Friday, January 31, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 01/30/14: Hey! I've Got a Heart, Great Conversations at 16 Tons, Laughing Planet to the Rescue

1.  With great relief in her voice, a 45-55 year old LCC student on the bus this morning was telling a guy about how she'd just been approved for health insurance and now she could get a series of tests done on her heart that she's needed for a long time and I got a kick out her telling her story.  When the doctor told her she needed these tests run on her heart, she laughed and told the doctor, "I'm just glad you found a heart in there.  There's some I know try to tell me I don't have one."  She got a coughy congested kick out of herself telling that one.

2.  After a nice couple of pints of Einbecker Brauhaus Premium Pils at the Bier Stein I was ready to head home, but my phone rang and the Deke said she'd be at 16 Tons in an hour or so.  I hadn't been to Falling Sky for a while and I dropped in for a slow Dr. Optic Standard Bitter.  I arrived at 16 Tons before the Deke did, and Don Macnaughtan invited me to join him and Dick and Cliff and I did.  Unfortunately, Dick had to leave, but the conversation with Don and Cliff about movies and democracy in the USA and a little bit of LCC and other stuff was stellar and then the Deke arrived and it got even better.  Don and Cliff had to go and then Brian, one of the guys who works the check out at the Little Y Market in the same building as Billy Mac's, sat at our table with his buddy, and the Deke and I ended our evening at 16 Tons with jolly conversation with Brian and Cameron about tattoos, Brian's band, The Rhythm Pimps, and the small pleasures and infrequent tribulations of working check out at the Little Y Market next to Billy Mac's. 

3.  Spontaneously, with all that Billy Mac's talk, the Deke and I had to head over and we got to see Anne and Russell and Lynn and Kathleen and Allie as they were leaving, but we left right then, too, because there was nowhere to sit at the bar and we didn't feel like sitting at a table and so we each got a tasty Korean BBQ rice bowl at Laughing Planet and came home and ate our dinner. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 01/29/14: Kidney Report As Good As It Can Be, Richard Thompson, German Lager

1.  I had an appointment with Dr. Zachem, my kidney doctor, and things are steady.  Yes, my kidney function remains around 20%, but, the good news is that I'm not falling off the kidney cliff into near failure and, at this time, there is no reason to take immediate action.  It's not good news that my kidneys are working at such a low degree of function, but it is good news that I'm not getting worse fast.

2. I had a great time this afternoon watching a BBC documentary on Richard Thompson entitled, "Solitary Life".

 3.  I really enjoyed the pint and a half of German lager I quaffed at the Bier Stein. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 01/28/14: One Thing in Terms of Another, Walking More, End of the Troxstar Era

1.  I like to think that I help my students make the move of reading one article, arriving at an understanding of it, and then applying its insights to something else.  In today's case, that something else is the movie Happy and we are looking at it as an exploration of happiness based on living in line with your values, as explained by Steven Reiss.

2.  My infected big toe on my left foot is still red and swollen, but it's not incapacitating.  I walked to the bus station today, walked from place to place on campus, and walked home from the bus.  I hadn't walked like this for about three weeks, so I am very happy that I'm regaining the ability to walk places.  I'm not going to overdo anything.  That's for sure.  It feels good, though, to know my little world of routine walking is slowly becoming available again.

3.  Tonight was Senior Warden/the Troxstar's last vestry meeting as the Senior Warden.  It was also Carolyn's last vestry meeting as the Junior Warden.  To celebrate, Father Bingham, the Troxstar, Carolyn, and I met for some beer at 16 Tons and had a great time talking about all kinds of things and had a lot of hearty laughs.  I was very happy to have been invited to be a part of this epic night in the history of St. Mary's Episcopal Church.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 01/27/14: Testing My Toe, Taco? Rice Bowl?, NBA Throw Back Monday

1.  I took my nearly healed toe out for a spin today.  I walked about five blocks to 7-11 and then about another five blocks to Red Apple and then home again.  My toe held up.  I think I might try walking to the bus in the morning.

2.  Black beans, brown rice, tofu, red cabbage, lime, cilantro, grated carrots, corn tortilla, tortilla chips, salsa:  dinner, either rolled into a taco or eaten as a rice bowl. 

3.  I thrilled myself with more video footage from 1977 of the Blazers and Bill Walton and then watched the '76 Celtics and then the '68 Celtics, as they lost the Eastern Division playoff to Hal Greer, Luke Jackson, Chet Walker, Wally Jones, Matt Goukas, and Wilt Chamberlain.  Chamberlain was a much better player in '68, when the Sixers only lost thirteen games all year,  than he was in '70 as a Laker.  It sure is fun watching all these players and these games I saw as a young guy.  I love watching the players who taught me to love basketball. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 01/26/14: Sunday Afternoon with Bonhoeffer, Nate Strolls In, Adam Joins Us

1.  The course LeeAnn and I giving called "Living Profoundly" featured a short, dense passage from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's book Ethics.  The discussion was lively, full of good insights, and we all gave each other plenty to ponder as we worked on understanding and digging into Bonhoeffer's exploration of freedom and obedience and responsibility as Christian, existential beings living in a world of twilight (not of dark or light, but both) and in a world he calls the "domain of relativity".  We also learned a great deal from LeeAnn about the rigors and transformations in Bonhoeffer's life.  It all brought back memories of the young professors and our young chaplain at Whitworth College in the 1970s, all of whom looked to Bonhoeffer as an inspiring intellectual force and as one of Christianity's most courageous martyrs.  (They all loved to deliberate upon Bonhoeffer's distinction between "cheap grace" and "costly grace" and when I was on the Core 150 (the Judeo-Christian tradition) team, this distinction was one of the course's most important concepts when we did our unit of 20th century Christian figures.)

2.  The Deke and I went over 16 Tons after I returned home from church and we decided to have BBQ sandwiches from Bill and Tim's.  We were relaxing, shooting the breeze, and a former LCC student of mine, Nate, walked in and Nate and Deke and I talked about all kinds of stuff.  Once again, the Deke and I had great conversation and some really good laughs with one of the fine "young people today", a "millennial", one of those "kids" I read so many complaints about online.  Ha!  Like so many of "these kids" the Deke and I run into at different places and enjoy listening to and yakking with, Nate is a great guy.

3.  Later, we met Nate's roommate, Adam, and the evening became even more fun as, among other things, Adam regaled us with stories about the Truffle Festival he'd been working at over the weekend and the crazy things privileged people say, especially when they regard as invisible a twenty-something like Adam who is driving them somewhere or doing other work for them and they talk frankly and arrogantly, as if they were in private.  We got some great laughs out of his stories -- and he got some great material for comedy writing he is doing.  Sometimes we paupers love to laugh at the princes and princesses. Ha!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 01/25/14: Looking Back at Bill Walton, Black Bean Rice Bowl, It's Not a Date Night ;)

1.  I took a little time today to watch video of Bill Walton and the Portland Trailblazers in the 1977 playoffs, the year the Blazers won the NBA title.  I've never seen anyone, especially a center, play better basketball than Bill Walton.  He did it all:  rebounded, played tenacious and dominating defense, made spectacular passes from the high and low post in heavy traffic to teammates cutting to the basket, scored in a wide array of ways with a great bank shot and a killer jump hook, and acted as the team's playmaker both on fast breaks and in the Blazers' set offense.  He was a pure team player.  Injuries decimated him the next season, and, once hurt, we never got to see the full Bill Walton again.  It was funny seeing him interviewed after the Blazers won game 6 and the title.  He's so verbose now.  As a young guy, he barely had a word to say.   Ha! 

