Sunday, September 27, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 09/27/09: Hoosier Mess of Beans, Snug and Sunlight, Sit n Go Victory

1. The Deke got her Hoosier groove on again for dinner. Slow, slow cooked green stringed beans and bacon with corn cut off the cob with cannellini beans from the can added later: it's simple, full of bacon and fresh vegetable flavor, and deeply satisfying. We had fresh tomatoes with a balsamic drizzle and cottage cheese on the side.

2. Walking Snug in the cool autumn sunshine pleased him, tired him out, and gave me my daily exercise.

3. Watched Rhonda at a Zynga Sit n Go poker table almost get defeated, but rise up and vanquish her last opponent and win the table. It was suspenseful and Rhonda played her hands beautifully. I don't think her opponent knew what hit her. Go Kellogg Class of '72!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 09/26/09: River Walk, Yokisoba Delight, Ducks on a Mission

1. Russell and I went on a picture taking walk along the west side of the Willamette River north of Maurie Jacobs Park and had many far reaching and fascinating conversations.

2. The delicious taste of the combination (pork, tofu, chicken) Yokisoba noodle plate I ate at Yi-Shen at 2:30 stayed with me for hours, making me reluctant to eat again until around eight o'clock.

3. The Ducks demolished, dismantled, dominated, demoralized, and destroyed the California Bears, 42-3. Turning point in the Ducks' season? October will tell.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 09/25/09: Brail Burger and Conversation, WR 121 Renewal, Patrick Re-enters the Work Force

1. Lunch/Breakfast at Brails with Michael, Margaret, and Jeff sated me with a great hamburger and fries, but nourished me more with great conversation, especially when we took a quick swing through Shakespeareland.

2. I'm enjoying rethinking my WR 121 course and the book They Say/I Say is stimulating my sense of new possibilities.

3. Patrick got a job at Market of Choice at Delta Oaks and he will work hours that fit with his sleep/awake schedule. This is a hugely terrific development in the life of our family.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 09/24/09: Corky 410?, Lunch Fun, Krakauer

Well, I missed a couple or three days of beautiful things. I had beautiful things to report: my concerned fellow instructors at LCC asking me how I was feeling and how it felt to be back at school, meeting with an attorney who has taken over the files of my former attorney who'd been disbarred for fraud and identity theft, having my teeth cleaned by the eternally friendly and highly competent Kristin...she and Trish both make it so that I look forward to going to the dentist....but back to today:

1. Margaret's lunch totaled out at $4.10 and I said, "Wow! There was this guy in Smelterville, Idaho named Corky who claimed he bowled a 410 and kids hounded him, teasing him, calling him Corky 410. The woman training at the register said, "That's what they call me." I nearly dropped my taco salad. "You're kidding!" I said. "No, look at me. I'm 4 foot 10. Corky four ten." She beamed. I walked past her, turned around, and said, "Do they really call you Corky?" "Naw. But I sure got you, didn't I?" "Yes, you did. That was really good," I replied. A little later, I remembered that Corky hadn't claimed to bowl a 410, but a 310. So, I got the story wrong, the girl at the cash register pulled my leg, and we all were very happy.

2. It's been a long time since I ate a lunch with fellow teachers and a bunch of us were in the lounge, telling war stories, bitching, and being clever. It was really fun.

3. Michael is reading Jon Krakauer's new book on Pat Tillman (Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman) and he and I had a really stimulating talk about Krakauer's writing and how much we enjoyed the movie version of "Into the Wild".

Monday, September 21, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 09/20/09: Workload, Wobbly Everest Analolgy, Compromise

1. While walking into a strong headwind on Heceta Beach, I thought of ways to make my workload more reasonable, for the sake of my health, while also giving my students the best instruction possible. I'll revise my syllabus today to incorporate these ideas.

2. My walk on the beach made me think of the gale force winds Jon Krakauer describes in "Into Thin Air". I know the ocean wind was weak by comparison, but the thought kept recurring and so I imagined Snug and I were scaling Mt. Everest as he put our heads down and walked directly into the north wind howling down the coast.

3. Giving Snug thirty feet of leash gives him the freedom to wander around the beach and the grass that borders the sand, but keeps him from going out into the ocean, which I don't like him to do, and gives me control over him in case other dogs are around, especially if they are off-leash. It's a great compromise and Snug is really happy with our new arrangement when we walk along the ocean.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 09/19/09: Paul, Jerome, Duck Shopping

1. I ran into Paul today at Market of Choice. Man. I don't know when we last talked with each other, but we got caught up on a variety of subjects and hope to play some golf together at some point again.

2. THEN, I ran into Jerome, whom I haven't seen since he's had major surgery and we had a great time getting caught up on what we've each been up to.

3. It's a waste of gas. I know. I really enjoy driving from the south of Eugene to the northern outskirts with a trip to Trader Joe's in between, shopping for groceries, and, best of all, listening to the Ducks on the radio.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 09/18/09: Soup, Snug, Letting Go

1. Browned pork and ground beef with candied onion and garlic, poured chicken broth,crushed tomatoes and water over it, threw in some celery, carrots, sliced mushrooms and a couple of fresh tomatoes, added some salt, pepper, and oregano, boiled some fusilli, combined it all in the crock pot, and -- wow! soup.

2. Snug has had a good-boy-on-the-leash breakthrough and our walk today had a good pace, a good rhythm and Snug is helping me get some productive exercise. And he's getting some productive exercise.

