Thursday, May 31, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 05/30/18: Moving Things Along, Downdraft Brewing and Fresh Pork, The Deke in the Kitchen

1. Rose branches. Construction waste. Cardboard. Window blinds. A metal table. An unsteady ironing board. All loaded up in Everett's pickup for a trip to the dump and to St. Vincent de Paul's in Osburn. I also had the lawn mower and fertilizer spreader ready to go, but Shawn can use them so I donated them to Lifetime Construction. We will now have more room in our garage and basement. I'd like to think room for nothing, just fewer things cluttering them.

When I was unpacking at St. Vincent de Paul's a woman in a minivan called out her window, "Sir!"

It took a few seconds for it to register: she was calling out to me.

"Sir! Are you donating that table?"

"I was going to. Do you want it?"

"I sure do. Got a yard sale coming up and stuff. It'd be a big help."

"All righty! It's yours."

2. Christy, Everett, the Deke, and I went in together and purchased a hog and we learned Tuesday that the meat was wrapped, packed, frozen, and ready to be picked up.

The Deke and I made an appointment to pick up the boxes at Double E Meats in Post Falls and I seized upon the opportunity to introduce the Deke to Downdraft Brewing. Luckily, our appointment to pick up the meat was at 4 and Downdraft opens at 3, so we had time to sample some beer before completing our task.

Like many small breweries, Downdraft's location is a bit obscure -- it is tucked in the back of a business lot behind a Meineke Muffler shop on West Seltice Way (and only about ten minutes from Double E Meats). We were greeted by a friendly guy pouring beer who was eager to tell us about Downdraft's beers and to give us tastes of whatever we wanted to sample.

Let me digress for a moment: In the world of craft beer, those who pay a lot of attention to the business side of beer brewing always keep a close eye on the fact that the big beer producers of beers like Budweiser, Miller, Coors, and others are always looking to buy craft beer breweries.  Many of the breweries that have sold (out?) their breweries to big beer are themselves pretty good sized producers of beer who want wider distribution, more presence on grocery shelves, the increased storage possibilities, etc.

Then there are the breweries like Downdraft. Small. A modest number of accounts in some local stores and in local tap rooms. They would rather self-distribute than contract with a distributor. Downdraft, like many other local breweries, is a small operation with a modest sized taproom.

These small local breweries are our favorites.  And we loved Downdraft. The beers we sampled were awesome. After small tastes of three beers, I ordered a five ounce glass of Gin Juice 2IPA. Downdraft's brewer, Ginger Cantamessa, combined about four citrusy hops and some juniper berries and brewed up a very smooth and innovative Double IPA, an easy drinking beer that is over 8% Alcohol by Volume. That's why I only drank five oz. of it. The Deke ordered another of Ginger Cantamessa's unique creations: a Strawberry Rhubarb Cream Ale. I drank about five oz. of the Deke's pint and I loved the creamy texture and mouth feel of this beer and both the Deke and I thought the flavors of the strawberry and rhubarb were very quiet, not dominant at all.

Ginger has a Lavender Wheat Ale in production right now and maybe the Deke and I will find a reason before long to head over the hill and drop into Downdraft and give it try one day. I'm so impressed with her imaginative and deft brewing skills that I'd love to find out what this beer will taste like.

We arrived at Double E Meats. The world's most friendly and helpful people guided us to the freezer where I backed up the Sube and we got loaded up and ready to go. We drove straight back to Kellogg and I put Christy and Everett's pork in their freezer and the Deke loaded ours.

And, I swear, all we could talk about on the ride home was how much we enjoyed Downdraft Brewing and how much we enjoy visiting small breweries, from Maryland to Indiana to Michigan to North Dakota to Montana to Idaho to Washington, devoted to innovation, experimentation, solid brewing, and sharing the joy and variety of beer. 

3.  The Deke has been on a roll in the kitchen as of late. Tonight, while I took cardboard from our house and from Christy and Everett's down the street to the recycling station and shopped at Yoke's, the Deke roasted orange pepper and red onion, fried a couple fillets of tilapia, got out the remoulade she'd made a few days ago, and served the cabbage salad she'd made earlier in the day. I bought a chunk of Champagne cheddar cheese at Yoke's. We each had a small bit of the cheese and it, along with our dinner, was superb, complimented with Sauvignon Blanc wine.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 05/29/18: Closing Mom's Estate, Blood Draw, Tuesday at the O'Reilly Garage

1. As the executor/personal representative of Mom's estate and with the approval of Christy and Carol, I took steps today to close Mom's business. The key event occurred Saturday when Mom's modest Idaho state tax refund check arrived. I deposited it and closed Mom's estate account and transferred the remaining funds into another account. From it, I can pay the last attorney fee, when I find out what it is, and divide the remaining funds between my sisters and me.

I am very grateful that from the beginning, when Mom's poor health last summer meant signing power of attorney over to Christy, to when she passed away and I took on the executor responsibilities, that Christy, Carol, and I have not had one dispute, not even a single cross word, as we divided and dealt with Mom's belongings, decided that the Deke and I could buy her house, and divided the money Mom left behind.  We settled these matters peaceably and cooperatively and we maintained strong trust in one another. Actually, words like "grateful" and "appreciative" seem inadequate to express how very thankful I am for how Christy, Carol, and I worked things out.

2.  I went to Heritage Health uptown this afternoon for a blood draw in preparation for my appointment next Thursday with my nephrologist in CdA.  A blood draw is a relatively simple procedure as long as one's veins are in good shape -- and mine are --, but it's also a procedure where having trust in the phlebotomist matters. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you might remember that I began to look forward to my monthly blood draws in Greenbelt, always hoping that Angela would draw my blood because I liked her so much. Now I do my monthly blood draws at the Shoshone Medical Center, and, again, no matter who pokes me, they are attentive, careful, fun to talk with, and trustworthy. I was the same today at our local Lab Corp at Heritage Health. I left feeling happy that in the few minutes it took her to draw my blood, I felt well taken care of and I very much enjoyed our brief conversation about kidneys and transplants.

3.  Every Tuesday afternoon, Jim and Martha O'Reilly host a party in the large shed/garage where Jim restores cars.  When the Deke and I arrived around 4:30, at least thirty people must have been there. The refrigerator is stocked with a variety of beers -- Coors, Bud Lite, Olympia, Miller Lite, and others -- and on a table was an array of foods: spaghetti, pasta sauce, vegetables, garlic bread, cookies, cake, and other offerings.

I wish I could list all the people who were at the party today. I will say that I met Jerry Ford for the first time. Jim reminded me who Doug Mousseau is -- his name had escaped me over the years and we worked together at Stein's briefly. I talked with Eddie Joe, Tully Clements, Jim O'Reilly, Sherrie (Howe) Northrup, and many others.  When I was in high school, I never wanted a hot muscle car, but I was fascinated by the souped up cars other guys at KHS owned and for a while this afternoon I thoroughly enjoyed listening to stories about fast, sleek, muscular cars and the guys who drove them.

A highlight of the day was talking with John Sevy and confirming a memory I had of him. To make a long story short, back in my Whitworth days, either as a student or afterward, at one of the several hockey games I went to in Spokane, I had a memory of John Sevy holding a winning ticket to come out on the ice and take an uncontested shot at the goal for some kind of prize. For years, I've wondered if my memory was playing tricks on me or if this really happened. Today, I got confirmation. That was John Sevy on the ice at one of the intermissions.  John told me the whole story today and it was a great one -- and, he was stunned that I remembered him being on the ice all these forty or so years later. I don't know why it stuck in my head, but it did, and now I know it really happened.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 05/28/18: Hours in the Gardens, Dump Run!, Old School at Radio Brewing

1. I went out back early this morning while still shady and tilled a spot, improved it with a bag of potting soil, transplanted two daylilies, poked some cosmos seeds in the ground, and watered it. Later on, the Deke and I moved the raised bed on to the lawn temporarily and I tore weed suppressing carpeting out of the ground. We put back the raised bed frame and I filled it with multiple bags of potting soil. Later I bought a bag of fertilizer for the raised bed and, by late afternoon, the Deke transplanted some herbs and put radish seeds in the raised bed to get a growing project underway.

2. I borrowed Everett's pickup and loaded it with cardboard, construction waste, styrofoam packing, the carpet pieces I yanked out of the ground, and bags of household trash and made a trip to the transfer station. I love it when I don't let stuff that needs to be disposed of pile up and thanks to Everett letting me use his truck and thanks to how easy it is to get to and use the dump, I got this stuff from both ours and Christy and Everett's house out of here quickly.

3.  The Deke and I went up to Radio Brewing and lo and behold there was a table filled almost to capacity with Kellogg High School grads around our age: Darrell and Sherrie Northrup, Jim and Martha O'Reilly, and Mark and Wanda Cowles. At first, I thought the Deke and I had some talking to  do between ourselves and I turned down this group's first invitation to join us, but, when one of them offered the same invitation to the Deke, she accepted and it was blast. Two seats remained at the end of the table, we took them, and I got to know Mark and Wanda better than I ever have and we were parts of other conversations up and down the table. It turned out these guys had been out on the town for a while and they were done and needed to leave before the Deke and I left, so the two of us lingered for a while and got in the conversation I thought we were going to have when we arrived. Everything worked out just right!

Monday, May 28, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 05/27/18: Best Shots Summit, Daylilies, Superb Family Dinner

1.  Ed, Don Knott, and I knew it was about time to solve the world's problems once and for all.  We got together at Best Shots, put our heads together over breakfast, and one by one we took care of the world's ills. It was a little disappointing that even after all we did, I looked at the news and the world seemed unfazed by all our work at the Best Shots Summit. Oh, well. The company was awesome and my breakfast was perfect: a thick, perfectly peppery sausage patty, pillowy hash browns, two flawlessly fried eggs, and two golden brown pancakes, the first pancakes I'd ever ordered at Best Shots, but definitely not my last.

2. From her abundant store of a stunning variety of flowers, Carol plucked daylilies with dirt, roots, the works, put them in plastic shopping bags, and brought them over. We have a spot near the snowball bush in our scrawny garden for me to plant them on Monday. Slowly, surely over the next year, I'll work to clear out spots here and there for flowers and Carol's offering to us will make a good start.

