Thursday, July 31, 2008

Three Beautiful Things 07/31/08: Rare Earth, Paunchy, Relief

1. Rare Earth playing a live, extended version of "Get Ready". I rock out inside myself every time I hear Rare Earth. They are a guilty pleasure.

2. 2Blowhards posted a link to pictures of Rod Stewart, Richard Gere, Clint Eastwood and others looking paunchy. I found these pictures reassuring. You can peek at them here.

3. After climbing sand dunes yesterday, I was sore today. A hot shower eased the pain and I spent the shower making hotshowergasmic noises. Ahhhh! Ohhhh! Yeeees!

Visiting Kellogg, Oregon: 07/30/08

This past winter quarter, I was rattling on to my WR 122 students about the many advantages of having grown up in Kellogg, Idaho, no doubt boasting about the rotten egg stench of the air, the gray river running through town, and the privilege of being leaded, when one of my students said, "I live in Kellogg. I've never seen you."

"You live in Kellogg, now?" I looked like I'd just been told I was pregnant.

"Yeah." She recoiled a bit at my bitter beer face.

"You commute?" I looked like I'd been told I'd be having twins.

"I live in Eugene four days a week and the rest I'm in Kellogg."

"You drive over 500 miles a week to come to LCC?" I was starting to feel flattered.

"What? God, no. It's only an hour to Kellogg. I live in Kellogg, Oregon."

"There's a Kellogg, Oregon?"

"Hell yeah. It's down by Elkton, on the way to Sutherlin. I'm a volunteer fireman in Kellogg. I live there on the weekends with my folks."

I moved to Eugene in 1979 and I had never heard of Kellogg, Oregon, let alone been there.

I decided on July 30, 2008 that I'd rectify this situation.

I drove to Kellogg, OR.

I took Hwy 38 to Elkton and saw the sign I expected to turn south on Hwy 138. The traffic sign pointed to Sutherlin and Roseburg, but didn't mention Kellogg.

Odd, I thought.

I headed south.

Then I saw it:
My first thought: where's the population figure?

I looked to my left:
My right:
Then I saw a sign. Maybe if I follow it, I'll find Kellogg. Maybe I'll see the volunteer fire house!

But, about fifteen yards up Kellogg Drive, this:

Often when I was kid, adults would tell me to leave Kellogg after high school. "It's a dead end town." At least we had houses and churches and a firehouse.

Then, just west of the Dead End sign, I saw this and I knew that Kellogg, Oregon had a past:
It must have been a lovely town. Right after the "Kellogg" sign, a bridge spans the Umpqua River, shimmering on this late afternoon day:

And the wild plant life and blackberries thrived along Hwy 138:

I drove back to Elkton. I saw a volunteer firehouse. It might be where my student is headquartered. Maybe she works out of Sutherlin.

There hasn't been a firehouse in Kellogg for a long time.

Sibling Assignment #70: A Dream Vacation

InlandEmpireGirl assigned this piece: "Share a memorable family vacation memory that involved all three of us."

IEGirl teaches her readers lessons learned at the Oregon coast, here (red flag: when you read this, make sure your mouth is free of any liquid. Otherwise, chances are good you'll spit it all over your computer).

Silver Valley Girl has been too busy chumming with Hillary Clinton, worshiping at the National Cathedral, and directing and acting in "Phantoms of the Melodrama" at the Sixth Street Melodrama in Wallace,
D. C. Idaho to do much writing.

We're thinking she might post a piece in April. Uh, 2010.

I've decided to do this assignment by not looking to the past, but looking to the future. My sisters and I have begun to go on "sibling outings" when we see each other in Idaho. We realized that we never did anything on our own without parents, spouses, kids, dogs or whoever. Now we do. Little trips. Just us.

I've been thinking. How about if we expanded sibling outing to sibling vacation? Just the three of us. And how about if (somehow) money and time were not a concern? What would I like to see us do? Here goes:

1. Autumn. Our sibling vacation would happen in the fall, preferably October. Temperatures would have cooled down, families would be settled back into school schedules, and, autumn is the favorite season for all three of us.

2. New England. We'd fly to New England. New England would satisfy our enjoyment of cities, rural, and marine areas. We all love history, art, music, and theater; we are sports fans, too. Well, to a degree. New England would be the perfect part of the country for us to enjoy snapping photographs, eating a variety of food, and combining rushing around with lying back and relaxing.
Walter Lynn Mosely: website here

3. New York City. We'd fly into New York and spend the first several days of our vacation going to plays, visiting museums, walking in Central Park, finding fun food, paying our respects at Ground Zero, and leaving time to do things we hadn't planned on.

wallyg via

4. Leaves. We would time everything around seeing the colors of the leaves. If October is too late, we'd go in September. If being in New York City first wrecked the timing of seeing leaves in the country, we'd go to NYC later.

5. Maine. I want to explore Maine. I would only impose my will upon my sisters about two things: we are going to Maine, both to see the ocean and to tour the inland part of the state and
we'll watch a game of
Baxter State Park
for more Bob Atkins go here

6. Football. I would insist that we attend an autumn afternoon football game somewhere small. Ivy League maybe? Maybe a SUNY school? Division III? Maybe a little bigger if Army were playing at home. I'd love to go to any one of the small colleges in New England and take in an afternoon football game. I know it would be a struggle for Silver Valley Girl. Remember this post?

Ithaca College vs. Norwich

Here's a start. I'm hoping my sisters will comment on this post with ideas of their own for our dream New England vacation and maybe you, as a reader, will give us some ideas, too. That would be fun.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Three Beautiful Things 08/30/08: Play Quick, Kellogg in Oregon, All Things Tiny

1. I dreamed this morning, right before waking up, that I was thrust (for reasons I don't know) into the position of head football coach for the Kellogg Wildcats and we were about the play the Wallace Miners. Wallace usurped the south side of Teeter's Field as their team's side of the field. I told the Kellogg Wildcats in my pregame pep talk that wanted the 'Cats to "play quick". I don't know how the game turned out. If I dream the game, I'll be sure to write about it.

2. Speaking of Kellogg, I visited Kellogg, Oregon today. I'll be posting pictures and commentary in a future piece.

3. I walked the Taylor Dunes Trail and made my way to the ocean. I marveled at all the small flower and berries that were blooming. They amazed me more than the pulse and power of the ocean.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Three Beautiful Things 07/29/08: Unexpected Reunion, Keys, Blueberry Shakes

1. Unexpectedly, I ran into Margaret and Jeff in the corner where our offices are located and we shot the breeze for a while. I hadn't seen either of them since school got out mid-June.

2. The Deke has been working hard to get her new classroom cleaned up and arranged for the beginning of school. She called me mid-afternoon to say that somewhere amidst the color pencils, old textbooks, tag board, plastic tubs, and other stuff she had set down her house/car keys and couldn't find them. I drove her another set. Pretty funny.

3. The Deke blended us up homemade blueberry milk shakes after dinner tonight. Another shakeasm!

Sorting Out "No Country for Old Men" and "There Will Be Blood"

It's been buggin' me.

"No Country for Old Men" won award after award. I watched it last week and it just didn't do much for me. That's unusual. I'm the epitome of the easy to please movie viewer, but I felt cold at the end of "No Country for Old Men", not so much because of the content of the movie, or the fact that it was told from three perspectives, and certainly not because of its unrelentingly stark and gorgeous pictures. No, it was for another reason.