(Afterthought:  I saw Walton play in person in three games on two occasions when he was at UCLA.  Terry Turner and I got to go to the NCAA's Final Four in 1972 (a highlight of my life) and we saw Walton as a sophomore help UCLA defeat Louisville and Florida State.  Then, in January of 1974, Tony Stewart and I went to Pullman to watch the Bruins play the Cougars and it was the worst day in Walton's playing career.  The Cougar's Richard Steele undercut Walton and he hit the floor hard, in agony.  Walton missed the Bruins' next two victories against Cal and Stanford, and returned to action on January 19th against Notre Dame, playing with a corset with steel rods.   The Irish won that game, snapping UCLA's 88 game winning streak.  It was very doubtful whether Walton would play against Notre Dame, but he did, corset and all.  The injury Walton suffered when Richard Steele low-bridged him has stayed with Walton for the rest of his life, causing him severe pain, immobilizing him,  making it impossible, at times, to do his work as a broadcaster.  Fortunately, about five years ago, his back was successfully operated on and was relieved of this pain. )

2.  The Deke and I ate a midafternoon meal because we had plans for the later on and wanted to have eaten beforehand.  I made a rice bowl.  In layers, I put together brown rice, cumin seasoned black beans, a mixture of red cabbage, romaine lettuce, sliced carrots, and sliced red pepper, and slices of avocado.  I topped it all with Juanita's corn chips.  In our respective bowls, the Deke and I added cilantro, grated cheddar and mozzarella cheese, and salsa.  The Deke added yogurt to hers.  I might do things a little differently next time around, but overall, a success.

3.  We ate this meal in preparation for the 16 Tons' Cafe Imperial Stoutfest.  The place was packed with  people eager to try out different of the thirty-two imperial stouts available.  The Deke and I each drank a couple of three ounce samplers and then I drank a half pint of Boulevard Smokestack and the Deke enjoyed a half pint of Elysian Barrel Aged Dragonstooth.  Because we planned this outing ahead of time, I guess it's what people call a date night, but we have never called anything we do a date night so it wasn't a date night.  We left the crowded cafe and went to the 16 Tons taphouse where things were much quieter and then to Billy Mac's for a shrimp/calamari appetizer and some Blazer basketball.  It might not have been a date night, but it was a lot of fun -- and we were home by eight!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 01/24/14: Breaking the Fast, Taco/Rice Bowl, The Knicks Win Game 7

1.  I had to fast for a blood draw and I broke my fast around 9:00 at Sweet Life and for the first time in 2014 enjoyed a couple of almond biscotti and a cup of dark roast coffee. 

2.   The Deke and I were pleased with my latest effort in the kitchen:  small corn tortillas warmed and stuffed with a black bean, rice, tofu, mushroom mixture and topped with cheese and salsa.  The Deke turned hers into a rice bowl with some tortilla chips.  I built myself taco.

3.  I suddenly had this thought go through my wishful mind:  I wonder, I thought, if Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals is on YouTube.  It is!  It's complete!  I watched it all.  I watched the pregame suspense again.  Will Willis Reed play?  I watched his emotional entry into Madison Square Garden.  I watched him score four points right off the bat.  I watched Walt Frazier dominate the game and I watched Wilt Chamberlain look just awful.  His dippity-do finger roll shot inside was terrible and the one-legged Willis Reed owned him when the Lakers had the ball.  And get this:  from the free throw line, Wilt was 1-11 that night.  I had forgotten just how lousy Wilt could be when another player, like Reed, got in his head.  No one was in Walt Frazier's head, though.  He performed as well as anyone ever did in a Game 7 on May 8, 1970.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 01/23/13: Solid Start, The Deke Schools Me, 16 Tons Update

1.  I sure enjoy it when I can return a set of papers and praise both my classes for doing good work.  The papers I just returned give me confidence that my two sections of WR 115 are going to do solid work throughout the quarter and I am very happy with how we are working together in class. 

2.  After work, the Deke got a ride to 16 Tons so I drove over to join her and we not only enjoyed our beers together, but we had a fantastic discussion about blues chords, vocal harmonies, the Beach Boys, the Beatles, country music, rock n roll, rhythm and blues and other musical stuff.  I kept asking questions and the Deke kept helping me understand musical stuff I want to have a better grasp of.  Awesome conversation. 

3.  About 16 Tons:  When I first started going there, I went in as much to enjoy yakking with the people working as I did to enjoy the beer.  Jeff.  Emily.  Nicole.  Colin. Abi.  Now these, and other employees have left, and I miss them.  But, I'm starting to get to know Eric and Eric and a new Abbie and now I'm having new conversations with new people much younger than I am about beer and movies and other stuff and it's becoming fun again to go to 16 Tons and know that I'll have a good beer or two, but I'll also have some good conversation, not only with the Deke, but with the employees.   It's really fun when things are slow at 16 Tons, say, in the afternoon, to yak for a while, especially with these young people who tell me a lot of great stuff. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 01/22/14: Greenwich Village, *Apocalypse Now* Again, Back to *Hearts and Minds*

1.  More out of a yearning to return to Greenwich Village and Washington Square than anything else, I watched the documentary, Greenwich Village:  Music that Defined a Generation.  The interviews and archival footage brought the history of Greenwich Village alive, but as I find often happens when people involved in a counter cultural movement talk about it, it wasn't difficult to know ahead of time basically what the people interviewed were going to say.  Maybe it has to do with so much already having been said and written about the Village fifty or sixty years ago and then forward from there.  Maybe it has to do with most of the people involved in this place had all agreed, maybe unconsciously, to a particular way of talking about it and they still do.  There just doesn't seem to be much original to say.

2.  For reasons I don't totally understand, I watched Apocalypse Now again.  It's been many years since I last watched it, but this was probably my fifth or sixth viewing.  I love this movie.  I was struck by how much of it remembered really well, how I was anticipating much of the action and significant pieces of the script.  I remembered back to 1985 when the the older sister of my girlfriend back then asked me what my favorite movies were and I told her The Godfather, The Godfather:  Part II, and Apocalypse Now.  She replied, "That's sick."  Her response pissed me off and I've spent a lot of time ever since ruminating upon Apocalypse Now, its madness, its chaos, its very dark beauty, and how I regard my love for the movie as healthy.  The movie unsettles me, frightens me, outrages me, moves me, and it helps me understand war's absurdity, both in general and the particular war in Viet Nam.  It's not a documentary.  It's a study of madness.  It's a study of horror.  We, as viewers, live the deeper truth of horror and and madness in war, whether the details of the movie are historic or not.  The horrors are manifold.  The madness is exquisitely portrayed.  The whole movie plays out as if the heath scene in King Lear were over two and a half hours long.  It is Moby Dick on a river in a jungle rather than at sea.  It's Homer. It's Yeats' vision found in "The Second Coming".  The center cannot hold.  Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.  This is not sick.  It's illuminating.

3.  I had planned to go to one or two movies at one of the Bijou theaters tonight, but the Deke got into a groove after work grading papers and sipping some wine and returned home with the car a little late and that was fine. So I watched Francis Ford Coppola interview John Milius,  the primary screenwriter of Apocalypse Now.  Then I went to YouTube and found the first documentary film I ever watched about Vietnam, Hearts and Minds and watched the first part of it before I turned in and went to bed, about 8:30.  That movie had a strong impact on me my senior year at Whitworth and then then again when I returned to Whitworth in 1982 and I was enjoying reliving those years and seeing this movie again.  I'm sure I'll finish it before too long. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 01/21/14: Students and Pictures, Tofu Eggplant Stir Fry, Insomnia Entertainment

1.  My student Angela showed me stunning pictures she took with her phone on a hike to the top of Spencer's Butte, pictures that featured fog, fog lifting, and silhouetted back lit firs.  Paula told me about heron shots she took at Alton Baker Park and stuck around after class and we talked about aperture and bokeh and her desire to create blurred backgrounds.  I think she got it.  (By the way, my every term photography project where I take my students' portraits is on hold until my foot/toe completely heals and the healing is almost complete.)

