Sunday, March 31, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 03/30/13: Rockin' Little Roadsters, Easter Vigil, After Hours at Billy Mac's

1.  Russell and I went to the Eugene Roadster show at the county fairgrounds and took pictures.  Even though I can't seem to get the hang of taking pictures of classic cars, it was fun seeing all these beautiful vintage cars and trucks and drag boats and seeing so many people admire the hard work that went into restoring them.  I'm hoping I got some pictures that are worthy of turning into postcards for my three grandchildren.

2.  I was asked to read four of the Old Testament readings at the Easter Vigil service tonight, readings which, along with the four Old Testament readings Pam read, make it explicit that covenant, deliverance,  and different ways of expressing and experiencing resurrection have always been at work in the revelation of the reality of Supreme Being. 

3.  After the Easter Vigil, I stopped in at my favorite Catholic bar and grill, Billy Mac's, for a snack, some hot shrimp, and a drink.  I arrived at 9:30.  Billy Mac's closes at 10.  But, I didn't leave until 12:30, thanks to being a part of last night's after hours fun, when John, Brian, Derrick, and Michael relaxed after their work was done, Chelsea dropped in, and we talked and talked about basketball, church, and going to school.  I can't drink alcohol like the youngsters.  I know my limits.  I enjoyed not exceeding my limits.  I enjoyed listening.  It made after hours at Billy Mac's even more fun.  I thought a lot about how I didn't even think of limits when I was their age.  Nor did I listen much.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 03/29/13: School/Church Shoes, Hiking/Walking Shoes, Mower

1.  The guy at Burch's was very helpful as I quickly and efficiently decided on which school/church shoes I wanted to buy and he directed me right to a pair of solid yard work shoes.  I buy shoes about once every presidential election cycle, so this was a huge event for me.

2.  Since I had such good luck with service and shoes at Burch's, I decided to try my luck at REI for a pair of walking/light hiking shoes.  I got great advice from two employees and a very friendly customer and left the store confident that the shoes I chose will be comfortable and long lasting.  I buy shores about once every presidential election cycle, so this was a huge event for me.

3.  I decided I need a cheap power mower for times, like now, when my non-power push mower just won't work because the grass is too tall and wet.  So I went to Cascade Garden and Equipment and the guy who helped me led me right to a used, cheap mower that I think will do the job.  I buy a mower about once every time leadership changes hands in Cuba, so this was a huge event for me.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 03/28/13: Buzzing Around Eugene City, Confusion at Hirons Cleared Up, Fun with Star

1.  It was kind of fun buzzing around Eugene City, buying groceries, filling prescriptions, picking up dog food, just getting things back in order after our short trip to Idaho.

2.  At first, no one seemed to be able to track down my online order for a couple of my medicines.  I waited.  A guy I'd never seen at the drug store before tapped on a keyboard for a while.  Then he looked in a small basket.  Then he went over to a counter in the medicine fill area.  No luck.  Then a woman whom I recognized as experienced in all things pharmaceutical at Hirons took over and she reasoned her way to why my order hadn't been filled and calmly helped me identify the meds that should have come in.  "We'll have them for you in 15 minutes."  "No problem."  Problem solved.  I had my medicine soon enough.

3.  The Deke and I have known Star for over fifteen years and she was our server tonight at Cornucopia and, in the midst of her busy shift, we managed to shoehorn in some great laughs and a lot of fun together.  She made a late afternoon of solid food and a few of Pelican Brewery's Kiwanda Cream Ales extra enjoyable. By the way, I find the Kiwanda Cream Ale to be refreshing, uncomplicated, easy to drink, and most satisfying.  It's not a work out.  It's not like a complex saison or a symphonic IPA.  Lately, it's been hitting the spot for me. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 03/27/13: Pumping My Own Gas, Canon S95 Returns Home, Empty Fridge...Ergo Billy Mac's

1.  I pumped the gas into the car in Ritzville.  Deke: "Everything go all right?"  Me:  "Yeah.  I guess so."  We drove across the street to Starbucks.  Deke: "Almost everything."  She put the cap back on the gas tank and closed the gas tank door.  I should only buy gas in Oregon where someone does the pumping for me.

2.  We had an easy and safe drive home and arrived to a knock from our neighbor who delivered my repaired Canon S95.

3.  No groceries in the fridge so what's a couple of buzzards to do?  Go to Billy Mac's, of course, where I loved John's Russian Stroganoff, some refreshing Hefeweisen beer, and some Eugene history talk with Cathy.  I hadn't thought about Brother Jonathan's for a long time and find myself still lamenting the disappearance of Field's.....

Three Beautiful Things 03/26/13: Ed Astonished Mom, Call Me the Tax Man, Evening Dessert

1.  Ed came by for a quick visit and astonished Mom with the fact that the USPS leases out post office space from private building owners.

2.  After a brief tour of the Silver Valley looking for Idaho tax forms for Mom, I settled in at Mom's kitchen table and slowly and methodically computed her taxes.  I got them done.  I did them right.  H & R Block, however, did not call with a job offer.

3.  With the taxes calculated and finished, Mom, the Deke, and I sat down to a comforting oyster stew dinner with crackers and cheddar cheese and then hustled over to Carol and Paul's for a Harry Potter Citrus Sandwich Cake for dessert.  More laughs! 

Three Beautiful Things 03/25/13: Backyard Black and Tans, Capone's, Don't Peek!

1.  I arrived at Jimmy Byrd's and he promptly mixed a black and tan and we sat in the back yard and the talking got underway.

2.  After a couple of black and tans we headed over to Capone's Pub and Grill for a half and half and a sandwich and continued to get just about everything remembered and figured out.  It was a great lunch.

3.  Don't peek!  Just let that No Peek Beef Stew stew away and that's what Mom did and we had a fine dinner together in preparation for an evening of t.v. viewing and relaxing. 

Three Beautiful Things 03/24/13: Cataldo Inn, Lucky Enough, City Limits

1.  The Cataldo Inn is back in business!  I don't know how long it was closed, but now it's been freshened up and they're serving food again.  Scott and Ed and I met for breakfast and enjoyed ourselves:  the food was solid and the company and the conversation was terrific.

2.  Videographer and theater diva Zoe and I managed to get seats for the nearly sold out final production of "Lucky Enough" at the Sixth Street Melodrama in Wallace.  I was told by the poster for the show that "'Twill make you want to be Irish".  I left the theater wanting a beer, but I didn't really want to be Irish.  Zoe and I had a lot of fun, especially because Paul and Carol headed the cast. 

