Thursday, February 28, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 02/27/19: Snowy Travel, Surgery Success and New Vision, Soup and Epic Basketball

1. It's routine to see the surgeon the day after cataract surgery to make sure the procedure was successful. I had a 9:30 appointment with Dr. Dance this morning and couldn't drive myself to Coeur d'Alene. Christy volunteered to take me.

We woke up this morning to a mild blizzard. The wind blew hard. The snow was feathery, but the wind was moving the snow into drifts. We both checked reports at the Facebook page dedicated to travel conditions on the Fourth of July Pass. Independent of each other, we both concluded that if we left plenty early and if Christy could take it easy on the freeway, we'd be all right.

So, we left Kellogg at 8:15.

The roads had snow on them, but we could also see the asphalt and traction was decent. One car had spun off the road on the east side of the pass, but, as far as we could tell, no one was hurt and the car was stuck in the snow on the side of the road.  As we summited the Fourth of July Pass, the weather on the west side seemed slightly warmer and the roads improved. Christy took nothing for granted, drove with care, and we arrived at the North Idaho Eye Institute without incident.

2. Once called at the Eye Institute, one of Dr. Dance's assistants gave me a routine eye examination and then I went to a second room where Dr. Dance had me sit in front of a contraption with bright lights and he peered deep into my eyes and rattled off what he observed to a record keeping assistant at a computer. Dr. Dance is amiable and laconic: "Everything looks great. Unless you have pain, redness, or impaired vision, we are done."

That was it.

Surgery number two was, like number one, a success.

With the shield I'd been wearing gone and with my eye no longer dilated, I left the North Eye Institute and a world with more vivid color and a purer light was coming into focus and this continued throughout the day, not only on our safe ride home, but as I went about things for the rest of the day.

Is there a downside to this renewed vision and sight?

Kind of.

I see more clearly than ever that as I've worked to keep the house clean, I've missed a lot. I've got some more cleaning to do.

3. The surgery and the travel fatigued me and I spent much of the afternoon in and out of sleep. I roused myself late in the afternoon and, following a recipe from The Moosewood Cookbook, I made a mushroom and barley soup. The recipe is not a creamy soup, but I added milk and pureed some of it to make it more creamy and it came out not only tasting very good, but providing me with warming comfort.

With both eyes corrected, with no cataracts clouding my vision, the television is a technicolor wonder and I enjoyed the gold of Marquette and blue of Villanova battle each other in a thrilling basketball game in Philadelphia, won by Villanova, 67-61. Villanova snapped a three game losing streak, thanks in large part to Jermaine Samuels relieving Phil Booth and Eric Paschall of the team's scoring duties and pouring in 29 very unexpected points -- he had been scoreless in Villanova's last three games. On the Marquette side, the Golden Eagles fought and fought their way from behind and took the lead in the second half. But, Markus Howard, their best player, was called for his third offensive foul, his fourth overall, with 9:28 to go and, during his time on the bench, Villanova eventually fought back into the lead, held off Marquette's valiant efforts to retake the lead, and won a thrilling, even epic, game between the Big East Conference's two best teams.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 02/26/19: Beautiful Cataract Surgery, Grinder at Capone's, Waking Up to Basketball

1. Christy pulled up in front of the house at 11 o'clock and drove me over bare roads to the North Idaho Eye Institute for my second cataract surgery.

Nurse Betty Lynn, who is close to my age, called me into a surgery preparation room and put me completely at ease as we enjoyed friendly banter about a variety of things. She took my blood pressure (it was superb), put a variety of antibiotic, dilating, and numbing drops in my eye, put an IV port in my arm, and did other things to prepare me for the procedure. A most amiable anesthesiologist briefly interviewed me, augmenting Nurse Betty Lynn's goodwill, and before long another nurse wheeled me into the  surgery area.

For the next fifteen minutes, give or take, I was was completely relaxed. I smiled all through the surgery's painless flood of water and kaleidoscopic light show and, before I knew it, the surgeon's two assistants unhooked me from the IV, untaped my head, and removed the protective materials from my face. With hope and trust, I said, "Well, how'd that go?" The surgeon's nurse responded concisely, "Beautifully."

2. In preparation for the surgery, I hadn't eaten for about eighteen hours, so Christy and I drove to Midtown in CdA, discovered Capone's was closed for repairs after suffering damage from the weather, so we went to Hayden and ate lunch at the Capone's there. I couldn't have a beer -- no alcohol for twenty-four hours after surgery --, but I enjoyed my Italiano grinder with an order of fries.

3. Back home, I was tired and fell asleep in the living room chair, oblivious to the Virginia Tech vs Duke men's basketball game. Byrdman texted me.  Three minutes left in the game. It was a nail biter. I rallied, flipped on the tv, and watched those final three minutes and, to my delight, the Hokies outplayed the Dukies and emerged victorious, 77-72.

I kept the tv tuned in to ESPN and hoped the Deke's Hoosier loving cousin Sally was also tuned in to the Wisconsin/Indiana game. It's been a rough season for the Hoosiers, but tonight Indiana played inspired defense, got some clutch play from Romeo Langford, including a game winning drive to the iron, and beat the Badgers, 75-73 in double overtime. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 02/25/19: An Old Secret Pleasure, Rice Salad, *Inspector Lewis*

1. I returned to a secret pleasure I hadn't indulged for nearly ten years today when I watched a single episode of Ice Road Truckers and felt anxiety for Lisa Kelly when she jackknifed her truck and was stranded for 14 hours, overnight, hundreds of miles from any town with a busted clutch. The other segments of this episode were also nerve wracking, but I just couldn't imagine how Lisa would get out of her very serious problem.

2. Until today, I had forgotten that I used to make and really enjoyed rice salad by combining cooked rice, chick peas, basil leaves, mint leaves, olive oil, rice vinegar, and other ingredients. The salad I made today was not as good as others I've made because I forgot to buy cilantro and cucumber at the store and because I am not eating tomatoes much, thanks to their potassium content. I'll make another one of these salads soon and will remember to include the the ingredients I forgot today.

3. After I watched Kansas thump Kansas State, 64-49, I watched an unsettling episode of Inspector Lewis, entitled "Beyond Good and Evil". It was a story about a Nietzsche obsessed psychopath Lewis had helped imprison thirteen years ago for killing three police officers, but who was about to be released from prison on appeal, thanks to some missteps in his prosecution. As his appeal was about to be heard, another police officer is murdered and a second officer survives an attempt. Hathaway and Lewis' investigation of these crimes and the release of the prisoner challenge them forensically and emotionally and gripped and moved me.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 02/24/19: Cleaning the House, Ruthy Returns and the Ducks Win, Family Dinner Out

1.  I didn't trust the weather this morning and so I didn't drive to CdA to go to church. Instead I went right to work cleaning the house, clearing the kitchen table, sweeping and mopping the kitchen floor, and vacuuming the living room and bathroom -- and mopping the bathroom.

2. The highlight of my television viewing today was watching the women's Oregon Duck basketball team snap a two game skid and blast past the USC Trojans, 96-78, outscoring USC  56-42 in the second half. Injured forward Ruth Hebard returned to limited action today and the Ducks were a much stronger team. Hebard is a powerful rebounder and an active and agile defender, sets stout screens on offense, rolls skillfully to the iron after setting the pick, and has strong moves as an inside scorer -- she scored 13 points. Her presence not only appeared to lift Oregon's confidence, but helped their offense get back into a rhythm they had lost against Oregon State and UCLA, freeing Erin Boley to score 32 points and Sabrina Ionescu to register a triple double with 13 points, 13 assists, and 12 rebounds. In her career, Ionescu has now racked up seventeen triple doubles, an NCAA record.  I loved seeing the Ducks back at full strength and playing basketball at a high level again.

3.  I was ready to fix family dinner. I sprang into the Sube and headed over to Yoke's and, as I drew near, suddenly realized I'd forgotten my wallet. I returned home and looked at the clock and wondered, "Would Christy and Carol and Everett and Paul agree to eat out or bring food in?" I learned they were fine with that so we all met at Casa de Oro for dinner. We had a lot of fun, especially when our conversation dove into the very important question of what was the worst song recorded in the 1970s. I think the last time I'd had a margarita was when Lyle and Lura visited last summer and we went to Casa de Oro and I enjoyed my drink a lot. Normally, I love fixing family dinner -- in fact, usually it's a highlight of any given month -- but, I was grateful that everyone agreed to go out tonight. 

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 02/23/19: Documentaries from Syria, *Shirkers* and *Three Identical Strangers*, Two Sources of Happiness

1. Recently, in a blog post, I listed documentary movies I had heard discussed on the podcast Pure Nonfiction. I forgot to mention the interview I heard with Syrian filmmaker, Talal Derki. Recently, he has made two documentaries examining life in war-torn Syria, Return to Homs (2013) and Of Fathers and Sons (2017).  The first movie documents the early years of the civil war in Syria; in the second, Derki gained the trust of a radical Islamist family and chronicles the experience of the two children growing up under the tutelage of their Jihadist father.  To gain this family's trust, Derki had to pretend he was sympathetic to the idea of establishing an Islamic caliphate. In discussing his movie, Derki jokingly claims that he should have been nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award.

I haven't watched either movie, yet, but I know I have access to both of them via my smarty pants television. If you'd like to listen to this podcast featuring Talal Derki, it's here.

Listening to Talal Derki moved me to think about how I wish I were still a part of the Films of the Middle East project I participated in back at LCC 6-7 years ago, a  several week project that ran, I think, for two years, in consecutive spring terms.  Either or both of these movies would have worked beautifully in our modest, but invigorating film festival.

2. I spent much of my day today doing what I enjoy as much as anything:  watching two disturbing documentary movies, pondering their content, and recovering from their emotional impact on me.

First, I watched Sandi Tan's autobiographical movie, Shirkers (2018). As a Singaporean teenager, in the summer of 1992, Tan and two friends made a road movie entitled, Shirkers. Tan enlisted the help of a middle-aged man, Georges Cardona, to direct and film the movie. After the shooting wrapped, Cardona betrayed his teen age collaborators, shattering Sandi Tan.

The documentary Shirkers tells the story of the making of the 1992 film Shirkers, examines the unsettling story of Georges Cardona, and features interviews with Sandi Tan's two peers and two main collaborators, Jasmine Ng and Sophia Siddique, and others involved in the 1992 making of the film.

As it should have, the story of Georges Cardona, a chronic liar and master manipulator, occupies a good part of Shirkers. The deeper the movie goes into his story, the more troubling Tan's documentary becomes as we learn more about his self-aggrandizing stories and his history of relationships with several people he mentored and betrayed.

