Sunday, May 23, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 05/23/10: Pentecost Sunday, Papers, Chao Pra Ya

1. It was Pentecost Sunday and I wore a red shirt and all through the service I kept remembering the days when I worked at Whitworth in the late 70's and a group of us tried to get a Human Spirit/Holy Spirit study group going...we met at least once...maybe more...and all through the service I thought of Dr. Dick Evans (aka Doc) and music at Whitworth and the way music is like the Holy Spirt: it clarifies my thinking, clarifies my feeling, directs me, guides me, and cracks open my heart and soul. I wonder if we talked about this in that short-lived group because I thought these things in church today and Dick Evan's face kept smiling and I could hear him speaking.

2. I have read all the WR 122 research essays for my 8 o'clock class that I can....all the ones that are finished according to the assignment. That bit of accomplishment felt good this evening after a kind of lazy weekend.

3. Chao Pra Ya Thai food tonight. Take out. Hot wings, Massaman Curry, Tom Kha soup. Superb.

Three Beautiful Things 05/22/10: The Art of Liberty, Celtics Dominate the Magic, High Maintenance Moment

1. While I walked Snug I turned thought after thought over and over in my mind regarding Robert Grudin's insights into the art of liberty, especially how the free mind pursues freedom from the self, not of the self. Free from my self: I am much freer as a reader, teacher, listener, friend, writer, and citizen as I free my mind of my own predispositions, even of my own convictions, as I confront what others have to say or as I try to understand a subject more fully. Freedom from the self.

2. It was as if Mike Tyson were in the ring with Laverne De Fazio: that's how lopsided the Celtics domination of the Magic was this evening.

3. I had my first high maintenance moment at Market of Choice ever: I brought distilled water to the checkout stand, but I wanted spring water and the kid helping the checker went back and got what I wanted and I held up the line and everything. I'm not used to this. I'm not sure I liked it.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 05/19-21/10: Teach My Ass Off, LCC Reading, Paradise Now

1. I remember our Kellogg High School band teacher, Mr. Exum, told us a story once about a renown music combo that played in Coeur d'Alene, I think at the Athletic Round Table. A blizzard struck. Hardly anyone came to the concert. Mr. Exum attended. This combo played their asses off for the very small crowd and Mr. Exum told us that it didn't matter if we were playing for a handful of people or for a sold out crowd in Carnegie Hall (the Kellogg band never got this gig), we were to play our hearts out.

Six students showed up for my WR 122 class on Thursday. For about ten minutes or so, only five were in attendance. I could sense the students in attendance wondered what I was going to do.

I remembered Mr. Exum. My words to my students, "Let's get going. I'm going to teach my ass off for you."

And I did.

2. Elizabeth Woody, Laura Lynn Drummond, or Paul Calandrino never heard Mr. Exum's lecture on giving it your all no matter what the size of the audience. These three superb writers gave a reading at Lane Community College yesterday afternoon and the turn out was, well, dismal, in my opinion. Nonetheless, Woody, Drummond, and Calandrino read as if they had packed Carnegie Hall: I loved their work, their energy, and their generosity.

3. I'm very happy I decided that my World Literature students would write either in the classroom or at home after viewing the movie "Paradise Now". Its power left me speechless and incapable of discussing it afterward. I can almost never talk about a movie right after I see it. It's probably why I watch so many movies alone.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 05/18/10: Thai-Hop with the Deke, Thoughtful Student, The Band's Visit

1. The Deke and I ate at Thai-Hop. It was fun. I wasn't crazy about my Thai Teriyaki Chicken, but having a dinner out and taking some time for a little jawing with the Deke uplifted me.

2. I think Janie recognizes that it disappoints me when over half the class is absent for WR 122 and when I have to tell one of the attending students to stop doing other homework and join in with what we are doing. It makes my usually enjoyable job a drag. Janie stuck around after class and talked with me and I was touched by her thoughtfulness. (By the way, I should add that I am no stranger to the occasional section of a course that peters out. The good news is that in every one of these sections there are always a handful of students who accept the challenge of the course and enjoy it.)

