Saturday, August 31, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 08/30/13: Church and Beer, Back Yard Beer, What's Next?

1.  Breaking my picture taking slump is being aided by the end of August softer light.  I took an early afternoon stroll over to Falling Sky's Pour House Delicatessen and then came home and enjoyed taking pictures of light as much as any subjects.  One subject I've always enjoyed is the three crosses sitting atop Eugene Evangelical Church and now that the Delicatessen/Pour House is across the street, it makes for a fun subject:  two of my great loves, the church and beer.

2.  The Deke got home from working on her move from her old classroom to her new one and brought home a Samuel Smith Cherry Ale and a Laurelwood Free Range Red Ale and we sat in the back yard for some beer tasting times and to let the corgis run around and completely tear one of my green-eyed Black-eyed Susans out of the ground .

3.   Once our beer tasting was over, we headed to the bustling scene at Billy Mac's for a solid dinner and a continuation of our great ongoing discussion of what we want our future to be.  It's like we're graduating from college and trying to figure out what to do, but we are facing the commencement of life in our sixties and it could be a whole other new beginning/continuation.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Being Out of Place and Seeing "The World's End"

Back in the fall of 1986, a tumultuous time in my life, a student I'd had the year before invited me to a Halloween costume party.  The party's theme was something like "Song Titles" -- in other words, we were invited to dress up as the title of a song.

I have little interest in costume parties and, as a result, my imagination is dull when it comes to costuming myself.  Somehow, by wearing my letterman's sweater from Kellogg High School and with some kind of lame button I made, I portrayed myself as "Private Idaho".

I arrived at the party and immediately saw that I was totally out of place.  Others at the party appeared to have spent weeks dreaming up costumes and hours shopping for them and putting on make-up -- they might have been vying for awards given at the party for best costume.  In particular, I remember one guy dressed in a slick suit of some kind and had rigged up a fancy pair of shoes to portray "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes".

I had that sinking feeling that everyone at the party had a history with each other, knew the conventions of their annual costume party, and went to extravagant ends to meet or exceed one another's masquerading expectations.

I had that same sinking feeling today as I watched the movie "The World's End".

This time, rather than walking into a party, I found myself entering into a movie where I was as ignorant of the conventions in it as I had been at the costume party.

I do not watch zombie movies.  I've never seen one.  I haven't seen "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" -- either one.

I hadn't seen "Shaun of the Dead".  I never saw "Hot Fuzz".

I've been in the company of scores of people who love zombie and other related genre movies and who love Edgar Wright's movies and many of my friends on Facebook have been eagerly anticipating this third Edgar Wright movie.

As with that Halloween party nearly thirty years ago, where I didn't get any of the inside jokes, where I was ignorant of running gags that had been going on for years, where I had no familiarity with anyone at the party, as I watched "The World's End", I realized that it was making fun of things I knew nothing about, was building on past jokes I had never heard, and was a parody of a kind of movie I had never seen.

I was out of place, out of my element, out of my depth, a babe in the woods, however you want to put it.

So what could I do?

Well, at the Halloween party, I retreated to the hot tub.  I removed my lame costume and soaked.

To my knowledge, the Regal Cinemas at Valley River Center do not have a public hot tub, so I found myself experiencing the movie on my own terms.

It's all I could do.

So, for much of the movie, I experienced it as a story about a character afflicted with my least favorite affliction in life and in the movies, arrested development.

Gary King (Simon Pegg) is a man-adolescent and it's his drive to relive a night from his teenage years that drives the entire plot.

This was painful for me.  Two documentary movies focused on arrested development popped to mind:  "Anvil" and "American Movie", two movies that made me cringe throughout as I watched adult men living in a state of adolescence, whether in a rock band or as an aspiring movie maker, adult men unable to live up to the responsibilities of adult life.

So, being so out of place with the genre/Edgar Wright stuff, I kept wondering if Gary King would grow up, would he become a man.  I don't really have an answer to that question.

The other way I experienced the movie was as social commentary upon the soul sucking impact of standardized, conventional living and the dehumanizing impact of collectivism.

I think both of these ideas, along with exploring arrested development, were at work in the movie.  I don't think I imposed them upon it.

But, I think it meant that I experienced this movie for its lesser pleasures.  My guess is that the greater pleasures were reserved for my friends who have followed Edgar Wright, who watch movies about  the apocalypse and body snatching and conforming human appearing beings with blue blood.

I'm out of that loop.

But, I'm not out of the "Blade Runner" loop.  At times, I thought maybe the movie was going to be a more extended parody of the idea of replicants.  I think a trace of that idea was in this movie, but loving "Blade Runner" wasn't much help.

After the movie, I told Mark I was glad we went.  I told him that I think it does me good to take a break from the kinds of movies I always go to and to experience something way out of what I know anything about.

I doubt "The World's End" will live with me very long and if you see me and ask me about the movie, I'm sorry, but I won't be able to talk about how it stacks up to "Shaun of the Dead" or "Hot Fuzz" and I won't be able to tell you if I thought its parodic aspirations succeeded.

I will tell you, though, that I've done all I can in my life to distance myself from all the Gary Kings I've ever known.

Three Beautiful Things 08/29/13: Reunion and The World's End, Dinner with Friends, New Liquor Store

1.  Another day meeting up with a long-time friend.  Mark Stern was a student of mine in composition and Shakespeare about twenty years ago and we've kept in touch and today we went to the mall and watched the day's first showing of  "The World's End" and then it was time for lunch and we went to the Bier Stein for sandwiches, Bart's Best Bitter and a couple of Czech pilsners.  We enjoyed wide-ranging conversation, a movie that was nothing like anything I ever go see, and getting caught up on many years of stuff going on in our lives.

2.  Francoise and Herb invited the Deke and me over for buttery filet mignon, silky mashed potatoes, firm asparagus, and red wine, wide-ranging conversation, and a good time with their sons, both of whom were students of the Deke.

3.  Eugene has had at least two of the dingiest liquor stores I've ever been in.  The one on West 6th is still open and I always take a flashlight with me if I go there so I can find what I want and the other one, now closed, was on W. 8th, where going to the liquor store was like walking into a Goth nightclub.  Now, the W. 8th store has moved to W 11th and it is airy and well-lit, with easy parking and I can leave my flashlight in the car.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 08/28/13: Reunion, Clooney and Brando, Darker Black and White

1.  I hadn't seen Bill T. since he came with some other friends to visit me in the hospital as I recovered from bacterial meningitis back in November 1999.  This morning we met for coffee and had a really good time closing the gap of all the years that have passed.

2.  I had started "The Descendants" a night ago and finished it today.  Soon after Matt (George Clooney) discovers that his now comatose wife has had a lover, he tells his daughters to wait outside the hospital room and he spends a few minutes alone with her unloading his anger.  As I watched this, I was reminded of Paul (Marlon Brando) in "Last Tango in Paris".  Paul unloads an ever angrier, profane stream of vile upon the corpse of his deceased wife, ending his eulogy with tears and remorse, not unlike the more tender last moments Matt has late in "The Descendants" with his wife after she's died.  I went to YouTube this evening and found Paul's eulogy and watched again, shocked by Paul's vile anger.  Paul expresses his anger and grief throughout "Last Tango in Paris" in ways that Matt King in "The Descendants" doesn't even remotely approach.  But, I was struck by the similarity of the scenes in the two movies I've just mentioned.

