Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 07/30/19: Oil Change, Today's Hike, Yellow Curry

1. I like keeping the Sube's oil changed and tires rotated; I always enjoy dealing with the guys at Silver Valley Tire -- so I'm happy I got that done first thing this morning.

2. My hike up the Health and Wellness Trail was a good one: the air was cool; my stamina was off a little bit, but not too bad.

3. I had fun making a yellow curry sauce this afternoon and putting cauliflower, tofu, basil leaves, and cabbage into it and serving it over jasmine rice. I thought it was moderately spicy, allowing the salty and sweet tastes to assert themselves.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 07/29/19: Trailhead Confusion, Trail Fail, Farro

1.  At dinner Sunday, Carol and Paul talked about having hiked the Coal Creek trail. I drove to where I thought the trailhead should be, but, once there, I didn't see any signs and I was not sure I was actually in the right place. I either need to go to the Forest Service Ranger Station or communicate with someone who knows that trailhead and get a better sense of the lay of the land. When I returned home, I read up on the Coal Creek trailhead some more, but I'd like some more precise information about it.

2. I didn't have any better luck in the evening when I tried to check out the Holmes Gulch trail. I haven't found any written material on it in a book or online, but maps consistently indicate that the trail begins at the top of Chestnut Street at the top of the hill. I walked up there today, did not see a trail, but saw a lot of No Trespassing and Keep Out signs. I'll have to see if anyone I know has some knowledge about this trail and about this hike.

3. I wondered today, as I ate the farro Debbie prepared with a bowlful of steamed vegetables and then again, when I added cold farro to a salad I fixed this evening, if I'd ever eaten farro before. It would have been when I lived in Eugene, but I couldn't really remember. Oh, well. I'm very happy that Debbie introduced farro into our range of foods to eat here in Kellogg and that it's readily available in bulk at Pilgrim's in CdA.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 07/28/19: Faithfulness, Upriver Trail and Ole Mountain Opry, Family Dinner and AMC

1. Today's readings moved Father Gortner to preach in plain terms and practical terms about unfaithfulness -- not only human unfaithfulness in relationship to God, but human to human unfaithfulness in relationships, whether at work, in the church, or at home. I came away from today's service thinking about faithfulness and persistence, about being persistent in knocking, seeking, and asking. I experienced something new in today's service: a parishioner asked me and the other woman in our pew to bring the communion elements to the altar today. In all my years worshiping as an Episcopalian, I'd never done this before. I carried the wine to the front and successfully passed it off to the person at the altar awaiting its arrival.

2. In one of the hiking books I purchased yesterday, I learned about Trail #20 in the Cd'A National Forest. The trail rises above the upper reaches of the CdA River. Since I already had plans to go up the river today to hear the Ole Mountain Opry this afternoon at the Prichard Tavern, I decided to drive about twenty-five miles or so past Prichard on Forest Service Road #208 and check out the location of the trail head of Trail #20.  I missed it the first time I passed it and soon the paved road turned into an unpaved road. I didn't like it.  I turned around and headed back down the river and within minutes saw the sign for Trail #20 I had missed about ten minutes earlier. Now I can plan a hike there later this summer or in the fall. Twice, my heart was knocking against my chest on this drive when a deer and later a moose popped out of the brush. The deer was about ten yards in front of me so I had plenty of time to further slow down the Sube's crawl up the road.  The moose had a mouth full of leaves and decided not to pop all the way onto the road, but trot beside the Sube as I crept down the road. Soon the moose vanished back into the woods.

After making a quick check to see if Byrdman was at his river place in case we could go to the Ole Mountain Opry together (he wasn't), I arrived at the Prichard Tavern just as the music was starting. I ordered a gin and tonic, strolled to back of the tavern where the musicians were playing from the back porch. I enjoyed every single tune. I enjoyed the singing, the harmonizing, the guitar, banjo, mandolin, and dobro solos that broke out during several tunes and got to hear some great familiar songs, ranging from Kate Wolf to Johnny Cash to Tom Paxton to Jimmy Buffet and a whole lot more in between. The setting was stunning. The tavern is nestled between steep hills of pine and cottonwood trees, a gorgeous sight, and as the afternoon deepened, the shade increased, cool mountain breezes kicked up, and we all settled into the sublimity of an easy North Idaho afternoon up the river in late July.

3. The Ole Mountain Opry was going to continue for another 90 minutes when it was time for me to leave and make my way downriver, back to Kellogg, and into Christy and Everett's back yard for family dinner.  And what a superb dinner we had! After a fine citrusy cocktail, we dove into a juicy, tender, and flavorful beer can chicken, corn on the cob prepared on the grill, and a peach cole slaw. For dessert, Christy served lemon zucchini cake and I had mine with a scoop of pistachio gelato. A little later, Debbie bopped over to our house and brought back pieces of chocolate she'd made at a workshop today. Our conversations swung all over the place, but grew to a rousing climax as we reviewed characters and storylines from weeks and weeks of All My Children from the 1970s (and maybe early 80s), remembering the Martins and the Tylers as well as crazy people who came to Pine Valley like Billy Clyde Tuggle, Myrtle Fargate, and many others.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 07/27/19: VFW Breakfast in Osburn, Spokane Day Trip, Garcia and Groceries

1. Around 10 this morning, I hopped in the Sube and blasted up to the VFW Hall in Osburn where they serve a fund-raising breakfast on the fourth Saturday of every month. DJ and Eileen always work this breakfast, so I knew I'd see them and, upon arriving, I saw that Ginger was just finishing her breakfast. So, one of the women at the food counter served me a huckleberry pancake, a sausage, and some scrambled eggs. I poured myself a coffee and shot the breeze with Ginger.  I'm going to Missoula for a concert on August 9th at the Wilma (I'll see Tommy Emmanuel and Jerry Douglas) and I know Ginger has been going to the Wilma for years so we talked about Missoula a bit and she reminded me to be sure to go to Butterfly Herbs and check out their herbs and spices for cooking. I'll do that.

2. From Osburn, I drove straight to Spokane. I'd never been to Spokane's REI store, so I popped in to check out hiking books and maps. I left, and for old time's sake, I parked in the old Parkade building, and walked down to Auntie's Bookstore and looked at more hiking books and purchased a couple.

If I'm going to go on more of these day trips, I've got to remember bring water. I was feeling a little sluggish today and realized that my breakfast had dehydrated me. I left Auntie's, walked over to the Interstate Performance Hall to possibly buy some concert tickets, but the box office was closed, so I went to the Onion at Riverside and Bernard and ordered a Caesar salad topped with fried oysters and I drank about two pints of water and another two pints of Coca-Cola with lemon.

I sat for quite a while in the Onion, rehydrading, enjoying my salad, and thinking about good times I'd had when I last lived in Spokane over thirty-five years ago. I remembered my first visits to the Onion, dinners just around the corner at the St. Regis restaurant, downtown record stores, the Inland Bookstore, the many concerts I attended at the Opera house, the walks I used to take through the skywalks, the (for me) grandeur of the Crescent department store and the Bon Marche, and all those movies at the Magic Lantern. Of course, the downtown Spokane living in my sweet memories is gone. I accept that. I found myself hoping that I'll come back to Spokane more often and come to enjoy the current eateries and taphouses, the music venues I've never been to, and go to a movie or two at the Magic Lantern in its new location.

3. Rehydrated and energized by my long nostalgic ponderings at the Onion, I returned to the Sube and headed out to Spokane Valley where I planned to see about buying some spices at Damas, a Middle Eastern grocer. I got there in no time. From the street, I could see it was empty. A "For Lease" sign streamed across the window. I am going to have to be patient and do more research, looking into other grocers to buy unsual spices -- or, of course, buy spices online. For Christmas (or was it my birthday?), Carol gave me a superb cookbook of vegetarian Middle East recipes. I want to use the spices some of these recipes call for and, ideally, I'd like to smell them before I buy them. For now, unless Penzeys or Silk Road or Amazon can program a click and sniff feature on their websites, I am going to continue to search for brick and mortar establishments that might carry these spices.  (Eventually, I'll surrender, and buy online, but not right away!)

Leaving Spokane, I continued to listen to the cd, Dear Jerry: A Celebration of Jerry Garcia. It features performances by a variety of artists paying tribute to Jerry Garcia by covering a variety of Grateful Dead tunes. When this concert happened, on May 14, 2015, I lived only twenty miles away from where it took place, in Columbia, MD. I just looked it up on my blog. That night, I cooked dinner for Debbie, Molly, Olivia, David, and me and, the next day, Debbie and I drove up to Nyack, NY to see Adrienne and Jack. I loved that trip. I always loved fixing food in Greenbelt. But, I'm a little ticked off at myself that I didn't even know this concert was happening in Columbia and now, listening to this cd, I realize I missed an epic show.

Listening to Los Lobos, O.A.R., moe., Widespread Panic, and others filled me with road joy before I made a couple of stops in CdA to buy grains, tofu, and other groceries at Pilgrim's and Costco. At Pilgrim's, I had a wonderful conversation with MaryKay Hanson and learned that she is recovering splendidly from knee replacement surgery and that I might see her at St. Luke's at the 10:30 service.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 07/26/19: This and That in CdA, Acoustic Music Jam, Great Night at the Lounge

1. I hopped into the Sube and soared to CdA today. I got a haircut, enjoyed a plate of Mahi-Mahi and chips at the Fisherman's Market, bought some new underwear at Kohl's, and bought about a half a dozen or so used cd's at Longear Music -- Bob Dylan, an album of dobro music, a bluegrass collection, and a variety of artists doing Jerry Garcia songs.

2. The Silver Lake Mall is close to dead. I walked in around 4:45 and went to the one food vendor and ordered a pop and hoped that I was correct that a Friday evening bluegrass jam would be getting underway soon. Sure enough, one by one, musicians with guitar cases began to file in and I wandered down to the open area outside J. C. Penney, right by Harry Ritchie's Jewlers, and audience chairs were in place and chairs were in a three sided rectangle, beginning to fill with players:  several played guitar, one man had a banjo, one played harmonica (harp), one man was the jam's upright bassist, and at least one woman played the ukulele.

How perfect. The mall is nearly dead. It's quiet. This open area near JC Penney is a great space to fill with songs. The sound system was all set up and eventually one singer/player or one group of players and singer came up the mike and I stayed for a couple of hours and listened to country, gospel, and a little folk music. The harmonica guy played "Danny Boy". One woman sang John Prine's "Paradise". Another quartet sang about how the world needs a lot more Jesus and a lot less rock 'n roll.  I heard "Blue Bayou", "A Workin' Man Can't Get Nowhere Today", and "Tennessee Waltz". Not a single young person played. Everyone was middle aged or older. One guy was a haunting yodeler. No matter whether the singers were polished, slightly off tune, strong-voiced, or faint, the jam's energy was generous. Many of the songs moved me to tears. I was very happy that checked out this jam. The songs continued in my head in the car and carried me back home to Kellogg.

