Sunday, December 31, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/30/17: Creativity and Genius, *Mona Lisa*, Longing for Home, BONUS: A New Chair

1. I have days, like today, when I want to learn more about artists and the making of art.

So, I took the Echo Dot into the front bedroom where I am slowly and surely working to get papers and books organized so that we can send the single twin-sized bed in this room over to Carol and Paul's to make room to create our home office.

So, how does artistic genius emerge? How does creativity play out with certain artists? In the first season of his podcast, Revisionist History, Malcolm Gladwell addresses these questions in Episode 7, entitled, "Hallelujah". He looks closely at the evolution of Elvis Costello's 1984 song "The Deportee Club" which he later reworked as "Deportee" and at Leonard Cohen's 1984 "Hallelujah" and draws parallels to the way they labored over these songs with the way Paul Cezanne labored over his paintings. He contrasts the Cezanne method with Pablo Picasso's path to creativity and looks at Bob Dylan and Paul Simon's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" as examples paralleling Picasso.  If you'd like to ponder this question of creativity and learn more about Elvis Costello and Leonard Cohen and their creative genius, just click here. I know one listen wasn't enough for me and that I'm going to take it all in again.

2. I finished listening to Gladwell's "Hallelujah" and suddenly I realized that it had been several months since I checked out Tamar Avishai's scintillating monthly podcast, The Lonely Palette.  I went to podcast's website, here, and saw that her latest episode explores the history and genius of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. I chuckled and wondered if da Vinci was Picasso or Cezanne (he's Cezanne) and tuned in to this fascinating episode and enjoyed Tamar Avishai explain what makes Mona Lisa such a compelling painting and how it embodies da Vinci's experimental bent. I especially enjoyed Avishai's riff on Walter Benjamin's seminal 1930's "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" and her reflections upon how the ideas of this essay apply to our experience with Mona Lisa. If you'd like to take some time and immerse yourself in art history and some aesthetic theory and learn more about Mona Lisa, just click here, click listen, and sit back and take it in.

3. Many of us who come from the Silver Valley have been torn between the pull we feel to stay home and live where we know people and where we can enjoy the beauty of the area's mountains, rivers, and lakes and the desire to see more of the world and to pursue educational and vocational opportunities not available in the Silver Valley. I know when I was a teenager, my father, teachers and counselors at the high school, adult friends of our family, and guys I worked with at the Zinc Plant repeatedly told me I needed to get out of the Valley.

And I did.

And now I'm back.

Over the past couple of years, I've been checking in on West Virginia Public Radio's superb podcast Inside Appalachia. I am consistently struck by the similarities between life in rural Appalachia and life in the Silver Valley and I enjoy host Jessica Lily's interviews and stories about Appalachian life, politics, and difficulties.  She's never left Appalachia. She's thoughtful, respectful, and sensitive. I love how she's so intelligent and, at the same time, has never got above her raisin'.

If you click here, and scroll down, you can see that episodes of Inside Appalachia regularly focus on the struggles of people who stay put in the region and do their best to make a living in a depressed economy and to endure the terrible things that happen because of friends, family, and other residents addicted to opioids.

But the episode I listened to today focused on people who left Appalachia and who are homesick, who long to return.  It's entitled, "Homesickness and the Struggle to Come Home to Appalachia" and you can find it right here. I have listened to it twice and I'm not done. Soon, I'll tune in again.

BONUS:  Today, we took another step toward making our house into what we want it to be. The Furniture Exchange delivered the comfortable living room chair the Deke picked out on Friday. Our next move will be to decide on end tables, plants, lamps, and what to hang on the walls. No room in our house is completely what we want it to be just yet, but we aren't in a hurry.



We are figuring it out.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/29/17: Snowpocalypse, Slushageddon, *Uncivil* Podcast

1. The Siberian snowpocalypse continued today and the Deke and I decided to stay put and cooperate with requests from the Sheriff's Office and others that we stay off the roads. We watched the snow pile up in our yards and marveled at mammoth lips of snow groaning over the edge of our roof, white awning with saber-toothed icicles. In the morning, I decided that since we weren't going anywhere, I'd stock my Three Beautiful Things with links to podcasts in case anyone reading my blog would like to check out some good programs. I also took care of some home and medical business and did some organizing in anticipation of one day converting the front bedroom into our home office.

2. In the early afternoon, the snow turned to rain and ushered in a local slushageddon. The Deke sloshed over to Yoke's and picked up some groceries. She also dropped into Furniture Exchange and had the good fortune of spotting a chair that is perfect for our living room. Later, I plowed over to Furniture Exchange in the Sube and paid for the chair -- it will be delivered on Saturday -- and drove uptown to the clinic and finally dropped off the stack of my medical records I organized a couple of weeks ago.

3. While the Deke watched a crime show in French on her Chromebook, I put on earbuds and listened to the latest episode of the podcast Uncivil, an project helmed by two journalists, Jack Hitt and Chenjari Kumanyika, in which they excavate into untold stories of the United States' Civil War. I listened twice to the same episode this afternoon as Hitt and Kumanyika interviewed guests and dug into documents of the Civil War to report on slaves serving their masters in the Confederate Army, with special emphasis on a famous photograph of a slave, Silas Chandler, and his master, Andrew Chandler.  You can listen to this episode by clicking right here and finding it in the list of past episodes.

The Deke and I capped off our day by slip slidin' next door to visit Christy and Everett and to enjoy another slice of the heavenly cinnamon cake Christy baked for my birthday -- and there's still some left!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/28/17: Three Weird Tales, Lauren Ober and DC Nostalgia, I Discovered *American Routes*

1.  I returned to the world of podcasts today after figuring out how to call them up on my Alexa App through TuneIn. I listened to an episode of Criminal entitled "Unexpected Guests." Host Phoebe Judge had put out a request for listeners to email her stories of weird things that had happened to them over the years. Two of the stories were creepy and one was touching, a tale of trust and goodwill, but weird all the same. Want to hear these stories? Click here.

2. Listening to Lauren Ober hosting WAMU and NPR's The Big Listen (a broadcast about podcasts) is emotionally risky business for me. For reasons I don't understand, listening to Lauren Ober call her listeners "pals" and her calling Washington, D. C. "the capital of America" along with her other verbal quirks and hoarse intonations that always make me smile, and, hearing the music composed for the program, brings me to tears, nostalgic tears.

I used to listen to The Big Listen on my phone while walking in D. C. or on the radio while driving between Greenbelt and DC Brau and so hearing the show get underway with Lauren Ober's weekly pitch about NPR radio, transports me back to strolling around the outside and inside of Union Station or walking in the Capitol Hill neighborhood or driving on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway through Greenbelt Park or driving on MD 201 past Rinaldi's Riverdale Bowl and traversing Decatur St. to connect with Baltimore Ave. and Bladensburg Rd, past all the Cottage City, MD shopping centers, fast food restaurants, auto and body repair shops, and two dialysis centers before crossing Eastern Avenue into D.C., turning right, and easing on down the little hill beside the Post Office to D. C. Brau.

Whether I drove down the Balt.-Wash. Parkway or down Rt. 201, the trip was hardly picturesque, except when passing through Greenbelt Park (a National Park, by the way). So when I miss this drive, it's not for its beauty. I simply came to love where I lived for those three years and the voice of Lauren Ober brings it all back.

If you'd like to listen to the episode entitled, "The Big Listen's Favorite New Podcasts of 2017 (That Aren't S-Town)", just click here and then click on the "Listen" triangle in the lavender box. You can also see a picture of Lauren Ober hugging a nutcracker.

I also listened to a food history episode on Burnt Toast, the podcast of the blog Food 52. In just fourteen minutes, this podcast episode gives its listeners quite a history lesson on food swindlers and the history of margarine. If you'd like to know how food isn't always what it appears to be and learn more about margarine, just click here and go to the second episode on the list.

3. So, learning to work with TuneIn on the Alexa app turned out to be great fun. My last discovery of the night was New Orleans Public Radio (WWNO) and the weekly program American Routes. Host Nick Spitzer spends two hours every show focusing on some aspect of American music with plenty of songs and interviews. His show that broadcast back on December 18, 2013 featured Richard Thompson and Zachary Richard -- it's titled "Songs of the Expatriates". You, too, can listen to this show! Just click right here. You'll get to hear Cajun, Creole, early rock, English folk/rock, Queen Ida, Clifton Chenier, Michael Ducet, Los Lobos, Fairport Convention, Fats Domino, and a whole lot more, including Richard Thompson singing a song in French!

By the way, my day of listening also included listening to almost all of The Grateful Dead's seminal album, Europe '72.  It features some great blues songs, a fine Hank Williams cover, one my favorite traditional songs ("I Know You Rider"), righteous keyboards by Pigpen, wicked guitar work by Jerry Garcia, some energetic rock and roll, and many passages of vocal beauty.

So, today, all day, there was snow falling and night falling fast oh fast and I listened on my Echo Dot as the day went past.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/27/17: Birthday Workout, Groceries and Soup and Creme Brulee, Cornbread and Cinnamon Dinner

1.  Today I turned 64 years old.

I don't remember the last time I was with the Deke on my birthday. From looking at my blog posts, I'd say it was 2011, but I didn't post anything for 12/27/2011, but I know we were together for Christmas two days earlier.

So, this morning, we started off my birthday by working out at the Wellness Center, happy that we are upright, have a pulse, and can move our legs and lift some weights.

2.  We had some packages come from Amazon, including an Echo Dot. I got it set up to work on its own, but could not get it to connect wirelessly via Bluetooth to the Bose Soundtouch 10 speaker. I'll read support forums and seek out other help and work on this more on Thursday.

The Deke and I went grocery shopping at Yoke's where I also ordered a prime rib for New Year's Eve dinner.

After shopping, we stopped in at Radio Brewing for some Inner Sanctum Strong Ale and a bowl of heavenly, perfectly spiced, creamy mulligatawny soup, a perfect soup to warm up our insides on this snowy, cold afternoon.

I've made mulligatawny soup several times and, back in the really old days, I used to enjoy the occasional bowl at Bagel Bakery, prepared by the lovely woman from England who owned the place with her husband. Neither my mulligatawny nor the Bagel Bakery's was dairy-based. Radio Brewing's mulligatawny had the velvety texture of a fine cream of mushroom soup, a welcome surprise, and finishing my bowl left me warmed, but longing for a refill.

