Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 12/29/09: Yard of Hashbrowns, That’ll Help, Relaxing at Mom’s

1. Bruce, Scott, and I met for a late morning breakfast at Nosworthy Hall of Fame in Cd’A for breakfast. While we tried to outboast each other regarding our personal financial wealth and then outbrag each other regarding the easy street we anticipate in retirement, I ate enough food to last me until April: a yard of hash browns smothered with sausage gravy, a German sausage omelet the size of a Mini-Cooper, and the finest sheets of sourdough toast I’ve ever had.

2. So, Scott told me the Ground Round is on Govt. Way, across from the Fairgrounds. That sounded easy. I turned north off Appleway and headed toward the Fairgrounds, my eyes peeled for The Ground Round. I didn’t see it. I drove a ways past the Fairgrounds, turned around, and looked even harder on the west side of the road for The Ground Round. I went south to the Black Sheep, pulled off the road, and called Bruce and Scott.

“Where the hell is The Ground Round?” I asked Bruce.

He explained it to me.

“What’s near there? I’ve been by there twice. I didn’t see The Ground Round.”

Bruce replied: “I dunno. It’s across from some blue building at the Fairgrounds. It’s a stand alone business. “

He gave me the street address.

“Okay,” I said, “I should be there soon.”

“Oh.” Bruce said as I was about to hang up. “It’s not called The Ground Round anymore.”


“No, it’s, let’s see, Nosworthy Hall of Fame.”

“That’ll help. Later.”

3. Relaxing at Mom’s house: Law and Order. Law and Order. Law and Order. Cold Case. Law and Order. Law and Order. CSI: New York. Time for bed.

Three Beautiful Things 12/28/09: Spragpole, Poker Retrospective, Monday Night Football

  1. I rode up the river with Jake and washed down a burger the size of a buffalo's head and a gross of fries with three icy red Ranier beers at the Spragpole in Murray.
  2. I got to see a replay on ESPN2 of some of the action on the two tables before the WSOP main event was trimmed down to one table and nine players. It was pretty interesting, especially because I was watching the action knowing how the whole tournament would come out.
  3. How long has it been since I watched Monday Night Football? I picked a great one to see after such a long absence as Brett Favre rallied the Vikings to a tie and overtime, but the Bears won the game thanks to Jay Cutler playing the way the Bears hoped he would when they secured his services.

Three Beautiful Things 12/27/09: Winning in Worley, Meatloaf Dinner, Poker on ESPN

  1. Ed swung by Mom's about eight and we headed to the Cd'A Casino in Worley and after a five hour rollercoaster ride of wins and losses, I came out ahead!
  2. I got just what I requested for my birthday dinner: meatloaf, baked potatoes, canned green beans with bacon, and cola with lime. Mom added cole slaw and IEGirl made a pumpkin roll for dessert. Birthday dinner was relaxing and satisfying.
  3. I started my 56th birthday with a little gambling and I ended with a little gambling, sort of . . . ESPN2 broadcast the final nine players battling for the title "Champion of Champions". Twenty past winners of the WSOP main event gathered to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the World Series of Poker and played for a big cup, a 1969 red Corvette Sting Ray, and a ton of prestige. I enjoy watching these blue chip players and really enjoy watching them make the same mistakes a poker klutz like me makes!

Three Beautiful Things 12/26/09: On Time, Safe Driving, The “Rich Little” Deke

  1. The Deke and I committed ourselves to leaving Eugene for Kellogg at 7 a.m. We pulled out of the driveway at 7:08. I thought that was pretty good.
  2. The fog lifted/burned off near Salem. We had one small stretch of frost south of Salem. The rest of the drive was clear, easy, safe. It was a great relief.
  3. I don't know if my nieces and brother-in-law mother and sisters knew that the Deke has such a talent for impersonation, but after her performance, we agreed that what happens in Mom's basement, stays in Mom's basement!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 12/25/09: Subdued Christmas, Call Home, Armenian/Middle Eastern Fare

1. The excitement that marks Christmas Eve services was gone. I'm very grateful. I couldn't enter into that excitement last night, so I stayed home from church. But this morning's Christmas Eucharist was subdued, even intimate feeling, with a small number of people in attendance. It was perfect for me. I didn't have to act joyous, but could feel the deep meaning of Christmas Day and experience the profound pleasure of visiting with a handful of people I've known for many, many years in our parish.

2. O.K. Yes, the Deke and I were not abuzz with merriment today. But, I sure did love calling home twice and listening to the rundown on what happened in Kellogg on Christmas Day and having some good laughs with my mom and sisters and listening to all the laughter in the background.

