Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/24/17: Drive to Baltimore, Transplant Evaluation Day, Debriefing at Old Line

1. I sprang out of bed at 5 a.m. this morning to clean up, get dressed, and drive to the University of Maryland Transplantation Center for my once every two years day of evaluation so I can stay on the kidney transplant list. By leaving an hour before I actually needed to, I drove up in moderate traffic, easily found a parking spot in the hospital parking garage, and had time for a bagel and a cup of coffee at Au Bon Pain.

2. About seven of us were at the center for evaluation and through the day, after we watched a kidney transplant video together, we got called in, one by one, for a conference with a surgeon, social worker, cardiologist, nephrologist, financial/billing/insurance person, and a phlebotomist for blood work.  I spent much of the day waiting for my next conference and read almost the entire issue of the most recent New Yorker. At the end of the day, I had a final conference with the nurse coordinator and in the next few weeks I will get a TB skin test, chest X-ray, echo/stress test, and a kidney ultra-sound. Then the committee will meet and decide if I stay on the list. No one foresaw any problems.

3. I drove back to Greenbelt, picked up the Deke at school. It was the Deke's first day back after spring break and, since I was away all day, I hadn't been to the grocery store to stock the pantry after our visit to New York, so we went to Old Line and enjoyed a light dinner and told each other about our day. April has gone by in a most enjoyable blur of travel to North Idaho and New York and now I look forward to settling back into some days in our kitchen and getting back into the swimming pool and on some walking trails.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/23/17: Family Service, Jack's Basketball Practice, LuvPlates at DC Brau

1. This morning Jack, Adrienne, the Deke, and I sauntered down the hill -- Jack and Adrienne live on the hill's crest -- to Grace Episcopal Church for the 9:00 family service. The rector, Owen Thompson, has fashioned a condensed Eucharist out of the traditional one and it is direct, to the point, and beautiful. The congregation gathered around the altar for the blessing of elements and then filed toward the back of the church, down the middle aisle, where Father Owen and those helping him administered the Communion. If this pared down liturgy and its more common language is meant to help the youth of the congregation experience the outline of the liturgy and its fundamental rhythms. this service accomplishes this beautifully.

2. After church, Jack, Adrienne, the Deke, and I raced to a local middle school gym where we watched Jack go through basketball drills and then participate in a short scrimmage. Jack is currently obsessed with basketball and it was fun watching him respond to instruction from the coaches about dribbling, shooting, passing, playing defense, and pouring shots through the iron.

3. Early in the afternoon, the Deke and I left Nyack and as we roared down the turnpike, we decided we'd breeze right by Greenbelt and drive straight to DC Brau. We arrived and immediately fell into conversation with Chef Jay who spoke to us from inside his food truck, LuvPlates. We found a place to sit and I immediately dashed back outside and ordered us three containers, one each of mac and cheese, Mama's greens, and chicken and sausage gumbo.  The food was divine and we told Chef Jay how much we enjoyed it and he told us more about his background as a chef and shared his dream of one day turning his food truck into a storefront restaurant. I will be watching to see if his dream comes true.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/22/17: First Drive to NYC in the Sube, *Sunday in the Park with George*, Burgers

1. Instead of taking the train, the Deke and I decided to drive into NYC to see Sunday in the Park with George at the Hudson Theater. I had never driven to NYC or in NYC before and the prospect made me nervous. All went well until we arrived on W. 43rd to park the Sube in a parking garage where Adrienne had reserved us a parking place. Something was going on inside that garage that caused a huge delay and we sat on W 43rd for forty-five minutes before finally turning our car over to an employee who parked it. When I turned off of 11th Ave. to enter W. 43rd, I didn't realize the line of cars waiting to get into the parking garage was not moving and I obstructed traffic in the right lane of W 43rd. When, finally, cars in the parking garage lane could move forward a bit, I got out of the way. I'd been blocking a guy in an SUV who honked one last time, rolled down his window, and roared at me that I should get the f**k back where I came from.  I was thinking at that moment that Kellogg, Idaho sounded like a much simpler place to be!

2. With the car parked, the Deke and I hoofed it down 43rd and then 44th, experienced the mob of people, garish lights, and amplified noise of Times Square, and stopped in at a grocery-deli and split a tuna sandwich before going across the street and getting settled into our seats in the front row of the balcony.

The production of Sunday in the Park with George moved me deeply. Even though it's been around since 1983 and even though I had heard general comments about it over the years, I went into the theater not knowing the way the story would be told and I didn't know the music at all.

I had no idea it would be such a thrilling and moving exploration of the creation and power of art. We went to this production because the Deke has been having her third graders learn about painting through the art of George Seurat. Am I ever happy for the happy coincidence between the Deke's curriculum, the dates of her spring break, and the fact that the relatively short run of this production was still going.

3. Our drive back to Nyack was much less dramatic and, back at Adrienne's apartment, Alex grilled hamburgers served with sweet corn on the cob and a leafy salad.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/21/17: Relaxing, Defiant Brewing (and Smokehouse), Dinner at Hearth & Tap

1. The Deke and I decided not to go to a sheep farm in New Paltz, NY and so we relaxed for much of the day at Adrienne's apartment.

