Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03/30/20: In Memory of Uncle Bill, One Martini, Pleasures of Tea BONUS: A Limerick by Stu

1. In Kellogg, at the intersection of Railroad Ave. and Hill Street, the Silver Valley Veterans Memorial was dedicated on Veterans Day in 2005. One of the features of the memorial is the Wall of Honor where visitors can read the names of men and women from the Silver Valley who have served in the armed forces. I have visited the memorial and looked for my uncle's name and it wasn't there.

My uncle, William Earl Woolum, was killed in action during World War II at the Battle of Vella Lavella in the Solomon Islands on October 6, 1943 on the USS Selfridge.

One night at the Lounge, I was talking with Doug Johnston and the subject of the Veterans Memorial came up and I told him about my uncle. Doug told me that the names go on the wall after the veteran or someone on the veteran's behalf submits an application. Before I knew it, Doug told Cas I needed an application and suddenly Cas reappeared with an application in hand and I took it home.

I put the application on my now cleared off and taken down card table in the Vizio room and it disappeared.

I unearthed it Saturday. Today, I finally filled it out and will mail it in for the consideration of the Silver Valley Veterans Memorial Committee. It'll be a while before the committee meets because of the pandemic.

2. A few Jumbles here. A crossword puzzle there. Checking the news from time to time. Before long, it's early evening and time to enjoy a single martini. It's good for me. It settles me down inside. It helps me fall asleep. It's a small pleasure, one I'm very grateful for. Two martinis are too many. I don't like the effect of more alcohol. But one. Just right.

3. I've read conflicting reports about whether drinking hot water beverages serves as a deterrent to the Coronavirus. Well, I say, nothing to lose -- these beverages don't cause harm. Therefore, I'm experiencing a former pleasure again drinking hot tea during the day. I enjoy black tea and I like herbal teas. So whether or not the lemon caraway tea or the English Breakfast Tea or the Bengal Spice Tea are good for virus fight, they are good for my sense of relaxation and pleasure and the taste and smell of these teas bring back some pleasant memories of tea drinking in my past.

Stu sent me a limerick for today:

The weather is taken for granted.
When not best for events then we've ranted.
Complain about rain,
Heat drives us insane.
But step back and look, it's enchanted.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03/29/20: Taxes Filed, Debbie's Dinner, Word Puzzles BONUS Stu's Limerick

1. With my pretend office all straightened up and our scant tax records gathered, I spent the afternoon filling out forms and I filed our taxes. It's an annual relief for me just to get them done.  I enjoyed having this task completed so much that I mixed myself a Tanqueray dry martini up, stirred, and with three olives, a refreshing reward and my day's only cocktail.

2. While in Eugene, Debbie got into making a one pan meal that includes onion, garlic, fire roasted diced tomatoes, beans, and vegetables. Tonight she made one of these mixtures with garbanzo beans, leftover squash pieces, corn, and green beans. Both of us put last night's cabbage salad in the mix in our bowls and ate it over rice. I seasoned my rice with Bragg's Liquid Amminos before adding what Debbie made and enjoyed my meal a lot.

3. Not too long ago, I was on a word puzzle kick. Inexplicably, I fell off that wagon for a while but I jumped back on this evening and rested my mind wearied from income figures and tax deductions by doing a handful of Jumbles and thinking it's about time to pull out the crosswords again.

Here's Stu's limerick for today, followed by a note for those of you from outside the Mullan/Wallace/Kellogg metro area.

There are Minors and Miners it's written.
And the proud Tigers name sure seems fittin'.
But while the purple and gold,
And Wildcats' name never grows old.
It's tough when you're first called a Kitten.

Team nicknames in North Idaho:

Wallace Miners
Mullan Tigers
Kellogg High School Wildcats: colors are purple and gold
Kellogg Junior High, decades ago, were the Kittens

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03/28/20: Organizing, Charly Woke Me Up, History is Predictive BONUS: A Limerick by Stu

1. The Vizio room is also my pretend office. I don't remember when I set up a card table in there and started putting bills and other documents on it, along with magazines, camera stuff, and other miscellany. My problem is that if I put things away, I forget where they are or I forget I have them. It helps me a lot to have things that need my attention out in the open, like on a card table.

Well, today, I decided to clear off the card table, do some filing, and take the card table down. The project took me most of the day, but the Vizio room is better organized and I got documents in order to file tax returns, my next project.

2. After several nights of uninterrupted sleep, the string came to an end at about 2 a.m. Charly started to cry. She was hungry and she needed to go out. I helped Charly, happily, but I was less happy about being wide awake at this hour. I sat for a while in the living room. After about an hour of fiddling around, I went back to bed, but this disruption threw me off. In the afternoon, I started to get really groggy and so I went back to bed and a solid nap help me recover.

3. I'm just in the second season of Foyle's War. Up to this point, the episodes are focusing on people who try to profit, through crime, from the war. Some steal government rations of petrol and sell it; others steal food from grocery depots and gouge the prices; one company's owner understood business to be outside the realm of morality, ethics, and patriotism and, in order to make a ton of money, entered into food supply agreements with the Nazis; another plot involved rescue workers stealing valuables from persons whose houses had been bombed. Running throughout all these episodes is the idea that war affects people in a variety of ways, including fraudulent or traitorous schemes to make money.

My view of history, generally speaking, is that it's predictive. We can tell what is going to happen by what has happened. We can predict, for example, that in times of war, natural disaster, and a pandemic that many people will act heroically, doing all they can to help others -- and, in the case of the pandemic, do all they can to thwart its spread. We can also predict that there will be those who exploit hard times with scams and work to find ways to make money -- who, I think, unhesitatingly see business and the making of money as beyond the restrictions we might put on ourselves by moral and ethical concerns or by the law.

In this way, every episode I've watched of Foyle's War are stories that are both from the past and contemporary. It's the nature of history itself.

Stu sent me another limerick for our enjoyment:

I heard a good joke yesterday.
Where a salesman asked a girl out to play.
Then a farmer, her dad,
Threatened things that were bad.
And the punchline's too raunchy to say.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03/27/20: Faithful to Illusions, New Lamps, Squeeze Bottles and Containers BONUS: A Limerick by Stu

1. Kathy B. told me that upon reading the ending of The Age of Innocence, she threw the book across the room. I finished the novel today and I didn't throw it across the room. (I can see why a person would, though.)  I thought a lot about how Edith Wharton, writing in the third person, filtered her story through the point of view of Newland Archer. Her understanding of Archer's self-centeredness and immaturity, epitomized by his devotion to the reality he'd manufactured in his mind, is probing. In relation to Countess Ellen Olenska, he was faithful to the Grade B movie in his head right up to the end.

2. Debbie ordered a set of three lamps for the house, two table and one floor, and, with their arrival, we did a little rearranging of things in the house and our living room is a lighter room.

3. I enjoy storing cooking oils, sauces (like soy), and different kinds of vinegar in 16 oz condiment squeeze bottles, labeling them, and having them on the counter near the stove ready to use. I had ordered a second set of seven of these bottles the other day and today I filled four of them with three different kinds of vinegar and another with sesame oil. I have eleven bottles ready to use and three empty ones. I've also become fond of 32 oz deli food storage containers and I use them to store the stocks I've made, to store leftovers in the refrigerator, for storage of dry foods, and for granola. Our supply of granola was almost gone today and I made a batch early this evening with some emphasis this time on using maple syrup as a sweetener. I hope it works.

Stu sent me another limerick for your enjoyment. Here it is:

There are times we must all agree
When crazy is all we can see.
But when looking at others,
People's Fathers and Mothers.
This world sure ain't all about me.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03/26/20: The Sensations of Love, Salmon Cakes, Stu Writes Limericks

1. I'm seeing more clearly than ever, as Edith Wharton develops the made up reality Newland Archer is living in, that, in fact, his imagined reality of a romantic affair with Countess Ellen Olenska is an inferior, unsustainable dream, primarily because all that exists between them, at least, so far in the novel, are furtive, quickly stolen, and intense sensations. It's painful to read. The Grade B movie he mistakes for reality in his life might be Grade D.

2. Debbie turned a can of salmon into delicious cakes and prepared a tasty creamy sauce to put on them. She also baked a squash and made a splendid green salad. We had enough left over that we'll be able to have this dinner again soon.

3. Stu and I message back and forth in the mornings. Stu's been writing limericks in his retirement and he's decided to try to lighten up the darkness of the pandemic a bit by writing more of them during this time. Today he asked me if I would share his work at the end of my blog posts. I am happy to.  So, here is a limerick by Scott Stuart, remembering the Kellogg of our youth.

Remember gray air of childhood
And the river's not clear as it should.
Hillside's brown with no trees
But most who remembers agrees.
If they could go back in time that they would.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03/25/20: Archer's Boredom, Shopping, News and *Foyle's War* Party

1. I read some more of The Age of Innocence. The Countess Ellen Olenska is the leading actor in the Grade B movie playing in the mind of the bored Newland Archer as he settles into the rut of his marriage to May Welland, who, by every convention of New York society, is a splendid match for him, but, when measured by the longings of his soul, falls fall short of Newland Archer's desires.

2. One day, I might look back on this blog as a record of life during the pandemic. In that spirit, I'll just note that the Idaho's governor issued a stay at home order for the state of Idaho.

Debbie and I imposed such an order on ourselves a week ago. I have left the house to go to Yoke's and the liquor store. Today, I shopped at Yoke's for some food. The store had the about the same amount of business as it usually does on a weekday afternoon and I found all the stuff I wanted.

I also dropped in at the liquor store to buy a bottle of George Dickel Rye Whiskey. Debbie has been enjoying a Manhattan or two some evenings and I wanted to make sure we had the right ingredients on hand.

3. For years now, when Debbie and I spend an evening together in the living room we call it a party. We had a slightly different party than usual this evening. For the first time since buying the Vizio nearly two years ago, we tuned into some news programming and listened to interviews with experts in epidemiology, public health experts, emergency room medical people, and other government officials and non-governmental people offering both their analysis of the pandemic and, in the case of the medical people, eyewitness accounts of their experiences in emergency rooms and intensive care units.

