Monday, December 31, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/30/18: Back in Eugene, *Imitation of Life*, *The Theory of Everything*

1. The Deke and Patrick left in Sube II for Oregon this morning and, late in the afternoon, the Deke texted me that they arrived in Oregon and that travel conditions were splendid the entire way. The Deke is enjoying Eugene. She loves working and her job is going really well -- awesome, in fact. She meets up weekly with her band mate, Laura, and making music, learning more about how to play, and doing some performing is also fulfilling -- in fact, awesome. Having colleagues again, spending time with Eugene friends, both longtime friends and new ones, and having a living situation that is working out comfortably adds to her enjoyment.

2. About a month ago, I watched the movie All About Eve and I received a couple of emails from Dan Armstrong about the movie, one of his very favorites. In the course of writing about the movie, Dan mentioned that, as an instructor, he used to pair All About Eve with Douglas Sirk's Imitation of Life. Today I watched Imitation of Life (1959) and found it an arresting movie. I knew from Dan's comments that, like All About Eve, it was a story about an ambitious woman, the widow Lora (played by Lana Turner -- who lived her early years here in the Silver Valley in Wallace), a single mother, seeking and succeeding to make it as an actor on Broadway.

What I didn't know was that the movie also tells the story of a single black woman, Annie (played by Juanita Moore), whose husband (or lover) has left her and who lives alone with her light-skinned daughter, Sarah Jane (Susan Kohner). Annie and Lora meet by accident on the beach at Coney Island. Annie and Sarah Jane are homeless. Lora takes them in and, before long, Annie becomes Lora's longtime live-in maid.

The movie develops by telling two stories at once. Lora's story is one of glamour, theatrical success, wealth, parties with other glamorous theater people. Annie essentially raises Lora's daughter, Susie (Sandra Dee) as Lora's career skyrockets. At the same time, the movie explores the story of Sarah Jane, again, light-skinned, and her efforts to pass as white. Underneath the glitzy surface of the glamorous theater world, a kind of American Dream world, is the world of racial division, racial suffering, white obliviousness, and, at times, cruelty, both physical and emotional.

Sirk tempts his viewers to be mesmerized by the dazzling accoutrements of Lora's ambition and success: the gorgeous clothes, swanky parties, maids and butlers, candlelight dinners, Susie's horse (a private school graduation gift), and the thrill of Lora's successful performances and the rave reviews. But this world of surfaces and appearances co-exists with a world of suffering, a world of racial animus, a world, in its own way, constructed upon appearances, like skin color, and the false assumptions and lack of interest of the white characters regarding the black ones.
The movie is a romantic comedy juxtaposed with a social problem movie, with the two worlds closely knit together by Annie and Sarah Jane living with Lora and Susie, but alienated from one another by Lora and Susie's superficiality and lack of interest in Annie and Sarah Jane's difficulties.

3. On the morning of Christmas Eve, I finished watching The Theory of Everything, the story of Stephen and Jane Hawkings.  I forgot to write about watching this movie when so much was going on around Christmas and my birthday. I'll get to it now.

When I watch a movie based on the lives of historical people (or "real" people), I don't assume the movie will be historically or biographically accurate. I don't know much about Stephen and Jane Hawking's life, so I don't know if the way the makers of this movie shaped it is accurate. I watched the movie mostly because I had enjoyed Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl and I knew he'd won an Oscar for The Theory of Everything. I'd also read snarky comments on Facebook about him winning this award. Primarily, they went something like this: "Of course Eddie Redmayne won the Best Acting award. He only won it because Stephen Hawking had ALS and Redmayne did a good imitation of Stephen Hawking and the Academy felt sorry for Hawking."

These comments were made nearly four years ago. They seemed cynical to me, even mean, but I could never respond to them, not having seen the movie. (If I had seen the movie, I probably wouldn't have responded to these on Facebook. I think Facebook is among the most dismal of all places to discuss anything political, artistic, or socially relevant.)

Now, I don't know anything about the inner life of Stephen Hawking the man who wrote A Brief History of Time and lectured on cosmological matters all over the world.

I do know, however, what I saw in the movie character of Stephen Hawking, as played by Eddie Redmayne. Now, I want to say that I loved watching Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl. In that movie, and it happened again in The Theory of Everything, I experienced Redmayne as a soulful actor, an actor who brings the inward life of his characters alive with his eyes and his face -- particularly his smile -- and, by doing so, he draws me into his characters and rouses my sympathy, gives me a sense of connection. Yes, I thought Eddie Redmayne's portrayal of Hawking's physical deterioration was astonishing. Even more so, I thought the way Eddie Redmayne created a Stephen Hawking who was, by turns, mischievous, passionate about ideas, arrogant, playful, loving, pained, and devoted to the life of the mind, mostly through his eyes and facial expressions was moving, was extraordinary.

I'm not much interested anymore, like I was when younger, in awards, who wins them, or why.

I don't have an opinion about whether Eddie Redmayne's portrayal of Stephen Hawking was better than work done by the other best actor nominees: Michael Keaton, Bradley Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, or Steve Carell.

In fact, I don't care.

What do I care about? Eddie Redmayne's performance on its own. I thought that in the same way that Eddie Redmayne's Stephen Hawking was intellectually absorbed with the vastness of time and the universe, so was his portrayal of Hawking an exploration of the vastness of his inward life, his intellect, emotions, tenderness, stubbornness, disdain, insights, and joie de vivre. I enjoyed this parallel between the vast outward world Hawking loved as an intellectual and the vast inward world out of which originated his love of ideas, his family, and life itself.

To me, this movie was more than the Stephen Hawking story. It was also the Jane Hawking story. I thought, in a reserved way, Felicity Jones' portrayal of Jane Hawking was firey. Jones' portrayal of Jane Hawking certainly accentuated her devotion to her husband's care, but she was hardly an angelic helpmate. Stephen Hawkin angered Jane Hawkin. She envied parts of his life. She grew jealous of Hawkin's relationship with his care provider. She was attracted to another man, struggled with these feelings, and, in the end, as you probably know, their marriage came to an end, but not their connection to one another, not their continuing devotion to their children.

Twice in about the last three years, I have watched a trilogy of movies featuring a British spy, estranged from the M15, Johnny Worriker (Bill Nighy) . In the third movie, Felicity Jones plays Johnny Worriker's daughter, Julianne, who has a contentious relationship with her father and conceives a child with a man who is working for the M15 to bug Julianne's flat and spy on her. Felicity Jones was firey in this role as well -- not as reserved -- and it was fun to see her play such a different role as Jane Hawking.

Right now, as you might know, Felicity Jones is playing the role of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the movie, On the Basis of Sex. I haven't seen this movie yet.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/29/18: Lug Nuts Retorqued, Faracas' Memorial Mass, The Reception

1. I needed to put some miles on Sube II after the brake work was done in preparation for the wheels' lug nuts to be retorqued. I stayed off of I-90. Instead, I drove on the old roads between Kellogg and Smelterville and Smelterville and Pinehurst and did a little touring around Pinehurst. All in all, I drove close to thirty-five miles and when I arrived at Silver Valley Tire, one of their employees immediately retorqued the lug nuts. The Deke will return to Eugene with the Sube II having fresh oil, new brakes in the rear, and lug nuts torqued to the manufacturer's specifications. This puts my mind at ease.

2. Stu swung by and we went uptown to St. Rita's Catholic Church to attend the memorial mass for Ray and Mary Rae Faraca. The Faracas had lived in Kellogg for over sixty years. They'd both taught and Ray had coached countless students in their long careers at Kellogg High School. They were regular and active members of the St. Rita's parish. No wonder, then, that the church was packed with people paying their last respects. Father Jerome Montez gave a beautiful liturgy, with readings from the Bible often used at weddings, as if to say that as Ray and Mary Rae have passed from this world, they are wedded once again in their journey into eternity.

Two of the Faraca sons, Tony and Guy, gave eulogies. Tony helped us remember Mary Rae's devotion to the theatrical arts, to classroom rigor, and to propriety and good manners. I especially enjoyed Tony's story about when Mary Rae took Guy and Tony to New York City to see the sites, attend three productions on Broadway, and take in a baseball game at Yankee Stadium. Guy recalled his father's many years of coaching, the ways he inspired football players and track athletes to perform at their best.  Ray was also a hard worker. Not only did he teach biology and coach two sports, but he worked summers for the City of Kellogg. I remember when I played games at Teeters Field from 1967-72, Ray was always the employee who dragged the field and put down the baselines and the batters' boxes.

3. Following the service, we were all invited to a potluck buffet in the Fellowship Hall. Since moving back to Kellogg, I have had this experience from time to time when my life in my hometown flashes before my eyes. I saw and talked with former high schoolers like Tom Tierney and Kim Berg. I talked for a few minutes with Barbara Absec. She has lived a half a block away in the house next to the Faracas' house since at least 1962, the year our family moved into this neighborhood. I yakked with Mayo Rinaldi and he told the story of how this year he went to his parents' house to take down the Christmas tree because last year his dad brought a chain saw in the house and cut it down. I saw my basketball coach from my sophomore and junior years. Toward the end of the service, I heard George White read an inspirational passage in honor of Ray Faraca's work as a coach. I saw any number of people I recognized and had some history with, but didn't get to visit with.

And then there was the food. I'd half forgotten church potluck buffets, featuring fried and baked chicken, baked beans, rolls, and a generous assortment of salads -- macaroni, potato, and green. It had been years since I drank from a church punch bowl. Even though I passed on eating dessert, I saw the familiar pieces of sheet cake laid out on the kitchen counter.

This all affected me pretty deeply and tired me out. I elected not to go uptown to the Lounge in the late afternoon or early evening, but put on my night clothes, napped some, did some reading, and let the power of this day sink in.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/28/18: New Brakes, Pneumonia Shot, Quick Lounge Stop and the Zags Win Easily

1. Sube II has new rear brakes and a new parking/emergency brake.

2. While work was being done on Sube II, I went to the Yoke's pharacy and got a pneumonia shot, after doing some checking with the Oregon Medical Group as to when I last had one and which vaccine they gave me. I let my nurse coordinator at Sacred Heart know that I got the shot and now I just need to scan the receipt and email it to her. I've completed one more thing in my efforts to get listed at Sacred Heart's transplant center.