3. I spent the rest of the evening at the Inland Lounge. I had a lot of fun yakkin' with different people: Rick Jacobs, Harley, Nathan, Becky, and, at one point, Glen G. who brought me greetings from Merle Buhl. Glen and I talked a bunch about what a great guy Merle was to work with and Glen told me what a cherished friend Merle is for him and has been over the last 55-60 years. As the place emptied out, Cas and Tracy played superb music on the house sound system: Leon Russell, The Tragically Hip, Bob Dylan, Little Feat, and more. Both Cas and Tracy told me about the night they saw Leon Russell in Spokane, not long before he died, and how elated they were by his performance. It was a great night full of great stories, conversation, and music.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 07/25/19: Hiking to Vergobbi Gulch, Shawn!, Walking to Yoke's

1. Back in the first week of June, Byrdman and I hiked the trail beyond the picnic table at the conclusion of the Health and Wellness trail and as the trail steepened, I was in such poor physical condition, I had to lie down on the trail to recover as I gasped for air and as my heart raced.

Today, I decided to try that trail on my own and get a sense of the state of my stamina.

I've improved. I stopped four or five times on the steep part of the trail and counted out fifteen exhales and then continued. When I reached the end of the steepness, I took a slightly longer rest, but I didn't lie down, I wasn't desperately gasping for air, and as I hiked on the old road leading to Vergobbi Gulch, I was much more comfortable than I was back on June 6th with Byrdman, Sebi, and Pip.

2. As I emerged out of Vergobbi Gulch and strolled down Hill Street, I saw Shawn working on the porch of a house. I haven't seen Shawn for a while.  I stopped and we had fun yakkin' for a while and made some tentative plans to get together before too long.

3.  After I ate a late breakfast and rested my legs for a while, I decided to walk some more. I strapped on my backpack and headed to Yoke's to buy a handful of items. It was a little bit warm out, but I thought it might be good for me to see if I could build up a little bit more tolerance to the sun. I returned home and my pedometer showed that, for the day, I had walked just over 9700 steps. I know, however, that because my stride is shorter on the steep parts of the trail both going up and down, that the pedometer doesn't record those steps. In other words, I'm sure I walked well over 10,000 steps today and racked up over five miles of hiking and walking.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 07/24/19: Hiking Speed, *Green Book*, Hot Shrimp Dinner

1. After having taken a more ambitious hike yesterday, today I returned to my routine hike on the trail behind the hospital. On this hike today, I got a little ahead of myself early on and established a little too quick of a pace -- I was excited that I'd had a good day yesterday on the Pulaski trail, momentarily forgetting that I had hiked that trail at a slow to moderate speed. Today, I slowed myself down after I reached the first bench and I had a much better hike at the slightly slower speed.

Almost every day on this trail, I encounter a fit middle aged woman. Usually, she is just starting up the trail when I am nearing the end of my hike back down. Today, however, we met higher up on the trail as I was coming down. Soon, as I continued my descent, I could hear her behind me and I stepped aside to let her go by. I realized that, unlike me, she had not taken a rest stop at the picnic table at the trail's viewpoint. I fought off the urge to compare my fitness to hers. I'd done the same thing yesterday when a young man was running up the Pulaski trail. Comparing myself to these other trail users is toxic. Happily, I quickly got my mind right again. I'm not in good enough shape to be hiking these trails briskly. I am improving my stamina each time I hike, no matter what my speed or how often I rest. By hiking at a slower rate, especially when I hike solo, I'm not holding anyone up. Quickly getting my head back on straight enhanced my enjoyment of today's hike significantly.

2. Recently, both Dan Armstrong and Cas have asked me if I'd seen the movie Green Book, and, until today, I hadn't. I don't care much any longer who wins Academy Awards. I don't watch movies thinking about whether they are potentially award winning. I do, however, read reactions to the awards. As I paid my rental fee for Green Book today and prepared to watch it, I was keenly aware of many viewers' and commentators' criticisms of the movie. Not having seen the movie, yet, the criticism made a lot of sense to me and I didn't know what I would experience watching the movie.

I didn't expect the movie to feel so old-fashioned to me. Yes, I realized the movie's story was set in 1962, and, as the movie progressed, I felt like I was watching a movie from the 1930s or 1940s. I enjoy a lot of those movies and I gave in to my enjoyment of Green Book. Somehow, as I got more absorbed in the movie, I gave myself over to what was feeling more and more like a Frank Capra movie, especially because I knew, in the back of my mind, that Doctor Don Shirley and Tony Lipp wanted to return home from their trip by Christmas. I began to anticipate that possibly this movie was going to move toward some kind of Christmas miracle. There's a scene late in the movie involving a flat tire and when it played out the way it did, I really felt like the movie had moved into what I'll call Capra Land and its conclusion confirmed this.

I hadn't expected Green Book to be a comedy in the classical sense. We tend to think of comedies as movies made for laughs, but, in the long history of the comedy genre, comedies were stories that explored the affirmation and power of community, the vitality of rebirth, the beauty of unity, the leaving of home and returning again, changed, and the mysteries of spiritual transformation. For years, I've regarded comedies as stories that don't look at life so much the way it is, but that give form to our wishes and dreams, that bring possibilities to life. In the end, I experienced Green Book as movie portraying transformations, the overcoming of cruelty, and a kind of communal harmony in ways that might be wished for or dreamed of, not in ways that necessarily actually happen (or have happened).

For whatever it's worth, I read the criticisms of this movie and I understand them. I understand that those who found this movie distasteful and naive were put off by a feel good movie being made from a story about about two men, one black and the other white, on a road trip.

I admit, though, that for years I've been emotionally moved by old-fashioned movies, Christmas movies, movies that play out the wishes and dreams I have of goodness, mutuality, reconciliation, togetherness, and the communal joy of feasting and celebration.

So as I became absorbed in this movie, I was moved by it.

Later, I revisited the criticisms, took the questions the critics raised seriously, and gave them a lot of thought and I've learned a lot from what I've read. 

I can't really reconcile my emotional experience with the movie and these negative responses to it. These opposing responses co-exist in me and represent tension I live with a lot -- about many things.

3.  While watching Green Book, I suddenly felt an urge to fix hot shrimp. I'd fixed rice earlier in the day and fried a block of tofu. An eggplant sat in the fridge ready to be cooked up. So, I wondered, how about if I melted some butter, added Frank's Hot Sauce, poured it over about a dozen shrimp or so, mixed the hot shrimp with sauteed eggplant bits and the tofu, and served it over rice?

I think it worked.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 07/23/19: Anniversary Hike on the Pulaski Tunnel Trail, Recuperation, Fun with Kirk Gibson

1. I just looked it up.

It was forty-six years ago today that I was hospitalized after I fell inside a Zinc Plant roaster, inhaled a nearly fatal amount of sulfur dioxide gas and toxic mineral dust. On July 24, Dale Costa transported me to Coeur d'Alene where an eye surgeon removed the damaged/burnt tissue from my eyes and, unable to see for several days, I was admitted to the hospital in CdA.

At the time, no one knew how my respiratory system or my eyes would recover from the exposure I suffered.

I did recover.

Today, forty-six years later, not really thinking about this anniversary, but wondering if today was the day while I as on the trail, I had my strongest day of hiking in the last two months.

I arrived at the start of the Pulaski Tunnel Trail, barely a mile south of Wallace, on the Moon Pass Road, about 8:15. I don't think the temperature had even reached sixty degrees yet. The sun still hid behind the steep hills and, invigorated by the bracing cool air, I was off.

Ever since moving back to Kellogg, I've been wanting to find a hiking trail that runs near a creek, hikes similar to my favorite hiking trails in Oregon, the Sweet Creek Falls and Brice Creek trails.

Today I discovered the Pulaski Tunnel Trail is exactly what I'd been longing for as it winds its way along and above and, few times, over the West Fork of Placer Creek.

It's a two mile hike to a viewpoint overlooking the mine tunnel Ed Pulaski harbored a crew of firefighters during the Big Burn in 1910 and the trail includes a series of informative signs about the fire and Ed Pulaski's heroism.

I have never felt stronger hiking uphill than I did today. Granted, I stopped several times to rest, but even when I hiked the steepest part of the the trail -- the last half mile -- I wasn't desperately gasping for air the way I did when Byrdman and I scaled a steep section beyond the picnic table on the hospital trail nor the way I did when Byrdman and I hiked the Revett Lake Trail back on June 29th.

In fact, I didn't realize that, for me, the trail was fairly steep in parts until I hiked back down the trail and I realized that my legs and heart had been stronger and my wind had been better than at any point this summer.

Not only did I enjoy my physical condition being a bit better, I also enjoyed the relaxing rush and gurgling of Placer Creek, the several small waterfalls cascading over rocks and logs, the variety of trees shading most of the trail, and the wildflowers that popped into view from time to time.

I now know that when I return to the Pulaski Tunnel Trail, I must arrive even earlier in the morning, spend even more time in the cool air, hike the trail more slowly, and take pictures. It will be challenging to snap good compositions, I think, because the foliage on this trail is thick, but I'm ready to give it a try.

2. Back home, I realized that I'd racked up nearly 10,000 steps on the Pulaski Tunnel Trail (I would go over 10,000 steps just walking around the house). I needed some time recuperate and enjoyed some seltzer water, a bowl of leftover rice salad, and, before long, I took a nap. I wasn't crapped out, but the fatigue I felt was sweet fatigue and I enjoyed a short deep sleep when I lay down.

3. The best part of watching the Phillies and Tigers slog through fifteen innings of baseball before the Phillies finally prevailed 3-2. I had a great time watching this game. I used to be an avid Detroit Tigers fan (I even belonged to the Save Tiger Stadium Fan Club back in the early 90s!), but I haven't paid much attention to them in recent years and this evening I got more familiar with their struggling team. But, most of all, I enjoyed the fun Kirk Gibson was having. He's a Tiger broadcaster now and during the game he went out into the concession area and interviewed fans and gave away goofy prizes.