Today I went out to LCC, my place of employment. I picked up a couple books from the library and strolled to my office to see if I could find out who my next door neighbor will be now that Dan Armstrong has retired.

Lo and behold! Margaret and Jeff were right outside my office. We've all been friends since the Spanish-American War and it's a great pleasure to see them.

We got caught up on some things, figured out that Jay will be moving in next door to me, arranged a coffee date, and Jeff left to go trap Gypsy moths.

I knew Margaret loved "No Country for Old Men." It's been buggin' me that I didn't.

I checked my mailbox, wasn't startled by anything, and decided not to go home just yet.

I went back to Margaret's office and asked her about "No Country for Old Men".

Everything she said, as always, made perfect sense: the sheriff was faced with an existential dilemma which Tommy Lee Jones played brilliantly; the character played by Josh Brolin didn't really know what he was doing when he took the money and is shrewd and resourceful in the ways he escapes the evil character played by Javier Bardem.

We agreed the acting engrossed both of us.

Then I said it: "Margaret, I wanted a stronger plot. I thought the movie created a situation and kept repeating that situation. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, stuck in the Victorian novel, but I love plots and I didn't think this movie had much of one."

Margaret agreed. I don't think it bothered her as much as it did me. She's probably more of a post-modern girl than I am a post-modern boy and this brought us to discussing "There Will be Blood."

"I hated it," Margaret hissed.

I recoiled.

"Wow!" I say 'wow' too much, but it seemed to fit this moment.

Margaret elaborated. "I hated the characters. No one had any redeeming value-"

"The kid." I chuckled.

"Well, yeah, but Daniel Day-Lewis' character and the preacher were bad to the bone."

"God. I know. And there were that way right from the get-go." (BTW, I say get-go too much. But it seemed to fit this moment.)

I continued, "Once again, I thought "There Will be Blood" created a situation but repeated that situation again and again. I didn't think it told much of a story. The acting was brilliant. Jesus. Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano and the rest were scintillating, but (I say what's coming next too much) it was like an acting workshop more than a story. The landscape was gorgeous, the acting out of this world, but I wanted more of a story."

Margaret nodded. "I know."

"Yeah. If I'd had an Oscar vote, "Juno".

Margaret lit up. "I loved Juno."

"God, me too. Ellen Page is already like those middle aged women actors I love so much."

"She is. Yes. She's so in the moment. God she's good."

And so we talked about "Juno" and women writers in 20th century World Lit. and few other things.

But, Lord, it was cathartic to get it out, to be honest, that I didn't think much of the stories told in "No Country for Old Men" or in "There Will be Blood".

It took me back to 1982's Oscars.

"Tootsie" was my choice over "Ghandi".

Monday, July 28, 2008

Three Beautiful Things 07/28/07: Craving Satisfied, Pasta, Crow Horses

1. Of all the crazy things. I've been craving a strawberry milk shake. I had imagined just what I wanted it to taste like. I order one at Dairy Queen. It wasn't quite right. I went to Stone Cold Creamery. Not quite right. Tonight, the Deke fixed strawberry shakes. She combined fresh strawberries with vanilla bean ice cream and milk and the result: the very shake I'd been craving, dreaming of. It was shakegasmic!

2. The Deke is so right: it doesn't take much. Boil up some pasta. Pour some olive oil on the pasta. Chop us some fresh basil. Toss it. Throw some fresh tomatoes on it. Pepper it. Maybe some salt. Grate Parmesan cheese over the top. Simple. Divine.

3. Snug and I went for a drive out to Crow and several people out there have horses and I enjoyed driving by these large ranches with horses lazing around, looking strong and graceful.

What a Fantastic Sentence!

I just read this sentence about the upcoming movie "Synecdoche, New York ". Look who's in it! It's a dream come true for a guy like me who loves middle aged (or thereabouts) women in movies:

Jennifer Jason Leigh will next appear in Charlie (Adaptation) Kauffman's directorial debut Synecdoche, New York. Phillip Seymour Hoffman stars as a playwright but the true draw for some viewers might just be the delicious actress smorgasbord layed out to devour: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Catherine Keener, Samantha Morton, Emily Watson, Hope Davis, Michelle Williams and Dianne Weist. The movie can't arrive soon enough even if Jennifer Jason Leigh's first Oscar nomination continues to take its sweet time coming.

Okay. Michelle Williams is in her twenties and Samanta Morton is only thirty-one, but both are superb actors.

I love Hope Davis. I didn't mention her in earlier posts about favorite actors. I went on a Hope Davis tear about two years ago and loved her work.

And Emily Watson. Superb.

I love Catherine Keener and it's been a while since I've watched Dianne Wiest.

Jennifer Jason Leigh, of course, rules.

I can hardly wait for this movie.

I Love the Work of Jennifer Jason Leigh: The Machinist

"The Machinist" created a stir four years ago because Christian Bale starved himself, reduced his body to a barely fleshed skeleton, in order to play the role of Trevor Reznik, a machinist suffering from a year long bout with insomnia who is going insane.

As with "Margot at the Wedding", this movie felt like an actor's workshop, this time for Christian Bale. He's brilliant portraying Trevor's descent into madness and his descent toward the truth of what has kept him awake having paranoid delusions for a whole year.

But, when I finished viewing the movie, I wondered what would happen if I turned the movie around a bit and saw it as Stevie's story, as the story of the call girl played by Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Stevie, especially as played by Leigh, is the movie's central embodiment of desire and longing. She's tired of the call girl gig. She longs for a man she can rely on, who will free her from her life of prostitution.

She decides about half way through the movie that Trevor could be just the man for her. Over the course of the movie he buys time to talk with her, not have sex. He longs for her companionship, for more than a trick. Stevie likes feeling needed.

Seen from Stevie's point of view, the world of this movie is one soulless transaction after another. But Stevie's soul hasn't died. Her soul longs for union. She sees hope in Trevor.

Trevor, however, stamps out this hope when he suffers a delusion in Stevie's apartment just as they have begun to live together. He flips out in a violent rage, breaks a bunch of dishes, and fires crazy accusations at Stevie.

Stevie rages in return, kicks Trevor out, and sobs. She's devastated. If this movie could be seen as her movie, Leigh plays Stevie's vulnerability brilliantly when she offers herself as a real girlfriend to Trevor. When Trevor flips out, she is making him breakfast. She's light, enjoying the feeling of domestic union.

In a moment, Trevor shatters the whole thing.

Stevie's anger and inconsolable disillusionment expresses the emotional soul of this movie. Once we learn why Trevor can't sleep, can't love, can't eat we understand the power of guilt to erode all that makes a person human.

We also see how such guilt devastates Stevie. Trevor's guilt made him not only unreliable. It made him insane. Stevie suffers the physical expression of Trevor's guilt and insanity.

Having trusted Trevor,she ends up the focal point Trevor's unexpressed, unacknowledged guilt, shame, and self-loathing.

I found this aspect of the movie more compelling and more engaging than the main story line where the cause of Trevor's insomnia and insanity is ultimately revealed.

I cared the most about Stevie's story.

I Love the Work of Jennifer Jason Leigh: Margot at the Wedding

I experienced "Margot at the Wedding" as a 92 minute actors' workshop with two of the finest actors working (Jennifer Jason Leigh and Nicole Kidder) supported by Jack Black who held his own, whose absurd spirit and outrageous physical outbursts relieved the tension between Leigh and Kidder's characters.

