Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/30/18: Meetings with the Transplant Team, Relaxing at Slate Creek, Back Home

1. At 6:30 this morning I hopped into the Sube and, before I knew it, I'd arrived in Spokane at the Sacred Heart Transplant Center, checked in, and took a seat in examination room #5. One by one, members of the transplant team came in (not in this order): the nurse coordinator assigned to me, the financial coordinator, a pharmacist, the surgeon, a dietitian, a nephrology nurse practitioner, and the nephrologist himself. I enjoyed talking with each of these professionals. They were personable, relaxed, articulate, eager to help me understand things, and full of helpful information that further broadened and deepened my understanding of the transplant process.

I left these meetings with a pretty good understanding of the following:

* I might not be done with the testing required to be listed at Sacred Heart. After today's meetings and after reviewing the testing I had done last week, the doctors might request further testing. I should find out in about two weeks if I need more testing or I could find out that I've been accepted on the Sacred Heart transplant list.

*I have a much better understanding of the medications I would be taking after the transplant, how long I'd be taking each medication, and about what the expense might be. This picture looked better than I had expected.

* I have a much better understanding of the surgery itself and how the new kidney is, well, hooked up inside me. Thanks to Dr. Okechukwu Ojogho, I understand better how blood flows in and out of the kidney and and how urine flows out and how the new kidney has to be hooked up to an artery, a vein, and to a ureter. I've always known the old kidneys would stay in my body and that the new kidney would be placed in my abdomen. I now know that it's placed on whichever side has the healthiest artery and vein.

*I have a much better understanding of the risks of a kidney transplant. I'd always known rejection was a risk, but, until coming to Sacred Heart, it hadn't sunk in that transplant patients have a higher risk of contracting certain cancers, especially skin cancer, that the very medications that help a recipient recover can also bring about diabetes, and that in the weeks immediately following the surgery (which takes about three hours), the recipient is vulnerable to infections because the recipient's immune system is suppressed in order to transplant the kidney.

* In consultation with my other nephrologists, it's never been precisely determined what caused my kidneys to go into failure. Dr. Zachem, back in January 2005, surmised that my kidneys might have been damaged by my episode with bacterial meningitis in 1999, possibly by the bacteria, possibly by the large doses of antibiotics, or both. Today, Dr. Saed Nemr expressed hope that with some research of medical records he might put that explanation to the test. He then explained to me why it is so important to understand the cause of the disease. There could be something inherent in my system that goes after the kidneys (he said this better than I can) and would go after the new kidney. I hadn't thought of this before. He added that if we never figure out the cause, it would not keep a transplant from going forward and that if problems arise post-transplant, the doctors would address them at that time.

* I got the impression during the day that my chances of being listed at Sacred Heart look good. It's possible that I might be asked to do a cardio stress test (my last one was in 2017 and the results looked good) and the doctors might want to look more closely at the condition of my lungs which were compromised, but not severely as it turns out, by the sulfur dioxide gas I inhaled when I had that accident at the Zinc Plant in 1973.

2. I talked with the dietitian about drinking alcohol. She had come to talk with me more about diet and alcohol consumption post-transplant, but I turned our conversation to the present. She liked what I had to say about how much I drink and thought it was a good idea, especially for my weight, that I am drinking less alcohol. I think she was especially happy when I told her that, during this time that I am living alone, I am not drinking alcohol at home at all. I told her that when the Deke is here, I drink a bit more at home because we enjoy different beers together.

Satisfied after this discussion that drinking beer from time to time is all right, I decided on my way home that I'd stop at Slate Creek Brewing in CdA for a pint and a half. I got off the freeway at State Line and texted Byrdman that I'd be stopping at Slate Creek and hoped he could join me.

He did. We got in some good yakkin' and I enjoyed drinking some Diablo Rojo, a splendid red ale from Boneyard Brewing in Bend. The beer had an underlying bitterness, but its sweeter maltiness prevailed. I enjoy the slightly sweeter ales as the weather cools down, and while no one would mistake Diablo Rojo for a winter ale, it was refreshing and warming.

3. Back home, I was tired after all my meetings. Christy has spent some time bonding with Maggie and Charly treated them to a snack. I was happy to see that they were not lonely, but, as always (!), they were hungry. I fed them, listened to some progressive rock on Pandora, took a brief nap, and then I published on my blog three of the four Sibling Assignments I've written recently. If you'd like to read these posts, I'll list them:

#197 Homecoming Tear Gas  here
# 198 Ghosts (remembering Mom) here
# 199 An Ecstatic Experience in Eugene's Whiteaker Neighborhood  here 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Sibling Assignment #199: Ecstatic Moment in the Whiteaker Neighborhood

I gave this assignment, asking the three of us to my sisters to do the following:

I'm thinking about Christy's recent trip to Priest Lake, Carol's to Seattle, and mine to Eugene. Let's all describe and write about an unexpected pleasure each of us experienced on this trip.

Carol's post is here.  Christy's is here.

I traveled to Eugene by myself on Friday, this past September 28th in order to attend Louise LeClair Jackson Harrison's Celebration of Life on Saturday. I spent Friday wandering around a bit, having coffee with Margaret and Michael, and drinking a pint of 3-Way IPA at 16 Tons.

I decided I'd hoof in the evening and dropped my car off at the house where I was lodging and walked into the Whitaker neighborhood where I'd decided long ago I'd have some dinner at Izakaya Meiji Company, a slow dinner of Japanese small plates, capped with a single cocktail, a bourbon and ginger.

It was only about nine o'clock when I started back home. I was tired, mostly from all the driving I'd been doing to get to Eugene. In the back of my mind, I'd thought that maybe I would pop in and out of a few places in the Whitaker, but I decided heading to my room was a better idea.

As I was walking down Van Buren, I passed below the apartment of a person with a superb sound system. It was a warm evening and the apartment's sliding door opened into the gorgeous night and as as the refreshing air wafted in, the sound of Pink Floyd playing "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" from their album, Wish You Were Here, drifted out.

The music transfixed me. I stopped, put my hands on the top of a fence that was slight taller than me, bowed my head, closed my eyes, and drank in the music.

This wasn't the first time this song has transported me. Back on Saturday, August 8, 2015, I drove to Ivy City in NE Washington, DC to sample some beers at Atlas Brewing. As I sipped from about my fourth small pour on the sampler tray, "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" came over the house sound system and suddenly Richard Wright's keyboard prelude transformed the tasting room into a sacred place -- for me, a church -- and I began to long for companionship. I had my own "wish you were here" moment, wishing the Deke and I were sharing this flight and I longed for the Troxstar and my friends at Billy Mac's and as David Gilmore's mournful guitar slipped into the mix, I longed to be back teaching World Lit, reading and discussing Rumi, and listening to Coleman Barks talk with Bill Moyers about the soul's many longings.

Down in the Whiteaker neighborhood, a similar longing possessed me as the song continued. I was alone. The Deke had returned to Kellogg to make sure Maggie was all right after her surgery and I was suddenly lonely for her company and then I was lonely for Jeff. Jeff's wife, Louise, had died a month ago. I'd be going to the celebration of her life the next day. I wanted to embrace Jeff and even if I couldn't say it, thank him for being such a good friend these past thirty-two years. Then my memory transported me to August 15, 2008. Jeff had an extra ticket for a show by the Floydian Slips, a Pink Floyd cover band. When I went to the Cuthbert that night, I hardly knew Pink Floyd's music and this concert changed everything. In the bucolic splendor of the amphitheater near the Willamette River, that night I was converted to the music of Pink Floyd.

Down in the Whiteaker neighborhood listening with by head bowed, I remembered a drive I took in the late summer of 2008 to Bonners Ferry, ID. I had just purchased Wish You Were Here and I played it loud and strong in whatever car I was driving. I'd been in touch back then with a Facebook friend who had lived near Bonners Ferry and I took pictures on this day of landscapes in the very north of Idaho and I loved that I would post them for her to enjoy and that I was intoxicated with Pink Floyd while I took them.

There was so much else going on in my mind: the Floydian Slips shows at the McDonald Theater, especially the New Year's show as 2008 became 2009 and they opened with "Shine on You Crazy Diamond". There was the Australian Pink Floyd show at the Hult Center and I nearly wept as men and women my age, all sitting around me up in the balcony, were themselves nearly crying as they sang together, "How I wish, how I wish you were here/We're just two lost souls/Swimming in a fish bowl/Year after year".

I then I thought about when Pink Floyd's Richard Wright died. I was on the Interstate, somewhere between, say, Troutdale and Eugene, listening to Deep Tracks on Sirius/XM satellite radio, and a program paying tribute to Richard Wright came on. He died on September 15, 2008, about a month after I'd been converted to Pink Floyd, and listening to this tribute awakened me to the beauty of his work. At some point, the program featured Richard Wright's keyboard work in "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" and suddenly the little red Honda Civic I drove back then felt like a sanctuary. I managed to drive all right, but I was driving while in a quiet ecstatic state, moved, fulfilled, at one with the sublime, outside of time and place.

I felt much the same way with my hands above me hanging on to that fence on Van Buren, memories of my many years in Eugene washing over me, arrested by the joy of solitude and the ache of loneliness, joyous that I was experiencing these euphoric moments alone, but yearning for another to share in it.

I didn't leave Izakaya Meiji Company expecting an ecstatic experience.

It was the most unexpected pleasure of my brief late September stay in Eugene.

Sibling Assignment #198: Ghosts

Christy gave us this assignment back in September and I'm only getting to it now.

We are approaching the one year anniversary of Mom's Celebration of Life. Reflect on life with our mother.

Carol's reflections are here. Here is Christy's.

When the Deke and moved to Maryland in 2014, I was concerned that we were moving so far away from Kellogg. Mom's health was declining. She required more and more help with managing her household and other things, like mobility and driving, were becoming increasingly difficult for her.