3.  I left the theater wanting a beer and so I walked through the slush up the street to the City Limits, a superb where North Idaho Mountain Brew is made and served along with a full menu of fine food.  The Deke and Mom drove to Wallace to meet me for dinner and I enjoyed the beer and my fish and chips. 

Three Beautiful Things 03/23/13: Driving to Worley, Casino Fun, Buffet

1.  It didn't take much back and forth for Ed and me to decide to drive south to the Cd'A casino and, as always, the drive down was the most fun, getting caught up, telling funny stories, having some laughs and pondering some serious stuff as well.

2.  I had one of those days I enjoy at the casino:  won a little, got ahead a bit, played with free money for quite a while, and, then, once the free money ran out and I got a little ways into my own pocket, I stopped playing.  I used some free money to have a couple of bargain priced pints of Hefeweisen beer.  I also enjoyed watching the Ducks beat St. Louis and watching the Zags (even though they lost) when I decided I'd had enough of the machines. 

3.  Ed and I ate at the buffet and the variety of fish along with some steak pieces, Caesar salad, brussel sprouts, and other good food worked for me. 

Three Beautiful Things 03/22/13: Driving to Kellogg, Skyscapes, Beef and Vegetable Soup

1.  No hurry.  Take our time.  Talk to the neighbors.  Chase Maggie after she escapted.  Bring her back to the car.  Let adrenaline settle down.  The Deke, the dogs, and I are ready to drive to Kellogg.

2.  Spectacular sky and cloud variety between The Dalles and Ritzville:  clear in one direction, fingers of dark rain clouds in another, puffy cotton clouds in yet another.  The stunning skyscapes made it difficult to concentrate on driving.

3.  Remember that prime rib I roasted back on Sunday, January 20th in Kellogg for Mom's birthday?  (Ha!)  Well, Mom turned those bones into broth and make a tasty beef and vegetable soup, a perfect dinner after the long drive. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 03/21/13: Writing About the Divine in My Own Words, Go Ducks!, Cardiac Zags

1. I'm spending more time these days in my retirement writing longer blog posts.  I wrote this morning about happiness and my way of experiencing God/Supreme Being/Divinity, here, and did my best not to write in the language one always sees or hears, but did my best to write about these matters in my own language, to be true to my own experience.  It's what I have my students do if they choose to write about spiritual subjects.  I don't want to hear their minister or their guru or the last book they read or a tract speak in their essays: I want to read their understanding in their own words. 

2.  I kept track of Oregon's game against Oklahoma State while I was writing and doing other things around the house:  Go Ducks!  That was a great win.

3.  I tried to send positive vibes Christy's way during the Zags' game, hoping she wouldn't collapse with cardiac arrest because Gonzaga's game was so close.  But, the Zags prevailed; they survived and advanced.  I hope, if they were jittery today, that they got that out of their system for Saturday!!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sustained Happiness, Part 3 (God/Faith/Church)

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

 (I'm not writing this post an an invitation to theological argument.  I've been a Christian all my life and I know and have studied the many ways people experience the Divine and I'm keenly aware of the great variety of spiritual disciplines, practices, and ways of being.   In my chaplaincy work and in my career as a teacher and as a member of a world-wide denomination whose members have a great variety of ways of experiencing God, I don't need to or want to be instructed as to how I should see things nor do I care to argue about these things.  I love the great differences we have in the Body of Christ and I love the great differences in spiritual traditions that are not Christian and that are not religious.  Or are atheist.)

I'll say right off the top that the sustained happiness I experience because of the constancy of the love I experience with friends and families is inseparable from my experience with God, with Supreme Being.  If what I am trying to get at in these blog posts is some sense of what I "be", what the ground of my being is, then God is the word I use to refer to being that is supreme.  And, I should add, that when I use the word "God", I am using it as a synonym for the Trinity, of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit combined.  The other word I would use is the Divine.

I'll also say, right off the top, that God epitomizes my search for an understanding of happiness that is not dependent on feeling.  The reality and the power of God endures no matter how I feel.  As a result, my experience with God is not ecstatic, is becoming less and less cerebral, but is occasionally emotional.  I am frequently moved to tears by the beauty of the Supreme Being I experience both in my day to day life and in the beauty of biblical stories and parables, biblical poetry, and in the beauty of the words of the prophets.   There are Sundays when I am the Old Testament reader in church when I am pushing down the lump in my throat and feel the tears beginning to well because of the beauty of the passage I've been assigned and because of the beauty of the Supreme Being these biblical words are trying to come to grips with.

I experience God in a quiet, sustained, strengthening, undramatic Way, absent of any sense that good luck or bad luck I have in life is because God brought it about.  The structured, quietly emotional, relatively quiet form of worship I participate in as an Episcopalian, therefore, works perfectly for me.

This past Saturday night, I stopped in at the Falling Sky to wind down after a little more than two straight days and nights working in the theater.  I was drinking a beer, alone.

A guy in his early twenties decided I needed company and joined me.  We got to talking and he revealed that his dad was a rabbi and that he was a Messianic Jew.

Then he asked me if I was religious.  I didn't answer this question the way I sometimes do.  I didn't say, "What do you think I am, an idiot?  Of course I'm religious."   I just said, "Yes.  I'm an Episcopalian, very devoted to the life of my church, which is just down the street."  Then I pointed in the wrong direction down the street.

"Wow!  Then what do you believe?  Like that the world was created 6,000 years ago?"

I answered, "I do not consider myself a believer.  I'm a doer.  If you want to know what I'm about,  spend time around me and what I do and how I am will tell you all you need to know."

I don't think it was the answer he was expecting and we talked some more.

I've think a lot about this, about my resistance to the word "belief".  Not only do I resist it in the theological realm, but in the political realm and when I talk about teaching and other things.

To me, God, or Supreme Being, is so fundamentally real, I don't see why I would want or need to say I believe in God.

I don't say I believe in gravity.  I don't say when my bath water is too hot that I believe it will cool down if I let it sit for a while.  I don't say I believe oak leaves will turn red in the fall. 

To me, the presence of God is no more a matter of belief than gravity, the cooling of water, or leaves turning color in the fall.

So, rather than believe in God, I experience God.  I don't experience God so much as a father or as a lord, but I experience God in any number of everyday occurrences that manifest being at its best, that manifest Supreme Being.

