Saturday, March 31, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 03/30/18: Ed's in Boise, Midway Tavern, Dropping in at The Lounge

1. I was already up for the third or fourth time feeding the corgis (!) when Ed called at 5:30 a.m. It was his turn to buy breakfast this morning at Sam's.  Somehow he arranged with the pilot or with a tech guy or someone for a computer glitch to delay his flight from San Diego Thursday night a couple of hours or so which led to a missed connection.  He called me from the Boise airport, heartbroken, to let me know that he wouldn't be at breakfast and that he would miss his turn to buy. I thought to myself that he went to a lot of trouble just to get out of ponying up this morning, but we'll get him back next week -- and, I was relieved later in the day when he called to tell me that he and Nancy made it home safely around 9:00 this morning.

2. I cleaned up the kitchen and tidied up the rest of the house this afternoon before heading up to the venerable Midway Tavern in Osburn to meet up with the crew of Wallace people who meet every Friday afternoon at a different Silver Valley bar to have a couple of beers, shoot the breeze, and get in some good laughs. I went up to the bar and ordered a can of Mountain Fresh Rainier and didn't realize that at this time of day on Fridays, at least, a can beer only cost a buck. I couldn't remember the last time I only paid a buck for a beer. I joined Rob and JoAnn at their table and had a great time looking back at times long gone by in the Silver Valley and remembering people we all knew in common. One fact came up that I had totally forgotten: for a time, the little grocery store next to the Trail Motel was owned by Mike Williams and was called Wee Willie's.

3. After an hour and a half or more at the Midway, I headed back to Kellogg and dropped in at the Inland Lounge to see who was hanging out there and to see how Cas was doing. I didn't stay long, but enjoyed some yakkin' with Cas and Doug Yrjana and shared a hearty handshake with Ed Miller, freshly returned from Arizona, and I talked some NCAA hoops with Becky who was in with a bunch of people from Radio Brewing.  I left after one beer. I was hungry. I needed to pick up a few things at Yoke's. On my way out the door, Julie Crnkovich told me about her upcoming trip to Vegas and Palm Springs. Knowing she's got a fun trip ahead of her made me very happy. I arrived home, cooked up a simple dinner, and was ready to go to bed and enter back into corgi night world. 

Friday, March 30, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 03/29/18: Road Trip to Spirit Lake, Lunch at Messy's, Quiet Time at Paragon

1.  Whenever I have been bouncing off the walls in the house for several days in a row; whenever I need a break from giving attention to taxes; whenever I grow weary from days of treating the gout, but happy I can begin to see metatarsals of my left foot -- then, I figure it's high time to leap into the Sube and drive to Spirit Lake, Idaho as soon as possible. Well, I didn't actually drive to Spirit Lake. I drove to  Byrdman's house in CdA and he drove us to the outskirts of Post Falls, through the city of Rathdrum, and on into Spirit Lake, Idaho.

Once there, we took a quick spin down to the northeast tip of the lake itself and then barreled into the downtown district, parked, and bellied up to the plank at the oldest continuous serving bar in Idaho, the Whitehorse Saloon and Hotel.  The seasoned bartender, Dolly, extended us a warm welcome and answered our questions about the joint.  She poured us each an unnamed seasonal beer from Samuel Adams. My crack research team has looked into Samuel Adams' seasonal beers and concluded that Nellie served us a Fresh as Helles, a lager with orange blossom flavor added. No music was playing at the Whitehorse, but if we needed some entertainment, an episode of NCIS played on a television overhead. Dolly moved on down the bar for a cigarette and to exchange hair salon horror stories with a customer she knew well.

2. After our beer, we crossed Maine Street and dropped into Messy's, a cozy family-owned burger joint we'd both read good things about. At the counter, decorated with a variety of America loving mottos, we established that we didn't qualify for the discounts available to veterans or other public servants (not to teachers!) and each ordered ourselves a burger with fries. The burger was superb. Not only was the meat cooked beautifully, the bun was toasted and a little crunchy, and tasted great.

3. We left Spirit Lake and returned to CdA via a quick descent into the mean streets of Athol where we made a quick inspection of the parking lot at the new Super 1. As we approached CdA, we had a tough choice to make: should we have a beer at Mad Bomber or Paragon on Government Way? Well, I thought Paragon was brewing their own beer now and I wanted to give it a try, so that's where we shuffled into.  Turns out Paragon hasn't begun to brew their own beer yet -- they are breaking ground for a space for their brewery. But, we each ordered ourselves a glass of Ninkasi's Pacific Rain, a pale ale, and enjoyed sipping on it slowly for a relaxing half hour or so.

So, we had a fun time touring, having a couple of beers, and eating a delicious lunch. I wanted to make sure to head back to Kellogg within the amount of time the Deke and I have agreed to leave the corgis in their crate, and I succeeded with time to spare.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 03/28/18: Corgi Checkup, Tasty Hybrid Soup, Teri Sent Me Pictures of Mom

1. Maggie and Charly spent the day at Kellogg Pet Medical Center. They were due for some vaccinations, due for a check up, and it was time for them to be shampooed and groomed. The Deke made this appointment for the corgis before she left for Maryland/New York and wondered if we might find out if we can do anything about Maggie's new habit of waking up every couple of hours during the night, wanting to eat. The vet couldn't give us any definite answers. He speculated that Maggie might have Cushing's Disease, but when he listed symptoms to me, Maggie shows none of them outside of increased hunger -- but this increased hunger is only a nighttime phenomenon. The other possibility? Well, older dogs, and Maggie is nearly fourteen years old, can develop dementia and one symptom of canine dementia is sleep-wake cycle disturbance. I've read what other symptoms can be: pacing, anxiety, staring at walls (that's me), elimination disorders and I don't see much, if any, of these behaviors in Maggie.

I talked with the Deke about my visit and we are going to wait and see how Maggie does over the next couple of weeks or so. The Deke returns in the middle of April. We will assess what I've seen in Maggie, she'll make her observations, and we'll go from there.

The good news? No emergency. Even better news? Maggie is full of energy. When we go to the basement together, she bounds up the stairs upon our return. Her elimination habits are the same as they've always been and she's not having accidents in the house. She continues to be Charly's good friend with no signs of aggression.

She simply wants to eat about every two hours through the night, beginning around 11 or midnight.

I assured the Deke that this isn't annoying me, not making me mad. I know these wakings are coming every night and when Maggie starts to insist on a feeding, I just get up, feed the dogs a bit of food, give them a chance to go out in the back yard, and we all return to bed.

2. I was just going about my day today, writing, listening to news podcasts, mailing out Mom's tax returns, talking with Christy, and so on when it suddenly struck me that I had the ingredients on hand for a potentially very delicious soup. I had a pound of ground beef on hand so I browned it and added celery and sliced mushrooms and broccoli to the meat. When these vegetables had softened, I pulled a quart of my homemade onion soup out of the refrigerator and poured it in. I let it heat up and, after a while, I added sour cream to this emerging soup and the result was a rich, savory, very tasty ground beef and onion stroganoff soup. It turns out this soup was a hybrid of onion soup I prepared after braising chicken thighs a couple of weeks ago, onions and liquid that were at the bottom of the pork roast braise I prepared for family dinner a little over a week ago, and the combination of ground beef, vegetables, and sour cream I already described. I'm very happy that I still have a bowl or so leftover to enjoy again in the near future.

3. Through Facebook, Teri (Rucker) Brandt, KHS Class of 1972, several of my other classmates, and I are in contact with each other.  Teri informed me, possibly reminded me, that she visited her mother here in the Kellogg area in 2009 and, along with Doris Kerns, they paid Mom a visit. Today, Teri passed on to me pictures of that visit. These pictures startled me in a very good way. It had been a while since I'd seen pictures of Mom that I'd never seen before. I was thrilled to see Mom looking so fun-loving and happy, looking so light in spirit and maybe even unburdened by pain. I laughed when I saw she was wearing a Shady Lady Saloon T-shirt. Here are the two pictures. I hope you see the lightness of being in Mom I'm trying to describe and enjoy seeing her look so good:

Teri's Mom, Doris Kerns, Mom

Doris Kerns, Teri Brandt, Mom

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 03/27/18: Executor Duties, The Deke in Maryland, Back to Joseph Mitchell

1.  As the executor of Mom's estate, I have a couple of things I need to do to take care of her business. I wrote a short letter to our attorney asking if the time has come to close Mom's estate and confirm that no claims have been made on her estate and that my sisters and I have complied with her wishes in her will. I hope to hear back pretty soon so we can get this business taken care of.

My other task is to file Mom's tax returns. I've spent some time reading up on what filing for a deceased person requires and once I fired up TurboTax, I was happy to see that the software asked me all the questions about Mom's death that I was expecting. I finished her returns, printed them (they can't be e-filed), and, on Wednesday, I'll review my work, gather the appropriate documents, and mail them off.

2. The Deke and I exchanged some text messages today. Not only is she having a good visit with the Diaz family, she is getting out and about in the greater Greenbelt/Beltsville area. Last week, the Deke sent me a picture of her and one of our favorite servers at Old Line, Cameron, and today she sent me a picture of Quench's proprietor, Mike, looking happy at work behind the bar.


It thrills me that the Deke is enjoying herself. At the same time, I ache to be in Maryland, Washington, D. C., and, soon, New York. I love being back in Kellogg, but, in moving back here, I was not looking to get out of the D. C. area. I hadn't had enough of the vibrancy and motion and vitality of urban life. We had many good reasons for moving back to Kellogg, but not one of them had to do with having had enough of living back east. Far from it. I loved being in the midst of such a beehive of variety and energy and I miss those days when I drove down to Union Station, parked the Sube, and took stunning walks among the monuments and museums of Washington, D. C.  I also loved the beers brewed back east.

But, then I look out the window here in our living room in Kellogg and gaze upon the snow-capped Kellogg Peak and Wardner Peak and I think of the grand views of the hills surrounding Kellogg when I walk north on Main Street uptown and think of how much I enjoy my sisters and my friends here in Kellogg and ponder how fortunate I am to be here and fortunate that the Deke and I seized a certain moment and lived in Maryland for three years.

3. Having said farewell to the world of Great Expectations, having said goodbye to Pip and Jaggers and Miss Havisham and Joe and Estella and rest of Dickens' unforgettable characters in this book, today I turned my attention to New York City in the 1930s and 1940s, back to the unforgettable men and women profiled in the writings of Joseph Mitchell. Today I dove into the lives of two Manhattan eccentrics: Joe Gould and Rev. James Jefferson Davis Hall.