Because it was my birthday, I got to split a creme brulee on the house. Oh, my! That crispy nearly burnt sugar layer atop the vanilla-y egg and cream custard underneath satisfied my never ending craving for brown sugar and vanilla, whether in oatmeal, cookies, or, as today, this creme brulee.

Eating this dessert transported me back to October 17, 2011. I did some beer shopping at Market of Choice. I was just beginning my dive into craft beer and I bought and drank a bomber of Southern Tier's Creme Brulee Stout.  This beer is not readily available in the Silver Valley, but I hope I can find it again somewhere in the Inland Empire over the next few months to enjoy as a dessert beer at just the right time.  It's a flavor-bomb of custard and brown sugar and vanilla brewed in an Imperial Stout, packing a 10% a.b.v. punch -- you gotta be careful drinkin' this one -- its sweet imperial booziness carries a wallop.

3. I decided that for my birthday dinner that I  wanted two things: cornbread and cinnamon. So, knowing that we didn't eat a lot of the Deke's Cuban black bean soup on Christmas Eve and knowing that it would taste perfect with cornbread, I asked the Deke to serve the soup again. She added spinach and sausage to the soup, improving it -- I didn't think that was possible. To compliment the soup, she baked perfect cornbead muffins using Bob's Red Mill cornmeal and whole wheat flour so that were just the way I like them: grainy, a little bit heavy, and full of good corn flavor. I also asked the Deke, who makes awesome salads,  to concoct one of her masterpieces for dinner and to work apples into the salad. She did.  The salad rocked.

Now how about my request for cinnamon?


Christy baked and iced a moist, buttery, sweet and cinnamon-y cinnamon cake. It was such a work of culinary art, so far beyond my meager abilities in the kitchen, that I don't have the proper vocabulary to describe all that Christy did to bring this magnificent cake into being. I can report that I agreed with the Deke when she gushed that it tasted like wedding cake combined with cinnamon rolls. I am really happy that our party of ten didn't eat the entire cake. I look forward to more on Thursday -- possibly with a cup of hot coffee.

My words might fall short, but what I can do is show a picture of my birthday cake and invite you to let the taste buds of your imagination go wild! Oh! You can find the recipe right here.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/26/17: Cuss Box at Ace, Cleaning, Greco-Cuban Dinner

1. After I wrote in my blog this morning, I jumped right on getting some house business done. I put bills in the mail and I went on a string of errands: pharmacy, monthly blood draw at Shoshone Medical Center, bank, and some shopping at Ace Hardware. While at Ace, looking at stainless steel cleaner, hardwood floor mops, and other cleaning supplies, I heard a string of good-natured, fake demanding and fake complaining profanities ring out from the front of the store. It was Donnie Rinaldi, asking where he might find glue.

When we were kids, someone bought Dad a cuss box. It was a coin bank, oval in shape with an inscription on the front about paying the bank for cussing.  Hey! Look! Online, I found a picture of a cuss box just like the one we had:

Well, back in the cuss box days, Christy and I hatched a sure fire get rich scheme. We imagined getting out the cuss box when Donnie Rinaldi came to visit. We'd charge him for every cuss word and soon the cuss box would be full of nickels, dimes, and quarters.

We never carried out this scheme, but today at Ace, when I heard Donnie cussing loud enough that I could hear him toward the back of the store, my first thought was, "Donnie's here. Get out the cuss box!"

Ha! By the way, Donnie and I reached the cashier at the same time and exchanged hopes that we'd each had a Merry Christmas and wished each other a Happy New Year. It was genuinely heartfelt moment with someone I've known my entire life and who was, along with Rosie, a great friend with Mom and Dad.

2. Back home, I put the cleaning supplies to good use. I had burned a lot of Cuban mojo on a Pyrex pan and spent 20-25 minutes scrubbing it. I almost attained a level of Mary Idell West Woolum cleanliness, but upon a review of the pan a little later in the day, I saw a missed a spot or two. Darn! I cleaned other surfaces in the kitchen, thinking it would be nice if we could keep our new kitchen looking pretty good for a while, at least.

3. I got out the broiled vegetables I made for Christmas Eve dinner, heated up a batch, combined them with white rice and feta cheese and declared to myself that I had just made a Greco-Cuban dish for dinner. It was mighty tasty. Speaking of tasty, later the Deke and I hiked through the snow next door to Christy and Everett's and had a couple of hot drinks using Christy's unbelievably good batter.  The Deke drank hot buttered brandy and I had hot buttered rum. The only reason I would want it to be cold and snowy all year long? Then I could drink hot drinks all year long! They hit the spot.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/25/17: Christmas Brunch, Family Gifts, Winding Down and Making More Plans

1. Our family Christmas celebration began around 10:30 this morning with brunch at Carol's. Christy made a delicious breakfast casserole featuring elk sausage and she brought some pumpkin and banana bread one of Everett's daughters had given her. The Deke made a terrific fruit salad and we were all offered a morning champagne cocktail called a Poinsettia and Paul and Carol had a generous pot of Christmas blend coffee ready to drink.

2. It was fun, then, going around the room opening gifts. All kinds of fun surprises emerged: a sewing machine, yarn, books, Carol giving Paul a book of coupons representing twelve ideas for dates over the next year, blouses, shirts, hats, a milk frother, knitted neck warmers, jigsaw puzzles, bottles of wine, truffles, and a variety of other thoughtful presents spread out among the ten of us. I am looking forward to reading and cooking out of the cookbook Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat that Christy and Everett gave me. Maybe one day I'll wear my new Hill St. Depot T-shirt while redeeming our Radio Brewing gift certificate. I think the bottle of Merlot might pair well with my birthday dinner on Wednesday, the 27th, and I look forward to enjoying the bottles of 208 Session Ale from Grand Teton Brewing. I have hot chocolate to enjoy, chocolate truffles to eat and share, beer bread to bake, and pictures of Christy and Everett to hang on our wall or display another way along with a gorgeous calendar that Christy made.

3. We all took it easy in our own ways in the afternoon: naps, knitting, jigsaw puzzle, listening to classic rock, setting up the Harry Potter version of Clue, reading. Around five o'clock we got together again at Carol and Paul's and dove into the leftovers from our Cuban Christmas Eve dinner and our brunch. I worked on trying to figure out what I'd like for my birthday dinner and, by the time the Deke and I returned home, I had it figured out. I know I want cornbread and then I thought that since we have a lot of black bean soup left over from Christmas Eve, we can have that soup and cornbread with salad and I asked for some kind of a cinnamon cake for dessert. Now we just need to know who will participate and, once we know that, whose house will host my birthday dinner. 

Monday, December 25, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/24/17: Twenty Years Later in Kellogg, Smoke Up the House, Cuban Dinner

1. Ah, Christmas Eve. On this day twenty years ago, early in the afternoon, after lunch at Lindaman's on Grand Blvd. in Spokane, the Deke and I pulled up to the Hitchin' Post Lakeside Chapel on Government Way in Coeur d'Alene and, after securing a marriage license across the street at the courthouse, slipped into the chapel, stood before the resident pastor, and repeated our vows to one another and got married.

Then we drove to Kellogg. We arrived a little early, much to Mom's dismay because when we pulled up in the blue compact Chevy pickup, we could see Mom through the picture window, rollers in her hair, vacuuming in preparation for our arrival.

Mom set aside any irritation she might have felt, though, welcomed us enthusiastically and our honeymoon at 516 W. Cameron was underway.

Now, twenty years later, Mom is no longer with us and the Deke and I live in our honeymoon house.

We started our day the way we always do: fed the dogs, I blogged, we drank coffee, and we yakked about the upcoming day.

And, just like twenty years ago, we started to get ready for this year's version of another culture's food for Christmas Eve dinner. Twenty years ago, we ate a Native American meal, featuring salmon grilled on cedar planks. Today, we would prepare Cuban food and have a Cuban dinner at Carol and Paul's.

2. The Deke took over the kitchen first and filled it with smells of onion, red pepper, oregano, and black bean's as she made a beautiful and very delicious soup called Gloria's Black Bean Soup.

Earlier, I started making my contribution by making mojo. I combined garlic, olive oil, fresh oregano leaves, and lime juice into a bowl. I extracted one tablespoon from it and mixed it with olive oil and red wine vinegar and combined it with romaine lettuce and a spring mix of greens. This would become the bottom layer of my dish:  Grilled-Vegetable Salad with Cuban Mojo.

After the Deke finished making Gloria's Black Bean Soup, I proceeded to fill the house with smoke.

You see, my job entailed grilling green peppers, red bell peppers, zucchini, sweet onion, and eggplant to spread atop the lettuce and greens. I generously covered the zucchini, sweet onion, and eggplant with mojo, but, well, because we don't have a grill, I broiled the vegetables until they were charred. Charring multiple batches of mojo covered vegetable slices smoked up the house. I turned the oven fan/vent on high. For a while the Deke and I felt like we had moved into a house sitting beneath jets taking off from O'Hare Airport. The two lower speeds are much quieter, but if we want to crank up the fan on full blast, it's intense. Ha!

3. Carol, Paul, Molly, Travis, Zoe, Cosette, Christy, Everett, the Deke, and I enjoyed conversation and cocktails and appetizers for a while and then we sat down at the Christmas Eve table after Carol instructed us in the traditions of Christmas in Cuba. Here's what comprised our awesome Cuban Christmas dinner:


Cuba Libre (Paul)
Mojitos (Paul)


Croquetas de Jambo (Jane McShane)
Crab Empanadas with Pickled Garlic-Caper Remoulade (Molly and Travis)
Garlic Plantain Chips (Molly and Travis)


Gloria's Black Bean Soup (the Deke)
Avocado Salad (Cosette)
Pan Cubano (Carol)
Roasted Pork Shoulder Marinated with Mojo (Carol)
Grilled-Vegetable Salad with Mojo (Bill)
Yellow Rice (Christy)


Turron de Coco (Zoe)

Carol created a Pinterest board called "Christmas in Cuba" and, if you visit it, you can find links to each of the food recipes by going right here. Want to make the cocktails? You are on your own to find those recipes!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/23/17: We Keep Moving In, L-Shaped Space, Uptown on Saturday Night

1. We are getting closer to being moved into our new house, the house that was Mom and Dad's for fifty-five years. Yes, we've been living in our new house since the end of September, but our move to Kellogg won't be completed until we have every room furnished and arranged the way we want it. It will probably be a while before we finish getting the front bedroom established, but today we got close to having the kitchen figured out. I brought up a few boxes of kitchenware and non-perishable food items that have been in the basement for over a month and we decided where to put some things and we decided what items will live in the basement as surplus.