Around 9:00 or so, having taken in the television programs we watched, in addition to podcasts about the pandemic we listened to earlier in the day, we switched gears, and, instead of watching a movie, we watched an episode from the the second season of Foyle's War.  In it, Foyle investigates a break in into the house of the head of a multi-national food company and discovers that all kinds of crime and even treason of a sort are connected to this burglary.

The episode, coincidentally, addressed questions of the role of business and commerce in a time of war. The corporate figure in the episode proclaimed that the interests of business matter more than war (thus, on behalf of his company, he was making trade deals with the Nazis). I couldn't help but think about his position (an amoral, money driven one) vis a vis current arguments going on about the tension between our country's economy and efforts to stem the growth of the pandemic.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03/24/20: Grade B Movies in Our Heads, Fun in the Kitchen, *The Two Popes*

1. Back in the winter of 1980, as a graduate student at the Univ of Oregon, I took a course in late 19th century fiction from Prof. Clark Griffith. One of my favorite ideas that he developed in this course centered on the problem of boredom, which Prof. Griffith described as one's mind being emptied out and that in this fiction we were studying, he illuminated how characters fill the emptiness with illusions (or imaginings) of what's real -- what Prof. Griffith called "a grade B movie" -- and live as if that movie were actual. The consequences of living by illusions were never good.

As I start the second half of The Age of Innocence, I can see that Newland Archer is bored. I'm not going to give away details, except to say that increasingly he finds the conventions and rituals of New York City's upper class, as well as his pretend job in a law firm, to be unsatisfying and numbing. They don't give him life; they empty him out. He's restless, prone to becoming a producer of Grade B movies to live by.

2. Today, I thawed the last package of pork chops still left from the pork order we purchased in 2018.

I made a pot of brown rice.

I seasoned and seared the pork chops.

In the Dutch oven, I created a bed of sliced onions and slices of an apple, seasoned with cinnamon. In a bowl, I mixed together yellow curry paste, minced fresh ginger, coconut milk, fish sauce, soy sauce, and brown sugar and poured this spicy, sweet, and salty liquid over the pork chops and apple slices. On top of the liquid, I put frozen green beans, potato slices, carrot pieces, and another half an onion sliced.

I brought the liquid to a gradual boil, put the lid on the Dutch oven, and let this mixture bubble away until the pork was cooked and the vegetables were soft.

I wanted to create a dish with a melange of flavors, sensations, and textures and I think I succeeded and I had a lot of fun putting it together.

3. My first memory of loving watching actors perform as old people occurred in 1981 when I saw Melvyn Douglas and Lila Kedrova play an elderly couple, David and Eva, who decide, in the face of Eva's terminal illness, to travel across the USA where they settle in with their granddaughter in San Francisco.

I haven't watched this movie for many years. I might have this wrong, but if my memory serves me correctly, the movie establishes David's old age with a long shot of him, outside the house he's getting to old to keep up, slowly walking over a couple of railroad tracks, trudging toward the house's porch, and walking slowly up several stairs. I remember being astonished that the movie's director, Lee Grant, had the guts to film this very slow scene and then explore the lives of this elderly couple.

This movie, and my enjoyment of watching actors making movies in their advanced years, was alive in my mind tonight as Debbie and watched The Two Popes.

I was moved by the gravity of both Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce's work, Hopkins as Pope Benedict XVI and Pryce as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis.

I don't care to give much of the movie's story away. I'll just say that both men go through a reckoning, a sizing up of the long life each has lived. I loved being drawn into both men's stories, into their relationship, and into each man's experience of growing old.

I thought of the many superb actors who are active today in the later stages of their lives and how much I enjoy their recent work: Judi Dench, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Helen Mirren, Christopher Plummer, Julie Christie, and many others.

I thought how fortunate we are that audiences exist who want to see stories about characters in the later stages of life and how these experienced actors bring depth, wisdom, affection, suffering, and often some good laughs to the roles they play and the truths they explore.

I just did a search and two of my favorite movies looking at aging are available: Melvyn Douglas and Gene Hackman in I Never Sang for My Father and Tell Me a Riddle. I'll get back to them before long.

Oh, by the way, Agnes Moorehead was 64 years old when she started playing the role of Endora on Bewitched. We watched another episode tonight before going to bed. Agnes Moorehead is terrific as the show's chief truth teller about the absurdity of her daughter's suburban life. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03/23/20: COVID 19 in my Head, Didn't Enjoy *The Nice Guys*, "Dog Tales"/Harriet Potter and *Bewitched*

1. Very little actually happens in The Age of Innocence. So far, this has been a story of invitations, of visits, trips, and of flower deliveries. Characters choose a particular costume for each visit, depending on the time of day. Often they dine on duck and turtle and mushroom sauce and other fine foods. Or, they drink tea. Each of these visits is a drama. Tensions develop between characters. Others develop within the characters, in their minds and in their feelings. It's the psychological and relational tensions that keep the story moving along, in addition to Wharton's sharp critique of wealth, status, and etiquette in the 1870s, the early days of the Gilded Age.

I'm wondering if other readers, in March 2020, are having the odd experience with their books that I'm having with The Age of Innocence.

From time to time, I forget that I am reading a story set in Manhattan about 150 years ago.

I catch myself feeling concern that these characters are going to spread COVID-19. Newland Archer, at one point, boards a boat and travels to Florida where May Welland, his fiancee, is on holiday with her parents. My first thought was, "Newland! You must shelter in place! Don't travel to Florida! Don't risk spreading the caronavirus!"

My anxiety lasts a matter of seconds. I get my head straight soon enough, relax about Archer's trip and, about other parts of the book, all these visits, and continue lying low in Kellogg, reading about the toll the wealth and boredom of these characters takes on their souls.

2. Debbie looked at a list of movies someone online recommended for those who enjoyed Knives Out. We decided to give The Nice Guys a try.

It didn't work for either of us. It helped sharpen my ideas of what kind of movies I do and do not enjoy and The Nice Guys fell squarely into the latter category. Oh, well. We'll try to pick a more enjoyable movie for Tuesday night. (In all fairness, let me add that I did some checking around and, in not enjoying this movie, Debbie and I are in the minority. Many viewers enjoyed the buddy movie chemistry between the characters played by Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling; many found the movie very funny; many enjoyed its 1977 L. A. world of disco and pornography vibe. We were not among the many!)

3. Once The Nice Guys concluded, our evening got really fun and enjoyable.

I took a minute and looked at the PBS app on our smarty pants tv and, upon checking out episodes of Nova that were available, clicked on "Dog Tales", a program dedicated to the long, deep history of how our canine companions became domesticated. Debbie and I became immediately absorbed in this world of dogs and enjoyed ourselves immensely.

The program helped remind Debbie that she hadn't updated me for a while on how Harriet Potter is doing. Harriet belongs to Debbie's friend Hannah. Hannah adopted her in India. Harriet had been treated badly on the streets of -- well, I don't remember the city in India. Back in June, 2017, Harriet arrived by plane in D.C., was staying with another friend of Debbie's and Hannah's in Maryland. We volunteered to take her in, have her certified to travel in the USA, and take her to the airport to be flown to Seattle. Our first attempt to transport Harriet failed, thanks to American Airlines regulations, but, a couple of days later, I drove Harriet to a United Airlines flight out of Dulles and everything was in order and Hannah and Harriet were reunited in Seattle.

I loved the few days Harriet lived with us and, tonight, when Debbie told me that Harriet is doing splendidly in Salem and is great with Hannah's newborn baby, I was moved by Harriet's courage. Harriet Potter survived the terrible hot liquid burn someone inflicted on her in India. While her back is scarred, her temperament is not -- an observation the vet in Colesville, MD had made three years ago when certifying Harriet to fly and a fact that moves me every time I hear it repeated.

When "Dog Tales" ended, I was in the mood for some television programming from 50-60 years ago and, on a whim, clicked on Bewitched.

Neither Debbie nor I had watched Bewitched for decades and we both were flabbergasted by what a pointed satire of suburban life it is and had no idea (from our memories of the show) that it was a subtle and sharp critique of the prevailing conventions of marriage and the domestication of women. We watched four episodes and realized that when we first saw this show in 1964, its clever ways of calling into question the very values the surface of the show was portraying went right by us in our youth.

I am pretty sure we'll be returning to IMDb television again and again to watch more episodes of Bewitched, this sly series that seemed so silly to us years ago and looks so smart to us today.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03/22/20: Deeper into Edith Wharton, Moving the Vizio, *Knives Out* and *I, Claudius* with Debbie

1. I read more pages of The Age of Innocence today. In Edith Wharton's world of wealth in New York City, life is lived according to a vast set of unwritten, but universally agreed upon rules of appearance and conduct. Idle characters in The Age of Innocence spend hours in conversation with one another scrutinizing others, assessing their behavior and how they dress in conversations that have become scripted, expertly suppressing genuine emotion and authentic responses. The unrehearsed moments of feeling surface in subtle ways -- a slight reddening of the face, a raising of an eyebrow, a slight turn of the head. In the story's early chapters, we are introduced to Countess Ellen Olenska. She intrudes upon this world's charmed circle of order and etiquette. The pace of the novel begins to quicken a bit, suspense grows, as she slowly asserts her transgressive presence and consequences begin to take shape.

2. A day or two ago, when Debbie showed interest in watching, Knives Out, I rented it online. We decided we'd like to watch it together. Debbie requested that we watch it in the living room, not the Vizio room. I agreed and this set in motion a flurry of activity -- we needed to free up an end table for the Vizio to rest upon. We had to rearrange our two chairs in the living room so that they faced the television -- now, instead of facing east, our chairs are facing north. I had to make sure I knew (and I did) which cords came out of the wall in the Vizio room and would be plugged in in the living room. It all worked!

3. I had seen Knives Out on December 23rd with Mary and Kathy and enjoyed it thoroughly. I loved seeing it a second time and enjoyed sipping on Ouzo through this showing.  Knives Out is a nearly perfect movie for me because I so much enjoy getting absorbed into a closed world, a world with its own reality -- not necessarily the same as what we call "the real world". As a reader of fiction and a viewer of movies, I'm a believer. I never (or rarely) think "that could never happen" because in the story or movie before me, it just did happen. Watching Knives Out, I loved what was outlandish about it, how slightly exaggerated the characters were, how intricate and wild the case under investigation turned out to be, and how much fun I sensed the actors were having playing their roles.  In my head, this movie was kind of a blend of Flannery O'Connor and Agatha Christie, made contemporary with smart phones and a car chase.