Joe Gould was a homeless Greenwich Village street intellectual, a Harvard graduate, who interviewed countless people as he compiled what he called his Oral History of Our Time, a rambling, unstructured, mind-boggling, largely unreadable, opus of stories, interpretations, and opinions scribbled into innumerable little notebooks. Rev. James Jefferson Davis Hall was a loud and restless and tireless Episcopalian priest who preached on street corners, in tavern doorways, in flop houses, on the telephone, and anywhere else he could be heard. Less than trying to impose any analysis upon these men, Mitchell writes in stunning detail about each of them (and all his subjects) and lets this copious mass of details tell their own story. It's thrilling to read Joseph Mitchell, not only to become so deeply acquainted with his subjects, but with Manhattan of the middle of the 20th century.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 03/26/18: Blood Draw, Goodness in *Great Expectations*, Chicken Curry Dinner

1. I drove up to the Shoshone Medical Center around noon. I have become a familiar sight to several of the staff at the hospital. I'm the guy with "his little box". My little box is a mailer. Inside is a styrofoam shell that holds a vial to be filled with blood, a label for the phlebotomist to date and initial, and a plastic bag which holds the shell with the labeled vial inside and goes in the mailer, the little box.  So, after I registered at the front desk, one of phlebotomists arrived in the lobby and said, "Ah! The guy with his little box! Come on! Let's go take care of this!" And she did. Now my vial of blood will take flight to Baltimore and the U of Maryland Transplantation Center will have another fresh tube of my blood on hand to test should a kidney come available to make sure the donor's kidney and my blood are compatible.

2. Today I finished reading Great Expectations. I shut off my Android tablet and sat and stared for several minutes. I snapped out of my trance because it was time for Maggie and Charly to eat and we had no dog food on hand. At Yoke's, I wandered the aisles, thinking about what I experienced reading this book.

Against my will, I suddenly felt a cold fear arrest my chest. It was a once familiar dread that used to grip me in graduate school: What am I going to write in the paper I've been assigned about this book?

I haven't been a graduate student for twenty-six years and haven't had a paper due on a novel I read for over thirty years. Nonetheless, that old dread returned, as if it were the inevitable consequence of finishing a novel.

I realized at Yoke's, as I strolled past cans of sardines and tuna and anchovies, that that dread was grounded in the way I never really wanted to write scholarly papers on novels or poems or plays in graduate school.

I wanted to write sermons, secular sermons, sermons appropriate for secular studies. Maybe I should use the word "lecture". Maybe I wanted to write lectures, not papers. Maybe, in my mind, a lecture is a secular sermon.

For me, the works of writers like Dickens or Shakespeare or George Eliot or Jane Austen, didn't work as sources of theoretical scholarship, but were sources of a more common wisdom and insight about what it means to be human and helped deepen my understanding of goodness, compassion, interdependence and other human virtues as well as the darker, destructive aspects of being human like coldness, selfishness, jealousy, or anger, to name a few.

As an instructor, I think I succeeded in exploring these matters with students in the classroom; I think the two lectures I gave in the Copia Lecture Series over fifteen years ago also succeeded. But when it came to writing papers for academic courses or to writing my dissertation, I never figured out how to succeed. I think a way to do this existed. I fell far short of doing so. It was my failure.

As I made my way to the dog food aisle, I thought about how, in Great Expectations, Charles Dickens examines ways that coming of age as an adult is largely a softening of the heart, of growing more and more flexible, of becoming increasingly capable of gladly communicating to the necessity of others. In Dickens' telling of his story, this softening is inseparable from disappointment, brokenness, regret, and periods, especially in Pip's life, of self-centeredness and an unwarranted sense of superiority. This softening is a kind of redemption. Pip and other broken characters' maturity, their coming into their own, is evidenced not by their worldly success, not by wealth and status, but by the blossoming of their soft and flexible natures, by their embrace of goodness, a goodness which is best understood and experienced as a social virtue, not so much as a measure of the individual.

3. I browned two chicken thighs. In the bottom of our Dutch oven, I placed sliced lemons, fresh basil leaves, and chopped red onion. I placed the thighs on top of this pile and over the top I poured a mixture of a can of coconut milk, green curry paste, fish sauce, soy sauce, and brown sugar. I had a pork stock bubbling in my crockpot and poured a cup of pork stock over this mixture. I brought the liquid to a boil, quickly turned down the heat, put on the lid, and let the chicken slowly cook for over an hour. I had some leftover rice in the refrigerator. I removed the chicken, warmed up the rice in the liquid, and soon I ate a bowl of chicken, curry sauce, and rice for dinner.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 03/25/18: Pain Relief, The Warping Effects of Isolation, Family Dinner

1.  I continued to treat my left foot, especially the big toe area. It's improved. No longer wrathful, not even furious or raging, today my toe was vexed, annoyed maybe, with short periods of seething. My shoe slipped on more easily. I'm walking almost normally with a small limp. I'm not ready quite yet to take a long walk, but I'm relieved to be getting around more easily.

2. I've spent much of my adult life as a graduate student, instructor, and blogger thinking and writing about the ways loneliness and isolation erode the human spirit. Charles Dickens understands this core truth about human life deeply and beautifully and harrowingly. In my reading of Great Expectations today, the story about Miss Havisham reached its climax and what Miss Havisham experiences portrays as vividly as anything I've ever read the warping, distorting, and destructive impact of human isolation as we see the spiritual and physical consequences of Miss Havisham having walled herself off from nearly all human interaction. It doesn't matter whether this isolation is self-imposed, as it is with Miss Havisham, or is a result of aging, immobility, social shunning, poverty, or some other isolating fate one might suffer; it is suffocating, disorienting, and often deluding. We need one another.

The beauty of Charles Dickens' story telling is that he also explores and understands the nourishment of deep friendship and how social interaction and a sense of belonging can help sweeten human perspective. Friendships and being acquainted with different people can help deter the warping temptations of obsessiveness, single-mindedness, and living by the false lights of one's illusions -- even if it doesn't always.

3. Christy fixed beef steak fajitas for family dinner. They were mighty delicious. So were our conversations about all sorts of things ranging from the life and death of Troy Schueller, the pleasures of Charles Dickens, the use of the active and passive voice in writing and speaking English, Christy and Everett's infirm cat, Junebug, vehicles we have owned, physical therapy, the challenges of maintaining a specialized diet when attending a conference or a luncheon, the often slow and halting process of getting a career underway, and mechanical garage doors.  I returned home with a lot to contemplate.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 03/24/18: Pampering Myself, Former Student Gives a Talk, A Charles Dickens Storm

1.  When I am ailing in any way, I do my best to be self-pampering and self-indulgent. I learned years ago that pretending like ailments don't exist only exacerbates them. When I'm ailing, I have to give myself pleasure, sleep, and try to eat and drink good things.

So, today, I stayed home. I iced my inflamed toe and foot. I finished drinking the jar of Knudsen's Organic Tart Just Cherry Juice, unsweetened. I applied the essential oil blend that Carol mixed for me to the offended areas. I soaked my foot in a bath of Epsom salt. I continued to follow the beguiling, sometimes nerve-wracking young life of Pip in Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. I drank coffee. I drank Bengal Spice tea. I listened to an Amazon classical music playlist created to be played while studying. I heard compositions by Brahms, Haydn, and Beethoven that were so stirring that they pulled me out of Dickens' 19th century London and into a state of wonder, a nearly ecstatic state.

On Thursday, my left big toe and the surrounding area was wrathful, spiteful, indignant.  Today, it was riled up, a bit angry, but was no longer the Khan of my left foot.

2. This afternoon I was looking at the many pictures and videos friends posted on Facebook of people at March for Our Lives demonstrations in Portland, Eugene, and Washington, D. C. One Eugene friend, Tim Blood, posted that one of his videos featured a fragment of the talk given by a survivor of Kip Kinkel's rampage at Thurston High School in Springfield, OR on May 21, 1998. I listened to the part of Belinda Lynn's speech that Tim had recorded. Belinda was a student of mine at LCC a few years after the shooting. She came to my office more than once to talk about being shot and what she was suffering, both physically and mentally. These were confidential conversations and I'll keep them to myself. I'll just say that I know from the snippet I heard of Belinda's talk that now, as then, Belinda's suffering continues. She speaks openly about her experience, doing all she can to translate her pain into hope, possibly helping others understand the shattering impact of being shot at school.

3. I finished Chapter 39 of Great Expectations before going to sleep tonight. Pip is twenty-three years old and lives in a room in Temple, London, near the River Thames. In this chapter, a mysterious man pays Pip a late night visit during a tremendous wind and rain storm. I relished Dickens' detailed account of the storm, especially when he writes that the smoke from Pip's fireplace, thanks to a downdraft caused by the wind, can't escape through the chimney and Dickens tells us that it is as if even the smoke is too frightened of the storm to go out in it. The storm in this chapter is not only an external meteorological event. It is also correlates to the inward tumult of Pip's uncertainty and anxiety.  The arrival of this mysterious man who is in need of shelter and who has startling news to tell Pip adds more force to the gale force winds of Pip's tempestuous soul. I'm eager to learn what comes next.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 03/23/18: Foot Pain and Breakfast, Visiting Mom and Dad, Staying Home

1. I decided at about 5:30 this morning that I wouldn't let a red and swollen toe and foot stop me.  My left foot is red and angry and swollen starting at the top of my big toe. The inflammation runs along the top and right side of my toe and on the side just above of the ball of my foot and along the top of my foot for several inches in a red stripe about  the width of my big toe. It took me about four or five loosenings to get my left shoe on. Once I did, however, my offended toe and foot seemed fairly comfortable in my shoe. I drove to Sam's and, without too exaggerated of a limp, sauntered into Sam's and soon Scott, Buff, and Jerry arrived. Ed is out of town, having a ball in the San Diego area. After enjoying my breakfast and some good conversation about the Zags' loss to Florida State, leaky roofs, moisture in Pete's pickup's ignition, and other things, I came back home, did my morning writing, and went to bed. I'd had another uneven night's sleep thanks to my nocturnal bathroom habits, the dogs wanting to eat every two hours, and flare ups of pain. But, for about two and half hours this morning, the dogs slept, my pain didn't wake me up, and I enjoyed the bliss of uninterrupted sleep. It was a great boost to my morale.

2. My morale got another boost when I woke up and checked my pocket computer for messages. Christy invited me join her and Carol at the Bean. She assured me they would wait for me when I told her I would need time to gather myself. I joined my sisters and after I'd drunk a cup of half Americano and half steamed milk and Christy and Carol finished their drinks, we piled into Christy's Jeep Cherokee and climbed the hill up to the Greenwood Cemetery. We were all hoping the snow at the cemetery had receded enough that we could safely make out way to Mom and Dad's gravesite so Christy could lay a wreath upon their grave. We were successful. We cleaned up the gravesite a bit, paid our respects, and returned to town. Our visit sobered me, not only as I reflected within myself about Mom and Dad being gone, but as I looked at grave marker after grave marker of people our family has known over the years, buried in the same section as Mom and Dad.