Our goal is to try to keep the kitchen from having too much in it so that it's easy to get to pots and pans and dishes and food and other things and easy to get them out. We also want to keep the countertops and the kitchen table as cleared off as possible.

Soon we'll start deciding what to put on the walls.

2. I cooked a little bit in the kitchen today. So did the Deke.  We both love having room to move about freely. Given how much we value open space in our living areas, even in the small places we've been living in since leaving Eugene, our decision to have an L-shaped kitchen rather than a U-shaped one was the best decision we could have made. Yes, we gave up cupboard and counter space, but we have reduced our kitchenware and have a lot of room in the basement for our few surplus items.  Psychologically, it's turned out to be a great decision not to have cupboards above the counters by the kitchen window that faces north. Again, this gives our kitchen a much more open feel and we'll do fine without the storage space.

We both love it when we can move around without encumbrance when we cook and that we can both work comfortably in the kitchen together and not collide or get in one another's way. I'm wondering if our kitchen will, on occasion, be a social place. Our kitchen in Eugene was. Maybe this one will be, too.

3.  After a domestic day of reading recipes, making a grocery list, putting up curtains, clearing off kitchen counters, and finishing other tasks, the Deke and I ventured out into the late December darkness toward uptown Kellogg.

We wanted to see the bright lights tonight.

Debbie wanted to visit with Paige at Radio Brewing. I dropped her off and went to Yoke's and bought the groceries we need to cook our contributions to Christmas Eve dinner.

I returned to Radio Brewing and enjoyed a couple of short pours of Inner Sanctum, that warming strong ale I love.

My nieces Cosette and Molly were at a big table full of youngsters. Molly's husband Travis was there, too. It was fun to hear the laughter and good cheer coming from all of them.

We decided to head home, but as we slipped and slid down McKinley Avenue, we didn't have the fortitude to resist a stop at the Inland Lounge.

We arrived and we were Bob and Tracy's only customers.

We yakked and laughed and reminisced and then, suddenly, Bob went to the jukebox, and, in honor of the Deke and me having our 20th wedding anniversary coming up on Christmas Eve, he played Donna Fargo's unforgettable 1972 hit song, "The Luckiest Girl in the Whole USA".

We laughed more, promised we'd back at the Lounge on Christmas Eve for some more wedding anniversary celebration and headed back home.

We put on Pandora's Ray Conniff Holiday station on Pandora and shared the quart growler of Radio's strong ale we brought home. We listened to Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis, Percy Faith, the Ray Conniff singers and others perform a string of Christmas songs, a nostalgic and soul satisfying way to bring a fun evening to a close.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/22/17: Breakfast at Sam's, Conscientious Contractor, Home Cooked Dinner After a Long Absence

1. I sprang up this morning at 5:30, fed Maggie and Charly, and walked through the fresh snow down to Sam's where Buff, Scott B., Ed, and I had breakfast -- as we regularly do on Friday morning.  It had already been a tough day for Ed plowing snow at the post offices in the Kellogg/Cataldo end of the Silver Valley. But, he seized a few opportunities to pick on our server -- and she gets him right back -- and it sounded like everyone has a pretty good weekend planned with Christmas around the corner. Buff's plans are the most ambitious: he and Kathy will visit their son and his family in Baton Rouge and spend some time enjoying the holiday merriment of New Orleans.

2. We had a problem with the electricity rear its head after Shawn and Trevor buttoned up the job on Wednesday. Shawn looked at things first thing Thursday morning, but he had a full day scheduled, and couldn't fix it right away. No problem. This morning, he and Trevor came by the house to see if Shawn's idea for a solution would work.  It did. Now the ceiling lights in the kitchen are back on and so is the juice in the garage. Shawn will be back in early 2018 with an electrician to further improve some funky features of our electric system.

I appreciate Shawn being so conscientious. Technically speaking, his work with us was finished when Trevor and he buttoned things up on Wednesday, but when I contacted him very early Thursday morning to tell him we had this electrical problem, he came right to the house and devised a plan to address the problem and carried out the plan this morning.

3. Both the Deke and I were tired after working out at the Wellness Center this morning. Later in the day, however, we mustered up the oomph to talk with each other about dinner.  I dragged myself out the front door, scraped ice off the Sube, and slipped and slid over to Yokes and bought a few grocery items.

I returned home and fixed dinner for the first time using our new gas range. I lightly oiled chicken thighs and, at the Deke's request, made a return to her childhood days and I perked them up with some Johnny's Seasoning Salt and baked the chicken in our new oven. I cooked some rice and boiled some broccoli for a few minutes to get the cooking going and then I finished cooking the broccoli on the stovetop griddle.

This was our first cooked-at-home-with-a-stove-and-oven meal since about a week before Thanksgiving. I loved cooking again, even though I could feel how rusty I am, and the Deke and I loved eating at the dining table in our new roomier kitchen, deeply grateful that we will be enjoying many home cooked meals in our Kellogg home once again. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/21/17: Birthday Music, Love Seat, Pie and Hot Buttered Rum

1. Today was the Deke's birthday and we celebrated it in low key fashion.  For starters, I got more familiar with our new Bose wireless speaker and we had a great day listening to acoustic blues, bluegrass, and a variety of stringed instrumental tunes by a variety of players, including Allison Krauss, Sam Bush, Edgar Meyer, Tony Furtado, Tony Rice, and many others on Pandora's Jerry Douglas channel. This music did my soul a ton of good.

For a little while we listened to the Stan Rogers station. We heard both Stan Rogers and his brother Garnet sing songs that had me tearing up. Stan Rogers' sea song, "White Squall" is as sad a song of loss as there is. You can listen to it here.

My favorite Garnet Rogers songs were his versions of poems written by the Australian poet Henry Lawson. They were released early in his recording career, after Stan died in a 1983 jet crash, and Garnet Rogers began to record solo albums. We heard one of the Lawson poem/songs today,"The Sliprails and the Spur," a song of separation and deep longing.  I wish I could link you to a video of him singing this song, but I can link you to the poem. It's here.  I can also tell you that the song appears on Garnet Rogers' album, Speaking Softly in the Dark.

2. The Deke and I were very happy when the Furniture Exchange called to say our new love seat could be delivered this afternoon. It arrived and will be the piece of furniture we will build the rest of the living room around. We are determined to keep our furniture to a minimum in the living room and to leave plenty of space so that we can move easily through the room. With the love seat in place, we are imagining many possibilities for what else to furnish the room with and stay within our minimalist vision for the living room.

3. Christy, Everett, and Carol came over to our house at 6:00 so we could enjoy the birthday pie Christy baked, served with ice cream.  The Deke requested it because of how much she loved this pie at Thanksgiving. Christy made the pie a day or so ahead of time to give the currants plenty of time to soak in brandy and because it's a pie whose flavors benefit from sitting overnight. The pie is called Apple Cranberry Currant Pie with French Topping. It's one of the most delicious pies I've ever tasted and the recipe is no secret. It's right here.

After pie, we all traipsed over to Christy and Everett's where Christy had made an awesome hot buttered rum batter and we ended the night with a sweet, hot, and tasty nightcap.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/20/17: Buttoned Up, Wellness and Coffee, Back to Charles Dickens

1.  I think the term in the construction business is "button up". Today Shawn and Trevor buttoned up the remodel project: the appliances are installed, they cleaned up things, and moved sawhorses, saws, and other thing out of the garage. I'd say I was feeling a little disoriented, oddly enough. We have lived for several weeks without a kitchen and it took me a while to adjust to the reality that we have one now. But, by evening, I started bringing dishes and pots and other non-food items up from the basement and we cleaned them and we started to make decisions about how to set up the kitchen. When the counters are less cluttered with things to put away and we've created some sense of order, I'll take some pictures.

2. While our project was being buttoned up, the Deke and I returned to the Wellness Center and spent an hour or so on cardio and weight machines. I'm noticing the most difference in my midsection (I think the term of art is "core"). It's getting a little stronger. Both of us are sleeping better and we are doing a very good job of encouraging one another to stick to our MWF routine of getting out there.

Before working out, Ed called me after he'd been plowing snow this morning. It's his awful winter job. We met up at The Bean. Joanne, Mom's occupational therapist at the hospital swept in, sat at a table next to ours. I introduced Joanne and Ed to each other and we fell into a fun conversation about Joanne's move to Kellogg, my mom, and her husband's job at Radio Brewing. Before long, her husband, Brendon (sp?) arrived, and the four of us had fun talking more.

When we moved back to Kellogg, I knew I'd have great times with my lifelong friends, like Ed, but I never imagined I'd meet so many new people and make so many fun acquaintances.

3. Back in the old days, when the Deke and I moved to the D. C. area, we spent the first three months living with Molly and Hiram in Alexandria. At that time, I started reading Charles Dickens' Great Expectations on buses and on the Metro and other places, but, for some reason, when I came to Kellogg to help out with Mom in November, even though I brought the book with me, I stopped reading it.

I've decided to return to Great Expectations -- it's quite a different book than The Bronx is Burning. I started it over again and, for some reason, three years later, I'm enjoying it more. Dickens wrote the story in the first person, so everything happens from Pip's point of view. The early part of the story sets in motion Pip living with his cruel sister and kind brother-in-law and dives into a weird tale about a escaped convict whom Pip encounters in the marshes.

When I read fiction, it's marveling at a story's point of view that I enjoy the most and, in the early part of Great Expectations, when Pip is feeling frightened and guilty (he stole from his sister), Dickens brings those feelings alive in the landscape of the marsh. From Pip's anxious and guilt-ridden point of view, the marsh becomes a hellscape of fog, cattle, mud, and darkness, all of it seeming to bear witness to what Pip feels because of the petty crime he committed and the escaped convict he confronts.

