the first thing I look at is the perimeter.

Store perimeters have to be strong. The shopping experience goes from the perimeter to the center of the store. Does the perimenter have a bank? Lottery tickets available? Easy access to tobacco? Is there a McDonald's? Better yet, is there a hot dog stand? Are there small tables to sit at with friends or children to have a hot dog and a 40 oz. pop? How about broasted chicken and JoJos? A deli?

You get the picture. Any store can and usually does have produce, dairy products, meat, bread, and other standard shopping fare on the perimeter of the store as you walk farther around the perimeter.

But I want to know what makes the perimeter unique.

By this standard, the Smelterville Wal*Mart needs some work.

First of all, every Wal*Mart I've ever visited, from Hayes, Kansas to Springfield, Oregon, from Bozeman, Montana to Hendersonville, North Carolina has had the service that makes Wal*Mart famous: the greeter.

The Smelterville Wal*Mart has no greeters. Maybe it's because I am nearing my mid-fifties and am already thinking about post-retirement employment opportunities, but I wanted to have a cheerful greeter help me secure my cart and ask me if I needed any help.

Moving to my left, the customer service counter looked efficient: returns, money orders, rain checks. But, I wanted real customer service available: Powerball tickets, scratch-it tickets; this is the Silver Valley. Aren't there some left over confiscated video poker machines? How about a few pull tabs? You know, a couple of Texas Hold 'Em or Blackjack tables could be opened with the help of the Historical Preservation people, as a way to celebrate the days that have died in the Silver Valley.

No hot dog stand. Very disappointing. A self-serve fountain bar with a tower of newspaper machines selling the Shoshone New Press, yes. Hot chicken, yes. JoJos, yes. I looked closely to make sure that Wal*Mart hadn't gone Huckleberries or Lindaman's on its faithful customers.

Nowhere near the chicken did I see the words "rosemary", "orange glazed", "free range", "almond butter" or "Greek, Lemon, Oregano": for this the Smelterville Wal*Mart is to be commended.

Why ruin a good take out chicken? Just broast the damn thing. That's what Wal*Mart does, and I trust that the chicken is well-preserved with sufficient amounts of salt.

As I moved in from the perimeter, the Smelterville Wal*Mart was impressive in its quantities of goods and its everyday low prices.

Just a couple of disappointments. A family member wanted to try Paul Newman's Limeade. None to be found. That made me wonder: had Wal*Mart let some kind of political statement interfere with good business? Come on. Get on the Paul Newman bandwagon!

Second: no sparkling water. No Calestoga, no Talking Rain. Are these considered hippie drinks? What's the deal? I'm trying to cut down on sodas. I need your help, Smelterville Wal*Mart!

Lastly, I loved the Wal-Mart associate who wanted me to sample some new Lipton White Raspberry Tea bags, and when I declined, she won me over by offering me a NASCAR race schedule and some products produced by NASCAR sponsorers.

She was surprised when I lit up at her offer of the schedule and we had a good talk about how it's hard to appreciate NASCAR in Smelterville with the races being so far away and I said I'd drop everything to go to one if they were closer and she said she probably couldn't afford to go even if they were near by and I decided not to ask her about the pay and benefits she earned at Wal*Mart because I was reviewing the perimeter, not looking to go all Michale Moore on her, and any way, I needed to find my sister who was getting my mom some lipstick, but we'd lost my sister and I didn't want to get separated even more in this big old Wal-Mart Superstore.

It's a new day in Smelterville. No more rodeos, demolition derbys, logging contests, mining competions, carnival rides, swindling carnie games, or drunken free for alls in the streets at Frontier Days.

No, now there's a new Forest Service office and a new Wal*Mart.

No greeters, no slot machines, no hot dogs, no Newman's Limeade: all disappointing.

But one thing for sure: Wal*Mart gives Smelterville some cred it's lacked for a long time.

I liked seeing shoppers looking happy that they could buy a iced tea making set or a tub of sweet inexpensive vanilla ice cream or, if they wanted, a Canon Power Shot digital camera.

They don't have to go to Coeur d'Alene.

Three Beautiful Things 07/11/07: Cancer-Free, Dream Gulch Gold, Photo Frenzy

1. InlandEmpireGirl and I took Mom to the Cancer Center in Coeur d'Alene to talk with her doctor about an MRI she underwent on her back. Her Kellogg doctor thought there were some suspicious areas. It's arthritis. No cancer. Relief. Oh my what a relief!

