Sunday, January 20, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 01/19/19: The Undefeated Fall, Zags Win a Ho Hummer, Update from New York

1. I watched two undefeated college basketball team lose today as Wisconsin bested Michigan, 64-54 and Duke outlasted Virginia, 72-70. Now every team in Division I men's college basketball has been beaten at least once. I first started closely following college basketball back in about 1967 and from that time forward, until 1975, UCLA was the dominant program, winning all but one national title -- North Carolina State won it in 1974. Then, in 1976, Indiana won the national championship and was the last team to go undefeated.

I've been watching more college basketball in the last month or so than I ever have. It's fun to watch so many games where the outcome is not a foregone conclusion (unlike in the UCLA glory days). Every time I turn on the television, I see a score that makes me say, "Whoa! Are you kidding me?" For example, West Virginia had not won a conference game yet. Today they hosted the powerhouse Kansas Jayhawks. West Virginia defeated Kansas, 65-64. Byrdman texted me that this had happened and I nearly came out of my skin. I swear, every day in college basketball right now is as exciting as the early rounds of the March NCAA tournament with close games, upsets, and thrilling victories. Sometimes the games hurt. Like today. St. John's lost to Butler, 80-71. I'm going to emotionally stick with the Johnnies, but, some nights, it will be painful.

2. Out here in the west, in ZagLand, once again there was no suspense. I went over to Christy and Everett's and watched Gonzaga easily defeat the University of Portland, 89-66. It's not just the wide margin of victory that makes a game like this less enjoyable, but I thought the Zags seemed bored by their opponent and not very interested in this game. Maybe I was projecting some of my own boredom onto them! I don't know. It's fun to watch these games with Christy and Everett, though. I'll say it again: I wish the Zags faced better teams in their conference.

3. I received an email today that made me very happy. Adrienne wrote to me about many of the things that have been happening in hers, Josh's, and Jack's life since the wedding in August. Josh and Adrienne have seen several theater productions and concerts in NYC. Adrienne's been reading great books. Jack is doing amazingly well in school and has a life full of activities in sports and the arts. Josh keeps diving deeper into the world of craft beers. It's uplifting to hear so much good news about how they are doing and to find out that Molly and her children are visiting Adrienne's family this weekend in New City, New York.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 01/18/19: Emails and Carrot Ginger Soup, Moscow Stomps Kellogg, Nightcap at the Lounge

1. After a hearty breakfast with Ed, Buff, and Scott B (Jerry had to shovel snow on the east end of the Silver Valley) at Sam's, I returned home and finished writing my blog and, as the day continued, wrote a couple of long emails updating Adrienne, Molly, and Patrick about what's been happening over the last several months with my kidney situation and other related matters.

In between writing those emails, I made a carrot ginger soup. It's one of many low potassium, kidney friendly recipes I've collected over the last few weeks. All I had to do was saute onion in butter and then add a bunch of sliced carrots, chicken broth, and minced ginger to the pot, bring the mixture to a boil, and turn down the heat and cook the carrots until tender. I let it cool and then poured this mixture in a couple or three batches in the blender, returned it to the Dutch oven, and added whole milk (the recipe called for cream and didn't have any) and heated in back up.  I loved the result. I love ginger and it complimented the sweetness of the carrots beautifully and the milk made the soup rich and creamy. It's a recipe I'll return to often.

2. At breakfast, I mentioned to Ed that I was strongly considering going to the high school to watch the Wildcats boys varsity basketball game against Moscow. Ed called me about an hour before the game and said we'd be a little late, but that he'd pick me up. Earlier this season, I watched the Wildcats get pasted by Shadle Park and it brought back memories of the Wildcats team I played on in 69-70 getting similarly whacked by Shadle. Tonight, I had flashbacks of lopsided losses the Wildcat teams I suited up for suffered at the hands of the Moscow Bears. In February of 1972, my teammates nearly defeated Moscow in the district tournament (I rode the bench for the entire game, appropriately), but that was the exception to the rule. Moscow usually owned us. Tonight, Moscow owned Kellogg, just like when I was on the team, and the only reason the 64-34 margin wasn't wider was because of the Idaho mercy rule: the game clock didn't stop in the fourth quarter once Moscow had a thirty point lead.

Moscow has a 6' 4" sharp shooter named Gabe Quinnett. The name Quinnett sounded very familiar to me and the Moscow coaching staff had a very tall guy on it, also named Quinnett. Once home, I did some crack research and it all came back to me. Gabe Quinnett's father is former Cheney High School star and Washington State standout Brian Quinnett. It's been thirty years since he was a Cougar. Brian Quinnett also played about three years in the NBA.

3. After the game, Ed and I went up to the Inland Lounge. I drank a couple of beers, Ed and I yakked with Cas a bit about baseball -- with special emphasis on former Red Sox great Dwight Evans, who had family in Rose Lake, Idaho -- and soon we piled into Ed's Camry, leaving the laughter and classic rock music of the Lounge behind, and I was ready to hit the sack.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 01/17/19: An 80 Year Old Man, Hot Lunch Memories, Snow Off the Dish and Zags Win

1. I figured when the doctor told me I have the cataracts of an eighty year old man, I was destined for cataract removal surgery. And, I am. After I spent time with three different technicians having my eyes measured and doing a vision examination, Dr. Dance strolled into the examination room, put an apparatus in front of my face, peered through my dilated pupils into the inner regions of my eyes, and, within a few minutes, told me it would be best if he got those buggers out. I will have surgery on my right eye on February 4th and on my left eye on the 26th of February.

2. Back home, I boiled up some rotini and heated up a can of black beans and grated some Parmesan cheese and combined them. My simple, warming, and satisfying bowl transported me back to my school days, grades 1-12. I loved school hot lunch as long as they didn't serve peas which I would stuff into my empty half pint milk carton. Every so often, the cooks served a dish called Witches Brew (I think) (I will gladly stand corrected) and I remember it as a simple combination of noodles and beans. Maybe something else was mixed in it, but the foundation of the dish was noodles and beans. (I just took a quick look at some recipes and, indeed, Witches Brew can include celery, mushrooms, onion, and other ingredients.) I finished eating my simple version of nostalgia triggering Witches Brew and nearly hopped in the Sube and drove to Yoke's to buy another can of black beans -- but, knowing that discretion (or moderation) is the better part of valor, I stayed put.

3. It snowed today. Luckily, I returned home from my eye appointment in CdA ahead of any snow on the 4th of July Pass, but the snow did threaten to impair the fun Christy, Everett, and I had planned for this evening. Christy texted me that her tv wasn't receiving a signal. Snow needed to be removed from her dish. I grabbed a broom, climbed a ladder, and tried to get the snow off the dish, but I wasn't going at it from a good angle. Christy have me a dusting ball fastened to a pole and I returned to the ladder, put it in a different position, and succeeded in removing the snow. Magically, now the signal reached the tv.

What a relief.

Having secured a tv signal, Everett, Christy, and I helped ourselves to slices of a Papa Murphy's vegetarian pizza Christy baked and watched the Zags methodically dismantle Loyola Marymount with little fuss. The final score was 73-55.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 01/16/19: Preparing for My Appointment, Resting my Legs, Limo to Smelterville and Eddie Joe's

1. This morning I prepared myself for my January 17th appointment at the North Idaho Eye Institute. I filled out the required paperwork and went online and watched six videotapes explaining cataract removal surgery and the different options for lenses that might replace my original, natural lens. At this appointment, it's my understanding that the doctor will make a determination or recommendation as to whether I should have one or both of my cataracts removed.

2. I decided to give my legs a rest today and didn't go on a photo walk. Christy's vehicle needed a quick recall repair and I drove her down to leave off her Jeep and took her back to pick it up. Back home, in preparation for the St. John's vs Creighton basketball game, I popped a bowl of popcorn and started watching the game.

3. During the game's first half, Cas texted me with an invitation to have a couple or three drinks at Eddie Joe's. He picked me up in his white block long limo, his 1975 Lincoln Continental Lipstick Edition, a car he purchased a few months ago from a dealer in Fort Worth, Texas. So I could really feel the luxury of how this car rides, Cas drove us out to Smelterville and back. It was as if we were floating on an airstream down the freeway. Cas's ride has an 8 track tape player. Cas recently purchased the Kinks' album, Low Budget from the 8 Track Shack, here, and we listened to it out on the open road to Smelterville and back. I felt like I could fly like Superman.

It was a quiet late afternoon at Eddie Joe's. No dog fights this time. T did not unload a barrage of F Bombs on Frenchy. Jess put the St. John's game on a couple of televisions and I paid some attention to the Johnnie's 81-66 victory.

