Saturday, November 30, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 11/29/19: Cleaning Up and Making Stock, What Might the Zags Learn?, Gutter Guy Arrives

1. Cooking on Thanksgiving Day required cookware: two crock pots, the Dutch Oven, my larger Pyrex cooking pan, and other pots and pans. After dinner on Thursday, I had plenty of oomph to take care of the dinner dishes, but I decided to wait until this morning to clean the cookware and slice up the leftover turkey breast.

Once I got the cookware cleaned and the turkey carved, I revved up the two crock pots. I cut up several stalks of celery and three onions and combined them with the turkey breast bones, water, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and some leftover bits of meat in one crock pot and with two fully loaded turkey drumsticks, some other bones, leftover meat, the same seasonings, and water in my other crock pot. Within an hour or so, both batches of turkey stock were bubbling away and comforting aromas soon filled the house.

2. Last winter, I watched the Michigan Wolverines play several basketball games against several very good teams like Michigan State, Wisconsin, possibly Purdue, and others. When this season started earlier this month, I wondered how their talented returning players, Zavier Simpson, John Teske, Isaiah Livers, and Eli Brooks, in particular, would respond to the departure of the program's very experienced coach, college basketball lifer, John Beilein, and the arrival of former Wolverine Fab Fiver, longtime NBA player and NBA assistant coach, and completely inexperienced college coach, Juwan Howard.

Coming into the Battle 4 Atlantis, the Michigan Wolverines were undefeated, unranked, and, in my view, underrated and unappreciated.

On Wednesday, Michigan defeated a solid Iowa State five and on Thursday they defeated one of college basketball's Mt. Rushmore programs, North Carolina.

To borrow the favorite word of every analyst on ESPN: the 2019-20 Michigan Wolverines are legit.

And, today, oh my, did Christy, Everett, and I ever see just how legit they are.

Michigan's seniors, the bulky John Teske and the nearly flawless Zavier Simpson, along with the sharp shooting of junior Isaiah Livers, dominated Gonzaga and coasted to a victory, 82-64.

Michigan completely outplayed Gonzaga: the Wolverines out muscled, out fought, out assisted, out blocked, out shot, out rebounded, out toughed, out smarted, out hustled, out defended, and, thanks to a doughy bare armed fan in a Fab Five jersey, whom ESPN showed about fifteen times in the stands, out danced the Zags.

I would love to be in the room this week as Mark Few and his assistants watch and analyze the film of this game with their players. Mostly, I'd enjoy hearing what the coaches will have to say about what the Zags must learn about defending a team like Michigan. Michigan is muscular and productive inside, around the basket, but a defense can't pack the interior because the Wolverines are a superb outside shooting team (their best inside player, John Teske, is also a sharp shooter from the top of the key); Michigan is an elite ball handling squad (especially Zavier Simpson), whose players find lanes and angles and openings while driving to the cup and are, in Steve Lavin's words, eager and willing to share the sugar. (The Wolverines dished out 17 assists against the Zags.)

I came away from this game thinking less about how the Zags lost this game and more about the great skill Michigan employed to beat them.  I thought, during some quieter moments of the day, about what Gonzaga's team might have learned about themselves after playing such a physically strong, accurate shooting, and agile opponent. Can their young big guys, especially Timme and Petrusev, learn to play a more physical game inside? Can this team learn to do others what Michigan did to them -- that is, simultaneously defend players both near the basket and on the outside?

On offense, coming into this game, Gonzaga had been averaging over twenty three point attempts per game and were converting a solid percentage of them. They only shot twelve times from beyond the arc in this game. Michigan defended them tightly from long range and Gonzaga didn't compensate by scoring consistently inside because Michigan defended the Zags stoutly near the hoop.  After facing the best defensive team they've played this year, what can the Zags learn about cracking such defenses as they move forward in their schedule?

I don't know any answers, but I'd love to listen in on those film sessions as the staff and players put their minds together to figure it out and then work on these challenges in practice. 

(Oh! By the way, Patrick and Meagan brought six pints of six different beers with them. All of them are beers I've never heard of brewed by breweries I'm unfamiliar with. I drank one pint today per half. My first beer was a juicy, expertly hopped Hazy IPA from Baerlic Brewing Co. called Long Story Short. I loved it. My second beer was a Hazy Farmhouse IPA, brewed with honey, from the Wolves and People Brewery called Honeycone. I loved it, too. So, while it stung to watch the Zags suffer today's sound defeat, some of the hurt was balanced out by the pleasure of these two ales.)

3. Meagan, Patrick, and I relaxed all afternoon. We listened to jazz. Meagan read. Patrick enjoyed time online on his cell phone. I worked crossword puzzles. We talked a few times about going to CdA, but we never quite got moving.

It's good we didn't.

Around 3:30 or so, a truck eased into the driveway and out stepped a man with a clipboard. I was delighted, upon opening the door, that it was the gutter guy from Jimbo's. I'd put in a request for someone to come and look at the gutters on the back side of the house. They weren't working properly. Sure enough, the gutters had been pushed down and away from the house by ice sliding off the roof. The guy from Jimbo's pushed some sections back up again, but saw places that needed minor repair work that he didn't have the equipment to do. So, a work order will go in and, at some point, the repair will get completed.

Later, when Patrick and Meagan went to City Limits, I declined. My day had started with 6 o'clock breakfast with the guys at Sam's and I was fading. Originally, Patrick, Meagan, and I were going to drop in at The Lounge, but, by 8:00 or so, we all decided to settle in and relax; we all turned in fairly early this evening. 

Friday, November 29, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 11/28/19: Early Morning Cooking, Meagan and Patrick Arrive, Gonzaga's OT Win Over Oregon

1. What could be better? I woke up this morning with the house to myself (well, along with Charly), much cooking to do, a basketball game to watch between the Zags and Ducks, and knowing that Patrick and Meagan would be arriving around 4-4:30.

I started by taking out the bowl of unbaked chicken and cornbread dressing I put together on Tuesday and let it warm up to room temperature before baking it. Meanwhile, I peeled a bunch of potatoes, cubed them, and put them in the crock pot with some water, turned the cooker on high, and initiated my first attempt at making mashed potatoes in the slow cooker. Once the dressing finished baking, I let it cool and set up, and I cut it into irregular rectangles and put them in my other crock pot so the dressing would stay warm all day.

2. Happily, the Thanksgiving stars were aligning in our favor today. The Zags/Ducks game aired at 1 p.m. and I had plenty of time to watch it next door at Christy and Everett's and return home to roast tonight's turkey breast and three turkey drumsticks. I buttered them liberally and seasoned them simply with salt and pepper. By now, the potato cubes were tender. I poured half and half over them, added a generous amount of butter, and about half a block of cream cheese. Then I mashed them. I kept them warm in the crock pot.

Within an hour of having mashed the potatoes and putting the meat in the oven, Patrick and Meagan arrived. On Wednesday, they drove from Portland to The Dalles and then came on up to Kellogg today. They took about fifteen minutes or so to get the beer and seltzer water they brought in the fridge, to find a place for the wine they brought, to get their freshly laundered bedding upstairs, and to get settled into their room at the top of the house.

Now, things really got fun for me. It was time to juggle my self-assigned responsibilities as cook and bartender. I needed to start taking the meat's temperature from time to time and fulfill Patrick and Meagan's cocktail requests. To my delight, to begin, they both wanted a dry martini up, stirred not shaken, with olives. My resolve to buy martini glasses strengthened, but I felt pretty good about serving their martinis in the handsome cocktail glasses from Adrienne and Josh's wedding.

Before long the turkey pieces were done cooking and I put them under aluminum tents to rest and, finally, took a shower. Cleaned up, I texted Christy and Everett and told them the coast was clear to come over. Christy brought over her offerings: a heavenly cranberry, orange, ginger compote, her soon to be famous in our family orange carrot dish, and a pumpkin roll for dessert. Now, I got to really have fun! Christy and Meagan both wanted a Manhattan, Patrick wanted a Chelsea Sidecar, and Everett ordered a dry martini up, stirred not shaken, with an olive.

Everyone had a drink in hand. I sensed a brief lull and seized the opportunity to shave (finally) and put on a pair of slacks and a proper shirt and returned to the kitchen to slice up the turkey and make the gravy. 

I fixed a plate of turkey slices, put the gravy in a bowl, opened a bottle of Merlot, made sure the bread dish was full, and announced that it was time to come to the table, the table that Christy so handsomely decorated with tablecloth, bunches of flowers, and candles.  I brought each dish of food over from the counters, one by one, and everyone filled their plates and we all dove into dinner.

To my great relief, everyone loved the meal. Our dinner conversation was relaxed, easy, and punctuated with frequent laughter and good cheer. I loved the comfort of the five of us enjoying our meal together around one table, being able to easily hear each other tell stories and reminisce. I was very grateful for the good fortune of having meals on back to back days in the company of, first, Travis and Molly, and, today, Patrick and Meagan. I can't emphasize enough how much I enjoyed that our Thanksgiving gatherings were small and afforded us a comfortable, low-key way to get to better acquainted and take delight in one another.

It was also fun to end our dinner with a Stinger as a Thanksgiving tribute to Mom and Dad.

3. As if I weren't already fortunate enough to get to spend three straight days in the kitchen preparing food and cocktails for great company, this afternoon I also got to join Christy and Everett to watch the Zags and the Ducks play a breathtaking basketball game.

I have spent the month of November wondering just how good Gonzaga's team is -- they are working in several new players and they've been playing mediocre teams.   Today's game erased any doubts. The Zags got off to a torrid start, put the Ducks in an early and deep hole, and then, when the Ducks made a comeback and eventually took the lead, the Zags didn't fold. The game went into overtime and Gonzaga triumphed, 73-72. 

The Zags are a multi-dimensional team. They are strong inside where their big guys are agile and versatile. Today Filip Petrusev scored 22 points from the inside post.  From the outside both Corey Kisbert (17 points) and Joel Ayayi (13 points) made it impossible for the Ducks to pack their defense inside with streaks of sharpshooting.

Today Gonzaga defeated a very tough and deep Oregon team. At one point in the second half, I thought the Ducks' depth was wearing down the Zags and I thought the Zags' fatigue would cost them the game. But, Mark Few called a time out, instructed his team to pound the ball inside, and this short rest and this emphasis on running the offense through the big guys seemed to rejuvenate the Zags. The Ducks never built a very big lead, despite brilliant play by Payton Pritchard and the quickness and length of their inside players. In the overtime, the two teams played evenly, so evenly, in fact, that the deciding factor was free throws. Gonzaga made theirs and Oregon didn't.

Okay. Confession time. I quietly rooted for the Ducks. I was ever so slightly disappointed they lost; but, at the same time, I was happy for Gonzaga and look forward to their game Friday against Michigan. The winner will be the 2019 champion of the Battle 4 Atlantis preseason basketball tournament.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 11/27/19: Getting Ready, Awesome Dinner, Zags and Ducks: A Dilemma!