3.  I did my best to continue to try to break out of my picture taking slump by taking my camera with me on my walk to Brails to meet Bill T.  The light was wonderful for the kinds of pictures I enjoy taking: shadow shots.  I experimented with faster shutter speeds to darken the pictures and many of them, I think, came out too dark.  I'll keep fiddling with that.  I love darker black and white pictures and I'm trying to find the sweet spot where I get just the look I want.  Here's one example:

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 08/27/13: Farmer's Market, More Complex Peanut Sauce, Talking About Everything

1.  It was a sunny, comfortable morning, perfect for a walk to the Farmer's Market to pick up some  juicy peaches, crisp spinach, meaty tomatoes, and sweet cucumbers. 

2.  I found a peanut sauce recipe that called for hot sauce, coconut milk, fish sauce, soy sauce, ginger, lime juice, cilantro, and garlic to go with the peanut butter and some water.  I didn't have lime and cilantro on hand, but I made the sauce anyway.  The Deke loves it, I'm happy with it,  and we are both eager to taste it when those last two ingredients are blended in. 

3.  It was a great hour and a half at Brails Espresso with Jeff, Michael, and MB as we talked about just about everything from teaching to money to movies to guitars to social matters to, well, to just about everything.  I can't believe how much we discuss as the high tide of our conversation builds.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 08/26/13: Tree Trimming, Ninkasi Brews a Cream Ale!, Good for the Kidneys

1.  When those tree trimmers from Sperry's come over and remove dead branches from the honey locust and trim up some unwieldy branches on other trees and shrubs growing in our yard, I enjoy the results.  I always feel a lot better about the little world I live in and the world at large when they their work is finished.

2.  I enjoyed a brisk stroll over to Cornucopia where I met up with the Deke and discovered that Ninkasi, unknown to me, brews a Cream Ale.  I ordered with a nagging fear that it might be overhopped, but no! It wasn't!  It was creamy, tasty, easy to drink, and a great find.  We each enjoyed a beer and came home.

3.  Since focusing my cooking at home entirely on food easy on my kidneys, my in-house diet has become vegetarian.  Tonight I introduced the Deke to the very simple stir fry I make:  onions, broccoli, cabbage, zucchini, sweet peas in the pod, red pepper, and mushrooms on top of soba noodles fried in sesame oil.  The Deke mixed a teaspoon of peanut butter in hers with a little soy sauce.  I just had a little soy sauce on mine (keep the sodium low).  We both enjoyed our dinner a lot.  This made me happy knowing that we both are enjoying my good to the kidneys meals. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 08/25/13: Argo, Beer Tasting, Woody Allen Documentary

1.  It's tense, that's for sure.  It made me nervous and made my mind race with dreadful images of what might happen to these six U.S. diplomats and whether the scheme to free them would work.  I wanted Argo to end because the tension was making me feel a little sick.  I also thought that if I were making a movie, the first person I would cast, no matter what, would be Alan Arkin.

2.  The Deke and I had a modest beer tasting here in our humble abode and enjoyed some of Pelican's Kiwanda Cream Ale followed by Silver Moon's Snakebite Porter and ended with HUB's Survival 7-Grain Stout.  It was a good progression of beers and mighty tasty and relaxing.

3.  I really don't know how I already knew so much about Woody Allen as a filmmaker.  Maybe the unpredictability of his style and approach to movie making led me to conclude that he makes movies without much concern for commercial success or approval of the critics.  Maybe I'd heard that talked about before or had already read it.  For years now, I've thought no such thing as a "Woody Allen movie"exists.  Aside from the typeface set against a black background that he uses to run credits, and his love of jazz soundtracks, his movies do not fall into any hard and fast categories.  It's what I enjoy so much about his work.  This is all on my mind because I stayed up until 1:30 a.m. watching a three hour documentary about him on Netflix.  I enjoyed the documentary so much that I stayed up way past my usual time of going to sleep to watch it all, and, oddly, I seemed to already know much of what Woody Allen and others had to say about his approach to film and his way of directing actors.  I didn't know a lot of the biography the movie covered, though, and particularly enjoyed learning about his early life in Midwood, Brooklyn. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Blue Jasmine and the American Drama

Back in 1980, I decided to complete a field of study in 20th century American drama in pursuit of my master's degree in English.  Until I successfully wrote a four hour exam in the summer of 1981, day and night I studied, thought about, relived, and agonized over plays by Thornton Wilder, Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, and Edward Albee among others.

Prominent in these writers' plays is the idea that we live in illusions, both consciously and unconsciously, as individuals and in our collective identity as Americans.  Our collective illusion takes shape in the American Dream.

Last night, while savoring our dinner at the Falling Sky Pour House Delicatessen, the Deke and I talked for a bit about where illusion ends and lying begins.  How much do we live by illusions that we are unware of as false ways of seeing and doing things and how much do we lie and know we lie?  We didn't arrive at an answer, but we agreed that illusions and lying erode everything:  they erode our sense of ourselves, erode family life, erode relationships with friends and at work, and erode life in business, church, government, and other institutions.

I didn't know when I sat down to watch the Woody Allen movie, Blue Jasmine that it would be a movie about illusions, lies, and madness.

As the movie got underway, though, I was at once absorbed by the story of Blue Jasmine and, at the same time, memories and associations from my studies of 20th century drama began to flood my mind.

At first, it was an American movie that started to play again in my mind:  John Cassavetes' A Woman Under the Influence.  From the beginning, Jasmine's behavior was odd.  She was under the influence of something, not always chemical,  and showed signs of a madness I remembered from this movie and other American plays.

As the movie developed, I was seeing Cate Blanchett playing Jasmine, but I could also see Katherine Hepburn playing two roles, Mary Tyrone in Long Day's Journey Into Night and Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie.  As the past kept flashing forward into Jasmine's mind and as she tried to fight its truths with her own illusions of what the past had been, the fracture between what was true and what she wanted to be true was fracturing her sanity, much as it does with Mary Tyrone and Amanda Wingfield, and with the fracturing comes the inevitable mental deterioration, what I think of as madness.

Laura Wingfield rushed in, too.  It wasn't just the verbal parallels between Blue Roses, Blue Moon, and Blue Jasmine, but Jasmine is fragile, she longs for something better and fuller in her life. 

It wasn't too long before the tragic memories of Blanche DuBois, from A Streetcar Named Desire took over. When I used to teach this play, students' responses to Blanche were mixed.  Some felt deep sympathy for her fragility and understood that her sensitive nature made it impossible for her to live in the world she was actually in.  Instead, she created a world of illusions, a world more suited to her longings and delicacy, but doing so made self-destruction and collapse inevitable.  Other students despised her for being weak, for being unable to fact the truth of her life, for being coy, a liar, and manipulative.

The short paragraph I've written hardly covers the entirety of Blanche DuBois' complexity or her tragedy.

She is, however, along with Mary Tyrone, Laura Wingfield, Amanda Wingfield, and Martha in Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf a character who carries the weight of illusion and whose habits of wishing things could be otherwise turn into habits of lying and even of cruelty.

Without giving away the story, I'll just say that this is the part of American life Woody Allen explores in Blue Jasmine.  He brings these classic tales of the American drama into the 21st century.  The spiritual and emotional problems are much the same:  lies and illusions mixed with longings and false dreams tear both individuals and families apart. 