Cas invited me over to his and Tracy's place for some pizza. We watched about the first half of the dystopic classic movie, Escape from New York, but I had to ask for a ride home before it was over because Maggie and Charly needed to be fed and I needed to give Charly her medicine.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 01/15/19: Photo Walk West from Kellogg, The Little League Field, Big East Basketball

1. I started at the Kellogg City Park around noon today and walked to a spot near the bottom of Government Gulch and turned around. This stretch of the trail features industry and the remnants of the former industry that thrived in Kellogg until about thirty-five years ago. It's not scenic, not like the trail between Pinehurst and Cataldo. In spots along the trail, however, here and there small trees and other plants are growing. Many of them remained in shade today and so, as you can see at the bottom of this post, I snapped some more icy pictures.

2. When I arrived at the baseball field at the west end of the City Park, I left the trail and walked around what was for us, growing up, the Little League field. The old Little League field near Brown Street got taken out when the freeway through Kellogg was built and the "new" field opened in 1963, my first season as a Little Leaguer playing for IOOF. My first season we lost every game we played.

Today, the old concession stand still stands behind home plate, but not the scorer's perch where the games' scorekeeper used to sit in a little tower. The old dugouts have been replaced. So has the original outfield fence. In the beginning, the fence was red with a scoreboard sitting above center field -- when we were twelve years old, Don Windisch hit a home run against Union Legion Lanes that hit the score board. In left center field, one section of the fence had hinges so that that part of the fence could be swung open and the tractor used to drag the field could enter and make the grassless surface -- the Astrodirt -- smooth.

Today the outfield fence is a chain link fence. I took pictures from home plate of the snowy expanse stretching out to the fence, but the fence is invisible and from my pictures it's impossible to tell it's a baseball field. Behind the fence, Union Pacific locomotives and freight cars often rested on the railroad tracks a short distance beyond. Occasionally, one of Kellogg's local power hitters struck a train car with a home run. Today, those tracks have been transformed into the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes and so the houses on the north side of Railroad Avenue provide the backdrop now. It would be a mighty poke if a youngster today were to hit a home run into one of those front yards.

In my four years of playing Little League, I hit one home run, until the All-Star tournament when I slammed two. But, the one home run I hit during the regular season was a soaring parabola. No trains sat on the tracks that late afternoon and my home run cleared the railroad tracks. My heart swelled today as I stood still for a moment at the spot, now beyond the trail, where that blast landed and admired, looking south toward home plate, just how far that homer traveled.

I'll return to this field and see if I can take better pictures from home plate with better definition when the snow has melted. I think many of us who played in the Kellogg Little League would agree that, along with the YMCA, this field holds many of our most treasured days of our youth.

3. Back home, I cleaned up the kitchen, bought a few items at Yoke's, and watched a couple Big East Conference basketball games. Providence beat Seton Hall for their first conference win, 72-63 in a spirited, sometimes chippy game. In the next tilt, Marquette lost its All-American leading scorer Marcus Howard early in the game to debilitating back spasms, but the other Golden Eagles stepped up, filled the void, and in a tight and emotional game, Marquette defeated Georgetown, 74-71.

Here are some of the pictures I took while walking from Kellogg toward Smelterville:











Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 01/14/19: Photo Walk from Pinehurst to Enaville, Snake Pit Break, Nailbiters

1. I waited for the clouds to clear and around noon or so I drove to the Pine Creek Trailhead of the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes. I walked west, figuring a photo stroll to Enaville and back would be good. It was. As best I can tell, most of this section of the trail never sees sunshine this time of year, so the trees were all shagged with ice and much of the trail was snow covered, unlike the parts of the trail that get sunlight. The light, then, today was muted and even with no sun glare. I tried to create some images of the sun hitting selected spots in the distance. If you go to the bottom of this post, you can see in the fifth picture, in particular, how well I succeeded. It was a chilly and energizing walk and I was happy to rack up about 8000 steps. This walking is not only a benefit to my spirits, but, in the past, I think it's helped keep my kidney function stable and, also of benefit to my kidneys, has helped me lose some weight.

2. When I arrived at the Enaville Trailhead, I rested on a bench for a while. A hoarse chain smoking woman about my age was playing with a little boy -- it might have been her grandson -- and a young man arrived with his dog, unleashed the dog, and with no one on the trail heading to Cataldo, threw a ball for his ecstatic companion to retrieve. I pondered this and that for about ten minutes and decided to warm up across the road at the Snake Pit. I ordered a cup of coffee and then a bowl of chili with a Pepsi. The food fortified me and I made my way back to the Sube at the Pine Creek Trailhead.

3. Back home, I fed Maggie and Charly, put my feet up for a while, and then flipped on the television and watched two thrilling basketball games. Syracuse exploited the fact that Duke's Cam Reddish was ill and Tre Jones injured his shoulder six minutes into the game and charged back from as many as fourteen points behind and defeated the Dukies in overtime, 95-91.

I then joined the Maryland and Wisconsin game in progress. Maryland thumped Wisconsin in the first half, leading by eighteen points, but, in the second half, after being behind by twenty-one points, Wisconsin found its groove and clawed back. They took the lead with two minutes to go. In the end, Maryland prevailed, 64-60. A wild Monday night of college basketball came to an end. After living so close to College Park, MD, home of the U of Maryland, I will always feel an irrational connection to the Terrapins. Tonight was the first time I've seen them play this year and I liked watching this youthful team a lot. Maryland's women's basketball team is superb and I will be keeping an eye out for telecasts of their games as well.


Here are some pictures I snapped today:













Monday, January 14, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 01/13/19: St. Luke's and Biblical Hyperbole, Wellness Trail, Fantastic Family Dinner

1. I felt it again this morning. A vital piece of my inward life has been missing during these many months that I have not been taking part in Episcopalian worship. I drove to Coeur d'Alene this morning for the 10:30 Rite II Holy Eucharist and I loved immersing myself in the poetry of the liturgy, the beauty of the Scripture readings, our singing of the Psalm appointed for today and this morning's hymns, and the power of the Communion.

I remembered back to when I was about eighteen years old and I was having an immature spiritual argument with a Roman Catholic high school classmate and I said something like "you guys just do and say the same things over and over again every Sunday. I just don't see how that doesn't get old and lose its meaning." Ha! Over the last more than thirty-five years when I started worshiping as an Episcopalian, the repetition of the liturgy has not gotten old; it's been invigorating, leading me to fresh and deeper understandings and experiences of the Divine and inviting me into a worship experience shot through with Scripture -- not only in the multiple Scripture readings (Old Testament, Psalms, Epistle, and Gospel), but in the way Thomas Cramner and subsequent editors of the Book of Common Prayer wove passages of Scripture into the prayers and the administration of Communion.

This morning's reading from Isaiah 43:1-7 brought back thinking I've done before about the use of hyperbole in Bible passages. Unfortunately, when we use the word "hyperbole", we usually think of it as a false exaggeration. But, in the passage from Isaiah today (and this also occurs in the Gospels and elsewhere), the writer of today's passage uses hyperbole to magnify a truth, to help us see this truth more clearly. God (or the Lord) speaks words of reassurance in this passage, saying, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine." To illustrate the power of this redemption, he goes on to say, magnifying this truth with hyperbole (a good thing): "When you pass through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you."

Through this heightened language, through the idea that in God rivers will not be overwhelming and fires will not burn one, we get a magnified picture of life itself facing us with waters to cross and fires to pass through. These fires and waters are rarely literal ones, but represent difficulties in life, the things that are frightening. We experience them as if they were overwhelming waters and devouring fires.  This passage calls us not to fear them.

In his homily, the priest didn't talk about what I just wrote, but rather talked about the power of being claimed and being named -- the passage from Isaiah was presented as a parallel to the Gospel reading narrating Jesus' baptism. I listened to the homily and, at the same time, reveled in my enjoyment of hyperbole in the Bible (and in Shakespeare, by the way) and, when not abused, how hyperbole is a rhetorical means of achieving clarity, not necessarily an instrument of lying and false distortion.

2. I let this all sink in at the counter at the Breakfast Nook where I enjoyed today's breakfast special:  Dungeness crab Egg Benedict.

I brought my camera with me and I had planned on stopping at the Bull Run Trail Head on the Trail of the Cd'As for a photo walk.

But, I think Charly and Maggie have been struggling more than usual lately with me being out of the house when I leave for hours at a time and I wanted to let the breakfast I'd eaten settle more, so I drove straight home.

Once home, my suspicions about Charly and Maggie were confirmed. I cleaned up a small mess one of them made, and I spent a couple of hours in the house keeping them company.

I still wanted to get in a photo walk, so I drove up to the hospital parking lot and climbed the stairs to the Wellness Trail. I took some shadowy pictures of The Trail that goes to the high school and walked the trail for about a half a mile up to a vista overlooking Kellogg. It was a good walk. Back home, I read on my pedometer that I got in nearly 3000 steps, over a third of them uphill and I took a few pictures. I'll post a few at the bottom of this post.