1. Christy, Everett, Molly, and Travis would be arriving at 1:00 for our Thanksgiving (Eve) dinner and I had all the food details in good shape. I just need to clean the house: vacuum, put clean dishes away, clear counter space for different dinner dishes, clean the bathroom, and clear the dining table of personal business documents. I got all this done without a problem. Christy brought over the table decorations: tablecloth, flowers, and candles. Only one thing slightly slowed down my progress toward being ready for dinner: I made a trip to Yoke's for a couple of jars of green olives (for martinis), milk, and a couple bags of ice; then, I stopped at the liquor store for some sweet vermouth so I'd be ready to mix a Manhattan, just in case.

2. Christy and Everett arrived right on time. So did Molly and Travis. Everett asked for an orange vodka drink. I'm not currently carrying vodka, but I made him a Chelsea Sidecar. It combines gin, triple sec, and lemon juice, so I was able to satisfy Everett's request for something orange-y. I had made simple syrup an hour or so earlier, so I was ready for Christy's request for an Old Fashioned. Travis' request was simple: Bushmill's over ice and Molly fixed her own Kalimotxo, combining red wine and cola.  I stirred myself a dry martini up. I will buy martini glasses soon. But, I survived without.

Christy put out a very tasty appetizer -- I didn't catch the name of it, but I'll call them mini-pies.

We had a pleasant cocktail session in the living room. During it, I put the salmon I had marinated all night in olive oil, white wine, lemon juice, lime juice, pepper, and rosemary in the oven for about twenty minutes and Christy's savory bread pudding, carrot dish, stuffed celery, and olives were ready to go. Christy brought a bottle of sparkling wine. Travis popped it open. I didn't have the proper glassware for it, either, but we survived(!). I was very happy that everyone enjoyed the salmon and the way I prepared it. Christy's dishes were superb. It was an awesome dinner.

We ate at a leisurely pace, put our empty dishes down for nervous Charly to clean, and retired back to the living room. As we planned this afternoon's meal, Christy had requested that I serve Stingers as an after dinner drink in honor of Mom's love for the stinger (Dad loved them, too!).  I mixed everyone a brandy and white creme de menthe and we continued our discussions of Travis' life in the restaurant business, Molly's experiences teaching at Deary, and a variety of other things.

It was a perfect afternoon. We all enjoyed each other's company, talked freely and easily with one another, ate well-prepared food, and enjoyed our drinks. Molly and Travis will have Thanksgiving Day dinner with Travis' grandfather. Christy, Everett, and I were very happy that Molly and Travis could accept our invitation to have a matinee dinner.

So often when I see Molly and Travis it's at a more boisterous and a laughter filled gathering with anywhere from 8-15 of us eating together. It was very satisfying to have a smaller gathering and to be able to enjoy each other in this smaller setting.

3. I went over to Christy's after dinner and watched Gonzaga stomp Southern Mississippi, 94-69.

I also had a slice of the delicious apple pie Christy baked. She attended a pie baking workshop on Tuesday and learned how to make pie crust -- Christy had never succeeded making pie crust before and this pie represented a major breakthrough in her cooking/baking life!

I returned home and watched a game I've been eagerly anticipating ever since this season's schedules were released. The Oregon Ducks squared off against the Seton Hall Pirates. It was a chance to watch not only two splendid teams, but, two of my very favorites.

In the second half, the transcendent Myles Powell got scorching hot and shot the Pirates into a 19 point lead, 49-30. The Ducks' full court pressure, though, began to disrupt Seton Hall.  The Ducks, especially Payton Pritchard, defended Myles Powell more tightly and he cooled off. Slowly, thrillingly, the Ducks kept coming back and with 13 seconds left, Payton Pritchard hoisted a long howitzer from behind the three-point line. As it descended toward Earth, it was falling well short of the basket. The alert Shakur Juiston acted like a defender, blocked out the player guarding him, plucked Payton's shot out of the air and immediately converted a banked short shot and, at long last, the Ducks led by two. Seton Hall was out of timeouts. Their first attempt to tie the game failed and C. J. Walker snatched the rebound and was fouled.

He missed both free throws.

With under five seconds on the clock, Seton Hall rebounded the second miss. Myles Powell heaved a long shot to win it that missed and the Ducks secured a breath-taking and hard-earned 71-69 win.

Now (Oh my God!),  I face an emotional conflict in the upcoming dream match between the Zags and Ducks.

I've been following the Ducks and rooting for them ever since 1972 and the Ronnie Lee days and I loved going to see them play from time to time at Mac Court or in Portland or listening to their games on the radio when I lived in Eugene all those years.

On the other hand, Gonzaga is almost like a home team. Living in Kellogg, having a lot of history in Spokane, and having been following the Zags for many years, I've become a fan of theirs, too.

I suppose I could say that I'll just be happy no matter who wins, but I'll feel bad for the loser, too. I'll watch the game with Christy and Everett. I'll wear neutral colors. My guess is that I'll watch quietly. Deep down inside I'll be pulling for

um

um

well

yeah

eek

The Ducks!

There.

I said it.

But, if Gonzaga, in their toughest test of the season, defeats the Ducks, I'll be happy for them, happy for Christy and Everett, and I'll definitely be a true believer that the Zags have once again assembled a superb team.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 11/26/19: The Spree Continues, Fun in the Kitchen, NCAA College Basketball Insanity!

1. I thought when I went on my big shopping spree at Fred Meyer last week, I had finished my shopping for Thanksgiving, but, ha!, today I discovered I needed a few more things and headed over to Yoke's, shopped, got home, and discovered I forgot to buy an item or two -- so I'll return on Wednesday. I had no illusions, however, about whether I had finished shopping for Thanksgiving liquor. I want to be able to fix any one of a variety of drinks for my guests Wednesday and Thursday and now am supplied to mix a Dry Martini (but I don't have martini glasses yet, an offense -- but I'll just pretend I never knew such a glass existed!), Chelsea Sidecar, Old Fashioned, Stinger, and, well, who knows what else might come up! If I make one more quick trip to the liquor store, I can also offer a Manhattan. Yeah, I'll do that.

2. I decided that one batch of cornbread wasn't enough, so I baked another this evening and mixed up the ingredients for cornbread and chicken stuffing/dressing and put in a bowl and sealed it so I can bake it on Thursday. I also decided that rather than brush the lemon-lime-y mixture on the salmon fillets just before baking them, I'd put the ingredients and the salmon in zip-lock bags to marinate over night.

3. Warning! I'm going to get enthusiastic about college basketball again!

I took a break from my efforts in the kitchen around 5:00 and watched Virginia Tech, the team I found so amazing yesterday, more than meet their match today as they got drubbed, 89-62, by the Dayton Flyers. Whoa! Good Lord Dayton looked awesome. I have decided that this winter I must add the Atlantic-10 to my college basketball viewing schedule. Monday night, I loved watching the Richmond Spiders play. Tonight I got to see what all the early season praise for Dayton's Obadiah Toppin is about. He does a bit of everything: posts down low and scores in the key, shoots a sweet 3-pointer, can score from mid-range, is team-oriented, plays defense, rebounds, and plays with pizzazz. (The only thing he fears is flying per his interview with Jay Bilas.) I'll quote Bilas' favorite word: Obadiah Toppin is legit. He's Dayton's best player, but not their only contributor. I was also very impressed with Trey Landers, Rodney Chapman, and Ryan Mikesell, all of whom play smothering defense, rebound with determination, and can score.

On Wednesday, Dayton will face a very tough test against the Kansas Jayhawks at 2:00, but I will not be tuned in. Molly, Travis, Christy, Everett, and I will have finished our cocktails and will be sitting down to our salmon dinner. No problem. It does, however, look like Christy, Everett, and I will be able to watch most, if not all, of Gonzaga's 4:00 game against Southern Mississippi.

Byrdman and I texted for a few minutes this evening about how wide open this year's college basketball season looks. The likelihood that this season will be one wild ride after another was confirmed this evening when Nathan Bain of the Stephen F. Austin State University Lumberjacks of the rarely thought of, seldom respected Southland Conference streaked the length of the court and converted a lay up at the buzzer, in overtime, and the uber unheralded Lumberjacks upset the current top-ranked elite perennial powerhouse Duke Blue Devils, 85-83.

Buckle up! It's been an insane November in college basketball and chances are good the insanity will continue and maybe even increase over the next four months.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 11/25/19: Cooking for Thanksgiving, A Bushmills Break, Amazed by Virginia Tech

1. I'm hosting two small Thanksgiving dinners this week. Christy and Everett will be at both of them. Christy and I are sharing the cooking. On Wednesday, our niece Molly and her husband, Travis, will come early in the afternoon for salmon dinner. On Thanksgiving Day, stepson Patrick and his girlfriend, Meagan, will drive up from Portland and we'll have a turkey dinner together.

I got started cooking today. I'm making a cornbread dressing with shredded chicken in it and so I roasted a young chicken and I baked a batch of cornbread in bacon grease in a hot cast iron pan. I'll probably put this dressing, for Thursday's dinner, together on Tuesday, and let its flavors age a bit together, and bake it on Thanksgiving Day.

2. Christy brought a bowl I left at Carol and Paul's house Sunday evening and we broke out my bottle of Bushmill's Irish Wiskey, poured some over ice, and made sure we are on the same page with dinner preparations and talked about a bunch of other things. It was very relaxing to sit in the living room in the middle of the afternoon and enjoy a smash or two and talk things out a bit.

3. Maybe I'm easy to amaze! But, here I go. I'm amazed at how college basketball teams can, from one season to the next, lose really good players (and sometimes their coach), reorganize with new and returning players, and be playing very good basketball in November. Today I watched the last few minutes of the Virginia Tech v Michigan State game. I thought, coming into this season, that Virginia Tech would surely have an off season. Their fine coach, Buzz Williams, left to take a job at Texas A&M. The Hokies' splendid center, Kerry Blackshear, transferred to Florida; last year's team leader, guard Justin Robinson, graduated; and, their accomplished shooting guard, Nickeil Alexander-Walker left after his sophomore year to play professionally.

It was clear to me, though, after watching Virginia Tech defeat Michigan State today, 71-66, that hiring Wofford's Mike Young as their head coach is working very well and that this year's Hokies will be a tough opponent. The Hokies played hard-nosed, disciplined basketball. They dictated the game's tempo.  Landers Nolley led the well-balanced Hokie offense with 22 points. Granted, Virginia Tech will most likely not win the ACC this season, nor will they be conference door mats. Again, it's amazing to me that after so much turnover, both of players and the head coach, that Virginia Tech could play so well at his point in the season and defeat a very strong Michigan State squad. 