Second, I watched Three Identical Strangers (2018), the story of a set of boy triplets, born in 1961 and placed by the Louise Wise Adoption Agency into separate homes. None of the families knew that the son they adopted had two identical brothers.

The movie opens with the miraculous events that led to the brothers discovering one another in 1982. The boys became a media sensation. They appeared on Phil Donahue, The Today Show, among others, and were featured in national magazines. The were raised in the New York state and the New York City newspapers went beserk covering the story of their reunion and their lives afterward.

The movie darkens, becomes complicated and very unsettling, as it begins to examine why this set of triplets was separated and as it develops the story of the brothers' relationships with one another and their individual stories. 

I would love to reveal why these boys were separated at birth and I would love to discuss the questions this movie raises about the effect of nature and nurture upon human development, from childhood to adulthood.

But, I am going to keep those things to myself. I would have loved to have seen this movie knowing nothing about what was coming -- but, I admit, although I knew a little bit about why they were separated, I was dizzied by experiencing the whole story and, as the movie ended, I felt even more unsettled by the uncertainty of our world than the already pretty high degree of perplexity I feel day to day.

Shirkers had a similar impact, as it explores the shattering impact of Georges Cardona's lies, self-aggrandizement, and betrayal.

Both movies, in their own way, examine betrayal and the eroding effects of withheld truths, dark secrets, and manufactured falsehoods, as well as the shock of learning that things in their lives were not what the people in these movies understandably thought they were.

3.  For the past thirty to forty years, I've relied on movie viewing, mostly by myself, for a substantial measure of happiness in my life. I miss that last period of time living in Eugene when the Broadway Metro theater opened. It was a short stroll from where I lived on Madison Street and the theater featured weekday matinees and I saw a bunch of movies I loved. I miss the even earlier days in Eugene when I lived a short stroll from Cinema 7, located in the Atrium, and watched countless off the beaten track documentaries and feature films, art films, and movies from other countries. I also miss going to the Bijou in Eugene. When living in Maryland, many of my most memorable days were when I rode the train into D. C. just to go to movies or when I went to the American Film Institute Center in Silver Spring to watch some of their stellar offerings of movies from the past and contemporary independent and foreign movies. 

I'm grateful that I have access to so many movies at home on television. Yes, I admit, watching movies at home is not as thrilling as watching them in a movie theater, but there are no movie theaters in the Silver Valley and I just haven't motivated myself to drive to Coeur d'Alene or Spokane to see movies. Watching the movies I most enjoy challenges and activates my mind and rouses my feelings. I'm not much for recommending movies, but I enjoy writing about what I experience when I see a movie. 

Nearly as invigorating for me is watching college basketball on television.

I missed several games today while watching documentaries, but at 5 o'clock I flipped on the St. John's Red Storm game with the Seton Hall Pirates, a contest I expected to be a struggle for the Johnnies. But, the ever unpredictable Johnnies raced to a 38-20 half time lead and weathered several Seton Hall comebacks and hung on for a 78-70 victory. Every time I watch St. John's, it's like riding the Timber Terror roller coaster at Silverwood. The Johnnies are a wild squad prone to ecstatic peaks and sudden drops into deep trenches.

I watched the Zags establish an early lead over BYU in the first half and then went over to Christy and Everett's to watch the second half. Gonzaga crushed BYU, 102-68, a rout made more compelling than usual because it was Senior Night and I enjoyed seeing each of the seniors leave the game to thunderous ovations and emotional embraces from their coaches and teammates.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 02/22/19: Confronting Celery Soup Demons, *Pure Nonfiction*, The Lounge and Women's Hoops from the State of Oregon

1. Every once in a while, I decide to relive memories of disappointing my father. One year, oh, about 25-30 years ago, our family gathered at the Adobe Inn, north of Yachats, OR, for some time together on the Oregon Coast. We rented a kitchenette and had decided we would eat some of our meals in. I was a vegetarian at that time and made some food ahead of time, including what I thought was a delicious cream of celery soup.

Let's just say Dad disagreed.

He wasn't that impressed with my contribution.

It's possible that I never made this soup again after disappointing (disgusting?) Dad, but, today, I decided to make a pot of cream of celery soup again, accept the the heat of embarrassment I would feel again, and see if I enjoyed the soup.

I chopped up an onion and several celery stalks and, instead of potatoes, tore cauliflower florets off their stalk. I simmered most of the celery and all of the cauliflower until it was tender in a quart of my own turkey stock. On another burner, I sauteed the onion and a cup of finely chopped celery after I sauteed a half a pound of sliced mushrooms. I pureed the celery and cauliflower and stock, and, in the Dutch oven, combined it with the sauteed ingredients, added milk and yogurt and heated up my soup.

And guess what?

I loved it.

Not only was it simple to make, the soup is delicious and I see possibilities for variations on the recipe. Carrots. Ginger. If I'm feeling frisky with my potassium intake, sweet potatoes. I can imagine roasting the vegetables instead of boiling them.

Best of all, the embarrassment is gone.

2. Not long ago, I was listening to NPR and someone was discussing the popularity of documentary movies in relation to the upcoming Academy Awards and the increase in the production of documentaries, thanks, in part to HBO, PBS, Netflix, Amazon, and other creators of television and online content.

In the course of the discussion, the guest mentioned Pure Nonfiction, a podcast dedicated to documentary movies. While I did some cleaning and cooking in the kitchen, I listened to the latest episode and learned about three fascinating and recent docs and discovered I can access all of them on my smarty pants television.

Shirkers  Sandi Tan made a 16mm film as a teenager with the help of some friends and someone stole her work. About twenty years later, someone mailed the movie back to her and this movie tells the story of the making this adolescent movie (called Shirkers), the friends who helped her, and the disappearance and return of the movie.

Three Identical Strangers In 1961, boy triplets were born, separated from each other, and adopted by three different families. This movie tells the story of their discovery as young men that this separation happened, explores the history of their separation, and looks at their lives since they discovered they were brothers.

Hale County This Morning, This Evening This is a poetic, impressionistic, intimate portrait of the African-American community in Hale County, Alabama.

I also learned about a film entitled The Imposter, the story of a boy who disappears in Texas and surfaces in Spain.

I listened to a second episode of Pure Nonfiction. It was devoted to the documentary United Skates, the story of roller skating rinks in African-American communities across the USA, how many have been closed and what a loss these closures represent. It sounds fascinating. It is available on demand at HBO and is part of their schedule of shows. I don't know, just yet, if I have access to this movie by rental or other means or if I would need to subscribe to the HBO app to watch it. We'll see.

3. I spent a fine social time for about an hour and a half at the Inland Lounge. Bird Legs witnessed Kellogg's dramatic and miraculous 51-50 win over Timberlake on Thursday night and gave me a blow by blow account of how the game ended with Gavin Luna hitting a three point shot upon picking up a loose ball, getting fouled, and making the free throw. Yes, you read that right: Kellogg won this game on a four point play with just under two seconds to play. Kellogg qualified for next week's state tournament. For the rest of my time at the Lounge, I yakked with Seth and Cas about baseball and some of the unusual news of the day.

I returned home to watch a Pac-12 women's basketball doubleheader featuring, first, Oregon State and USC and then the Oregon Ducks and UCLA.

Linda and Wayne watched tonight's games from home and Linda and I had a blast exchanging texts throughout the evening.

It was a night of dramatic comebacks. In the first quarter, the Beavers fell behind 16-0 to USC and began a game-long climb to not only get back into the game, eventually tie it, but thanks to some stubborn defense and timely shots in the fourth quarter, got over the hump and defeated the Trojans, 68-61.

In Eugene, the Ducks looked unbeatable for most of the first half and charged to a twenty-two point lead. At the end of the second quarter, though, UCLA scored seven straight points, cut the Ducks' lead to 15 points and were an ignited team in the second half. UCLA dominated play after the intermission and stunned the Ducks with a 74-69 win.

I have watched the Ducks play three straight games. A week ago they defeated Oregon State and I was impressed with how valuable a player Ruthy Hebard is for them in the paint. In Monday's tilt against the Beavers, Hebard suffered a knee bruise in the second quarter and the Ducks were a different team. They missed Hebard badly and lost the game. Tonight, for about the first 15-17 minutes against UCLA, it looked like Oregon had figured out how to run their offense effectively without Hebard, but in the second half, they sorely missed her inside strength on both offense and defense -- maybe especially defense. UCLA exploited her absence, defended more effectively in the second half, sharpened their outside shooting, and came back to defeat Oregon.

After last Monday's loss to the Beavers I wrote that I didn't think the Ducks were a very deep team. Tonight, while I thought Hebard's replacement, Gonzaga Prep graduate Odi Gildon played hard, the Bruins succeeded in the long run to wear her down and she just couldn't do much to stop UCLA's inside play, especially Kennedy Burke and, late in the game, Michaela Onyenwere.

Tonight's loss to UCLA reinforced my impression that the Ducks have a superb starting five, but don't have very strong players in reserve.

The Ducks host USC on Sunday. I don't know if Ruthy Hebard will return. I hope she does, but, if not, the Ducks will need to keep working on figuring out ways to make up for her loss.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 02/21/19: Too Much Snow, *Pulp Fiction*, Perfect Dinner and Zags Win

This my 4500th post on kellogg bloggin', a blog I began in late 2006.

1. I drove out to Enaville. I'd heard that volunteers clear snow for walkers on the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, so I thought I'd see if that was true on the trailhead near the Snake Pit. It was snow covered and I wasn't wearing proper footwear so I returned home. I'll go out earlier tomorrow and do some more scouting for a good walking place. I've missed going on walks during this period of snowfall and frigid weather.

2. I spent the rest of the afternoon watching the last three quarters of Pulp Fiction. I saw this movie when it was first released about twenty-five years ago and I enjoyed how it left me speechless and wobbly kneed. It didn't have the same effect on me today. I enjoyed the script, the witty conversations about nothing (much like in Reservoir Dogs and reminiscent, to me, of the boys' conversations in the movie Diner). I also enjoyed the characters and the work the actors did to bring them alive. Tarantino's affection for old movies, the history of television, the music of the previous decades, and other cultural artifacts like pop tarts and breakfast cereal is a lot of fun. In many ways, the movie creates a universe of references.  It's fun to catch things being referred to. Its circular structure is fun. The movie thrilled and tickled me. Its outrageous moments made me recoil.  But, its stories don't really amount to much and don't leave me with much to contemplate.