3. Tonight, Christy and Everett hosted family dinner. Christy cooked up a very tasty chicken dish called Chicken Marbella from Alex Guarnaschelli's cookbook, The Home Cook: Recipes to Know by Heart. It's a variation on a famous recipe from The Silver Palate and features an unusual combination of ingredients: prunes, olives, brown sugar, Dijon mustard, vinegar, and other ingredients and I'm sure glad that having a recipe look a little weird on paper didn't stop Alex Guarnaschelli or Christy Woolum from making it. It was one of my favorite dishes in the history of Sunday family dinner (I have no idea what my favorite might be).

Christy also set out the ingredients for wedge salad and made a Bleu Cheese dressing from a recipe Mom had for decades, that we loved growing up, and that, I think, was similar to the popular Roquefort dressing at the Sunshine Inn back in the Sig and Bunny days.

Our conversation was fun: movies, music, Carol Burnett, volunteerism, and all sorts of things came up today. We had a really good evening together.

Here are some pictures from my hike:








Sunday, January 13, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 01/12/19: Enaville Photo Walk, Breaking the Slump?, Zags Get Tested

1. The clouds broke late this morning and I took advantage of this sunshiny and mild day by driving to the Enaville trailhead on the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes and took a walk west toward Cataldo. When we lived in Greenbelt, I made regular excursions to places like Huntley Meadows, Rock Creek Park, Capital Crescent Trail, Oxbow Lake, Watkins Regional Park and the Brookside Gardens, Patapsco State Park, Sligo Creek Park, Greenbelt Lake, Greenbelt National Park, Paint Branch Trail, the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., and other places to take walks and hikes and to take pictures. I have fallen out of this habit since we moved to Kellogg and I'm hoping that today I started getting back into the habit of driving to different places in Shoshone and eastern Kootenai county. Today, it was invigorating to walk nearly 6000 steps and to get my camera back in action again. You'll find pictures at the bottom of this post.

2. It being Saturday, I thought about the many Saturdays Russell and I drove somewhere in or near Eugene and took photo walks. Not only did those photo walks contribute mightily to my discipline taking pictures and not only did I enjoy talking with Russell and enjoy lunch together nearly every time we went out, but I tried a lot of different things with my camera, was inspired by how Russell took such different pictures of the same place we both photographed, and, thanks to the regularity of taking these pictures, I improved my skills.

I've been in a long picture taking slump since moving to Kellogg. I don't have the luxury of a regular photo walk with a friend that kept me motivated in Eugene nor do I have the excitement of living in a metropolitan area with countless different stretches of parkland and local trails and national treasures like the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens or the National Arboretum to explore and photograph.

I'm going to try to break out of this slump, get out in the world around Kellogg, and take pictures regularly again.

3. I've been having a lot of fun this season following the St. John's men's basketball team and they played DePaul today at 3:00. The broadcasters of the game broke the very disappointing news that St. John's leading scorer and team leader, Shamorie Ponds, was out of the game with a strained lower back. Without Ponds, St. John's was not nearly as offensively aggressive. They played with uncertainty and never seemed to find their offensive rhythm. They played hard, but none of their other players emerged to competently run the offense or to provide the spurts of scoring Ponds reliably provides. Consequently, the Johnnies lost to DePaul, 79-71.

Around 6:30, I ambled next door. Christy is trying out recipes from Alex Guarnaschelli's cookbook, The Home Cook: Recipes to Know by Heart. Tonight she prepared a creamy and delicious pasta dish with an leafy salad featuring tiny cubes of cheddar cheese and apples. She will serve us another dish from this cookbook for Sunday's family dinner.

For the first time in nearly a month, the Zags played a team tonight that gave them a tough test. The San Francisco Dons are disciplined, experienced, persistent, and unintimidated. Until their offense froze in the last four minutes, when they missed eight of their last nine shots, the Dons stood up to the Zags, traded leads, and had a very good chance of winning this game. In other words, as often happens when a superior team plays a very good, but a not quite great team, in the last four minutes the San Francisco Dons got worn down and Gonzaga's depth, their ability to keep players fresh, and the way they can get points in tight games from a variety of players prevailed.

For thirty-six minutes, USF and Gonzaga were evenly matched. But not for forty minutes. Gonzaga outscored USF 17-2 in the final three minutes. Josh Perkins, Zach Norvell, Jr., and Gino Crandall all hit crucial baskets and Brandon Clarke and Rui Hauchimura sealed off the inside on defense, helping explain the Don's late game drought.

The final score:  Gonzaga 96. USF 83. Don't let that final point spread fool you. Until very late, this game was very close and had Zag Nation reaching for the Rolaids.

Pictures from west of the Enaville trailhead and the Coeur d'Alene River:







Saturday, January 12, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 01/11/19: Back to Tofu Stroganoff, Michelle Williams Plays Marilyn Monroe, *Run Lola Run*

1. After completing my morning routines, including Friday morning breakfast at Sam's with Ed, Jerry, Buff, and Scott B., I cubed a block of tofu, chopped half an onion and a couple stalks of celery, and opened a package of sliced mushrooms. I sauteed the onion and celery, added the mushrooms and cooked them down, and then put the toful in the skillet. I flavored this mixture with sherry vinegar and pepper and folded in both whole fat plain yogurt and sour cream. I made a pot of rice and now I have one of my favorite meatless dishes, tofu stroganoff, ready to eat as a meal or to snack on.

2. Michelle Williams first came to my attention as the young librarian in the movie, The Station Agent and later as Ennis' (Heath Ledger) wife in the movie Brokeback Mountain. About five years ago, I watched her play the lead in Sarah Polley's Take This Waltz. I have never watched her in Blue Valentine or Manchester by the Sea, but will. At family dinner, I often hear that I should also see her in The Greatest Showman.

I'm searching for a way to articulate what make Michelle Williams' work memorable to me. It's in her face and her eyes. While her characters are always fully present at any moment in the story, simultaneously they are carrying the weight of some kind of inward pain. They reside in more than one world at once, the present world along with a world that exists in memory and feeling, a source of subtle and always present fragility.

Late this afternoon, I watched Michelle Williams play the role of Marilyn Monroe in the movie, My Week with Marilyn. It's a movie about the making of the movie, The Prince and the Showgirl, starring Marilyn Monroe and the movie's director, Lawrence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh). During the movie's production, in London, Marilyn Monroe looked to the movie's third assistant director, Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) for solace, support, and companionship when her husband, Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott), returned to the USA and while she struggled to act under Olivier's direction.

The role of Marilyn Monroe charged Michelle Williams with the task of playing two characters at once. First, she played the public persona of Marilyn Monroe, glamorous, talented, witty, and alluring, an ingenious comedic actor with remarkable instincts.  She also played the private Marilyn Monroe, portrayed in this movie as neurotic, deeply insecure, fragile, anxious, and hungry for love and acceptance. The movie hints at sources of Marilyn Monroe's suffering (absent parents, exploitation by men). Michelle Williams beautifully plays the ways this movie's Marilyn Monroe charms, enrages, frustrates, and delights those around her, betraying moments of paranoia, begging for approval and reassurance, living in constant fear of abandonment and rejection, and depending on pills to sleep, to relax, and to be alert. 

[By the way, twice in this movie, Branagh's Lawrence Olivier breaks spontaneously into reciting Shakespeare, first Othello ("Farewell content") and then Prospero ("We are such stuff as dreams are made on"). Branagh's brief recitations made me shiver with pleasure.]

3. I sat in front of the television, letting My Week with Marilyn sink in. Recently, I noticed on my Amazon Fire Stick home page that a new app had popped up called IMDb Freedive. I opened it and learned that it offers countless free movies with ads. Not expecting much, I started scrolling across the offerings and I nearly leaped out of my skin with joy. One of the offerings was Run Lola Run.

A rush of many of my most treasured memories volleyed forth into my mind's eye. I started teaching the Survey of World Literature course back in the fall of 2002. It might have been that spring, or a year or two later, when I decided, in spring term, which covers 19th-21st century literature from around the world, that in order to acquaint students with stories from around the world, those students who wanted an "A" in the course would bring a movie from anywhere in the world outside of the USA and England to class, describe the movie's content, and show a short clip of the movie. I wish I had a list of all the movies students brought in (I might have a record somewhere of movies I recommended), but some come to mind: Mostly Martha, Rabbit-Proof Fence, and Cinema Paradiso, but the one that I had never seen and that blew me away was Run Lola Run.

It's a frenetic movie that repeats a single short story three times. Each version includes slight variations in the action and the tiny variants lead to consequences that change the outcome of each version of the story.