Monday, November 25, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 11/24/19: Improving Health, UVA Defeats ASU, Paul's Birthday Party

1. I hated that I had to do it, but my decision to stay home on Saturday was the right thing to do. I woke up this morning still feeling scratchy and a bit tired, but I could tell that the rest I accumulated by staying home contributed to the improvement of my health.

2. Before long, if you read this blog with any regularity, you'll see that I hold great admiration (even feel love) for several college basketball teams across the country. Yesterday, I mentioned Seton Hall, Gonzaga, and Oregon. Add the University of Virginia Cavaliers to my, well, long list of teams I try to watch every time they are on television. This morning, UVA played Arizona State. Seeing the Sun Devils in uniform brought back memories of a few of their games a year ago -- their stunning victory over Kansas in December, their OT loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 tournament in March, and their pounding of a team I loved last year, St. John's, in their first game of the NCAA tournament.

This season, ASU lost its 2018-19 stud of a freshman, Luguentz Dort to the NBA, but two streaky scorers, Remy Martin and Rob Edwards returned to ASU.

UVA is rebuilding its team after winning the national title a year ago. Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, and De'Andre Hunter, the foundation of their brilliant 2018-19 team, all left Virginia to play professionally. But, here's the deal. UVA head coach Tony Bennett coaches defense better than any coach in the nation. UVA also plays patiently and deliberately on offense. Combined, these two elements of UVA basketball keep game scores low and games close. UVA always has a good shot at winning.

So, in today's UVA/ASU game, the Cavaliers played tight defense and I could tell they were in the process of figuring out who their primary scorers will be this season.

As the first half drew to close, UVA held a ten point lead, but just before the half ended, ASU scored five startlingly quick points and drew within five. ASU continued its run of scoring in the second half, scoring fourteen more points before UVA hit a bucket. That 19-0 run put ASU up by nine.  I found it remarkable that ASU was scoring like this against Virginia and that they had taken this lead. But, then two key things happened: Virginia made a defensive adjustment by running their front court players out near the three point line to disrupt ASU's sharpshooters. In addition, UVA started to get scoring from Mamadi Diakite and from freshman Casey Morsell. Morsell hit a couple of huge three pointers, including the game winning bucket as Virginia won this low-scoring tilt, 48-45.

3. This afternoon, Carol hosted a party celebrating Paul's 60th birthday. Cosette, Zoe, Molly, and Travis were all home and Christy, Everett, and I joined in. We had a leisurely cocktail hour with a variety of hor d'oeurvres before dinner and talked and laughed about a variety of things before heading to the dining table for shrimp cocktail, a green salad, and two cheese fondue options, one made with beer, the other not. Plenty of cubed pieces of bread sat on the table and we all used our long fondue forks to dip the bread into the cheeses. The dinner was both fun and delicious.

We retired to the living room, sang a rousing Happy Birthday to Paul, and then, for dessert, we dipped either pieces of fruit or pieces of sponge cake into a fondue pot of chocolate -- very tasty.

It's fun to listen to Cosette, Molly, and Zoe talk about what's happening in their lives these days. All three are establishing themselves in the professional world, each in her own way; today I enjoyed experiencing them as adults who are growing into their abilities and maturing into insightful, capable, and caring people.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 11/23/19: Illness Kept Me Home, Eat Drink Solve, Zags Win and Looking Ahead

1. I had a full day planned today. Carol and I worked out an easy dog care plan for Charly and I was going to drive to Spokane first thing in the morning to attend the funeral of Laura Bloxham. My plan was to play things after the funeral by ear and eventually drive to Coeur d'Alene where I'd meet up with Stu, catch a ride to Worley where we'd meet up with a bunch of guys from the Silver Valley for a bite to eat at the Red Tail Bar and Grill and then, eventually, make our way to tonight's series of boxing matches -- yes, The House of Fury was back.

One problem.

I woke up with a sore throat. I felt achy. Even after having a good night's sleep, I was fatigued.

I haven't had one of these spells for a long time. I experienced them occasionally when I was working -- I'd get run down -- and I learned many years ago that if I act like I'm not really sick and try to push through and don't rest, my condition worsens.

I decided I didn't have the energy to drive to Spokane nor would I enjoy five to six hours of activity at the CdA Casino.

Disappointed, I stayed home.

I really wanted to pay my respects and silently extend my gratitude to Laura Bloxham. I very much looked forward to reunions with people I once studied with and worked with at Whitworth 35-45 years ago.

I'll start writing about Laura Bloxham and, at some point, I'll post my eulogy of gratitude on this blog.

2. At home, I slept. I drank hot black tea. I worked crosswords.  Christy bought me a package of English muffins, which are medicinal for me. I ate some of those. I drank cans of plain seltzer water. I fixed myself a big bowl of rice, salmon, and mahi-mahi seasoned with Bragg Liquid Ammino. I was also minimally productive. I washed and dried two loads of laundry and ran a load of dishes in the dishwasher and loaded it again.  I was faithful to every request Charly made to eat, drink water, or go outside. As far as treating this illness, it was a good day.

3. At 5:00, I normally would have gone next door to Christy and Everett's to watch the Zags play Cal State Bakersfield. Instead, I stayed put and watched the Zags defeat the Roadrunners 77-49.

All the games I've watched Gonzaga play so far have been blowout laughers. Because I haven't seen them play an equal opponent, I'm reluctant to write much about whether this team will continue the 21st century tradition of strong Zag teams. A few things have stood out, though. First, the Zags' frontline players, Tillie, Petrusev, Watson, and Timme all impress me with their versatility, footwork, rebounding, and mobility. Tillie, Petrusev, and Timme are already proven scorers close to the cup and Tillie and Petrusev can score from the outside. I think Watson will develop into a reliable source of scoring, too.

I hated to see Corey Kispert struggle the way he did in today's game. He looked frustrated, not only because his shooting has been off, and was again tonight, but he also was in foul trouble. He had some impressive spurts of scoring in earlier games and it will help the Zags immeasurably if he can get back on track. So far, the two graduate transfer guards, Admon Gilder and Ryan Woolridge look solid.

With that in mind, let's say the Zags defeat Southern Mississippi on Wednesday. On Thursday, Gonzaga would then face either Seton Hall or Oregon. In Myles Powell, Seton Hall has one of the nation's premier guards. He's a prolific scorer and is Seton Hall's emotional leader. He would provide Gilder and Woolridge with a stern test. Likewise, if Oregon plays Gonzaga, Gilder and Woodridge would have to contend with another superb, savvy, and experienced guard, Payton Pritchard. I hope the Zags defeat Southern Mississippi, not only because I'm a fan, but I will eagerly anticipate their match up with either Seton Hall or Oregon. Either opponent will give the Zags a superb opportunity to learn just how strong they are at this point in the season.

By the way, I love Seton Hall's squad.

I love the Ducks.

I love the Zags.

I can hardly wait to see these teams I love square off. We will have some really scintillating basketball on tap over the Thanksgiving weekend and it will be spellbinding for me if Gonzaga advances to play either Oregon or Seton Hall.


Saturday, November 23, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 11/22/19: Ham and Eggs, Thanksgiving Plans Made, Haircut and Shopping Spree

1. Breakfast at Sam's was fun this morning. I had never ordered ham and eggs at Sam's before, so I gave them a try and, yeah, that worked. The mood at the table is lighter these days. With the colder weather upon us, things at work for Scott B., Ed, and Jerry have wound way down, lots of days off. But, once the snow arrives, it will be snow plowing time and with plowing comes a bank of fresh stories.

2. Today, Thanksgiving plans fell into place. Christy, Everett, and I already knew for sure that Molly and Travis would be coming for a Thanksgiving Eve dinner on Wednesday. Today I confirmed with Patrick that he and Megan are coming for dinner on Thursday. I went over to Christy's and we talked for a while. We had thought we might go up to the Lounge for the annual Thanksgiving spread, but decided that it would be fun to fix a dinner and eat it at my house (I'll be hosting dinners two nights in a row!). I'll be cooking salmon for Thanksgiving Eve and turkey for Thanksgiving Day.

3. So, I've seen some forecasts that report we might get some snow next week. It was clear out today. The roads were good. I decided to go to CdA, gas up the Sube, get a haircut, and do most, if not all, of my Thanksgiving shopping. I wanted to buy some non-food items (cocktail shaker, cocktail glasses, fat separator) so I decided to go to Fred Meyer. Freddy's didn't have a fat separator, but I bought salmon, a turkey breast, turkey drums and wings, and other groceries to cover the other things I'm making for Paul's birthday party on Sunday and the two dinners next week. I also made a quick stop at Pilgrim's to purchase some bagels and fresh herbs and I ended my spree at Costco where I purchased salmon burger patties, shrimp, paper towels, and toilet paper.

My drive over to CdA and back was very easy. I listened to a variety of musicians including Willie Nelson, Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton, Tom Petty, and others sing their covers of about sixteen J J Cale songs on The Breeze: An Appreciation of J J Cale, an exquisite album recorded after Cale passed away. At Supercuts, I had a wonderful conversation with the woman who cut my hair. I enjoyed learning about how she was born in Hungary, adopted by a USA family, grew up on the East Coast, and, for a variety of reasons, moved out west and has settled in Coeur d'Alene. This all came up because she asked me about Christmas. I told her our family focuses on a different country for dinner every Christmas Eve and mentioned that, for a while, this year's country was going to be Hungary (I think it's up in the air now). When I told her that, I did not expect her response to be, "Oh! I was born in Hungary."

Friday, November 22, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 11/21/19: Scenic Drive, Being Still, Invent a Soup

1. I bounced out of the house around 9:45, hopped into the Sube, and blasted out to Kingston to Ed's house. We piled into his pickup and he drove us on old Highway 10, heading west, across the Cataldo Bridge and turned right soon after we crossed it. We were on the CCC Road. We cruised by the Mennonite Church and headed on up into the mountains on a rough road that took us by the Brett brothers' property and eventually wound up the hill and we enjoyed some spectacular views of the CdA River far below us. We eventually made our way to where Albert's Place used to be, drove on the Old River Road to the Bumblebee Bridge, crossed it, came back down the river, and returned to Kingston.

2. Back home, I just stopped moving. After two nights in Spokane, two nights of being out playing trivia, an 8 1/2 hour day of appointments at Sacred Heart Medical Center, a pretty intense viewing of Makoto Fujimura's works at Gonzaga, and a big gathering of people I've know for fifty or more years at Corby's, I just sat. I worked crosswords. I did some writing. I napped. I started a Thanksgiving shopping list. I took care of Charly. I was still.

3. My grocery supply is very low, but I didn't want to go to the store. So, I put a quart of beef stock in a pot, added sauteed onions and celery, a couple of chopped carrots, and a couple of sliced up potatoes and cooked these together. Later, I added some noodles. I seasoned the soup with different things and before long I had a simple and warming dinner that not only got me through the evening, but saved me from having to go to the store.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 11/20/19: Solitude, Makoto Fujimura, Corby's

1. After having such a full day yesterday seeing so many people, I enjoyed a quite morning sitting on the couch in the room/apartment I rented, drinking coffee, writing, and taking a break to walk to Rocket Bakery on 14th and Cedar and buying a mixed berry scone and and an oatmeal raspberry bar.