I experience grace.  Forgiveness. Service.  I experience gratitude.  Love for others.  Others loving me.  Generosity.  Family.  Friends. Intelligence. Grief.  Sorrow.  Healing.  My hypocrisy stings me.  I regret hurtful things I've done.  I have a conscience. I confess how I've wronged others. I have turned aspects of my life around.  In other words, I've experienced being repentant. I can have regard for others' needs beyond my own.

I experience the joy of family.

I experience the joy of being with friends. 

I am animated, not mechanical.  I have a soul.

Above all, I experience resurrection.  It's everywhere.  I've worked with countless students over the years who were dead to life come alive.  I've had regions of my own inward self die and come to life again.  Resurrection is at the heart of many of Shakespeare's plays.  Right now, I look out my window and the daphnes are blooming, leaf buds are coming on, rhodies and azaleas are coming to life.  These plants are going through their annual resurrection. 

Resurrection, to me,  is the most mysterious and profound expression of the being at its most supreme, whether in death and resurrection of Jesus or in the witnessing of one who has been stingy becoming generous or in sickness being healed.  We live with death and resurrection all the time.

 In all of these aspects of my life, and many others, I experience the presence and the inspiration and the guidance of Supreme Being. 

Now, another way I understand Supreme Being is in these words:  The Way.

Many sources in my life have and do point out to me how I can see and understand and experience  Supreme Being and The Way:  the Bible, Thich Nhat Hanh, the Tao, Martha Nussbaum, Jon Krakauer, Homer, the plays of Shakespeare, the poetry of Wordsworth, as well as Richard Hugo and many others, song lyrics, the novels of George Eliot and many others, photographs, paintings, movies, countless sermons I've listened to over the years, and insights I've gained listening to family members and friends, reading student papers, newspaper editorials, blog posts, Facebook threads, and on and on.

The world is alive with divine inspiration. 

Supreme Being is always present.  We live in this Being and this Being lives in us.

I try to stay awake to its always being at hand.

Maybe you can tell that I have tried and continue to try to work out my experience with God on my own terms, with my own language, with my own sense of influences.

I am happy to recite the words of the liturgy at church.  At the same time, I am always working them out on my terms, accepting their universal truths and simultaneously expanding upon them, figuring out how they work for me.  I say the Nicene Creed, happily;  but, inside of myself, I am replacing the "I believe" with "I experience".

The experience I've tried to explain that I have with Supreme Being is the ground of my being.  I live to try to approximate The Way.  It's a constant longing in me to do so.

Supreme Being is the reality that endures.  It sustains my happiness.  It is present no matter how I feel or what the circumstances of my life might be.

Yes, I experience Supreme Being in temporary things like good beer, a momentary rainbow, the flash of an egret's wings, a sun bathing turtle, a dog's lick, a good laugh, and on and on.

God is also a sustained, enduring, and sustaining reality, the source of enduring happiness and deep contentment, always, for me, quietly present, undergirding the flux of human life, present in our joy, tumult, disappointment, disillusionment, sorrow, and success.   

I'm not into superstition.

I don't want a crutch.

I long to be in communion with what's real. 

That's my source of sustained happiness.

Three Beautiful Things 03/20/13: Happiness Blogging,The Classroom's Not a Factory, Remembering Dad with Christy

1.  I've gotten back to writing essay-like pieces  in this blog again and am enjoying roughing out my thoughts on the subject of happiness (here and here).

2.  MB, Michael, Jeff and I met for coffee and between us we have about 120 years of teaching experience and I left our conversation reflecting upon what an inexact undertaking teaching is, how elusive it is; I thought long and hard about how time in schools and classrooms are structured as if education were an exercise in mass production and how little like mass production it is in practice.

3.  Christy and I had a fun email exchange about Dad, his love of Jack and Dan's Tavern, how he became acquainted with its owners (we don't really know), his love for Gonzaga and Idaho basketball (when the two played, he rooted for Idaho), and his last days on earth, how he died one day shy of knowing that Utah, and John Stockton, lost to Seattle in the 1996 Western Conference final.  I remember making sure he knew Utah won game 6, and in spite of his grave condition, he nodded.  He knew.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sustained Happiness, Part 2 (Friends and Family)

When Thich Nhat Hanh discusses the "ontological ground of being", I try to think of a way to state this principle more simply, free of the philosophical term, "ontological".  Ontology is the study of being.  Nhat Hanh, I think, is asking us to examine not so much what we are (what I am), but what each of us be.  That's not proper English, I know.  But the word "am" makes it sound like the answer to the question of ground of being is answered, is finished, is right now.  If I say,"I am cold", it's not ongoing.  If I turn up the furnace, I can say, "I am warm". 

But if I think of what I "be", I'm thinking of my being, of what is enduring, what is at the bottom or the ground of my existence. 

What I am trying to get at is whether "what I be" at the ground of my being is substantial enough to form a basis of happiness that is not dependent upon feeling happy, or, really, dependent upon feeling at all, but is deeper than feeling, more sustainable than feeling, and more durable than feeling.

Can I trust in the strength of the ground of my being (what I "be") for contentment, for confidence, for being at peace, that is, for happiness, even if I feel lousy, disappointed, sad, depressed, or frustrated?

One of the most sustaining realities at the ground of my being is the length, breadth, and depth of my friendships.

In just the last three weeks, I traveled to Gladstone, OR and then to Albany, OR to spend time with Terry Turner and Jim Byrd in Gladstone and then Terry Turner and Mike Stafford in Albany.  Terry lives in Gladstone.  Jim lives in Coeur d'Alene, but comes to West Linn every few months to visit his son.  Mike lives in Yakima and came to Albany, as did Terry, for the Northwest Fly Tying and Fly Fishing Expo. 

I've known Mike Stafford for as long as I have memory.  We lived in the same neighborhood in the East Portland/Market St. part of town before I went to kindergarten and used to play together.  I've know Terry since Farm League baseball days when I was eight years old and I've known Jim since I was about nine and he was a member of the Union Legion Lanes Little League team.

In other words, the ties that bind our friendships go back fifty years and more and when I am with them I experience the trust, confidence, reassurance, and connection that comes with shared history that strengthens me.  It's not based on feeling.  It's based on strength, a strength built on longevity, shared experience (fun, painful, joyous, disappointing).

We share a deep past, but we don't live in the past.  Nonetheless, as we tell stories and sort things out from the past, it's a source of affection, it's the sharing of stories we were a part of together, and we realize what brought us to where we are today. 

These friendships and many more like them, with other fellow Kellogg High School mates, with friends from college, both NIC and Whitworth, with friends I made at the U of O, some of whom I still teach with today, and with friends I've made at church and in my work at LCC, all contribute to the ground of my being and contribute to my sense of sustained happiness.