2. By about 2:30, we decided to give Defiant Brewing Company, here, in Pearl River, NY a try and were we ever happy we did. Since we arrived early in the day, few other people were there and Jen, our beer and food guide, lavished us with most welcomed attention, pouring us samples of beer, telling us about their food smoking operation, and giving us some tips about places to eat in New York City. We ordered a charcuterie and cheese plate. The three meats were smoked on site, as were these divine, crunchy, and peppered thin cornbread pieces -- we'd never heard of smoked cornbread before. The three cheeses were superb and so were the balsamic pickles. The Deke and I enjoyed the beers we drank and, if we lived here, we would be coming to this place regularly to try out more of their menu and to enjoy their beers.

3. We only ate a snack of cheese and meat slices because we had a dinner date with Adrienne and Alex at 5:30 at Hearth & Tap, a terrific restaurant, here, just over the New Jersey border in Montvale.  We shared and enjoyed a portabella and arugula flatbread to start. I was sipping on a Dark 'n' Stormy. Soon my dinner arrived: roasted lemon chicken on a bed of polenta with lightly grilled carrots and asparagus on the side. It was a substantial and delicious dinner.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/20/17: Mary at Fraunces Tavern, Scott and the Lower East Side, Nightcap with the Deke

1. Back on the train today -- the Deke buzzed me over to Tarrytown and I glided along the Hudson River to Grand Central and hopped on the subway to Bowling Green. I'm not very familiar with Lower Manhattan and, to me, it's a tangle of streets and I struggle to even get a sense of northsoutheastwest. I sat down, got out my trusty electronic tablet, went to Maps, and figured out how to stroll the short distance to Fraunces Tavern, New York City's oldest standing structure.  If you'd like to see or read more about this place and how it's connected to George Washington and the American Revolution, among other things, you can go here and here.

I was at Fraunces Tavern to meet with Mary McGrail for lunch. Mary arrived and we dove into some wide-ranging conversation about plays and tennis and readings and the Shakespeare Showcase and her work with the Community Service Society of New York, here.  She came to the tavern after attending a rally at the Federal Plaza to help in the fight against budget cuts to HUD.

2. As I finished my second glass of beer -- wow! -- get this name: it's brewed in the Bronx at Gun Hill Brewing Company, here, and it's a 2IPA called E. Pluribus Lupulin 4: Citrea -- I ordered it as "that Gun Hill beer you've got" -- and as I finished a ham sandwich on ciabatta bread that featured a cheese I'd never heard of and don't remember the name of -- it was kind of sweet and really delicious, yes, as I finished all of that, in walked Scott Shirk.

Scott jumped very smoothly into Mary's and my conversation, but Mary had to return to work uptown and Scott and I had plans to hit a dive bar in the Lower East Side. I think we all wish Mary could have played hookey and joined in, but, alas, that couldn't happen.

Scott and I waltzed over to the Broad Street station and lept onto either a J or a Z train to Essex Street and in a hop, skip, and a jump we were at the Parkside Lounge on E. Houston St. Immediately, I was elated to see that the Parkside had Bell's Two-Hearted Ale on tap.

Scott and I were the only patrons in the Parkside Lounge. Two televisions were playing two different movies, one with Harrison Ford that we didn't identify and the other a black and white classic movie we couldn't place.

Right away, Scott and I launched into scintillating conversation about LeVon Helm, The Band, Tom Petty, the Highwaymen, and other music and musicians before we got going on New Wave Australian movies from nearly forty years ago. Not long ago he and Cate had watched Picnic at Hanging Rock and I wished he could find The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith and then I nearly fell off my stool with the special passion I feel for Breaker Morant and I rambled on too long about how Scott must watch it as soon as possible.

Time flew. Damn. We had to wrap it up.

I wanted to make it back to Nanuet, NY to meet the Deke at our favorite NY taproom, Growler and Gill, so Scott and I staggered back to the subway (at 2nd Street?) and he headed to Brooklyn and I took the F train to Herald Square and hoofed it down 34th to Penn Station where I found the New Jersey Transit ticket machines and successfully purchased a ticket to Nanuet, took the train to Secaucus, and transferred onto the Pascock Valley Line, got off the train at Nanuet, and had a nice short ride on Uber to the Growler and Gill with Hamed.

3.  The Deke and I wound down and capped off our day at Growler and Gill. I enjoyed a shorty of Wolf Among Weeds 2IPA from L. A.'s Golden Road Brewing, but, even more, I enjoyed our charcuterie and cheese plate. The Growler and Gill was quiet, we were helped by the friendliest server imaginable, and it was relaxing and fun to shoot the breeze for a while before returning to Adrienne's for the night.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/19/17: Train to Grand Central, Seeing *The Glass Menagerie*, Waiting for Sally Field

1. This morning the Deke and I piled into the Sube and roared across the Hudson River on the Tappen Zee Bridge and made our way to the Tarrytown Metro-North station and leaped on a commuter train and rumbled into Grand Central Terminal, the first time we have been to New York City together.

2. We split a tri-tip sandwich in the Grand Central food concourse, went upstairs and gawked at the gorgeous cheeses, cuts of meat, fresh seafood, produce, flowers, baked goods, and other delights at the Central Market, and then, after a quick stop at Banana Republic, strode up 44th to the Belasco Theater where we watched Sally Field in the role of Amanda Wingfield in Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie.