2. I texted Kathy and Mary that I wanted to spend the afternoon alone rather than getting together before this evening's big gathering at Corby's in Post Falls.

I sat for quite a while in the Forza Coffee Company, drinking coffee and water and letting the events of the past day sink in.

After an hour or so of sitting still, I drove to the Jundt Art Museum and spent time slowly contemplating the paintings of Makoto Fujimura, the artist I heard lecture at Whitworth back in early October. His paintings are huge and abstract. I love abstract works like these, but, this morning, I don't have the words to explain either why I enjoy abstract paintings nor what I experienced being with Fujimara's works for quite a while this afternoon.

Maybe another time.

3. After going to Wasabi Bistro near Whitworth and ordering a bowl of won ton soup and a Bento Box featuring chicken teriyaki and a cali roll, I headed to Post Falls. Terry Bushnell had put out the word that a big get together of Kellogg High School grads was occurring at around 5 o'clock at Corby's and we had a huge turnout of mostly members of the Class of '71. I can't begin to list all the people who were there, but, for the first time, one of these get togethers included women from the Class of '71. Mary, Kathy, and Linda all came and they had a lot of fun. I slowly sipped on a couple of Miller High Lifes over the course of nearly three hours and listened in on all kinds of conversations, watched others from afar enjoying one another's company, and participated in conversations, too.  These get togethers at Corby's happen irregularly. Our last one had been in April, I think. It's hard to get people together when the roads get wintry, so it's possible that another one of these won't happen until again a few months into the new year. We'll see.  I can hardly wait.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 11/19/19: Transplant Decision, Tests and Interviews, Bento Box and Dirty Martini Trivia

1. First, transplant news: I had a long talk a couple of weeks ago with Sheri, the nurse who works as the pre-transplant coordinator of my case. I told her I've been feeling really good, that my lab results have been stable, and that I was starting each day hoping I wouldn't get a call for a transplant because I didn't want to go from feeling the way I do now into the realities of post-transplant life with all the medications, check-ups, recovery time, and so on. I told her I was also uncertain about who could provide support for me post-transplant during those two weeks or so that I would need someone with me, most likely in a hotel/motel room, to monitor my medicine, transport me to appointments, and all the other things that need to happen post-transplant. Carol can provide secondary, but not primary support; as she is now, Debbie will be spending a lot of time with Adrienne, Ellie, Josh, and Jack in New York; Christy might be looking at a knee replacement in 2020.

Her response? "Why don't we take you off the active list and you can be inactive for a while. You will still accrue time on the transplant list, but you won't even have to think about getting a call. I can change your status in an instant and it would be just as easy to change your status back to active when the time is right."

I loved this idea and so I am on the transplant list, but currently inactive.

Now, being listed -- whether active or inactive -- requires, at Sacred Heart, that I come in annually to be evaluated to make sure I am fit for a transplant.

Today was my day for evaluation and I arrived at the hospital at 6:30 a.m. registered, and, until about 3 p.m., was poked, ultrasounded, and x-rayed and then spoke with each member of the transplant team.

2. Just for the record, here's what I did today:


  • I had about a dozen vials of blood drawn
  • I was administered an EKG
  • A radiologist X-rayed my chest
  • I relaxed during a Carotid Duplex Ultrasound
  • I relaxed some more during a Bilateral Lower Extremity Venous Doppler Ultrasound
  • I got to lie down and relax some more during an Echocardiogram
As was the case a year ago, each of these procedures was made far more enjoyable than I would have thought they'd be because every single person I worked with, whether those registering me or the medical people doing their jobs, every one of them was positive, efficient, conversational, eager to be of help, kind, and upbeat. 

I enjoyed myself and I knew the best was still to come.

Starting shortly after 11 a.m., I had a series of meetings with the transplant team. Here's who I saw:
  • The Nurse who weighed and measured me and coordinated my conferences today
  • Sheri, Pre-Transplant Coordinator
  • The Surgeon
  • The Dietician
  • The Nephrology P. A. (Her phone rang during our conference. Her ringtone? "Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osbourne. Awesome.)
  • The Pharmacist
  • The Financial Coordinator
  • The Social Worker 
These were superb conversations. I especially enjoyed discussing details about life after a transplant (medications, cost, recovery time) and I was heartened by the universal support I got for my decision to be inactive for the time being. 

I left the transplant center stimulated, happy to be working with such superb people.

Therefore, I was not dismayed when the Nephrology P.A. told me that I might be asked to return and redo some tests. 

Today's blood work revealed that my kidney function was at 13%, the lowest it's ever been (it was 17% just two months ago). She told me their were some oddities in the echocardiogram as well. She wondered if I might have been dehydrated today. I definitely thought that was a likely possibility for a variety of reasons. 

I think it's possible that I will be asked to return soon for repeated blood work and possibly another echocardiogram. I should find out in a couple of weeks.

3. I left Sacred Heart and decided it was time to eat some raw fish. I went to Ginger Asian Bistro and ordered a bowl of miso soup and a Nigiri/Sashimi Bento Box. It featured tuna and salmon nigiri and sashimi, pickled ginger, wasabi, four won tons, and several pieces of tempura shrimp and vegetable pieces with two bowls of liquid dipping sauces. 

I left full and satisfied. I returned to my room/apartment and took a nap. I roused myself, hopped back in the Sube, and drove to Rock City Bar and Grill where I joined Mary, Kathy, and seven other people at a large table. We joined forces as the trivia team, "Stayin' Alive", and did pretty well, but, alas, we lost some of our points because of technological malfunction. Sigh. The malfunction helped me appreciate how much simpler things were at the Bon Bon with no possibility of something going wrong with some device. 

I enjoyed a couple of dirty martinis and arrived back at my room/apartment very happy that I'd decided not to drive to Spokane, have a day at Sacred Heart, and then drive back all in one day. Instead, I made a vacation out of my day of evaluation and it buoyed me, kept my spirits uplifted. 

Three Beautiful Things 11/18/19: Off to Spokane, Dinner at Ferguson's, Bon Bon Trivia

1. I got myself organized, cleaned up the house a bit, dropped Charly off at Carol and Paul's house, fired my luggage into the back of the Sube, leapt in, and zoomed off to Spokane. I had no problem finding the room/apartment in a restored farmhouse I rented for a couple of nights at the end of West 13th, overlooking Polly Judd Park. I got myself situated and I departed.

2. Mary lives about ten minutes or so from where I am staying and I drove to her house to meet up with her and Kathy. We visited for a while and piled into Mary's Sube and headed north to Garland Avenue. We ate dinner at Ferguson's, a diner I used to enjoy going to back in the 80s for breakfast. Ferguson's has enjoyed renovation since the days I used to go there -- it's also recovered from a fire -- and the new look both freshened up the place and was faithful to Ferguson's history. I ordered a meatloaf dinner with french fries instead of mashed potatoes and a small salad. As is the case, from time to time, when I dine out, the meatloaf that family members prepare tastes better than this one did, but I was happy I gave it a try and I was very happy to be back in Ferguson's again.

3. Kathy, Mary, and I strolled west a little ways on Garland Avenue and secured a table at Bon Bon a cozy and lively neighborhood bar in the Garland Theater building and played trivia. Our host, Jasmine, had none of the technological support that other trivia game hosts have: no microphone, no video screen showing the questions, no IPad-like devices to enter answers into, nothing! She stood at one end of the room and with her mighty voice called out questions over the chatter and laughter at the bar and the other tables in Bon Bon. She was heroic. We wrote our answers on little legal pads. Our team name was Squid Pro Quo and we finished in third place. On one of the teams, seated at the bar, was a woman celebrating her birthday. In advance, she had put a request into Jasmine for a round of questions about figure skating. Ha! Kathy, Mary, and I were a bit out of league in this category, but we gave the questions our best effort and came up a little short.

Back at Mary's, I helped roll her green waste container out to the curb and returned to my room/apartment on West 13th to rest up for the long day ahead on Tuesday.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 11/17/19: Golden Eagles and Badgers, Theater Matinee, Sublime Drinks and Dinner Out

1. Last basketball season, I loved watching both Marquette and Wisconsin play basketball and was thrilled today that the two teams would be squaring off at 10:00 this morning. By the end, the game ended up not being very close as Wisconsin pulled away to win 77-61. After halftime, the Badgers' defense clamped down on Marquette's leading scorer and team leader, Markus Howard. Howard scored 16 points in the first half, but only two in the second. The Badgers had six players score in double figures, including reserve Brevin Pritzl who came off the bench and was on fire, scoring 15 points.

Markus Howard is a phenomenal player, a superb scorer. I thought, though, that he could have looked to (and trusted) his teammates more in this game, or, to quote Steve Lavin, could have "shared the sugar" more often. I say this because he has at least two teammates, Sacar Anim (whose playing time was limited by foul trouble) and Koby McEwen, who are potentially very solid scorers and I thought both Jamal Cain and Greg Eliot showed signs of being good shooters. In fact, in this game, McEwen only took nine shots from the field -- Howard shot twenty-one times -- and McEwen was Marquette's leading scorer.

I am eager to see both Marquette and Wisconsin play in their conferences. I especially love watching Markus Howard who can be absolutely electrifying -- in fact, on two or three occasions in the first half today I was so entertained by shots he made that I roared with joyous laughter. I also think Marquette will be a stronger team as they become a more balanced team, yes, relying primarily on Markus Howard for points, but also getting players like McEwen (especially), Anim, Cain, and Eliot more involved.

2. I hopped in the Sube around 1:20 today, fed my wallet at the ATM, and headed to the Sixth Street Melodrama and Theater to see Paul and Carol contribute to The Big Be-Bop Bandstand Amateur Night Talent Show, a parody of the 1950s television and shows like The Original Amateur Hour or the local program Starlit Stairway. In many ways, today's Sixth Street show reminded me of The Gong Show. The Gong Show simultaneously presented purposefully awful acts and really good ones and this is what The Big Be-Bop did. The purposefully awful acts were splendidly terrible and the acts that showcased genuine talent were very good. The show had two sources of glue: Paul played the talent show's host, Dink Martindale in a deep baritone voice and a seemingly unlimited supply of dumb pun jokes; the other source of glue were the two accompanists. I don't have the matinee's program in front of me and I've forgotten their names, but the piano and saxophone playing throughout the show were terrific. I sat with in the very front row with Christy and Everett and we had a great time, as did the rest of the energetic audience, a near full house.