3. We dined like royalty in Christy and Everett's back yard tonight for family dinner. I didn't catch the name of it, but Christy prepared a cauliflower casserole, rich with cheeses and cream that was tasty and substantial, and, for those following the plan, was Keto perfect. She also served a fresh salad with a Greek vinaigrette and very tasty zucchini slices out of the oven. Within myself, but not out loud, I called them zucchini boats. I mostly listened to the lively conversations about gardening, the progress of our remodeling projects, Christy and Everett's upcoming getaway to Priest Lake, Keto cooking and eating, and dog talk, among other things. If I could have a wish come true, it would be that the temperature and weather conditions in Kellogg would be what they were today, all year long. It was warm enough to be outside, but it wasn't hot and as the sun dropped, refreshing cool evening mountain air made being outdoors perfectly comfortable.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 05/26/18: Dump Run, Garden Party, 19th Hole

1. On Friday, Shawn and his guys filled up our regular garbage can with stuff from their job and today I figured what the hay -- I'll make a run to the dump. So I got out a couple of our extra trash cans, filled them up, and broke down some cardboard boxes from around the house, loaded up the Sube, and made a quick trip to the transfer station.

2. Carol and Paul wanted to show the Deke, Christy, Everett, and me all the developments in their yard and garden, so they invited us over for a garden party. We saw their multiple flower and vegetable plots and sat on their patio and enjoyed olives, vegetables, cheese, and wine. We had a cheerful time together -- in fact, the Deke and I might just be inspired to up our yard and garden game a bit. A little bit.

3. I texted Don Knott and told him to let me know when to show up at the Inland Lounge's 19th hole and later in the afternoon he texted me that he was done with his round at the Kellogg golf course and so I headed up to the Lounge. We had a great time. Cas was happy to see us.  Ed joined us. So did Eddie Joe. We yakked about all kinds of stuff and I got to hear stories about the good old days in Kellogg that I'd never heard before.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Sibling Assignment #191: It's All in My Head -- and Maybe My Torso

Christy gave the three of us siblings this assignment:

Write a tribute to a friend that is no longer with us.
Carol wrote a tribute to the family dog, Peaches. It's here. Christy paid tribute to one of her students, here.

I'm going to modify this assignment a little bit, because the friend I've lost and want to pay tribute to is still with us, could return to me, but is no longer with me at the present time.

Starting when I was thirteen years old and continuing on into my adulthood, off and on, I developed a friendship with the game of golf.

I will say, right off the top, that I was never very good at golf, especially when I stand my game up against any number of friends who played golf superbly.

The chief mistake I made as a teenager was never learning how to play golf properly. Mom and Dad bought me clubs and I relied on whatever natural abilities I had in the area of hand-eye coordination to strike the golf ball and get around the course.

Consequently, I never developed a reliable golf swing. The swing I did develop brought my club through the ball in such a way that I hit a huge slice, meaning my shots almost always started way off to the left and then curved back to the right. I couldn't do what really good golfers do. I couldn't shape a golf shot. My main concern, always, was to make contact. I was always inconsistent with this and so my golf game always featured an array of worm burners, rainmakers, shanks, and even the occasional whiff. When I did make contact, I sliced my shots nine out of ten times. Usually I had no idea where my ball would go once I struck it.

I also never sought out instruction in how to pitch or chip shots near the green nor did I have much of a sense of the difference between these short shots nor did I ever learn how to spin a shot.

Finally, in about 1977, I decided to take golf lessons and I sought out a greatly admired and venerable professional at Indian Canyon in Spokane, Bill Welch. He helped me restructure my swing so that I began to hit a draw (which sometimes devolved into a hook and, at other times, devolved more into a duck hook). For a couple of years, I played better golf than I ever had.  I enjoyed that.

But, I made another mistake. I never followed up on that set of six lessons I took from Bill Welch. As a result, I developed new bad habits. Then I started graduate school and I played less and less golf. When I did play, I tended to fall back on ways I swung the club when I was a teenager or I put some of the bad habits that developed after I took lessons from Bill Welch into practice.

I further damaged my game of golf by going to graduate school. Once I immersed myself in my studies, I rarely played golf, let alone ever practice. I lived in Spokane for two years back in 1982-84. I never played a single round in Spokane and, if I did play during that time, I played in Kellogg with Dad.

Still, I considered golf a great friend. I loved the experience of being on a golf course, the walking, the smell of fresh cut grass, the different ways different holes took shape, and the chances playing golf gave me to contemplate my life and think about ideas while I walked from one shot to another.

Even more, I enjoyed the comradery of playing golf with friends. Soon after the Deke and I got married in 1997, four of us Eugene made it a point to join up and play a different local golf course each month. One player in that group, Paul, and I played a lot on our own apart from our group and used to make trips to Florence or Corvallis or Junction City or Creswell or Cottage Grove or go up the McKenzie River and play different courses, as well as the ones in or near Eugene. Around this time, I took a series of lessons again, from another Texas native, Jim Dodd, and I played some decent rounds, but mostly I had a lot of fun playing different courses, having little competitions, and enjoy other people's company.

My friendship with playing the game of golf started to really decline in 2000 after I'd been hospitalized with bacterial meningitis. I remember Paul and I went out the following spring to play and I had to give up my round after sixteen holes from fatigue.

Now things get very fuzzy for me. I don't remember trying to play very often and I have memories of my lifelong difficulties with hitting the ball of the tee to start a hole getting worse and worse. In fact, I started to get afraid of teeing off. I had felt this anxiety when I was younger and I know from time to time I used to bail on tee shots, nearly jump away from the ball while swinging in a psychological effort not to have to face my failure to hit my tee shot well. When players develop this fear or anxiety over their putts, they are said to have the yips. I've never known of players -- well, maybe Charles Barkley -- to develop the yips when trying to tee off, but I had developed a psychological aversion to teeing off that I have decided to call the yips.

I played a round of golf in 2005 at Lincoln City with Kellogg friends and I hit one gorgeous tee shot that day and I nearly cried (don't tell my friends). But the rest of the time I scuffed, scalded, duck hooked, whiffed, bailed out, and generally made a terrible mess of shots off the tee. I doubt my friends thought much about it; no one teased me or anything. But I was embarrassed. I'd felt embarrassment many times before playing golf because of my problems off the tee. But, for me, this was worse.

Aside from a one or two trips to a par 3 course at Fiddler's Green near Eugene and another trip to a par three course that's part of the Riverview Complex, I have not played a regulation round of golf since that round in Lincoln City. At first, I thought maybe if I took a hiatus from golf I could return to it with a fresh mind and maybe my tee block demons would have gone away.

But I went to a driving range near Middleboro, MA back in 2015 with the Troxstar. Maybe it was all in my head. Maybe in was in my inflexible torso. Maybe I'd simply lost my hand-eye coordination as a result of aging. Whatever the cause, I know one thing: I could not hit a single golf shot on that range.

A year earlier, when we moved from Eugene to Greenbelt, I had given my golf clubs away, figuring my golfing days were over. My failure on the driving range in Middleboro confirmed that I was probably washed up.

Now I have thought about giving golf one last try. I had hoped when I moved to Kellogg that one of the courses in the county might have professional instruction available like they used to -- but, they don't. The closest instructors are in CdA.

So, for now, at least, I've lost a good friend. I miss that great feeling that hitting a great golf shot creates -- even if I only felt it once or twice a round. I miss the fun I had playing with friends. Golf was the one thing Dad and I could always count on enjoying together. I miss those friendly competitions from twenty years ago in the Eugene area when the guys and I would play scrambles together. I miss the sunshine, the wind, and even the rain. (I don't miss the heat, though.)

My only consolation in having lost this friend is that I can follow golf as a fan. If I'm in the right place at the right time, a golf tournament will be on television and I have never lost the thrill of seeing great shot making by the professionals, especially great shots executed under pressure. I also love reading about golf and one day I'll return again to the great golf writer Herbert Warren Wind and reread his accounts, written for The New Yorker, of tournaments I enjoyed when I was younger and we had a television in the house.

But, as far as playing golf, I could be wrong, but I think those days are over.

Three Beautiful Things 05/25/18: Pancakes and Hash Browns, Overcoming Telephone Dread, Daft Badger Party

1. All week long, I look forward to breakfast at Sam's. First of all, it's fun listening to the other guys tell stories, talk about work, and discuss the stuff going on in their lives. For example, Buff recently returned from a rafting trip in the Grand Canyon and he heard the Eagles perform Thursday night and he was stoked about both experiences. Secondly, because the Deke and I have cut way back -- actually eliminated -- eating potatoes at home, all week long I look forward to the huge helping of Sam's fluffy hash browns every Friday morning and covering them with Tabasco sauce. About a month ago, when it came time to order what kind of toast I want, I started ordering a pancake. Now, all week long, I think about wanting Friday to come so I can have one of Sam's pancakes with my sausage, eggs, and hash browns. It's not a special pancake -- no blueberries or buckwheat or huckleberries or oatmeal -- although I'd enjoy any one of those -- it's a plain old good sized pancake and somehow every Friday it's just the perfect thing for me with a couple Darigold pats of butter and imitation maple syrup poured over it.

2. I dread being on the telephone. I far prefer writing or talking to people in person. I had some business to take care of this morning concerning money. The institution I needed to contact is far away and I can't make the transaction electronically. I had to call. Then, to my relief, the woman who answered and helped me get my task done was friendly, kind, and considerate. She made me wish that any time I call this place I could request her to help me out. I'd actually been spending the last week getting myself bucked up to make this call and then it was easy and pleasant. Likewise, when I called Kootenai Health to see about getting a nephrologist appointment changed, the woman who helped me was perfectly solicitous.  I was relieved and grateful.

3. Christy and Everett came over. Shawn's wife Teresa did, too. Christy brought over some chips and salsa she just made. The Deke broke out a great cheese we bought at Murray's at Fred Meyer on Thursday and some crackers and she sliced up some red and orange peppers and made a dip. Another week of working on the remodel had come to an end and we celebrated.