3. I care a lot about an old friend (not a Kellogg old friend) and this old friend and I grew apart and with a heavy heart and free of ill feeling, I consciously let go of this dormant friendship today. Should the distance of space and spirit close, should we ever have the opportunity to find commonality again, I'd love to be friends again. The letting go is sad -- but beautiful. It's right.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 09/17/09: Backyard Weeding, Deke to Chicago, Dog Peace

1. A little bit each day, I'm working at getting weeds and blackberries cleared out of the back yard and I completed step one today. I'll keep at it no matter how many days it takes, slow, steady, and sure. And patient.

2. I was happy to order the Deke a plane ticket to Chicago on Nov. 11 through the 15th so she can spend more time with David.

3. Snug and Maggie lay together under the kitchen ironing board today, peacefully, in the mode of the lion lying with the lamb.

Three Beautiful Things 09/16/09: Catch-Up, Health Puzzle, Zip -- It's Mailed!

1. So much happens between now and then -- you know, like, I haven't really heard from Colette in twenty years, haven't seen her in twenty-five, and the first catch-up email from her was remarkable in chronicling how much can happen between then and now.

2. I'm supposed to monitor my diet to some degree and the state of my health depends on reducing stress in my life and doing things that make me happy. So, the following made me very happy today: I bought a small chunk of double Gloucester cheese at the Kiva yesterday....finished it off this morning with fresh farm breakfast sausage, fried potatoes, eggs over easy, Marche Parisian hard crust bread, and French Roast coffee....the cheese clinched the beauty of this breakfast...So, happy making breakfast, with my favorite foods, it was relaxing, but did I screw it all up by eating food not fitting for my diet? I. don't. know. It's so, what?, paradoxical, I guess, when the very source of happiness, which helps my health, might also be a means of compromising my health.

3. The little post office tucked away in the very back of Hiron's Drug is never busy. I love going there to mail stuff.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 09/15/09: Welcome Back Colette!, Poker with the Silver Valley Girls, Snug Walkin'

1. A few years ago Colette called me at my office, left me her number, I wrote it down, lost the slip of paper, and had erased her message. Not being able to get back to Colette has been annoying me all this time and today Colette sent me a Facebook message and we are now back in contact.

2. Around a virtual poker table, with my Kellogg friend Rhonda, I learned I was also there with a sixth grade classmate who left Kellogg after our sixth grade year. I hadn't thought of Dorothy in decades and it was sweet remembering her and playing poker with her and her best friend forever, Rhonda.

3. Snug was the calmest he's ever been on the leash and our walking pace was terrific. It really felt good.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 09/14/09: US Open Surprise, Spanish Rice, New Kellogg Book

1. I watched much of the U. S. Open tennis final live online; late in the match, the streaming video stopped working. I wanted Federer to win, but I was mightily impressed with del Potro's power, agility, and guts. He could have packed it in after the way he lost the third set, but instead, after a wobbly start to the fourth set, he turned up the heat and wore Federer down.

2. I threw a pound of hamburger, candied onion, and red pepper together in the frying pan while I cooked a pot of basmati rice; I seasoned the meat mix with cumin, garlic powder, and crushed red peppers. I poured a can of crushed tomatoes and a couple of uncanned tomatoes into the meat mix and the sauteed some mushrooms and then I put it all in one pan, the rice and tomato meat mix and the mushrooms and we something like Spanish rice for dinner.

3. I found out today that Julie Whitesel Weston, the daughter of the doctor who was the first to treat me when I arrived in the ER from the Zinc Plant after being gassed, has written a book about Kellogg, which I was happy to hear about, and I was offered a chance to review it for I might have to turn down the review offer, but I look forward to reading Weston's book: The Good Times Are All Gone Now: Life, Death, and Rebirth in an Idaho Mining Town

I Need to Teach Like Roger Federer, Not Rafa Nadal

Rafa Nadal began the 2009 calendar year by defeating Roger Federer to win the Australian Open. Added to his French Open and Wimbledon victories over Federer in 2008, Nadal became the world's top-ranked player and seemed to have Federer on the ropes.

Then, in the 2009 French Open, Nadal failed to make the final match; he withdrew from Wimbledon; and, now, this past week, he was eliminated from the U. S. Open.

His recent troubles reminded me of an outing Russell and I took to the Fern Ridge Wildlife Area three months ago to shoot some photographs.

On the way out, Russell and I talked tennis and our conversation veered to Nadal and Federer.

Russell pointed out that Nadal wouldn't be able to play much longer the way he has the last four years or so: he relies too much on this athletic ability, plays too many tournaments each year, and does not have any sense of restraint. He goes all out for every ball, diving, making quick cuts, playing each point as if it were a match point at Roland Garros.

Russell was correct and every tennis expert I've read agrees. Nadal's all out style of play has caused his body to begin to break down. Only twenty-three years old, his knees kept him from playing Wimbledon and he's having problems with his legs and back. Late in the season, he's been fighting fatigue.

Federer's playing style has been more suited for the long haul. It's more fluid, efficient, intuitive,
and mental. It's taken much less of a toll on his body -- and he has managed his playing schedule, giving himself rest, coming into major tournaments with fresh legs.

I realize that the analogy I'm about to draw is a little wobbly. Please give me the benefit of the doubt.

As the academic year is about to begin, I'm examining how I teach, how I expend my energy; I'm examining what I can and cannot do as a teacher in my mid-fifties.

