Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 12/30/13: Christmas Decorations Come Down, Ducks Win, Don Knott Session

1.  Mom and I changed the inside of her house from a Christmas house to an everyday house.  The ornaments, lights, and garland came down and the tree is packed up.  Other decorations got packed up and decoration/light boxes are stored upstairs.  The new mattress heating pad is on Mom's bed.  It was a good day for getting more things done.

2.  I enjoyed watching the Oregon Ducks defeat the Texas Longhorns in the Alamo in an unusual fashion.  Oregon's defense outscored its offense and outscored Oregon's kicker.  I never heard or read in any definitive way what was bothering Marcus Mariota as the game wore on, but when he could no longer call running plays for himself or scramble out of the pocket and when he was having trouble getting planted when he passed, Oregon's offense was not nearly so dominant.  If anyone doubted that Oregon's offensive success relied on Mariota being healthy, tonight seemed to prove it.  I kept thinking that with a fully healthy Mariota, the Ducks would have scored over fifty points, especially given that the defense scored twice.  It doesn't really matter that they didn't score fifty, but I thought the game demonstrated very clearly that Oregon's level of offensive success depends on Mariota's health and mobility and ability to plant himself when he passes.

3.  After the game, I strolled down to Don Knott's house and we sat in front of his fireplace on his patio and watched college basketball, drank a Rainier beer and then some cognac, and shot the breeze for over two hours.  We had a great time. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 12/29/13: Sue and Joe Visit, Christy's Home, Eagles Win

1.  Sue and Joe came by for a visit after they went to church.  It means the world to Mom when they come by and it was fun to see Mom so happy.  Joe was carrying a ton of pictures on his I Pad that he snapped in Hawaii over Thanksgiving and it was fun to look at them and learn more about his visit and what he experienced. 

2.  Snow. Snow. Snow. And Christy made it home safely.  A relief.

3.  We don't have a television in Eugene and so, for me, it was really fun to watch the Eagles and Cowboys play for the NFC Eastern Division title and especially fun to see the Eagles win. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 12/28/13: Loving *Saving Mr. Banks*, Bistro on Spruce, Hot Buttered Rum

Family Day

1.  While my sisters and I tried to decide on what to do for a sibling outing, I recommended that we see Saving Mr. Banks.  Then we decided to make it a family outing, thinking Mom would enjoy this movie.  So, Mom, Christy, Carol, and I piled into the Malibu and went to the Riverstone Cinema and watched Saving Mr. Banks.  We loved it.  I would have loved it had I seen it alone, but it was also a perfect movie to see together.  We all were wiping tears from our cheeks.  We loved the story and loved the substantial, stirring work of Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks.  For me, this was among the most moving and satisfying movies I've ever seen.  I plan to explain this a little more in a separate blog post.  (By the way, I do not recommend that others see movies based on my experience with them.  Yes.  For deeply personal reasons, I loved this movie, but others may not have the emotional attachments to stories like this one that I have;  also, others may not have the kind of feelings I have for Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks [and Paul Giamatti].  I don't pretend to know what other people will experience when they see movies I love.)

2.  The movie was a birthday gift from Carol and then we went to the Bistro on Spruce to further extend the celebration of my birthday.  We were seated in a room toward the back, out of earshot of the live music, and enjoyed a quiet meal together.  I was most happy with my gumbo and pinot noir wine and everyone else enjoyed their meals.  The fine food added to the happiness we were all experiencing after seeing Saving Mr. Banks

3.  The family day grew when we arrived back in Kellogg.  Paul, Zoe, and Cosette came over and the adults all had a hot buttered rum and we visited, told stories, got some laughs, and got caught up on people in the Valley or who have left.  I was the first to hit the wall and slipped into a night of peaceful sleep after such a splendid day with my family. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 12/27/13 (My 60th Birthday): Casino Relaxation, Baked Ziti Dinner, Sharing Six Decades of Wisdom ;)

1.  If I'm in Kellogg for my birthday, I enjoy going to the Cd'A Casino with friends from up here and relaxing, playing some machines, eating some lunch, and having a few beers.  That's exactly what I got to do today.  Ed, Jake, Byrdman, Stu and I had a great shaved steak sandwich lunch and enjoyed some good gabbing a ton of laughs and I had a successful day playing machines.  It was a great way to see lifelong friends and a relaxing way to spend some time on my birthday. 

2.  I asked my sisters for a baked ziti dinner and, like magic, that's what happened:  green salad, fresh green beans with garlic, almonds, and bleu cheese, baguette, baked ziti, extra sauce on the side, and some fine red wine.  Magnificent.  We had desserts left over from our Christmas dinners and I loved having another piece of pear mince meat pie.  It was better than a birthday cake! 

3.  Carol's family, Christy, Mom, and I wrapped up the evening by playing Pass the Popcorn, a movie trivia game that was a lot of fun and gave me the opportunity to share with my family the wisdom I have accrued at the age of sixty, particularly when it comes to being overly competitive.  I tried to model the virtues of calmness, fair play, and not shouting.  While family members may not have appreciated my wisdom tonight, I think in the long run they will remember my lessons gratefully and apply them.  Ha!   :)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 12/26/13: Bacon and Toast, Leftovers/Memory Shot, Sunshine Daydream

1.  Mom wanted some crisp bacon this morning and I fried her up some and served it the way she likes it:  on toast, no eggs.  She's not crazy about eggs. 

2.  It was fun going over to Carol's and pulling out the leftovers from our Scottish Christmas Eve dinner and making sandwiches from the leftover Christmas prime rib and having good food in a lower keyed manner.  We also played a new movie trivia game the Roberts received for Christmas and I learned, on my last day in my fifties, that I can't remember a darn thing, it seems.

3.  Ed and I went up to Susan and Cleve's for a good visit which included listening to a little bit of the Grateful Dead's August 27, 1972 show in Veneta, OR.  It was a benefit for the Springfield Creamery and is known as the Sunshine Daydream.  I would have/could have enjoyed listening that music all night long.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 12/25/13: Christmas Smash, Christmas Silence, Christmas Nachos

1.  I like having a little smash on Christmas morning and that whiskey cream Christy made for me for Christmas sure tasted good in my coffee and upped my Christmas cheer a knotch or two.

2.  Christmas afternoon fell into near silence.  I went over to Carol's to fix oven roasted potatoes and to prepare the prime rib and roast it.  My nieces retreated to their rooms.  Carol took a long nap.  Paul quietly went about his business.  I sat in a comfortable living room chair and took a short nap.  I love it when Christmas day falls into into near silence.  (Around four o'clock or so, the silence broke, the bustle kicked in, and our prime rib dinner was a great success).

3.  I called the Deke in the afternoon to see how she and Patrick were doing on Christmas Day and she was at New Frontier Market buying ingredients for nachos and later posted a picture of Patrick preparing the (maybe now traditional?) Christmas nachos.  The best news?  Patrick and the Deke were having a good day and were enjoying each other's company and having some good yakking.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 12/24/13: Scottish Leek Prune Chicken Soup, More Kellogg Time Machine, Happy Anniversary

1. Every year on Christmas Eve, my sister, Carol, and her family, host a dinner dedicated to the Christmas traditions and food of a different country each year.  We are each assigned a dish, and this year I was assigned to prepare the soup course, so I got to make Cock-a-Leekie Soup, a hearty soup with a chicken stock enhanced by leeks and prunes, poured over large pieces of chicken that has cooked in the stock for about four hours.  I was deathly afraid that my course would ruin the whole meal (will the family like a soup with so many leeks? prunes? weird), but, NO!, everyone loved the soup and we all enjoyed the complex fig salad dressing Christy made for our salad and the brussel sprouts dish and the savory meat pie and the awesome potato dish.  The scotch eggs before dinner were awesome and paired well with the single malt Scotch whiskey I brought.   I don't get to join in on these Christmas Eve dinners in Kellogg very often, and this one was a really good one to enjoy with my family.