3. Baba Ganoush. Hummus. Olives. Pita Bread. A variety of olives. Lamb. Roasted potatoes. Etc. Our friend Artemis is Armenian and she prepared a splendid Christmas meal of Middle Eastern foods and kindly invited me and Pat and the Deke to join in her family.

Sibling Assignment #113: Joy to the World

InlandEmpireGirl gave us this assignment:

"Write a memory about Christmas related to an experience at school."

You'll find Silver Valley Girl's thoughts and memories about Christmas music here and InlandEmpireGirl recalls school art projects here.

Well, for starters, I've written on this topic once already when I wrote about playing Santa Claus in the first grade at Silver King Elementary. Wanna read my earlier piece? It's here.

The contrast between my freshman year in high school and my junior year marks how my life was moving in a direction different from what I'd hoped for when I was, say, fourteen years old.

At Christmastime my freshman year, I was as happy as I've been in my life, largely because of freshman basketball.

Our 9th grade team was off to a terrific start to our season. We lost our opening game to Sandpoint, but that may have been our only loss coming into the Christmas break.

I didn't know it at the time, but I would never again experience success again as an athlete the way I did as a ninth grade basketball player.

I was pretty tall for a ninth grader. I was the same height then that I am today. I had a very reliable jump shot, especially along the baseline. I was selfless. I was fast and I loved our fast break style of play. I was also in the best physical condition I would ever be in.

The joy of ninth grade basketball colored everything as Christmas neared. It brightened the Christmas music we played in band. It made the junior high choir sound angelic when they sang at an assembly just before break. Being a star basketball player on a great team made the afternoon sock hop the last day of school and dancing with Debbie Wakefield seem like a holiday ball.

But things were different by my junior year. Other players grew taller. I remained just under six feet tall. High school teams played defense and I didn't know how to get my jump shot off when closely guarded. I was not in good physical condition. Our team was lousy. I was deeply demoralized.

Nonetheless, as Christmas neared, I was pretty happy that junior year.

It wasn't because of basketball.

It was because of boys' choir.

I discovered my junior year that I loved singing in the choir. I loved learning tenor or second tenor parts and hearing my voice harmonize with the other boys and, when we combined the choirs, with the girls.

It was a deeper, more powerful joy than playing basketball and singing in the choir (as well as playing in the band) was opening my heart and mind to a new kind of beauty, an opening up that would broaden into my love for poetry, fiction, theater, writing, acting, all the creative pursuits that have marked my adulthood.

Because playing basketball certainly has not.

In particular, that junior year, I was enthralled by the tenor part to "Joy to the World". I don't know why I loved it so much. The tenor part soared high above the melody line and I enjoyed hovering there, enjoyed it so much, that when I went to my job at Stein Brother's IGA, I would try to find reasons to be alone, whether in the cooler or back in the bakery or in empty store aisles after closing so I could sing the tenor part to "Joy to the World".

Performing the song in concert was fun enough, but my real pleasure came in the way "Joy to the World" obsessed me at work, walking home from school, in my room, any time I was by myself and could sing without being heard.

"Joy to the World" delivered me from my basketball misery. It helped me keep my mind off my decline as an athlete and helped me enjoy a successful team effort, choir, over and against the failed team effort of the desultory 70-71 Kellogg Wildcats.

Thank God for choir and the music of the Christmas season. At a crossroads in my life, when my sense of myself was shifting away from being a jock and moving toward seeing myself as enjoying the creative arts, "Joy to the World" help me not despair over this shift and opened up all kinds of reasons to cherish it.

Three Beautiful Things 12/24/09: Clarence Back to Writing, Holiday Cheerlessness and Cheer, Roasted Chicken

1. Clarence and I had a good talk today about the writing he has to do and about the circumstances of his life that lead him to write about the things he's working on. I have every confidence that unless Clarence has health problems recur over the next week that he will write these papers and complete the course. He's a strong man. He's quietly determined and has a deep sense of dignity. Right now, his strength and dignity compels him to do all he can not to repeat the things he'd done in the past that have made his life today so difficult. His margin for error is very, very tiny.

2. After taking pictures on Saturday of the grim and cheerless monochromatic emptiness of downtown Eugene, today Russell and I went to Valley River Center in search of signs of holiday cheer. Here's a contrast of the two places:

3. The Deke roasted the chicken today that was going to be our Christmas dinner until we accepted a dinner invitation at the Walsh's. The chicken was tender, the roasted Yukon potatoes sweet, and the whole onions even sweeter: combined with smooth gravy, it was a perfect meal.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sibling Assignment #112: Lassie, Dorothy, Odysseus, Leontes, and On and On: There's No Place Like Home

Silver Valley Girl gave us this sibling assignment.

