Friday, December 31, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 12/30/10 : Breakfast at The Cooler, Composition, Nifty Dinner

1.  After a successful blood draw at Oregon Medical Group, I dropped into The Cooler for a patty of sausage, two eggs, hash browns, coffee, and sourdough toast.  I read the Register Guard.  For a while, only two customers were there.  I was and so was Kevin, a guy who walked in with sunglasses on, never took them off, and, who, in the time it took me to eat my breakfast,  downed two 16 ounce cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.  He told the woman working The Cooler about spending Christmas alone.  He didn't seem anywhere close to stopping his beer consumption when I left.  The Cooler stereo played great music:  Chicago, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, to mention a few.

2.  I learned more about photographic composition today and then went outside and tried to put these principles to work with my new D3100.  I'm not sure I succeeded, but it was fun to try things out and get an even deeper sense of how this camera is challenging me. 

3.  The Deke took it upon herself to venture out into the cold darkness of the late afternoon to rustle up some grub and returned with a you-bake pizza from Albertson's and a bag of Caesar salad.  Smiles broke out throughout the house and we had ourselves a nifty dinner. 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Color and Monochrome

I took the first photo, in color, at the Maude Kerns Art Center and Dan suggested I turn it into black and white.

Here's the color shot, followed by the black and white:

Three Beautiful Things 12/29/10 : George Foreman Grill and a Little Ali, Wandering Goat, Letting Apollo In

1.  Debut of the George Foreman grill: bacon in the morning, pork chops for dinner.  Pretty darn good.  If it didn't work well, I would have had to quote Ali from the Rumble in the Jungle, their huge fight in Zaire.  After about the sixth round, after Ali had taken thunderous punch after thunderous punch from Foreman, Ali trashed talked Foreman, "That all you got George?  George, that all you got?"  But, I didn't have to say that to the grill.  It's got quite a bit. 

2.  MB, Jeff, Michael and I moved our spirited coffee get together to the Wandering Goat, but forgot to dye our hair pink or bring a copy of Ayn Rand to set on our table.  I think we were ten minutes shy of getting the world's problems solved once and for all, but Jeff needed to get home to be with Louise.  Guess we'll never know.  Things didn't seem all that globally solved when I returned home.

3.   Most of my picture taking has been guided by how I respond emotionally to what lies before me. Much of what lies before me, on photo shoots with Russell, I see in dark or ironic ways.  Today I've been reading more about how to get my head or my mind more involved.  Hey Whitworth friends:  maybe I can become more Apollonian along with being Dionysian in taking pictures.  Wouldn't Leonard enjoy that!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 12/28/10 : I'm a Darlin'!, Hell of a Desk Lamp, First Pictures

1.  After my sausage, eggs, hash browns, English muffin, and black coffee breakfast at Ye Olde Pancake House on West 11th, I had fun with the barely twenty year old woman who cashed me out when she said, ""And how ya doin' darlin'?" and I replied, "I'm darling."  She giggled, blushed, asked me how my day was looking, wished me a Happy New Year, and we were both delighted by silly, friendly, fun little bit of back and forth while my Visa card ran.

2.  I went to Fred Meyer looking for one of those desk lamps that's oblong and has a green shade.  No luck.  But, I found another one that has two electrical outlets in its base and that really fired me up.  Right now the computer is plugged into my desk lamp.  I charged my camera battery with my desk lamp.  I charged my cell phone with my desk lamp.  This is one hell of a desk lamp.

3.  After a couple of days or so of reading about my Nikon D3100, I took my first pictures this evening.  I posted a handful of them here to complete a sibling assignment.  I posted others on Facebook.  Here's one I didn't post, but I like how far back it reaches into the interior of our house (I can almost see the pictures on the bulletin board in the kitchen).  I like the Deke's hand and pen doing the New York Time's crossword puzzle, the glass of wine -- and I like Maggie's relaxed pose. 

Sibling Assignment #140: Images of Christmas -- The Tree

InlandEmpireGirl's final Christmas season assignment instructed us to do the following:

In only images, portray Christmas from your point of view. 

Here goes, with my comments under each picture.

Our Christmas tree is pretty simple and I love the way it's been bringing light and the smells of the forest into this dark and dormant time of the year.

I really enjoy the red ornaments that dominate our tree.  In fact, I liked this one so much, I put my face on it!

 Here's another perspective of the red ornaments.

A tribute to the Deke's talents on stringed instruments:  a dulcimer.

Molly made the ornament that is a silhouette of Olivia and the fish is a tribute to David Diedrich, the Deke's brother who died a year ago.  He loved to fish.  The placement of these two ornaments close to each other is perfect.

Our tree has a bunch of candy canes, but I think only one sweater!

What is a Christmas tree without the traditional Christmas sock monkey?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 12/27/10 (Birthday Edition): Breakfast with Dale Bachman, Studying the D3100, Birthday Dinner a Real Pleasure

1.  I started my birthday at The Original Pancake House in Eugene for a three hour breakfast with Dale Bachman, assistant basketball coach at Kellogg High School in 1971-72.  He also coached the junior varsity and was a great English teacher.  It was really fun talking about Kellogg and finding out what's been happening with Dale since he moved to Oregon about thirty years ago.  If you were a Kellogg student and are reading this, Dale asked me to say hello to everyone. 

2.  Slowly, but surely, I'm gaining a more comprehensive understanding of the features and the workings and the possibilities of my new Nikon D3100.  It's fun and kind of overwhelming.  Pretty soon, I'm going to be ready to start shooting some pictures. 

3.  The Deke assembled the birthday dinner I always request:  meatloaf, baked potatoes, green beans, and dinner rolls.  She put The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook into action and everything turned out beautifully.  I treated myself to a Bass Ale/Guinness Black and Tan to accompany dinner:  also a great choice.  This superb meal along with phone calls from my mother and sisters capped off a really fine 57th birthday.  (By the way, my Grandma West and I were both born on December 27.  Were she alive today, she would be 116 years old.  I think she would have been a Willard Scott Smucker's birthday girl.)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 12/26/10: Guest at Brails, Andrew Hates the Pats, Rocket Science

1.  The Turner/Nunes family invited me to join them at Brails for breakfast.  Carmen slept in Tracy's lap most of the time.  It was great fun eating and being a part of the multiple conversations going on.  I fully enjoyed my ground round steak and eggs, too. 

2.  I met another Trox today, Ken, the Troxstar's brother at Good Times and we all met Andrew, an animated (drunk) Dolphins fan who hates the Pats with a passion, and it's not random:  it all stems from the Snowplow Game.  By the way, I have to clear up Andrew's errors.  The snow plow game happened in 1982 and it was a regular season game not a playoff game.  The following did not happen, although Andrew claimed it did:  "later Miami had a chance to kick a field goal and there was no snow plow for Miami."  No.  Miami did not have a chance at a field goal later.

3.  I bought a Nikon D3100 today.  Right now it's rocket science for me.  I hope one day to be able to say...look, you know that Nikon's not rocket science.

Three Beautiful Things 12/25/10: Black Velvet, Birthday Bouquet, Olivia Played and Played and Played

1.  I had never tried a Black Velvet before.  It's Guinness poured on top of champagne.  We popped the champagne just before our Christmas dinner and I was nearly dumbstruck by how much I enjoyed the Black Velvet.  

2.  I experimented with different settings and took several pictures of the bouquet of flowers Mom sent the Deke for her 60th birthday.  Here's the picture responders have enjoyed the most:

3.  Olivia played and played and played and played and played and played and played with her new baby stroller, giving rides to Elmo, Bert, Cookie Monster, her owl, her squirrel, Count von Count and others.  She gave us all a fun Christmas jolt!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 12/24/10: Learning to Fly, Have Seen A Great Light, Black and Tan Christmas Pondering

1.  I bought some holiday cheer at the liquor store and as I exited, somewhere, above me, around me, some business's sound system played Tom Petty's "Learning to Fly".  It stopped me in my tracks and leaned against a post, still, and listened and the best memories of dancing in Diane's living room with my Kellogg friends and the way I was learning to fly growing up in Kellogg washed over me.

2.  I'd forgotten how beautiful St. Mary's Episcopal Church looks in candlelight with the greens hanging and I loved reading the Old Testament lesson (Isaiah 9:2-7), which begins: "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light."  That's it.  Christmas.

3.  I arrived home from church at 12:30, early Christmas morning.  The house was still.  I opened a bottle of Guiness and a Bass Ale and used my new Black and Tan Turtle to pour Guiness over Bass Ale in my new Guiness pint mug.  I turned the Chrismas music back on, sat in our comfortable chair, and pondered the worship I had just been moved by, Christmas Days over the years, and the Christmas Day that lay ahead.  Everything beautiful converged in my early Christmas morning solitude.  

Friday, December 24, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 12/22/10: Dog Park, Wet Chow Fun, Partyin' with Patrick

1.  Russell and I went went to the Autzen Stadium area to take pictures.  I stood for a while and watched the dogs play with a decided mixture of joy and melancholy:  I loved watching the dogs enjoy themselves and it saddened me that Snug can't relax and play with other dogs.  I badly wanted Snug there.  It just can't happen.

2.  The woman who runs Yi-Shen was suddenly confused when Russell and I walked in.  "Is it Saturday?" No, it was Thursday -- we threw her off a little -- but, after a good laugh, we ordered some food -- I really enjoyed the Wet Chow Fun with roast pork again -- flavorful and chili peppery. 

3.  I went sleep around 8:30 or so and got up around 11:30 and Patrick had arrived home from Portland and Molly and the Deke were up with him talking and laughing and I joined in.  I'm so glad I didn't totally sleep through the whole party!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sibling Assignment #139: Christmas and Movies and Michael Q.