I was  especially happy that Shawn and Teresa both enjoyed the Daft Badger beer we introduced to them. Darrell sold us one of the beers as a favor.  We were very grateful that we could have the privilege of enjoying it around our table and we loved it. The Deke and I know Teresa and Shawn both enjoy blood orange IPA, so, on Thursday, the Deke and I bought a six pack of Daft Badger's Blood Orange IPA and they both enjoyed it. We had a lot of fun telling stories and talking about the projects at our two houses. I'll be happy when the projects are completed, but I'll miss these little Friday parties at the end of Shawn's work week.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 05/24/18: Learning to Cook at Fred Meyer, Daft Badger Bliss, Superb Yard Care

1.  The Deke and I took a day off from supervising (ha!) the remodeling project that continues in our house and took a drive to CdA. First stop was Great Floors where we bought the floor for our bathroom. We knew exactly what we wanted, so it only took a few minutes to tell Dennis, have him put in a work order to the adjoining warehouse, and have the two boxes loaded into the Sube.

Next stop was Fred Meyer where we picked up a few things. I was especially happy to stumble upon a magazine called Cook's Illustrated All-Time Best Seafood Recipes.  While the Deke was finishing up a little shopping, I sat at Starbucks, finished my grande misto, and in about ten minutes significantly increased my knowledge of cooking fish. I am eager and ready to expand my cooking experience even more.

2. At Daft Badger, co-owner Darrell Dlouhy works the floor on weekdays during the day. Until today, this fact hadn't ever quite sunk in to the Deke and me, but now we know. Because it hadn't sunk in, when we took a seat at the Daft Badger early this afternoon, we didn't expect to get to see Darrell, but PRESTO! he suddenly appeared at our table and was the model of attentiveness, accomodation, in short, of premium service. Daft Badger recently collaborated with Bombastic Brewing to brew a small batch of an Imperial Stout (as yet unnamed) and it weighs in at about 10.5 ABV, so we asked to merely sample it and its velvety chocolate, dark fruit fullness embodied everything I love in an Imperial Stout. I can hardly wait until this same beer is released later in the year, in bottles, after aging in bourbon barrels.

No one in Shoshone County, just yet, brews a double IPA and I had a hankering for one, so I ordered a 12 oz. glass of Hop Face Double IPA. As I drank this adroitly balanced beer, I almost accused it of not playing fair! It's so smooth and easy and tasty that it's easy to forget that at 8.5 ABV, it packs a wallop and the wallop snuck up on me and I loved the mild euphoria that built within me as I sipped my way to the bottom of this glass. I didn't want food to interfere with my enjoyment of this beer, so waited until I'd finished my Hop Face to order the Deke and me a Daft Platter, a generous plate of cheeses (Greek, jalepeno cheddar, and more), cured meats, fresh apple, pickled asparagus, pickled beets, dried apricot, and smoked almonds accompanied by slices of baguette. I was blown away by this cornucopia of different flavors, textures, and food items -- it's the best meat and cheese and fruit and vegetable platter I've ever eaten.

We got some beer to go so we can introduce Shawn to some Daft Badger beer at the end of Friday's work day. We were so happy with our Daft Badger party that we drove straight home, not wanting to do anything else that would distract from the satisfaction we'd just experienced.  Later in the evening, we got our carry out box of leftover Daft Platter items and plunged right back into the pleasure we'd relished earlier in the day.

3.  Back home, the Deke heard lawn mowers in operation next door at Jane's. Jane had told us that the crew who cares for her yard do superb work quickly at a very reasonable price. The Deke went over, talked to the guy running the show, and, before I knew it, five people running three lawn mowers, two weed whackers, and two blowers  descended upon our yard and almost instantly had our yard looking the best it's looked for a long time.

We paid up, put in a request for a fertilizing job, and wandered over to Christy and Everett's and relaxed in their back yard in the refreshing coolness of the Kellogg evening and gabbed away. It was a perfect way to bring a very relaxing day to a close.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 05/23/18: Kidney Transplant Business, Nixon and Taxes, Steak and Mashed Cauliflower Dinner

1. To stay listed with the University of Maryland Medical Center Transplantation Division, I do one thing monthly and other things annually. Every month, I have blood drawn so that my blood can be crosschecked with potential donors. I got that done today at Shoshone Medical Center. The time has also come for me to have an annual chest X-ray and a TB skin test. I need referrals for those and, after my call to my nephrologist's office in CdA, the referrals should be coming in the mail. I had a colonoscopy in February. I don't have this done annually or monthly!  I had the results faxed to Baltimore today.

2. It might be that Richard Nixon had conversations that occured in the White House and elsewhere (secretly) taped because new tax laws didn't allow his donated presidential papers to be a hefty tax deduction, but the new law didn't cover audiotapes. In fact, it might be that the promise of this lucrative tax deduction that would extend deep into his life was what kept Nixon from destroying the tapes once Alexander Butterfield testified that the recording system existed. Please note: I wrote that this tax angle might help explain the existence and the preservation of the tapes. J. Anthony Lukas, in Nightmare: The Underside of the Nixon Years goes to great lengths to explain why this possibility makes sense, but doesn't claim to know that it's absolutely true.

In dramatic tragedy, the tragic figures are largely the authors of their own tragic fate -- they are mighty in power, often mighty in strength, often very intelligent, but they are most often brought down by their own obsessions, their own appetites, their own preoccupations. I've known for years that Richard Nixon suffered his downfall largely because he was so suspicious, held long and dark grudges, desired revenge against those he felt had belittled or disrespected him, was deeply insecure, had felt humiliated by losing two major elections, and was irreversibly jealous of those he perceived as privileged, elite, smooth, even handsome (he famously hated the Kennedys, for example). But, until reading this book, I never thought about Richard Nixon's distaste for paying taxes and his growing infatuation with wealth (hard-earned wealth, in his mind,  not inherited family wealth) as playing a central role in his demise. But, I think it did.

3.  The Deke borrowed Christy's mixer and made a heavenly pot of garlic basil cauliflower. It was kind of like having mashed potatoes only way better. I fixed a cross rib steak. The Deke and I spit it three ways: we each ate a third of it and we saved the other third to have with eggs for breakfast. The Deke also made a baby kale salad that was out of sight. In other words, we joined forces tonight to make a memorably delicious dinner.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 05/23/18: "Power Causes Brain Damage", More Clean Up, I Was a Basketball Clown

1. A recent article in The Atlantic posits a compelling thesis, summed up in the article's title, "Power Causes Brain Damage" (hat tip to Russell for posting this piece on Facebook). The claims the article asserts about power, much like a traumatic brain injury, causing a lack of empathy, an increase in impulsiveness, a diminishment of awareness about risk, and a shrinking of the ability to see the individual qualities in people, thus relying more on stereotypes, gave me another way to read the actions of Richard Nixon as I continue to make my way through Lukas' Nightmare: The Underside of the Nixon Years.

The reading I did today had the old Guess Who song, "Undun" running through my head as the carefully planned and orchestrated cover up of illicit activity put in motion by the Nixon Administration slowly fell apart. The dirty tricks, break-ins, money laundering, and other underhanded schemes didn't seem to bother Richard Nixon. Neither did the fabrications to cover them up.  Seizing power, holding power, screwing over enemies, exacting revenge, and having loyal people working for him mattered the most. But a host of people under his power were bothered, couldn't sustain the lies, and began to tell the truth, whether motivated by conscience, feeling betrayed by Nixon operatives, or both. The unravelling got underway.

2. I borrowed Christy and Everett's pickup and took the lilac branches and trunks to the Transfer Station along with a few other things. I swear, if I had a pickup I'd go to the dump every day. It's so easy. We pay to use the dump through our sanitation fees so all I have to do is have the person working at the entry make a quick check of what I'm disposing of and head to the proper bins and get rid of what I've brought. It's also a great relief to me just to get stuff like weeds, lilac branches, broken furniture, recyclable cans and magazines, etc. out of here and simple clear up the clutter before it builds up too much.

3.  If you'd like to read about my most farcical performance on the basketball court in high school, I've posted a piece that tells the story. In our most recent Sibling Assignment, my sisters and I each shared a memory of performing on stage at Kellogg High School and, for me, Andrews Gymnasium, Kellogg's home court, was the stage as I made the whole gymnasium laugh at my ineptness. The story is here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Sibling Assignment #190: Heads Up!

Carol gave us this assignment:

Share a memory from one of your time performing on stage at Kellogg High School. 
Here is Carol's post and Christy's is here

My most memorable time performing on stage at KHS happened accidentally. It wasn't on a theater stage, but on the polished gym floor of Andrews Gymnasium. It may have been the best comic performance of my life. In fact, it was farcical physical comedy worthy of The Three Stooges.

First, some background. It was my senior year at Kellogg High School. It was my third year on the varsity basketball team. I hardly played my sophomore year and I was a starter for the early part of the season of my junior year, but played myself off of the starting five and managed, through ineptitude, to play myself deeper and deeper on the bench. I became a team clown by the end of the season, translating my frustration with my situation into antics like wearing a mismatching albino warm up for a game late in the year at Bonners Ferry and then, when the starters were introduced under a spotlight, I jumped off the bench, imitated Wallace star Bob Blum as I ran under the spotlight, joined the starters gathered in the light, and raised my fist and said, "Let's go!" in an act of mockery, acting like I was inspiring my teammates, when, in fact, I was making fun of the idea of team inspiration.

I probably figured when my senior year started that I wasn't going to be much of a factor on the 1971-72 Wildcat basketball team. We'd lost Bushnell and Burkhart from the previous year's team, but we had plenty of guards to cover for Burkhart and John Hinkemeyer was going to definitely start at forward along with Lars. I don't know what I thought my role on this team might be and, to be honest, our coach never told me how I might contribute to the team off the bench or in any other way. And, I never asked.

So, when the Post Falls Trojans traveled to Kellogg in December of 1971, we had already lost to them in Post Falls. That had been a brutal weekend. We lost on the road to both Post Falls and Bonners Ferry and one of the college placement exams, either the ACT or the SAT had been given on early Saturday morning of that weekend in CdA.

But, in Kellogg, our starters, possibly with some help from a couple players off the bench, spanked Post Falls. Late in the fourth quarter, our Kellogg squad had enough of a lead that our coach decided he could take the risk of putting me in the game.

I look back at myself and I can see that I was a very limited basketball player. I was a pretty good outside shooter, but not nearly as good as I thought I was. I was also slow-footed and easy to beat on defense, a lousy ball handler, and an erratic passer. My greatest handicap was my mental state on the basketball floor. I was not a cool player. I was insecure, nervous, afraid of making mistakes, and very excitable. Sometimes at home, Dad would tell me that I needed to learn how to relax on the court, but I think I thought that all my nervousness and physical activity showed that I cared.