My friend Bridgit Lacy wrote not long ago about the cumulative nature of aging.  She wrote: 

In some respects, we age in a linear fashion. We go from one year to 53 years in a pretty straight-forward manner. But we bring everything along with us, like post-it notes that describe who we are. Every mean conversation, every joyous occasion, every broken bone and forgotten promise, it all comes along for the ride.

This is exactly what the playwrights I've mentioned portrayed in their great characters gone mad, whether it's Willy Loman or the women I've already alluded to.

I brought these "post-it notes" of my intense experience studying and teaching American plays to my viewing of Blue Jasmine.  I had not idea when I sat down to watch it that the gripping performance of Cate Blanchett and Woody Allen's devastating script would call all these plays that live in me back to life again.

My primary experience with this movie was the movie itself.  If ever one were looking for searing confirmation that Bridgit Lacy got it right, that we are, as we age, all that we have been, then the movie to see is Blue Jasmine.  I found it an emotionally taxing movie.  In made me nervous. It unsettled me.  It struck me dumb.  It immobilized me. It elevated my already high regard for the fiercely sublime acting of Cate Blanchett.

I found it profoundly truthful, in a way that has lived cumulatively in me for over thirty years, thanks to the heritage I'm most familiar with of our nation's theater from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s.

Three Beautiful Things 08/24/13: Loading Up, Blue Jasmine, Delicious Dinner and Easy Talking

1.  I loaded up on fruits and vegetables and other household necessities with a trip north, to the Delta MOC and to Lone Pine Farm. 

2.  I went out of my way to read nothing about "Blue Jasmine", a recently released movie written and directed by Woody Allen and featuring Cate Blanchett.  I even managed not to see a single trailer.  I saw the movie this afternoon at the Classic Bijou and am I ever glad I went to it totally ignorant and experienced its full force without warning of what was coming.  As the credits rolled, I was speechless and immobile.  I will detail my experience in separate blog post soon. (For my friends who go to movies to escape or for pure entertainment, I gotta say, don't go to this one.  It's not an escapist movie and it examines pain and is painful.  You would be making the same mistake my mom and dad made in 1966/7 in Spokane when they went to see "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf".)

3.  The Deke and I strolled two blocks to the Falling Sky Pour House Delicatessen and she loved the chicken soup she ordered, declaring it the best ever, and I couldn't eat my Rubin (their spelling) slowly enough.  I really don't have words for how delicious the corned beef had to do with fat, I'm pretty sure of had to do with chunks that were almost crunchy, but not . . . I don't know...I don't need to say it right...I loved it.  Our beers were good.  We sat at the bar and talked with ease.  What a great dinner!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 08/23/13: More on Growing Older With the Movies, Drier Fixed, Half and Halfs at Billy Mac's

1.  I enjoyed different friends' responses to what I wrote about growing older with the movies.  The comments made me wonder when I started my long and serious relationship with the movies.  Maybe it was in the eighth grade when I saw "Cool Hand Luke" at the Rena Theater in Kellogg, Idaho and something clicked in me that this was a different movie.  I didn't need words like "anti-hero" or "existential" or "anti-authoritarian" to feel that this movie revealed to me a view of life I hadn't known and, in doing so, gave me a pleasure that was brand new.  I think the crossover happened once and for all when Eileen and I went to movies at the Magic Lantern in Spokane and maybe most memorably when I saw Fellini's AmarcordAmarcord completely baffled me.  I didn't know what to make of it, especially the recurring guy on the motorcycle, whom I couldn't shake from my mind.  Being baffled intrigued me.  I wanted to see more movies like it and slowly sought out more movies that did not play in big theaters, ones that often were made outside the USA.  Yes, I went to the blockbusters:  Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and others over the years, but my favorite movies were at the Bijou in Eugene, at Cinema 7 in Eugene, the Magic Lantern in Spokane.  Two of my friends made me think that it might be a good idea for me to go to some movies that are made just for laughs or thrills and maybe I'll just do that.

2.  Our drier door now stays shut when we close it.  It's fixed.

3.  The Deke worked all day continuing her efforts to get moved out of one classroom into another and she came home beat and ready for some gin and tonic and some dinner at Billy Mac's.  So, that's what we did and it was relaxing and refreshing.  I sure enjoyed having a bottle of Harp lager, a bottle of Guiness stout, a glass, and a notched spoon set before me so I could mix my own half and halfs.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Growing Older with the Movies

One of the questions Diane raised in starting this page "On Becoming an Elder" goes something like this:  why would anyone want to remain forever young?

I know that when it comes to movies, I definitely do not want to remain forever young.

My life as a young man was significantly shaped by my pursuit of graduate degrees in English.  I succeeded in my pursuit of a master's degree and failed to complete my doctorate.

My experience with the movies, during this time, was also shaped by my pursuit of graduate degrees in English.

Being a graduate student somehow led me to think that I had to be a movie critic, ready not only to render judgment about the movies I saw, but to have a talking essay ready to go if I were asked (or wasn't asked) what I thought of a movie.

Back then, I'd say I assessed movies in much the same way I assessed student papers.  I judged movies on their structural strength.  Did every part of the movie contribute to the whole movie?  Was the movie coherent?  Did the parts of the movie and the movie as a whole contribute to something like a thesis?

I enjoyed scores of movies during this time.  But, at the same time, I was working too hard during the movie to formulate my "reading" of the movie, concentrating too much, out of my insecurity, on wanting to sound intelligent when I talked with others about the movie.  Too often, the movie, in my mind, was about what would happen after the movie than it was about the movie itself.

This is what being young with the movies was for me.

Why would I want to remain forever young in this way?

I don't.

Now, as I approach my sixties, as I grow older with the movies, I can no longer answer the questions I used to stew over so much:  Did I like that movie?  Was it good?  Do I recommend it?

I read a lot of comments about movies, especially online, and I listen a lot to what others have to say about movies.

Most of the time, these comments sound like consumer reports.  Thumbs up.  Thumbs down.  Five stars. Two stars.

The criteria for assessing the movies often breaks down into these kinds of standards:  Was it realistic (when it's not a fantasy movie)?  Was it true to its source, if it's based on a book, play, comic book series, or graphic novel?  How was the ending?  How does it compare with other movies by this director?  How was the acting?  Was it a good script?  And, I'd say above all, did it meet the viewer's expectations -- expectations raised by having read the book (or other source), knowing the director's other work, wanting a good laugh, wanting to be scared, by who was cast, and so on.

Most movie viewers resist change or difference.

They want stories they've read or seen to unfold in the movie the way they've experienced them before.    

They don't want Woody Allen to try out new things.  Remember the outrage when he released Interiors?  Many said it just wasn't a Woody Allen movie and, if you've followed Woody Allen over the years, he's always being written and talked about in terms of his past work, as if it's a way to assess his present work.

Many viewers don't want a reimagining of familiar characters, as if the character is eternal. Have you read the comments about Ben Affleck being cast as Batman? No one has seen a second of his performance, yet the "reviews" are already in. The same thing happens when a new James Bond or Dr. Who is cast.

Viewers often want actors to repeat past performances. They want the Arnold Schwarzenegger they've seen before.  I'm still struck, thirty-three years later, by the, well, the outrage I heard back in 1980 when Mary Tyler Moore played an icy, deeply pained, self-protective mother in Ordinary People, a character nothing like her bubbly and loveable characters Laura Petrie and Mary Richards.