3. I showed "The Band's Visit" in ENG 109 and the stillness in the room as the movie concluded assured me that this masterful Israeli movie affected my students, even moved many of them.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 05/17/10: Liberty of Ideas, Pedro Paramo's Suffering, Episcopalians and the Bible

1. In WR 122, we explored what it means to have a free mind and what a liberty of ideas demands of a person.

2. I was very impressed with the way my World Lit. students dealt with the suffering experienced by the title character in Pedro Paramo, and how well they understood the way this story explores what is human and deeply pained in this monstrous man.

3. Tonight's presentation by Loren Crow of the Episcopalian stance when it comes to Scripture was stimulating and often fascinating. It was a very enjoyable class.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 05/16/10: Celts Win, Putting Depression In Its Place, Superb Breakfast

1. The wily, physical, aging Boston Celtics punched the upstart Orlando Magic in the yap, taking game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. It's so fun to bad mouth Rasheed, but he was a difference maker late in the series against Cleveland and made a quality contribution today. I can feel myself reluctantly giving in, reluctantly letting my guard down -- I'm letting myself hope the Celtics can keep winning.

2. The fight I was having a week or so ago with the gravity of depression seems to be over and today I did more of the things that keep me from getting pulled into the darkness: I walked Snug three time, worshiped at St. Mary's, and mowed the front and back lawn with the non-power mower.

3. The Deke bought these things at Costco: two corn tortillas with chili and cheese inside and I fried one in the grease created by three strips of thick smoked bacon and fried up a couple of eggs and ate the bacon and used the tortilla/chili/cheese thing to sop up egg yolk. It was a great breakfast. The Pike Place coffee from Starbuck's worked, too.

Three Beautiful Things 05/15/10: Yard Work, Shrimp and Chips,

1. Watering, looking at plants, marveling at how they've grown, thinking most of them look pretty healthy: a day in the yard. Pictures to come. Really.

2. Excellent breaded shrimp and chips at Newman's on Coburg Road. Russell and I enjoyed the temperate weather and had another far-ranging conversation.

3. Just in time for the NBA Playoffs, I dug deeper into's TrueHoop network and discovered, a blog kept by Sebastian Pruiti, that breaks down specific elements of specific NBA games, with excellent analysis and videotape. I particularly enjoyed this post, a close look at LaBron James' shooting woes against the Celtics. I also learned quite a bit, here, from Sebastian's analysis of what it cost the Cavaliers when, in Game 6, they defended Kevin Garnett with Shaq.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 05/12-14/10: Kay Ryan Bonanza, Fun with Bridgit, Kay Ryan Enriches Us

1. The past three days have been superb. I hadn't seen Bridgit since 1987 and she came to Eugene to see and listen to our nation's poet laureate, Kay Ryan, read her poetry. Bridgit joined Kay Ryan's Friday morning conversation with LCC students joined a handful of us for lunch with Kay Ryan. It was exhilarating to listen to and converse with Kay Ryan, and my enjoyment was increased many fold because Bridgit and I had this experience together.

2. Bridgit and I enjoyed wonderful dinners out, especially at Thai-Hop (Ta Ra Rin) and Beppe and Gianni's. Not only was the food delicious, but we had so much to talk about: our days at Whitworth, our lives today, our shared friends, and poetry. We both deeply admire Kay Ryan and talking about her poetry and her reading moved our conversations into wonderful avenues about how each of us reads and experiences poetry and how much we've changed in the ways we read since our days at Whitworth back in 1982-84.

3. I didn't have any idea what to expect. I hosted Kay Ryan's conversation with LCC students Friday morning. I mumbled a few things to get things started and the room came alive with Kay Ryan's intelligence, wit, kindness, poetry, and graciousness. One after another, students asked superb questions and Kay Ryan responded in graceful, stimulating, and illuminating ways.

Note: Kay Ryan's tenure as the Poet Laureate of the United States is about to end. This is good for her. She can return to her life of writing and to her very active life of the mind. I am inexpressibly happy that she came to Lane Community College and so generously gave us her poetry, the freshness of her mind at work, and the authenticity of her graciousness.

Thank you, Jane.
Thank you , Eileen.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 05/11/10: What Happens, Comp. Laughs, Celtics Kindle My Hopes

1. I don't know for sure, but I'm hoping the way I talked with my World Lit class about how fiction explores "what happens", not "what happened" helped some of my students move beyond the idea that fiction is inferior to non-fiction. The often repeated phrase I hear, from my students, and everywhere else: "it's just fiction".