The question for me, then, in writing about this movie is whether this is what I want from a movie. Do I want to spend 92 minutes experiencing brilliant acting and listening to a snappy script, but not have the pleasure of experiencing a plot being developed?

"Margot at the Wedding" presents a situation: Pauline (Leigh) and Margot (Kidman) are estranged sisters. Pauline is about to marry Malcolm (Black). Pauline, we find out, sorely wants Margot to attend the wedding, but doesn't know if she will.

Margot arrives.

The workshop begins. For starters, Malcolm is an unemployed musician/artist (of sorts). Margot disapproves of his manners, appearance, ambition, drunkenness, explosiveness, and impulsiveness. She chips away at their engagement through Pauline.

The scenes between Pauline and Margot electrify the movie.

Margot is arrogant, neurotic, narcissistic, cold, voracious, bitter, and, well, difficult. She's a writer, has maintained at least the vestiges of her upper middle class upbringing and is a snobbish nightmare; but the snobbery covers her longing for the intimacy her selfishness makes improbable, if not impossible.

Pauline, on the other hand, works hard to achieve self-actualization. She read self-help books. She and Malcolm have attended a couples retreat and she believes that she and Margot can become good sisters.

The men in Margot's life, her husband and one of her lovers, complicate the situation, as does the fact that she is a cold, self-absorbed mother to her son Claude.

I didn't expect this movie to come to a tidy resolution. It didn't. All the same, I enjoy plots and while I admired very much the soulful, vulnerable, and angry role Jennifer Jason Leigh nailed as Pauline and I admired how beautifully icy and vain Nicole Kidman played Margot, in the end, it felt like I'd been to an open actor's workshop and got to watch wonderful episodes and situations, but taken together, I didn't think they added up to whole lot.

But, I suppose that's the way it is in a fragmented family. The alienation and pain plays out in a series of episodes and the pain just keeps going on.

Pinot Envy?

Dear Friends,

A drunk beweeps his outcast state, here.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Three Beautiful Things 07/27/08: SmallWorld Reads, Tammie Lee, Not that Good

1. I've taken an interest in the lovely writing and voracious reading habits of the home schooling mother and graduate of Iowa State University's creative writing program over at SmallWorld Reads.

2. I discovered the spiritual nature photography of Tammie Lee today over at Spirithelpers. I recommend you check out her blog and her business website, here.

3. I love movies, but I don't think I write very well about them. I love watching actors, but I don't think I write about acting very well. I am trying to make this blog a place where I write stuff, whether it's very good or not. I really had to push myself today and yesterday to post my writing about Jennifer Jason Leigh. Honestly, I don't think it's very good writing, but I stayed true to my conviction to post what I have to say whether it's all that good or not. (It reminds me. One of my favorite fellow teachers told me he didn't think my writing on my blog was all that good. I was very happy with myself when I took his comment in stride. I didn't get defensive. I know I'm doing my best to write and I'm not always good, but I'm posting it just the same. It's huge for me. [So there!])

I Love Jennifer Jason Leigh's Work: Georgia

In the movie, "Georgia", Jennifer Jason Leigh is not Georgia. Mare Winningham is Georgia. Georgia ad Leigh's charater, Sadie, are sisters and their lives have gone in opposite directions.

Georgia plays and sings folk music. She's hugely successful. She's composed, settled into family life on the farm that had been her parents'. She is the picture of serenity. Even when she performs, it seems that a Goddess of Calm as descended upon her.

I don't know what spirit descended upon Sadie, but it's a restless one. Sadie also performs music, for as long as she can stay with a group, before she either leaves it or is kicked out. Sadie loves blues and grungy rock and roll and gets by with her talent.

Sadie is a drunk and drug addict. You might know someone like Sadie: bravado, brashness, and cockiness mask deep fear and her profoundly felt inadequacy. Sadie's music "career" serves as an emblem for her inner life. In both, she desperately desires Georgia's approval, aspires to be as accomplished as Georgia. She fails. Miserably. Painfully. So she rips into Georgia, overtly and covertly, upsetting what is peaceful in her sister's life, and it's this conflict the movie explores.

Jason Jennifer Leigh's portrayal of Sadie is astonishing. It's as if Sadie is the subject of a documentary film. It's as if Leigh's life has been possessed by demons and rocked by self-abuse and she brought it to life in Sadie. But, Leigh's life has not been at all like Sadie's.

Through rigorous study and imaginative prowess Leigh transforms her body into Sadie's, learns her speech patterns and discovers Sadie's mannerisms. It's as if she's given birth within herself to Sadie.

It's painful.

Sadie longs for her sister's acceptance; she longs for peace within herself; she longs to be delivered from herself. The arc of the film's narrative unfolds Sadie's erratic plunges into despair, cruelty, embarrassment and her promising moments of clarity, love, and dignity.

I Love the Work of Jennifer Jason Leigh: Rush

I've written this before in my blog: I almost never watch a movie for escape. I almost always watch movies to learn more about the nature of human nature and the nature of the human condition. It's what I enjoy in movies, much like what I enjoy in poetry, plays, and books. I look elsewhere for escape.

A friend who knows I'm this way emailed me the other day and highly recommended that I see "The Dark Knight". He experienced it as more than an escapist movie. I think I'll give it a go.

One of the rewards of not watching movies for escape is that I have the pleasure of seeing a lot of a lot of middle-aged and older women act in serious roles, usually in independent movies. In other words, these great actors are not being cast in many high budget escapist movies, but are more likely to be found in movies way under the radar of popularity.

I can't really say who my favorite middle-aged woman actor is: Joan Allen? Patricia Clarkson? Catherine Keener? Marcia Gay Harden? Helen Mirren? Laura Linney? Maria Bello? Holly Hunter? Bebe Neuwirth? Sigourney Weaver? Susan Sarandon? Nicole Kidman is approaching middle age. I enjoy her more, the older she becomes.

Recently, I've thrown myself into movies featuring Jennifer Jason Leigh, either in starring or supporting roles. I love her work.

I love the way Jennifer Jason Leigh can so occupy, fully embody, inhabit a character, and animate the multiple dimensions of that character's intelligence and emotion, the character's deep, often despicable flaws juxtaposed with, often seen in the same moment as, features that evoke sympathy, even love.

When Jennifer Jason Leigh plays a role, in each moment with a facial wrinkle or a lifted fist or a lift in her voice she unfolds another facet of the character. She augments the character's emotional and physical make up or she adds depth to a dimension we've already seen.

I love our first view of Jennifer Jason Leigh's character Kristen in "Rush". She's running a race at the police academy. The wrists of her chugging arms come nearly to her eyes. It's not a lesbian-erotic Mariel Hemingway run from "Personal Best" or a hetero-fantasy moment with Bo Derek from "10". Kristen is all determination, pushing to advance in the academy, to compete with and beat the men, which she does.

Kristen's performance wins her an undercover assignment with Jim Raynor (Jason Patric) to bust a local drug dealer (played by Gregg Allman).

For all of her strength and determination, Kristen is over her head in this assignment and it's this portrayal of being at once determined and over her head that makes Jennifer Jason Leigh's performace so riveting.

Being overwhelmed makes Kristen vulnerable to love, lust, and drugs, to letting the rush of feelings she has in certain moments supplant her rational and regimented police training.