Think back to a movie you remember watching at our house in Kellogg, name the movie, what it was about, and what makes you remember watching it at the house.

Go here and read InlandEmpireGirl's sweet memories about Mary Martin starring in "Peter Pan" and this link will magically transport you to Silver Valley Girl's going back to watching "The Greatest Show on Earth" with our father.


For nearly thirty years, I've had a healthy obsession in my work as a literature instructor with the concept of "home".

It's a common structure in storytelling: a character leaves home or is exiled or goes on an adventure and the story reaches its climax with a homecoming.

But, it's more than just a structure. The return home is a return to belonging, peace, vitality, love, safety, security, union, well-being, balance, and a host of other life-giving (as opposed to life-denying) and enduring elements of the human experience.

Odysseus returns home to Penelope. Leontes experiences his wife, whom he thought was long dead, come to life at the end of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. He resurrection is a homecoming. Gilgamesh returns home. So does Rama.

This return home is, in my view of things, the heart of comedy, understood in the classic sense, not the goofball sense.

It's why Dante called his story of ultimate ascension to heaven, Commedia (Boccaccio later added the word Divina). The story is a comedy, free of gags and crudeness, but ripe with the joy of returning home to be with the great Originator, the great Creator, with God.

I've thought a lot about why I feel this deep affinity with stories about leaving home and returning and with the emotional satisfaction the joy of these stories brings me.

I think it goes back to one movie, "The Wizard of Oz" and one television series, "Lassie".

I can't imagine I need to say much about "The Wizard of Oz". It's a classic story of the loss of home and returning again.

As a kid, I didn't have any intellectual understanding of Dorothy's leaving home and returning, but it sure spiked me emotionally. I had no words, as a child, for Dorothy's famous line, "There's no place like home", but watching "The Wizard of Oz" at 14 E. Portland with the heat from our oil stove warming the living room and being safe from flying monkeys and a wicked witch, I experienced the meaning of home in profound emotional and spiritual ways.

The idea of home hit me the hardest, though, when the television show, "Lassie" had what I remember was a four episode series about Lassie getting lost and being away from Timmy, of being away from her home.

Lassie had a great adventure, but Timmy agonized over being separated from Lassie. He held out hope, he had faith, he did everything he could to will Lassie back home again.

Finally, Timmy gave up.

He went to the bottom of a hillock on the family farm and began digging a deep hole. To say good-bye to Lassie, he decided to bury Lassie's toys.

I was about five or six years old. I had never felt such agony. I could hardly bear to watch Timmy digging this grave.

Then (as I remember), just as Timmy was ready to toss the toys in the ground, he heard Lassie's bark. He looked up. Lassie came bounding over the hill. The "Lassie" theme music swelled.

Lassie was home again.

I bawled.

I was overwhelmed with joy.

Lassie was home.

Dorothy's and Lassie's homecomings shaped my emotional, and, later, intellectual, response to much of my favorite literature and to many of my favorite movies.

It's really what kellogg bloggin' is all about.

It's about where I come from, the feelings and perspectives that were born inside me in Kellogg, and my unending desire to return home again.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 12/23/09: Clarence Redux, Tripod Joy, Hawaiian Food Disaster

1. I walked down to the library to try to find Clarence again and I didn't find him, but once again I received an email from him and so tomorrow we have a set time and place to meet so he can get back on track and finish WR 121.

2. Russell dropped by and gave me a Christmas gift: a camera tripod. I've never used one and am eager to learn how to create pictures with it that I can't make with my shaky hands.

3. The food was so bad it was hilarious and the hilarity made it somehow beautiful to me: Hawaiian "BBQ" at the Kona Cafe on W 18th in Eugene. My chicken was so dry it almost tasted sandy. My wok noodles were rubber bands. The cafe was cold. In fact, on this foggy, chilly day, it was warmer outside than in the Kona Cafe. I like trying out new places to eat, and I've just crossed Kona Cafe off my return list forever.

Sibling Assignment #111: Grizzlies vs. Vandals, November 27, 1982

I gave this sibling assignment several weeks ago. I should add to it now that the Vandals are bowl bound, playing Bowling Green in Boise in the Humanitarian Bowl on Wednesday, December 30th. Here's the assignment I gave:

The surprising, shocking, soaring Idaho Vandals are off to a 7-2 start and, for me, it stirs memories of Vandal football in the late 60's through the early 80's. How about you? Do you have a story to tell about a particular Vandal game and what happened that is memorable to you, either on or off the field? Write it
You can go here and read InlandEmpireGirl's rememberances of the peaceful days in The Cage, not handing out many towels in the Women's Health Education Building and you can read about Silver Valley Girls lack of interest in football and how she went ahead and wrote this assignment all the same, here.