Gibson is suffering from the slow deterioration of Parkinson's disease. It's apparent in his movement and in his deliberate speech patterns. Parkinson's has not, however, diminished Gibson's warmth, his enjoyment of the fans in the ball park, nor his sense of humor. He was not only funny with the fans, but he had a good time getting in some good-natured jabs at this former teammate and fellow broadcaster, Jack Morris. At times, the game was secondary to the fun Gibson, Morris, and the Tigers' play-by-play guy, Matt Shepherd were having as they broadcast this game from the right field bleacher area rather than their usual perch above home plate, putting them in close proximity to fans in that part of the park.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 07/22/19: Good Hike, Sewer Work Arranged, Salmon Rice Salad and a Triple Play

1. I returned to the trail above the hospital today. It was a very good hike. I stopped a couple of times to let my heart beat slow down and to get my breath back, but I didn't sit down. I don't think I'm much stronger than a week ago, but stronger than, say, three weeks ago. I was grateful that the air was cool and that I hiked under a cloud cover.

2. Today I made the arrangements necessary for the work on our sewer line to begin on July 31st and, most likely, to be finished the next day.

3. I was watching the Red Sox and the Rays play when I left the game long enough to heat up a salmon patty, crumble it, and combine it with leftover rice salad from last night. I added a dollop of Bitchin' Sauce and enjoyed a side of pita bread and hummus. This dinner was fantastic -- all that olive oil and lemon, garlic and cilantro; and all those olives and tomatoes. While I stepped away from the baseball game, the Red Sox exploded for three homers and seven runs in the top of the third and I missed it, but I didn't leave ESPN's broadcast just because a blowout was underway. I enjoyed different things the broadcasters, especially Dave Fleming and Tim Kurkjian, discussed during the game and I got to see Edwin Encarnacion hitting into a 5-4-3 triple play against the Twins replayed several times. It was awesome.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 07/21/19: St. Luke's, Breakfast Nook, Summery Dinner with Christy and Everett

1. I jammed west on I-90 this morning and worshiped at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Coeur d'Alene. For a variety of reasons, I hadn't been to St. Luke's for a while and, within myself, I felt right at home. The mood in the church, just like the weather outside, was sunny. Today's lesson from Amos (8: 1-12) was not so sunny, nor was about half of Psalm 52. Both readings bewailed deceit. Amos called out those who profit by trampling the poor and Psalm 52 bemoans the tyrant who boasts of wickedness and is a liar. The exploiters and deceitful rulers divide people, but in today's reading from Colossians 1:15-28, Paul explores the unifying power of Jesus Christ. Our priest today, Rev. Holladay Sanderson effectively found tied these three lessons together along with the gospel story of Mary and Martha. One of the features of the Season of Pentecost I enjoy is that the lessons from Scripture are all over the place and, rather than dealing with the extraordinary events of the other Church Seasons like Advent, Christmastide, Lent, and Eastertide, during Pentecost, the lessons explore all aspects of a life of faith.

2. After worshiping at St. Luke's, I enjoy taking a seat at the counter at the Breakfast Nook. It gives me a chance to let my worship experience sink in a little deeper (this process always begins when I sit and listen to the organist play the postlude). Today, the Breakfast Nook was a mob scene, but a couple of chairs were empty at the counter and I settled into one of my favorites: a hamburger steak with hash browns, eggs, toast, and coffee.

I had some grocery shopping to do for dinner tonight and I enjoy making the occasional trip to Fred Meyer and Pilgrim's, so I purchased some items, gassed up the Sube at Costco, and returned to Kellogg.

3. We invited Christy and Everett over for dinner. Originally, we were going to have Mediterranean plates (Debbie knows what this is better than I do), but we switched gears slightly and I put together a rice salad. Christy had leftover zucchini, cucumber, and feta salad from last night. I thought it would work perfectly in the salad I was going to make. I combined jasmine rice, Christy's salad, chopped tomatoes, more cucumber, Kalamata olives, cilantro, sweet pepper bits, cashews, olive oil, olive brine, rice vinegar, fresh squeezed lemon juice, and some dried basil all together and we served the salad with warmed pita bread triangles and hummus. Before dinner, we drank gin and tonics together and, as we ate, the air slowly cooled on the deck and we had a refreshing summery meal and some fun conversation. I'll just add that late in the meal, Debbie brought out the container of Bitchin' Sauce I purchased at Pilgrim's -- it's a nut based hummus-y condiment. Very tasty.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 07/20/19: Charly to the Vet, Fifty Years Ago, Christy Fixed Chicken Dinner

1. Debbie took Charly to the vet and he surmised that her problems are in her back and to ease the inflammation and possibly help Charly get around more readily, he prescribed her some medicine. We will begin to administer it to her on Monday and it's possible we might see some positive results in three days or so. Later this evening, after dinner, Debbie sat in the grass in the back yard and Charly sauntered around and, at one point, Debbie called into me that Charly had been running. It's been several weeks since I've seen Charly run -- she surprised me one morning when I came out on the back porch to check on her and she temporarily cast aside her hobbledness, bound across the lawn and up the stairs, and dashed into the house.

2. Kenton Bird contacted me about a week ago. Kenton and I were fellow troop members at the 1969 National Boy Scout Jamboree at Farragut State Park and one of our other troop members, Mike Wilson, invited us to his place on Rockford Bay on Lake Coeur d'Alene. Mike's dad, Paul, had been an assistant scoutmaster of our troop and had kept a lot of memorabilia. Mike spread it all out on his and his wife Carol's dining table. Along with Kenton's wife, Gerri, we all began looking at the pictures, diaries, medallions, patches, kerchiefs, souvenir newspaper inserts, a scrapbook, and other items. We were all at the Jamboree on July 20, 1969 when the moon landing occurred so Mike had interspersed moon landing memorabilia along with the Jamboree materials.

Newspaper articles along with our conversations help bring back memories of the Jamboree and we all tried to piece together what we were doing at the moment the astronauts landed on the moon. I don't trust my memory 100%, but for the last fifty years I've carried an image in my mind of a cheer breaking out in waves across the entire park, a mighty sound given that over 34,000 Boy Scouts attended this Jamboree and that there were also thousands of visitors and people working there. Mike, Kenton, and I agreed, and a newspaper article supported our memory, that the landing was replayed at an evening show in the mammoth amphitheater on the Farragut site.

Carol and Mike fed us a moon-themed lunch, giving the cheeseburgers, brats, salads, and cookies names related to the moon. I wish I'd taken a picture of the menu they created so I could list some of the clever names, but, to be honest, I was so overwhelmed by memories and conversation, I didn't take any pictures and I didn't commit the menu to memory.

I had forgotten -- if I ever knew -- that Mike Wilson had been a manager of the CdA Vikings boys' basketball teams of 71-72 and 72-73 and that the next two years her served as manager of the NIC Cardinals. We had a great time remembering players from these teams, certain games, and it was fun to listen to Mike share his high regard for both coaches he worked for, Dean Lundblad and Rollie Williams.  Mike had also been a student at IHM Academy before it closed after his sophomore year and we had a lot to talk about regarding people we knew and IHM sports teams.

I had fun talking with Carol Wilson about the fact that she grew up in Cavendish and went to Orofino High School. She was surprised when I told her that often on our drives to and from Orofino from Kellogg, Mom requested that we drive on the Cavendish Grade ("So you actually know where Cavendish is?") so she could admire the golden farmlands.

I also enjoyed talking with Gerri about the week of writing and invigoration she just completed at Fishtrap. She got to meet Colette Marie. Colette and I have been great friends for over thirty-five years and I loved that they got to meet.

So, it was a superb five hour visit. Kenton, Gerri, Carol, and Mike will all be in Kellogg in a couple of weeks to attend the memorial service for Jim Vergobbi. I look forward to seeing them all again. I'm very grateful for the time we spent together today and to have the opportunity to relive great memories of the Jamboree and reminiscing with Mike about CdA High, IHM Academy, and North Idaho College.

3. It turns out that Christy bought some whole chickens on sale at Stein's Grocery (RIP) some time back and discovered them in her chest freezer and wants to cook them. So, tonight, she and Everett invited Debbie and me over for dinner. I arrived a little late, but joined in the cocktail half hour. Christy made a pitcher of Caesars. Soon, she served us tasty and tender beer can chicken, a delicious salad of zucchini and cucumber dressed with olive oil and lemon and seasoned with fresh dill, mint, and (I think) other herbs. Debbie roasted a bowl of Brussel sprouts. Then (WOW!), Christy announced she'd baked a peach cake in a cast iron skillet and she served us each a piece with ice cream. It was a splendid dinner and we wondered if, possibly, while Christy is working on reducing her whole chicken inventory, we might just have chicken Saturdays for a while! Ha! We'll see!

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 07/19/19: The Table and Charly, New Curry Dish, Peak Inland Lounge

1. Off and on through the day, Debbie and I put things on and took things off the table as we work to plan who will be where and when over the next several months. Our deliberations were structured significantly by our concern for Charly's mobility. She is in good spirits, seems to feel all right, but her hindquarters continue to deteriorate and she's having more difficulty getting around. She's determined, though, and when she goes out in the back yard, she still makes her way to different areas to sniff and explore and, sometimes, get some barking in. Sometimes she's able to climb the three steps that comprise the back porch -- sometimes she needs human help.

2.  Early in the afternoon, following Debbie's directions, I made a new kind of curry: yellow curry sauce combined with onions, diced tomatoes, and garbanzo beans served over jasmine rice. I was very happy with the curry sauce I made. I thought the balance of heat, sweetness, and saltiness was right on and when I ate it mixed with tomatoes and chick peas it reminded me eating Egyptian Moussaka Stew at Poppi's Anatolia years ago in Eugene. All today's dish needed was eggplant -- and I'll add that to the mix in the future.

3. We had a great night at the Lounge. We arrived shortly after six o'clock and until we got home around 9:00 the yakking was peak Inland Lounge. Fantasy baseball. Live baseball. Live music. Bob Dylan. Elks crab feed history. Medical roundups. Golf stories. Travel dreams. Actual travel. And more -- it was a night of stories, laughter, reunion, and dreams.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 07/18/19: Yoke's Walk, Hospital Walk, Market Walk

1.  First thing this morning, I slung on my backpack and went on a cool walk to Yoke's and picked up a few items and got a full day of walking underway.

2. Later in the morning, I walked up to the hospital for my monthly blood draw. Upon checking in, the person at the front desk asked me for the name of the doctor who ordered the blood draw. Now, back in the days of having a monthly draw performed for the Univ. of Maryland, I had an order in the form of a letter with the doctor's name at the bottom. It's different with Sacred Heart in Spokane. No letter. Not able to get internet service on my phone at the hospital, I walked back home, jumped online, and found the name of my transplant nephrologist: Dr. Samer H. Bani Hani -- I was embarrassed that I'd forgotten his name (but not his kind manner). So, I walked back to the hospital, had my blood drawn, and walked back home.