The runner who looked so indomitable at the beginning of the movie is also fragile. She's powerful and delicate, both physically and emotionally, and within this dichotomy are any number of shades of confidence, doubt, fear, courage, resistance, rage, failure, surrender, loneliness, success, and, most of all longing.

Kristen longs for justice. She longs to be an accomplished police officer. She wants to get the bad guys.

She also longs for companionship and intimacy in an assignment that demands that she be tough and detached.

It's these longings, whether professional or of the soul and body, that Jennifer Jason Leigh embodies and that make "Rush" more than a drug bust movie.

It's a story of deep human need, of temptation, of succumbing to it. It portrays how Kristen's longings are deeper than she knows and that while she is in over her head in her police work, it's really the depths of her own longings that she's the most unprepared for.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Three Beautiful Things 07/26/08: Mutual Admiration, Back in the Groove, The Deke

1. I'm happy and proud to say that JBelle over at Notes from the 'Kan EWA praised my blog and its authenticity. JBelle's blog is fascinating: she writes everything from family stories, chronicles of her world travels, stories about her chows, recipes, comments on food and restaurants to comments on Gonzaga basketball, road trips in North Idaho, meditations on her gardens and gardening, and reflections on her devotion to Roman Catholicism. By keeping a blog, JBelle wants her children to have a lasting record of what's on her mind and in her heart whether she's laboring through another tax season or bicycling in Vietnam. I hope those of you who read my blog will go over and read hers, too. She's a terrific writer, full of intelligence, passion, and acute observations. She's a wonderful photographer, too.

2. It's been months since I contributed to Sunday Scribblings and Photo Hunt and I enjoyed getting back into that groove again and am going to try to get back to my weekly submissions.

3. The Deke will be teaching at Fox Hollow Elementary as a full time teacher. I've probably mentioned this before. It's a great accomplishment and today the Deke talked with me for a while about how that fact is just beginning to soak in and I think she is feeling proud of herself. She's stoked. She's eager for the school year to begin and meet the challenge of instructing children in math and science while speaking French to them. It's fun for me to see evidence of her different strategies starting to emerge as I see decks of playing cards and workbooks and other things around that she is going to play with with her students to help them learn.

Sunday Scribblings: Solace

Last Friday, my doctor's nurse called. I'd had blood work done the day before and she informed me that my kidney numbers were up and that I should see my nephrologist soon.

The news shook me up. I suffer from chronic kidney disease, apparently the consequence of the bacterial meningitis I survived in November of 1999. Whatever the cause, the consequence is that my disease is a slow one and that my numbers have remained constant for over the last eight years or so. I didn't like hearing they have changed.

I needed solace.

Put another way, I needed the solace that comes from escape.

I live a fairly serious life. Because I teach English, both writing and literature, I help students work their way through the serious questions raised in the reading we do and I read a lot of very serious essays. To prepare my courses, I read a lot of serious literature and the movies I enjoy the most are very serious ones.

As I've written many times in this blog, I don't enjoy escapist movies all that much, so when I need to escape, when I need the solace that comes from escape, I don't look to movies.

No, I go to the casino.

Last Friday, upon hearing the news that my kidney numbers were up, I needed to get away. I needed to get in my car, drive for an hour, and play some machines, and clear my head.

That's what going to the casino does for me. The gambling part of it is fun, but I find solace in being where people are having fun, often whooping and hollering, where the people who serve soft drinks on the floor and the people who service my player's card are friendly, and where there are a lot of people my age who are relaxing and enjoying the suspense that comes with the random gratification slot machines provide.

Last Friday, I drove the sixty miles from Eugene to the Three Rivers Casino just east of Florence and I relaxed. I would have plenty of time to think about my kidney condition and plenty of opportunity to feel the dread that comes with chronic disease.

I just needed to chilax, enjoy the visual and aural stimulation of the machines, chat with some other players, and enjoy the friendliness of the casino.

When I'd spent all the money I'd budgeted for myself, I sat for about twenty minutes and watched others have fun and listened to all the sirens, bells, foghorns, and chimes that go off in a casino. I watched people throw their arms up. I watched others bow their heads in disappointment. I took a stroll. I absorbed what I enjoy about the place.

As I drove back home, my head was clear. Saturday, I was ready to start dealing with what the news from the nurse might mean. I talked with my wife, the Deke. I started to sort things out with a clearer mind.

I know, it's an odd way to find solace.

But, us guys from Kellogg aren't always like everyone else.

I wrote a poem about the solace to be found in a casino. It's entitled "Peace". The written version of it is here. Using the player below, you can listen to me read the poem.

Photo Hunt: Hanging

I snapped this photograph at Sweet Creek. It's part of the Siuslaw drainage in the Coast Range of Oregon, about twenty miles southeast of Florence.

For other photographs of hanging, go here.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Three Beautiful Things 07/25/08: Pictures of Amazon Park, Snug's Ready, There Will be Blood

1. I decided that I had to try to take some pictures while Snug and I walked in Amazon Park today, even though I find that Snug often walks better if I'm not stopping to snap off shots. So here goes:

Snug loves this tall grass. I wish I could unleash him.

Here's a wooded area in Amazon Park. It's sizable urban park in Eugene.

Here's a walking/biking path. Snug loves how the city leaves grass to grow tall along these paths.

2. Snug is becoming more cooperative when it comes time to be leashed up to go out for a walk:

3. I watched "There Will be Blood" this afternoon. It left me cold. I admired Daniel Day-Lewis' intense and creative inhabitation of his character, Daniel Fairview, and the movie was brilliantly shot. The pictures were stunning. I longed for a better story, especially when the movie lasted two and a half hours. I haven't talked with anyone about this movie. I'd enjoy hearing what others had to say....if you read this post and have seen "There Will be Blood".

Onion News Network: Bush Tours Disaster Area of His Presidency

Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency

Will the Ping Pong Ball Drop Return, Too?

Crazy Days returns to Kellogg

Event planned for July 31-Aug. 2

Staff writer

KELLOGG - After a slight hiatus, Crazy Days are back in Kellogg again and scheduled to run July 31 through Aug. 2. For years, local businesses and merchants joined together for a large annual sidewalk sale to showcase their products and the best the community had to offer. Thanks to Shoshone Glass co-owner Lorie Sawyer spearheading an effort to revive the tradition, Crazy Days are now back in full swing with over 20 businesses already looking to participate in this year's beach themed event.

"I just wanted to let people and businesses know that Crazy Days are back and we are having businesses participate from all over town this time," Sawyer said. "We've gotten a lot of good response in support."

But Crazy Days is not just about merchants selling products, as many local groups will be putting on different activities for the community. For example, Sawyer said Crazy Hearts Tattoo Shop will be doing children's face painting, the local State Farm Insurance office will be holding a bike rodeo and safety demonstration, and the Kellogg High School cheerleading squad will be selling ice cream.

"I'm excited, because I think it's going to be just like it was back in the good old days," Sawyer added.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Three Beautiful Things 07/24/08: Walking Snug, Running Trail Nostalgia, Writing About Movies

1. I think Snug and I are finding our groove in Amazon Park. Our walk today invigorated me and worked off his excess energy. Now I need to figure out if I can go back to taking photographs while I walk him. A while back I stopped taking pictures on our walks out of concern that we kept stopping and going so much and I thought Snug did better to keep walking, not stopping.