I was concerned because all of us siblings were busy with things in our own lives. I lived in Maryland. Christy was teaching in Inchelium. Carol and Paul both worked at the high school.

So, when the Deke and I moved to Maryland, we agreed that I would come to Kellogg from time to time for anywhere from a month to three months to be with Mom and help her out.

For me to reflect on life with our mother, my mind goes immediately to these visits.  I arrived in Kellogg, walked into Mom's house, and I always greeted her with a hug, usually while she remained seated in her chair, and she greeted me with the same words, "Well, you know, I've got a lot of things I want you to get done around here."

She handed me a list.

*Move the couch and vacuum behind it.

*Move out my bed and sweep behind it.

*Take down the things off the kitchen walls, dust them, and clean the walls.

*Take down the angels and dust them and dust the shelves

*Rearrange the living room and put up the Christmas tree

*Get the Christmas ornaments and decorations out of the storage closet

*Decorate the house for Christmas

*Wash the mop boards (what we used to call the woodwork)


Mom's to-do lists revealed a lot about her. Mom liked to get things done and when the time came that she could no longer do them herself, she still wanted things to get done. When Mom was in her prime, we used to call her the Energizer Bunny. Once the Today show was over and until the soaps came on in the afternoon and then after the soaps, Mom was in perpetual motion, whether dusting, mopping, sweeping, loading the dishwasher, or, in the warmer months, weeding, feeding, dead heading, and otherwise tending to her yard and garden.

I, on the other hand, have never been thought of as an energizer anything. I move slowly.  I do housework and other tasks at a leisurely pace. I take a lot of breaks. I'm not always exacting. Mom was exacting. She wanted things done and wanted them done "right", the way she would do them. She also wanted them done when she thought they should be done.

Because I move slowly, Dad used to call me "Speed". Dad used to mock me and call me a "real bundle of nerves and energy." 

Dad found this funny when I was younger, but my pace of doing things annoyed Mom.

I do things at a very different pace than Mom did and when it comes to cleaning and working in the yard and other tasks, I don't often have the sense of urgency Mom did. I like to sit and write for longish periods of time or sit and edit pictures or sit and watch movies or sit and read. I'm becoming increasingly introverted as I age, and, for better or worse, I spend quite a bit of time alone.

My more leisurely approach to things and my going into a room by myself bugged Mom and was a source of tension between us. This tension sometimes resulted in Mom getting mad at me and left me feeling guilty, guilt often compounded by my sense that Mom didn't often seem pleased with how I did the things I did for her. Sometimes I tried my best to please her when I dusted or cleaned or took all the things on the kitchen wall down and other times I got numb and tried to do my best and tried not to care if I disappointed her.

And now, the Deke and I live in Mom's house. Sometimes when I'm sitting in our tv room or out in the living room reading or writing or watching a documentary series on television or even watching a baseball game, I'll hear the Deke close the door to the basement and go downstairs or I'll hear her working in the kitchen or I'll hear her head out into the backyard and I feel guilty, just like I did when I'd hear Mom doing things, but I wasn't.

Other times, when I hear the Deke doing things and I'm in another room alone, I sometimes shudder at the thought that she's doing this thing Mom used to do. If Mom didn't think I was getting to a task she wanted done as quickly as she wanted, she'd start doing it herself, as if to say, "Well if he won't do it, then I'll just do it myself." My fear that the Deke is doing this doesn't last long  because when the Deke wants me to do something, she says so and doesn't put me on the clock. But, my reflex response in this house is that I'm not doing something Mom thinks I should be and she's annoyed.

Now, I admit, I can be too sensitive and too preoccupied with displeasing others. I might also have been too sensitive about those times when I angered Mom.

But, the fact remains, that for me, Mom's presence is alive in our house. It's a strong force. I experience it as a ghost. Fortunately, Mom's ghost can be friendly, reminding me that Mom appreciated it when I shopped for her groceries and cooked for her, was grateful for my company when we went to appointments together, enjoyed our outings together when we traveled to Orofino or ate lunch at Applebee's or went to North Idaho Retired Teachers meetings together, and treasured our stops in Coeur d'Alene at Macy's and J. C. Penney.

But, I made Mom mad, too. Often when I least expect it, the disapproving or disappointed ghost pops up. Inevitably, the ghost comes when I'm not busy around the house or I'm not being social because I've retreated into solitude to read, to write, to watch movies or television, or to rest. Usually I can shoo the ghost away, but I really hate it when I feel like I've let someone down or brought on the disapproval of someone I care a lot about and, consequently, sometimes the ghost rouses my anxiety and worry that I'm doing something wrong.

I don't like having these memories of irritating Mom or the ones of her being impatient and starting to do things I hadn't started to do myself. I don't like still feeling the guilt and I really don't like reliving these incidents when I think, even if momentarily, that I haven't done something around the house I imagine I should have and that the Deke is responding like Mom did, doing it herself.

But the ghosts of those who came before us and are gone are powerful forces.

Many times, the ghost of Mom is enjoyable. I enjoy the ghost of Mom in the kitchen from whom I learned a lot about cooking. I am grateful for my mother's devotion to our family, for the way her love of teaching inspired me to also become a teacher and love it. I admire how strong my mother was, how much she loved so many people in our community and in her extended family.

And, at the same time, for now, I am at odds with myself and with the ghost who want things done better and wants them done now.

Sibling Assignment #197: 1971 Homecoming Tear Gas

I assigned my sisters and me to write up a response to this prompt:

When we were in high school, we had Homecoming every fall. Write about something you recall about one of your three high school homecomings whether it's a football game, a dance, a pep rally/bonfire or anything else.

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

I consulted my senior year annual and now I know that Homecoming for 1971 took place on October 1st and, on the night before, we had a snake dance, bonfire, and pep rally at, I think, Teeters Field. On page 57 of the annual, I am pictured, along with other pep band members, standing on the back of a flatbed truck playing my baritone horn. I have no memory of what the annual calls "an inspiring pep talk" by coach Fred Morris nor of the snake dance nor of the bonfire.

What I do remember, however, developed into one of the most bizarre nights I ever experienced in Kellogg, Idaho.

It began after the pep rally when Stu wanted to see how many people could pile into his family's International Harvester Travelall. I don't know what year Stu's Travelall was made, but here's a picture of a 1967 Travelall:

I vaguely remember that the StuMobile looked similar to the one I've pictured.

Word began to circulate that Stu wanted to pack his Travelall and, before long, approximately twenty of us kids crammed ourselves in and Stu embarked on a cruise of the Kellogg gut. We really thought we were crazy and the Travelall was filled with wisecracks, shouts out the windows, laughter, and a lot of teenage fun, but one kid brought firecrackers with him and began lighting them and tossing them out the back of the rig.

Stu was up for all sorts of harmless crazy hi-jinx that night, but he was not cool with having firecrackers being tossed out his vehicle. He drove the packed Travelall back to Teeters, told us that was it, and everyone piled out.

At some point, Mike Farley showed up in his green Plymouth Valiant. It might have looked something like this:

or maybe even like this:

Several of us piled into Mike's car. I'm pretty sure Stu, Goose, Snotzy, and I piled in and, who knows, maybe Louie and Lars did, too.

Mike returned us to the gut and as we eased up Hill Street, turned left on McKinley, and cruised by Reco's Body Shop and Tony's Bar, we were closing in on the Inland Lounge and the Rio Club, across from the YMCA when, suddenly, we could barely see and we all started coughing and our eyes began to water.

It was tear gas! We were breathing tear gas in uptown Kellogg, Idaho!

To this day I don't know what the deal was. Was there a fight outside the Inland Lounge or the Rio Club? Had the Kellogg Police had enough of cars and a Travelall loaded with high school kids doing Chinese Fire Drills and being boisterous on the gut? Was this post-bonfire crowd control?

I don't know.

If anyone reading this does know or remembers, please let me know.

What I do know is that Farley kept his Plymouth Valiant on McKinley. He didn't hit any oncoming cars. He didn't hit any parked cars. When we arrived at the intersection of Main and McKinley, I think he turned left toward the funeral home and we got out of the car and took some time to recover. Luckily, no one's eyes were swollen shut and no one passed out or anything. We were all fine.

In fact, Mike Farley was so fine that the next night he quarterbacked the Kellogg Wildcats to a stunning 26-6 victory over the mighty Bengals of Lewiston High. Lewiston was a much bigger school than Kellogg and I never imagined that I would see the day when Kellogg would beat the Bengals. My shock over this win was repeated during the basketball season when Kellogg beat Lewiston at home in Andrews Gym, a win I contributed to only by never leaving the bench, never playing, and never screwing up anything.

Stu and I had burgers a couple days ago at Penny's Pit in Rathdrum and we did our best to piece together the Night of the Tear Gas. I'm not sure I got it all correct here; I'm not sure the two of us remember the details very accurately -- I mean this all happened 47 years ago! But, I know one thing for sure: on the night of September 30, 1971, a carload of friends and I entered a cloud of tear gas in uptown Kellogg and we all lived and the Wildcats beat the Bengals the next night.

Three Beautiful Things 10-29-18: Writing, Getting Ready, *Chinatown*

1. I spent much of my time today writing. I am now caught up on my Sibling Assignments and later I will post them, provide links in tomorrow's 3BTs, and post my pieces on Facebook once I have Christy's and Carol's links.

2. I checked and double checked to make sure I had everything ready for my trip on Tuesday to Sacred Heart's Transplant Center to meet with my transplant team.

3. While I wrote away, I put the movie Chinatown on in the background. From time to time, I shifted my focus to the movie and marveled at the masterful acting in this movie, its perfectly created atmosphere, its complicated, lyrical, and metaphorical screenplay, the haunting music of the soundtrack, and its troubling story of corruption at every level of human experience -- from corruption of the political system to the ugliest corruption of family relations.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/28/18: Revising, Big Salad, Red Sox Win

1. I rewrote the blog post about Mom and I'll read it over again on Monday and see if it's what I want to say and written how I want to say it. This isn't exactly an earth shattering post, but, to me, it's sensitive material because I'm writing about tensions that I experienced with Mom and that continue to be present in our house -- the house where Mom lived for over fifty-five years.