3. This was turning into a good day for racking up steps. Around 5:00 or so, Debbie and I decided to head over to the Community Market at the Kellogg City Park. To my delight, Debbie wanted to walk over. We hung out at the park for a while, ate some food from Black Kettle Kitchen, talked with Sue and Cleve and Marah for a while, and sauntered over to the Hill St. Depot for a gin and tonic and some Yankees/Rays action on the flat screen. f When we arrived back home again, I was really happy to see that I'd racked up over 9000 steps for the day and had walked over 4.5 miles.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 07/17/19: Back to the Hill, House Cleaning, Debbie's Arrival in Kellogg

1. I returned this cool overcast morning to the hill behind the hospital. I had my strongest hike so far. My rest times were 15-30 seconds. I didn't need to sit on either bench on the trail. When I reached the picnic table at the end of the hike, I was breathing hard, but I recovered quickly and, for the first time in the last month, felt like I could have enjoyed extending my hike. It shouldn't be too long before I do just that.

2. Invigorated by my walk to the trail, my hike, and my walk back home, and, encouraged by the cool weather, I decided to clean the kitchen and living room a little more deeply than usual. I laundered the bedding and towels. I got caught up on doing the dishes. I swept, vacuumed, and mopped the kitchen floor and wiped down cupboard doors and cleaned the surfaces of the stove, dishwasher, and refrigerator. I didn't do everything I might have, but I'll get back to the other tasks. I moved chairs and the ottoman in the living room and vacuumed all the rugs and the exposed sections of the floor.

It's difficult watching Charly age. She's slowed way down and her hind quarters are shot. That said, I have to admit that it's a relief that as an old dog, Charly no longer scream barks when I vacuum, making the task much less stressful and more enjoyable.

3. About 7:00 this evening, Debbie arrived back in Kellogg and we spent the next four hours talking about a range of things: family, money, our cars, travel, Charly's condition, the sewer project, and other things.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 07/16/19: A Visitor, A Letter, A Pot of Soup

1. I was just finishing up my morning roster adjustments for fantasy baseball and my blog writing when I heard a rap at the door. It was Mike Stafford. This made me very happy. Mike came in and we yakked for a half an hour or so, helping get my day off to a great start.

2. I've had the composition of a return letter (email) to Dan on my mind for a few weeks. Somehow, when the late morning and early afternoon rain fell and it looked like I'd be confined to my quarters, I buckled down, put on the movie Run Lola Run (for its energizing soundtrack) and spent much of the afternoon writing to Dan.

3. I had three small chicken thighs left in the freezer. Early in the day, I thawed them out. This evening, I baked them. While they cooled off, I chopped an onion, some celery, and some yellow pepper and sauteed these bits in the fat in the cast iron pan I used to bake the chicken. I poured a quart of chicken broth in a pot, added in the vegetables, chopped the chicken pieces and put them in, and dumped a half dozen or so baby carrots in the pot. Then I remembered I had fresh basil in the fridge, so I added a few leaves. After seasoning the soup with salt and pepper and little champagne vinegar, I boiled everything, turned down the heat, and upon tasting it, decided I'd enjoy some soy sauce in this soup. I wish I'd had some cilantro, bean sprouts, and rice noodles on hand. As it was, the soup was a very pale imitation of a pho, and I let myself pretend it really was. Pho or no, though, I enjoyed my modest creation.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 07/15/19: Walk Called Off, Two Loneliness Movies: *Mr. Turner*, *Sunday*

1. I started toward the trail to hike up the hill behind the hospital and soon experienced that the intestinal instability I'd awakened with was slightly more serious than I thought, so I returned home, disappointed. Fortunately, I didn't feel ill and so I did some light housekeeping and read more about Sunday's Wimbledon tennis match and focused on eating bland foods and drinking tea.

2. Without planning to, I watched two movies connected to each other by their preoccupation with loneliness.

From the time I first saw gigantic paintings of his at the Tate Museum in London in 1975, I have been enamored with the work of J.M.W. Turner. In December of 2014, I became aware of movie being released about the painter, entitled Mr. Turner. I knew Mike Leigh directed it. It was exactly the kind of movie I would have hot-footed it to the Broadway Metro or the Bijou in Eugene to see, but, when it was released, I was in Kellogg, my home was in Maryland, and, when I returned to Maryland, I don't remember if the movie was playing in theaters in the D.C. area.

So, I never saw Mr. Turner. But, it's been on my mind for nearly five years. It's a longish movie, running just over 150 minutes, and today, I decided to rent it from Amazon and watch it.

My insides ached during the entire movie. Intellectually brilliant, gruff, laconic, Turner's snorts and grunts and social awkwardness lacquered over his deep feelings of pain, of loss, of longing. Detached, he longed for attachment. His gropings for intimacy were sometimes awkward, sometimes predatory. While his art demanded that he live many hours in solitude, this solitude was not the same as his loneliness. The solitude enhanced his art, his sensitivity to light and color, the meeting of sea and sky, his insights into the emerging world of smoke, steel, and machines in the early to mid-1800s in England, and his understanding of how the turbulence of the outer world paralleled inward human turbulence. But, his loneliness, the ways he walled himself off from many who sought his love and approval, warped him. The warped and groping J.M.W. Turner unsettled, angered, shocked, and repulsed me.

The movie is a complex portrayal of a complicated man. Mike Leigh's J.M.W. Turner is, by turns, capable of hardness, cruelty, and exploitation and of tenderness, sensitivity, and fellow feeling. If this movie's J.M.W. Turner had been only despicable, I wouldn't have ached throughout the movie. I would have simply despised him -- and I did despise him, especially in his relationship with his longtime, devoted, and cripplingly lonely housekeeper, Hannah Danby and in his dismissal of his daughters and their mother. But, I did ache in empathy for the pain of Mr. Turner's isolation, for the way what was good in him remained largely, but not entirely untapped, unexpressed. But, even when he experienced the affection he longed for, it was in isolation, was largely, but not entirely, secretive.

3.  Over the past few months, I have watched the DVDs of acting sessions, under the direction of John Barton, put on by members of the Royal Shakespeare Company, called Playing Shakespeare.

When I watch these episodes, I'm especially impressed with Lisa Harrow's work. I began to read more about her acting career and discovered that she starred in a movie, released in 1997, with another of my favorite actors from Playing Shakespeare, David Souchet.

The movie's title is Sunday. It's an independently made movie -- what is often called a "small movie". I found the movie at a used DVD store online and ordered it and today I watched Sunday.

As the movie unfolded, a quotation from Tennessee Williams kept surfacing in my mind: "We are all sentenced to solitary confinement inside our own skins, for life."

The story of Sunday centers on two people who are strangers to each other. Oliver/Matthew has been let go by IBM and now lives in a men's shelter run by a church in Queens. He's homeless. Madeline lives in Queens, is estranged from her husband, and can't find work. She's an actor.

The movie all takes place on a frigid, snowy Sunday. Early in the day, these two lonely strangers meet on the street -- I won't give away how they meet -- and spend much of the day together.

As their day together progresses and as they learn more about each other, each character's hunger for connection drives each of them to reach out to the other. They are like two swimmers trying to save one another from drowning. As in Mr. Turner, their loneliness is palpable force, and, by turns, their loneliness moves them to be reckless, impulsive, playful, upset, tender, bewildered,  affectionate, and intimate with each other, both physically and emotionally.

The movie also follows the lonely days of the men who sleep at the shelter as they venture out into their daily routines on the streets of Queens and it gives us some unsettling glimpses into Madeline's marriage.

Watching David Souchet and Lisa Harrow play these lonely, confused, perplexing, mysterious, aching characters thrilled me. Working in an independently made movie freed the entire production of conforming to the demands of movies made to be popular.  The movie dared to be confusing, to examine the baffling nature of homelessness, joblessness, marital disintegration, and the resulting loneliness of these experiences.  I enjoyed the demands this movie made on Lisa Harrow and David Souchet and the many ways their brilliant and sensitive work exposed us to the contradictory aspects of their characters and rendered deep insight into the solitary confinement inside our skins that Tennessee Williams asserts we are all confined to.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 07/14/19: Monumental Wimbledon Final, Family Dinner, Great Music

1.  I brewed a cup of coffee and planted myself in front of ESPN's coverage of the Wimbledon's Men's (Gentlemen's) Final between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. Aside from getting up to brew one more cup of coffee and to visit the bathroom a couple of times, I was transfixed with astonishment from shortly after 6 a.m. until 10:55 a.m. watching one of the most scintillating tennis matches -- well, sporting events -- I have ever witnessed.

I love to watch tennis for the way the game demands so much of each player mentally and physically. Physically, tennis requires players to move constantly, back and forth across the baseline, to the net and back again; they slide, dive, and stretch; they hit booming serves, delicate drop shots, topspin, backspin, side spin, shots up the line, across the court, lobs, ground strokes, backhands, forehands, and precise volleys at the net.

Mentally, a tennis match requires long periods of concentration, split second decisions, spontaneous acts of imagination, and the constant assertion of one's will. Tennis players are always looking to break the will of an opponent, whether overwhelming the opponent with powerful serves, a variety of pinpoint returns, relentless defense, or mercurial agility.

Today, as Federer and Djokovic played and competed for nearly five hours, neither player wore down physically and neither dominated the other's will. This was in contrast to the Women's Final match between Serena Williams and Simona Halep. Halep established in the first set of that match that she was in superior physical condition. Her shots were much crisper, she was able to run down and return nearly every shot Williams boomed her way, and her superiority seemed to both stun and demoralize Williams. Not long into the second set, Williams was finished. Barring a miracle, there didn't seem to be any path for her to forge to overcome Halep. Halep won convincingly.

Even when Djokovic won the fifth set tie breaker after he and Federer played to 12-12 tie in that set, I never sensed that Djokovic had broken Federer's will and Federer never broke Djokovic's. By the time the tiebreaker got underway after twenty-four games in that fifth set, I knew this glorious match was going to end, but nothing in either player's demeanor indicated that one had a clear advantage over the other.

As he had done with the tie breakers to decide the first and third sets, Djokovic won the tie breaker to decide the championship. His margin of superiority over Federer was nearly imperceptible, but probably came down to his being able to keep more shots in play than Federer and certainly came down to him fighting off two championship points in the sixteenth game of the fifth set -- after Federer had served two straight aces. I mean, good Lord, if ever a player might have succumbed to the powers of the other, Djokovic had every reason to be demoralized when he was down 15-40 in that game and had been unable to even return Federer's previous two serves. But, Djokovic dug deep, won two points, evened the game at deuce, and went on to win it, escaping defeat and setting the stage for his eventual win.

