Thursday, September 21, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 09/20/17: Hauling All Over the Place, The Plan, Winding Down

1. Twice I piled into the Sube after loading it up with kitchen items and other things and hauled them to the Diazes. After my second trip, I dropped into Home Depot and bought a hand truck to help me haul boxes to be shipped, probably on Thursday. I gave the hand truck a workout when I returned to our apartment home and hauled about ten boxes of belongings and a computer printer to the Sube and buzzed them down to the Goodwill in NE Washington, DC.  We won't transport our new hand truck to Kellogg -- we hope the church we visited on Sunday might find it useful --, but I'm thinking that when we get to Kellogg, I'll buy another one because I don't want to be without one again.

2. We have two more days of electricity in our apartment home, so we are thinking we'll do all we can to get the last bits and pieces of things sorted on Thursday and our boxes shipped to Kellogg, with possibly a straggling box or two going out on Friday. Friday, then, we can vacuum, clean the refrigerator, wipe out our already clean oven, clean corgy nose smudges off the sliding glass door, and do any spot cleaning the carpeting might need.

We should be hitting the road Saturday morning with no exact plan of when we'll arrive in Kellogg. We'll let our driving stamina and Maggie and Charly's tolerance of travel determine how long we take to get to Idaho.

3. Loading. Hauling. Unloading. It's all good, but the temperature was around 90 degrees this afternoon with just enough humidity to make it sticky, so by the time 5 o'clock rolled around, my legs were rubbery, but, good news, my back didn't hurt. The Deke and I deliberated for about three seconds and decided to have a glass of beer at Old Line and, once we arrived, decided to each have a salad. Old Line was quiet and very relaxing and we sat there like a couple of dumbstruck retirees, not much left to say, and gathered ourselves before heading over to the Diazes where the Chinese food we treated the family to was awaiting our arrival.

I ate. I trudged down the basement stairs. I went to sleep early.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 09/19/17: Tedious Tasks, Farewell LabCorp, Beer and God

1.  The Deke and I dove right back into the tedious tasks of sorting and packing and boxing back at our apartment home.  I have taken care of almost all my belongings, so I spent much of the day on the phone and the computer making address changes and stopping our electric and Internet service.

2. I went to LabCorp this afternoon for my last blood draw in Greenbelt. To my great pleasure, my favorite phlebotomist, Angela, drew my blood. As always, we spoke few words, but I have always admired her efficiency and kindness. On my way out, I told the woman at the front counter that I wouldn't be coming any longer and, as always, she was warm and effusive in her expression of best wishes to me and in her condolences that Mom had died. I choked up a little. I have come to this place about thirty times in the the last thirty-six months. The employees and I became familiar with each other in spoken and unspoken ways and I enjoyed this office so much that I actually looked forward to my monthly blood draw. The good news, I'm happy to say, is that the phlebotomists at Shoshone Medical Center in Kellogg are also a pleasure to work with, so my good blood draw experience will continue. Still, I will miss the great people at LabCorp on Greenbelt Road in Greenbelt, MD.

3. The Deke and I rewarded ourselves for our good work today with a trip to DC Brau, our favorite brewery in the Capital of America. We pulled into the back parking lot that abuts the railroad tracks and it was nearly empty -- oh no! is DC Brau closed tonight? I checked and no, DC Brau was not closed, just quiet. We walked into the cement block tasting room. I took a long and wistful look at all the T-shirts and other merchandise hanging on the wall over the counter where the beer is served and uttered a short prayer of thanksgiving that DC Brau never upgraded this taproom, never fancied it up, but continued to operate out of this modest little room and serve its beer in funny little plastic glasses and to serve flights of plastic samplers in boxtops used as trays.

I ordered an experimental beer called Deep Cuts, Volume 2. It was a wet-hopped pale ale brewed with fresh Centennial hops transported overnight from Michigan. It was a floral tasting beer, rich and deep in the simplicity of its single hop profile and really delicious. I had this beer because there'd been a mix-up at DC Brau and the production people didn't make enough On the Wings of Armageddon to serve in the tasting room, only to can.

The Deke and I had a great theological and ontological discussion about Rev. Nathan Hill's sermon on Sunday and dove deep, not only into our two glasses of beer (The Deke was drinking Corruption IPA.) but into our thoughts about the nature of God and what the voice from the burning bush in Exodus meant when it said, "I am who I am."

It was one of our best conversations ever and was a welcome contrast to all the discussions we've been having of the nitty gritty details of moving.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 09/18/17: Cargo Van, Yakkin' with Ashley, Relaxing in Near Emptiness

1. The Deke and I bounded out of our apartment home and piled into the Sube and blasted down to the Enterprise store in Lanham where we confirmed our reservation for a cargo van and Ashley helped me get everything squared away and I lumbered back up the Capital Beltway in the van back up to our apartment home where Molly and Hiram had arrived, eager to load the van up with tables, shelves, dressers, a desk, a couch, and the other big items we owned that in a matter of a couple of hours would no longer be ours, but belong to the Diazes.

2. I wasn't much help loading the van -- in fact, maybe it worked out better that I was out of the way. Molly and Hiram packed it up like real pros. I drove the cargo to the Diaz house and now I could be of assistance. I leaped into the van and brought items to Molly and Hiram at the mouth of the van and we emptied the van efficiently and without incident.

Back at Enterprise, Ashley was surprised to see me back so soon and when I requested a ride home, she grabbed a huge pickup truck, I hopped in, and we had a great talk about Maryland, Washington, D.C., her ROTC days at Howard University, and the soul food at Carolina Kitchen. I told Ashley how much I was going to miss living in the D. C. area, and she was especially happy to hear me say how much I'd come to love Maryland.

If Enterprise were to ask me to nominate an employee of the year, Ashley would receive my vote. Once again, I had a great experience with a member of the much maligned Millennial Generation!

3.  I returned to our apartment home and relaxed. I propped some folded blankets up against the plastic crate that holds our personal papers and lay down on the floor and chilled on the Internet and completed a level of Candy Crush Saga that had baffled me for a couple of days. Our apartment home is not quite empty, but it was very quiet and I enjoyed the solitude.

Then I made my first pass at vacuuming the carpet where our furniture and bed had been with the hope that as the Deke and I spend the next couple of days getting the rest of our stuff sorted out and shipped, the place will feel a little bit fresher than it did when this day began.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 09/17/17: A Fun Church Visit, Boxes, Panera Dinner

1. The Deke and I went down to Hyattsville this morning and worshiped at University Christian Church, a Disciples of Christ congregation, and stayed for the church's fall kickoff potluck.   Two girls who were in the Deke's 3rd grade class last school year go to this church -- in fact, the father of one of the girls is the pastor. The girls are close friends and were ecstatic to see the Deke, as were their parents. I thought with how difficult teaching at Dora Kennedy was, it must have been satisfying for the Deke to have these parents, along with another parent who goes to this church, tell her what a great teacher she was and how much their children miss her.

2. Back at our apartment home, I taped up the seven boxes of belongings I'm shipping to Kellogg. Over the next few days, I could imagine needing to fill one more box, but I am very pleased that I've reduced my belongings that won't go in my suitcase or fit in the car to these boxes. We'll ship stuff in the next day or two and Monday is when Molly and Hiram will move our larger things to their house. They'll keep some of it and other things will go to the rummage sale at the children's school. We'll start sleeping at the Diaz house on Monday night and are still shooting for the end of the week as the time we'll hit the road.

3. We are running out of food in the house, so I went up to Panera and bought the Deke a chicken bowl and bought myself a ham and cheese sandwich. It simplified things at home a lot to eat some simple carry out dinner.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Three Beautiful Things:09/16/17: Panera and Flights, Family Pictures, Curry and Duckpin and YouTube

1. While the Deke had coffee at Starbucks with a friend she taught with at Dora Kennedy French Immersion School, I hopped over to Panera and enjoyed a cinnamon crunch bagel, toasted with cream cheese. Mostly I looked at the cost of flights from Spokane to Eugene, Chicago, Seattle, and Portland and familiarized myself with what airlines fly where and when out of Spokane.  I have no immediate plans to fly any of these places, but it was fun to poke around on Southwest and Alaska's websites.

2. I have narrowed down what of mine I'm shipping to Kellogg to about six boxes with one, maybe two, more to go. I'm sending a lot of pictures out west and it was fun to look at ones taken on two different family trips the Deke, Adrienne, Molly, Patrick, and I made to Kellogg in, I think, 1999 and definitely in 2003. Adrienne, Molly, and the Deke sang at Carol's 40 birthday celebration in Mom's backyard. That made a great picture. I also have a little collection of family portraits taken in 1999(?) on the old white bench swing in Mom's backyard featuring a variety of configurations of different members of the four families present that day.

3. The Deke and I had a very good Ethiopian chicken curry dinner, prepared by Hiram, at the Diaz house. The Deke complimented the main dish with a refreshing cucumber, chickpea, and feta salad. After dinner, the Deke and I went to Old Line to talk more about the upcoming week. We squeezed the last two half pints of Union's Double Duckpin out of the bottom of Old Line's keg so we now are certain that chances are very slim that we'll be able to enjoy another one of those fine beers while we're still in Maryland.  We were both pleased with our good fortune that we got to enjoy this beer one last time.

Back at our apartment home, I played a Levon Helm interview with David Letterman and listened to him sing a roots tune with the Paul Shaffer band. This led me to play a bunch of tunes from The Last Waltz and to a few songs by The Highwaymen and then I found a Letterman clip where Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash appear together on the show and I found a video featuring Waylon Jennings appearing on Johnny Cash's television show.  Oh, I also listened to Jerry Douglas with Paul Simon and another video of Jerry Douglas and Bill Frisell with Jimmie Dale Gilmore and a couple versions of Guy Clark's "Desperados Waiting for a Train".  Last of all, I played Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers perform "Runnin' Down a Dream" so for the 10,000th time I could bliss out to Michael Campbell's epic guitar solo.

Then it got to be past 1:00 a.m. and I flopped into bed.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 09/15/17: Good Phone Talks, Farewell Sunoco, A Double IPA Miracle

1. Getting ready to move -- there's the business to take care of: cancel this, address changes for that, hoping to remember everything, on and on. I called Phyllis at Rossi Insurance in Kellogg to make sure things are in order with the home insurance at Mom's house and about the timing of putting the insurance in my name and Phyllis was a delight. She expressed condolences for Mom's passing -- this, in addition to having sent us a card back in June after she learned Mom was in the nursing home and a card upon learning Mom had died. She answered all of my questions cheerfully, expertly. I don't enjoy talking on the phone, but this phone call almost convinced me that getting on the phone to take care of business really isn't that bad. And you know what? I had a good experience with Sandra, the Nationwide agent in Greenbelt, and with the woman in Annapolis who helped me understand that I could cancel my last estimated tax payment online.