3.  Christy prepared an awesome pasta dish from a recipe written by Alex Guarnaschelli and invited me to join her and Everett for dinner and to watch tonight's Gonzaga game. Dinner was delicious. The game turned into a snoozer as the Zags dominated Pepperdine with sharp shooting, great inside scoring, and sound defense on their way to a 92-64 victory.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 02/20/19: More Blood Draws, Lock Stock and Dark Farce, Wild Basketball Night

1.  I got my Univ. of Maryland blood draw kit assembled and headed to the clinic uptown and Tracy, the best phlebotomist ever,  not only drew a vial of blood to send to Baltimore, she also drew a vial for Providence Sacred Heart so that their transplant program has their own record of my blood type. Afterward, I dropped into Yoke's Pharmacy and got my eye drops for my next cataract surgery and talked with the pharmacist about being vaccinated for Hepatitis B -- maybe the last thing I need to do for the transplant program. We'll see.

2. Back home, I returned to watching the movie, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Usually when I think of a cinematic or theatrical farce, I think of improbable plot lines, doors flying open and slamming shut, trysts, chance meetings, mistaken identity, and the movement from chaos and confusion to order and clarification all centered around lovers.  But, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is a drug crime farce featuring many of the same elements as a bedroom farce, only instead of sexual exchanges the characters exchange gunfire and the chance meetings are not between lovers, but between competing gangs of thugs. Farce features snappy repartee and is as much a delight to the ear as to the eye and the same is true of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. I think I read somewhere that if you imagined a collaboration between Quentin Tarantino and the Marx Brothers, you'd have Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. I agree. So, later in the evening, before I went to bed, I decided to indulge in another movie featuring brilliant conversation and humor in a world of drugs and violence and watched the first forty minutes or so of Tarantino's Pulp Fiction.

3.  The talent of college basketball players makes watching their games a ton of fun.

So does the wild unpredictability of these games.

Going into tonight's games, I figured Villanova would gets its ship back on course and defeat Georgetown. But, no. Villanova lost its third game in a row, unable to get scoring out of any players other than Phil Booth and Eric Paschall;  at the same time, Georgetown's young players and its experienced center, Jessie Govan, scored from all points of the half court compass and the Hoyas ran away with an 85-73 win.

Soon after, Providence crushed St. John's. I have loved so many of the Johnnies' efforts, but tonight St. John's energy was flat and their decision making poor and the Friars ran them out of the Dunkin' Donuts Center (the Dunk), 78-59.

While Providence was pasting St. John's, down in Durham, NC, Duke's Blue Devils hosted the Univ. of North Carolina in what is college basketball's fiercest rivalry.

Talk about unpredictable.

About 30-35 seconds into this titanic match up, college basketball's most titanic player, Zion Williamson, was dribbling near the free throw line, planted his left foot and the force of this move blew up his shoe. His foot tore right through the shoe itself, causing Williamson to slip and he sprained his right knee. Duke's best player never returned to the game.

Immediately, North Carolina pounced on Duke's loss, pounced not only on the physical absence of Williamson, but on Williamson's Duke teammates' shock and disorientation.

Duke was defenseless against North Carolina's speed and crisp ball movement, surrendering countless easy shots to the Tar Heels.  Duke was unable to generate any kind of offensive momentum.

Consequently, the top-ranked Dukies succumbed to the Tar Heels' unrelenting attack and lost this game, 88-72. Two Tar Heel seniors, Luke Maye and Cameron Johnson, were unstoppable and scored 56 points between them.

I always root for Duke's opponents.

I never root for injury to anyone.

Seeing Zion Williamson suffer such a bizarre injury blanketed this game with sadness. The two teams meet again in Chapel Hill on March 9 and whether Zion Williamson will be sufficiently healed by then is a question very much up in the air. Coach K described the injury as a mild sprain, but until Williamson undergoes further testing, it's unknown if and when he'll return to action.

It was a most unpredictable night on maple floors up and down the east coast and out west.

Florida defeated LSU.

Syracuse crushed Louisville.

And, in another huge surprise, the San Diego State Aztecs defeated the 6th ranked Nevada Wolf Pack.

As Dick Enberg would say, "Ohhh, myyy!"

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 02/19/19: "We're Done", Paragon Pleasures, Terps Win!

1. As I was getting ready to leave for Coeur d'Alene this morning to meet an appointment with endodontist Brittney Penberthy, snow flurries commenced. I paused, wondering if I should cancel, but decided that I'd go ahead and trust that the roads were passable. It snowed the entire way to Coeur d'Alene, but the snow wasn't really sticking. I arrived safely.

Dr. Penberthy took an instant X-ray of the tooth she operated on back in October, quickly looked at my gums, and tapped three of my teeth. The X-ray looked superb, no scarring on my gums, and the tapping caused me no pain.

"We're done."

I was out of there in about five minutes.

2. As planned, I jetted over to Byrdman's house and we piled into his pickup and pulled into the parking lot at Paragon Brewing on Government Way just north of Dalton Ave. for lunch and a beer. Paragon will begin brewing their own beer, but the launch date is still to be determined. I realized I hadn't had a Double IPA for weeks, if not a couple of months, and so I ordered a Belching Beaver Mosaic 2IPA and it was a perfectly balanced beer, rich in flavors and its slightly higher alcohol content warmed me. I ordered Paragon's All-American burger, finished my beer before it arrived, ordered a glass of water, and thoroughly enjoyed my sandwich and fries. I enjoy the food at Paragon and my hope is that they will brew beer with the same skill that they use to prepare food and that their beer will be tasty, too.

3. No snow fell and the roads were clear during my drive home.  I settled in and a call came in from the North Idaho Eye Institute. I check in for my left eye cataract surgery at 12:20 on Feb. 26th.

I know my feelings of affinity with the Univ. of Maryland's men's and women's basketball team are irrational. I lived in Maryland for a grand total of three years. I never watched either team play in person when living in Greenbelt, but, lo and behold, when one of these teams plays on television, I love to tune in and pull for the Terrapins (a.k.a. the Terps).

Late this afternoon, the 24th ranked Terps' men played on the road at the Univ. of Iowa, the nation's 21st ranked team. The game got off to a syrupy start, but the team's seemed to warm up in the last half of the first half and not only did the action pick up, but the Terps erased the Hawkeyes' lead and were ahead at halftime. The Terps lost this lead late in the second half, but regained it with 7 seconds left when Anthony Cowan drove to the hoop, missed a short shot, but was bailed out by Fernando Bruno skying over three or four Hawkeyes to tip the miss into the cup. Iowa missed two shots in the last 7 seconds and the Terps secured a very entertaining 66-65 win.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 02/18/19: Breakfast at Goose 'n the Tree Cafe, Transplant News, Civil War and Texting with Linda

1. During the summer of 2017 and then, later in the year, after moving to Kellogg,  and on into 2018, I frequented Radio Brewing more often than I do now, primarily because I'm trying to figure out if drinking less beer helps my kidney numbers. When I was more of a regular, I always enjoyed talking with Radio's manager, Meredith.

A few months ago, I learned that Meredith and her husband, Derrick, the original chef at Radio, decided to open a breakfast cafe in Pinehurst at 608 Division, the site of the former laudromat which was, recently, for a short time, North Idaho Bagel Co.

It's called Goose 'n the Tree Cafe.

This morning, Christy, Everett, Carol, Paul, and I piled into Goose 'n the Tree. Immediately, I found the cafe comfortable. It's cozy, designed to transport diners into the past with framed magazine ads from about fifty years ago arranged on the walls and with red chairs and tables that came from a beloved diner in Missoula.

The menu features a variety of egg dishes, as well as pancakes, French toast, biscuits and gravy, and granola. The biscuits and breads are baked on site and soon the cafe will serve bagels baked on site.
Goose 'n the Tree serves Silvercup Coffee (superb coffee roasted in Kellogg), both drip and French press.

I ordered Eggs Benedict, two perfectly poached eggs over lox served on an English muffin, topped with a delicate Hollandaise sauce and served with hash browns.

My breakfast satisfied me in every way. I enjoyed my egg dish, the subtly lemon-y sauce, the salmon's hint of salt, the perfection of my eggs, and the solid foundation of the English muffin and hash browns. The rest of our family enjoyed their plates of food as well.

I look forward to the weather warming up and the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes clearing up so I can go on photo walks again. I am very happy that I can stop in at Goose 'n the Tree for coffee and a bagel, or possibly some breakfast, before I hit the trail. The cafe's location is perfect for my plan and I am eager to sample their bagels once they begin baking them.

2. I returned home to a voice mail from the transplant nurse coordinator. I called Sheri back and she told me just what I was hoping to hear: thanks to receiving the report from pulmonologist Dr. Scoggins, she will be presenting my case to be listed to the committee on February 28th. I need to do two things, one before the 28th, the other as I am able. First, I need to once again have my blood type tested. I will do that on February 20th. Second, my blood work shows that I am not currently immune from Hepatitis B and need to be immunized, a series of three shots. I will try to set up those vaccinations when I visit the clinic on the 20th.

I am not taking it for granted that I will be listed on February 28th. I will say, though, that my general health is good, including my mental health, and I've assured the transplant program that I have post-transplant support lined up. I realize, though, that the team could decide that they want some kind of further testing, so I am keeping my high hopes in check and continuing to encourage my own patience.

3. A titanic basketball game got underway at 6 p.m. in Corvallis, OR pitting the mighty Oregon Ducks women's basketball team against the formidable Oregon State Beavers in 2019's Civil War II.  The two teams met in a tense contest this past Friday evening, with Oregon triumphing 77-68, and I could hardly wait for the rematch.

Earlier in the day, the latest AP poll ranked Oregon as the #2 team in the nation and Oregon State as the #12 team.

From the get go, today's game was tense and tight. Oregon opened the game with several missed shots and the Beavers raced to an early lead. Oregon suffered a terrible blow about halfway through the second quarter when post player Ruth Hebard left the game with a knee injury and never returned. The Ducks are not a deep team. Moreover, Hebard and the Ducks' star  Sabrina Ionescu are interdependent. They run lethal pick and rolls together. Hebard occupies defenses inside and opens up room for Ionescu to operate more freely on the perimeter.

Linda S. and I were in text message contact throughout the game and we agreed that Ionescu seemed a little bit off, if not a little lost, with Hebard out of the game.

But, eventually, the Ducks adjusted, figured out ways to make their offense work without Ruthy Hebard, and Ionescu started to play more like herself in the late third and on into the fourth quarter.

The Beavers, though, would not back down. Destiny Slocum and Aleah Goodman swished shots from the outside. The Beavers made their free throws late in the game, benefited from a bizarre missed lay up by Ionescu, and proved to be the better team tonight, winning 67-62. Their defense held the Ducks well below their scoring average this season -- the Ducks, in fact, had never scored as few as 62 points in a game this year.

For us Duck fans, this loss was heartbreaking.

But, if it's possible to enjoy heartbreak, watching such an entertaining and tense game and having ongoing conversation with Linda throughout the game and afterward made this a most enjoyable evening.