3. Christy spearheaded the idea that for family dinner tonight we would go to The Blackboard Cafe in Wallace. The cafe wouldn't be opening until 5 p.m., so we had a little over an hour to enjoy between the show ending and the cafe opening.  Carol and Paul joined the cast for a get together at City Limits and Christy, Everett, and I went to the freshly renovated and very handsome Silver Corner Bar. The Silver Corner specializes in superbly mixed cocktails, both classic and contemporary, and Christy and I each ordered a couple of classics: first, a Manhattan and then an Old-Fashioned. I loved both of them and wished alcohol didn't intoxicate me. I would have drunk double what I did just for the taste.

We had a very good time yakking at the Silver Corner and then we took our table in the cozy and comfortable Blackboard Cafe. We had a superb time gabbin' about the show and all kinds of other things. Since I'm spending Monday and Tuesday nights in Spokane, I nailed down dog care plans with Paul and Carol.

 I also told my sisters that I'd be submitting an application for our Uncle Bill's name to be inscribed at the Veterans' Wall over on Hill and Railroad. I didn't know until it came up with DJ Saturday at the Lounge that family members or the veterans themselves needed to fill out information about their service, submit it to a committee, and then the name would go up.

Excellent! I have the form, the information about Uncle Bill (who was killed in the Pacific in 1944), and I know where to submit it. I'll get that filled out when I return from my time away in Spokane. (I have my annual transplant list evaluation all day Tuesday at Sacred Heart.)

I loved my dinner at Blackboard. I ordered a glass of red wine from Sicily and then a half a Caesar salad to start. For the main course, I tried something I'd never heard of or thought of before, Steak Alfredo. The dish featured a generous number of filet mignon bits, mushrooms, and orecchiette pasta with a delicious parmesan cream sauce. I loved it. I had another glass of wine and then I couldn't resist dessert, a slice of Blackboard's Decadent Chocolate Cake with a cup of coffee.

I sure enjoy having a meal out that is better than anything I could fix at home. This was true last Saturday night at the Plateau Steak House at the Wildhorse Casino and absolutely true tonight at the Blackboard Cafe.

Dinner tonight was exquisite.


Sunday, November 17, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 11/16/19: Relaxing at the Lounge, Superb Spaghetti Feed, Winding Down at the Lounge

1. Jake texted me with the news that he'd be at the Lounge around three o'clock while Carol Lee and several of our friends attended the bazaar at St. Rita's Catholic Church. I seized upon this opportunity, not only to see Jake and Cas, but to log in a one mile walk uptown with the added bonus of walking a ways uphill. DJ came in a bit later. We all had fun yakkin' about all kinds of stuff. Around 4:15, Ed and Nancy popped in long enough to drag Jake and me off our bar stools and the four of us darted across McKinley Avenue to the Elks for this year's spaghetti feed to raise money for the Kellogg High School athletic fund.

2. Before long, the events hall in the Kellogg Elks was filled close to capacity -- possibly full. Jake, Ed, Nancy, and I found seats. Al and Peggy joined us, as did Bert and Cindy. On long tables at the back of the room and on one side sat a multitude of items to be auctioned. The side table held the silent auction items -- baked goods, home decor things, Christmas decorations, etc -- and in the back were the items the auctioneer would work to persuade us to bid on: a huge crafted American flag clock, a huge welcome sign, KHS athletic wear baskets, booze baskets, cakes, cupcakes, a KHS golf bag, and more. Other auctioned items couldn't be displayed: loads of gravel, a rafting trip on the Clark Flork River, tickets to a late December Zags game, and tickets to sit in a private suite at a Dallas/Washington football game next month.

I knew I wouldn't bid on anything. I enjoyed the drama of other people bidding, but, aside from the Zags tickets (which went for 350 dollars) and possibly one of the booze baskets, I wasn't interested in the goods. The cheerleaders were raffling off restaurant gift cards and I purchased a couple of those tickets and I made a voluntary contribution for my dinner, so I contributed a bit to the cause.

I took a moment during the proceedings to think about how much Dad would have hated this spaghetti feed which I enjoyed so much. Because of the great turnout, we were packed tightly together along long tables and fairly close to the tables on either side of us. Getting up to go to the food line (Dad hated food lines) or to go to the bar for a drink or to go to the rest room meant bumping into people and asking people to scoot in a little closer to their table to get by. Uh, not really Dad's thing!

I doubt Dad would have ever attended this spaghetti feed. It was enough that he'd get dragged into attending the Silver King Chili Feed or the United Church Oyster Stew Feed (although we could get him food to go at this one). Nonetheless, I imagined him at this one, perspiring heavily, looking painfully uncomfortable, and, no doubt, quietly scheming when would be an appropriate time to get the hell out of there and get across the street and see Troy at the Inland Lounge.

I am not my father.

As I've written before, I love these feeds in the Silver Valley. Whether it's breakfast at the VFW, the Elks crab feed, the pork and apple feed at the Elks, tonight's spaghetti feed or any of the others, I enjoy the energy. People are in a good mood, gabbing, laughing, seeing friends, and enjoying the food and the drink. Always, these feeds are in support of some good cause. Maybe as I go to more of them that include an auction, I'll decide to save ahead and join the fray, bidding on Zags tickets or one of those booze baskets. Having been to a couple of these auctions now, I have a better idea of what I'd be spending and I'd like to contribute more money to these fundraising efforts.

3. Ed, Nancy, and I went back across the street and joined Jake and Carol Lee at a table with the Wardells, Anita and Chuck. Ed and Nancy couldn't stay long and soon Peggy and Al joined us, as did Tamie L-E. I thoroughly enjoyed winding down for the evening at this table. By the time I left with Jake and Carol Lee within the hour, I was better informed about the Silver Valley and I enjoyed having very positive things to say about my sisters and the great friends I've been hanging out with lately, whether hiking, going to Pendleton, playing trivia, or just relaxing at the Lounge.

Jake and Carol Lee gave me a ride home and I was beaming.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 11/15/19: Charly's Restless Hours, Breakfast at Sam's, A Quiet and Kind of Perfect Day

1. I don't remember exactly when Charly last had a restless few hours before going to sleep, but it happened Thursday night on into the beginning of Friday morning.  Charly whined. She whimpered. She even mewled a little. I took her outside. I fed her some food. Maybe this helped. I don't know. Eventually, she fell asleep and so did I. All day Friday, Charly was fine.

2. Charly's restlessness moved me to set an alarm for 5:30 a.m. so that I wouldn't sleep through breakfast at Sam's. Good thing I did! The alarm shook me out of a deep sleep. I enjoyed eating a half order of biscuits and sausage gravy with a couple of scrambled eggs and listening to funny stories.

3. I stayed home today and it took me much of the day to launder clothes and bedding. It turned into a most enjoyable day. I kept the house quiet -- no music, no podcasts, no television, no conversations, nothing. I worked crosswords. I drank hot coffee and tea. Charly rested peacefully all day. Stu kept me updated via text messages on the Zags win over Texas A&M. I cleaned much of the kitchen. I loved eating the hamburger soup I made the other day -- the carrots and white corn kernels give it a sweetness that works for me. I put fresh sheets and blankets on the bed. I ended my day with a hot chocolate and brandy. Yeah. It was, in its own way, kind of a perfect day.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 11/14/19: Walking, Penn State Looks Solid, Sparty and the Pirates Play a Tight One

1. Once again today, I walked. I walked west of McDonald's to the Silver Ridge Mountain Lodge. Mom used to ask us a lot where the bridge used to be on Highway 10 that crossed the CdA River. It was down by the motel Bob and Sis ran. I wanted to see if any of the remains of that old bridge had survived, but the lodge had uninviting signs all over the place along with concrete barriers -- the message was clear, "If you aren't staying here, stay out!" I complied and didn't go on the grounds of the lodge and look at the river. It was a pretty good walk anyway.

2. I was pumped to watch two more tilts in the Dave Gavitt Tipoff Games. First, I watched Penn State get off to a blazing start against Georgetown, run up a pretty good early lead, and then thwart every attempt the Hoyas made at a comeback. Penn State might surprise some opponents in the Big 10. Once Georgetown settled down after starting the game poorly, they had some stretches of solid play. I'm eager to see if the Hoyas settle down, protect the ball better, and compete well in the Big East. Final score: Penn State 81 Georgetown 66.

3. I have no doubt that both Michigan State, in the Big 10, and Seton Hall, in the Big East, will be strong contenders to become conference champions. Even though the game was a bit sloppy at times, as is to be expected in an early season contest, tonight's game was scintillating. Michigan State led for much of the game, thanks in large part to an unexpected monster performance by freshman Malik Hall and to the leadership and clutch shooting, especially late in the game, of Cassius Winston. Seton Hall was led by their premier guard, Myles Powell, who was playing on a recently sprained ankle, yet made one great shot after another and spearheaded the Pirates to a late game lead. By the very end of the game, Powell seemed fatigued. MSU regained the lead by a point and then twice stopped Seton Hall drives to the basket, made a couple of free throws, and their victory was clinched when Powell missed a wild three point heave just before the game-ending buzzer sounded.

I agree with the many people who follow college basketball that Cassius Winston will likely be this season's player of the year and that he'll lead the Spartans to another superb record this season. I can hardly wait for the Big East conference schedule to get going. I hope Myles Powell completely recovers from his ankle injury and regains the conditioning he lost over the last week. If he does, he will help provide a lot of entertaining fireworks as Seton Hall makes its push to wrest the Big East title from Villanova.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 11/13/19: Walking Again, Trivia at Northern Quest, Brief KHS Reunion

1. I sat here this morning and tried to think of an errand I might take care of or a task that needed done to give added purpose to going on a walk today. I remembered that I needed to mail a check to the lawn care man, so I strolled down to the mailbox by the now shuttered old Steins' store and when I came back I extended my walk about as far as Sam's, sauntered by the old S & R, and walked up Riverside, up Utah, and back home on Cameron. I've been too inactive over the last week -- not much walking since hiking with Byrdman near Spokane last week. It doesn't take long for my leg muscles to feel a bit of atrophy and for my wind to diminish. I walked for about 20-25 minutes today, a good start to getting back into daily movement. It felt good.

2. I sprang into the Sube around 4:15 or so this afternoon. My destination? The Riverbank Taphouse at the Northern Quest Casino where I met Kathy and Mary and their pal, Dan, to team up for night of trivia. I ordered a classic gin martini and a Caprese flatbread and, a little later, a glass of Pinot Noir wine.

A sweet series of memories sprung forward when my flatbread arrived. Back in 2015, upon signing up to move into our apartment home in Greenbelt, MD, the Lakeside North employee who showed  Debbie and me our apartment recommended that we try the Old Line Bistro, in Beltsville, when we asked him about where, locally, we could go to find a good selection of craft beers.