2. Today I made my last visit to the Sunoco station in Greenbelt to have the Sube worked on. For the last three years and 39,000 miles the guys at this shop have kept the oil changed, the air conditioning working, the engine tuned up, and the fluid levels up to date.  When they couldn't replace the clutch, they sent me to the shop next door. I thought about going over to the picnic table where the mechanics smoke cigarettes, drink coffee, and shoot the breeze before and after work to thank them for taking good care of the Sube. Instead, I'll write them some kind of thank you and, in the same way I am looking forward to getting started in Idaho with a new primary care doctor and a new nephrologist and getting listed at another transplant center, I also look forward to entrusting the Sube to another good shop.

3.  The other day as I was sorting through notebooks, DVDs, cds, books, and camera lenses and packing up stuff to send to Kellogg, I suddenly felt nostalgic for Union Brewery beers. Patrick, the Deke, and I had a great visit to Union Brewery in Baltimore this past Christmas Eve and for no good reason I was suddenly visited by the memory of the taste of the hoppy perfection of Double Duckpin Double IPA. I sighed. Moving away, I figured I wouldn't taste Double Duckpin on tap again until returning to Maryland for a visit sometime down the road.

But, then, this evening, the Deke and I took a couple of seats at the Old Line bar and Shannon brought us a tap list and I gasped: "Deke! They've got Double Duckpin on tap today!"

We each ordered a glass and it actually tasted better than my romanticizing mind remembered. I drank my glass slowly, gratefully, mindfully, reverently.  I ordered a second.

I will be forever grateful for our time living in Maryland for many reasons, but chief among them will be getting to enjoy, among other beers, my favorite of all 2IPAs: Flying Dog's The Truth, Victory's Dirt Wolf, DC Brau's On the Wings of Armageddon, SingleCut's Softly Spoken Magic Spells, and Union's Double Duckpin Double IPA, representing, in order, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., the Queens, and Baltimore.

I also want to mention Bell's Two Hearted Ale of Kalamazoo, MI. It's not officially a 2IPA, but it performs like one and is one of our country's very best beers -- I've experienced the heavens opening up and had visions of the divine and heard Levon Helm and a host of angels singing "Up on Cripple Creek" when drinking a pint of Two Hearted Ale. Scott Shirk was with me in April when this happened at the Parkside Lounge on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

I think the Deke and I might drive a box of various beers from out here to Idaho, but I would also be just fine with telling these faithful friends farewell, not hang on to them, and turn my attention to the great beers awaiting us in Kellogg, Wallace, CdA, Post Falls, Spokane, Moscow, Pullman, Missoula, Eugene, and beyond.

Right now, I'm already tasting one of those 3 buck Happy Hour pints of X-Minus One IPA at Radio Brewing in Kellogg.

*By the way, the Double Duckpin Double IPA inspired the Deke and me to make a very important decision: we are going to drive Maggie and Charly to Kellogg, not fly them to Spokane. It turns out both of us were having a lot of doubts, despite the assurances from the vet that the dogs would be okay, about flying our aged dogs out west and we decided that we want to have the dogs with us for the entire trip.


Friday, September 15, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 09/14/17: Notebooks, Quench Talk, A Racing Mind

1. Why did I move this box of graduate school and teaching notes written in journals and all these grade books and grade sheets to Greenbelt? Most of it is not going to Kellogg, I decided, as I launched into a significant purge of notebooks and other paper things that I no longer want. I am keeping some personal journals I've kept over the years, if for no other reason than to do what Joan Didion advises i her essay, "On Keeping a Notebook". She writes that ". . . we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind's door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget."

Indeed. I hadn't exactly forgotten how riddled with self-doubt, guilt, and anxiety I was in my twenties and thirties and on into my early forties, but the notebooks I'm not throwing away chronicle how much I obsessed on my fears and how much I recriminated myself. Other things popped up. This past April, at the Inland Lounge, Bob Casady told me he'd heard the Indigo Girls open for the Grateful Dead on either August 21 or 22, 1993.  I told him I didn't go to either show, but today I read in a journal that I'd had a ticket to the August 21 show, but elected not to use it (did I give it away? sell it?). Instead, I drove to Portland and hung out at the Hawthorne Street Fair and, later in the day, went to the (now defunct) Movie House on SW Taylor to see Much Ado About Nothing for the sixth time that summer.

That guy who, in 1993, used to drive to Portland to see movies and wander around is attractive company. He didn't come knocking on my mind's door. He didn't feel betrayed by me. I found him today and I read and remembered that on that day at the Hawthorne Street Fair I was wearing a long sleeve T-shirt from Pelau (Belau) and ran into a guy named Stewart and we talked about why I was wearing this shirt because he'd been to Pelau and I was reminded today that in 1993 I wrote that Stewart was a jerk and a vague memory of this guy being a know-it-all pontificator began to rise up from the fog of my memory.  I'm ready to be done with Stewart, but he will live wherever I am as long as I keep that notebook he appeared in.

2.  After a day of sorting and packing and making arrangement to rent a van to move stuff over to the Diaz house, the Deke and I went to Quench. We talked about what lies ahead of us in Kellogg and how we might approach the refashioning of the back yard at Mom's house and shared ideas about Mom's house that will soon be ours. It was a great party, enhanced for me by the sweet, smokey, malty bliss of a couple glasses of Founder's Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale.

3.  Molly and Hiram went to Wolf Trap to see Steve Martin and Martin Short. The Deke looked after Ana, David, and Olivia. I joined the Deke for individualized pizzas that Molly helped us assemble and bake and some salad and then I drove back to our apartment home and went to sleep, woke up and couldn't get back to sleep until around 1:30 and then went back to sleep again. My mind is racing with the details of this major change taking place in our lives.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 09/13/17: Sally in New Jersey, I'll Miss Living in the East, Ana is Joyously Alive

1. The Deke and I were up and at 'em this morning and hit the road around 10:30 to begin our trip back to Greenbelt. We stopped at Metuchen, NJ to have lunch with the Deke's cousin Sally. We went to Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza and enjoyed a green salad and chicken wings. We had a good time catching up on all the different changes in our lives and ruminated upon what the future might bring and when one or both of us might be traveling to the eastern U.S.A. again.

2. We left Sally's around 2:00 and rocketed down the New Jersey Turnpike and on through Delaware and into Maryland. This must have been about the fifteenth time I made this drive between Greenbelt and Nyack over the last three years and I'll miss it -- I'll miss crossing the Susquehanna River and, later, going over the Delaware Memorial Bridge, the feeling of being a part of America on the move with all the other vehicles on the NJ Turnpike; I'll miss those New Jersey Service Plazas named after famous New Jersey people like Joyce Kilmer, Walt Whitman, Clara Barton, James Fenimore Cooper and others, the Peet's Coffee at Maryland's Chesapeake House Travel Plaza, the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, the Baltimore skyline looming to the west of I-895, and driving from Nyack to Tarrytown across the Hudson River on the Tappan Zee Bridge. I'll miss the anticipation of seeing Adrienne and Jack and enjoying their handsome neighborhood and the beer in Nanuet and Pearl River.  I'll miss hopping on the train in Tarrytown and arriving in the pulsing grandeur of Grand Central Terminal, walking to Washington Square, and ducking into bars in the West Village, East Village, and the Lower East Side to talk about Shakespeare, Levon Helm, and Apocalypse Now, among many other things with Scott Shirk. 

Living in the DC area, exploring it, and taking these trips from Greenbelt to Nyack, NY along with other trips I made beyond Nyack to Cooperstown and Middleboro, MA and Cape Cod gave me a deeper sense of patriotism, of being a citizen of a vast, vibrant, and varied nation than anything I had ever done in my life.

I'll miss it.

But, there's much I've left unexplored in Kellogg and North Idaho, Western Montana, and Eastern Washington over the years. It's time to get goin' out there!

3.  We pulled in front of the Diaz house just in the nick of time. Molly and Hiram and David had an early evening planned attending parents' night at David and Olivia's school and so the Deke and I kept Ana and Olivia company. Ana is a two year old proficient in the verbal art of DaDa. She talks almost without stopping in a never ending disconnected stream of stories, songs she's learned, nonsense songs she creates on the spot, nonsense sentences, short plays with dolls or stuffed animals or figurines as characters, observations of family life, self-narration, and other joyous expressions of AnnaWorld with unbridled vigor and pure happiness. She walks, runs, hops, dances, skips, jumps, and sometimes falls, all the while talking, laughing, demonstrating this, pointing out that, always fully and wondrously Ana alive.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 09/12/17: Quiet, Angels Dance at Defiant, A Radio Afternoon Nightmare

1.  The Deke and I spent our last full morning in Nyack with the windows open and the cool morning air filling the living room, lounging around, drinking coffee, and enjoying the silence, interrupted only occasionally by birds singing and cars slowly whooshing by.  Once in a while we uttered a few words to each other ("want more coffee?" "need anything while I'm up?"), but mostly we enjoyed being quiet.

2.  Early in the afternoon, we decided that maybe we should do something. Growler and Gill is one of my favorite taprooms anywhere, so we drove there, but they don't open until four. The same was true for places we might like to visit in downtown Nyack. I muttered that these places just don't cater to retired people who like a little day drinking. We shrugged. The Deke confirmed on her pocket computer that Defiant Brewing Company opened at 2:00. Defiant is a cash only establishment, so I went into a pub across the street to an ATM, got us a little cash, and we returned to Defiant. I like the 10 oz. pours at Defiant -- it's just the right amount of higher alcohol beer for me, no more -- and I ordered a Medusa IPA and drank it very slowly while the Deke and I worked our way through the best charcuterie plate we've ever eaten.

Defiant smokes their own meats and they use the smoker to make heavenly crunchy corn bread crustinis, which, along with the mild Asiago, Cheddar, and Gouda cheeses, add sweetness and balance to the smoked meats. But the real coup de grace of this board? The balsamic pickles.

Defiant does all their own pickling, too, and when I bit into one of those balsamic pickles, the heavens opened up and angels, their wings dripping with brine, sang hymns of praise and danced joyously to the sounds of Bob Seger playing over the house sound system and I had a brief glimpse of the Oneness of all things.