A postscript: Oregon's coach Kelly Graves' University of New Mexico team lost to Oregon State in Corvallis when Graves was a player; his Oregon teams have lost at Corvallis each season in his five years as their coach. He's a very good coach and, for some reason, is, so far, snakebit in Corvallis.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 02/17/19: Snowbound (Sort Of), Miracle in Madison Square Garden, Family Dinner

1. I woke up, all ready to enjoy a cup of coffee and pull myself together to drive to St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Coeur d'Alene and, with one glance outside, changed my plans. Snow was falling fast. Later in the morning, a westbound semi fell to its side on a curve on the Fourth of July Pass, closing it for hours. I hope the weather will be better and roads will be clear next Sunday.

2. At 2:00 I sat down to watch St. John's and Villanova basketball squads tip it off in Madison Square Garden. I hoped for a donnybrook, for an afternoon of disorder and uproar, with 20,000 hungry fans filling the palace atop Penn Station and St. John's at full health. Almost immediately, though, Villanova pounced on the Johnnies, opening up, at one point, a nineteen point lead. Yes, there was disorder, but it was the discombobulated ball handling and shooting of St. John's and all of the uproar belonged to the tenacious defense and sharp shooting of Villanova.

Then, a glimmer of hope.

Down by 17 points late in the first half, the Johnnies scored three points and then, at the halftime buzzer, Justin Simon heaved a 70 foot shot that dropped in the cup. Suddenly the despondent Johnnies were ecstatic. They'd cut Villanova's lead to 11 in a most uplifting fashion and suddenly the hometown lads believed in miracles.

The second half, for a St. John's fan like me, was a miracle. When the second half got underway, the Johnnies returned to the Garden's hardwood a transformed bunch, playing with energy, purpose, and, best of all, hope. With 20,000 beserk fans filling Madison Square Garden with thunderous support, the Johnnies forced Villanova turnovers, started dropping three point shots, sealed off the inside and would not let Villanova rebound their missed shots, and, best of all, and I could see it in the boys' faces, the Johnnies believed they could beat the reigning national champions, the defending champions of their conference, could defeat Villanova in NYC for the first time in seventeen years.

And they did.

LJ Figueroa, a community college transfer, by the way, began to scorch the twine, not tickle it, and the famously cool and collected Villanova Wildcats were rattled by St. John's aggressive defense, their born again belief in themselves, and the din in the Garden. They crumbled. St. John's rushed past them and scored an invigorating 71-65 win. This win, no doubt, clinched the Johnnies a slot in the NCAA national tournament, ending an eight year drought.

With him in Lewiston and me in Kellogg, Don Knott and I each poured ourselves a brandy and raised a toast 150 miles apart from each other to this great St. John's victory.

3.  For Sunday dinner, Christy prepared a perfectly delicious and warming Beef Bourguignon. Before we dove into our steaming bowls of stew, though, we enjoyed a cognac and champagne cocktail and some cheesy crunchy wafers that I didn't catch the name of. Christy also served a chopped salad and bread and a delicious almondy Olive Oil Cake for dessert. We had so much fun at dinner tonight that we decided we'd head out to Pinehurst in the morning and have breakfast together at the newly opened Goose 'n the Tree Cafe.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 02/16/19: Living in the Past, Crab Feed, Fun at the Lounge

1. Late this afternoon, Stu swung by and picked me we headed up to the Inland Lounge for some pre-function action before the crab feed at the Elks. I hadn't been in the Lounge for a couple of weeks and things weren't too busy, so Cas was able to yak with me and Stu and I got to hear Cas and Stu tell stories about all the fun times I missed around forty years ago because I left the Silver Valley and didn't get to play rec league basketball with Stu, Cas, Don K., Jay H., Jake, Abbie, Gary M., and others. I sat and shook my head, thinking of all the fun and funny times I missed because I decided to study Shakespeare and teach writing and literature in Spokane and Eugene and not live the Valley life. It's sure fun to hear all these stories, but I don't regret the path I charted in my life.

2. Scores and scores of people filed into the seating areas upstairs and downstairs at the Elks and eventually lined up upstairs and Kellogg High School ROTC students served each of us cole slaw, beans, a bread stick, a half a crab, and butter or cocktail sauce. The Elks Club made chicken nuggets available for diners who don't eat crab. I sat with a group of friends with whom I graduated from high school in 1972: Carol Lee, Jake, Ed, Joni, Sue, Valerie, Sharon, and Stu along with other friends and classmates' family members. Once we plunged into our plates of food, ROTC members began to circulate around the room with buckets of half crabs, fulfilling each diner's request for more crab. We could have all the crab we could eat and I don't think the Elks' supply got depleted.

I brought some plastic Yoke's shopping bags and filled three of them with crab shells and put the three plastic bags in a paper bag and left the Elks Crab Feed with a good supply of shells that I will turn into soup stock.

No one at our table won the 50/50 raffle. I tried to win by purchasing a dozen tickets, but, alas, someone upstairs won the 400 bucks.

3. Jake, Carol Lee, Valerie, Joni, Ed and I congregated at the Lounge after the crab feed. To our great delight, Diane T. was there with her daughter, Kelly. Kelly came over to me, gave me a hug, and invited me to the VIP area of the Lounge back by the pool table to greet her father, Ron Romine. Ron's mother, Phoebe, was our junior choir director at church and Ron was one of those older kids at church and on the Kellogg Wildcat basketball team whom I looked up to and never really knew. To my surprise, Ron remembered me -- at least my name -- and we shook hands and talked for a little while. Later, I talked more with Diane and learned more about how her work on her house uptown is coming together, about her sister's purchase of the former Larsen home on Division St., and about the duplex Diane's daughter Kelly bought. It is located right behind Diane's house.

The Lounge was alive with spirited conversations and unrestrained laughter and I almost turned down Jake and Carol Lee's offer of a ride home so I could stay longer. I figured I could find another ride home, or even walk. But, I decided discretion is the better part of partying and went home, happy that Christy had checked in on Maggie and Charly and knowing that they were doing great.

(By the way, this morning I took Maggie to the vet's office to be weighed, as a follow up on her appointment with the vet about a month ago. She'd lost .4 pound -- 20.2 down to 19.8 pounds. I don't know if that's a problem, but I can say Maggie is eating well, has her usual energy, and shows every sign of growing old. Both dogs sleep a lot during the day, but, when they are awake, they are spry.)

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 02/15/19: Breakfast at Sam's, Cooking Project, Oregon/Oregon State Women's Basketball

1. It's been a rough week for the guys I eat breakfast with on Friday mornings. Their work removing snow from properties up and down the Silver Valley has been intense this week. In fact, only three of us could make it this morning, Ed, Buff, and I. We had plenty to talk about: the snow, the temporary repair of the dip in the freeway between Kellogg and Smelterville, the crab feed this weekend at the Elks, well digging, pickup maintenance and repair, and the pros and cons of ordering pie for breakfast at Sam's -- which none of us has done.

2. I got some simple cooking done today. I had thawed out a small package of ground beef and dreamed up a way of preparing it that I thought I'd enjoy. I sauteed chopped garlic, onion, and celery, added the ground beef, seasoned with Montreal steak seasoning. Once the meat had cooked up, I drained a can of black beans and added them in, seasoned with cumin and oregano. I also cooked a pot of rice and, when done, folded some of it into the beans and ground beef mixture. I imagined this mess would taste good folded in a heated corn tortilla with melted cheese, topped with Frank's RedHot pepper sauce. I was correct.

3.  About midway through the first quarter, I flipped on the University of Oregon's women's basketball team hosting Oregon State in a Civil War battle at the Matthew Knight Arena (the Matt) in Eugene.

What a night!

The Ducks came into this game the third-ranked team in the nation and the Beavers came in ranked ninth. The Matt was sold out, so this game was played in front of 12,364 fans. I attended quite a few women's basketball games back in the Mac Court days and not one of those games was sold out.  In my imagination, I transported myself from my tv room into the Matt, pretending I was a part of the throbbing enthusiasm I could see on television.

Suddenly I thought: I'll bet Linda and Wayne are in attendance.

I texted Linda at halftime and, sure enough, they were there, with end zone seats. Linda and I texted back and forth about the first half and she texted me a picture of the action from their vantage point. It was thrilling to feel the closest I could to actually being in the Matt.

Oregon State proved to be a fierce opponent, never backing down.  Oregon kept building small leads of four, seven, even nine points thanks to clutch shooting by Sabrina Ionescu and Satou Sabally, strong inside play, both rebounding and scoring, by Ruthy Hebard, and relentless defense in the backcourt by Maite Cazorla. The Beavers kept fighting back and it wasn't until the game's closing minutes that that Ducks' lead grew and they secured a 77-68 victory.

These two teams play each other again on Monday in Corvallis. Oregon State's Gill Coliseum is sold out (9,604 seats). The game will be telecast on ESPN2 at 6 p.m. I'll be tuned in with my text machine in hand, ready to share insights and emotions with Linda. Go Ducks!

Friday, February 15, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 02/14/19: Pulmonary Clearance, Hazy IPA, Wildcats and Zags Win

1. It's been a snowy week in North Idaho, so I was relieved this morning when I headed out on I-90 that the freeway was clear, bare, and presented no danger. I went to Kootenai Imaging for a CT scan of my chest. Pulmonologist Dr. Robert Scoggins wanted to take a deeper look at the whole of my chest to evaluate the condition of the bronchiectasis he and I talked about eight days ago. Dr. Scoggins liked what he saw in the CT scan. The upper regions of my lungs looked normal and, as expected, there is bronchiectasis in the lower lobes and right middle lobes. The bronchiectasis has been present for a long time, most likely dating back to the infection that resulted when I inhaled all that gas and dust when I had that Zinc Plant accident in 1973. I do not experience recurrent infections nor do I show symptoms of bronchiectasis. Taken together, the scan and my history assured Dr. Scoggins that he could clear me for transplant and wrote a report to Sacred Heart saying just that.

2. When it comes to transplant considerations of any kind, I don't take anything for granted. I think this pulmonary exam is the last thing I need to do before being listed, but I am not assuming that's the case. Until I hear from my nurse coordinator that I've been listed, I will patiently wait and see if I need any more testing, blood work, another conference, or anything else.

Out of relief to have the pulmonary testing completed, I dashed over to Slate Creek Brewing for one pint of Breakside's Kids These Haze, a Hazy IPA. I yakked a little bit with co-owner Danica, but mostly stayed to myself, relaxing, thinking about transplant lists and transplant patients' stories, and hoping for an easy drive back to Kellogg.

3. The drive back to Kellogg was easy. After resting and napping a little bit, I drove up to Kellogg High School to watch some boys basketball. The JV team creamed Priest River by a score so lopsided that the mercy rule went into effect with the start of the fourth quarter.