I wrote back in December about how much I enjoyed each actor's performance and I enjoyed them even more tonight. If Daniel Craig's character, Benoit Blanc, were to become the lead detective of a television series, I would immediately put it in my rotation of Vera, A Touch of Frost, and Inspector Lewis and watch it frequently.

Debbie really liked the movie, too, and, when it ended, we decided we'd like to watch more drama. I popped a batch of popcorn and fixed myself a dirty martini and Debbie a Manhattan. We returned to a classic series we watched together back in Eugene early in our marriage: I, Claudius, produced by the BBC in 1976. We didn't quite make it through the first episode before becoming too tired to continue, but it was fun to be back into the beginning of this long story about the corruption and decay of the Roman Empire again.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03/21/20: Up the River, Wellness Trail, Miles Davis Documentary

1. After I had the Sube's wheels retorqued -- it took over a week for me to rack up 50 miles of driving after having the summer tires put back on -- , I made a solo drive up the North Fork of the CdA River to see if the Coal Creek Trail was accessible. The river road had a light traffic. Several vehicles sat in parking areas while their owners waded out into the river to fish. A few other people fished out of boats that drifted downstream. I saw no gatherings, no crowds, just solitary guys fishing or floating.

From the road, I saw that it will be a while before I can hike Coal Creek. Snow covered the short road at the turn in as well as the small parking area. I'll check it again in a couple of weeks without high expectations. Since I don't have a sturdy snow vehicle nor do I own snowshoes, I just cruised on by the trail head area, found a place a ways up the river to turn around, and headed back to Kellogg.

2. In Kellogg, I parked at the bottom of the staircase leading up to the hospital's Wellness Trail. I took a brief nap in the car. Soon I started up the Wellness Trail itself. Already, I'm getting a bit stronger. Yes, I stopped at both benches along the trail and rested and let my heavy breathing and rapid heartbeat return to normal, but my recovery time was quicker and as I hiked to the picnic table at the end of the trail, my legs felt stronger. I hope that before long I can hike to each bench without stopping. After that, I will try to complete the hike and only stop at one bench. Ultimately, I hope to repeat what I did last summer and hike the length of the (pretty short) trail without stopping.

3. I taught, as a graduate student, in the Composition Program at the University of Oregon in the 1980s. Back then, the beginning writing classes were taught by graduate students and a staff of instructors -- the instructors held graduate degrees. They worked part and full time. They were not professors. They were not grad students. They were instructors, overworked and poorly paid.

Today, I had flashbacks to one of the instructors teaching at the same time I was. His name is Bob Martin. I didn't know Bob well at all. In composition workshops and meetings, Bob struck me as really smart and charismatic. When he discussed how he was working with his students and helping them learn to write, his ideas always sounded innovative and his enthusiasm inspired me.

In one workshop in which, I think, we were discussing teaching WR 123, the research and composition course, Bob explained how he brought Miles Davis into his course.

Except he didn't call him Miles Davis.

He just called him Miles.

There was something hip, cool, and worldly about the way Bob talked about Miles Davis, calling him Miles, that conveyed to me that Miles Davis breathed air so rarefied that he didn't need a surname. People in the know, people on the inside, cool people just called him Miles. It was similar to being around friends who loved the Grateful Dead. They never uttered the name Jerry Garcia. He was just Jerry.

I remember Bob Martin talking about Miles that day in ways that suggested (and I had no problem with this) that cool people hip to the world of jazz shared a first-name kind of familiarity with Miles Davis, not only with his music, but with his story.

Bob Martin's tone of voice in talking about Miles Davis was knowing. He resided in a land of coolness that was foreign to me, speaking with an intimate knowledge of "Miles" that left me wide-eyed, as if I'd heard the tales of an adventurer who was reporting back from some exotic place.

I enjoyed my memory of Bob Martin (however inaccurate it might be) returning to me this afternoon as I watched the documentary film, Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool.

I am not knowledgeable enough to review this movie. I enjoyed learning how Miles Davis translated feeling into music and eventually created a unique expression of jazz music that had an immeasurable influence on the world of jazz and helped expand the imagination and the careers of musicians like John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Ron Carter, Wayne Shorter, and many others who collaborated with him at different times in different bands.

I also learned more about Miles Davis' struggles with heroin, cocaine, and alcohol, about his marriages, and his physically violent outbursts of jealousy. These parts of the his story were awful to learn about.

Underlying the movie and its many interviews with people who knew Miles Davis was a current of bewilderment. That Miles Davis was a musical genius always expanding the boundaries of jazz and looking for ways to innovate is undeniable and was a source of this movie's respect for him; that he was also difficult, erratic, temperamental, and violent informed the movie's uncertainty as to what, in the end, to make of Miles Davis.

Well, I was left perplexed. Maybe it wasn't the movie that was uncertain. I was.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03/20/20: Granola, Hearty Beef Stew, Dirty Martini Bliss

1. Lying low was low key today. I had two cooking projects in mind, two of my favorites, in fact. I gathered up oatmeal, cinnamon, vanilla extract, almond slices, melted butter mixed with brown sugar, and walnut pieces, mixed them together in a bowl, spread the mixture on a parchment paper covered baking sheet, and baked granola for about twenty-five minutes at 350 degrees. In the past, I've found that the recipe I use is too conservative when it comes to the amounts of cinnamon, vanilla, butter, and brown sugar, so I pumped those ingredients up a bit. The recipe also recommends baking the granola for 30 minutes. I have found that's too long. I gave it about 25, maybe a little less.

Debbie asked me not to put any dried fruit in the oven with the granola, so I made a container of golden raisins, date pieces, and trail mix blended together. We add this to our granola in the cereal bowl. I'm very happy with my decision to increase the flavor ingredients as well as the butter. I guess I don't want a granola with subtle undertones of vanilla and cinnamon. I want those flavors to be bold. 

2. About ten years ago, Adrienne gave me an America's Test Kitchen cookbook. I loved it, but when we moved, one of those two times in the last six years, I gave the cookbook away, figuring I would replace it through another purchase.

As it turns out, my purchase was to subscribe to the America's Test Kitchen empire online where I can consult recipes from their various publications and watch videos, too.

One of the first recipes I prepared from the cookbook was called simply "Hearty Beef Stew". Before the musical Carol is in up in Wallace had to shut down, the plan was for Lyle and Lura to see the run's final matinee and I would prepare and fix dinner afterward.

I had bought the chuck roast, potatoes, onion, red wine, and carrots I needed for this stew and decided I'd fix the stew for Debbie and me and see if it's as good as I remembered it.

For me, what's unique about this stew is that once the chuck roast pieces are browned and the onion and garlic are sauteed and a broth of chicken stock and red wine is produced, the stew goes in the oven for an hour; then, after adding in the potatoes and carrots, it goes in the oven for another hour.

The verdict? Awesome as I remembered it. Debbie and I loved this stew tonight and we have quart of stew left over for another time.

3. Debbie and I are working at a comfortable pace to clean our house during our time lying low.

After helping out with some cleaning and working on my two cooking projects, I fixed myself a sturdy and very relaxing dirty martini before dinner. Combined with the comforting warmth and savory delight of the hearty stew, the martini relaxed me so much that I went to bed and did some online shopping and, by nine o'clock, I turned out the light and fell into a deep sleep.

I volunteered to be on Charly duty through the night, but, lo and behold, Charly never cried for food or to go outside once during the night and I enjoyed a good night's sleep as Friday night dissolved into Saturday morning.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03/19/20: "I am not ague-proof", Muffins, Back to Edith Wharton

1. I think it was last week, as people were beginning to stay home or anticipating needing to quarantine, that a meme was hopping around the World Wide Web that stated that Shakespeare wrote King Lear while quarantined during an outbreak of the plague.

I think the purpose of this meme was to encourage people that they could use quarantine time creatively and productively. After all, it was during a quarantine that Shakespeare wrote King Lear.

I like that idea. I'm hunkered down. I don't know that I'll produce anything outside of daily blog posts, but I will cook, read, and watch quality things on the Vizio. I'll enrich myself.

All the same, in my mind, the meme triggered a different response.

I have been thinking about that moment in Act IV, Scene 5 or 6 (depending on which edition you might consult) in King Lear when the two old suffering men, Gloucester and King Lear, meet. Gloucester has had his eyes torn out of his head and King Lear is in a state of madness,  fantastically dressed with a crown of flowers, having survived his night of exposure to a tempest on the heath.

Stripped of all royal power and trappings, King Lear is moving closer and closer to understanding that his life has been inauthentic, a charade and he's coming to understand essential, unvarnished truths about what it means to be human.

The insight he arrives at that keeps echoing inside me is when King Lear says the following about his sycophants at court: "They told me I was everything.  'Tis a lie. I am not ague-proof."

I guess I could start a meme that says something like, "Just a reminder that when Shakespeare was quarantined during the plague, he wrote King Lear and reminded us that no one is ague-proof."

Ague wasn't the plague, per se, but was a prevalent illness featuring severe fever, chills, shivering, and sweating.

For King Lear, "ague" is a metaphor. Until suffering the loss of his royal power, King Lear lived as if he were immune to the deprivations, sufferings, and hardships -- the ague -- of human life. Today, we might say he thought he was "bullet proof" or regarded himself as a "Teflon king".

But, he realizes, "'Tis a lie."

I'm not going to split hairs here regarding the difference between the plague, ague, COVID 19, and other infectious illnesses.

I think Shakespeare saw, in the plague, a connection between the physical world of infectious disease and the inward world of suffering.

Both physically and in our inward lives, we are not ague-proof. We are no more immune to novel contagion than we are to suffering.

As I've written before, I'm leaving the house only for the occasional trip to the store or to go on solo hikes or walks.

I have, in the past, lived as if I were ague-proof, primarily by overrating my importance as an instructor and a faculty member at Lane Community College. For whatever reason, I am vulnerable to illness when I overwork myself. When I was working, I saw other faculty work hard, many doing far more than I ever did, and they did, in fact, seem ague-proof.

But, I wasn't.

I ignored the effects of overtaxing myself and, in 1999, my immune system stressed, I contracted bacterial meningitis. After being released from the hospital, I thought I was ague-proof and returned to work much too early, spent entire weekends asleep recovering from the work week, and refused to acknowledge that I needed to slow down.