Often when I came into a game, because I was so nervous, I didn't see the whole court. I often had tunnel vision and so I didn't make basketball decisions based on much more than what lay right before me.

So, soon after I came into the game, Post Falls missed a shot, we rebounded it and a fast break began to develop. Roger Pearson had the ball in the middle of the floor and as he fired a pass cross court to a teammate, I darted, out of control, in front of him and his pass hit me squarely in the side of the face.  Humiliation set in, but we had a good lead and the worst thing I'd done was wreck a good fast break. It wasn't going to cost us this game.

Not long after that, Post Falls missed another shot and Scott Stuart rebounded it and I ran, out of control, as fast as I could straight to the opposite end of the court, ahead of any Post Falls players. Stu spotted me and launched a Sonny Jurgenson-like pass high into the air, forming a perfect parabola, but, I think, a little behind me. I clumsily tried to recover and come back to Stu's pass, and came back to it all right, but couldn't catch it. It struck me on top of the head.

I had now been hit in the head twice within a very short time frame. The gym erupted in laughter. Then, in what might have been my only moment of court awareness the whole season, I began to stagger, as if the two blows had dizzied me, left me unable to walk a straight line. Our coach then seized this farcical moment and produced smelling salts and I reeled and swayed and teetered over toward him and in a grand theatrical gesture inhaled the smelling salts and acted as they had cleared my head and revived me.

The crowd loved it. Since we were in no danger of losing this game, our coach loved it. Maybe, maybe even the Post Falls players thought my performance was funny. What I do know is that this was my most memorable time performing on a stage at KHS and it further laid the groundwork for me to become even more of a team clown on the end of the bench by the end of the season.

Three Beautiful Things 05/21/18: Back to the Lilacs, Cover-up, Kellogg v Wallace

1.  For about four or five days, I've been avoiding a pile of lilac branches I created last week in the back yard. Today, I ended my procrastination. I sawed and clipped tributary branches off of main trunks, sawed long trunks into sections, and filled empty garbage cans with lilac branch waste so I can take them to the transfer station and toss them in the wood bin. I almost slowed way down when the sun started beating down, but found that if I just moved my labors into the shade of the lilac jungle, I could work longer. Now more branches need to be cut from the standing lilacs and I'll get to that. I've pencilled in the lilac jungle project as a long term one.

2. I returned to my reading of Nightmare and the history of the Nixon presidency. Much of what I read detailed the Nixon administration being consumed with covering up the connections between the burglary at the Watergate Complex and the Committee to Re-elect the President. Concurrent efforts were also underway to influence the grand jury prosecutors, discredit the investigations and investigators, and to keep the cash flow running between the Nixon administration and the burglars -- the burglars had been promised that they would be "taken care of", but paying their legal fees, giving them living expenses, and providing them with periodic stipends became more and more problematic for men like Charles Colson and Jeb Magruder and the methods by which the hush money was paid out became more and more byzantine. I'm at that point in the Watergate story where containment is beginning to wobble.

3.  Toward the end of March, I wrote three Sibling Assignment pieces, but my sisters and I agreed to hold off publication of our assignments until all three of us had completed them. Carol has had a lot going on and she took longer than Christy and me to get hers written. Today, she gave us the go ahead to publish what we wrote about our experiences with the rivalry between Shoshone County's two largest towns, Kellogg and Wallace. If you'd like to read about my failures as an athlete in this rivalry and my resistance to being a part of of it, just click here.  You'll find links to my sisters' pieces in mine.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Sibling Assignment #189: The Wallace and Kellogg Rivalry

I assigned my sisters and me to address this question:

The other night at the Inland Lounge, I got into a conversation with a couple of Wallace High School grads about the Wallace/Kellogg rivalry. How did you experience this rivalry back in high school? The people I talked to Friday night thought the rivalry had weakened over the years. Had it started to weaken when we were in high school in the 1970s and 1980s? Or did you experience things that were evidence of the rivalry being very much alive when we were in high school?
Here is Christy's post.  Carol's is here.

Maybe it was all overblown. I don't even know where these stories came from. I heard them in grade school and junior high. Two lines of guys. They'd agreed on some field up Moon Gulch or Bumblebee or, who knows, maybe Terror Gulch. Wallace guys in a line faced off against Kellogg guys in the other line. Armed with knives and chains. And then, so I heard, they'd rumble.

Because Wallace and Kellogg hated each other.

Whoever told these stories always bemoaned, when they told them, at least fifty years ago, "It ain't that way anymore. There used to be some mean sons of bitches in these towns. But, now --" and their voices would trail off, as if some great tradition had been lost, as if without knives and chains and rumbles the Silver Valley was a lesser place.

I don't know when this golden age of intra-county rivalry and violence took place. I always pictured it, when I'd hear these stories, as if happened in black and white and the guys had packs of Camels rolled in their T-shirt sleeves and arrived for the rumbles in Hudson Hornets and Chevy Bel Airs with their weaponry loaded in the trunks.

All I know is that by the time I was in junior high and high school, every Kellogg/Wallace football game or basketball game I attended or played in ended without the fans of the two teams spilling out of the stands and having it out and I never heard of any rumbles up any gulches or at any campgrounds.

That said, things were intense when teams I was on played Wallace.

Therefore, it's especially memorable to me that by my ineptitude I contributed to a couple of Wallace wins, helped undermine my own Kellogg teammates in a couple of Wallace/Kellogg tilts.

When I was 12 years old, it looked like I might have been a hero against Wallace in the district Little League All-Star tournament. I'll say it was in the third or fourth inning and the game was tied at 1-1 and I slammed a high arching home run to straight away center field off of Steve Rife. We held on to that lead going into the bottom of the sixth (and final) inning. Wallace had a left handed hitter named Cameron someone, a left-handed hitter, as I remember, and Cameron hit a routine grounder just to my left at third base. I fielded it cleanly, but, as I was prone to do, I got excited and threw the ball to first base about 150 times harder than I needed to and my peg sailed over first baseman Don Knott's head, putting Cameron on second base.

Well, one thing led to another in that sixth inning and Wallace eked out two runs and beat us, thanks largely to my stupid error. I looked it up one day. I think the final was 5-4.

My senior year, in basketball, I started one game all season long. Regular starter John Hinkemeyer had sprained his ankle and for some God forsaken reason, not only did our coach decide at nearly the last minute that I would start in Hinkemeyer's place, he also named me captain for the game. I hadn't started a high school basketball game in over a year and during this, my senior year, I hardly played.

And then the coach named me captain.

Well, whatever is the opposite of I rose to the occasion, that is what I did that night.

Right from the start, I played abysmally.

Terry Turner won the opening tip and Lars retrieved it. I broke at breakneck speed for the basket, Lars saw me, fed me perfectly, and as the barely able to control myself bundle of nervousness and anxiety and adrenaline that I always was when playing in a high school game, multiplied by the factor of Kellogg v Wallace, I laid the ball up just a little too hard and missed an open lay up. Our coach called an early time out, in part to berate me in the huddle, sarcastically thanking me for getting us off to such a great start, and until I got benched later in the quarter, I played some of the worst basketball of my life.

I suppose I know part of what made me so nervous and dizzy in this Wallace basketball game: I really liked their players and I wanted to impress them. In the summer, our American Legion baseball team was the Kellogg-Wallace Miners. Players from the entire county comprised this team and so most of Wallace's starting five on their basketball team were my teammates and fellow pranksters in the summer: Steve Rife, Steve Grebil, Don Beehner, Mike Crnkovich, and, until he got hurt that season, Steve Blum.

I was greatly relieved in the summers to be these guys' teammates because I didn't like the rivalry stuff. I didn't like the legendary stories of violence and I didn't like the added pressure I felt whenever we played Wallace in high school sports or competed in other activities like High School Bowl. I don't now and definitely didn't then have much of a stomach for a fight. I have never been very competitive. I wanted to have fun, enjoy other participants, play the game well, but somewhere along the line I never got a fire burning in my belly to defeat others whether in poker, golf, basketball, baseball, or anything else. I didn't thrive on competition. It wilted me. It still does. If I hear someone say, "I don't care if it's tiddlywinks, if there's a winner and a loser, I want to win!", I try to escape that situation and get out of the card game or the board game.

So, back in the summers of 1970-72, when we Kellogg guys and the Wallace guys, guys like Doc, Jake, Nifty, Grebe, and the others came together to start practicing and forming a team, however lousy, it was the highlight of my year. I was a lot happier joining forces with these guys than having them as opponents.

The payoff for playing on the same team with these guys and not being bitter rivals is happening now that I'm in my sixties. I'm starting to see the Wallace guys. I see Rob every Friday afternoon that I join the Wallace Social Club for beers. I see Beehner, too. If I hadn't been resting my gout inflamed toe and foot a couple of months ago, I would have seen Doc and Jake at the Pine Creek Tavern. I have become friends with Mary, Doc's wife. I know Hughie is in the Valley still and Starr is is CdA and Dan Carrico, a Wallace rival, shares a river property with Kellogg Wildcat Jim "Byrdman" Byrd who is married to Wallace's own Stephanie Mattern.

Just this past weekend, Byrdman and I traveled to Priest River to pay our respects to Wallace's Steve Rife (remember than Little League homer I mentioned?). We didn't go to Steve's Celebration of Life to bury a rival who made our blood boil. We went to pay tribute to an American Legion teammate and a Silver Valley brother.

Maybe guys of another generation enjoyed having a bitter rival in Wallace. Maybe they thrived on the bad blood, the hard fought games, the ongoing competition to see which town was the best in Shoshone County.

I didn't want a bitter rival.

I wanted friends and teammates.

Still do.

Three Beautiful Things 05/20/18: Shakespeare and Richard Nixon, Superb Dinner, Travel Planning

1. I'm enjoying my return to reading. It took me a long time after I retired to read books again, but I think I'm getting close to where I want to be: I want to always have the reading of a book underway. Right now, I have two going, James Joyce's Dubliners and J. Anthony Lukas' Nightmare: The Underside of the Nixon Years.

Shakespeare always portrays involvement in conspiracy, the breaking of law, devotion to immorality, and any plunge into ethical darkness as diminishing. Characters like Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Richard III, Edmund, and others shrink before our eyes as their worlds become more confined, their perceptions and thoughts more and more polluted by paranoia, secrecy, and obsession.