It's hard to measure the strength of what I be.  I don't know what's stronger or strongest.

But, I know that my being is grounded in family.  I used to think, when I said this, that I meant my immediate family, my mother, deceased father, and sisters.  But, now the strength I experience at the ground of my being because of family includes my West/Baugh cousins (first, second, and third) and includes, more strongly than ever, the Deke, her adult children, our grandchildren, and members of the Deke's extended family.

I never dreamed I would know such breadth and depth in family life.

Years ago, I made a commitment to myself that I would do all I could to never let anything having to do with politics or possessions or spiritual practice anything else come between me and my love for and fellowship with family members.

I might have made this commitment around the time my dad started getting pretty sick, maybe earlier.  I know I made it as I was entering my forties and became increasingly aware of people who didn't speak to their parents or had had a falling out with a sibling.  Most often, these divisions occurred over possessions or property, often in the aftermath of a death in the family.

I saw this very kind of division occur with family members in my extended family.  When I married the Deke, she had stories about such occurrences in her extended family. 

I couldn't stand the thought of being alienated from my mother, sisters, or any of my cousins over petty things like possessions or differing political perspectives. 

In time, and this had little to do with the commitment I made to myself, we family members began to seek each other out more.  My sisters and I began to share writing assignments and got to know each other better.  This way of being together grew into what we call Sibling Outings, times when the three of us go on a day trip or overnight, with only the three of us and take pictures, eat, drink, laugh, tell stories, and have fun. 

Two family reunions among the members of the Baugh/West clan got organized.  It sounds like another might be in the works. 

It's not political agreement that binds us together.  It's not the ways we worship alike or understand ourselves spiritually.  It's not our shared interests, not playing around with the possessions we love in common.  If these things were the basis of our strength as a family, we'd fall out.

It's what we've been through together, even when we weren't in the same place.  We come from the ranch.  We've suffered the loss of our matriarchs.  We love the Clearwater River.  We have stories, and even though we weren't in the same place when they happened, they overlap, and we laugh.

And we learned decency.  We learned it through what we were taught.  We learned it through our failures, sometimes because of the company we kept that wasn't so decent.  We learn it from each other as we work out the challenges of our aging mothers and of our own aging.

Increasingly, as the family I married into matures and as my marriage to the Deke ages, I have experienced great strength in our family, too.  We have all been together now for over fifteen years, long enough to have developed our own stories and to have been faced with a number of traumatic and grievous family events.  I had meningitis.  Molly got burned.  David died.  There's divorce underway.  There's illness among us.  The stories are fun and the mutual respect that developed from how we've faced the difficulties have strengthened this family, brought us to deeper love for each other, and makes the ground of my being all the more solid.

I have more to write about sustained happiness and the ground of my being.  I think I'll add Part 3!

Sustained Happiness, Part 1

When I have my students write about happiness or when I read others write about it, they often zero in on happy moments or happy occurrences.  I enjoy it when these momentary things happen, especially when they are a surprise, as much as the next person.  For example, when he was alive, I couldn't always predict when Snug would suddenly lick my face; it made me very happy in that moment when he did.  I enjoy sudden rain showers.  They clean the air.  They freshen up things.  For a few minutes, sudden rain showers make me happy.

But, what I'm really after is knowing a more sustained happiness, a happiness that remains with me even when I grieve or when I get angry or when I'm annoyed.  I'm trying to come to grips with what I can do in my life that makes an enduring happiness more possible, not a fleeting happiness, but a deep happiness I can trust is alive, whether I'm in pain, even when circumstances are lousy.

The best way I can think of to articulate this is that I am less happy in feeling happy and more interested in being happy.  It's the difference between saying, "I feel happy" and "I am happy".  Feelings are fleeting.  Being is what we are.  It's what Thich Nhat Hanh calls our "ontological ground of being".  It's the ground upon which we build our lives.

So I've been wondering what ground I have been building my being upon.  In other words, what is the substance of that ground, what's it made up of?  Is happiness the ground of my being?  In the same way that ground (or soil) sustains plant life, is happiness sustaining my life as a person?

I can answer this best by looking at what the primary sources of happiness are in my life.  Then I can ask myself if these sources are substantial enough to sustain happiness, or are they fleeting and temporary?

I'll write about this in Part 2. 

Three Beautiful Things 03/19/13: Superb Office Hours, Meeting Paul Strand, Pelican Planning

1.  Most of my students who said they'd come back to pick up their writing folders did so and it was fun talking to them.  Sean brought his girlfriend by and the three of us had a fun conversation about them both being Vietnamese and American, among other topics.  Ernie's ankle is healing.  Danny's keeping it real.  Melissa, from last quarter, came by and we had a great talk about school and family.  Russell and I had some good camera/photography conversation.  I solved a couple of missing essay mysteries.  I turned in my spring syllabus.  I wrote about "56 Up" and worked more on my blogging about happiness.  I held a six hour office hour and enjoyed every minute of it! 

2.  I don't know much about the early 20th century photographer Paul Strand, but I found a documentary ("Under the Dark Cloth") about him at Netflix and it's not only fascinating, but has me thinking more about whether I can make certain abstract styles of photography work in my pictures.

3.  The Deke and I met at Cornucopia and are getting serious about sketching out plans for the summer.  Our conversation was made all the more pleasant by the fact that 'copia had Pelican's Kiwanda Cream Ale on tap.  It's light, easy to drink, and, for me, is as refreshing a beer as I've ever had.  Somehow, it really hits my sweet spot.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Reflections Upon 56 Up (I reveal details about the movie)

I can never remember if I've seen all the "Up" movies since 28 Up or if I missed 49 Up.  I guess the important thing is that I feel like I've seen them all and I that I have an emotional investment in these characters.  After all, in one way or another, they've been on my mind for twenty-eight years since I saw 28 Up in 1985 at the Cinema 7 theater in downtown Eugene.

When I watched 28 Up, back in 1985, I suppose I thought of myself as kind of a fourth-rate Anglophile.  I had been to England twice, in 1975 and 1979, loved it, and was a graduate student in English literature, which I also loved.

So, in 1985, I listened to Jackie and Bruce and Suzi and Symon and Nick and Neil and Lynn and Sue and Paul and Nick and Tony and Andrew (John and Charles did not participate) being interviewed, I was mostly mindful of Margaret Thatcher.