Somewhere along line, I decided to make the entire movie, Run Lola Run, the first work of literature my students experienced in the spring quarter Survey of World Lit class. I thought its rapid pace, its exploration of chaos theory's butterfly effect, and its delving into ideas about free will, chance, conscious intent, and determinism set us up to explore these and other questions of importance in the late 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.

Tonight, the movie enthralled me again. It also opened the way for me to delight in all those years between 2002 and 2012 when the Survey of World Lit course played a prominent role in my day to day intellectual and teaching life. I thought about students I'd worked with in those courses who loved the experience of seeing the world through the perspective of storytellers, poets, playwrights, and filmmakers of other countries and came to realize both different ways of seeing the world and that we are bonded together by a common humanity, with shared questions and explorations regarding what it means to be human.

I was very fortunate to be teaching at LCC during that time. As faculty, we offered a compelling variety of literature courses, decided among ourselves who would teach them, and happily supported one another when any one of us wanted to venture out into previously uncharted territory -- my taking on the old Survey of World Literature sequence is an example of just that. It was new territory for me and profoundly invigorated the last ten years of my full-time teaching career.

It was electric to feel that invigoration again tonight while watching Run Lola Run. 

Friday, January 11, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 01/10/19: Pend Oreille and Pizza, George Smiley's Keen Work, Zags Dismantle Pacific

1. Around 8:15, I blasted out to Ed's house and we piled into his pickup and bolted over the hill to Coeur d'Alene. Ed ran an errand and we each at a cafe au lait and scone at Starbucks and then we met Stu in the Shopko parking lot, shoehorned ourselves into Stu's pickup, and rocketed up to Bayview on Lake Pend Oreille. Stu has a boat in Bayview. We strolled down to the slip where it's docked and Scott checked this and that and ran both engines for a while, just to make sure they were running and to give them some action after sitting idle for a while.

We left Bayview and headed to Northwest Pizza Company in Hayden and each ordered ourselves a pie. Looking over the menu, I was reminded of a day back in July of 2012 when I ate a meatball pizza pie at John's of Bleeker St. in Greenwich Village. I knew the pizza here at Northwest Pizza wouldn't be baked in a coal-fired oven and that its thin crust wouldn't be crisp and black in places like John's of Bleeker St., but I wasn't looking to duplicate my Village pizza experience. No, I was simply happy that Northwest Pizza Company offered a meatball pizza, so I ordered an eight incher and enjoyed it a lot, both in the present moment and as it transported me back to my first week ever and my first pizza pie in New York City.

2. Back home in Kellogg, I had enough time to watch the last three episodes of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy before going over to Christy and Everett's to watch the Zags play the Pacific Tigers. As the complicated plot of this story developed, its many strands slowly made more and more sense. I loved the acting and the writing in this mini-series. While there were a few moments of characters lashing out, most of the action and speech was reserved with fear, anxiety, anger, betrayal, impatience and other bubbling emotions stirring underneath the surface calm of these middle-aged and older intelligence agents and others in their orbit. The genius of the writing is in what characters leave unsaid, how they speak about matters indirectly, and how George Smiley (Alec Guinness) is able to piece together fragments of conversation and bits he picks up in his interrogations and written files and figures out the way the intelligence service is being betrayed from within.

I have to return the DVDs of this mini-series to the library right away, but one day I'll get my hands on them again and watch it all a second time when I'll have a better understanding of the whole story's arc and can experience the things I missed when I first viewed it. I am also going to give the movie a look, the one made several years ago with Gary Oldman playing George Smiley.

3. Tonight Gonzaga hosted Pacific at 8:00 and I went over to Christy and Everett's and watched the game until about 9:30. Gonzaga swamped Pacific 67-36. Pacific's team was painfully outmatched by Gonzaga. Early in the game, the teams were tied 10-10, but by halftime, Gonzaga had built a 34-15 lead and the embarrassment was on. Gonzaga's team rightfully aspires to go deep into the NCAA tournament in March, but I don't see how playing a team like Pacific and the other weak teams in their conference does much at all to advance those aspirations. On Saturday, the Zags play at the University of San Francisco, a 12-2 team who has won its first two conference games and has defeated both Cal and Stanford of the once mighty Pac 12 conference. Will the Dons test Gonzaga? It's hard to say, but I know I'll be strolling next door to find out.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 01/09/18: Coffee and 5000 Steps, Connie Sachs, Christy's Birthday Cake

1. Ed called me this morning and we met at the Bean and, among other things, we made plans for meeting Stu on Thursday at ShopKo in Coeur d'Alene. From there we'll go to Bayview to check on Stu's boat and then go out for pizza. I wanted to walk to the Bean, but didn't have time. Later, though, I walked nearly 5000 steps when I strolled down to the vet and back to pick up some medicine for Charly.

2. Back home, I watched episodes 2-3 of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. It's all very hush hush as these members of the British intelligence maneuver around each other, seeming more committed to advancing in the bureaucracy than gathering intelligence. I loved one scene in particular. The elderly George Smiley goes to Oxford to pay a call to a former intelligence researcher, Connie Sachs. Connie Sachs and George Smiley were lovers when younger and were both let go from the agency at the same time in an agency shake up. Beryl Reid plays the embittered, whip smart, alcoholic role of Connie Sachs brilliantly and unforgettably, conveying Connie Sachs' longing, feeling of betrayal, and nearly total recall of details from her work with quiet pathos and some very affecting sentimentality as well.

3. Next door neighbor Jane used to always bake Mom an angel food cake with lemon frosting for her birthday on January 19th. A few days back, Jane asked Christy if she could bake the same kind of cake for Christy's birthday -- which was today. Christy gladly accepted Jane's offer. Around six o'clock, Paul, Carol, and I met with Everett and Christy at their house and we each enjoyed the cake and a small glass of Spumante. Christy had had lunch with friends earlier in the day, had shopped for half-price snowmen at JB's Country Garden uptown (and came home with a free flower bouquet!), and had had a good visit with our nephrologist, Dr. Jones. This evening, she opened some gifts and we all gabbed for a while, basking in the warmth of the living room fire.

Everett goes to the clinic on Thursday, January 10th. NP Linda Jo Yawn wants to follow up on her examination of him last week. Tonight, while we celebrated Christy's birthday, Everett didn't have much of an appetite -- he hasn't for quite a while --, but he was in good spirits. He loves sitting near the fire.  He can't hear anything, though, and something seems messed up with his hearing aids.  He did his best to join in the conversation, even when things he said were unrelated to what we were talking about at a given moment. It's hard to know Everett is isolated from what's going on around him and unable to join in the flow of conversation.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 01/08/19: Walking to Yoke's, Sweet Popcorn Memories, BBall Roundup and Gonzaga Dreams

1. I got in a pretty good walk today. After I did some more reading about diet and recipes for people with Stage IV kidney disease, I strapped on my backpack and walked to Yoke's and bought some kidney friendly groceries like mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, popcorn, and other things.  I think I'm set for several days of dinners and leftovers.

2. Once home and once organized, I prepared to watch the St. John's v Villanova men's basketball game I've been keenly anticipating. For the first time since leaving Greenbelt, I popped popcorn. I felt some sweet nostalgia, suddenly feeling again how much I enjoyed it when Olivia and David occasionally came to our apartment home in Greenbelt for a sleepover and I got to play the part of Grandpa Popcorn. I stared out the kitchen window for a few minutes, missing my grandchildren -- Jack, Olivia, David, and Ana. Recent pictures of them growing up, getting older, being vibrant children flashed before me. Then my mind turned to those evenings with the Deke in our apartment home when we had popcorn for dinner. I chuckled, melted some butter, poured the popcorn out of the Dutch oven into a bowl, and shuffled into the tv room to watch college basketball.

3. The St. John's v Villanova game was dizzying. St. John's raced to double digit lead early in the game and Villanova clawed its way back, defending more tightly as the game progressed and relying on their two most experienced players, Eric Paschall and Phil Booth, for clutch scoring. In the closing minutes, Villanova outscored St. John's 14-4 and beat the Johnnies 76-71. I thought the difference in this game was poise, poise borne of experience in tough games. St. John's is maturing, but in this game, especially in the last five minutes, Villanova seemed much more assured, more certain about what they were doing on both offense and defense and I thought St. John's got a bit rattled and succumbed to Villanova's ever more suffocating defense.

Villanova, even with a bunch of new players this year, is a long-established successful program, having won two of the last three national titles. St. John's is a program in the midst of resurrection and, to me, it showed tonight that Villanova was more experienced at knowing how to win and that St. John's is not quite there yet. I've said it a hundred times and now I'll make it a hundred and one: it is fun and invigorating to see the teams of Big East conference playing such exciting and hard fought basketball and nothing in college basketball excites me more right now than the re-emergence of St. John's. Next up for the Johnnies? DePaul will be visiting Carnesecca Arena in Queens. Here's hoping Lou Carnesecca and John McEnroe will both be on hand for the action.

