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.)

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