28 Up had been released in 1984.  Thatcher had been in power for about five years.  I had it in my mind that, as I watched 28 Up, that the subjects of the movie seemed less British to me in their dress; they seemed more Americanized on the surface.  I had it in my mind, back then, that the Reagan America was a model for Thatcher and that somehow it must all be going her way.

That meant that I experienced Neil, the homeless man wandering the north of England, as embodying the Thatcher wreckage.  I remember thinking that she had indeed punched huge holes in the social safety net and that while Neil fell through, someone like Andrew, a solicitor, was doing splendidly in Thatcher's England.

I know now that my response in 1985 was shallow.  I really didn't know how Thatcher's England was affecting these people in any learned way and it was silly for me to feel like the "England I loved" when I visited was giving way to American clothing styles.

So, a week ago today, I went to the Bijou Theater in Eugene and watched 56 Up.

As a fifty-nine year old, my response to the movie was much different.

I didn't really respond much to the surface changes in the characters, except their faces.

I loved how their faces had aged.  Each of them had weathered (and were weathering) tumult of some sort:  divorce, death in the family, infidelity, chronic illness, financial pain, criticism from the press, miscalculations about their lives, loneliness; in short, they had grown into becoming very unique individuals, but had also grown into becoming emblems of what is universal in the human experience.

Yes, in those faces one can still see the difference in social class and can still see that what was in the seven year old is in the adult.

But, at what I can only think of as the spiritual level, those differences faded away and these thirteen people had matured into something like a full expression of the benevolence that was always present in them.

This benevolence in each of the people moved me to weep.

Again and again, each person made it a point to say that what mattered most in their lives was love for others.

For Neil, it was love of friends and fellow worshipers; for John, it was not only love of family and friends, but devotion to charity work in Bulgaria; Tony's wife endured his stupid dalliances with other women, and now, less brash, more settled, Tony could see that what matter in life was not "birds" and "chasing skirts", but home, his wife, his children.  Symon and his wife extended love to the outcast as foster parents; Bruce married late in life and after having been a teacher to the impoverished in England and India, he was now a father, devoted to his sons, as he had been devoted to his teaching projects when younger; Lynn and Jackie suffer,  from illness and financial hardship, but their goodness, generosity, and devotion to family radiated in their stories.

Sue loves her partner and has taken up acting and is full of vitality.  Yes, Andrew is wealthy, but it was his love for his wife and sons that shone most brightly.  Did a man in his mid-fifties ever seem kinder, more benevolent than Paul, in his gentleness and warmth as he does handyman work at a retirement village and extends his kindness to those who live there?

Coming back to the Dales, pulling on his waders, animated Nick, softened him, put him back in touch with his origins, and I loved seeing him interviewed in England rather than the USA where he works. I loved also seeing how much kinder and mellowed Peter was. I was happy he returned to the project.  The arrogant kid he was in his twenties has nearly melted away and the joy he expressed in talking about his band and what we saw when he played his music was invigorating.    And, lastly, Suzi, who always expresses resistance to the Up project, has grown even more fully into her  elegance.  Almost all of the bitterness and sharpness of her younger self has worn away and she, like the others, is devoted to loving her family.  It was a bonus to see how fondly she and Nick feel for one another.  They've become great friends. 

Watching this movie, having followed these thirteen people for twenty-eight years, makes it tempting to think about what I would talk about with Michael Apted at this stage of my life, were I part of an "Up" series.

But, I don't really need Michael Apted to talk about these things.  The Deke and I talk about our lives all the time.

Neither one of us is very savvy when it comes to money and neither of us wants much from the world in that way.

What matters most to us is family, friends, and service through teaching (and for me at church).  We have settled into our benevolence, into our appreciation for those we love:  our kids, grandchildren, our siblings, my mother, our extended families,  and for our friends.  The bonds we have with family now have long history and somehow all that time that seems to have passed, really has not.  It's all alive in the present when we are with those we love.

Experiencing the strength and the security of the past in the present is especially alive in my friendships, not only with my Kellogg friends, but with the longtime friends I teach with, some whom I've known for nearly thirty years, and with my Westminster Basement friends from Whitworth, whom I've known now for over thirty years.

Yes, we live in the present, but with friends and family, our shared history is a bedrock of strength and reservoir of goodwill, both of which invigorate each moment in the present we are together. 

I saw the people in 56 Up drawing upon a similar strength, a similar goodwill, giving them the vitality that goodness and benevolence bring to life in a person.

Three Beautiful Things 03/18/13: Almond Butter, Rehearsal Pictures, Photos Everywhere

1.  I've decided to replace peanut butter with almond butter, legume butter with nut butter.  Good move.  The almond butter in my oatmeal this morning was tasty, really tasty.

2.  I took over 250 pictures at Friday night's dress/tech rehearsal for the Shakespeare Showcase and this morning and afternoon I made some albums of those pictures available on the SPA Facebook page and posted the pictures as a set on Flickr

3.  The documentary Black White + Gray was a compelling study of art/photography collector-curator Sam Wagstaff who was Robert Mapplethorpe's patron and lover.  Watching this documentary capped of a stimulating afternoon and evening of looking at photographs online, a period of looking kicked off when Siskanna posted a link to pictures by Paul McDonough, here, and this led me to look at the photographers listed at the Sasha Wolf Gallery, here, making me wish I could see the McDonough exhibit, "Sight Seeing".  This link will take you directly to the artists, here.

It was a stimulating day for working with my own pictures and for looking at a ton of inspiring work by professionals.  Really.  So much beauty. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 03/17/13: Time and Lifting the Fog, Lots of Pictures, Accidental Corned Beef

1.  For a variety of reasons, including problems with health, the years between about 2004 and 2012 are a blur to me and today I spent time trying to sort these years out, with the help of this blog.  The fog began to lift a bit and suddenly I realized that things that seemed to have happened only a couple of years ago actually happened seven years ago, like performing in Much Ado About Nothing.  Today became a day of reflection upon time, its passing, and memory, the tricks it plays.

2.  I spent a lot of time beginning to sort out the nearly three hundred pictures I took on Friday, the 15th.  I still have a lot of work to do with the pictures I took at Friday's Showcase rehearsal.  Overall, I'm pretty pleased with those pictures and I look forward to the next dress/tech under the theater lights when I can get more practice taking pictures of actors bringing Shakespeare to life.