I thought a lot about Shakespeare today as I read Nightmare. Otherwise intelligent and capable men like G. Gordon Liddy, Jeb Magruder, John Mitchell, and many others, including Richard Nixon himself, become so preoccupied with discrediting and undermining opponents, with piling up money, procured and spent in legitimate and decidedly illegitimate, illegal ways, and planning, carrying out, and covering up covert actions, that they have trouble thinking clearly, behaving rationally, or making sound decisions -- and, they squander the privilege of public service by rarely serving the public -- that is, governing -- and, instead, give much of their energy over to political scheming and their efforts to get away with breaking the law. The depth and breadth of these projects that took place in the shadows of the Nixon presidency is astonishing, as is Lukas' carefully researched book detailing it.

2. The Deke fixed a splendid dinner tonight of chopped chicken and onion fried together and served in a bowl with crispy roasted broccoli. Sweet chili sauce tasted great with this meal as did Frank's hot sauce.

3. After dinner, we dropped in at the Hill Street Depot for about an hour and talked about traveling to Oregon in mid-June, but we haven't quite figured out when we'll be where or how much time we'll spend away. It's all on the table and we'll get it figured out pretty soon. All we know for sure is that we will be in Eugene on June 15th for a party that will be both a celebration of three LCC English department faculty who are a retiring and a reunion of sorts for the department.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 05/19/18: No! Not Meningitis!, Stories about Steve Rife, Just Showing Up

1.  I'd rather it didn't happen to anyone else.

Early this afternoon, Byrdman and I drove out to East Settlement Road, out in rolling farm and timber land just outside Priest River, Idaho to attend an open house and Celebration of Life for Steve Rife, Wallace High School, '72. Upon arrival, and for the rest of the two hours or so we stayed, we were strangers to everyone. Tami, Steve's step-daughter, hosted the open house and introduced herself to us soon after we arrived. We learned that Steve had mandated that no service be held, but that Tami wanted to put together this open house, especially for the benefit of Steve's wife, Mary, and his daughter, Julie.

We learned more about about Steve's passing. Ever since I contracted meningitis in 1999, I have had the same thought: I'd rather it didn't happen to anyone else. But, grievously, Steve also contracted meningitis, in 2011, and we learned its debilitating impact on him, although he fought against it bravely. In the end, though, as I understood it from his wife, it was an infection of a small cut on his foot, complicated by having diabetes, that cost him his life. (If I've remembered any of this incorrectly, I hope anyone who sees my errors will correct me.)

Near the table where the meatballs, hot dogs, chips, dip, cabbage and chicken salad, and other food rested, Tami created a gallery of Steve's pictures through the years. Julie brought a collage of pictures from Steve's youth: Steve in his Little League uniform, a couple of action shots of Steve playing basketball for Wallace High, Steve with his first wife, Shelly, Steve with his daughters and grandchildren, and a host of other pictures that transported me back forty-five to fifty years ago when I last knew Steve. Memories of playing basketball against him and being his baseball teammate rushed in and I enjoyed remembering those days a lot.

2. Byrdman and I got acquainted with two of Steve's friends from Wallace, Buddy McCorkle and Rick Zent. They told us story after story about Steve: I'd forgotten he survived a serious car accident when he was 17; Byrdman I learned more about his love of fishing and learned he hated playing high school football, despite the fact that he was very good; we learned that Steve was a voracious sports fan throughout his life, that he loved to play golf until he couldn't any longer. Steve's wife, Mary, told us it was a "small bone of contention" between her and Steve that when we worked as a marshal at Stoneridge Golf Course, he got paid in golf equipment and other goods, not in money. We had a good laugh about his excitement when he'd come home with a new driver. His wife would have preferred he come home with some money!

3. About Tuesday or Wednesday last week, a deep sense overcame me that I had to go to Priest River and pay my last respects to my long ago opponent and teammate from Wallace, Steve Rife. I could kind of tell from the announcement of the open house that a service wasn't being held and I thought long and hard about the possibility that I wouldn't know anyone at the open house, one of my least favorite situations to be in. Byrdman and I had exchanged some words praising Steve Rife upon learning that he had died, and I wondered if he'd like to go up with me -- and he did. It made the awkwardness of being a stranger, easier -- but, I would have gone alone had Byrdman been otherwise occupied.

When Steve's wife Mary saw that Byrdman and I were leaving, she followed us to the Sube and thanked us for making the trip, telling us that it would have meant the world to Steve to know that we made the trip and how much it meant to her.

On the way home, Byrdman and I discussed how glad we were that we made this trip. We paid Steve Rife our respects, we got to hear great stories about him, we got to assure his step-daughter that Steve was, in fact, as great of a ballplayer as he told her he was -- he hadn't embellished those stories. He was one of the best athletes to come out of Wallace. We got to meet his wife and learn more about Steve from her and got to meet his daughter, Julie.

The older I get, the more I realize that maybe what matters most is just showing up. A person's presence, whether at a memorial, to the side of a grieving friend, to a retirement party, an annual get together of past Bunker Hill employees, a crab feed, a class reunion, a Farmers' Market benefit, or any number of other things significantly matters.  Being present, showing support, enjoying the company of others, in short, making an effort to be a part of others' lives significantly matters.

I know how invigorated and moved by gratitude I was when so many people came to Dad's funeral back in 1996 and to Mom's Celebration of Life this past October. I deeply appreciated the respect they paid to Dad and Mom -- but it was more than that.  I experienced the goodness and vitality of the collective goodwill, the shared histories, and the mutual love we shared with one another.

I've experienced this collective goodwill numerous times since moving back to Kellogg. As much as I loved living in Maryland, I've come to realize that being here, being where I can show up, whether it's having our Sunday family dinners together, eating Friday morning breakfast at Sam's, making a monthly trip to Corby's in Post Falls, attending a Hospice memorial at the church, going to the memorials for Peny Benson or Roger Fulton or Marguerite Gallaher,  knocking back a few Mountain Fresh Rainiers with the Wallace Social Club at the Midway Tavern, dancing at the Kellogg Elks on New Year's Eve, or enjoying a mini-bluesfest at the Inland Lounge -- the list goes on -- , I'm back with people I've known most of my life and I'm astonished by all the goodness I experience and can share just by showing up.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 05/18/18: Research at City Hall, Party with Shawn, A Night of Songwriters

1. Last Saturday after the luncheon that followed Roger Fulton's Celebration of Life, some of us at the Inland Lounge were trying to figure out the order of succession of Kellogg's mayors -- mainly, we wondered who was mayor right before Roger Fulton, when did he serve, and who followed. Today I went to City Hall and asked if I could look at the gallery of the mayors' pictures in the City Council chambers. My request stymied the woman who waited on me for a moment, but soon enough she and her two colleagues decided that my request was harmless.

One of the city employees escorted me to the chambers and we looked at the pictures and the dates and she offered me pen and paper and, because I was at some distance from the pictures, she read the dates to me. I hope I recorded them correctly, but I might have slipped somewhere, but I have the names right. Someday, I'll go back and double check the dates, possibly by attending a City Council meeting and then looking at the pictures again.

Here's the list, starting with Roger Fulton's immediate predecessor:

Dr. Robert Cordwell 1961-63
Roger Fulton 1963-74
R. C. (Reggie) Lyons 1974-75
Ford Hoback 1975-82
Jim Vergobbi 1982-84
Merv Hill 1984-95
Mac Pooler 1995-98
Roger Magnum 1998-2001
Mac Pooler 2001-present

2.  When we can, the Deke, Shawn, Christy, Everett, and I like to end each week of work on our houses by sitting around a table or outside at one of our houses and have some drinks. It's been an especially exhausting week for Shawn as he finishes up some work on two properties he's selling in Osburn and as he works on and oversees the guys working on our houses. Today, for example, he transported sod from Post Falls to Osburn and packed the rolls into the yard of one of his houses and laid it down. Shawn really likes Basil Hayden's Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, so I purchased a bottle on my way home from City Hall. The five of us had a great time toasting the end of the week and yakkin' about all sorts of things, much of it involving the funny and touching things that have happened in our past. (I was a special target of ridicule because of my days in the late 1980s and early 1990s when I sported a mullet and dressed much differently than I do now. I bravely accepted the ridicule. I deserved it.)

3. After our little party with Shawn broke up, the Deke wanted to listen to music from when she was a teenager and a little older. First, she played Gordon Lightfoot's album, Don Quixote. She followed it up with Peter, Paul, and Mary's album In the Wind. These albums entranced the Deke, got her thinking about her formative years with folk music and who inspired and influenced her. It got us both thinking about what might have been, what could have been, and what never was when we were younger. When we got back from a rousing visit to the Inland Lounge, we returned to listening to great songwriters and singers. I played a shuffle of Stan Rogers songs,  Harry Chapin performing "Taxi" and "Mr. Tanner" and "WOLD" and we ended the night with selections from Neil Young's Harvest.

Harry Chapin's songs, especially, "Taxi", got me thinking that he does in songs what James Joyce does in his short stories in Dubliners.  The human experience is marked (not necessarily defined) indelibly by dreams that never come true, possibilities for closeness with others that we squander or simply don't acknowledge, and by stretches of loneliness and alienation -- one way or another, I think it's common for people to be, metaphorically, "flying in [a] taxi", and, however we might do it, "taking tips and getting stoned":  alone, having fleeting contact with others, finding ways to numb ourselves, seeking a mild euphoria, and flying high for relief. Joyce observed it in Dublin. Harry Chapin brought it alive in songs. Both make my life flash before my eyes.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 05/17/18: Unrequited Longing, Nixon's Operatives, Farmers' Market Benefit

1. I gave over much of this day to reading. I dipped back into two somber stories in James Joyce's, Dubliners, "Clay" and "A Painful Case". The title of the second story poignantly sums up the whole collection. In these two stories, as in Joyce's other stories, characters ache for some degree of relationship with others, long for even a shred of meaning in their lives. Characters teeter occasionally on the brink of some kind of fellowship, or even intimacy, but, in the end, Joyce portrays human life as a lonely, alienated experience, as much defined by spiritual and emotional paralysis and unrequited desire as anything else.

2. And then there's the story of Richard Nixon. I spent hours today reading J. Anthony Lukas' detailed account of the Nixon presidency. In the chapters I read today, Lukas details the efforts that were going on in secret by attorneys, former policemen, ex-CIA operatives, government agencies (like the IRS), disgruntled Cuban exiles, and others to wiretap, physically surveille, burglarize, discredit, and gather information about Nixon's enemies and Lukas details these operatives' attempts to stop people within the administration from leaking sensitive information to the press by using these same methods, especially wiretaps.   Up next? Dirty money and dirty tricks. The title of the book is Nightmare: The Underside of the Nixon Years.