In those early days of dining and drinking beer at the Old Line Bistro, we often ordered flatbread with different toppings. I hadn't thought a lot about how much I enjoyed those flatbread meals until today and suddenly, for a few minutes, I was back at Old Line, getting familiar with East coast beers, having fun conversations with the youngsters who were our servers, having casual conversation with different people at the bar, enjoying occasional get togethers with people who worked in the Prince Georges school district, and being happy to have found a place to eat and drink that became, for me, a comfortable and relaxing neighborhood bar.

I snapped out of my brief reverie and returned to the Riverbank where I also feel relaxed and comfortable with Kathy and Mary -- with the added bonus of having a lot of fun conferring with each other, and with other teammates, as to how we are going to answer each trivia question.

Linda couldn't join us tonight and we missed her. Linda, Kathy, Mary, and I have decades of history with each other and this getting together to play trivia has been a blast.

Tonight we finished second. We lost by a slim margin to a team of youngsters who were really sharp and answered all sixty questions correctly. We did leave with loot though. A local panel of naming experts determined that our team name, Shite Creek, was the best team name of the night (all team names had to include the letters "ite") and so I came home with my second Red Hook False Start cheater pint beer glass.

3. We experienced an added Kellogg/Silver Valley delight as we waited for valet employees to bring us our cars.

Terry and Jane Lennon, who'd come out out to Northern Quest to gamble for a little while, were also waiting for their car to be delivered. Terry, Mary, and Kathy hadn't seen each other in about 100 years. Mary's brother, Rob, was the KHS student body president in 1971-12 and Terry was his vice-president. We didn't have long to talk. Terry and Jane's car popped up out front within a few minutes. But, the short time we did have was electrifying, with enthusiastic greetings, some quick conversation, and a steady stream of laughter.

It's kind of amazing how it seems like people connected to Kellogg or the Silver Valley pop up everywhere. Those of us who grew up in the Silver Valley never seem very far from each other, no matter where we go.

I had an easy drive back home. The Drive-By Truckers rocked me through Coeur d'Alene and over the 4th of July Pass and on into Kellogg. I was home before 10:00. The Truckers' Southern country/rock sound and the stories their songs tell, as always, felt very familiar to me and added much enjoyment to my drive.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 11/12/19: United Church Home Movie, Hamburger Soup, Great Pre-Conference College Basketball

1. I can't post it here, but, today, on Facebook among friends of mine, a home movie circulated. It was filmed by Ron Eggart on the day, in 1965, when the congregation of the United Church moved from its uptown location to the new church that had just been built on West Cameron, across the street from where my family lived (and where I live now). Early on in the movie, Stu and I make a brief appearance near the front door of the old church.

The movie is fun to watch for countless reasons, but, of all things, I enjoyed being reminded of how the property where the new church was built had been a rock field. From time to time, when we first moved into the Cameron house, I took a baseball bat across the street and tossed rocks up and whacked them with my bat and played out fantasy baseball games.

For many years, on the north side of that property, there was a ditch and sometimes, when I went to Sunday School or to Boy Scouts, I'd be lazy. Rather than walk down to the entrance to the parking lot, I would descend into the ditch and climb back up the other side. At some point, though, the ditch got filled in. Until today, I had forgotten that, at first, the new parking lot was unpaved, but it came back to me what a mess it was until the paving project improved it. 

2. The chilly rain that descended upon the Silver Valley today inspired me to brown a tube of ground beef in the Dutch oven, add chopped celery and onion, and salt it lightly,  pepper it heavily, and add a moderate amount of garlic powder.  Once the meat was brown and the celery and onion were tender, I poured beef broth I had recently made over it and added some chopped potato, a couple of chopped carrots, a bag of frozen green beans, and a bag of frozen corn. I shook my bottle of Worcestershire sauce over the liquid and added both oregano and Montreal steak seasoning. I brought this concoction to a slow boil and then turned the heat down to low, simmered the soup, and in a while it was ready to eat.

But I didn't eat much. Instead, I let it cool and put it in containers to put in the refrigerator. I'll eat some of it for lunch on Wednesday and I'll freeze some of it.

3. It's exciting to see that a number of excellent college basketball programs are scheduling challenging games early in the season. Tonight, the Gavitt Tipoff, matching Big Ten and Big East teams continued. I watched the Michigan Wolverines and the injury depleted Creighton Bluejays square off. Creighton played a great first half, but Michigan tightened its defense in the second half and won the game 79-69. I watched Michigan a lot last year and enjoyed seeing Xavier Simpson back on the maple again and I always enjoy watching Creighton and always wish they could build a slightly deeper roster.

Gonzaga hasn't played an equal opponent yet. Tonight, I strolled over to Christy and Everett's, enjoyed Christy's superb chili and cornbread, and watched the Zags demolish North Dakota. I left about half way through the first half, but I know from looking it up that the Zags defeated North Dakota 97-66.

I would have stayed for the entire Zags' game had it been competitive, but since it wasn't, back home I checked out the match up between the Oregon Ducks and Memphis Tigers, playing in the 2019 Phil Knight Invitational in Portland. I had fun watching the Ducks protect their lead all through the second half and especially enjoyed two critical treys Payton Pritchard converted late in the game to extend the Ducks' slim lead and, as turned out, to seal the win, 82-74.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 11/11/19: Rain Gutter Snail, A Blank Screen, John Fogerty: 50 Year Trip

1. For about two weeks, at least, I've been thinking about and putting off cleaning the leaves out of the front and back rain gutters. As I age, I'm less and less confident in my balance and the thought of climbing up an extension ladder made me anxious. I've been reading the Silver Valley Classifieds online to see if anyone advertised their services as a rain gutter cleaner. No one popped up.

I decided today I was not going to put off this task any longer. I trudged next door, borrowed Christy and Everett's ladder, and with caution, climbing like a slow loris, I crept up and down the ladder, worked on one section after another, scooping out the leaves. When I finished the back of the house, I took a break, let my nerves settle down a bit, and comforted myself with raisin bread toast and butter. I returned to my job, kept working at a snail's pace, and finished, relieved to be done.

I found comfort in the haiku by Kobayashi Issa:

Oh snail,
Climb Mt. Fuji,
But slowly, slowly!

2. Ed called around 3:30. He was done with his work day and we decided I'd pick him up around 4:45 and grab a bite to eat at Azteca before attending the screening of John Fogerty: 50 Year Trip -- Live at Red Rocks at the Regal Riverstone. This concert was showing on a one-time basis in a hundred select movie theaters across the USA on November 11th. I'd watched a trailer for it online, I knew Ed had had a great time seeing John Fogerty at Northern Quest a few years ago, and I thought Ed and I would have fun watching this concert.

The film was scheduled to start at 7. We arrived at the Regal Riverstone at about 6:40, found the correct theater, entered, and the room was empty. We both thought that was odd, but we shrugged, diligently found the seats in the theater we'd been assigned when I bought the tickets, and settled in.

Time passed.

No one else came in the theater.

The clock struck 7 p.m.

No one else came in the theater.

The movie screen was blank.

At about 7:05, a couple walked in, thinking they were late.

They diligently found the seats assigned to them when they bought their tickets, and settled in. We joked with them about the nearly empty theater.

The movie screen was blank.

At around 7:15, I told Ed I was going to investigate what was going on.

I strolled out of the theater and mildly approached the man at the podium scanning patrons' tickets.

"Do you know why the John Fogerty movie hasn't started?"

He checked the schedule at his podium and saw that it was scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

"Well, there's probably about 10-15 minutes of previews before the show starts."

I slowly shook my head.

"You mean the screen is blank?"

I nodded. "Yes, the screen is blank."

"I'll call the manager."

The manager popped out of a nearby door and said, "Oh!" She chuckled nervously. "I'll go start it."

I returned to my seat. No other patrons had arrived. I told Ed and the couple down our row of seats that the manager had gone upstairs to start the movie.

Sure enough, we saw a light go on in the projection room and before long, the screening of John Fogerty: 50 Year Trip -- Love at Red Rocks got started.


3. Was it worth the wait?

Was it cool to be one of four people in the theater watching this movie?

YES!

 I loved this show.

John Fogerty has assembled a superb band featuring not only guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums, but two women as backup singers and other guys playing tenor sax, trumpet, and trombone (I might have failed to list something here). I have not been successful finding the band members' names online, but two of the band members are John Fogerty's sons.

The movie featured the band playing a generous selection of Credence Clearwater Revival's songs and some of John Fogerty's later compositions. In much the same way that Neil Young, at about 74 years old, sang beautifully when I saw him back in May, Fogerty, at about the same age, sang beautifully in this concert/movie. He was energetic. He had joyous chemistry with the other band members. The band opened up several CCR songs and jammed on them raucously. Midway through the concert, the band paid homage to Woodstock and covered songs performed there by other artists: the Who ("My Generation"), Joe Cocker ("Little Help from my Friends"), and Sly and the Family Stone ("Everyday People" and "Dance to the Music").  They sang "Give Peace a Chance". One of Fogerty's sons covered Jimi Hendrix's distorted, fuzzy, feedback-y "Star Spangled Banner".

I very much enjoyed the numerous cutaways from the concert featuring snippets of John Fogerty being interviewed, especially as he talked about his way of writing songs and what he had in mind when he wrote several of them.

I'm hoping this movie makes its way to Netflix or Amazon Prime or YouTube. If it does, I'll watch it again. If I could have tonight, I would have rewound it back to the beginning and watched the whole presentation again.


Monday, November 11, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 11/10/19: Farewell to Pendleton, Country Mercantile, Family Dinner

1. Ed, Mike, Terry, and I waltzed into Traditions, the casino's buffet room, and enjoyed a fine breakfast together. After breakfast and a shower, I got myself organized and joined the others in the hotel lobby. We got everything figured out at the check out counter. We ended up paying very little for our two nights of lodging thanks to coupons, card points, and another discount or two. We settled up, headed to the parking lot, shook hands, and all headed off for home.

I enjoy relaxation and variety. This year's Pendleton weekend was just the way I like it. I got to have a relaxing dinner with Colette; I wrote; the boys and I had a fun outing to a state park, Meacham, and the distillery; I got to splurge on the one big steak dinner I eat annually; and, most important, every minute together with my lifelong friends was easy going, comfortable, and laid back. I'm already looking forward to going back to Pendleton next year.

2. On the way back to the Silver Valley, Ed and I stopped in at Country Mercantile, just north of Pasco, right off Highway 395. This store is packed with fresh produce, copious varieties of chocolates and other candies to scoop into bags and buy by the pound, boxes of gourmet chocolates, copious varieties of chips, salsa, crackers, cooking sauces, salad dressings, pickled vegetables, green and black olives, and other products in jars. The Country Mercantile serves homemade soup, deli sandwiches, enchiladas, tamales, coffee, soft drinks, and homemade ice cream. In addition, home decor items, collectibles, and cards and gifts are for sale here.

Ed and I nibbled our way around the store's many sample tables. I bought some black licorice and chocolate covered peanuts along with a couple of big Honey Crisp Apples. We each purchased a cup of coffee for the road and leapt back into the Sube and made out final push back home.