I've been a Rafa Nadal-styled teacher since I began teaching college courses in 1977.

I've been demonstrative, passionate, energetic, even wild; I've stood on tables, gestured wildly, taken chalkboard notes on student comments hard and fast, exercised quick wit, laughed hard, been theatrical and dramatic, and moved quickly back and forth, up and down the classroom, working hard to keep things going, feeding off of adrenaline and my genuine enthusiasm for my work. I've tried hard not to be boring and to keep time in class upbeat.

Not only have I been like Nadal in my exuberance, I've also over scheduled myself. I've wanted to push my students, so I've assigned a lot of reading and writing; for the last several years I've team taught with Margaret and this has increase my time in the classroom by the equivalent of an added course. It adds up. Margaret and I have decided not to team teach this year because the addition to our workload was wearing us out.

Do I need to teach so exuberantly that I'm beet read after class, sometimes nearly winded during class? Do I need to be "on" every minute of a class meeting? Do I need to concentrate and focus as hard as I do? Do I need to try to pay attention to each student during class, trying to gauge their engagement, whether they need more help, whether I need explain things better, whether they are understanding the comments of their fellow students? Do I need to exert so much energy each class period that I collapse when I come home?

I don't think I do.

But, like Nadal, who, if he wants to play a more efficient, less demanding style of tennis, is going to find long-established habits hard to break, so am I.

And look at Roger Federer. He wins championships. His tennis playing is compelling. It's not effortless, but it's efficient. To entertain, be really good at what he does (in fact, the best), he can pull back sometimes, rest, even during a match, conserve his energy, and make the best use of his talent.

I'm going to try to pull back this fall. I'm adjusting reading lists and paper assignments. Rather than trying always to exceed the expectations I imagine students have and that LCC has, I'm going to work to meet those expectations. Meeting them is a lofty enough goal. Why do I think I have to exceed them?

I suppose my tendencies toward working too hard and tending toward overdoing my job are grounded in insecurity.

It's odd.

I've won awards as a teacher, been evaluated very positively by students, fellow teachers, and my supervisors.

Nonetheless, a voice keeps nagging me that I'm not doing enough. I need to work harder.

I've got to get that voice to shut up.

Otherwise, I'm not going to be able to do the very work I love.

Roger Federer has learned how to extend his tennis playing career.

He works hard.

He's efficient.

I need to teach like Roger Federer.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 09/13/09: Leash Works, NFL Underway, No So Secret Agent Man

1. With the thirty foot leash, Snug has more freedom to roam the beach, but be under my control, at Heceta and can swim farther out at the jetty. I liked how very much how it worked to use this leash.

2. Week #1 of the NFL season. It was a pleasure to listen to the day's developments on espn radio. What pleased me most? The 49ers picked up a win.

3. I'd sure hate to do it for a living, but I enjoyed my 90 minute stint as Patrick's job search agent today and sending him information about openings I found out about and urging him to get on the stick and apply. And apply some more.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 09/12/09: Willie Walk, Indiana Bacon, Green Beans and Potatoes, Ducks Get a Win

1. I saw Marla and Allison walking Willie in Monroe Park and we waved and shouted hellos to each other and were aware of Snug's problems with other dogs and didn't bring the dogs together. That was smart.

2. I'd never eaten anything quite like this before: I fried some bacon and candied onion, poured it, grease and all, in a pot of water with green beans, brought it to a boil, and let the green beans slowly cook. Then the Deke cut up red potatoes and dropped them right in with the green beans and bacon and onion, boiling the potatoes until finished. Eating this fine combination made the Deke feel like she was back in Indiana and made me want to do more cooking of this sort.

3. I know. I know. Purdue's crappy. But the Ducks needed to get a win, get some offense going, force some turnovers. They did all that and won by a slim 38-36 margin. Whew...

Dog Crap

This evening I was walking Snug and, as he always does, he stopped in the same front yard he always does to take a crap.

I, then, dutifully pulled a small blue plastic bag from my pocket, stuck my hand inside it, reached to the ground, picked up Snug's droppings, turned the bag inside out, and tied off the bag. It's the easy part of dog crap management with Snug. I've learned Snug's crapping routine, so I carry three bags, and I am prepared, as I should be, to keep Snug's crap off lawns.

Dog crap left on lawns angers people. They write letters to the local paper, partly to vent, and partly to educate us dog owners that not only is dog crap a nuisance, it's also a health hazard.

To me, it's an admirable aspect of progressiveness in Eugene. Far more than the ubiquitous Priuses, anti-war signs, bumper stickers berating George W. Bush, and the Christian fish symbols turned into Darwin, the progress that impresses me most in Eugene is that people, by and large, pick up their dog's crap.

Picking up dog crap. Everyone knows we dog owners have to do this.

But how about the disposing of the little blue bag I'm carrying down the street like a toy Barbie purse?

For example, tonight. Snug is an unpredictable dog. He growls and lunges at other dogs. I'm never sure how he'll respond to strangers. Bicycles sometimes agitate him. My primary objective as I walk Snug is to keep him clear of dogs, people, and bicycles and skateboards.

Tonight, Monroe Park, where I can usually dispose of Snug's dog crap bag, was bustling with dogs, walkers, squawky children, skateboarders, and youth playing ultimate frisbee, so I stayed out of there.

Then I saw a neighbor's garbage can at his curb.

I don't know this guy, personally, but I know his reputation and I've read some of his op-ed pieces.