2.  I jumped back in the Kellogg Time Machine and went with my family to the candlelight service at the church across the street.  Nearly forty years ago, I used to be asked to read the opening of John's Gospel at this service and some years I sang in the adult choir and, when a kid, in the junior choir for this service.  It all came back.  When the service ended, I saw Merle Buhl for the first time in at least forty years.  Merle was the best worker I ever worked with, both as boxboys at Stein's IGA and then as strippers in the cell room at the zinc plant.  Merle and I used to team up and pull loads at about the same speed and then helped each other stack our zinc and then we took breaks together.  He made working at the zinc plant fun; likewise, he was great to work with at the grocery store.  I never knew I'd ever see Merle again and it was a surprise that made me very happy.

3.  Being in Kellogg for the holidays meant that I was not with the Deke for our 16th wedding anniversary.  I called her while she was whooping it up at the Pendletons and it was fun to hear so much fun going on and I am happy to know that Patrick was paying her a visit for Christmas.  I posted on Facebook that it was our anniversary and over a hundred people responded with well wishes for us, making me feel very grateful. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 12/23/13: The Kellogg Time Machine, Christy Arrived!, Carol's Carolers

1.  I ran errands all over in Kellogg:  Yokes, Stein's, Furniture Exchange, Avista, Wells Fargo, Food Bank, and Carol's house.  Every stop was a flood of memories from my days of working at Stein's, to opening my first bank account at First Security Bank (I don't think I had one at Weber), to all the music I heard Pat Elfsten play and all the music I played with him, to delivering holiday food baskets for DeMolay.  Yes, I run errands in Kellogg to get things done, but I also enjoy jumping in the Kellogg Time Machine and remembering all those years I lived here while growing up.

2.  Christy arrived!  The roads were safe.  She loaded her car with gifts and food preparation stuff and some good booze.  Mom, Christy, and I had a nice pork loin roast for dinner.  We settled into a fun evening of drinks and gabbing and laughing.

3.  Christy wasn't my only sister to come to Mom's house.  Carol and about 1,000 carolers from Carol's family,  the Sixth Street Melodrama and other branches of the tree of Carol's life came to Mom's house to sing carols, wish us a Merry Christmas, and bring some light to dark and damp evening Monday night.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 12/22/13 (Plus a Rewind): Back in the Pews, Upstairs Done, Hot Drinks, AND Seeing Roger

1.  The church across the street opened in about 1964 and it's where as I was baptized and confirmed when I was about fifteen and it's where I went to church, sang in the junior choir, went to youth group, went to Boy Scouts, and countless other things.  Back then, it was the United Methodist Church and it was central to my life as a youth in Kellogg.  It was also the site of weddings for both of my sisters and it's where Dad's funeral was held.  This morning, I was back in the pews with Mom for the Christmas program.  I heard Carol's family sing, Carol and Cosette play together, and, as a bonus, got to talk with some people I haven't seen for decades.

2.  Mom and I finished the upstairs project.  Now the upstairs is ready for Christy and Everett to arrive.  They won't have to stumble over boxes of Christmas decorations and other stuff and their bed is cleanly made, the electric blanket is in place, and the upstairs is totally dusted and vacuumed.  It was good to get this done.  Really good.

3.  I relaxed into the evening phase of life at Mom's with a hot egg nog spiked with brandy and rum and then I made an off the top of my head hot buttered rum with hot water, butter, a bit of sugar, and rum.  Winter hot drinks rock.

REWIND:  Let's go back to December 21st.  Mom and I went to Andrews Gymnasium and watched the Kellogg Wildcats girls' basketball team defeat Bonners Ferry.  When I was nearly killed in a flash roaster accident back in 1973, the man shining a flashlight into the roaster, allowing me to see where I could get out, was Roger Grosvenor and this afternoon Roger and sat together for the early part of the game and chewed the fat.  We didn't talk about July, 1973 and how he helped pull me out of the roaster, but Roger told me how he was the EMT for the game, how he volunteered to do this all the time.  If a player gets hurt or if a fan in the stands has an incident, Roger is there to give them medical attention.  It all makes sense.  It's been Roger's life.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 12/21/13 (The Deke's Birthday): Fun at Exxon, City Limits Food and Beer, Nightcap at Noah's

1.  I swear, the 20 something woman who checked me out at the Exxon convenience store at 4th Street near Hattie in Coeur d'Alene was one of the friendliest and most fun checkers I've bought a diet Pepsi mixed with Sierra Mist and a Slim Jim Teriyaki Beef Stick from.  It all had to do with lightening my pockets by using all my change and it just turned into laughs, big smiles, and a lot of good cheer.  (You had to be there.)

2.  Ed, Jake, Carol and I cruised up to the City Limits in Wallace for some dinner and some fun time together.  I tried the meatloaf and mashed potatoes with Pulaski Porter gravy and a side of  chili and a Sunset Red red ale.  I always prefer the Deke's meatloaf and my mother's to any meatloaf I eat anywhere, but this meatloaf was light and tasty and I enjoyed the gravy.  The conversation and laughter was out of sight.

3.  We decided to have a nightcap (at like 8 p.m.!) at Noah's Canteen where things were young and boisterous and we found a corner at the bar and continued to talk and laugh and I enjoyed some Bailey's and some brandy.  It was a perfect cap to a fun evening out and about in the Silver Valley.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 12/20/13: Chewin' It with Abbey, The Desk is Upstairs, Friday Night with the Deke -- Long Distance

1.  After Mom and I did some errand running at Wal Mart and Yokes, I soloed it to Stein's, hoping Abbey would be working.  I've known Abbey since our family moved to Sunnyside in 1962, so he and I go back over fifty years.  Business at Stein's is pretty slow, so Abbey wasn't pushed by anything and we stood by the dairy counter and shot the breeze for about a half an hour and it was a ton of fun.

2.  It wasn't too tricky of a move, but space is tight in Mom's house and after scooting the dining table over and getting some living room furniture out of the way and clearing the basement stairs and moving some stuff in the basement, Paul and I worked together like professional movers to get Mom's desk moved from the basement to her bedroom.  Not bad.  Not too bad.

3.  First a flurry of text messages.  Then we got on the phone.  The Deke and I did the best we could to make one of our Friday night bullshit sessions work, even though we are over 600 miles apart.  To make it all more real, I poured some Pendleton whiskey over an ice cube and got a little bit of the feeling of sharing a cocktail with the Deke.  It all ended as usual:  lots of good talk, nothing decided.  All's right with the world.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 12/19/13: Loving Wig Lady, I Love Capone's, Cosette the Rhythm King (Queen) and Remembering Concerts Past

1.  I went to A1 Wigs by Tamara in Hayden, ID to pick up Mom's newest wig.  I really like Tamara.  She expressed deep admiration and love for Mom and asked how she was doing with sincere interest and a host of follow up questions and did so with energy, kindness, and authenticity.  She told me about some of her struggles, giving me the chance to understand some of Mom's physical ailments in relation to her own.  I wasn't expecting a simple trip to pick up a wig to be quite so electric and life affirming. 

2.  I made my last photo pick up at Costco (for this week) and then went to Capone's in Coeur d'Alene for lunch.  I love Capone's.  It's got a wide selection of beers.  It's not a fancy place.  Somehow it gives me the regular guy feeling of being in the Coeur d'Alene I remember from when I went to college in Cd'A and is removed from the fancier joints downtown and at the Resort.  For beer in the middle of the day, a couple pints of Red Hook ESB were perfect and I enjoyed my personal Home Run pizza.  I didn't want to leave.  I wanted to enjoy more beer, take a taxi home, come back and get the car tomorrow, and enjoy being in Midtown Cd'A.  But, alas, I needed to get back to Kellogg and so I left, relaxed and happy.