 InlandEmpireGirl gave another holiday sibling assignment this week.

"What movie most connects you to Christmas?" 

My sisters both wrote pieces on "White Christmas" here and here.

My simple answer to this question:  None.

How sad.

I love movies, but the movies I love are dark, serious, filled with doom, where as Christmas is light, fun, and filled with hope.

I've never watched "White Christmas".  I don't experience "It's a Wonderful Life" as a Christmas movie.  I enjoy "Miracle on 34th Street", but it's never done much to connect me with Christmas. For me, it's not a bah humbug thing -- not at all -- it's just that there isn't a movie out there that connects me with what I most enjoy at Christmas.

Maybe if someone made an existential movie about a dread-filled Episcopalian Solemn High Eucharist, it would connect me to Christmas, bringing together the kind of movie I've been watching lately with my favorite thing to do at Christmas.

The movie could be titled, "Where Two or More Are Gathered, There's Always a Fifth". 

So, how can I fulfill this assignment?

I got to thinking about  Christmas and movies and a bittersweet memory arose.

Back in 1982, I had moved to Spokane to take a job as a temporary full-time instructor at Whitworth College, separating me from my friends in Eugene who were in the English Dept.'s graduate program.

Michael was my best of those friends.  Sadly, by about spring of 1985, our friendship ended.  A breach that never closed opened between us for reasons I'm not sure I understand to this day.  That breach will remain for as long as I live. 

Michael died on September 19, 2009.

When Michael and I were friends, it was really fun.  We shared three loves:  teaching, sports, and movies.

Michael was alienated from his family.  I really don't remember the situation.  For this piece, it doesn't matter.  All that matters is that Michael and I decided to spend the Christmas season of 1982 together, first in Spokane, and then in Kellogg.

In the fall of 1982, video cassette players were not ubiquitous yet.  I, however, was newly single, working full-time, living in a cheap apartment, and had a little money to throw around. 

I bought a Betamax and a new television in November.

In the fall of 1982, cable television providers had confidence that television viewers wanted quality broadcasting.  The Spokane cable provider was Cox, and part of the Cox basic cable package was a now long defunct movie channel, Spotlight ("Spotlight, shining bright, day and night, we light up the stars for you!").

I loved Spotlight and immediately went to work recording many of Spotlight's late 1982 offerings:  "Harold and Maude", "The Hustler", "Gallipoli", "The King of Marvin Garden", "Melvin and Howard", "Atlantic City", "The Stunt Man", "Montenegro" and many other movies I'd heard of but never seen, or only seen once, movies that were not quite mainstream.  I couldn't believe how many of these movies Spotlight showed.

I also became a member at a video rental place on North Division.  It had great selections.  I didn't have a car, but bus service on North Division was regular and getting down there and back was never a problem.  In fact, sometimes I walked.  This place provided me with even more great movies.

A few days before Christmas, Michael arrived on AmTrack and we dove right into the movies.

He introduced me to "Scarecrow" and "Apocalypse Now" and we watched several others, eating chicken breasts roasted in my toaster oven and walking over to the nearby 7-11 for Big Gulps of Coca-Cola to help keep us awake.

Michael was really smart and insightful.  He had what we called in graduate school "a sharp critical mind" and we had a great time watching these movies, admiring every one we saw, and breaking down all the reasons why. 

It usually had to do with structure.

I'm not sure how we got to Kellogg and back.  My guess is my mom or dad drove to Spokane and picked up Grandma Woolum and me and Michael. 

Mom and Dad had The Movie Channel, I think, and that Christmas the movie viewing and discussions continued.

I think Michael had a really good time having Christmas at our house.  I hope he did.

Viewing all those movies, talking about them, and getting ready to teach my "Family in American Drama" class combined to make the Christmas season of 1982 one of my very favorite Christmas times ever.

We didn't watch any Christmas movies, but being with such a good friend and indulging so deeply in our passion for movies connected me deeply with Christmas. 

I miss those days with Michael.

Three Beautiful Things 12/22/10: Taxes, Taxes, Taxes

1.  I took our family's 2009 tax records out of the cupboard.

2.  I took the records into my cleaned up bedroom and cleared off desk.

3.  I only need one piece of information (it might be a while) and I'll have my 2009 taxes submitted.  I think I'll get an earlier start on 2010.  Sigh.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 12/21/10: Desk Cleared, Coffee with the Traveler, Birthday Dinner Success!

1.  It makes a big difference in my room when I get the desk cleaned off and it's not just one big chaotic pile of unopened mail, DVDs, CDs, papers, and wires to speakers, the radio, the scanner, the printer, etc.  Clearing off the desk cleared my mind a bit.

2.  MB, Michael, Jeff, and I met at Starbuck's on Mohawk Blvd., several blocks north of where Louise continues to recuperate from her heart surgery.  Jeff had a great reunion in Holland with the Dutch family he lived with his senior year in high school.  I drove Jeff back to the hospital and dropped in to see Louise:  she looks much better than she did on Sunday.

3.  Birthday dinner success!  For the Deke's birthday I roasted Brussel sprouts, baked a handful of potatoes, made garlic toast, and fried sirloin steaks with onions and mushrooms.  I'm happy to say, particularly because it was a birthday dinner, that these were the best steaks I've ever cooked on the electric frying pan.  Not only was the seasoning just right, I fried them (in butter) to the medium rare point of perfection.  My steak cooking confidence is growing.  The Deke was really happy with the dinner.  That made me really happy.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 12/20/10: Iron Butterfly Morning, Wandering-Imagining, Hot Wings

1.  It was an "In A Gadda Da Vida" morning.  I got the dishwasher unloaded before the drum solo. Primo.

2.  I shopped at the North Eugene Market of Choice and wandered up and down the aisles, slowly imagining dinner possibilites.

3.  I hadn't fixed Hot Wings since November 9, to help sustain Anne, Russell, and me through the World Series of Poker final nine.  Tonight it was time again, in part to please Molly and the Deke, and, in part, to compensate for the spicy chicken wings I'd had Sunday night at McMenamin's.  I wan't that crazy about those wings and wanted wings I am crazy about.  And, I added a new element:  Italian Ciabatta cut into smallish pieces, buttered, sprinkled with garlic powder, and put under the broiler.  Not only was this garlic bread great on its own, it somehow went really well with the Hot Wings. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 11/18/10: Students Teaching the Teacher, Olivia's Charms, Texistentialism

1.  I had a great morning of student conferences and I hope my students learned a little about writing from me. From them I learned about struggles, adventures, courage, persistence, determination, stamina, and experiences in life far, far  beyond my own.

2.  Billy Mac's was abuzz with customers and a huge party of people took over the part of the restaurant my friends and I usually sit in.  I was mildly resentful of them until, toward the end of the night, they became enchanted with my granddaughter, Olivia, and all stopped their conversations and dining to wave and say good by to her as she and Molly left the restaurant.

3.  I gave myself a little concert at YouTube of the Flatlanders and a couple of songs my Jimmie Dale Gilmore.  Sublime.

Three Beautiful Things 11/21/10: Secret Sisters with Jack Black, Weight Off, Snug Comfort

1.  The highlight of my day listening to Outlaw Country on XM satellite radio channel 12 occurred during Shooter Jennings' Electric Rodeo program when he played The Secret Sisters with Jack Black performing "Big River".

2.  Making a significant dent in my stack of World Lit papers took much of the day and lifted a weight off my mind, but there's much more grading still ahead of me.

3.  On days like today, when I stay home and work, it means spending the entire day with Snug pressed against the side of my chest or against my legs and sometimes he takes a break from pressing against me and decides to lick my face for a few minutes.  I'm more and more amazed all the time at the depth of comfort I experience with Snug close to me.

Three Beautiful Things 12/19/10: Visiting Louise, Rocking Luke, Pats Win

1.  I visited one of my favorite Lane County haunts after church:  McKenzie-Willamette hospital.  Louise just had triple by-pass surgery on Friday and I paid her and Jeff a visit.  When I arrived in the waiting room, Jeff was there alone.  Louise was resting and wanted to be alone, but after he and I visited for a while, a nurse summoned him.  Louise wanted him there to feed her ice cream and jello and I joined in and got to see Louise for a few minutes.  She was groggy and recovering.  Her doctor seems pleased with how things are going.

2.  After showing up on Saturday to be a reader in St. Mary's Lessons and Carols service, twenty-four hours early, I arrived with the Troxstar on the right day today.  We were both readers.  We rocked Luke.

3.  The Troxstar and I slid right out of the church and went to the 19th Street Pub to watch the Pats and the Packers over a beer or two, breadsticks, and spicy chicken wings.  For those who like McMenamins' cajun seasoning, the wings would be good, but I can't recommend them, even though I ate a bunch of them.  The best part of the 19th St. visit was cracking wise with the Troxstar and rooting the Pats to a close win.  The game's best moment was Dan Connolly's sick kickoff return.  I had, in my over forty years of watching the NFL, never seen anything like it.  He's the NFL's best 6'4", 313 pound kickoff returner. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 12/18/10: Maude Kerns Photos, Wet Chow Fun, Cocktail Glasses

1.  It was a lot of fun touring around the general neighborhood of the Maude Kerns Art Center snapping pictures with Russell.  I haven't looked at my photos yet, so......

2.  I really enjoyed the wet chow fun with roasted pork at Yi-Shen.  The dish was moderately hot and spicy and the slightly crunchy roasted pork at Yi-Shen always works for me.  I think I'm about 21 dishes shy of making my way through their whole menu.