Tennis matches expose players. This match exposed both Federer and Djokovic as two of the strongest, most competitive, and most admirable athletes in all of sports. It could happen, but it's hard to believe that I will ever again witness such brilliant play, in any sport, as what I saw today, especially in the marathon fifth set. For me, the brilliance of Federer and Djokovic's match was made all the more impressive by the fact that Federer is 37 years old (he turns 38 on August 8th) and he played with the agility, endurance, mental strength, and precision of a much younger man. Djokovic is likely in his prime years at 32 years old. He will, no doubt, win more major championships. Was this Federer's last chance at winning a major? Possibly, but even with time's winged chariot hurrying near, Federer might still win another. Today (and Friday against Rafael Nadal) he demonstrated that he is capable of playing at the highest level and of sustaining brilliant play over several hours. But, if to win another, he has to defeat Novak Djokovic, that's a daunting challenge.

The U. S. Open gets underway on August 26th. I can hardly wait.

2.  Carol hosted family dinner tonight and she and Paul had fun preparing a splendid meal. We started off with some wine and a shrimp cocktail followed by Spiendini di Mozzarella for appetizers. The Spiendini di Mozzarella were triple decker cheese sandwiches grilled on the barbecue with a sprig of rosemary speared in them. They were a rare treat, very delicious. For the main course, Carol prepared a garden salad with lettuce picked fresh from her garden, dressed with an Italian vinaigrette, to accompany New York steaks, grilled by Paul, garnished with orange and oregano. Carol also prepared a superb dessert: using raspberries from her garden, she baked a raspberry and rhubarb pie served with a scoop of French vanilla ice cream. We ate on Carol and Paul's patio and, aside from a few gusts of wind, couldn't have asked for a more comfortable evening outside.

3. On my way home, I picked up a few groceries and enjoyed listening to about ten songs by the Traveling Wilburys. Earlier in the day, after the tennis match and while cleaning up the kitchen and doing a few things around the house, I listened to The Tragically Hip. Both sessions, both groups invigorated me.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 07/13/19: Molly's Burniversary, Halep Defeats Williams, A Day of Documentaries

1.  Soon after I woke up this morning, I remembered that fifteen years ago Molly suffered serious burns to her arms and torso in a camp stove accident. I wanted to text her to let her know that both her accident and her physical and mental healing were on my mind, but I also remembered that in some of the past years, Molly had let her burniversary pass without mention. I wondered if part of her healing involved not making a big deal out of another year having passed. (Side note: I know that the Zinc Plant accident that changed my life happened in July of 1973, but I can no longer tell you the exact date. I would have to look it up.)

But, then, this afternoon, Molly sent out a group text to family members. She let us know two things: she got burned fifteen years ago today and, today, Olivia learned how to ride a bike.

I privately texted Molly.

2. Starting about 6 a.m., I watched the stunning finals match at Wimbledon between Serena Williams and Simona Halep. Normally, when using the word "stunning" about a tennis match featuring Serena Williams, it's Williams who does the stunning with her power, precision, and dominance. This morning, however, Simona Halep played the stunning tennis. She shredded Serena Williams with speed, quickness, superb defense (it seemed like she returned every one of Serena's shots), and accuracy. As the match progressed, a shadow of doubt crossed Serena's face, as if she didn't know if she could manufacture any shots that would get by Halep. Serena over hit some shots. She hit several returns into the net. These were uneasy shots, even tentative.  Serena candidly and calmly stated in her post-match comments that Halep had outplayed her and Halep's supremacy on this day made Williams feel like a deer in the headlights.

Yes, I would have enjoyed a closer, longer match, but Simona Halep's nearly flawless performance was jaw dropping, scintillating, unexpected, and a great pleasure.

3. Knowing that today's temperatures were going to rise into at least the mid-80s, I decided against going to the Wallace Blues Festival.

Instead, after the tennis match, I watched a string of documentaries.

Recently, I've been exploring the cottage industry of low budget unauthorized documentaries featuring multiple interviews about bands and musicians; some of these documentaries include quite a bit of the artists' music and sometimes not. First, I watched Led Zeppelin: Origin of a Species. I enjoyed learning about the history of each band members, whom they had played for before forming Led Zeppelin,  how their musical styles evolved, and how they found each other.  Especially enjoyable, then, was the way this program explored Led Zeppelin's first two albums and how the band blended rock and roll with the blues and traditional folk music, establishing immediately the band's insatiable curiosity and wondrous versatility.

Next, I watched Fleetwood Mac: Unbroken Chain. This documentary made me wish I'd had a stack of old Fleetwood Mac albums on hand so I could listen to recordings of the band when it featured Peter Green. But, this program was all talk and no music. Consequently, I learned quite a bit about these early days of Fleetwood Mac and the difficulties the band suffered, but I'll have to go in search of recordings and listen to them so I can hear for myself support for the high praise the interviewees lavished upon Peter Green.

I began to lose interest in this program when it turned to the revamped Fleetwood Mac that featured Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. I would have enjoyed discussion of the music the new Fleetwood Mac made, but -- and I get tired of this -- the documentary focused on the Fleetwood Ma soap opera. I fell asleep.

Later in the afternoon, I returned to a documentary I had watched at the Broadway Metro six years ago, Stories We Tell. It's Sarah Polley's filmed family story. She interviews her brothers and sisters and others connected with her family about her deceased mother and digs into learning the identity of her biological father. Its a study of the elusive nature of truth, of the difficulty of believing there is such a thing as "what really happened", as Polley's interviews reveal that different family members remember things differently, and, so, the stories they tell about the same events vary from each other.

Having just watched Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story inspired me to return to Stories We Tell. I remembered that both movies dealt with the truth and reality as unstable. As I watched Stories We Tell today, it came back to me that Sarah Polley hired actors to play out scenes from the past and filmed these recreations with an 8 mm camera, giving them the same look as authentic home movies her father had taken decades earlier. These manufactured scenes are not actual; are they real, though? In digging into the past, what can be relied upon? Can we ever really know what happened? Whose stories can be or should be believed?

The other day, up at the Lounge, Cas told me how cool he thought it was that when Tragically Hip played their final concert in Winston, Ontario, in 2016 that the country of Canada nearly came to a stand still. The concert was broadcast on CBC. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended the last show. It was epic.

Then Cas told me that, until recently, he'd never really listened to Tragically Hip. I admitted I never ever had. He then recommended that I go to Netflix and watch the documentary of Tragically Hip's final tour.

So, this evening I did. Tragically Hip's over thirty year run as one Canada's most beloved and respected bands came to an end in 2016 because the band's lead singer, Gord Downey, had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. After he went through a grueling regimen of treatment, Gord Downey insisted that the band tour Canada one last time. The movie, Long Time Running, documents this final tour.

I seem to be very good at coming to bands late. Now I can add Tragically Hip to my list. I will watch this movie more often. I will listen to a lot more of Tragically Hip. I'm a convert -- a willing and happy convert.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 07/12/19: Wimbledon, Uptown with Byrdman, Afternoon Gin and Bob Dylan

1. I returned home from England in June of 1975 after a month's visit and, in July, I watched Wimbledon tennis matches for the first time on television and, for many years afterward, watched Wimbledon matches with love and devotion. Then, for many years, I didn't watch Wimbledon because I didn't have a television.

Today, I watched the men's semi-final matches. It was especially scintillating to watch Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal play once again and to see Federer, at nearly 38 years old, play with calm, composure, power, accuracy, and consistency and win the match in four sets.

2. Later in the day, Byrdman told me he was coming over to Kellogg. He picked me up and we went up to Radio Brewing for a pint of delicious Silver Mountain IPA and some great conversation reviewing the Federer/Nadal match and marveling at men's tennis' three dominant players: Federer, Nadal, and Novak Djokovic, not only how superbly they have played over the years, but how superbly they are playing now, as thirtysomethings, as mature players, no longer young hot shots.

It's hard to believe that a day is coming when these three will not be playing tennis, but, for now, I relish being able to watch them play and I am eager to watch Federer and Djokovic play Sunday morning in the Wimbledon final.

After our beer at Radio, we headed down to the Inland Lounge and immediately ordered burgers from the Elks and took a spot at the bar and thoroughly enjoyed yakkin' with Cas and others and had a good session with Harley when he delivered our burgers. I thought our time at the Lounge was peak Kellogg. Cold beer. Great burgers from the Elks. Lots of laughing and story telling up and down the bar. A table of people ten to twenty years older than me having a drink before heading to the Senior Center next door to dance. Everyone was in high spirits, happy to see one another, and the good vibes had me walking on air as Byrdman and I left, around 8:00.

3. Afternoon gin and Bob Dylan. I finished watching the movie (Conjuring the) Rolling Thunder Revue and I loved it. Most of all, I loved how the movie portrays Bob Dylan as totally occupied by music, music he's heard, music he plays, the music of poetry, and the music of his heart.

I enjoyed the way the movie messed with its viewers' minds by mixing actuality with fiction. By bringing fictional figures into the movie, Scorsese and Dylan were able to explore aspects of this tour and Dylan's legacy in a more distilled and controlled way, exploring such matters as celebrity  in the USA, politics and music, perceptions of Bob Dylan, perspectives on the Rolling Thunder Revue, the business side of popular music, and other things through imaginary characters who may not have existed, but who spoke insightful truths.

As I've written before, if you are interested in looking into what was actual and what was fabricated in this movie, a quick online search will get you to plenty of articles that deal with this. I would like to give away one of the fictional characters.  I thought it was an ingenious and delightful bit of trickery that Scorsese and Dylan brought, from Gary Trudeau and Robert Altman's late 80s HBO mini-series/mockumentary Tanner 88,  fictional former Michigan congressman, Jack Tanner, played by Michael Murphy. I loved seeing Michael Murphy play this role in Rolling Thunder Revue, as a much older Jack Tanner reminisces about his relationship with Jimmy Carter and tells a story about going to the Rolling Thunder Revue when it played in Niagara Falls, NY.  The surface was fiction, but his words were shot through with truth about our culture, especially in the mid-70s.

I don't have a deep understanding of Bob Dylan's life and career, but my impression is that it's been an ongoing process of Dylan re-inventing himself, of presenting a series of different persona to the public -- a series, I'd say, of different fictional representations of himself. When I saw the movie I'm Not There, I thought it treated Bob Dylan as an ever fluctuating concept or idea, and, in that movie, Dylan's mutability was portrayed by having several actors play the multiple dimensions of Bob Dylan.

In other words, with my limited knowledge, I think it's fitting that Bob Dylan, a performer of many roles in his life, would be a part of a documentary mixing the actual and the factual with fiction and invention as a way of getting at the what he'd like audiences to think about -- and be confused about -- The Rolling Thunder Revue.