3. I picked up Charly at Carol and Paul's and relaxed for a couple of hours at home before strolling over to Christy and Everett's for tonight's family dinner.

Christy had made a pitcher of delicious apple pie cocktails and before long we dove into tonight's very delicious comfort food: Swiss steak, mashed potatoes, green salad, and dinner rolls.

We talked about all kinds of stuff: dogs, local elections, the basketball season, and a bunch of other things. As always, I discovered that because I do not have my hair or my nails done in Kellogg, I miss out on a lot of what's happening in the Silver Valley, so I learned a lot this evening, but I'm not really sure I kept it all straight!

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 11/09/19: *Anniversary, Emigrant State Park and Meacham, The Distillery, Steak Dinner

* Twenty years ago today, on November 9,1999, I fell into unconsciousness and learned, a couple of days later, when I woke up, that I had contracted bacterial meningitis. Throughout the day, today, I pondered my good fortune that I survived this illness and today was a good day to do so.

1. After breakfast, Ed, Mike, Terry, and I piled into Terry's truck and bolted down to McKay Creek National Wildlife Refuge, but the main access road was blocked with a gate.

So, we fell back to plan B. We rocketed east on I-84 to Emigrant State Park.

It was open.

We spilled out of Terry's truck and wandered around. I thought we might find an interpretive nature trail in the park, but we didn't. No problem. We sauntered around the place, enjoyed the mild weather and the fresh air, yakked, and had a very relaxing time.

We were close to the town of Meacham and drove to it. It's a tiny place with a gravel pit and seems to be a highway department staging area for snow plows and gravel trucks. In Meacham, we stopped in at the Oregon Trail Store and Deli, a tiny business furnished with a handful of tables, a whiteboard with the daily specials written on it, a sign informing visitors that eggs, milk, and other products might be available in a cooler in back, and a glass case generously stocked with candy bars.

Dave and Sonja, the owners, were running the place and Dave greeted us with a huge helping of friendliness. We took our seats at a table and Dave showed no sign of disappointment when we told him we were there for a beer, not food, and he cheerfully took our requests and served us.

The Oregon Trail Store and Deli was a perfect place to hang out, yak, enjoy a beer, and get a brief glimpse of life in Meacham as people came in and out.

2. We returned to Pendleton and strolled into the Oregon Grain Growers Brand Distillery. As was the case a year ago, the distillery was enthusiastically paying tribute to military veterans. A museum of military displays were set up in a large room off the distillery's restaurant and tasting room. In the restaurant, as we entered, an enthusiastic pair, a man and a woman, worked at a table pouring samples of the distillery's newest product, Torpedo Juice, a pineapple flavored vodka. Torpedo Juice paid tribute to the sailors who discovered that the 180 proof grain alcohol that fueled the steam powered torpedoes could be re-distilled, filtered, and made safe for human consumption.

After listening to the history of Torpedo Juice and enjoying a sample, we sat at a table and our very helpful, efficient, and friendly server, Mary, brought a tub of bottles of vodka, gin, and whiskey to our table and we sampled several of the offerings.

All of us ordered a light lunch -- I had a very tasty Caesar salad with a gin and tonic -- and we yakked more and commented again and again how much we enjoyed this business -- the alcohol, the food, the atmosphere, the service were all superb.

3. Back at the casino, we all went our different ways and reconvened for our annual steak dinner at the casino's steak house, the Plateau. I started dinner with a classic gin martini while Terry, Mike, and Ed broke into the bottle of Cabernet we purchased. Soon, dinner arrived and I dove into my 14 oz Pendleton Whiskey Steak, a New York strip prepared medium rare, with a side of garlic cremini mushrooms and lemon pilaf rice. Somehow, even though we'd eaten a huge dinner, we all agreed to have dessert and coffee and I loved my huckleberry cheesecake.

This was a great day -- I wrote, walked, spent great time with lifelong friends, ate superb food, drank some fine liquor, and thought a lot about my good fortune and its many dimensions.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 11/08/19: Jerry Returns, Driving to Pendleton, Dinner with Colette

1. As week, Jerry was recovering from an appendectomy and missed out weekly breakfast at Sam's. I heard whispers here and there that he was doing all right and, sure enough, when I strolled into the cafe this morning, Jerry was at the table and was telling stories, cracking jokes, and being his old self.

2. After breakfast, I picked up Ed and we hit the road for the Wildhorse Casino just outside Pendleton. Upon arrival, we met up immediately with Terry and Mike, got checked in, and immediately went to the lobby bar for a quick drink before getting our activities underway. I gamed for a little while, but I was more interested in coming upstairs to the room and blogging. I enjoyed writing and gazing out the window of our sixth story room and admiring the Pendleton area landscape.

3. Around 4:30, I cruised into Pendleton, parked the Sube close to the Prodigal Son, and walked about 8-10 blocks to the liquor store and purchased a fifth of Bushmill's Irish Whisky to have on hand in our room.

Colette Marie and I appointed 5:30 as the time to meet at Prodigal Son. I arrived about twenty minutes early, secured a table, and before long Colette arrived.

Just like last year when we met for dinner at this same place, we fell into easy conversation and gabbed away until just past 9:30 about a wide variety of things: Colette told me about her experience getting started in the MFA program at Eastern Oregon Univ.; she told me about how well her fiction is being received, how much she admires the professors she is working with, and helped me understand her approaches to writing fiction (she loves to write stories from more than one point of view), and how she has worked to help others understand what she'd doing; Colette talked about her and her son's grief in the aftermath of her first husband's motorcycle accident which cost him his life this summer; she told me about how much her family enjoys living in Walla Walla and what a good place Walla Walla is for her daughter -- Gabriela has made good friends, is performing well in her classes, and participates in a variety of good activities.

And there's more that we talked about.  I enjoyed getting caught up. We had fun talking about mutual friends and about some of the good old days at Whitworth College.   I also enjoyed our conversations about writing and literature and other arts. 

Back in my room, I got settled in and went to bed and my mind raced for much of the night as I thought about the ideas Colette and I discussed, the people we both enjoy (and enjoyed) so much, my happiness that after about thirty-five years of wanting to do it, Colette is not only working on her MFA, but is writing a lot, and my gratitude that Colette and I have maintained a very good friendship over the last 36 or so years.

It was a superb evening.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 11/07/19: Breakfast at Backcountry, Racking Up 50 Miles, Pendleton Prep and Rita

1. For the first time, I dropped in on the Backcountry Cafe in uptown Kellogg for breakfast. I had originally thought I'd drive out to the Rose Lake Restaurant because I needed to rack up fifty miles on my new snow tires and then have the wheels retorqued. On the spur of the moment, though, I decided to give this fairly new cafe a try. I ordered three pancakes, bacon, and eggs with a cup of coffee and water. I enjoyed my meal. The pancakes were fluffy. The eggs were fried just right and I like my bacon not really crisp and, without even asking, it came to me that way.

The best part of breakfast, though, was when Seth Dinger walked in and took table near mine. I hadn't seen him since the playoffs and the World Series and so we talked baseball. Seth shared his views on the Dodgers' loss to the Nats -- especially the way manager Dave Roberts bungled his pitching decisions. I agreed. And then we agreed again that Howie Kendrick is awesome. We wondered what will happen in the off season. Where will Gerrit Cole land? How about Anthony Rendon?

2.  I still needed to put those fifty miles on the new tires. I drove out McKinley all the way to Government Gulch and drove by where Silver King school used to be and on up to the old Zinc Plant and tried to get some bearings as to where different areas of the plant used to be. I came back down Government Gulch and then drove up into the knot of houses that sit across from where the school was and I couldn't place a thing -- it all seemed to different and I sighed and headed on out to Kingston and back tracked and drove over the freeway overpass near the Hilltop and made my way across the Cataldo Bridge, across the Cataldo Slough, and then at the Rose Lake interchange I headed back east on the freeway, came into Kellogg, and drove up Division Street to the top of Wardner. I still hadn't quite racked up 50 miles so I drove on the old highway out to NASCO, turned around, and headed back to Kellogg. As a result of all this wandering around, I exceeded fifty miles on the new tires and I stopped at Silver Valley Tires and got the wheels retorqued.

3. Back home, I packed my suitcase for my weekend in Pendleton. I ran a load of dishes. I changed the furnace's filter. I took Charly over the Carol and Paul's. I fixed myself a pot of pasta, diced tomatoes, and black beans topped with Parmesan cheese. Rita called me from Creswell and we yakked on the phone for nearly forty minutes. It was good to hear what she's been doing over the past few months and I updated her on some of the details of what's happening in my life.

I'm geared up for a fun-filled weekend.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 11/06/19: New Tires, Watching the Johnnies!, I Enjoy FS1

1. Having moved back to Kellogg in 2017, I didn't buy snow (winter) tires the first two winters. In part, I managed by not going out very much, especially when the roads were snowy and icy. Today, I decided to do it differently this year. I've been going to CdA and Spokane more often. I'd like to keep doing that. I'll feel more secure driving with snow tires, so I went to Silver Valley Tire this morning and bought a set. Even though, having looked at the forecast, it looks like the weather will be good in the Pendleton area for my drive down Friday and back on Sunday, I figured I'd be ready in case a change occurred and bought these tires before making the trip.

2. Just by chance, I looked at today's broadcast schedule on FS1 and, to my delight, I saw that the Johhnies of St. John's were playing the Mercer Bears at 3:30. Primarily, I was fired up because I am eager to see how St. John's performs this year under new coach Mike "40 Minutes of Hell" Anderson (I admit, though: I missed seeing Chris Mullin on the sideline) and I'm eager to see how they play without three of last year's stars, Shamorie Ponds, Justin Simon, and Marvin Clark.

Having watched tonight's game, I think the Johnnies will be fun to watch again. They will play pressing, pressure defense and try to get as many points as possible in the open court. Last year, the Johnnies loved to run and gun, but they weren't a solid defensive squad. Coach Mike Anderson emphasizes defense and, tonight, it looked to me like the Johnnies are applying his teaching. I really enjoyed seeing L.J. Figueroa and Mustapha Heron back in action and both seemed to enjoy flying up and down the court. Heron's three point shot looked solid.

It turned out the game was a mismatch. The Johnnies triumphed 109-79. Two new Johnnies looked promising: Nick Rutherford and Marcellus Earlington. It's hard to tell when a game is such a mismatch and a blow out just how good the winning team will be against better competition, but, at least, I got to see what the Johnnies' style of play will be and who it appears they'll lean on for scoring and leadership. It might not be a great season, but it looks like it'll be fun.

3. Last winter, I had a blast watching FS1's coverage of college basketball. I enjoy their broadcasters a lot, as well as their studio analysts. Tonight, I was stoked when I saw that Mike Hill and Steve Lavin were handling the studio chores. Lavin is a great analyst, loves to play with language, is good-natured, and often very funny. He and Mike Hill have fun playing off of each other and I suddenly realized tonight how much I'd missed their work.