3.  It makes no sense, but I had a great time driving out to the West 11th liquor store to get the ingredients to make the Deke a birthday week Old-Fashioned and stopping off at Fred Meyer to purchase, among other things, four new cocktail glasses so that the Deke could have her birthday week requested drink in a spanking new, classier than what we have, glass. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 12/17/10: First Time with Rachael Ray, Good Mood at Market of Choice, The Rockford Files

1.  I had my first kitchen go around with Rachael Ray today.  I had some ground beef in the freezer I wanted to use and for some unknown reason, sloppy joes popped in my mind as a fun dinner.  A search of the World Wide Web led me to a Rachael Ray recipe I liked the looks of and, indeed, when the great forces of Rachael Ray, the electric frying pan, and yours truly converged, a really good sloppy joe meal resulted.  Want to look at the recipe?  Just go here.

2.  Shopping at Market of Choice, getting stuff for the sloppy joes, I suddenly realized for reasons I cannot account for that I was in a really good mood.  It might have even been an obnoxiously good mood.  The result:  some really fun banter with the woman from Las Vegas who was the checker and then the lad bagging my groceries joined in.  We laughed.  We cracked wise.  Smiles all around.  It was fun.

3.  Ahhh..."The Rockford Files"....I watched an episode before going to bed.  It was the least favorite episode I've ever seen and, still, I enjoyed it a lot and it was fun to see James Garner and Linda Evans flirt and make out. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 12/16/10: Done, Existential Preoccupation, Fourth Grade

1.  I think wrapped up my fall quarter duties today when I submitted student essays to two different program assessment projects.

2.  The existential beauty of "A Delicate Balance" stayed with me all day and it was within this framework that I thought much of the day about "Michael Clayton".  They are really different stories, tied together by their explorations of whether human life has meaning.

3.  The Deke was at her best at Billy Mac's tonight, bringing the joys of teaching the fourth grade alive for Michael, Pam, Kathleen, Lynn, and me. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 12/08/10: Some Students Love Poetry, Spanish Rice, Superb Coffee Talk

1.  Sometimes students write a note at the end of a paper expressing gratitude for some aspect of the course we've been working on.  The poetry of Rumi and the study of ancient Chinese and Japanese poetry inspired such notes from some of my students as this quarter draws to an end.  It's really gratifying.  This poetry is so different than what any of us normally read, whether we read poetry or not, and to have it beauty and wisdom touch some of my students further stokes the fires of my love for teaching these works.

2.  Back to the electric frying pan tonight, and in a hurried fashion.  I wanted to cook a meal for Molly, Olivia, and the Deke in under an hour before I went to coffee with MB and Michael and I decided it was as good of a time as any to break into the world of Spanish rice.  It was a perfect choice.  Once the Painted Hills hamburger was browned and the onions and red pepper were tender, I dumped a can of diced tomatoes over it, simmered it for a while, and then tossed rice into the mix and let it all cook slowly until the rice was ready to eat.  I wasn't present when Molly, Olivia, and the Deke dug in, but when I got home, the reports were pretty positive.  (Next time:  more rice.)

3.  Coffee with MB and Michael.  Wow.  It's the end of the quarter and we were in a self-examining mood, ready to share notes regarding how well we thought we'd done our work over the last ten weeks or so.  We uttered not one complaint about our students, but helped each other with observations regarding what enables our students and what impedes them from doing good work.  This teaching is a humbling undertaking.  I never, as they say, "have it down".  I keep seeing ways I do my work well and see ways I fall short (in my eyes) and so I will begin a period of self-examination and self-evaluation when winter break begins and see if I can figure out ways to continue to improve.  It's tricky.  I don't know what to expect in the winter.  I'll have all new students and with all new students comes an entirely new set of challenges and unknowns.  Thank goodness I have my fellow teachers to talk with and thank goodness none of us our work as a matter of "just do this" or "just do that".  There is no "just".   I have to stay alert to the moment and always be on my toes.

I'd like to add that MB, Michael, and I also had a great discussion about teaching, reading, and thinking about literature, too.  In particular, we discussed the challenge of discovering and teaching stories that are positive, that affirm life.  So much literature is dark.  It was fun to discuss books and stories like "The Accidental Tourist" or "The Color Purple" or "Tempest Tost" or "Middlemarch" that explore what gives life vitality and tell stories wherein characters dead to life, robbed of vitality, come to life.

Three Beautiful Things 12/12/10: Patience, Pats, Cold Ginger Chicken

1.  Sharon Rodgers delivered a superb sermon for the Advent season.  Her subject?  Patience.  James 5: 7-10: "Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord."

2.  The Troxstar contacted me early in the afternoon and invited me to join him to watch the Pats and the Bears at Good Times.  I had some cooking to take care of and then I motored down to meet him and the Pats were crushing the Bears so we pretty much quit watching the game and got down to the business of figuring out how to make the world a perfect place.  I think we nailed it.  Now if we could get everyone to follow our plan.

3.  Daniel posted a recipe for Cold Ginger Chicken that grabbed my attention and I made it today.  It was a great recipe and Molly and the Deke both enjoyed the dish.  So did I.

Michael Clayton

Aside from it starring George Clooney, I didn't know anything about the movie "Michael Clayton" when I pushed it into my laptop's DVD drive. 

As the movie began to unfold, I realized I was still very much under the influence of "A Delicate Balance".  I sensed, almost from the outset, a deep sense of dread in this movie.  And I was right.

I remember one day, maybe ten years ago, the Deke and I were shopping at Costco.  Suddenly, a ways away from us, a boy with, I think, Downs Syndrome, threw himself to the floor and started screaming in agony. 

The crowds, the piles of merchandise, the noise, the intense visual stimulation, I think, got to him and he went off.

He acted out the madness of Costco.

In movies, sometimes such a character will emerge, a character who goes mad, who is having the appropriate response to the madness in the world, who can no longer act as if insanity is sane. 

Sometimes these characters play out our dread, too.

In "Michael Clayton" this character is Arthur (Tom Wilkinson). 

Unless we, as viewers, have decided morality and social justice don't matter, as "Michael Clayton" unfolds, we feel a building dread that the people poisoning corporate chemical company U North will win the day, a dread that justice exists only as it is paid for, a dread that our lives are at the mercy of worldly forces beyond the reach of justice.

Arthur voices this dread.  He acts it out.  He begins to sabotage the U North's case, his client's case and openly voice the dread he feels for the work he's done on behalf of injustice.  He even strips himself of his clothes in a deposition hearing, as if he were ridding himself of the appearance or illusion of working for justice, eager to stand naked, to expose the hypocrisy of his years and years of work on this case.  His hands are bloody.

As I watched this movie, I felt Michael Clayton's dread, too, the dread of his failures and the dread of being in grave danger.

I kept asking myself, during the movie, how often I am capable of courage in the face of dread and danger.  I know that as I get older, it feels like my courage dwindles; I seem more prone to cocoon myself, hide away, avoid that which I'm afraid of. 

But not Michael Clayton.  He does not melodramatically assert his courage, but with intelligence and his keen sense of being a fixer, he faces the forces that have put him in danger.

George Clooney played this cool courage perfectly.

Three Beautiful Things 12/15/10: Thinking, Soup Cooking, Michael Clayton

1.  I've been wanting to get my mind working in a different direction and to write more. I have trouble doing this under the demands of my teaching schedule.   "A Delicate Balance" helped and I enjoyed writing my thoughts about the play/movie and writing about that turning point in my life when my illusions of permanence in marriage crashed. 

2.  I took out the remains of the day from when Sunday when I boiled a whole chicken to prepare Cold Ginger Chicken and, today, I fixed chicken noodle soup -- which, after dinner, and after sitting for a while, turned into chicken noodles.  I tried something slightly different.  I bought a package of drumsticks and cooked them in the crock pot with onion before taking the meat off the bone and tossing it into the broth.  It was a convenient, didn't heat up the kitchen, and the meat came easily off the bone -- and this approach resulted in more broth. 

3.  I watched "Michael Clayton" this evening.  I enjoyed it thoroughly.  George Clooney, in particular, got to me the way he played the title character.  Michael Clayton is burdened by a variety of pressures in his professional, business, personal, and family life and it's all coming to bear on him during the four days played out in this story.  Clooney plays Clayton as savvy, worldly, and jaded, and as he comes to realize more of the truth about what's happening in his world, his conscience comes alive and he acts morally in his amoral world.  Clooney's Michael Clayton is no crusader, is not moved by righteousness, is not above the fray.  In his worldly, fatigued way, he does what needs to be done when he could have walked away.    (By the way, did anyone else who's seen both movies see the very end of "Michael Clayton" as a sly homage to "The Long Good Friday"?)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance: A Reflection

I first read Edward Albee's "A Delicate Balance" sometime in 1981, possibly as part of an Independent Study with Prof. William Handy, possibly in conjunction with his course in Modern American Drama, possibly in the early summer of 1981 as I prepared to take a graduate field examination in American Drama.

That summer of 1981 was my last summer with Eileen.  We had just moved out of Westmoreland married student housing, across town, into a two level, two bedroom apartment adjoining our friends Barbara and John's house.  I had never lived in a place I enjoyed more.  We were near campus, Prince Puckler's ice cream was available just down the street, and so was a book store, created out of a Victorian house (it's now Beppe & Gianni's Trattoria).

That summer of 1981 was my last summer with Eileen.  But, truth be told, we weren't really together that summer.  Eileen landed an internship at The Oregonian and lived with her brother's family and we saw each other less and less as the summer continued.  Our permanent separation was in the works.