3. I stayed home for most of the rest of the day. I decided not to go to the Pine Creek Tavern to meet with the Wallace people I've joined the last three weeks; I didn't go up to the Inland Lounge. If I am in the midst of an attack of gout, I shouldn't drink beer. Instead, I went to Yoke's and, among other things, bought some Epsom salts and a jar of cherry juice, following recommendations from friends. After our visit to the cemetery, Carol gave me a vial of Gout Blend essential oils. So, rather than socialize, I applied essential oil to my inflamed area, soaked my foot in Epsom salts and warm water, drank cherry juice, and listened to a variety of podcasts, including The Daily, 1A,  Here and Now, Fresh Air, and Up First.  All of these podcasts helped me sort out a variety of stories that have emerged this week. Tomorrow, assuming I'll still be nursing my foot, I plan to listen to fewer podcasts and get back to reading Great Expectations and Joseph Mitchell.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 03/22/18: Sleep, Turkey Soup, A Sock

1. The dogs' demands through the night, in combination with pain I'm having in my left foot -- gout? --, kept me up much of the night and at 4:30 a.m., I decided not to go back to bed and got my day underway. Later in the day, the pain in my foot settled down a little bit and the dogs left me alone, and I took a couple of long and satisfying naps.

2. I had thawed three turkey drumsticks and today I browned each of them for about twenty minutes in the Dutch oven and removed them. I sliced an onion, put the drumsticks on top of the slices, and poured chicken and beef stock I had made. After bringing the stock to a boil, I covered the Dutch oven and let the drumsticks braise at a low heat for nearly three hours. I took the drumsticks out, took the meat off of them, put the bones in a ziplock bag, put the meat in the stock, and added chopped celery, broccoli, and carrots and the result was a rich and flavorful turkey soup.

3. By the time the Zags' game rolled around, I was wiped out by the pain in my foot and my sleep patterns being disrupted. I didn't go over to Christy and Everett's to watch the game, but, instead, went to bed at about halftime. Sometime later, I wondered if my left foot would be more comfortable if I wore a sock in bed -- and it was. I slept more comfortably.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 03/21/18: Garage Door Fixed, Yakkin' with Diane, RIP: Vandal Great Jerry Hendren

1. Contractor Shawn needs to be able to easily get into and out of garage where he is storing supplies for the remodel he will be doing in April at both our house and at Christy and Everett's next door.  The fact that our garage door would not close using the remote presented a problem, so Shawn called Silver Valley Doors to come over and see if Paul could fix it. He did. He found a faulty wire, fixed it, and the door works great. He also serviced the door, lubing and greasing it, so now it goes up and down much more quietly, and he replaced the burnt out light bulbs so that lights come on in the garage when we open the door and drive into the garge.

2. Diane Trecker came over later in the afternoon to give the work Shawn did in our kitchen a look. She just bought a house in Kellogg and has great plans for a remodel and is considering hiring Shawn. Diane just moved to Kellogg in January.  It's getting unreal, in the best way possible, that so many of us from the KHS Class of 1972 live in the Kellogg area or else live a short distance away in the Coeur d'Alene or Spokane areas. Diane and I had a great visit here at the house and decided to take our conversation uptown for a couple of beers at Radio Brewing. What once would have been a conversation that might not happen for another year, our conversation today felt like the next in a series of conversations about writing, reading, travel, remodeling, family, and other topics that can happen frequently now that we both live in Kellogg.

3. Through text messages, Byrdman, Stu, and I marveled at the great college football career of the University of Idaho's Jerry Hendren. He played from 1967-69 and was the nation's top receiver his senior year. Jerry Hendren died on February 26 at age 70. It was fun to remember how superbly he played. I'm not sure about this memory, but I'm going to write it and see if anyone responds. I remember going to the North Idaho Sports Banquet in the spring of 1970 in CdA with Byrdman and Mike "Lew" Borden. Each year, the sportswriters of North Idaho awarded -- and maybe still do --  the player of the year and remember Jerry Hendren winning that award and remember seeing him accept the trophy (or whatever he won) and the size of his hands astonished me. If I'm making this up or fantasizing, I'll own up to it, but, as of right now, the memory of being a sophomore at KHS and getting to attend this banquet with two seniors, with two great friends. stands out to me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 03/20/18: Goodbye and Breakfast, Learning to Read Again, Bengal Spice Tea

1. The Deke and I were up drinking coffee at 4:00 this morning, waking ourselves up to get ready to drive to the Spokane International Airport for the Deke's day of flying to Baltimore. Driving in the dark is incrementally more challenging for me year after year and today I was especially happy when we  had finished our travels over the dark 4th of July Pass and around the sunless, inky Lake Coeur d'Alene. From that point on, the drive was much easier.  After saying goodbye to the Deke, happy and a little jealous that she will see Molly, Hiram, Olivia, David, Ana, Adrienne, and Jack, as well as friends, and sad that we will be apart for a month, I went to Jenny's Cafe on East Sprague for breakfast.

It was kind of like going to Sam's in Kellogg, but Sam's doesn't have a counter!  The morning server was familiar with all the other customers. She kept a running conversation about St. Patrick's Day in Butte going with the three people seated at the counter.  Two guys who meet regularly with a group of men were waiting for their friends and sat side by side in one booth.  They swapped jokes with our server about their political differences ("Can you believe this Democrat is going to buy this Republican breakfast?"). The Republican hadn't been to church on Sunday and looked for reassurance, and got it, from the Democrat that his absence wouldn't condemn him to hell. My breakfast was solid. Jenny's Cafe features all-you-can-eat hash browns, and when our server asked me if I wanted more, I declined. I was full.

2.  I drove up to the Kellogg Public Library and checked out a book I put a hold on: Up in the Hotel, an anthology of stories by longtime New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell.  I've been through a long reading drought, especially since I retired from my work as an instructor. One of my first goals when I retired was to learn how to read all over again, to read for reasons other than a book might be a good one to include in a syllabus and to read without thinking about how I would treat the book in the classroom. I'm reading two books at once right now, the Mitchell anthology and Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. With my mind finally clear of the old habits that shaped how I read for years, both as a graduate student and as an instructor, I'm enjoying these books primarily for Dickens' and Mitchell's gifts of observation and bringing those observations alive with detailed descriptions of physical environments and in their profiles of the different characters they develop, their keen ear for characters' and people's ways of talking and their descriptions of their facial and physical appearance, especially how they dress and walk and move through their worlds. It's as if I'm reading less for "meaning" and more in support of my love of photography and theater. (By the way, I am reading for "meaning", too --  I am enjoying Dickens' exploration of how social mobility is affecting Pip's consciousness and his conscience.)

Joseph Mitchell's first piece in Up in the Hotel, entitled "The Old House at Home", held special significance for me.  It's a history, published in 1940, of one of New York City's oldest bars, McSorley's Old Ale House, located in the East Village.  Scott Shirk and I had a few beers at McSorley's back on October 30, 2016. It's a crowded, eccentric watering hole. Cash only. Only two beers, light or dark ale, served two mugs at a time. Sawdust on the floor. Walls crowded with photographs, posters, and other memboralia. We walked in and a guy immediately ushered us to a table of strangers that had two vacancies. Originally, John McSorley named his joint, when it opened in 1854, The Old House at Home, changing its name to McSorley's Old Ale House in 1908.

Mitchell's story profiles each of the owners over the years, up until 1940. It profiles the clientele, the neighborhood, and the ethos of this bar. It's fascinating and entertaining and led me to continue to read two more of Mitchell's stories, one of Mazie Gordon, a ticket seller at the Venice Theater, who, in a secular way, ministered to the poor and the down and out, especially on the Bowery and his profile of a dizzying talker and teller of tall tales named Captain Charley. He runs what he calls Captain Charley's Private Museum for Intelligent People, a pile of junk, in the basement of a brownstone tenement on 59th Street.

Joseph Mitchell is, to me, a non-fiction Charles Dickens, possessing a remarkable ability to observe and record vivid portraits of eccentric and fascinating people in musical, vigorous language while telling absorbing stories.

3.  I've had a strong hankering for some kind of non-alcoholic, uncaffeinated warming drink to enjoy in the evening. Sitting here at home, I couldn't quite figure out exactly what I wanted. I needed to buy some dog food at Yoke's this evening. I also picked up some English Breakfast Tea and paused to peruse the tea shelves and suddenly I realized exactly what I wanted: Bengal Spice Tea. It's been years since I drank this tea, but, standing there in Yoke's, I suddenly realized that this tea, combined with milk, was exactly what I wanted. I came home and brewed a cup, poured milk in it, and I was right. It warmed me, relaxed me, and satisfied my yearning for a tasty evening hot drink.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 03/19/18: Lost and Found, Remembering the 1972 Final Four, Simple Salmon Dinner

1.  Over the course of our marriage, the Deke and I have discovered that if something is missing, it's always wise to check the garbage. I cannot tell you how many times this approach has succeeded for finding Molly's burn medicine, a checkbook, keys, and other items I've long since forgotten. Today, the Deke had a prescription filled at Yoke's. She was looking for it while she packed to leave for Baltimore on Tuesday morning. She told me it was in a small white bag. I felt a twinge of guilt. When clearing off the kitchen table earlier, hmmmm, had I thrown away a small white bag? I took the garbage container out from under the sink, and PRESTO!. With a minimal amount of excavating, I found a small white bag.  In it? The bottle of pills.

2. I was in peak love with the NCAA men's basketball tournament from about 1966-1985.  Today, I was thinking about Florida State University. Gonzaga's men's basketball team plays Florida State University on Thursday night in this year's NCAA tournament. I thought back to March 25, 1972, when Terry Turner and I watched Florida State play UCLA for the NCAA championship at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. On March 23rd, we saw UCLA defeat Louisville and Florida State beat North Carolina. The Florida State team deeply impressed me. They were muscular, physical, quick, sharp-shooting, and tough enough to beat a North Carolina squad led by future ABA/NBA players George Karl, Bob McAdoo, and Bobby Jones. Today, I went to YouTube and found highlights of the 1972 Final Four and, once again, marveled at Florida State's Ron King, Rowland Garrett, Lawrence McCray, Reggie Royals, Greg Samuel, Otto Petty, and Ron Harris. I'm hoping some of you reading this remember this team. It took a mighty effort by Bill Walton, Henry Bibby, Keith Wilkes and the rest of the Bruins to defeat this impressive and largely unheralded Florida State squad. Being on hand for this Final Four remains one of the high points of my whole life.

Want to check out the YouTube highlights? Go here, here, and here.

3.  I sashayed over to Yoke's this afternoon and fulfilled a request the Deke made. For dinner tonight, she wanted salmon and I found a perfect eight oz fillet that we could split. I fixed it on the gas range's grill and along with it we had leftover cabbage salad and avocado slices. Over the next four weeks, I'll fix a lot of these simple dinners for myself and I'll experiment with some cooking approaches while the Deke is back east, but it's always more fun to have these little dinners with her.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 03/18/18: Reading About Pork Sirloin, A Tardy Family Dinner, Remembering the Cougars

1.  I knew from reading different articles that sirloin pork roasts, because they are so lean, have a tendency to come out of the oven dry. Had I realized this before I bought a sirloin pork roast at Pilgrim's a couple of weeks ago, I might not have purchased it. So, over the last few days, I've been reading about preparing a pork sirloin roast and ways to cook them tender and moist. 