Again, in 2009, I overworked myself, mistaking irresponsibility for a false sense of noble purpose.

I thought I was ague-proof.

'Twas a lie.

I was hospitalized twice, once with pneumonia and again, within weeks, with C. Diff.

I am not at liberty to divulge details in this public blog, but it looks like two people close to us (not in Kellogg) likely have contracted COVID 19. Debbie's last contact with one of these people occurred before the person became ill and Debbie just missed being in contact with the other person when she left Eugene.

Neither person is hospitalized. Neither person has been tested and likely won't be. Because of that, if either or both of these persons are carrying the Corona virus, it won't show up in the official statistics reporting the number of people infected.

I didn't need the COVID 19 to hit close to home to take the precautions I've been taking for about a week now, but it has hit people close to us, and I'm more determined than ever to stay put.

I've learned.

I am not ague-proof.

Debbie's near contact with infected people was made possible by mobility, Debbie's as well as one of the persons who is ill.  Debbie and I will remain immobile for as long as we need to be.

The once powerful King Lear had thought of himself as invincible and learned he wasn't invincible.


'Tis a lie.

We are not ague-proof.

2.  My cooking project today was a simple one. I made cornbread muffins. I used whole wheat flour and so, to me, these muffins were dense and I liked that.

3. It's been a few weeks since I started reading Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, so I started from the beginning again today. Once again, I find her writing remarkable. When it comes to documenting the details of the opulence of the upper class in New York City near the turn of the 19th to the 20th century, her detailed descriptions are dizzying and open up a world of indulgence and conspicuous consumption that I find absorbing, even as I have absolutely no way of relating to it. Wharton has a keen eye for the absurdity of this much wealth and a devastating understanding of the foolishness of the rituals, rules of etiquette, and devotion to form and appearances of these people. Consequently, Wharton's writing is biting, sometimes sarcastic, and I sense that she is moving the story toward some kind of tragedy rooted in the vacuous lives her characters live out.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03/18/20: Cleaning the House, Debbie Shops at Barney's, Cocktails and Popcorn in the Time of Pandemic

1. I cleaned house today, disinfecting kitchen surfaces, the bathroom sink, toilet, and shower, sweeping, vacuuming, cleaning dishes, and doing some laundry. My lower back gets fatigued sort of quickly -- this problem started when I was sorting through Mom's belongings and moving boxes and bags of things after she died -- and so I needed to rest often, making the housecleaning a slow job. Now I just need to do more cleaning day to day and not leave it to be done in one fell swoop.

2. In the middle of the afternoon, I got a text from Debbie letting me know she was in Pinehurst. Ah! Good! She had safely driven from Portland to the Silver Valley. I didn't actually know why she was in Pinehurst, but found out about 45 minutes later that she went to Barney's Harvest Foods to shop for a few things like oatmeal, pancake mix, barley, lentils, rice, some canned vegetables and fruit, popcorn, canned fish, peanut butter, and other items that we will have around as we stay close to home during the pandemic.

3. Debbie and I gabbed for the rest of the afternoon and on into the evening. I don't remember exactly when I opened the bar and went to work as the resident mixologist, but it was fun making Debbie a Manhattan or two or three or . . .and I enjoyed a couple dry gin martinis up (stirred, not shaken) and when, later on, it was popcorn time, I indulged in my most recent favorite home cocktail, Gosling dark rum and Coke with lemon.

Debbie and I had a lot of ground to cover. We talked about how things are going with Josh, Adrienne, Jack, and Ellie in New York; about conversations she had with Patrick and that he and Meagan are doing well in Portland; about the Diaz family and what's been happening with them in Maryland.

We talked about Charly, family life in Kellogg, our sense of life locally, regionally, nationally, and beyond during the pandemic and mused about whether we might make some physical changes in our home;  to me, the chief question is whether we might bring the Vizio, on occasion, out of the Vizio room into the living room if we want to watch something together on television.

I've never read Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novel, Love in the Time of Cholera, but that title keeps running through my mind.

Until today, for the last several days, I've stayed home alone, only going out to buy some groceries, take a hike, and take part in our St. Patrick's Day family dinner.

Now Debbie is home and we will enter into Staying Home in the Time of Pandemic.

I'm not sure how we'll make this work. I have confidence we will. For the next, what? few weeks? months? this blog will, in part, report on our life at home, doing our small part to stop the spread of COVID 19 during the 2020 pandemic. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03/17/20: Debbie Delays, Hamburger Soup, Last Family Dinner Until . . .

1. I would have done the same thing.

Debbie called me late this morning to tell me she was going to spend the day with Patrick and Meagan and drive to Kellogg on Wednesday.

It made perfect sense. She'd had a disruptive day on Monday when she left Eugene sooner than planned. Meagan and Patrick are working at home, giving Debbie time to spend with them, a most enjoyable experience.

2. Earlier in the morning, I had gone to work making a hamburger soup. It was simple. I browned hamburger together with chopped onion and minced garlic. When the meat was no longer pink, I added a box of beef broth and a couple of chopped potatoes, a box of beef broth, a can of fire roasted dice tomatoes, a can of kidney beans, seasonings, and some Worcestershire sauce. When this combination had simmered for about ten minutes or so, I added in chopped carrots and celery and some frozen corn and green beans. This cooked slowly until the carrots were soft. I ended up with two quarts of soup.

3. Carol and Paul hosted Christy, Everett, and me for a delicious St. Patrick's Day dinner of corned beef and cabbage and potatoes with soda bread this evening. We started with a whiskey sour. I enjoyed a Guinness with my meal and Carol served Bailey's Irish Cream as an after dinner drink.

We talked a lot about the world shutting down around us and agreed to make this our last family dinner until it feels right to resume again. I'm glad we are all taking this COVID 19 situation seriously and that we are all near each other if/when any of us needs help.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03/16/20: Debbie's Return, Chicken Soup, The Wellness Trail

1. Debbie rents a room from Anne when she stays in Eugene and has been dog sitting for her since earlier this month while Anne and her daughter have been on a service project in Haiti. Anne is returning to Eugene early (she arrived today) and Debbie took off today for Portland and then will come to Kellogg. My guess is she'll be here for a while.

2. I made chicken soup in one of my favorite ways today, beginning by boiling a whole chicken in chicken stock and water. I then removed the chicken and simmered chopped onion, potato, celery, and carrot along with garlic, seasonings, and white beans in the broth while the chicken cooled. I took the meat off the chicken and returned it to the soup pot after the vegetables had simmered for about 45 minutes and let the soup rest for over an hour before filling four quart containers.

I put the chicken carcass in the crock pot with parsley, celery, carrot peels, and seasoning and have a batch of chicken stock cooking away.

3. It was cloudless out today, not terribly warm, but gorgeous out. Late in afternoon, I drove to the bottom of the stairway leading up to the Wellness Trail behind the hospital and finally hiked again. The track was a little muddy, but never impassible. I got winded several times, recovered, kept going, and loved how it felt to get my legs back in action again. When I finished, I felt as good physically as I've felt in months having gotten my heart pumping and my legs exercised.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03/15/20: Draft Day, ZZ Top Documentary, D.I. Frost is Flawed

1. Today was draft day in the two fantasy baseball leagues I joined last year. Last year, I wasn't around for the draft and the ESPN computers picked my two teams. I spent this afternoon in the Vizio room, on the computer, watching as other guys quickly made their picks (we had ninety seconds for each pick) and did my best to plan for what I'd do when my turn came. It was a mildly nerve-wracking experience and stimulating at the same time. I'm really happy I participated. I don't know if my teams will be any good. I don't know if Major League Baseball will have a season -- or when it will start if there is one -- but I'm ready to put my teams to the test and see how things pan out.

2. Soon after the draft, I poured myself a piping hot mug of hot chocolate spiked with dark rum and brandy and thoroughly enjoyed a Netflix documentary entitled, ZZ Top: That Little Ol' Band from Texas. I enjoyed learning about the band's five decades together, how they got started, how they evolved, and how they played themselves into fame. The movie made me think about a former brother-in-law who, back in 1974-77 was always listening to music I wasn't very aware of -- Genesis, Mott the Hoople, and others and he was very excited about ZZ Top's album, Tres Hombres.

I enjoyed learning about the 1976-77 ZZ Top Worldwide Texas Tour. It had a similar traveling carnival or traveling circus vibe to Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue from the previous year -- but this comparison wasn't made in That Little Ol' Band. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the interviews with the three band members, Dusty Hill, Frank Beard, and Billy F Gibbons. Each of them is self-aware, musically sophisticated, grateful for their success, insightful, and articulate. It was not only fun to hear them talk about their earliest days as a band and the evolution of ZZ Top, but to come to understand better their drive to stretch, experiment, explore new territory in their music, and never let themselves be pigeon-holed.

I didn't want this movie to end. I could have listened to Dusty Hill, Frank Beard, and Billy F Gibbons talk about the blues, rock n roll, their love of Texas, the music they make, and their musical longevity for hours.

3. The documentary ended and I wasn't quite ready to retire. I decided I needed to be in the company of Detective Inspector Jack Frost for a ninety minute plus episode of A Touch of Frost. Tonight's case focused on a young junkie who'd been beaten to death in a public toilet in Denton. It explored the havoc the young man had wreaked on his family and the town and the attitudes of law enforcement and the medical forensic doctor as to whether it was worth the effort to try to get to the bottom of the death of a young man living on the edges of society.

D.I. Jack Frost had no doubt that this murder was worth investigating. In this, his moral and ethical standards were stellar. But, the episode also developed a subplot in which D.I. Jack Frost's behavior was selfish and not at all admirable. D.I. Frost is a widower. While his wife was alive, Frost was sleeping with Eileen, his lover. In this episode, Frost goes to Eileen's flat to visit her, after a lengthy absence, and Eileen exposes Jack Frost as being a superb detective but, in his private life, a louse. Their interactions in this espisode didn't end with this visit, but I will leave it at that. (They do not, by the way, resume their affair.)