3.  We needed a few groceries and I seized the opportunity to drive south on Rt. 303, through Blauvelt and on into Orangeburg, to pick up a few things at the Stop and Shop. On the way back to Adrienne's, I listened to a story on the radio about nursing homes that have lost power in Florida or had to evacuate residents and how the facilities work to continue to serve their residents under such conditions. It reminded me of a picture I saw when Harvey hit Texas, of nursing home residents waiting in their facility in waist high water in Dickinson to be taken elsewhere. I thought of the days I spent this summer in the nursing home being with Mom and could barely stand imagining the challenges that would confront the staff and the residents in Kellogg if there were a power outage, or, God forbid, water began to fill the place. I thought about how confusing it would have been for Mom and other residents if the facility had to be evacuated. Listening to the story of the difficulties that confront Florida nursing homes in the aftermath of Harvey was an afternoon nightmare and made me ache for difficulties Mom never had to face.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 09/11/17: Short Rockland County Beer Tour, Grilled Pizzas, Writing about Shakespeare AND A Wedding Photo

1. After a morning of lounging around, the Deke and I headed out to the Ambulance Brew House, a handsome, cozy taproom in Nanuet. I enjoyed a 12 oz pour of an IPA from Hill Farmstead Brewery in Vermont and I can't remember the name of it. It was an earthy, hazy, complex beer, sort of epitomizing just what I'll miss when we leave the East Coast. The Deke and I also ordered a delicious cheese and meat plate that offered us a variety of tastes: heat in the cheeses, salty goodness in the cured meats, and sweetness in the orange marmalade and raisins, along with the more neutral flavors of the crackers and nuts.

After one beer, we ventured over to Defiant Brewing in Pearl River. We each ordered a Fake News IPA and it was an odd and satisfying beer. It was, to me, a hybrid beer, combining the strength of an IPA with the taste of pilsner or Helles lager. I sat at the bar and texted back and forth with Stu about 1970s basketball in Kellogg, CdA, and Spokane -- he is also diving into the archives -- while the Deke visited one of her favorite yarn stores, The Stitchery.  The Deke returned, finished her beer, and we returned to Adrienne's after a relaxing afternoon in Rockland County, NY.

2.  Soon after we returned to Adrienne's apartment, I head back to Nanuet to shop at Fairway for some pizza ingredients: meats, a goat cheese log, tomatoes, and pesto along with picking up some bagels, lox, and a four pack of Dirt Wolf Double IPA.  I brought it home and Adrienne, Jack, the Deke, and I each built a pizza on an individual size round of naan bread and Adrienne grilled each pizza. Adrienne also made a killer chickpea, cucumber, and feta cheese salad, a perfect compliment to the pizza.

3. I paid tribute to the time Scott Shirk and I spent drinking Dirt Wolf in the Blind Tiger in the West Village by cracking one open this evening a writing Scott an email that continued our discussion of Shakespeare. I tried to explain what I see going on in the very dissonant tones and the deeply troubling subject matter of two of Shakespeare's comedies, The Merchant of Venice and Measure for Measure -- and wondered if, in these plays, Shakespeare was working out critiques of the genre of comedy, work that might have led him to write the kinds of comedies (or tragicomedies or romances) that concluded his career, namely The Winter's Tale and The Tempest.

I really don't know, but it sure is fun to think and write about these things outside of academic life, not as a teacher or a student.  I've really retired.

*****
Julie and Curtis Rockwell are beginning to make some of their wedding pictures public, and here is one of my favorites, taken after the ceremony, of Curtis, Julie, and me.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 09/10/17: Quality Sleep, Jack and Legos, Adrienne's Superb Salmon Dinner

1.  After walking several miles in NYCity on Saturday, I slept in until 9:30 on Sunday. Over the last couple of months, I haven't walked very much and I haven't flopped around in a pool since June. Most of my physical exercise has resulted from hauling boxes and other items in Kellogg. All this walking in NYCity was a boon and I slept with a length and depth I haven't experienced in months.

2. I'm unsure exactly what the event was, but today the main street of Nyack was closed to traffic and a street fair took place. I wasn't really interested in buying jewelry or eating Thai food or signing up for another Visa card, so when I went downtown, I didn't walk through the street fair, but made my way to Starbucks where I met Jack and the Deke. Jack had purchased a Batman Lego kit and finished it and, upon my arrival, the Deke went back to the store and bought Jack a Joker Lego kit and Jack and I sat in Starbucks while the Deke visited a yarn store. Jack didn't quite complete the Joker, but I enjoyed watching him follow the instruction step by step and start to put it together. For encouraging a child to sit still, focus, and work methodically on a project, these Lego sets are perfect.

3. Adrienne prepared a heavenly dinner tonight. She baked salmon, fixed fresh asparagus spears, and made buttery, creamy mashed potatoes using a variety of tiny spuds. The Deke had told Adrienne that she'd been craving salmon and Adrienne satisfied the Deke's craving -- and then more. It's been a deep pleasure for me over the last several years to see Molly, Patrick, and Adrienne all become increasingly interested in cooking and an even greater pleasure to enjoy the great food they prepare.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 09/09/17: Tire Torque Rechecked, Zucker's Bagels and a City Stroll, Beer in the W. and E. Village

1. The torque of the tire that I had replaced on Thursday needed to be rechecked, so I buzzed the Sube over to the Nanuet Costco Tire Center where there was no line and Quincy got the job going right away and the job was completed in no time.  I celebrated the quick work by going into the Costco Wholesale store and buying two cases of Polar seltzer water.

2. I piled the Polar and myself back into the Sube and hurtled across the Hudson River and the Tappan Zee Bridge to the Tarrytown train station and leaped on a train headed to Grand Central Terminal. Upon arrival, I took a second to soak in all the activity at Grand Central and to admire the grandeur of the place. I strode out the door and headed south on Lexington and dropped into Zucker's Bagels and Smoked Fish, here, for a Zucker's Traditional: a toasted bagel sandwich featuring Nova Scotia salmon, plain cream cheese, beefsteak tomatoes, red onion, and capers.

Properly nourished, I walked south on Lexington to 34th St., headed west to 5th Ave., admired the Empire State Building, and strolled south on 5th for about twenty-five blocks to Washington Square Park and sat for a while on a bench and surveyed the throngs of relaxed people enjoying the mild weather, being guided on walking tours, laughing at the entertainment of a couple of magicians, and soaking up the music of buskers, among other things.

I would have camped in Washington Park Square for a long time, but more urgent business lay ahead. It was almost beer o'clock.

3. If it's beer o'clock in Manhattan, especially in the West Village, East Village, or the Lower East Side, chances are good that I'm meeting up somewhere with Scott Shirk.

That was, indeed, the case today.

Scott took the train from Brooklyn and we met at the Blind Tiger Ale House on Bleeker Street, a rustic pub famous for its devotion to craft beers. Scott and I found a table against a wall and we had a couple of rounds of Victory's superb Dirt Wolf Double IPA. I don't think I'd quaffed a Dirt Wolf since March when Ed, Mike, and I bellied up to the bar at O'Hara's Irish Pub in the shadow of the One World Trade Center.

Scott and my conversation was wide-ranging: The Band, Richard Manuel, the gig Scott played last night, Apocalypse Now, other movies from forty years ago, Julie and Curtis' wedding, King Lear, and on and on.

Soon, though, it was time to head from the West Village to the East Village. We stopped for a listen to a jazz quartet made up of Japanese men in their twenties -- a great sound -- and made a quick stop at a street fair to look at some record albums and to eat a quick chicken empanada at a Puerto Rican booth.

Our plan was to descend underground into the grotto known as Jimmy's No. 43, but, alas, Jimmy'd gone fishing and so we opted for a dive bar, also beneath street level, the unpretentious Grassroots. We sat down at the bar on chairs whose stuffing was falling out and ordered up Black and Tans blending Bass Ale and Guinness and continued to talk about Shakespeare, Kellogg's Inland Lounge and the Broken Wheel (maybe that was at Blind Tiger -- but who's keeping score?!), more movies, death, and more of everything until it was time to stagger out and direct me to the right train to get back to Grand Central. I arrived at Grand Central, immediately found the track for the train back to Tarrytown, and returned to Nyack.


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 09/08/17: Tire Mission, Driving the East Coast, Superb Frittata Dinner

1. Customers swamped the Costco Tire Center. One guy, who stayed unrattled, worked the counter and maintained his grace under the pressure of impatient customers waiting to be served. I reached the counter after about forty minutes in line and found out it would be a couple of hours before the guys in the shop would get to my tire. I was unrattled. It was about 10:00 and I meandered across Route 1 and camped out at Panera where I enjoyed coffee and a cinnamon crunch scone and had some great text messaging time with Stu and Byrdman about high school basketball in North Idaho and Spokane back in our high school days, an ongoing and fun conversation. Around 11:30 I returned to Costco and, lo and behold, the guys in the shop were done with the Sube. They had to replace the tire, punctured by my dive into the pothole last night, and the tire was under warranty, and nearly brand new, and so I didn't have to pay anything.

Tire mission accomplished.

2. Now the Deke and I were looking at a drive to Nyack, NY later in the day. It took us a while to get ourselves gathered for the drive -- I went to the pharmacy, got cleaned up, and packed my bag. We drove Charly and Maggie over to the Diaz's house. We enjoyed a sandwich at Molly and Hiram's. We didn't leave for Nyack until after 3 o'clock.  Just yesterday, we thought we'd leave around 10 a.m.!

I have never lost my love for the drive from Maryland to Nyack, NY. Yes, things were congested in the vicinity of the Delaware Memorial Bridge, but otherwise I experienced much of the same pleasure driving up I-95, the New Jersey Turnpike, and the Garden State Parkway that I have for the last three years, and the pleasure it simple and enduring: it just feels so authentically East Coast to me. And I like that.

3.  We arrived at Adrienne and Jack's at about 8:20 and dug into a great meal that Adrienne had prepared: cold green beans with feta cheese, a turkey, spinach, and mozzarella cheese frittata, and a green salad. The Deke and I were both hungry and this meal nourished us and was very, very tasty. Our visit to Nyack was off to a perfect start.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 09/07/17: More Research, Byrdman After the Memorial Service, Pothole and Hurricane Irma

1. I made a mistake in my post yesterday and here's my correction.

Whoever scanned the online Spokane Daily Chronicle issue I consulted to review the facts of Kellogg's monumental 106-57 loss to the Coeur d'Alene Vikings my junior year put the December 2, 1970 sports page in the December 1, 1970 newspaper. This was why I thought Kellogg played CdA on Monday, November 30th.

We didn't.

We played on Tuesday night -- which makes a ton more sense -- December 1, 1970.

I am having a blast diving into these Chronicle archives and communicating with other people online about high school basketball in North Idaho when I was in high school.

Today, Stu and I marveled that the CdA Viking team that mopped up their new gym with us on December 1, 1970 did not win the Idaho state tournament. Neither of us could imagine them losing to anyone. That's how much we admired them. But, indeed, the Vikings lost to Skyline High School of Idaho Falls. Skyline won the tournament and CdA won their consolation game to finish the tournament in third place. (By the way, I verified that the next year CdA lost in the state championship game to Moscow and the next year they won the state title -- quite a run.)