2. This afternoon I chopped Romaine lettuce and purple cabbage and added cucumber, mushrooms, and raw cauliflower to it to start making a salad. I stir fried and let cool a cubed block of tofu and cooked a batch of Lundberg Black Pearl rice and let it cool. I added the tofu and rice to the salad along with walnuts. I had made a really good vinaigrette a couple of weeks ago and dressed the salad with it. I loved this salad. It was tart, earthy, nutty, and the rice added a little sweetness to it. Moreover, it was both crunchy and soft, giving it a superb feel in my mouth.

3. The World Series is over and the Boston Red Sox are champions of Major League Baseball. While tonight's game was not a classic nail-biter packed with twists and turns and a lot of tension, I found it a most enjoyable game. The game's outstanding player and the MVP for the World Series was Steve Pearce, a well-traveled thirty-five year old who has played for the Pirates, Astros, Yankees, Orioles, Blue Jays, and the Rays. The Red Sox traded for him in June and he became a solidifying presence in the Red Sox clubhouse and a reliable hitter. Remarkably, in Games 4 and 5, he hit three home runs and a double and drove in seven runs. So, I enjoyed that the premier hitter for the Red Sox was such an unlikely player. I also enjoyed the pitching performance of David Price. Until this year, he'd had a reputation as a poor postseason pitcher and in this World Series, as well as in the playoff series with Houston, he was nearly impeccable, a pleasure to watch.

There's more I enjoyed, but I won't detail the other stuff. I'll just say that through the years I've admired baseball teams who are unified, complete, versatile, inventive, and a bit unpredictable, teams who have unlikely, even obscure, players rise to the occasion and perform well. The Red Sox were such a team in 2018.

Yes, I now have some chunks of time back in my life that I spent watching this year's playoffs and World Series. The viewing has been a pleasure. I was very happy to watch so many games, to follow this year's postseason so closely, and to have conversations before, during, and after the games with Cas, Seth, Byrdman, the Troxstar, Rocket, and others who were also invested in enjoying and commenting upon them. I think the last time I watched even one World Series game was in 2013 at the Troxstar's house -- when the Red Sox last won a World Series -- and I'm pretty sure I haven't watched every game of a World Series since 1979 or 1981. It's fun to be back and I'm already looking forward to next season.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/27/18: Mom Lives in Our House, Debriefing at the Lounge, You Just Never Know

1. I spent much of the day, before shifting my into my World Series gear, working on two of the four Sibling Assignments I have not completed over the last month. One of them I'm very pleased with, but I am going to rewrite the assignment Christy gave us remembering Mom. I'm trying to convey what it's like to live in Mom and Dad's house, a house that really, in every way, became Mom's house after Dad died in 1996. For me, Mom's presence, her ghost, is always here and that means that I always live with both the ways we got along and with the recurring tensions that existed between us. Those tensions didn't pass away when Mom did. I've made one attempt to write about this, but it's time to revise, go at it from another angle, maybe lighten up my post a bit. I am caught between wanting to write both honestly and respectfully about living with Mom's continuing presence in this house.

2. Three o'clock rolled around and I'd been writing most of the day, listening to the Miles Davis station on Pandora, and wanted to talk, not just text, about last night's epic World Series game, the one that lasted eighteen innings. I sauntered into the Inland Lounge and only Cas was in the house. I decided to have a couple Rolling Rocks on tap and some chips and pretzels and Cas and I had a good time going over last night's game and both agreed that we were eager for Game 4 to get underway to see how both teams would play after going at it for about 7 1/2 hours on Friday night.

I am very slow to criticize baseball managers. But, today Cas listened to me when I went on a short rant explaining how I didn't like it when, in the 10th inning, Red Sox manager Alex Cora pulled the powerful J. D. Martinez after a walk and put in Ian Kinsler to pinch run. Maybe Cora made this move because Martinez is playing with a tender ankle, but all I could think of was that the Red Sox no longer had one of their most potent hitters in their lineup. Kinsler nearly got picked off first base, later overslid coming into third base and nearly got tagged out, and then did get tagged out at home when he attempted to score on fly ball to Cody Bellinger. His subsequent plate appearances were lousy and he made a very costly error in the 13th inning that allowed the Dodgers to score.

I likened the decision to pull Martinez for Kinsler to Joe Maddon's decision in the extra inning wild card game between the Cubs and the Brewers to pull power hitter Anthony Rizzo and insert the speedy Terrence Gore in his place. Now, admittedly, Gore's base running helped the Cubs. He stole a base and scored a run upon entering the game. But as that game stretched into a 13 inning contest, Gore was helpless at the plate, was a hitter the Brewers dispatched easily, and he was hitting in Rizzo's number three slot in the offense, a slot always occupied by very productive hitters.

Kinsler, by the way, became the Red Sox cleanup hitter when he took Martinez's place. He possessed some home run pop as a younger player, but at thirty-six years old, he's lost a lot of that power and filled this spot in the lineup poorly.

Having criticized both Alex Cora and Joe Maddon, I have to say that I also understand these moves. Both moves made sense as short term strategies, but both moves backfired because the two games extended into a lot of extra innings and, in the long run, both moves hurt the Cubs and the Red Sox.

Still, it was fun to mildly rant about them and to address the larger question of whether we old men at the bar in the Lounge in Kellogg, Idaho think managers over manage certain games.

3. This is the first time in many, many years I have watched or listened to nearly every inning of every game of a World Series. I have deeply enjoyed my re-entry back into the world of you just never know. In baseball, you just never know.

Take tonight's game, for example. Going into the the top of the 7th inning, the Dodgers held a 4-0 lead.

Why did this lead seem insurmountable?  Check this out:

* In the 2018 season, including the postseason, the Dodgers won 54 games and lost 0 when they held a four run lead at any point in every game they played this year.

Let that sink in. Fifty-four times in 2018, the Dodgers went ahead by four runs and won every won of those games.

* Not only that, in the last ten World Series, only once had a team blown a four run lead to lose a game. But, get this: it just so happens that one team was the 2017 Dodgers in Game 5 of last year's World Series against the Astros.

Still, history and maybe even justice seemed to be on the side of the Dodgers as the Red Sox got the 7th inning underway.

But, in baseball, you just never know.

With one out in the seventh and a runner on first, Dodger starting pitcher Rich Hill struck out Eduardo Nunez for out number two. He had allowed the Sox one hit up to this point and had struck out seven.

But, manager Dave Roberts decided he had thrown enough pitches and relieved him with Scott Alexander and then Ryan Madson.

Alexander walked Brock Holt. Pinch hitter Mitch Moreland homered off of Madson and suddenly the Dodgers' four run lead shrunk to one.

The Red Sox then scored six more runs, one in the eighth and five in the ninth thanks in large part to thirty-five year old journeyman Steve Pearce, a guy who has bounced around between six different teams since 2007. He hit a solo homer in the 8th and cleared the bases with a bases loaded double in the 9th. He was a most unlikely star of this game, as was Mitch Moreland.

But, in baseball, you just never know.

The Red Sox won Game 4, 9-6.

Game 5 starts shortly after 5 tonight. The Dodgers are in deep trouble and it will be interesting to see how their ace pitcher, Clayton Kershaw performs today. History is haunting him. He's been a Hall of Fame level pitcher for many years, but, in the playoffs and World Series, he's struggled. His postseason record is 9-9. He's lost one game already in this series. He will face Red Sox pitcher David Price who has a long history of postseason futility, but has reversed his fortune in the 2018 playoffs.

These are two of baseball's best pitchers. Kershaw will be trying to help the Dodgers survive. Price will try to help the Red Sox win the World Series outright.

Anything can happen.

In baseball, you just never know.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/26/18: Sprinklers Put to Rest, Crab Stock Chowder, Marathon Game 3

1. I held off on going out into the world and running some errands until Randy, the sprinkler technician from Artscape Landscaping came by to finish the job he started Thursday of blowing out the sprinkler system now that summer is over. He had come on Wednesday when I was on my trip to Rathdrum and Coeur d'Alene and hadn't been able to come in the house and turn off the system's water. He arrived today shortly before noon and I had a question or two about the sprinkler's water valve and, after he left, I wrote a note to refer to in the spring reminding of what he told me and taped it to the valve.

2. The other day, I thawed two quarts of crab stock I made earlier this year.  Today, I consulted some recipes and thought I would use the stock to make a tilapia chowder. While shopping at Yoke's for a couple of ingredients I needed, I suddenly thought that since I was using crab stock for this chowder, and, since I'm cutting back on my consumption of animal protein, I would use cauliflower instead of fish. Back home, using a Rachael Ray recipe, here, as a guide, I cooked a chopped onion, four chopped garlic cloves, and some chopped baby rainbow carrots in the Dutch oven and, when they were tender, I added in a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes, chopped potatoes and cauliflower, and the crap stock and brought it to a boil and then let it simmer for as long as it took for the potatoes and cauliflower to get soft, but not mushy. I like Old Bay Seasoning so I added some of it and a moderate amount of salt to the chowder.  As this soup bubbled away, I realized that I wanted to thicken it, so I added just over a quarter of a cup of heavy whipping cream into the broth and this made the chowder mine (not Rachael Ray's!), made it what I had imagined I wanted when I started.

The crab stock made the chowder taste like the ocean and I really liked it as an otherwise vegetarian concoction and I was much happier with it as a cream soup rather than the brothy chowder Rachael Ray laid out. The chowder was tasty, warming, and comforting, a good meal to eat while watching the early innings of the Game 3 of the World Series.