I love how Dickens' brings landscapes (and cityscapes) alive with his characters' feelings as these characters project what's happening inside of them onto the physical world outside of them and the physical world comes surrealistically animated and distorted by their guilt, fear, anxiety, and other emotions.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/19/17: Countertops In, Appliances Arrive, *The Bronx is Burning* Done

1.  Our gray quartz countertops went in today. We like the way they look with the color of the kitchen wall and the warmth of the hardwood floor. The kitchen will be cluttered another day with paint cans, tool belts, and other things belonging to Shawn and Trevor. Once cleared out, I'll take pictures.

2. The pictures will also include our appliances because Sherri and Brock from Watts Appliances delivered them today. On Wednesday, Shawn and Sherri and Brock will finish placing and installing them, but we can use our refrigerator now. Our appliances are stainless steel so the kitchen has a partly industrial look. We hope the warmth of the wood floors offsets the coolness of the stainless steel and we are scheming ways to bring even more color into our kitchen with hangings on the wall and other additions. This project is nearing completion.

3. While work was going on all over the house with countertops, appliance delivery, electricity, light covers, further clean up, and other assorted tasks, I finished reading the splendid book Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics and the Battle for the Soul of a City. 1977 was a wild, dangerous, frightening year of upheaval in New York City: the Son of Sam killer shot several young people, the July blackout led to widespread looting and arson, apart from the blackout, arson was on the rise, racial tensions increased, tabloids screamed frightening headlines; several candidates ran for mayor in three sharp-elbowed races, the Democratic primary, followed by a runoff between Ed Koch and Mario Cuomo when no candidate won 40 percent of the primary vote, and finally the mayor's race itself, won by Koch.  The city was in the throes of a fiscal crisis.

Where could a person find some respite? Well, many followed the day to day melodrama in the New York Yankees divisive clubhouse where Reggie Jackson and manager Billy Martin were at the center of one controversy after another and many followed the Yankees' dramatic exploits on the baseball field which climaxed in a thrilling World Series victory for the Yankees, topped off by Reggie Jackson catapulting three home runs in Yankee Stadium on three consecutive pitches from three different pitchers, bringing the season and the World Series to a thundering conclusion.

Jonathan Mahler's book weaves all of these stories and more together into an enthralling work of political and cultural history, one that helps us see that much of what we currently see in the worlds of journalism, politics, sports, and social conflict is a continuation of what was occuring forty years ago in 1977 -- and what was happening in 1977 was a continuation of what was happening in the decades leading up to it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/18/17: Celebrating Peny's Life, Working Out, Looting and Arson in '77

1. Christy, Paul, Carol, and I piled into the Malibu and Paul drove us uptown to the Kellogg Elks Club where we attended the 11:00 a.m. Celebration of Life for Peny Benson. The hall was packed to capacity. Christy and I joined Sally Nordstrum and Jan Lucas at a table and we fell right into great conversation together as we got better acquainted and recalled moments from the past that tied us together. I saw people I knew, or have known, everywhere I looked: Ray, Mary Rae, and Brent Faraca, Lois Dahlberg, Brian, Butch, Clarence, and Betty Moore, Susan and Joe Kerns, Mike and Nancy Peacock, Bob and Lynn Cummings, Jay Huber, Dale Costa, Madeline Johnson, Terry Douglas, Billy Manthos, and more.  I saw many people I thought I should know but my memory failed me.  But, the longer I live in Kellogg, the more I get reacquainted with people I used to know and the more I meet again people whom I had temporarily forgotten about.

This is the third service this year I've attended that Rev. Ken Bartel officiated. I know that we live in times in the Christian world when charismatic, demonstrative, and upbeat pastors are very popular, and I really enjoy that Rev. Ken Bartel is low-key, rock solid, thoughtful, and calm. He eulogized Peny beautifully, emphasizing that Peny was a "very beloved and beautiful spirit." Both of Peny's sons, Tom and Eric, wrote eulogies for their mother and Rev. Bartel read them with great dignity.

Peny loved cheeseburgers. Therefore, the service was followed by a hamburger/cheeseburger feed as the chefs at the Elks Club cooked up their famous burgers for any and all who stayed for more visiting and more remembrances of Peny.

I also thought about how much Peny and I laughed together at the nursing home. I saw her regularly when Mom was there and she kindly enjoyed my wisecracks, whether in her room or in the dining hall. Peny came to Mom's service and I got in one last wisecrack and we had one last laugh together. When she came through the reception line after the service, I asked her if I'd done okay officiating the service. She told me I had. I told her I'd be able to sleep well that night because my efforts received the Peny Benson seal of approval.  We had a good laugh and that was our last exchange, our last interaction before she passed away on November 26th.

You can read Peny Benson's obituary, here.

2. The Deke and I have decided to go on a MWF schedule for working out at the Wellness Center. Normally, we go in the morning, but morning didn't work today, so we dashed out to Smelterville in the afternoon and did some cardio work and I focused on lifting weights with my legs and on strengthening my back and abs.

3. We are closing in on the time when we will have a kitchen again, but, since we don't, we decided to have some chips and salsa and split a lamb burger at Radio Brewing. Paige updated us on what lies ahead for her sisters' treatments and how her injured husband is progressing. The Deke left the bar and went to a table with Becky to yak for a while and I happily stayed at the bar, drank water, and continued to read about the harrowing blackout in the Northeast and in NYC on July 13-14, 1977 and the terrible problems with arson in NYC in the mid-70s as reported by Jonathan Mahler in Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx is Burning.

In the same way that people look to baseball as a way to temporarily escape day to day difficulties, as I read this book, I'm starting to yearn for the storyline to return to the Yankees as a way to escape the mayhem many parts of New York City experienced in the summer of 1977 -- even though I know that day to day life on the Yankees was chaotic. But, at least, the clubhouse turmoil didn't result in looting, arson fires, and law enforcement and fire fighters being overwhelmed by the magnitude of destruction. It basically just fed tabloid headlines.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/17/17: 1977, Picturing a NYC Tour, Fixing Fisherman's Soup

1. Our floors needed one more coat of varnish, so, early this afternoon, the Deke and I packed up a few things and moved for the day and night to Carol and Paul's. The Deke dashed uptown to knit with her friends at Radio Brewing and I spent much of the afternoon absorbed in The Bronx is Burning. The baseball content of this book brings back memories -- I was watching the Saturday Game of the Week on NBC when Reggie Jackson and Bill Martin nearly came to blows in the Yankees' dugout --, and this thread of the book is very good.

Even more, I'm enjoying the social, cultural, and political history and the history of events. Until today, I'd never known about the deeper background of disco and how its origins are very similar to the beginnings of hip-hop. Reading about the 1977 blackout is harrowing. In 1977, a mayoral race took place and it's fascinating to read about Bella Abzug, Mario Cuomo, Ed Koch, and the incumbent, Abe Beame. I enjoy this book's braided narrative, how Mahler alternates back and forth between story lines. This style of storytelling enriches the sense of how much was going on simultaneously in NYC in 1977 and how many different histories were all occurring at the same time.

After dinner, I returned to reading this book and decided to put in the earbuds and listen to the Hits of 1977 channel on Pandora at the same time. I was a newlywed in 1977, married only three months when the year started. I was employed at Whitworth College, first as a Chaplain's Assistant and then as an instructor, teaching English Composition. As I listened to songs by Thelma Houston, Leo Sayers, Barry Manilow, The Bee Gees, The Steve Miller Band, Manfred Mann's Earth Band, The Climax Blues Band, Carly Simon, Rod Stewart, Rita Coolidge, ABBA, ELO, David Soul, Kenny Rogers, Fleetwood Mac, and others, I had memories flash back of how much I enjoyed living with my first wife on Mountain View Lane north of Spokane in the cottage next to the Hunts' house and how I loved working at Whitworth and how empowered and fulfilled teaching made me feel.

I played poker in 1977 with guys from Whitworth, many of them former and current residents of South Warren Hall, and the radio was always on while we played and some many of these songs, for better or worse, came on and remembered the cheap watery pilsners and lagers and the salty snacks and the chocolate bars and the banter of those poker games and it was fun to be back in Spokane in 1977 again.

2. I'm reading this book thanks to the recommendation of Scott Shirk. Back in the old days, when I lived on the East Coast, Scott and I did some roaming around Manhattan and enjoyed pints of delicious beers brewed out east and this evening we texted back and forth for a while and I thought it would be fun when I return to NYC one of these days, to plan a walking + MTA tour of NYC, using places mentioned in The Bronx is Burning to guide us. We could visit the locations of such cultural sites as Studio 54 and CBGB, walk on the High Line again and look down on the piers and talk about all the forbidden things that happened there in the 1970s, and decide on other landmarks to observe and watering holes to visit, knowing that many, if not all, of the landmark joints from forty years ago are most likely closed.

3. We had family dinner tonight at Carol and Paul's and I got to be the cook. I hadn't cooked since Thanksgiving Day, aside from a couple of ventures on the hot plate in the basement. I love fish soup and I found a recipe called "Fisherman's Soup" on Pinterest and gave it a shot. It's a tomato based soup, not heavily seasoned, and I loaded it up with tilapia, beyond what the recipe called for, and the suggested amount of shrimp. I successfully subbed green olives for the capers, having no capers on hand.  It turned out to be a very good soup, especially on this snowy Kellogg day, and the Deke told me I should make it every day. If you'd like to check out the recipe, I can help you do that. Just click here.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/16/17: Gift Card Surprise, Revelers at the Lounge, I Found the Deke

1. For much of the day, we just couldn't bring ourselves to leave the house. I sat in a rocking chair in our nearly empty living room and watched the snow fall fast oh fast and drank cup after cup of French Roast coffee with whole milk.

At one point, I decided to purchase a Bose wireless speaker and an Echo dot to go with it as birthday gifts for the Deke and me. I thought I'd help out my purchase by using some money remaining on an Amazon gift card we'd received a year ago.

I went online to check the balance and Amazon's site showed zero. That didn't seem right. I dug around some more, kept getting the same answer, and gave up.

When it came time to make my purchase, I thought what the hell -- I'll enter the gift card code and see if anything good happens. Well, ha!, something awesome happened. I hadn't used the gift card. Somehow, back in October when I purchased our new printer and a cartridge -- and I thought I used this gift card -- I made the purchase with our debit card. I looked at our bank statement. It confirmed that I made the purchase with the debit card.

So, I had the pleasure of thinking I'd be using up some small sum leftover on this gift card and, instead, discovered the full two hundred bucks was still on it.