3.  My niece Cosette plays drums and other percussion instruments in the Kellogg High School Jazz Band and the Kellogg High School Concert Band.  Mom and I picked up Zoe and Molly and headed up to the high school and enjoyed a wonderful concert.  Cosette was a rhythm king (queen?) and the students played some great selections really well.  I especially enjoyed listening to the low brass, the baritone horn section in particular, and going back in my mind to 1968, 69, 70, 71, 72 when I played in winter and spring concerts.  I couldn't think about how good I was, because I wasn't that good, but I could remember the feelings of how much I enjoyed my friends in band, how much we enjoyed playing, and how fun it was to bring music to our audiences.  I'm very happy that I went to this concert for what happened in the moment and for all the memories I have from over forty years ago.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 12/18/13: 14 Dollar Look, Fourth Quarter Comeback, Maybe Helping SPA

1.  From time to time, I hear snarky remarks made about guys who sport a $14 haircut.  Bring on the snark.  I dropped into Supercuts this morning in Coeur d'Alene and thoroughly enjoyed how nice haircutter Angela was and thought I came out looking okay, only a bit less Einstein-y.  I guess I'm fine with the 14 dollar look. 

2.  I know.  It's December.  It's no big deal.  But, watching the Miami Heat come back late in the fourth quarter and defeat the Indiana Pacers gave me just a little bit of that excitement that comes with NBA playoff basketball.  Even in December, I love watching these two teams square off and will have to wait, now, until March before they play again.

3.  Tim messaged me to ask if he could use some pictures I took at a couple of Shakespeare Showcase rehearsals to use for some SPA (Student Productions Association) publicity.  I liked that.  I'm happy that some pictures I took might help SPA out. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 12/17/13: Popcorn Balls, Belgian Blow Out, Lauren Rocks

1.  Mom and I got the popcorn balls all made and ready to give out.

2.  Byrdman and I gave the Selkirk Abbey pub a try outside Post Falls and had a fun mini Belgian blow out. 

3.  Stu, Lars, Byrdman and I got together at Buffalo Wild Wings at the Spokane Valley Mall.  When we left the Selkirk Abbey, Jaimie, our bartender, told Byrdman and me to look for her friend Lauren as a server.  The joint had about 1000 servers and miraculously Lauren was assigned to our table.  She loves Jaimie.  Jaimie loves Lauren.  Lauren loves us members of the Great Guys Hall of Fame she met tonight.  And, BONUS, she told me that I made her think first of Albert Einstein (the hair), and secondly, of Bill Murray.  It was about twenty years ago when students started telling me that I reminded them of Bill Murray and, wow!, it happened again at Buffalo Wild Wings at the Spokane Valley Mall.  And it was LAUREN, JAIMIE's great friend and a consummate server of wings and beer who told me so.  I was a little giddy.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 12/16/13: Getting Mom's House Ready, The Magic of Cabela's, I'm Slow Smart

1.  Mom and I kept Christmas-ing up the house with elves, Santas, reindeer, angels, and did any number of other little things to make the house ready for the big season.

2.  Ed and I went to Cd'A/Post Falls to run some errands.  One errand was at Cabela;s where Jake works and he gave us an exclusive tour of the stock room where he works and we saw first hand the magic of how Cabela's orders are filled. 

3.  I screwed up an order of pictures for Mom and went back online and fixed the picture and learned some things about ordering pictures online that I should have known but spaced out.  I'm good at that -- spacing things out.  I'll pick up the pictures at Costco today and all will be well. And now I know.  (Sometimes I wish I were quick smart instead of slow smart.  It would save me so much time and effort, but I'm stuck with being a slow learner who is growing more and more forgetful.  I'll deal with it.)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 12/15/13: O Christmas Tree, Making the Nuts and Bolts, 21st Century Christmas Preparations

1.  Mom and I got the Christmas tree assembled, Christmas decorations hauled down from the upstairs, the tree decorated with lights, garland, ornaments, and angel on top, and the skirt placed around the bottom.  I am pretty sure some of these ornaments date back to when we lived on E. Portland over fifty years ago.

2.  Mom and I assembled the pretzels, Cheerios, Chex cereal, Cheese Nibs, and other bits and Mom got the seasoned butter prepared and we got the Nuts and Bolts made.  We've been having Nuts and Bolts at Christmas time for nearly fifty years when Grandma Woolum introduced this salty, garlicky, crunchy treat to our family's life.

3.  I can't do everything the way I've been doing it for nearly sixty years.  Some things have to be contemporary and I got some stuff done on the World Wide Web I needed to do help out Mom and for a Christmas project of my own. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 12/14/13: I Arrived, Basement Sorting, Holiday Show

1.  My twenty-six hour trip from Eugene to Kellogg came to an end when Byrdman delivered me to the front door of Mom's house.  The last time a single trip between Eugene and Kellogg took me this long it was when I rode Greyhound in late December, 1981 and the buses were crippled by a series of snow storms, ice storms, and an overturned truck on the freeway.  That trip took twenty-four hours and wasn't nearly as comfortable as this one.  Greyhound didn't put me in a motel, I didn't see any friends that time, and I didn't have any Starbucks coffee along the way.  Heh.

2.  Mom is sorting stuff out in her basement and I got right to helping her out within an hour of my arrival.

3.  The Sixth Street Melodrama sang a show of holiday songs. The first half were show tunes, pop songs, and general songs celebrating the magic of Christmas.  The show devoted the second half of the show to sacred music, songs about the birth of Jesus.  It was fun seeing people I've know forever:  Coach Larry Curry, Gail, Jill, April and Jim, and my NIC classmate and musical director for this show, Joy Persoon.  I enjoyed that several people enjoy kelloggbloggin and have been enjoying my recent posts about working at the Bunker.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 12/13/13: Stay Calm;Flight Canceled, Relaxing with Turner, Great Conversation

1.  I stayed calm when my flight from Portland to Spokane was canceled and it all worked out.  Alaska Airlines rebooked me for a Saturday morning flight, booked me in the Monarch Hotel in Clackamas, and the hotel has a shuttle service.  I was in my room by 12 with a relaxing day stretching out before me.

2.  That relaxation was made possible mostly by Terry Turner.  He came to the hotel and picked me up and we went to the Stillhouse in Oregon City.  I had a great steak and mushroom pie with a couple pints of Old Speckled Hen.  We closed out our visit to the Stillhouse with a superb McCarthy's single malt scotch.  I felt like I was living in the year 800 that scotch was so deep and transporting.  We then went to the McMenamin's Sunnyside pub where I enjoyed a couple of Hogsheads with a Hammerhead back. 

3.  You might think because I first wrote about what we drank, that that was what mattered most to me during this relaxing afternoon with Terry Turner.  That's not true.  What we drank came in a distant second behind fascinating conversation about our jobs in the Silver Valley, mine in the Zinc Plant and Terry's in the Sunshine Mine and the Kopper Keg.  I learned more about the mine than I had known before and many of the stories were funny. We also talked about other stuff like conserving fish habitat and the challenges of making work places in Oregon more racially/ethnically diverse.  Terry made me think that, in general, maybe I should be so quick to cringe whenever I hear the word "training" no matter what the training is about.  I cringe even if it's a training about how to walk a dog for the animal shelter or it's a training for how to volunteer at a warming center.  I should probably try to get over this.  I have agreed with the purpose of most of the trainings I've attended over the past thirty years or so, but almost always found the training itself to be dispiriting and to work at odds with the good things they were meant to help us trainees with. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 12/12/13: Great Guy Hall of Fame Member Byrdman is the Man, Medicine Please, Smelterville Stories

1.        1.  Thank you Byrdman.  Christy needs to tend to Everett and his infected hand so she can’t pick me up at the airport as planned.  So I emailed the Byrdman and broke out singing the Hallelujah Chorus when he got back to me and can pick me up and drive me to Kellogg.  This really makes my life easier.