2. Tonight I saw Silver Valley Girl perform in the critically acclaimed (at least in our family) melodrama she wrote, "Nightmare at Dream Gulch, . . . or Wake Me When It's Over" at the Center of the Universe (aka Wallace)'s Sixth Street Melodrama. Laughs, booing, hissing, sighing, singing, boisterous applause filled the theater. It was a campy play, just what a melodrama should be! It was fun to see PKR, and Silver Valley Girl's kids all be part of the production. We all had a robust night!

3. It was a great family day. Good news in Cd'A. Good night at the theater. And then, to top it off, root beer or Pepsi floats at Mom's and InlandEmpireGirl started sorting through the hundreds of photographs that have not been organized over the last fifty years or so and we laughed and laughed and laughed at old pictures and remembered days we loved and days we'd just as soon forget. It was all good!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 07/10/07: Prosser, Wal-Mart, Rump Roast

1. I had never traveled along the Yakima River, west on I-82 to Prosser, WA until today. Why did I travel up the modest hillocks of this farm and wine land today? I missed an exit. I racked up fifty miles I didn't need to travel. My error was fortunate. The verdant farms and vineyards along the colbalt calm of the Yakima River enchanted me.

2. I made my first visit to the Smelterville Wal-Mart Superstore. I was disappointed when I arrived: no greeter. I was also disappointed that the store did not carry Paul Newman's Limeade. Inland Empire Girl wanted to try it out. Everything else seemed in order, though, and I marveled that the Smelterville I've known all these years, the Smelterville of Johnny's Bar, the Happy Landing, the Wheel, Wayside Market, and other modest markets and taverns, now is home to a Wal-Mart. It's cool to me.

3. I'm back home. Mom had so much Kellogg news to catch me and InlandEmpireGirl up over barbequed rump roast at dinner and my sisters and I took over Silver Valley Girl's dining table and did what all siblings across the nation do on a late Tuesday evenng in July: we blogged. You can see the picture here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Columbia River Hills (Post Number 500)

When I've arrived in Kellogg, I can never remember exactly where the lumpy hills I love so much are on the north bank of the Columbia River. Are the after The Dalles? Yes. But, are the before Arlington? Across from Biggs? I can never place them later because I am so present with them that I lose track of their place.

When I drove I-84 back in March, the hills were lumps of green tufts, as if bloated Northland green geckos lay poised in search of trees and leaves.

Last winter, the hills seemed like hippos lying in wait to crawl into the Columbia.

Today the tawny hills looked the rounded backs of lions ready to spring across the Columbia in search of prey.

Each season, with the different angles of sunlight, with the changing cloud colors, these hills on the north side of the Columbia River change color and seem to be animated by the different animals they stand for in my imagination.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 07/09/07: Pontification, Potato Salad, Packed

1. It was fun getting on my Mt. Everest high soap box about Shakespeare in a g-chat with Faith.

2. Hiram turned twenty-two today and we had a good dinner, especially because the Deke make a find potato salad.

3. I'm packed and ready to head to Kellogg in a few hours.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 07/08/07: Gift, Genius, Keys

1. I dropped by Sparky's today to pick up Ian Pollock's illustrated version of the unabridged King Lear. It's called Graphic Shakespeare and presents the story as a graphic novel, but it's a graphic play. Beautiful.

2. Sparky and I talked and talked while she steamed an artichoke for Brook Adams' 50th birthday party. We talked about King Lear in Jungian terms. We talked about her editing of the script. She does beautiful editing, keeping the poetry alive, while making it more streamlined and more accessible for student actors. She's a genius.

3. It's so fun to make little podcasts. I made one today of InlandEmpireGirl's poem "Digging for Keys." It's posted below and will have a long stay in the right hand margin of this blog. I hope many readers of this blog will take the minute it takes to listen to this poem and enjoy its rich detail and the lovely way my sister concludes the poem.

Digging for Keys: A Poem by InlandEmpireGirl

Here is a superb poem by my sister, InlandEmpireGirl. With her permission, I recorded a a podcast of me reading it.

If you'd like to comment on her poem, go here, scroll past the pictures, and you'll find her written version.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Imposing My Will; Sunday Scribblings: Slippery

Slippery Eel

I look back over the nearly forty years I have struggled with clinical depression, and one damning reality stands out: The harder I try to get my way, impose my will; the harder I try to hang on to something or someone, the more what I want becomes slippery and shoots, like a fresh perch, out of my grasp.