3. I knew the Wallace Social Club was meeting today at the Lounge and that the Club was hosting a retirement party for Rick Norris. I ordered a beer, yakked a bit with Cas, not much, because the Lounge was getting flooded by people coming in -- those who come over for a drink before having hamburgers across the street at the Elks and the crush of people wading in for the retirement party. I came to the Lounge wanting to yak a bit with Rob Gillies, the ringleader of the Wallace Social Club. He saw me, came up to the bar, and we talked for a bit. I finished my one beer and returned home.

Back home, the Deke and I went over to Christy and Everett's to watch Gonzaga crush North Alabama, 96-51. The game was a terrible mismatch -- I guess that goes without saying -- so the evening turned into more of a social occasion to talk about cookbooks, medical updates, recipes, family news, and other matters of immediate interest.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/27/18: Birthday Lunch, Birthday Beers, Birthday Cookies and Gifts and Tom and Jerrys

1. For my birthday, the Deke and I traveled to Coeur d'Alene. I had wanted to go to Syringa for sushi, but when we arrived at around 1:30, the place was packed. I immediately regretted not having made a reservation. We decided, on the spot, we didn't want to wait for a table so we went to Thai Bamboo and each had a curry dish after a won ton appetizer.

2. After lunch, we made a short visit to The Filling Station, a cozy tap room downtown with a staggering tap and bottle list. I didn't want to drink a lot, so I ordered a 5 oz pour of Modern Times' Devil's Teeth, a chocolate-y and awesome barrel-aged Imperial Stout and a 5 oz pour of another barrel-aged Imperial Stout, this time from Epic Brewing, their Big Bad Baptista. It was a coffee stout and also very good.

3. Patrick had been talking about a cookie recipe he loves to make and so I asked him to bake cookies and Christy, Carol, Paul, and Zoe came over to the house and we had birthday cookies and I opened gifts -- and so did Patrick (Christmas presents) and the Deke (for her birthday six days ago). Carol brought Tom and Jerry batter over and we topped off the evening with a hot drink.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/26/18: Sube II Check Up, Prime Rib Purchase, Quietness and Mourning the Faracas

1. Sube II was still some miles short of needing an oil change, but the Deke will be leaving Sunday and we wanted to get the car serviced and checked out ahead of time. I'm glad we did. I hadn't realized (or remembered) that the rear brakes were worn out and they definitely need replacing. The guys at Silver Valley Tires tightened the power steering belt and cleared the check engine code.  I take the car back in on Friday and after a couple of hours, Sube II will have practically new brakes in the front and new ones in the back.

2. I had one more important task today: make sure we have a prime rib roast for New Year's Day dinner. My plan had been to order one at Yoke's, but, I went to the meat section and I found a small roast. Is it big enough for Paul, Carol, Christy, Everett, and me? I imagined myself carving it and concluded it was. I delivered it to Carol and Paul's house, thinking I'd double check with Carol about the roast's size. She was napping. I plopped the roast in her fridge and texted her what I'd done and, by late afternoon, she responded with agreement that the roast was the right size.

3. Back home, things were quiet. The Deke played her guitar, sometimes humming, sometimes quietly singing lyrics. She also knit.  Patrick has been using a circle loom to make a hat for the woman he's spending a lot of time with in Portland. I cleaned the kitchen and put leftover potato soup and seafood egg drop soup on the stove for us to help ourselves to at any time.

I also communicated with Stu and Byrdman, telling them that one of Kellogg High School's longtime teachers and coach, Ray Faraca, had died on Sunday.

Mary Rae Faraca, Ray's wife, and Kellogg High School's longtime English, journalism, speech, and drama teacher had died just two weeks earlier on December 8th.

The Faraca's son, Brett, came into the Inland Lounge on Christmas Day. He sat next to me, we started talking about his mom, and I asked him how his dad, Ray, was doing, not knowing Ray had died two days earlier. Brett was shaking. He told me how his dad had died at home while getting dressed. Brett tried to revive him, but Ray had died.

A funeral had been planned for Mary Rae on December 29th at 11:00 at St. Rita's church in Kellogg.

Now it will be a double funeral.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/25/18: Christmas Brunch and Gifts, Dinner at the Lounge, Leftovers at the Roberts'

1. We got together back at Carol and Paul's for a blueberry bagel overnight French toast casserole, potatoes, bacon, sausage, and mimosas. Christy made this delicious brunch food. Then we spent a couple of hours opening gifts, one by one, around the circle and out of wrapped packages popped pajamas, pullover shirts, cookbooks, cookware, and any number of other gifts. Christy blasted Carol and me to the past by filling stockings from decades ago with things Mom used to stuff our stockings with: a magazine, an orange, beef jerky, and possibly something else I'm forgetting right now. It was a great surprise!

2. Patrick, the Deke, the Deke and I went up to the Inland Lounge around 3 o'clock. On Christmas Day, just like on Thanksgiving Day, Cas hosts a free dinner. Today's spread included, among other items, prime rib, ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, au jus, gravy, rolls, and desserts. I got to yak a little bit with Cas and had a good session with Pat, Eddie Joe, and John. The Moore family and friends were there. When we left after being there a couple of hours, groups of people were still streaming in and the Lounge was filled with good cheer and people enjoying good food.

3. The Deke and I headed over to Carol and Paul's to end the evening. They set out leftovers from our Chinese meal on Christmas Eve and Carol whipped up another superb batch of Tom and Jerry batter and we each had a hot drink. Zoe read questions like "Who helped you learn to ride a bike?" and "Who was your best teacher?" and we had conversation in the living room that grew out of these questions. Before long, the Deke and I returned home and went to bed early.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/24/18: Seafood Egg Drop Soup, Chinese Dinner, Nightcap

1. Every year, Carol and Paul host Christmas Eve dinner and we eat the food of another country. Last year we had a Cuban meal. This year, we ate food from China. Carol gives everyone a cooking assignment. This year because we had friends and boyfriends and because Patrick is in town, we had 17 or 18 people at the table.

Right away this morning I made a triple batch of seafood egg drop soup, using the last of the crab stock I made after last February's Elks Crab Feed. It's a simple soup, calling for carrots, corn, white fish, shrimp, and squid balls. I subbed tilapia cakes for the squid balls. The soup also has beaten eggs in it and a corn starch and water mixture. It was a fun soup to make -- it would be an excellent soup without the squid balls/fish cakes -- and I thought it tasted pretty good. If you are interested, the recipe is here.

2. Our dinner together was lively. Young and old alike took part in lively conversation, wise cracks, laughter, good food, pictures, food, wine, and a variety of dishes, including potstickers, spicy pickeled cucumbers, soup, vegetable confetti salad, ginseng steamed chicken, fried custard with mushrooms, tofu with green onion sauce, silver and gold rice, plain white rice, and, for dessert, both fried cookies and candy coated almonds. After dinner, we moved into the living room for more stories and laughter and by about six o'clock or so, I was worn out and, when Patrick, the Deke, and I arrived home, I needed to take a short nap.

3. Around eight o'clock, the Deke, Patrick, and I went over to Christy and Everett's for a bourbon, cinnamon, cranberry, triple sec, and ginger ale cocktail. I think it was called Santa's Helper or maybe Santa's Little Helper. Well, whatever it was called, it was a delicious nightcap, but, again, I didn't last very long and returned home and turned in early, happy to have been with everyone, but wiped out all the same.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/23/18: No Squid Balls, Freshening the House, 6:30 Arrival

1. Not having any squid on hand to make squid balls, which the soup recipe calls for, I am subbing tilapia cakes and I made them today so they would have about twenty-four hours to cool off, firm up, and be ready to quarter and plop into the fish egg drop soup I'll be making for our family's Christmas Eve dinner. We eat the food of a different country every year: this year it's China.

2. I also did some preparation for the arrival of the Deke and Patrick. I bought a new space heater for the upstairs. I made sure we were stocked with coffee, half and half, and a few other items and bought them at Yoke's. I swept the house, cleaned the bathroom, cleaned the kitchen surfaces, got all the dishes done after making the tilapia cakes and potato soup for the Deke's and Patrick's arrival, and did a couple loads of laundry, towels and sheets. To my relief, I completed my tasks before the Deke and Patrick arrived, happy that the house was reasonably clean and upstairs properly heated and the beds all ready to be slept in.

3. The Deke and Patrick stopped in Spokane at the Iron Goat for some pizza and a beer and then had a slow crawl over the dark and snowy 4th of July Pass and arrived safely in Kellogg around 6:30 or so. They got settled in. The Deke and Maggie and Charly got reacquainted. We yakked for a while and fell back into some familiar rhythms and conversations before calling it a night. 

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/22/18: *The Theory of Everything*, Reliving Our Parents in the Kitchen, December Madness in Tempe

1. I watched the first hour or so of the movie, The Theory of Everything. I might have a few things to say after I've finished watching the movie. So far, though, I've been deeply impressed with how Eddie Redmayne's portrayal of Stephen Hawking's enduring inner life, his intelligence and spirit -- and his arrogance -- is at least equal to his portrayal of Hawking's physical deterioration.

2. I turned off the movie after about an hour to join Christy and Carol at the Roberts' house to provide moral support as Carol whipped up a batch of Tom and Jerry batter and then we each enjoyed having a Tom and Jerry. Paul, Molly, Zoe, Cosette, Taylor, and Sapphire were also in and out of the house. While my sisters and I were reliving my father's making of the Tom and Jerry batter, my nieces were re-enacting my mother's annual making of Nuts and Bolts -- a snack we started having at Christmas time around 1963 or 64 when Grandma Woolum introduced them to all of us. You might know Nuts and Bolts as Chex Mix. The recipe we use didn't come from a Chex box, though, but from Grandma Woolum. Mom copied it out and her copy survives and guided today's efforts. We had the pleasure of eating warm Nuts and Bolts today, straight out of the oven. It was a fun early afternoon.