I laughed.

I still don't understand the mixup. I still don't understand why my investigation said the card had no balance. I no longer care.

The gift card covered almost the whole birthday purchase. When sales tax got added in, that's all we had to cover.

I'm laughing again.

I was so tickled I bought myself a Kindle edition of Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City. You can read more about the book, here.

Sometimes the fact that I'm a dufus pays me off with fun surprises.

2.  I went out and knocked the snow of the Sube and the Deke and I went to Hill St. Depot where we split a pork burrito and I had a cup of taco chili.

Our plan was to finish dinner and go up to the Inland Lounge and have a drink and come home.

So much for plans.

Not long after arriving at the Lounge, an avalanche of revelers, including Santa Claus, rolled in. They were on a bar to bar "sleigh ride". I think the "sleigh" was actually some kind of truck, but this boisterous bunch was spreading holiday cheer from one joint to the next. They even sang a loud and slurred Christmas song.

Before I knew it, this group swallowed up the Deke. She left me at the bar and joined a knot of her recent acquaintances at a table and then returned to the bar and told me she was jumping on the sleigh. She thought she'd be back at the Hill St. Depot, and told me, "I don't have my phone but if I need to reach you, I'll figure it out."

My face lit up. The Deke is weaving herself right into the Kellogg fabric.

So, away she went along with the rest of the merry boozers and carolers and I turned my attention to the Zags' game and guarded Julie Crnkovitch's purse with my life while she went to ladies room.

I also talked about the good old days in DeMolay with Pat Kenyon and how the rituals were so serious, but we Kellogg guys really weren't. We were in DeMolay to have fun with other guys, to put on dances, do some community service, and to take wild trips to other parts of the state for Conclave -- not to mention, to show boys from around the state a wild time in the Silver Valley when our chapter hosted Conclave back in the spring of 1970.

Julie returned to her purse. Earlier in the day, Julie had been cooking across the street at the Elks Club for the annual Silver Valley Christmas Dinner and Toy Program where about three hundred people enjoyed a free and generous dinner and children went home with bicycles, tricycles, stuffed animals, and all kinds of other gifts.

Julie was at the bar now, still in her kitchen apron, drinking her signature cocktail: a pint glass filled with Scotch and water and ice.

She returned to her seat and we got to yakkin' about trips she took to Lake Tahoe when she drove Johnny Barnett's Cadillac and she and Johnny's wife, Mary Lou sat in the front seat while Julie's husband, Frankie, sat with Johnny and drank gin in the back seat and they all laughed and told stories and powered their way from Kellogg to Tahoe.

Julie is the only surviving member of that Tahoe in a Cadillac group. Now Julie helps out with Meals on Wheels, cooks at the Elks, takes care of her ailing younger sister in her condo, and chain smokes Camel filters over her pint glasses of Scotch and water on the rocks at the Inland Lounge.

While the Deke partied with the younger Kellogg crowd, I listened to Julie talk about the old timers in town and in the Valley, some still with us, others gone: Georgine, John Ernie, Mac, Seavy, Barney, and others who worked at the Water District. We talked about when she and Frankie ran Sam's until Frankie died and she kept it going for another few years and then sold it.

After a while, I decided I'd better go down to the Hill St. Depot and search for the Deke.

3. I found the Deke.

Right away.

She was enjoying a pint-sized red Solo Party Cup of Firestone Walker's Luponic Distortion and was yakkin' with County Commissioner and proud grandpa, Mike Fitzgerald. I joined them, ordered a Captain Morgan and Coke, and soon Mike's wife, Deanne, joined us.

Now I got to spend time with those the Deke and I refer to as members of the 21st century Kellogg. Deanne helps run the Silver Bee Community Garden along the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes in Kellogg. Mike came to Kellogg to work on the Milo Creek project in the late 90s and stayed. We got to talking about the number of people younger than the Deke and me who live in Kellogg and telecommute, have started new businesses (like the Hill St. Depot and Radio Brewing), work on jobs in other places, but live in Kellogg. Like Chip. Chip dropped by our table and we learned that he's an inspector who takes on jobs across the country, many for the federal government, but lives here.

The people on the sleigh ride? There were both young Kellogg natives on board and non-natives, people like Sarah and Becky and Ashley and Fred and Ron who care a lot about Kellogg's present and its future, but aren't from here and love their work and this town and are doing all they can to add to the fun of living here.

Because it starts getting dark in Kellogg at about 3:30 in the afternoon, and because the temperatures have fallen into the 20s, when we left the Hill St. Depot, it seemed like it was about midnight -- but it was not long past 9:00 or so when we headed back home and stopped off at Christy and Everett's for a nightcap and more great conversation about life in Kellogg and our lives before we moved here.

What a great Saturday evening we had -- old friends, new friends, family, great conversations, great memories, and some lousy memories, too. 

Mostly, we enjoyed the good cheer of a great variety of people living here in Kellogg and the Silver Valley.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/15/17: Late for Breakfast, Snow Falling Fast, Pizza in the Shed

1. Friday morning breakfast at Sam's is at six o'clock and that was exactly what time I woke up. I hustled into my clothes and dashed in the Sube down the street where Jerry, Ed, and Scott B. were deep into a lot of storytelling and yakking. I braced myself for what I knew was coming: I was going to get picked on. "What happened? Your car spin out drivin' three blocks down here?" Etc. Soon, however, my time in the crucible was over and I joined in the Friday morning banter and enjoyed my hashbrowns, eggs, and English muffin breakfast.

2. As the day progressed, snow blanketed the Silver Valley. I had no desire to go out in it and spent much of the day trying to get my paper life a little more organized. I made a focused effort to find our Android tablet and, after a couple of hours, succeeded. I got an envelope containing all that was spoken at Mom's Celebration of Life ready to mail to one of Mom's dearest friends from her childhood. I still have other correspondence to catch up on. I'm not miles behind on things, but I have to admit, our house being under construction and disarray heightens the feeling that I am miles behind and not well organized. I'll keep working to relieve myself of this feeling.

3. During the day, Christy and Everett worked on sprucing up Christy's shed. They hung things on the walls, put up Christmas lights, put in some greenery, and arranged the furniture. Christy invited the Deke and me over for some appetizers and after a while we had a pizza delivered and we dove into it. The shed is warm, comfortable, and relaxing. With the snow falling and night falling (fast oh fast), I thought a hot drink would be satisfying and I went in Christy and Everett's house and mixed myself a Captain Morgan with hot water and topped it off with a dab of butter. In the bleak dark and cold of winter, especially here in the Silver Valley, I find some booze and boiling water very satisfying.

When I wrote "snow falling and night falling (fast oh fast)", you probably recognized this line as the opening of Robert Frost's poem "Desert Places". The poem was on my mind all day today and if you'd like to read it, just click here.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/14/17: Work Out, Shed Work, The Work Continues at Home

1. The Deke and I hit the treadmill and the weight machines today at the Wellness Center in Smelterville and enjoyed a good workout. Both of us are feeling better already.

2. Christy has had workers upgrading her back yard shed over the last couple of weeks and today she started moving furnishings into her newly painted, newly insulated, newly electrified space and the Deke and I gave her some help. The shed is shaping up to be just the sort of space Christy wants for some creative solitude and to host get togethers. I look forward to checking in on Friday to see her the progress she's made since Thursday afternoon getting the shed set up.

3.  The Deke made a scarf that she is giving to Paige's sister who has fallen ill. Paige was working tonight at Radio Brewing so we went up to deliver the scarf. We had a good talk with Paige.  We split an order of fish and chips and came back to our home where guys had worked all day on touch up tasks and a couple of installations.

We hit a couple of difficulties today with the ceiling fan and the stove vent. We are confident that these problems can be overcome and solved.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/13/17: Lunch at the Depot, Hospice Bereavement Service, Chuck Roast Family Dinner

1. Workers were back in the house today doing touch up work, installing our ceiling fan in the living room, and completing other tasks. The countertops and appliances come in on December 19th. The project should be pretty close to being done at that point -- maybe it will be done! It was a little noisy today and some work required the electricity to be off, so the Deke and I sashayed over to the Hill Street Depot for a light lunch and for some serious hanging out time. I enjoyed a bowl of taco chili. It warmed me up and tasted really good and paired well with the glass of Pepsi I drank. We had fun talking to each other and yakked it up with our servers, too.

2. Hospice of North Idaho put on a candlelight bereavement service at 5:30 at the church across the street and Christy, Carol, Paul, and I attended. I was moved and had good memories come back when I saw Andrea and Liz, Mom's hospice nurse and CNA. I relived good memories of talking with Andrea and Liz. They were a great help in explaining what was happening with Mom, especially as she was actively dying, and advocated on Mom's behalf to help make her last days as comfortable and free of pain as possible. Their honesty, knowledge, and care for Mom comforted me back in August and, during the service, I experienced grief in the form of gratitude for all Andrea and Liz did and gratitude that Mom could leave us in such a dignified way, in the company of her children and under attentive medical care.  After the service, I lingered in the sanctuary until the church was almost empty, with my lit candle, remembering Mom's last days and hours, thankful that my sisters and I live such lives that we, with the support of our spouses, could be with Mom almost every hour of the day and thankful for all that Hospice of North Idaho did to help Mom and the rest of us at that time and afterward.

3.  After the service, we had a family dinner at Christy and Everett's house. Christy prepared such a delicious and juicy chuck roast in the crock pot that I swear I could have eaten the whole thing myself had I been on my own! We also had egg noodles with gravy and Christy set out a plate of pickled asparagus and olives. It's been a very busy time at Christy and Everett's house as the work to upgrade Christy's backyard shed continues apace and I enjoyed slipping out back to see how handsome it looks. I look forward to seeing how Christy will furnish the shed and how she'll use it as a place of solitude and of hosting different kinds of get togethers.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/12/17: Exercise, Chili, Hot Plate Success

1. The Deke and I buzzed out to the Shoshone Medical Center Health and Fitness Center and joined up and, under the guidance of Johnny, got warmed up and then Johnny helped us get started with the upper body weight machines. She is a very good instructor -- encouraging, patient, of good humor, and clear in her directions -- and the Deke and I got off to a good start in our first effort to exercise and get in better shape.  I hope I spelled Johnny's name right.