He's a progressive through and through.

He writes about empowering elementary school students. I've seen him leading groups of young students on bicycle rides. He opposes wars. He carries himself smugly, has an air of self-righteousness about him. I would bet my bottom dollar that he was once in an Utne Reader salon group. Probably hosted it.

Well, good, I thought. Progressives want dog crap off lawns. Surely progressives must welcome little blue bags of dog crap in their garbage cans.

Suddenly, I froze.

I panicked.

A few years ago, the newspaper had run quite a few letters written by people who objected to dog walkers dropping bagged dog droppings in their curbside garbage cans.

Did progressives write those letters?

I couldn't remember.

Suddenly, I realized I didn't know the rules.

Was it hard-line conservatives who objected to dog droppings dropped in the garbage cans? Or was is politically correct progressives?

I paused.

Snug pulled at the leash.

Aren't progressives community-minded? Don't they stand for flat social structures? For sharing?

But, then again, progressives can also be really picky about women wearing perfume and men wearing after-shave. Maybe dog crap bags are similarly invasive when dropped in a progressive's garbage can.

Why couldn't I remember the politics of dropping dog crap in a trash can?

I looked at my neighbor's house.

I saw no activity inside, no one peering out the windows.

I decided that if disposing of a little bit of Snug in my neighbor's garbage can was an offense, well, at least I wouldn't get caught.

I took a deep breath, composed myself, and boldly walked to the can, opened the lid about two inches, and dropped the blue bag in.

I'll keep an eye on the newspaper this week.

I'll see if my neighbor writes a letter to the editor about thoughtless yahoos like me that use others' garbage cans to dispose of their doggy's crap.

Three Beautiful Things 09/11/09: Grocery Darting, Trader Joe's Lunatic Hall of Fame, Cold Dinner

1. I know. I know. I know. It's dumb. I waste gas and money driving to Albertson's and to Trader Joe's and to Thistledown Farm and to Market of Choice...I know...I should just go to one place and shop...but I enjoy darting all over town in my silly little Honda....I'm not even bargain hunting...I like buying some basics at Albertson's and I like buying coffee at Trader Joe's and seeing if Kelly's working the floor and I like going to the farm and going back to the car and biting into a tart Gravenstein and I was in the mood for cheeses and olives I don't usually buy but can get at Market of Choice. I know. I know. I'm being indulgent...but....sometimes indulgence is a beautiful thing...ya know?

2. Kelly was working the floor at Trader Joe's and we fell into a very serious discussion of the challenges of being parents...she's just entering the parenting a teenager stage....and we were entertained by a woman shopper who tracked Kelly down to point out that a whole shelf of turkey gravy was expired. It wasn't. Kelly and I have regaled ourselves in the past with stories about lunatic Trader Joe's shoppers: another was inducted into the Lunacy Hall of Fame today!

3. All that pinballing around town to buy groceries? Well, the result wasn't too shabby: it was too hot to cook so I enjoyed a Gravenstein apple from Thistledown farm with Willamette Valley brie cheese, some Stilton cheese, English cheddar cheese, a demi-loaf of French bread dipped in EV Olive Oil and Balsamic vinegar, some lemon curry green olives, dry salami, and Thistledown farm fresh tomato slices for dinner.....and a couple glasses of spring water from Albertson's.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 09/10/09: Kimbo and the Toilet Seat, Snug's a Survivor, Trader Kelly and the Bell

Kimbo Slice Nails an Opponent

1. I felt like I was in a mixed marital arts brawl with Kimbo Slice as I tried to remove our broken toilet seat. After an hour of a bruising battle, I had to leave the house and take Snug to the vet. I returned and Patrick had succeeded in removing the seat and replacing it. I was happy to be done with Kimbo.

2. Snug's eye infection is not bad. No sweat -- except he deeply abhors eyedrops and I've to put them in his eye for the next week.

3. Kelly came on board on my Facebook page and offered hilarious comments about the abhorrent customer service bell at Trader Joe's.

Underrated Romeo and Juliet -- and aThought About President Obama

One of my former Shakespeare (and writing students) took a Facebook quiz entitled "Which movie romance do you fit into" and she was very upset that the result was "Romeo + Juliet", the 1996 Baz Luhrmann version of the play. About the quiz result, my student wrote:

Ugh. How disappointing. Vaughn and I watched Romeo & Juliet together a few months ago (the awesome 1968 version...not the crappy Leonardo one) and we decided that the entire story is stupid. Lol. Romeo & Juliet are like the most celebrated co...uple of all time...but think about it...they were like 13 and 16...aka both insanely hormonal...and their romance lasted for like less than a month. How many of us managed to be madly in love for a month when we were in our teens? Probably most of us. The only reason their romance seems like it was deep and "forever" is because they DIED before they had a chance to break-up!!! (Sorry to all of my romantically inclined friends...)

My student's comments and our ensuing conversation (on Facebook) reminded me why Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is Shakespeare's most, in my mind, underrated and underappreciated play of all.

It's come to be seen as a play about romantic love, and, worse, yet, has come to be understood, in the minds of many, as exemplifying what true love is.

Holy cow.

As I see it, the play isn't really about love, except as the intoxication of romance deludes Romeo and Juliet. It's a play about the nature of fate and inevitability, about the illusion of freedom and human power to reverse the fatalistic nature of history as it weighs upon the present.