3.  Neither the Deke or I wore green yesterday.  In fact, when we decided to get out of the house for a while, we only gave St. Patrick's Day a thought because we were concerned the Cornucopia might be too crowded.  We arrived, however, at a good time and, without planning to, each ordered a corned beef dinner.  I enjoyed eating half of my corned beef and cabbage dinner (boxed up the other half) and marveled at how good that Irish food tasted with Guinness beer.  And, by the way, the Deke and I had a great time talking about all kinds of stuff.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 03/16/13: School Saves Lives, Sara Smiled, Melissa! Wow!

1.  A student of mine from eight years ago attended the matinee performance of the Shakespeare Showcase, introduced herself to me, and took the time to tell me how much the course she was in back in 2005 helped her when her mother died suddenly that quarter.  She said it saved her life.

2. Sara, a student of mine from the turn of the century, came to the evening performance and we had a splendid talk about what we've been up to and I think both of us were reminded of how much we enjoyed working together as teacher and student over ten years ago.  It sure brought back a lot of great memories for me.

3.  After the curtain call, as people socialized in the Blue Door Theater, Melissa, a student of mine from about three years ago, sought me out and I learned she is about to finish nursing school and has great plans for earning a Bachelor's degree in nursing.  She loves her vocation.  And it was really fun to learn that that was her son who gave the splendid performance of Othello.

What a day!
What an evening!
So many of the roads of my life crossed in that little theater on March 16, 2013.....

Three Beautiful Things 03/15/13: Rehearsals, Campus Pictures, Turner Turns Text Reporter

1.   This was a day dominated by the Shakespeare Showcase.  Rehearsal at 9:30 until 11.  Back to the theater at 4:00, left the theater about six hours later.  The most fun part was for me was taking pictures.  I look forward to seeing how they turned out.  I'm hoping I learned some things about light and settings from when I took pictures last fall during dress/tech rehearsal.

2.  Between rehearsals, I wandered down to the University to take pictures and I found a spot on a bench where I seemed the most inconspicuous and took street pictures.  I haven't looked at them yet, but I'm hoping that I'm discovering places to shoot from where I can compose the kinds of pictures on campus I enjoy shooting.

3.  Terry Turner became a text message sports reporter and kept me up to date on the Utah/Oregon game.  It was fun to know how the Ducks were doing, even as I provided narration for the Showcase and as I rode the bus home when the rehearsals were over. 

Three Beautiful Things 03/14/13: Final Grades, Garlic Ginger, Devil's Bitter

1.  Ah!  WR 115 final folders came in.  Almost done with grading.  I don't think I've ever been almost done this early.

2.  I loved the garlic ginger stir fry at Tasty Thai Campus.  The taste of the generous slivers of ginger permeated the entire dish, and, since ginger is my favorite flavor, I was really happy.

3.  Some Devil's Bitter at High Street helped me wind down after a good evening of rehearsal for the Shakespeare Showcase. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 03/13/13: Wednesday Eucharist, Camera Mailed, Taking Pictures and Strolling

1.  I walked to St. Mary's Episcopal Church and participated in the Wednesday morning Eucharist, a splendid way to continue my morning.  I'm really enjoying getting into this habit.

2.  I decided to send my broken Canon S95 to the Canon Repair Center, almost as an experiment, to see what they can do and how their service turns out to be.  The guy at the Hirons' post office was a totally friendly and helpful public servant.  I wanted to tip him, he was so helpful.

3.  On my walk home from Hirons and then on my stroll to Billy Mac's, I enjoyed taking pictures of flowers bloomed, blooming, and getting ready to bloom.  Very satisfying.  So were the small handful of street pictures I took...and the shadow pictures of porches.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 03/12/13: Hugo Paper, 56 Up, Post-Vestry

1.  I occasionally add a bit more to my paper entitled "On Needing Richard Hugo" and it's up to twenty-five pages now and I decided I'd read it to any of my WR 115 students who wanted to hear it.  Four students in my first class stayed, but one of them worked on his own writing all through my reading and two students stuck around in the afternoon.  That was fine by me.  I honestly didn't want anyone in the room who didn't care to hear it.  I think the students who listened to the paper enjoyed it.  One found it beautiful and another said it helped him understand workers in a way he never had before.  I came home and told the Deke that I thought it was pretty good.  I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

2.  I went to the 4:00 showing of 56 Up at the Bijou and am I ever glad I did.  What made me most happy?  As these men and women spoke from the perspective of being in their mid-fifties, each one of them had grown more benevolent (in some cases even more benevolent) and I loved hearing one after another talk about that what really matter to them was family, children, grandchildren, and friends.  I was often moved to tears.  I've been following this series of documentaries for twenty-eight years.  These men and women have taken residence in my heart.

3.  I had a really good time meeting up at the Rogue Public House with the Senior Warden/Troxstar for a couple of beers after he was done running the vestry meeting.  It was a relaxing way to cap the day. 

Three Beautiful Things 03/11/13: Lazy Day, Dinner, Kiwanda Cream Ale

1.  I enjoyed the laziness of Sunday afternoon so much that I carried it over into Monday. 

2.  I did, though, get out the George Foreman grill and make ground beef patties along with rice and cauliflower. 

3.  And, I did muster up enough energy to pry the cap of of a Pelican Brewery Kiwanda Cream Ale and managed to pour its refreshingness into a glass and drink it.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 03/10/13: Sunday Eucharist Again, Falling Sky Bitter, Be Lazy

1.  I had thought about making Wednesdays at 9:30 my primary time to celebrate the Eucharist at St. Mary's, but this mornng I said, naw, I want to resume worship at 11:00 on Sundays as well.  I'm happy I decided to celebrate the Eucharist this morning.  It was good to see fellow church members and I also got to hear Tom English give his sermon on the prodigal son.  It was insightful and issued a difficult challenges regarding the broken system of criminal justice in our county and our country.  To sum up, paraphrasing Tom's quoting of John Dominic Crossan:  love without justice and justice without love is a moral corpse.

2.  After church, the Troxstar and I strode (confidently) to Falling Sky for a Daylight Savings pint of beer.  We both had a Wind-Up Bird Best Bitter.  It was very tasty, easy to drink, well-balanced.  One of the things I admire/love about Falling Sky is their devotion to type of ale known as the bitter.  For my money, it's the best place in town for the bitter ale and I've drunk, I think, four different kinds of bitter at Falling Sky.  I hope they keep the bitters coming.

3.  The Deke and I let the afternoon be lazy.  She took the corgis to the groomer so did a little more than I did, but the words of the day were "be lazy" and "relax".

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 03/09/13: North Idaho at Elmer's, Armitage Park, NBA Tedium

1.  It was fun to wake up and head to Elmer's with Mike Stafford and Terry Turner and enjoy breakfast and some fine conversation together.  Before leaving Albany, I got to see Terry's booth where he is promoting his business, Terry's Custom Rods, and look around the expo a bit.  Great start to the day.