Later in the day, JoJo informed me that not long after the Vikings drubbed us, they lost a game to Central Valley of Spokane. I was stunned. I marveled at how good that CV team must have been to beat the Vikings. I remembered CV was coached by the legendary Ray Thatcher and I found some box scores from later in the season and read names of players on that team, but didn't recognize any of them. I do know that CV won the Washington State Border League, defeating University High late in the season to snap a tie at the top between the two squads. I have more research ahead of me to find out how Central Valley performed in the state tournament.

I also read write ups about what a phenomenal scorer Dave Wood of Rogers High was in the Spokane City League.

By the way, I think I figured out the starting five for the 1970-71 Vikings, and I'm open to correction. But a perusal of some line scores leads me to believe they started Duffy Taylor, Nick Nead, Scott Stern, Brice Bemis, and Dick Schaffer.  Bench players included Dick Fields, Mike Spenser, and Jim Lee. (My apologies if I spelled any of these last names wrong.)

2. On Wednesday, Cd'A First Presbyterian Church held a memorial service for Brice Bemis. Byrdman attended the service and afterward he had some beers at Midtown Pub with some stellar ballplayers from Kootenai County: Coeur d'Alene's Bob Ehrlich and Craig Plumlee and Mike Guindon of Post Falls. I would have really enjoyed talking with these guys, especially when Craig Plumlee and Byrdman continued the session at Daft Badger and Craig got to talking about the basketball rivalries between Coeur d'Alene, Lewiston, Moscow, and Kellogg our senior year in 1971-72. I would have loved to have heard Craig's memories and analysis of these teams and I would have added Sandpoint to the mix and would have wondered if, like me, Craig thought John Andrews was one of the best all around athletes anywhere.

Maybe another day. Maybe at Corby's. We'll see. Maybe, for me, moving the North Idaho and meeting up with Byrdman and Stu and Lars and Jake and others in the greater CdA-Post Falls area might also include running into or meeting up with some of my CdA peers whom I never knew off the court, but against whom Byrdman played a lot of rec ball as an adult. I know that one of my best days in the summer of 2017 was when Byrdman and I ran into Tim Terrell and Jack Morris at Midtown Pub and had a great talk about when we all played ball.

There was no bragging. No exaggerations. No fabrications. We just talked facts about who played, what happened, and what we remembered.  I mean, we talk about the present, too -- retirement, kids, jobs we've had, when to retire, and so on. But it's really fun to talk with these guys I knew only as teen age star athletes and enjoy what good guys they are in their sixties, all these years later.

3. I was driving the Deke and me home from the Diazes and had a classic East Coast experience. I hit a pothole that damaged our right rear tire. I pulled off onto the shoulder and we called AAA and the man who put the spare on was named Jumiel. He is from the U.S. Virgin Islands. While doing his job, he immediately began talking to us about Hurricane Irma, how his parents were in the U.S. Virgin Islands and he couldn't reach them yet and how worried he was. We could do little but thank him for changing our tire and tell him we'd hold him and his family in our prayers.



Thursday, September 7, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 09/06/17: More on the 70-71 Kellogg Wildcats, Rest and Errands, Eggplant Returns

1. Yesterday, when I wrote about the passing of Brice Bemis, I wrote about the fact that he scored the first basket ever in the new CdA gym, with me "guarding" him, back in 1970.

I did some online newspaper research about this game. I now know our hapless Wildcat squad played the Vikings on December 1, 1970. Yesterday, I said we lost the game by just over fifty points. I was wrong. We lost by forty-nine points. The final tally was 106-57.

Finding this score brought back a memory of what a deluded kid I was in high school, how willing I was to express false confidence, how very little self-knowledge I had. In the locker room after the game, we Wildcats were dejected. We'd just been humiliated by a far superior opponent and we might have all known, though we wouldn't say it, that we didn't have much of a basketball team.

Our coach, Larry Curry, walked into the locker room and declared: "They won't score 100 points on us next time."

I responded: "Hell, they won't even beat us."

I'm still embarrassed that I said such a clueless thing. We could have played the 1970-71 Vikings team a hundred times and never beaten them. They were tall, fast, and experienced and we were short, slow, and green.

The  game with CdA was contested on a Tuesday night.  We licked our wounds during the week, practiced hard, and traveled to Ferris High School on Friday night. I looked up the score of that game. Ferris defeated us 102-52.

Ah! That was our fifty point loss.

Under the headline, "'Century' Victim to Take on Zags", these paragraphs appeared in the  December 5, 1970 Spokane Daily Chronicle's encapsulation of the Ferris game:
,
 Kellogg helps Gonzaga Prep open its 1970-71 high school basketball campaign tonight in Spokane and the visiting Wildcats have to be hoping they will not help another team join the "Century Club".
Kellogg was whipped 102-52 by Ferris here last night. It was the same Panhandle team that was the victim when Shadle Park set a City record in notching a 106-55 victory early last year. 

The Chronicle didn't bother to mention that we surrendered over 100 points to CdA just four days earlier, helping them enter the "Century Club".

By the way, I checked the December 7, 1970 Spokane Daily Chronicle. We held Gonzaga Prep to 70 points the night after surrendering 102 points to Ferris.

Although we denied the Zags admission into the "Century Club", we could only muster 55 points ourselves and started our dismal 1970-71 season at 0-3, having given up 278 points in three games.

Oh! Later in the season, my prediction that "Hell, they won't even beat us" didn't pan out.

CdA came to Andrews Gymnasium at Kellogg High School and drubbed us. I don't know the final score, but Coach Curry's prediction was right: they didn't score 100 points against us again.

2. I had time to do all that research into the opening of the 1970-71 basketball season because I rested quite a bit today, fighting off the bug I mentioned yesterday. The rest helped a lot. I did get out, though. I thoroughly enjoyed driving over to MOM's Organic to pick up a few groceries for dinner, I stopped in at the Sunoco station where Jens replaced a headlight bulb that had gone out, and I picked up a few things at the Co-op.

3. If you read this blog of mine very often, you might have noticed a word missing over the last two and half months or so: eggplant. Today, however, I made a green curry for the Deke and me and poured it over rice noodles, eggplant, onion, green beans, and tofu. It was a mild curry. I wish I'd made it a little spicier because spicy things are medicinal for me. It was really fun, though, to make some curry again and to work with my old friend eggplant in the kitchen after our too long of an absence from each other.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 09/05/17: Ran Myself Ragged, RIP Brice Bemis, Old Friends at Old Line

1. Today it all caught up with me. I have been running myself ragged for the last two and a half months with daily visits to see Mom, her passing away, beginning to clear things out of her house, a fun trip to Eugene, flying back to Greenbelt to begin packing up our apartment home in preparation for our move to Kellogg, and a wonderful drive to Huntingdon, PA to officiate Julie and Curtis' wedding. Until these past two and a half months, I had not run myself ragged since working full time at LCC. It's why retirement has been so good for my health.

But, today, I hit the wall. I've been achy, had a constant cough, and a sore throat. I reached a ragged point of exhaustion.

I worked on some things around the apartment, but mostly I lay in bed, sleeping on and off, definitely resting.  We have a trip planned to NY and NJ this weekend, so I want to be well again and rested up for it. We have more packing to finish up and our drive across the country looms ahead, too.

I need to rest up for another day and stop acting like I can go and go and go -- I'd say like I used to, but I've never been very good at going and going and going -- it has always caught up to me like this!

2.  It shocked me today when I read on Facebook that Coeur d' Alene High School, Class of '71, former Viking basketball standout, Brice Bemis died on Monday. I never knew Brice. Our basketball lives, however, will be forever intertwined. In the late fall of 1970, we, the KHS Wildcats, and the CdA Vikings opened the basketball season against each other in the first game ever played in CdA's new high school gymnasium and it was the most monumentally one-sided game I ever played in. Cd'A beat us by just over fifty points.

That night, I was assigned to guard Brice Bemis. The Viks secured the opening tip, set up their offense, and Brice Bemis launched a 12-15 foot jump shot with me "guarding" him. I lunged his way, feebly put my hand up about five feet short of his face, and he splashed it -- it was the first basket scored in the new CdA gym and, just a couple of years ago, through his friend Marion Richardson, Brice reminded me that he scored the first bucket in that gym. I told Marion to be sure to tell Brice that I knew that was true because I had an up close view of the shot and its success.

3. I rallied for a couple of hours this afternoon and the Deke and I went to Old Line to try to nail down when we might leave Greenbelt and arrive in Kellogg. It's still a little fuzzy in my mind, but we at least know we are staying in Greenbelt though the weekend of the 16th and 17th.

While we were conferring at the bar, to our surprise, members of a group of educators we know from Prince George's County School District strolled in, talked to us at the bar, and we joined them at their table. Over the past couple of years or so, we've enjoyed many late afternoons with this group and it was really fun to see them again -- for the last time before we leave? I'm not sure.


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 09/04/17: Shipping Boxes, Dogs Can Fly, Diaz Dinner

1. It is looking more and more like we can make this move to Kellogg without hiring a moving company. We'll have some boxes shipped by parcel post, but we aren't moving any big items and we are finding more and more items to give away, either to family or to charity.

2. The Deke took Maggie to the vet. The vet said Maggie and Charly are both in good health for dogs their age and that to fly them to Spokane wouldn't be any more difficult on them than a drive across the U.S.A. This news could, potentially, make our move more comfortable. The dogs hate riding in the car.

3. Molly and Hiram will play a key role in our move. We are giving them quite a few items from our apartment home and they would be the ones to take the dogs to the airport to have them shipped. Hiram fixed all of us teriyaki chicken and rice with vegetables for dinner tonight and we started to get more into the nitty gritty of making this move happen.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 09/03/17: The Signing, Catholic Beer Club, Raw Flame Gone

1. Once I finally got out of bed, I gathered my things, made sure the cottage I stayed in was picked up and straightened up, and headed to Stone Town Cafe for breakfast with people who hadn't left Huntingdon after the wedding. Lo and behold, upon arriving at the cafe, Susie informed me that the breakfast location had been changed to the Rockwell homestead.

No problem.

I steered the Sube out of town and threaded it up the narrow road to Julie and Curtis' property and, before long, Julie, Curtis, and I sat down at a table in the barn and, with little ceremony, I signed their marriage certificate to be sent back to the county.

The scones, quiche, French toast casserole, fruit, coffee, and other fine foods, along with listening to Julie talk about the course she's teaching this semester that examines food systems in the U.S.A., nourished me for my slightly more than three hour drive back to Maryland.

2. The drive back to Maryland, back through through the thick forest and fertile farm lands on two lane roads in Pennsylvania, until I reached I-70, I-270, and the Capitol Beltway, was easy and without incident.

I had already made a date with the Deke to do what we have done on Sunday afternoons for quite awhile: go to DC Brau. I nearly wept with pleasure upon sipping my drops of On the Wings of Armageddon after not having any for nearly three months.