Naively secure in our marriage, I enjoyed the time alone that summer and, in the early part of the summer, that time I enjoyed was reading American plays, getting ready for my exam.  I placed notes from different periods of the American theater in different parts of the house so when I thought about, say, Thornton Wilder, I imagined our dining table, tucked into a nook looking out a bay window on to 19th; notes on Tennessee Williams climbed the staircase;  Eugene O'Neill looked out on 19th from the upstairs bedroom that was my study; Edward Albee was spread out on my living room floor; Arthur Miller was on the sofa.  

I had had a mistaken sense of 20th century literature coming into this study of American Drama.  I had somehow finished my undergraduate studies thinking that existentialism was an exclusively European concern.

I chuckle now.  American drama relieved me of this misunderstanding.

In fact, serious American theater built its reputation upon the conflict in the United States between the assumed optimism, good cheer, and hope of the American Dream and the spiritual emptiness, dread, and violence that lies beneath this exterior.  Albee put it this way, seeing his play "American Dream" as "an examination of the American Scene, an attack on the substitution of artificial for real values in our society, a condemnation of complacency, cruelty, and emasculation and vacuity, a stand against the fiction that everything in this slipping land of ours is peachy-keen."

If my life that summer had been the subject of an American play, I would have been the American gull, the naive man in his late twenties who had no idea he was in a slipping marriage, who thought all was peachy-keen, even as I was studying the portrayal of these exact kinds of illusions in the 20th century American drama.

Last night, while watching Katharine Hepburn (Agnes) and Paul Scofield (Tobias) and Kate Reid (Claire) and Lee Remick (Julia) and Betsy Blair (Edna) and Joseph Cotten (Harry) in the film version of "A Delicate Balance" it all came back to me.  The dread came back, the dread which started out in the summer of 1981 as an intellectual idea, a topic of intellectual exploration, a subject around which to possibly generate an essay on my exam.

Harry and Edna can no longer live in their own home because of this dread.  It's an unlocated dread.  It's not a dread brought about by fear of nuclear annihilation or the dread brought on by the fear of economic collapse.  No.  It's an existential dread.  It's the dread one feels when the possibility surfaces in one's consciousness that this life of clubs and gin and scotch and business success and a beautiful house and good friends might be meaningless, might be empty, might serve little or no purpose at all.  For Harry and Edna, it's terrifying.  That cannot live alone with it.  They bring their dread to the home of Anges and Tobias.  In fact, they move in.

Paul Scofield plays this dread as elegance.  He moves elegantly, dresses elegantly, drinks elegant drinks, speaks elegantly and eloquently while his elegant face is removed, his elegant eyes fatigued, his elegant voice flat, nearly a monotone for much of the play.  His elegance betrays his ennui.  He must sleep with Agnes when Harry and Edna move in and during the night he retires from their upstairs bedroom to the main floor.  The furnace is off.  He sits in the cold.

It's the chill of dread, the cold vacuity at the core of these socially privileged characters in "A Delicate Balance".

I passed my graduate exam, continued to live alone, studied German, began studying for my Renaissance Drama exam, and continued to believe everything was peachy-keen.  I paid dread little heed.

When Eileen told me she wanted out of our marriage, the dread I'd ignored surfaced as yelling, pounding walls, sobbing, throwing up, begging, pleading, promising -- that which terrified me most was in my home:  separation, loss, inadequacy, failure.  Eileen exposed my dread.  It grew into despair and took physical form as illness.

It was November.  I left Eileen's bed.  We heated the downstairs with wood fire and after about midnight the fire was out and chill filled the room.

Albee's portrayal, in "A Delicate Balance" of dread and the spiritual terror of loss and displacement were no longer subjects for a field exam or intellectual ideas informing literary criticism.

I was consumed by the chill of dread.

I experienced all of this again last night as I watched "A Delicate Balance".

The beauty of the play uplifted me.  Albee's dramatic prose is always on the verge of becoming verse, of becoming poetry.  I loved the performances, particularly Paul Scofield and Kate Reid.

I relived a rite of passage.  In 1981, I moved out of the innocence of believing in permanence into the darker and chilled regions of my own dread, of deeper consciousness, of inconsolable suffering.
I'm always aware of the chill, the dread, the sorrow.

Every day I wonder, and this is within the context of my life of faith, what purpose life has -- my life has -- and I always feel that slight ache,  hear those nagging whispers reminding me that it's all temporary, that nothing lasts, and that no matter the company I keep, in some way, I'll always be alone.

The chill abides.

Three Beautiful Things 12/14/10: Grades Posted, Fun With Pork, A Delicate Balance

1.  I posted grades, a bittersweet conclusion to the quarter.  I enjoy posting high grades and it's a pleasure to post high grades for students who did great work.  It's not a pleasure to flunk students who disappeared or didn't write all their papers.  If I could change anything in my professional life, I would wave a magic wand and not have to deal with students who disappear or who don't write all their essays.  Flunking them is really unpleasant. 

2.  I marinated the last third of the too large pork loin roast I bought at Thanksgiving with Stubb's Pork Marinate for nearly forty-eight hours and then slow-cooked it with potatoes, onion, and celery.  It was fun to take on of our white platters and put the sliced pork in the middle and surround it with the potatoes, onions, and celery.  It was a good dinner.  I enjoyed Molly's and the Deke's mmms and yums.

3.  I went back in time tonight to 1980-81, the school year when I focused much of my study on American Drama in preparation for a field exam in my graduate program.  I watched, on DVD, Edward Albee's "A Delicate Balance", directed by Tony Richardson, featuring Paul Scofield, Katharine Hepburn, Kate Reid, Lee Remick, Joseph Cotten, and Blair Brown.  The film was made as part of the American Film Theater series.  It's a long, wearing, poetic, brilliant, tiring, wearisome, beautiful portrayal of ennui, of dread, of loss, of emptiness, of white upper class American suburban angst.  This production is brilliantly acted.  Its impact on me?  Fear.  Is this what our lives come to?  Is this what happens when we enter our sixties?  Drained?  Quiet despair?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 12/13/10: So Long Bret Farv, Back to Fuller Bloggin', Facebook Reunion

1.  I've been having fun over the last several weeks writing as if I were an obsessively devoted fan of Brett Favre's and making the persona a guy so overwhelmed by his love for Favre that he doesn't bother to spell his name correctly.  He calls him Bret Farv.  Tonight Favre's remarkable consecutive games started streak ended at 297 games and my guess is that his playing career has ended, too.  If it has, the Bret Farv satire will also end, but it was fun while it lasted, fun to play the role of a hero worshiping football fan. 

2.  It felt really good to write some posts in Kellogg Bloggin' that were more than my daily Three Beautiful Things.  I hadn't written such a post for quite a while.  Both the posts I wrote today completed Sibling Assignments.  My sisters and I had fallen away from writing these assignments over the last couple of months and I love that we are back doing them again.  I've also found some inspiration in the writing of my old Whitworth roommate, Rocket.  He's started a blog and I'm enjoying learning more about him and enjoying his reflections.  His blog is here

3.  I realized today that I'd been unfriended by a friend I've known since our days at Whitworth.  I didn't know what happened or when the unfriending happened, but I hoped if I made an invitation we would be Facebook friends again.  Deborah and I are Facebook friends again.  My first response was relief.  Then came joy.  Deborah wrote me a note this evening and I loved it and I had earlier look at pictures of her daughters and her new grandson and of Deborah and Scott.  I loved seeing these pictures and seeing the beauty of Deborah's family. 

Sibling Assignment #138: Ebenezer Scrooge and I

InlandEmpireGirl assigned this, the second of the Christmas-themed Sibling Assignments:

 What book or story most connects you to Christmas and why?

InlandEmpireGirl's piece, "A Christmas Carol Muppet Style" is here.   Silver Valley Girl will post hers after she has finished attending 200 Christmas concerts in the Silver Valley this week.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, 1999 had to be one of the most difficult holidays I've ever known and my condition made it a very difficult day for my family here in Eugene.

I'd been out of the hospital for well over a month after nearly dying at the hands of bacterial meningitis and the meningitis continued to work its insidious effects on me. 

To be exact, I'd fallen into a deep, dark clinical depression and could not shake myself free.

I went to my desk and stared, wanting to bury my face in my hands and sob, the pressure on my head and my heart from this depression was so painful, so heavy, so unrelenting, so unforgiving. 

I wasn't Scrooge, exactly.

Scrooge walls himself off from the merriment of Christmas;  I longed for the merriment of Christmas. 

Scrooge's melancholy is of the spirit; mine was of the chemicals in my brain.

What we shared in common, though, was heaviness.  My physcial movements were labored.  My response to anyone who spoke to me was labored, sluggish, almost as if I were drugged.

The weight of my illness oppressed me, just as the weight of his protectiveness, cold-heartedness, and miserliness oppresses Scrooge.

I'll always remember watching the 1984, George C. Scott version of A Christmas Carol primarily for a scene that follows closely upon Scrooge being relieved of his cold-heartedness and stinginess by the visit of the three ghosts.

George C.Scott's Scrooge calls out his upstairs window to a boy to buy the biggest turkey in a local shop and then he suddenly feels the lightness of his being.  He exclaims that he feels light as a feather and dances about his room, jumps on his bed, and indulges the weightlessness of his new found vitality.

At Christmastime, 1999, I longed to be light, to be giddy, to feel alive, to feel vitality.

I wanted to be the reformed Scrooge and exchange my lumbering spirit for a lithesome one.

My spirit was willing, but, up against the chemistry of my brain and the ravages of meningitis, my flesh was weak.

Still, it's that moment of liberation in Scrooge's life that stays with me, the way he was once a dead man who found new life and who released himself from the oppressive demons that had weighed him down his entire adult life.

It was a long time before I began to feel light again.  As I sit here now, I am happy to say that it's been since about March of 2009 since I've had an onset of black hole, paralyzing depression.