2. My 12:00 WR 122 class has shrunk. I sure have fun with the remaining students, though. We dig into ideas and how to make an essay work, and we have a lot of laughs along the way.

3. Old hopes are starting to stir again: the Celtics clobbered the Cavs, 120-88.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 05/10/10: Walking with Snug, Relief, Mother's Day Bonus Round

1. I walked Snug three times today and am going to try to take at least this many walks daily with him. We both need it.

2. I got caught up in WR 122 for the time being. That's a huge relief.

3. The Mother's Day flowers the Deke sent to Mom were late, so Mom got to have an added Mother's Day on Monday and when we talked about it on the telephone, she seemed pleased with the Mother's Day bonus round.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 05/09/10: Worship Improv, Push Back with the Mower, Thunder

1. Lately I've been sitting way in the back of the church and sort of doing things my own way. Sometimes when the liturgy directs the congregation to stand, I want to remain seated and sometimes I want to kneel when I'm supposed to sit. I'm not being a rebel or anything, but sometimes the spirit moves how I experience worship in ways different from the liturgy. Often, though, the spirit and the liturgy are in sync and I do what everyone does. I notice there are others scattered around the congregation who also free lance a bit.

2. I mowed the lawn and once again enjoyed our new non-power mower. It's not as powerful as a gas/electric one, but I love how quiet it is and how it makes me work.

3. Thunder cracked and a downpour ensued. It was a short one. Thunder is, to my way of thinking, rare in Eugene.

Three Beautiful Things 05/08/10: Saturday Push Back, Korean Food, July on Bristol Bay

1. I got right at it this morning: walked Snug, watered the lawn and plants, started grading papers. I pushed back at the darkness trying to occupy me. I don't always get the upper hand, but today I did.

2. Russell and I went to Burger Lovers/Chopsticks and Spoons, a Burger/Korean food restaurant in west Eugene and each enjoyed a generous heap of food. Mine was pork fried kasu dong, an overflowing clay plate of crisp fried pork, a medley of firm broccoli, cabbage, other vegetables, egg, and a special sauce. A hillock of rice completed the dish. We'll be back. We are ready to work our way through the rest of the Korean menu and then start in on the burgers and po boys!

3. Susan-Louise posted on Facebook that her brother Marty invited her to help crew his gillnetter on Bristol Bay. It'll mean a few weeks of intense work, time around Naknek, and a return to her origins, to hard work. Susan-Louise and I had a great chat on Facebook about being working class kids who have left the working class life. We both know the working class life, thank God, never leaves us.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 05/07/10: Push Back, Brails Talk, Rocket Has a Good Laugh

1. At least now when the tide of depression begins to move into my consciousness and begins to weigh down my legs and slow me down and begs me to stay in bed, I know it's there. We are so familiar with each other that this depression rarely catches me off guard so I can push back. Today has been a push back day. Yes, I spent too much time on my bed, but I got up and I did things, too, and that matters a lot.

2. Jeff and Margaret and I met at Brails for a bite to eat and had a splendid time talking about the absurd world we work in, but mostly the one we live in. And we talked about the goodness we experience in this absurd world we live in. We always do. There's always goodness, especially good friends.

3. This evening I received an email from Rocket telling me that I had made him laugh with things I'd written and other good-natured stuff I sent him. It all related to our little world back at Whitworth and the copious inside ways we made each other laugh back then. We must have seemed like nut cases to others, especially our dorm mates. I guess we were kind of nut cases! Good-natured nut cases. He needed a good laugh and knowing I helped him out strengthened my resolve to push back at the darkness of depression that's trying to wedge its way into taking over my day.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 05/06/10: Paramo Bumps, Cutline, Neff Found

1. Goose bumps spread across my arms as I read the first two fragments of "Pedro Paramo" aloud to my ENG 109 class.

2. Christy's been posting pictures from fifty years ago of family in Orofino and it's inspired some fun and funny "you write the cutline" activity.

3. I asked Rocket the other day if he knew where Neff lived now. Today I unearthed Neff's location and I hope Rocket enjoys knowing where his former housemate can be found.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 05/05/10: Spontaneous Conversations, Poetry in Springfield, Patrick's Big Change

1. Deep down inside I wanted my WR 122 students to work with each other as they mapped out their longer research paper and when they had time in class to work on their own, they started working with each other as if I had told them to do just what I wanted them to.