2.  I got dinner going kind of early, stir frying onion, ginger root, tofu, eggplant, and red pepper and combining them with brown rice fried in sesame oil.  The Deke arrived home really hungry and this dinner hit the spot for her.  I liked it quite a bit myself.

3.  I woke up after a couple hours of sleep and spent a couple waking hours until about 2 a.m. or so watching clips from Johnny Carson, assorted bits from Seinfeld, and a bunch of Steely Dan videos, all on YouTube.  I also slipped in Don Rickles roasting Clint Eastwood.  Eventually, all this comedy and music settled me down and I slept.  But, if I had to be unable to sleep, this was a fun and entertaining way to make it through my slight insomnia. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 01/20/14: The Mess, Nachos..Why Not?, Upright Coffee Stout

1.  Papers, books, compact disks, DVDs, pictures, frames, all unorganized, all a mess in my room and today I dove into all, saw parts of the last twenty years or so pass before my eyes, and continued the project of getting organized and making my desk functional again that I started back in December.

2.  The Deke and I went to chilly Cornucopia and devoured a plate of nachos.  I hadn't eaten nachos in many months -- I don't remember when I ate a nacho last -- and I've been thinking for quite a while that I'd like to indulge in a mountain of corn chips, cheese, peppers, olives, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, and chicken with some Coca Cola.   We did it.  It was fun.  Now I probably won't have another nacho until I can't remember the last time I had some. (Wait!  Did the fellas and I  have nachos at the Wild Horse Casino over Veteran's Day?  That might be the last time.....)

3.  The Deke and I bought this 25 oz bottle of Upright Coffee Stout at 16 Tons on Sunday and saved it for today.  Turns out it was an unusual stout.  It didn't taste anything like the stouts we usually drink and it came to me that Upright focuses a lot on saisons and that this stout was kind of a hybrid.  The Deke didn't like it and I was kind of shocked by the first sip or two, but as the stout warmed up, I warmed up to it and started to enjoy the stout/sour/lactose/barrel aged qualities of it and there's more for tomorrow.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 01/19/14: Isaiah 49:1-7, Tillich's Insight that Sin is Separation, Yakking with Young People

1.  LeeAnn got a hold of me to say that because she is ill, she couldn't serve as lector this morning and asked me to take her place.  I said I would and I got to read another stirring passage from Isaiah.  It's Isaiah 49: 1-7 and, in it, Isaiah utters the kind of cry of bewilderment and doubt and pain that is heard by a variety of figures throughout the Old Testament: 

I have labored in vain,
I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;
yet surely my cause is with the LORD,
and my reward with my God.

Here's how I experience this passage:  Isaiah's certainty lies in his suffering, in how his efforts feel futile.  He's less sure about God.  He wants to believe that his "cause is with the Lord" and "my reward with my God", but he is not as sure of this as he is certain that all he's done feels useless.

It's the moments of existential doubt and deep angst that occur throughout the Bible that I find the most illuminating in my day to day experience of living in God. 

2.  Speaking of the existential, LeeAnn's illness meant I was on my own to lead today's session in the four week course LeeAnn and I are giving on existentialism and Christianity.  Over a dozen people attended today's class and we had a scintillating discussion of Paul Tillich's sermon "Your Are Accepted" as we worked among ourselves to better understand Tillich's assertion that sin is separation from others, ourselves, and the Ground of Being and grace is acceptance.  As our session went on today, we worked together to fill the room with insight, questions, and stories.  I was grateful for the appreciation we had of one another's perspectives and points of view. I left the church fired up, confident the course is a good thing.   Next week:  a ten paragraph passage on freedom and responsibility by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

3.  The Deke and I met at 16 Tons and then had a light bite to eat at the Bier Stein and we had a great time talking about a bunch of stuff with each other and had an especially great time talking about stuff with the youngsters who were working at 16 Tons and with the woman sitting next to the Deke at the bar at the Bier Stein.  These people, like so many of their peers I get to listen to at LCC and when I'm out and about, were fascinating as we discussed art, movies, employment, NYC, music, parents who are ill, books, food, beer/cocktails, and other stuff.  

Three Beautiful Things 01/18/14: Up Early, Lunch at Pure, Eggplant Stir Fry

1.  I woke up at 4 a.m. and I'd had it with getting up and walking around, my toe keeping me awake.  So I started my day with coffee and writing and thinking about stuff and it turned out not to be such a bad thing to decide to stay awake rather than trying to go back asleep at 4 a.m.

2.  Russell and I had a good lunch at Pure.  I decided I wasn't ready to walk around and take pictures and I decided to go home after lunch to rest my stupid toe.  We had a great talk and the bento box was good as well.

3.  I made a dinner both the Deke and I enjoyed:  a stir fry of onion, ginger, celery, red and yellow pepper and eggplant over Chinese egg noodles, boiled, and then fried in sesame oil.  It worked out great! 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 01/17/14: Sleepless with Shakespeare, Haunted by Harry Nilsson, Superb Pour House Dinner

1.  The infection that has plagued my left foot for nearly two weeks now continues to settle down.  Most of the anger is isolated to my big toe.  Because of the kidney disease I live with, I can't take painkillers.  This isn't a problem during the day so much, but the pain of this infection has messed with my nighttime sleep.  Today, without any classes to teach, I not only stayed home all day, but on three occasions I napped, refreshing myself with sleep, sleep that I have not been able to get in a consistent way at night.

(Do any of you Shakespeare lovers do this when you can't sleep?  Do you find yourself melodramatically repeating these lines?

Methought I heard a voice cry 'Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep', the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleeve of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast,--
****
Still it cried 'Sleep no more!' to all the house:
'Glamis hath murder'd sleep, and therefore Cawdor
Shall sleep no more; Macbeth shall sleep no more.'

I do.  Ha!   As if my sleeplessness were caused by the guilt of killing the king....but, having Shakespeare run through my mind is pretty entertaining!)


2.  I'm looking forward, in a pretty big way, to being healed up so I can get out and take walks again.  For one thing, this will help my sleep.  In the meantime, I've been watching documentaries, especially of musicians.  Today I watched the dispiriting story of Harry Nilsson entitled Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him).  Listening to him sing was sublime, but bearing witness to his self-destruction was painful.  I was reminded of Donald Hall's reflections upon Dylan Thomas in his book Remembering Poets.  Donald Hall accused the public of cheering on Dylan Thomas with adoration for his drunkenness while he destroyed himself, while he committed what Hall described as a public suicide, "of self-murder[ ], to the applause of crowds".   Harry Nilsson destroyed himself with alcohol and other drugs.  Not everyone in his life cheerfully indulged him, but several of the people in this movie laughed and seemed to relish how crazy Harry Nilsson could be while binging and I felt some of the disgust I remember Donald Hall feeling that these friends of Harry Nilsson's got such a kick out his self-destruction.  Harry Nilsson's story haunts me.