I also read about fat caps: the roast I bought had a fairly thick fat cap and, the more I read, the happier I was that this layer of fat lay atop the meat of this roast. The fat cap is not only a source of flavor, it's also a source of juiciness. I helps keep the roast moist.

2. After some reading and searching, I found a recipe that claimed it would help me cook the most tender pork sirloin. It's here.  I took a deep breath, uttered a prayer to the gods of cuisine, and opened the packaging of the thawed pork sirloin roast. I began by salting the roast and sticking some peppercorns into the surface. I then made a rub of olive oil, crushed garlic, and fresh rosemary leaves and slathered it over the roast. I put the roast in the Dutch oven, slid it into the 450 degree oven and let it cook uncovered for 30 minutes. I removed it, added some of my homemade chicken stock, turned the oven down to 250 degrees, put the lid on the Dutch oven, and the plan was to let it roast for 150 minutes, 30 minutes for each pound and to take it out every 30 minutes and pour the liquid over the roast.

I had told Christy and Carol that I thought we would eat around six o'clock.


The roast needed more than two and a half hours at 250 degrees to reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees. I've decided that the huge bone in the roast slowed down the cooking time, but I'm not sure. Well, at some point around 6 o'clock, I turned up the heat in the oven to 300 degrees and, after a while, the roast was cooked. I let it rest for about ten minutes and then I began to carve slices off of it.

They were moist.

They were tender.

They were not dry.

The meat tasted really good.

I was happy and relieved. Combined with onion soup, mashed cauliflower, some roasted (and too dry) Brussel sprouts, and a cabbage salad, we had an excellent, if tardy, family dinner. The Deke prepared the cauliflower and cabbage salad and did so splendidly.

3. Byrdman and I had some fun in the afternoon swapping text messages about the Washington State Cougar basketball teams of about 1968-71 because one its players, Dennis Hogg, has a son, DJ Hogg, playing for Texas A&M in the NCAA men's basketball tournament. The Aggies crushed North Carolina this afternoon, but I was more invigorated by remembering the Cougars who were teammates of Dennis Hogg: Ted Wierman, Lenny Allen, Gary Elliott, Rick Erickson, Jim Meredith and others.

On February 15, 1969, I got to see the WSU Cougars host the dynastic UCLA Bruins in Bohler Gym in Pullman. In other words, as a ninth grader, I got to see Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul Jabbar), Lucius Allen, Lynn Shackelford, John Vallely, Curtis Rowe, and, off the bench, Sidney Wickes defeat the Cougars 83-59, in person. Thanks to Terry Turner's half brother, Denny Crum, then an assistant coach at UCLA, we had tickets right behind the UCLA bench and that game remains a highlight of my life as a sports fan.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 03/17/18: Christy Fixes Tasty Soup, Free Throw Woes, Post-Game Party Uptown

1.  Christy fixed a bracing pot of corned beef and cabbage/vegetable soup, full of flavor and warmth, a comfort on this chilly rainy day in Kellogg. We also had a crisp, fresh green salad. Not only was this a delicious St. Patrick's Day dinner, it helped strengthen us as we watched the Gonzaga Bulldogs in a tough dogfight against the Ohio State Buckeyes. We needed all the strength we could muster to watch this dramatic game.

2. The Zags beat the Buckeyes, 90-84. Early on it looked like the Zags would win in a typhoon force blow out as they scored the game's first 15 points. But, slowly, the Buckeyes scratched back, thanks not only to their sudden surge of efficient scoring and stout defense, but thanks, too, to the Zags' woeful performance shooting free throws. In the end, though, the Zags started making free throws -- with eight minutes left in the game they had missed 14 of 18 charity tosses for the game. Then, mysteriously, the Zags started to convert them, making 15 of their last 17, a crucial stat. Why do accomplished players go cold at the free throw line? Why can it seem like once players start missing free throws it becomes contagious? I don't know.

Christy wants the Zags to practice their free throws more, offering more repetitions as a solution. Maybe they'll do that. I would think players shoot and make tons of free throws in practice. The conditions in practice are much more relaxed. I've heard of some coaches making players run painful wind sprints if they miss free throws in practice as a way of creating pressure, of creating game-like conditions. I don't know what Gonzaga coach Mark Few's approach is. My guess is that he that he doesn't want his players to dwell on the free throws they've missed, but wants to somehow build their confidence. Making free throws is as much (or more) a mental challenge as it is a physical one. For us fans, the missed free throws are a source of agony. Sometimes those missed throws also make us mad!

3. Cas texted me a cordial invitation to come to the Inland Lounge to watch the Zags play Ohio State, but I declined so that the Deke and I could watch the game with Christy, Everett, Carol, and, for a while, Paul. But, once the game was over, the Deke and I piled into the Sube and barreled uptown to join in the post-game conversations and to bear witness to the handful of local leprechauns dressed in green top hats and other "Irish" regalia celebrating St. Patrick's Day. We joined Debbie, Bucky, Carol Lee, and Jake's party and, a little later, Harley and Candy came in after running the St. Patrick's Day feed across the street at the Elks. We had a merry time and the Deke said her goodbyes and everyone wished her safe travels. The Deke leaves for a month-long visit to Maryland and New York to see Adrienne and Molly and our grandchildren.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 03/16/18: A Great Day Starts with Breakfast, Old Friends in Wallace, Partying and Somber Talk at Diane's

1.  This was one of those days I used to dream of when I lived in Eugene and Greenbelt and would imagine one day living in Kellogg.

I used to wonder what it would be like to live in the same town and the same Silver Valley and same North Idaho/Eastern Washington region where so many of my friends continued to live or had moved back to from elsewhere. I'm talking about friends my age who were the children of friends of Mom and Dad; about friends I played Little League with and played ball at the YMCA with; about friends from Boy Scouts, DeMolay, high school band, high school choir, and high school basketball and baseball and golf; about friends I bagged groceries with at the IGA or stripped zinc with at the Bunker Hill; about friends I didn't know well back when we graduated in 1972, but who have become great friends as we've grown older and a chance to spend time together in the years way beyond high school.

My day began with breakfast at Sam's. Ed, Jerry, Buff, Scott B., and I dove into our plates of eggs and meat and toasted bread and talk swirled around the table about trucks, mostly trucks from my friends' workplace that need repair and there was fantasy talk centered around winning the Lotto and talk about travel as Ed gets ready to take a trip to San Diego and Mexico and Buff looks forward to returning to Hawaii. Jokes flew about Ed packing Lisa, our waitress, into his luggage so we she could spend some time away from the Silver Valley. Earlier jokes had been inspired by an infomercial on the house television that spent a half an hour hawking a product guaranteed to shrink and improve the health of the male prostate. Enough was enough with having this programming blaring above us. It hit a little too close to home and we ran out of prostate jokes and asked Lisa to switch the channel to the morning news on Q6.

2. Jake and Carol Lee picked me up at 4:00 and we barreled up I-90 to the City Limits Pub for a bite to eat and some solid yakkin'. The Deke was knitting at the Best Shots Grill in Kellogg and joined us about twenty minutes or so after Jake, Carol Lee, and I settled in. I hadn't been to City Limits since the new year and I loved having a couple pours of their malty red ale, Sunset Ale.

Last Friday, at the Inland Lounge, Jake and I told Rob Gillies, the ringleader of the Wallace group of friends who meet at a different Silver Valley bar every Friday at 4, that we would see him and his gang of revelers at the Brooks Hotel Lounge today. We kept our word. 

So we piled into the cozy and aged confines of the Brooks Hotel Lounge and, as I hoped, my teammate from American Legion Baseball days, Don Beehner was back from Arizona and I got to see him again and swap some stories and get caught up on what he's been up to over the last forty+ years. I'm hoping that when this Wallace gang meets again next week at the Pine Creek Tavern that Don will be back and I can talk with him some more and, who knows?, maybe some other past teammates will show up, too.

3. We left the Brooks Hotel Lounge around 6:30 or so. Jake and Carol Lee were going to drop into the Inland Lounge and the Deke and I headed farther uptown to Diane Trecker's new house on Market St. Some of you reading this might know the house she bought as the Camm House.

Diane wants to get an ambitious and, to me, thrilling kitchen remodel underway. Diane and Patti Hei have been friends forever and, as you might remember, Patti and her guy, Rod, live next door to the contractor, Shawn, who did and will do more work on our house. It was upon Patti's recommendation that we met and hired Shawn. Patti and I agreed that we'd like Diane to meet Shawn and see about the possibility of him working for her.

So, Patti and Rod, Shawn and his wife Teresa, and the Deke and I congregated for wine and delicious snacks and for a time for Diane to get acquainted with the Deke and with Teresa and Shawn at Diane's new house.

We had a lively and invigorating party. Diane gave us tours of the work she's done on her house so far and told us what her future plans are, including the work she'd like Shawn to do.

Mostly, though, it was a night of stories and memories and laughter flying around the room and, as guests, we all were the benefactors of Diane's generosity (the wine and snacks just came coming!) and her ease and grace as our host.

The Deke and I stayed to talk more with Diane after the others left. We had an awesome heartfelt conversation about our parents -- Diane's father is very ill and Diane and her brothers and sisters are helping him. We have all lost our mothers and the Deke and I lost our fathers and we discussed their deaths. We talked about vascular dementia and about the difficulties of caring for a person suffering from this. We talked about our relationships with our adult children and all hoped we can live independently for a long time -- and talked about how difficult it might be for our sons and daughters to look after us if we become very ill. As our parents' children, we have gladly cared for our parents, and recognized it's a great challenge. We agreed we would rather not impose the same challenge on our sons and daughters and agreed that, at some point, we might not be able to do much about it. That was definitely the case with Mom and is the case with Diane's dad. Mom couldn't and Diane's dad can't do much about needing the help and care we gladly gave and Diane's family is currently providing. I know the same is true for several of our friends whose parents are nearing the end of their lives.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 03/15/18: Zags Win!, Hotopia Returns Me to 16 Tons, Tasty Onion Soup

1. It was a lot of fun to go next door to Christy and Everett's house and watch Gonzaga play a tense game with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. From the outset, UNCG impressed me. They were a stout team, defensively athletic, sometimes intimidating, and played with urgency and intensity. Thanks to Zach (Snack) Norvell, Jr. fearlessly draining a three point jumper in the last minute and adding a free throw later, the Zags held on to win this game 68-64. I think the tightness of the game nearly ate up Christy's insides. She loves the Zags and gets emotionally involved with their games and this game was more of an acid churner than a nail biter for her! I had fun watching the game with Christy and Everett and, thanks to text messaging, also enjoyed exchanging comments back and forth a bit with Terry Turner, who was at the game in Boise, and Byrdman who was watching the game at home.

I also watched a lot of the Ohio State/South Dakota State game. I hated to see South Dakota State lose because I'd love to watch their forward Mike Daum play more. Now Ohio State plays Gonzaga on Saturday afternoon. It was hard for me, after watching both games, to believe Gonzaga crushed Ohio State 86-59 back in November. I'll be shocked if Gonzaga blows out the Buckeyes again on Saturday. But, Christy's anxious Zag-loving stomach would sure like it!