3. Game 3 of the 2018 World Series developed into the longest World Series game in Major League Baseball history. It lasted eighteen innings. It took seven hours and twenty minutes. This game was so long, it outlasted the contract my internet television provider has with somebody and I lost television coverage at 11:00, about six hours in. I immediately cried out to Alexa: "Alexa, play ESPN Radio", and Alexa complied and I listened to the rest of the game on the radio, a pleasure, especially with Dan Shulman calling the play by play with analysis by Chris Singleton.

My enjoyment of the game was enhanced by texting back and forth with Byrdman and Cas as the contest continued deep into the night.

If you hadn't heard, the Dodgers won this sometimes magnificent, sometimes ugly test of endurance by a score of 3-2 when Max Muncy powered a home run to left center field off of Boston's workhorse pitcher Nathan Eovaldi.

I am eager to see what happens in Game 4. Both teams, but especially the Red Sox, depleted their pitching staffs. Who will even start Game 4 for Boston? Sales on short rest? Not David Price. Certainly not Nathan Eovaldi. Will Alex Cora run out Drew Pomeranz, who hasn't pitched in the entire month of October? By managing so aggressively to win this game and go up 3-0 in the Series, did Cora exhaust the Red Sox pitching staff and put his team in peril?

Did the tide of this World Series turn toward the Dodgers in Game 3 -- after I'd heard so many say the Dodgers were in danger of being swept in four straight by the Red Sox?

I don't know. But, I'll tune in tonight, hoping Game 4 doesn't run past 11:00 and that I'll get to watch the whole game on television! (I did, however, enjoy the radio broadcast, so losing television coverage wasn't so bad.)

Friday, October 26, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/25/18: Off to Eugene, Lunch at Penny's Pit, Slate Creek, *Blood Work

1. The Deke's start date at Charlemagne Elementary (Ecole Immersion en Francais) changed from Nov. 1 to Monday, October 29th. The Deke concluded that her transition into this classroom would go more smoothly if she were in the classroom on October 26th, so she packed her bags and took off sometime after 7:00 to begin living and working in Eugene until the school year ends in June. I'm really happy that the Deke seized this opportunity to return to teaching in a situation she knows well. When we left Maryland, she wasn't really ready to be done with teaching. She was elated last June when she learned that the school needed a teacher to fill in for another teacher's maternity leave and was further elated when her application for the position was successful. I'm very grateful for the unlimited text messaging and phone calls so that we can keep in touch and know what's happening with each other while we're apart.

After the Deke rocketed away for Eugene, I went to the dentist and learned about extensive treatment I could receive to help prevent infection. This is an important subject in relation to a potential kidney transplant. It's crucial that if I go through with a transplant that my system, very much including my teeth and gums, are free of infection. I'm pondering the possibilities the dentist presented to me today.

2. After the dentist visit, I slammed the Sube into gear and bounded over the 4th of July Pass, glided through CdA, cruised north, and pulled in at Penny's Pit Gourmet Burgers in Rathdrum to meet Stu for lunch. I can't remember where I'd heard about this place, sitting obscurely between a laundromat and a convenience store and right by a self-serve car wash in the Dashco Conoco Phillips center on Highway 53, but whatever I heard or read was enthusiastic and now I know why. The gorgonzola and arugula burger I ordered was bursting with fire grilled ground chuck meaty flavor. The gorgonzola cheese added a rich, blue cheesy layer of zing and underneath it was the peppery and nutty crunchiness of the arugula. I liked the fries, too. Stu and I agreed: we will return to Penny's Pit.

I am working to reduce my meat consumption for the sake of my kidneys, and, I swear, near abstinence makes the meat I do eat pop with tasty pleasures I might otherwise take for granted.

Stu and I had a lot of fun yakkin' about the bizarre night of the Homecoming bonfire our senior year in high school Soon I'll be writing about this in a Sibling Assignment, so I won't give away the details now, but it was one of the strangest evenings I ever experienced in Kellogg, Idaho. We also reminisced about the athletes we admired in the Silver Valley and both accurately surmised that no one was sitting at a restaurant anywhere recalling the athletic feats of the two of us. We always get a kick out of our mediocre high school athletic careers -- but, to be fair, Stu had some stellar performances on the track and field team.

3. After lunch, I popped into Pilgrim's to pick up a couple of tubs of tofu (non-meat protein source) and a couple of cans of fresh hop beer for Beer Club. Since it was past two o'clock, I knew Slate Creek Brewing was open so I strolled in to have a pint and a half of Ft. George's Fresh IPA. Fall is fresh hop beer season and, I enjoyed the piney and earthy bitterness of this beer brewed with hops that were not yet 24 hours old when they were dumped into the brew -- you can think of the full flavor of these fresh hops as comparable using fresh herbs as opposed to dry ones when cooking.

As I left Pilgrim's, I texted Byrdman to see if he had completed in bicycle ride up the North Fork of the CdA River. He had and before long he joined me and we had the pleasure of being served by Jilly on her first day working the plank in the Slate Creek Tasting Room. It looked to me like she was getting comfortable in her new job and it was definitely fun to talk with her a bit, especially about the passage from Thich Nhat Hanh she had tattoed on her arm.

It was fun, within myself, to remember the good old days of having students read Thich Nhat Hanh and to see how his insights into non-being could help a person write better. In short, it's what we do when we aren't writing and what we are awake to while not at the writing desk that contributes most significantly to the quality of our writing. I used to try to encourage my students to think about the non-writing elements of their writing.

Well, back to beer. So, as with eating meat less frequently, I am also seeing if drinking alcohol less often might help my kidneys' health. So, now, when I do drink some beer, I appreciate the flavors and the aromas even more and that was the case today at Slate Creek -- in fact, in an ideal world, I could have been content to just sit and smell my pint and half pint of Ft. George's Fresh IPA.

* My experiment with cutting back on meat and alcohol might be working. Just a couple of hours or so ago (I'm writing this Friday morning), the results of the lab work I had done at Sacred Heart on Tuesday arrived in my inbox and my kidney function had improved from 14-15% to 18% and a couple of other markers, while well out of the normal range, had also improved a bit.

It is a great relief when I see either improvement or stability in my blood work and that's what I saw this morning.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/24/18: Support Team Commitments, *Big Burn* and *Hired Gun*, Red Sox Win

1. Christy, Carol, the Deke and I met this morning in our living room to discuss their roles as members of my first string support team in case a kidney becomes available and I go in for a transplant. They each have a good understanding of what their responsibilities would be for transporting me, monitoring me after the surgery, adhering to my strict medication regimen, keeping records of my weight, blood pressure, pulse, fluid intake and output, among other things. They all signed on and now I'll return the signed forms to Sacred Heart.

2. I love watching poker on the 24 hour World Poker Tour channel on PlutoTV (on online television channel) and I thought today that maybe I'm watching it a little too much. I am completely crappy as a poker player, but I love the drama of watching Texas Hold 'Em and the WPT features the insightful and very entertaining commentary and analysis of Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten.

OK. Guilty pleasure confessed.

Today I steered away from poker and dove a little deeper than usual into Amazon Prime's offerings and came upon the hour long documentary, The Big Burn, based on Timothy Egan's book of the same title, and a look at the impact of the Great Fire of 1910, which burned over 3 million acres of forest land in Western Montana, and North Idaho and extended into southern British Columbia, and Eastern Washington, on the early days of the Forest Service and our national attitudes about wildfires. Ed Polaski's story was prominent, as was Gifford Pinchot's.

After watching Game 2 of the World Series, I returned to Amazon Prime and watched , Hired Gun, a documentary about session musicians in the world of rock and pop music. I welcomed the emphasis the movie put on heavy metal drummers, bassists, and guitar players and enjoyed hearing an assortment of these players talk about the hard work they put into developing their craft. In addition, if you'd like to learn more about how cutthroat the world of recording and concerts is in the world of pop music and rock n roll, this movie explores that angle of the music industry as well.

3. Adding strong pitching and some stellar defense to their relentless hitting, the Red Sox scored three runs with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning to defeat the Dodgers 4-2 in Game 2 of the World Series. The Red Sox knack for scoring with two outs is impressive enough, but tonight's win also featured great pitching as David Price gave the Sox six strong innings and, he, along with three Red Sox relievers, retired the last 16 Dodgers in a row.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/23/18: Tests at Sacred Heart, Chicken Fried Steak, Game 1 at the Lounge

1. I vaulted out of bed at 4:30 this morning and gathered what I needed to spring into the Sube and drive through the predawn darkness to Sacred Heart Medical Center for a morning of testing. I'm still not quite oriented when I arrive on the Sacred Heart campus, but, in short time, I parked and made my way to the surgery center where I registered. The registrar was cheerful, very pleasant to work with, and she set a tone for the rest of the day. I had about eighteen vials of blood drawn, had an EKG, and was administered an echocardiogram; in radiology, my chest was x-rayed, I got an abdominal ultrasound, and an abdominal CT. For each of these procedures, the people checking me in were warm and friendly, my wait times were short, conversations with the staff giving the tests were upbeat and uplifting, and I felt confident that I was in good hands. I had expected to be at the medical center until noon or so, but I was done shortly after 10 o'clock.

I think if you were to go back and read about the two different trips I made to the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore for transplant list evaluation in 2015 and 2017 you'll find that I enjoyed the transplant center staff there, too. But, in Maryland, the only testing the center did on site was my blood work. That meant I returned to Greenbelt, contacted my PCP, requested referrals for cardiology tests and radiology work and then made several trips over about three weeks time to have these tests done. You might also remember that I used to enjoy driving around when I lived in Maryland, so these trips never annoyed me and I always turned them into something fun, but, I admit, I am very grateful that today I spent one morning getting these tests done, all in the same medical center.

And, as a bonus, the Sacred Heart transplant program doesn't charge me or bill my insurance for these tests.

What's next? On October 30th, I will return to Sacred Heart and meet individually with each member of the transplant staff and then, I'm not sure exactly when, the transplant committee will meet to decide whether to list me for a transplant at Sacred Heart.