3. Back home, I could have watched the rest of The Theory of Everything, but I wanted to watch at least parts of a couple of undefeated college teams play basketball and see if they could keep their unblemished record. St. John's did by defeating Sacred Heart easily. Kansas, however, was not as fortunate and lost a very tight game to Arizona State, 80-76, succumbing to a frenzied Arizona State comeback and to Arizona State's maniacal and deafening home crowd.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/21/18: Another CdA Trip, Zags Paste Denver, The Deke's Birthday and Travel Plans

1. It was starting to feel like to good old days in last months of 1972, when I lived at home and went to school at North Idaho College in CdA and commuted each day. Today, I drove to CdA for the third straight day. Byrdman had wondered if I might like to come over for some lunch and some serious yakkin', and I liked that idea a lot. After shopping at Pilgrim's Market for Christy, I went over to Byrdman's house and we buzzed out to Paragon Brewing on Government Way. Not long after we arrived, Ed joined us for a while. Ed's sister had her aorta replaced on Wednesday and Ed reported that she was doing much better today -- she was out of bed and sitting in a chair for the first time. He was much more relaxed about her condition around noon than he had been at breakfast this morning.

Paragon is a cozy taphouse that serves excellent bar food. I was happy to see Ninkasi's Total Domination on tap and ordered a pint, allowing me to take an imaginary trip to Eugene, and I ordered superb beef tenderloin sliders for my lunch.

Byrdman and I then bellied up to the bar at one of our favorite spots, Slate Creek Brewing, and I had a half a glass of Slate's stout. Byrdman and I continued our verbal tour of basketball, family matters, and the state of our nation and enjoyed some fine conversation with Jessica, Slate's very knowledgeable and personable bartender.

2. Back home, I delivered Christy's groceries and a couple hours later went over to watch Gonzaga play Denver with Everett and her. The Zags were on fire. They hit their first fifteen shots to open the game. Denver didn't score until the game was just over six minutes old. Gonzaga opened up a daunting 56-19 lead at half time and ended up crushing Denver 101-40.  I'd left the corgis alone for about four hours or so while I was in CdA and, early in the second half, I bade Christy and Everett good night and, instead of watching the rest of the Zag blow out, I returned home to spend time with Maggie and Charly. In their own corgy way, they appreciated my return.

3. Earlier in the day, the Deke sent Christy, Carol, and me an email outlining her plans for the next ten days. Today was the Deke's birthday and the last day of school before the winter break. For her birthday, she got together with people at the Tradewinds Cafe -- I knew it as Jiffy Mart when I lived in Eugene. Later, some people came over to Anne's house, where the Deke is living, for a birthday chili dinner.

The Deke will return to Kellogg on Sunday, accompanied by Patrick, and they will head back to Oregon on 12/30.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/20/18: Private Eccentric Pleasure of Costco, Probiotic Shopping, Addictive Television

1. I made a quick get ready for Christmas Eve trip to Coeur d'Alene this morning. I started by getting my hair cut at Supercuts. Afterward, I I waded into Costco and marveled at all the people and the merchandise. All I wanted to buy was a large pack of tilapia and another of frozen shrimp for the soup I'll bring to Christmas Eve dinner, but I stretched out my visit, did some aimless walking around and gawking, and enjoyed the atmosphere. I thought back to when I used to shop at the Beltsville Costco in Maryland and how much I enjoyed being in the company of people from all over the world, from every continent it seemed, and how I often stretched out my visits just so I could listen to the sound of so many different languages being spoken, and, on Sundays, admire the variety of colorful ways people were dressed up for church. It's a very different scene at the Coeur d'Alene Costco and it's good -- good enough that I strolled around smiling and enjoyed nodding and saying hello to any number of people I didn't know.

2. Things were quieter at Pilgrim's Market. I dropped in to buy a couple of containers of tofu. I also did some probiotic shopping for Christy, picking up kefir, Nancy's yogurt, and a carton of probiotic blueberry juice to help her keep good bacteria in her system while she fights of infection with antibiotics.

3. Back in Kellogg, I put the fish I bought at Costco right into the refrigerator and freezer and I went to Yoke's and bought the rest of what I need to make the Christmas Eve soup. I returned home and poured myself a hot buttered rum that was just that. No batter. Just rum, boiling water, and a chunk of butter. It was comforting, relaxing, and, on this rainy December day, warming. Christy came over to collect the products I bought in CdA and she seemed to be doing pretty well. She'd had a decent night's sleep and an enjoyable lunch out with Teresa. She has improved noticeably since Monday when we nearly made an unscheduled trip to CdA to see the surgeon in charge of her wound.

I wound up my evening watching two sort of addictive shows for me: Forensic Files on HLN and the NBA channel's Hardwood Classics. This show replays entire NBA games from the past. The other night I tuned in to see the last forty minutes or so of the Nuggets and Pistons playing a triple overtime game back in 1983 that ended up with the astonishing score of 186-184, the most points ever scored in an NBA game. Tonight I watched parts of two different games featuring high scoring performances by Michael Jordan after he returned to the NBA in 1995, ending a sabbatical he took to play professional baseball.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/19/18: Blood Draw and Patio Tarp, CdA Doc's Good News for Christy, Talking with Rita

1. Once I was done writing this morning, I zipped up to the clinic and Tracy, the world's finest phlebotomist, drew the once a month vial of blood from my arm to be sent to the University of Maryland's Transplant Center. On the way home, I stopped at Ace Hardware and bought a tarp, came home, and wrestled with the tarp for about a half an hour or so, covering our patio's table and chair set. To weigh down the tarp, I filled three growlers with water and also put water in big containers of vinegar that Mom had bought and we haven't used since moving here. I filled a cooler about half full of water and put it on top of the part of the tarp covering the table top. Time will tell whether my efforts to weigh down the tarp work.

2. Shortly after noon, I drove Christy in her Jeep to see the surgeon who is overseeing her cellulitis infection. On Monday, Christy had seen her Primary Care Provider in Kellogg and she was upset by what she saw when she examined Christy. But, she'd never seen the wound before and didn't know how much better it was doing.

The doctor in CdA has been treating this wound for the last three weeks. To his eyes, Christy is doing great. He was very happy with how the infected area is healing. He discontinued the home health nurse visits. He thinks chances are good Christy will be healed in a couple of weeks or so. When Christy arrived home, she received news from her Primary Care Provider than her blood work revealed another infection. It's treatable, but it means more antibiotics and an increase in probiotics. Very soon, I'll go shopping for Christy and buy her some probiotic food products to go along with the probiotic pills she taking, all to help keep the good bacteria coming into her system.

3. Back home, I relaxed and warmed up with a big coffee cup of hot water and brandy and finished eating the batch of creamy seafood chowder I made for dinner on Sunday. I got another crock pot of turkey stock going and I read up on things like probiotic smoothies. Rita called from Creswell. She'd just lost her cat, a companion who'd been with her for about fifteen years. She told me about how the ways she paid tribute to the cat's life, about her gratitude, and her grief. I also had a lot to talk about regarding what's happened over the last few months as I've been working to get listed at Sacred Heart and talked with Rita quite a bit about Christy's illness and recovery. I'm not entirely sure when I'll be going down to the Eugene/Creswell area in 2019, but I look forward to seeing Rita when I do.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/18/18: Christy Update, Zags Thump UTA, Leisurely Housekeeping

1. Here's what I know about Christy's condition today: Over night, she slept for four consecutive hours which made the night better than many of them have been. She experienced discomfort and, as always seems to be the case, she slept better as morning broke and it was time to get up. I know Christy followed the instructions the CdA nurse gave her on Monday. Christy said these tips were helpful and made things better. I know Christy ventured out into the world today and ran some errands, so she wasn't in the house all day. I spent about an hour and a half with Christy and Everett watching the Gonzaga basketball game and Christy seemed to be doing pretty well, all things considered. Had Christy not contracted this infection, today would have been her day for knee replacement number two. Christy commented that she thinks her knee knows today was supposed to be the day because the remaining bad knee has been especially cranky and painful lately.

Our neighbor, Jane, fixed a Swiss steak dinner for Christy and Everett, a big help. Jane made enough food that Christy invited me to have some, too, and it was mighty good.

I will be driving Christy to CdA on Wednesday, December 19 to see the doctor who was in charge of her at Kootenai Medical Center when she was hospitalized.

2. Having never been the member of an elite basketball team, I have no idea what it's like for elite players like the Zags have to play a high powered team like North Carolina on Sunday, fly back across the USA to Spokane, and play a far inferior opponent on Tuesday. Tonight, the University of Texas at Arlington were no match for Gonzaga and about midway through the second half, I came home. When I got home, I flipped the game on just in case something interesting happened and, for me, it did. Coach Mark Few cleared his bench with quite a bit of time left in the game, and I enjoyed getting to see some players in action who haven't played much this season. They played hard, were ragged, and I'd like to say that I could clearly see what the future of Gonzaga basketball looks like, but, I couldn't. Many of these second and third stringers looked like what they are: young, raw, inexperienced, and eager.

3. I have been living at a pretty slow pace lately. I make short lists of things to do around the house and I approach these tasks leisurely. Today, I emptied the refrigerator and cleaned the shelves and washed out the crisper drawers. One of the freezer drawers had spilled crab stock in it and I cleaned it. Doing tasks around the house at my own pace is enjoyable -- laundry, dishes, sweeping the floors, taking care of bills, and so on.

I also made my monthly visit to the clinic to have blood drawn for the University of Maryland Transplant Center. It turns out, though, that something came up today and the lab was unexpectedly closed. No problem. I'll buzz up Wednesday morning and get this done.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/17/18: Imprecise Christy Update, Clean Up and Stock Inventory, High Level Poker Thinking

1. Christy update: Christy had an appointment with her primary care provider here in Kellogg today. Linda Jo Yawn did not like what she saw when she examined Christy's wound and infection and thought it best if Christy see the doctor she's been working with in Coeur d'Alene today. Christy has an appointment scheduled with that doctor on Wednesday. The doctor's nurse called Christy today and said she didn't need to come to CdA today and that the doctor would see her as scheduled on Wednesday. The nurse gave Christy some instructions about treating the wound at home. Christy has been using an antibiotic cream and the doctor told her to use it more often.

Christy's nights have been especially uncomfortable. We are hoping the increase in medicine helps as well as the latest instructions the nurse gave her.

This has been a tough string of days for Christy.