2. When I shopped at Yoke's this afternoon, I bought a single bottle of Scuttlebutt's Hoptopia Imperial IPA. For the first time ever, I drank six ounces of it and the complex combination of its malty sweetness and bursts of hoppiness transported me back to Eugene and the taste of a beer I enjoyed years ago at 16 Tons. For the life of me, I don't know what that beer was, but I sure enjoyed mind traveling back to those days trying out a great variety of beers, yakkin' with Jesse and Emily and Jake and Thomas and other minders of the taps, and sittin' around laughing and socializing with the group of guys I joined up with on Thursdays, figuring out what to do next in our life with the Deke, and meeting new friends, like Jay and Sherri. I love the power of the taste of beer to transport me like this and for about twenty minutes this evening, it was fun to be in our little house and in Eugene at the same time.

3. After the Zags' game, the Deke and I each ate a chicken thigh leftover from last night's dinner. I had stored the thighs in the liquid that was leftover from semi-braising the chicken last night. It was teeming with flavorful fat and many slices of onion were in it. I had nearly a quart of freshly thawed chicken stock I made last week in the fridge and I wondered if I could make an onion soup with all of this.

I sliced three onions into thin pieces and put them in some heated up olive oil in the Dutch oven. I covered them and let them cook for quite a while -- almost an hour -- after I seasoned them with salt, pepper, and a bit of sugar. When the onions were cooked through and as caramelized as I thought they'd get, I added in the thick and tasty and fat liquid from last night's semi-braise and the quart of stock, brought it to a slow boil, turned down the heat, and let the soup simmer for a while.

I didn't add all sorts of ingredients like white wine and fresh thyme and bay leaves to this soup that the recipe called for. I didn't want layers of flavors: I just wanted to enjoy the savory and sweet combination of the chicken liquids and the onions on their own.

That was, I'm happy to report, a smart move.  After two small bowls of this soup, I stopped myself from eating more, but there's a quart of this onion and chicken stock ambrosia waiting for the Deke and me to dive back into when we are ready.

I hope I can duplicate this soup in the future. So much of its success depended on the way I prepared the chicken thighs on Wednesday night. I hope I'll remember how I did that -- it was a new approach and not out of a cookbook, but more out my imagination. I hope having this written record of it will help me fix the chicken and the onion soup in a tasty way again.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 03/14/18: Victorian Novels, Christy is on Her Feet, Chicken Dinner

1. Back home from the hospital in November of 1999, I decided reading Charles Dickens and Anthony Trollope would help in my recovery from bacterial meningitis. I didn't have a lot of reading stamina, but I read the entirety of A Tale of Two Cities and read the first two books of Trollope's Barsetshire Chronicles: The Warden and Barchester Towers.  I can't attest to the healing powers of these novels, but today, as I proceeded through the section of Great Expectations wherein Mr. Jaggers suddenly and mysteriously pops up out of thin air in the Three Jolly Bargemen public house to offer Pip the material means and the education he'll need to rise above his current station in life, I suddenly felt an old love I'd forgotten about well up in me for Victorian novels.

In the winter term of 1980, at the University of Oregon, I enrolled in Prof. Richard Stevenson's 19th Century Fiction course. In December of 1979, while traveling to Spokane, and eventually to Coeur d'Alene and Kellogg, on a dark, overheated Greyhound bus,on my way home for Christmas, I turned on the tiny spotlight above my seat and began reading Barchester Towers as a way of getting started on my winter term reading load. The novel opens with the death of Bishop Grantly and, in one short paragraph, I fell in love with what I would learn over the years was the Victorian novelists' keenness for capturing the essence of a character in a few words. About the dying Bishop, Trollope wrote:

Bishop Grantly died as he had lived, peaceably, slowly, without pain and without excitement. The breath ebbed from him almost imperceptibly, and for a month before his death it was a question of whether he were alive or dead. 
 I know that Great Expectations is a story about Pip's inward conflicts with his conscience as he moves up the social ladder, out of rural Kent County into the world of ambition and opportunity in London. My greatest joy in reading Dickens, though, is not so much with the novels' themes as it is with his characters. The memories of my 1999 recovery from meningitis and that 1979 December trip with Trollope on the Greyhound bus came rushing back to me as I read Pip's impressions of Mr. Jagger at the Three Jolly Bargemen, especially Jagger's habit of biting his forefinger:

There was an expression of contempt on his face, and he bit the side of a great forefinger as he watched the group of faces.

Pip suddenly remembers he saw this man on his second visit to Miss Haversham's and, within himself, runs through the details of his memory:

I had known him the moment I saw him looking over the settle, and now that I stood confronting him with his hand upon my shoulder, I checked off again in detail, his large head, his dark complexion, his deep-set eyes, his bushy black eyebrows, his large watch chain, his strong black dots of beard and whisker, and even the smell of scented soap on his great hand.

As with many of Dickens' unforgettable characters, Jaggers is misshapen, as if his physical appearance parallels something misshapen in his soul, as if the biting of his forefinger is an outward expression on an inward malady. But, the detail that stopped me cold, that told me Jaggers is not of the rural world of the Three Jolly Bargeman, was "the smell of scented soap on his great hand".  It was this scent that most bothered Pip the first time he encountered Mr. Jaggers at Miss Haversham's and it gave both Pip and me the creeps in the public house. I'll see if this scent matters later on in the novel.

2. Christy had been ill and confined to quarters since Sunday, but today she was up and at it. She came over for a visit and we talked about all kinds of things, ranging from what's been ailing her to our shared nephrologist, Dr. Jones, to the NCAA men's basketball tournament. A while later, the Deke arrived home from a knit shop trip to CdA and joined in the conversation.

3. The Deke and I decided to have chicken thighs for dinner. Originally, I was going to braise them in some of the chicken stock I recently finished making, but changed my mind and tried something I'd never tried before. I browned the skin side of the thighs in the Dutch oven on the stovetop, took the thighs out, got rid of excess oil, and lined the bottom of the Dutch oven with onion slices. I put the chicken thighs on top of the onion and poured some of the chicken stock over the meat. I then put the lid on the oven and baked the chicken at 350 degrees for a half an hour.  I guess it was a semi-braise, just done at a higher temperature than usual. The chicken was tender and juicy, the onions tasted awesome, and the Deke fixed our favorites, beets and beet greens and a cabbage salad, to go along with the meat. Once again, we enjoyed a simple and delicious meal tonight.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 03/13/18: The Pleasures of Charles Dickens, Dr. Jones Called Me, Elk Dinner

1. I like to read lying down. Always have. Today, I hungered to return to Great Expectations. I started reading Charles Dickens' story back in 2014 when the Deke and I lived in Alexandria with Molly and Hiram. During that time, I enjoyed taking the bus, the 161 Fairfax Connector, from Harrison Lane to the Huntington Metro Station and ride the train into Washington, D.C. to see a movie at West End Cinema or to visit art museums, or, on a few of my favorite days, ride the train all the way to Silver Spring to see a movie or two at the American Film Institute.

My travel companion was Pip, and while I glided on the Metro's Yellow Line train over the Potomac River or waited on the platform at Ft. Totten to transfer to the Red Line to Silver Spring, I absorbed myself in Pip's eerie visits to Miss Havisham's or joined him in his tutorials with Joe or worried about Pip as he encountered the next of several sketchy adults as he passed out of childhood into his formative years.

When we moved to Greenbelt, I got busy with all kinds of apartment and medical business and then I traveled to Kellogg in November, 2014 to help out with Mom, and Great Expectations fell off my radar. I picked it up again for a while in the last year, but, once again, got distracted from reading it.

Today, I returned to Pip's story. I secluded myself in our bedroom, enjoyed lying comfortably on our bed, and returned to 19th century rural Kent County, to the marshes, the fires of Joe's forge, the decay of Miss Havisham's house, and to my worry as to how Pip is going to make his way in the world.

I enjoyed Dickens' language, syntax, story telling, and reflections on Pip's circumstances more today than I ever had before. I might even see my way to the end of the novel this time around and not deny myself the pleasures of this book's rich detail, eccentric characters, and earnest central character, Pip.

2. Late this afternoon, I looked at the screen when my pocket computer rang and I didn't recognize the number, but it was from Idaho, and so I answered it. I am very grateful I did.

I am now under the care of nephrologist Dr. Kristie Jones. She ordered the blood work that preceded my visit to Linda Jo Yawn, N.P., last Thursday.

Dr. Kristie Jones called me today. She had just perused the report of my blood work and called to tell me what she thought.

You might remember that I was shaken last week when I read the report of my blood work because my kidney function had dropped from 19% to 17%.

This drop didn't concern Dr. Kristie Jones. Her perspective elated me. She regarded the 17% as a sign of continued stability and explained how this number will fluctuate and that I might have been a bit dehydrated the day I had my blood drawn or maybe my blood pressure was up that day.

In other words, she read the report that had upset me as good news and, like Linda Jo Yawn, was very impressed with all my other numbers, not related to the kidneys.

I see Dr. Jones again in June and she told me to keep taking good care of myself and we'll see how the numbers look then. She said she wouldn't be surprised if my kidney function number crept back up to 18 or 19 again.

Dr. Kristie Jones' call moved me. It's the first time a nephrologist has called to discuss a lab report with me. In fewer than three minutes, Dr. Jones listened to my concerns about the blood work, helped moderate my anxiety and straighten out my perspective, and boosted my morale as I do all I can, day to day, to take care of my damaged kidneys, maintain a positive outlook, and to pursue what brings vitality to my life.

Now, to be clear, last Thursday, Linda Jo Yawn got me on the right track mentally when she told me I was doing everything right and when she was unflustered by my lab report. My visit with her also boosted my morale. Today, I felt further strengthened and encouraged by Dr. Jones' call and our conversation. I'm uplifted, encouraged, and grateful.

3. The Deke took over the kitchen tonight and fried us each a delicious and slightly wild tasting ground elk patty and she fixed mashed cauliflower in the blender, a creamy and very flavorful side dish. We ate a balsamic vinegary salad with our dinner and both felt like the luckiest people alive to be enjoying such a simple and satisfying evening meal together.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 03/12/18: Haircut Yakkin', CdA Bookstores, Small Cuts of Meat

1.  I left some business unfinished when I departed from CdA on Saturday. So, on this robin egg blue day, I returned. I needed a haircut in the worst way and when I strolled into Supercuts, a guy named Bill was getting his hair cut and he made me laugh as he gave me a really bad time about how much I needed a haircut -- and a comb. When it was my turn, I once again entrusted my shaggy mop to Robin, a longtime resident of Pinehurst who cut my hair last time I was in (when? it seems like about a year ago!). Robin told me about when she lived in Alexandria years ago and how glad she was to be back in North Idaho. I'm glad to be back in North Idaho, too, but admitted that I enjoyed the two months the Deke and I spent living with Molly and Hiram and their children in Alexandria, although for the life of me I couldn't remember any place names -- that we lived in Groveton, near Huntley Meadows Park, not far from Huntington station. It's weird how all those place names disappeared from my memory until I returned home and looked them all up. It was a fun conversation and my hair looks tons better.