3.  The Deke and I cruised uptown to Radio Brewing to participate in a benefit for the Silver Valley Farmers' Market, opening June 7. The most popular activity of the evening, by far, was the Cornhole Tournament. It attracted over twenty teams and, from all we could tell, the corn bag tossers were having a great time heaving their bags in the direction of the hole cut into a slanted platform. The Deke and I have never played Cornhole, so we spent our time out in the beer garden yakkin' with Fitz and Deanne and Val and Mallory, enjoying the Extra Special Bitter for sale outside. After a while, we went inside and ordered two snacks, calamari and a shrimp skewer which satisfied our appetites. We especially enjoyed being the oldest people at the benefit and got to see a lot of the younger men and women from around Kellogg that we rarely ever see, say, at the Inland Lounge or anywhere else we go. Now we  look forward to the Farmers' Market opening and seeing what the different vendors will have for sale.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 05/16/18: Gathering Information, Back to the Lilac Jungle, At Long Last: Clams

1. I brought some low level procrastination to an end this morning and wrote a couple of emails, one to HR at LCC regarding the future of my medical insurance and one to the transplant center in Baltimore. Both parties quickly responded and I learned just what I needed to know.

2. It was cool outside today, perfect weather for returning to the lilac jungle and resuming my work to remove dead branches. I clipped, pruned, sawed, dragged, and piled and made some pretty good progress.  The old days of me being able to engage in frenzied yard work are in my rearview mirror. It's fun to look back at my 1995 self, younger, more fit, more energy. But, now, I am the yard work tortoise: slow and steady wins the race.

3. When I left to shop for groceries, I asked the Deke what she might like for dinner. "Fish or chicken," she replied. I purchased a filet of salmon and, having never prepared clams to eat, and having been hungry for clams ever since reading Joseph Mitchell's many descriptions of food at the Fulton Fish Market and at Sloppy Louie's, I bought about a pound of clams. To prepare the clams, I melted butter in a skillet and added crushed garlic. As soon as I could smell the garlic's fragrance, I added white wine and lemon juice. Quickly, the liquid boiled and I poured the clams into the pan and covered it. Within minutes, the clams popped open. I moved the skillet off the heat, and finished cooking the salmon. The Deke made a spinach salad with avocado, dressed with a superb balsamic dressing she made today. The two of us were staggered by how much we loved this dinner. We felt giddy that we have now added steamed clams to our possibilities for what to enjoy for dinner. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 05/15/18: Lawn Mowing, Voting, Cooling Off

I just realized that the post I published yesterday was my 4200th at kellogg bloggin', October, 2006-May, 2018.

1. It only took about ten yanks on the cord to get the lawn mower to spit and cough and get going, but once it did, I got the lawn mowed. For me, it was a hot May day, cloudless. I paced myself, took several breaks to get out of the sun and to hydrate. I was happy to get this job done.

2. This afternoon, I went to Memorial Hall, the former Northwest Metals/Steelworkers Hall, on Hill Street and voted. It was a good scene: a small, but steady number of people were voting, the check in and check out was straightforward, and I enjoyed casting my vote for those candidates and measures I support. I am eager to see the local election results. I've seen the statewide results, not the county ones yet, and look forward to voting again this fall.

3. The Deke and I helped Shawn end his work day by having a drink at our kitchen table. For a change of pace, the Deke and I decided to drive to Wallace and eat at the City Limits. I got out of the car at the pub, which sits in a canyon along the banks of Ninemile Creek, and was immediately reminded of how Wallace cools off so quickly in the late afternoon and evening. Inside the City Limits it was also cool and comfortable, and I enjoyed drinking the Idaho River Session Ale, a refreshing collaboration between North Idaho Mountain Brewing and Radio Brewing, and enjoyed an order of fish tacos.

The Deke and I continued our quest for cool and relaxing places by going over to Christy and Everett's back yard and sitting at an outdoor table for a while, relishing the cool mountain air of the Silver Valley.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 05/14/18: RIP Steve Rife, Clean Up Continues, Reading about Richard Nixon

1. Over at the Inland Lounge Saturday, after the luncheon at the Elks, Cas, Bucky, Eddie Joe, John Sevy, and I were trying to piece together the order of succession of Kellogg Mayors over the last fifty years. We never figured it out. I am going up to City Hall soon to look at the gallery of pictures of past mayors and get our questions answered. But, today, I wondered if possibly local businessman and gondola visionary Wayne Ross had ever served as mayor. I won't go into detail why I thought of this possibility, but in doing a fruitless search on the World Wide Web for Wayne Ross's obituary, I accidentally came upon news that stopped me cold, shook me up.

Steve Rife died on May 4.  He was 64 years old and died of diabetes complications. You can read his obituary, here.

Back in Little League, junior high, and high school, Steve Rife, who graduated from Wallace High School in 1972, was among the very best athletes Kellogg faced, whether in football, basketball, or baseball. By the time we reached high school, because Kellogg and Wallace merged into a single team in American Legion baseball, Steve and I were teammates for three years, and I much preferred having him on my team than as an opponent.

I had one moment of success as an opponent of Steve Rife's and it happened fifty-two years ago. I was twelve. It was the Little League All-Star tournament and both Kellogg and Wallace won their opening games and faced off the next day. I had only hit one home run during the regular season and shocked everyone, including myself, by slamming a shot out of the park in our opener against the Valley All-stars. Then, against Wallace, facing the fastballer Steve Rife, I hit another home run. Little did I know at that moment that Steve Rife would be a constant presence in my athletic life over the next six years or so.

In fact, as time moved along, I foolishly used to picture myself as becoming Kellogg's Steve Rife, especially in basketball. He was always in my head and my imagination as a model of athletic excellence. That never happened. Not even close. Steve Rife grew into a strong, high jumping, very dependable, high scoring member of Wallace's basketball front line, one of the best players ever, not only at Wallace High, but in Wallace's conference. By about January of my junior year, I mostly warmed the bench and I would be boasting if I said my high school basketball years were mediocre.

So, I never became Kellogg's Steve Rife. But, Steve Rife became a friend I enjoyed a lot when we were teammates. I enjoyed how fun he was, how he arrived for ball games in his car (a Pinto, I think) with Rare Earth in Concert blaring out of his 8 track tape deck, rocking out to "I Just Want to Celebrate" or the extended jams of "Get Ready", getting himself ready to play ball.

Steve's life and my life went in very different directions. I last saw him in the summer of 1973 when we both played in Kellogg's slow pitch softball league. Then I got injured at the Zinc Plant, never played ball again, and focused on my college school work. Steve stayed close to home, worked in his family's furniture business, moved to Alaska and Arizona when the mines shut down in the Silver Valley, and, being in our different orbits, we never saw each other again, even when he returned to the Silver Valley and worked as a deputy sheriff.

Reading Steve Rife's obituary is sobering and grievous. I now know that years of living with diabetes undermined his physical health. A guy who was once as strong and graceful as any athlete I'd ever seen or known died a crippled man, his life cut short by the cruelties of disease and age.

2. I spent the morning continuing to hack weeds while it was still cool in the back yard. I also borrowed Everett's pickup and made two trips to the transfer station and got rid of eight trash cans of weeds, sod, and lilac branches. It was very satisfying to get this first couple of loads of yard waste out of our yard and motivated me to continue this sizeable clean up project.

3. I've been eagerly awaiting the arrival of a couple of books exploring the Richard Nixon presidency. The first of those books arrived today: Nightmare: The Underside of the Nixon Years by J. Anthony Lukas. For many in North Idaho, Lukas's name is familiar because he wrote a definitive history of our area, the state of Idaho, and the West itself entitled, Big Trouble: A Murder in a Small Town Sets Off a Struggle for the Soul of America. In the same way that Lukas exhaustively researched and meticulously and brilliantly told the story of the 1905 assassination of Idaho Gov. Frank Steunenberg and the many ramifications of this event, including the labor wars in the Silver Valley, I can tell already that in a similar way, Lukas researched deeply into the documents of the Nixon years and conducted countless interviews in preparation to write his in-depth examination of Richard Nixon's insecurities, deep need for loyalty, feelings of powerlessness, fear of losing, long held grudges and resentments, and siege mentality, all of which contributed to why a plot was hatched for burglars to break into the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Complex. The opening chapters have gone into more depth than anything else I've read or seen on the Nixon presidency.

The other book I'm waiting for is Elizabeth Drew's Washington Journal: Reporting Watergate and Richard Nixon's Downfall.

These books came to my attention when I listened to the eight episode podcast, Slow Burn: A Podcast About Watergate, here.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 05/13/18: Mother's Day 2017, Cleaning Up the Yard, Family Dinner

1.  I went back a year in my blog to read what happened one year ago on Mother's Day. It all came back to me. Mom had been admitted to the nursing home about ten days earlier, but on Mother's Day Christy and Carol signed Mom out of the facility for several hours. Christy hosted dinner. Mom had asked for ribs and Christy complied and added corn on the cob, a fresh fruit salad, and strawberry buttermilk cake with ice cream for dessert. I talked to Mom on the phone from Maryland and I remember how happy she sounded and how hopeful I was that possibly she could rehabilitate and return home again.

I know that by the end of May, I continued to hold out this hope as I made arrangements to come to Kellogg in June, 2017, the day before Father's Day. I thought about this a lot today, how little we knew, really, about how seriously Mom's health was deteriorating and how, by Father's Day, when Mom had a scary and difficult afternoon of twitching, incoherent rambling, and restlessness, we knew it was doubtful Mom would return home again and that her illness and immobility were beyond our ability to care for her in her home.

2.  I returned to the back yard today and dealt with all the remains of my yard work from last week: I composted sod and weeds; I trimmed lilac branches I had cut down and put the trimmed branches in trash cans and filled other trash cans with more sod and weeds that wouldn't fit in the composter. Eventually, I dragged these containers to the front yard and will take them to the transfer station in the morning. I have much more weeding and trimming ahead of me.