2. I finished cleaning up the kitchen. I'd done my best to clean up as I cooked family dinner on Sunday, so my work today was fairly light. I also decided the turkey stock that I got going in the crock pot over the weekend had bubbled away long enough and put it in containers and labeled them. My stock collection is in pretty good shape. I have several containers of pork stock, a few remaining containers of crab stock, and containers of turkey and chicken stock ready to go in the freezer. I also have a modest collection of bones in the freezer to make more stock with.

3. I think Monday night is poker night on NBCSN. This evening I watched the replay of event #7 of September's 2018 Poker Masters tournament. Players had been competing for a week for the tournament's purple jacket (is it a coveted purple jacket? I'm not sure!) and for a ton of money. I won't divulge who won this event nor who won the purple jacket in case you happen to tune into this coverage. But, in watching it, I tried to keep up with the analysis of Ali Nejad and Nick Schulman and their discussion of the action was way over my head, way beyond my understanding of how these elite players think. This was fine with me. I kept listening and tried to at least commit their terminology to memory so I could look into it later -- and that's what I did.

I don't have a great mind for this sort of thing, but I am going to keep reading about opponents' ranges and other things that I don't understand. I listened to a short video of Daniel Negreanu in which he introduces high level poker thinking. The concepts he discussed make sense, but I wouldn't be able to apply them if I were playing poker unless I took about 15 minutes to make each decision at a table! I enjoy learning about these things, but I'm doubtful that I will ever develop a quick analytical poker mind. And that's fine. I will become a more learned observer of poker on television and that's good. 

Monday, December 17, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/16/18: Marinated Vegetable Salad, Seafood Chowder, Successful Family Dinner

1. It took me a while to get going this morning, but once I did, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen. First cleaned the stove surfaces and the counters and took care of dishes. I poured water over a turkey carcass and some celery and onions with seasonings and got another batch of stock going. I was tonight's host for family dinner. My first move was to steam broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. Then I steamed mushrooms and zucchini. Lastly, I steamed red pepper slices. In a large bowl, I combined olive oil, minced garlic, and seasonings and poured the vegetables in the bowl and mixed it all together. Later, I would add vinegar and some fresh squeezed lemon juice and I let this vegetable marinade cool and it was our salad tonight.

2. Meanwhile, on the stovetop griddle, I fried fillets of cod and salmon. At the same time, I thawed out pieces of mahi-mahi -- which I later fried in a cast iron pan. I let this bowl of fish chunks cool while I sauteed onion, carrots, celery, and later minced garlic in the Dutch oven. Once the onion was translucent, I poured flour over the vegetables and combined it all until pasty. I poured two quarts of my crab stock over them, brought the liquid to a boil and, instead of potatoes, added over half a head of cauliflower chopped up. I seasoned this emerging chowder with salt, pepper, and Old Bay seasoning. Once the cauliflower was tender, I poured over a cup of half and half into the pot and all those fish chunks. I tasted it and it seemed a little too crabby, so I added a bit more half and half and the juice of half a lemon. Then it was, I thought, just right and I let the chowder sit on the lowest heat possible to stay warm. The recipe that guide me is here. (I didn't use the seafood stock part of the recipe.)

3. Around six, Christy, Everett, Carol, and Paul arrived. I served them each a cocktail of two parts brandy and one part Amaretto with a wedge of lemon. It was a simple drink and tasted good. After we all yakked in the living room for about a half an hour, we gathered around the dinner table and I served up bowls of chowder and a little bowl of the marinated vegetables salad.

I was particularly keen on having this dinner succeed. For starters, the salad recipe came out of The Moosewood Cookbook. Cheryl, a blogging and Facebook friend from New Mexico, sent me a copy a short time ago after I had lamented in my blog no longer having a copy of it. I was surprised how badly I wanted my return to the Moosewood  to work out. (By the way, Cheryl also sent me a copy of New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant.)

I wan't surprised, though, that I wanted the fish chowder to succeed. I had come up with the idea about a year ago of taking home crab shells from the Elks Crab Feed -- with Harley's permission -- and making stock with them and this was the first time I served a family dinner using this stock. In addition, I love fish chowder, but usually I've had clam or shrimp chowder and tonight I wanted to see how it would work to not have shell fish chowder, but to try salmon and the two types of white fish.

The dinner's success made me very happy. The chowder not only tasted good, but it was a perfect dish of food on a chilly and dark December evening.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/15/18: Cooking Cabbage Again, Zags Get Trounced, Crash Test Dummies and Catharsis

1. I spent time today playing around with the cabbage recipe I made last week and enjoyed so much. Today, I chopped up an onion and a head of cabbage and fried (sauteed?) them in a mixture of olive oil and butter and seasoned them with caraway seeds, Johnny's seasoning salt, sea salt, and pepper. Last week I had told myself I'd add chick peas to this mixture, but forgot to do it. Today I remembered. Instead of turkey stock or chicken stock (which the recipe calls for), I used pork stock as the liquid to pour over the cabbage and onion and brought it to a boil and then let it simmer until the cabbage was a little more than tender -- pretty soft, the way I like it. In a separate pot, I brought some potato chunks and baby carrots and caraway seeds to a boil, let them simmer until tender, drained them, and added them to the pot of cabbage, onion, and pork stock.

It's really good. I have quite a few quarts of pork stock in the freezer and haven't been using them and I was especially happy today that my pork stock tasted so good in this dish.

2. I went over to Christy's after I'd been to Yoke's to shop for Sunday's family dinner to watch Gonzaga play North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Right from the get-go this was a lousy game for the Zags. They ended up losing 103-90. I thought the Zags looked sluggish while the Tar Heels were spry. The Zags missed a lot of shots early and the Tar Heels got hot, helping themselves mightily by snatching what seemed like dozens of offensive rebounds (actually it was 14), getting a ton of second and third shots on too many possessions, and by burying the Zags with several hot shooting streaks.

The Zags' sluggishness translated into a lousy night on defense and to the Zags getting overpowered on missed shots. The Tar Heels outrebounded the Zags 42-21.

Do I think it mattered that Gonzaga played yet another game without Killian Tillie and Geno Crandall? Yes. I do. Deeper teams can play more aggressive defense because if a starting player gets in foul trouble, there's an excellent player to replace him. Without Tillie and Crandall, I think the Zags' starters might be more tentative on defense, might be more concerned about getting in foul trouble. Both players will also help Gonzaga on offense, but this Zags' team is a great scoring team anyway. It's the Zags' defense that needs work. So does their rebounding. We saw this against Tennessee and again tonight against North Carolina.

Zach Norvell, Jr., when asked by the press what needs to change defensively, replied, "Just be tougher. I feel like through stretches of those games we were really soft. We didn't really put our best foot forward on the defensive end and we weren't locked in mentally."

I'd say if you're following the Gonzaga Bulldogs, enjoy their often dazzling offense and also watch over the next dozen games or so and see if their defense and rebounding improves. Unfortunately, Gonzaga will not play any teams as talented and powerful as Tennessee or North Carolina until the NCAA tournament. It will be in the tournament when their defensive improvement, if it happens, will be most severely tested.

3. I shed tears today. I think I know how this came about. When I was with Ed and Jake at the Old Montana Bar and Grill on Friday, the Kinks' song "(I Want to Fly Like) Superman" came on and I love that song. I came home and asked Alexa to play it repeatedly. I pulled the lyrics up on the World Wide Web and got a kick out of them.

Suddenly I wondered if the Crash Test Dummies' song, "Superman's Song" was available on Alexa. It was.

Ever since this song came out in 1991, it's affected me. It takes me back to my early days teaching at LCC, to having moved back to Eugene after living for a year and half in the country outside Marcola, to the way my life in the early 90s was an intense mixture of great friendships, happiness, and success and profound disappointments and failures in my academic life and my personal life.

I understand why listening to Brad Roberts sing about the heroism of Superman, in contrast to Tarzan, takes me back to the early 90s, but I don't really understand my emotional attachment to this song, why it always moves me to tears -- why it's cathartic.

It is, I know, a personal eccentric pleasure -- one of many I experience. And, today, I stopped everything for about a half an hour and played this song repeatedly, called up the lyrics and reread them, and watched the band's official video of the song. If you happen to do the same, I won't be surprised if your response is, "What? That song gets to him?" The answer is, well, yes it does and shedding a few tears today while listening to it was a relief and helped clear my mind . That's what catharsis does.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/14/18: Short Trip to Montana, Christy's Progress, Helen Mirren Transported Me Today

1. I came home from breakfast at Sam's and had just wrapped up my blogging session when Ed called and invited me to join him and Jake on a trip over Lookout Pass to Saltese, MT. They were going to the Old Montana Bar and Grill to play machines and have some lunch. That sounded fun. They swung by shortly before 10:00 and we yakked our way over the pass and spilled into the bar after about 40 minutes on the road. We played for a little while and then bellied up to the bar where I ate a basket of chicken tenders with cole slaw. A guy I didn't know from the Silver Valley had come in and he and Jake and Ed had tons to talk about and I quietly finished my food along with my last bottle of beer and enjoyed the stories about logging in North Idaho back in the 70s and 80s and kept an ear on the Classic Rock music playing overhead. Of special pleasure to me? Hearing the Kinks perform "(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman".

2. Back in Kellogg, I leapt into the Sube and blasted up to the library to pick up a book for Christy. She came over to the house to pick it up and updated me on how she's doing. On Thursday, she'd been to the salon, paid Carol a visit, picked up a new medicine at Yoke's, and drove up to Osburn to see Chris S. She overdid it. She went to bed early in the evening. She was wiped out. It sounds like it'll be a while before Christy has the energy back she's accustomed to and so, in the meantime, she told me she learned a lesson Thursday about trying to do too much -- even if what she did wasn't that much. The good news is that Christy's wound is shrinking, slowly healing, and, while it's coming along slowly, it seems to be on a time table that's natural and, according to the nurses, to be expected.