3.   The Deke and I went over to the Pour House and split a Cherise sandwich.  It was smoked chicken and slaw and Russian dressing and melted swiss on marbled rye.  Fantastic.  We also each ate one slider and it was the best slider I've ever eaten.  The little patty was a custom beef and pastrami blend with mustard served between two slices of baguette.  The pleasure nearly brought tears to my eyes. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 01/16/14: Deep Purple's *Machine Head*, Return of the Electric Fry Pan, UCLA and Bill Walton

1.  These different episodes of Classic Albums move me, emotionally and in my head, as I relive tracks from albums I love, and listen to the thinking and imagination that informed each band's sound.  Ever since it was released in 1972, I have loved Deep Purple's Machine Head.  Every track is loaded, and not only "Smoke on the Water", but "Highway Star", "Space Truckin'", "Never Before" and the rest of the tracks rouse me, often bring me to tears as I remember weekend nights listening to CFUN radio from Vancouver, B.C. and drinking beers on the Cataldo Flats where the signal was strong and hittin' Jekyll and Hyde's on Friday afternoons with Stu and playing records in the trailer John and I were renting before we went to the bar for pitchers and sandwiches and pool and during the week getting under the headphones and letting Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord and Ian Gillan and Roger Glover and Ian Paice pulse through my entire being,  helping get my adrenaline pumping for exams in courses at NIC and Whitworth or just bringing me joy.  I loved watching and listening to the Classic Albums episode looking at Machine Head today;I enjoyed it well beyond what I expected.

2.  I hadn't had the electric fry pan out for a while and whipped up a dinner of onion, baby potatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, and yellow squash for the Deke and me and it was delicious.

3.  Yes, forty or so years ago, I loved Deep Purple and right along Deep Purple on my love list was the men's basketball program at UCLA.  Watching the Classic Albums episode on Machine Head and being transported back in time suddenly made me wonder if the UCLA teams I loved from about 1967-75 would still look great to me in 2014.  I found clips of the Bruins on YouTube and was blown away by how good those Bruins were.  I especially enjoyed seeing Bill Walton play with such verve, such mobility, such awareness of all that was happening on the court, on defense and offense.  My toe hurts at night and I can't take painkillers, so I watch stuff and I found clips of Walton as a Celtic, as a teammate of Larry Bird.  It was sublime.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 01/15/14: Tree Work Done, Brokenness and Gratitude, Classic Albums and The Band and The Dead

1.  Chain saws, ropes, cables, running cables and ropes through neighbors' trees, bringing rope over the roof, keep the tree stable as they trimmed it and sectioned it:  it was fun to watch the tree crew figure out how to deal with the fallen tree in our backyard.  The crew succeeded.  The tree is gone, save for the sections and rounds I need to deal with in the back.

2.  I wrote on my blog today about the way music of The Band was, in a few instances, the soundtrack to the end of my marriage to Eileen and it was good to realize that while I remember the things that happened that were painful, I no longer feel the pain of our divorce. When I remember back to my first marriage (1976-82), I remember the fun we had and the goodness Eileen brought to my life.  It's true.  For years, I didn't understand why she left our marriage, but that has changed.  I think I do understand, or at least I have ideas, regarding why Eileen couldn't stay married to me. I don't like knowing that these things were true about me. I'm sorry about things.  The bitterness is long gone.  Gratitude prevails.  (The same is true about the string of broken relationships, and a marriage, that happened before the Deke and I married each other.  It seems to be one of the good things about growing older, about turning 60.)

3.  Some months ago, on YouTube, I watched a couple of episodes from the documentary series, Classic Albums.  Those two episodes explored Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker's Damn the Torpedoes and Steely Dan's Aja.  Then, as is so easy to do, I forgot that these terrific hour long shows were available about a wide range of musicians and albums.  This evening I watched the Classic Albums episode about The Band, looking at their first three albums, and another about the Grateful Dead looking at Anthem to the Sun through American Beauty.    Deep pleasure, all of it. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Last Waltz

I watched the documentary "Ain't In It For the Health" a couple of days ago.  It's a portrait of drummer and singer Levon Helm, first famous for his work with The Band and later for his resurrected career in the 2000's after radiation treatment for throat cancer in 1998 seemed to have killed his voice.

Not only did he come back from the treatments, he won three Grammy awards between 2008 and 2012, the year of his death.

Watching this movie, I was transported back to my life in Eugene in 1981.

I was a graduate student in the Ph.D. program in English at the Univ. of Oregon.  My first wife, Eileen, and I had moved to Eugene in 1979 and she was completing a Masters degree in Journalism.

Back then, one journalism student from the U. of O's program each year was chosen to do an internship at The Oregonian and Eileen was chosen.  In June, she moved in with her brother's family and worked at The Oregonian and came to Eugene every week or every couple of weeks.

I spent the summer preparing for and passing a comprehensive examination in 20th Century American drama and I also completed my foreign language requirement for the Ph.D. (which I never finished) by taking German for Reading Knowledge.  I also began to prepare for my comprehensive exam in Shakespeare and Renaissance Drama, coming up in the spring of 1982.

I enjoyed this summer.  I had a lot of studying to do, so I enjoyed the time alone.  I spent time with Deb and Sally and John and Barbara and other friends, so I wasn't that lonely.  I discovered Lone Star Beer. Down the street, the Big Dipper served a turkey and cranberry sandwich I loved.  I went to Portland once or twice to see Eileen and had fun on those visits.

Now, Eileen and I loved the movies.

Downtown, the Cinema 7 showed a lot of independent and foreign movies, and a lot of documentaries.  Nearer campus, in about 1980, the Bijou had opened and showed movies in the same vein.  Both houses often showed double features, often pairing two movies by the same director or two movies featuring the same actor. 

We saw a ton of great movies at these two houses.

Let's say it was July, or maybe August, of 1981, when the Bijou showed two movies (for the price of one) featuring the lead guitarist, songwriter, and vocalist for The Band, Robbie Robertson in The Last Waltz and Carny.

We loved both movies.  We were both ignorant about The Band and loved learning so much from The Last Waltz, a movie of their last concert, and the movie's music was right down our alley.  Both of us enjoyed Carny a lot, too.

What I'll never forget about this double feature, though, was Eileen occasionally biting my shoulder -- she didn't leave teeth marks or anything -- but it was her way of expressing, well, the lust Robbie Robertson aroused in her.

I thought it was funny and was happy to play along.  To me, at that time, so many things were signs of strength in our marriage and how we related to each other:  we lived apart so that Eileen could take advantage of a superb opportunity to pursue her aspirations in journalism; she'd had a huge movie crush on Harrison Ford in The Empire Strikes Back and saw the movie multiple times, each time returning home baffled by how irresistible she found him and how she almost couldn't stop seeing the movie, and, rather than being jealous, I laughed and listened to her talk about how over the moon Harrison Ford sent her;  I didn't mind her biting my shoulder multiple times during a Robbie Robertson double feature.

To this day, I remember the summer of 1981 as fun, as a summer that significantly defined paths for Eileen's future and for mine.

It was also the last summer we were ever married.

In late September/early October, not long after Eileen returned to Eugene from her internship and we both started back to school, we were having ice cream at a Prince Puckler's shop and Eileen told me she didn't think she wanted to be married any longer.

This conversation baffled me and I couldn't grasp it and I acted like she was talking hypothetically -- but she wasn't.  In December, we went our separate ways for Christmas and never lived under the same roof again and our divorce was final in August.

Watching the Levon Helm documentary, which had clips of The  Band, seeing visuals again of Robbie Robertson, I could still feel Eileen's bites into my shoulder and I still feel the excitement I felt that night that Eileen was back in Eugene for a couple of nights and I felt like I was having the time of my life.

Nothing that happened afterward as we separated and divorced, not the bafflement, the confusion, the pain, the anger, or the brief interlude of despair dulls the pleasure I remember of going to Cinema 7 or the Bijou with Eileen.  None of it dulls the pleasure of my introduction to The Band that night, of later buying the album, of having the DVD in my keeping right now.