My experience watching this production was personal, in fact, autobiographical, and I'm very grateful that the Deke, like me, does not want to leap up and dash to the exits when we finish watching something (or when we go to church). I had to sit for a while and gather myself, regain my equilibrium, and transition out of the Wingfield apartment and its world of illusions, memories, glass figurines, nostalgic music, and a gentleman caller, back into the world of Manhattan.  I plan to write a separate blog entry about what I experienced watching this play later. One thing, though: my experience was autobiographical because of the nearly 45 years I've lived with this play -- and with Tennesee Williams, not because it recalled events from the story of my life.

3. I have never waited outside a theater after a show for the actors to emerge. This afternoon, however, a small knot of people were doing just this and the Deke figured out what was going on and suggested we hang around for a little while. Most of the people wanted to see American Horror Story's Finn Wittrock (he played Jim O'Connor) or were friends of Madison Ferris (Laura Wingfield), so by the time Sally Field came out, the small crowd had nearly disappeared and I stepped right up to the little barrier that we stood behind.

Theater security people announced before she emerged, that Sally Field would not be posing with others for self-portraits.

Sally Field autographed my playbill right after the Deke snapped this picture of her:




Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/18/17: Preparing to Leave, Getting Updates on Mom, Driving to Nyack

1. I got packed, the apartment vacuumed, the kitchen cleaned up, and dogs rounded up in preparation to drive to Nyack, NY today. Shortly before 1:00, I dropped Maggie and Charly off with Molly and enjoyed having some time to chat before I hit the road.

2.  Three times on my drive to Nyack, I stopped at rest areas to read updates from my sisters about how Mom's day was going and to thank them and to add brief thoughts or ask questions. I am very happy and relieved that Christy and Carol will both go with Mom on Wednesday morning to see Mom's primary care giver at 7:30 a.m. to talk about their concerns regarding Mom's difficulties, especially over the last five days or so.

3. I loved my drive to Nyack -- I've just got a thing about enjoying the drive through Baltimore, making my to the New Jersey Turnpike, and driving it.  Today, for the first time, I stayed on I-95 in New Jersey -- instead of taking the Garden State Parkway. I wanted to see the view of Manhattan off to the east and I wanted to have my first experience driving on the Pallisades Parkway.  I loved it all.  I arrived safe and sound at Adrienne's, enjoyed a Dogfish Head 60 IPA and ate a couple of superb shredded chicken tacos. Alex joined us and we all sat around and gabbed while Jack entertained himself with toys and then got ready for bed. I love being in Nyack.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/17/17: Mom's Easter and Today's Lunch, Old Line Relaxation, Casseroles on *The Chew*

1. I called Mom this morning and she told me how much she enjoyed Easter Day with Carol and Paul. I knew from communicating with Carol that Mom was off kilter over the weekend, but I could tell from talking to Mom that the Easter dinner meant the world to her -- she loved the ham Carol prepared -- as did the tour she made of her yard in her wheelchair, with Paul's help. She was also excited that two of her longtime friends, Flo and Dorothy, were going to come to her house and bring lunch on Monday.  Mom is always at her best when friends or family are with her or when she can leave the house for an outing -- like when we went to Marguerite Gallaher's funeral, when we went to the Easter Cantata, and, on Sunday, when she toured her yard.

2.  After running a couple of late afternoon errands, I went to Old Line to relax a bit. I decided to see if a couple of Green Hat gins might help settle my nerves and it was a good decision. I enjoyed a hamburger and a dinner salad and tried out and enjoyed a small snifter of Firestone Walker's new Double IPA, Leo Vs Ursus Fortem. (I have no idea what that name means!)

3. I don't often have trouble getting to sleep, but tonight was an exception and I helped myself settle down, first, by doing an online acrostic puzzle and then watching an episode of The Chew that focused on casseroles. It turns out that watching Mario Batali make a chili rellenos casserole Michael Symon make a Brussel sprout/noodle casserole stimulated me more than relaxed me, but, finally, I suppressed the urge to make a midnight run to Safeway to buy ingredients and bake a midnight casserole and eventually fell asleep.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/16/17: Easter Service, New Beers and a Surprise, Dinner with Betsy and Martin

1. I attended the Easter service at St. John's in Bethesda where Betsy Tesi is Associate Rector. The service stirred me, especially the Easter music. My hectic Sundays of late, with travel and visitors, have kept me out of church, and I loved being at home again in the liturgy.

2. After church and after checking in on Maggie and Charly, I drove down to DC Brau and enjoyed drinking samplers of three of their latest collaborations, Green Card Pale Ale (Firestone Walker), Conflicts of Interest Imperial Pilsner (Melvin), and Yonder Cities, a Farmhouse IPA (Union). In addition, and I never dreamed this would happen, DC Brau had a year old keg of one of my very favorite collaborations from a year ago, The Wise and the Lovely Imperial Milk Stout (Cigar City). I thought that beer was dead but it was resurrected and was the perfect Easter treat.