The Deke and I sat at a table and were joined by layman James and Benedictine Monk, Brother Ignacio of the monastery of St. Anselm in NE D.C., fewer than ten minutes away from DC Brau. James and Brother Ignacio are the city coordinators for the D. C. Catholic Beer Club.

The Deke overheard James and Brother Ignacio talking about the Netflix series The Crown and just as I was returning to the counter to purchase another On the Wings of Armageddon, she started talking with them about the show, and, by the time I returned to our table, the conversation had turned magnificently theological and perfectly ecumenical. James had to leave a little early. For the ensuing half an hour, though, Brother Ignacio told us all about his vocation as a Benedictine -- he prays without ceasing -- and the studies he is currently embarked upon to become a priest: two years of philosophy and four years of theology. In fact, he was carrying with him a printout of Aristotle's categories that he needed to memorize as part of his course.

This was one of our best ever visits to DC Brau. Our conversation, though relatively brief, soared into the most important questions of what life means, what it is to be human, and how we experience God in the world. James and Brother Ignacio left us filled with gratitude for such an uplifting and stimulating party.

If you'd like to read more about Brother Iganacio and James -- and the Catholic Beer Club -- just click here.

3. The Deke and I drove the short distance from DC Brau to Ivy City for one last beer at Atlas Brewing. I think if we were to continue to live in Maryland, our Sunday routine would expand to include both of these breweries.

We drank our last beer and talked about how we imagine living our lives in Kellogg. We have dreams about all kinds of things including music, reading, writing, traveling, and what we might do with Mom's house.

Back at our apartment home, I popped us each a bowl of popcorn.

After the Deke turned in, I gave myself over to how much I hated having learned earlier in the day that Walter Becker had died at the age of 67.

I spent the next hour or so on YouTube, watching videos of Steely Dan performing live at different stages of their life as a band and listened to Donald Fagen and Walter Becker being interviewed on a VH1 show.

I went to bed, wishing I could break out the hats and hooters and rev up the motor scooters.

We lost a raw flame, a live wire.



Sunday, September 3, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 09/02/17: Getting Ready, Julie and Curtis' Wedding, The Reception

1. I slept in this morning for an hour or so and woke up already feeling the thrill of this afternoon's wedding joining the lives of Julie Fether and Curtis Rockwell. I decided to be fastidious about my appearance, a rarity. I brought two pairs of slacks and two jackets and two ties to Huntingdon and I took some time to deliberate which ones to wear. I liked my history with my gray suit and chose it. I carefully inspected the jacket and slacks for wrinkles, pressed the slacks and then pressed my white shirt. I showered. I had one more decision to make: which tie? I decided on the more brightly colored one and tied a knot I was very happy with on my second attempt.

I decided I looked ready to be an officiant and strolled up the hill to Curtis' parents' home where Ken and Millie invited me in for a sandwich and a couple of cups up Constant Comment tea.

2. We arrived at Manor Church, deep in the country, and everything was ready to go. No last minute crises, no pre-wedding drama, just sound planning paying off.

The rain had let up so wedding guests were able to congregate outside the church and talk and laugh in happy groups. Those who were in the church were treated to a half an hour or so of gorgeous Celtic music by the Folkemer family who also enriched the ceremony with their playing.

The wedding party processed to the front of the church, Julie dressed in a Ukrainian wedding dress, her mother, June, and brother, Jamie, happy to give Julie away to Curtis.

The ceremony proceeded beautifully, focused on the strength, beauty, and durability of the invigorating power of love with passages from Shakespeare, the Song of Songs, Middlemarch, and Rumi along with a nod to St. Paul. Ukrainian traditions seasoned the ceremony.

It was a joyous wedding. As it drew to an end and Julie and Curtis received their guests, smiles beamed from every row of pews and every corner of the room. Julie and Curtis' family and friends are thrilled for their happiness and for the goodness their life together promises.

Officiating this wedding was one of the deepest pleasures of my life.

3. After the wedding, we all headed back to the Rockwell homestead for a lively reception featuring a generous table of appetizers, toasts, a musical performance by Julie and Curtis, gift bags, woodfire pizza baked on the spot, and, for dessert, cheesecake, various pies, and individually wrapped gobs (whoopie pies). I especially enjoyed the iced Iron City Beer of Pittsburgh, PA.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 09/01/17: Drive to Huntingdon, Arrival at the Homestead, Rehearsal and Dinner

1.  Today began with dropping the Deke off at the Diaz house and with me solo driving the Sube to Huntingdon, PA. It wasn't too long after I entered Pennsylvania that I was off the freeways and winding my way to Huntingdon on state and county roads through cornfields, thickly forested hills, small towns, and a lovely state park. I loved this drive. I'd never experienced so much of rural Pennsylvania and found this area, located in south central Pennsylvania, on the Appalachian ridges of the Alleghenies, arresting in its natural variety and beauty.

2. I made my way outside of the city limits a ways, up a hill to the end of  Oriskany Lane, where Julie and Curtis live in a house that has been in the Rockwell family for decades. Following and warm greeting from Julie and being introduced to Curtis, I got to meet Julie's mother, June, whom Julie as told me a great deal about in our correspondence over the last four years. She's witty, kind, and generous, just as Julie has told me. I also got to meet Curtis' father, Ken, who gave me a history of this sturdy old house that is now Julie and Curtis', and who told me about his, and his family's, many, many years as educators at Juniata College the private, liberal arts college in Huntingdon. He is very proud of the enduring legacy of Juniata's commitment to liberal arts undergraduate education and of his service to the school.

3. It wasn't long before the participants in Saturday's wedding ceremony caravanned out to the stone church at Manor Hill, built as a Presbyterian house of worship in 1825. We rehearsed the ceremony -- everyone has their cues, their marks, and knows where to be when.  We then all made out way to the rehearsal dinner on the patio of the Stone Town Cafe and Gallery where we enjoyed tender and juicy and tasty barbecue beef brisket, roasted potatoes, corn casserole, and dinner rolls followed by strawberries and whipped cream over flaky and light puff pastry. I think the festive mood is set for a joyous wedding day and that our goodwill and merriment will overcome any difficulties the rainy day might present.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/31/17: Book Donations, Resting, Wedding Ceremony Ready

1. I buzzed down to the Co-op to pick up a few items and some boxes and, to my delight, a huge box sat near the front of the store. The Greenbelt Elementary PTA is collecting books for a book sale. I brought home the goods I bought, the Deke and I packed up about half a dozen boxes of books we had already set aside to lighten our move to Kellogg, and I drove them back down to the Co-op and dropped them in the box.

2. The Deke left for a couple of hours this afternoon and suddenly I felt a wave of exhaustion. The visits to see Mom at Kindred, Mom passing away, the efforts to move things out of her house, the travel from Kellogg to Greenbelt, preparing Julie and Curtis' wedding ceremony, and the packing the Deke and I have been working on conspired to yell at me to stop. I did. I lay down. Maggie and Charly joined me. I slept.

3.  I packed my suitcase for tomorrow's drive to Huntingdon, PA. After a little bit more editing and after Julie answered a few questions about the ceremony, I am confident that my work is completed. I've had a blast working with Julie through thoughtful and enthusiastic emails to get things right -- the way she and Curtis want them -- and now I will just concentrate on relaxing and enjoying the charge Julie and Curtis have entrusted me with to join their lives together in marriage.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/30/17: Moving Estimate, Calendar at Quench, Ruminations at Old Line

1. Just so we could have the information, the Deke scheduled a mover to come over and estimate how much it would cost to move our belongings to Kellogg. We know already that we will give away much that we own, but it was informative to have the mover give an estimate. He was a good guy, especially proud that he managed Coach Tony Bennett's move when Bennett left Washington State and moved to Charlottesville, VA. We also got an estimate for shipping the Sube to Kellogg. We will most likely not have the car shipped, not fly the Corgis to Spokane, and not fly ourselves to Spokane. I am pretty sure we'll drive.

2. We went to Quench taproom in Silver Spring late in the afternoon and thumbtacked down some dates for when we might do this and that -- we didn't really nail them down just yet. We told the owner of Quench, Mike, that we were moving and his immediate response was that maybe he would open a "super taphouse" with 100 taps in Kellogg. It was a good load of b.s. he was laying on us. I laughed inside. I didn't bother to tell Mike, as Debbie sipped from a $12.00 pint of Imperial IPA from Two Roads Brewing, that during happy hour at Radio Brewing in Kellogg, I could drink four pints of superb, fresh beer brewed in house for the cost of one of the Deke's pints. I also decided to keep my mouth shut about the remarkable Inland Lounge in Kellogg. I'm not a dream crusher.

3. We ended our night back at Old Line and, just like last night, split a burger and an order of parmesan truffle fries. By now, we'd had enough of calendars, lists, and estimates and we just marveled at Venus Williams playing tennis on television and the Deke had a good conversation with the couple sitting next to her about schools and the good old days when she taught in the Prince George's County School District. I sat quietly, ruminating about all that has happened in 2017 and all that is still to come.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/29/17: Bills Paid, Wedding Writing, Epic Party Talk

1.  For the first time since June 16th, I woke up in Greenbelt, Maryland this morning. I was a little bit anxious because a small pile of medical bills related to appointments I met while being re-evaluated for the kidney transplant list were awaiting my attention, but I faced them squarely, and got online and on the phone and paid them all in their entirety.

2. With that bit of anxiety lifted, I could give my attention to finishing the next draft of Julie and Curtis's wedding ceremony, coming up on Saturday in Huntingdon, PA. I'm pleased with the draft I completed today and will return to it tomorrow to polish any of its rough edges. I had a couple of questions for Julie and she answered them and I will double check to make sure I have everything in order. I am very happy that I am not trying to finish this up at the last minute and that I can return to what I've written on both Wednesday and Thursday to make sure it's working the way I want it to.

3. About 3:00 or so this afternoon, the Deke and I decided we'd been hanging around our apartment home enough and we headed to the edge of NE Washington, DC to have a beer at DC Brau. We arrived at the tasting room and it was closed -- the bathroom is being redone. Well, luckily, DC Brau is just minutes from Atlas Brewing in Ivy City (DC), so we buzzed down to West Virginia Ave, NE and strolled into the tasting room. Only one other customer was there, the guy serving beer was playing the Clash station on Spotify, so the music was killer-awesome, and the Deke and I settled down at the bar. Since we had the end of the bar to ourselves, there was plenty of room to put a bunch of stuff on the table regarding our move to Idaho. The beer we drank enhanced our decision making tremendously. I didn't want to stop drinking Atlas's Rowdy Rye Ale and the Deke loved her Ponzi IPA.

It's too early to divulge the decisions we made because they are tentative at this point, but, if they work out, we will be very happy.