3. Day to day, I am pretty much focused on what my life in Kellogg involves and do my best not to think much about what's missing from my life that I experienced elsewhere. Today, I was bouncing around on the World Wide Web and clicked on a clip from the Late Show with Steven Colbert featuring Helen Mirren reading aloud a passage from Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem "Ulysses", found here. I loved her reading. Suddenly I was realized how much I miss reading poetry and passages from the Old Testament out loud for others. I don't think a lot about what I miss about teaching, but today my mind was flooded with the joy reading poems to my students gave me, especially if I read it well enough to bring the poem alive. This wash of nostalgia gave way to suddenly longing to be back at St. Mary's Episcopal Church as a lector again, reading aloud from the Old Testament about once a month or so. Having opened this floodgate of past pleasures, I let myself ache for a while to be back as a narrator for the Shakespeare Showcase, helping to bring scenes alive, along with Marcee, with brief introductions before actors performed them.

I loved every poem my students and I dove into together, but here are a few I especially loved to read out loud, a few I always looked forward to popping up on the course calendar:

"Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" by John Donne
"To His Coy Mistress" by Andrew Marvell
"Wild Geese" by Mary Oliver
Any sonnet by William Shakespeare
"Problems with Hurricanes" by Victor Hernandez Cruz
"Why Can't I Leave You?" by Ai
"A Blessing" by James Wright
Any poem by Richard Hugo
"I Go Back to May 1937" by Sharon Olds

And so many more.

Too many to list, poems from all times, from all around the world.

As a teacher who included poems in my syllabus, I suppose I was under some professional obligation to help students come to some understanding of what, in classrooms, is known as the meaning of poems.

As I grew older as a teacher, I regarded a poem's meaning(s) as far less important than hearing the poetry's music and the only way to really hear the poems and feel the emotions of the vowels and consonants and the line lengths and the punctuation was to read the poems aloud, or hear them read.

I felt the same way about reading aloud in church. The music, that is, the poetry of the Scriptures is what animates them for me. The same is true of the liturgy.

I miss sharing in all that poetry with others, whether in school or in Episcopal worship.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/13/18: Alec Guiness in *Last Holiday*, Guiness in *Barnacle Bill*, Father Brown Solves a Crime

1. It's been a blast diving back into the Alec Guiness archive. Guiness appeared in a string of movies in the 1950s where he played characters who were unremarkable but stepped outside of the strictures of their ordinariness to do remarkable things. If you've seen The Lavender Hill Mob or The Man in the White Suit you know what I mean. Today, I finished watching Alec Guiness as George Bird in Last Holiday. I wish everyone I know had seen this movie only so I could write about plot details; I'll just say that at its core, this movie is about the absurdity of human life -- I'd call it a dive into existentialism, a movie that asks us to see not only the absurdity of our day to day existence in terms of what we value, that is, how we assess the world around us, but also invites us to confront the classic existential dilemma of being born, of coming into this world with only one certainty: we will die. It's a smooth and elegant movie on the surface with lots of cocktails, fine meals, and people of means living leisurely in a posh resident hotel. Underneath this easy living, however, certain characters long for something deeper, like deeper bonds with others, while others are content to be blithe and oblivious. It's a perfect setting for existential inquiry into the absurd.

2. In Barnacle Bill, a lark of a light satire, Guniess plays a career naval officer whose career stalled thanks to his being plagued with sea sickness. So he buys a rickety amusement pier, transforms it into a ship that never goes to sea, and is able to be in command of a vessel and its crew for the first time in his life. The movie develops into a citizen vrs. city hall conflict and satirizes the abuse of political power, bureaucracy, and greed in way that reminded me of a Marx Brothers movie.

It seems that over the last, oh, forty years or so the stakes for making money making movies and launching and sustaining big careers, winning awards, and creating lucrative franchises have gotten higher and higher. In these Alec Guiness movies, as well as in the Sherlock Holmes movie I watched two nights ago, the stakes for making money, building careers, copping awards don't seem to exist. They are almost carefree movies, light on their feet, breezy, witty, as serious as they need to be, but movies, somehow, that stick with me. It's fun to think about how Alec Guiness, who, in Barnacle Bill, plays an absurd naval man whose primary service to his country was to be a guinea pig for experiments in curing sea sickness, would one day become a legendary Jedi master.

3. It's been cold outside, gray, and not very inviting. I haven't gone out much and I've decided to entertain myself by watching a variety of things on television -- like Sherlock Holmes and 1950s Alec Guiness movies. Tonight, I tried out something else and watched the first episode of the first season of the Father Brown series from 2013. I haven't read any of the Father Brown mysteries. Tonight it was fun entering into the village life of the Coswolds which seem so pastoral, so distant and protected from the problems of the world. But, it turns out that in bucolic Kembleford, murders occur. So does infidelity. Immigrants complicate things. Denizens of this quiet town with its pubs and polished brass beer taps and sunny tea rooms enter into illicit congress with one another. Father Brown has heard many dark secrets and knows about much of this activity thanks to his years in the confessional and has become quite a detective. It was fun to see him in action tonight and I think I'll watch some more of these episodes.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/12/18: Appointment with the Kidney Doctor, Afternoon Nap, Vintage Black and White Movies

1. I zipped up to the clinic this morning having read the latest report of my blood work, knowing that my kidney function had remained stable since I had blood work done back in October at Sacred Heart. That blood work back in October held good news, in fact. A month earlier, my kidney function had fallen to 14%, putting me in the Stage V range, or, as it could be called, the dialysis range. But, in October, the lab report showed that my kidneys had rallied and my function increased to 18%.

Back in September, Dr. Jones told me I might expect this improvement. Because I wasn't showing any symptoms of renal failure -- no water retention, fatigue, metallic taste in my mouth, etc. --, she wasn't alarmed that I'd dipped into the Stage V range, but she did talk with me about options for dialysis, just in case.

Today, Dr. Jones and I were both happy that my kidney function registered at 17% and that within the context of Chronic Kidney Disease, my other numbers looked good.

As Dr. Jones and I talked about my blood work, she told me about patients of hers that have hummed along very well with low kidney function. In fact, one of her patient's function has dipped as low as 10% and she's not on dialysis yet.

How can this be? Like me, these patients don't have ancillary, but deeply connected, health problems:  no diabetes, no heart disease, for example. She also told me that these patients who have not had to go on dialysis have maintained what's known as a kidney friendly diet: low potassium and an emphasis on plant over animal protein. My guess is they stay hydrated, too.

This is exactly what I've been doing, especially at home. I am more flexible away from home, eating whatever I'm served and enjoying some variety if I eat out.  I've been doing my best to steer clear of high potassium foods and I've reduced the meat I eat. I continue to look up kidney friendly recipes and read more about what I can do in my diet to go easy on my kidneys. Dr. Jones emphasized this morning that the kidneys do better with chicken and fish and that beef and pork make the kidneys work harder.

I returned home feeling encouraged and fortunate. I take pretty good care of myself and am always seeking to improve. I feel very lucky that my medical situation is not complicated by diabetes or other problems. Most of all, I count myself fortunate every day that I wake up and feel good. I don't know how long this will last, but I try not to think much about duration. I try to keep my attention on the day of feeling good I have right now.

2. Even though my visit with Dr. Jones was encouraging and enjoyable, I returned home and was suddenly wiped out and so I put my night clothes back on, put Maggie and Charly on the bed, and crawled under the covers and enjoyed an extended period of restorative afternoon sleep.

3. Back in 1985, I lived alone in a basement apartment on West Broadway in Eugene and I subscribed to cable television. At that time, a local cable channel existed in Eugene. It was KOZY. Its programming centered around movies from the thirties and forties and replays of old television shows. The commercials it ran promoting its programming always featured a clip from a vintage movie which featured someone speaking a line with the word "cozy" in it. Well, I found these old movies fun to watch and I enjoyed coming home from the library at night, popping myself a bowl of popcorn, and watching reruns of Father Knows Best.

I bring this up because this evening I decided to lighten up the content of my movie viewing and decided to watch some old black and white movies and decided I wanted them to be British. I suddenly realized that I'd never watched Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce playing Sherlock Holmes and Watson, so I watched an hour long Sherlock Holmes movie, Terror by Night (1946). It was perfect.

For some reason, this movie inspired me to want to see a vintage black and white Alec Guiness movie. I reminisced within myself about a Saturday back in 2014 when I took the train from Alexandria to Silver Spring to the American Film Institute Cultural Center to watch two Easling Studio masterpieces from 1951 starring Alec Guiness: The Lavender Hill Mob and The Man in the White Suit. Tonight, I rented another Alec Guiness comedic masterpiece, Last Holiday (1950). In it, Guiness plays an ordinary, lonely tractor salesman who finds out he has only a short time to live and so withdraws all of his savings and takes up residence in a posh hotel. I loved the movie's first forty-five minutes before I had to turn it off and go to bed and very much look forward to finishing the movie and finding out what remarkable things happen to this most unremarkable man when he decides to live as if he has nothing to lose -- except his life.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/11/18: Kidney Update, *Selma*, Roasting a Chicken

1. My kidney function had dropped to 14% back in September. When kidney function falls below 15%, it's in the Stage V range and this can be when a kidney patient starts on dialysis. But, because I'm still feeling good and because my nephrologist wasn't convinced my function was going to stay at this lower level, I didn't start dialysis. I had blood work done again in late October as part of the process to (hopefully) be listed at Sacred Heart for a transplant and my function was back up to 18%, a number that would dismay most people, but, the improvement made me so happy I nearly cried.

Today, the results of last week's blood work came floating into my email inbox and I've held steady. My function was at 17%. Right now, this is just about what I hoped for. I'm feeling good. I didn't stay in the Stage V range and, for now, I'm not having to get things set up for dialysis and have my life centered around having a machine filter my blood regularly.

On December 12th, I see my nephrologist, Dr. Jones, and I'm looking forward to what she has to say about how she reads the blood (and urine) test results.

2. Today I watched Selma, the 2014 movie that tells the story of the three attempts civil rights advocates made in March of 1965 to march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in support of voting rights for black Americans. I experienced again how, when I was only an elementary school kid,  I came to see these civil rights workers and marchers as on the right side of history. Back then, I used to pore over the depictions of the civil rights movement presented in Life magazine and I couldn't understand the harsh things I heard adults in my life say about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement nor could I understand adults I heard support Governor George Wallace and others who opposed civil rights on the grounds that they wanted to keep things they way they were.