It's the hell of obsession. Slippery, slippery obsession. The hell of it is not knowing if I really want the wife or the lover or the sex or the music or the food or the shoes taken off in the house, or whatever it is I vociferously insist upon, or whether it's having my will be done, which translates into a feeling like I matter.

It's the hell of obsession, of compulsive desire. Not only do I fix upon the person or thing I convince myself I want, but I attach my measure of my worth to attaining this, and make it, by my obsessiveness, impossible to attain.

The lover, the wife, the sex, the shoes off in the house slip away and I fall into a pit of self-recrimination and loathing, which makes me, of course, even more undesirable than when I was obsessing and trying to get my way.

Depression, obsession, the futile imposition of will, begging, whimpering, shouting, grabbing, shirt pulling, please don't go, hanging on tight, squeezing, dry heaving never increases traction; these efforts at tightening my grip have only made things more slippery.

The stories are too many to recount whether playing sports, in marriage, at work, discussing movies, with girlfriends, helping raise kids, deciding what to eat, what movie to see, anything where suddenly I felt, for my depressed, warped sense of self-regard, I had to have my way.

I pressed. I insisted. I often exploded. I got animated, far beyond the situation's worth.

Things never worked out.

They always slipped away, sometimes slowly, sometimes right away, but always slipped away.

It's what makes depression madness, not sadness.

It's vain. It's self-centered. It's futile.

It's a slippery way to live and be.

More slippery Sunday Scribbling posts here. Especially beautiful is my sister, InlandEmpireGirl's, post, here.

Three Beautiful Things 07/07/07: Russell and Anne, Pudge and Sheff, Molly and Hiram

1. Russell and Anne joined hands in marriage today and the Deke and I were invited to the reception that followed. It featured a happy Russell and Anne and a generous buffet. The weather was nearly perfect: the sun, scattered clouds, and breeze kept the day moderately warm, but not blistering. Plenty of trees at the Campbell Senior Center gave people cool places to sit and enjoy each other's company.

2. I had taken a nap this afternoon and forgot to turn on the Red Sox/Tiger's game. When I did, they were tied 2-2 after ten innings and the tense contest wasn't settled until the bottom of the 13th inning when Pudge Rodriquez drove home Gary Sheffield to score the winner. Sheff, by the way, was on second after getting hit by a pitch and then stealing second. My devotion to the Tigers has seriously elevated my respect for Sheff as a player. He can bomb home runs and scratch out runs, too. As a well-traveled player, I hope he is content playing for the Tigers.

3. Quite a scene in the kitchen when the Deke and I returned home from the wedding reception. I thought I could smell pork frying from the driveway. Indeed I could. Molly and Hiram decided to fry up about a pound of bacon, about nine Jimmy Dean pork sausage patties, and grill up about a dozen pancakes. If an army lives on its stomach, it looked to me like the lovebirds and Molly's brother, Pat, would be doing some kind of battle today. But, no, it was all in the name of peace and the huge appetites of young people in their early 20's. God Bless 'em. It's good to be putting a roof over their heads and havin' a place where they can fry pork and pig it down and have some pancakes to boot!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Polyamorous Phone Number

Today at the HBO blog, Dave posted a picture of a woman who has Paris Hilton's old cell phone number, here, and how she's been flooded with calls and text messages, especially between 2-4 a.m. She didn't have it changed because she has found it more entertaining that the hassle would be to change it.

This reminded me of when I moved back to town in Eugene after almost two years in the country.

The new phone number I was assigned had been the number of a polyamorous group in Eugene.

The number was still listed in some publications specializing in the world of loving several partners. I put on my detective cap and figured out that the group had been in Eugene and was now in Hawaii and I secured their phone number and mailing address so I could provide it to those calling the wrong number.

The callers were grateful.

I also put on my investigator's cap and asked the callers if they had a few minutes to tell me about being polyamorous.

To a person, they were kind, open people and educated me in the ways of their sharing their love generously.

The funniest thing that happened was when this group's leader appeared on the Joan River's talk show. I found out from a caller that she/he had secured our phone number when it crawled along the TV screen during the chat between Joan and the group's leader.

It was the only call I received connected with the Joan River's show.

Not long after, the show was canceled.

Not that many people watched it.

Especially, I guess, not the polyamorous crowd.