2. I had been fasting for about sixteen hours when I left the medical center. Within myself, I had made plans to break this fast with a lunch at Ginger Asian Bistro, following JoJo's recommendation, but, since I finished early, I decided to go out for breakfast. As I left the medical center, I was tired and didn't feel like driving in Spokane to go to a breakfast spot, so I darted straight to the freeway and dined at the Breakfast Nook in Coeur d'Alene where I splurged and ordered a chicken fried steak with gravy, hash browns, eggs, and sourdough toast. I left feeling like I wouldn't have to eat again for a week.

3. Back home, I went straight to bed. I got a text from Cas inviting me to a "private showing" of the first game of this year's World Series at the Lounge. I drove up around five and the Deke arrived a while later -- we have two Subes now -- and joined Seth, Angie, Tracy, Cas, Ginger, Eddie Joe, Fitz, and Deanne for a fun time watching the Red Sox break open a tight game in the bottom of the seventh when Eduardo Nunez rocketed a three run home run over Fenway's Green Monster, catapulting the Red Sox to a 8-4 win. About halfway through the game, Tracy and Angie made a trip to Casa de Oro and Cas treated the party to Mexican food. I ate a couple or three tacos and a bunch of tortilla chips and salsa, all of which hit the spot, and spent the entire evening drinking ice cold glasses of club soda and lemon or lime. I returned home happy: the game was really fun, the food was satisfying, and I my system was free of alcohol, promising me a restful night's sleep to come. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/22/18: Photos on flickr, Freshening Up, The Deke Returns

1. Between Oct 17-20, I had taken a few pictures, mostly across the street in Kellogg, a lot more in the general area of North Idaho College in Coeur d'Alene, and another set on the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes on a walk starting at the Cataldo trail head. I uploaded those pictures into a single album on flickr today (I hope the company that took over flickr recently improves the site's uploading speed). On flickr, I post my pictures, no matter what they look like -- everything I take goes up and if you'd like to see these pictures, they are right here.

2. With the Deke coming home today, I laundered the sheets and blankets, cleaned the bathroom, cleaned up the kitchen, and even risked inciting Maggie and Charly's alarmed scream barking and vacuumed dog hair off of our love seat.

3. The Deke had a long day of travel from Baltimore to Austin to Sacramento to Spokane and then drove to Kellogg from Spokane and was tired and burnt out. We talked about a few things and I suggested she might want to sleep upstairs since I would be continuing a 24 hour urine collection through the night and needed to wrap the collection up at 5 a.m. Then, I would be leaving the house soon after 5 to register at Sacred Heart for a morning of blood tests, echo cardiogram, x-ray, abdominal ultrasound, and CT scan. I would be a source of disruption all night long and into the early morning.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/21/18: Visiting Wanda, Cataldo Trail Head, Salmon Dinner at Christy and Everett's

1. Ed dropped by around 11:00 and we took a trip to Smelterville to visit Wanda who had surgery in the last 7-10 days. When she told us the story of why she needed the surgery, I was struck by how well she has come through it and thought she was doing pretty well in her recovery.

2. Around 2:00, I drove out to the Cataldo trail head of the Coeur d'Alenes and walked and took pictures for about an hour and a half. Lately, we've had stunning weather: clear skies, temperatures in the high sixties and low seventies, and still days. Along this trail and in the distance the trees' leaves vibrated with gold and vermilion -- especially gold -- and when the trail wound its way near the river, the water mirrored the fall colors. The walk lifted my spirits and I'm happy to be taking pictures, at least occasionally, again. I'll post a few pictures down below.

3. Christy prepared a superb family dinner tonight. The meal centered on salmon and a dill dip with roasted vegetables. She also made two salads. One was a vegetable salad and the other a fruit. We had a few more people than usual with us this evening as Molly, Cosette, and Taylor were all in town. The conversations about the 70s music Christy put on, Molly's experience with student teaching, and about the television programs Carol, Molly, and Christy are enjoying these days was vibrant, with a lot of laughter and enthusiasm for the shows they love in common and recommended to each other.

I took these pictures in Coeur d' Alene on Friday and on the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes on Sunday:

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/20/18: Out of Thin Air, Afternoon in CdA, Dodgers Win; Red Sox and the DH

1. The crew who periodically appears out of the blue, often on a Saturday, to mow our lawns and do some clean up were suddenly parked in front of our house early this afternoon. I had planned a trip to CdA, but had lollygagged around and thanks to my slow start I was here when they arrived. Today they cut the lawn shorter than ever, probably the last cut of the year, and they cleared the yard of leaves and fertilized the grass. The yard looks terrific heading into mid-autumn and winter.

2. I hopped into the Sube and, even as I rocketed over the Fourth of July Pass, I loved the burnt orange and golden leaves. Once in CdA, I picked up three items for Christy and a couple of things for myself at Pilgrim's and then met up with Byrdman at Slate Creek Brewing, just a few blocks away.

We yakked about baseball and golf and kidneys and the stunning scenery up the North Fork and we were both happy to see for ourselves that Danica Gilbert's decision to buy the brewery in partnership with Andy Neels is working out. I follow Slate Creek on Facebook, so I know Danica hosts many events ranging from Bingo to moonlight bicycle rides to a Halloween party to pumpkin carving to holding classes -- like hat making --, and more. I drank a pint and half of beer and shelled and consumed a ton of peanuts. My first beer was a tasty and aromatic IPA from Pfriem and then I had a short pour of Post Falls Brewing's sweet Marzen, a delicious beer, similar to an Octoberfest. I think it was called Mr. Rocktober (it might have been Dr.), but my memory is failing me.

Byrdman and I then sprang into his Forester and blitzed eastward and uphill to CdA's handsome par-3 golf course, Ponderosa Springs. I had never been up to Ponderosa Springs and Byrdman not only wanted me to see the course -- so we each had a can of beer and sat on a deck overlooking the links -- he also wanted me to enjoy a drive up East French Gulch Rd which turns into E. Fernan Hill Dr., makes a loop, and features a variety of fall colors and some excellent views of both Fernan and Coeur d'Alene Lakes.

3.  Back home, I flipped on the Brewers/Dodgers game and discovered I'd missed seeing each team homer. The Dodgers led 2-1. With a combination of tough pitching, a great catch in left field by Chris Taylor, and a 6th inning three-run home run by Yasiel Puig, the Dodgers cruised to a 5-1 win and will open the World Series against Boston at Fenway Park on Tuesday. I have no predictions regarding the World Series' outcome. I will be intrigued to see if the Red Sox will continue to get great hitting out of their entire batting order, as they have so far in the post-season, and I am eager to see how Red Sox manager Alex Cora will address the problem of not having a Designated Hitter (DH) for the three games in L. A.

The Red Sox would sacrifice speed in their outfield and degrade their infield if Mookie Betts were to be moved to second base, where he has played some, and J. D. Martinez played right field. Likewise, if Martinez plays the outfield in place of Jackie Bradley, Jr. or Andrew Benintendi, the Red Sox would give up quite a bit of defense in their stellar outfield and both have been very valuable hitters in the playoffs up to this point.  I've wondered, with nothing to found this on, whether Martinez could play first base for three games so that he would be in the batting order and the speedy Red Sox outfield would remain intact. But, I haven't heard or read anyone talk about this possibility, so I doubt it is a legitimate option. I look forward to seeing what the Red Sox do.

If nothing else, having two leagues in Major League Baseball, with the AL having used the DH for about forty-five years and the NL adamantly refusing to use the DH, it always creates intrigue when the World Series teams square off in the National League park.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/19/18: Sibling Outing and Solo Time, The Readiness is All, Brew Crew Wins Without Home Runs

1. I managed to slip in a quick nap after breakfast with my buddies at Sam's this morning. Thankfully, I didn't sleep through Christy driving in front of the house to pick me up so that she and Carol and I could enjoy a Sibling Outing together. We went to CdA and had breakfast at Jimmy's Down the Street. I was pretty full after having eaten breakfast shortly after six, but I ordered a bowl of oatmeal and ate most of it.

Carol had a doctor's appointment and Christy and Carol wanted to shop at a nursery in Rathdrum and I decided to break off at this point and spend some time alone. I leapt out of Christy's rig near the corner of Northwest Blvd. and Government Way (apologies to my siblings for calling it Lincoln Way) and went into the Cd'A City Park, walked along the lake shore, walked along the Spokane River, strolled around the North Idaho College campus, and sauntered up and down streets in the Fort Grounds neighborhood with my Nikon in hand, snapping some pictures.

It's been forty-four years since I graduated from North Idaho College and today was the first time I walked around much of the campus. I visited the Student Union, read the plaques in the NIC Sports Hall of Fame, and generally marveled at how the campus has been transformed since I was a student there. I didn't photograph any buildings, but many of them were new to me or had been significantly remodeled. I hope the quality of education is still really good at NIC and matches the campus's gorgeous setting and attractive buildings.

I'll post pictures once I've processed them.

2. Back in Kellogg, I bowed out of Beer Club and didn't make my usual Friday trip to the Lounge because I wanted to focus on writing about my visit to Sacred Heart in my blog and in a letter to the Deke, Christy, and Carol. It looks like the four of us will get together soon, before the Deke takes off to her job in Eugene (which starts Oct. 29th), and discuss how we'll ready ourselves in case a kidney becomes available -- whether a live donor comes forward or the kidney of a deceased person becomes available.

If this surgery were one that could be planned for, I wouldn't be concerned. We could schedule the surgery according to when the Deke and my sisters would be available to provide the two to three weeks of supporting me a transplant requires. But, unless I were to receive a kidney from a living donor, making scheduling possible, the availability of a kidney is entirely unpredictable and plans need to be in place before the kidney is offered. I'm grateful that two friends have said they would help out and when I send in the paperwork regarding who will be available for support, I'll let the social worker know this.