In Romeo and Juliet, of course, the fatalistic nature of history takes shape in the Montague/Capulet feud. This feud, its strength, its power, its essential irreversibility, and its long history defines the world of Romeo and Juliet. From the top of the world, as embodied by the parents, to the bottom of the world, as enacted by the Capulet and Montague commoners, Sampson and Gregory, of the house of Capulet, and Abraham and Balthasar, two Montagues, as they start a street fight, from top to bottom, the feud and its history defines characters' attitudes, perspective, and actions.

Tragedy is about limitations, ultimately the limitations placed on human life by the inevitability of death.

In Romeo and Juliet, the feud between the two families embodies an inexorable power almost as strong as death itself.

The feud shapes the play's fate.

But, Romeo, Juliet, the Nurse, Friar Lawrence, and others exercise all their ingenuity and will to reverse the power of the feud, to create a reality where Romeo and Juliet can be with each other, and they are deluded in thinking they can succeed. Most famously, Juliet declares that Montague is only a name. She and Romeo act as if the purity and power of their feelings can transcend their family names, can render the feud meaningless. Friar Lawrence and the Nurse join in to help this delusion along.

Instead of aiding Romeo and Juliet's love, they accelerate Romeo and Juliet's demise by having the arrogance to think the feud can be ignored or circumvented. Again, it's a play about limits, especially to human choice and freedom. Romeo and Juliet and their allies want to believe they can create their own reality. Not in this story. In it, Shakespeare made his most significant step forward in the development of his vision of tragedy, the way tragedy is born of ignoring limits, of characters taking the wheel of fortune in their own hands, and how doing so speeds up time, blurs judgment, and intoxicates characters so that their vision becomes tunneled, their perspective mortally skewed.

In fact, Shakespeare mocks young love in this play, especially via Mercutio. The play's not a picture of "true love". The comedies explore this idea much better, especially because in Shakespeare's view, true love never exists between two people. It's a community experience. Romeo and Juliet are alienated from their families and community, thanks to the feud, and never have a prayer of succeeding in love. The successful lovers in Shakespeare, say Rosalind and Orlando or Leontes and Hermone, have the help and support of family and friends to come together and the promise is that they will live together with the support of those outside themselves. I like this line from Shakespeare's sonnet 94 when thinking about love relationships carried out in isolation:

Lilies that fester, smell far worse than weeds.

Isolated love festers. Love with the support of community and family thrives. Romeo and Juliet does not portray an ideal love, but a desperate, frantic, dangerous, deluded, isolated, and impossible love.

In the end, this love destroys itself, because, in Shakespeare's view, it was lived out in violation of the limitations that defined these two families' world and no amount of strong feeling, dreaminess, great poetic language, or minor league schemes could change that.


Thinking about Shakespeare has got me thinking about President Obama.

I'm incapable of drawing any conclusions, but only of raising questions, especially if I look at his presidency, thus far, in terms of the limitations he inherited as a new president.

President Obama wants to change the history of the United States.

In particular, he is pushing hard against the history of our country's resistance to universal health insurance.

All one has to do to see the strength and power of this history is observe a Town Hall meeting or listen to opponents of universal health insurance. They have history on their side and are riding the tidal wave of opposition many in this country have always had to policies and programs that smack of socialism or of one person paying for another's relief.

It's deeply embedded. The feud between those who favor and those who oppose universal health insurance seems as deep as the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets.

The feud defines the debate, rhetoric, comments, blogs, attitudes, and behavior of many Americans.

My view is that, as a whole, Americans underestimate the forces of history and tend to act as if things that happened are behind us and that we have the freedom and power to change the course of our lives, or the country's life, quickly. It's just a matter of will.

I don't see things this way. Quick change is rare. The forces of history make change hard to achieve.

I can't tell if President Obama has underestimated the power of history.

I think many who support universal health insurance do, though. Many speak and act as if President Obama, if only he were stronger, had a stronger spine, could take control of this matter and, by the strength of his will, and the power of a majority in Congress, bring this change about.

My many years of studying Shakespeare's portrayal of history argue otherwise.

In this one, I see things through the eyes of the Bard.

I see President Obama has having a very steep mountain to climb as he continues, I think rightly, to make universal health insurance an established reality in the American life.

Three Beautiful Things 09/09/09: World's Problems: Solved, The Deke is Brilliant, Kellogg News and Plans

1. Jeff couldn't make it, damn it. But, Margaret, Michael, and I went into free style discussion of Montagne, To Kill a Mockingbird, teaching writing, blogging, the Oregon Ducks, national politics, and a host of other subjects. Did we manage to solve the world's problems in 90 minutes? Without a doubt.
2. I've decided to step back, make an objective evaluation and the results are in: I'm married to the most intelligent person I know. The Deke riffed on her workplace, elementary students learning French, the correlation between socio-economic comfort/privilege and academic achievement, and it was brilliant. Many in The Deke's line of work do not want to hear what she has to say. The Deke challenges fantasies.

3. Ed called. Man. Wish I could have been in Kellogg on Sept. 5 to get together with friends, listen to music, maybe dance, and take a walk down to the Longshot....and laugh and enjoy one another's company. The best news, though: plans are beginning to take shape for Thanksgiving and our annual get together, which, in the past has been a boys' thing, but, I think, is going to involve the girls more this year and in the it should.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 09/08/09: Lamb Sausages, Laurie's (We Think), Thistledown Apples

1. I went to the Kiva and bought a pack of lamb, rosemary, and tomato sausage, fried 'em up in some onions, boiled three ears of corn, made gravy, and served the sausage, onion, and gravy over basmati rice. I enjoyed our side of tomato and cottage cheese. The Deke remembered we had some craberry chutney in the fridge and it complemented the sausage and gravy very nicely.