3. From DC Brau, I drove over to Ft. Totten, having accepted Betsy and Martin Tesi's invitation for Easter dinner. Marin fixed gorgeous, really thick rib eye steaks and Betsy fixed tender asparagus. We had mashed potatoes and Betsy fixed strawberry shortcake for dessert. We had splendid conversation. Our dinner capped off an unexpectedly superb Easter Sunday.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/15/17: The Deke Hops on Amtrak, Recovery Day, Potato Soup and Dumpling School

1. The Deke and I spent one full day together upon my arrival back to Greenbelt. Around 11:30 this morning, I dropped her off at the New Carrollton Amtrak station so she could travel to Nyack, NY to see Adrienne and Jack. I'll join them on Tuesday.

2. For the most part, today was a recovery day of resting after travel and a late-ish night at the Diaz's last night. After arriving back at our apartment home from the train station, I only went out one more time for Maggie's dog food and some groceries.

3. After making potato soup at Mom's the other night, I decided to give it another go with a few variations. I used up a little bit of half and half and used whole milk, not evaporated milk. I wanted my soup to have a deeper flavor and I was pleased with my idea to season it with cumin. I tend to like spinach in almost anything. I noticed we had a clump of frozen spinach in the freezer so I tossed that in. So, I started by cooking chopped onions and celery in butter until they were tender. Then I added chopped carrots, potatoes, cumin, and some flour, covered them with water, brought them to a boil, added the frozen spinach, turned down the heat, and when the carrots and potatoes were tender I poured in half and half and whole milk. I salted and peppered the soup at various intervals and ended up with a dinner I enjoyed.

Later, in preparation for a possible visit to Dumpling Galaxy in Flushing, Queens this coming week, I watched an episode of Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse on amazon.  In it, Lagasse and Mario Batali travel to Shanghai to sample dumplings at three different places and then one of the establishments lets them use their kitchen and they make dumplings and serve them to the staff. I very much enjoyed learning more about the art of making dumplings and the technique of eating them.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/14/17: Greedy for Sleep, Everything is Back on the Table, Meeting Eduardo and Adriana

1. After flying across the USA, I arrived home greedy for sleep and didn't emerge from the sack this morning until 10 o'clock. A half an hour later, I called Mom to let her know I had arrived home safe and sound.

2. While I was in Kellogg, the Deke decided to resign her position as a teacher at the French Immersion school and probably not pursue another full time job. This puts us on familiar ground: we don't know what's next and everything is on the table. Tonight, at Old Line, we started piling ideas about our future on the table (well, the bar) and started to imagine just what might be next in in our life together.

3.  After eating some mussels and calamari, the Deke and I jetted over to the Diaz house where Hiram's brother, Eduardo, and his wife, Adriana, are spending the weekend. I hadn't met Eduardo and Adriana before and it was fun to get acquainted -- and, later, to exercise the freedom I always have at the Diaz house to sack out for a while.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/13/17: Goodbye to Mom, Flying with Podcasts, Back in Our Apartment Home

1. Christy and Everett honked in front of Mom's house at exactly the right time, before 11:30, to pick me up to go to the airport. Mom's friend, Flo, called just as Christy pulled up, so Mom and I waved good-bye to each other. Simultaneously, I love my life in Maryland and, at the same time, I feel a strong pull to be back in Kellogg with Mom and to do things with Christy and Carol and to see my friends.  I accept -- that is, I don't fight with the fact -- that I live a life divided between two places and two ways of life, but seeing Mom slowly become more frail and knowing I probably won't see my sisters until late spring or summer made walking out the door difficult.

2. My day of flying on Southwest was easy. As I did when flying out to Spokane, I flew over the USA listening to podcasts. I learned more about an annual day of corned beef sandwiches sold by the Jewish community of the Mississippi Delta town of Greenville, MS on the podcast Gravy, here; I listened to Ed Levine interview Helen You, the owner of and dumpling creator at Dumpling Galaxy in Flushing, Queens on Special Sauce, here; Radiolab, in collaboration with the Tampa Bay Times, is looking deep into police shootings in the USA and I got started listening to it, here and here; Burnt Toast presented a fun story on a 1950s kitchen appliance, the Roto-Broil 400, here; The Big Listen posted a segment of its episode coming up this weekend and it featured the show's two favorite middle-aged Jewish ladies, Ronna Glickman and Bev Ginsburg, characters played with little reverence by improv comedians Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo -- you can hear the entire episode, here; I went to the podcast Death, Sex, and Money where host Anna Sale interviewed Rashema Melson, the woman known as "the homeless valedictorian", about why she left Georgetown University, here; this interview led me another Anna Sale's interview, replayed on an episode of Snap Judgment, with "Emma", a sex worker, who talked about how and why she got into this line of work and how it affects her day to day. To conclude this episode, Anna Sale described a conversation she'd had with "Emma" recently that updated her story (spoiler: she quit giving sensual massages for money).  By the way, I skipped the first two stories of this episode of Snap Judgment and found my way to the third story, featuring "Emma", here.

Have I mentioned that I love the way podcasts help me fly over the USA and make the trip seem brief?

3.  I took a cab from the airport to our apartment home. The Deke had texted me that she was still up, so I was happy to walk in the door, embrace, and have a good talk about my week in Kellogg and the Deke's week in Greenbelt. It was good to see Maggie and Charly, too.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/12/17: Lunch at Daft Badger, Potato Soup for Mom, *Chopped* Chef Judges Compete

1. Late this morning, I scaled the 4th of July Pass and coasted into Coeur d'Alene. I dropped by Byrdman's house and we plopped down at a table at Daft Badger Brewing and enjoyed some of the finest beer anywhere along with great sandwiches. Darrell Dlouhy, Daft Badger's proprietor was working. Byrdman and I both go way way back with Darrell and enjoyed shooting the breeze.