I caught my breath after the St. John's game and flipped to ESPN's coverage of the North Carolina v North Carolina State tilt in Raleigh. I turned on this game with much milder interest in its outcome than the St. John's game, but by about sixteen minutes into the game, I turned from mild to rabidly engaged because the North Carolina State Wolfpack, who had fallen as many as fourteen points behind in the first half, found their groove and in helter skelter fashion charged back to eventually tie the game, but could never seize a lead. I loved NC State's style -- they hounded the Tar Heels, often with full court pressure, forcing lots of turnovers. They were aggressive on offense -- sometimes unlucky -- they had some very good shots rim out -- and they played hard. They could have surrendered this game early on, but did just the opposite.

So, now I want to keep a closer eye on NC State. Much like St. John's, it's another team that might be on the rise, trying to establish itself as a high quality program after some lean years.

Let me add that North Carolina is, as always, a really good team. They played as fast, and at times, faster than NC State and have players up and down their lineup who can score from multiple spots on the court. Watching today's game, it became even clearer to me why and how this team defeated Gonzaga so handily a month ago. The Tar Heels can be careless. They are prone to turnovers. But, they are a great scoring team, pound the offensive boards relentlessly, and can pile up points quickly with their quickness and sharp shooting.

The Atlantic Coast Conference is always tough, and, this year, I look forward to seeing some donnybrooks as Duke, Florida State, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Miami, and others play each other as they move deep into the conference schedule.

I have to say it.

I wish Gonzaga were in a conference like the Big East or the ACC where they would be facing this kind of stiff competition game in and game out. Not only does it get old to watch the Zags blow out inferior teams like Santa Clara and others in the WCC, but these mismatches do little to toughen up Gonzaga.

All through the St. John's v Villanova game especially, I kept trying to imagine the Zag players matching up against the likes of Shamorie Ponds and Marv Clark or Phil Booth and Eric Paschall. I'd like to think they'd match up well, but I wish I could really see them play superb players like these night after night in the months of January, February, and early March rather than just having Gonzaga dreams.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 01/07/19: Snow, Corgis to the Vet and Groomer, Steely Dan and Horace Silver

1. Last night's snowfall was light, but it was heavy enough that the sidewalks and driveway needed to be shoveled. It wasn't a strenuous workout, but made me tired enough that a couple of hours later I napped briefly while resting in my living room chair.

2. I loaded Charly and Maggie into the Sube and chauffeured them to the vet and groomer on East Cameron. For some reason, since the Deke has been away for her teaching job in Eugene, Charly, Maggie, and I have enjoyed each other more than at any other time over the last 12-15 years. Charly and Maggie have been relaxed. They've joined me regularly in the tv room and lie near me, often sleeping. Charly almost always lies near me, often making contact with one of my ankles, no matter where I sit. Whereas Maggie, in particular, used to charge to the living room's picture window to bark at anyone who passed by, she hasn't done that at all over the last couple or three months.

But, there's one thing that hasn't changed: if I run the vacuum cleaner, the corgis go beserk, scream barking and charging the vacuum cleaner and headbutting it. If I put them behind a closed door, they scream bark and butt themselves against the door. (It's funny, but I can't put them through this.) Therefore, with Maggie and Charly out of the house at the vet and groomer, I happily vacuumed the living room, kitchen, tv room, and bedroom and was not expecting such a deep feeling of satisfaction.

3. Along with vacuuming, I cleaned up the kitchen, laundered clothes, and laundered my bed's sheets and blankets. While doing these tasks, I listened to an Amazon playlist called "50 Great Classic Jazz Songs". I've listened to this playlist many times, but today, for the first time, I recognized that Steely Dan had borrowed the opening bass notes of Horace Silver's "Song for My Father" to open their own song, "Rikki Don't Lose That Number".  It was fun to discover this bit of Steely Dan homage to the jazz of of 1964 and I had a sudden and warm memory of Patrick playing a long string of Steely Dan songs in the kitchen some time around Christmas, one of many awesome sets of music Patrick played through the Bose wireless speaker while he was here.


Monday, January 7, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 01/06/19: Worship at St. Luke's, Brilliant Golf, Family Dinner Stir Fry

1. When, as happened again in 2018, I am not involved in the week to week, season to season rhythms of the church calendar, when Christmas Day rolls around, it's a day like any other, except for meals and gift exchanges and other people's decorations. I wouldn't call myself a Scrooge. I'm not against Christmas! But, its meaning for me is most poignant when I've joined with other Episcopalians and experienced the long stretch of ordinary days in the season of the Pentecost and then begun to prepare for the birth of Jesus through the season of Advent. The readings, the candles, the subject matter of the homilies, the service of Lessons and Carols, all work together during Advent to make the celebration of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the ensuring twelve days of Christmas emotionally and spiritually alive for me. For me, this is a church experience, best entered into guided by the Liturgical Calendar and in the company of other members of the Anglican Community.

Today the twelve days of Christmastide ended. Today was the Day of the Epiphany, celebrating both the coming of the Magi and the revelation of God's incarnation in the person of Jesus.  From today, until Ash Wednesday in March, Episcopalians will make their way through the season of the Epiphany. The Gospel readings will describe events that manifest the divinity of Jesus, telling the story of the baptism of Jesus, his calling of the disciples, the wedding at Cana, narrating various miracles, and conveying certain teachings of Jesus.

It's unusual for the Day of Epiphany to fall on a Sunday. I wan't even thinking about that on Saturday when I decided once and for all that I would drive to Coeur d'Alene this morning and worship at St. Luke's Episcopal Church on 5th and Wallace.

Today's service was a deeply emotional homecoming for me -- not to St. Luke's -- I'd never been there before -- but to the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. Aside from Amy Bird's Episcopal funeral and Josh and Adrienne's Episcopal wedding, I don't remember the last time I worshiped in an Episcopal church on Sunday

I recovered what I'd lost within myself by not worshiping during Advent and at Christmas time. I was not expecting an Epiphany Service of Lessons and Carols. Nor was I expecting children of the parish to enact the coming of the Three Wise Men.

The service included nine readings from Scripture, beginning with Genesis, including gorgeous poetry from the Prophet Isaiah, stories from the early days and years of Jesus' life, highlighting  his family's escape into Egypt and return to Nazareth, and a reading from the Book of Revelation. After each reading, we sang a hymn or carol, some familiar, some not so familiar, but all reinforcing the beauty and events of the Epiphany and what they've come to mean.

After the Lessons and Carols, we returned to the liturgy: a Day of the Epiphany homily, prayers of the people, confession of sins, the passing of the peace, the offering collection, and the Holy Communion.

Even though the church was pretty full, I had a pew to myself. I was choking back tears a few times during the service and this felt private to me, so I was glad to be in this pew alone.

Now I'll hope for clear roads on Sundays between Kellogg and Coeur d'Alene and I plan to drive over regularly on Sunday mornings for services.

2. After church, I needed to let what I'd just experienced sink in and so I drove aimlessly around Coeur d'Alene for a while. I considered stopping somewhere for a late breakfast, but decided to just go to Pilgrim's, buy some tofu, and head back to Kellogg.

Back home, I fiddled around and then around three o'clock or so I remembered that the final round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions was on the Golf Channel. I watched the action right up until it was time to go to family dinner at six o'clock. The tournament was getting tighter when I flipped the tv off, but now I know I missed an incredible finish as Xander Schauffele fired a course record 62 in the final round to come from six strokes (after his bogey on hole number 1) behind to pass Gary Woodland and capture the tournament title.

3. Carol and Paul were tonight's hosts for family dinner. Carol fixed a superb statement dinner tonight. What was the statement? I AM BACK TO KETO. She didn't really say this out loud, but the dinner emphatically stated it. We had cucumber and tomato salad, a multi-colored stir fry of vegetables and shrimp, and cauliflower rice. For dessert, Carol whipped each of us up a lemon mug cake with a whipped cream topping -- totally Keto -- and presented one of the mug cakes to Christy with a candle lit for her upcoming birthday.

So, tonight's family dinner marked the end of the Christmas/New Year's season and all of its dietary indulgences, the return of Carol and Paul to Keto, and the early celebration of Christy's birthday.

It was also a fun night of conversation. We talked quite a bit about movies and television shows and I enjoyed saying "bleak black and white British movie" probably more than Christy, Carol, and Paul enjoyed me repeating it.

Sadly, Everett couldn't come to dinner. He's been feeling nauseous the last couple of days, most likely because of the antibiotics he's taking for the infection inside him that needs clearing up. Everett is pretty frustrated right now. Christy has her hands full as she encourages him to stay on his medications and tries to keep his spirits up. Let's hope things improve soon.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 01/05/19: St. John's and Georgetown, A Basketball Day, Busy Day at Christy and Everett's

1. It's been many years since I watched so much college basketball in one day. Byrdman and Norm both alerted me to the fact that St. John's and Georgetown would be squaring off at 10 o'clock across 8th St. NW from the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.  I felt a long slumbering excitement awaken in me. It had been over thirty years since I'd watched St. John's play Georgetown. Both teams are coached by players from those stellar teams in 1981-85, St. John's by Chris Mullin and Georgetown by Patrick Ewing.