3. The Deke prepared tonight's pork chop family dinner. In addition, she fixed awesome broccoli fritters and a remoulade sauce, something none of us had ever eaten before. She also roasted a batch of radishes and we all loved them.  Christy and Carol had a lot of stories to tell about their weekend in Moscow to celebrate Cosette's graduation from the University of Idaho and we learned a lot about what's happening in their gardens. The Deke and I are undecided about all kinds of things around the house and what we are going to do with the yard, garden, deck, and other things, so we couldn't really say much about what we are doing and what we are going to do, but talked about what we are unsure about.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 05/12/18: Roger Fulton's Memorial, Elks Reception, Cutting Loose at the Lounge

1. The Deke and I arrived at the Shoshone Funeral Home uptown a little early and already the room was packed for Roger Fulton's Celebration of Life. We seated ourselves in a row of the extra chairs an usher suddenly and smoothly provided and people continued to stream in and were seated in all corners of the room. Jeremy Gray, Carol Lee's son-in-law, officiated. Carol Lee's daughter, Christa, sang. Two of Roger's grandchildren, Stacy Kendrick and Travis Fulton each eulogized Roger. They both spoke admiringly of Roger's athletic prowess and competitive spirit, particularly on the golf course, and told stories of times they had with their grandfather that they will never forget. Diana Perry remembered the one round of golf she played with Roger and read a poem. Bucky expressed gratitude to many people, especially for all those who had taken care of his father, and especially the staff at the nursing home.

Jeremy delivered a homily, drawing upon verses of scripture to help illuminate and illustrate Roger Fulton's character and all of our hopes for Roger's new life in heaven. When Jeremy opened the floor for anyone who cared to say more about Roger, the activities director (and a lot more) at the nursing home, John Davis, talked about what an eager participant Roger was in all the activities and that even has his physical prowess diminished, he never lost his competitive spirit.

2. Following the service, many of those in attendance gathered at the Elks for a luncheon and to socialize. I loved seeing so many classmates from the KHS Class of '72 in attendance and got to sit and talk with several of them during lunch. For those of you who know Jim Bachmeier, please hold him and Sue in your thoughts and prayers. I'm not medically literate enough to describe Jim's illness, but it's a neurological or brain problem that has left him with little mobility, and, if I heard Sue correctly in the noise of the luncheon, I think he is facing surgery soon. Even if my details here are off, what's definitely true is that Jim is in tough shape and Sue is up against it doing all she can to help him. He's home now after a stay in the hospital. If I hear anything else, or if I need to clarify anything I've written, I'll write updates here in my blog.

3. I know when we held Mom's Celebration of Life and the reception at Carol and Paul's, I loved getting together soon afterwards with family and friends at the Inland Lounge and cutting loose. Likewise, today, many members of the Fulton family and many friends extended the reception at the Elks and we all got together for drinks, stories, and laughter at the Lounge. As the afternoon went along, the Deke arrived with Becky and Ashley from Radio Brewing. Around five o'clock, the Deke and I walked up to Radio Brewing's first anniversary celebration and the opening of the patio/beer garden out back. I ordered a rack of the day's featured barbecued ribs. The Deke and I shared them and enjoyed the new Idaho River Session ale. Soon, Harley, Candy, Carol Lee, and Jake joined us and we capped off the day with more yakkin' and our dinner, a fun conclusion to a day filled with mourning and celebration, many memories and a lot of good friends. 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 05/11/18: Joyce's "Counterparts", *Sweet '60*, Boy Scout Memories - and Orofino

1. I took a day off from being Mr. Green Jeans in the back yard today. I returned to reading James Joyce's Dubliners. One of the stories I read, "Counterparts" made me wonder what kinds of discussion my students and I had about this story in the Intro to Literature courses I taught at Whitworth in the fall of 1982 and the spring of 1984. The story is a searing examination of an alcoholic named Farrington.
Farrington suffers humiliation and emasculation, both in his soul deadening job as a clerk in a Dublin law firm (where he writes out copies of contracts, letters, and cases -- these copies are called counterparts) and in the pub. Being humiliated angers him. He lashes out in the story's horrifying conclusion. Was I as sickened by this story's conclusion thirty-six years ago as a very young instructor as I was today? I know I had forgotten the ending. It came as a terrible shock to me today. And, again, how did my students and I talk about this story back then? What did we know about oppressive bureaucratic work, alcoholism, humiliation, emasculation, and violence? I cannot, for the life of me, remember.

2. I made a quick trip up to the Inland Lounge shortly after Cas opened up at three o'clock. Cas and I have talked a lot over the last months about the 1960 World Series champion Pittsburgh Pirates. A little while ago, I was doing some research online about that team and some of its players when I came across a book, Sweet '60. I ordered it for Cas and took it up to him today. Cas is a lifelong fan of the Pirates. Forty-four writers and editors collaborated to assemble Sweet '60,  a collection of deeply researched articles, published by the Society for American Baseball Research, about each member of that 1960 Pirates team and will help deepen and enrich Cas' life as fan of the Pirates.

3. Meanwhile, the Deke made a delicious dinner of roasted chicken breast slices and roasted radishes and a green salad. All day, our plan was to go to the Inland Lounge after dinner and find friends to yak it up with. We succeeded, in a big way. Mike Grebil told me great stories about trips to go bowling and golfing in Orofino. Grebe didn't know that Mom was born and raised there and that I had bowled a few lines myself at the Riverside Lanes and played that gorgeous and tricky little golf course on the hill near Orofino when the course first opened. I was happy to learn that Grebe had had so much fun traveling to Orofino and that he enjoyed hosting the Orofino guys when they came to bowl in Kellogg tournaments.

Later Harley came in and Mike Pierce came over to where we were and yakked with us for a while. We had a lot of fun talkin' about Boy Scouts. Harley was in the Smelterville troop out at Silver King school and Mike and I were both in Troop 300 at the United Church and it was a blast remembering all kinds of stuff, including the Freezorees at Camp Easton and up at Pottsville near Mullan.  My mind  swirled with more memories of great times at Camp Easton than I could even begin to tell Harley and Mike -- summer camp, capture the flag, nighttime campfires on Lake CdA, Order of the Arrow camps, several nights of camping in preparation for the 1969 National Jamboree at Farragut, and days of volunteer cleanup at Camp Easton. I almost ordered myself a gin so that I could smell pine needles while we were talking about Easton -- that smell is my strongest and best sensory memory of the place. Trails at Camp Easton were blanketed with pine needles and they baked on summer days, releasing the most pleasant smell imaginable. We had it made as Boy Scouts and it was fun tonight to relive a lot of cherished memories.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 05/10/18: Weeding, Goodness, Tile

1. I was back at it on and off much of the day, hacking, yanking, piling, kneeling, pulling, shoveling, raking, slowly, somewhat surely, getting the back area of the yard weeded and cleaned up -- and I don't even know why, except it looks better. Right now, we have no plans for that area, but I want to improve its appearance.

2.  I walked into Yoke's and almost immediately I saw Class of 72 classmate, Judy Jacobs Shafer. I don't run into Judy often, but, when I do, her kindness and friendly spirit warms my heart. I didn't change out of my gardening clothes to go to the store. My jeans were caked with dirt at the knees and my shoes were muddy. Judy must not have noticed because she apologized for not being cleaned up. Judy hikes and walks every day and was still in her hiking clothes. Over the last year or so, Judy has lost over 100 pounds and she beamed as she told me how much it means to her to take the trail above the hospital, go over the hill, come out at Vergobbi Gulch, and walk back to the high school.

I finished shopping, got to the check out stand, and realized I left my wallet at home, As I dashed out the door to drive home and get it, Judy was helping a new resident in town, whose car had broken down, load her groceries into Judy's mini-van so Judy could take her home, saving her a ride in a taxi.

3.  I think Shawn and his crew will be in our house until the end of the month. I'm not sure of that, but I think that's about right. Right now, they are putting the tile in the shower, a slow job, but I'm starting to see and imagine a little better just how this area will look next week as these guys get closer to finishing the bathroom.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 05/09/18: TIMBER!, Hacking and Yanking Weeds, Stewed Rhubarb

1. Inspired by the cool weather, but also driven indoors by the intermittent rain, I headed to the back of our yard, used a couple of different band saws I borrowed from Christy and Everett, and sawed some dead or dying limbs off of our abundant and towering lilac bushes. I thought often about how grateful friends of mine who trim trees and who log must be for the invention of the chainsaw, but I didn't have one handy and don't trust myself to run one safely anyway.

2. This area in the back of the yard is abundant with weeds, too. I got out the garden kneeling pad, a shovel, a bow rake, and a digging fork and went after a patch of gnarly, stubborn grasses and other weeds. On Thursday, I'll add Christy and Everett's Pulaski to my arsenal of tools and continue to hack away.

3. While I sawed and chopped away in the back yard, the Deke harvested rhubarb from our yard and canned some stewed rhubarb.  After she transferred the cooked sauce into jars, a thin layer of the stewed rhubarb liquid remained in the bottom of the Dutch oven and I spooned out what I could to taste it. It's delicious, tart with a light sweetness. I love rhubarb. I am eager to put this stew over a bowl of hot cereal or on some ice cream, maybe, and invent other ways to enjoy it.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 05/08/18: *Dubliners* In My Dreams, Jack Silverton #1, Beer and Baked Pork Chops

1. As the 20th century got underway, James Joyce wrote a series of short stories. I guess you could call them profiles. The stories are about different everyday boys and girls and men and women in Dublin. The stories are each tightly focused on a single event: two boys skip school, a boy longs to please a girl by buying her a gift a bazaar, a woman wants to run away from Dublin to Buenos Aires with her lover, a priest dies, a woman wants to marry off her daughter, and more. Each of these ordinary events carries emotional and psychological weight and importance and each embodies Joyce's view of the spiritual conditions in Dublin. I read more of these stories today, slowly, often stopping, going back, rereading, absorbing details, experiencing the emotional conflict of each story, trying to take in what each character comes to learn about the world. Dubliners is a slim volume, but it's going to take me several days to finish. I enjoy that the stories are enigmatic. 

On Monday night, I dreamed my own versions of Dubliner tales and at two in the morning I was wide awake for an hour and a half settling my mind down. I was that invigorated and disturbed.

2.  Today I published over at kelloggbloggin'  my first installation of conversations with Jack Silverton. Jack overheard Cas and me talking about books and he had a story about a guy he struck up a conversation with years ago in the Kopper Keg who was driving around the USA with his dog and reflected on some reading he's done. If you'd like to read what Jack had to say, just click here.