2. Early in the afternoon, the Deke and I hopped up to Radio Brewing for a light lunch. The Deke had been hankering for Radio's Simple Salad with chicken and I greeted the good news that the soup of the day was chili by ordering a bowl. It came with large slices of garlic bread. On a cold, iron gray December day, the chili was perfect and paired splendidly with the Coke and a slice of lemon I ordered.

3. After my struggles -- was it a fiasco? (Naw...) -- in the basement yesterday cooking up some spaghetti, I decided to give hot plate cookery another try late this afternoon.  We bought a couple of bags of these frozen pasta chicken dinners. The idea is simple: pop open the bag, pour the contents in a skillet, cover the skillet, let it cook, uncover the skillet, stir the contents, put the lid back on, and cook the contents until they are done.

My pressing question today was whether the hot plate would generate enough heat to use our cast iron skillet that has a lid. I decided it wouldn't. But, I knew small pots worked. So, I divided the contents of the bag between two Revere Ware pots, added a little water, and Hallelujah! I was right. The contents warmed up and cooked up just fine in the pots. Once they were close to ready to eat, I dumped the contents of one pot into the other and augmented the dish by heating up a can of black beans. It gave the chicken and penne contents in the packet more substance and flavor. So did the addition of parmesan cheese.

I declared our Tuesday evening hot plate dinner a success.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/11/17: Road Trip to Stang's, Spaghetti on the Hot Plate, Appreciation

1. I was making some morning insurance calls. In the midst of my inquiries, Ed called and said today would be a good day for him to go see our classmate, Goose, in St. Regis. Goose owns Stang's Food Center and Liquor Store. At Stang's, customers can buy groceries, rent a U-Haul, gas up on Sinclair fuel, secure hunting and fishing licenses, grab a quick bit to eat at the deli, get fish bait, choose from a wide variety of liquor, and buy a firearm. Ed's mission? Buy a couple of bottles of Bartenders Hot Sex, a pre-mixed cocktail in a bottle featuring ginger liqueur, vodka, dairy cream, chocolate flavor, ginseng, and other natural flavors. Ed tried to find Bartenders Hot Sex in Idaho, but no luck, so we piled in his Camry and traveled 57 frosty and beautiful miles to St. Regis and Ed completed his mission -- and he bought a fifth of Boodles Dry Gin.

We had a great time at Stang's. Goose saw us in the store and we got to yak with him for a while and got caught up on all kinds of stuff, including that his life as a store owner is going pretty well.

It was a great trip. Ed and I shot some good breeze and we enjoyed the beauty of a clear blue day, dry roads, and mountains of frost tipped evergreens.

2.  Back in Kellogg, I decided to make spaghetti with a version of Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce. We don't have a kitchen yet, but we have a hot plate in the basement. I learned that the hot plate doesn't generate a lot of heat. I tried for about an hour or so to get a pot of water to boil so I could cook the pasta, but it wasn't happening. So, I got a small pot, transferred water from the big pot to the much smaller one, and boiled batches of water in our hot pot. Still, water would not reach a boiling point in the big pot.  Then I remembered that water would boil in the small pot. I knew this from having prepared oatmeal. So, I put hot pot boiled water in the small pot, brought it to a less than robust boil, broke spaghetti strands in half, and after about an hour and a half of trying to cook spaghetti, I succeeded. I fixed a batch of pasta for the Deke and another for me. It took a long time. I learned more about the limitations of our hot plate. But, I persisted. The dinner might not have been so good that it was worth the long wait, but it was just fine.

3. I washed the dinner dishes in the small bathroom sink in the basement. I'm doing all I can to make sure I appreciate having a kitchen sink and a stove to cook with when the kitchen is completed next week. I went to bed happy that we were well fed and that the dishes were clean and that cooking with a hotplate and a hot pot and doing dishes in a bathroom sink is a small inconvenience.

By the way, before you ask: we don't have a microwave or a crock pot or an outdoor grill. We also have been offered access to Christy's and Carol's kitchens. So, we have ways to make things easier on ourselves! Maybe we'll try to make it easier as the week goes on.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/10/17: Get Togethers at Radio Brewing, Sunday at the Lounge, David Cassidy at the Lounge

1. I sat down to look at and edit some pictures I snapped before the remodel project started, but I never got to them. Ed called from Radio Brewing and told me Stu and a gang of family and friends he went Christmas tree hunting with were all at Radio. At first, I thought I'd stay put, but then the Deke and I decided to go up and we had a blast talking with Ed and Scott and Laurie and the rest of the people there.

2. To the Deke's surprise, knitters showed up at Radio Brewing. The Deke thought that after their outing to CdA yesterday that the Sunday afternoon knitting get together might not happen. But it did. While the Deke knit, I strolled through uptown Kellogg and made my way to the Inland Lounge. Cas opens it on Sunday during football season and the Seahawks were playing (getting beat) and I sat down, ordered a cocktail, and shot the breeze with Cas, Howard (this was his first visit to the Lounge), Bird Legs and Gloria, Eddie Jo, John, and, later on, Charlie. I heard a lot of good stories and Bird Legs gave me some inside scoop about the Wildcat's coaching staff's disappointment after the team's loss to Shadle Park Friday night.

3. Later on, the Deke sauntered into the Lounge and the Zags' game came on the bank of televisions in the Lounge. I took a quick trip back to the house and secured the framed picture of David Cassidy that the Deke and I purchased for Cas, replete with kind words and best wishes that the Deke scrawled on it. We presented our gift to Cas and he was speechless. He studied the picture, admired it, and, before long, took it back to his office. He has some thinking to do about just where this picture will hang in the future. We were happy that Cas noticed that the paneling that David Cassidy's portrait was taken in front of matches the paneling in the Inland Lounge. The picture looks like it could have been taken in the Lounge itself! I think we'll always believe it was!

The Deke and I lingered for a while. We split a plate of food from Wah Hing next door and kept a casual eye on the Zags as they waxed the Washington Huskies, 97-70.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/09/17: With Ed at the Bean, Lazy Day, Awesome Family Dinner

1. I was up and at it this morning, getting my morning routine underway, when Ed texted me that he was down the street at Silver Valley Tires getting the oil changed in the Camry. I responded that we should go out for coffee and that's what we did, over at the Bean on Railroad Avenue. This was Ed's first trip to the Bean. He enjoyed it a lot and we had a good session yakkin' it up -- a fine way to get the day underway.

2. The Deke went to CdA on a knitting and craft outing for the day and I took advantage of having the house to myself by doing just about nothing all day long: I didn't pay bills, I didn't figure out finances, I didn't call an insurance company, I didn't deal with Mom's estate, and I didn't even go up to the Inland Lounge. I stayed home and napped and messed around on the computer and read articles and took it very easy.

3. At six, though, Paul, Carol, the Deke, and I got together at Christy and Everett's house for family dinner. As we walked in the door, Christy handed each of us a cocktail made with gin, pomegranate juice, lime, and mint. In color, it was a Christmas-y cocktail and I was exercising great restraint when I only consumed one.  I hope this drink returns to the family dinner rota one day.

Christy also prepared a wonderful meal: pork tenderloin, Vermont cheese potatoes, applesauce, relish, stuffed celery, and whole wheat seeded baguette with pretzel buttons for dessert. It was a delicious meal and we sat around and yakked about a bunch of different things. When it was time to go home, Paul and Carol came over to our house for a few minutes so Paul could see how our remodeling project has progressed. It was a good evening for our family and next week, since we won't quite have a kitchen yet, the Deke and I will prepare a family dinner at Carol's house.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/08/17: Breakfast at Sam's, Strong Ale and Pizza, Return to Shadle Park High School

1. Last week I missed Friday morning breakfast at Sam's because I was fasting for blood work, but this morning I trudged down to Sam's in the 20-something degree chill and warmed right up with coffee and an order of corned beef hash, eggs, and English muffin. It was a good morning, especially as Buff and I compared notes about who played on the lousiest Kellogg Wildcat basketball team -- which team  was worse, the 1969-70 Wildcats my sophomore year or the 72-73 'Cats when Buff was a sophomore? He might have convinced me that his team was lousier since they only won two games and the 69-70 'Cats won six.

One thing I enjoy about talking with fellow basketball players from the early 70's in Kellogg is none of us can pretend like we were great and exaggerate our accomplishments. We stunk. If anything, we exaggerate how bad we were! (Oh -- each of us tasted a little success and our 71-72 team beat Lewiston and CdA, epic wins, and nearly beat Moscow in the district tournament. I contributed zero to those big wins. I contributed zero to the near win. So, I can claim all kinds of bragging rights to being a total scrub and the team clown who dove for loose balls during pre-game warmups on that team.)

2. I drove to CdA this afternoon and picked up Byrdman for a pre-game beer and pizza before heading to Spokane to watch the Kellogg Wildcats take on the Shadle Park Highlanders. We went to Growler Guys where I drank one 10 oz. pour of Elysian's fine, sweet, slightly boozy, and warming  strong ale, Bifrost.  We split a pepperoni pizza and had a good time yakkin' about all kinds of stuff before we drove to State Line to meet up with Stu.

3. Stu, Lars, Byrdman, and I all piled into the Sube at Lars' house and headed out to Shadle Park High School to watch Kellogg play Shadle.

The last time I was in this gymnasium was on January 24, 1970. Our (possibly the worst ever) Wildcat squad got creamed that night 106-53. Lars, Byrdman, and I were all on that squad and we came to this game to see whether the 2017-18 Wildcat squad would help us preserve the fact that we gave up the most points ever scored by a team in a Greater Spokane League tilt.

Had we wanted to, we could have cracked open bottles of champagne after the game. Our record of futility remained firmly intact.  In fact, Shadle won tonight by only two points, 53-51, and the 'Cats had several opportunities to win the game. Now, if you are keeping score at home, you will see that our 1969-70 Wildcat team gave up more points to Shadle than the total score of tonight's two teams. In fact, as victims of a record smashing creaming, our Wildcat squad scored more points than either team tonight.

You might say the 1969-70 Wildcats had a porous defense.

A highlight of the trip to Spokane for me was seeing two guys I knew at Whitworth back in the late 70s. I didn't know Ron Brooks very well, but we met back in the old days. He is the longtime baseball coach at Shadle Park and I had a great time sitting next to him at tonight's game and yakkin'.