I experienced the power of this movie from a distance, as an observer, as one who lived far away from where these events occurred. But, the movie moved me in a personal way, too, as I found myself taking stock of my earliest impressions of the civil rights movement and of how what I felt and experienced within myself over the next fifty years or so was often in contrast to members of our extended family, family friends in Kellogg, my Boy Scout leaders, and friends I hung out with. At an early age, I began to realize how people who are devoted to service to others -- teachers, police officers, coaches, supervisors at work, volunteers for organizations like the Boy Scouts -- and people who are devoted to church, the love and care of their families, and to their friends, that is, people who are capable of great acts of generosity and goodwill, can also articulate heartless and cruel and distorted observations and assessments when it comes to the lives of African Americans and other people who aren't white. I've never lost my admiration for all that is good about the people I am remembering and who I know today, but will always be perplexed by this contradiction I have experienced. (By the way, I'm also perplexed by my own contradictions. I don't see myself as in the clear when it comes to contradictory behavior.)

Along with sending me down my own memory lane and moving me to think about my own life in relation to the history of racial relations in the USA, the movie also reminded me of how much I admire Oprah Winfrey's acting. I don't know which movie I saw first back in 1985-86, Native Son or The Color Purple, but I do remember coming away from both of those movies deeply impressed with Oprah Winfrey's work. Years later, I saw her in Beloved and I wished she would play more roles. Now, I understand that Oprah Winfrey was very busy with a million other non-acting projects, but I think she brings gravity, depth, and deep feeling to the roles I've seen her play and this was certainly the case in Selma. She plays the part of Annie Lee Cooper, a small role to huge effect. When Annie Lee Cooper is denied voter registration because she cannot recite the names of the sixty-seven county judges of Alabama for the Dallas county elections registrar, she becomes the weary, but determined face of the efforts to reverse this kind of intimidation and injustice.

3. I had fun later in the day experimenting with roasting a chicken. I slid butter underneath the skin of the chicken along with a couple of thin slices of lemon. I cut the rest of the lemon into small chunks and put them in the chicken's cavity. I roasted the chicken on top of slices of onions and a very tasty liquid formed underneath the bird which I will turn into a gravy or a sauce to put over rice and chicken tomorrow. I thought the way I roasted this chicken and the way I seasoned it with salt, pepper, and Old Bay seasoning worked well. Because I'm cutting back on eating meat, I won't be roasting another chicken for a while, but I had a blast doing it late this afternoon.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/10/18: Snow Removal, Kidney Research, Short Deck Hold 'Em Poker

1. It snowed a bit in Kellogg overnight. Even though chances were good that it would melt on its own, I shoveled our walks and driveway. I'd rather not have snow piled on snow should another snowfall arrive before this one melted.

2. I'm slowly, surely trying to sort out the ins and outs of a kidney friendly diet. Reducing animal protein is straightforward, but eating other sources of protein and cutting back on potassium is a little trickier. It's a numbers thing. I need a certain amount of potassium, but need to be careful about too much and I haven't quite been able to commit to memory how much low potassium food is within the range of what is best for me to consume. In a perfect world, there'd be a bookstore nearby with a kidney disease section and I could browse kidney disease cookbooks. Ha! For now, I'll just keep reading materials from the well-known kidney disease websites and try to get these numbers and percentages fixed in my mind so I can more intelligently read ingredient lists and so that the food I buy and prepare for myself is supporting what kidney function remains.

3. While I fiddled around with this and that and took care of some business this evening, I put NBCSN on the television and kept an eye on their replay of the 2018 Poker Masters tournament held in September. Of particular interest to me were two games I'd never watched before, Pot Limit Omaha and Short Deck Hold 'Em. Pot Limit Omaha is difficult for me to watch casually because each player has four down cards. I have trouble keeping track of the action. Short Deck Hold 'Em is Texas Hold 'Em played with a thirty-six card deck -- the 2s, 3s, 4s, and 5s are gone. Fewer cards in the deck means more action. This game also has different hand rankings -- for example, a flush beats a full house in this game. And, interestingly, the Ace can be the high card at the end of a 10-J-Q-K-A straight and it can become a 5 in an A-6-7-8-9 straight. It was fun watching this game being played and the players who were interviewed think its popularity will increase as more players become familiar with it.

Sidebar: A couple of player said that this game could become very popular among recreational players playing cards in their homes because everyone at the table is involved in more hands more often than in full deck Texas Hold 'Em where it's not uncommon at, say, a seven hand table for a player to fold the hand he's dealt multiple times in a row and go for twenty or thirty or more minutes never playing a hand.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/09/18: I Love this Movie, Zags Lose, Family Dinner and Remembering Mom and Dad

1. A few days ago, I watched the movie Come Back to the 5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean until I decided I was too tired to continue -- which also means I was too tired to willingly experience its painfulness.

This morning, I returned to the movie, rested and eager to see the movie to the end.

I first saw this movie about thirty-five years ago and I'd forgotten that its enduring impact on me, forgotten that this was more than just a movie I loved. It was a very important movie to me.

I won't write about all that came back to me today, but, for starters, for the first time in years today I thought about Ibsen's character Peer Gynt, from the play of the same name, and his monologue on onions. It's a simple metaphor. Like an onion, we humans are made up of many layers of experience and character and, we can, if we'd like, peel away layers of ourselves and eventually get to the center of our being.

In Come Back to the 5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, the layers insulating characters from the core truths about themselves take the form of illusions that these characters have come to believe in and live by. I won't give away how it is that what started as a twenty year reunion of the Disciples of James Dean to mark the anniversary of his death turned into a session of truth telling, of peeling away onion layers, of getting at core truths, both painful and liberating, that are alive in these characters who come back to the Woolworth's Five and Dime they hung out at in McCarthy, Texas when they were teenagers -- along with the store's proprietor.

Today, I enjoyed reliving how important this movie was to me thirty-five years ago. It helped shaped feelings, attitudes, and ways of seeing the world that have deepened since then, but that this movie helped either bring into being or helped solidify. I'm not saying specifically what these  feeling, attitudes, and ways of seeing the world are because I don't want to give away plot details. The movie's revelations surprised me (I'm easy to surprise as a movie viewer!) and I don't want to spoil that experience for any of you reading this who might decide to go to YouTube and watch the movie in its entirety.

I'm not recommending that you see this movie. I understand from reading what critics said about it that it did not have the impact on the professional movie goers that it had on me -- I realize that my love for this movie is very likely a personal experience and the movie may not work for those who are more tough-minded and less eager to be pleased than I am.

But, I'm sure glad I let this movie work on me the way it does and I'm grateful for all that it has moved me to feel and learn over the years.

I look forward to watching it again -- who knows how many times?

2. At noon, I went over to Christy and Everett's. I had hoped I'd be done watching the movie before the game started, but I wasn't and I came into their house weak in the knees from what I'd been feeling.

It was thrilling as Gonzaga and Tennessee played a fiercely entertaining game filled with exciting plays and a many lead changes. Yes, I would have been happier if Gonzaga had won, but Tennessee forward, Admiral Schofield, got hot in the second half, scoring twenty-five of his game high thirty points, and I don't think whacking him on the shins with a 2 x 4 could have stopped him. Even though it was at the expense of our beloved Zags, Schofield's performance was jaw-dropping, among the most invigorating I've ever seen. In the closing seconds of the game, when Gonzaga could have tied it by scoring from behind the three point line, Tennessee's defense was suffocating and the shots both Norvell and Hachimura were forced and were way off the mark, but Tennessee's defense wouldn't let them fire up a better shot.

3. For family dinner tonight, we had tacos, expertly prepared by Carol with some key assistance from Paul. We had a great time looking through a couple of little boxes of Mom's recipes and household tips she had saved. We hoped to find Mom's Nuts and Bolts recipe and we did and it led to quite a fun discussion, remembering Mom's preparation of Christmas treats and laughing about Dad's annual making of his Tom and Jerry batter. Dad turned a ten minute process into a long, clear the kitchen, stay out of my way stress fest, but he was very proud of this batter and it was enjoyed with universal approval all over town. 

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/08/18: Black Cauldron, Lunch at Red Tail, Milk Substitutes

1. Buff rolled by around 10 o'clock and then, from Kingston, Ed drove us down to the CdA Casino in Worley. I played for a while, but, seeing it wasn't my day, took a break at the Red Tail Bar and Grill where I ordered a 12 oz glass of Grand Teton Brewing's exquisite Imperial Stout, Black Cauldron. I asked for the beer in a room temperature glass. I knew it would still be served cold, so I left the beer pretty much alone and let it warm up so that its dried fruit, chocolate, coffee, cherry, and other flavors could arise out of their chilly hibernation. It's a high alcohol beer, one that I would have preferred to drink in a four or eight ounce glass, but I sat with it for nearly an hour, slowly sipping it, loving it, as it warmed up.

2. I hadn't quite finished my glass of Black Cauldron when Buff and Ed arrived at the Red Tail so we could enjoy lunch together. Ed's luck was running pretty well today and he treated us. I enjoyed eating three shrimp tacos and a glass of water. The three of us got in some good yakkin' at the table and we all played a little more before heading back to the Silver Valley.

3. Back home, I made a quick trip to Yoke's so I'll have coffee in the morning. I also bought a couple of non-dairy products to see if they'll taste good in my coffee and be a suitable substitute for milk when I make pancakes and muffins. This is in line with my ongoing, albeit inconsistent, attempt to cut back on potassium in my food and drink. I see Dr. Kristie Jones, nephrologist, on Wednesday and I anticipate that we'll talk about how my kidneys are becoming less adept at properly filtering excess potassium out of my system and I want to report that I recognize this and am doing something about it, however inconsistently.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/07/18: Afternoon in the Kitchen, Vito 2018, *Come Back . . . Jimmy Dean*

1. After a waffle and a couple of eggs at Sam's and writing out checks for three more bills and making a trip to Yoke's for Christy,  I acted on a thought that buzzed through my head yesterday. I bought a box of Grape Nuts. I wondered if Grape Nuts muffins would be good. I bounced around on the World Wide Web a bit and found a recipe that looked simple enough and early this afternoon I baked a batch. They worked. I am also very pleased with another cooking idea I carried out. I boiled my last potato and a handful of baby carrots until I could fairly easily push a fork through them, drained them, and combined them with the cabbage I recently made. I took a little bit of this dish out of the pan and seasoned the sample with a few caraway seeds. I loved it and so I seasoned my mess of potatoes, carrots, and cabbage with caraway seeds and it was perfect -- tasty, substantial, and warming.