 2.  All I really wanted was for my prescriptions to be ready when I went to Hiron’s.  Please, I begged the way things go, don’t let this be the time any of these need a doctor’s permission for renewal.  I leave for Kellogg tomorrow and if I have all my medicines, it makes life about four thousand times easier.  The prescriptions were ready.  I think the woman who helped me at the counter was taken aback by my joy, by my wide grin.
3.  Today was another day of people, mostly from back home, commenting on the stories I’ve been posting on this blog about experiences I had at the Zinc Plant, and, as it turns out, at the Happy Landing Tavern.  Friends had a few stories of their own about the Happy Landing and, about wow, Smelterville’s annual lawless drunken fight fest, Frontier Days when carnies, cowboys, miners, logger, and Silver Valley thugs swooped into Smelterville in the company of perfectly innocent people for an anything goes three day weekend of knife fights, fist fights, car wrecks, drunkenness, mining and logging competitions, rodeo, demolition derbies,  carnival rides, rigged gambling booths, and probably some kind of hangover kids parade. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 12/11/13: Thinkin Bout the Times I Drove in My Car, More Zinc Plant Writing, Heavy Dinner

1.  I drove the car for the first time in a week and, when I went out, the main roads were wet, not icy, and I was happy to get gas, meet up with friends for coffee, and get an errand run at Costco.

2.  My friend Tom Tierney's positive response to my writings over the years about the zinc plant moved me to write more about the zinc plant day before yesterday and today.  I've heard back from Jim and Rick, who also worked at the zinc plant -- in Rick's case, also at the smelter and in the mine -- and from other friends who didn't know I'd been hurt at the Zinc Plant and read about my accident for the first time.  Via Jim's sister, I downloaded a document that's over 70 pages long summing up the metallurgical, operational, and construction history of the zinc plant and learned more about the Bunker Hill's efforts to diversify the zinc plant's operations and what it produced.  It was, on the one hand, a hell hole (Tom says I'm being too kind to call the zinc plant a hell hole), and,at the same time, a fascinating operation that I had only dim understanding of forty years ago, but am coming to understand a little better today.

But the best part of writing about the zinc plant is the online conversations that result and the stories that people who read my remembrances remember themselves.  I really enjoy reading the thoughts and stories of others.

3.  The Deke and I decided we wanted something heavy, salty, and industrial for dinner, so I picked up a ravioli lasagne with sausage and beef bolognese sauce at Costco along with a baguette and a bottle of Rex Goliath Free Range Red Wine at the Kiva and we had out heavy, salty, industrial dinner and we enjoyed it.  On a cold Eugene night, it hit the spot and was a perfect departure from all those rice, soba noodle or udon noodle vegetarian/tofu stir fries. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Getting Carded at the Happy Landing

I'm going to write about something that's been stuck in my craw for over forty years now.

Tom Tierney wrote to me today and told me how he enjoyed finishing the graveyard shift at 7 a.m. and going to Smelterville and dropping in the Happy Landing Tavern for some beers and then to Kellogg to the Sunshine Inn for breakfast with a slight buzz on.

I don't know if Tom was nineteen when he went into the Landing after graveyard shift or if he got served underage.

Here's what I do know.  In the summer of 1972, Stancil Whittaker, Craig Comer,  and other guys my age I worked with in the cell room, but didn't really hang out with outside of work, invited me to go have some beers and shoot pool at the Happy Landing after our shift was over.

They were all eighteen and I was eighteen and the drinking age in Idaho was nineteen, but they'd been going to the Landing all summer after work so it sounded fun to join in.  I hadn't really started drinking much at that point in my time at the Bunker Hill and this seemed like as good of a night to get going on that.

We walked in, headed to the back of the bar, got situated at some tables near the pool table and first Stancil went to the bar and came back with cans of Lucky Lager for everyone and I enjoyed having a cold one after a sweltering afternoon shift.  Someone else, maybe Craig Comer went up next and came back with a round and we drank those and then Stancil said, "Hey, Bill, your turn.  Go get us some beers."

I had never ordered beer in a bar, but I'd seen my dad do it plenty of times and I thought, with a little anxiety, that I could do that.

My old eighth grade flag football coach,  tavern entrepreneur, slowball softball pitcher, and local king of gambling Lloyd Finley was tending bar.  Once I heard someone say that if Lloyd Finley saw two kids playing catch, he'd try to find some one to bet with him on which kid would drop the ball first.

I ordered a round of Lucky Lager.

 Lloyd carded me.

He carded me.

I couldn't believe it.  He'd been serving my other eighteen year old friends over the last hour and they'd been coming in and drinking beer all summer.

And I got carded.

I had no defense.  I tried the "I left my wallet at home" gambit, but I was so nervous and ashamed for being eighteen and looking eleven that I didn't say it with much conviction and I slunk back to my friends.

"Woolum!  Where's the beer?  It was your turn to buy!"

"Finley wouldn't serve me."

"The hell?"

"Yeah.  The fat asshole carded me."

"Well, shit," Craig Comer said, "Guess we'd better get you home, then."

Lloyd Finley's dead now.  I saw him a lot the next summer after he carded me when I played slow pitch and when I went into the Happy Landing, legally, but I never asked him why he wouldn't serve me that night.

I mean there was State Law.

And then there was Silver Valley Law.

I thought Silver Valley Law let kids who worked the Bunker Hill drink, no matter what their age.

Not that night.

Lloyd Finley had no reason to embarrass me that I knew of.  Had my Dad given him shit and he took it wrong?  Did he just want to yank my chain?  Did he think I needed to be cut down to size?  Or was he just being ornery, something he was good at.

I'll never know.

But it still sticks in my craw.

On My Blindness, The Links

I was temporarily blinded in a Zinc Plant accident in July of 1973 and some of my friends have shown an interest in reading about what happened.  I wrote a six part series about this accident back in 2007.  Here are the links:

Part 1 here
Part 2 here
Part 3 here
Part 4 here
Part 5 here
Part 6 here

The Zinc Plant Cell Room: What Made It Worth It

My cousin Summer read my post on freezing in the zinc plant cell room and she wondered what made it worth it.

Her comment to me has had me thinking a lot about this. 

I try not to make the past better than it was, so I'm diligent when I write about working in the cell room to make sure that first and foremost I tell the truth, as I experienced it, that the cell room was hell, a clamorous, acidy, rotten egg sulfurous, often sweltering, always dangerous hell.

That's the foundational reality of the cell room. It was hell.  Anything else I ever write about the cell room must be understood as happening within this reality. '

And, here's another truth:  I enjoyed it.  I never missed a shift. No matter if I'd been out drinking until after midnight before day shift, no matter how hot I knew it was going to be, no matter if working that first of a string of six graveyard shifts meant working all night instead of sleeping, I never missed a shift and I often looked forward to working in the cell room.

In fact, to this day, when I have dreams about the zinc plant ceHll room, they aren't nightmares, even though in my dreams I can smell the rotten egg stench of the place and feel its summer heat.

Now, I surely did not know I would come to enjoy being a stripper when I broke in.  

My first shift was a 3-11 on an above 90 degree day and Jim Hawkins was my teacher.

He handed me a hook and demonstrated how to hook the aluminum plate, pull it up to the drainer, replace the plate and work my way through the cell and how to load the plates on the truck and move on to the next cell.

My muscles were completely unprepared for this work.  Some braid of muscle runs inside the forearm that pulling plates exercised and I had never used this braid of muscle before.