By the way, I also think this is a documentary about documentaries, magnifying that it's inevitable that documentary movies rely on the techniques of fiction in the ways they shape stories, leave things out, mess with chronology, and structure our responses as we watch them.  This particular movie is just more audacious than most in its blending of fiction and the actual.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 07/11/19: Walking with Stu, Salad and Baseball, Back to the Bob Dylan Movie

1. While going through my morning routines, Stu messaged me an invitation to meet at the Cataldo Trailhead on the Trail of the CdAs. We did. I piled into his rig and we drove to the family ranch where his sister Carrie lives. We took a walk up a draw on a grown over road. The road gently rose through stands of various trees -- white pine, cedar, tamarack, cottonwood, among others -- with the murmur of Skeel Creek nearby and wild daisies smiling at us from various angles. We walked over 5000 steps, about two and half miles up and back, and I was pleasantly surprised when I returned home that the steady rise of the road had provided me with a pretty good workout.

It had been several years since I'd been to the ranch. Stu reminded me of where his grandpa's house once stood, where the barn had been, and where horses once roamed. I remembered sleep overs, meals, parties, visits, and other good times I had at the ranch, extending all the way back to when Stu and I were third graders in 1962-63.

2. Back home, I rested my rubbery legs, made a quick trip to Yoke's, and fixed myself a serving bowl of Romaine lettuce, Fuji apple, feta cheese, cucumber, and walnuts, dressed with another version of the olive brine vinaigrette I've been experimenting with. I watched the Rangers and the Astros play a nondescript game, but I enjoyed continuing to increase my knowledge of Major League Baseball in 2019. I'm slowly becoming familiar with today's players and with the recent developments in how the game is played. It's fascinating.

3. I went back to the beginning and rewatched about the first hour of Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story. I noticed something this evening that I hadn't seen before. The movie's main title graphic gave the movie a slightly different name: Conjuring the Rolling Thunder Revue. A conjurer creates illusions. In fact, the movie opens with piece of Georges Milies film showing a magician performing a trick, using an editing method to make it appear that a magic trick that didn't happen actually did. Throughout the first half of this movie, Martin Scorsese and Bob Dylan combine conjured scenes and interviews and combine them with actual footage and interviews from the 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue tour in 1975 (much of this footage is from Dylan's work on his movie Renaldo and Clara). If you want to know what is conjured in this movie, a quick search of the World Wide Web will take you to any number of articles about this -- in other words, the movie is both a traditional documentary and a fictional one; The Last Waltz is a traditional documentary/concert movie; This is Spinal Tap is fictional. (Conjuring the) Rolling Thunder Revue is both. After I've finished watching the entire movie, I'm going write about why I think the movie was made this way and what this combination achieves in telling another chapter of the Bob Dylan story.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 07/10/19: Endurance Increasing, Kidney Report, A Miscellany of Great Stuff

1. Today I hiked up the hospital trail from the beginning to the viewpoint overlooking Kellogg without sitting to rest on either bench. I did stop to rest a couple of times, but I stayed on my feet and took about thirty seconds to let my breathing and heartbeat return to normal. The trail seemed shorter today and I didn't stay long at the picnic table at the viewpoint before heading back down the hill.

A couple of hours later, I had an appointment at the clinic. I drove to the city park and walked on the Trail of the CdAs to the point where there's a trail that goes uphill to the mining museum, walked up it and on to the clinic. I racked up over 5000 steps and about two and a half miles.

2. My appointment was with nephrologist Dr. Kristie Jones. I had read my blood test results about five days in advance of my appointment and knew that my kidney function had dropped back down to 14%. My function has been fluctuating between 14-16% over the last year or so. These numbers are lousy, but stable. Even with these lousy numbers, I'm feeling very good. I'm not showing any symptoms of kidney failure (no metallic taste, no water retention, no loss of energy, no skin discoloration, etc). My blood work results were strong in many other areas, continuing that pattern. Strictly speaking, a kidney function below 15% marks Stage V kidney disease, and is often regarded as a sign that it it time to begin dialysis. But, because the rest of my system is doing well -- I'm not diabetic, my heart is strong, and so on --, I am doing pretty well with such a low kidney function and, for now, no dialysis.

When I read the results of my blood work, I was concerned that my glucose level registered barely outside the normal range on the high end. It's elevated glucose that signifies the onset of diabetes. Dr. Jones' response was calm. She put my low level of anxiety at ease. She wants me to have more blood work done toward the end of August to monitor both my glucose and my kidney function. I've done some reading about lowering glucose in the blood and I'm definitely doing the right thing by exercising regularly. I got the electronic scales working again today, so I'm going to monitor my weight more closely. I'll see if I can shed a few pounds. This will help lower my glucose, too. One other change: I will be increasing my daily dosage of sodium bicarbonate pills because the bicarbonate levels in my blood are a little low. My potassium levels are within range, but how my kidneys filter potassium is always a concern and raising my bicarbonate levels will help.

We'll see how things look at the end of August. I will then also have blood work done in late September/early October and see Dr. Jones in mid-October.

3. I enjoyed a miscellany of things over the rest of the day.

* I have been texting with longtime friend Colette Marie while she is currently participating in the Summer Fishtrap Gathering of Writers at Wallowa Lake, Oregon.  From her Facebook page, I knew Gerri Sayler (Kenton Bird's wife) is also at Fishtrap this week, so I urged Colette to track down Gerri and introduce herself. Colette texted me that she'd heard Gerri read three poems at Wednesday's open mic. They met. Colette told me Gerri is a delight, that she's a powerful poet, and that her poems knocked Colette's socks off. That they are acquainted now thrills me.

* I didn't mention on Monday that I had, as promised, turned the brisket stroganoff I made for family dinner into a beef stroganoff soup. I thawed two quarts of the beef/pork soup stock I made a week ago and combined the leftover stroganoff, brisket, cauliflower, and onions and celery with the stock and added in some leftover tofu (it didn't do much for the soup!) and a handful of baby carrots. I let this soup simmer so the carrots could cook. This is one of the tastiest soups I've ever made. The soup stock I made is superb. The combination of the carrots' sweetness with the tanginess of the sour cream/stroganoff and the savory substance of the brisket sent the flavor of this soup over the top.

* One of the reasons I'm glad that I have lived to sixty-five is that I continue to come to a new or even a first-time appreciation of music all the time. One example is Pink Floyd. Pink Floyd just never registered with me until August of 2008 when Jeff invited me to join him for a Floydian Slips show at the Cuthbert and suddenly I was hooked and now I listen to and love Pink Floyd all the time. Similarly, when Jeff and I went to the Neil Young concert in Eugene in May, the world of Neil Young's music opened up to me in new and invigorating ways and now I'm putting Neil Young albums on the Echo Dot and enjoying the plunge more deeply into his music.

This all brings to mind an evening back in fall of 1997 when I invited Ken Zimmerman and Jeff Harrison over to my house. I fixed us dinner and asked them to please help me understand what sets Bob Dylan apart as an artist. We didn't get very far with that discussion, and, for the next twenty-two years I have continued to seek having a great time listening to Bob Dylan.

I can't really explain it in this blog post at this time, but in the last several days I have experienced the Bob Dylan breakthrough I have been seeking all these years. This week, I have been listening to recordings of Dylan playing with The Band; I have also listened to Blood on the Tracks, Infidels, Desire, Empire Burlesque, and Oh Mercy. I will listen to more, continuing my random, non-systematic approach. Soon I will return to the movie Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story. I think I will start it over again and watch it all the way through. (I ran out of energy half way through when I watched it in the evening because it ran past by bedtime!) I also plan on returning to the movie, I'm Not There, a movie I watched back in December 2007. 

At some point, I'm going to want to account for this breakthrough and write about it on my own terms. That's a difficult task because there is so much already written about Dylan's genius and I don't want to write from any of these points of views, but from my own.

* Having been immersing myself in Bob Dylan, I decided this evening to go to Amazon Prime and watch a superb episode of Classic Albums. It spends an hour looking at the making of The Band's first album, entitled The Band. I had watched this episode several years ago and returning to it tonight augmented my already deep love for The Band and deepened my understanding of their place in the world of popular music. It was a superb way to bring the day to a close -- and, to continue to appreciate that the older I get, the more all of this music (like so many good things in my life) means to me.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 07/09/19: A Little Stronger, Sewer Video, All-Star Game

1. I returned to the trail above the hospital. I stopped at the two benches as I ascended the trail and, instead of resting for sixty seconds, I rested for forty-five. Progress. It felt like my recovery time is improving.

2. The technician who came in today to video the sewer line was happy that the line could be easily videoed (no blockage, no roots) and was grateful that his work here was so easy. He was doing several similar jobs in Kellogg and had been running behind time.

3. I don't remember the last time I watched Major League Baseball's annual All-Star game. Fox Sports jazzed up the broadcast a bit by putting microphones on selected players and the managers and talking with them during the game. That was fun. Even more fun for me, however, was pushing my baseball education forward. I re-entered the world of Major League Baseball last summer when I bought a television and started watching games again, after well over twenty years away. This spring, I joined two Silver Valley leagues in the world of ESPN Fantasy Baseball, and my contemporary baseball literacy has grown quickly ever since. The American League won the game, 4-3. Most of my enjoyment came from seeing two pitchers on my fantasy rosters on tv for the first time: Luis Castillo and Jose Berrios. Both pitched a stellar inning, striking out two batters.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 07/08/19: Sleeping In, Bob Dylan Revisited, Home Run Derby

1. I slept in. I didn't get up until 7:30. I think paying so much attention to fixing dinner yesterday tuckered me out.

2. I still haven't finished watching the movie, Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story, but today I listened to a bunch of Bob Dylan with special attention to recordings he made with The Band. I also returned to Empire Burlesque,  an album I bought about thirty-four years, but hadn't listened to for over thirty years.

3. Cas invited me up to the Inland Lounge to watch Major League Baseball's Home Run Derby. I joined Eddie Joe, Seth, Ginger, Tracy, Cas, and, for a short while, John Sevy and we watched an electrifying display of power hitting. The highlight of the evening was the semi-final match between Vlad Guerrero, Jr. and Joc Pederson. By the time Guerrero and Pederson finished their four minute session, a thirty second bonus session, and two three swing overtime sessions, Guerrero blasted 40 home runs to Pederson's 39, an epic showdown. Possibly, Guerrero spent himself winning this semi-final match. Pete Alonso defeated him in the finals, parking twenty-three shots to Guerrero's twenty-two. Remarkably, for the entire contest, Guerrero rocketed ninety-one balls over the fence, obliterating Giancarlo Stanton's previous record of sixty-one. It was a lot of fun, not only watching baseballs soar over the wall of Cleveland's Progressive Field (to me it will always be "The Jake" or Jacobs Field), but also talking baseball at the bar for about three hours.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 07/07/19: Notes from the Kitchen, Worley, Family Dinner

1. It was my turn to host family dinner this evening. A few days ago, I inspected what remains of last year's beef purchase and noted the brisket in the freezer. I've never cooked brisket before, but I've read a little about brisket. It's a tough cut of meat. It requires long, slow cooking. I associated brisket with pastrami, corned beef, barbecue, and smoked meat.