I flipped on the game, knowing already that I love St. John's style of play: aggressive, fast, sharp shooting, and daring on defense. They aren't a big team, but they are quick and tenacious both offensively and defensively. I quickly learned that Georgetown had a great size advantage, especially down low, and especially with their senior center, Jessie Govan.

In the end, St. John's quick hands, tough defense, ability to create Georgetown turnovers, and sharp shooting prevailed and the Johnnies beat Georgetown in overtime, 97-94.

It was a breathtaking game, much of it featuring St. John's clawing from behind to stay close after Georgetown had raced out to some double figure leads. St. John's guard, Shamorie Ponds (37 points) is this team's leader, but the other players, especially Justin Simon, Marvin Clark, Mustapha Heron, and LJ Figueroa supported Ponds with timely scoring and some superb defensive plays.

2. I watched parts of several other games: in a game I thought would be tighter, Virginia pasted Florida State; Iowa State upset Kansas;  I peeked in to see parts of  UCLA defeating Cal, mainly to see how UCLA was doing in the wake of their team's recent turmoil and the in-season firing of their coach, Steve Alford; late in the afternoon, Oregon and Oregon State played for the 351st time, starting in 1902, and OSU beat the injury hampered Ducks, 77-72. In all these games, two players stood out: Virginia's sharp shooting guard, Kyle Guy and a former Virginia Cavalier, now playing for Iowa State, the versatile and experienced senior guard, Marial Shayok.

3. It was a busy day over at Christy and Everett's today. Paul and Carol helped them move a dresser out of their bedroom, helped them clean up that room, and rearrange it. Yesterday, Everett went to see NP Linda Jo Yawn and discovered that when he fell on Christmas Eve, he fractured (at least) four ribs. LJ Yawn also discovered an internal infection that has hampered him. She gave him two pain killing shots, prescribed a pain killer (not an opioid), and prescribed an antibiotic.

I went over to Christy and Everett's around six to watch about 75% of the Zags' rout of Santa Clara, 91-48. Christy was tired after all joining Carol and Paul to do the house project and Everett was still, engaged in the game, and seemed in less pain that he has been over the last nearly two weeks.

I tried to imagine a game between St. John's and Gonzaga and, for now, couldn't do it. It's hard to know, while watching Gonzaga play teams like Santa Clara, who are no match for them, how the Zags, now at full strength with Tillie and Crandall back, would play against an athletic team like St. John's. At less than full strength, the Zags played well against Duke and Tennessee, but played less well against North Carolina. I think we'll have to wait until the NCAA tournament to see the Zags face a tough test again.


Saturday, January 5, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 01/04/19: A Bit More of What I Miss, Storytime at the Lounge, Alec Guinness

1. I spent over four hours writing my blog post, much of it inspired by watching the movie, My Name is John. I wrote about missing friends in Eugene, the Episcopal church, and living where there's a movie theater. Not long after I posted it, I realized that I could have added two other things I miss now that I live in Kellogg.

I miss the egrets and herons and other waterfowl at Delta Ponds, especially this time of year. I have scores of photographs I snapped at Delta Ponds during the late fall and on into the winter. Back in Maryland and Washington, D. C., I lived near Greenbelt Lake, which had a trail all the way around it and lived not far from the Aquatic Gardens where I loved the system of trails in the gorgeous wetlands area in the Anacostia River basin. These places, along with other trails along water in the D.C. metropolitan area, were my favorite places to take pictures. There is plenty of water around Kellogg. I'm especially interested in the Cataldo Slough. What I don't really know, however, is whether any of these watery places have trails that are easy to walk along and to take pictures from. It's time to go exploring. (I was never an outdoorsman when I lived in Kellogg in my youth.)

I think I've written about this before, but I miss participating in Shakespeare productions, whether fully produced plays or the Shakespeare Showcase. I loved narrating the Shakespeare Showcases, whether I did it alone or alongside Marcee, and, even though I played small roles, I loved being a part of telling Shakespeare's stories on the stage.

Yes, and as I've written this before, I used to love reading things out loud for people, whether it was the scripture at St. Mary's, poems, passages from other writings, or passages from Shakespeare in the classroom, or being a narrator for the Shakespeare Showcase.  I'll always be grateful that living in Eugene, being a member at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, and working at LCC afforded me the opportunity to express myself out loud, and physically, through the written word.

2. I took a trip uptown today. I picked up a James Lee Burke novel and the BBC mini-series, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy at the Kellogg Public Library. On my way home, I stopped in at the Inland Lounge and yakked for a while with Cas. John Seavy was at the bar when I strolled in and later Bird Legs came in and I was audience to all kinds of stories on a range of topics: prime rib prices, doctors, surgeries, pain killers, the Fish Inn, Mr. Jim's, that day a mentally ill guy shot Kenny while hunting but didn't kill him, the anonymous Vietnam medic who saved Kenny and got him to the hospital (to this day Kenny doesn't know the man's name), and any number of other things. My only real contribution to this session was in the beginning when Cas asked me how my homemade Rice a Roni worked out, and when I said we all thought it tasted good with the prime rib, the prime rib stories got rolling and things went from there.

3. Back home, I watched the first of six episodes of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. I'm not quite ready to comment on it, except to say that John Le Carre finds depth in telling a story about a retired or nearly retired spy being called back into action for, possibly, one last mission. This was how The Spy Who Came in From the Cold got underway and, in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the retired (or semi-retired?) George Smiley is called back into service to root out a suspected Soviet mole who is working in the highest levels of administration in the British intelligence service.

One other thing. The role of George Smiley is played by Alec Guinness. For years, I've loved Alec Guinness' work in a series of movies he made in the late 1940s and on into the 1950s: The Lavender Hill Mob, Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Man in the White Suit, and Last Holiday. I haven't seen The Ladykillers, yet, but I think it fits into this list of comedies, often dark comedies. Alec Guinness' versatility staggers me. At the same time, I can see elements of his work in the movies I mentioned in the episode I watched this evening, especially in a longish scene when George Smiley is accosted by an old colleague in the intelligence service, Roddy Martindale, a pompous non-stop talking boor and gossip, who strong arms Smiley into having drinks and dinner. Guinness plays Smiley's boredom, disgust, and suffering in Roddy Martindale's company quietly and brilliantly, echoing the characters in those earlier movies who must suffer fools, and not at all gladly.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 01/03/19: What I Miss, *My Name is Joe*, Indiana Defeats Illinois

1. From time to time, friends ask me if there's anything I miss living in Kellogg after living thirty-five years in Eugene and three years in Maryland.

Three things pop immediately to mind. The first needs no elaboration: I miss my friends in Eugene and family in Maryland and New York.

Second of all, I miss worship in the Episcopal Church and I miss my involvement at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Eugene. With so much going on around the time Mom was ill and died and with our move to Kellogg from Maryland, I never made it to the one Episcopal Church in the Silver Valley, in Wallace, and not long after our move to Kellogg, the Spokane Diocese closed this church. Now, if I am going to re-enter the Episcopal world, it will have to be in Coeur d'Alene -- or, I suppose, Spokane.

The third thing I miss? Living where there's a movie theater. Not only has the Silver Valley lost its Episcopal Church, several years ago it lost its last movie theater, the Rena. The site of the Rena is now a Dave Smith auto repair shop.

More specifically, I miss going to theaters that screen independent movies. I miss the Bijou and the Broadway Metro and David Minor in Eugene. I wish I'd gone to more movies at the Old Greenbelt Theater, but the times I went to the West End Cinema and the E Street Cinema in Washington, DC and my visits to the American Film Institute in Silver Spring were highlights of our time living in Greenbelt. I reminisce often about these theaters and the movies I saw at them.

I reminisce even more about the Broadway Metro in Eugene.

The Broadway Metro opened in downtown Eugene in May of 2013. It featured four microtheaters. It its early days, it showed matinees every day. I loved these matinees -- in fact, I'm not sure I ever saw an evening screening at the Metro.

I loved popping in this theater anywhere between 12 and 3, plopping down a five dollar bill, and watching movies I knew little or nothing about with a handful of other people, usually strangers.  I watched Oscar nominated short films, Josh Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing, Twenty Feet From Stardom, The East, Stories We Tell, Hannah Arendt, and others, including a movie that was very much on my mind today, The Angel's Share.