Each day that my spirit is light, I think of Scrooge.  Even if I don't do it outwardly, inwardly I dance around the room of my inward life and delight in every day that I can be light as a feather.

Sibling Assignment #137: Christmas Unity

InlandEmpireGirl gave the latest sibling assignment.

"Think of a Christmas memory tied to a school experience and why it has stayed with you."

You will find Silver Valley Girl's memories of Christmas programs here and InlandEmpireGirl's memories of school projects, here.

I'm moved by traditional Christmas carols.  When I was a youngster, these carols were part of my Sunday School/church life, alive in the public schools, and were always present in our home.

While I understand why traditional Christmas carols, the ones celebrating the birth of Jesus, are no longer sung in public schools, I'm happy I was in public school when they were. 

 My enjoyment of these carols wasn't theological.  In fact, my favorite carol in college was "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and I experienced it more as existential than Christian with its "dreamless sleep", "silent stars", and "dark streets".

No, it was the sound.  It was the uplift. 

I enjoyed school assemblies when choirs performed and the whole student body joined together in singing carols like "Joy to the World".   The joy to me wasn't that the "Lord has come" but that we were all joined in in unity in a joyful sound. 

When I transferred to Whitworth College, in 1974, it was my first experience being a part of something called an "intentional Christian community".  I thought I knew what that meant back in 1974. Now, I realize that my sense of being a part of an intentional Christian community was mostly a feeling of bondedness with others, whether the bondedness was actual or I imagined it.

Whatever was real or imagined about the feelings of belonging, trust, happiness, commonality, intellectual stimulation, and companionship that I felt walking within the confines of the Pine Cone Curtain, those feelings invigorated me and my life felt the most meaningful and purposeful it ever had.

I don't know if what I'm about to write really happened, but I remember it.

I know this is true:  every Tuesday and Thursday at 10:15 the student body of Whitworth College met in Cowles Auditorium for Forum.  Forum featured speakers, slide shows, readings, presentations, and, sometimes, music.

At the end of fall semester, my shaky memory tells me we had a Christmas Forum.  I think the choir sang.  Maybe there was instrumental music, too.  I think we prayed.

My first Christmas Forum was in 1974.  I loved my life.  I loved Eileen, whom I would marry two years later.  I loved my studies, especially Shakespeare and Old Testament and Russian History.  I loved being a part of an intentional Christian community.

At the end of that Christmas Forum, the gathered student body of Whitworth College, as I remember it, sang Christmas carols together. 

I lost it.  Suddenly all the people I'd sung carols with at Kellogg's United Church of Christ came into Cowles Auditorium with me. Margaret Eggart.  George Buchanan.  Pheobe Romine. Lee Holland.  Then came all the kids from Silver King Elementary and Sunnyside Elementary and it was as if Debbie Daughtery and Sandie Lewis and Debbie Smith and Cindy Rowley had joined me at the Christmas Forum. 

Suddenly, though, I wasn't in the physcial Cowles Auditorium any longer, but in a Cowles Auditorium of my emotional memory.  The seats of this Cowles Auditorium began to fill up with kids from Kellogg Junior High: Debbie Wakefield, Christy Kamppi, Sue Dahlberg, Stu, Jerry Stouffer, and then teachers:  Mr. Benson and Mrs. Jacobsen. 

The students and professors and staff of Whitworth College were singing "Joy to the World" in Cowles Auditorium, but the Cowles Auditorium in my heart and soul continued to fill up with fellow Kellogg High School choir members.  Dave Bauman read the Christmas prayer.  Mr. Exum conducted the girls' ensemble and Marty Shelt and Deanna McPeak appeared and soon I was in the Christianson Gymnasium at North Idaho College singing selections from the Messiah ("Who is this King of Glory?") under the direction of Rick Frost and I want to believe that our choir led the community atttending our Christmas concert in singing Christmas carols and the joy I felt as a member of the Cardinal Chorale returned, the joy of going to places all over the Coeur d'Alene area performing Christmas songs at churches, golf clubs, and restaurants.  I want to believe that those performances ended with Christmas carol sing-a-longs.

It all came rushing back to me as the congregated student body of Whitworth College boomed out "Joy to the World" and a different, more somber feeling filled me as we sang, "Silent Night".

Why has this stayed with me? 

It was a rare moment of unity where my school days, church days, and college days were at one with each other.

To me, this unity is God.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 12/11/10: Intro to Souza, West University Photos, Tapa Style Dining

1.  Randy (the Troxstar) invited me to be Facebook friends with chums of his from Middleboro, MA and today Randy and I had coffee at the Wandering Goat with Jon Souza, one of Randy's life long Middleboro friends.  We had a great time getting further acquainted,  talking and laughing and cracking wise. 

2.  Russell and I strolled 12th Street and adjoining alleys in the Mill and Ferry area, snapping pictures in the rain.  I haven't decided what I think of my pictures.  I looked them over once and maybe they'll look better to me when I check them out again.  The subject matter was good.  I'm not sure I was up to the seizing the photo ops very well.

3.  We decided to have something like tapas for dinner so I went to the store and brought home a baguette, crackers, red wine salami, another kind of salami, lemon garlic green olives, kalamata olives, cream cheese, feta cheese, Irish cheddar cheese, Gouda, brie cheese, olive paste, pepperoncini, dilled green beans, and a bottle of red wine and we had a fun time at the dinner table enjoying the variety. 

Three Beautiful Things 12/10/10: Jawin' with Linda, Jawin' with Penta, Jawin' Breakfast at Dinner

1.  I was still at LCC at 4:30.  I'd been reading student essays all day.  The building had almost emptied out.  A high maintenance student was in the main office.  I sat with Linda and shot the breeze for a while, while the h.m.s. had her cell phone speaker on, took phone calls, left the office, came back, asked Linda to make copies in between calls and trips to the hall, inquired about different instructors and what they had taught among other things.   It was fun to watch this student's behavior unfold as if it were a farce I'd paid money to see and chat with Linda.

2.  I decided to go to High Street and have two pints of Hammerhead and ponder.  I took a seat at the bar and Don strolled up to say hello before rejoining his party.  Penta was also at the bar.  I had enjoyed her performance a week earlier as Tamora in the Shakespeare Showcase, but I knew she didn't know me.  Don introduced us and instead of pondering, I visited with Penta about all kinds of things:  eastern religions, Rumi, Joseph Campbell, Shakespeare, theater stuff, etc.  It was a fun way to relax over a couple of pints before going home.

3.  Post-pints:  breakfast burrito for dinner! Bacon, potato, colby-jack cheese, and a fried egg -- with salsa! 

Three Beautiful Things 12/09/10: Students Improving, Good Burger, Good Luck

1.  At coffee yesterday afternoon, I had quietly, calmly expressed doubts about whether I'd been very effective as a writing instructor this past quarter.  Reading more essays today, these doubts lifted, quite a bit.  Yes, a few of my students didn't really come along very well, but so many did, as I saw more clearly today.

2.  I had never ordered a hamburger with bacon and blue cheese at Billy Mac's before and I don't know what inspired me, but it was the perfect dinner to enjoy while having fun conversation with my good friends.

3.  Pam and I have gotten into the habit of pushing a few shekels into the state-run video slot machines at Billy Mac's to close out the night.  I shoved in ten bucks and took home twenty-one, my best luck by far in the Billy Mac's gambling boutique. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 12/07/10: Keys, Conversation, Stroganoff

1.  MB knew I was in the Tutor Center having conferences with students and when she saw that I had left my keys in my office door she brought them down to me. 

2.  One of the best features of finals week is that I see my fellow instructors more often than usual and some good conversation happens:  like with Michael and MB and Russell and Jose today.

3.  It's been several weeks since my first electric frying pan Beef Stroganoff success and I decided I'd see if I could maybe equal that success tonight.  I did.  In fact, Molly enjoyed this Beef Stroganoff even more than the one before.  This made me very happy. 

Three Beautiful Things 12/06/10: Young Tutor, Be Rumi, Family Meal

1.  I camp out in the Tutor Center when I hold individual conferences with my students.  This morning, I admired a man who is about nineteen or twenty years old tutoring another man who must be over thirty years older than him in math.  They worked together for at least three hours, the tutor slowly, patiently guiding the older man's thinking, helping, but never doing his work for him, never expressing any frustration, just steadily helping him.  What a good kid.

2.   When I can, I try to open the way for my students to write about experience they've had that parallels what we've read in poems.  Rumi is a mystic.  He's an ecstatic poet.  He explores human longing for union with the Divine.  If students want to, they can write an essay exploring one of their own ecstatic experiences or they can explore their own experience with longing.  It's fun reading these papers as my students take me whizzing down Willamette Pass on a snowboard, skydiving in Creswell, climbing the South Sister, being enlightened by hallucination, fishing with Dad at dawn at Lake in the Woods, and on and on.  I think these students enjoy feeling like they can be Rumi in their own ways.

3.  Tonight's dinner was a joint family effort.  I roasted the pork loin roast (beautifully).  Deke made rich and smooth gravy.  Molly boiled and mashed the potatoes and prepared the broccoli.  Olivia formed new words and continued to totter on the brink of sentence making. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 12/05/10: Advent Apocalypse, Dan, Youth and Laughter and Good Times

1.  The early Advent season's lessons hit hard:  vipers and venom and locusts and honey and apocalyptic warnings.  I love the way Bishop Thornton straightens it all out.

2.  Was it?  Really?  Yes!  Dan and Mary Armstrong at Market of Choice.  They were hustling to Corvallis for a piano recital and we couldn't talk long, but a small shot of Dan Armstrong goes a long way.