2. Today was the release date for Wallace Brewing's annual barrel-aged strong ale, Vito. This year's Vito, thanks to Shawn's suggestion, was aged with Basil Hayden Boubon spirals, and Shawn and I met around 3:00 to give it a try. Before I knew it, Holly placed a tulip glass that was bigger than I wanted in front of me. Vito has a fairly high alcohol content, so I resolved that this one glass would be my only beer for the afternoon. As the Vito warmed up -- and I wish I had let my glass sit for about twenty minutes before drinking it -- the beer's complexity asserted itself -- the subtle brown sugar of the bourbon, the vanilla of the oak spirals, and the smoothness of the aging process.  Wallace Brewing's brewmaster, Jack, joined Shawn and me and told us about how he made this year's Vito and he piqued our interest to look forward to the January 19th release of Wallace Brewing's 10th Anniversary Ale, a Scotch Ale that Jack made sound well worth waiting for. I don't know if I'll make it to the actual 10 year anniversary party on the 19th, but I will surely go up to Wallace to sample the Scotch Ale at some point.

3. Back home, I settled into my tv room and did a search of movies available to me, looking for Come Back to the 5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean. This movie has been on my mind recently. I saw it in Portland in 1983, soon after it came out, and it fit perfectly into my preoccupation at that time with plays and fiction written in the USA that explore the illusions characters live by (what Prof. Clark Griffith called "the Grade B movie in their heads") and what happens when those illusions shatter.

I will return to this movie soon, but, tonight, after about forty minutes or so, I gave it a rest. When I was nearly thirty years old back in 1983, I found excitement in the ideas of these American plays and novels and short stories, but now that I am nearly 65, these stories are less intellectually stimulating and are much more painful. Tonight, I needed to take a break from Sandy Dennis' brilliant and excruciating portrayal of the deluded character, Mona. The illusion she lives by in this movie, and, the fierceness with which she protects it, is nearly unbearably painful. I know as the movie develops, she's not alone in living a life shaped by a reality she wishes for but that doesn't exist and I will return to this movie soon and watch as other characters confront the pain generated by living lives unsupported by what's actually true within themselves and in the world they occupy. Tonight, I was tired and could only absorb so much of this movie. But, good Lord, do I ever love watching Robert Altman's films.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/06/18: Night (and Day) Guard, Meal Plan, Epic Movie in My Future

1. Having had a ton of dental work done last month, I now need a night guard to protect this work from my habit of grinding my teeth. I grind my teeth a lot during the day. The work I had done has changed my bite and I am continually checking out my bite, trying to determine if it's working the way I want it, too. Therefore, I'll be using my new guard as a day guard and a night one. These days I spend a lot of time by myself, reading, writing, doing things around the house, and watching movies. I will wear the guard while alone and wear it at night.

The dental office was as busy as I've ever seen it today and I waited two hours to get in to have my mouth guard fitted. I can't explain why this wait didn't bother me, why I patiently and calmly read about different things online and sat around thinking about different things, totally unruffled. Once attended to, the fitting of my guard went smoothly and, once home, I popped it right in and started the process of getting used to it.

I like the feeling this guard gives me of my teeth being protected from my dumb grinding habits.

2. I decided that on Friday I'll combine the cabbage I made Wednesday with boiled potatoes, some carrots, and garbanzo beans and make a soup seasoned with an old favorite I haven't used in a long time, caraway seeds. My shopping trip to Yoke's centered on buying groceries for this dish.

3. Ever since I first heard about the movie, Once Upon a Time in America, I've wanted to see it and then I'll go long periods of time forgetting about it. Today it came back to mind and I read up on the movie and discovered that I have online access to one of the movie's long versions that runs nearly four hours. One of these days, I'll commit myself to watching it in its entirety and let myself get absorbed by this epic film about which I've read so much acclaim.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/05/18: My Medical Life, Southern Cabbage, DVDs and the Zags Win

1. I called the Idaho Lung and Asthma Center in CdA and learned that the order from Sacred Heart for me to be examined arrived. I should hear from a scheduler next week. Right now, it looks like everything else that Sacred Heart is requiring before their committee makes a decision about whether to list me for a kidney transplant is done. If my lungs, damaged as they were by the SO2 and zinc and cadmium dust I inhaled when I was injured in 1973, are up to snuff, I should be on my way to being listed at Sacred Heart.

I see nephrologist Dr. Kristie Jones on December 12th, so I got to see the world's finest phlebotomist, Tracy, again today at the clinic uptown and have three vials of blood drawn and I gave a urine sample. I'll see Tracy again on the December 12th when I have my monthly blood sample drawn to send to the U of Md in Baltimore.

2. I wanted to be sure to use a head of cabbage I had on hand and found a Southern Cabbage recipe that is simple and looked tasty. The recipe called for chicken broth. I don't have any on hand. I dug around in the freezer a bit and found a container of turkey broth I'd forgotten about and used it. The recipe didn't ask much of me: I cut up the cabbage, poured it over chopped onion and minced garlic sauteed in olive oil and butter, seasoned it with salt, pepper, and Johnny's Seasoning Salt, poured in a couple of cups of turkey broth, brought it to a boil, turned down the heat, and let the cabbage simmer, covered. The more tender the cabbage became, the better it tasted and I have a nice side dish stored and will figure out something to cook up to go with it.

3. After some diligent searching, I found used copies of three DVDs of short films I wanted to own again. Two of the collections are short documentaries and the other includes a short film entitled, "Family Tree". I used to show "Family Tree" to my writing students. I've missed having these short films around and was happy I found them.

After my shopping spree, I went over to Christy and Everett's and watched the Zags defeat the Huskies on a last second tie breaking jump shot by Rui Hachimura. I had watched the Huskies play last week and I thought they might give the Zags a stern test because they are a stingy defensive team and have a few pretty good scorers. Tonight, the Huskies never gave up. Behind much of the game, they kept making plays on defense, found a hot hand in guard Jaylen Nowell, and tied this game with under ten seconds left to play -- and did so with their stellar forward Noah Dickerson on the bench with five fouls.

Tonight Gonzaga faced what they will face game after game after game. Opponents are going to be extra motivated to play hard, sometimes play better than they ever have, because Gonzaga is not only the top-ranked team in the nation, but is, year after year, one of the USA's elite programs.

So, tonight, the Huskies dug in and kept coming back. Even though they were behind by eleven points with about five minute to go in the game, the Huskies persisted, played their hearts out, and Gonzaga once again had figure out how to defeat a team whose confidence grew in the game's last minutes, who believed they could, and nearly did, upset Gonzaga.

I know I'll hear some Gonzaga fans grumble about the Zags nearly blowing this one. There's truth in that grumble. The Zags had an off game. But, I am slow to be too negative about Gonzaga's team. I came away from the game, not so much grumbling about the Zags, but thinking, man, these Dawgs have a lot of fight in them and I sure hope the powers that be never let the Huskies/Zags rivalry disappear from the schedule again.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/04/18: Christy's Tired, *The Post*, Enhancing my Soup

1. I don't have much to report about how Christy is doing. I know that she was up and down a lot Monday night into Tuesday morning; I know that she spent a lot of time in bed on Tuesday; I know her home nurse made her first visit on Tuesday. I concluded from our text messages that the combination of a fitful night, the strength of her medication, and just being tired after a full day Monday when she came home from the hospital left her tired and in need of a lot of rest on Tuesday.

2. After I got some medical business taken care of and called about a furnace tune up and an oil change in the Sube, I settled into spending about half the afternoon watching The Post, a fictional account of the decision by Katharine Graham, publisher of The Washington Post, to publish what came to be known as the Pentagon papers.

I kept finding pleasure in the experience of thinking throughout the movie that I was watching a film made seventy years ago by a director like Frank Capra.  It was melodramatic with clear lines of conflict between the moneyed interests of the banks and the paper's board of directors and the bulldog editor, Ben Bradlee, played by Tom Hanks, and his wealthy publisher, Katharine Graham, played by Meryl Streep, who both were determined to protect and enact the ideals of free speech and the interests of the governed over those governing and not give in to the profit-minded bankers and the board members.

I thought about how Steven Spielberg paid homage to matinee cliffhangers in the Indiana Jones franchise, and how in this movie he grounded the story in another kind of melodrama that pitted freedom against money and governmental power. Much like Jimmy Stewart invigorates the ideals of Frank Capra's stories, Tom Hanks animates the urgency of not bending to the will of the powerful by advocating for the publishing of the sensitive material in the Pentagon papers.

Meryl Streep portrays Katharine Graham as simultaneously strong and tentative. She's mindful of being dismissed, despite her power and position, by the powerful men around her -- talked over, interrupted, looked through, ignored, condescended to, not taken seriously. She's also mindful of her enormous responsibilities and her inexperience in such a position of power. As the story develops, I could see, in Streep's portrayal of Graham, a growing sense of Graham shedding her familiar role as a socialite and embracing the responsibilities inherent in owning The Post.

When Spielberg plays up the melodrama of the moment when Graham decides to publish the Pentagon papers, the melodrama isn't cheap. It's a powerful moment climaxing not only a crucial moment in the history of journalism, but also climaxing Katharine Graham's steady embrace of her position and her defiance of the male dominated pressures around her to cave in.

Watching Meryl Streep's physical, vocal, and emotional investment in bringing this movie's portrayal of Katharine Graham to life made me think of the staggering number of roles I've seen Meryl Streep play over the years, the staggering variety of these roles, and the staggering skill Meryl Streep brings to her work.

I also thought today about the young actors I performed with in a handful of plays at Lane Community College who were often snide and snarky when they talked about Meryl Streep's work. I'm not much of an arguer and I just listened to these comments and tried to understand them. Again, today, some of those comments rose up while I watched The Post and I thought about how fully the Meryl Streep I've heard interviewed and seen on awards shows disappeared in this movie and, in her place, was this multi-dimensional, complicated, tough, tender, intelligent, occasionally stumbling, publicly self-assured, grieving, courageous character, Katharine Graham. Her work in this movie moved me to tears, something I've experienced several times watching Meryl Streep perform.