2. Mom asked me to cook potato soup with carrots, celery, and onion and I found a recipe, here, that I thought was pretty similar to the potato soup Mom made for us over the years.  Christy, Carol, and Paul joined Mom and me for a bowl and everyone seemed to think it was pretty good.

3.  Once again, after Mom got settled into bed for the night, I strolled over to Christy and Everett's to watch two very impressive episodes of Chopped featuring chef judges of the show squaring off against each other, demonstrating their phenomenal, sometimes balletic, skills.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/11/17: Mom's Sleepy Day, Everything Dinner, *Chopped* and *The Chew*

1. Mom slept much of the day. In fact, Mom rarely goes back to bed, but this afternoon she returned to her bedroom and slept on her bed for a while. Today was the only day since I arrived that she didn't eat lunch. Heather, the cardiology nurse, called back and reported that the doctor is concerned about Mom's fast heart rate and would like to administer a medicine to help slow it down, but, before doing so, he needs Mom to have some blood work done to make sure her kidney function is good enough to take this pill. Mom and I will head down to have the blood work done on April 12th.

2. I decided to cook and warm up all kinds of food for dinner in order to make good use of odds and ends around the house -- I fried the last two potatoes, cooked the last of the asparagus, warmed up the leftover macaroni and cheese, fixed a green salad, and anchored dinner around pork chops and a pork steak with a choice of applesauce or cranberries.

3.  It's fun going over to Christy and Everett's to watch Chopped and tonight we watched another installation of Chopped: Star Power. It was a fun episode. The four contestants were actors, very gracious actors I might add, and each one was creative and really good in the kitchen. Earlier in the day, I watched the last half hour of The Chew. The show focused on pasta dishes and I must be sure to post Michael Symon's "Midnight Pasta" recipe, a very flexible dish he used to cook with stuff he had around his flat late at night/early in the morning after a day-night of 9 dollar an hour line cook work and few cocktails with his fellow workers. I loved that as he presented this recipe, Michael Symon took several minutes to discuss the virtues of anchovies and the different kinds of anchovies we might find at the store. The recipe is here.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/10/17: Mom Update, Macaroni and Cheese, Dinner with Scott and Ed

1.  Christy called Mom's cardiologist's office to report on how Mom was doing a week after going on oxygen all through the day and night. The office returned the call later in the afternoon. I took the call and had a very pleasant conversation with Heather who expressed concern for Mom's high heart rate, explained the way Mom's reduced heart function causes edema, and expressed support for Mom napping as often as she wants to. She will pass the notes of our conversation on to the doctor and we'll see if he makes any adjustments in Mom's medicine that might help slow down her heart, but not lower her blood pressure which is already on the low side.

2.  Because I wanted to be home when the nurse called, I didn't go to the store this afternoon, but I was able to make a macaroni and cheese dish out of onion, ground pork sausage, macaroni, sharp cheddar cheese, milk, and flour.  I don't remember ever making macaroni and cheese before and it made me happy that Mom and Carol both thought this simple dish worked pretty well.

3.  Scott drove over to the Silver Valley from Spokane, picked up Ed, and they came to Mom's house and talked with her for a while before the three of us went to Best Shots for a bite to eat and to shoot the breeze. We had fun joking around with and hearing stories from our server, Baylee, about when she was a student of Scott's son in middle school.  I capped off the night with a visit to Christy and Everett's for a slug of Knob Creek Kentucky Bourbon and some superb conversation.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/09/17: Mom Gets Good Sleep, Wheeling to the Church, Easter Cantata Takes Me Back

1. Mom slept in until about 7:45. She ate her breakfast about forty minutes later and then slept in her chair for the rest of the morning. Once she woke up and some mental fog lifted, her mind was sharp and she had no problems getting ready for the day's major event and she continued to be right on top of things on into the late afternoon and evening.

2. Mom got dressed up in one of her Sunday best outfits and consented to my idea that I push her in her wheelchair across the street and into the church parking lot and building without her having to do the much more difficult task of climbing into and out of her car. This worked great. Inside, I situated Mom right where she wanted to be toward the back of the church behind the pews. We arrived about twenty-five minutes before the Easter Cantata started. Before and after the concert, many of Mom's friends stopped by to tell her how good she looked and to chat about any number of things.

3. The many people from up and down the Silver Valley who sang in the Easter Cantata performed beautifully and Christy, Mom, and I were very proud of sister/daughter Carol's performance as a soloist. Listening to the Easter Cantata (directed by fellow 1972-74 North Idaho College choir member and lifelong friend, Joy Persoon) transported me back to a Sunday at least fifty years ago when a combined choir of Silver Valley churches and a small instrumental ensemble performed Handel's Messiah in the same church. Our Boy Scout troop, Troop 300, directed parking for the event and then we got to come in and listen to the performance. To this day, whenever I hear the Messiah or when I have sung it at both community sing-a-longs and as a choir member at North Idaho College, I remember that day when I first heard it performed and what stands out most clearly is the beauty of hearing a harpsichord for the first time -- that day, when I was about 12 years old, the harpsichord mesmerized me -- and never stopped.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/08/17: Mom's Pretty Good Day, Sibs at Best Shots, Inland Lounge Session

1. I thought Mom had a pretty good day today. It made me wonder if yesterday's outing was restorative. She nodded off less frequently and was more alert. She's had a card table up in the living room for quite a while and, today, she finished working with the papers on it and I got to take it down, giving the room much more space. I seared and roasted four or five chicken breasts and later made a chicken soup and, at about four o'clock, I boiled a ton of egg noodles and so we had chicken noodle stew/soup for dinner with a baguette and salad.