2. I wondered if I might find a couple of books about Watergate by Elizabeth Drew and J. Anthony Lukas at Browsers Uncommon Books, a used book store on Government Way in CdA. I strolled up to the front of the store and the door was locked. Sadly, the proprietor is (or has been) in the hospital and it doesn't look like the store will reopen until the end of the week.

I was almost positive I would not find the books I'm looking for at the Well-Read Moose, but I went over to Video Village, er, I mean Riverstone Village to check out the bookstore. It's a handsome independent bookstore. It features a wine and coffee bar, comfortable seats scattered about, lots of notices of book clubs that meet there, and is stocked with new books, many of them recent publications. I hung out there for a while and slowly scanned several sections. I was correct. Neither book I wanted was in stock.

3.  I only wanted three items at Costco, bought those, and then went to Pilgrim's and, along with some produce, bought meat to bring home and freeze. I bought turkey drumsticks, a whole chicken, some tiny sirloin steaks, and a pound of grass fed ground beef. For the Deke and me, the tiny cuts of meat, like sirloin steak and pork chops, available at Pilgrim's, work perfectly for us. In fact, I had thawed a couple of tiny pork chops this morning and, when I returned to Kellogg, I seasoned them with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and roasted a tray of zucchini, red pepper, Brussel sprouts, and carrots. The Deke returned from the Pinehurst Public Library's craft night shortly after eight and we enjoyed this light dinner together.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 03/11/18: Clean House, Family Dinner, Moral Licensing

1. The Deke went knitting this afternoon. First she went to the Wallace Coffee House and then returned to Kellogg to join friends who were knitting at Radio Brewing. I stayed home and cleaned the kitchen, swept our floors, mopped them, and vacuumed the living room rug. It was satisfying to make these areas of the house sparkle a bit.

2.  Tonight's family dinner was at Carol and Paul's house, but Christy and Everett couldn't join us. Christy was under the weather. Carol and Paul are eating according to the principles of the Keto Diet. We had a delicious Keto meal. Carol fixed a Caesar salad with homemade dressing and, for the main meal, we ate ground turkey meatballs with a delicious tomato sauce served over zoodles, or zucchini noodles, made by spiralizing the zucchini. After dinner, the Deke tutored Carol for a while in the subtle art of knitting, adding a personal touch to the instruction Carol has sought out online.  We missed Christy and Everett and hope this day of rest helps Christy feel better and be back on her feet soon.

3. After dinner, I found an episode of Revisionist History that the Deke and I hadn't listened to. It was the very first episode of the first season, entitled, "The Lady Vanishes". On the face of it, this episode is about the 19th century British painter, Elizabeth Thompson (later known as Lady Butler) who was the first woman to have a painting displayed in the Royal Academy. Malcolm Gladwell expands his discussion of Elizabeth Thompson by exploring a social psychology term, "moral licensing". This concept explores the bewildering way in which acts of virtue can be followed by unvirtuous deeds, as if by being virtuous, a person then feels he or she has license to act badly. In other words, having done something good, the person worries less about future immoral behavior. It's as if the person banks on the virtuous behavior as what others will remember, and, rather than building on the good, uses the good as a license to do the opposite.

If you listen to this podcast, here, you can hear the examples of moral licensing that Malcolm Gladwell cites.

Gladwell didn't mention former president, Bill Clinton, but he is who I thought of. Politically, Clinton worked for women's rights, but it is as if by establishing his bona fides as a political supporter of women, he felt he had license to prey upon women. Consequently, Clinton confronted his supporters with a perplexing dilemma. On the one hand, he was an ally of women politically, but, on the other, behaved in ways in his private life that violated his supporters' convictions.

I was reading an article recently about white evangelical women's support of President Donald Trump. Politically, Trump has established conservative bona fides with this bloc of voters, especially in his appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and in his opposition to abortion. The women interviewed realized that Trump's private life and many of his public statements and elements of his public behavior have not been in keeping with evangelical values, but it is as if he has moral license to behave badly because he champions the political virtues that matter most to his supporters.

I suppose if you've read this far, you are probably thinking that moral licensing isn't limited to any political position nor is it limited to politicians. It's widespread. It perplexes me, not only as I think about clergy, attorneys, movie producers, teachers, physicians, and others, but as I wonder if many of us, upon reflection, have done things we wish we wouldn't have, and did these things behind the cloak of our correct positions, good deeds, or a good reputation.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 03/10/18: Byrdman and I Unchained, Ninkasi's Ground Control, Early to Bed

1. The Deke and Christy and Carol went on a shopping and dining safari to Spokane and Coeur d'Alene so I decided I'd go to Coeur d'Alene and have lunch with Byrdman and crawl to a pub or two downtown. We shared an Italian pizza at Taphouse Unchained and I drank my first ever beer from pFriem Family Brewers of Mount Hood, a delicious Extra Pale Ale.

Byrdman and I exchanged bit of expertise about the upcoming NCAA men's basketball tournament and watched an awesome hour or so of golf being played at the Valspar Championship, featuring Justin Rose, Brandt Snedeker, Corey Connors, Patrick Reid, Sam Burns, and, a guy we hadn't seen play with tournament leaders for a while, Tiger Woods. We witnessed an array of spectacular shots, including Justin Rose firing an in the pin on the fly slam dunk eagle from the 11th fairway.

2. A while back, on a weekday, Byrdman and I had sauntered over to The Filling Station on 5th Street, but the joint wasn't open yet. After lunch, we figured it was worth another try, counting on an earlier opening time on Saturday. Wow! Am I ever happy we checked it out! The Filling Station is a tiny taproom with a handful of stools at a short bar and a few tables near the windows. It's adjacent to the Collective Kitchen bistro and, together, the two places offer about 50 beers on tap with a superb bottle menu.  Byrdman and I were under the care of a superb tap-tender, Ashley, a student her sophomore and junior years at Kellogg High school about eight years ago or so. We yakked about some Silver Valley history. Her grandfather survived the Sunshine Mine Fire.

When Ashley presented me with the taplist, my eyes popped out. Since 2014, when Ninkasi Brewing launched Ale yeast into space and used it to brew a new Imperial Stout, called Ground Control, I've been wanting to try this beer.

Today, I got to drink some. It was being served at The Filling Station. I loved its deep flavors, especially the cocoa nibs and hazlenut. Ground Control was as deep and mysterious as a black hole, with gravity so powerful light could not escape it.

3.  Back home, I cooked up a couple of ground beef patties for the Deke and me, roasted some cauliflower and zucchini, and made a salad out of a bag. Both the Deke and I were happy about how much fun we'd had on this gorgeous Saturday and celebrated by falling fast asleep soon after 8:00! At our age, a day packed with fun can knock us right out!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 03/09/18: Supertramp and the Whitworth HUB, Early Steak Dinner, Happy at the Lounge

1. If I ever want feel like I'm back in the cafeteria area of the Whitworth College HUB -- the Student Union Building -- in the late 1970s or the early 1980s, when I worked two different times at Whitworth, all I have to do is say, "Alexa, play the album The Very Best of Supertramp." I swear, every time I walked in the HUB to see who was in the darkened recess of the smoking area or grabbed a quick burger or a Coke with a fellow employee, someone was playing Supertramp on the jukebox and a knot of people in the smoking area or in another part of the room enthusiastically sang along, belting out, "Right (right) you're bloody well right/You've got a bloody right to say."

The Deke went uptown to get her hair cut and ran a couple of other errands late this morning and I gave Alexa the magic command to play Supertramp. While I cleaned up the kitchen, I mind-traveled back to the HUB and sat in a booth. I could hear ping pong masters playing in the adjacent room. I listened to bits of conversation as people walked through. Around me people discussed the latest Core 250 lecture or mocked Amy Grant or prayed together as a Bible study got underway in a booth nearby or tried to make sense of the ending of The Pawnbroker, a Core 150 staple. In my mind, Supertramp provided the HUB soundtrack. Today I listened to Supertramp sing what could have been the Whitworth theme song: "Won't you please, please tell me what we've learned/I know it sounds absurd/Please tell me who I am."  (from "Logical Song", here.)  I enjoyed being back in the good old HUB cafeteria, yakkin' with friends, eating fried foods, and euphorically riding the Whitworth jetstream of self-examination and contemplating what it means to be a whole person.

2. The Deke and I decided to eat an early dinner before we went to the Inland Lounge and I warmed up leftover spaghetti squash and leftover beets and greens and I took out these two 4 oz sirloin steaks we bought at Pilgrim's. I fried two strips of bacon and when one side of each steak was done, I flipped them, and covered each steak with bleu cheese and the bacon -- an experiment that we both enjoyed. I liked having a midafternoon dinner/lunch and afterward we cleaned up the kitchen so we'd come home tonight to things being in pretty good order.

3. We had a fun late afternoon and early evening at the Inland Lounge. The Wallace bunch was back to celebrate Connie's birthday and eat Chinese food from Wah Hing next door. We had a great session with Julie, got in some first-rate yakkin' with Cas, and ended the night with Jake and Carol Lee, shootin' the breeze and greeting and talking to others who came in.  The Deke and I had a blast and jabbered to each other all the way home about how much fun we'd had.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 03/08/18: Kidney Update, Soup with Crab Stock, Art History Podcast

1. Because I studied my lab report from March 1st before I arrived,  I already knew before I walked into the office of Linda Jo Yawn, NP, that my kidney numbers had dropped, that my kidney function is now down to 17%. I also knew that all my other blood work looked really good. So I wondered what to make of it. My kidney function has hovered around 19-21% for quite a while and I didn't like seeing that my kidneys are losing ground.

I should add here that I am experiencing no symptoms of kidney failure: no loss of appetite, no metallic taste in my mouth, no swollen ankles, no fatigue. I feel great. I'm exercising. I'll walk outside more as the weather improves. I'm eating really well.

I learned what I thought I'd learn. My kidneys are slowly deteriorating. There's nothing special I can do. In fact, Linda Jo Yawn told me, I'm taking very good care of myself. My blood pressure is great. I take my medicine. I just need to keep doing what I'm doing.  Linda Jo Yawn is very impressed that I'm doing as well as I am given that I survived the accident I had at the Zinc Plant in 1973 and that I didn't die from having had bacterial meningitis in 1999.

Linda Jo Yawn didn't tell me to be grateful, but I am. I am grateful to be alive. I'm grateful that I have not had a black hole episode with depression for nine years and that I haven't taken medicine for mental illness since 2016. I'm grateful that I'm doing so well aside from my kidney function. If (or when) the time comes that I need to go on dialysis, I'll be more able to withstand it because I'm otherwise healthy. Likewise, if/when I should happen to have a transplant, I'm in pretty good shape for that surgery and the recovery.