By the way, I am fully aware that a transplant might never happen and I know that, if it does, it could be any number of years before it does happen. Or a kidney could pop up sooner than later. But, as Hamlet said, "If it be now, 'tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come -- the readiness is all."

3. I love watching runs scored in baseball without a home run being hit. Yes, home runs can be dramatic (I'm looking at you Carlton Fisk, Bucky Dent, and Kirk Gibson), but I love it when struck balls stay in the park, runners take risks to advance a couple of bases or to score, and outfielders and relay men have to make pinpoint throws. Tonight's National League playoff game got underway with Dodger leadoff hitter David Freese bombing a home run, but Milwaukee answered in the bottom of the first inning with a base on balls, two singles, and two doubles (not in that order) to manufacture four runs and establish a lead they never gave up on their way to a 7-2 win. It was a great night for the Brewers. Their bullpen dominated the Dodgers in relief of starter Wade Miley and they didn't use their premier reliever, Josh Hader. But, most of all, I enjoyed how the Brewers' batters didn't overreach but spanked hits to the opposite field, hit balls in the outfield gaps, and scored seven runs without a home run.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/18/18: Stitches Removed, Kidney Transplant Class, Post-op Support

1. I tore over the Fourth of July Pass and eased into the offices of Northwest Endodontics to visit Dr. Brittney Penberthy again. Today, she removed the stitches from the area where I had oral surgery a week ago and she reported that my biopsy was clear. It was a brief and comfortable visit and I'll return in three months. Dr. Penberthy will monitor this tooth and the surgery site every three months over the next year.

2. I hopped back in the Sube and made my way to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center to continue the process of becoming listed for a kidney transplant in Spokane. For ninety minutes, I attended a very informative class about kidney transplants, the fourth I've attended since 2015, and the best. Some of it was redundant, but much of it deepened my knowledge and my understanding of the transplant process, especially what's involved in matching a donated kidney to a recipient. For starters, I learned once again that the demand for kidneys far, far outnumbers the kidneys available and that thousands of people in need of a kidney don't receive them every year.

The first criterion for a match between the donated kidney and recipient's is blood type. Then there must be an antigen match. Lastly, the blood of the donor is cross-matched in a tube with the blood of the kidney recipient to see if the recipient will react to the donor's kidney. If there's no reaction, the transplant can continue. So, when a kidney becomes available, it's not only time accrued on the waiting list that comes into play, but so does the question of whether there is a match between the donor and the recipient. These criteria are the same whether the kidney comes from a cadaver or from a living person -- and, of course, having a kidney donated by living donor (age 18-60 [with some exceptions]) is the ideal situation.

I also learned that several people can be contacted when a kidney becomes available. For example, the center could decide to contact, let's say, five recipients to be at the ready because a kidney that is blood match for five people high on the list has become available. Then the tissue testing and cross-matching happens and, importantly, all of those contacted have the right to decline the kidney -- without penalty. The donated kidney could be local, regional, or, in some cases, come from somewhere in the nation outside the Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alaska region.

There are other calculations that come into play when deciding to whom the donated kidney will be given and maybe I'll lay those out another day.

At Sacred Heart, the wait times tend to average about 4-5 years. I have been listed since about April of 2015, so soon I'll hit the four year mark in about five months. I came away from this class taking the instruction to always be ready for the call more seriously than I ever have.

But, in order to be listed in Spokane, it has to be determined through blood work, chest x-ray, cardiology testing, kidney ultrasound, and other tests that I am healthy enough to endure the surgery. My medical history will also be taken into account. I go back to Sacred Heart on Oct. 23rd for a day of testing. Then I'll return to Spokane on the 30th of October to talk individually with each member of the transplant team, except one, the social worker.

3. I won't talk to the social worker on October 30th because I talked with her today. I thought the most important thing we talked about was the support I'll need if I go through transplant surgery. I need to return a form to the transplant program, signed by the person or persons who will provide the support I'll need. Not only will I need to be transported to the hospital, but I will need a lot of help after the surgery. Let's say the primary support person is the Deke. Among other things, she will have to go through instruction to help me with my medication schedule and other post-op responsibilities. I would be in the hospital for 2-3 days and then I have to stay within an hour of Sacred Heart for 2-3 weeks and be transported to the clinic at least three times a week for blood work and visits with the doctor. I'll need help taking my medications at precise times. Whether I could stay in Kellogg or would stay in a hotel in Spokane during this period will be determined.

It's possible I'll be difficult to deal with because I'll be taking heavy doses of Prednisone, a steroid which can bring about irritability and mood changes. The social worker was adamant about the difficulties support persons often experience with a post-transplant patient and repeatedly told me that the transplant center provides counseling support for those in the support role.

By the time I left the medical center, my head was spinning and, because I hadn't eaten a bite all day, I was hungry. I decided to drive to CdA before eating and I thoroughly enjoyed a plate of yellow curry over rice at Thai Bamboo.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/17/18: Filing Papers, Contemporary Managing, Fan Interference

1. The fact that I've had a small pile of paper records sitting around unfiled has been bugging me for about a week and today I finished putting each piece of paper in its proper folder.

2. I've decided that rather than have a negative knee jerk response to Craig Counsell's managerial approach to running the Brewers, I am going to be curious, let his methods play themselves out, and enjoy the intrigue. Counsell is not managing in traditional ways, most notably, in how he's handling his pitching staff. Traditionally, managers have run out a starting pitcher to begin the game with the hope that he would pitch well for, let's say, five to nine innings, although in today's game, managers keep a strict eye on how many pitches the pitcher throws and once a starting pitcher crosses a pre-determined threshold, he's out of the game.

Craig Counsell is breaking with the tradition of using a starting pitcher in some games and is opening selected games with a pitcher who will not pace himself over several innings, but will throw hard for a very few innings. Traditionally, such short term pitchers have been used late in games, but Counsell is one of several contemporary managers who are using these short term relief pitchers early on, even opening the game with one on occasion. Tonight, Counsell rolled out lefty Wade Miley, a traditional starter, to pitch to the Dodgers' leadoff  hitter, left-hand hitting Cory Bellinger, and pulled him after he pitched to this one batter.  He then brought in righty Brandon Woodruff, who is kind of a hybrid starter-reliever, to face the rest of the predominantly right hand hitting Dodger lineup. Woodruff pitched 5.1 innings before giving way to four other Brewer pitchers.

The Brewers lost the game 5-2. Did they lose because of how Craig Counsell managed his pitching staff? I don't know. I thought the Dodgers benefited from the fact that their hitters stopped swinging for the fences and eked out runs with timely singles and aggressive base running. All five of the Dodger runs were batted in by a hitter stroking a single and I thought the Dodger hitters were much more contained today than they were last night and it paid off.

3. The Red Sox/Astros game was thrilling. It ended when Boston's left fielder Andrew Benintendi made a spectacular diving catch of an Alex Bregman line drive with the bases loaded. Had he not made the catch, Bregman's hit would have cleared the bases and the Astros would have won the game.

It was an exciting game, but my excitement was dampened when Jose Altuve's apparent home run was ruled an out because the umpire decided that a fan interfered with Mookie Betts' attempt to rob Altuve of the home run.

I know I'm in the minority in my view, but I wish those fans in the front row of the right field bleachers would have let that fly ball play itself out before trying to catch the ball for a souvenir. Although the fan denies it, it looked like a fan reaching to catch the ball closed Mookie Betts' glove as Mookie reached over the fence to rob Altuve of his home run. I can't tell if Betts' glove is in front of the fence or if he reached beyond it -- if he reached beyond the fence into the stands, the hit should have been ruled a home run. But umpire Joe West ruled than the fan (or fans) interfered with Betts in the field of play and Altuve was called out. The officials also ruled that the video replay did not provide conclusive evidence to overrule Joe West's call.

To me, in a perfect world, a world we do not live in, I know, once the fans could see that Mookie Betts was making a play on that ball, they would have leaned away from the ball, done all they could to clear the way for Betts to make the catch or miss it. Had Betts made the catch, he might very well have tossed the ball to a fan and had he missed it, then they could scramble for the ball. Eventually, some one would have likely procured a souvenir.

I know I'm being unrealistic. But, I have to say, I don't give a rip about catching a souvenir baseball when I go to baseball games and usually cower when a ball is hit my way in the stands. I would be the guy the broadcasters laugh at when they replay the video of the old guy ducking and hiding as a ball comes toward him in the stands.

By the way, I'm not ready to argue about how I see this questions of baseballs coming into the stands near the field of play. I am, however, trying to honestly express how I think about it whenever these situations occur.

In short, I know I'm being unrealistic! I rock at being unrealistic. Moreover, I don't have a clue as to what might be done to remedy this problem -- if it is a problem.


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/17/18: Clinic Visit, New Glasses, Marathon at the Lounge

1. After picking up our third of the beef order Christy, Carol and I went in on, I made a quick trip uptown to the clinic this morning and Tracy drew a sample of blood out of my arm to send to the transplant center in Baltimore. In preparation for my Oct. 23rd series of tests at Sacred Heart, each time I void my bladder, I need to recover it in a jug for twenty-four hours, starting the morning of the 22nd, and I was happy that Tracy had a jug in one of her cupboards and she affixed the very record keeping decal on the jug that I need.

