Sunday, May 31, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/30/20: Double Narrators in *Bleak House*, Chopped Salad and Quinoa, Back to Watergate

1.  I finished Bleak House today. I started the book fifteen days ago.

The novel has me thinking about a lot of things and I've started reading a little bit of the vast amount of scholarship written about it.

Right now, I'm pondering the way the story of Bleak House was told.  The novel features two different narrators.  The first narrator tells the story omniscently. The second narrator, Esther Summerson, tells her part of the story in the first person, looking back. The Esther chapters read like a memoir. Esther's narration is limited to telling what she experienced over the years this story occurs, but the other narrator is unlimited by time and space or involvement in the story's action. This narrator tells us stories Esther is unaware of and this narrator is much more of a social critic, a commentator, on the world of London and the broader world of England.

The omniscient narrator is wary, world worn, weary, and both knowledgeable about and soured by the social and economic conditions of London and England, especially the legal system and the poverty and filth of Tom-All-Alone, a grim, crowded, decrepit London neighborhood.

Esther journeys into Tom-All-Alone and bears witness in personal ways to different characters who live there and to the violence, illness, and squalor in their lives. Likewise, through several characters she knows, Esther also experiences the corruption of the legal system.

But, Dickens explores more than the gross injustices, meanness, and depravity of the world of Bleak House. He dives deep into the kindness, generosity, compassion, love, and decency that is alive and at work in this novel's world. Without even a hint of self-congratulation, as Esther narrates her parts of the novel, she emerges as a touchstone of goodness, as does her guardian, Tom Jarndyce, and others in the Jarndyce sphere.

I expected Bleak House to be a darker and grimmer novel than it actually is. Yes, Dickens plunges his reader deep into this novel's world of disease and poverty and into its cynical and labyrinthtine legal system. He also plunges deep into the human capacity to feel and comfort the suffering in others, to minister to others and nurture physical and spiritual/emotional healing, and to experience love, love between family members, love for one's neighbor, and romantic love, too.

Dr. Samuel Johnson's 18th century biographer, James Boswell, recorded Johnson to have said, "By seeing London, I have seen as much of life as the world can show."

Dr. Johnson's nugget is tasty bit of hyperbole, but I felt much the same after reading Bleak House.

It was as if as much life as the world can show, its most grim and its most generous dimensions, are set out before us in this one novel.

2. Debbie and I have been limiting our visits to the grocery store to about one every 7-10 days and, today, we are very close to needing to replenish our pantry, especially our produce.

But even with our limited supply, today  Debbie made a chopped salad of celery, carrots, cabbage, cashews, and garlic. She made a dressing of olive oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, tahini, sesame seeds, and sugar. Debbie also prepared quinoa. So we each fixed ourselves a dinner bowl, combining the chopped salad, dressing, and the grain. It was perfect.

3.  I've seen the movie about 150 times, but never read the book. So, this evening, I started reading All the President's Men. Woodward and Bernstein write in a prose style that is like Charles Dickens' style in one way: it's in English! It will be fun to do some easier reading before I return to 19th century England and read Wilkie Collins' novel The Woman in White once it arrives from Better World Books.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/29/20: *Bleak House* and Fate, Leftovers Transformed, Monty Python and Opie BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1.  For much of the day, I confined myself to the Vizio room and plunged deeper into the tangled story of Bleak House. I am about 90% finished. Oddly enough, I'll be disappointed to finish. I'm experiencing Bleak House as less driven by plot than I might have expected. That's a funny thing to say about a copious novel with countless stories all going on at once. It's remarkable how Dickens keeps them all going, with story lines beginning throughout the book. Many overlap with other stories. Others come to a conclusion -- or seem to -- but are resurrected and take on a new life and then, like Coal Creek flowing into the North Fork of the CdA River, become subsumed in a larger story.