 As the fall quarter of 1981 wound to an end, Eileen had left town to go to Coeur d'Alene and be with her family.  I wrapped up the quarter by spending evenings in the Douglas Listening Room at the Univ. of Oregon and putting in requests for audio taped versions of different plays of Shakespeare.  I was fatigued those evenings, but wanted to keep up with my studies and reading the plays while listening to them was the way to go.

Then, when it neared closing time, each evening, I put in a last request to the listening room staff as a way to end my night of study with good energy and vitality. I put in a slip requesting The Band playing "Up on Cripple Creek".  The evening staff in the Douglas Listening Lab were work study students and they came to know what my final request would be each evening and since not many others were in the listening room, they would put on headphones, stay behind the service counter, listen along with me to "Up Cripple Creek" and dance, uplifted by Levon Helm's drum work and vocals.

Levon Helm was so reliable.  So was The Band.  I went home at night where things were lonely able to stave off moroseness with their help and knowing the staff had been uplifted, too.

It would give this piece I'm working on perfect symmetry if I wrote that when Eileen and I went to the Bijou Theater and saw two movies featuring Robbie Robertson that it was our last waltz.

But, I can't write that.

I don't know when we had our last waltz or what it would look like if I tried to remember.

I do know that a couple of days ago I liked the movie about Levon Helm taking me back to that night at the Bijou.  I know that when it comes to Eileen, the great times I had with her in England, in Denmark, at the movies, on road trips, at the coast, playing cribbage, listening to music, and talking about all kinds of things melts the pain I felt for years when and after our marriage ended. .

The older I get, the more it's this way with all the failed loves of my past.

My memories are hardly ever bittersweet.

Mostly, they're sweet.  And I'm grateful.








Three Beautiful Things 01/14/14: Levon Helm Talk, Infection Slows Me Down, What Sticks?

1.  At school this morning, I dropped in on Jeff and we had a great talk about Levon Helm and I don't think I ever quite said it, but my words were circling around the fact that something about Levon Helm's spirit and goodness when he's being interviewed and when he sings and plays is so pure that it gets into dark corners and empty places in my soul and brings me light and deep satisfaction.  He makes me realize I don't know my own longings.  He fills longings I have for goodness before I know the longing is there.

2.  My infected instep and big toe are doing better, but are not quite done being red, swollen, and angry.  My students didn't seem to mind when I taught a part of class with my left shoe off and understood when I told them I would not be able to do the photography project on Thursday, but that I hoped to be healed up enough by Tuesday to traipse from one end of the campus to the other taking their portraits.

3.  I confessed to my students that despite the fact that I've been teaching for over thirty-six years, I don't know how to make things stick.  I know I explained clauses and phrases and independent clauses and dependent clauses and what makes a complete sentence as clearly as the headwaters of the McKenzie River, but will the instruction stick?  I don't know.  I never know what sticks nor how to make it stick.  Some of my fellow teachers say things like, "I told them (the students) such and such and it's like I never said a word."  Yeah.  Ya never know what sticks.  Or how to make it stick.  I just calmly and jovially keep trying. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 01/13/14: Vincent Reports from C-Link, Huge Tree Job, My Past Comes to Thrill Me at the Bier Stein!

1.  My former student from over twenty years ago, Vincent, works for Century Link now and he came by the house to check on the downed communication wires, caused by the myrtle/bay whatever tree that fell Saturday morning. We quickly took care of C-Link business and had a great talk about what's going on in the days since LCC.

2.  Alby came over, too.  He's our go to arborist and he was stunned by the tree having fallen because the tree deceived us.  Often when a tree is suffering from what's called white rot, blisters appear on the bark.  This tree has shown some sign of problems, and we've kept an eye on it, but the rot inside turned out to be much worse than external signs would indicate.  Reading trees can be tricky.  But, a crew is coming in Wednesday and is going to undertake the tricky business of taking the tree off our house and removing it from our yard.  The good news is that our neighbor will get a huge store of firewood!

3.  At the Bier Stein tonight:  Our server was Jolene, a student of mine at LCC in 2008.  I had a chat with Liz who was in my Literature of Comedy course a couple of years ago.  Tim and I work together at LCC and he was just in touch with Deborah, a long lost friend of mine from Whitworth and the University of Oregon , and Deborah sent me greetings through Tim.  I had thought I would never hear from her again and now I have hope we'll be in touch before long.  Erik and I taught for about ten years together at LCC and were great friends around the department and we ran into each other and had a great talk.  As I was getting ready to leave, out of nowhere popped Nate, who was my student several times at LCC and is a good friend.  This was by far the best evening I've ever had in the Bier Stein. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 01/12/14: Her Gratitude Choked Me Up, Christian Existentialist, Pork Bun Tacos at Agate Alley's Laboratory

1. As the lector for the 11:00 service, I got to read Isaiah 42: 1-9, a majestic passage.  During the passing of the peace, the woman in front of me thanked me extensively for my reading, explaining that she had accidentally left her hearing aid at home and that she could hear every word I read clearly and she loved my inflections.  I don't know if she could tell her words were creating a huge catch in my throat.  I was ready to cry, her gratitude touched me so deeply.  I didn't cry, but my voice quivered when I thanked her for telling me what she did.  Peace of the Lord, indeed.
 '
2.  LeeAnn and I met about forty minutes before we began our the first of our four classes in a four week course on Christianity and existentialism.  We are presenting this course under the huge title, "Living Profoundly".  Our meeting went very well and so did this afternoon's class, as we each told the class our personal experiences with existentialism, how this way of seeing the world had come to mean so much to us, and how existentialism is always present in the living out of our Christian practice, in our experience as Christians.  I've taught existentialism for years in courses at LCC.  It's always been, and rightly so, a secular discussion.  It was deeply satisfying to me to have discussion with fellow parishioners about the world's absurdity and the experiences of estrangement and alienation and the terrible responsibility we have to make meaning in life in a Christian context.  LeeAnn had so aptly quoted Pascal in her presentation:  "The heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing."  Yes.  In many ways, I would say reason knows little about my life as a Christian existentialist.

3.  The Deke had been there once, but I had never been to the Agate Alley's Laboratory.  For dinner, I had Pork Bun Tacos which combined Korean pork belly, shaved cabbage, sesame vinaigrette, cilantro, lime and wasabi crème fraîche on dim sum tortillas.  I didn't want my dinner to end.  I loved every bite.  I also found the restaurant's concept kind of fun:  my margarita and my Moscow mule were both served in facsimiles of a chemist's beaker.  Ha!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 01/11/14: Bay Tree Snaps, Going Mobile (Sort of), Jiro and Levon

1.  At about 5 a.m., when a huge gust of wind blew down the huge, old, two-trunked bay tree in the back yard, it took down wires leading our neighbor's house, but only the very upper part of the tree landed on our roof and it looks like it didn't do any damage.

2.  I gained a little more mobility today as the swelling in my infected foot continues to go down and redness gradually goes away.