For the record, this was Episode 3 of Season 2 of A Touch of Frost entitled "Nothing to Hide". It's available on video online. I watched it on BritBox.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03/14/20: Shopping for Soup, *Cause for Alarm!*, More Draft Prep

1. In preparing to hunker down for some indefinite amount of time, I decided that making soups and freezing quarts of the soups is a good way to both keep myself occupied doing something I enjoy and a pragmatic way to think about eating many meals in. So I went to Yoke's today and bought groceries in support of making, over the next few days, turkey, chicken, and hamburger soup. I have lots of soup stock stored from all the stock I've made over the last several months. I also have some meat left over from when we purchased bulk orders of pork and beef a year and a half ago.

2. The other day, I read a short review in the New Yorker of a 75 minute movie released in 1951 entitled, Cause for Alarm!. The reviewer, Margaret Talbot, came across the movie on Amazon Prime and wrote that it felt to her like a work of "accidental feminism", "a cry for help sent telepathically from the fifties". In brief, it's a story about a bed-ridden husband (Barry Sullivan) undermining his wife's (Loretta Young) sense of reality.  As Talbot points out, it's a suburban version of Gaslight. I'll leave it at that. It would be fun to be living in Eugene right now, back in the company of my feminist friends. If we discussed this movie, I'd ask them if they think this movie is an early 1950's critique of suburban life for housewives similar to what, as I understand it, Betty Friedan was working out in The Feminine Mystique (which I have never read).  I could imagine having a fun time at Billy Mac's with Pam, Lynn, Russell, Kathleen, Michael, Kate, and others or at coffee with Margaret, Jeff, Michael, and Nate or at 16 Tons with Tim or at the Bier Stein with Dan, having my understanding of the world expanded by a discussion of this movie and Margaret Talbot's brief New Yorker review.

By the way, I also spent some time at YouTube after watching this movie reminding myself of what The Loretta Young Show was all about and watching some videos devoted her to her famous entries as she came on to the set of the show. If anyone ever still says, "She walked in the room like she thought she was Loretta Young", at least I now know and remember what that comment means!

3. I spent the remainder of the evening getting myself familiar again with Major League Baseball players in preparation for our two fantasy leagues' March 15th draft. I'll participate in the draft from home.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03/13/20: Debbie and Food Prep, Draft Prep, Pork Chops and Christopher Foyle (and Brandy)

1. After breakfast with Ed and Scott B., I did some shopping at Yoke's with some future dinners in mind. When the blizzard settles down, I think I'll go back and see if I can find some more things I need in order to make and freeze soups. I know I have a lot of crab stock, but I also have ham stock and chicken stock and I'm starting to imagine some soups I'd like to have on hand, ready to thaw and enjoy for lunch or dinner. 

I talked with Debbie on the phone tonight. She and Adrienne have discussed the increase in cases of COVID 19 in New York. Debbie is not going to return to New York anytime soon. She's done subbing in Eugene.  The schools are closed for at least the next three weeks. Right now, Debbie is looking after the dog of the woman she stays with in Eugene until Anne returns from a service project in Haiti. Things could change, I suppose, but, as of now, it looks like when Anne returns toward the end of the month that Debbie will return to Kellogg for an indefinite amount of time.

So, my thinking about food preparation changed today. I now know that I'm not just cooking ahead for myself. Given our age and the medical things I wrote about myself yesterday, we plan to stay inside a lot and I'll prepare for that over the next several days.

2. On Sunday, the two fantasy baseball leagues I belong to will draft our players all afternoon. Today I began to prepare for the draft by reading up about players, looking over lists of draft recommendations from ESPN experts, and trying to imagine how I might approach the draft. Last year, I let ESPN's computers draft my teams, but I'm going to draft my own this time and I am anticipating that the results of my picks could be pretty humbling. No problem. I hope to learn a lot.

3. I poured myself a (cheater) pint glass of brandy and hot water to slowly sip on and keep me warm while I watched a superb episode of Foyle's War.

The episode dealt with profiteering in 1940, about a racket some people were running pilfering petrol from the wartime supplies. I couldn't help but think about people I've read about profiting from the COVID 19 crisis. It's despicable. As Foyle worked to get to the bottom of this corruption, with Sam working as an undercover petrol tank truck driver, the whole criminal enterprise  disgusted him.

In the course of watching this program, I also braised two pork chops. I lined the bottom of the Dutch oven with onion and apple slices. I generously sprinkled the apples with cinnamon. I seared the chops, put them in the pot, and poured coconut milk over them and added fish sauce, soy sauce, and brown sugar to the mix. I wanted to add some yellow curry paste, but I didn't find it in the refrigerator, so that element of my braise was missing.

So, once it had slow cooked for a while, my food was very good.  I have another pork chop left over. My brandy and hot water hit the spot and succeeded in warming me (as a winter blizzard invaded Kellogg). A subplot involving Christopher Foyle's relationship with his son moved me to tears, making the entire episode very satisfying. I enjoyed talking with Debbie on the phone. I closed the evening with a slow shot of ouzo, carried Charly out back so she could do her business, and felt pretty good as I crawled into bed under a pile of three blankets and fell asleep.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03/12/20: I Will Lie Low, What a Nap!, Census Finished

1. When it comes to commenting on the spread of COVID-19, I prefer to remain quiet. My comments would be either ill-informed or would be repeating what plenty of other people are saying and writing in the news, on Facebook, on Twitter, and elsewhere. My basic rule of thumb regarding any news story is to wait until I can understand what happened by looking back. I don't have much to say about this (or similar) situation(s) while we are in the midst of it/them. I've been reading a lot -- first hand accounts from Italy, things people have written in response to cancellations, both in support of these measures and in opposition, and other commentaries and analysis. I've read angry accusations. I've read words of suspicion. I've read words encouraging calm and understanding. I've heard worried people called stupid. I've read words of support for those who are taking precautions.

I look at myself and I see a sixty-six year old man carrying permanent (and, for now, dormant) infection in the bottom of my lungs from when I was injured at the Zinc Plant in 1973; I contracted bacterial meningitis, a result of my immune system not working properly, in 1999; ten years later, I contracted pneumonia and, later, C. Difficile. I was in the hospital and being treated by nurses and others fully masked and protected from head to toe because of the H1N1 outbreak. I can't remember when these precautions were relaxed or during which hospital stay they were taken. I have chronic kidney disease that jumps back and forth between Stage IV and Stage V.

So, I've been quietly and calmly reasoning with myself.

Idaho claims, as I write this, no have no officially reported cases of COVID-19.

That's good news, but I also know that only limited testing has been happening. I fall back to the position I mentioned earlier. In the midst of this situation, it's very difficult to know what's what.

I regard myself, given my medical history, age, and current health status as vulnerable to contagion and a candidate for serious illness should I contract the virus.

Having, in the past few days, heard people who are being cautious about the COVID-19 virus referred to as stupid ("just wash your hands!" "please, use common sense" "even if you get it, it's not that bad -- the symptoms are mild!").  I don't want to be thought of as stupid.

But, even more, I want to protect myself and, even more than that, I don't want to be a source of contagion.

Therefore, I've decided that I will be staying pretty close to home for a while. I had a couple of outings planned for this weekend and I'm not going to do them. I think I'll take at least a week off of trivia. I'll go to the store. I would have gone to family dinner this week if we were having it. Once the storm we are expecting soon blows over, I'll go hiking. But I think I'll forego social gatherings, spending time in the casino and the tap house for trivia, and, it doesn't look like concerts are happening anyway, but I would stay home.

I'll keep informed. I'll assess things day to day as best I can. To those who say, "But, you've got to live your life!" my answer is that I will be living my life: I will prepare for the upcoming Fantasy Baseball draft, read, watch British detective shows, watch movies, take care of Charly, do some writing, and continue to do the things I enjoy indoors.

2. All this thinking and staying calm must have taken a toll on me. Charly has been pretty well settled at night. After I got home from trivia Wednesday night, I stayed up until midnight and slept for six uninterrupted hours, a record for both Charly and me since her nights started becoming restless. But, this afternoon, around 3:30 or so, I hit the wall and went to bed for an awesome nap and enjoyed the deepest, sweetest, most refreshing sleep I've had in a while.

3. The mailing from the Census Bureau came today and I jumped right online, entered the proper ID number, and submitted answers to the handful of questions put before me.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03/11/20: Janice's Gratitude, Riding with Linda, Trivia Night at the Riverbank

1. Janice sent me a text message expressing her gratitude for the eight of us visiting her at St. Regis, hoping we enjoyed our visit. I responded that we stopped at Saltese, MT on our way home so we could talk with each other about how much we loved seeing Janice. I sent Janice's text to each of the other friends who went to see Janice so we could all know how much she treasured the time we all spent together.

2. Around 4:30, I met up with Linda L. at the Conoco station just south of the Rose Lake junction. I hopped in her Sierra pickup truck and we headed to Airway Heights, WA and the Northern Quest Casino for another night of trivia. We had a lot to talk about.  Neither one of us has emptied our store of knowledge and stories about growing up in Kellogg and the impact of the Bunker Hill Company and we always have news to discuss about people from Kellogg we know -- whether they are living in the Silver Valley or have moved away.

3. For our group of trivia players, it was an historic night at Northern Quest's Riverbank Taphouse. Our team had won three weeks in a row and now if another team beat us, they won a 50 dollar bonus. Since this money was at stake, the company hosting trivia (they are called Bent Trivia) mandated that the defending champion team tonight had to be composed of the same players who won last week.

Well, last week I went to the Music of Cream concert and Chris stayed home not feeling well and Linda L also stayed home.

So, we cooperated with Dan, the Bent Trivia host, and divided our powerhouse team into two teams. Mary, Kathy, Dan, and Joan were last week's winning team, so they were one team -- and the defending champions. Chris, Linda, and I formed a second team.


The defending champs finished third tonight.

I don't know how far down the standings Chris, Linda, and I finished. Bent Trivia only announces the top two or three finishers.

So, next week, we can all be one team again. The bounty is off and a team of young guys was 50 bucks richer last night.

It was a really fun night. We enjoy one another's company more than anything, so even though we were two teams, we were all sitting in the same area, could talk and enjoy each other between rounds, and enjoy what I, at least, enjoy most about these trips to Spokane: the socializing.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03-10-20: Trip to St. Regis, A Stop in Saltese, Zags Win Conference Tournament

1. Lars, Stu, and I piled into Cas's truck and Carol Lee, Joni, and Ed piled into Jake and Carol Lee's rig and we caravaned over Lookout Pass to St. Regis to visit Janice, Goose's widow. First, we stopped uptown at JB's Country Garden and bought some indoor plants in a miniature wagon as a gift for Janice and then we roared on over to Montana.