2. I also stopped in at the Kellogg Vision Center and picked up my new glasses.

3. It was quite a baseball day. After I watched the Red Sox dispatch the Astros, 8-2, I went uptown to the Inland Lounge and joined Cas, Tracy, Seth, Angie, Aaron, and Amber and watched the Dodgers and the Brewers lock horns in game marked largely by futility. The teams combined to strike out 32 times. Combined, the two teams left 21 runners on base. Potential rally after potential rally fizzled. By the end of the 12th inning, I bade everyone good night, not wanting to leave Maggie and Charly home alone any longer. Finally, in the 13th inning, the Dodgers eked out a run, this marathon game came to an end after five hours and fifteen minutes, and I went to bed. I'm glad I took my own cans of seltzer water to the Lounge and didn't drink any alcohol. I'm up for marathon baseball games, but a marathon session of alcohol consumption would not have worked well for me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/15/18: Appointments at Sacred Heart, All Signed Up, Baseball at the Dirty Dog Saloon

1. Things are moving forward as I work to have my kidney transplant listing moved from the University of Maryland to Sacred Heart in Spokane. I talked with a cheery and very helpful scheduler this morning and, before the end of October, I'll make three visits to the transplant center for a variety of appointments: an orientation class followed up with a visit with my social worker, a day of lab work, ultrasound, cardiology testing, and other tests, and a day of appointments with the transplant team -- surgeon, nephrologist, financial person, dietitian, and pharmacist. I'm not sure when these people will decide to accept or reject me as a candidate, but at the very least, I'll have done what I need to do by the end of the month.

2. I woke up this morning not knowing that Sacred Heart would call, but I had made a commitment within myself to finish up my Medicare business. Because I had already started drawing Social Security, I was automatically enrolled in Medicare and today I went down the street and signed up for supplemental and prescription insurance. Because I could have done all of this over a month ago, I was feeling like I was behind in this process, but, out of the blue, the agent I worked with told me I was really on the ball and she couldn't remember ever working with anyone who was this much ahead of things. All the same, I was happy to be done with all this enrolling.

3. Cas texted me and wondered if I wanted to join him and Seth to watch the Dodgers and Brewers play game #3 of the National League Championship Series at the former Dirty Ernie's, now the Dirty Dog Saloon. I thought that sounded fun and joined them at about the third inning and we watched the Brewers win 4-0. To enhance my enjoyment of the game, I didn't drink any alcohol and so, when I returned home, I was in great shape to fix myself a tofu, potato, and mushroom curry over rice. It hit the spot.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/14/18: Reunion with Grebe, Preparing Family Dinner, Solid Family Dinner

1. Some time in the summer of 1973, I wandered over to Teeter's Field and watched the Kellogg-Wallace American Legion baseball team play for a while. As a first year alumnus of the Legion team,I don't know why I didn't check them out more often, but I do know it's the last time I saw Steve Grebil who was a great baseball teammate in the summer and a tough basketball opponent from Wallace in the winter.

Well, today, I got to see Grebe, who was in the Valley on a visit from Boise, for the first time in forty-five years. He and his brother, Mike, who I see regularly at the Lounge, had a round of golf scheduled at around 12:30, so I drove up to the Shoshone Golf Club around noon and Steve and I sat in Mike's golf cart and talked about what were up to these days, reminisced about things from when we were young ballplayers, and Grebe told me a story or two about Dad.

Mike arrived, hit a few balls at the driving range, and soon it was time for the Grebes to hit the links and time for me to drive back to Kellogg after a great reunion with Steve.

2. Back home, I made a quick trip to Yoke's and spent much of the afternoon preparing beef stew for tonight's family dinner. I had thawed a small chuck roast and cut it into small pieces. I browned these pieces, seasoned them, and then let them stew for about an hour and a half in five cups of beef stock I've had bubbling in the crock pot since Friday or Saturday. Eventually, I added a variety of vegetables and let the stew cook very slowly until the vegetables were tender and, I hope, not mushy.

Later, I made a salad of Romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, and feta cheese. I spent about fifteen minutes experimenting with a vinaigrette. I started with almond oil and added the juice of a lemon, a crushed garlic clove (or two?), and some salt and pepper. I wasn't quite pleased with how this combination tasted, so I added some vinegar, then a little more, tasted it, and decided it would taste better with some honey. I decided this mixture would work all right, so I dressed the salad. I rounded out the meal by slicing a loaf of ciabatta bread.

3. We had a different mixture of family members tonight at dinner. Carol and the Deke were both out of town. But, Cosette and Taylor, her boyfriend, were both in town, so they joined Christy, Everett, Paul, and me. Cosette and Taylor are running a painting business and Christy and Everett have hired them to do some work, so they looked at paint sample cards. Other lively conversation centered on different tv shows, changes the Deke and I made in Mom's house over the last year, and last night's fight night at Worley.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/13/18: Slow Morning, Trip to Worley, The Matches

1. I had a slow morning, keeping an eye on some golf tournaments on television, doing a little shopping at Yoke's, cleaning up the kitchen, and, by 1:00, watching the first few innings of the Brewers and the Dodgers.

2. At 3:00, I buzzed in the Sube out to Kingston and picked up Ed and we met Jake at Rose Lake Junction, hopped in his truck, and bolted to CdA to meet Stu in the Albertson's parking lot. Jake then chauffeured us to the CdA Casino in Worley where we had tickets for tonight's boxing matches in the House of Fury. We arrived early at the casino. I wasn't in the mood to play machines and I don't like to drink alcohol before watching a sporting event. So Stu and I plopped down in the Red Tail Bar and Grill and each ordered a Coke and watched the Dodgers preserve their come from behind 4-3 win over the Brewers. Soon Jake joined us and I ordered a tasty bowl of chili. Stu and I had hoped to watch the Astros and Red Sox, but this game wasn't telecast on any of the screens in the casino.

Stu and I knew Pete, Jerry, and Jake were over at the Nighthawk Lounge, so we joined them and before long Dave arrived and a bit later Ed took a seat at the table and spirited conversation about everything from Medicare to dental horror stories swirled around until it was time to head into the Event Center to watch the matches.

3. A number of local boxers were featured on tonight's House of Fury card.  The raucous crowd was primed to cheer on boxers from Spokane, Lewiston, and Butte and their enthusiasm climaxed in the final main event bout featuring 329 pound, thirty-five year old longtime local favorite Chauncy "The Hillyard Hammer" Welliver. Despite his visible fatigue, Welliver seemed to draw energy and inspiration from his fans' frequent chants of "Chauncy! Chauncy!" and endured the entire ten rounds and won a unanimous decision over the younger Eric Hempstead of Anaconda. The rest of the night was a mixture of evenly contested matches and a couple of quick fights featuring gross mismatches thanks to a couple of out of shape and unprepared contestants being hired to box. If you'd like to read a detailed account of the evening, just click here.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/12/18: Easy Recovery, Back to Eggplant, Beer Club and the Lounge

1. I had a very easy day of recovery from Thursday's oral surgery. I would hardly know I even had the surgery. I am being diligent about taking my antibiotics and using the mouthwash Dr. Pboneenberthy prescribed.

2. I had a fun day cooking: I prepared tofu, eggplant, and mushrooms and I made a green curry sauce so I can enjoy it over rice. I also put two beef bones I bought at Yoke's in the slow cooker with onion, celery, peppers, and various seasonings to get a beef stock going.

3. I drove up to Shawn and Teresa's for Beer Club. Our focus was on Michigan beers. Teresa brought an all day IPA, a vanilla coffee porter, a coffee stout, an amber, and a milk shake stout back to Kellogg from Michigan recently and I contributed a bottle of Founder's  Kentucky Breakfast Stout, a Michigan beer I purchased a few months ago and was saving for just the right beer club meeting.  After beer club, I wanted to see how the Dodgers/Brewers playoff game was going and dropped into the Inland Lounge where I watched the last several innings of the game and saw a bunch of friends. I spent much of my time sitting next to Seth, a knowledgeable and passionate Dodger fan, and it was fun talking about what was transpiring during the game.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/11/18: Successful Painless Surgery, Pain Management, Making Life Easier

1. I arrived on time at Dr. Brittney Penberthy's office, relaxed and ready to undergo an apicoectomy. Dr. Penberthy made a very positive impression on me back on Monday. She moved through the evaluation of my tooth with efficiency, inspiring my confidence as she moved effortlessly between stages of the evaluation, articulated clearly what she was up to, and as she gave me a frank and straightforward summation of what she recommended as treatment.

Today, the confidence I'd felt in dealing with Dr. Penberthy on Monday was deepened. Again, Dr. Penberthy clearly communicated everything she was doing. As she deadened the surgery area, made the incision, and as she removed the infected tissue and improved the condition of the tip of the tooth's root, she worked with her tools as if all of this was second nature to her. The schedulers had created a two hour slot for this surgery. It was over in an hour. Dr. Penberthy took x-rays of her work, put them up on a computer screen, and explained to me what she had done and showed me her handiwork. For the hour Dr. Penberthy worked, I felt no pain. I grew more and more calm as the surgery proceeded.

Dr. Penberthy gave me clear instruction as to what I needed to do after the surgery once I returned home. Her assistant also went over these instructions and they were clearly laid out in a handout. I return in a week to have my stitches removed.

2. Back in Kellogg, I stopped in at Yoke's to have three prescriptions filled: a course of antibiotics, painkillers, and a post-surgery mouthwash. I also bought yogurt. I've had some bad luck in the past with antibiotics killing both bad and good bacteria, so I want to complement the antibiotics with probiotics.

At first, I was going to try to make it through the day without taking pain medicine and rely exclusively on icing the surgery area to manage the pain. But, I thought more about it on the drive back to Kellogg. Dr. Penberthy had done some research and prescribed me pain medicine that is cleared through the liver, not the kidneys. So I was safe that way. Also, Dr. Penberthy told me that taking pain medicine soon after the surgery would have a very positive impact on the swelling and pain.

So, once I returned home, I took a pain pill and I started icing the area for ten minutes every half an hour until I went to bed around 10 o'clock. I took another pain pill at 8:00, thinking it might help me make it through the night when I wouldn't be icing.

This treatment worked splendidly.  My recovery through the entire afternoon and into the night was comfortable.

3. As I get older, I try to make as many things as I can in my life easier on myself. For example, Carol and Paul let the corgis stay with them while I was in Billings. Because I didn't know how my recovery from surgery would go, I thought that it would sure make things easier for me if the corgis could stay with Carol and Paul on Thursday during the day and through the night. Carol assured me that this plan would work fine for Paul and her -- in fact, she'd had the same idea herself.