3.  I enjoyed two documentaries today, very different from each other.  First, I watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a portrait of 85 year old Jiro Ono, a widely acclaimed sushi master with a ten seat, 300 dollars a plate restaurant in Tokyo.  I also watched a portrait of The Bands drummer and vocalist, Levon Helm entitled, Ain't In It For My Health.  Both movies were studies in lifelong devotion to art.  Jiro Ono's life was still going strong as the movie about him drew to a close, but the same was not true for Levon Helm who died in April 2012.  The movie was shot before his death, but his declining health and difficulties with cancer were prominent in his story.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 01/10/14: My Healing Foot, Pasta Dinner, *Deceptive Practices*

1.  Slowly, my mysteriously infected foot is healing.  Slowly, the swelling is going down.  Slowly, today I became a bit more mobile.  Staying put much of the day, as I sat still, I was not in too much pain.  I also got back some of the sleep I lost during a fitful night alternating between short periods of sleep and periods of being awake with pain.  By the way, those miracle anti-inflammatory, over the counter pain killers, like ibuprofen, are off limits for me because of the kidney disease I live with.  So, I just have to endure.

2.  The Deke has been hungry for pasta for a long time and she stopped at Frontier Market and picked up some capellini, boiled it perfectly, mixed in some basil, cherry tomatoes, garlic, and grated Parmesan cheese and served it with a tasty Syrah wine.  Awesome.

3.  I watched the documentary movie Deceptive Practices:  The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay and found it fascinating, both as it explored the life of Ricky Jay and as Ricky Jay took us through the history of magic in the USA as he told stories about those who had inspired and taught him. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 01/09/14: I'm the Mummy or a Zombie, Checking Out the Foot Infection, *I Like Killing Flies* Occupies My Mind

1.  Back in Kellogg, I was having some minor pain in my instep and I didn't think much of it.  My mobility was fine and it wasn't anything that seemed too serious.  Well, things have changed.  My left instep and big toe are red, angry, swollen, and painful.  I think I managed to disguise being in pain during my WR 115 classes today, largely because I didn't get up and move around a lot.  But, when I walked around the halls of the Center Building and when I walked to the bus and then walked home from the bus station, I was very slow, very limpy, and felt like I was walking like Lon Chaney in The Mummy.  But, maybe I looked more like a zombie.  I've never had such a long (or painful) walk before from the bus station to our house.

2.  The Deke made me an appointment at the OHG after hours clinic and Dr. Byrne inspected the foot and had blood work done to rule out the gout and to look into some other things.  I'm starting a round of antibiotics, and hope to hear tomorrow from my primary care doctor.  I'm also going to take probiotics.  Some of you who have read this blog for a while might remember that the last time I took antibiotics to fight of pneumonia in 2009, I ended up with that vile C. Diff.  I'm hoping ingestion of probiotics will make it less likely that I'll get into that trouble again.

3. I wanted to enjoy my wait to go to the doctor, so I went to Netflix and pulled up the documentary, I Like Killing Flies, a profile of the Greenwich Village restaurant owner and cook, Kenny Shopsin.  (Today, the restaurant, Shopsin's, is not in the Village.)  The movie gives Kenny Shopsin a way to voice his many perspectives upon many subjects, including the importance of food, raising a family, killing flies, Freudian psychoanalysis, and much more and we get a close up view of the struggles that ensue when the building he runs his restaurant in his bought my a new owner, who becomes his new landlord.  I had to leave before the movie was over, but it did its job:  it took my mind off my red and raging left foot, it made me think, and it made me laugh.  It did not, however, make me hungry for a sugary pancake loaded with chocolate chips or peanut butter. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 01/08/14: Tears and *Silver Linings Playbook*, *Going Big* with Sam Bowie, The *Fab Five*

1.  I've had Silver Linings Playbook sitting around since August and, finally, this afternoon, to my delight I watched it.  It hit home in many ways, but most of all I loved how the act of figuring out dance moves, rehearsing them, and then creating a form of art had such a settling effect on Pat and Tiffany.  It reminded me of the settling effect playing Snug the Joiner in A Midsuummer's Night Dream had on me back in 2005 when I had fallen deep into psychic paralysis and out of nowhere Sparky called me and said she'd lost a member of the cast and could I come and play and it was just what I needed to get outside of myself and to have some of the best guy time I've ever had with the other Rude Mechanicals.  It broke the isolation.  It got me moving around.  It got me helping to create art.  Having Silver Linings Playbook take me back to that (and other) psychologically trying times had me in tears throughout the movie.

2.  Suddenly, early this evening, the hour long documentary about Sam Bowie entitled Going Big caught my eye on Netflix and I watched it and enjoyed it thoroughly and came away with a very high regard for Bowie -- and for the Blazers' decision to draft him. 

3.  Having watched one basketball documentary, I decided to go for another one and watched ESPN's scintillating movie called Fab Five, a movie exploring the story of the five freshmen who came to U of Michigan in 1991 and changed the face of college basketball.  It was a fascinating documentary and I came away from it smiling and saying something I've said to myself repeated over the last few years:  I could listen to Jalen Rose talk about stuff forever.  He's really good. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 01/07/14: Duck Talk with Linda, Peaceful Crisis Intervention in the Front Yard, Relaxing at Billy Mac's

1.  Thanks to the winter break, Linda and I went over three weeks without talking about the Ducks and in that time the football team beat Texas and the basketball team went undefeated until Sunday.  It was the most fun part of being back to work again:  taking some time with Linda to talk about the games and the teams.  I think we got it all figured out.

2.  A young man visited our next door neighbors' little free library in their front yard and looked at books, yelled, screamed, sang, pitched himself on the ground, and showed every sign of being deranged.  They called the police and by the time four officers arrived, the man was sitting in front of a tree in front of our house, talking to the tree, standing up and caressing it, continuing to chant, scream, sing, and babble.  The police were patient.  No.  They didn't wrestle him into submission or anything.  They kept an eye on him, they kept their distance, making sure he wasn't harming himself.  Soon a Cahoots (Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets) van arrived and once the police were able to slowly frisk the man, while he was on the ground, for anything dangerous or illegal, the Cahoots crisis worker talked the man into standing up and eventually getting into their van and a nurse was nearby the whole time.  The situation ended peacefully.  The police, the Cahoots people, everyone acted with restraint and patience and did exactly the right thing over about forty minutes of crisis intervention.

3.  The Deke and I decided after a dinner of a bulgar, chickpea, spinach, and vegetable salad that we wanted to get out of the house for a little while and so we went to Billy Mac's and spent about an hour talking with each other, talking with Derrick and Amber, and having a quiet relaxing time together. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 01/06/14: No Inbox Pressure, No WR 115 Pressure, Back at Billy Mac's

1.  I hadn't checked my LCC email for three weeks and not much was there.  Excellent.  I dealt with the handful of requests I received from students looking to enroll in my WR 115 sections and wrote a belated "let's do it" to a fellow instructor's suggestion that we have a beer some time, but nothing else in my inbox required any action or was pressing.  This is one of the bonuses of working part-time in my retirement.

2.  Without hurry, without pressure, I calmly got everything posted and printed that I need to start teaching WR 115 tomorrow.  This is one of the bonuses of working part-time in my retirement.  I don't have to rush, press, stress out, tire myself out, or feel resentment about time.  I just made myself comfortable and took the time I needed to prepare myself for my first day of classes.

3.  The Deke and I went to Billy Mac's where Kathy welcomed me back with a hug, Amber asked me if I missed Billy Mac's (I did) and told me they had missed me there, and I settled in with a refreshing 7 and 7 and had a cup of lobster chowder and a small Caesar salad.  It was a relaxing dinner, with good conversation with the Deke.  Indeed, as much as I enjoyed being in Kellogg and other spots in North Idaho, I had missed Billy Mac's.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 01/05/14: Breakfast at Sam's, Watching the 49ers Win in Seattle, Returning to the Deke

1.  Ed picked me up for a 7 a.m. breakfast with Jerry, Mike, Buff, Brian, and Bella at Sam's and so my last morning in Kellogg gave me an even fuller immersion into life in Kellogg, especially as the table of about ten loggers, current and former, ended their meal at Sam's and flipped Ed shit on their way out door.  Watching that group of Sam's morning regulars, it was kind of like being in the lunch room at the cell room again.  The world's going to hell.  The president is ruining the country.  It doesn't matter if it's Nixon or Obama or anyone else:  nothing's good.  The men are different but the comments, the disbelieving head shaking, the weariness is the same.  So is the priceless spirit of friendship and camaraderie.