It was a great visit. Janice was happy to see us and we talked a lot about her life:  the remodel project going on at the family store, Janice's daughter Tiffany's soon to be born baby son, and other things related to life after Goose.

We sat in Janice's living room, spent time outdoors on her deck overlooking the Clark Fork River, and told old stories about Kirk. Janice served us the brand of pizza they will soon be selling in the store's new deli with a nice selections of soda pops.

2. After visiting for a couple of hours, we piled back in the rigs and headed to Saltese and visit to the Old Montana Bar and Grill to enjoy a cold drink or two and to continue visiting and telling stories. We were all happy to have seen Janice and agreed that she is doing really well despite the many challenges she's faced and is facing since Kirk died.

3.  After halftime, Gonzaga double and even triple teamed St. Mary's terrific guard, Jordan Ford, and held him in check. This move slowed down the Gaels' offense, opened the way for the Zags to score points in transition and out of their offensive sets and, after a tight first half, Gonzaga cruised to an 84-66 victory and won the WCC Conference Tournament.

I watched the game with Christy and Everett and was grateful to be invited over for pizza and salad along with watching the game. We were all relieved that Gonzaga played such a strong second half, outscoring the Gaels, 42-25, and that we could enjoy their win without much anxiety.

Three Beautiful Things 03/09/20: Got My Mail, The Dons Intrigue Me (Zags Win), Gaels Win a Thriller

1. I'd had my mail held when I went to Spokane last week and the carrier didn't deliver it, as scheduled, on Saturday. This morning, our regular carrier rapped on my door and told me she'd been on vacation and didn't have my held mail because she had just seen the order telling her I had had it held. She apologized and told me my mail was at the post office.

No problem.

I welcomed the making a trip uptown. I picked up my mail, stopped at the store for a couple of things, and returned home and wrote out the bills that were in my mail pile, and had that pleasant sense that order had been restored in my funny little world.

2. I went over the Christy and Everett's and watched the Zags play the University of San Francisco. I am intrigued by USF. I heard their coach, former St. Mary's player, Todd Golden, talking with Andy Katz online a while back. He's a young guy, just thirty-four years old, and is committed to using mathematical analytics to guide him in his coaching decisions.

With the completion of tonight's game, USF played the Zags three times this winter and in played them very tough in five out of the six halves of action.

Tonight, the Zags defeated USF, 81-77, thanks in large part to some late game scoring by Joel Ayayi. As Byrdman wrote me, "Ayayi saved their bacon."

This is one game I'd like to rewatch because I'm intrigued by the difficulty the Zags have with USF and I wonder, if I watched again, I might understand better what USF does that succeeds against the Zags. Maybe, as some of my friends suggest, the problem is Gonzaga's. I think to myself, okay, maybe it's the Zags not playing so well, but there's a pattern here. USF has made things difficult for the Zags five out of six halves and I think Todd Golden is a cerebral coach who devises solid game plans. I think USF's efforts have had a lot to do with the Zags' problems. I'd just like to understand better what the Dons do. I am unable to quite keep up with these things in real time.

3. After the Zags' game, I watched BYU and St. Mary's, a game I though BYU would win, especially after the way they dominated Gonzaga the night of the Elks Crab Feed.

But St. Mary's hung tough with them and, in the second half, BYU's shots stopped falling. With a few seconds left in the game and St. Mary's down by a point, the Gaels' Jordan Ford hit a jumper from the elbow and St. Mary's won this thriller, 51-50.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03/08/20: *Church Basement Ladies*, Cocktails and the Blackboard Cafe, Ducks Trounce Stanford

1. Instead of having family dinner at one of our homes, today was family day at the Sixth Street Melodrama in Wallace where our sister Carol played the role of Karen in the musical production of Church Basement  Ladies, a breezy parody of mid-1960s Minnesota Lutherans and Norwegian/Scandinavian customs and culture with fun songs and a funny script packed into four vignettes taking place in the basement kitchen of a rural Minnesota church, all of them gently urging the audience to focus more on what unites us than what divides us.

Carol played her role perfectly as a middle-aged mother with a college-aged daughter. Her character, Karin, is open-minded, open to "things they are a changin'", and has a sound understanding of the generational differences between her and her daughter.

As I watched the play and listened to cast member Joy Persoon perform her songs, I got kind of choked up thinking about being in choir and in the Cardinal Chorale with Joy at North Idaho College and that our youthful days of singing in the same ensembles go back nearly 48 years. We both started at NIC in 1972. It moved me to think about how much I enjoyed our time at NIC and to know what exceptional work Joy did teaching music and leading choirs in the Kellogg School District for so many years.

2. Linda L. joined our family outing. We had planned to meet at the Silver Corner for cocktails after the play, but it doesn't open until 5, so we had a round of drinks at the 1313 Club. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed my Perfect Patron Margarita.

Then we strolled over to The Blackboard Cafe (in its new location) for Italian food. I loved my order of carbonara, a bowl of linguine blended together with a rich parmesan egg sauce, bacon, capers, lemon, and garlic. I ordered mine with a chunk of blackened ahi placed atop the linguine mountain and it added further richness and Italian herbs to this superb dish. I started my meal with a Caesar salad and very much enjoyed a couple of glasses of Chianti. Linda ordered a chocolate mousse dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and asked me help her with it. It was divine -- and eating about half of it was just right.

If I lived in Wallace, I think I'd eat Italian food at least once a week at the Blackboard. As it is, Wallace is only about 12-15 minutes away and I think I might start heading up there semi-regularly. I've had two different plates of food on three visits to the Blackboard and both were awesome.

3. I didn't think about it much at dinner because I was so immersed in eating splendid food and being with family and with Linda L., but as we were enjoying our meal, the Oregon Ducks were playing Stanford for the Pac-12 women's tournament championship.

I didn't take my phone to Wallace this afternoon, and, upon arriving home, Linda S. had texted me that she knew I wouldn't be watching the game and hoped I'd have a good dinner.

Immediately, I hopped on the World Wide Web and there I found the astonishing news: Oregon creamed Stanford, 89-56.

How did they do it?

I started digging.

Ruthy Hebard, 24 points. Check.

Sabrina Ionescu, 20 points, 12 assists, 8 rebounds. Check.

Then I read the shocker that thrilled me.

Minyon Moore scored 21 points! She buried four three point shots!

I immediately thought that Stanford must have decided to sag off of Minyon Moore on defense, regarding her as the Ducks' weakest shooter and Minyon Moore made them pay!

I hope I can find and see a replay of this game.

Earlier in the winter, I wrote on this blog that I didn't know quite yet how the Ducks were adjusting to Minyon Moore as a grad transfer to their team nor how Moore was adjusting to the Ducks.

Game by game, however, I could tell the transition was improving, especially as Minyon Moore spearheaded the ever toughening Duck defense, modeling for the rest of the team how to play defense with relentless determination.

Minyon Moore's assist totals started to increase and a few times I nearly fell out of my chair in the Vizio room watching some of the superb passes she made to help teammates score.

My thinking was that with Boley, Hebard, Ionescu, Sabally, Chavez, and Shelley being such prolific scorers, Minyon Moore could focus on defense, ball handling, and setting up her teammates to score.



Minyon Moore lit it up the house with 21 points.


If teams playing against the Ducks have to figure that any one of the five women on the floor at any time are a threat to score, this is going to put tremendous pressure on the Ducks' opponents and open up scoring opportunities for everyone, especially if teams can't double team Ionescu, Hebard, or Sabally -- and if they do decide to double team any one of them, it will leave other players unguarded and open to score.

I would be surprised if Minyon Moore has another 21 point outing. But, that doesn't matter. What does matter is that teams in the NCAA tournament are going to know she's capable of a big scoring night and have to factor her into their defensive game plan more than they might have before last night.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03/07/20: Charly Wants Company, An Old Joke that Always Works, An Evening with the Ducks

1. Charly was restless between midnight and about 5 a.m. on Saturday morning and, after being up and down, trying to help her settle down, at around 3:30 or so, I decided to quit trying to sleep in bed and came out to the living room and wrote in my blog.

It worked.

I seemed that Charly simply didn't want to be alone in the living room. To help her settle down, all I had to do was sit and it wasn't long before she relaxed, fell asleep, and, after about an hour or so, I went back to bed.

2. After watched Creighton defeat Seton Hall late in the morning and on into the early afternoon and after I made a trip to Yoke's for a few things, Ed texted me, wondering if I'd like to have a beer at The Lounge.

I sure did.

We had a good session. I hadn't seen Cas for a while nor had I seen Ginger and we yakked a bit about the upcoming draft for fantasy baseball and I told them about the concerts I attended this week in Spokane.

At one point, Cas made a joke that got me wondering if it's a joke unique to the Silver Valley or if it's a joke that gets told in small communities across the USA.

Before I tell you how this joke works, I need to say that a few minutes earlier, Ed, Cas, and I had just been talking the reopening of the Hill Top Inn in Kingston.


Here's how the joke works.

Ed asked me what places I went to eat in Spokane.

I told him, among others, that I went to this place on North Monroe called Ruins where they serve a rotating menu of food from around the world and that I was there for the first night of their Russian/Ukranian menu.

Cas was listening in and said, "Oh! They serve that menu up at the Hill Top, don't they, Ed?"

And that's the joke.

Someone like me says they've done something outside of the Silver Valley that would never happen in the Silver Valley and someone listening responds by acting as if it does happen in the Silver Valley.

I might say something like, "I went to the Riverbank Taphouse at the casino Wednesday and really enjoyed drinking a Sazerac."

Cas: "It couldn't have been better than the Sazeracs here at The Lounge."

I might mention having seen a Rembrandt exhibition I enjoyed at the National Gallery in DC.

Immediately someone retorts: "Was it as good as when they showed those Rembrandts at the Kellogg Middle School?"

I've been hearing this joke since I was a kid.

Somehow, it never fails.

I laugh every time.

So, I got to wondering, after I returned home, if there were customers sitting at a bar in Chadron, Nebraska or Crisfield, Maryland or in Jerome, Arizona doing the same thing, getting a good laugh by acting like things that never happen in their small towns actually happen there.