We left Atlas Brewing fired up. We'd just had a great party and an epic conversation. We were also hungry. We cruised up to Beltsville and plopped down at the bar at Old Line for one more beer and we split a burger and truffle fries. It was the perfect amount of food and brought a perfect afternoon and evening to a perfect conclusion.

It's great to be back in Maryland again and I will savor every day here until we make our move to Idaho.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/28/17: *S-Town*, The Last Two Months, Back to Maryland BONUS Picture of Mom

1. I sprang out of my comfortable queen-sized bed at the Ramada Inn at 4:30 a.m., after racking up eight hours of sleep. I gathered my things and took a shuttle to Spokane International Airport where things went very smoothly -- especially because I was assigned to the TSA Pre Check line. I gave myself plenty of time to have a coffee and a scone at the airport, so I got ready for my day of flying my favorite way: I was never rushed. I could sit and relax. I sat on the aisle for all three legs of my flight with the middle seat empty from Spokane to Chicago and Chicago to Cleveland. There very last person to board the plane sat in the middle seat between Cleveland and Baltimore --

My eight and a half hour trip went by very quickly thanks to the podcast S-Town (or Shittown), the story of a murder that never happened and a death that did in Bibb County, Alabama in the town of Woodstock. I didn't quite finish the podcast's next to the last chapter and I have the last chapter still to go.  The podcast's home page is here.

2. When I wasn't listening to S-Town, I reflected on the the past several weeks in Kellogg. I arrived in Kellogg on June 17th to help out with Mom. I thought a lot about the day I arrived in Kellogg. Christy and I went to the nursing home and I remembered thinking how small Mom's space was in the four person room she lived in, but it was quiet right then and very clean. Mom and I hugged and Christy and I talked for a bit before Mom asked us to leave because she wanted to be alone and rest.

On June 17th, Mom felt frail in my arms as I hugged her. She was much weaker than when I had seen her two months earlier. I just looked back at my blog entry for June 17th and now I remember that she was seeing things -- tubes overhead, an envelope at the end of the bed. On June 17th, Mom was still using her walker to get to the bathroom, but on that day she was too weak to walk the short distance back to her bed and sat on her walker and wheeled herself back, with Carol's help.

It goes without saying that we had no idea on June 17th how long Mom would live. I thought a lot today about how Christy and Carol and I had a bite to eat that afternoon at Radio Brewing and talked about Mom's finances. Carol had estimated that Mom had enough money for living at Kindred for the next year and on that day, for all we knew, Mom would be there another year.

On June 17th, Christy, Carol, and I were already concerned about how we would keep Mom company in September because I would be returning to Maryland in late August and Carol would be returning to full days of work and Christy would continue working part time. We brainstormed a bit about this, but I, for one, felt pretty stuck.

I thought a lot today about how Mom passed away two months later, on August 16th. I thought about her July 13th appointment with Dr. McDonald. That was the day the doctor recommended we bring hospice on board to help Mom out. Even then, a month before Mom died, not having a crystal ball, we were talking about what would happen monthly with hospice and what would happen after six months, and beyond. That day, Mom couldn't stay awake in her wheelchair in the examination room and couldn't really answer Dr. McDonald's questions about how she was doing. She did raise some good questions about her loss of appetite and the infrequent movement of her bowels and she seemed to have a pretty good understanding of and a strong approval of hospice entering her world. Christy and I both noted, though, that not having seen Mom since mid-May, Dr. McDonald seemed rattled by Mom's condition on July 13th.

From that point forward, time seemed to collapse on Mom. I thought a lot today about the incremental deterioration of her condition -- increased sleep, loss of appetite, more hallucinations, rarer and rarer moments of clarity, but her bursts of energy between July 30 and August 1 when she and Carol sang hymns outside together and when Judy and Angie visited.  Then came the eventual loss of her voice, and, by about August 10th, almost all she did was sleep.

I don't know if in my entire life I've ever experienced such an intense two month period of time. It helps a lot to have written a daily record of all that occurred and it was good for me, today, while flying across the United States, to piece things together and realize how very little I could know when I arrived in Kellogg on June 17th and how very grateful I am for how frank the medical people were with us about her condition as Mom's life neared its end. No one tip-toed around the facts of her decline. No one gave us false hope.

3.  The Deke picked me up at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport shortly after 6:00. We drove straight to Old Line and I loved drinking a couple pints of Bell's Two Hearted Ale, one of my favorite of all beers. We relaxed at the bar and returned to our apartment home where the Deke cooked salmon on the stove top and served it with a delicious quinoa salad and avocado slices. We split a 12 oz. bottle of Heavy Seas Loose Cannon IPA and, I have to admit, I started feeling a little sadness at the prospect of leaving behind these East Coast beers I've loved drinking over the last three years. I'll get over it . . . .

*Here's a picture Carol took on July 30th, the evening she and Mom sang hymns while on the patio at Kindred, the same evening Mom had propelled herself in her wheelchair up and down the nursing home hallways with her feet:

Mom and Carol on July 30, 2017

Monday, August 28, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/27/17: Packing and Cleaning, Sibling Outing in Spokane, Early to Bed

1. I spent the morning packing for my flight to Baltimore, doing a little bit of cleaning in Mom's house, and taking several breaks to rest my tired back. It's a little bit shot after all these days of sorting and hauling -- I have lifted and transported countless boxes and bags of things out of Mom's house.

2. Christy, Carol, and I had our first sibling outing in a long time. We drove to Spokane and enjoyed walking around Kendall Yards. We stopped in at Veraci for a drink and we shared a Caprese salad. We then buzzed up to the Manito Tap House for dinner. I enjoyed this time with my sisters a lot, but if enjoyment is measured by how much I talked, it would seem that I wasn't enjoying myself. I was just beat from all the things I've been doing around Mom's house and with other tasks since Mom passed away. I enjoyed relaxing, but I wasn't very animated for our sibling outing.

3.  Christy and Carol dropped me off at the Ramada Inn at the Spokane Airport and I was dead asleep by 8:30, happy for the having spent an afternoon with my sisters, but too tired to even look at television or do much other than update the security on the two HP computers that belong to the Deke and me.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/26/17: More Hauling, Stu and Ed, Inland Lounge Crowd

1. I made two trips to St. Vincent de Paul's in Osburn, a last trip to the dump, and a trip to the Fuller Center for Housing Thrift Store in Smelterville. The garage is empty of the boxes and bags I packed. I got as much done, with Christy, Everett, Carol, and Paul's help, as I could within a week's time.  Mom's house is lighter. It's more open. There's more to take care of over the next several weeks.

2. Stu dropped by for a visit this afternoon and we had some very good food at the Hill Street Depot Pub. Ed joined us not long after we arrived and the three of us had a good time yakkin' about all kinds of stuff.

3. After eating a garden fresh BLT, prepared by Christy, I went up town to yak for a while with Bob Casady at the Inland Lounge. It was a great session and helped me dive a little deeper into the world of Kellogg, Idaho where I will soon live. The crowd at the Inland Lounge was good -- well-behaved, happy, and full of vigor. One guy was a miner on strike at the Lucky Friday. Bob had taken a break from running his bar to go to this guy's house to watch the Mayweather/McGregor bout.  I had a long talk about baseball, football, and Oregon with the guy who runs the food bank. The owner of Radio Brewing was in. The woman at the far end of the bar told me she knows all of Paul's family (Taylors and Roberts) because her sister is married to Dave Taylor, Paul's uncle. Charlie, who lives in a room in the Rio Hotel, was at the other end of the bar. I had met Becky, who works at Radio Brewing on Tuesdays, at the Silver Mountain Brewfest and she said hi to me as she walked in with a couple of friends and joined the owner of Radio Brewing at the bar for a while. I talked with County Commissioner Mike Fitzgerald.

Living in Kellogg is going to be very different than Greenbelt, MD and Eugene, OR -- and it's different in a lot of ways from the Kellogg I last lived in back in 1976. Much feels very familiar, but I know it's not the Kellogg that thrived on mining and logging over thirty years ago when there was plenty of work and the town was abuzz with retail and other commercial activity.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/25/17: Starting Another New Life, More Work, Dinner and a Mary Rose

1. Back on October 1, 2006, I started writing this blog, kellogg bloggin'. I've posted over 3900 entries to this blog in the last eleven years. Over the past several years, I found that the structure provided by Clare Law's now-shuttered blog Three Beautiful Things, has given me just the form I need to write every day and chronicle what is happening around me, sometimes in photographs, but always in words.

This blog began as a vehicle for me to write about my hometown Kellogg, Idaho, especially about memories I have of my life in Kellogg years ago. My blog has taken on different purposes since I started it, but I've always hoped that this blog would help me, along with anyone who read it, understand that I am who I am largely because of growing up in Kellogg, Idaho.

I have often wondered what it might mean to this blog if I were living in Kellogg, if it were a blog called kelloggbloggin' because I was in Kellogg nearly every day.

Soon I'll find out.

This morning I bought a plane ticket to fly back to Baltimore on Monday, August 27th. Upon arrival, I will be shoring up the writing of the wedding ceremony I will be officiating on Sept. 2 for Julie Fether and Curtis Rockwell in Huntingdon, PA.

Most of the time, though, in early September, the Deke and I will be packing up and closing out our life in Greenbelt, MD.

We are moving to Kellogg next month.

We are going to move into Mom's house, next door to Christy and Everett, and just blocks away from Carol and Paul.

It's hard for me to believe we are actually doing this. The Deke and I talked for years, when we lived in Eugene, about relocating to Kellogg (or Spokane) one day, but it seemed that we had shifted our lives in an entirely different direction when we moved to Maryland.

Well, we did shift our lives in an entirely different direction in 2014, but now we are shifting again.

I wrote in that initial blog post, back on October 1, 2006, that Kellogg is my Paris. By that, I meant that Kellogg is a microcosm of the larger world -- not quite as full and various as Paris is (!) -- but in its history as well as in the present, the world is here and I look forward to being back in this world.

I'll be close to my sisters and their husbands. I'll be close to friends I've known for my whole life. I'll get to reacquaint myself with the natural beauty of North Idaho. I'll be able to enjoy the beers of North Idaho, the Inland Northwest and the Pacific Northwest (but, I sure will miss the great beers of D. C., Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York).

The Deke and I just can't seem to get enough of starting a new life somewhere else.

We used to think that by this time in our lives we'd be settling in.

But, no.

We are moving again, not only with a sense of adventure, but with a great sense of gratitude for Mom's generosity to her children, the generosity that makes this move possible.

2.  This move helps explain why we have been clearing out Mom's house with a sense of urgency. I am trying to do all I can, with Christy, Everett, Carol, and Paul's help, to have Mom's house pretty much ready for the Deke and me to move into next month. Today Paul took down the last of the memorabilia Mom had covering the east wall of her kitchen. I took another load to the dump and tomorrow I'll take at least two pickup loads of things to donate to charities and return to the dump. There will be plenty left to do when the Deke and I arrive in Kellogg.