2. Today's verdict: the pizza place in Spokane had been Elmer's and changed owners and became Laurie's and Laurie's is where one of my Renaissance Lit. paper reading groups met on Friday afternoon to read papers over beers. I can live with this until I can verify it via an old phone book or through an archived copy of the Whitworthian, if Laurie's advertised there.

3. Snug and I didn't make it to the coast, but went on a little drive around Fern Lake Resevoir and then jagged out to Thistledown Farm for apples, peaches, onions, and tomatoes. The apples are so good that I might head out and buy some more of them tomorrow.

Three Beautiful Things 09/07/09: Black Bean Soup, Cheese Sticks, Walking Snug

1. Got the black beans soaked and almost fully cooked, sauteed some black peppered Walla Walla sweet onions and a red bell pepper, seasoned them with cumin and oregano, then sauteed some yellow hook squash from Mom's garden and white mushrooms, threw that stuff in the pot along with potatoes, celery, and baby carrots, and topped off the black bean soup with some organge juice and lemon juice. Broke out a bag of mixed greens, chopped celery and threw in some baby carrots, topped the salad with a tomato, and dressed it all with Greek Feta vinaigrette. I thought it made a great dinner.

2. Dropped into Market of Choice thinking I might find some corn bread or corn muffins to eat with the black bean soup, but no luck; no problem: I bought nice wide cheese sticks instead and they accompanied the soup and salad perfectly.

3. As Snug and I walk the neighborhood, we zig zag across streets, leave sidewalks and walk in the street, and reverse ourselves suddenly, doing all we can to not cross the paths of other dogs or walkers. Both agitate Snug (unfortunately) and so we play with the hand nature dealt him.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 09/06/09: Salmon Eggs, Sausage Bits, What Was That Pizza Joint?

1. Remember that smoked salmon I mentioned yesterday? It was my appetizer. Well, it was the centerpiece of breakfast this morning: a smoked salmon, black olive scramble with fried potatoes. Tasty and satisfying.

2. Remember that Rocky spinach feta sausage I cooked yesterday? Well, today I cut the two remaining sausages into bite-sized bits, sauteed red pepper, Walla Walla sweet onion, and mushrooms, threw the sausage bits in the mix, baked a potato, covered it with the last of last night's gravy and enjoyed my dinner. I still had a salad's worth of mixed greens left and once again dressed them with bleu cheese vinaigrette and had some peppered cottage cheese as a complementary side to the salad.

3. Bill, Val, and I are trying to remember the name of the pizza place in North Spokane, just south of the Bigfoot Tavern where, in spring semester of 1983, one of our Renaissance Lit. paper writing/reading groups met on Friday afternoons and read papers, with the help of pitchers of beer. I swear the pizza joint had a man's name, but so far we can't come up with it. If you read this and remember the place, and recall its name, please let me know. I swear, if someone remembers correctly, I'll send 'em a gift certificate for Papa John's or some other pizza!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 09/05/09:Dinner Time, Dinner Challenge, Olivia to Eugene (Molly, too)

1. First, a little appetizer: some smoked salmon on stone wheat crackers -- then sautee indulgently peppered Walla Walla sweet onions in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, throw Rocky spinach feta sausages in the pan, toss a mixed green salad dressed with Blue Cheese vinaigrette with a dollop of cottage cheese on the side, mix some water and corn starch and some of the onions with the sausage drippings to make gravy, pour the gravy over microwaved leftover Basmati rice, sidle the sausage right up to the gravy, pour a tall glass of ice cold distilled water and there it is: the dinner I fixed for myself tonight. Still have three sausages and some gravy left over -- they might taste good with some russet potatoes tomorrow....

2. Snug smiled at me with the return this evening of the Squirrel Dude. The Dude makes eating breakfast and dinner much more challenging.

3. It's confirmed: Molly and Olivia will arrive in Eugene on September 28 and stay until October 10.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 09/04/09: Rick Frost Post, Spaghetti Dinner, Facebook Friday

1. I spent several fruitful hours writing two posts for this blog. I was especially happy to get my thoughts and memories about Rick Frost into an essay. It's something I should keep working on. I wrote quite a bit, but there's still a lot I haven't written yet. One fact keeps recurring: those two years I went to school at North Idaho College were two of the most fulfilling, fun, and rewarding years of my entire life.

2. Hamburger, sweet sausauge, onion, tomatoes The Deke canned, fresh tomatoes from Mom's Kellogg garden, some oregano, basil, and garlic....cook down the tomatoes, let the meat cook through and stay moist, throw them together into a sauce and pour it over spaghetti. That was dinner tonight and I enjoyed preparing it.

3. Keeley invited me to join her Middleboro friends in their weekly Facebook Friday endeavor and I had a really fun time. It's a little disappointing to be the only tee totaling Facebook Friday participant, but only a little disappointing. The wit and vibe and good cheer is really good and these guys are a lot of fun. Thanks to Randy for inviting me to get to know the friends of his hometown. Through Facebook..what a riot.