And then there's Shakespeare.  Many people I read online or listen to in conversation want Shakespeare's plays, when made into a movie, to have a familiar look, to present the play in ways they consider appropriate to Shakespeare and, most often, this is traditional. 

I have grown older with the movies by rejecting all the ways I've just described for experiencing a movie.

I do all I can to see movies (and plays) with a clear mind, clear of expectations, clear of knowledge about the movie, clear of what has come before it, and clear of critical language that might move me to analyze the movie while it's happening.

I let the movie work on me, and try to experience the movie on its terms, not on mine. 

I saw Much Ado About Nothing a few weeks ago.  I'd read nothing about this production.  I sat down to watch it as if I'd never seen this play produced before, either on stage or in the movies, even though I had been in the play as Antonio and I had seen it performed over a dozen times.

Above all, I didn't let myself be captive to Kenneth Branaugh's magnificent movie version of the play from 1993.  I've seen that movie over a dozen times, loved every viewing of it, but I cleared my mind of it before seeing Joss Whedon's version.

I loved Joss Whedon's movie.  I loved the experience of seeing this movie as if it were the only version of Much Ado About Nothing ever made.

But, even as I saw it with a clear mind, the movie triggered scores of joyous memories for me, memories of being in the play, memories of all those times I went to the theater to see this play/movie.  I was seeing it for the first time and, at the same time, the movie worked on me by calling up memories that made tears run down my face.

It's why I can't say whether it's a good movie.  I can't recommend it.  My experience was so personal, my enjoyment so connected with my own love and my own memories that I have no idea whether it would be "good" for someone else.

This is how have grown older with movies.

I am not trying to account for the worth of movies based on supposedly commonly held standards of what makes a movie "good".

I let the movie happen.  I try to enter into its world, leaving other worlds behind, and let the movie move me on its terms.  Sometimes during the movie I'm moved by visual beauty.  Sometimes the movie launches me into past experiences I've had.  At other moments, it's the music. Often I can't, and don't care to, account for the aching pleasure I feel.

Whatever happens, it occurs primarily because I'm not thinking of it as a "Spielberg movie" or as a "Woody Allen movie" or as a type of movie that "should" do certain things.  I'm not thinking about what or who Lincoln should be.  I'm just letting Lincoln be who Lincoln is in this movie.  These characters in these movies are not real to me anywhere but in the movie while it's playing.

I'm surrendering.

I'm not suspending disbelief.

I'm believing.

Then I sit through the credits.  I don't much read them.  I listen to the music.  The music brings past passages of the movie back to life and creates a last impression of the movie.  Staying for the credits, for me, is like ending a rib eye steak dinner with a glass of cognac. Or, it's like staying for the postlude at church. 

It completes the experience. 

It's one of the joys of growing old.

Three Beautiful Things 08/22/13: Roses and the Senior Ball, Ditched by the Drier Repair Guy, Archie Bunker and Shylock

1.  While watering the yard, I pulled weeds from around the miniature rose I planted earlier this summer and the fragrance of the rose triggered memories from 1971-73 and inspired some reflections about growing older, here.

2.  I had to turn down an offer Mark Stern posted on Facebook to join him to watch the movie Big Star this afternoon because I had scheduled a repair for the drier.  Mark told me to ditch the repair guy and, instead, the repair guy ditched me.  He didn't come thanks to a mistake the service manager made when he wrote out the repair order but didn't put it on the schedule.  I should have listened to Mark and strolled right down to the Bijou Metro for a beer and to watch this fine looking music documentary and to spend some time with Mark.

3.  Once I knew I'd been ditched, I strolled to Cornucopia to meet up with the Deke and to enjoy a couple refreshing and tasty Guiness beers mixed with rhubarb cider.  The guy who served me called to drink a snakebite.  I told the Deke about not meeting Mark at the Bijou Metro and it triggered a memory from when Mark was my WR 121 student and the class read The Merchant of Venice and the play bothered Mark and he came to my office to talk with me about what bothered him and this led the Deke and me to talk about the play and how it's kind of like All in the Family in the way it appears to use caricature, but really doesn't -- although if a viewer wants to see Archie or Shylock as caricatures, the viewer can and will.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Roses and the Senior Ball

We might have called it a prom.  I don't remember.

Anyway, my friend Diane has opened a Facebook page, "On Becoming an Elder".  So far, my thoughts on the subject have centered on "becoming older" and it's with that in mind that I write this post.

This morning I was pulling aggravating little stalks of long rooted grass from around a miniature rose I planted earlier this summer.  The rose's fragrance is sweet and pleasing, making the tedious weeding more pleasant.

Suddenly, though, the rose's fragrance took me back to my senior year in high school and to our class's senior ball.  My date was a lovely, very attractive girl who was as nice of a girl as I had ever known.

I bought her a rose corsage for the senior ball, and all through the night as we went to dinner at Mr. Duff's, danced close to each other and held each other after fast dances, and as we brought the evening to a close when I drove her home, the fragrance of that rose sweetened everything we did.

I'd been "going steady" with this girl for several months and felt very fortunate that such a beautiful and kind girl wanted to be with me.

But, there was something wrong inside of me.  To this day, I don't know what it was, and sometimes the dark feeling crops up again.  This something wrong moved me to push this girl away, to begin to distance myself from her, almost against my will. 

Within a couple of months, this something dark in me won out and I ended our romance and she was heartbroken.

When I was young, I thought events like this in my life would pass.  I remember thinking, whether it was about this stupid break-up (I was stupid) or other things that happened, that surely by the time I was, say, sixty years old, these parts of my life would dissolve into oblivion, be forgotten, and, I thought, as I aged, I wouldn't be troubled by regret and, so I thought, other kinds of feelings I had when young like jealousy or lack of confidence or even something as strong as self-loathing would also disappear.

I thought these were the feelings and experience of youth.

So, this morning, I'm pulling that grass out of the rose bed, and the fragrance brings back the senior ball and how clumsy and thoughtless I was in ending this romance a short time after this ball  and how much I came to hate myself for causing such a lovely and kind girlfriend pain and for pushing such a good person out of my life (although we did go out a few times during my first year of college).  

And that darkness, that something that was wrong when I was eighteen came back, and with each weed I pulled I tried to figure out what that tide of feeling was that turned inside of me. 

I still don't know.

But as I grow older, these memories and the feelings that accompany them do not go away. 

I don't forget.

Suddenly, it's the spring of 1984.  I was teaching a course at Whitworth College covering George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, and D. H. Lawrence. 

In that course, we read Eliot's Mill on the Floss and I've forgotten more about that novel than I remember, but I remember discussing with the members of the seminar how painful it is that we cannot bring endings in our life to closure much of the time.

I didn't want that to be true.

I wanted to believe that closure is always possible.

In 1984, when I was thirty years old, this insight was more of an idea than a truth.

Smelling my miniature rose this morning brought back that seminar and it brought back how a lovely, beautiful, kind girl and I went out one last time forty years ago and we didn't know it was our one last time to see each other.

We never said good-bye. 

There was no closure.

I love the smell of roses and I'm very happy I planted this rose by the driveway.

Its fragrance does, inevitably, stir sharp and deep feelings in me from forty years ago that I once thought would go away.

They don't. 

In fact, they haunt me.