2.  The flights back to Eugene worked out great and my short layover in Seattle gave me time to see the thrilling 49er win over the Packers.  I was born and raised a 49er fan.  I've been a fan of theirs from the John Brodie years to the present and it was fun to see them win on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field (even if it wasn't frozen...I understand the field has an underground heating system now...but what poetry is their in saying "the heated from underground turf of Lambeau Field?).

3.  The Deke and I went straight from the airport to Cornucopia and I enjoyed a South of the Border rice bowl with a couple of margaritas and we got the quick process of getting back into our Eugene life underway. 


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 01/04/14: Hope for Comedy, Great Guys Hall of Fame Get Together, Two Great Playoff Games

1.  I hope that the sixty or so people who read my blog post on Saving Mr. Banks will, if nothing else, think of comedy in its classical sense, not as a series of gags and punchlines, but as a way of telling a story about what gives life vitality and how, with the help of others, spiritually dead or numb persons can come to life again.  Comedy is not just about stories that have a happy ending.  It's much more substantial than that.  

2.  With the Kansas City/Indianapolis kickoff, a Great Guys Hall of Fame get together got underway and, as the day continued, several members came to Don Knott's house and back patio:  Jake, Ed, Byrdman, and Abbey, and, as a bonus, Abbie's wife Kate dropped in and I had the pleasure of meeting her.  The day featured two exciting NFL playoff games, awesome sausages from Genesee, Idaho, seven-layer dip and a homemade pizza loaf, thanks to Byrdman's wife, Steph, Rainier beer, Coors Light, Red Chair ale, Pendleton whiskey, Hennessy cognac, and Christian Brothers brandy, among other sources of having fun together. 

3.  Back to the NFL playoffs:  it was exciting to see the Colts come back from 28 points behind to beat Kansas City and the New Orleans victory over Philadelphia was a nail-biter.  Neither game turned out the way I wanted it to, but it was fun to feel such admiration for the two victorious squads.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Dead Coming to Life and *Saving Mr. Banks*: How I Experienced this Movie

As a way of illustrating the difference between fiction and non-fiction, Northrup Frye once wrote that
“we don’t go to see Macbeth to learn about the history of Scotland…we go to learn what a man feels like after he’s gained a kingdom and lost his soul.”  In other words, non-fiction tells what happened.  Fiction tells us what happens.  We don't see Macbeth to find out what happened in Scotland.  We go to see what happens when Macbeth gains a kingdom and loses his soul.

I rarely go to a movie to find out what happened.  I forget that I'm evidently in the minority when I do this.  I've come to learn that many viewers have gone to the movie Saving Mr. Banks to see what happened during the time that Walt Disney acquired the rights to Mary Poppins and are critical of the movie because it idealizes the history of this story.

Seeing this movie as non-fiction, or as history never crossed my mind.  In fact, it wasn't until after I saw the movie that I found out that people were making negative remarks about its lack of historical accuracy.  

From the first moment Emma Thompson's character, P. L. Travers, appeared on the screen, I experienced her as spiritually dead, or at least numb.  The character P. L. Travers is portrayed as vain, unkind, arrogant, inflexible, and haughty in her professional dealings and isolated, lonely, and miserably friendless in her private life. 

Almost immediately, I began to hope this movie was going to be a classic comedy.  By this, I don't mean a movie filled with gags and laugh out loud punchlines and goofiness, but a movie that does what stories in the classical sense of comedy do:  move from spiritual (or emotional) death to life, move from isolation to being a part of the social fabric, move from numbness to feeling, from misery to joy.  Traditionally, comedy is a way of telling stories that explores what gives life its vitality, of what, in life, is life-giving, as opposed to life-denying.  

Seen this way, Saving Mr. Banks was a terrific comedy.

I didn't know anything about Saving Mr. Banks before I saw the movie (although Christy has let slip the fact that Tom Hanks plays Walt Disney -- no problem).  But as the movie unfolded, I realized I had not come to this movie to learn the history of Disney, but to learn what it feels like when this woman, P. L. Travers, has lost the vitality of her soul and experiences her soul's vitality coming to life again.

In case you haven't seen the movie, I won't tell what happens in it nor will I say what I think helps P. L. Travers come alive.  I'll save these comments for another day after the movie has been out for a while.

I will say, though, that I was very happy that I came into this movie ignorant of what it was about and so I was receptive to its core story.  I didn't have a litmus test in mind for its historical accuracy (after all, it is fiction) nor did I have any other kind of test in mind.  I enjoyed the slow awakening of P. L. Travers, free of any expectations of what this movie was said to be about.

My experience with this movie connects directly to an ongoing and wonderful, life-giving private Facebook group I belong to.  

This group is small and we all went to a private liberal arts college and both colleges, Whitworth and Pacific Lutheran University, are church related.

Our group loves sharing poetry and books and TED talks and movies with each other and one thread that pops up from time to time involves movies under a genre I used to call Dead Man Comes to Life.  I wanted to include movies about women in this genre, but all the movies that originally popped into mind were about men:  A Christmas Carol, The Visitor, Snow Cake, Lost in Translation, Rails and Ties, The Pawnbroker, The Band's Visit among others.

One of our group's members, Diane, knew that I wanted to know about movies featuring Dead Women Coming to Life as well, and she helped me out by listing movies featuring women whose once dead/numb spirits came to life, and so now our group refers to this genre as Dead Coming to Life.  Here are movies about women, men, and women and men that our group listed as stories about the Dead Coming to Life.  We really had a great improvisational theater time compiling this list.  It is 100% a "Yes, and" list: 

Enchanted April 
Tea with Mussolini
Sex, Lies, and Videotape
A Prayer for the Dying
A Late Quartet
Quartet
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont
Mona Lisa Smile
Finding Forester
Local Hero
Tender Mercies
Get Low
How the Grinch Stole Christmas 
Last Orders
It's a Wonderful Life
The Bishop's Wife
Marvin's Room
The Accidental Tourist
Cold Comfort Farm 

This list added significantly to movies that I must see.  

I am very happy to add Saving Mr. Banks to it.  

If you see it, give this a try:  don't expect the movie to tell you what happened at Disney studios.  It's not non-fiction.  Enjoy what happens to P. L. Travers.  There you will find enduring truth, the kind that fiction is the best source of. 

(Oh!  If eternal life exists, I hope there will be a movie theater featuring an endless movie featuring Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks.)





Three Beautiful Things 01/03/14: Donating Clothes, Helping Fix the Meatloaf Blowout, 21st Century After Dinner Talk

1.  Carol gathered several bags of children's clothes at her house and Mom collected several boxes of women's clothes and bedding and Carol and I drove up to Wallace and donated them to the Women's Resource Center and I got to see and share a hug with lifelong family friend, Kellie Lavigne, the center's executive director.  

2.   Mom spent the afternoon fixing a meatloaf dinner for herself, Carol, Paul, Zoe, Molly, Cosette and me and she let me help her with a few things:  mashing the potatoes, slicing and buttering the French bread, slicing an avocado, slicing the meatloaf, taking things out of the oven and other tasks that would not interfere with the quality of her cooking.  I also got to be the cleanup man.  It was a successful dinner and a lot of fun.