I admit it. I'm kind of proud of it. I'm easily impressed.

I think it's a Kellogg trait that I've never bothered to shed. Growing up in Kellogg, almost nothing was fancy, shiny, cool, up to date, hip, or anything, as we used to say, mod.

So, when I left Kellogg to go to, say, Coeur d'Alene or Spokane, everything seemed wondrous.

I bring this up because I loved going to Joe Albi Stadium and I thought it was the coolest place on Earth to watch a football game.

When I started college, my junior year, at Whitworth, a bunch of us went on a college provided shuttle bus to Joe Albi to watch Whitworth play Eastern Washington and I didn't really know my audience very well as I effused about what a great place Joe Albi Stadium was and how much I loved it.

Other students on the bus were from L.A. and San Francisco and other places and when we arrived at Joe Albi, they let me know it was, to them, a dump.

I felt stupid.

But today I'm proud of myself for loving Joe Albi Stadium. I'm proud that I loved the old Autzen Stadium much much more than the new expanded version. I'm proud that I love Mac Court and that I'm disappointed that it will soon be replaced by a shiny state of the art arena.

This brings me around to the Idaho Vandals.

The first games I saw at the University of Idaho were outdoors in a wooden structure exposed to the chilly Palouse winds called Neale Stadium.

I loved it.

Then the University of Idaho built an indoor stadium, the Kibbie Dome, or, as some called it, the Half-Astrodome.

I didn't really like the Kibbie Dome at first, but then it began to leak. It began to show other signs of being second class. It smelled funny, kind of moldy from the water leaks. It turned out not to be that slick. It was flawed. It suited my Kellogg expectations for things to always be kind of screwed up, and that's when I was impressed with it.

One more thing: I started going to the old Autzen Stadium in September of 1979 and I loved the Ducks right away because they weren't very good.

But, it was big time college football. I saw the Ducks play Washington, UCLA, USC, Colorado, Michigan State, Washington State, Stanford, among others, and it was full-blown NCAA Division I action.

On November 27, 1982, I got to go to Moscow and see the Vandals play Montana. It wasn't an NCAA Division I game. It couldn't be Division I. It was a playoff game, a concept foreign to Division I. No, this was a Division I-AA playoff game, first round, and the sight of the silver and gold Vandals storming the field to the Vandal fight song made my heart knock against my ribs.

The players were smaller. The stadium was second-rate. The cheerleaders weren't very glamorous.

But the football was great.

Idaho was coached by a rising star in the football world, a young upstart, Dennis Erickson.

Erickson's Vandals spread the field on offense with multiple receivers and a pass happy quarterback from the wee Clearwater River town of Kamiah, Ken Hobart.

Montana had its own special quarterback, Marty Mornhinweg, former head coach of the Detroit Lions and current offensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles, and he was mobile, tough, and a great passer.

Dad and I went to this game. Silver Valley Girl was in the marching band and Dad and I were in the stands, nervously anticipating a wide open game, and anxiously hoping the Vandals could avenge their earlier 40-16 loss to the Grizzlies back in October.

But the game did not pivot on either team's offensive fireworks.

It pivoted on two key moments in the fourth quarter, when Idaho's defense, led by future Seahawk, Sam Merriman, twice stuffed the Grizzlies on downs deep inside the red zone, deep, in fact, inside the ten yard line.

Dad and I cheered happily enough the first time the Vandals stuffed Montana, but with the second big stop, I began yelling one of my patented screams of disbelief: "I don't believe it! I don't believe it!" I dropped onto my seat. I put my head between my legs and shook my head, nearly crying: "I don't believe it!"

I turned to Dad: "Can you believe it! Can you believe it!"

Dad was a little misty himself and we joined the crowd in a deafening cry of "Let's go Idaho! Let's go Idaho!"

The Vandals won, 21-7.

They'd won their first ever Division IAA playoff game.

Dad knew I'd been watching a lot of games at Autzen Stadium. The Division I stuff.

His eyes popped wide open, then, when I turned to him before we started out climb out of the Kibbie Dome, and said, "Thanks for bringing me to this game, Dad. I've never enjoyed a game so much in my life."

Maybe it's because I'm from Kellogg and easily impressed, but, to this day, I loved that game the most..Idaho beating their chief rival. Division IAA football at its best.

Idaho left the lower ranks of college football and is a Division I team now. I saw them play at Autzen Stadium back in 2002. Oregon annihilated the Vandals.

Big deal. I was proud of Idaho.

I'd seen them on one of their glory days.

I'll always remember the glory whenever I see the silver and gold.

Let's go Idaho!

Victory in the Humanitarian Bowl!