3.  The house was filled with twenty-four and twenty-six year old energy:  Lindsey was over all day, Patrick showed up later and Molly lives here and suddenly the living room was filled with dumb crap laughter with Mr. Potato Head and ridiculous Photoshop creations and that was before Pat left to get a box of Corona.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 12/04/10: Script Prep, Fred Meyer, Spongy Officers

1.  I got to be the narrator for the annual Shakespeare Showcase at LCC today.  Preparing to read Sparky's script was as much fun as actually performing my role.  I have learned a tremendous amount from Sparky over the years about preparing to deliver a script --  breathing, reading, projecting, and most of all, giving words warmth and vigor.

2.  For the Shakespeare Showcase, I needed a new pair of black pants, a binder, and a hot beverage travel mug.  They were all at Fred Meyer.  I'm a latecomer to Fred Meyer.  I enjoyed buying my pants, binder, and mug and checking out in the grocery line.

3.  Michael and I stood in the northeast parking lot until 10 p.m. after the Shakespeare Showcase talking Shakespeare.  I tried to explain how I get blown away by the smallest things in the plays.  For example, when Lady Macbeth plots to intoxicate the chamberlains and make it look like they killed King Duncan, she calls the chamberlains King Duncan's "spongy officers".  What an image. What a description of two drunks.  I swear, I can't teach Shakespeare any more because I would want to spend two hours of class time reveling in ingenious phrases like "spongy officers" and not do the stuff the State of Oregon tells me should happen in a Shakespeare course. 

Three Beautiful Things 11/30-12/3/10: Reconciliation Papers, Solid Young People, Parents and Grandparents

1.  At LCC, my work was dominated by holding individual conferences with my WR 121 students, doing all I could to help them come to their own understanding of the idea of reconciliation.  Since reconciliation can only happen if there is brokenness, I know a lot now about brokenness in my students' lives and I admire all that they understand about how that brokenness has been or can't be mended, how reconciliation has happened, can happen, has partially happened, or can't or won't happen at all.

2.  When my students discuss their knowledge of what reconciliation requires, whether it's honesty, equality, letting go of blame, humbleness, compassion, among other things, I tell them:  "You know, I keep hearing all these negative things about young people today.  Listen to yourselves.  Your values are good.  You are solid.  When you hear this negative stuff about kids today, tell people my age to shut up.  Don't listen to that stuff."

3.  Speaking of admirable values, the conversation at Billy Mac's turned to what my friends do as parents and grandparents and their children and grandchildren are in very good hands.  It buoys me.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 11/29/10: Jack, David, Turner Is Born Today

1.  Jack

2.  David

3.  Turner, son of Adrienne and Nathan was born today. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 11/28/10: Isaiah Moved Me, Rumi Reunion, Hot Chicken Soup

1.  Sometimes, in my role as a lector at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, the Old Testament lesson I've been asked to read moves me and I fight back tears and try not to let the congregation see my chin quiver.   Today, these words from Isaiah 2:1-5 had such an impact, especially this:  "they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."  It's a stirring vision of God's Kingdom, which as Bishop Thornton reminded us, "is at hand."

2.  Reading Rumi paper after Rumi paper meant going back to Rumi poem after Rumi poem to reread poems my students wrote on.  I hadn't read some of those poems for a while.  I enjoyed the Rumi reunion.

3.  This time, first I baked the chicken.  Then I took the meat off the bone and boiled the bones for a rich broth.  I made chicken soup, a big pot, and so Molly and Olivia and I will have soup for the rest of the week.

Three Beautiful Things 11/27/10: Duck Fan Betting Man, Vietnamese/Chinese Double Dip, Ushpizin

1.  I ate Eggs Benedict at GJ's alone and listened to person after person, at table upon table, analyze Boise State's heart crushing loss and Auburn's superb win.  The last comment I heard as I was leaving was from a Duck fan:  "Man, I love the Ducks.  You know I love the Ducks.  But, man, it's money. My money.  I'm layin' my bet down on Auburn. Family first.  I can't be losin' money."

2.  I've never done this before:  I double dipped.  First I went to Yi-Shen and sat down for a plate of Yakisoba noodles and then, hankering for some pork fried rice, got the combo dinner special to go from Jade Palace and ate the Mar Far chicken and pork fried rice.  I didn't eat the crunchy noodle vegetarian chow mein.  I didn't like it. 

3.  I watched the intriguing Israeli movie, "Ushpizin".  "Ushpizin" tells the story of an Orthodox Jewish couple who have little money and who, according to the requirements of tradition, host two guests (Ushpizin) who show up unexpectedly.  They are prison escapees and because they arrive during the celebration of Succoth, the couple must take them in. The visit tests the couple in multiple ways.  I thoroughly enjoyed being invited into this world of Orthodoxy I had never visited before and watching such a humane story unfold.  

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 11/26/10: Photos with Russell and Mary, Movie Memories, Drunken Noodle Problem Solving

1.  Mary is Russell's wife Anne's sister.  She came to Eugene from back east for Thanksgiving.  Mary likes taking pictures and has enjoyed viewing Russell's photos over the last many months since Russell and I started shooting on Saturdays.  She joined us today.  Russell and I enjoy taking pictures in the Whiteaker neighborhood and thought Mary would enjoy strolling and shooting there, too.  She did.  I sure enjoyed having Mary join us and seeing the pictures she posted.

2.  Over the course of our stroll, the subject of movies came up and Mary and I got to talking about a string of movies from about 1977-1982 or so that we enjoyed back then:  "Chilly Scenes of Winter", "The Return of the Secaucus 7", "Cutter's Way" -- I added "Tell Me a Riddle" and "Between the Lines".  These were movies I was obsessed with around the time of the demise of my first marriage (a coincidence) and when I returned home I thought of others:  "Inserts", "Heart Beat", "Melvin and Howard", "Local Hero" and on and on.  I remembered Cinema 7, the Magic Lantern, my 1982 Betamax....I'm surprised I could even shoot a photograph.  My mind was so filled with cinematic pleasures and memories.  It was fun to share some of my Private Eccentric Pleasures. 

3.  With the world of movies under control, Russell, Mary, and I solved the world's social and political problems over Thai food at Chao Pra Ya (since Yi Shen, to our disappointment, was closed...).  We did such a good job that when I got home I expected to read headlines on yahoo news that everything had fallen into place in the world, but, alas, it seems we didn't quite have the impact I'd hoped for.  But the talking was sure fun!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 11/25/10: Pondering Family, Pondering Friends, Pondering Middleboro. . . and Two Bonuses

1.  I enjoyed a Thanksgiving Day of pondering.  I think more than anything I'm thankful for my family.  Today pondering great times I had in 2010 with the Deke and my stepkids and my mom and my sisters and reliving the fun and laughter and conversation and good food of the Last Cousin Standing Hootenanny warmed my entire day, made cleaning the kitchen a couple of times, cooking a roast for Molly, Olivia, and me, eating dinner together a sustained pleasure. 

2.  But, that's not all.  I pondered all the laughter and good times I've shared with friends, friends from Kellogg High School, friends from Whitworth College, from North Idaho College, and friends here in Eugene.  Will I ever experience such a year again with friends?  Kellogg friends congregated for food and dancing and a ton of laughs at Diane's over Presidents Day; reunion with Jane Eischen and hours over Thai food; friends everywhere I looked, everywhere I went in Kellogg during the All Class reunion; I saw Jeff again and Virginia Tinsley joined us; more friends gathered at Carol and Jake's wedding, friends I hadn't seen for years; part of the Westminster Study Group gathered for 24 hours of sweetness and light at the Lacy's on the Kalama River; the Rocket is back; Ed and I met for some gaming and buffet in Pendleton on Veteran's Day; photos with Russell, Thursdays at Billy Macs, coffee on Hilyard Street, the Troxstar Collective:  ponder, ponder, ponder.   My pondering was punctuated today with text messages back and forth with Stu, doing one of our favorite things:  naming old NFL players:  Sammie Baugh, Amos Marsh, Milt Plum, Lem Barney, Gail Cogdill, Dick Bass, Les Josephson, Buck Pope and on and on.  Each text a new laugh, another ponder.

3.  And that's not all.  I pondered my gratitude for this funny social networking site, Facebook, and how this group of friends who are all connected to Middleboro, Massachusetts and to the Troxstar himself said yes to letting me join in for smart talk, good music, fun stories, great pictures, wry humor, opinionated talk, and a ton of fun.  I was all relaxed following my post-dinner Thanksgiving nap, getting ready to go to sleep for the night, and Becca popped up on my FB page and we chatted about family and kids and mothers and music and had a few laughs and it was a great way to close a Thanksgiving Day of gratitude and pondering.

Bonus:  Dinner was really fun.  Molly and I put what skill we have together and made a pork roast dinner with potatoes and gravy and stove top stuffing (that was really good!) and Brussel sprouts and topped it off with a Bailey's and saved the pie for today (well, and sampled it on Wednesday!).  We had fun working together and having a very relaxed meal.  We put the low back in low key and I enjoyed it a lot.  (Btw, Olivia didn't enjoy it so much....she was squirmy and didn't like our food all that it was a more challenging dinner for Molly than it was for me.)

Bonus 2:  Pat Kenyon returned the word pondering to my life.  I ponder all the time, but I didn't have the right word.  Now I do.  My many thanks, Pat.  Hope to catch you down the road in the Silver Valley before too long.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 11/24/10: Conversations, Pondering, Rocky's

1.  It's funny.  The day before Thanksgiving is the worst attended day in the school year and many would say the academic year's least productive day.  But, there's an upside:  talking to individual students.  Today I had at least a half a dozen really good talks with students and it was largely because so few other students were around.  I enjoyed these conversations an awful lot.