2.  All day I looked forward to making dinner. I thawed out a quart of crab stock and had decided to make Thai Coconut Curry Fish Soup. I sauteed minced ginger, minced lemongrass, finely chopped red pepper, and a couple teaspoons of green curry paste for a couple of minutes. To this I added about three cups of crab stock and some fish sauce and brown sugar. I let this simmer for about fifteen minutes and then I stirred in a couple of cans of coconut milk and some sliced mushrooms. While this simmered, I poached the cod I had on hand in my remaining crab stock, resting the fish atop lemon slices. Once the mushrooms were soft, I put chunks of the poached cod into the soup and added lime juice. I let this cook and later on I tasted the crab/cod/lemon liquid that remained after I poached the cod and decided it would enhance the soup. I dumped it in. 

I had bought cilantro for garnish, but forgot I had it, so the Deke and I dove into this spicy and slightly sweet soup and both concluded that it was a smashing success: deep in flavor with a pleasant creamy texture. We agreed potatoes would taste good in this soup and, next time, I'll be sure to remove the casing off the lemongrass before I mince it. The bits of casing in the soup were irritating, but harmless. (This was the first time I ever cooked with lemongrass -- now I've made my key rookie mistake!)

3. It had been a while since the Deke and I listened to any episodes of The Lonely Palette, an art history podcast.  The creator and host of this biweekly podcast, Tamar Avishai, examines a different painting or sculpture each episode. Each episodes opens with random people who each articulate their response to the piece of art and then Avishai takes over and in a pleasing and conversational way, digs deep into the a variety of the piece's dimensions: technique, context, history, meaning, and more. I enjoy listening to Tamar Avishai a lot and she's helped me to significantly better understand paintings as different from one another as da Vinci's Mona Lisa and Jackson Pollock's Number 10, 1949.

Tonight we listened to Tamar Avishai explore how we might look at and think about Jasper John's painting, Target and C. M. Coolidge's Dogs Playing Poker. These two paintings are totally dissimilar and I enjoyed learning all that I did about both of them.

Want to listen?

For the episode on Jasper Johns, click here.
 You can learn more about Dogs Playing Poker, here

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 03/07/18: Workout, Mom's Taxes, Beets and Chard and Salmon

1.  I had a good workout today at the Wellness Center. The days I lift weights with my arms and shoulders are always the most difficult, but I stuck with it and felt better for it when I finished.

2. I took my first dive into Mom's taxes, making sure I understand now to fill out her returns as the executor of her estate. I'll take my time and read more about this as I need to. I'm hoping the time isn't too far away when my sisters and I can close Mom's estate and, if I have them, I can get questions answered at that time.

3.  The Deke and I have all but quit eating out for dinner, especially since we've had a kitchen now for a couple of months. Tonight the Deke cooked a combination of chard and beet greens along with the beets and we finished the cabbage salad from the night before. I divided a half pound of salmon in half and cooked it on the grill of our gas range in butter, seasoning it with Old Bay, salt, and pepper. Using the Old Bay was an experiment and I'd like to try it on salmon again before I decide how much I like seasoning salmon this way.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 03/06/18: The Wonder of Ice, CdA Excursion, We Love Jerry Douglas

1.  Whatever this problem is that recurs from time to time with my ankle -- well, it flared up again and I hobbled when I got up this morning. Almost immediately, I put on a sock, stuffed an ice pack down the sock, and, instead of wearing slippers, put on my everyday shoes with the double insole support I've stuffed inside them. All of this worked. By early afternoon, the pain was gone and my ankle was back to being strong enough to support me as I walked. It's a little bit weak, but I can get around fine.

2. The Deke and I took advantage of the mild weather and piled in the Sube and headed to CdA for a small shopping trip. The Deke bought some buttons at the quilt shop and I hung out in Fred Meyer where I picked up a slotted spoon, a black and a gray T-shirt, and new pajama bottoms. The Deke purchased a few clothing items and then we were off to Pilgrim's Market. We bought some meat with the future in mind: salmon fillet, cod, elk patties, pork chops, a couple small sirloin steaks, a pork loin roast, and some chicken thighs. I have a curry fish soup in mind that I'd like to try making with some of the crab stock I made a while back and bought some lemongrass and cilantro for that.

I caught myself longing to be back in Greenbelt again -- no, that's not quite right. I found myself having sweet memories of the trips I took from Greenbelt over to MOM's Organic Market in College Park. Pilgrim's Market brought back the memories of shopping at MOM's -- along with many memories that stretch back to 1984 and forward of shopping at the Kiva and the Frontier Market and the Red Barn in Eugene. I didn't long to be back at these stores so much as I felt happy that just by driving a little over a half an hour, we can shop here at Pilgrim's Market in CdA and not only buy products we enjoy, but indulge the olfactory pleasures these stores give me.

3. I'd had the KEWU station on the Echo Dot all day. It's an eclectic jazz station I enjoy a lot. At one point the station played some pretty hard core tenor saxophone be-bop. I didn't catch who was playing, but the Deke requested a change in the music, something easier to listen to. We promptly agreed on the Jerry Douglas station on Pandora and heard one superb piece of music, most of it instrumental, after another, not only by Jerry Douglas, but Tony Rice, Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer, Mike Marshall, Doc Watson and a scintillating variety of other players.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 03/05/18: *Making Obama* --Ep. 4, The Deke Rocks the Kitchen, The Steele Dossier

1. The Deke and I postponed driving to CdA again today when we woke up to snow falling fast, oh fast. I played acoustic blues on the Echo Dot for a couple of hours and then we turned our attention back to Making Obama. The fourth episode focused a lot on the time Barack Obama served in the Illinois State Senate and also on what I'll call his Icarus moment in political life when he overreached, flew too close to the sun, and decided to contest U.S. Congressman Bobby Rush in the Illinois District 1 Democratic primary.

He lost to Rep. Bobby Rush in a landslide. Rush accused Obama of not being black enough to represent District 1 -- a question about Obama, by the way, that immediately surfaced as soon as he won the Democratic nomination for president in 2008. Barack Obama addressed this question of his blackness during Episode 4, but just as the interviewer asked him about it, our dogs started barking their brains out at a delivery truck and delivery person out front. I didn't hear Obama's response. I couldn't rewind the podcast, so I'll have to go back sometime and listen to that part of the episode again to hear what he said.

I think about this question a lot, not as an African-American, but as a North Idahoan. Part of Bobby Rush's critique of Barack Obama's blackness had a lot to do with Obama being Ivy League educated. Bobby Rush was active in the Civil Rights Movement. He was a member of the Black Panthers. He accused Obama of only having book knowledge about these things and accused him, because of his education, of being an elitist.

I wonder, often, if I'll always be, to some degree, an outsider in my own hometown because I left, I earned a graduate degree, studied Shakespeare, and was a college instructor. I am not a sportsman. When I go out into the woods, I take a camera. I don't drive a pickup. My experience as a laborer ended when I was nearly killed at the Zinc Plant in 1973, so, unlike so many of my other friends around here, I don't have stories to tell about logging, mining, building, repairing, hunting, working in gravel pits, running big pieces of equipment, welding, or working at other kinds of industrial jobs nor do I have recreational stories to tell about snowcatting, skiing, motorcycling, 4-wheeling, or boating.

I read. I write. I taught. I preached some. I acted in plays. I have officiated two weddings. I love to cook. I listen to podcasts  When I'm at the bar or at breakfast with the guys or doing other things with guys here, I love listening to all the stories. I don't even pretend to have any to tell, unless the subject turns to remembering athletes or games from our youth or to the short amount of time I worked in the Zinc Plant.

I'll never run for office in North Idaho, but, if I did, I'd understand if an opponent accused me of not being North Idaho enough and, while it would dismay me, I suppose I would understand if an opponent called me elitist -- if by elitist the opponent would mean educated, a lover of poetry and theater, interested in a wide variety of things, a drinker of craft beer, a driver of a Subaru, a lover of classical music and jazz, an Episcopalian, and a person who has never lived in a house with firearm.

I'm very grateful that even though I'm not much of a North Idahoan when it comes to the things I do and don't do, I feel like I belong here. Even if people I've known for years might regard me as a "little different", I always have a seat at Sam's for breakfast, a stool at the bar at the Inland Lounge, and a place at the table when we all get together out at the lake, up the river, at Corby's, or watch a basketball game together.

I might get picked on for drinking "preppy beer" or for having been a "professor" or for leaving the crab feed with bags of shells to boil into stock, but once we get to yakkin' and joking and laughing, all that stuff falls away. At a level of friendship and shared history that runs deeper than the things I do and don't do, I feel accepted. I belong. It's deeply satisfying.

If you'd like to listen to Episode 4 of Making Obama, click here.

2. The Deke made a superb dinner tonight. She made a delicious tomato sauce with ground beef and served it over spaghetti squash and made a very good green salad featuring, among other ingredients, butter lettuce, chopped Brussel sprouts, feta cheese, and a superb oil and vinegar-based dressing.

3.  I find it difficult to follow news stories on a day to day basis. I often think news comes out too fast and I like to wait a while -- sometimes a month or longer for stories to come out in longer pieces after the dust has settled and writers have had enough time to sort through things better -- but never perfectly. Online, I saw that in the upcoming March 12th issue of New Yorker, Jane Mayer has a long story about  Christopher Steele's background in intelligence gathering and the dossier he compiled back in 2016. I read it and was much more able to track the ins and outs of this story in a single article than I ever was while news about it was breaking on a day to day basis.

I don't know if non-subscribers can access this article, but it's worth a try to provide the link. It's here.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 03/04/18: Sibling Assignments, Christy Serves Salmon, *Making Obama*: A Podcast

1. My sisters and I have resumed giving one another and writing Sibling Assignments. Over the weekend, we each posted completed pieces, all written for the month of February. We wrote about family dinners, food feeds in Kellogg, and music -- we each created and commented on a ten song playlist. If you'd like to read my posts, they are here, here, and here and links to my sisters' posts are included in each my pieces.

2. Christy introduced a new twist to our Sunday family dinners by serving the meal she prepared at 2:00 this afternoon. She prepared a delicious foil packet dinner of salmon and asparagus accompanied by a fresh green salad. Paul couldn't make today's dinner. He was keeping an eye on the Sixth Street Melodrama's production of The Rivals, performed as readers theater. We talked about a wide range of topics. Our discussion of different gulches and other geographical features of the Silver Valley area made me want to jump up, grab a map, leap into the Sube, and start driving up and down gulches and acquaint myself streets I've either long forgotten or never really knew.

3. Last year, Chicago's radio station WBEZ produced a podcast series entitled, Making Oprah and explored how Oprah Winfrey built her media empire. Now the station has released a second series. It's entitled Making Obama. It does not look at Barack Obama's presidency, but looks at Obama's formative years as he worked his way toward becoming a national political figure.