2.  Gorgeous day for taking pictures and Russell and I decided to get a little ways out of town and visit Armitage Park and take pictures of the old railroad bridge, now a biking/walking bridge.  My experiments under the bridge with aperture meant slow shutter speeds and long exposure times and most of them failed.  I needed my tripod.    I'll take the tripod next time.  I enjoyed imagining different kinds of pictures and can always return and try again. 

3.  I watched a bit of the Knicks and the Jazz game while at Billy Mac's.  I swear, for about ten minutes or so only two things happened on both ends of the floor: either a player launched a three point shot, often missing, or a player drove to the basket and got fouled.  No one took a shot from the area in between the three point line and the key.  Neither team even seemed to think about working for a 12-15 footer in this range.  No one ran much of an offense. It was repetitive and tedious. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 03/08/13: Finley Refuge, Oregon Trail IPA, Eat Like a Hungarian

1.   After picking up my rental car, I decided to make the most of my drive to Albany and stopped, for the first time, at the William F. Finley Wildlife Refuge.  I took pictures, stopped at several turnouts, breathed the fresh air, deeply, and took pictures.  I am eager to return.  Maybe this picture will help you see what I enjoyed so much about this place: 

2.  I strolled around Corvallis for a while, taking a few pictures, and then went to Old World Deli, where I hadn't eaten since 2004.  While I enjoyed my roast beef and swiss sandwich, the real pleasure of my light lunch was drinking some Oregon Trail IPA.  I rarely drink IPA, but since Old World has been brewing beer for over twenty-five years, I thought maybe they brewed an IPA that didn't hyper hop its beer.  I was right.  The Oregon Trail IPA was balanced, citrusy, refreshing, and not revved up with hops.  It was a pleasure to drink an IPA I could really enjoy.

3.  Mike Stafford, Terry Turner, and I met at the Albany EconoLodge, checked into our rooms, and drank a couple drams each of Jameson's Irish Whiskey.  We fell right into easy conversation and good hearty laughs, further sealing our Kellogg brotherhood.  We took our brotherly spirit to Novak's Hungarian restaurant and enjoyed a chicken pate appetizer plate, the house pilsner beer, as good a beer as I've had, and our food.  I had Beef Porkolt, cubed sirloin tip in a specially seasoned mushroom gravy, served over homemade Hungarian pearl noodles. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 03/07/13: Polite Young People, Emily After All, Promise Kept

1.  Every single rider, between the ages of 18-24, who deboarded the bus between Lane Community College and 13th and Patterson, a stretch of about four miles, thanked the driver.  Every single one of them.  I experience this kind of politeness in young people all the time at work and other places.  Yes, there's the occasional lout, but my experience tells me that the idea that young people today have no manners is not true and exaggerated. 

2.  Usually I walk from Safeway to Cornucopia after work on Thursdays, but today the Deke wanted to meet at Sixteen Tons and what a lucky thing that turned out to be.  Emily is in town for a couple of days and I ran into her for a quick hug and a word or two -- after having to decline lunch with her and the Troxstar earlier today.  In addition, Abi was working the taps and it's always fun to see her. the way...the Deke and I had a very relaxing time together.

3.  One of my students has had a terrible time because of family problems over the last three weeks or so and, when she first came to talk with me, she vowed she would finish the course.  I said I'd work with her.  We had a thirty minute conversation today in my office and she's kept her word.  Her work was in good shape, we covered what she needed to do to finish the course, and I told her how proud I was of her, that under very trying circumstances she would be finishing WR 115.  I was moved by her determination. 

Three Beautiful Things 03/06/13: Quiet and Solemn, Not Hot Drumettes, Lakers Drama

1.  A retirement benefit:  The Wednesday 9:30 a.m. Eucharist at St. Mary's is perfect.  Again this morning, it was intimate, quiet, solemn, and focused.  I got some time to myself afterward to light candles for friends in need as well as those who have had loved ones die. 

2.  I went grocery shopping and chicken drumettes were available in the meat department and I had a very modest realization that the drumettes would be tasty for dinner, even if I didn't prepare them as hot wings.  I was right!  I seasoned the drumettes with Greek seasoning, pepper, and garlic powder, fried them up in the cast iron skillet, and I was especially happy that the Deke loved them.

3.  I'm not a Lakers fan, but I sure enjoy their dramatics.  Every day another story surfaces about internal conflict, you know, Kobe outs Dwight Howard for being soft, that kind of thing.  Then, tonight, against the Hornets, the Lakers outscored New Orleans 33-9 in the fourth quarter and stormed back from over twenty points behind to upend the hapless future Pelicans.  I knew the Lakers had been way behind and when I checked the score as the game came to an end, I had a good laugh:  the Lakers never fail to create great drama!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 03/05/13: Good-Natured Students, 'Copia Surrealism, Can't Harsh Our Mellow

1.  As the winter quarter's end draws near, I am grateful for the good nature of the students in both my sections.  They are easy to work with, receive my advice and instruction well, and even laugh at my wise cracks.  When students, as they say in the world of sports, buy in, it makes the whole experience in the classroom and the difficult task of learning so much more fun and pleasant. I was reminded of this today as both my class sessions not only went smoothly, but my students learned a lot and had fun doing it.

2.  The Deke and I met at the Cornucopia for a drink or two and I was laughing much of the time we were there at the Deke's way of making wise cracks and saying absurd things to our server, who also enjoyed the surreal world the Deke invited him to be a part of.  (I helped out a little, but, hey!, I know the Deke and I'm no Deke.)

3.  When it's still early in the evening, not even six o'clock yet, and nothing is happening at home or anywhere else, it's hard to resist a late afternoon/early evening nightcap at Billy Mac's.  It's comfortable.  It's quiet.  We can talk some more, enjoy the Billy Mac's staff (Amber was fun today), and continue to wind down.   Mellow.  We came home mellowed.  Nothing at home harshed our mellow.  Ahhhh.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 03/04/13: Hult Plaza Trust, Holding Hands, Exhausted Deke

1.  I needed to pick up some things at the Univ. Bookstore, so I walked to campus.  I broke up my walk with breakfast at the Hult Plaza Coffee Shop and experienced it fully today because the woman who serves the counter, the tables, and the booths was back at work.  I especially enjoyed the pan fried potatoes.  What will keep me coming back, though?  It's a cash only spot.  I didn't bring cash and the waitress didn't bat an eye when, after I'd eaten, I told her I'd be right back, that I had to go to an ATM.  She trusted me.