2. EE and I were something together. Lovers? In a relationship? Partners? Whatever it was, it came to an end eleven years ago and then a few years later the friendship we attempted disintegrated. EE has a son with Downs Syndrome. He's also autistic. He makes vocal noises unique to him and while I was walking Snug I heard his noises over at the running trail. They startled me. I looked up and there he was out for a walk/run with young man. I really enjoyed seeing him and watching him walk for a ways and then be ready to tear down the trail, the young man always holding his hand. The guy was taking good care of him.

3. I've trying to get rolling with my plan to write about movies I've been watching and finally got started today writing about longing and about "Tadpole". I started a piece on Jennifer Jason Leigh. I'll get back to it tomorrow. Her genius is difficult to articulate. It's so copious.

Tadpole: The Longing of Midlife

I don't know much about privileged adults in Manhattan who send their children to private school. Nor do I know much about privileged middle aged women who want to have sex with the son of a privileged father and his second wife who have sent their fifteen year old to private school.

So, I decided, as the movie "Tadpole" got under way that I would do what I always do when I watch a movie: Surrender. Believe.

Tadpole is the nickname of the fifteen year old private high school student from Manhattan. His real name is Oscar. Oscar Grubman.

He's precocious. He regards himself as too sophisticated for the other students his age, especially the girls.

"Tadpole" is a Thanksgiving movie and immediately made me think of "Pieces of April", not because the stories have a lot in common, but because they are both Thanksgiving movies, focused on a family through the experience of an adolescent.

As often happens in such movies, while the focus may be on the adolescent, the movie turns out to be a lot about the adults.

That's certainly true in "Tadpole".

It's a movie about the pain and longing of middle age. The marriage of Oscar's father (John Ritter) and step-mother (Sigourney Weaver) staggers along with academic life, academically inflected conversations, and weariness. They long, without saying so, for more, but don't do much about their longings.

The step-mother's best friend, Diane (Bebe Neuwirth) expresses her longing for excitement beyond her work as a chiropractor through sex. In fact, she seduces Oscar (the tadpole, who is not even a frog yet). Post conquest, she shows him off to her middle-aged friends, privileged, also burnt out, and they want their sexual shot at Oscar, too.

It's all complicated by Oscar's feelings: he has a crush on his step-mother. He longs to usurp his father, take over as the lover of his father's wife. And, in her academic loneliness and life of academic routine, Eve Grubman is susceptible. She longs for something more.

"Tadpole" is a comedy, especially in structure. Clarification occurs. Its unusual world of longings and trysts is, as comedy promises, set right.

Watching it, I didn't think much about Oscar. My concern was with the middle-aged adults. In the imaginary future beyond this Thanksgiving weekend, I imagined Oscar maturing beyond his tadpole stage and becoming a successful, worldly young man.

I don't know what will happen to him in middle age.

By the looks of his parents and their friends, my guess is he's headed toward a middle age of aching and longing.

It's sobering.


powered by ODEO

I've been watching a slew of movies lately and I'm going to comment on them in later posts.

Many of these movies made me think of a conversation I had last winter with one of my students about the poetry of Rumi. I've recorded myself on the player above reading two poems by Rumi. The two poems give a slight idea of what happens in his poetry and provide a context for the following conversation.

I opened my office door and heard one of my students say, "This Rumi shit. It's totally fucking with me. I mean I totally love it. My freakin' head is ready to explode. I have to talk with someone and you're the only person I could think of. I mean, it's your freakin' fault for assigning us this dude and his ridiculous poetry."

"Come on in. We can talk."

She then addressed something that I've gotten more used to hearing as a concern the more I teach the youth of the early years of the 21st century. I began to hear my younger step-daughter say all the time: "Today this guy came into Starbucks. Oh my God! He was so totally coming on to me! I just thought, whatEVer, and made him his frickin' double latte with skim and and like looked at him like he was a total asshole and he left and Ellen said, "How hilarious was that" and we laughed our asses off."

So my student walks in and makes it clear that she is so totally not coming on to me, that she just needs to talk.

I nodded. It's what I did for the rest of the time she was in my office. From this point on, I didn't say a word. I just listened. She said the following:

"I sooo know what Rumi means when his poems deal with longing. Things are so sketch with my husband right now. I never thought this happened with guys, but he's totally lost interest in sex. It's okay, right, that I'm talking about this, right? I mean I thought guys were always into sex, but it's like he's on another planet. He won't even touch me and he like jumps when I touch him, you know, like if he's sitting at his desk reading and I come up and put my hands on his shoulders, he acts scared or like I've tased him. It's weird.

"We don't have kids, so we don't have to like quote stay together for the kids unquote, but we take in dogs, like give dogs foster care, and we are tight with that. I mean, when we are working with the dogs things are tight. We're good. Same with money. No problems. We don't fight, or anything like that, but I can't figure out this sex thing. I mean it's not like I'm unattractive, but I got pissed at him one day a couple of months ago and yelled at him, I hadn't been taking my Zoloft, and he said he can't be close to me ever since then.

"Anyways, the feeling I have for wanting to be close to him is just what we've been talking about in class, it's longing. I never thought about it before. I just felt bad and kept beating myself up but Rumi, you know, Rumi makes me think about this as a spiritual thing, you know what I mean? You know, how Rumi says that this longing we have for another person is like the longing we have for God or the Divine or whatever, like the way we've been talking, and I sooo feel that, and I don't know what to do with this longing. I mean my husband won't do anything to be close and I cry at night when he sleeps on the couch and it makes me long for knowing God, too, but somehow knowing that Rumi knows about this stuff and I'm not alone helps me, you know, maybe be patient. I mean maybe it won't always be this way, oh I don't know, I mean I love my husband and I love what we do with the dogs and when the subject isn't sex I love how we talk and laugh together, I mean we're both smart and funny. God.

"So, I guess I just want you to know that I love Rumi and I love this class and it's helping me soo much think about things and know that these things with love and everything have been going on forever and it makes me feel so much less like I'm just being, you know, so 90210, and that maybe my husband feels some longing, too, who knows?"

My student's monologue has stayed with me and I came to understand Rumi even better because of it.

Moreover, as I've been watching movies over the last few weeks, I've experienced most of these movies portraying characters who long for something outside of themselves. These characters are unfulfilled and take their longing into their worlds and act on their longings in a variety of ways.

That's what I'll be writing about in future posts as I explore this longing in the movies I've watched.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Three Beautiful Things 07/23/08: Springer Grass, Jacobean Theater Plans, Angryyoungwoman Rocks

1. Snug and I have found a new favorite spot to walk: Amazon Park. It's spacious. Tall unmowed grass grows in generous patches and Snug loves to wander through it, as if it's his genetic disposition. I can't unleash Snug in the park, but he loves to roam on his leash all the same.

2. Jacob and I had a quick talk at Starbuck's while he did his spiffing up duties as a barista working the milk and sugar stand and I found out he's majoring in theater arts and that he sorely misses Lane Community College. I always like to hear that former students miss our little Harvard on the Hill!

3. I was happy to find vigorous blog today entitled angryyoungwoman blog. It's here. You can read the reason for the name of the blog here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Three Beautiful Things 07/23/08: Memoirs, Mom, Juice

1. I enjoyed finishing two books that IEG gave me as Christmas or birthday gifts. Both deal with boys growing up and becoming writers as adults. The first was Perfect, Once Removed by Phillip Hoose and the second was by Chris Crutcher entitled King of the Mild Frontier.