I got to thinking -- round steak is a tough cut that requires long cooking to tenderize it. Round steak is commonly used in beef stroganoff --could I, I wondered, braise the brisket and make a stroganoff? I looked into braising brisket and got the idea to create a red wine braise.

That was all I needed to know. The taste buds of my imagination had a conference and all agreed that a red wine based braise would combine very well with sour cream and that this combination would work.

So, this morning, around 6:00, after I'd finished my morning writing, I took the thawed brisket out of the refrigerator, patted it down with paper towels, and seasoned it with pepper, salt, and garlic powder. I heated up some vegetable oil in the Dutch oven and seared the brisket.

I was going to be leaving the house soon and felt better about braising the brisket in the crock pot than the oven while I was away.  I placed two or three small chopped onions, a generous amount of chopped celery, some thyme, and four or five cloves of crushed garlic in the bottom of the crock pot, placed the seared brisket on top of them, and poured a bottle of inexpensive red wine over all of it. I put the crock pot on low and figured I'd check into it when I returned home early in the afternoon.

Now, what I hoped for in braising this brisket was that it would be cooked beyond the point of slicing to the point of being able to pull it apart. I would imagine that when brisket is served sliced, it must require some attention to get the brisket tender, but not falling apart. I wanted this brisket to fall apart, so I was unconcerned about overcooking it - as long as it didn't get dry.

When I returned home, the brisket had been slow cooking for about five and half hours or so. I thought -- and I don't know why, except I enjoy braising meat in the oven -- I'll transfer the brisket and the braise back into the Dutch oven and cook it for another couple of hours in the oven at 275 degrees.

So, I did.

I lifted the brisket out of the crock pot, placed it in the Dutch oven, and poured the braise over it.

Hmmm. Too much liquid. So, I scooped out liquid until the brisket was half in, half out of the braise, and put this liquid aside to use as the broth for the stroganoff.

Two hours later, I pulled the brisket out of the oven and it was cooked just the way I wanted it: tender, stringy, and easy to pull apart. I pulled the brisket out, put it on a cutting board (or a pulling apart board) and left the liquid and the onions and celery in the Dutch oven.

I put the stringy, juicy strands of brisket in a bowl and let them cool down.

I got out the other Dutch oven, melted a big chunk of butter, and began cooking the mushrooms I had just sliced. When they were golden, I put a little over two tablespoons of flour over the mushrooms, stirred them around a bit, and browned the flour. I had the broth nearby that I'd scooped out of the crock pot a couple of hours earlier, and poured it over the floured mushrooms until I thought I had it about right. As it started to thicken, I took a slotted spoon and scooped the onion and celery chunks out of the braise and put them in with the mushrooms and broth. I played around with putting more broth in, played around with the thickness of this developing sauce, and then started to further pull apart strands of the cooled brisket and added them in.

I thought the red wine braise sufficiently seasoned the sauce for the time being, but figured later on I might add a little salt and pepper. I let this sauce simmer on the very lowest burner heat for about 90 minutes or so. I took the container of sour cream out of the refrigerator and let it reach room temperature. I added a little more broth in the sauce from time to time. Shortly before Christy, Everett, Paul, and Carol arrived, I folded what I thought was the right amount of sour cream into the sauce, measuring the sour cream by tasting the sauce, not with a cup.

Before I added the sour cream into the stroganoff sauce, I transferred the leftover braise and onions and celery into a bowl -- I will invent and make a soup with this and the leftover stroganoff -- washed the Dutch oven, put water in it, and put almost two heads of cauliflower in the water and steamed them. It an attempt to make this an almost Keto stroganoff, I placed florets of cauliflower in the bottom of five serving bowls and then mashed them up a bit to make my version of cauliflower rice.

Thus, the main dish for dinner was beef stroganoff over a rough version of cauliflower rice.

About forty minutes before dinner, I made a salad comprising chopped Romaine lettuce, basil leaves, chopped Fuji apple pieces, chopped walnuts, cucumber bits, and feta cheese. I decided to dress the salad with one of my recent experiments. I combined olive oil, champagne vinegar, fresh squeezed lemon juice, salt, pepper, and dried oregano in the dressing mixer thing, but I also added the brine from a jar of green olives stuffed with garlic.

Over the past two or three weeks, I have loved this addition of olive brine to vinaigrette. Just for the record, I came up with this idea back in Greenbelt, Maryland when I was making a lot of rice salads for dinner. One day, I thought the brine from the Kalamata olives would taste good in the salad. I was right. In fact, the rice salad I contributed to Carol and Everett's birthday party dinner last Wednesday was partially seasoned with olive brine.

I'm sorry I don't have measurements to offer for making this vinaigrette. I just started pouring and tasting until I thought it tasted pretty good.

(If you are still reading this lengthy description, it's long for two reasons: one, I write this blog mostly so that I have a record of all sorts of things -- including how I fix things in the kitchen; two, during this dinner, Christy asked me if I had made notes as I prepared this meal. These are my notes!)

2. Around 7:30 this morning, I vaulted into the Sube and swung by Ed's place and we jetted down to Worley and spent some time spinning reels at the casino. We had a lot of fun swapping stories and yakkin' about stuff on the way down and back. Things were slow at the casino and I had a relaxing time and didn't spent much money at all. When I had played all I wanted to, I found Ed and I had fun watching him play -- especially when he had some pretty good spins and lit up a couple of machines.

3. That we could enjoy family dinner on the backyard deck this evening made my preparations much easier. I didn't have to declutter the dining table inside or straighten up the living room!

Paul had officiated a wedding yesterday. The bride is the daughter of Amy Arnhold, one of Lee and Ed Holland's daughters. Our family's history with the Hollands stretches back as far as I can remember and we all attended the church across the street at the same time. Christy was very curious about the wedding and the reception (held at Cedar Island up the river) and Carol and Paul added details about the whole shebang to what I gather Christy had already learned from her friend Chris Meyer. I tried to help this conversation along by serving everyone a gin and tonic and by serving the salad and beef stroganoff in separate bowls and bringing them to the table.

Tonight's dinner provided me with further motivation to try to increase my walking/hiking stamina, to continue hiking the trail above the hospital as often as possible. We talked a little bit about when Carol and Paul hiked into Stevens Lake near Mullan five years ago, as well as Ravett Lake. I struggled on the hike into Ravett Lake and I know the Stevens Lake hike is longer, more demanding. I hope I can get myself into good enough shape to one day hike into Stevens Lake.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 07/06/19: Ole Mountain Opry at Country Lane RR, Learning About Local Music, Quick Trip to Runamuck

1. After a good trip with Ed to Nosworthy's Hall of Fame for breakfast and after Ed ran some errands, I returned to Kellogg and Charly and I took a short nap. Refreshed, I buzzed up the river to the Country Lane River Resort where the Ole Mountain Opry Show was performing in support of the grand opening of the river bar. The Ole Mountain Opry Show comprises about, oh, 15-20 musicians and singers. Instruments included guitar, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, and stand up bass. A majority of the players and singers were local and around my age and over the three hours that I listened to them, they shifted seamlessly from one configuration to another, featuring several vocalists and instrumental soloists. They performed on a big timber stage on the resort's property to a very appreciative crowd of campers, friends, and people like me who made the trip just to hear the Ole Mountain Opry.

I had a Goose moment and memory upon arriving at the river bar. I ordered a can of KettleHouse Brewing's Cold Smoke Scotch Ale and suddenly remembered an afternoon three years ago out at Rose Lake when Jake and Carol Lee hosted a get together and Goose brought me several cans of Montana brewed beer from his liquor store in St. Regis. The first one of those beers I tried was the Cold Smoke Scotch Ale. It blew me away. I loved it. Now, with Goose having passed away, when I drink a Cold Smoke, it's especially poignant and a flood of memories of Goose come rushing forward in my mind.

2. During a break in the music, Steve Allen, a banjo player, struck up a conversation with me. He told me that these musicians get together once a month at the Senior Center uptown in Kellogg, once a month at the Prichard Tavern, every Friday at the Silver Lake Mall in CdA/Hayden, and had recently played at a bluegrass festival in Orofino. I also learned today, from the back of one of the musician's T-shirt, that Medical Lake hosts an annual bluegrass festival the second weekend of August.

3. At around 6, the musicians announced they were taking a 45 minute dinner break, but would return to play some more around 7. Rather than hang out and wait for them to return, I drove up the Old River Road, crossed the river, and jetted on up to Camp Runamuck, figuring Byrdman would be around. He was! And so were Stephanie, Nick, and Sheila. They were relaxing around a campfire, tunes from XM/Sirius radio's Classic Vinyl playing, and I hung out for about an hour and had fun yakkin' before I headed back to Kellogg.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 07/05/19: A Little Stronger, Freshening Up, Curried Invention

1. So, that hike up the hill behind the hospital has three places to sit down -- there are two benches on the trail and a picnic table at the viewpoint. To gauge my progress of building up my wind and strengthening my heart rate, I stop at each bench and count out 60 seconds to myself and try to determine if I am returning to normal breathing and heartbeat any quicker than the day before. I thought I was a little stronger today.

2. I drove Charly over to the vet's office to be groomed, shopped for a few groceries, and seized the opportunity to vacuum. Charly doesn't scream bark at the vacuum cleaner any longer -- I don't think she has the energy for that these days -- but, I think the vacuum cleaner noise bothers her all the same, so I was very happy to freshen up the house in her absence. The grooming also freshened Charly. I love how she looks and smells after she's been groomed.

3. I still had a small container of yellow curry sauce left over from a few days ago. I heated a salmon burger patty, broke it down into pieces, and combined it with the sauce. I poured this mixture into a bowl and I decided I'd created a delicious curried salmon stew.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 07/04/19: Hiking Goal, Blog Writing, Charly Unfazed

1. I am not at all pleased with how easily I get winded and how my heart pounds when I hike uphill. I am hoping to improve this situation by hiking the Shoshone Medical Center Trail regularly. Today, I hiked the half mile or so up to the picnic table and scenic view spot on the trail and had to rest twice on the way -- there are two strategically placed benches. I'm hoping I'm being realistic when I say that I'd like to get to the point where I can hike to the picnic table without stopping. That's my first goal.