The varsity also won by a large margin, 72-36. The Wildcats, shuttling about 9-10 players in and out of the game, wore down Priest River by hounding and pressuring the Spartans into numerous turnovers and bad shots and ended up steamrolling the Spartans.  It was Senior night at Andrews Gymnasium and all the members of the senior class who were in band, ROTC, on the cheer squad, or played boys basketball were, along with family members, honored at center court between the junior varsity and varsity games.

I returned home in time to join Christy and Everett for the second half of Gonzaga's 73-60 win over Loyola Marymount, a game that was very close until Gonzaga pulled away in the final five minutes with a 13-2 run.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 02/13/19: Green Curry, Big East Roundball, A Dark Comedy

1. My spiffed up kitchen didn't stay spiffy for long. I made a delicious batch of Thai green curry sauce, putting a little more paste than usual in the coconut milk along with slightly more aggressive amounts of soy sauce, fish sauce, and brown sugar. I really like the contrasts of saltiness, sweetness, and heat in curry sauce and wanted all of these tastes to be strong. I lamented not having a plug of ginger around, but got over it, and I decided to try something different and plopped a blob of crunchy peanut butter in this sauce. I liked it -- it's something I'd thought of in the past, but hadn't done before. On hand, I had a block of tofu and some cauliflower, so I sauteed the tofu and steamed the cauliflower and enjoyed the green curry over jasmine rice, boiled with a little sesame oil in the water, another delight for me.

2. For a short time about half way through the second half, it looked like Providence might go toe to toe with Villanova, but then Erich Paschall heated up, scoring 20 points in the second half, and with the help of fellow senior Phil Booth, led Villanova on a 23-6 run to end the game. Villanova triumphed, 85-67. Sticking with the Big East, I kept an eye on Seton Hall's 90-75 shredding of Georgetown and marveled at Seton Hall's Myles Powell who racked up 30 points.

3. Before I just got tired and headed to bed, I watched the opening forty minutes or so of Guy Ritchie's East London dark comedy crime movie, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels about a group of hapless friends in hock for a half a million pounds to a ruthless neighborhood crime lord  and who try to devise a way to steal that much money in a week's time. I watched the rigged card game in which Eddy lost the half a million and watched the early stages of Eddy, Soap, Bacon, and Tom planning a heist of their own and I'll return to the movie on Friday and see how it all works out. I won't get to it Thursday with two pulmonary appointments in CdA and with plans to go to Kellogg High School in the evening for Senior Night and watch the Wildcats play Priest River.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 02/12/19: One Week Eye Exam, Ecstasy and Agony, Albert Finney and Stephen Frears

1. Following standard procedure, I met my appointment today with Dr. Brian Miller at the Kellogg Vision Center. I read letters off of charts, sat in front of contraptions while Dr. Miller examined my right eye, inspected my new lens, and made sure my eye looked all right a week after cataract surgery. Everything looked sound.  I am eager for the surgery on my left eye so that my two improved eyes can begin the process of working cooperatively with each other. Right now, my eyes are at odds with each other and my vision is not quite as good as I trust it soon will be.

2.  Ecstasty. 

Although I never attended a basketball game at the Xfinity Center on the campus of the University of Maryland, watching chunks of Maryland's rousing come from behind 70-56 victory over Purdue late this afternoon made me nostalgic to return to College Park, MD. I loved worshiping at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. After church, most Sundays, I enjoyed walking a very short distance from the church to the Bagel Place for a toasted cinnamon raisin with cream cheese and a cup of coffee. Looking back, I wish I had strolled the Univ. of Maryland campus more often, but I enjoyed the times I went there. Being done with my many many years of teaching college English classes, I know I was creating some distance between myself and the academic world, but toward the end of the 2016-17 school year, I was starting to think it might be time to visit campus more often. At that point in time, I thought I'd be living in Maryland for an indefinite amount of time. But, Mom's condition deteriorated. I left Maryland in June and, by the end of September, had moved back to Kellogg. 


Then I watched a full-scale disaster unfold. Pick your metaphor: it was an avalanche, a mammoth dumpster fire, a fifteen car train wreck, a freeway pile up, a bridge collapsing. Playing at home, the Louisville Cardinal dominated the Duke Blue Devils for thirty basketball minutes and led this game by twenty-three points, 59-36, with 9:58 left to play.

Then the gathering snow began to slide down the mountain side; the hazardous materials spontaneously combusted; the Louisville freight train jumped the tracks; one Louisville car smashed into another on the interstate; the supports gave way and the Louisville bridge collapsed into the Ohio River.

In this game's miserable last 9:58, Louisville committed multiple turnovers and misfired a series of often ill-advised jump shots. Duke pounced. They scored easy baskets off the turnovers. They seemed to rebound every Louisville miss. Duke put on a full court press. Louisville panicked. When not scoring easy baskets on breakaways, Duke's shots from beyond the three point line began to drop.

Duke rallied to a miraculous 71-69 win. Duke outscored Louisville 35-10 in the game's last 9:58.

By game's end, the once boisterous, ecstatic Yum Center was a morgue.

This game was an agonizing college basketball disaster (well, unless you're a Duke fan.)

3.  After the Louisville/Duke game, I sought out a change of pace, something to get my mind off the miserable disintegration I'd just witnessed.

Maybe, I thought, another Albert Finney movie would lift my spirits.

Upon Albert Finney's death, Russell had mentioned that he might watch Gumshoe again. I'd never heard of Gumshoe, so, last week, I looked into the movie's history and, to my delight, I discovered it not only starred Albert Finney, but that it was the first full-length movie directed by one of my favorites, Stephen Frears (My Beautiful Laundrette, The Grifters, Prick Up Your Ears, Dirty Pretty Things, The Queen, Philomena and so many more movies).

So I retrieved Gumshoe from Amazon Prime Video and it succeeded in delivering me in every way far from that disastrous loss I'd just watched Louisville suffer.

Albert Finney plays a rudderless guy, Eddie Ginley, who lives in Liverpool. He's barely employed, working at a local nightclub as an MC, bingo caller, and occasional stand-up comic. He fills the vacancies in his life reading stories by detective writers like Dashiell Hammett (and I assume going to movies) and goes about town imitating Humphrey Bogart's Sam Spade. On his birthday, Eddie advertises himself as a private detective in the local newspaper.  Almost immediately, he gets a call, accepts a job, and, soon, he's up to his neck in a case involving guns, murder, kidnapping, drugs, money, and other surprises.

I'll leave it at that. I don't want to spoil the intricacies of this story nor do I want to reveal what we learn about Eddie Ginley by the movie's end.

The movie's script is loaded with crisp, hard-boiled dialogue. The movie is, I think, simultaneously a parody and not a parody. I won't explain what I mean for fear of revealing too much, but if you ever see this movie and want to have some conversation about, I'm game -- and will likely have watched this movie again. I'd like to go back and see what I missed on my first viewing.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 02/11/19: Em at Reno, Clash of Wills, Exposure in *The Dresser*

1. Through newspaper articles I found online and through a story from Don K. that I'd also heard at Corby's a few weeks ago from Jake, it's confirmed that our former basketball coach, Em, worked on Jim Padgett's coaching staff at what was then called the University of Nevada at Reno after he left Kellogg. Some of us have faint memories of Em saying that he played basketball in California out of high school. At the time Em graduated from high school, Jim Padgett coached the men's basketball team at San Jose City College. Now I'd love to find documentation that confirms my speculation that Em played at San Jose City College for Padgett and then transferred to the University of Idaho. I'm not sure this documentation exists online, but I will keep clicking around.

2. With the weather so cold, I stayed close to home today, researching, spiffing up the house, getting laundry done, and writing emails. Seeing the snow was powdery, I decided it would not be too strenuous for me to shovel the sidewalks. (I also think that the amount of time that I am supposed to refrain from exerting myself after cataract surgery is running out.)

By 4:00, I was ready to settle in into the tv room and watch the basketball game I eagerly anticipated all day long between Atlantic Coast Conference titans Virginia and North Carolina. From tipoff to the final buzzer, each team struggled for forty basketball minutes to impose its style of play upon the other. It was a clash of wills.

For much of the game, Virginia had the upper hand, slowing down the pace of the game, playing a suffocating defense, and protecting the ball well enough that North Carolina had few opportunities to turn their greyhounds loose in the open court. But, about six minutes or so into the second half, having been straining in their starts, North Carolina's greyhounds cut loose and began to impose their will on Virginia: they forced Cavalier turnovers (what Jay Bilas calls "live ball turnovers"), began streaking to their basket and scoring lay ups and dunks off of fast breaks. Not only did it look like North Carolina had turned the game around, but, as a fan of Virginia, I feared that a rout might be on.

But, North Carolina's elegant senior guard Cam Johnson stepped on a Virginia player's foot and turned his ankle. He left the game. Suddenly the Tar Heels were without a marksman, an excellent defender, and a mature and calming leader on the floor. Virginia pounced on North Carolina's bad fortune. They exploited Cam Johnson's absence and slashed their way back into the lead. Kyle Guy hit a couple of crippling three point daggers and Virginia's defense clamped down on the Tar Heels.
Virginia escaped the deafening hostility of the Dean Dome with a 69-61 triumph in a game that epitomized the emotion, determination, and skill that so often defines basketball at the college level.

3. On February 7th, Albert Finney died of a chest infection. He was 82 years old.

After the basketball game, I was pondering some things Kathleen H. wrote to me earlier in the day about the parallels between athletic competition and Shakespeare's plays. My thoughts centered on exposure, how Shakespeare's plays so often, in moments of pressure and crisis, expose characters for what they are, in ways that range from generous to narcissistic, from cowardly to heroic; crucial moments in ball games similarly expose the best and worst in players.

Then I thought of Albert Finney and his role as an aged actor ("Sir") touring England during WWII with his ragtag troupe of mostly elderly actors, the young actors having been called to fight the war. It all happens in the 1983 movie, The Dresser.

The Dresser zeroes in on the run up to and the performance and aftermath of Sir's 227th playing of the role of King Lear. While the movie gives us bits of Sir's work in the play on the stage, the movie focuses much more on Sir off stage and his relationship with his dresser, Norman (Tom Courtenay).

And it's off stage where, like Shakespeare's King Lear, Sir's inward life is laid bare, is exposed. Just as King Lear rages at the pitiless storm and the pelting rain that comes to represent to him the injustices of life, those he's suffered as well as the ones he's engendered, and makes external the tempest in his mind and soul, for Sir, the bombs raining upon England come to embody all that is exhausting him and driving him mad.  Performing demanding roles night after night in town after town, knowing that the theater where he made his debut in Plymouth has been bombed, fighting the barbarism of the bombing by performing the civilizing and (he hopes) comforting beauty of Shakespeare's poetry and drama, and suffering the early onset of some kind of dementia which tortures him with nightmares in his sleep and dark visions when awake have combined to strip Sir of his defenses and exposes him, as the movie develops, as a complicated and difficult man:  tender, cruel, lecherous, loving, vain, sentimental, ungrateful, erudite, brittle, bombastic, defiant, indomitable, and defeated.