Three Beautful Things 08/21/13: Responses to 2001, Back to Lone Pine Farm, Peanut Sauce

1.  Posting my first thoughts on my blog, here, about 2001:  A Space Odyssey led to others posting their thought and responses, mostly on Facebook, in a very enjoyable way.  It's a movie that just doesn't readily drift out of one's mind or memory.

2.  It's a fifteen minute drive or so.  The downtown Farmer's Market is much closer.  Nonetheless, for some mysterious reason, I prefer driving out to Lone Pine Farm to pick up peaches and nectarines and lemon cucumbers and tomatoes and other produce and beamed inside as I did so today.

3.  I stir fried onion, mushrooms, peas in the pod, zucchini, broccoli, and red cabbage to serve over couscous and then, with some tips from the Deke, I made my first peanut sauce.  It was a bit milder than I prefer, but the Deke liked it and so did I and there's plenty of room for experimenting.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey for the First Time -- Forty-Eight Years After Its Release...

For forty-eight years, I had kept myself ignorant about the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.  I had heard the movie's theme song about 4,000,000 times, but, aside from that, I only knew that it featured classical music and a computer named HAL.  I didn't know how it began, I didn't know its story, and I didn't know how it concluded.

One of the marks of my getting older is that I am less and less concerned about meaning when it comes to movies and visual art and stories, poems, and plays than I was when I was younger, especially when I was working to earn degrees in English.

I began to loosen myself from the question, "What does it mean?" when I started to enjoy abstract paintings and photographs.  I'm not sure when this started, but I have vivid memories of an Expressionist show I went to in Seattle nearly twenty years ago and of visits I've made to the Portland Art Museum where I immediately went to see the "non-representational" paintings and photographs.  Likewise, over the last twenty years, I've enjoyed the art of Dada, art that is purposely senseless and meaningless.  Dada is all about radical incongruity.

If I ask myself what a canvas painted in blue with a thin black line running vertically from top to bottom, off-center means, I'm sunk.  But, if I feel the effect of the blue, which I can't really describe, except it gives me pleasure, I'm afloat.

All of this is a way of expressing that I experienced 2001: A Space Odyssey less as a movie and more as a stream of pictures incongruous with its accompanying music, much of the time.  Sometimes I experienced congruity, though.

It moved slowly.  Its characters are barely developed, hardly memorable.  It portrays human beings as secretive, paranoid, vengeful, and primarily self-interested.  The most complex character in the movie is a computer.  So, unlike most movies, that move forward by developing plot and character, largely through scripted dialogue, 2001: A Space Odyssey did not develop in this way.

It's why one of the first things I thought as the movie flowed into its fortieth minute that this is an audacious piece of work.  Stanley Kubrick had the audacity to make a "feature film" that conforms with almost none of the conventions of a "feature film":  it's slow, its characters are boring, it features longish passages of film time where essentially nothing happens, and it's much more oriented to the visual and the aural than to the kinetic.

And so I surrendered to its slow pace.  I marveled at the pictures moving before me.  I relished the music and the discordant effects I experienced.  I realized this was a movie about how very ordinary and tedious humans are.

I left the Bijou Metro thinking I had just experienced 2001: A Time Odyssey every bit as much as I experienced it as a space odyssey.  I don't know that I've ever had a stronger feeling of space and time in relation to each other as the movie moved between the prehistoric and the infinite, between the planets Earth and Jupiter and their moons.  I experienced the movement through time as slow, but as this movement lurched toward infinity, it became psychedelic, and time and space were unrecognizable in any way I'd ever known.  Maybe if I had ever tripped on acid or ingested special mushrooms I would say I did recognize this, but I experienced a new realm.

I don't know what it all means.  I know the monolith inspired an odd awe in me, as did the Starchild, folded in the fetal position, wide-eyed and mysterious in a womb that looked like the moon or another planet.  I don't know what they meant, if anything.

I know they roused a sense of awe and mystery in me, much as the movie's entire odyssey through space and time and music did.

I enjoyed Stanley Kubrick's audacity.  I enjoyed being messed with.  It felt like I was being tested.  Could I endure this odyssey and, if I did, what if the overall effect was mystery?  Could I endure that?  Could I endure experiencing an austere, sterile future, as colorless as prehistoric skull bones, one that portrayed human progress as moving toward a lack of imagination, a dearth of beauty, unless accompanied by classical music?

I did endure it and I'm happy I didn't see it until this time in my life when, being nearly sixty years old, I watch movies less for their meaning and much more for the experience I have as I participate in viewing them. 

I'd go again, mostly to keep the pictures and the music alive in my memory and to feel the bewilderment and experience the audacity of Kubrick's and Clarke's vision of the future -- which, I guess, in 2013, has become our past.

Three Beautiful Things 08/20/13: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Bill!, Guiness and Hard Cider

1.  Here it is, August 20, 2013, and as a person who loves seeing movies, I had never seen 2001:  A Space Odyssey, released in 1968.  The Bijou Metro is in its second week of a Stanley Kubrick retrospective (which runs into November) and this week's offering is 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Whew.  It's been a while since I saw a movie that was so audacious and one that I left saying to myself, "That wasn't really a movie.  I had a great experience taking it in, and I don't really know what it was, but it wasn't really a movie."  I'm going to post a longer reflection in a blog post of its own.

2.  I don't think I'd seen Bill since he came to visit me in the hospital when I had meningitis.  I've thought about him often and hoped that I would run into him somewhere, at a movie, in a restaurant, out shopping....and today the Deke and I were sitting right by the door leading in and out of the Cornucopia and I stopped Bill as he was leaving and we had a good hello and now we can be back in touch.

3.  When in Nelson, B.C., a server at a sports bar sort of place mentioned how much she enjoyed hard cider mixed with Guiness, so, at Cornucopia this afternoon, I ordered one.  It had a bit too much cider, so I ordered another -- and asked for less cider -- and, well, then another.  I liked it.  Quite a bit.  I'm grateful to that brunette hippy girl with ringlets and with her shoulder and tattoo exposed and her hipster vintage store black poofy skirt in  Nelson, B.C. for spontaneously telling my sisters and me that she loves Guiness mixed with hard cider.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 08/19/13: New Commode, Picture Review, Whiskey Gabbing

1.  Our new toilet was installed soon after 9:00 this morning.

2.  My picture taking slump has been weighing on me and today I began reviewing and editing the pictures I took while at Christy's and while in British Columbia on our sibling outing.  I think the conditions at Christy's house and on her property were perfect for snapping out of the slump.  Not only was the subject matter good, but the northeast Washington light, especially in the morning, and especially in Christy's house, was just what I wanted. 

3.  With the Deke back, my routines are changing.  For two months I did not have anyone here in the house to go into the cool of the back yard with and shoot the breeze over R and R and water.  That's what the Deke and I did until after dark.  Whiskey.  Water. Gabbing.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 08/18/13: Day of St. Mary, St. Mary's Picnic, Cool of the Back Yard

1.  Eugene as its high feast days:  the Oregon Country Fair, Faerieworlds, the Eugene Celebration, the Whitaker Block Party, and every Duck home football game.  We in the Episcopal Church do, too, and today was St. Mary Sunday and we celebrated the life of St. Mary (after whom our parish is named) with a Solemn High Eucharist:  no food booths, no twirly dancing, no faces painted green and yellow, no karma bands marching through the sanctuary, no Frog joke books, no Kudana, but it was a high feast day all the same and I was moved.