Sibling Assignment #106: Star Pupil...Meh

Silver Valley Girl beseeched the plump sugar-winged angels of the Internets to deliver this assignment to me and InlandEmpireGirl:

Write about one of your earliest memories of being in school.
I don't know how it happened.

One day, when I was still four years old, I could read. No one really taught me. I just started reading out loud one day. I loved reading stuff about states in our home set of the World Book Encyclopedia and knew the states and capitals before I started kindergarten.

It's just the way it was.

Consequently, I never had to wait for Mrs. Peterson's instructions in kindergarten before working in our workbook. The instructions were at the bottom of the page and I read them myself and whipped right through whatever we were supposed to do.

At home, I was a novelty act my dad could parade out. When his friends came over to the house, he'd have them friends a state, or a capital, and I could tell what the capital was or what state the city was a capital of.

I didn't mind that too much. These performances made my dad proud and astonishing his friends was kind of a thrill.

One day, however, Mrs. Peterson did something I didn't much like.

Our kindergarten class met in the basement of Washington Elementary school, which was the old high school and was now also the junior high. I'd never been upstairs where the big kids had classes, but one day Mrs. Peterson took me upstairs. To me, it seemed like way upstairs.

Mrs. Peterson wore a lot of perfume. I later learned she wore it to cover the smell of cigarettes. The perfume smell made me feel a little sick as we climbed the stairs, making the nausea I was feeling because of my fear of going upstairs even stronger.

My memory tells me we went to the fourth grade classroom, but I'm not sure of that.

Mrs. Peterson had a book with her and when we got to the classroom, Mrs. Peterson had me stand in front of all these big kids, she handed me the book, and told me to read out loud from it. It was a cold reading. I'd never seen the book before.

What was this about? Were the fourth graders being told to shape up and improve their reading because there was a squirt in kindergarten who could read and if he could do it, they ought to be able to do better work?

Was it some weird form of show and tell? Was I Mrs. Peterson's remarkable show and tell kid?

Or was it back to being a novelty act?

I don't know.

I do know I was scared to death.

Even at five years old, I had this foreboding sense that the fourth graders would hate having a punk like me paraded in front of them to read.

Even at five years old, I had visions of getting pantsed in the alley that led to Roger Pearson's house or of the big kids trapping me and putting me in a waste bin or, at the very least, being the fourth graders' most hated whippersnapper.

I read. I did what I was instructed to do. I didn't miss a single word.

I could see faces in the room darken with resentment.

I survived the aftermath. No kids hunted me down to get even.

All I know is that I hated being presented to the fourth graders as a star pupil. In later years, as I succeeded in school at the elementary level, every once in a while a parent would ask one of my friends why he couldn't be more like me and do better schoolwork or get better grades.

I hated that.

Aside from hating having my friends occasionally compared to me, no long lasting damage came from this incident and it wasn't that long before things evened out and nothing I did was that remarkable in school anymore.

But, when I think back to early memories of being in school, this one stands out.

I can't for the life of me, though, figure out what the teachers involved thought would be gained by having me demonstrate my reading prowess in front of fourth graders.

I have to just scratch my head and wonder, "What the hell?".

Sibling Assignment #105: (Former North Idaho College Choir Director) Rick Frost’s Way of Being

InlandEmpireGirl assigned the following question for our current sibling assignment:

Other than family members, who has been an influential person in your life and why?
IEG wrote beautifully about the poet Jane Kenyon, here, and Silver Valley Girl will be posting her piece later.


Rick Frost, 2009

Maybe our Kellogg High School choir director, Dale Lange, required us to go.

Maybe I went simply because I enjoy choral music.

Maybe I went because I hadn't done anything about applying to four-year colleges and I was sure I was going to North Idaho College and I thought hearing their choir would be fun.

I don't know, but I do know that the North Idaho College choir came to Kellogg High School in the spring of 1972 for an evening performance and their performance astonished me.

The choir's sound electrified me: it was energetic, dynamic, and, to my ear, flawless. The choir members were joyous, their performance robust. They sang with huge smiles, animated not only by the music, but by the joy of singing.

That night convinced me that I was not only definitely going to North Idaho College, but that it had to be a remarkable school, given how inspiring the choir made me feel.

I was also inspired by the choir's director, Rick Frost.

His influence on me began that night and continues to this day.

I'll begin with to this day.

Back in the 1980s, when I was a graduate student, I immersed myself in the rigors of the academic study of literature and rhetoric. It intoxicated me. For a while, I was very successful and began to envision myself pursuing a career of academic research and teaching, of being a professor of Shakespeare.

My failure to write a dissertation obliterated these ambitions, but a very good thing happened: part-time teaching positions in English were available at Lane Community College in 1989. As I began to compose my application letter, by experiences at North Idaho College rushed to mind.

I thought a lot about Rick Frost. He faced a sizable challenge as the choir director at North Idaho College: enrollment was open and he really had no idea what kind of talent he would be working with and could assume that, in the beginning, his choir would be very rough, raw, in need not only of training and instruction, but of humane encouragement. I was among those raw, rough singers.

Looking back, now holding a full time position at Lane Community College, and as I think about how raw and rough so many of my students at LCC are, I realize that Rick Frost was demanding. We worked out challenging choral pieces, much of it sacred, and some of it was over our heads, beyond our abilities.

In particular, I recall singing selections from The Messiah. Rick Frost wanted every syllable of the glorious words of each piece to reach the upper balcony of the gymnasium where we performed. I'd never had a teacher demand such precision. Again and again we spoke out loud the words from Psalms 24: 7-10: Who is this King of Glory? Who is this King of Glory? Who is this King of Glory?