Maybe they were busy.

Three Beautiful Things 07/06/2007: Oil, Andy, Help Me Rhonda

1. Just before Memorial Day weekend I took my little 1993 Honda Civic in for an oil change and Dan told me it looked like time to make an investment in my car and rattled off some apparent problems with oil leakage. It would cost a lot, he thought. After a dye was put in the oil line, further inspection showed I needed a much cheaper repair: new gasket and cam seals. But, he had me bring it in a couple of weeks later, which was today, to make sure no problems existed after those seals were replaced. The Honda is fine. I can drive it to Kellogg on the 10th. My relief was more profound than a person ought to have for a car!

2. My pal K-Doe and I saw the movie "Waitress" tonight at the Bijou and it was funny, charming, weird, uplifting, offbeat, and satisfying. Its pie metaphor was fun. I had purposely not read anything about the movie, so I was especially surprised and happy to see Andy Griffith in it. I enjoyed everyone, but I have a very soft spot for Andy and his acting was spot on.

3. I love Rhonda, a checker at Alberton's. She's a great yakker. Today I was looking lost at the chewing gum rack. I was looking for cinnamon-flavored chewing gum in pellets. She found an Albertson's brand gum that I had overlooked. We had a great talk while she checked me out about cooking and her boyfriend and her kids and who cooks for whom and I was so happy from talking to Rhonda that I floated with my groceries back to the car. She's out there, in a good way.

Five Minutes with Snug the Joiner

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 07/05/07: Tigers, Vet, Stranded

1. 12-3. Yes 12-3. The Tigers exploded for seven runs off of C.C. Sabathia and went on to club Cleveland 12-3. The Tigers are back within a game of first place and host the Red Sox in a weekend series starting tomorrow.

2. Annual exam at the vet for Snug today. He's fit. The vet had nothing but praise for Snug, including, most importantly, his behavior.

3. Speaking of animals, I'm nearing the halfway point of the unusual zoological, theological, Robinson Crusoe-like novel "The Life of Pi." It's been a pleasure so far and quite unlike any book I've read -- well, except "Robinson Crusoe."

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 07/04/07: Jaco, Birthday Girl, Quiet

1. Hiram let me download some music off of his external hard drive and I am enraptured by bassist Jaco Pastorius. Here is a video of him along with a drummer and pianist performing "If You Could See Me Now". It's lyrical, impassioned, sublime.

2. Yesterday was Silver Valley Girl's birthday. Her play opened (read more here) and her birthday dinner was tonight. I called Kellogg twice for updates on the good cheer, good play, and good times. It was heartening to hear everyone so happy and so pleased with how well the play was performed last night. Sounds like Silver Valley Girl's debut in the world of playwriting was a triumph!

3. Ah! A quiet Fourth of July. My favorite way to spend this holiday. Although I can hear bursts of fireworks starting as I write this, the day has been one of quiet, reading, listening to music, napping, and a cool walk in the late morning with Snug (photos here).

Wapatuli: Sibling Assignment #27

This is a picture of the Prichard Tavern as I get out of the car to help my Dad have the last beers of his life. It's where he wanted to go.

InlandEmpireGirl has assigned Silver Valley Girl and me to write a piece about "Up the River". Up the river is up the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River and we are to make our entries family friendly. I'll do my best, but tell your kids they should not see me a responsible role model for responsible drinking. No, I'm going to write about an epic drunk.

Silver Valley Girl's pictorial post is here, and InlandEmpireGirl's piece is here.

Now for the Homeric drunk:

I haven't seen Linda Davis since that night at Prichard Days. I have and always will consider her the Mother Teresa of kindness for how she helped me. But that's the end of the story. Let me move to the beginning.

My life long friend Scott Stuart went on World Campus Afloat for the spring semester of 1974. While he had many stirring cultural experiences, he also did nearly graduate work in learning more about alcohol consumption.

He came home with a Wapatuli recipe. It's not very hard to make. You get a garbage can, dump fifths of vodka, rum, whiskey, gin and other booze of your liking and mix in Seven-Up, fruit juices, and pour in bags of ice.

On this August afternoon, when we made Wapatuli, it was Prichard Days up the river. Prichard is a speck of a town up the river, once a thriving gold rush town, but now basically a tavern and some houses scattered around.