At Whitworth, I knew Bruce Hafferkamp (Shadle's Athletic Director) a lot better and it was really fun to see him after nearly forty years. He was busy with his professional duties and we didn't get to talk much, but I hope he and Coach Brooks will both come to Kellogg in January when Shadle and Kellogg play again at Andrews Gymnasium.

Here's a picture, from left to right, of me, Coach Brooks, Stu, Byrdman, and Lars at the Kellogg/Shadle Park contest:

Four Ancient Wildcats Joined by Coach Brooks

Thanks to Stephen Shepperd for the photo.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/07/17: Raingutters, Paperwork, Memorial

1.  This morning, Nick from Jimbo's Seamless Raingutters arrived and soon he was making gutters out of the back of a company truck, cutting them to size, and hanging them around the front and back of the roof. An ice floe destroyed the gutters on the north side of the house last winter -- Nick told me this happened on the north sides of houses all over North Idaho -- and I am happy to have new gutters in their place and new ones replace the ones in front that were well over twenty years old.

2. I worked again today on household paperwork and finances and figured out where the Deke and I stand these days and what we might be looking at in the future. I also compiled medical records for my new nephrologist, a month ahead of my appointment with her. Friday, I'll continue getting paperwork stuff figured out with a trip to the county courthouse. Slowly, surely we are nearing the completion of our transition from Maryland to Idaho.

3. Shoshone Funeral Services held a memorial service this evening to remember and rejoice in the lives of those who have died over the last year and beyond. It gave those of us who have lost a loved one an opportunity to join with others who are in mourning, to listen to some thoughtful words from Rev. Ken Bartel, light candles together, listen to Carol and Paul beautifully sing two lovely songs, and to take in other inspirational readings. Christy and I arrived at about the same time and sat at one table and we visited with Carol and Paul afterward.

For me, the service helped me experience living in Kellogg in a deeper and even more appreciative way. The room was full of Kellogg people, some familiar, many not, and everything about the service helped me remember that there are certain ways things are done in Kellogg and this service was a solid and uplifting Kellogg event through and through.

I thought a lot about how thoroughly Mom was a Kellogg person, how she knew so many people, and how much she relied on Kellogg people for everything from friendship to retail services to medical care to help in maintaining her house and yard. For many years, as a visitor to Kellogg, I've felt a part of this town because of my many friends, but like an outsider because I just wasn't here day to day. This evening I felt like I was really back in Kellogg, really living here, really a part of our town and so much of what I experienced was made possible by Mom's love of this place and her life here. I accepted Rev. Bartel's invitation to remember Mom's life and rejoice in it in my own quiet and introspective way.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/06/17: Bloodwork and Self-Examination, Paperwork, Dental Visits and Dinner

1. I got lab results back today and was relieved that while my kidney function, as always, places me in Stage IV of kidney disease, my function is essentially the same as it has been over the last few years. I see an Idaho nephrologist in January. My hope is that she will be as pleased with the stability I've maintained over the last few years as Dr. Malik in Bethesda was.

I've had a lot to get in order since coming to Kellogg in June and moving here in late September. Piece by piece I'm working to return to a routine in my life similar to the one that served me so well in Greenbelt. It will help when we have our kitchen back in a couple of weeks. (Today a man came to the house and created the template for our counters.) That will help me return to a cooking and eating routine I'll be happier with.

The one piece of my life I haven't recovered is doing regular exercise. I very much miss having the Greenbelt Aquatic Center just ten minutes away. I miss buzzing down there on Mondays for the aerobics class I took. I just haven't, yet, been up to the pool in Mullan (it's nearly 20 miles away). I hope the Deke and I will soon start exercising at the excellent Wellness Center in Smelterville. Slowly, we are getting our life in order -- the move to Kellogg and all that it has entailed has been disruptive -- not a major disruption or one to complain about -- but a disruption all the same -- and over the next month or so, things should settle down and that will be good for my health.

2, Moving to Kellogg and settling Mom's estate has involved paperwork. I've been keeping the papers in a basket and that basket, over the last couple of months, had become unruly and disorganized. Today, I dove into the basket, filed and refiled papers and started the process of getting a grip on our new financial life in Kellogg in a different house in a different town and both retired. The picture is not clear just yet, but it's not as fuzzy as it was when this day began.

3. Both Christy and the Deke had very demanding dental work done this afternoon at about the same time. Christy came over to our house to check up on how the Deke's day went. Both of their mouths were swollen thanks to the doses of anesthetic they both needed and both of them were worn out after long sessions in the dentist's chair. They commiserated for a while and talked about other things and, after a while, the three of us went out to eat.

Before going to the Hill St. Depot, we looked at the changes Christy has made in her kitchen -- new range, new refrigerator, smart rearrangement of things, some other new appliances, new shelves, and other improvements.

Then we savored Hill St. Depot's version of the Dark and Stormy cocktail and we each enjoyed an excellent dinner. I ordered the North Idaho Cheese Steak and seasoned each bite different hot sauces from their superb collection. It was a delicious way to enjoy this sandwich and a lot of fun, too.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/05/17: Records, Warming Snack, Zags and Elk Meatloaf

1. Being on the kidney transplant list means tests, tests, tests. It all came back to me today as I printed out results: kidney ultrasound, echo stress tests, echocardiograms, chest x-rays, chest CT scan, blood work, TB skin tests, and so on -- but now I've printed the results, filed them, and created a stack for my new primary care provider. I also made an appointment to see a nephrologist who comes to Kellogg from CdA. I think she, too, will want to see these records, so I'll duplicate them. It was all a lot easier when I lived in Greenbelt and I was established with my doctors. This process of getting re-established and, possibly, getting enrolled at a new transplant center out west is tedious, but, like so many tedious things, necessary. I just hope the function of my kidneys remains stable.

2. The Deke and I got out of the house this afternoon and went to Radio Brewing for a snack. I had a bowl of piping hot and spicy Chicken Tortilla Soup. I loved it, especially served with garlic parmesan bread. It's been chilly in Kellogg and this soup, along with a short pour of Oatmeal Stout, warmed me. I was also inspired to stroll down Main Street to the bank and took care of a little business with a little more to come tomorrow.

3. I was apprehensive about the Zags playing Villanova in Madison Square Garden.  As Byrdman pointed out to me, it was their first game without a local crowd to support them and they were playing one of the nation's premier programs. Villanova is a perennial high seed in the NCAA tournament each March and two years ago they won the whole thing. Villanova is expertly coached. This year their team is experienced, physical, and versatile -- they can score inside and beyond the arc and they can run a blistering fast break, especially off of steals and other disruptions caused by their tough defense.

It's not like the Zags are patsies, but they are a less experienced team and not nearly as physical as Villanova.

When I strolled into Christy and Everett's living room shortly after 4 p.m., the Zags held a 7-2 lead.

Wow! I thought. Maybe the Zags will give the Wildcats a good go.

They didn't, really. Before long, the Zags were in foul trouble, were plagued by numerous turnovers, often confused by Villanova's defense, and unable to get into any kind of an offensive rhythm. In contrast, Villanova's offensive rhythm would have pleased George Gershwin.

We watched the Zags fall to Villanova 88-72.

Then we comforted ourselves with the dinner Christy prepared: she cooked a rich, flavor-packed ground elk meatloaf served with baby potatoes and a crisp fresh salad.

Sinking deep into the pleasure of eating this meal helped ease the pain of seeing the Zags lose so badly to Villanova.

Do teams, like Gonzaga, who lost several key players from a year ago and are working to find themselves in the early stage of this season, learn a lot from losing to a polished team like Villanova?

I don't know for sure.

But playing Villanova has to have helped them learn more about themselves and what they need to improve upon if they want to be a top tier team -- more than, say, their game last Wednesday against the Cardinals of the University of the Incarnate Word.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/04/17: The Sube from Hoth, Grinder and A. R. Ammons, Records

1. I leapt out of bed early this morning to get some writing done and to meet a car repair appointment in CdA at 9:00. Our garage is full of remodel machinery and other supplies, so the Sube sat out all night. It was the Sube from Hoth this morning, encased in ice, the doors frozen shut. After some effort, I got the doors open, scraped the ice off the windows, and drove to CdA.

Lights in our instrument panel were out -- at night, we couldn't read the gas gauge or the speedometer. To my knowledge, after a little checking around, there isn't a garage in the Silver Valley who can repair this problem in a Subaru -- one of the unintended consequences of moving to Dave Smithville, I suppose! --, so I took the car into Reliable Auto and Truck in Hayden where I had paid a visit a couple of weeks ago when my Check Engine light came on while driving to CdA.

I'm always on the lookout for an independent garage and I'd had a good experience the first time I went to Reliable Auto and Truck, so I gave them another shot.  Things worked out just right. The technician made a diagnosis. The guy working the front gave me an honest assessment of what needed to be done and the cost. Not long after, I was on my way back to the Silver Valley with functioning dashboard lights.

2. As I left Reliable, I realized I hadn't eaten and I was suddenly hungry for an Italian grinder with Italian dressing. I vaguely remembered that Capone's has that very sandwich on their menu, so I stopped in and enjoyed their Italiano grinder with a dinner salad. My lunch paired perfectly with the Coke I ordered and, while I ate, I reacquainted myself with the poetry of A. R. Ammons by reading a review ("The Great American Poet of Daily Chores") in The New Yorker of the recently published books,  The Complete Poems of A. R. Ammons, Vol. I and Vol. II. 

Like RIchard Hugo, Howard Nemerov, Richard Wilbur, and other poets of his age, "Archie" Ammons was a WWII veteran. I used to have an anthology of poems by American WWII veterans -- there were enough of them to form an informal "school" of poets.  Many of them went to college after WWII with the help of the G. I. Bill.

His poetry is idiosyncratic. He often writes in very short lines with eccentric uses of punctuation.  In his poems, he mines philosophical, often scientific, subjects, the world of nature, and the objects and deeds of everyday life.

I hadn't thought about A. R. Ammons for many years. and this review, like my Coke, paired well with my ham, salami, pepperoni sandwich, with all the trimmings, on a homemade Hoagie roll.

I can never remember if links to articles in The New Yorker work for non-subscribers.  Oh, well.  Here's hoping this link works in case you are interested in reading Dan Chiasson's review: it's here.