It would be so easy to have this mighty question sound like bees buzzing (izzz) followed by air being hissed out of a balloon (thisssss), but by repeatedly articulating each syllable, we made each word clear and crisp, without lingering sibilant sounds. To this day, when I join in the Messiah sing a long at a local church, I sing this chorus with the discipline Rick Frost inspired in me and when I teach poetry and read the Old Testament lesson in church, I do all I can to make each syllable of each word have its own life.

Rick Frost always believed we could grow into the music he chose for us to sing. We sang pieces in Latin. He treated secular pieces like Fiddler on the Roof and songs from South Pacific with the same attention. With humor, patience, precision, discipline, and love for us and the music, he steadily helped us become more refined, more joyous, and more passionate about singing and about the literature before us. He drew our best selves out of us and drew out stellar performances.

I suppose I experience moments in teaching writing and literature when I'm tempted to harangue my students.

But I'm reminded of the magic Rick Frost worked without hectoring us, without putting us down for being a ragtag bunch of largely inexperienced singers from the Idaho panhandle. He kept encouraging us, driving us, helping us do it right, and I've tried to carry out that same ethic of instruction in my work and am fully committed to the idea that it's the best way to work with the rough, raw, sometimes largely unprepared community college students I encounter every year.

Rick Frost was the only instructor I had at North Idaho College who openly professed his Christian faith.

I could tell early on that Rick Frost's Christian practice was very different from mine. It's still true. I always knew that Rick's way of living and the language he used to profess his faith were ways I would never know. I was right.

It didn't and doesn't matter. Rick's faith touched me deeply. Not doctrinally. Not in terms of life style. I was a young drunk. I was profane, a Zinc Plant kid. I rarely shared my faith. I experienced God as a sparring partner much more than as an ally or as Lord. I fought with God all the time.

That's how I knew God was there.

I felt the punches.

Rick's faith touched me in how his actions and the ways he treated me and the rest of the choir were the word became flesh. I began to realize that his way of being, his kindness, patience, and dedication; his ability to bear with us, and do so gently and with good cheer – these manifestations of his character were really manifestations of his Christian faith and practice. For the first time, I was conscious of a person whose secular vocation was also his spiritual calling and that what Rick Frost did for a living, and how he approached his work and his students, was inseparable from being a Christian. The doctrinal, denominational, life style stuff didn't matter to me: I was moved by Rick Frost in a way that was deeper than apologetics.

It's kind of weird, really. I'll be fifty-six years old in December. When I sang for Rick Frost back in 1972-74, he was in his late twenties. Even though Rick Frost is now in his mid-sixties, because I haven't seen or talked with him since 1974, it's that very young man who is still inspiring me, still giving me a pattern of teaching and humaneness to model myself after.

And I try. My way of being a Christian instructor in a secular environment is to raise questions regarding a well-lived life, to explore loss, sacrifice, and reconciliation, to examine the nature of suffering; it's to look at literature as raising questions about the nature of human nature and the human condition and to dig into the ethical dimensions of what we read. My way of being a Christian instructor is to look at life from multiple perspectives. Sometimes my students know I'm a Christian. It comes up sometimes. Some are baffled that I teach the way I do and am a Christian; others are inspired. Ultimately, however, it comes down to how I regard my students and how I try to treat them.

And so it is with Rick Frost. While I'll always remember reciting over and over the words "The Glory, the Glory of the Lord" to get it right and I'll always enjoy having sung Buryl Red and Ragan Courtney's Celebrate Life (HE is alive! He IS alive! He is aLIVE!), fondly remember all the choreographic workouts we went through with Ron and Sally, cherish the memories of performing in places as far away from each other as McCloud, CA and Libby, MT, and recall the tedium of recording an album in Corvallis, OR, in the end, it's not these things that have influenced me the most.

No, what influenced me most was Rick Frost's way of being.


You might be wondering, where is Rick Frost today? He's a professor at Eastern University, a Christian university in St. David's, PA, just west of Philadelphia. He conducts the Eastern University Choir, teaches the Church Music program and teaches musicianship classes.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 09/03/09: Jetty, Washburne, Mercer Lake

1. I needed a longer leash for Snug so he could swim more at the Jetty, but our time there together was solid and he enjoyed being in the water after sniffing his way around the sand and vegetation on and near the beach.

2. Long, long stretch of sand at Carl Washburne day use park was great to walk on with Snug.

3. I hadn't ever left Highway 101 before to drive to Mercer Lake. It's a gem. I'm wondering if the public boat launch might be a place Snug could swim once I get a longer leash for him.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 09/02/09: Gift of Boredom, Pork Stir Fry, No Crowds

1. I was over at Down on the Farm and read Cheryl's post entitled "Down Time" and Cheryl's phrase "the gift of boredom" got me thinking again about the Tao de Ching and how the idea of emptying (or boring out) oneself is foundational in all spiritual traditions.

2. I enjoyed marinating pork strips in honey, lemon/lime juice, soy sauce, garlic and fixing a stir fry for dinner.

3. I go to the Coburg Road Oregon Medical Laboratory whenever I need blood drawn because things are so slow, as in not busy, there. I went today, and, sure enough, just one other person was waiting and I got in and out with a short wait and didn't have to feel the anxiety of a bunch of other people holding numbered tickets awaiting their turn.