2. I've been sitting for about six months on two Sibling Assignments. I have good company. Carol has been six months tardy, too! So, today, instead of going over to the City Park and listening to music and joining in the 4th of July festivities, I stayed home and wrote all afternoon and into the evening. I completed an assignment I gave, examining my spiritual home. It's here. Then I completed an assignment Carol gave and tried, not very successfully, to write about what I'd like to do or what I'd like to accomplish in the next five years.  It's here.

3. I dreaded nightfall this evening and the fireworks getting underway. I dreaded Charly becoming confused, frightened; I dreaded her starting to tremble and taking over three hours to settle down. That's what happened a year ago. I wondered if Charly might do better if the television were on, so we retired to the Vizio room and I watched an old episode or two of Password Plus on the Buzzr channel and found an episode of College Bowl on YouTube. Fireworks boomed to the south of the house and to the north. Charly was not fazed. Around 10:00, Charly and I went to bed. She was just fine. It was as if the fireworks were not being put off at all. I was relieved for both of us, but especially for Charly. As much as she is struggling these days with simple mobility, I was happy that she didn't have to endure an added hardship by having the fireworks frighten her and make her shake.

Sibling Assignment #206: I Just Don't Know

Carol gave this assignment:

What is something you have never done but hope to do or hope to have accomplished in the next five years?
Christy's looks forward to writing a book here. So does Carol! Here.

I'll start by looking back five years.

On July 4, 2014, I was in Kellogg, visiting Mom before heading east. That would be six days later, on July 10th, making the move to Virginia and, later, Maryland.

So, on July 4th, 2014, I had some vague ideas about a couple of things I wanted to do back east. I wanted to volunteer to be a guide (a docent) at the Folger Library; I also wanted to go to the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA.

I didn't do either.

As it turned out, my life from July 4th, 2014 forward was fairly chopped up. I returned several times to Kellogg to help out with Mom and in 2017, not only did Mom die, but, in a move I couldn't have predicted in 2014, Debbie and I bought Mom's house and moved to Kellogg.

I have to say that I can't think of any thing that happened between between July 4, 2014 and today, July 4, 2019, that I would have hoped for. I wouldn't have thought to hope to officiate the weddings of two different pairs of friends; I wouldn't have thought of attending the Indiana Fiddle Gathering; I wouldn't have dreamed of hosting Ed and then Ed and Mike and traveling with Ed to Atlantic City and with both of them to Philadelphia and New York City, as well as seeing a lot of Washington, DC and areas in Maryland; I didn't hope, before leaving Oregon, that I'd come to love going to a Monday morning water aerobics class at the Aquatic Center in Greenbelt or come to love shopping at the Co-op and Mom's Organic and at Wegman's. I never thought to dream about seeing The Glass Menagerie and Sunday in the Park with George on Broadway; I wouldn't have known that I'd come to love the beer brewed back east nor that I'd love going to DC Brau, Quench, Old Line Bistro, and Flying Dog Brewery, among other places to enjoy this beer. It never crossed my mind that I would eulogize our mother.

I don't see into the future very well and I've never been a goal-oriented person. Back in 2014, I didn't have any thoughts about accomplishing anything.  I took a lot of pictures that I enjoy having around and I fell in love with life back east; if I accomplished anything, I improved the quality of my life by exploring the D. C. area and New York City as much as I did and enjoyed how invigorated I often felt.

Looking forward, I see a lot of uncertainty in the next five years and that uncertainty makes thinking about what I'd like to do or accomplish very difficult. Honestly, if I hope to accomplish anything, it would be to make the best of whatever circumstances I am in.

I'm thinking about the possibility that in the next five years I might start kidney dialysis and I might experience a kidney transplant. I'm uncertain how either of these possibilities might affect hopes I might have and both are impediments to thinking about goals and accomplishments. I tend to size things up month by month, sometimes week by week. Depending on circumstances, I'd love to return to Nelson, B. C. for several days; I'd love to drive across the USA and back and spend time with Adrienne and her family and with Molly and hers. I'd love to return to New York City and do some more wandering around in Brooklyn again.

But, over the last five years, wonderful things transpired that I never dreamed would happen and I like to think that some good things I haven't and am unable to dream about at present might happen in the next five years as well. But, for now, I can't think of anything that I have my mind set on to try to make happen, no matter what.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Sibling Assignment #205: My Spiritual Home

I gave this sibling assignment -- good grief, I gave it back in January. Now, here it is, July 4th. I feel like spending Independence Day by exercising the freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment and so I'm going to write this assignment now. Here's what I assigned:

Write an essay explaining where you find your spiritual home and why. 

Christy wrote about her spiritual home in nature, here.  In her post, here, Carol explores being a spiritual nomad.

My first job out of college was as a Chaplain's Assistant in the campus ministry program at Whitworth College in 1976-77. I had graduated with a double major in English and history and, at that time, I gave serious thought to applying to a seminary and possibly working toward ordination.

For a short period of time during the 76-77 school year at Whitworth, a handful of us tried to get a group together to discuss the Holy Spirit and the human spirit. As a student of literature and history, I loved the spirit in human beings that manifests itself in creativity, imagination, compassion, ingenuity, and love, to name a few of its fruits.

Please forgive me when you read what's next if you are theologically fluent. I'm not.

I wanted this group to get together because I so deeply admired the human spirit, had been so moved by studying Shakespeare, Flannery O'Connor, Rembrandt, and other visionary artists, and had been so deeply impressed with the spirit of great leaders and innovators I'd studied in history, that I wanted to talk with others and learn more about the work of the Holy Spirit. My understanding of certain passages in the New Testament was that the Holy Spirit joined forces with the human spirit, but I wasn't quite sure I understood this wedding of the two or why, when the human spirit moved people to create such sublime art and to envision such incredible ways of improving the human condition, the human spirit (I'm searching for the right word here) needed the Holy Spirit.

(By the way, I've heard what I'd call the textbook answer to my question about the human and Holy Spirit countless times and almost every time I've heard it explained, the person saying it didn't seem to be speaking her words or his words, but words that were, to me, pat answers, received doctrine, the language of rightness and officialdom. I want to understand this on my own terms and speak my own language. I'm not quite there yet!)

Well, that human spirit/Holy Spirit group never launched. We tried. But, alas, it fizzled out.

But my search for a spiritual home was underway. I didn't quite know if the home I wanted even existed. I wanted a place to worship and a place for fellowship where I could experience the vitality of both the human spirit and the Holy Spirit.

What I didn't know, was that I longed to worship inside a poem; I longed to be an actor in a play. I wanted to worship in a setting that was alive with what I loved: metaphor and drama mixed with an embrace of mystery even while maintaining a devotion to human reason.

I couldn't have said this back in 1979 when I first started attending services at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, but now I know that what I love about poetry is the way it gives structure to emotional experience. Poems distill feeling. Poems give us a concentrated experience with feeling and emotion that the messiness of day to day life can't give us. Poems enhance the power of feeling through the rhythm of language, by giving special stress to certain feelings through words that rhyme or have the same vowel and consonant sounds or by where the word is placed in a line or as the reader moves from one line to the next.

I know now that the liturgy of the Episcopal Church is a poem for me. It's a creation of the coupling of the human spirit and the Holy Spirit and the liturgy structures my spiritual experience, giving special emphasis to certain dimensions of my spiritual life as we move from one part of the liturgy to the next.

The liturgy is deeply biblical. Much of the liturgy comes directly from scripture and every Episcopalian service features four readings: a reading from the Hebrew Bible (a.k.a. The Old Testament), a Psalm, a reading from the Epistles, and the climactic reading from one of the Gospels.

The reading selections are governed by a liturgical calendar and I know that I am joining other Episcopalians near and far in hearing the same Scripture read Sunday after Sunday. My sense of  being a member (and here comes a metaphor!) of the Body of Christ is deepened every Sunday by knowing that so many worshipers are all immersed in the same words and the same Scripture, uniting us all in a common experience.

And then, every time I worship, I get to be in a play. I physically participate in Christ's death and resurrection by walking to the front of the church, kneeling, and ingesting (here comes another metaphor!) the body and blood of Christ by way of the elements of communion. It's akin to a mythical journey of leaving home, entering into a realm of mystery, and then returning home again, emboldened with deeper knowledge and experience -- the pew is like my home; in the elements I ingest the mystery of life coming from death; and then I return, deepened, home again to my seat.

For me the poetic and theatrical experience of the liturgy, of celebrating the Eucharist, gives me a more memorable and enduring experience with the Holy Spirit than what I experienced at churches where the center of the service was the sermon. I'm all for sermons. I've heard many stirring sermons in Episcopal churches -- in Eugene, Spokane, Portland, Cottage Grove, Coeur d'Alene, San Francisco, Washington D. C., Beltsville, College Park, Bethesda, Dunn Loring, and elsewhere. But, the center of every one of those Episcopal services was the liturgical word leading us to the Communion.

I am happy and, in many ways, relieved that in God's house there are many rooms (another metaphor!). I'm very happy God's house has a small room called the Episcopal room. It's not very popular. Many other rooms are more exciting. Sometimes I can hear fellow Christians in those other rooms. I hear electric guitars and drum sets playing; I hear loud Hallelujahs; sometimes I hear ecstatic utterances, brothers and sisters speaking in tongues. Many of those other rooms have projectors and screens with words to songs and inspirational images on them. At least the Episcopal room has wi-fi!

I think I came knocking at the door of the Episcopal room because I'm not much of a believer. (Give me a second here.) Every Sunday, I join the others in the congregation and recite the Nicene Creed. Within myself (or at a whisper), I substitute the word "believe" with the word "experience". For me, it's like gravity. I don't believe in gravity. Gravity just is. I experience it all the time. I don't have to ask myself if I believe in gravity or not. It's the same with the Trinity. I experience God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit all the time, rarely in extraordinary ways, but all the time. Every day, I witness death coming to life again, whether it's some part of my person that had died and now is alive again, whether it's the leaves coming back on the trees in the spring, or whether I witness a comeback by someone in sports or entertainment or I see dead parts of Kellogg coming back to life. Daily, I experience resurrection. I don't really think to believe in it. It just is.

It's why my spiritual home away from the Episcopal Church is definitely the world of nature. But, explaining that will have to happen in another blog post. It's the Episcopal Church that's most on my mind today. For me, it's a church that blends the human and the Divine just right as it looks to scripture, tradition, and reason as its three sources of authority, all interacting with the others, critiquing one another as well as upholding each other. It's what's commonly called the three-legged stool. Remove or overemphasize one of the legs, and, like a stool, things are off balance, out of whack.

In many ways, my experience studying English and history at Whitworth was an Episcopalian experience. In searching for truth in my studies, the traditions of history, the clarity of reason, and the power and beauty of scripture were always at hand, and, as it turns out, were leading me to what has become my spiritual home.