3.  I have quite a trove of medical records available to me online through Johns Hopkins and LabCorp. My new primary care giver would like to see my records, so, this afternoon, I got started printing them out and organizing them and will deliver them to her at the clinic as soon as possible.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/03/17: Kindness and Gratitude, Nothing, Family Dinner

1. Because I've been thinking about the accident I had at the Zinc Plant, I've also been thinking about gratitude and about how I experience others' kindness. I know that kindness works even if it isn't completely selfless, even if the person extending the kindness is doing it, in part, for herself or himself. I have heard this or that person say they did something good because it felt good. I know others did this or that good thing, in part, because they didn't want to lose a friendship or some other kind of relationship -- or they wanted to be liked by the person they were helping out. I don't find these these added reasons for being kind to another to be selfish nor do I think they take anything away from the experience of receiving kindness. Pure selflessness is a lot to ask of ourselves or of others. In the moment, while being comforted or nursed in some way, the relief and succor I've experienced when in need transcended whether the person being kind was not only helping me out, but being kind for other reasons having to do with themselves, as well. My gratitude abides.

I don't know that my thoughts here are reflected in Naomi Shihab Nye's poem, "Kindness", but the poem popped in my mind. If you like to read it, just click here.

2.  The Deke went to Radio Brewing this afternoon to knit. I stayed home and slept and did nothing. It was just what I needed.

3. Tonight we enjoyed family dinner at Carol and Paul's house. Through a friend, Carol got her hands on Astrid's recipe for making turkey broth that takes about five days in a slow cooker. The result was a dark, almost beefy broth. It was the most substantial turkey soup broth I've ever tasted. Carol also tried making noodles for the first time and they were thick and chewy, almost like having dumplings in the soup. I loved them. She also baked loaves of delicious honey oat bread. Before dinner, Carol and Paul served us all hot buttered brandy and I preferred this drink to the hot buttered rums I've had in the past. Needless to say, we had a great meal.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/02/17: Longing for Oatmeal, The Deke and I Envision the Rooms, Nemerov and Roger/Tom/Liz

1.  I think what I miss the most not having a kitchen is enjoying old fashioned, not instant, oatmeal in the morning with almond butter and a little real maple syrup and milk. It will be a while until I can get back into that routine again, but in the meantime, I'm doing all right with toast or a toasted bagel in the morning. This morning, though, I wanted a little more and I went over to Best Shots and had a plate of eggs and hash browns and link sausage and English muffin with a a few cups of bracing coffee. If I want to be served a breakfast big enough for me plus another half of me, I go to Sam's -- and Sam's breakfasts are really good. Best Shots serves a slightly smaller breakfast. For me, the proportions are perfect and the food is excellent. I was perfectly satisfied with breakfast this morning -- a good feeling.

2. The Deke and I are actively, patiently searching for a dining table, possibly a dining set. Today we perused different sites on the World Wide Web. It's funny. Back in the old days when we lived in Greenbelt, we had this lightweight black rectangular dining table from IKEA. I'd love to have a table that looks similar, is more substantial in weight and build, and has benches. When needed, I'd like to seat two people on each side of the table on the benches and two on each end in chairs. We might find something that fits this description. We are figuring out what we want the length and width of the table to be. We are looking for a geometrical sweet spot where the table doesn't take up too much room, but can seat a family dinner, too. Fortunately, we have plenty of time to look and we have Mom's dining table in the meantime -- and, who knows? It might work just fine.

We also discussed what we might want to hang on our newly painted living room and kitchen walls. We both love abstract art because we both love color, forms, and lines. We are also thinking of other kinds of paintings and photographs.

We have both agreed that our walls will be wordless. We both want to focus on a few well-placed and chosen images. Again, we have lots of time to work this out.

3.  The Three Beautiful Things post I wrote yesterday provoked some very satisfying responses.  Jim Etherton and Bridgit Lacy both commented that the post introduced them to Howard Nemerov and they enjoyed reading him. That made me very happy, and, at the same time, I thought how returning to Nemerov yesterday after many years of not reading him was like being introduced to him again. In my old age, I am much more appreciative of his poem's strong beats, his meter, and his explorations of mortality struck me more deeply than they did back in 1974.  His philosophical/metaphysical musings in "The Blue Swallows" are much more satisfying to me these days, especially his ruminations upon how we humans strive to impose order upon our perceptions of the things of the world. The mind goes to sleep. It accepts received ways of ordering the world around us. Nemerov would have us awaken, not impose "unreal relations on the blue/Swallows". When we see the real relations, see the real swallows, when we "find again the world", we will peer into a reality where "loveliness/Adorns intelligible things."

I wrote a bit about my Zinc Plant accident yesterday, too. Until yesterday, I didn't know what Roger Grosvenor remembered about what happened and he wrote it out and our memories are very similar. It heartened me to read Roger's account. Tom Tierney's comments helped me see that he grasped the gravity of that accident and that also heartened me. And, Liz, who visited me nearly every evening (maybe it was every evening) when I returned to the hospital six days after the accident with toxic pneumonia, remembered how scary that day was. Liz was not only a great comfort to me, but she lifted my spirits with her humor and I loved the long talks we had. After I was released from the hospital and when I moved to CdA, Liz helped me out countless times with rides to the hospital where I was administered regular inhalation therapy.

I was nineteen years old then. I was in a mortal situation that was way over my head. I've looked back on the second half of 1973 and how good Liz was to me and I've shuttered because I was ungrateful, oblivious to what a good friend Liz was.  I'm no longer oblivious and my gratitude is boundless. It's one of the great things about nothing ever being over. All these years later, I can feel and express the gratitude I might have been incapable of extending forty-four years ago.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/01/17: Dependencies, Small House, Winding Down

1. With appointments one right after the other, the Deke and I got established at Heritage Health uptown with Linda Jo Yawn, N. P. Of all the medical persons I've seen over the last, oh, thirteen years or so, Linda Jo Yawn was the most interested in the accident I experienced at the Zinc Plant back in 1973 and was the first to wonder, as I have, if the exposure I suffered to sulfur dioxide might, after many years, have contributed to the chronic kidney disease I live with. As she said, "It's all interconnected you know."

She said that and later in the evening I was reading poems by Howard Nemerov, a poet I had taken a keen interest in when I was at NIC in the months following my accident at the Zinc Plant. For some reason, his passages, from the poem "The Blue Swallows", here, came to mind, the ones where he writes about the many centuries it has taken "for the mind/To waken, yawn and stretch, to see/With opened eyes emptied of speech/The real world where the spelling mind/Imposes with its grammar book/Unreal relations on the blue/Swallows".

I hadn't read this passage for a long time and I enjoyed the sudden insight that, in terms of purpose and vision, Nemerov and Wallace Stevens are cousins, if not brothers, in the writing of poetry. I hope some of you who read Wallace Stevens will see the similarity between this Nemerov passage and, say, Stevens' "Idea of Order at Key West", here, and his dive into "The maker's rage to order words of the sea".

Then I turned Nemerov's poem, "The Dependencies", here, and how, by meditating upon spiders spinning webs, Nemerov reflects upon "the intricate dependencies/Spreading in secret through the fabric vast/Of heaven and earth" and I thought about the Zinc Plant and how I was working maintenance in a roaster and fell and inhaled sulfur dioxide and how it might seem that because that moment is forty-four years old it is gone, but it's not -- it lives on in any number of "intricate dependencies" through "the fabric vast" of my body and mind, and, as Linda Jo Yawn mused today, might have, after nearly thirty years, asserted itself on my kidneys and diminished their function.

Today Nemerov and Linda Jo Yawn helped me see more clearly that the past is never gone. Nothing is ever over with. What happened in what we call the past is always alive in intricate dependencies with the fabric vast of what we call the present, whether in our bodies or in our social relationships or in the ongoing story of our nation and our world.

2. After our appointments, the Deke and I checked in to see how things were going on the remodel project. Shortly after noon, yesterday's furnace problem got fixed. It turned out to be a very small problem and the result of a small oversight, probably caused by fatigue, and was easily rectified. It turned out that the gas valve was not all the way on.

After the guys do more work on Saturday, I'll take some pictures. I'm very pleased that the Deke and I are working with --not fighting against -- how small this house is and not trying to take things like cabinets and furniture that belong in a larger house and put them in ours. The kitchen cabinet installation is not complete, but we can see that ordering as few as we did conforms with the dimensions of our small kitchen. We have ordered a small dishwasher and a small refrigerator. Today, we didn't buy a sofa for the living room, we bought a love seat and we will no doubt buy two chairs -- not the larger chairs so commonly found in furniture stores, made for larger living rooms, but smaller ones.

We want to create a defined place in our living room for people to sit and talk with each other and we want a clear route to exist from the front door on into the house that doesn't make a person walk through this area.

It's liberating not to have a television because we don't have to set up the living room so that we can watch the t.v. We can set it up with conversation, reading, and our windows in mind.

I think our purchase of the love seat -- which will come in a couple of weeks -- got our plan for the living room off to a solid start.

3. On Fridays, when the work day is over, the Deke, Shawn, and I try out a beer together. Shawn brought a couple of 12 oz bottles of Alaska Brewing's Husky IPA. It's a small batch beer, featuring a single malt and a single hop -- Mosaic -- and the Mosaic does double duty in this IPA, bittering the beer moderately and providing a complex range of aromatics and flavors. All three of us liked it a lot as we reviewed what has happened on this project over the last week and what is to come. We also continued to get to know each other better.

After Shawn left and we took care of some things at home, we headed over to Hill St. Depot and split a huge and flavorful chicken fajita burrito and tried out different hot sauces from the hot sauce table that Liz, our industrious and most friendly server, brought to us. My two pints and a half of Pepsi-Cola paired perfectly with the burrito. As we left, I saw a group of youngsters at the buddy bar playing cribbage and I longed to be in my twenties with a bunch of friends pegging my way to 121.

We ended our evening at Christy and Everett's to check in on their preparations for the delivery of a new stove and refrigerator on Saturday and to watch some of the Gonzaga v Creighton game.

I like this Gonzaga team, given what I've seen so far. They are versatile, able to score inside and from long range. They play together well and don't seem overly reliant on any one player -- they seem well balanced. Tonight, they weathered Creighton's hot shooting first half, put the clamps on the Bluejays in the second half, and, when the Deke and left to go home, were cruising to a 91-74 win.