2.  I made my purchases at the Bookstore and then sat on a bench near 13th and Kincaid and took pictures.  I liked a lot of my pictures.  I caught students smiling and laughing with each other, talking about weekend parties, among others.  I also took a few holding hands pictures and this one -- well, I don't know if it's a great picture, but it stands out to me as unique.  I've never taken a hand holding picture quite like it.  I like it a lot:

Maybe I should crop out the stop sign.  I might try that later.

3. The Deke arrived home and dropped on the couch, exhausted.  It felt especially good to have planned dinner and it felt good that the boneless pork loins, brown rice, and green beans satisfied her. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 03/03/13: Bracing Stroll, SundAle Afternoon, Mess of Beans

1.  I had a bracing walk out at Delta Ponds under clear skies in a stiff breeze.  I took a few pictures and did a lot of thinking about stuff.

2.  The Troxstar texted me while I was on my bracing walk and we met at Falling Sky where I enjoyed some quiche, a glass of The Dozens Extra Pale (for some reason I enjoyed its hoppiness...I don't usually want my beer quite this bitter, but it worked), a pint of Golden Glacier (easy, refreshing) and a glass of my current favorite at Falling Sky, Reelin in the Oats.  It was a perfect after quiche beer.  I enjoyed this session of yakking and ale quaffing with the Troxstar.  (Later we went up to the 16 Tons cafe for a glass of farmhouse ale:  The Bruery Saison de Lente to be exact.  Another tasty and refreshing ale.)

3.  The Deke put together a mess of white beans, ground beef, spinach, tomatoes, Greek seasoning and I'm not sure what else in a pot and cooked it up and it was as good of food as I've eaten.  It wasn't like chichi chef foody good, it was more like straight shooting, no bullshit, peasant food good.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 03/02/13: Yarn Crawl Day, Inland Empire League, Ground Beef Scramble

When I retired, I thought about what I might do in my retirement, but I totally underestimated how my days of retirement might intersect with other friends from Kellogg who were retired.  I will never underestimate this source of joy, pleasure, and satisfaction again.  And it's so simple. 

1.  The Deke and I drove to Gladstone to Terry and Nancy Turner's house so Nancy and the Deke could join in the Greater Portland Metropolitan Area Yarn Crawl and so Terry and our Kellogg pal Jimmy Byrd could get together for NCAA men's basketball games and a few cold ones.  Our drive was easy, the Deke and Nancy, who hadn't met, hit it off, and the women buzzed off to yarn shops, I buzzed over to West Linn to pick up Byrdman, and the day was underway. 

2.  Conversation between me and Byrdman and Terry was all over the place.  I enjoy going back in time to the days of the Inland Empire League and high school basketball, when I often had the best seat on the house on the end of the bench, and remembering players, games, and even refs (like Scrappy Curtis) whom we admired or annoyed us.  I enjoyed the Intermountain League, too, even though it wasn't our conference, because a lot of those fellas were both teammates or opponents when American Legion baseball rolled around.  I could converse about this stuff all day.  Oh!  Wait!  I did!  (My favorite beer of the day?  Pelican Brewery's Kiwanda Cream Ale.)

3.  Yeah..okay...I-5 was a little rainy.  There were a few aggressive drivers.  Overall, though, pretty easy.  It was nice to return home, see the dogs were safe and sound, read that the fire in our neighborhood didn't hurt anyone and got extinguished, and I enjoyed frying up a little ground beef, sauteing some mushrooms, frying up a little brown rice, and scrambling it altogether with a couple of eggs.  It was a simple meal to bring a thoroughly enjoyable day to a close. 

Three Beautiful Things 03/01/13: Troxstar Breakfast, Pictures at/around the U. of O., Appetizers at Billy Mac's

What a day!  I'm going to pack more than 3BTs into my reflections of this day!

1.  On my way to have an executive breakfast, seated in our executive booth, with the Troxstar and the First Lady of the Troxstar Empire, I enjoyed the morning sunshine and the many shadows it cast and took pictures of shadow patterns and other things and, just before going into Brails Restaurant, who should pop out of Brails Coffee House to hug and say hi and chat, but Patsy!  Wow!  This first Friday of March was off to a stellar start.

2.  Before returning to Brails Coffee House to have coffee with Jeff and MB, I roamed a bit around the west campus area of the University of Oregon and enjoyed taking pictures, taking significant pauses to sit and ponder, observe, listen, and reflect upon the hurrying fast-talking students, ashen-faced professors, and countless people of all ages talking about relationships.  Is the concept of relationships, hooking up, whether to get serious, disappointments, what's gonna happen next -- is this the primary conversation topic among people?  I swear, in at least 85% of the pieces of conversation I heard today the topic was relationships.  I honestly wanted to declare a moratorium on the very word.  Almost nobody talked about academic subject matter -- not even those ashen-faced professors.  They talked about department or university politics.  I think another moratorium would have been in order. 

3.  After attending Don King's funeral and having a wonderful, but short amount of time to get caught up with Rita, I met up with the Deke and we sat at the bar at Billy Mac's and enjoyed a couple of appetizers -- chicken strips and hot shrimp -- and had a nearly perfect hour together winding down, debriefing, getting relaxed and making plans for our trip to Portland on Saturday. 

Pictures!  Patsy! Breakfast!  More Pictures!  Coffee!  Conversation!  Memorial Tribute!  Rita!  The Deke at Billy Mac's!  Portland Plans!  Perfect Day! 

Three Beautiful Things 02/28/13: High Street Redux, Sixteen Tons Perfection, Early Release

1.  I had such an enjoyable time at High Street on Wednesday that I went back today to try some other beers and wait for the Deke to be finished with school stuff.  I enjoyed a Hammerhead cask, a pint of Devil's Bitter, and a glass of Californian. 

2.  The Deke and I met at Sixteen Tons and it was just about perfect.  Abi was working the taps and she's smart, fun, and funny; I didn't talk with her much, but enjoyed out little bit of back and forth.  Jessie, whom I hadn't seen for quite a while, strolled in and he and the Deke and I had great conversation and I really enjoyed a pint and a half of Agrarian's Small Axe stout on the Nitro tap.

3.  This afternoon opened up for me because my WR 115 sections had short class meetings.  I wanted to make sure they understood my expectations for their next writing project and then I told them that there wasn't much use sitting around talking about their writing.  I sent them off to do it.  I look forward to the results.