My right hand was unused to holding a hook and then a sharpened chisel to strip with.

Bending down to pull each plate out of the cell, electric heat and sulfur blasted my face, nearly making me vomit.  

On that first night, I had no rhythm, my muscles were unformed,  and I had little tolerance for the heat.  Once in the stripping room, I was like a barroom brawler.  Ever see a barroom brawler fight a guy who knows how to box?  The brawler swings wildly, throws haymakers, wastes energy on needless motion, while the boxer efficiently moves inside these wild punches and with short jabs, each powered by the shifting of his weight from back foot to front, pummels the brawler.

I whacked the zinc covered aluminum plates with wild swings of the chisel, with stripping room haymakers, exhausting myself with needlessly long swings of the chisel.  Jim Hawkins saw me flail away and said, "Bill.  Take it easy.  Watch."  Like the efficient boxer, Jim found the zinc's sweet spot, struck the zinc with short strokes of the chisel once or twice, and quickly removed the zinc from the plate.  "See, you don't have to hit it hard.  You just gotta hit it right."

In basketball, I was the worst defensive player ever to wear a Kellogg Wildcat uniform.  In my head, I could see what I was supposed to do, but never could translate it into physical action.  When an opponent saw we were in a man to man defense and whoever saw I was guarding him would yell to his teammates, "Give me the damn ball!"  Had I played full time and not been mostly a benchwarmer, the players I guarded would have nightly broken conference scoring records that would still stand today.

It was the same with with pulling plates and stripping.  In my head, I could see what Jim was doing, but I couldn't translate it into physical action that night.  In the eight hours I worked, with a couple of breaks, I probably pulled four loads.  Jim was a gyppo stripper.  I think my four loads were part of the twelve loads he pulled that night.  Being a great guy, Jim didn't get upset that my slow work kept him from leaving as early as he could have. 

Worn out, dehydrated, feeling sick to my stomach, I got called into the shifter's office.  I think the shift boss was Crosby.  "Woolum," he said, "We need you in the morning.  Be here about a quarter to seven for day shift and someone else will help break you in more."

I went back to the lunch room and the guys sitting in there wondered why Crosby called me in.

"I'm workin' day shift tomorrow."


"Jesus Christ!  No shit!  You got short shifted your first day.  You make it through tomorrow, you'll be all right.  But, shit, that ain't right.  Gettin' short shifted right off the bat." 

More laughter.

I made it through the next day.  Killebrew helped me some, but I pretty much got eight loads out and it took me all eight hours.

I began to realize, though, that I worked with guys who did ten or twelve minute loads.  These guys were really good.

And I started to get good enough.

And that's when things got more fun.

I started to develop a sense of rhythm and efficiency as I pulled a plate, swung it on the drain, pivoted to the truck, got a clean plate, dropped in the cell and was pulling the next plate out while the new plate dropped in.  I got stronger and moved plates from the drainer to my truck more efficiently and neatly.  I learned how to hop off the truck as I moved to the next cell and have my hook in the first plate almost before the truck stopped.

This rhythm and efficiency felt good.  It's what I dream about and wish I could do again.

Likewise, I learned what kind of chisel I stripped best with and I learned to find the plate's sweet spot and made all my motion count, and quit wasting it. 

I got better at pulling the plates from between the zinc sheets and got better at stacking the zinc.

There was a reward for getting better.  Guys wanted to work with me.  I'd get my load stripped and someone would come over and say, "Here, I'll stack.  Then you stack for me."  We got our work done more quickly and got to get in a little bullshit, too.

Toward the end of that first summer in the cell room, I got scheduled to work on the same shifts as Merle Buhl, a kid I'd know since the 7th grade.

Merle and I had worked together at the IGA store and we liked each other and knew we worked well together.

We were only pulling eight loads on most shifts, and now we could could get a load out in just under a half an hour and so we helped each other stack zinc and then we decided we do the following:  pull four loads, in two hours, take an hour break, pull two more loads in an hour, take another hour break, and then take an hour to finish up and then have an hour to help clean up or do any other odd jobs the shifter might assign us.

I loved those breaks.  Bullshitting in the lunch room with Merle and other guys was really fun, telling stories, bitching, laughing, and, on day shift, listening to the guys on cell repair tell their latest stories about motorcycles and snowmobiles and hunting, or on graveyard listen to the guys who gyppoed on experimentals talk about their luck that day betting on horses at Playfair.

But the best part was getting in that pulling, draining, replacing, stripping, stacking rhythm.  Yes, there were times when the solution was off and the zinc stuck to the plates and stripping was really hard.  Most of the time, though, things went smoothly and I looked forward to getting to work and finding out whether Bruce Wilson remembered where he parked his card the night before and how he got to work if he's lost his car again or finding out how Bob Cassidy thought the National League playoffs would come out and wondering what new ways he'd have to denigrate Johnny Bench or see what the guys thought of how the Wildcats played football that night when I worked graveyard.

Yes, there were guys I avoided.  Scary guys.  They left me alone and I had enough cred that if there was a work problem, we talked straight about it.

When I came on a shift at the cell room, I knew what to expect.  The work was repetitive with only a few surprises and I took pleasure in this and I enjoyed feeling my body get stronger and more efficient and I really enjoyed the men I worked with.

That's what made it worth it.

(And, the money was pretty good for a teenager.)

Three Beautiful Things 12/10/13: The Air Conditioning Works in my Office, Here -- Have Forty Bucks!, Man -- I Was Ruddy

1.  Lane Community College opened at noon today and I went out and finished grading and was happy to have a couple of students come by and pick up their papers.  I arrived at my office and cheerily went to the main office and told the Administrative Assistant that the air conditioning in my office was working.  Yes.  With the temperature outside at about 14 degrees, cold air was being fed into my office.  I worked in the slightly warmer hallway!  I'm glad these things don't upset me.  It's all consistent with the absurdity of workplaces everywhere.  There's always something.

2.  I helped make someone's day today a little nicer today.  When I went to buy a thermometer for Charly at Hiron's, I reached into my pocket to pay and the forty bucks I thought I'd find there was gone.  I dropped in somewhere during the day and somewhere someone is forty bucks richer. 

3.  That Mad River 24th Anniversary Quadrupel Strong Belgian Ale, at 11.4% ABV, warmed my late afternoon with the Deke right up at the Bier Stein this afternoon.  I was smiley, ruddy, and almost immune to the cold.  The ale did its job.

Freezing in the Zinc Plant Cell Room: Some Additions

My good friend Jim Etherton and I worked in the cell room at the same time.  He is a couple years older than I am, so when I broke in, he was a seasoned veteran of pulling, draining, replacing, trucking,spraying down, stripping, and stacking.

When I posted Freezing in the Zinc Plant Cell Room yesterday, Jim commented on Facebook with some observations and memories and he helped explained the place some more to my stepdaughter, Molly.

For one, what I called a sulfur dioxide fog, he more correctly described as a mist of diluted sulfuric acid.  He's right. That's more what it was, but I think I remember afternoons in the cell room when that mist got pretty thick (kind of like fog), but my memory might be playing tricks on me.  I might be remembering it as worse than it was as part of the ongoing "what a hell hole" story I always try to inform people about when it comes to the cell room.  (Yeah, but Tom Tierney wrote me and told me I was being too kind in calling the cell room a hell hole.)

Jim also riffed a little bit on nicknames and I'd like to make it very clear that in the anode shack when we referred to Dale Fattu as "Fail to Do" it was nothing more than a play on words.  He never failed to do.  Dale was a first-rate worker and I enjoyed working with him every shift we were together.