2. Carol, Christy, and I went to Best Shots this afternoon and told each other what we think about Mom's condition at present.  We did our best to get a sense of what the summer looks like for each of us. Even though summer is almost here, Carol and I are both unsure about just how things will pan out in June and July. We had a really good time. Christy had just finished her shift at work and had some good stories to tell about her work and the people she talked with who patronize the library. The library is a life saver for any number of Kellogg people, youth and adults, and Christy is making a vital contribution to the library's mission.

3. After dinner, I joined Byrdman at the plank at the Inland Lounge and we were the beneficiaries of proprietor Bob Casady's fine barmanship and great company. The former owner of Eddie Joe's, another distinguished Kellogg watering hole, local raconteur, Eddie Miller (Lite) was seated at the bar and Byrdman, Eddie, and I got into some first-rate conversation and Eddie told some great stories. Soon, Eddie's ninety-something year old pop sashayed in, as did one of the kids from the neighborhood, Patrick Kenyon. It was a great evening, but as the time crept toward nine o'clock, I drove back to Mom's, figuring she'd be just about ready to go to bed. I was right and I helped her get situated, bringing a full day of cooking, drinks with my sisters, dinner, and a fun session at the Inland Lounge to an end.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/07/17: Preparation for Mom's Outing, Mom Perks Up, My Past Rushes to the Present

1.  Mom and I were up at 6 a.m. No more of this lazing around in bed until 7:30! We had a big day planned with Marguerite Gallaher's funeral coming up at 5 p.m. Mom knew she couldn't come into the church through the front door, primarily because of the steps leading from the foyer into the sanctuary, but she and my sisters told me about a wheelchair ramp in the back of the church. Shortly after noon, I drove over to the American Lutheran Church and checked out the ramp, mainly to assess whether I thought Mom would want to push her walker up it or ride in her wheelchair. The last time Mom went to a funeral at this church, the back door at the top of the ramp was locked. After I scouted the ramp, I drove up to the funeral home to talk to the director to make sure the door would be open and to find out what Mom would be facing once inside that back door. Our conversation helped me a lot and I came home with a report that eased some of Mom's anxiety about getting in the church.

2. Mom had another day of falling asleep frequently, but as the time drew near for the funeral, she perked right up and dressed up really nice. We decided it would be best for Mom to use her wheelchair. When we arrived at the church, about forty minutes before the service, several members of the Grandmothers Club were panting their way up the ramp, making me glad Mom was in her wheelchair. When the women ahead of us got to the back door that goes into the fellowship hall, guess what? -- it was locked. But, one of the grandmothers rapped sharply on the door and one of the caterers opened it and cleared the way for me to wheel Mom through the hall and into the sanctuary. I don't know if Mom was relieved that with my help she got down the steps at home, into her wheelchair, into the car, out of the car, back into the wheelchair, up the ramp, through the door, and into the sanctuary, but I sure was.

3. In 1959-60, when I was in morning kindergarten and Mom was teaching at the Silver King school and Dad was working at the Zinc Plant and Christy was four years old, Marguerite was our babysitter each of my parents' workday. Today, nearly sixty years later, those days flashed before my eyes as Pastor Bartel read memories Marguerite's grandchildren and great grandchildren had written, and they were startlingly similar to things I remembered, yes, nearly sixty years ago: Marguerite's love for her parakeet, her enjoyment of cards and other games, her love of knitting, crocheting, and other handiwork, how she took us to parades, the great food she prepared for us, and her love of television -- ha! I chuckled during the service thinking how it seemed to me that I Love Lucy was always on when we were at Marguerite's.

After the funeral, at the dinner, I visited with people who were my boyhood elders, many whom I hadn't seen in decades. Marguerite's youngest daughter, Sandy, married the son, Dan, of our other babysitter when we lived on East Portland in uptown Kellogg, Mary Pavelich. I delighted in talking with Sandy and Dan.  I hadn't seen them since I was in grade school. Maybe I'll see them again at the All-Class reunion in August. I got to chat with Mary Pierce, re-introduce myself to Sano Haldi, talk with Joanne Schonewald, shake hands with Carolyn MacPhee, say hi to Donna White, and visit with Millie Savage.

Millie is nearly 100 years old and she startled me, in fact, staggered me, when she told me she always thought I was the most handsome boy in our Sunnyside neighborhood and always thought I should have been an actor -- because of my "good looks".  I got to tell her that I have done some acting and that tickled her.