In many ways, we are seeing Mom's life of collecting and keeping things, as well as her love of kitchen supplies, gardening supplies, clothes, shoes, and knick knacks, pass before our eyes and we are reliving many memories that her things trigger. Carol and Paul's house is where we'll be keeping historical things: Mom's spoons, pictures, things that belonged to Uncle Bill, and other such things. When the Deke and I return, we'll deal with the top level of the house where more artifacts are stored and Mom's copious collection of Christmas lights and ornaments and other Christmas things she loved to put out in December.

3. The sorting, hauling, loading, remembering, and grieving wore me out today. I could hardly talk by late this afternoon and hungered for rest.  I was very grateful that Ann Hill made us a delicious and fortifying dinner and delivered it to Christy and Everett's. She made us shredded beef to be served with Swiss cheese to make sandwiches along with a green salad, a fruit salad, and a huckleberry cake.

Earlier in the day, a Mary Rose plant, in honor of Mom's life, arrived in the mail at Christy and Everett's. It's a gift from Roger Pearson's family and the family of his sister, Trudi Brown. Christy and Carol opened it and we all eagerly anticipate its gorgeous blooms and love that we will have such a beautiful tribute to Mom in our midst. Roses have grown really well in Christy and Everett's backyard, so that's where the Mary Rose will be planted.

Our gratitude to friends and family grows in the aftermath of losing Mom. We have received many thoughtful cards, messages, dinners, and gifts.  We are beginning to hear from people who plan to attend Mom's service on Oct. 6th and are very grateful as we anticipate all who will join us to celebrate Mom's life.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/24/17: Business, Taco Thursday, Beer and Humdinger Burgers

1. It was a business day. I saw our attorney to get things underway to take care of Mom's estate.  I signed papers. I called an insurance company to find out if a policy of Mom's I found papers for was still in force. It is. I learned what Christy, Carol, and I need to do to file a claim.  I got things underway to donate to charity a burial space at Fairmount Cemetery in Spokane. It's one our family has owned for nearly seventy years, but that no one in our family is going to use.

2. I enjoyed a light lunch at the Hill Street Depot: smoked tri-tip steak street tacos and a glass of Radio Brewing's Pale Ale. Fatigued from grieving, packing, sorting, hauling, and figuring things out, it felt good to sit silently at the Depot's short bar and go blank for a while.

3. Byrdman and I had planned a get together with friends at Corby's this afternoon, but changed our plans when key figures couldn't make it. Instead, we sat at the bar at Radio Brewing and ate some chips with salsa and guacamole and enjoyed some IPA and Wildcat Wheat. Afterward, we stopped at the Humdinger and each picked up a burger and fries. Byrdman dropped me off at Mom's and I ate my dinner and, after a brief nap on the couch, went to bed and slept with my head right by an open window and enjoyed the fresh, cool North Idaho air and had a long night's sleep, hoping to be revived for more grieving, sorting, packing, and hauling on Friday.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/23/17: Donating Mom's Clothes, Mom and Grandma West, Many Thanks to Chris Meyer

1. Carol and Christy very carefully went through all of Mom's clothes that I had packed on Tuesday. Many of the Mom's clothes brought back memories of weddings, trips to the Oregon coast, other events, and phases of clothing styles Mom went through. Christy and Carol are much more attuned to the history of Mom's clothes than I am, and while I left at one point to take a load of donations to the Fuller Center for Housing's thrift store in Smelterville, I enjoyed listening to all that they knew about Mom's clothes and all that they remembered.  When they finished, Paul helped me out immeasurably by loading the tubs of Mom's clothes into the Malibu and I drove them to the Hospice Thrift Store of Coeur d'Alene where we hope Mom's clothes will have an extended life, knowing that any that are purchased will help Hospice of North Idaho continue to provide palliative care to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay.

2. It was one week ago today, on August 16th, that Mom died. As I drove to Smelterville and then to Coeur d'Alene and back, I kept picturing Mom in her last days and how she looked when she had passed away. Nothing adorned Mom. She was dressed only in a hospital gown because it caused her too much pain if the aides tried to put anything else on her, even her pajamas. She didn't have on her wig, her glasses, or any make-up.  Mom's eyes narrowed and, to me, became more blue. As her cheeks became more hollow and as she slowly diminished in size, her appearance started to transform. She looked more and more like her mother, Nona West.  It was as if the closer she came to dying, the more she resembled the woman who originally gave her life. It was a remarkable experience to be with Mom in her last days and hours. It verged on the miraculous when I felt I was simultaneously in the presence of Mom as she died and the return of Grandma West.

3. Today was a tiring day. Christy, Carol, and I talked over the steps we've learned we need to take to settle Mom's estate. We continued to work on sorting and packing Mom's belongings and made plans for how to deal with things we still have to do. I made an appointment with our attorney. Paul and Carol transported more things to their house. Christy packed up and walked things over to her house.  I delivered donations.

It was a great relief that Chris Meyer brought us a complete dinner to Carol and Paul's house. It was a generous spread: smoked Cornish hens, green beans, tiny red potatoes, a splendid green salad, and dinner rolls (did I forget to mention anything?).  Chris made us huckleberry cocktails and a strawberry rhubarb pie was available for dessert. The dinner was delicious, nourishing, and nurturing. It was a relief to relax over such good food seasoned with Chris' kindness and thoughtfulness.






Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/22/17: Progress, Mom's Clothes, Patio Party at Dick and Renae's

1. The garage's load is a little lighter today and will further lighten on Wednesday. I made a trip to the dump (also known as the Shoshone County Transfer Station) and deposited a truckload of different items I brought up from the basement. Christy and Carol and Paul sorted through things and took some items home. Paul and Carol will take more things home tomorrow. I'll get to work on the next level of sorting: deciding what remaining things become charitable donations and what goes to the transfer station.

2. One of Mom's chief concerns over the years was how she looked, especially when she left the house. Whenever we went anywhere, whether to a medical appointment, a wedding or funeral, a shower, a summer musical theater production, a meeting of retired educators, shopping at Wal Mart, out to eat at the City Limits or (when it was open) the Silver Spoon, a production at the Sixth Street Theater, or dinner at Carol and Paul's or Christy and Everett's, Mom started getting ready at least an hour before we left. She never just threw something on and dashed out the door. She cleaned up, meticulously applied her make-up, often cleaned and combed her wig, sometimes wiped clean whatever shoes she was wearing, and chose something to wear from her many combinations of dresses, pants, slacks, blouses, shirts, jackets, and sweatshirts. In particular, Mom loved the Alfred Dunner line of clothes as well as clothes she ordered from Blair Clothing.

The many outings Mom and I went on over the last several years rushed back to mind today. I couldn't help but think about how getting ready to go was becoming increasingly difficult for Mom the past three or four years, but how she was determined to look good, no matter how difficult it was to pull a blouse or shirt out of the closet or to change from around the house pants into nicer pants or slacks.

Our family did Mom's laundry when she lived at the nursing home. I took over washing and drying Mom's clothes after I arrived in June. Mom made it a point back in June and in early July to tell me to take the clothes out of the drier right away so they wouldn't get wrinkled. If they still came out wrinkled, I knew to either iron them before I brought them over or spray them with Downy Wrinkle Releaser in her room. Mom didn't often leave her room at Kindred, but it didn't matter. She wanted to wear good looking clothes, wrinkle free.

Now her clothes are all in tubs, sitting in the living room, awaiting their next destination.

3. Christy, Everett, and I met at Dick and Renae Costa's for a patio party with drinks and a generous variety of food: meatballs, cheese, salami, broiled French bread slices, a cherry cream cheese spread for the bread, salad, a vegetable tray and more. Renae had lemonade ready to go to mix with gin and muddled cucumber. We met Dick and Renae's friend from Madison, WI, Connie, and Connie told me about her son who has completed studies at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting and is now doing a paid internship in a theater in Cincinnati and who loves Shakespeare. It was a great evening. I was sorry that I had to call it quits kind of early. I was just tired after another day of working to empty Mom's house.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/21/17: Eclipse in the Basement, Haunted by the Basement, Dump Run Prep

1. I was unloading the big cupboard and packing boxes in Mom's basement during the solar eclipse. I am so determined to get Mom's house cleared out that I almost forgot there was a solar eclipse. Later, I read others' experiences on Facebook, but I have no first hand knowledge at all if, in Kellogg, birds stopped singing or if street lights came on. I did find two cast iron pans I didn't realize Mom had squirreled away in this cupboard and I look forward to cooking with them.

2. Working in Mom's basement haunts me. As Mom's mobility deteriorated, she was determined to continue to use the basement to store surplus food, toilet paper,  paper towels, and other things and to continue to make regular trips up and down the stairs, one foot on a step, the other foot on the same step, slowly, one hand on the rail, the other hand holding her cloth laundry bag or a plastic grocery bag with ground beef or pork steaks from the freezer. It scared me that she was going up and down those stairs so often.

Working in Mom's basement brought back to mind the day in early March, 2015 when Mom fell and broke her collarbone. The accident occurred in the basement. Mom always kept many rolls of toilet paper on the living room level of her house in a cupboard near the bathroom and she wanted there to always be about a dozen rolls in that cupboard and three or four rolls in the bathroom. On March 5, 2015 she decided she needed to replenish the upstairs supply and went to the bathroom in the basement where she kept surplus toilet paper under the sink.

I'm haunted by my knowledge that this wasn't a toilet paper emergency, by my knowledge that Mom could have waited until Carol came to the house and asked her to get the toilet paper from the basement.

I'm haunted by knowing that when Mom bent down to get toilet paper rolls out from under the sink she fell, maybe as she was standing up again, and slammed her shoulder against something and suffered a fracture.

I had had fantasies before this happened of hiring someone to come to Mom's house and seal off the basement door.

Later, after her fracture and surgery, I had arguments with Mom about her going to the basement. She never wanted to give that up. Going to the basement endangered her, she stubbornly resisted that fact, and she hated finally being barred from going down there. I'm haunted by our arguments over this.

As Mom became increasingly immobile, dependent on a cane and then her walker, she lamented not being able to go to the basement as much or more than anything.

The basement vividly represented to Mom how her world was shrinking, how much she was limited by the deterioration and betrayal of her body from her waist to her feet.

I'm haunted by all she suffered in relation to the basement as I work to clear all the things out of there. For Mom, that basement just might have been the most important space in the whole house for her -- and the most dangerous.

3. Everett backed his pickup into Mom's driveway and I loaded it with a mountain of 13 gallon Glad bags full of refuse along with old carpeting and useless paint stained chairs that have been in the basement since before I was in high school. We'll make our first run to the dump Tuesday morning.