2.  Molly and Olivia and I will be enjoying Thanksgiving dinner together and Molly gave me a short list of a few more things we need for dinner.  After some enjoyable shopping (the spirit in the store was wonderful), I went to the High Street Brewery and Cafe for two pints of pondering, also known as Hammerhead Ale.  It was quiet.  I pondered the good fortune in my life, especially the many great people I know.  My pondering mood was sweetened even further when the mix taped playing over the sound system suddenly played the Grateful Dead's "Tennessee Jed".  The quiet. The Hammerhead. My pondering.  The Grateful Dead.  Bliss.

3.  Rocky's chicken with apple sausage fried with onion and red bell pepper and served over basmati rice:  a great dinner. 

Three Beautiful Things 11/23/10: Ice Day, Crazy Heart, Happy Family

1.  Icy conditions throughout Lane County meant school closed.  I can get caught up on  reading and grading my students' in-class writings on Rumi.  Oh, wait.  Crap.  No I can't.  I left those papers in my office.  Sooo...

2.  Guess I'll watch a movie: Crazy Heart.  The acting in this movie entertained me at the deepest level.  Jeff Bridges.  Lord.  I've loved his work ever since The Last Picture Show on through Cutter's Way, Starman, and forward to The Big Lebowski and beyond.  I mean who hasn't.  Once again, as I've seen him do countless times with other roles, he completely occupies the character of Bad Blake.  I also loved Maggie Gyllenhall, Robert Duvall, and Colin Farrell.  The acting made the movie for me.  I didn't really enjoy the story line all that much.  I liked the music, the acting, and the visual pleasures of the landscapes, but the story?  Not that much.

3.  I fixed dinner tonight:  baked chicken with a bunch of half onions.  Broasted potatoes.  Broccoli.  I used that Greek seasoning on the chicken with butter.  The chicken was moist and delicious.  The spuds, onions, and broccoli worked as well.  Debbie, Molly, and I were a happy family at the dinner table tonight. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 11/22/10: Harry Potter Takeover, Siskana's Success, The Steak Challenge Continues

1.  My WR 121 students sat face to face and discussed reconciliation as exemplified and explored in The Souvenir.  I'm impressed with how they are thinking about this difficult topic.  Then, after a short break, and late in the period, one of my students mentioned that he had worked at the local multi-plex where Harry Potter was showing on fifteen screens all through the night when it opened.  This got our discussion off track talking about the Harry Potter phenomenon in a delightful way and I cheerfully threw up my hands, broke into a big smile, and said I didn't think we could recover our earlier discussion and ended class a little early.  The students all laughed.

2.  I was eager to be a part of yesterday's composition instructors' meeting.  Our new coordinator, Siskana, led the meeting for her first time.  She did a splendid job.  Even though we weren't always discussing how we teach our classes, such discussion was always close by and I came away doing a lot of self-examination about how I teach writing, a good thing for an old dog like me.

3.  Debbie brought home a nice chunk of sirloin steak.  I was assigned the job of cook.  I am inexperienced in steak cookery and I tried my hardest to do a good job.  Molly and Debbie enjoyed what I cooked, but I thought my piece was a little overcooked.  I tried to get the steaks right where I wanted them by using a meat thermometer, but, in my mind, didn't fully succeed.  I don't quite have the hang of frying steaks.  Two things come to mind:  I want more practice and I'm thinking Lura and others are correct that a George Foreman grill is the way to go.  I'm going to get a GF grill, but, still, I'm determined to cook steak better on the electric frying pan. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 11/20/10: Holiday Market Misery Relieved, Baby Central, Spicy Ginger Fish

1.  Russell and I went to Holiday Market and the indoor Farmers' Market to shoot pictures.  I do not enjoy the Holiday Market at all.  It's claustrophobic and noisy and the booths are jam packed with merchandise that makes my head ache.  Tons of people love it, though, and it was really fun to run into Patsy and then, with her help, go to Linda's booth and have a great talk about Outlaw Country and share some belly laughs.  All of my Holiday Market discomfort evaporated as Linda made me laugh my head off and, I'm happy to say, my angst and irritation was even further relieved when Russell and I stumbled upon the Blair Street Mugwumps, a supremely talented and entertaining local jug band.  Here's a picture, in sepia, I took of them:

2.  Melissa and Chris brought their baby, Helena, over and we had dinner.  Mary joined in, too.  With both Helena and Olivia in the house and with Adrienne's baby due to arrive soon, our place reverberated with baby admiration, baby noise, laughter at what babies do, stories about babies, baby hopes, baby dreams, baby forecasts, comparison of baby notes, and the general good baby cheer I'm learning more and more all the time that babies inspire in the adults in their lives. 

3.  I was very happy with the spicy ginger fish at Yi Shen this afternoon.  The more I roam the Yi Shen menu, the happier I am that Russell and I have lunch there nearly every Saturday.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 11/19/10: More Jimmie Dale, Bible Talk at Coffee, A Better Understanding

1.  MB and I enjoyed a short Jimmie Dale Gilmore concert in our respective offices via YouTube and Jeff joined in to talk about the Flatlanders and the concerts MB attended. 

2.  MB, Jeff, Michael and I got together for coffee after an hour long meeting at school and I was a little surprised by how deeply positive I am that I think The Bible as Literature would be a wonderful course to offer at LCC and how even more deeply positive I am that I would never want to teach it.  I am deeply dismayed by the politics that surround the Bible, deeply dismayed by Christians and non-Christians alike who have made the Bible a battleground, a battleground that impedes open inquiry into the multiple ways the Bible can be read, studied, understood, and discussed.  I'm not interested in entering that battle in a college classroom. 

3.  During our conference, one of my quieter and underperforming students opened up to me about the family conflicts she's in the middle of and writing about in her essay about happiness, and suddenly I understood why my WR 121 course is probably not one of her chief concerns and how her reserved manner and sketchy schoolwork have succeeded in disguising her intelligence and sensitivity. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 11/17/10: Off Topic, Hammerhead Pondering, Early to Bed

1.  Yes, it demands a lot of me to meet one student after another over several hours to help each one revise her/his essay, but it's my favorite way to teach, especially when conversation wanders away from the essay a bit and I learn more about their lives, their work, avocations, families, and difficulties.

2.  After I went to Trader Joe's, I went to the North Bank for two pints of Hammerhead Ale.  The time I spent drinking these ales gave me some time to ponder my work, my family, my friends, and the world of sports.  It's fun to sit down where no one knows me, drink two slow ales, and let my mind off the leash and invite it to wander.  It's relaxing as well.

3.  For the second night in a row I was asleep at 8:00.  Sometimes it's what I need to do in order to keep my mind fresh and my disposition sweet in my work.  It works.

Three Beautiful Things 11/16/10: God Essays, Potato Surprise, Rarity of Reconciliation

1.  My students are revising their essays exploring their sources of happiness and it's heartening to to help those who regard God as the Source from which all happiness originates express this truth in ways that have integrity in an academic setting. 

2.  I didn't know that the potatoes the Deke prepared as a side to tonight's pork chops was a combination of russet and sweet potatoes and I loved the surprise of popping a surprise chunk of sweet potato in my yap when i thought it was going to be russet.

3.  One of my students and I are the same age and we had a long talk about her happiness paper and began to talk about what a rare experience reconciliation between broken parties is, but how sometimes the first steps toward reconciliation can arise out unexpected events, such as her son asking that both she and the son's father both be at his high school graduation. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 11/15/10: Gnats in the Wind, Who's Speaking?, Car Care

1.  Sparrow read "Gnats Inside the Wind" to the class as we looked at different Rumi poems and I thought I was a real card when I said it reminded me of my favorite Kansas song, "Gnats in the Wind".  Then for the rest of the day, I kept singing to myself, "Gnats in the wind/All we are is gnats in the wind."

2. I heard myself saying things about Rumi's poetry I'd never said before and I wondered who that was saying those things.

3.  It's kind of like going to see Dr. Stephenson, my dentist, only it's Dan at EuroAsian:  competent, no fake friendliness, quick, reliable.  It's like Dr. Stephenson's office where I almost look forward to going to the dentist.  EuroAsian almost makes me look forward to having my oil changed or my brakes replaced.

Three Beautiful Things 11/14/10: Brails, Carmen, Stew

1.  I met the Turners at Brails for breakfast and we had a great time gobbling down breakfast and having a gabfest.

2.  I saw Carmen!  I held her!  She puked on me!

3.  Deke's beef stew:  Divine.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 11/13/10: Ducks Take Me Back Eleven Years, Gateway Photo Shoot, Basil Curry at Yi Shen

1.  The Ducks' 15-13 win over Cal today took me back to November 13, 1999 when Oregon defeated Cal, in Berkeley, 24-19 and the game came down to the last minute and I listened to it in a hospital bed, just a day or so after I'd come out of the coma I'd been in since November 9 when the Walshes rushed me to the hospital and I was wheeled into the ER with bacterial meningitis, and I remember feeling uplifted, despite being so seriously ill, by the Ducks' gallant effort that day.  Today I was relieved.

2.  Russell and I went to Gateway Mall to get out of the rain and shoot pictures.  I haven't decided yet whether to post any of mine.  I need to return to them and see if they look any better tomorrow than they did today.  Russell's are superb, and, who knows, I might feel better about mine after some time has passed.

3.  I tried a new dish at Yi Shen today:  Basil Curry over rice with pork.  Loved it.

Three Beautiful Things 11/12/10: Eastern Oregon Splendor, Pure and Crooked, Hiram's Visit

1.  A perfect visual day from Pendleton until the Cascades and the rain forest intruded at Hood River.  I love how open and panoramic the view is from Pendleton to Hood River and in the early afternoon November light on under the pale blue November sky the golden humps on the Washington side of the Columbia seemed to change colors from purple to green to yellow to golden to gray and the Poplar Farm out between Hermiston and Boardman . . . man. . . those trees have matured and now, on November 11th and 12th, those thousands of poplars have mature leaves and they'd turned, as if tree were a campfire, blazing with orange, making it hard to drive straight. 