2.  We also had our parish picnic at the Lively Park and I enjoyed a long conversation with St. Mary's intern Brandon McGinnis, Loren Crow,  Bethany, Margaret, and Michael  -- existentialism, non-denominational churches, C. S. Lewis, and a host of other topics kept the conversation alive and fascinating.

3.  The Senior Warden, a.k.a. The Troxstar, Lady Senior Warden/Mme. Troxstar, the Deke, and I wrapped up the evening in the cool of the back yard with the help of gin and tonics, Full Sail Ltd. Bohemian Pilsner beer, Pinot Gris wine, and R and R Canadian whiskey and water and, believe me, whatever major questions about the meaning of life were not addressed and solved at the picnic certainly got settled by the time we broke up our little party at 10 p.m.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 08/17/13: Better Head to Jerry's, Lone Pine Farm, Depression Update

1.  It's a store whose advertisement features the line, "Better head to Jerry's".  That's what I did -- for a head.  A minor emergency occurred soon after midnight and now we have a new commode in the garage awaiting installation.  I'd never seen a toilet tank just break apart and spill its water, but now I have.  I'm sure glad we have a second throne in the basement.

2.  I stocked up on a wide variety of vegetables at Lone Pine Farm.  It's kind of odd that I enjoy going out to the Lone Pine Farm several miles north of Eugene more than I enjoy walking downtown to shop at the Farmers' Market.  I guess I'm conditioned to being happier when I put all my goods in a cart and can go to one register and buy them, a convenience unavailable at the outdoor market. 

3.  For several years my day to day life was hindered by a steady state of fatigue and varying levels of depression.  It wasn't the bummed out kind of depression so much as it was a weight I carried all the time and in order to do things I had to consciously will myself to not lie around or sit around, to not sleep.  For about three years now, I have been out from under this weight.  I don't know why the fog lifted, but I'm still adjusting to having daily energy and today, as I watered the yard and garden, laundered toilet water soaked towels, headed to Jerry's, shopped at Lone Pine Farms, did more shopping at MOC, went to the bank, mixed  gin and tonics, cooked dinner, prepared a second meal for the future, and had a routinely productive day, I marveled for a few minutes at how much lighter and better my life is these days when I'm not fighting the illness that was with me for years.  It's more than I'm in a better mood.  I love doing things like working in the yard and I'm freer to do stuff free of the dread that my activity would exhaust me, leave me nearly useless.  Every day I'm grateful for this improvement and I earnestly hope every day that that former condition does not return. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 08/16/13: The Deke is Back, Back to Billy Mac's, Back Yard Wine

1.  Strolling off the plane, pulling her rolling suitcase, tired, ready for some hummus and baby carrots and a gin and tonic, there she was shortly after 4:30 p.m., after seeing family from Chicago to New York to Virginia to New Jersey to Indiana to Michigan:  the Deke.

2.  After a gin and tonic and some baby carrots and hummus, with a few crackers and some kalamata olives, in order to properly acclimate the Deke to being back in Eugene, we rocketed over to Billy Mac's for another gin and tonic, a fine meal, and a couple glasses of pinot gris and had ourselves a good conversation.  In other words, we picked up where we left off in June.

3.  Back home, the Deke and I sat at the picnic table in the back yard and continued talking, gave the dogs some time to chase around, and enjoyed the cool of the evening.  We enjoyed a little more wine and continued to get ourselves caught up. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 08/15/13: Confusion at the Gas Pump, Home Again, Bolting to Billy Mac's

1.  After a relaxing morning at Christy's and an easy drive to Spokane,  I got all mixed up at the Exon station where Wall Street turns in Waikiki in north Spokane with paying ahead, which buttons to push, when to take the nozzle out of the station tank, etc.  and the guy who runs the place could not have been more understanding, patient, and helpful.  If I lived in Spokane, even if gasoline were 100 bucks a gallon at his station, this is where I would go...and it's where I always went back in 1974-78.

2.  My flight from Spokane to Seattle and Seattle to Eugene went without anything lousy happening.  Yes, our flight was delayed for a while in Seattle, but everything else, even the turbulence, was painless and I was able to find a taxi right away and get right home where the dogs were happy to see me and where Zoe and Nicole showed up in case I wasn't home yet and I had a fun time talking to them, even if I was a little out of it after a day of driving and flying.

3.  Once I got things taken care of with the dogs, I bolted out the door and jetted over to Billy Mac's and had a couple of cool, refreshing 7 and 7s and ordered a chunk of salmon atop a hillock of fettuccine and pesto with some delicately sauteed carrots right there in the bowl.  I had hardly eaten all day and this meal was awesome, especially when I paired it with a glass of King's Estate Pinot Gris.  Indulgent?  Yes.  Happy-making?  You bet!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 08/14/13: Coffee and Bagel, I'd Like More Time, Splendid Chicken Dinner

1.  Christy, Carol, and I got ourselves all packed up, checked out of the Alpine Inn, and went downtown in Nelson on Baker Street for coffee at the Kootenay Bakery Cafe.  I loved my toasted sesame bagel with herb cream cheese and drip coffee -- and the woman who served us came to our table and offered to take our pictures.  She was lovely to us and, I noticed, to many other customers who came in -- just what I love in a place and what, if I lived in Nelson, would keep me coming back.

2.  We stopped in Salmo and Carol picked up a 12 pack of Okanogan Hard Apple Cider and, with a wrong turn here and a u-turn there we made it back to the U.S.A., beaming with the joy of having had a great, but too short, of a time in the greater Nelson, B.C. area.  I hope to return one day and have more time just to sit on benches on the sidewalks of Nelson, Salmo, and Kaslo and other places and enjoy the views and the coffee and goings on around me.  I'd like to spend a half day or so taking pictures of the woman making glass in Crawford Bay.  I'd soak again at Ainsworth.  For my next trip, should it ever happen, I'd just give myself more time to sit and watch and listen.  And then more time to walk up and down the the hills of Nelson...and maybe be there at the right time for the Eucharist at St. Saviour's on Ward Street.

3.  Carol had to go back to the Silver Valley to perform in the Melodrama.  Darn it.  More time together would have been fun.  (It's all good.)   Christy fixed a great dinner:  chicken on the George Foreman, sauteed zucchini in butter, garden fresh green beans and bacon, and tomato, right out of the garden, sliced.  It was a relaxing and fulfilling close to a splendid day.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 08/13/13: Woman Making Glass, Brill Crawford Bay Cafe, Slow New York Steak

1.  I sure liked riding the ferry from Balfour to Kootenay Bay and once we got to Crawford Bay I enjoyed the glassmaking woman the most, especially for taking pictures.

2.  I had a fine spanikopita at the Black Salt Cafe with a mint split pea soup on the side and a refreshing glass of Pinot Gris.  I really like good servers at eateries and the woman who helped us a Black Salt was not just friendly, but funny and was ready with some sound advice about our dinner.  I'd like to add that I also liked our server at Jackson Hole's the night before in Nelson.

3.  After a nice soak at Ainsworth Hot Springs, we made our way back to Nelson and had dinner at Louie's Steak House.  The serving staff was overwhelmed and was working from behind (and slowly) all evening.....BUT, my New York Peppercorn Steak is one of the best I've ever had.  The vegetables on the side, grilled asparagus, a small chunk of corn on the cob, and a bit of carrot were perfectly prepared, as was the baked potato. The bite I took of Carol's chocolate torte was divine.  It took a long time to come, but, in the end, the wait was rewarded by damn good food.  