Whatever it is about me that enjoys so much of what I see and whatever it is about me that is so eager to be moved by stories, movies, plays, music, and acting, I'm glad it's the way I am. I realize it would make me a lousy movie critic for any publication. After a while, readers would just say, "How can you trust him? He enjoys almost everything!" I think it's because when I watch movies I believe the story, I believe in the characters, I do not ever assess a movie by my own experience -- so I never say, "That could never happen" -- because it just did -- in the movie, and I readily surrender myself to what I'm watching. I don't assess the reality of movies, I enter into the movie's reality.

It's fun.

3. After the movie ended, I thought to myself that maybe the sweet potato cauliflower soup I made on Monday would taste good with red rice and black beans. I made a small pot of red rice and, as I heated up a can of black beans, I seasoned them with cumin. Ah! Cumin! It was exactly what my soup needed and I loved how much heartier my pureed soup felt with the addition of beans and rice. Now it's creamy, sweet, earthy, a little nutty, and deeply satisfying. And, and, I still have some left and, when I finish it tomorrow, I can contemplate what warming, more than likely vegetarian, soup or dish I'll make next.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/03/18: Christy Returns Home, Soup Experiment, Late Night Muffins

1. Shortly after 8:30, Christy texted me that she was being released from the hospital. I had a couple of things to take care of before leaving Kellogg and decided to grab a quick bagel and an espresso drink on my way out of town. I arrived at Kootenai Medical Center around 10:30 at which time a nurse discharged Christy and we went in search of the antibiotic she'll be taking over the next 10 days. It took a while (no problem) and we found a pharmacy that was both in network and had the pills in stock. By early afternoon, we were back in Kellogg and Christy was in the warmth of her home, comfortably heated by a welcoming fire in the fireplace.

Christy will have an in-home nurse visit to treat her wound. She's learned that the healing might take about four weeks.

I checked in with Christy later in the evening and she and Everett had rested and done some house cleaning. Carol brought them some dinner. Christy's pain level wasn't too bad, she said. I hope she had a restful night once it was time to turn in.

2. I had planned on making some business and medical phone calls today and made three of them while Christy secured her medicine. Back in Kellogg, I went to Yoke's and bought a few things. Once home, I experimented with making a cauliflower and sweet potato soup, concluding that the soup might benefit if I were to buy a squash, roast it, and blend the squash into the soup I've already made. I'm also trying to determine how much cinnamon and allspice the soup needs and whether a little more brown sugar would enhance it. I've decided that I don't want this batch to be spicy hot.

3. The last thing I did before going to bed around was make a batch of Bob's Red Mill 10 Grain Cereal Muffins so I could have muffins in the morning and have muffins more around to snack on. I'm hooked on these muffins and I think I'm about to go on a tear trying out other muffin recipes as well.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/02/18: Christy's Recovery, Rye Beers at Mad Bomber, Scouting the Dawgs

1. I was with Christy for about three hours, until 2 this afternoon. She was feeling much better, didn't seem to be in a lot of pain (she reported 3 out of 10 to her nurse), and is getting a clearer idea of what lies ahead. The medical staff is determining what antibiotics she should take at home. She might be released on Monday, December 3, but that was still to be nailed down. She'll have a in-home nurse visiting her to treat her wound. The wound will take in the neighborhood of four weeks to heal. She learned more about what she and Everett will need to do to keep surfaces in their house clean and disinfected. Hand washing is crucial. Christy showed me a picture of the wound and I can see why it's painful. I never doubted that it was, but the picture helped me understand much better what Christy is up against.

2. When I left Kootenai Medical Center, I zipped over to Byrdman's house and we rocketed up to Mad Bomber Brewing. Most of the patrons were zeroed in on the Seahawks playing the 49ers, but we were indifferent and found a table near the popcorn machine where we could yak and eat a couple or three bowls of popcorn. The football fans were fairly reserved so yakking was easy. I always enjoy Mad Bomber a lot, both its beer and its down to earth atmosphere. I started off with a pint of Tomahawk Rye IPA and was so enamored with this rye beer that I ordered a pint of 1605 Rye, their regular rye ale. I don't have words to describe what it is I enjoy about rye beers, but, then, I don't really have words to explain what I enjoy about rye bread either! Rye pleases me. That's all I got.

3. Back home, I ate more of my tangy potato soup and got laundry going and began to think ahead for what business I need to tend to this week: medical stuff, probably a visit to the dentist, blood draw, some insurance details, phone calls about household matters, and help Christy come home. I took my mind off of some of this stuff by watching the second half of the UC Santa Barbara/UWashington basketball game to get an idea of what kind of team the Zags will face Wednesday when they play the Dawgs. The Zags will have their hands full with the UW's big guy inside, Noah Dickerson, a senior with strength and great footwork. He's a force. The Huskies also have experienced guards who are seniors and a high scoring sophomore guard, Jaylen Nowell. They play tight defense. They have some depth. The Zags will definitely be tested on Wednesday evening.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/01/18: Christy's Improvement, A Pint at Slate Creek, Tangy Potato Soup

1. I had one of those mornings where I was slow to get around, but, in time, I walked up to the Shoshone Medical Center and retrieved Christy's vehicle and drove it back to her house. After dillying here, dallying there, forgetting this, remembering that, and shaking the cobwebs out of my head, I drove to Coeur d'Alene and visited Christy.

I picked her up a cafe au lait at Starbucks. When I arrived in her room, she looked at home. She was out of bed, sitting in a comfortable chair with her feet up. Thanks to the staff providing her with a special cushion, she could sit comfortably. She was happy not to be lying in bed for the first time in several days. Christy was watching the Zags play (and win!) and before long Teresa and Ann paid her a visit and Christy was in high spirits, telling stories and laughing with Teresa and Ann. I stayed until around two o'clock and left thinking that Christy's recovery was moving in the right direction and wondering how long it will be before she comes home to finish her recovery.

2. When I left, I gave myself time to stop in at Slate Creek Brewing for one beer and some peanuts, knowing I had enough time to enjoy one pint and drive back to Kellogg in daylight. I enjoyed the Brick and Steel IPA from Iron Goat Brewing and things at Slate Creek were just the way I like them: I was one of five or six older patrons and the conversations were quiet and a friendly dog jazzed up the place a bit. I invited Byrdman to join me, but he had company, so possibly I'll be able to stop in again on Sunday and maybe we can get together. We'll see.

3. Back home, I hit the wall. I walked in the door, turned up the furnace a degree, went straight to the bedroom, put on my sleep wear, hoisted the corgis on the bed, and took a deep nap.

I was hungry for soup and I made a potato soup augmented with mushrooms, celery, and carrots. I decided to make the soup tangy and, along with milk, I added sour cream and yogurt to the broth. It was just what I wanted to warm me up and comfort me.

I watched about half of a PBS American Masters piece on the illusionist Ricky Jay and decided I'd finish it another time. I called it a night.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 11/30/18: Christy's Morning, Christy's at Kootenai Medical, No Surgery (For Now)

1. I walked up to the Shoshone Medical Center to be with Christy for a while. It was an eventful morning. The staff at Shoshone Medical were having a lot of difficulty finding a vein so Christy could be hooked up to her IV properly. A technician came in and took ultrasound images of Christy's infected area.

Aside from the frustration of the blood vein difficulties, Christy seemed better today. Her temperature was comfortably under 100 degrees, her blood pressure had come back up to a more healthy state and was stable, and her wounded area was not as painful as it had been.

2. Christy's Kellogg doctor decided that Christy would be better served by being transported to Kootenai Medical Center in Coeur d'Alene. The doctor in Kellogg thought the wound might need surgery or another kind of treatment that is outside the scope of the what Shoshone Medical Center can provide. A little past midafternoon, Christy took a ride in the ambulance to Coeur d'Alene where her room was ready for her and the ambulance guys whisked her, without delay, right to where she needed to be.

Once in her room, a staff member got her hooked up the an IV immediately, a great relief for Christy that this procedure went so smoothly.

3. I arrived at Kootenai Medical Center at about 6:30 and was happy to see Christy settled in, looking comfortable, all things considered.

Christy's surgeon's Physician's Assistant had examined Christy's wound before I arrived. Her assessment was encouraging and she thought it was possible that Christy wouldn't need surgery.

While I was there, Christy's surgeon examined her. He decided he'd prefer to take a less aggressive and invasive approach to treating Christy's wound and infection.

He told Christy and me that he'd been treating this kind of wound for fifteen years and that when he was younger, he would have immediately performed surgery. He told us that over time, he has learned to be more patient, learned to let the healing capacities of the patient's body do its work, aided by antibiotics. Therefore, he prescribed patience. He wants Christy to stay at Kootenai for a few days under observation. He wants to study more fully the tests that were done in Kellogg and the reports that were submitted. He also wants to see the results of a culture that was taken from the infected area to make sure Christy is being administered the right medicine.

The doctor's calm demeanor, his sure tone of voice in recommending no surgery, and his having quite a bit of experience with infectious wounds were all assuring and the news that she won't, for the time being, have surgery, was a relief.


I'll add as a footnote, for my own record, that when I returned home from the Kellogg hospital in the early afternoon, I got a text message from the credit union wondering if I had made a purchase with my debit card at Wal Mart. Once I replied "no", the fraud department blocked my debit card and I called the credit union's main office to get more details and to order a new card. I'm grateful the fraud protection worked so well.

Luckily, the Deke and I have a checking account we rarely use uptown at Wells Fargo, so I withdrew some cash, hoping it will get me through the next 7-10 days until my new card arrives.

This bit of business delayed my trip to go see Christy. My drive over to CdA was difficult, dark and sleety. Once I got to Kootenai Medical, I was disoriented by the dark and the rain. Finally, I figured out where to go -- some memories from last summer kicked in -- and I made it to Christy's room.

The drive back was much easier and I dropped in at the Inland Lounge and relaxed with some rum and coke, enjoyed yakking with Cas, Tracy, Harley, Candy, and Joanne, and was happy to return home and tumble into bed after a full day.