2. I talked to my mother on the phone and let her know that my kidney numbers have worsened a bit and that I'll be seeing the kidney specialist on the 15th of August.

3. My replacement AC connecter arrived via FedEx today and it feels good to be running my computer on electricity from the wall.

AC Arrived

I've been without an AC adapter for my computer for over a week. I've snuck in some time on the Deek's computer, but now I have my computer back and running. My new AC adapter arrived today.

I know some of you check into this blog pretty regularly and I also know that a few of you worry about my health when I don't post regularly. I appreciate your concern. My recent absence has been because of an AC adapter breakdown, not a mental or physical one on my part!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Three Beautiful Things 07/17/08: Completion, Reimbursal, Shhhhh!

1. Jonathan and I had a very productive meeting in my office this afternoon as he finishes a spring term course he fell short of completing.

2. A well-timed check arrived in the mail today reimbursing us for medical expenses. (Could it have been ill-timed?)

3. I went for blood work this morning. The technician who drew my blood announced a little louder than I was comfortable with that I needed a urine sample. She asked me a little too loud whether I thought I could do it. She was a little too loud when she handed me a cup. When I produced the sample, she congratulated me a little too loud. I know she meant well.

My Big Fat Greek Radio Shack in Kellogg?

In Kellogg, you can get gyros and lamb kabobs that look amazingly like digital cameras, portable cd players, and stereo headphones.

This cutline appeared under this photograph in this morning's Shoshone News Press.

Photo by ROBERT DEANE My Big Fat Greek Deli owner Chris Kostas wraps up a finished gyro sandwich Tuesday for a customer in the recently-opened second location for the deli in the old depot building in Kellogg. The second My Big Fat Greek Deli had its grand opening Monday, July 14, and is opened from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Lead Free Organic Produce on Tuesdays at Rose Lake

Every Tuesday this summer you can go to the Rose Lake General Store from 4:30-6:30 and buy fresh produce from the Kilarney Farm.

Leave I-90 at the Rose Lake exit at the bottom of the east side of the 4th of July Pass and drive south a few miles to the town of Rose Lake.

On the Shores of the Polio Pond?

- Photo by ROBERT DEANE Jurcevich Construction Incorporated employee Serge Avdeyev uses a nail gun to secure a support beam in the new NASCO Corporate Headquarters building in Elk Creek. Jurcevich Construction Inc. began putting up the framing for the new building Monday. Progress continues on NASCO headquarters

ELK CREEK - The new corporate headquarters in Elk Creek for Native American Services Corporation (NASCO) is moving forward smoothly.

I had no idea this new construction is underway in Elk Creek. Growing up, Elk Creek was most famous for a swimming hole nicknamed "Polio Pond".

Did anyone ever really contract polio in that pond?

I've always been curious.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Three Beautiful Things 07/16/08: Blood Pressure Relief, The Machinist, Crime Drama Knitting

1. 112/75. My blood pressure was in good shape this morning and Dr. Ghandour seems happy with my current state of health. I'll have blood work done in the morning to make sure other problems are holding steady, not worsening; good news: my crappy kidneys like it when my blood pressure is good.

2. I watched Jennifer Jason Leigh perfectly portray a call girl who falls in love with a guilt-ridden, gaunt insomniac played by Christian Bale in the surreal movie "The Machinist".

3. The Deke has watched about 100, 000 hours of crime drama television in Kellogg since she arrived on Monday. I'm sure she's knitted enough sweaters, hats, caps, vests, and driver covers to clothe my mother's block and cover all the drivers at Kellogg Country Club, too.

Three Beautiful Things 07/15/08: Longing, Longing in Movies, Actresses

Plans for future posts:

1. A longish post about longing.

2. A bunch of posts reflecting on the longing I've been thinking about as portrayed in a bunch of movies I've watched lately.

3. I love watching middle-aged women act: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Patricia Clarkson, Joan Allen, Catherine Keener, Marcia Gay Harden, Sigourney Weaver, Bebe Neuwirth to name a few. I'd like to expand on this list and reflect a bit on why I've preferred older women acting to younger ones for as long as I can remember.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Three Beautiful Things 07/14/08: Sacrilege, Dental Hygiene, Idi Amin Dada

1. My former student at LCC, Michael Kelly, is a doctoral candidate at the University of Notre Dame and is in Eugene working on his dissertation, preparing to research in England. His research overlaps with work I did many years ago when I was a (failed) doctoral candidate and it was really fun listening to Michael discuss the idea of sacrilege in 16th and 17th century England and having ideas come alive again I used to think about a lot.

2. I met Kristin this morning, a hygienist at my dentist's office, who has never cleaned my teeth before. Usually Trisha cleans my teeth. I look forward to these cleanings because Trisha, and now Kristin, are efficient, good communicators, careful, and lovely.

3. Forrest Whitaker. It's electrifying to see an actor occupy a role and tonight I watched Forrest Whitaker as Idi Amin (Dada) in the movie "The Last King of Scotland". I had some reservations about the storyline, but every time Forrest Whitaker appeared, I didn't care about the story. I watched him in awe.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Three Beautiful Things 07/13/08: Power Restored, Friends' Reunion, The Deke Returns to the Silver Valley

1. I learned from InlandEmpireGirl that she and her husband have power again, their tilting plum tree is upright again, and that they are a safe distance from the fires in Ferry and Stevens Counties in Northeast Washington state. If you'd like to read more about the wind, fire, power outages, and how IEG and JEJ dealt with it all, go here, here, and here.

2. As I wrote earlier today, here, my lifelong friends Terry, Roger, Scott, and I ate breakfast at IHOP this morning in Salem. I would do almost anything to live a life where we could get together for coffee and bullshit every week, but I'll have to settle for once or twice a year. Roger's wife, Laura, and son, Nick, joined us and I enjoyed seeing them a lot. I don't think I'd ever met or talked with Nick before.

3. The Deke arrived safely this afternoon in Kellogg to spend a few days at Mom's house. It's been a year since she's visited Kellogg and this was an especially good time to visit because IEG is there until tomorrow.

Silver Valley Day at Salem IHOP

That's right.

Roger, Scott, Kirk, and I went to the Sunnyside Drug lunch counter for a meal before every ninth grade basketball game.

Mashed potatoes.
Grape Crush.

Jan Herd was our waitress.

And that's right. My senior year at KHS when we thumped Post Falls at home in Andrews Gymnasium, in the fourth quarter Post Falls missed a shot and we started a fast break and as I ran to fill the middle lane, Roger fired a passed intended for Scott and hit me in the side of the face.

Not long later, I sprinted down court after another missedTrojan shot and Scott heaved a high arcing three quarter court pass, I circled under it, and it hit me on top of the head.

The gym went quiet for a split second and heedless laughter broke out.

I fake staggered toward the Kellogg bench, Coach Emheiser comically put smelling salts under my nose, I sniffed, straightened out my gait, and play resumed.

The laughter intensified.

Oh, yeah, it came back to me that when I was twelve years old I homered in back to back Little League All-Star games, first off Dave Kraus against Valley and the next day off Steve Rife against Wallace, a game we lost in bottom of the sixth inning.

It all came back.