For the past couple of days, I've been reviewing empireonline.com's list of the top 100 British movies. It's here. This list includes two movies directed by Ken Loach, the director of The Angel's Share. It also includes several movies directed by Mike Leigh. Many of Ken Loach's and Mike Leigh's movies are renowned for telling stories about working class or underclass characters in England and Scotland.

Ken Loach's The Angel's Share, for example, tells the story of a delinquent young man from Glasgow, Robbie, trapped in an underworld of unemployment, feuds, and violence, who has a special ability to taste the subtleties of whiskey. Will this talent help deliver him from his life of violence and crime and feuds or is the life of fighting and crime he's always known inescapable? Will his history, the figures of his past, ever leave him alone, even as he wants to change? Is Robbie trapped? (By the way, "the angel's share" is the share, or the portion, of a whiskey's volume that is lost to evaporation during aging in oak barrels.)

Leigh and Loach make exactly the kind of movie I often want to see. They explore, without pity, social, historical, and economic forces at work in the lives of working class or underclass people, tragic forces that mercilessly impinge on their lives, resulting in personal failures and, sometimes, death.

2. So today, I watched my second Ken Loach movie, My Name is Joe. If, after you read this title, you said to yourself, "and I'm an alcoholic", then you immediately understand the movie's title. Joe Kavangh is in his late thirties. He's lived all his life in a working class area of Glasgow and has been sober for ten months. He decided to sober up after he perpetrated a terrible assault.

Sobriety has revived Joe and we see almost immediately that his better self is emerging. I don't want to give much away, but I will say that Joe's history of associations with criminals, his abuse of alcohol, and his past episodes of losing his temper and lashing out is in conflict with his earnest desire to reform, to be kind and loving and of service to others.

In My Name is Joe, Joe's history erodes his self-confidence. He studies the AA Big Book earnestly, attends meetings, helps others, but he is haunted by insecurity and his sense of inferiority, especially when he steps outside the boundaries of the social class he's familiar with and falls in love with Sarah, a public health nurse, a woman who has the means to own a car and to be buying her own residence. Joe is on the dole.  As long as Joe and Sarah are enjoying each other in the present moment, taking walks, eating together, getting to know each other, talking about music, making love, things are light and fun between them. Joe is inexperienced and naive and before long, inevitably, Joe's past comes rushing into his present, and he's caught between his old life of crime and his new life of reform. Will his relationship with Sarah survive it?

Now, my growing up in a modest working class home did not involve crime, syndicates, or gangs. So, a past like that will never rush into and complicate my present.

At every step of the way, however, as I have earned college degrees, worked as a college level English instructor, made friendships, fallen in love, been married, and taken up photography, I've been nagged by insecurity and feelings of inferiority like Joe's, in my academic life and my life of friendships and relationships. Was I "gettin' above my raisin'"? Am I out of my element? (These feelings do not rise up at the Inland Lounge. I'm in a place of comfort and familiarity there.)

When I was younger and these feelings of insecurity surfaced, I got defensive, sometimes combative. I could be loud, sometimes full of bravado.  Now I withdraw. I try to sort things out. I try to be genuine. I try not to get agitated and, when under the stress of insecurity, try to speak quietly. But, however I respond, those long existing feelings never go away.

I've directly (or indirectly) talked about this with friends from Kellogg and a recurring insight has come up in conversation.

"When I left Kellogg, I thought everywhere was like Kellogg, but soon I learned that wasn't true. Everywhere isn't like Kellogg and I had to adjust."

In his late thirties, Joe Kavangh is living where he came from and is trying to be a new man in the same old place.

It's grueling. Maybe impossible.

3. I keep telling myself, no, there's not a movie theater in Kellogg, but I have a theater in the TV room with access to countless movies, whether through subscription, renting them, or having them come floating in the mail as shiny little discs.

My little theater, however, is a solitary place. Even though, with two exceptions, I went to movie theaters in Eugene and Washington, D.C. and cities in Maryland alone, I enjoyed being in a room where others were experiencing what I was and I especially enjoyed that audiences in these theaters who were watching movies outside the mainstream of US cinema were quiet, attentive, and often enthralled by what we were watching.

I don't spend all my viewing time watching independent movies.

There's also college basketball -- and tonight I had fun watching parts of Indiana's 73-65 win over Illinois. The game made me miss the Deke's cousin, Sally, an Indiana alum and fervent fan of Hoosier basketball. I miss seeing Sally and I think a lot about her deceased husband, Ted, whom I knew for a very short time, but for whom I had a lot of affection and respect.





 



Thursday, January 3, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 01/02/18: *Spy Who Came in From the Cold*, Green Curry, Villanova Slips by DePaul

1. I remember back in the summer of 1991 I house sat for the Ostlers in Eugene and used the quiet of their house to work (unsuccessfully) on my dissertation. Back then, as I did for many years, I was living without a television, but the Ostlers had a tv and VCR and I distinctly remember renting British movies, including The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. This movie's been on my mind lately, in part, because I've been in the mood to watch some bleak black and white British movies.

All I remembered from watching the movie twenty-seven years ago is that, as a spy story, its plot line had several back flips and somersaults and I had a vague memory of the movie's stark photography and existentialism.

By the way, I'm not in a bleak mood. I just happen to enjoy black and white movies, especially ones that confront a character -- in this case, Alec Leamas, an alienated, burnt out British spy on his last mission -- with the truth about his or her existence, about how the character navigates an amoral world, a world without essential meaning, a world where one is charged with making one's own meaning in life.

Indeed, Alec Leamas is alienated, burnt out from years of living by the code of expedience, of the most amoral pragmatism, and it's left him embittered. For much of the movie, T. S. Eliot's poem, "The Hollow Men" came to mind. It was as if Leamas' career had emptied him out, dried his voice, left him stuffed with straw.

And, so, this movie reaches its climax when Alec Leamis is on a precipice, with an existential choice as to go one way or another, fully knowing the consequences of going toward safety or danger. He's experienced one defining moment in the movie's trial scene and faces another as the movie draws to a close.

I wish I could say what the choice is, what it involves, and what he decides to do. But, you might decide to watch the movie and you should not know ahead of time what the details of Alec Leamis' existential dilemma are or what action he takes.

I will write, though, that Richard Burton played the role of Alec Leamis perfectly, embodying his character's fatigue, faint desires, impatience with idealism, and resignation in his steely eyes, hardened face, and exhausted body language.

I knew that Burton had been nominated for an Oscar in 1966 for this performance and I looked back to see who else was and who won the award. Most notably, for me, Rod Steiger was also nominated for his work in a bleak black and white American movie, The Pawnbroker, another existential movie examining a damaged character named Sol Nazerman, who lives in a state of despair and alienation after his experience as a prisoner at Auschwitz.  It's a brilliant performance.

I've never seen the movie featuring the winner of the 1966 Best Actor Award. It wasn't Richard Burton. Nor Rod Steiger.  Lee Marvin won the award. The movie was Cat Ballou.

2. Happily, around dinner time, I knew I had a block of tofu in the fridge and a can of coconut milk in the cupboard. I try to always have curry paste on hand and fish sauce, soy sauce, and brown sugar. I wish I'd had some ginger. Maybe next time. So, I made myself a green curry sauce and poured it over crispy tofu and fluffy jasmine rice. I'd eaten a plate of red curry and salmon on my birthday and I wasn't very pleased with it. I like my Thai curry creamy. I wondered if the place where I ate used an inferior coconut milk, a thinner, more watery one. My sauce was creamy and I did a good job balancing the saltiness of the soy sauce, the savory richness of the fish sauce, and the sweetness of the brown sugar. Only one ingredient would have made it even better.  Eggplant.

3. After spending a couple of hours with Richard Burton and the double crossing world of spies in Cold War Europe, I relaxed by watching the Villanova Wildcats play the DePaul Blue Demons.

I don't think I'd seen DePaul play since the Blue Demon hey day from the mid-70s on into the 80s when they were coached by Ray Meyer and then his son Joey.

Much like St. John's, DePaul is a once successful program trying to revive and, early on in this game, the Blue Demons were on fire. Eventually, though, the hometown Wildcats wore them down, got some timely scoring from Phil Booth and Eric Paschall and came back to win, 73-68.

Villanova lost four starters from its national championship team a year ago and is not, right now, a powerful team. I'm eager to see how their season progresses as they move more deeply into their conference schedule.

It's fun having a tv and an internet service so I can watch these games. 


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 01/01/19: Sibling Assignments Posted, New Year's Day Dinner, St. John's Plasters Marquette

1. My sisters and I have been sitting on a set of Sibling Assignments for a couple of months; on New Year's Eve, Carol finished writing her set and so I was able to update my three pieces by including a link in each post to Carol's. I then posted links to my three writings, which include links to Carol's and Christy's, on Facebook. I wrote about my Grandma Woolum, here; my reading of history in 2018, here; and, my excellent experiences staying in Airbnb rooms, here.