I loved watching this movie again. In my reflections, I've short-changed the movie because Sir is not the title character. Norman, the dresser, is. If one sees the movie as a story about him, it opens up a whole other discussion of what this crisis in Sir's life exposes in Norman.

For now, I'll let those thoughts marinate.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 02/10/19: No Drive to CdA, Researching Em, Family Dinner

1. I'd just rather not go out when the temperatures are in the single digits and the wind chill is even lower. When I decided in January that I would drive to St. Luke's in CdA on Sunday mornings to worship, I also decided that if the weather was nasty and the driving conditions uncertain, I'd stay home. It's disappointing to me that it looks like snow is forecast for the rest of February. Next Sunday, I hope I'll feel more at ease about driving over the 4th of July Pass. I'll be giving it a trial run on Thursday when I drive to CdA for a CT scan and a visit with Dr. Scoggins. I missed being enveloped by the poetry of the liturgy this morning, missed being in tangible fellowship with other members of the mystical Body of Christ, praying together, singing together, listening together, passing the peace to one another, and ingesting together the elements and the mysteries of the Holy Communion.

2. Stu and I, for no real reason beyond curiosity, are trying to piece together the biography of our basketball coach from our senior year in high school, Bob Emehiser. A couple weeks ago, or so, a friend raised a question about Emehiser playing basketball collegiately and today I scoured digital copies of about four editions of the University of Idaho yearbook, The Gem of the Mountains. In the 1964 edition, Emehiser is pictured as a member of the U of I varsity basketball team and his picture says he is a junior. But, in the 1965 edition, a year later, Emehiser's portrait appears in the section of the yearbook devoted to juniors and, in 1966, the section devoted to seniors.

To review, Emehiser appears in three U of I yearbooks, as follows:

1964: pictured in the varsity basketball section as a junior (he played in 10 games and, according the previous and subsequent yearbooks, wasn't on any other Idaho Vandal basketball team, not the varsity or the freshman team)

1965: cited once again as a junior, this time in the section of pictures in the junior class section

1966: cited as a senior in the section of pictures in the senior class section

There is no mention of Emehiser in the 1963 yearbook. I think I'll take a peek at the 1962.

We are trying to figure out when he graduated from Coeur d'Alene High School. We have been scouring basketball box scores in the online archives of the two Spokane newspapers. The archives are incomplete and the newspapers didn't always publish box scores for high school games. But neither of us has found his name listed as having scored in the box scores we have found for CHS games when we thought he would have been on the Coeur d'Alene team.

We are also trying to figure out if he played at San Jose City College after high school since Jim Padgett coached SJCC and Emehiser was later an assistant coach with Padgett and Nevada Reno.

This is, of course, inconsequential. Nothing but the satisfaction of our curiosity is at stake here. We are trying to square things we thought we used to hear about our coach's playing, later coaching, days with what the documents tell us.

I am convinced if I went to a museum or a library that holds the archives of the Coeur d'Alene or Moscow daily newspapers or if I were to explore the archives of the U of I student newspaper, The Argonaut, I might get some answers. I haven't found the online archive of The Argonaut very helpful, but I think I'll return to it again and see if I just haven't been skilled in how to retrieve information from it.

If any of my friends reading this remember Bob Emehiser playing at CdA, know when he graduated, can direct me to online sources I haven't tapped, or to other places I might go to unearth other information, let me know.

My next move will be, one day, to leave the house and go to brick and mortar places in CdA (or maybe, one day, Moscow) to search archived newspapers. (I used to dive into the microfilmed archives of Oregon newspapers at the U of O looking for information about the past and it was a blast.)

3. Tonight Carol and Paul hosted family dinner. We all sat down at the table handsomely decorated in anticipation of Valentine's Day. Carol made hot drinks for cocktails using apple brandy and served the drinks with stuffed mushrooms. We then enjoyed a green salad, hot chicken wings, herbed drumsticks, and lemony broccoli. It was a perfect dinner: simple and satisfying. I must be getting old in that I had trouble sometimes tracking the sudden changes in topics of our table talk, but Christy and Carol helped me out, often providing background about people they mentioned, but whom I knew nothing about. We talked about girls' athletics in the 70s, the difficulties our family has had over the years navigating the streets of Pinehurst, plumbing, basketball coaches over the years at KHS, and the mind boggling subject of past Silver Valley marriages, who brought what children into the world, what children were imported into what new marriages, and what's going on with all these interconnected people now. I spent much of this conversation bewildered. I've been away from Kellogg too long to follow these threads without confusion and maybe even a slight headache!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 02/09/19: Freezing Cold, Bare-Knuckled Basketball, Marquette Squeaks by Nova; Duke and Zags Don't Squeak

1. We aren't in the midst of a deep freeze here in Kellogg, but it's a freeze. The flag across the street flapped much of the day. Temperatures hovered between about 8-12 degrees F, but with the wind chill factored in, it was a about ten degrees colder. It was one of those days when the elderly and those with breathing problems are advised to stay indoors. That's what I did. I drank hot coffee and tea, ate hot soup, nursed this fairly minor cold I've had for several days, and made myself very happy watching NCAA college basketball.

2. When play between poker players gets intense on the World Poker Tour, commentator Mike Sexton likes to say the competitors are "bare-knuckled in the center of the ring", an allusion to when boxers dueled without gloves on, once common, now rare.

Mike Sexton's metaphor was an apt one for today's basketball clash in Ann Arbor between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Michigan Wolverines. The referees gave the players room to bang on each other, play physical defense, and didn't impede the flow of the game by calling inconsequential physical contact between players. Unfortunately for Wisconsin, even with the looser officiating, their brilliant low post player, Ethan Happ, was whistled for his third foul early in the second half and had to take an extended and involuntary sabbatical and, when he returned to the game, was unable to dazzle the Wolverines with his interior spin moves and acrobatic shots the way he had in the first half. Having to ride the pine dislodged his equilibrium and disrupted his rhythm.

But, Michigan's low post giant, Happ's counterpart, Jon Teske, turned in a superb performance and, in the second stanza, Charles Matthews awakened from hibernation and poured in sixteen second half points.  Michigan won this bruising contest, 61-52.

After the game, Ethan Happ, looking ahead, I imagine, to the season ending Big Ten Conference tournament said to Michigan coach John Beilein, "I hope to see you again this season" and Coach Beilein quipped back, "No Ethan. I don't want to see you again the rest of my life."

I'm sure every Wisconsin opponent agrees with Coach Beilein.

3. Against Marquette in Milwaukee this afternoon, Villanova, a team that normally feasts on scoring from beyond the three point arc, starved themselves from out there today. Shots clanked, rimmed out, fell short, and caromed wildly off the iron and it looked like Villanova's undefeated conference record was in jeopardy. Marquette marksman Markus Howard and his backcourt running mate, Sacar Anim, dropped shots from outside, inside, and mid-range. But, Villanova gathered itself and staged a comeback as senior guard Phil Booth took over the late stages of the game with a string of timely baskets. Down a point with 14 seconds remaining, Villanova put the game's outcome in Phil Booth's hands. It looked like he had a clear lane to the basket with about four seconds left, but that lane got cut off by Marquette's Ed Morrow and, uncharacteristically, the usually cool Phil Booth seemed disoriented, got trapped under the basket, desperately heaved the ball to Jermaine Samuels who hoisted up a wild off-balance line drive that never had a prayer and Marquette won 66-65. Its boisterous fans went bonkers.

Later in the afternoon, Duke went bonkers, draining three point shot after three point shot -- the supposed weakness of their offense -- and vanquished Virginia, 81-71.

In the evening, I went over to Christy and Everett's for a bowl of hearty and delicious beef barley soup and watched Gonzaga make their longtime West Coast Conference rival, the St. Mary's Gaels, look like the St. Maries Lumberjacks of Idaho's high school 2A Central Idaho Conference. The Zags blasted to a thirty-three point halftime lead and humiliated the Gaels by a final score of 94-46.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 02/08/19: Frigid, Cravings and Chicken Soup, Kurt Wallander and King Lear

1. It looks like we are going to be locked into a frigid, sometimes snowy, certainly gray weather pattern this month. Today, as the snow piled up slowly and the wind whipped the flag in front of the church across the street, I faced the elements long enough to join my friends for breakfast at Sam's and, later in the morning, shopped at Yoke's.

2. This cold I contracted on Monday didn't get worse, but it persisted, and I fed it, temporarily setting aside my renal friendly diet. I craved potatoes and I craved chicken soup. I didn't buy any potatoes, but, for the first time in many weeks, I ordered hash browns at Sam's. I bought a package of chicken thighs and legs at Yoke's and made chicken soup, using turkey stock I had made back at Thanksgiving time. I had made some of this stock especially peppery. I got it in my head years ago that increased pepper and pepper sauce helps me fight colds, so my soup is a little more peppery than usual and I put plenty of Tabasco sauce on my hash browns. I boiled some rotini and added it to the soup. I craved pasta, too.

3.  As I grow older, I realize how tempting it is to be like Shakespeare's King Lear. Speaking of himself in the royal or plural third person, among the first things he says upon appearing in Act I is that he wants to "shake all cares and business from our age" and "Unburden'd crawl toward death". King Lear will soon experience the opposite of this. At the age of 80, he will soon experience not an unburdened crawl toward death, but profound suffering brought on by the betrayal of two of his daughters, his misplaced rage toward the daughter who can be trusted, and the slow and steady loss of the remnants of the royal privileges he sought to hang on to.

King Lear's plight came to mind tonight as I watched the final episode of the British detective series, Wallander. It's not that Kurt Wallander ever expressed a desire to "unburdened crawl toward death", but when he learns that, like his father, he his suffering from the onset of Alzheimer's disease, he realizes, in effect, that he's been condemned to a burdened, a difficult, a disoriented, and a ravishing crawl toward death.

While I found the case Kurt Wallander worked on in this episode intriguing, the scene that will live with me for a long time occurred in an open field behind Wallander's residence. Unlike King Lear in the play's heath scene, Kurt Wallander was not being pelted by a merciless rain storm. Otherwise, it was Wallander's very own heath scene. It opens with a view of Kurt Wallander from a long distance away. His human figure is tiny. The space around him is expansive, as if he were, in the grand scheme of things, a speck, a barely noticeable being engulfed by the uncaring spaciousness of an empty life surrounding him.