3.  Oh my!  How my nieces have grown up.  And, oh my!  How conversation topics in the living room have changed as my nieces have grown up.  It was pretty much conversation as usual when we talked about the lice attack that happened shortly before Christy and Everett's ring ceremony back in Sept., 1997, but when conversation turned to updating what's happening with a couple of my nieces' gay friends and when we discussed a transgendered family member and when the story surfaced, which Molly heard happened in a Wal Mart somewhere, about a man who exposed himself in the women's restroom, I realized that we live in a brave new world in our family.  We all enjoy this brave new world, but I couldn't help but think that if Dad were alive, he might have growled his famous, "Heeeyyyy!" and campaigned to turn our after dinner talk back to "tamer" topics!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 01/02/14: Mom Shops in Cd'A, Garnet Cafe, Juli at Noah's

1.  Mom and I braved the clear roads and good visibility on the 4th of July Pass and went to Coeur d'Alene and Mom took advantage of stunning sales at J. C. Penney and Macy's and I picked up some pictures at Costco.

2.  Mom treated me to breakfast at lunchtime at the Garnet Cafe in Coeur d'Alene and I enjoyed a lightly breaded pork steak with light, delicious gravy accompanied by home fries and eggs over medium and sourdough toast.  The coffee was splendid and we were served by a most personable waitress who had all kinds of great ideas about vinegar, raspberry jam and lemon curd, and hot sauce and, like every service employee in Coeur d'Alene, called Mom, "My Dear".

3.  After fixing Mom a stir fry like I fix for the Deke in Eugene, Ed and I went over to Noah's Canteen for a couple of beers.  When we walked in, I immediately saw Juli and we hugged and talked for a few minutes.  Juli's brother and I were good friends in college and lived together for a year.  He died about fourteen years ago.  I didn't know Juli when I lived with John, but Juli and I met at the 2010 All-class Reunion and we became fast friends and always enjoy seeing each other a lot.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 01/01/14: New Year's Day Past, Reflections, Bowl Games

1.  Today, I mostly thought about how much I used to enjoy New Year's Day when the traditional bowl games were telecast, the Sugar on 12/31, and then the Cotton, Rose, and Orange, and Dad and I went to Ted Turnbow's to watch them with a basement full of other men from Kellogg and eat elk sausage and fix cold cut sandwiches and eat lots of chips and drink a ton of Lucky Lager beer, ice cold in Ted's downstair's refrigerator. I miss those New Year's Days and nothing in my present life can or will approximate how fun that was -- mainly because I'll never be with those specific men again.

2.  I enjoyed reflecting in my blog on one of the things I like about my life as I turn 60: I'm more calm.

3.  I didn't get to have the kind of New Year's I enjoyed 35-40 years ago, but I watched the Rose Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl and enjoyed both games, the first for the stout defense Michigan State played against the beefy Stanford offensive line and the second for the touchdown every few minutes offensive explosion of Central Florida University and Baylor.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Turning 60, Becoming Calm

 I've really calmed down.  Not completely, but quite a bit. I'm less agitated.  That's what I enjoy the most about turning 60.

This calming down applies to many parts of my life, most importantly, my marriage. Our home is a much happier and peaceful place since I quit hassling the Deke about anything.  We are easy on each other.  We don't boss each other around.  We don't question one another's intentions.  We don't expect each other to be doing any better than how we are doing.  We don't get upset if one of us changes her/his mind or shows up late or comes home later than planned.  We are calm with each other.  We are lenient.  As I've done previously in blog posts, I'll quote from Gerald Stern's poem, "Her Right Catches the Lavendar":  "Why did it take so long/ for me to get lenient?"  Maybe it took a while, but is it ever contributing to the calm and trust in our household.  Actually, now that I think about it, The Deke and I are sort of like improvisational actor.  We say, "Yes, and" (or something like it).  We add new information. We don't block each other. We play in the present and use the moment. We are open to change, change, change.  


When I'm home with my mom, like now, I've calmed down.  I accept what she says she wants done and do it.  I try to be lenient.  Within myself, I don't always agree with what she wants done, but, as I turn 60, I've finally come to learn that I don't have the ability or the will to try to change how she does things.  Mom bosses me around and gives me a lot of instructions.  She's anxious.  It's as if things won't get done right without her intervention.  It's a small thing.  It's not causing harm.  Nonetheless, I've had to calm down about this, accept it, and just focus on getting things done to be of help.  Since I've calmed down, things have been easier with Mom when I visit her.  I wish I'd learned this a long time ago, but I think it's good that I've learned it by now. 

One of the reasons I retired was that I sensed felt an increase in pressure as to how I should do my job from those who administer my work, locally, at the state level, and at the national level.  On the one hand, deeper trust has developed between me and Deke as I have quit pressing her about things.  On the other hand, being pressed about things at my work left me with the sense that I wasn't trusted to do my work.  Granted, no one came after me individually about my work.  In fact, I think my work as an instructor has been and is trusted.

But in a more collective sense, as the member of a department, certain developments and pressures from outside our department were pressed upon us and I began to sense that we weren't being trusted to do our work without increased oversight and increased uniformity or standardization of our work.  I was feeling pressure that composition classes should be more like each other rather than reflecting the diverse ways that diverse instructors approach things.

I stepped away, I retired, and it helped calm me.  Over the last year and a half of part-time work in my retirement, I've been rested, free of the anxiety caused by matters outside of the classroom.  I do all I can to preserve this calm in my part-time work as a retiree.  In particular, I keep myself absolutely in the dark, absolutely ignorant about the difficulties occurring in the department I retired from.  I've succeeded.  I walk away from conversations about these difficulties and refuse to be a part of conversations about what's at issue or where friends of mine stand. It helps keep me free from the politics of LCC and free from gossip and this keeps me calm.

I am the same way at church.  I stay away from the governing of our parish.  I enjoy the fellowship of parishioners I disagree with and I don't want our relationships defined by our differences. I've seen too many churches become divided on matters of  "principle" or "values", where differences which, in the long run, are meaningless and marginal, become the center of concern and are endowed with more meaning than they deserve. Division results. So does mutiny.  Church politics don't interest me.  Staying clear of them helps me stay calm.
I'm not 100% averse to conflict.  I simply try to stay away from conflict that I find petty or personal.  I will take part in conflict that involves things that I think matter a lot in the long run.  But, I don't thrive on conflict, nor do I thrive on knowing about conflicts between people I have worked with or people with whom I worship.  (It's the same when I'm in a play.  I steer clear of petty conflicts that surface between members of any cast.)

I can see now, at age 60, that my sense of calm really goes back to what I learned when I worked on my failed dissertation.  My focus was on the idea of goodness in the plays of Shakespeare. Back then,  I learned that goodness emerges not when principles are adhered to and arguments won or judgments about others are made, but when in concert with one another we work together to find adherence and to extend understanding and compassion.   Goodness is made possible by flexibility.  Goodness requires a disposition that is soft and receptive, not hard. 

It's like wax. If one wants to stamp an impression upon wax, the wax can't be too hard.  If it is, the stamp makes no impact. If the wax is too soft, or runny, the stamp can't make an impression either.  The wax must be soft, receptive, and flexible. 

This is how softness works in humans as well.  To be good, we can't be hard, especially of heart and mind.  But, we can't be so soft that we are runny either.  Our hearts and minds and disposition must be soft, receptive, and flexible. 

I've found that at 60 years old I am the most flexible, receptive, accepting, and soft that I've ever been.  I trust this softness most of the time and it's contributed significantly to the calm I feel, not all the time, but more than I have ever know.