I wheeled Mom out of the fellowship hall and helped her back into the car. Once home, Mom struggled going up the steps to get in the house, but, with my assistance, she made it and we settled into a relaxed evening, much of it with Christy.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/06/17: Mom Update, Gnocchi and Shrimp Debut, *Chopped:Star Power*

1.  Mom has been sleeping more than usual lately. Again, this morning, she slept until about 7:30 this morning and during the day she nodded off frequently in her chair.  Mom has had short periods of fogginess, slow to respond to questions sometimes, and her memory hasn't been as sharp as usual. Mom is far from incapacitated. We worked together to get her Avista bill straightened out. It is. She is eating well. We are making plans to go to Marguerite Gallaher's funeral at 5:00 on Friday afternoon and the Easter Cantata on Sunday.

2. When I was last in Kellogg during November and December, our friend Rosie dropped by and she and Mom talked a bit about gnocchis. At the time, I looked at some gnocchi recipes and told Mom that I thought I could make gnocchis. This morning, as I started to trot off to the grocery store, Mom told me she wanted fish for dinner. I did some reading around and found a gnocchi and shrimp recipe and decided I would go all the way with preparing and cooking things I'd never done before. I bought raw shrimp. For the first time ever, I shelled and deveined shrimp, successfully(!). I think I kneaded the gnocchi dough too much and I'm not sure I got the ratio of flour and potatoes quite right. I might bake, rather than boil, the potatoes next time. I also want to figure out which variety of potato works best.  I'm hoping my next gnocchis will be lighter, and after doing some post-dinner reading, I learned some ideas about how I might make them lighter and better. The dinner I prepared was a skillet dinner -- boiled and browned gnochhi, shrimp, broccoli, shallots, chicken broth, lemon juice, and Parmesan cheese.

3.  I capped off the day with a visit to Christy and Everett's to watch an episode of Chopped: Star Power and had fun watching Dorothy Hamill and three other athletes compete in the kitchen. I won't give away who won the day, but I'll say it was an entertaining half an hour of cookery t.v.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/05/17: Morning with Mom, The Essentials, Dinner and a Couple Drinks with Ed

1. Normally, Carol comes over in the morning to help Mom get situated for the day, but she was in Boise today for work, so I sprang into action at 7:30 this morning, more refreshed after about 5 1/2 hours of sleep than I thought I'd be, and prepared Mom some breakfast, tidied up her bedroom, got some things straight with Mom's pills, helped Mom put on her compression socks, washed and dried a load of laundry, and did whatever other small thing Mom requested.

2. Later, I ventured out to Walmart to buy some T-shirts -- even though I enjoyed packing a day early, I didn't put everything in the suitcase, and I know just how my oversight happened. I also bought some items for Mom. And guess who else was shopping at Walmart? Christy! Ha! We talked for a while, saw longtime family friend, Bev Danielson, and I finished shopping and headed to Yoke's to get the essential creature comforts I want: coffee, whole milk, and a six pack of Sierra Nevada Torpedo (by the way, Yoke's beer curator does a first-rate job. Many superb beers are always available).  Then, I thought, why don't I check out the liquor store? See if there's a bottle of rye I might like to have around -- and there was! It's an Idaho whiskey, something I've never tried. I purchased a bottle of Seven Devils Rye Whiskey from Koenig Distillery of Caldwell, Idaho.  Read more about them right here.

3. I told Christy and Carol that I would cook every dinner while I'm here.  I found a pound of ground beef in the freezer and wanted to use up some of Mom's potatoes. I found a recipe for potatoes au gratin with ground beef and I had a lot fun making it and it turned out really good, as did the fresh asparagus I skillet fried and the salad we ate. Christy and Everett came over for dinner and it was a great evening -- a great evening which I capped off with Ed over at Best Shots where I had a glass of Fresh Squeezed IPA and a shot of brandy on ice and, once again, enjoyed sitting in the room that was once the Kopper Keg and has been transformed so fully that it's hardly recognizable as the beer bust venue of my youth.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/04/17: Flying with Podcasts, Free Drinks!, Back in Kellogg

1. It was a long day of travel and, as I always do when I fly across the country, I listened to a series of podcasts and doing so made both flights, Baltimore to Denver and Denver to Spokane feel short. I got got caught up on episodes of The Big Listen, enjoyed three episodes of Special Sauce, learned about the origins of chili powder on an episode of Gravy,  deeply appreciated a great episode on the early 20th century mine wars in West Virginia on Inside Appalachia, and went back to Burnt Toast and listened again to Calvin Trillin read his famous essay, "Spaghetti Carbonara Day", his wry and witty argument to start a new tradition by replacing the Thanksgiving turkey with spaghetti carbonara.  I learned about a podcast today that I plan to listen to a more. It's, of all things, an art history podcast, The Lonely Palette.

2. I redeemed my free drink coupon on the flight to Denver with ginger bourbon and liked it so much that I redeemed my Denver to Spokane coupon by ordering the same drink, but the flight attendant forgot the ginger ale, so I enjoyed a bourbon and bourbon over ice. That worked.

3.  The flight to Spokane was delayed a bit and we arrived about twenty minutes late and then our baggage was slow coming out. Christy patiently waited for me and we had a great drive to Kellogg and I arrived at Mom's about 1:30 a.m. PST, kind of wound up, but eventually I calmed down and fell into a deep sleep.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Three Beautful Things 04/03/17: Oil Change, Business Select, Packed

1. I probably could have waited until my return from Kellogg next week to get the oil changed in the Sube, but I decided to get it done a couple hundred miles early today. If the mechanics saw any problems that needed their attention, I wanted to have them taken care of before leaving for Kellogg Tuesday afternoon. There were none.