2.  Back in about 1990 Annette and I bought a CD player and subscribed to Dirty Linen and a free CD came with that subscription:  Iain Matthews' Pure and Crooked.  I played that CD over and over back in 1990-91 and go back to it every once in a while to see if it still moves me.  It does.  I popped it in the player today and played favorite songs like "Rains of '62" and "New Shirt" and "Perfect Timing" over and over again, my chest quaking, singing along, a big smile, memories and thoughts flooding me.  It was a fine I-84 concert.

3.  The visit was brief, but it was great to see Hiram and I enjoyed seeing him have some time with Olivia, feeding her, reading to her, holding her, being a good dad.   I feel for him having to go back to Virginia so soon, but I have to believe the short visit and some time with Molly and Olivia was good for them all.

Three Beautiful Things 11/11/10: Chris Supertramp Rufus Rumi, Wild Horse Seafood Buffet, Yakkin' it Up North Idaho Style

1.  When I go on trips like driving from Eugene to Pendleton, and when I have a car with a CD player, I never know what kind of impact the concerts I play for myself will have.  Today, somewhere out near The Dalles or Biggs or Rufus but before Boardman, I played Supertramp and, as always, "Take the Long Way Home" transported me back to 1996 and Linda Williams playing Martha in the LCC production of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf", dancing in front of a mirror as prologue to the play and then I fast forwarded to Chris McCandless who called him self Supertramp in Into the Wild and I've always thought he wanted to find a home and realized while in Alaska that he needed others, was going to head back to his family, that he had taken the long way home, but died before he could get there.  And then, inexplicably, the Rumi tears came back when I was listening to "The Logical Song".  I don't know why I suddenly flashed on Coleman Barks and longing and how the love we long for suddenly appears in a teacher or a lover, and they were there all along, but the it's not really them.  Why did I experience "The Logical Song" as "The Illogical Longing Song"?  I don't know and I don't know why I have these times when Supertramp just plain knocks me out.  Like today.  Along the Columbia River.  On I-84.  Somewhere, say where Rufus is.

2.  Ed and I jawed for a while playing machines and then we explored The Wild Horse separately and reunited for steak, breaded shrimp, seafood salad, chicken, green beans, green salad, smoked salmon, and other seafood buffet delight washed down with a cold long-necked bottle of Budweiser beer. 

3.  Over dinner, as well as in the bar beforehand while we waited for our table, our yakking was good:  Shoshone County politics, who'd died recently in Shoshone County, Ed's work in Orofino and his enjoyable dining at the Ponderosa, among other places, and, to my great pleasure, Ed's praise for how friendly the people in Orofino are and how much he enjoyed working there. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 11/10/10: Rumi Tears, Sendora Ignorance, Great Conversations

1.  I have to sit out of view of my students when I play the video "Love's Confusing Joy" in class because I need a private place to let the tears roll when the reading of Coleman Barks, the music of The Paul Winter Consort, and the poetry of Rumi combine to deeply move me.

2.  I rolled off the Enterprise lot in a KIA Sendora.  I don't have any idea what that means.  All it's got to do it get me to P-TownEast to the Wild Horse Casino and back again.

3.  I left campus later than usual today thanks to conversations with William, Jilly, Christina, Jay, Kate, Russell, Linda, Siskana, Lynn, Anne, Linda, and possibly others.  If having so many conversations means I'm a little tardy getting home, I'll take it.  What a fun way to get delayed. 

Three Beautiful Things 11/09/10: Nearly Buffalo Beer, Buffalo Wings, Fun Poker

1.  Russell and Anne invited me over to their place to watch the final table of the WSOP Main Event.  I volunteered to bring Buffalo Wings and Anne said that in Buffalo people often have pizza with wings so I thought, "Well, if this is a Buffalo night, I'll see if I can find some beer brewed in Buffalo."  I had to go to MOChoice while my oil was being changed.  No Buffalo beer.  Then I went to the Beer Stein.  No luck.  I decided then I'd go to Albertson's and get some Canadian beer.  Anne told me Molson was popular in Buffalo back in her grad school days.  At Albertson's, however, I found some beer brewed in Rochester, NY:  B.J. King's Wingwalker Lager, Amber, and Pale Ale.  I bought two bottles of each and hoped it would serve as a close enough to Buffalo beer for our get together.

2.  I had a lot of fun cooking up the chicken.  First, some boneless, unseasoned chicken for Olivia.  Second, some Buffalo Tenders for Molly.  Last, Buffalo Wings for Russell, Anne, and me.  I fried the wings very deliberately, wanting to make sure I cooked them all the way through and this deliberateness slowed me down, made me a little late for our evening together, but it was worth it:  Russell and Anne praised the Buffalo Wings.  It was the first time I fixed Wings for anyone outside our family.  And they worked.  It was very gratifying. 

3.  My evening with Anne and Russell was bigger than the Buffalo Wings and beer I brought over.  We had a fun time watching the poker, sweating out some of the more dramatic hands, and feeling collective bafflement at the play of Joseph Cheong as he plummeted, when three player's remained, from chip leader to out of the tournament.  What possessed him to get so unnecessarily aggressive, we wondered.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 11/08/10: Student Happiness Success, Installation Success, Pork Tenderloin Success

1.  One of my students, I'll call her Stormy, wrote a brilliant paper on happiness and it was a pleasure to see her work out so many fine insights and make so many good moves in her work.

2.  First comes the buying of the stove and dishwasher and them comes the getting the machines here and the installation.  It's all completed and I enjoyed how happy the Deke was with having these new appliances in our kitchen.

3.  I had bought a pork tenderloin and decided to see if I could prepare it well.  Out came the electric frying pan and I seasoned the pork with thyme and pepper and salt and seared it before cooking it at a lower heat and it came out perfectly, as did the potatoes and onions that rest at its side.  This made me and the rest of the family very happy.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 11/07/10: For All the Saints, Home Improvements, Farvageddon

1.  We celebrated All Saints Day at St. Mary's Episcopal Church with an 11:00 Solemn High Eucharist.  I love the hymn "For All the Saints" and we sang the first four verses to open worship and the last four to close.  I think I sang too loud and I probably shouldn't have been whistling the tune during the Scripture readings, but that hymn's melody carries me away.

2.  The Deke went all unilateral today at Oldfield's and bought us a new kitchen stove/oven and dishwasher.  When she went out, I was just hoping she'd pick up some groceries.

3.  Mark this as the day when I declared next week's invasion of Soldier Field by the Minnesota Vikings as so biblical, so epic, so terrifying that it can only be called Farvageddon.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 11/06/10: Blue Afternoon, Lawn Chair Salon, Canon S90

1.  The morning cloudiness gave way to a clear afternoon, as is apparent in this picture I took of the underside of leaf in the Whitaker Neighborhood.

2.  I was in the Whitaker Neighborhood here in Eugene because it's where Russell and I took our weekly photography safari this week.  It's a perfect place for taking pictures:  colorful, rarely generic, and sometimes eccentric.  For example, these were the lawn chairs in front of one residence:

3.  Russell and I have been talking about cameras and the subject of the Canon S95 came up and Russell pulled out his Canon S90 and let me take pictures with it.  I photographed this sign of dismay in the Whitaker Neighborhood and Russell studying the countless staples blanketing this fence near the sign.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 11/05/10: Lawn Fed, Camera Safari, Hammerhead Reverie

1.   I drove over to Down to Earth, bought way too much lawn fertilizer.  That's all right.  I'll just have enough to fertilize our lawn until the year 2030.  But I did fertilize after raking, mowing, and raking again and I hope I got something like the right amount applied.  I don't think I hurt anything.

2.  I went on camera safari:  I looked at the Nikon D5000 at Costco where it sells for a good price with a couple of lenses and I had to hold the Nikon D90 and fiddle with it a bit.  I did the same at Best Buy and then I went to Shutterbug and now I know more about their store does things -- I like it -- and I ended my safari, after a haircut, but going to Barnes and Noble and reading a couple of books on how to operate the D5000.  I'm in new territory, out of my league, over my head, out of my depth, etc. etc., and I'm having fun learning and one day, before 2011, I will make a purchase of some kind.

3.  I went to High Street and to sit and think and drink some Hammerhead Ale at the bar.  Don came in and broke my preoccupied spell and when he found out I'd been on a camera safari, he told me about a love letter David Pogue wrote in the NY Times about the Canon S95.  More to think about, more to check out.  By the way, I sometimes drink USA Corporate Beer to transport me back to the 70s and 80s and to remember Silver Valley drunks and Whitworth drunks, especially at the poker table and at the Viking Tavern, but if I want to remember the good times and good company I've had over beer in the last nearly fifteen years, it's Hammerhead.  Last night I drank those Hammerheads and when I wasn't thinking about cameras I remembered Wednesday nights after teaching Shakespeare, getting off the bus at SELCO, walking up to High Street, having some french fries and Hammerhead Ale, talking with Dan, and listening to the great music Dan played on the bar's sound system.  One night it was The Who, Live at Leeds and Dan stood still and listened while I enthused about it, already high on Shakespeare;  tonight, I kept my enthusiasms to myself, but when "Eminence Front" and later, "Let it Rain" came on, I was pretty wound up inside of myself, and more memories came rushing in.   There's nothing like Hammerhead + The Who + Eric Clapton + plus memories of those songs + memories of Hammerhead.   Nothing.