I think Kellogg Junior High band teacher Wayne Benson hung the name "Sparky" on Mike Jasberg.  Mike had some health problems, as I remember, in his early teen years and the nickname "Sparky" didn't reflect Mike's high energy, his spark, but the opposite.  It was typical of humor in Kellogg and we all took it pretty well.  By the time Mike was earning his "Bunker Hill Scholarship" by working weekends in the anode shack while going to the Univ. of Idaho, he was in good health and was an expert anode trimmer.   Those anodes that Fail to Do, Mike "Magilla Gorilla" Rieken, and I poured came out of the mold top heavy and had to be trimmed so they would fit properly in the electrolytic cells.  Mike worked at a machine I never wanted to get near and was a master trimmer.

Jim also reminded me of the late Rick Cameron's nickname.  John Cameron Swayze was one of the early hosts of the Today Show and, later, a guy who sold Timex watches on television.  Of course, then, if a guy's name was Cameron, like Rick, he would be Swayze, or Swayz, for short.

And why was Mike Rieken called "Magilla Gorilla"?  Well, he had the misfortune of resembling the cartoon character Magilla Gorilla and, then, after he survived a car accident in which his face catapulted throught the front windshield and cut him all up, he looked like Frankenstein, but that name never stuck.  For as long as I knew Mike he was "Magilla Gorilla",  "Magill", or "Gil".  Once in a while he would answer that nickname with a "Fuck You", but he usually took it pretty well.  He had one great defense.  Mike was really sharp-minded and could deal out shit to others as fast as anyone gave it to him.

(By the way, I wrote a more detailed account of nicknames back in December, 2006, here.)

Okay.  Back to the freezing cell room.

I had this fact in the back of my mind, and Jim Etherton reminded me that the real problem in the wash spray area was when the water did work, which was most of the time.

The wash spray area became an ice rink.  I don't remember ever having problems pulling my truck over the ice, but I do remember having a hard time keeping my footing and I remember the icicles hanging from the hose's valve and the ice wall the water sprayed onto on the other side of the truck of plates.

Jim, you might need to correct me on this.  I might have my directions mixed up.

The reason it was so cold in the wash spray area and the stripping room was that the huge opening, about the size of a double wide garage door, we used to enter this place when we came to work on the south side of the cell room/stripping room was always open.  I don't even know if there was a door to that opening.  The railroad tracks ran just outside this opening and so the forklift operators, from the Melting Department adjacent to the stripping room, went in and out this door to a ramp along the tracks, to load freight cars with zinc ingots. 

Fork lift operators took the wood pallets of zinc we stripped and stacked to the furnaces in the Melting Department where the zinc was liquified and poured into molds that formed the ingots.

I don't think the guys working in the Melting Department ever got cold, but they had to do some pretty skilled forklift driving when the floor away from the furnaces and the surface of the ramp got icy.

Here's the thing about the cell room:  it was just about at the bottom rung of the zinc plant job ladder. For the gyppos, there was some good money to be made, but, to my knowledge, not too many men were bidding to land jobs in the cell room.  Men did bid to get out.

This point reminds me of a night on graveyard.  The recently deceased Dana Bisaro came to work at the cell room, to break in, and before his shift was over, he walked out.  He was the next of many who worked a few hours in the cell room and said the hell with it.

I remember being in the lunch room when Dana walked.  Wiley Hathaway, a cell room lifer, wryly mused on Dana giving it up:  "You hit the road from here, there's no other road to walk on."

If a guy couldn't cut it in the cell room, at the bottom of the plant, no one else would want you. 

For all I know, maybe Dana landed a job elsewhere at another time at the Bunker Hill. 

I'm not sure.

But, that night, he had no other road to walk on.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 12/09/13: Pictures and Keeping It Real, Cell Room Talk, Whippersnapper Bloggin'

1.  I got through another 16 GB memory card of pictures I had lost to the external hard drive crash of October, 2012.  It's sobering.  It's a reality check.  It's edifying.  When trying to take decent pictures, I've got to learn to live with a high failure rate and I need to have more appreciation for the pictures that are pretty good.  And, to repeat myself, I am going to stop taking 200 or more pictures during a single session.  It's absurd to shoot that much, I think.  It's a bad habit, in my opinion, to take a high volume of pictures with the idea that something will work out.  I'd rather take fewer pictures, give each shot more care, and see what happens.

2.  Tom Tierney, who has been a friend for about forty-five years commented on my post regarding my 2500 posts on this blog that he is most interested when I write about my dad or my experience in the Bunker Hill zinc plant.  I take this to also mean when I write about living in Kellogg.  I took his comments to heart.  The Deke has told me the same thing.  So has Jane H.  So I wrote a piece today about those days when it was way below freezing in the cell room and I enjoyed all the response I got and conversation that ensued on Facebook, especially with my fellow stripper, Jim Etherton. I was also grateful for the story Bobbie Hunsinger told me about her dad twice falling into a vat of acid because of rotting rails and being rescued.  It's been forty years since I worked in the cell room, but the memories remain fresh.   These Facebook conversations will be the basis for another post about the Zinc Plant.

3.  It was a good day for hearing from friends I've known forever about my blog.  Terry Turner, my friend for over fifty years,  let me know that he was sipping on an Old Whippersnapper and reading my blog and thanked me for keeping it.  He inspired me to break out my own bottle of Old Whippersnapper and sip on a couple of fingers of Oregon Spirit Whiskey and write the piece I just mentioned about the cell room in arctic conditions. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Freezing in the Zinc Plant Cell Room

Here in Eugene, we are nearing the end of a cold snap that's lasted several days, a rarity.  Having the temperatures dip below zero takes me back to my freshman year at North Idaho College when I worked weekends and during breaks from school at the Bunker Hill Zinc Plant in both the cell room and the anode shack.  In the cell room, I was a stripper, of zinc off of plates (or cathodes) and in the anode shack I poured anodes with three other guys:  Mike "Sparky" Jasberg, Mike "Magilla Gorilla"
Rieken, and Dale "Fail to Do" Fattu.

I don't remember exactly when the cold snap hit Kellogg.  Was it in December of '72 or early in '73?  I'm not sure.  What I do remember is what a different place the cell room was to work in.

The cell room was called such because of its many banks of electrolytic cells.  Passing through these highly charged cells was a sulfuric acid based solution with zinc particles in it.  In the negative/positive electrical relationship created by the anode and cathode, the zinc particles stuck to the cathodes, which we called plates, and every eight hours these plates had to be pulled, put on a drainer to let the acid solution run off, and replaced with a new plate.  Each cell had seven plates.  Ten cells made a load.  A day's work was eight loads a day.  Guys who pulled more than eight loads got overtime pay and could leave early.  It was an incentive program, or a gyppo deal.

We pulled the plates one at time, replaced each plate, moved the plates of zinc from the drainer to a battery operated flat bed truck, and, when we pulled a load, took the plates into the stripping room and stripped the zinc from each side of each plate and stacked the zinc on wood pallets.

During the summer, with all the electricity running through the cell room and with little ventilation, it was almost almost foggy in the cell room with sulfur clouds.  The temperature in the cell room was about twenty degrees hotter than outside, so, on a 3-11 shift, if July/August temperatures got up into the nineties or hotter, the cell room's heat was well over 100 degrees.

But, in the winter, the temperature was much cooler.  In fact, while other parts of the plant were really cold, I don't ever remember feeling really cold in the cell room.  I remember thinking conditions in that hell hole were much better in the winter:  the air quality was better, I could see better, and my clothes weren't drenched in sweat.

One day, however (and there might have been more), near zero or subzero temperatures caused a really lousy problem.

You see, when we brought our truck of plates into the stripping room, we used a fire-like hose to cool off the plates and wash off the acid solution that didn't drain off.  The when we took our chisel and struck the plate of zinc on each side and pried the zinc off, we didn't splash acid solution on ourselves.