2.  Because I bought my airline ticket to Spokane so late -- Sunday evening, in fact -- the only tickets left on Southwest were Business Select. Today, when I checked in, I forgot I was flying Business Select so I had the fun experience of learning that I will be the second person to board the flight in Baltimore and the first in Denver -- you know, after the people who have early seating privileges. I've never had this experience. At least I know I'll sit on the aisle! I also get a complimentary adult beverage and that's such a unique experience that I've been contemplating for hours what I will order.  On the return flight from Spokane, I return to reality and have less expensive ticket.

3.  I won't be leaving our apartment home until in the afternoon on Tuesday, but I enjoy packing early for a trip and I'll double check my bag and satchel as Tuesday rolls along, but I'm pretty much ready to walk out the door.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/02/17: Taxes, Beer, Popcorn and Trip Out West

1.  I am always relieved just to have our taxes done, whatever the verdict. This year, we had overpaid a bit, so we will get a refund, but, for me, the best news is that our tax preparer and I had an easy time getting the forms filled out and submitted.

2. The Deke and I love going to DC Brau on Sunday afternoons and I packed up some cheese and crackers and we buzzed down to the northeast edge of our nation's capital and enjoyed some On the Wings of Armageddon and had a good time shooting the breeze with Mike and Leah.  It was a good session.

3. Back home, we decided it was a good night for popcorn and several times the Deke asked me what I did this time to make the popcorn taste so good. I couldn't really say, but I was very happy that it turned out so well.

While eating popcorn, I also bought a round trip flight to Spokane and back so I can spend some time with Mom and my sisters in Kellogg.  I will arrive on Tuesday the 4th and fly back to Baltimore on Thursday the 13th.  It's a short trip, but comes at a good time.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/01/17: Carol's Call About Mom, Zags Win, Splendid Leftovers

1.  It was an eventful day in Kellogg. I had a good conversation with Carol about it all. Earlier, Mom fell in the living room. She didn't fall hard. She used the emergency button she wears around her neck to call for help. Christy got the emergency call at work and called Everett who came over from next door and helped Mom get back up. The local emergency personnel arrived and checked her vitals and talked with her.  Carol and Paul also got the emergency call and came over to be with Mom. My sisters have concerns about how Mom is responding to a recent change in medication. They also want to double check with her doctor in Kellogg as to whether she should be on oxygen during the day as well as at night. On Monday, they'll be able to call and check these things out with Mom's doctors. I am starting to plan a trip to Kellogg in the near future, either soon this month or early in May.  Right now, my plans are uncertain.

2. The Deke and I went up to Old Line and had a couple of beers and talked about things. While there, the Deke's friend Martha strolled in with a friend and, for a while, the Deke joined them at their table and I watched a bit of the first half of the Gonzaga basketball game. Once home again, I kept a close eye on the score via espn.com. I started getting nervous when I saw that the Zags surrendered a fourteen point lead in the second half.  But, the Zags fought off South Carolina's comeback and iced the game with late free throws and will be playing North Carolina for the NCAA men's basketball championship Monday night. I was asleep before the Oregon/North Carolina game was finished, but before the night was over I got up to drink some water and checked the score. I had sorely hoped for a Zags/Ducks final, a game where I would be very happy with either team winning, but, alas, the Ducks lost a heartbreaker.

3. The Deke ingeniously combined the potatoes I had fried for breakfast this morning with leftover vegetables from dinner last night and poured the leftover curry sauce on top of them and then mixed in our leftover rice and we had an easy and splendid dinner when we got home from Old Line. It was so simple and, for whatever reason, I never would have thought to do it.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/31/17: Maggie the Trooper, The Ongoing Curry Project, My Life Wrote to Me Today

1.  First thing this morning, I zipped Maggie down to the vet for her six month comprehensive exam. The check-in desk was crowded and Maggie gets very nervous and barky around other dogs. Luckily, there is plenty of room, so I backed Maggie away and she stayed quiet and as relaxed as she can be. I picked her up again around 4 o'clock and the vet had no problems to report. On the summary, I would have written something very clinical like "Maggie is a trooper".

2. For the first time in a week, I cooked dinner in our apartment home. Today I resumed my ongoing effort to get the balance between Thai curry paste and coconut milk right so that we feel the heat, but aren't overwhelmed by it. To my surprise, I discovered I only had one can of coconut cream left in the cupboard so I very carefully measured out just a half tablespoon of paste, figuring we could increase the heat, but with only one can of coconut cream, we would not be able to decrease it. The half tablespoon with some fish sauce and brown sugar worked perfectly. I fixed crispy tofu cubes, chopped onion, red pepper, and eggplant and we ate red curry over basmati rice. It was fun to cook again and we enjoyed our dinner in.

3.  Today emails and messages and Facebook comments and even a picture of Whitworth's baseball team from around 1975 came flying into my life. It was a remarkable day. I had contact with friends from many different points of my life -- from boyhood and adolescent days in Kellogg, my student days at Whitworth, my teaching days at Whitworth, and my many years living in Eugene. In the best way possible, much of my life flashed before my eyes today -- oh, a few regrets were in the mix -- but not a single one of those regrets involved any of these longtime friends, only love and respect and happiness.