3. I returned home from The Lounge to watch back to back University of Oregon basketball games.

First, the women't team played my second favorite team in the Pac-12, Arizona. The Ducks got off to a roaring start, thanks to the sizzling shooting of Erin Boley who scored 10 of the Ducks' first 14 points and thanks to the great performance over the entire game of Sabrina Ionescu who scored 31 points, pulled down 9 rebounds, and dished out 7 assists, leading Oregon to an 88-70 win.

The Ducks could never be comfortable in this game, even as they built leads of ten or more points, because of the dazzling play of Aari McDonald, the fastest and quickest guard in the conference -- maybe the nation. I've watched McDonald play against different teams in the Pac-12 this season and the only thing I've seen her slow her down has been a foot and leg injury she's been playing through. Otherwise, she regularly blows by defenders for uncontested lay ups or stops on a dime, steps back, and buries outside shots.

Tonight, McDonald scored 34 points and was a constant threat to the Ducks' defense. In the end, though, the Ducks' beat Arizona with their versatility, with the way they have players up and down their starting lineup and off the bench who can score, do it from a wide variety of spots on the floor, and can play some pretty tough defense.

Back in Eugene, the men's team won the Pac 12 conference title with an avenging 80-67 win over Stanford. Oregon scorched the twine from distance, making 10 of 19 three point attempts, with Payton Pritchard and Anthony Mathis each burying four of them. Pritchard led the Ducks with 29 points, helping the Ducks secure the #1 seed in the upcoming conference tournament.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03/06/20: Lunch at The Mango Tree, Jack and Dan's, Bringing Charly Home

1. This morning, I relished the quiet of the house and neighborhood I stayed in the last two nights. I enjoyed coffee, got my writing done, cleaned up, and got my things packed.

Mary and I met at 11:30 at The Mango Tree for lunch. I don't remember the last time I ate at an Indian restaurant and now I am eager to return. I enjoyed my order of lamb vindaloo over basmati rice with accompanying plain naan. I was wiser today than yesterday, a good sign that I can still learn. When asked what spice level I wanted, I order 3/5 -- medium, in other words -- and it was perfect.

Mary and I talked about a lot of things, including the virtues of meeting about once a month with one or two other people to read one another's writing and help each other out. I've resisted doing this sort of thing in the past, but I had resisted playing trivia, too, and the more I thought about this Mary's idea today, the more it seemed promising.

Mary works for her brother in the American Legion Building across Washington Street from The Mango Tree and Mary and I popped into their workplace for a quick visit to this, as Mary calls it, "Sam Spadish" classic building. Although her brother's name was not etched in a window built into the door to his office door, I did think Humphrey Bogart might pop up and say, "I distrust a man that says when. If he's got to be careful not to drink too much it's because he's not to be trusted when he does." 

2. I left the American Legion Building and headed to the campus of Gonzaga University where Stu and I would be meeting at some point to shop for Zags wear.

I arrived in the Gonzaga neighborhood early and decided to let Stu know I was at Jack and Dan's and to meet me there.

When Christy, Carol, and I last visited Jack and Dan's on March 30, 2007 on our first Sibling Outing, the tavern had fairly recently expanded into the space next door once occupied by a Walgreen's.

Dad and I used to go to Jack and Dan's occasionally in the years between about 1975-84, when it was a longish, single room dominated by pictures and other memorabilia of the Utah Jazz and Gonzaga alumnus John Stockton -- John Stockton's dad is the Jack of Jack and Dan's. Jack and Dan's was a neighborhood bar at the time, serving cold beer to mostly men who lived in the area.

Today, while the tavern was larger, I could tell it was still a neighborhood bar. The bartender and servers working the floor had easy and familiar relations with the clientele. They joked with each other. The servers stopped at tables to tell and listen to stories. I could hear snippets of conversation about baseball. The lone woman at the bar was drinking Hefeweisen, eating an order of Mozzarella sticks, and working her way through a plastic french fry basket half full of pull tabs.

She won eight dollars.

I sat at a table near the window looking out on Hamilton in the old half of the bar and slowly sipped on a black and tan until Stu arrived.

Stu strolled in just as I was finishing my beer. He showed me the room at Jack and Dan's where his retirement party was held and we headed over to the Zags store and now I have a new gray hoodie with a sketch of a blue bulldog on the front.

3. Back in Kellogg, I picked up Charly from Carol and Paul's house and learned she'd had a good visit and, as a real bonus for her, had spent some sustained time out in the back yard while Carol and Paul did some things outside.

Once home, Charly seemed slightly unnerved by the short ride from Carol and Paul's to our house and it took her about a half an hour for her anxiety to settle down. Soon enough, though, she was back into her routines, eating, drinking water, going out back, and resting in the living room.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03/05/20: Spokane Solitude, Nudo Ramen, Ecstatic Night with Pink Floyd

1. This house I'm staying in near Polly Judd Park sits in a very quiet neighborhood. I'm staying in a spotless large room with a firm bed, a comfortable chair and ottoman, a television (which I haven't turned on), and everything I need to make coffee. I have the entire upstairs with its huge bathroom and mammoth walk-in shower all to myself and no one lives downstairs in this half of the house.

It was tempting today to stay put in this quiet space, drink coffee, write, relax, nap, and let the pleasures of the Music of Cream concert sink in more deeply. I darted up to the Rocket Bakery and brought back a three berry scone and for a few hours I was still.

Around two o'clock or so, I broke out of my blissful solitude and rest. I love walking in cities and I'm concerned about how generally inactive I've been during the winter. I charted a route. I walked east on Twelfth from Oak to Cedar and turned south to 14th and walked east to the intersection of 14th, Bernard, and Grove. I headed north on Grove and followed its serpentine route around Cliff Park and Elwidge Woldson Park until I arrived at 6th and Stevens, the location of the Altadena Apartments, where I lived from Nov. of 1983 through May of 1984.

I won't go into detail, but, without a doubt, those seven months living at the Altadena were the most tumultuous, chaotic, and uncertain months of my life. Today, I sat on the building's porch, stared across the parking lot to where The Viking Tavern used to be, and wondered how I managed to pack so much disarray into a single period of time. I also thought about how, by the grace of all that is good in life, I had friends during this time who were not only wonderful companions, but who helped me find respite from my inward tempests. At least two of these friends would come to my apartment and sit in my living room and read and we drank tea and talked. I walked a lot during this time and my friends walked with me, shared meals out, and accompanied me to movies. We simply did things we enjoyed and I thought long and hard about all of this for a while this afternoon there on the porch.

I then walked down to the Knickerbocker Apartments where some sweet memories reside, made my way to Wall Street, stopped for a moment of nostalgia at the former location of the Magic Lantern Theater -- I saw countless superb movies there from 1974-84 -- and dropped into the Brew Bros coffee house for a toasted raisin cinnamon bagel with cream cheese and some glasses of water.

2. I decided to eat dinner at Nudo Ramen House on Sprague. It's a room more narrow than wide, featuring both communal and individual tables and pop art on the walls.

I ate an order of steamed pork gyozas to start (more dumplings!) and then I took a chance that turned out to be a mistake that, in the end, turned out fine.

I ordered a spicy seafood ramen and it was too spicy for me. I loved the noodles, the pieces of shrimp and scallops, and the pieces of broccoli and carrot, but the broth was, at first, painful. 

I was determined to make it work, though, and as I slowly worked my way though this giant bowl of ramen, the temperature of the broth cooled down and, as it cooled down, so did the spiciness. I sat and waited out this bowl of ramen and my patience paid off. By the time the broth was lukewarm, the flavors of the fish asserted themselves more fully in the broth and the peppery spiciness retreated quite a bit, and I enjoyed the bottom half of my meal a lot.

I am quite sure I'll return to Nudo and I'll stay away from spicy ramen. Or, I'll order a bowl of spicy ramen, tell my server I'll be back in about twenty minutes after s/he brings by bowl, go take a walk, let the ramen cool off, and eat it then. (Just kidding.)

3. The seven piece Black Jacket Orchestra consisted of three guitar players, two keyboardists (on of whom was also a saxophone player), a bass guitarist, and drummer. They all contributed vocal work and, together, brought Pink Floyd's music electrifyingly alive.  They blew the roof off of the Bing to the enthusiastic roars and ovations of a nearly sold out house.

The first half of the show was the Black Jacket Orchestra's recreation, sound for sound, note for note, of The Dark Side of the Moon. It was exquisite. I ached with pleasure.

In the second half of the show, the Black Jacket Orchestra played songs from Wish You Were Here, Animals, and The Wall. Their "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" transported me to private place of bliss and I loved being a part of the audience sing a long during "Wish You Were Here". Our old and wobbly voices filled the theater with the song's chorus:  "We're just two lost souls/Swimming in a fish bowl/Year after year" and so on.  Singing along with all these Spokane area people kind of choked me up and I had trouble, at times, getting the words out.

I was feeling delirious by end of the show when everyone stood up and clapped rhythmically to "Run Like Hell" and all cried out together, each time it comes up in the song, sixteen times in a row, the word "run". It was thunderous and exhilarating.

But, my joy wasn't spent and neither was the audience's nor was the Black Jacket Orchestra's.

I could see it coming and when it did, the Bing exploded for the band's encore and their fiery performance of "Comfortably Numb", sending us out into the Spokane night with the song's climactic guitar solo and thunderous conclusion.

The band left the stage and I just sat for a while, finally gathered myself, and headed over to the Sapphire Lounge for a couple of gin martinis and time to let these two spectacular nights at the Bing settle inside me.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03/04/20: Lunch at Cafe Carambola, Russian/Ukranian Menu at Ruins, The Music of Cream and Classic Clapton

1. I got myself packed, delivered Charly to Carol and Paul's, drove over the pass, gassed up at Costco, and, before driving from CdA to Spokane, I stopped in at Cafe Carambola in the strip mall just before the corner of Hubbard and Northwest Boulevard. It's next door to Camera Corral.

Cafe Carambola is a lunch spot, serving food, I surmised, from Latin America. It's a bright, colorful, spotless, tiny cafe with a handful of tables. I knew going in that I wanted a salad and bowl of soup. I ordered a black bean, mango, and spinach salad. It was lightly dressed, fresh, and a perfect blend of tastes. The earthiness of the beans, the fresh sweetness of the mango, and the slight crunch of the spinach leaves were refreshing to eat and the salad was visually beautiful.