The Deke and I listened to three episodes last night.  I enjoyed that the program spent a lot of time unfolding the history of Chicago over the last thirty-five years or so. The program looked at the demanding and substantial work Barack Obama performed as a community organizer for three years in Chicago's South Side when he was in his twenties. As an Ivy League educated outsider, he had difficulties earning the trust and respect of community leaders in South Chicago, but he did, especially as he got involved in, and helped to spearhead, the nitty gritty efforts to improve and rectify terrible housing and other conditions created by the city's neglect of these South Side neighborhoods. As much as we learned about Obama's life in the 80s, 90s, and the early 2000s, I think we learned even more about the history of the city of Chicago and how Barack Obama involved himself in working to address some of the city's most difficult, tense, and chronic problems. It toughened him up, as did his later involvement in Chicago and Illinois electoral politics.

If you'd like to check out Making Obama, click here.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 03/03/18: Dancing for Peter Himmelman, Afternoon at the Lounge, Simple Dinner

1. Between twenty and twenty-five years ago, I drove from Eugene to Seattle to visit Bill Davie and listen to him open at the Back Door -- I think that was the name of the venue -- I'd seen Garnet Rogers there a few years earlier.  Bill Davie opened for another singer-songwriter, Peter Himmelman. I loved Bill's set and enjoyed the time we spent together. It was a great weekend.

As of that night, I'd never heard Peter Himmelman, but I'd heard stories about him performing at the WOW Hall in Eugene and doing stuff like having the audience file with him outside and gather somewhere -- maybe around the front porch of the hall? -- maybe in the back parking lot? -- and he performed unmiked where it wasn't so stuffy. I'd also heard Himmelman brought audience members on stage to sit on couches, provide musical accompaniment (whether they were musicians or not), or do other things and often he would improvise a song on the spot about individuals who were watching his shows.

In the early spring of 1997,  two Eugene guys, Dave Veldhuizen and another guy named Dave, and I went to the Aladdin Theater in Portland together to see Peter Himmelman. I didn't say anything on the way up, but, within myself, I had promised myself to volunteer to go on stage when Peter Himmelman was sure to ask for a volunteer. Sure enough, several songs into the show, he started talking about it being lonely up on the stage and he had these couches and before he could make an invitation, I sprung out of my seat and started walking to the stage and joined him. Not long afterward, the two Daves came up, too, and he called us something like Dave and the Beards or the Two Daves and the Beards (we all sported beards).

At one point, Peter Himmelman turned to me and said, "Do you do interpretive dance?" Lying, but game for anything that night, I told him I did. "You're Bill, right?" I nodded. He then turned to the mike and announced, "For this next song, my friend, Bill, is going to help me out with an interpretive dance." I'd never heard the song, "Wrapped Up in Cellophane" that he played, but I listened closely and performed a dance to the lyrics. Peter Himmelman hugged me and after the show, and, as the audience filed out, several people shook my hand and congratulated me for my performance.

This all came back to me today because I discovered that Alexa has Peter Himmelman songs available on the Echo Dot and I listened to some of my old favorites like "Woman with the Strength of 10,000 Men" and "Flown this Acid World" and "Impermanent Things" and "Mission of My Soul" among others. I remembered the day I drove to Yachats to check out the Adobe Inn before we had a family vacation there and I stopped in a record store somewhere on my way home and Peter Himmelman's From Strength to Strength was available on cassette tape and I played it while driving the Honda Civic Hatchback on Highway 126, over the Coast Range, and on into Eugene.

I hadn't listened to these Peter Himmelman's songs for a long, long time. But, today, while I was cleaning up the kitchen, his voice suddenly popped into my head and, with Alexa's help, had quite an hour or so, playing songs and remembering those two shows in Seattle and Portland. Suddenly feelings rushed in. Some of the loss and heartache I experienced back in the 1990s was attached to these songs. I'd forgotten that and I felt that heartache again as if it were new. Then, before long, it washed away.

2. While I was grocery shopping at Yoke's, Ed called me and wondered if I'd be interested in having a drink in about an hour at the Inland Lounge. Well, that offer fit right into my busy Saturday schedule. I got there a little early and shot the breeze with Cas and John for a while and Ed sauntered in and we made the acquaintance of a couple at the bar. Brian had just moved to Smelterville and is a civil engineer and Laura was visiting him for a week or so. It was fun getting to know them a little bit and to share some local knowledge. I also had fun talking with Cas and John and Rosie and got a kick out of hearing about the time many years ago that Rosie was working the bar and physically threw Smoky Joe out of the Kopper Keg and broke his arm. He'd passed out at the bar and when she woke him up, he poked her with a live cigarette.

3. The Deke had spent the day in Spokane with knitting friends. She arrived home happy for having had a good day. At Yoke's, I bought a couple of hamburger patties seasoned with Montreal seasoning at Yoke's, but only cooked one of them since the Deke had food on the road. I enjoyed my patty with a side of roasted Brussel sprouts, carrots, and yellow zucchini and a bowl of butter lettuce, carrot, and celery salad.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Sibling Assignment #188: The Greenbelt Playlist

Christy gave my sisters and me this assignment:
Building playlists have become a part of our lives now because of the new ways we listen to music. If you could build a perfect playlist of ten songs. what would be the theme and what would be on that list? Explain the theme and why you chose those songs, or some of the songs. 

Christy's playlist is here and Carol's is here.

The Greenbelt Playlist 

1. "The Boxer" Jerry Douglas, featuring Mumford and Sons and Paul Simon
2. "Runnin' Down a Dream" Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
3. "The Chain" Fleetwood Mac
4. "The Weight" The Band with the Staple Singers (from The Last Waltz)
5.  "Rockin' in the Free World" Neil Young
6.  "My City was Gone" The Pretenders
7. "Video Killed the Radio Star" The Buggles
8. "Love Shack" B-52s
9.  "Desperados Waiting for a Train" Highwaymen
10.  "Sunshine" Jonathan Edwards and the Seldom Scene

This playlist does not have the universal appeal the many playlists created, say, on Amazon might.

That is because this is a list of songs that take me back to the the three years, from September 2014 to September 2017 when the Deke and I lived in Greenbelt, Maryland. Moving to Kellogg has turned out to be a very good decision. While I love being here, I also loved living in Greenbelt and I enjoy finding ways to transport myself back to our little apartment home, our evenings at the Old Line Bistro in Beltsville, Quench in Silver Spring, and DC Brau in very north and east of Washington, D. C. I sometimes long to be back in my weekly water aerobics class. I miss the throb of Washington, D.C. and the constant movement of things in the suburbs. I miss all the trees, the parks, the many beers we enjoyed, and I sometimes I miss the autonomy, how I could roam neighborhoods in Washington, D. C. or go shopping at Wegmans in Lanham or Columbia or try out a Vietnamese restaurant in Brookland and enjoy the privacy of no one knowing me.

A few things tie some of these songs together as reminders of living in Greenbelt. The Deke and I enjoyed sitting at the bar at the Old Line Bistro and we often drummed up conversations with people we didn't really know or we talked to each other, often wondering what we were going to do next in our life together. I think the house music was a Pandora station and most often a series of songs would play and get no response from us. But, toward the end of our time going to Old Line, management played a station that regularly featured Jerry Douglas' version of "The Boxer" with Mumford and Sons and Paul Simon singing and every time it came on, we fell silent and were moved by the delicate and soaring, even haunting, beauty of Jerry Douglas moving this gorgeous song forward with his work on the dobro guitar.

The rotation of songs almost always included Tom Petty and Heartbreakers, too. The Deke wasn't stopped cold by hearing Tom Petty, but I was and often after hearing "Runnin' Down a Dream" at Old Line, I'd jump online in our apartment home, put earbuds, and listen again, primarily so I could listen, listen, and listen again to Mike Campbell's guitar solo -- a perfect musical expression of the spirit and the lyrics of this song.

In addition, I enjoyed meeting up with Scott Shirk in New York City two or three different times when we lived in Greenbelt. Inevitably, we talked about music. I enjoyed explaining my preference for Tom Petty over Bob Dylan as a songwriter and musician and, even more, I enjoyed our conversations about Levon Helm's genius as a singer and drummer, especially with The Band and so "The Weight" takes me back to those conversations.

One of my very best trips while living in Greenbelt took place in October of 2016 when I traveled to Savannah, GA to officiate Scott and Cate Shirk's wedding. At the reception that followed, a DJ played dance music and I sat still at the table where I'd been seated until the B-52's "Love Shack" came over the sound system and suddenly it was 1989-90 again at the WOW Hall and I danced as hard as I could for about four minutes. My love for the B-52s had been awakened a few years earlier by posts Julie Fether, now Julie Rockwell, made on Facebook about her love for them and wouldn't you know it -- a year later, I traveled to Huntingdon, PA to serve as officiant for Julie and Curtis's wedding.

I used to subscribe to Entertainment Weekly, as part of being a member of the American Film Institute. I never cared much for the magazine, but early in 2017 (I think), the magazine published a little thing about Fleetwood Mac's album, Rumours and I became preoccupied with how I'd never appreciated Fleetwood Mac and how now, forty years later, all I wanted to do in our little apartment home was listen to Fleetwood Mac. I felt a new thrill listening to Lindsay Buckingham play the guitar, especially on "The Chain" and even had fantasies of Babes with Axes working up their own version of this song so they could apply their inventive harmonies to that stirring opening ("Listen to the wind blow") and TR could be featured playing Jon McVie's gnarly bass riff at the center of the song. I don't think this fantasy will ever come true!

When September, 2014 rolled around, it was the first time since I was a five year old that I didn't have any affiliation as a student or an employee with a school. I spent a lot of time thinking about things, especially about times in my life that I thought I could roll back time, pretend like something I was involved with could be rewound and I could lose the cassette tape as if it never happened. I was stupid. I've thought a lot about my folly and one song I listened to often because it put this folly into words was "Video Killed the Radio Star" and this line: "In my mind and in my car, we can't rewind, we've gone too far."

I used to play little concerts of YouTube videos in our little apartment home for the Deke and me and almost always these concerts featured The Highwaymen singing Guy Clark's "Desperados Waiting for a Train". I gave myself private concerts, too, and over and over again I listened to Neil Young's thrashing guitar solo in one electric version after another of "Rockin' in the Free World."

When we drove out to Ben and Tana's wedding with Patrick and again when we drove across the USA to move to Kellogg, we stayed in Elyria, OH, a bleak scar of suburb, a testimony to how the high hopes of a booming economy in the late 1990s came crashing down in 2008 and places like Elyria never recovered. Chrissie Hynde saw it all coming back in 1982 in her lamentation, "My City is Gone", performed by The Pretenders.

When we moved to Greenbelt, I had hoped to get out to places like the Birchmere in Alexandria, VA or to small venues in the countryside of Virginia and Maryland that featured bluegrass music. I never did. One immortal Sunday afternoon, however, I went to a lively bluegrass jam at Atlas Brewing, but it was the only live bluegrass music I ever heard. To compensate, I listened to videos of the Seldom Scene on YouTube. For years, the Seldom Scene was a premier bluegrass band in Washington, D. C. and I got to hear them back in 1988 at the WOW Hall in Eugene. My favorite Seldom Scene track features Jonathan Edwards singing his great song, "Sunshine" with the Seldom Scene and it makes me think not so much of what I did while living in Greenbelt, but of what I left undone and unexperienced.