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 08/12/13: That's the Turn?, Touring Nelson, Steak Sandwich

1.  We nearly missed the turn to cross the border, but recovered and made it safely into Canada.

2.  We strolled the streets of Nelson, looking at shops, stopping for a cup of coffee, and just trying to get a feel for our sibling outing destination.  We laughed a few times, too.

3.  We ate a very satisfying dinner at Jackson Hole's Bar and Grill.  I enjoyed my New York steak sandwich with a light gravy and mushrooms and onions and a crisp green salad on the side.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 08/11/13: Wildlife Refuge, Snapping Away, Carol Arrives

1.  Everett, Christy, and I took a drive through the Pend Oreille Wildlife refuge where we saw no wildlife, where Potter's Pond was dried up, as well as McDowell Lake and Bayley Lake, but where we had good conversation and did our best to take some good pictures.

2.  Once back to Christy's, I continued to get serious about trying to break out of my picture taking slump and I'm thinking the light in Christy's house, the golden light of early evening, and all of Christy's flowers and her gardens might have helped snap me out of it.  I won't know until I really look at the pictures in Eugene, but I'm hopeful.

3.  The Sibling Outing can now happen.  Carol arrived.  She got settled in and we enjoyed dinner on the deck:  stuffed zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, chips, and salsa.  Good food and good laughs.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 08/10/13: Heart Racing, Bohemian Pilsner, Superb Dinner

1.  When I went back to the rental car counter from the rental car parking lot, I was relieved to find my envelope with my passport and other papers still resting on the counter.  I was relieved to know that at my advanced age, my heart can still race.

2.  Christy and I tried out Full Sail's LTD Bohemian Pilsner while shooting the breeze on the front porch in the shade and the heat and I found it mighty tasty.

3.  Christy marinated and roasted a pork sirloin and she roasted cabbage (from her garden!) wedges and she set out tomatoes and cucumbers (from her garden) and after a couple mild gin and tonics, we sat on the deck overlooking Lake Roosevelt and had ourselves a delicious dinner followed by a moist and tasty chunk of lemon cake with frozen lemon yogurt on the side.  My oh my, what a great dinner!

Three Beautiful Things 08/09/13: The Mighty Quinn, Breakfast with the Troxstar, Biscuit Prep

1.  This morning I played the role of Quinn, an Irish minstrel, and got to do two new things:  sing a brief solo to the tune of "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" (I didn't humiliate myself) and explain the Holy Trinity using a shamrock as an analogy (both are three in one).  My short run of playing characters for the children at Vacation Bible Camp is over.  I had a really good time.

2.  I braced myself for playing Quinn by going to Brails for a fortifying breakfast with the Troxstar.

3.  Kathryn and I talked about serious things and laughed about funny things while we made biscuit dough for tomorrow morning's Saturday Breakfast at the church.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 08/08/13: The Peasant Glenn, Singapore Noodles, Angelo's Dashes

1.  This morning I played the peasant, Glenn.  I used one of the Deke's crutches from when her knee gave out and tried to convey Glenn's poverty and his gratitude to Queen Margaret for her kindness and how it paralleled Jesus on the night of the Last Supper washing the feet of his disciples.  When Glenn shared that Queen Margaret washed his dirty and wounded feet, several children shared how they had wounds, too, mostly from bug bites.  I wasn't expecting their spontaneous participation. 

2.  It's been quite a while since I've been to Yi Shen.  Russell and I had dinner there this late afternoon and I was reminded how much I like their Singapore noodles with pork and, for the first time, I ordered chicken pot stickers...also delicious.

3.  After Russell and I went for a picture taking walk in the west University area, I sauntered over to the Pour House for a Biopiracy Best Bitter and Angelo, who is always great to me over there, poured me five tasters: a wheat lager, two other bitters, a rye lager, and an adjunct wheat beer.  I don't know if I've ever sampled so much variety in a single sitting and it left me even more impressed with the beer making skills of Falling Sky brewmasters. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 08/07/13: Being Angel, "Fill the Void", Clearing out the Fridge

1.  Yesterday I was Sir Edwin.  Today I was Angel, the jolly innkeeper on the road to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela and shared with the children the joy of feeding and housing pilgrims walking to the cathedral and about the transformation of James after he witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus.  I think the children liked Jesus becoming light and a the voice of God speaking from a cloud more than they enjoyed hearing about the murder in the cathedral of Thomas Becket. 

2.  For anyone interested in delving into what a complicated country Israel is, and how committed Israeli filmmakers are to looking at the human condition, whether the stories are about Egyptians, Syrians, the Druze of the Golan Heights, the Lebanese, Palestinians, or of the many ways of life lived in Israel, turn off the television news and watch some of the movies that have been made in Israel over the last ten to fifteen years.  Watch "The Band's Visit". Watch "The Syrian Bride".  Watch "Waltz with Bashir". 

Today I strolled down to the Bijou Metro and watched "Fill the Void", an Israeli movie about an Orthodox Hassidic family in Tel Aviv, the father a rabbi, whose life is turned upside down when the family's older daughter dies giving birth.  I was entranced and moved by how deeply the movie explored the complications of love, parental, grandparental, familial, and romantic within the highly structured and ritualistic Orthodox Hassidic way of life.  I love watching the movies of the Middle East, especially those that have come from Israel, Iran, and Palestine.  This movie deepened my love for these movies and deepened my understanding of how seriously we dehumanize Israel and the other countries and areas of this region of the world by thinking of them in one-dimensional ways, ways that work on the tv news and in our political arena, but that terribly distort the human factor.

3.  I decide to clean out, as much as possible, my vegetables, so I made a stir fry with almost every vegetable in the fridge.  I used up the cabbage, onion, peas in the pod, yellow squash, and some of the celery and blended in a block of tofu and enjoyed it with Chinese noodles and peanut sauce.  It was a great dinner and there's good looking leftovers!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 08/06/13: Being Sir Edwin, Locksmith Success, Dinner at the Excelsior

1.  I hope that in some small way my portrayal of Sir Edwin, admirer of Thomas Becket, was of help to the Vacation Bible School children today.  It was fun pretending to be someone who had dropped into the 21st century from the 13th and to tell the children a bit about being a servant. . . but I'm not sure I am that good at making such things interesting to kids. 

2.  After much Herculean struggle, Tim the locksmith, was able to extract the double cylinder lock from the driveway door, rekey it, as well as the front door, and help me feel better about our lock and key situation here at the house.  It was a tough job for Tim.  It set his day back -- and to add insult to injury, he had to deal with all the street construction going on in our neighborhood and had a hell of a time getting to the house in the first place.  In the end, though, he was gracious about it all.  I hope his day improved.

3.  I received a 50 buck gift certificate at the Excelsior when I retired and after fourteen months of having it sit around unused, I finally went down to the joint and used it.  I had to get over feeling like it's too classy of a place for me, which I got over by going early when it wasn't too busy and by sitting in the bistro section, not the restaurant section. I felt less out of place in the bistro section.  My dinner was good.  I opened with a Jameson's on the rocks.  I was served whole wheat homemade bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Then I ate a decent, but not great, Caesar Salad.  I ordered the sockeye salmon fresh fish special which came with vegetables raised on the Excelsior farm and sauteed beautifully.  The fish was served on a bed of couscous.  The salmon was good, but I enjoyed the zucchini, yellow squash, cherry tomatoes, and onion with the couscous the most.  My glass of pinot gris was a satisfying pairing.  I ended my retirement dinner with a cognac on the rocks.  I enjoyed the solitude of being an early diner.  I'm grateful for the gift of the dinner.  But, I gotta say, for a working class Kellogg, Idaho kid like me, I'm much more at home at Billy Mac's where I love the food and feel like I belong. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 08/05/13: Things Done, Nine Holes of Humiliation, Original Lager Relief

1.  Appointments made for locksmith, tree care, and eye exam.  Reservation made for car rental.  Getting things taken care of.