I loved the soup I ordered. I didn't see the name of it in writing so I can't write it myself -- if anyone reading this has been to Cafe Carambola and knows the name of this soup or if you are more familiar than I am with Latin American cuisine and can name it from my description, I'd love to have the name of it.

It was a smooth, slightly creamy, lightly spiced chowder. It was seasoned in a way similar to some tortilla soups I've eaten before. I would call it a hominy chowder. Its smoothness, slight bit of heat, chewy bits of corn/hominy, and perfect seasoning made this a chowder so good it nearly brought me to tears.

I came into Cafe Carambola wanting a light and flavorful lunch and what I ate today fit my wishes flawlessly. The chef, and co-owner, Colomba Aguilar brought out my food with a wide, warm smile and her interactions with other customers were warm and hospitable.  The other owner, Carlos Aguilar, shook my hand as I left, hoping I enjoyed my lunch and all I could say was, "Yes. I did. I'll be back." And I will.

For my tastes, it's a perfect cafe. The Aguilars make their customers feel at home with their gentle warmth and I love eating food that is not only packed with flavor, but is nothing like anything I can even dream of making at home.

2. Once I got settled into my airbnb accommodations, I requested a ride from Uber to take me to 825 N. Monroe (the corner of Monroe and Mallon) so I could have dinner at Ruins and see what the space that was the Top Notch Cafe looked like.

As is too often the case with me, once I sat down in a booth at Ruins, I was so locked into the present moment that I couldn't remember what the Top Notch looked like when I was last there 30-35 years ago.

Oh, well.

Today, Ruins is a tiny, very handsome cafe with about ten booths/tables and a row of stools at the bar.

Because the menu is rotating, ever changing, all I was pretty sure of as I walked in the door was that today's offerings would be from some region of the world outside the USA.

And I was right about that. The current menu is Russian/Ukranian, featuring such choices as borscht, stuffed cabbage, herring toast, and other delights. The menu is concentrated -- five choices for starters, two dumpling choices, and four entrees. (If you go to Ruins' Facebook page, you can see the menu.)

I got settled in comfortably and ordered a dry, stirred martini up. It was superb.

I ordered, for starters, the Tzar salat, a fascinating blend of kale, herbs, pickled carrots and mushrooms, and Bulgarian feta cheese with chunks of beautifully prepared and seasoned cod scattered on top.

As I dove into this unusual and very fresh and delicious salad, I realized that the plates of food at Ruins are prepared to be shared. I loved this salad and there was definitely enough for more than one person, but I was a good lad and cleaned up my plate, happily.

For my main course, I ordered pork and beef dumplings (pelmenis). This wonderful bowl of medallions of doughy bliss came with a dollop of sour cream plopped at the peak of the mountain of dumplings and scattered throughout the dish were the richest, sweetest bits of pork shoulder I've ever eaten.

I love dumplings. I loved these dumplings. Again, there were enough dumplings in the bowl to share, and, again, I was a good lad and cleaned up my plate.

I left Ruins full, satisfied, and intrigued, curious about the Russian/Ukranian food I didn't order and curious about what other dishes Ruins offers at other times. Today was the first day of the Russian/Ukrainian menu and this will be Ruins' theme for the next month or so.

My dinner was definitely one I would never dream of replicating at home!

3. I left Ruins with about 90 minutes or so to spare until the Music of Cream show started at the Bing Crosby Theater.

I walked south on Monroe, across the Monroe Street Bridge, and on into downtown Spokane.

My stomach felt full and I decided it would be satisfying to have an after dinner drink that might feel pleasant in my full tummy.

So, I went to the Sapphire Lounge and ordered what turned out to me the perfect drink: a brandy Alexander.

The crowd that showed up for tonight's concert were mostly people around my age, men and women who listened to Cream in junior high, high school, and college fifty or more years ago.

The band had two Cream family members: Ginger Baker's son, Kofi, played drums and the lead guitarist and lead vocalist was Eric Clapton's nephew, Will Johns. Tonight's gifted and versatile quartet was rounded out by bassist Sean McNabb and multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, Chris Shutters.

The band played the entirety of Disraeli Gears for the first half of the show and then powered us into intermission with a firey "White Room".  The second half of the show featured Clapton classics including, among many others, "Crossroads", "Wonderful Tonight", "Badge", songs from Blind Faith, and the set ended with a crowd pleasing "Layla" and the band returned for an encore and played "Cocaine", but subbed "Spokane" (SpoCan not SpoKane) into the song for the word "cocaine" -- another crowd pleaser.

To my delight, the band did not play note for note imitations of Cream's and Clapton's recordings, but opened up several of the songs with awesome jams featuring terrific solos by all of the musicians, including a long drum solo by Kofi Baker. A drum solo! When did I last hear an extended drum solo? Have I heard one since the last Grateful Dead show I went to?  I'm not sure, but I loved it.

Since I wasn't driving, I felt at liberty to return to the Sapphire Lounge and let the concert sink in over a couple of gin martinis. I listened while some others who'd also been to the show raved about it and talked with each other about other shows they've been to over the last 50 years or so.

I returned via Uber to my airbnb and, for the first time in several months, thanks to Carol and Paul taking in Charly for a couple of nights, slept through the night without interruption.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03/03/20: Moving the Bar, Organizing the Kitchen, Remembering the Top Notch Cafe

1. I buckled down and gave the kitchen a more thorough cleaning today. I decided I wasn't happy with keeping my liquor bottles on the counter by the stove, so, to give myself more counter space in the kitchen, I moved the "bar" to a table by the back door, close to the dining table, and I can use the table as my drink mixing station.

2. I ordered a variety of things I wanted for the kitchen and "bar" and they arrived today. I now have an airtight cannister (again) to store ground coffee in; a new set of seven magnetic clips; a new pack of labels for containers of stock and other things I store; a new batch of quart-sized deli containers for storage; I now have seven new squeeze bottles now containing olive oil, soy sauce, fish sauce, rice vinegar, red wine vinegar, vegetable oil, and Bragg Liquid Amino; my liquor bottles now all have pour spouts; and, I now own The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook from America's Test Kitchen. The accessories that arrived today helped me further organize the kitchen and the cookbook will help expand what I fix to eat.

3. I had fun this evening poking around the World Wide Web and reading up on places to dine in Spokane. The other night at trivia, Joan, Chris, Mary, Kathy, and I were reminiscing about places to eat in Spokane that are gone now. We were missing them: Mr. Steak, Sea Galley, Strobels, Chapter 11, Milford's, Le Croissant, and others. Since moving back to the Inland Northwest, I've been reacquainting myself with Spokane, bringing myself up to date, learning about places to eat and places that brew beer. I haven't been to many, but I keep educating myself.

I discovered a lot of places this evening, thanks largely to Chandler. She runs a website called Spokane Eats (spokaneeats.net). I clicked on the Best Food in Spokane tab and read about all kinds of places I didn't know about.

The first one I'll go to will be on Wednesday (03/03) before I go to the Cream Tribute band concert at the Bing. It is in a little building at 825 N Monroe -- yes, that's right, the site of the former Top Notch Cafe where once, long ago, Christy and I took Mom and Dad for breakfast (was it just the four of us?

I'd eaten there a few times when I lived in Spokane (1982-84) and, to be honest, I hadn't really quite caught up to the fact that just because I enjoyed a hole in the wall place, Dad would enjoy it, too. Mom was probably indifferent to the Top Notch, but Dad was grumpy about it and later Christy and I (and Carol? Help!) laughed and laughed about Dad's grumpiness, adding it to what, back then, was a growing list of places we were excited about eating at that Dad just didn't like (Moby Dick's, Frontier Pies, Mo's, etc.). Looking back, I now know that Dad was much more comfortable eating at franchise places, not holes in the wall, and I suppose if I had it to do over again, I would have given in to that.

But, I was young.

Now that little spot on North Monroe is occupied by Ruins, specializing in craft cocktails and a rotating menu of eclectic dishes, leaning more toward small plates than full entrees. I'm looking forward to trying it out for my pre-concert meal.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03/02/20: Clean Up, Strolling Kellogg, Phone Call with Michael

1. I still have a bit more to do, but I made quite a mess to clean up in the kitchen after preparing a Greek appetizer, salad, soup, and entree on Sunday and serving a cocktail before dinner, wine during dinner, and an after dinner drink.

2. I parked the Sube down by the Inland Lounge this afternoon and walked up McKinley to Main and then a ways on Portland, by the Post Office to drop off a bill at the outdoor mailbox, and strolled on up Division to Market to the library to return a book. Uptown Kellogg was quiet. Some people were working out in the uptown fitness center. I passed a woman and a child as I headed north on Main. Dirty Treads Bike and Coffee Shop was closed. Backcountry Cafe was done for the day. The Lounge is open on Fridays and Saturdays only. I don't know what happened to the old YMCA building becoming a remodeled home to an innovation collective. A couple of years ago, the guy behind that idea posted an energetic, optimistic video. In it, he talked about transforming the YMCA into a hub of local innovation and activity. Didn't he mention a cigar room?  I seem to remember people went to meetings to learn more about this project. I guess it never got off the drawing board or out of the dream stage. Things are dormant at the old YMCA -- they have been for a long time.

I returned to the Sube.

I sighed.

I fired up the old car, eased back through town, made my way to Yoke's, purchased a few items, and headed home.

3.  Michael called from Eugene and we yakked on the phone for nearly 90 minutes. We talked a lot about the death of his brother. Our conversation branched out into many directions from there. Michael and I taught together at LCC and used to visit one another's offices and talk about a wide range of things, often in long conversations -- we talked about teaching, philosophy, Shakespeare, spirituality, sports, music, books, movies, family life, and many other things. Conversations at and around LCC with Michael, Dan, Jerome, Margaret, Lynn, Pam, Rita, Russell, Anne, Jeff, Linda, Kathleen, Sparky and many others at LCC enlivened my work, enriched my mind, and fed my soul.

It was very satisfying to re-enter that phase of my life again this evening. I look forward to when I can travel to Eugene again and see my friends in person.