3.  Shawn and the guys working for him were all back today and worked hard here at our house and over at Christy's. The Deke asked Shawn, when their shift was over, if he wanted to try some of the beer Josh sent us. Shawn did.

To start, Shawn chose an Imperial Coffee Porter from Hitchhiking Brewing in Pittsburgh, PA called Double Shakes.  I think I've enjoyed every beer I've ever had from Pennsylvania and this powerhouse porter augmented the list for me. I love imperial porters and stouts, whether they feature flavors of chocolate, coffee, oysters, oak barrels where bourbon, rum, or whiskey was once stored, vanilla, molasses, or other delights. I love drinking imperial stouts and porters in small pours, so imbibing five ounces of this mellow, coffee and chocolate rich beer was perfect.

I chose our next beer and I wanted to try the last of our hazy Imperial IPAs. I reached for another beer from Magnify Brewing in Fairfield, NJ called Peak of Righteousness and it performed beautifully. I can't really breakdown the multiple tastes of this beer, but I can say that the words that kept running through my mind were "juicy" "goodness" and "thank God for hazy 2IPAs".

As I prepared our grilled romaine lettuce and baked pork chops dinner, chops which had soaked this afternoon in buttermilk and which I coated with a almond flour, corn starch, Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, salt, and garlic powder, the Deke and I shared a pint of another beer from Old Nation Brewing in Willamston, MI. It's another offering from their New Orthodoxy Series called Cart Horse IPA. I enjoyed it, but I didn't give the experience of drinking it my full attention. My mind was on the pork chops and the grilled lettuce I was preparing. I still had about five ounces left to drink as we started to eat dinner and I didn't touch it while we ate. Instead, I finished eating, took my little glass of beer into the living room, and took about twenty minutes to finish it off.

Again, my attention was not fully focused on the beer, especially when Christy came over and shared her joy that Riley had been a doggy angel at his first dog training class in Hayden. It was great to hear he had behaved so well. Christy was mightily happy and relieved.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Jack Silverton #1: Never Get in the Way of a Bullshitter

I first met Jack Silverton in October of 2017, two weeks after we held my mother's Celebration of Life at the church across the street from my childhood home.  My wife and I had just moved back to Kellogg. We now lived in my childhood home.  It was football season. When he walked into the red retro glow of the Inland Lounge, Jack Silverton wore Seahawks garb: a baseball cap, a T-shirt, and a Seahawk jacket. Somewhere he'd found Seahawk suspenders that held up his Lee denim jeans. It was a Sunday. Normally, the Inland Lounge is closed on Sundays, but Seahawk fans in Kellogg had talked Cas into opening the Lounge on game day during the NFL season.

The Seahawks game hadn't come on yet. Their game with the Raiders in London would start around 10 a.m. I sipped slowly on a peppery Sunday morning Bloody Mary. The Lounge wasn't very busy yet and Cas and I started talking about some books. Jack overheard us. He took a long draw on his bottle of Bud Lite and suddenly said, "You know, I'm not much of a reader, but one afternoon years ago I was in the Kopper Keg and this guy came in and we got to talkin'. He was a great guy. Told me lots of stories about him and his dog drivin' across the country in his camper. He told me about walking the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan and then eating shrimp Lo Mein and wonton soup in Chinatown and playing poker on a riverboat on the Ohio River near New Albany, Indiana and his job in a hayfield near Minot, North Dakota and how he happened to be in Hibbing, MN and Bob Dylan played a free, surprise concert in a local junior high auditorium and how he partied with two gals at Quinn's Hot Springs in Montana and drank pitchers of pina coladas, a pitcher in each hand. And now, and the guy beamed when he said it, 'Here I am in the famous CdA Mining District.'

"It coulda been all bullshit he was telling me, but I say never get in the way of a bullshitter." Jack's eyes narrowed. "You learn a lot from people's bullshit. Hell, I know I'll never see this guy again, but I learned a lot from him, I mean about what he thinks, you know, about America and work and women. All kinds of stuff.  Maybe he never did all that stuff he told me about, but I'll bet he wishes he did. I know a dreamer when I hear one.

"All these years have gone by, and I've been thinking, you know what? I think that guy was John Steinbeck. Yeah. No shit. John Steinbeck. You probably learned in high school that Steinbeck road tripped across the country. With his dog. Charley. This guy didn't tell me his dog's name. He never told me his name. He sure told great stories. I love to think that I might have been drinkin' beers and swappin' tales in the Kopper Keg with John Steinbeck. I mean, seriously, he won a Nobel Prize, you know. Oh yeah. In 1962. You can look it up. Unreal. I mean I'm just Mr. Nobody old Jack Silverton. Imagine me, spending an afternoon getting buzzed at the Kopper Keg with John Steinbeck. " He chuckled. Then his eyes widened.  "He won a Pulitzer Prize, too.  Back in 1940. I looked it up.

"But, I'll tell ya the greatest storyteller I ever read. Jimmy Buffett.  Tales from Margaritaville. That's a great book. Man, he'll start tellin' one story and it goes for a while and then you'll be damned he starts another one and you kind of forget about the first one and before ya know it, he's back to the first one again and before ya know it again they are one story and he wraps 'em up. That book's got a subtitle and I liked it so much I memorized it. Fictional Facts and Factual Fictions. At first I thought it was just Jimmy bein', you know, clever, but I couldn't stop turnin' it over in my head.

"That's what John Steinbeck was feedin' me at the Kopper Keg. Fictional facts and factual fiction. A couple years ago, I did some readin' and askin' around about Bob Dylan and not once did I find any mention of him playin' a free concert in Hibbing, MN. But, you know, John Steinbeck told me about who came to that concert and those people were real and their love for Bob Dylan was real, I mean it was truthful, even if it never happened and they were never there. That's why I say always let a bullshitter tell his bullshit. He might be lyin' through his teeth, but somewhere in there, he's telling a truth. I like how Jimmy put it. Fictional Facts and Factual Fictions."

Three Beautiful Things 05/07/18: Rescuing Soup, Reading James Joyce, Beers Magically Appear

1.  I'd made a ground beef soup a few days ago that was too watery and didn't have strong taste. I bought a pound of ground beef and some bacon, among other things, at the store. I fried several slices of chopped bacon and the pound of ground beef in the Dutch oven and, in a separate pan, I fried a chopped onion in leftover bacon grease. I seasoned the beef and bacon with Montreal steak seasoning and oregano and red pepper flakes, added to new batch of sauteed onions, and poured the watery soup over the mix. It was a brand new soup, thicker, more flavorful, heartier; I succeeded in rescuing the watery soup.

2. Back when I was a grad student, I would reread a piece of literature because I had to write a paper on it and I was required to work out some kind of meaning of the piece. I'm reading James Joyce's collection of short stories, Dubliners. I reread the first two stories, "The Sisters" and "An Encounter" about three times, not because I was going to write a paper, but because the stories intrigued me and I wanted to absorb the details more deeply and let the stories get inside me more than they would with a single reading. The stories are at once simple -- on the surface of them, not a lot happens -- and opaque -- much that seems important in the stories goes unsaid. Both stories feature young narrators and in neither story can the youngsters rely on the broken adults in an eroding world for much of anything outside of pieties, didactic teachings, boredom, impotence, warped perspectives, and spiritual disillusion and illness.

3. Shawn's two employees had to spend the day in Missoula today, unexpectedly, so Shawn was on his own. He worked hard. During Shawn's shift, a package arrived. When I lifted it off the porch, I knew what it was: the beer that Adrienne had told the Deke that her fiance, Josh, would be sending arrived. I put the cans in the fridge and, by the time Shawn was finished, the beer was chilled so the Deke got out three of our small flight glasses.

She cracked open a pint can of porter from Fairfield, NJ's Magnify Brewing, a beer that is part of their Ice Cream Novelties series, this one with orange and vanilla. It was an awesome beer, like drinking a very mildly flavored, not sickly sweet, orange creamsicle infused with coffee and a hint of vanilla. None of us had tasted a beer quite like it.

We were ready to try another. I was concerned that the taste of the Ice Cream Novelty Porter would linger so strongly in my mouth that I wouldn't have such a good experience with the next beer, but I was wrong. We loved the Weight and Measures Double IPA, a hazy and grapefruit forward juice grenade with generous flavor and a mildly euphoric, again, generous alcohol content. This beer is an ingenious collaboration between Counterweight Brewing of Hamden, CT and Industrial Arts Brewing of Garnerville, NY.

We'd each drunk ten ounces of beer with fairly high alcohol content, and reasoned ourselves to the conclusion that we were good for one more splitting of one more pint between the three of us.

The last beer was our favorite -- and we loved them all.

It was brewed in Williamston, MI (where the Deke's stepmother, Phyllis lives) by Old Nation Brewing Company and it's a part of their New Orthodox IPA series.

It, too, is a Double IPA called Boss Tweed and its new orthodoxy, I suppose, was its haziness and its juicy flavor and satisfying mouth feel. Boss Tweed was citrusy, but whereas Weights and Measures was grapefruit-y, Boss Tweed was orange-y and, for all of us, thrilling. We couldn't stop praising it.

These three beers reminded the Deke and me, in a major way, how much we enjoyed the beers we drank when we lived back east and these three beers were, I think, better than any I had drunk back there.  I loved how I was transported in memory from our dining table in Kellogg back to Barracks Row in D.C. and a joint called Eat-Bar where I ordered a glass of Singlecut Brewery's Double IPA called Softly Spoken Magic Spells and a Double IPA I ordered at Fraunces Tavern in Lower Manhattan, E. Pluribus Lupulin 4: Citrea from Gun Hill Brewing in the Bronx. I also thought of another New York brewed 2IPA I loved at Jimmy's No. 43 (now closed) in the East Village, whose name I didn't write down at the time. I loved those beers, and, as is so often the case with local beers, part of their allure is that they aren't available in any widespread way, so, when I drink one, I relish every drop.

The really good new is that we drank three of the beers Josh mailed us, but four more remain for a future tasting.

I love drinking beer five ounces at a time, especially when the beer is pretty high octane. Three five ounce pours left me feeling happy about the variety of flavors I experienced and didn't impair me.  I had no problem preparing tonight's dinner of butter lemon baked tilapia and grilled romaine lettuce (not harvested in Yuma, AZ).