2. This might be an unreliable memory. It's fuzzy. Nonetheless, I'll go with it. When we lived in Greenbelt, one day I suddenly got the idea that possibly there was a way to make homemade Rice a Roni (the San Francisco treat). I found recipes, no doubt on Pinterest, and tried one out and, as I remember, we enjoyed it.

Today, Carol and Paul hosted Christy, Everett, and me for a New Year's Day prime rib dinner at 2:00 in the afternoon. I volunteered to bring a rice dish. Recently, I had been reading some publication and saw a Rice a Roni ad and suddenly thought that it would be fun to make a homemade recipe again and bring it to our dinner. So I did. (If you are interested in seeing a recipe, a "homemade Rice a Roni" search in Pinterest or on the World Wide Web will lead you to various recipes.)

It worked. The homemade Rice a Roni was a suitable side dish to go with the splendid main course of prime rib and Yorkshire pudding. Christy made a unique and delicious shrimp cocktail for starters. We each downed a flute of champagne. We enjoyed shrimp and champagne along with some family yakking in the living room. At the table, Carol served us plates of fresh green salad and Christy made stuffed celery to go with our prime rib, Yorkshire pudding, and rice. For dessert, Christy made delicious cranberry bars and Carol broke out some of her huckleberry liqueur.

Our mother loved having a prime rib dinner on Christmas Day. I came to think it was just too much, though, to have a huge dinner of food from another country on Christmas Eve and then a complete prime rib dinner on Christmas Day. Last year, our first Christmas without Mom, we decided to keep the prime dinner tradition alive, but to have the dinner on New's Year Eve (last year) or New Year's Day (my preference).

I really like simple meals with just a few food items. Today's meal, to me, was simple: a slice of meat, a piece of Yorkshire pudding, a stuffed celery, and a helping of rice after a light salad and a refreshing shrimp cocktail. For dessert, the cranberry bar was small, as tart as it was sweet, and Carol served the Huckleberry liqueur in tiny glasses half full.

One last note about today's dinner: on Christmas Eve, Everett went out in the back yard to work on a fence/gate and fell on the frozen lawn. Christy wasn't home, but Everett managed to use the fence for leverage and get back on his feet. The fall injured him, probably cracking a rib or ribs. Because of his fall, Everett couldn't come to Christmas Eve dinner, for our brunch on Christmas, or for leftovers on Christmas Day.

Today, however, he was at our dinner table. He's in pain. Getting up our of a chair is difficult for him and he's walking slowly, haltingly. Today, he rallied. We loved having him back at the dinner table and he seemed to enjoy being out of the house and back eating with his family and telling stories and having a few laughs.

3. Back in 1982, I moved to Spokane by myself to be an instructor at Whitworth College. In November, I bought a television and subscribed to Cox Cable. I loved having ESPN back then. The Big East Conference had just been formed in 1979 and ESPN carried their games and I saw some great battles between teams like Boston College, Georgetown, St. John's, Syracuse, Providence, UConn, Villanova, and others. It was a hard-knuckled basketball conference with talented and physical players and many dramatic games.

Today, the Big East Conference has been reshaped. Several teams left the original conference and a bunch of Catholic schools joined it. In fact, in today's Big East Conference, the only non-Catholic member is Butler.

Among my favorite players in the Big East Conference's infancy was St. John's guard Chris Mullin. In 2015, St. John's University hired Mullin as their head coach, hoping to resurrect a program that had descended into abject mediocrity. Each year, St. John's, under the guidance of Chris Mullin, has improved its win total.

This year, they won their first twelve games before losing a stunner at the last second to Seton Hall on Saturday, December 29th.

This afternoon, St. John's played nationally ranked Marquette and I returned home from our family dinner to watch the game, hoping to feel some of that invigoration I used to experience back in the early 80's when I watched Big East Conference games.

Well, I didn't get the jolt I might have wished for, but I loved watching St. John's dismantle Marquette and win the game 89-69.

If I knew basketball better, I might be able to say what impact head coach Chris Mullin and one of his assistants, former Golden State Warrior teammate and Run TMC alum, Mitch Richmond, have had on St. John's.

I'll take a stab at it. St. John's is an aggressive offensive team. Their leading scorer, Shamorie Ponds, can slash to the basket and score or kick out to excellent outside shooters, like Marvin Clark. Ponds is a potent long distance shooter as well. Today, Ponds scored St. John's last nine points of the first half, two of them on three point jump shots taken, it seemed, from a tarmac at JFK International Airport. 

My guess is that Mullin and Richmond have a lot to do with St. John's crisp ball movement.  During the broadcast, Len Elmore pointed out that Richmond has helped Marvin Clark a lot with his shooting mechanics and, tonight, as well as the last time I saw the Johnnies play against Sacred Heart, all that work paid off. Clark's shot looks beautiful.

Now, while Chris Mullin was an explosive offensive player, he was not a great defender.

But, despite a few lapses after St. John's built a comfortable lead, I thought St. John's played tight and often physical defense, exemplified most impressively by the way they held Marquette's leading scorer, Marcus Howard, to a mere eight points. Howard, who recently scored 40 points in the second half against the previously undefeated Buffalo Bulls, shot a miserable 2-15 from the floor tonight, in part because of how St. John's harassed him on defense.

I miss the original Big East Conference, especially the donnybrooks that often marked their end of the season conference tournament. The east coast rivalries in that conference were awesome, but, then, I miss the former Atlantic Coast Conference, too. When I lived in Maryland, I never quite got used to their schedule featuring Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin rather than Duke, North Carolina, and North Carolina State.

Oh, well.

I think I'll continue to follow this St. John's team as the season progresses, pulling for the once mop-topped lefty from Brooklyn, Chris Mullin, to succeed in reviving St. John's basketball and bringing a winning team back to Jamaica, Queens, New York. 

(Are you still reading this? I just want to add that I loved seeing Chris Mullin's coach from his St. John's playing days, Lou Carnesecca, in the stands. On Saturday, Coach Carnesecca turns 94 years old. But he's clearly not too old to get out and watch the best player he ever coached now be the coach and the few times the television broadcast zeroed in on him, he looked thrilled that St. John's was playing so well tonight.)  (I also loved seeing Queens native John McEnroe sitting courtside at Carnesecca Arena, cheering on the Johnnies, supporting his good friend Chris Mullin, and dishing out a high five or two when the players came off the floor to the bench.)


Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 12/31/18: New Transplant Friend, Back to the Table, Quiet New Year's Eve

1. Today I received a text from Mary L. She had had lunch with her friend Christy. Christy received a kidney transplant back in June. Mary told me Christy was interested in getting in touch with me so we could get acquainted and talk about transplantation. That happened today. We became Facebook friends and we communicated back and forth over the internet. I learned that Christy's nephew's wife donated a kidney to Christy, a marvelous development. Like me, Christy had had some other live donors come forward, but, as in my case, all them were over sixty years old and Sacred Heart doesn't accept donors this old.

Christy also told me about a private Facebook group, "Transplant Buddies and Friends". I submitted a request to join this group, was accepted, and spent time this afternoon reading stories and answers to questions, all focused on people's experiences with transplantation. Reading these accounts gave me an especially clear look into life after a transplant and helped me see more clearly than ever the transplant recipient's vulnerability to illness and the vigilance required to stay on top of things like taking medications and drinking plenty of water.

2. I also had a very good text exchange with the Deke. We haven't worked out the details, but it's possible we'll see each other sooner than we thought we would when the Deke departed on Sunday. We have spent a lot of time over the last six or seven years putting everything on the table and working things out: my retirement, our move to Maryland, our move to Kellogg, the remodeling of our house, and the Deke taking the job she's now working at in Eugene. We need to return to the table and look at the future, near and far. It made me very happy today that as we texted back and forth we simultaneously realized that it's time to return to the table and that we might do this sooner than later.

3. It was a quiet night in uptown Kellogg tonight. After watching a little over half of Gonzaga's blow out win over Cal State-Bakersfield over at Christy and Everett's, I went to the Inland Lounge and the friends I thought I'd be meeting at the Elks were all in there, watching the end of the Zag game and getting ready to go across the street to the Elks. I stayed at the Lounge a little longer than my friends and yakked with Cas and strolled over to the Elks Club. Things were pretty quiet. Last year, and for a handful of previous years, New Year's Eve at the Elks was a lively event, with lots and lots of people out to socialize and dance to Jake and Carol Lee and Alan's band, Remember When. But, Alan lives in Arizona now. Remember When didn't play. Instead, a couple played music over a sound system and not many people attended. It was fun being with my friends and, as is the tradition on New Year's Eve at the Elks, we welcomed in the new year on Eastern Standard Time. Not long after wishing one another a Happy New Year, we headed back over to the Lounge and I returned home before midnight.