2.  The Troxstar and I duck hooked, shanked, worm burned, and four-putted our way around Fiddler's Green for nine holes, without a scorecard or a calculator.

3.  Two pints of Hafbrau Original Lager at the Bier Stein helped ease the humiliation of being so nearly unbearably lousy at the game of golf.  

Monday, August 5, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 08/04/13: Pam's Sermon, Transplants Done, Sandwich and Beer

1.  In some ways our minds are on different things, but it's the same principle:  Pam Birrell preached this morning about how we are conditioned to live as if the material reality around us is the primary reality and how we are conditioned to hold certain values about that reality.  I've been on board with rejecting this conditioning for many many years, all the way back to the Holy Spirit/human/creative spirit study group we tried to get going at Whitworth back in 1977 and all the way back to Prof. Dale Bruner's lectures/sermons around the same time about living kingdomly (although I can't seem to shake my anxiety about money).  The conditioning I am currently trying to shed (and this relates to Pam's comments about the Enlightenment) involves academic training and the primacy of critical thinking.  Questioning and shedding this conditioning and these ways of thinking is one of the primary goals of my retirement.  I see the value of critical thinking (I won't ever totally reject it), but I also think critical thinking and the reliance on reason, not only narrows my spiritual experience, but has, at times, limited my response to beauty, especially in my experience with photography, Shakespeare, movies, in other art forms, and in my response to writing, both student writing and published writing.  Back in graduate school, some of my fellow graduate students referred to this immediate response as a pre-critical response.  No thanks.  It's an instant response, often a personal response, connected with my experience and memories and what I hold dear inside, and it gives me more pleasure than the "critical response" which I've been trained to see as superior.  I don't see the critical response as superior these days.  Important?  Sure.  Superior?  No.

2.  Before church, I wrapped up my fertilizing and transplating project and I think now I'm content to leave the yard and garden as it is (no new plants) and continue to fertilize when needed, and, as always, weed, water, and mow.

3.  Three new and delicious experiences at the Falling Sky Pour House and Delicatessen:  corned beef rubin (their spelling), New York potato salad, and Ember Lager beer.  A nice dinner out.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 08/03/13: Lone Pine Farms and DWEHCA , A Bit More Color, Stir Fried Noodles and Vegetables

1.  For a change of pace, I drove out to Lone Pine Farms instead of going to the downtown Farmers' Market, and, among other things, bought a Honey Crisp apple about the size of grapefruit and enjoyed its crisp sweetness as I drove home.  It gave me so much pleasure that I might have been a danger on the road.  Maybe I should be careful about DWEHCA (Driving While Eating a Honey Crisp Apple).

2.  I decided I wanted more color in two spots and bought some flowers at Gray's.  Two of the flowers went in a part of the garden where there used to me a gravel rock path and I removed a bunch of rock from that spot with some hard shoveling.  I was worth it.  The Black-eyed Susan and lavender Aster make that spot look much better.  Then I fertilized the front lawn.

3.  After I stir fried some Walla Walla sweet onion, tofu, broccoli, cabbage, peas in the pod, and zucchini, I boiled and fried some Chinese noodles in sesame oil, put peanut sauce over the mixture, and had a great dinner.  This is a great time of year to not be eating meat at home for the sake of my kidneys. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Three Beautiful Thngs 08/02/13: Taming the Wild, Deep Sleep, Bring On the Couscous

1.  I've let an area on the north side of the house on the front yard side of the gate grow wild this summer and it was colorful with California poppies, the bloomerang bush starting to bloom, and the butterfly bush beginning to mature.  I decided it needs cleaning up and for the last two days I've been working hard to pull the worn out poppies and dig out the weeds and every once in a while today I looked out the window at the northeast corner of the house and smiled at how much better that area looks.

2.  It being a great workout for me, all that digging, pulling, and dumping of weeds into the Sanipac green recycling cart put me out for the count for a while this afternoon and I took one of the most satisfying naps I've had in months.  Good hard sleep.

3.  Maybe couscous and quinoa aren't even in the same food league.  Is one a grain and the other a cereal or a pasta or something?  I can't remember.  These distinctions don't often stick with me.  But, people often recommend quinoa for my stir fries and grain salads.  I strongly prefer couscous and this evening I stir fried tofu, Walla Walla sweet onion, mushrooms, and zucchini, mixed them up with couscous and topped it with some peanut sauce and I loved it. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 08/01/13: Dean's Homestyle Cafe, Stories at Billy Mac's, Revisiting "The Wire"

1.  I you are looking for a really tasty breakfast and friendly service in Clackamas, OR, head over to Dean's Homestyle Cafe.  Nancy, Terry, and I ate their this morning and I enjoyed my bacon, eggs, hashbrowns, English muffin, and coffee a lot and enjoyed the atmosphere as well.  I have greatly reduced my consumption of eggs, potatoes, bread, and meat, so when I am away from home and go to a place like Dean's and indulge myself, it's really fun and tasty. It's been a boost to my morale to be more disciplined about what I eat and it's a boost to my morale sometimes not to be legalistic and to wander off the straight and narrow. 

2.  Lynn and Pam and I had arranged to meet at Billy Mac's this evening and Pam invited Prof. Monika to join us and we had a great time talking about a lot of things.  In particular, Lynn and Pam and I discussed the fascinating, smartly put together documentary memoir movie, The Stories We Tell and I fully enjoyed hearing what their thoughts and impressions were.  One common thread in our discussion:  we loved the movie.

3.  After I saw Fruitvale Station, I read more about Michael B. Jordan and learned that he appeared in the first season of The Wire and was in a particularly bleak and famous scene in episode 12.  I went back this evening and watched episodes 12 and 13 and watched the partial demolition of the Barksdale crew and once again felt the awe that show fills me with.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 07/31/13: Movie Talk, Beer Trip, We Were Like Garry Maddox

1.  Jeff, Michael, MB, and I met for coffee and I enjoyed or conversation about movies most of all, especially as MB and I told Jeff and Michael what we had experienced when we saw "Fruitvale Station" and "Twenty Feet from Stardom".

2.  I picked up Byrdman and went over to Terry's house, inspected the remodel that's being done to his kitchen, went on the back patio and we opened our beer evening with a Logsdon Saison, moved to a Breakside pilsner.  We then set out for the Cascade Brewing Barrel House where I had a monster sandwich that had ham and about 40 cheeses in it with a pint of Portland Ale.  We wanted to see what the BeerMongers was like, drove over, and enjoyed a pint of Ayinger Helles Lager and then we topped off our short beer trip with a pint of Deschutes Twilight Pale Ale at the West Linn Tavern.  Terry drove and was sipping club soda by the end of our beer trip. 

3.  The conversation with Byrdman and Terry was stellar.  We covered a lot of ground, much like the former fleet-footed Phillies center fielder, Garry Maddox.