This morning I had breakfast with Scott, Terry, and Roger.

Roger and I were born two days apart in the Wardner Hospital in 1953.

Scott and I first met in Sunday School before we'd started kindergarten.

I've know Terry since I was eight years old and the eight years old baseball team he played for arrived at the field packed in his dad's Bogey's Bread truck.

Here we are today:

Terry, living in Gladstone, flying all over the country and the world for Xerox when he's not building fly fishing rods in his home or teaching kids to fly fish at a Trouts Unlimited camp on the Clackamas River.

Roger heading up the Workman's Comp. team of attorneys for the State of Oregon.

Scott teaching P.E. for special needs kids in Spokane.

Me, teaching away at Lane Community College.

We don't get to see each other often.

When we do, we're a band of brothers.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Three Beautiful Things 07/04/08: Sean and Ed, Blue Like Jazz, July 4th is Over!

1. The Deke and I had coffee with Ed this morning. Ed's son Sean was almost fifteen years old. He was a wonderful musician and one of the Deke's students. He'd been to our house countless times for lessons. He was killed a week ago when a New York subway train ran him over. It's a tragic story. It's hard to believe it really happened. Coffee with Ed was at once sad and a good as we talked about Sean, his family, his upcoming memorial service, and few things off the topic of Sean's death.

2. I finished Blue Like Jazz and it sent me back in time to when I worked the first time at Whitworth College (now University) and I today I went on the World Wide Web and revisited many of the writers and teachers who have helped shape my Christian experience and practice. I also read blogs of those who practice and understand the Christian faith differently and read theological arguments. I hate theological arguments. Isn't that funny? But, for me, when Christianity turns into a pissing contest, it loses much of its power. I'll be blogging about this later as I elaborate on my experience reading Blue Like Jazz.

3. The Fourth of July ended. Thank goodness. What a noisy, dog frightening, indulgent, careless, self-congratulatory holiday. American independence is obviously a very good thing. I hate the way it's celebrated, making it my least favorite holiday, one I dread. Moreover, I dread that the noise and indulgence will spill over into the fifth and sixth and so on. Sometimes around here, the dog frightening noise lasts for a couple of weeks. Shit.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Arizona Burned to Stop California Wildfire

Onion Radio News

With Doyle Redland

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Three Beautiful Things 07/03/08: Happy Birthday, Zinc Plant Stories, Cal's Donuts

1. Silver Valley Girl was born July 3, 1963 and we had a good talk on the phone as her birthday began to take shape in Kellogg. I thought I'd post some pictures of her younger days:

2. Lamia prepared a knock out Indian dinner for Wayne and Beverly and Deke and me. Wayne worked summers at the Bunker Hill back in 1963 through about 1967 and it was really fun finding out people we know in common and to share stories about the wild and and dangerous days we both experienced working in the Zinc Plant.

3. I may have found a down to earth place to have morning coffee. Cal's Donuts on Garfield. I dropped in today and when I served myself the dregs from the bottom of the coffee pot, two different guys a little older than I am both commented that I must have been in the military in order to drink coffee like that. One guy said they used to use coffee like that in the Navy to scrub the decks. No one ever says anything like that to me at Starbucks. I was pretty fired up and, in addition, enjoyed the drama as the woman working the counter did not really know how to make a Mocha or a Latte, but she followed the directions written on a styrofoam cup and the two guys she made them for were happy and appreciated her dramatic efforts to produce their espresso drinks.

Raising Old Glory in Kellogg

In today's Shoshone News Press:

On the eve of patriotic Fourth of July festivities throughout the county, Shoshone County Fire District II firefighters Dale Jacobs (left) and Assistant Chief Darrell Knoll (right) raise the flag above the Kellogg Public Library Tuesday afternoon. The flag is changed periodically for upkeep.

I can't help but wonder: couldn't this photograph have been taken from a more awe inspiring angle? I'm happy that my hometown is getting ready for a patriotic Independence Day weekend, but this photo isn't exactly raising the flag at Iwo Jima material!

Three Beautiful Things 07/02/08: Blue Like Jazz, Imago Dei, Silver Valley Obits

1. I spent some of the day reading Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz. One of my students gave it to me as a gift and another, not knowing I owned it already, enthusiastically recommended it. I'll reserve comment until I finish reading it.

2. Reading this book got me bouncing around on the World Wide Web and I found the church very interesting its author, Donald Miller, is a member of . It's called Imago Dei.

3. I read obituaries from the Shoshone News Press and found out about some deaths in the Silver Valley I hadn't known about, namely Norma McGraw, Pat Sprute, and Bernice Mellon. Norma lived down the block from us. Pat was a star athlete at Wallace High School and played football at the U. of Idaho. I played some slow pitch softball against him. He's one of those guys who I always knew when I saw him, but I'm not sure he knew who I was...he was four years older and of a different athlete generation. Bernice Mellon was a school cook, notably at Silver King Elementary and then at Kellogg High School. She and her family were also members of the United Church in Kellogg.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Triangle Park: Mission, Riverside, and Utah Streets Converge in Kellogg

Today's Shoshone News Press in Kellogg featured this picture of a boy going down the slide in the park where I learned to play baseball and tackle football. So many stories. And broken windows.
Forty-five year old apologies to the Faracas....but we did make a rule that a ball hit over the left field fence onto or over Riverside was an automatic out....we really did out best to keep your picture window from being broken......

Three Beautiful Things 07/01/08: Invited Back, Music's Power, Human Again

1. Evidently, the writers who attended last week's retreat were pleased with my work. I've been asked to return as the visiting writer. I accepted gladly. I'm happy to learn that next year's retreat will be on Lake Coeur d'Alene, meaning I can combine my work as a visiting writer with a visit home. Perfect.

2. I enjoyed owning up to my almost indiscriminate enjoyment of all kinds of music as I read comments at Hucklberries Online speaking highly of Led Zeppelin but denigrating bands like Journey and Kansas. I'm not sure it's musicianship that makes me enjoy different bands. I think it has a lot to do with what was happening in my life when I heard different bands. Journey and Kansas, for example, made music that is attached to momentous occasions and their music takes me back, fills me with nostalgic feelings I enjoy, and I'm always happy when their music comes on the radio or when a student plays their music in class.

3. I started feeling human today. My body was genuinely in a state of shock after my drive home Saturday from Pendleton and it took Sunday and Monday for me to recover and no longer feel beat up and fried.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Sibling Assignment #67: The Drifters: An Awakening

The sixty-seventh sibling assignment comes from InlandEmpireGirl. Here's the prompt:

What songs take you back to a summer growing up?

Share the song and the memories that are attached to it.

InlandEmpireGirl remembers jukeboxes and Todd Rundgren here and Silver Valley Girl recalls Captain and Tenille here.

When I was ten years old, I'm not sure I knew yet how extraordinary it was if our family did something out of the ordinary.

I knew that every summer Dad got a two week vacation and that we piled into whatever model of Chevy we owned at the time, left Kellogg, breathed in clouds of second hand cigarette smoke, endured the August heat, felt like puking, and made our way to Orofino, Idaho to see Grandma West and family and then reversed field and traveled to Spokane to see Grandma Woolum.

In 1964, we did something different for the only time I can remember in all the years we vacationed in Orofino and Spokane, before and after '64.