This scene unfolds through Wallander's daughter Linda's eyes. She has come out into the field to check on her father's welfare. Wallander is confronting the injustice of his existence, tearing at his clothes, stripping himself, in much the same way King Lear begins to disrobe, telling himself "To expose thyself to feel what wretches feel". Wallander's peeling off his own clothes is not in order to connect with the neglected, but is more of figuratively exposing himself to the random cruelty that life, via Alzheimer's disease, has imposed on him and his father.

Wallander looks at Linda. He's dislocated, disoriented, mad with frustration and cries, heartbreakingly, "Are you my daughter?"

It's a question lifted from King Lear.

I've been watching Kenneth Branagh's work for thirty years, starting with his movie version of Henry V. This was as arresting and moving and painful of a scene as I've ever seen him perform. I wondered if it might be a foretaste of him playing the role of King Lear some time in the next ten years as he crawls burdened into his late fifties and on into his sixties.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 02/07/19: Comforts of Home, J. S. Bach Day, Pasties and Zags

1.  I picked up a bug on Monday and am now doing all I can to get over a cold. It was a relief today to stay home and not have any medical appointments to meet. I took care of nuts and bolts stuff: dishes, bills, updating my calendar, blowing my nose, making new appointments at the Lung and Asthma center, writing some emails. I nodded off from time to time. I drank a lot of water and black tea. I hope to shake off this cold soon.

2. I put a J. S. Bach shuffle on the Echo Dot and everything I did today was made more pleasant by Bach concertos, cello suites, preludes, fugues, variations on themes (like the Goldberg Variations), and some choral music.

3. Just before six, I braved the frigid weather and walked next door to join Christy and Everett for a dinner of pasties, peppery green beans, and a chopped salad. As we finished eating our delicious dinner, the basketball game between Gonzaga and Univ. of San Francisco came on. The two teams had played a fairly tight game last month, but tonight the Zags were more explosive and crushed the Dons, 92-62.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 02/06/19: Immunosuppression and Bronchiectasis, Pulmonary Tests, Chunk of Snow-Ice and Cash Stout

1. Today, I turned medical attention from my right eye to my damaged lungs. Because I've had two cases of pneumonia, the first, toxic pneumonia back in 1973 as a result of inhaling a high volume of sulfur dioxide and heavy metal dust in an accident at the Zinc Plant and the second, back in 2009, when I contracted a "normal" case of bacterial pneumonia in Eugene, the Sacred Heart Transplant Center wanted me checked out by pulmonologist before putting me on the transplant list. (I've been working on getting listed since late October.)

I am understanding better why the Sacred Heart Transplant Team is concerned about my history with these pneumonias. If I should received a kidney transplant, the process requires the inducing of immunosuppression to help the survival of the transplanted organ. At the same time that immunosuppression has a positive purpose, it also leaves a person susceptible to opportunistic infections. It's why I had major dental work done in November. My bite was such that it was cutting into the roof of my mouth, a possible cause of infection. That's fixed now.

So, back in 2016, when I first was listed for a transplant at the University of Maryland, I had a chest X-ray and the radiologist didn't like what he saw in the bottom of my lungs and ordered a CT scan and this scan confirmed the presence of bronchiectasis (brawn key ECK tuh sis) in my lungs' lower region.

Back in 2015, nothing came of this discovery. It didn't get me booted off the U of Maryland transplant list. No doctor at U of Maryland nor my primary care physician in Maryland seemed at all concerned about the presence of bronchiectasis in my lungs.

The Sacred Heart team, however, wants this checked out before I'm listed (or not) for a transplant.

That's why I drove on roads free of snow and ice today over to the North Idaho Lung and Asthma Center for some pulmonary testing and a consultation with pulmonologist Dr. Robert Scoggins.

2. My visit began with a series of breathing tests that involved various levels of intense drawing of deep breaths, blowing into a machine, panting into a machine, and variations on that theme. I worked with a calm and calming nurse and these procedures went very well.

After a while, Dr. Scoggins and I went over the results. Nothing in the test results led the doctor to prescribe me an inhaler. In fact, while my lung capacity and the other things they measured are not 100%, things looked, to quote both the doctor and the nurse, pretty good.

By looking at an X-ray I had done back in October, however, Dr. Scoggins could see, and he showed me, the evidence of the bronchiectasis in my lungs.

The good news: I don't have recurrent infections. I don't have symptoms. I do not have a persistent cough. I am not hacking up phlegm, a very good sign. Dr. Scoggins concluded that my pulmonary function is good and not a barrier to transplant. He also concluded that the bronchiectasis is no doubt related to infection when I was younger (like when I got gassed at the Zinc Plant) and should not be a barrier to transplant, although immunosuppression could increase my risk of infection.

Dr. Scoggins decided an appropriate response to my situation was, in his words, to overreact a bit, so I will be having another CT scan done of my chest so he can make a further assessment.
I left this appointment hopeful.

I knew I'd been carrying this infection in my lungs for about forty-six years now and Dr. Scoggins helped me understand it better and helped me understand it in relation to a possible transplant.

So, for now, I'll have the CT scan done, meet with Dr. Scoggins again, and see if his assessment remains the same -- that these pulmonary problems should not be a barrier to transplant.

By the way, here's what does make me cough: anxiety and nervousness. I told Dr. Scoggins this and he assured me that this is true for a lot of people -- it's not unusual.

Oh! Just before my pulmonary testing began, the office of nephrologist Dr. Kristie Jones called me to briefly report on the blood work I had done last Thursday. My kidney function is stable at 16%, my other numbers either look good or are stable, and Dr. Jones doesn't need to see me before the March appointment we already have scheduled.

This news was a relief.

3. On my way to my appointments, I was hurtling west on I-90 about eight miles outside CdA when suddenly, in my lane, a good sized chunk of snow, and, as it turned out, ice appeared. I didn't know in the split second I had to decide what to do if there was traffic to my left in the passing lane, so rather than swerve to the left, I hit the snow-ice chunk. The impact knocked the Sube off kilter for a few seconds as I veered to the left, but I got the car immediately straightened out and continued to CdA.

I arrived in CdA early for my appointment and had decided to enjoy a bowl of Chicken Pho at Pho Tanh and as I eased up the 4th Street exit ramp and made my way to the cafe's parking lot, something was rubbing against the front tire on the driver's side. I looked once I got parked and, indeed, some plastic material in the wheel well had been knocked down by me hitting the snow-ice chunk and I put it back in place. After my soup, while driving to the clinic, the noise persisted.

I went to Les Schwab after my pulmonary appointments and was relieved to see that an employee there drove the Sube back out of the garage a short time after he went in.

He told me that it was that plastic stuff rubbing against the tire. He put it back in place, making me think I hadn't gotten it all when I did the same thing earlier. He checked out other things under the Sube and said it all looked good and I was ready to go. He didn't charge me for his efforts and I returned to Kellogg with a free mind and with better eyesight: I drove all the way home without my glasses on and I am convinced my vision at night is better in my right eye.

I was a little rattled about the snow-ice incident and having the car checked at Les Schwab. (In fact, it made me cough!) I hadn't had a beer for over ten days. I love going to Slate Creek in CdA, so I stopped in to have a pint of Everybody's Brewing Cash Stout Oatmeal Stout, yakked a bit with Danica, an owner of Slate Creek, and felt much better as I made my way home on clear roads with the Sube in good shape and my nerves calmed a bit by that delicious pint of beer. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 02/05/19: Everything Looks Good, Breakfast and Looking Ahead, St. John's Wins! Not the KHS Wildcats

1. Today Christy swung by and drove me over to CdA for my post-op appointment. I went through a few simple vision tests and Dr. Dance put a contraption in front of me and peered deep into my eye. "Everything looks good."   I received instructions: follow the eye drop schedule; don't do any strenuous activity until next week (is shoveling snow strenuous?); keep my right eye closed in the shower; wear the shield at night for a week; call the office if I have vision difficulties;  expect the eye to be inconsistent for a few days. I see my optometrist in Kellogg in a week. I might want to consider having the right lens removed from my glasses. I might want to buy a pair of magnifying glasses at the store for reading. I return in three weeks for the left eye. I am eager for this surgery so that my two eyes will be working together with new toric lenses to see the world with renewed vividness and clarity.

A bunch of people wished me well with this surgery and it's uplifting and, I think, an aid in healing because it keeps me hopeful and keeps my spirits up. Many thanks to all of you who have been encouraging, told me about your experience with cataract surgery, and who have joined in my happiness that things have gone so well.

2. After a quick trip to Rite Aid and Albertson's, Christy and I ate at the Breakfast Nook and returned to Kellogg. I was grateful, mostly for Christy's sake, that both coming and going the roads were wet, not icy, and pretty much free of snow except on exit ramps. On February 6th, I return to CdA to have my pulmonary function tested and review it with a doctor. Because of all the toxic dust and gas that I inhaled when I was injured at the Zinc Plant in 1973, resulting in toxic pneumonia, and because I contracted bacterial pneumonia in 2009, the surgeon at the Transplant Center at Sacred Heart wants my pulmonary function checked out before I am cleared to be put on the transplant list.

3. I had a wild time with basketball once I returned to Kellogg. Stu drove over from his place perched in the hills above State Line to watch the boys and girls B teams at Kellogg Middle School play Bonners Ferry. Stu's son, Jeff, coaches the girls team -- Jeff's daughter is on the KMS A team. So, at 4:00 Stu and I settled into the bleachers and watched the middle school teams streak up and down the floor, miss a ton of shots, battle flat footed for rebounds, turn the ball over frequently, and, once in a while, score. Both of the Bonners Ferry teams were stronger and thumped both the boys and the girls. Both teams appeared to me to be enjoying themselves and I was glad that such a thing as middle school B teams exists. When I was in the 7th and 8th grades, the less talented players never got to play in a game. All four coaches today played all their players, giving these less developed players a good experience with what it feels like to suit up and compete.

I arrived back home after a shopping spree at Yoke's and flipped on a titanic basketball game between St. John's University and Marquette, fierce rivals in the Big East Conference. About a month ago, St. John's defeated Marquette in New York City and today they played on Marquette's home ice in Milwaukee. I tuned in at a dramatic moment. Marquette was chipping away at St. John's fifteen point lead and late in the game they completed their comeback and went ahead by a point. But, the Johnnie's dug in. Their star guard Shamorie Ponds scored 13 of their last 14 points, including a stellar drive to the basket to give the Johnnies a 70-69 lead, a lead they preserved with a commanding defensive stand to end the game -- a stand in which they forced Marquette superstar Markus Howard into a poor, off balance shot that missed everything.