Prichard Days was the next in a long line of "Days" celebrations in the Silver Valley. Wallace had Gyro Days (including a Lead Creek rubbery ducky race), Smelterville hosted Frontier Days, Pinehurst had Pinehurst Days, and Kellogg put on the Elks Roundup.

These celebrations were really riots of a sort: countless waves of people moving in packs with open containers of alcohol, laughing, roaring, whoring, fighting, dancing, having a good old time.

The Days days are over. Even in the Silver Valley, things have gotten tame.

But, in 1974, a group of me and my friends decided to make a garbage can of Wapatuli and head up the river to Prichard Days. We threw it together in Mom's front yard. (I wonder if she still has the pictures.)

Most of the guys headed east and went to Prichard the Wallace way.

Ed and I, though, wanted to shoot some pool at the King's Inn in Kingston, so we headed west, with a half of case of iced Lucky Lager beer.

When we got to the King's Inn, old man Batista had the pool table and we put a quarter down to challenge him. Batista was not quite on his lips, but he'd been throwing back Blackberry Brandy shots and was feeling feisty.

"I'll take ya both on. You two pups take turns shooting. I'm on my own. We'll play for shots. What ya drinkin'?"

"Fuckin' A." We were into it. We were still fairly sober, despite a couple of beers on the freeway and some sampling of the Wapatuli. "We like Windsors."

We racked 'em and Ed, who shot good stick, and I, who was mediocre, but had a good day, couldn't lose. We put back several shots of Windsors, but we ended up winning more than we could drink. We wanted to leave.

Hog Holland was tending bar. "Here, take 'em to go."

He poured our remaining winnings into a styrofoam cup for each of us and we were off to Prichard Days.

The North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River is shadowy in the afternoon, running through a fairly narrow canyon and its shallow summer waters run clear and cold. It's a magnificent sight.

Not that Ed and I knew that.

We drank our shots to go and washed them back with Lucky Lager. We were on our lips and we knew it. We had to get a foundation if were going to be drinking Wapatuli, so we stopped at Gloria's Steakhouse and had a generous steak with potatoes and the works.

We stepped out of the steak house. I asked Ed, "Was that good?"

"I think so."

We headed to Prichard. It was dark.

We parked and stumbled to where we could hear the music and were met by a joyous, rowdy group of Kelloggians (including InlandEmpireGirl), cried, "All right!!" to each other, exchanged some drug brotherhood peace handshakes, slapped some skin, and found the Wapatuli.

It wasn't in that good of shape. Cigarette butts floated at the top. The ice had melted and the aging process left it warm.

I didn't care. I found a cup and re-fueled, avoiding the butts, but not bothering to filter out the flecks of tobacco or the ashes.

We staggered to where the band was playing and danced and raised our arms above our heads and shouted to anyone we saw who we knew.

I started dancing with Linda Davis who I could tell was one of the cooler heads among this inebriated mob. We'd been classmates and friends that school year at North Idaho College. I was happy to see her.

But, I got tired of my Wapatuli. So, I dumped it over the head of a random girl dancing.

Mike Borden came to me and said, "Jesus Christ, Pert, you just dumped a drink on Danny Bush's girlfriend's head."

He may as well have told me I'd been sentenced to death row. Danny Bush was a fighter, a good one, and would kick ass for the hell of it. He had good reason to kick my ass.

Linda escorted me away from the music into some brush. I started throwing up. Too much beer, whiskey, Wapatuli, and cigarette remains. And fear.

"Let me take you to my place," Linda said.


Linda took me to her trailer. She put me on her couch, covered me with a blanket, and I passed out (again...I'd already passed out on the drive to her place).

In the morning, Linda gently awakened me and stroked my forehead, like a mother ministering to a child with a fever.

"How ya doing?"


"I thought so....do you need to get back to your friends?"

My tongue was swollen and caked with stomach acids. My mouth was dry. I was still drunk.

"Uh, yeah, I think, uh, yeah, I'd better."

She drove me back over Dawson's Pass and answered my non-stop apologies with reassurances, telling me it's just what happens some times.

I was on the verge of being engaged to be married. If I'd ever thought I'd break it off, it would have been right then. Linda was being the kindest person I could ever remember.

I've never seen Linda Davis since then. I have and always will consider her the Mother Teresa of kindness for how she helped me.

Explaining to my friends what had not happened between me and Linda was futile.

I let them think what they would on the day after Prichard Days up the river.

Linda Davis' kindness really couldn't be explained anyway.

Not at Prichard Days.