2. Scott was an accomplished Shakespeare student of mine back in 1997 and now he's a high school teacher in Springfield and he stopped by today to talk over how I approach teaching the Intro to Lit: Poetry course and we had a good discussion.

3. Patrick is convinced that a change of scenery will help him move forward in his life. Indeed, there was a skip in his step and a look of eagerness and excitement on his face as he loaded up the last of his belongings and pulled away from the curb, following his dad, as left last night to go live in the Portland/Vancouver area. I hope his idea that he'll do better living with his dad and Bonnie and will find good work by getting out of Eugene comes true. My fingers are crossed and my prayers are with him.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 05/04/10: Traditions in the Modern World, Southeast Asia Travels, Sharks Win!

1. Justin came by and we had a long talk about the relation between modernity and old traditions and I learned more than I had previously known about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Fascinating.

2. Then Sally came by and told me all about her travels this past December to Vietnam and Cambodia. Once again: fascinating.

3. My new favorite sports team, thanks to Rocket, the San Jose Sharks are one win away from the Conference Finals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Tonight's game was a 4-3 overtime thriller, a win over the Detroit Red Wings. The Sharks fought back from a 3-1 third period deficit to win it. In Detroit. Very impressive. I hope Rocket, who saw the game on television (I listened on the radio) will write up some post game reflections.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 05/03/10: Talking with Dawn, Another Conversation, God Fan Page on Facebook!

1. I think it was a good thing that I spent about twenty minutes or so with Dawn after class. On the surface, our conversation was about making page numbers using Open Office, but it turned into a conversation about things that are troubling Dawn. Our conversation did not relieve Dawn of her troubles, but I think it helped Dawn to let me in on what's agonizing her.

2. I was the subject of an interview today, but my conversation with the interviewer went far beyond the information the student was looking for to write a profile and I learned even more about the immense difficulties this student has suffered -- suffering that is shared by too many and that deeply affects many students as they make their way through school.

3. The Facebook fan page devoted to God inspired a lot of fun and funny conversation on Facebook this evening!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 05/02/10: Beautiful Praise, Assembling the Reel Lawn Mower, Sharks Win!

1. After today's service, a fellow worshiper expressed appreciation for my reading from the Acts of the Apostles so beautifully a lump formed in my throat and I nearly wept on the spot.

2. When I want a job done right, I go straight to the Troxes and today Marla assembled my new Fiskars Momentum 317736 reel lawn mower and I brought it home and had a pretty good workout mowing our new lawn.

3. It was really fun flipping on my XM satellite radio and listening to the San Jose Sharks defeat the Detroit Red Wings. When the Rocket and I got back in touch with each other, because he's a Shark fanatic, I decided I'd follow them as closely as possible in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Their record since I started following them? Two wins and zero losses -- I'm just sayin'....

Three Beautiful Things 05/01/10: Farcical Photo Outing, Eye Opening Conversation, Hilarity with Rocket

1. Russell and I had kind of a farcical outing. I needed a card for my camera, I bought the wrong one, didn't realize that until we were all the way out of town, so we came back to Staples, I bought a correct card, and then we had a good time taking photographs south of Eugene near where Berteleson and Bailey Hill intersect. I'd like to go back there.

2. After reading around about lawn mowers, I went to Lowe's to buy a Fiskars Momentum 317736 and one of my students, Alicia (not her real name), assisted me and we got to talking about her life and she told me about how she works full time at Lowe's and takes eight credits at LCC and is financially supporting her mom and dad during a time of unemployment and illness. I was staggered. I know plenty of 20 somethings who are being supported at home by their parents, but very few who live at home so they can support their parents. . . . and this after Alicia and her classmates had just studied Kafka's "Metamorphosis", a story about a young man who lives at home and works full time to financially support his family. To be fair, it sounds like Alicia's family is more assertive about trying to find work than Gregor Samsa's were.

3. One of the most fun things going on in my life right now is being back in communication with my former Whitworth roommate, Rocket. It all comes back: he gets it and I get it and we make each other laugh all the time. The emails back and forth have been a riot. (The serious stuff is good, too.) Hey, Rocket: being back in touch is uplifting me. So don't Bag It. Okay?