But, when the subzero temperatures struck, the water pipes at the cell room froze.  I don't remember if it was just one morning or several when I brought eight loads of zinc covered plates into the cell room and had to strip them unwashed and still hot.

The cold air in the stripping room cooled the plates off all right, but it was awful stripping those plates with acid still on them.  The smell was terrible and I was constantly having to wipe my safety glasses clean because of the solution flying off the plates onto the glasses. 

As it was, working in such an acidy environment, we always had to take our work clothes to the shower with us to wash the acid out of them and leave them to dry overnight.  If we didn't do this, our work clothes would be eaten up the next day. 

So without the water to wash our plates, our work clothes got even more acid on them. 

I don't remember being burned in the face by these unwashed plates.

I just remember how grateful I was when the water pipes were thawed and when I could clean those plates again.

With all the inconvenience this cold snap is causing in Eugene, and it's significant, nothing I'm experiencing is as dirty, smelly, or as dangerous as stripping zinc off those unwashed plates was. 

Three Beautiful Things 12/08/13: Staying Put, Staying Put with Pictures, Quitting Staying Put

1.  I stayed put.  I missed going to church, but in this deep freeze we are having in Eugene, I decided to stay put.

2.  Staying put, I kept working on my project of recovering pictures from memory cards, pictures I lost over a year ago.  I keep having the same experience over and over again looking at these pictures:  I wonder, at times, what I was thinking of when I took a bunch of my pictures, and then I sort of remember what it was I hoped to make happen.  I failed a lot.  A lot.  Well, a lot.  I would have been wise to have deleted a lot of those failures when the failure happened, but I didn't, so I am now.  I'm getting a stronger and stronger sense of what kinds of pictures have lasting value, what I do that works better than other things, and what I have to work on.  It's fun, time-consuming, and overwhelming.

3.  The Deke decided she didn't want to stay put any longer and so I consented to a trip to 16 Tons for a couple half pints of The Abyss, which warmed us right up, and a stroll across the street to the freezing cold High Street Pub where we had great conversation and happy hour cheeseburgers and tater tots.  It's funny that even though we had to keep our jackets and caps and other cold weather gear on, we thoroughly enjoyed our food, our yakking with our server, and one another's company.  I gotta tell you, though:  it was really cold in that little old house that is the High Street Pub!

kellogg bloggin' Hits 2500

I began keeping this blog in October, 2006 and here it is, December 9, 2013 and I'm still at it.

This blog actually began on my refrigerator.   I had read about web logs (blogs) in the NYTimes.  At that time, we didn't have access to the World Wide Web in our home, so on August 24, 2004, I started writing "logs" and printing them out and posting them on our refrigerator.  I called them fridge logs.  I posted my last log on the fridge on January 2, 2005.

My guess is that I quit posting fridge logs in 2005 because I entered into a difficult time with my health.  I had just found out I had chronic kidney disease and some time around February I lost all my energy and fell into a deep depression for a few days and confined myself to my study and watched movie after movie after movie.  I was spent.   I'd been pushing myself too hard, even though I had decided to drop the Copia Lecture series and had tried to ease up in other areas of my life.

To this day, I think I was suffering from the long term effects of spinal meningitis (Nov., 1999) and from the after effects of the summer of 2004 when Molly was seriously burned in a camping accident and all that caring for demanded of our family.

Thinking back, it was a great help when I was able to used sick leave and, with a physician's approval, reduce my teaching load in Spring, 2005.  Even more, I think I did a great thing for my health by accepting the role of Snug, the Joiner in LCC's production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."  Not only was putting on the play a lot of fun and not only did it get me moving around and exerting myself in a creative and really fun way, I loved the part of the cast I worked with the most.  A group of us were the Mechanicals, responsible for the hilarious play within the play of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and we had a lot of time together in the dressing room between our times on the stage.

I was, by far, the oldest member of this part of the cast, and so I got to enter into the world of what people thirty years younger than I were watching in the movies and got to find out about all kinds of other interests they had.

It stimulated me, perked me up, made me happy, and helped me get better. So did the four Shakespeare plays I was in over the next several years.

Still, I didn't return to regular writing and the creation of kellogg bloggin' until over a year later in October, 2006.

At first, I wrote a lot of stories of memories of living in Kellogg or of things going on with my Kellogg friends.  At that time, I had ambitions of writing something bigger than a blog and I spilled out all kinds of things that were on my mind.

At that time, I also wanted to get thoughts and reflections down about books I was reading and movies I watched and so I wrote about these things.

In November of 2006, I bought my first digital camera, opening up a whole other means of expressing myself on my blog.

I also had a great time reading others' blogs and made some really good blog friends and I'm sorry this has petered out.  I loved those early blog days of finding new blogs, making new friends, and reading what others were thinking about.

I loved it when my sisters and I did sibling assignments.  I think we did 150 of these and I would sure be into resurrecting that idea.  I'm remembering, too, when we had some blogging sessions together, when we were all at Carol's dining table and wrote blog entries at the same time, laughing, wondering what each other were doing, seeing who could post the best clip from a Rocky movie or the funniest memory or YouTube video.

I'd say the biggest change in my blog between then and now is that I don't think of myself as very intellectual any longer and I don't have any ambition for writing a book or something.  That could change, but now my blog focuses primarily on my recording of Three Beautiful Things a day.

I've not had any problem with depression since about April of 2009.  I can't believe it after suffering with this for so long.  Does the recording of Three Beautiful Things have anything to do with this?  I don't know.  But, I have to believe that this habit I've formed of seeing the good in each day has done some good.

I hope I'll get back to writing some pieces on my blog that more reflective and that tell stories.  I enjoyed that, but I think I'm in a period of transition about what's on my mind and how I think about things and and how I want to write, so it might be a while before I spill stuff like that out again.

I like posting pictures, still, so much that I have one photoblog at Tumblr and I'm thinking of starting another of pictures I've taken over the last three years of people holding hands.

So there it is:  my brief blog history.  I thought entry #2500 would be a fun time to reflect on the past seven or eight years of fridge logging and web blogging and look at some of the things in my life that brought this project about.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 12/07/13: Cold Weather Stroll, Cycling Jefferson Street, Ubon Stir Fry

1. It's the coldest weather we've had here in Eugene for at least forty years.  It's my favorite kind of cold weather:  clear skies, windless, for the most part, with dry, crunchy snow.  So I left the car in the driveway and took a stroll over to Sweet Life for an almond biscotti and coffee and then to the Kiva for food supplies for me and the Deke.

2.  The packed snow and ice on the roads meant few cars were out, so the usually very busy Jefferson Street was vacant enough for these two bicyclists to enjoy their spin around the neighborhood:

3.  Usually, when I make stir fry with noodles, I fix Soba noodles, but, today, I fixed Ubon noodles and they were perfect and the Deke and I enjoyed the way they tasted with onion, ginger root, garlic, tofu, celery, mushrooms, red cabbage, and bok choy.  The Ubon noodles responded well to being fried for a little while in sesame oil and to some soy sauce before I combined it all together.   Cold night.  Warm meal.  Good vibe with the Deke.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 12/06/13: Home in the Snow, Good Days and Lousy Days Taking Pictures, Black Beans and Whiskey

1.  I grew up in the snowy wintry climate of Kellogg, Idaho and I don't think there is anything noble about driving well in snow and on ice.  I never want to do it again.  So, today, when several inches of snow fell here in Eugene and everything was called off, I was happy.  Yes, I would have preferred taking part in the Shakespeare Showcase dress/tech rehearsal.  I love rehearsals.  I also hate driving in the snow and ice and was most happy that I could stay home.  And, by the way, it's not "the other drivers" that make me say this.  Even if I were the only car on any given street or road, I hate driving in the snow and I don't think any car is built for doing it. 