I also learned that up at Spirit Lake, at Timberlake High School, the Kellogg Wildcats missed a last second three point attempt and lost by two points to Timberlake, 45-43. The Wildcats have now lost two games at the buzzer to Timberlake. I'm eager to see if possibly th  e 'Cats can earn a rematch with Timberlake in the district tournament and avenge those losses. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 02/04/19: Roads Clear, Cataract Surgery, A Vivid World

1. After a night of snowfall, the Kellogg School District closed. Paul had the day free. Paul is our family's most experienced wintry roads driver and volunteered to take me to CdA for cataract surgery instead of Christy. As it turned out, the freeway was in splendid shape, bare with little or no ice and we arrived at the North Idaho Eye Institute early (just the way I like it!) and I got checked in.

2. The surgery, according to the doctor, was successful. It didn't involve much: numbing eye drops, a mild sedative through an IV, a warm blanket tossed over me. I was in a chair very much like at the dentist and when it was time for the surgery, a nurse put some kind of spongy thing over my face and eye, an oxygen instrument fed me air, and someone assisting the doctor regularly flushed my eye with liquid. During the short operation, I didn't feel anything, but had bright flashes of color pulse in my eye, as if I were at one of those planetarium laser light shows. Soon, one of the staff wheeled me in my dentist chair back to the pre-op area, served me coffee, let the sedative wear off a bit, and, before long, I was back in the waiting room with a  shield taped over my eye. Soon Paul picked me up and we returned to Kellogg.

3. Back home, I began my regimen of giving myself steroid and antibiotic eye drops. I felt no discomfort today. My eyes never felt dry or itchy.  Each time I removed the shield, I could see, in increments, that with the new lens inserted behind my right eye, the world was brighter, the light more pure, and the colors in our house more vivid. At my post-op appointment on Feb. 5th at 9:30, it is likely the doctor will tell me to wear the shield only at night for about a week. I hope to also be cleared to drive. I return for a second surgery on Feb. 26th.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 02/03/19: Staying Put, Sibling Assignment, Updating flickr

1.  This coming week on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, I have to make a trip each day for medical reasons: cataract surgery, cataract post-op exam, and a pulmonary review as I continue to be examined in the hope of being listed for a kidney transplant at Sacred Heart in Spokane. I decided to stay home today, launder my sheets, do some other laundry, and rest up a bit for tomorrow's procedure.

2. I completed Sibling Assignment #204, a pictorial assignment that Christy gave us.  If you'd like to look at my post, it's here and links to my sisters' work is right there in my post.

3. Because I have lost interest in the NFL over the past couple of seasons, I didn't watch the Super Bowl. Instead, I got caught up on my flickr account by creating an album of my Winter 2019 pictures so far. When I create these albums, I include all pictures, no matter whether I think they are good or lousy. Sometimes my mind changes about a shot and like to have them all stored on flickr. If you'd like to look at this album, it's right here.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Sibling Assignment #204: North Idaho Pictures

Inspired by this line Carol posted in a blog post, "What beauty is created in nature when we take the time to observe", Christy assigned the three of us to do a photo walk and take time to observe. We are to then post a series of pictures or a slide show.

Carol's slide show is here. Christy's is here.

Lately, I've been ending a period of photographic dormancy and looking for beauty to photograph in North Idaho. Here are some of the pictures I've taken:

Three Beautiful Things 02/02/18: Brawl for the Ball Explained, The Atmosphere at Andrews Gym, The Games

1. Whew!

After cleaning up some stuff around the house, I walked to the high school shortly before 1:00. Today was the annual Kellogg vs. St. Maries Brawl for the Ball, featuring four basketball games (girls and boys junior varsity followed by girls and boys varsity), and competitions between the schools at halftime: a tug-of-war, a game of dodgeball, pep rallies, cheer squad competition, mascot competition, and a Battle of the Bands.

In addition, raffle tickets were available in both towns and both towns competed to see which would donate the most pounds of food to its local food bank.

Both schools racked up points based on the outcome of the basketball games and the halftime competitions and the school with the most points wins THE BALL, a encased basketball, a trophy, that stays for the following year with the team that wins it.


St. Maries and Kellogg's food drives were very successful, collecting over 42,000 pounds of food, with Kellogg collecting slightly more at about 22,000 pounds. Kellogg won three out of the four basketball games (only the boys junior varsity team lost) and the other competitions were split pretty evenly between the two schools.

The raffle raised a few thousand dollars. I don't remember the exact amount.

Kellogg won The Ball.

Whew! What a day! I was at the gym for over six hours. I absolutely loved it.

Let's break it down a bit.

2. I walked into Andrews Gymnasium and I was stunned and had to stand still for a while and survey what lay before me. The stands were at least 75% full. I don't think, since I've returned to Kellogg, I've seen the stands even half full. Usually, both teams are seated on one side of the floor, to the left and the right of the scoring table. Not today. The St. Maries teams sat on one side of the gym, as did their many supporters, and the Kellogg teams sat opposite them, as did their many supporters.

When I arrived, the boys junior varsity game was early in the second quarter. I had to stand and stare for a minute or two at the bleachers on the Kellogg side to figure out where to sit. There weren't that many spots. Furthermore, I hadn't heard this much noise in Andrews Gymnasium since I was in high school -- that dreaded loss our 71-72 team suffered against Wallace was in front of a near capacity crowd and back then the now closed in balcony on the north end of the gym was open. The crowd and the throbbing noise of the cheering and loud reactions to the referees' calls dizzied me for a minute or so. I lost my bearings.

It was awesome.

I regained my equilibrium and found a seat down low on the Kellogg (east) side of the gym. I came to the gym thinking I would leave at halftime of the girls varsity game, walk home, feed the corgis and let them out, and walk back for the boys varsity game. I immediately nixed that idea. No way was I going to leave this seat! I texted Christy and she agreed to take care of the dogs and I only left my seat once to make a pit stop.

I was so happy to be a part of this crowd, to have the feeling that I was in the movie Hoosiers, with the St. Maries student body bellowing out a cheer and the Kellogg student body answering it, each side pumping up the volume and with both sides of the gym holding scores of adults, the St. Maries people (Lumberjack Nation) having traveled the windy roads to Kellogg for an eight hour day cheering, watching the halftime competitions, supporting their teams.

The pep bands played for the two varsity games, the St. Maries side blasting out "25 or 6 to 4" followed by Kellogg blaring out "Born to be Wild" and they continued, back and forth, pumping up the crowd with "Crazy Train", "Low Rider", "Seven Nation Army", and many more rousing songs.

3. And then there were the basketball games.

The Kellogg boys junior varsity team faced a very good and, to my eye, a more experienced St. Maries team. Kellogg played hard, but St. Maries had a marksman or two from outside and featured a 6' 4" kid in the post. Kellogg's team doesn't have one player over 6' tall and struggled to keep St. Maries' rangy center off the boards and from scoring, whether off of entry passes inside or offensive rebounds. The final score was disheartening for us Wildcat fans: St. Maries won 71-41.

St. Maries didn't have a deep bench, but emptied it late in the game. One of the players, to my untrained eye and from my vantage point in the stands, appeared to have Downs Syndrome or was different from the other players in some other way. Late in the game, a rebound fell in his hands and from the side of the basket, about a foot away, from navel level, he heaved the ball nearly straight up and it descended straight into the basket, inspiring the loudest cheer in the gym all night.

The Kellogg girls varsity team impressed me with their discipline on offense and their defensive tenacity.  Hailey Cheney hurt St. Maries inside and Erin VanHoose hit some timely outside shots. The Wildcats had built, if I remember correctly, a fourteen point lead in the second half and St. Maries made a late run, narrowing the margin to five (I think) (I wish I'd been taking notes). But, Kellogg's cooler heads prevailed:  they stayed organized, made some crucial late game free throws, held off St. Maries, and triumphed 46-39.

I watched the St. Maries boys warm up and I thought to myself that the Wildcats have a stern test ahead of them. The Lumberjacks had a size advantage, particularly with their hefty 6'4" post player, Dan Howard, who looked to me like he might weigh about 220 pounds and, in warm ups, looked like he had a good shot. In addition, St. Maries had defeated Kellogg twice this season. (But, so had Wallace and Kellogg beat them Monday night.)

I saw the Wildcats' boys team play unrelenting defense on both Monday and Thursday nights. I wondered if they might show signs of fatigue tonight, but dismissed that thought because I've been very impressed with what excellent condition this team is in and with Coach Nearing's substitution patterns. He keeps players rested and fresh with nine players sharing playing time.

And, sure enough, as this game progressed, the Wildcats, especially their point guard, Brennen Atkins, got under St. Maries' skin, even, I think, frustrating their coach. At one point in the fourth quarter, after a stellar defensive play and drawing a foul, Atkins had a Lumberjack player come after him. The St. Maries kid lost his temper. The smaller Atkins didn't back down. The referees separated the players, sent both teams to their benches, called the two coaches to the center of the court, let things cool down, and after a delay of about five minutes, the coaches were smiling and patting each other on the back, and, when play resumed, Brennen Atkins cooly made his two free throws.

As I thought he would, the big kid for St. Maries gave the Wildcats some trouble inside, but, as they do so well, the Wildcats scrapped, kept their feet sliding and their hands busy on defense, helped one another, swarmed to the ball, dove for loose balls, jammed passing lanes, forced tie ups and turnovers, rushed St. Maries into some bad shots, and kept pressure on the Lumberjacks all night long.

It paid off. I haven't seen a box score, but I think the Wildcats' scoring was spread pretty well across the team -- possibly Brennen Atkins was the leading scorer. Tyrel Davis played really well off the bench, Gavin Luna and Raiden Ricketts battled the Lumberjacks' big guy all night long, tiring him, and the 'Cats made several important free throws late to ice a 51-45 nail biter.

Earlier in the season, I saw the Wildcats get crushed by two far superior opponents, Shadle Park and Moscow. Watching those games, I did my best to be slow to evaluate the Wildcats. I wanted to see them play again against teams more their equal. Now I have. Three times. Three Wildcat victories.

It's been fun to see them play teams on their level. Against Wallace, Bonners Ferry, and St. Maries, all the excellent qualities of this Wildcat team have had a chance to unfold. The players can have fun. They can play with vigor and be rewarded for their hustle, determination, discipline, and skills. I won't do it, but I'd enjoy going to Spirit Lake on Tuesday to see the 'Cats play the league's top team, Timberlake, again. I will, however, attend the Wildcats' Feb. 14th tilt against Priest River. It will be Senior Night and the last home game of the season.

Right now, this team is on a three game winning streak. They nearly beat Timberlake last week at home. Can they build on the success of the last three games and defeat Timberlake on the road? And, then, can they beat Priest River at home and ride a crest of success into the district tournament and win that? Who knows? I think the Wildcats have more than a fighting chance to turn what as been a difficult season into a memorable one. We'll see.