Monday, August 21, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/20/17: Mom's Basement Cupboard, Up the River, Scotch and Classic Vinyl

1. I spent the morning clearing out more space in Mom's basement. Many years ago, Mom and Dad had a large cupboard built in the basement and, over the years, it became a place where Mom stored a wide variety of things: glass vases, a coffee bean grinder, canning equipment, huge plastic bins of flour and sugar, light bulbs, mixing bowls she had replaced in the kitchen, crock pots, a meat grinder, a meat slicer, and much more. Mom loved giving kitchen gadgets a try and when she ran out of room in the kitchen to store them, she put them in the big basement cupboard and sometimes she packed one of them back upstairs for a cooking project, but mostly they have sat in this cupboard. Mom always knew where each item was located in this cupboard. Her memory for such detail astonished me.

This morning, after I lugged up Mom's artificial Christmas tree, disassembled a bricks and boards shelf, brought a now flimsy set of drawers to the garage, filled several garbage bags with everything from old tupperware containers to mildewed Boy Scout memorabilia I decided to let go of, I tackled the big cupboard. I'm not quite halfway done emptying it.

The garage is slowly filling up.

Soon it will be time to make a run to the dump and to figure out where we might donate other of Mom's things.

For years, I wanted to get started on this project while Mom was alive. Mom could never bring herself to let me (or anyone else) move all these things along. These belongings were more than just things for Mom. They held memories of fixing Nuts n Bolts, baking cookies, and making popcorn balls at Christmas, Thanksgiving dinners, weddings and receptions, people who had given her some of these things as gifts, trips to the Oregon coast, slow cooking soups, and many other experiences she cherished over the years.

These things also gave Mom a sense of accomplishment, security, and comfort.

It's no wonder she couldn't let them go.

2. I buzzed up to the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes trailhead across Forest Service Road #9 from the Snake Pit, parked the Malibu, and met Byrdman in the Snake Pit parking lot. He drove me up to where she shares a river property with Dan Carrico's family up the North Fork. We got some Prichard Mai Tais out of the freezer, each filled ourselves a glass of the boozy slush, and sat down by the river for a while and reminisced about the Kellogg High School All Class Reunion from a week ago and other stuff.

3. After a while, we moved our two man party to another part of the property where we could listen to "Classic Vinyl" on Sirius-XM radio. I drank a few short pours of Glenlivet 12 Single Malt Scotch over a cube of ice and we listened to great hits by Led Zeppelin, Santana, Little Feat, CCR, The Rolling Stones, and many others while we remembered the teams from the NBA and Major League Baseball we enjoyed when we were kids.

At one point, Byrdman remarked that the Dodgers during the 1960s had the first infield ever made up of all switch-hitters. (It turns out the year was 1965.) We worked together and pieced together that the players were first sacker Wes Parker, the double play combo of Jim Lefebvre (2B) and Maury Wills (SS), and Jim "Junior" Gilliam at the hot corner.

It was a perfect afternoon up the river. The temperature was in the 70s. It was quiet. The river ran clean and peacefully. The music was awesome.  I was totally relaxed.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/19/17: Mom's Things, Brewfest, Steaks on the Deck

1.  William Carlos Williams famously wrote: "No ideas but in things." Objects give us a concrete way to experience concepts, whereas concepts alone are invisible, intangible. We can't experience concepts with our senses nor do concepts trigger memories.

I spent much of the morning today carrying things that belonged to Mom out of her basement into the garage. My sisters and I will decide what we'll keep, what we'll take to the dump, and what we'll give away.

I moved dining table chairs that we used over forty years ago, cleaning supplies, numerous and various vases, glassware, including sundae glasses, flutes, cups, and other items; I brought up several electric fans, my dad's bowling ball, bags filled with smaller plastic bags, a bar stool, yard furniture, and more.

There's much more to haul upstairs: boxes of records and receipts stretching back over thirty years, bread machine, numerous books, more vases, a set of China dishes given to her and Dad as a wedding gift, a canner, roasting pans, dried flowers, a box of seashells from Oregon, the artificial Christmas tree, the Tom and Jerry bowl and matching mugs, aprons, doilies, tablecloths, towels, and Mom's store of sweatshirts, pants, blouses, shirts, and sweaters among other things.

Mary Idell West Woolum's character is in these things. Mom's way was to save things, collect stuff, and store up on sales items -- sugar, flour, light bulbs, spices, meat, canned goods, and more.

Moving and sorting Mom's things triggers many memories of when we used that furniture, Mom's painting projects, her devotion to cleanliness and cleaning supplies, the many loaves of bread she baked, her career as an educator, and her love of flowers, fresh as well as dried.

As I make my way through these days following Mom's death, mom is very much alive to me, not as an idea or a memory, but in her things.

2. After a morning of hauling, I went over to Dick and Renae Costa's condo and we gathered ourselves and jumped on the gondola and attended the Silver Mountain Brewfest. About twenty breweries set up shop and I enjoyed samples from all over the Pacific Northwest. I decided to focus on red ale, brown ales, ESB, and Irish Death. The samples were between three and four ounces so I didn't drink much more than a pint and a half of beer and had a great time listening to the Sara Brown Band from Kettle Falls, WA and Spokane's Soul Proprietor. I also saw two great classmates from high school, Susan Dahlberg and Patty Hei and enjoyed shooting the breeze with both of them.

3. Christy had texted me that she was going to grill steaks this evening, so I joined Everett and her on their back deck for a generous rib steak, baked potato, and green salad. I didn't last long after dinner. My day of hauling and going up on the mountain tired me out and I hit the hay early.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/18/17: A Tree Blocks the Road, Deep Appreciation, Trip to Worley

1. I woke up this morning yearning to be among old trees in the cool of their comforting shade. I drove up the North Fork of the CdA River and on up to the West Fork of Eagle Creek and entered the gravel road that leads to the Settlers Grove of Ancient Cedars Trail in the Coeur d'Alene National Forest. But, I never made it to the trees. A large, limbless tree had fallen from up the hill bordering the road and the top of the tree rested on the road, blocking it. I had to make a seventy-five point turn on the narrow single lane Forest Service road to get turned around.  I decided to go to the Bedroom Goldmine Bar in Murray for a hamburger and couple of ice cold cans of Budweiser beer.  The bar was nearly empty, so I experienced some of the solitude I had sought by trying to go to the cedar grove. The hamburger and beer hit the spot.

Still, in these sad days following Mom's death, it would have been comforting to have some solitude among those old and mighty cedars.

2. I returned home and read the scores of condolences and words of support from friends from the Silver Valley, Coeur d'Alene, Spokane, Eugene, Seattle, Boulder, Portland, Huntingdon, PA, Grass Valley, CA, and many other places. I thought of my friendship with each of person. If they knew Mom, I thought about their relationship with her. I appreciated how many people, who didn't know Mom, felt they had come to know her over the last several months and beyond because of the writing Christy, Carol, and I have done about her on our blogs and on Facebook and the pictures we have posted.  My friends have been generous in their support and I deeply appreciate how many people have told Christy, Carol, and me that we did everything we could to care for and comfort Mom in the last months and weeks and days she was alive.

By the way, if you'd like to read Mom's obituary, just click right here.

3.  Ed and I both needed some time away and we headed down to Worley to the CdA Casino. As always, it's not so much the casino that makes these trips so good; it's the driving down and back, talking about stuff, reminiscing, and solving the world's problems. We did plenty of talking, not only in the car, but over dinner at the Red Tail Bar and Grill inside the casino. I got back to Kellogg about 11:00 and fell into a deep and refreshing sleep.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/17/17: Goodbye Mom, Clearing Mom's Room, Arrangements and Drinks and Dinner

1.  Wednesday night, at around 10:30, Christy, Carol, Paul, the Deke, and I visited Mom just minutes after she died. Nurse Kay Day joined us some of the time. Her father-in-law Woody was our next door neighbor for several years back in the 1960s and 1970s. Kay told us about how, years ago, she took a leave of absence from Kindred and moved into her mother's Kindred room and took care of her as she died. Kay also told us what a sweet resident Mom was, how she always seemed to have something kind or humorous to say when Kay looked in on her, especially, for example, when Kay asked her to explain why she'd thrown her oxygen tubing on the floor.

For the thirty minutes or so we were with Mom before Pastor Art Fleming came from the funeral home to transport her away, we told little stories, some through tears, others through laughter, and we admired Mom for the full life she had lived, how strong she was, and marveled at how beautiful and peaceful she looked in death. We took turns holding her hand, stroking her forehead and face, telling her good-bye with our touch and our words and our kisses.

2.  Back at Mom's house, I was wound up after saying good-bye to Mom. I tried to settle down with the help of a couple of cheese spread jars half filled with gin and ice, but the Deke and I didn't really get to sleep until after 1 a.m. At 5:15 a.m., we were back out of bed to get ready to drive to Spokane where the Deke was catching a flight back to Maryland. The size of Mom's house will expand with the Deke gone -- it will be a lonely place for me. Ever since the Deke and I arrived in Kellogg after our ten days in Eugene, back on July 24th, the Deke has been a source of strength and solace for all of us;  not only as she has listened to me and my sisters, talked with us and supported us, but as she cooked us meals, volunteered to do anything we needed, and spoke of her love for her good friend Mary Idell West Woolum.

After I left the airport, I ate a hearty and delicious breakfast at the Breakfast Nook in CdA and returned to Kellogg to join Christy, Carol, and Paul over at Mom's room to gather her things and bring them back to her house. I stopped in to visit with Peny Benson and we talked about Mom and the way she died after, we thought, it must have seemed clear to Mom that everything for her celebration of life and everything at her house was in order and she knew we were complying with all of her instructions about her cremation and being laid to rest with Dad in his funeral plot, in a myrtlewood urn, near his heart.

3. After helping clear out Mom's room, I collapsed until 3 o'clock, sometimes sleeping and, when not sleeping, reading the deeply touching expressions of condolence and love from friends and family on Facebook, in electronic messages, and in e-mails.

At 3 o'clock, my sisters and I met with the funeral home director, Debbie Mikesell, to, among other things, compose an obituary, to plan Mom's interment, and make arrangements for her Celebration of Life.  When the date has been confirmed with the church, I'll post it.

Next stop: Best Shots, for my sisters and I to share a drink or two together and wind down and relax.

We ended the day in Christy and Everett's back yard and feasted on delicious food fixed with Mom's favorite food in mind:  seafood pasta pesto salad and green salad prepared by Jane next door and a very tasty second pasta salad prepared by Kellee Crall. Jane also baked our dessert and it was Mom's very favorite, her request every year on her birthday: angel food cake with lemon cream cheese frosting.

I excused myself a little early from dinner, came back over to Mom's house and, for the second time today, collapsed, this time into a deep and refreshing sleep.