2.  I returned to my picture project, rescuing pictures off of memory cards and out of my Flickr account that I lost a year ago when an external drive of mine went to hell.  My instincts about picture taking outings are pretty good.  I remember days, like when Russell and I went to Island Park or another day at Dorris Ranch when I thought, at the time, my pictures today are really lousy.  Today, with the passing of time, I went back over these pictures from about two years ago and, yes, they stunk.  But, then there were other days, like in April 2012 at the downtown markets on a couple of Saturdays when looking back at pictures I'm so glad I didn't permanently lose fired me up, and I felt the joy that comes from taking some pretty decent shots.

3.  I love black beans and I love making soup and on this frigid December Friday, making some black bean soup with Mexican seasonings, so that it was sort of a chili, was perfect and comfortably complemented the couple or three Whippersnapper Whiskeys I slowly sipped on to keep my belly warm and my face ruddy. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 12/05/13: On Needing Richard Hugo, Bus to U of O, Whippersnapper Oregon Spirit Whiskey

1.   I've expanded the lecture I wrote back in 2002 to memorialize the 1982 death of Richard Hugo to a nearly twenty-five page paper.   It's a project I return to from time to time.  I like reading it to any interested students.  I happily release any students from the classroom who can't imagine why they'd want to hear me, a nearly sixty year old mostly retired teacher, read about a part of my experience growing up in Kellogg, Idaho, the part involving danger and death and gravity, and how Richard Hugo's poetry and essays helped me make a kind of sense out of it.  I needed Richard Hugo.  I still do. I'm happy to say that for the handful of students in each section who stick around, it's a good experience and I thoroughly enjoyed talking with them about the paper, answering questions, and discussing what my paper says.

2.  Several buses go from LCC to the downtown station in the afternoon and they are usually packed.  I was going to ride the 1:59, but some self-aggrandizing, non-stop talking, pontificating guy was waiting for the same bus and I wanted to get away from him, so I took the bus to the Univ. of Oregon instead.  It's always a quiet ride and I like trying out places to eat lunch near campus.  I enjoyed a plate of yakisoba noodles at Carpe Diem and caught the Emx (for the first time!) to the downtown station and enjoyed the frigid walk home.  I don't want it cold all the time, but I like feeling like I'm back in Kellogg in the winter on one of those subfreezing clear blue days.  All that was missing was crunchy snow.

3.  I went back to LCC to help out with a dry tech rehearsal for the Shakespeare Showcase and it turned out I wasn't needed.  No problem.  I stopped off at the liquor store to replenish our brandy supply and a bottle of Whippersnapper Oregon Spirit Whiskey, distilled by Ransom Wines and Spirits in Sheridan, Oregon jumped off the shelf and I had to buy it.  Terry had packed a jug of this handcrafted booze to Pendleton, but we never got around to testing it, so I decided to try it myself.  It's an easy drinking whiskey and tastes nothing like any whiskey I've ever sipped before.  Maybe when I've tasted more I can describe that better.  Whatever that unique taste was, I liked it and was happy that I could only drink a little bit of it, so this jug should last a while. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 12/04/13: Cull the Pictures, Chilly Eugene Scene, Let the Celebration Begin!

1.  I'm working on a project and going back through hundreds of pictures I've taken and it's not nearly as sobering to see how many crummy pictures I've taken as it is overwhelming that I've kept so many of them.  Near to the top of my list of things I'm learning:  delete lousy pictures and don't take so many of the same subject, thinking that if I take ten pictures of the veins of a leaf, one of them will be good.

2.  It was a chilly stroll with my Pentax Q over to Sweet Life for some biscotti and coffee and I took this picture, thinking it tells the story of how the temperature has dropped in Eugene:

3.  After a two hour rehearsal of the Shakespeare Showcase, I stood outside the Safeway at 18th and Oak and Rita braved the cold and the dark and the packed parking lot to bring me delicious cupcakes and a book by Louise Erdrich I haven't read, The Master Butchers Singing Club.   My 60th birthday is still three weeks away, but I think the celebration has begun! 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 12/03/13: Machine Shop Pictures, Two Buck Brisket, Peace at Home

1.  As an option for a final essay in WR 115, I told my students they could do a second photo project.  I would take some pictures and the student would write about it in relation to the one I took in October.  Only one student took this option and he is a machine shop student and he was very happy when I gave him thirteen pictures of him working at a lathe.  Some were faceless portraits of the lathe and his hands.  He liked the pictures and it made me want to return to LCC's machine shop and take more.  (I would post some of these pictures, but I promise my students I'll never post pictures I take of them.)

2.  I got off the bus downtown and strolled to the First National Taphouse.  They have tasty two dollar beef brisket tacos on Tuesdays and a fine three dollar margarita.  It made for a satisfying early afternoon lunch and the music playing over the sound system augmented my dining pleasure:  Marshall Tucker Band, Cream, Credence Clearwater Revival, and other stuff from my high school days.

3.  I fixed a dinner of onion, garlic, ginger, celery, eggplant, mushroom, red pepper stir fry over soba noodles fried in sesame oil.  The Deke and I ate and the quiet began.  We spent our evening's hours unbothered by any sound other than the occasional corgi whimper or bark, some  a capella singing on YouTube, and a bit of conversation about what tomorrow will bring.  We like it quiet.  It's restful.  It's peaceful. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 12/02/13: Biscotti, Desk Cleared, Peace at Billy Mac's

1.  I wish my efforts to keep my weight at a reasonable level could include a daily trip to Sweet Life for hazelnut biscotti and dark roast coffee.  I'm actually hoping my efforts can withstand a trip to Sweet Life once or twice a week for hazelnut or almond or anise biscotti.  I love biscotti.

2.  I cleared off my desk.  Now the floor of my room is cluttered with books and notebooks and papers and bills and records and other stuff -- but my desk is cleared off.

3.  The Deke was antsy when she got home from work and I dropped her off at Billy Mac's, went to Costco to develop some pictures, and joined her at the Billy Mac's bar for some hot strips and a small Caesar salad.  It was a perfect way to enjoy some R and R Canadian Whiskey and help the Deke wind down.  And she did.  We found peace...not everlasting peace, but evening Billy Mac's food and drink peace. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 12/01/13: Advent Hope and Vision and Idealism, The Luxury of the Abyss, Love the Rubin

1.  Today is the first Sunday of Advent and so churches and Christians world-wide now enter into a month of preparation for and anticipation of the arrival of Jesus Christ.  Such anticipation moves the church to be idealistic, to imagine the best the world can be and this idealism is born of the hope embodied in the birth of Jesus.  We find ourselves imagining the world as the best it could be, are inspired and driven by such vision, even if it never comes to be.  The dream, the hope inspires me.  I read Isaiah 2:1-5 today and this passage is filled with the hope of a New World, especially in these lines:

He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
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.

We heard further longing for a New World in Psalm 122 where the hopes of the world are expressed through hope for the city of Jerusalem:

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: 
 "May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls 
 and quietness within your towers.
For my brethren and companions' sake, 
I pray for your prosperity.
Because of the house of the LORD our God, 
 I will seek to do you good."
The choir sang a motet by John Blow this morning with Psalm 116 as its setting.  It was gorgeous.  I loved entering into this season of Advent, of vision, idealism, hope, and anticipation, this morning.

2.  The Deke and I relaxed this afternoon and completed different tasks for work and our life at home and continued our relaxation at 16 Tons by each enjoying a pint of that deep, dark, rich, beautiful once a year Imperial Stout from Deschutes Brewing:  The Abyss.

3.  We decided to split a Rubin (their spelling) at the Pour House so we could continue our conversations and be out of the house a little longer.  The sandwich was really, really good.  The beer could only be a letdown after The Abyss, but we knew that going in.  No problem.