Court side, for the St. John's game, Brian Custer was solid: knowledgeable, easy to listen to, and in tune with the rhythms of the game. As the broadcast got underway, I was very happy to see that Sarah Kustok was providing analysis and commentary. I first heard Kustok last season and enjoyed her deep insight into basketball and the teams playing and found her insights illuminating. The same was true tonight.

After the Johnnies' game ended, I watched a ragged game between Cincinnati and Ohio State. At times it was painful to watch both teams going through early season growing pains, especially in the first half. Cincinnati is playing under a new coach, John Brannen, and the team is learning a new style of play.  Early on, Ohio State just flat struggled. They didn't even score until the game was 7-8 minutes old. The teams looked a little better in the second half, and despite their awful start, Ohio State triumphed, 64-56.

Even when the game was brutal to watch, I enjoyed the play-by-play work of Tim Brando and the insights of analyst Jim Jackson. It's fun to listen to two broadcasters who are both in tune with the action on the floor and the challenges both teams face at the beginning of the season and who have a great knowledge of college basketball history.

With my mind so occupied by the baseball playoffs and the World Series, I hadn't paid much attention to college basketball's early season schedule, but I'm getting into it now and am happy to see so many intriguing games coming up on FS1, especially next week during the Dave Gavitt Tipoff Games between teams in the Big East and the Big Ten.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 11/05/19: Hiking in Riverside State Park, Waddell's, Zags and Gaels Win

1. After a quick trip to the insurance office to pay the adjusted annual premium, I dashed over the hill to CdA and Byrdman and I headed out to the Indian Painted Rocks trailhead north and west of Spokane. Upon arrival, we talked to a park ranger who explained that the trail was closed so that crews could cut down leaning trees, making the trail safer. So, we left and went in search of another trail. Our first venture was at a Spokane River boat launch. We followed the trail through a marshy area close to a pond, saw a couple of guys fishing, and, after about a half a mile, came to the trail's end.

Our hunger for a premium outdoor experience was not satisfied by this hike. We piled back into Byrdman's Sube and eventually parked in a lot on West Carlson Road in Riverside State Park. Here we hit a hiking trail jackpot, the Centennial Trail.  It climbed steadily up and down through a forested area with awesome views of rock formations, cliffs, and ravines. The Spokane River was below us, but we didn't see it much because of the trees. We saw a deer. We got a pretty good workout in. This trail rewarded our efforts to find an excellent place to hike.

2. After our hike, Byrdman and I cruised down to Waddell's just north of Francis Ave. on Cedar. We promptly ordered a splendid Left Hook IPA and decided to split an order of brisket nachos. The nachos totally hit the spot and we yakked about a bunch of stuff, but I particularly enjoyed reminiscing about the old Back Door Tavern on Appleway in CdA. I might have only been there once, but that one time was on the night before getting married in Sept. of 1976 and it was a blast. Byrdman played on a softball team sponsored by the Back Door and had more extensive experience there and it was fun talking about all of that.

3. Back home in Kellogg, I accepted Christy's offer for dinner -- ham and bean soup with dinner rolls. The food was superb, but I didn't eat much because I was still pretty full after eating the late lunch nachos. Christy, Everett, and I watched the Zags patiently wear down the Hornets of Alabama State, winning by a convincing score of 95-64. I trust this will be a strong Gonzaga squad, but against lesser teams like the Hornets and, at this early stage of the season, it's difficult for me to gauge just how good the Zags will be this season. I got the most enjoyment out of seeing how Corey Kisbert has matured now that he's a junior. Tonight, he not only was a sharp shooter from the outside, but he made a few assertive moves to the basket, including two thunderous dunks.

After the Zag game, I tuned in to the overtime battle between the Zags' rival, the St. Mary's Gaels, and the always strong Wisconsin Badgers of the Big 10. I didn't see a lot of this game, but St. Mary's eked out a win, 66-63, and, in the those selected minutes I saw, I concluded that the Zags will, as is often the case, have tough games when St. Mary's pops up on their conference schedule.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 11/04/19: Ellie is Stable, Bills to Pay, *Red Rock West*

1. Debbie and I came to an easy decision about some home related business on the phone this morning. Debbie reported that Ellie's condition is stable. I was happy to hear from Debbie, and later from Adrienne, that Debbie's contributions to life in the Langford house have been a great help to Adrienne, Josh, Jack, and, of course, Ellie.

2. Annually, November is a month full of business: Sube registration renewal, home and auto insurance renewal, and the property tax bill will come soon; I've had these obligations in mind for several months and I have prepared for the bills to arrive. Today, I took care of the auto registration and insurance renewals and I expect the property tax bill to arrive any day now and I'll knock that out.

3. After being away much of the weekend and with a trip coming up on Friday to Pendleton, I decided to stay home today and this evening. I was tempted to go to out to Whitworth's campus and hear a 2001 Whitworth grad, Joshua Robbins, read from his published book of poetry at 6:00, but I decided to stay put.

The other day, my rented DVD of the movie Red Rock West came in the mail. I first watched this movie at home about twenty-five years ago. Back at that time, I actively sought out movies featuring Nicholas Cage and I was curious, all these years later, if I would enjoy him today in Red Rock West.

I did.

Cage plays a flat broke ex-Marine with a knee injury desperate for work. He walks into a bar in Red Rock, Wyoming and the owner mistakes him for Lyle from Dallas, Texas, a guy the bar owner has hired to murder his wife. Out of this mistaken identity, a film noir morality tale about money unfolds, replete with revenge, odd alliances, double crosses, a femme fatale, escapes from danger, arson, gun fights, the works. Director John Dahl and his brother, Rick, wrote this movie and my sense was that they knowingly employed, and exaggerated, the conventions of film noir to tell an absurdist tale of an honest man, the Cage character, who walks almost unwittingly into a world of mayhem, greed, lust, amorality, immorality, and murder -- and does all he can not to lose his moral compass.

The movie reminded me how much I enjoyed and admired J. T. Walsh's work over the years (Walsh died in 1998, only 54 years old). Dennis Hopper gave this movie an adrenaline surge -- and made me laugh. I remembered, when I first saw this movie, how impressed I was with Lara Flynn Boyle. I had only seen her before as Wayne's ditzy (former?) girlfriend, Stacy, in Wayne's World. In Red Rock West she plays a steely and greedy criminal, not anything like Stacy, and did so frighteningly well.

If you have been reading my blog over the years, you know that I do not recommend movies for others to see. I realize that I have private and often eccentric reasons for enjoying the movies I do. I like to write about what I experience when I see movies. Watching Red Rock West ignited an enjoyment I had in the 1980s and 1990s for Nicholas Cage's work.  I found myself missing J. T. Walsh's work and thinking a lot about all the movies I've seen Dennis Hopper in. I admired Lara Flynn Boyle.

But, mostly, I enjoyed the absurdity of Red Rock West. I enjoyed how suddenly Nicholas Cage's character was immersed in a puzzling, alien, unpredictable world that he had to manufacture ways of surviving in while trying to be true to his own sense of virtue. I thought, especially with all the early shots of endless empty spaces stretching out around Nicholas Cage's character, that it was an action-packed existential movie. And I enjoy that sort of thing.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 11/03/19: Superb Breakfast Sandwich, Pork Spare Rib Soup, Family Dinner and International Movies

1. It turned out that Hotel Ruby was a semi-quasi-bed and breakfast. Right next to Hotel Ruby is an eatery called Incrediburger and Eggs. When I registered for my room, the friendly employee who handed me my room keys also handed me two vouchers, each worth five dollars, at Incrediburger and Eggs. You can see the menu, here.) I balked temporarily this morning about using my vouchers, thinking I didn't really want a breakfast sandwich. I'm glad I changed my mind. I got myself a cup of coffee and soon a modestly sized sandwich appeared on a tray wrapped in brown paper. I was relieved it wasn't humongous. My sandwich was made with hardwood smoked bacon, an egg over easy, house cheese (very delicious), maple syrup (unexpected pleasure) and something called French toast mayo. This sandwich perfectly balanced the savory with the sweet and the bun it was served in was fresh, a very little bit sweet, and tasty. As a bonus -- I didn't plan this -- my two vouchers covered the cost of my breakfast.

2. Back in Kellogg, I picked up Charly at Carol and Paul's. They assured me that Charly had been an easy, well-behaved guest. I spent much of the afternoon getting ready to host family dinner. On Friday, I had put a rack of pork spare ribs in the slow cooker with pork stock I had frozen several months ago. I added in chopped onion, celery, carrots, and mushrooms. When the meat was cooked, I took out the spare ribs, removed the bones, chopped up the meat and put the meat back in the soup. I wasn't 100 percent pleased with the way the soup's broth tasted. I wanted to deepen it. I decided to add soy sauce. I let the soup cool, put it in the fridge, and got it back out today. The soy sauce improved the soup, but even when I served it today, I was certain I could do something to further improve it. I fixed rice and served the soup over rice. That worked. But, I have leftover soup and I'm going to experiment with it in ways I didn't feel comfortable doing before I served it to family and see if I can deepen this soup's flavor.

3. With the soup ready to serve, I cleaned the kitchen, living room, and bathroom. I went to the store and bought a bagged chopped Asian salad and added opal apple slices to it when I prepared it at home. Earlier, I had baked cornbread muffins, but I wanted more bread to serve with the soup, so I bought a sourdough baguette. I also bought some Baked Apple cider -- I thought it might be a good match with the soup I'd made.

Carol, Paul, Christy, and Everett all arrived at 6:00 and I fixed each of them a gin and tonic and Christy was excited to talk about the birthday party for Dawn that she and Carol attended yesterday at Chris Meyer's home. The party's food theme was hot lunch and replete with trays, tickets, and small cartons of milk, Dawn's friends did their best to replicate entrees from our hot lunch days in Kellogg School District #391. As an added treat, they also took Dawn down memory lane by serving Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill. Believe me, Boone's Farm never got served at hot lunch, but I wondered if, on some days, for some of our fellow students, it was consumed in the parking lot or on The Trail. I honestly have no idea.

Everyone enjoyed the dinner I prepared (to my relief) and, as the evening wore down, Paul talked about what's happening in the World Cultures course he's teaching and I got excited talking about the olden days at LCC when I taught World Literature and for the first time in a long time yakked (maybe too much) about my love of movies from Iran, Israel, and other countries in the Middle East and fondly recalled showing my students the Mongolian movie, The Story of the Weeping Camel. 

Talking about these movies reminded me that Netflix is currently showing Asghar Farhadi's movie, A Separation. Quite a while back, I watched Farhadi's very sobering and unsettling movie, The Salesman and it's time for me watch another of his movies and see what other Iranian movies are available to stream or rent.