We crawled over Lookout Pass and motored the wilds of US Highway 10 the approximately 140 unknown miles from Kellogg to Missoula, MT. Mom and Dad chain smoked. Mom braked the floorboard of the passenger's side even more than usual.

It felt like we were going to Flushing Meadows to the New York World's Fair to see the Carousel of Progress.

Silver Valley Girl had just turned a year old. I doubt she remembers much about this odyssey to Missoula. For me and InlandEmpireGirl, our visit with the Runnings family meant listening to Dean Martin croon "Strangers in the Night"while driving to fish the Clark Fork for crappie with Ron, our first go at putt putt golf, hearing our father fall drunk and naked down the Runnings' basement stairs, and an enchanted visit to the bucolic wonders of Mother Goose Land in nearby Lolo. (This picture is not of me; it's a generic post card of Mother Goose Land.)

But it wasn't until we left Missoula, had scaled the Lolo Pass, and were coasting along the Clearwater River on Highway 12 that a single song awakened me to the pleasures of pop music.

You'd think this awakening would have happened back on February 9th or 16th or 23rd when The Beatles appeared on consecutive Sundays on the Ed Sullivan Show; you'd think it would have happened around April 4th when The Beatles occupied all five top positions on Billboard's Hot 100 or a week later when they held 14 positions on the Hot 100.

You'd think hearing Debbie Schaffer and Karen Ives singing Beatle songs at the teatherball pole on the Sunnyside school playground would have awakened me.

But The Beatles didn't do it.

The Drifters did.

I didn't even know for sure what a boardwalk was. Once when we visited Uncle Bob and Aunt Ronnie in at their trailer in Elk River the town still had wooden sidewalks, but I couldn't imagine anyone meeting underneath them, let alone "having some fun".

So it didn't matter if I knew what "Under the Boardwalk" meant. Something in the rhythm and harmonies and sound of that song jolted me awake, jolted a new love in my heart and from that moment forward I began listening to pop and rock music with a zeal I told no one about.

"Pretty Woman", "Ringo", "Leader of the Pack", "Get Off of My Cloud", "Wooly Bully", "You Really Got Me", "Downtown", the Beach Boys, the Dave Clark Five, Herman's Hermits, The Animals, all styles, all songs, whether "Tobacco Road" or "The Name Game", I loved new songs and loved hearing on KWAL's evening pop music show what the week's number one song was and talking about it with Scott when we walked to school in the morning or with Valerie and Claudia, InlandEmpireGirl, and the Absec boys when we talked under the streetlight in front of Mr. Anderson's house.

That day on Highway 12 somewhere near Kamiah or Kooskia had a lasting impact, an impact I love to this day. I'm an almost indiscriminate lover of music and songs.

I love the geniuses like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd and The Beatles and I love Neil Diamond and Barry Manilow and I love Journey and Asia and Toto and I love hearing Eddie Vedder and the Drive By Truckers. I enjoy the Bee Gees, pre-disco and disco. I love Donna Summer. I once thought "Precious and Few" was the greatest song ever written and once listened to Bread's Greatest Hits in a motel room I lived in with a black light on.

I like Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Yes, King Crimson, Genesis, and Wishbone Ash.

I don't know exactly why I think The Drifters started me off right. Something about "Under the Boardwalk" opened me up, freed me to enjoy music whether it's Joni Mitchell or Olivia Newton John.

I usually keep my indiscriminate tastes in music secret. I enjoy listening to friends rhapsodize about how great The Who are or about the sublime pleasures of The Grateful Dead or Phish.

These friends have principles. They have reasons for why they love what they do and can cite evidence to support their assertions and justify their taste. They also know how to rip what hate.

But, if I were to pipe in and say I really like Steve Miller or get a kick out of Cyndi Lauper or love listening to old Herb Alpert and the Tiajuana Brass tunes, I'm stuck as to why.

It was like when I first heard "Under the Boardwalk".

I just like how they sound.

And Just One and a Half Years Later, Her Son, Larry, Beat Me Up on Riverside Ave. in Kellogg

Aug. 22, 1962: Mrs. Roy Alho of Kellogg, Idaho, receives a mink stole for being recognized as Spokane's one-millionth Pacific Coast League fan. The Indians beat Seattle 5-1, but the next night they began a 13-game losing streak, the longest in the city's baseball history.

Sibling Assignment #66: Bad Hops, Sliding Pads, and Smelting Ore

Silver Valley Girl gave the sibling assignment this week. Here's the prompt: Write about a Silver Valley memory where the central focus deals with one of the four Greek classical elements: fire, earth, air or water.

You will find her meditation on rain here and InlandEmpireGirl's exploration of water here.

Bunker Hill Lead Smelter

I'm not sure when the fact first registered in my young Kellogg mind that no other baseball or football field anywhere was all dirt: the rest were grass with dirt base paths.

It's funny. I went to many Spokane Indian games at the Fairgrounds and I must have thought that the infield and outfield grass was just a professional baseball fact.

I don't know what I thought when playing on grass in Silverton or Coeur d'Alene or Sandpoint.

Kellogg's Little League field and the playing surface at Teeter's Field were dirt. No grass.

And they were rocky.

Before games, Ray Faraca put a drag behind a tractor and dragged the field, the idea being to smooth out the dirt and get the most conspicuous rocks off the playing surface, but it was pretty futile.

Bad hops. In Little League, Chris Wellman fired a ball from center field to me, playing third base, when I was nine. His peg hit a stone and hopped right over my mitt and struck me between the eyes, knocking me out.

Wear sliding pads. Stealing bases or sliding under a tag in the rocky beds around the bases tore at the thigh flesh, leaving raw rasbberries. The sliding pads helped.

Mud puddles. Our dirt fields did not drain. Huge puddles formed in low spots. We played all the same and sometimes a runner would take an extra base after his hit landed in a puddle, stopped dead, and the outfielder was slowed down, splashing in the pool of mud and water to retrieve the ball and throw it, water and mud flying like a jetstream, to the infield.

When I went to work in the cell room stripping zinc, I never thought about how close to the earth my work was. The zinc covering the cathodes I pulled from the electrolyitic cells had been ore, galena mined in the Silver Valley and from other mines around the world.

Hot fires smelted the ore to extract the zinc from the other elements. The hot fires sent foul emissions into the Kellogg air, making growing grass on Teeter's Field and the Little League Field apparently impossible.

Work that relied on the ores of the earth required metal-making processes that abused the earth and air; the very work that kept food on our tables robbed our fields of play of grass, tore the flesh off our thighs, fired bad hops into our crotches and throats.

We watered our baseball fields before games to keep the dust down, dust we now know was composed, in part, with lead and zinc and magnesium and cadmium particulants, making our fields of play, to some degree, toxic.

I can't say that while I was hammering cathodes plated with zinc with a chisel and stripping the zinc from them that I was thinking about how connected this work was to the earth.

Looking back, though, I realize that life in Kellogg was all about the earth and what we extracted from it. Processing what we extracted relied on fire. In turn, this depedence on the earth and fire resulted in the fouling of the air, the dirtying of the Lead Creek's water.

The four elements of earth, air, fire, and water existed in a productive/destructive reliance on one another. Production was yin to destruction's yang, inseparable.

And when a batter from Missoula or Spokane or Coeur d'Alene or Sandpoint or Moscow hit a line drive in front of me when I played centerfield, I could never be sure how it would hop once it struck our grassless outfield.