I'm very grateful that the dogs stayed at Carol and Paul's on Thursday. It not only made my day easier, but it freed me up to focus on making sure I followed the post-surgery instructions without distraction and assured me that any interruptions to my sleep would be my own, not the nocturnal demands of the corgis.   

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/10/18: Breakfast with Hiram, The Snow Stopped!, Christy's Ham and Bean Soup

1. My cell phone, resting on a stand next to my bed in the room I'd booked, woke me up with a notifying beep that I'd received a text message. It was Hiram. He informed me that his hotel was near an IHOP and I texted him back that I'd see him there as soon as possible. We had a very good breakfast together, highlighted, for me, by his news that he and Molly have rented Olivia a clarinet and that Olivia seems to be fully enjoying the school she started attending this year. Hiram was about to embark on having a day off and was hoping to find a place to do some fine dining and he was also going to be paying a visit to a music program in a local high school. Next stop? Carol and Paul's former stomping grounds. That's right. The President's Own will give a concert in Glendive, MT.

2. About forty miles out of Billings, I pulled over at a rest stop and took a short nap. Thanks to my racing mind after enjoying the concert and the post-concert conversations, I hadn't slept as much as I needed to and this little bit of sleep helped me a lot. My only bit of trepidation about making this stop was that it had started snowing. I still had about 430 miles to go to Kellogg and I didn't like the prospect of having a snowy drive for the next several hours. I woke up. It had continued to snow, but it was low impact snow, not really sticking to anything. It's worst impact was impairing visibility.  Once I was back on I-90, however, the snow stopped and never came back. In fact, I experienced some comfortable periods of blue skies and the roads all the way to Kellogg were in good shape and the fall scenery was gorgeous. 

3. Christy had served ham for the family dinner I missed back on Sept. 30th and today she used the bone from that meal along with and a pack of ham hocks to make a superb ham and bean soup. Christy volunteered to give me a container of this soup, so when I returned home she brought me soup, biscuits, and a dinner salad. It was a perfect meal. It warmed me up and filled me up and by 7:30, after driving for over 16 hours over the last two days and after being so stimulated by the concert and by conversation at Walker's, I went to bed very early, watched some poker on PlutoTV, played games on my tablet, and by 9:00, I crashed. 

Three Beautiful Things 10/08/18: Oral Surgery Coming, Dialysis Might be Coming, Thai Curry Coming

1. Nearly a year ago, both Dr. Bird and, six months later, Dr. Rinaldi recommended that I have a tooth evaluated by an endodontist and today, after much procrastination, I finally had the tooth evaluated by Dr. Brittney Penberthy. She took x-rays and I agreed to a CT scan and she determined that an apicoectomy would be the best way to remove infection that had developed in the bony area around the end of my tooth -- a tooth where I'd had a root canal, maybe twenty-five years ago. I agreed to have the procedure done, even though this tooth has not given me any pain, for two reasons. One, I believed Dr. Penberthy when she said it was not a matter of if the tooth would one day give me pain, but when. Secondly, to be a viable candidate for a kidney transplant, I can't have any dental infections. I am working to be listed at the transplantation center at Sacred Heart in Spokane and having this infection cleaned up will help me be accepted in their program.

I made an appointment to have the surgery performed on Thursday, October 11th.

2. After my appointment with Dr. Penberthy, I took a nostalgic drive to 9th and Hastings in CdA and then I drove to Kootenai Clinic Nephrology where I had an appointment with Dr. Kristie Jones. Dr. Jones had reviewed the blood work I had done last week and she said what I thought she would, having myself received the results and studied them. The upshot of our discussion was as follows: many of my numbers are solid, but my function is diminishing. Dr. Jones recommended that I reduce my consumption of animal protein -- as it is, most days I only eat meat once a day, and I've begun to contemplate how I can eat even less. She also recommended that I eat fewer foods heavy in potassium and I'll be more mindful of that.

For the first time, we talked about dialysis. Just as Dr. Malik had in Bethesda, Dr. Jones recommended that when the time comes for dialysis, that I consider peritoneal dialysis, a way of cleansing the blood that can be done at home. I was relieved to know that this might be an option for me because if I had to go to a dialysis center, the closest one is CdA and I hadn't wanted to have to drive there as many as three times a week, especially in the winter.

For the time being, the really good news is that I feel good. I'm not showing symptoms of renal failure and that's good. Dr. Jones can't begin to know when I might need to start dialysis, but the hope is that I continue to feel good and that my disease continues to progress slowly.

I will see Dr. Jones again in December.

3. After these two appointments, it seemed like a good time to eat some drunken noodles, so I went to Thai Bamboo and that's what I did. I enjoyed the sweet spiciness of this dish and was especially happy to have chosen tofu as my protein, so happy, in fact, that I went to Pilgrim's and bought three tubs of tofu, a couple of eggplants, four cans of 3 Way IPA, some yellow curry paste, and two cans of coconut milk. I see some fine food in my future.

Three Beautiful Things 10/09/18: Driving to Billings, The Concert, Post-Concert Discussions

1. I sprang out of bed around five o'clock this morning, finished packing my suitcase, drank a cup of coffee, revved up the Sube and got my 470 mile drive to Billings, MT underway to hear Hiram play with the President's Own United States Marine Band.  I didn't enjoy the first hour or so of the drive. It was dark. I had trouble seeing. But as the morning sun slowly illuminated the sky, the golden and burnt orange trees on the Montana hillsides came into view and I began to enjoy the Montana scenery and the drive became more pleasant. Nearing Butte, snow began to fall and the drive over Homestake Pass was slow. I slid slightly on occasion, but kept the Sube under control. Beyond Homestake, the snow subsided and the rest of my drive was easy. I helped myself enjoy it by taking a short nap at a rest area along the way.

I arrived in Billings over an hour ahead of my check-in time at the Airbnb room I'd booked. While approaching Billings, a billboard advertising Buffalo Wild Wings caught my eye and I decided eating lunch there would be easy. I ordered a side garden salad and their smallest order of wings. I was a little bit surprised to discover that I like the wings I make at home better.

My Airbnb room was perfect. My hosts rent out two basement rooms, each with Dish television, a private bathroom, a queen-sized bed, and a combination soaking tub and shower. Outside each room is a common area to sit and a fully equipped kitchen for guests to share.  After being on the road for about eight hours or so, I just wanted to lie down for a while, then take a shower before getting ready to walk the ten blocks or so up to the 1400 seat Alberta Bair Theater to hear the concert.

2. I found a seat about five rows up from the front of the loge and texted back and forth with Hiram to let him know I arrived, got seated, and would see him at the intermission.

The concert moved me. The program blended several styles of music, ranging from Sousa marches to show and movie compositions by Leonard Bernstein and John Williams to selections from Prokofiev's ballet based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet to an aria from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro to a couple of pieces written since the year 2000 to rousing versions of  "The Star Spangled Banner", "America the Beautiful", and "Stars and Stripes Forever", a salute to the U.S. armed forces songs, and an encore, "God Bless America".

The music inspired my memories, my thinking, and my emotions. Hearing the Sousa marches transported me back to our living room here at 516 W. Cameron.  I think what happened in this memory took place when I was in junior high after Carol had started going to school. Once in a while, I had the house to myself in the morning and I put this recording we had of Sousa marches on our record player. I stood in front of the living room mirror and pretended to conduct the band, paying special attention to the trombone, euphonium, and tuba/sousaphone sections because I loved the low brass parts of these arrangements. So, while I listened to the President's own play "Sabre and Spurs", "Semper Fidelis", and "Stars and Stripes Forever", I suddenly realized my right hand was conducting the music (in my own untrained way) and I hid it under my jacket in the seat next to me in case I was distracting anyone. I also thrilled at hearing those stirring low brass parts and how much I loved playing them when I was in band.

The concert triggered another memory. Back in 1970, our high school band played a composition that included "Puff, the Magic Dragon". The piece featured a short solo for the baritone horn (euphonium) and my section mate, Wayne Denlinger, had been assigned to play the solo. When we performed the piece in concert, Wayne had something he had to do during a long rest for the baritone during this composition, but he had it timed so that he'd be back in time for his solo. Well, as fortune would have it, Wayne didn't make it back and suddenly I realized I'd have to step up and play the solo. Our band director, Mr. Exum, heard the melody of  "Puff, the Magic Dragon" come lilting out of my baritone horn and he scowled at me -- in fact, he looked like he had just bit into a lemon. You might say that I didn't play the short solo as beautifully as Wayne could. I remember thinking I played it all right, but, clearly, Mr. Exum was not pleased -- but, the song went on, the concert went on, the audience left happy, and no one else really knew the humiliation I had suffered.

3. After the concert, I joined Hiram and a table of his friends from the President's Own for drinks and a variety of small plates of awesome food at a place called Walker's. It turned out to be an invigorating time. I sat across the table from Cecilia Buettgens, a French horn player, and she initiated some conversation about teaching at the college level. She works as an adjunct at Frostburg State University in western Maryland and loves to teach. It had been years since anyone asked me about how I taught writing. The fact that I approached teaching writing (and literature) with philosophical questions connected with other discussions Hiram and Cecilia and others had been having about philosophy and religion and I got to join in some discussion about a range of topics including the meaning and value of greatness, the nature of God and world religions, and whether, in the course of human history, humans are moving toward progressive improvement.

It was cold in Billings. I didn't want to walk back to my Airbnb, so I booked a ride with Uber. When I settled into my bed, I couldn't get to sleep for about an hour. My mind was so stimulated by the beauty of the concert, all that I'd been thinking and feeling during the concert, and by the invigorating discussion at Walker's that it took me over an hour to get to sleep and, even once I did fall asleep, my night was interrupted by waking up to racing thoughts about Shakespeare, my many years of teaching, and the timeless questions of what it means to be human.