Dickens' returns again and again to the way his characters, and, I'd say, human beings, can become cancers unto themselves. The cancer (my metaphor, not Dickens') originates in one's past. It might be a dark secret. It could be an act of neglect. It might be a habitual way of behaving. It might be the station or the conditions into which a character is born. Whatever it is, this cancer becomes a terrible reminder that, from Dickens' perspective, the past never goes away. Things that happened, things characters did, live in them, often haunt them, shape their personalities, define their masks, and, most importantly, shape their destiny. The good news is that this applies not only to wickedness and injustice, but also to deeds of kindness, of benevolence. Goodness, too, can become a habit. It can also shape one's fate.

With all of this in mind, I'll spend Saturday seeing how this epic tale concludes. There are plenty of questions to be resolved, or left open ended, as I work my way to the end of Bleak House.

2. Debbie transformed previously transformed leftovers into another transformed soup. We have almost finished what started as Portuguese stew. I've lost count of the different ways Debbie has made it into another meal. Debbie also made a leafless (chopped?) salad made of zucchini, Kalamata olives, red onion, feta cheese, and walnuts. She dressed it with a snappy vinaigrette, one I would wager Debbie invented on the spot.

3. I put down Bleak House and joined Debbie to watch less than an hour of news and unrest. I prefer to read about turmoil and look back on it rather than watch it occur live on television and was grateful when we switched gears.

For some unknown reason, something moved me to put Monty Python and the Holy Grail on. As we got further and further into it, I suddenly realized that, over the years, I had watched parts of this movie, but hadn't, to my memory, watched the whole movie straight through.

It's brilliant. It's brilliant not just because its satirical sketches are funny, but also because it's not escapist. As satire, it reveals human folly and the human bent toward violence. Watching it was hilarious and sobering simultaneously.

We capped off our night with The Andy Griffith Show.  Opie harbored a runaway kid from a neighboring town and Andy taught Opie lessons about loyalty and obedience and when it's necessary to bend the rules a bit.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

Past yearbooks aren’t all as they seem.
Pictures showing school pride in extreme.
Drill Team and Pep Club,
Plus, GAA’s a poor sub,
As not one single girl’s on a team.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/28/20: The Flexibility of Novels, New Bill Cunningham Doc, "Follow the Money"

1.  I dedicated most of this day, until about 6:00 this evening, to my continued reading of Bleak House. I remember reading or hearing back in my graduate school days that the beauty of the novel, as a form of story telling, is its flexibility. A novel can easily move its readers forward and backward in time, inside and outside the consciousness of its characters, give us events from a variety of points of view, and, among other things, move readers physically to any geographical location.

Seen this way, Bleak House is a flexible novel. Its astonishing the number of perspectives I've entertained on a wide range of subjects and the story has traveled from a variety of locations in London to Lincolnshire to Deal to India and other places. Dickens transports readers from the story's present moment into the past and character also dream and speculate about the future.

I think if I give most of one or two more days over to this novel, I'll finish it. I'll be much the richer for having experienced so much human life and experience through what happens to the multitude of characters in this story and how they think about and respond emotionally to all that they confront in their lives.

2. First Debbie and I enjoyed a delicious meal of combined leftovers. Debbie combined the already deliciously stretched vegetarian Portuguese Stew with leftover rice and the last of last night's Marcella Hazan tomato sauce. 

We watched watched news programming for a short while and then switched gears.

Earlier today, I scanned a CNET newsletter that listed what's available these days on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video and noticed that a new documentary on Bill Cunningham was available.

Bill Cunningham died in 2016. For decades he worked as a fashion photographer for the New York Times. Cunningham famously rode his bicycle around Manhattan and snapped street pictures of what people were wearing and his pictures were featured on a two page spread in Sunday's paper, accompanied by Cunningham's written commentary.

In 2011, a documentary (Bill Cunningham New York) was released about Cunningham's work and I was eager to see what this new one, The Times of Bill Cunningham, explored that would add to my enjoyment of Cunningham as a photographer and as a person of great enthusiasm and feeling.

The Times of Bill Cunningham featured a long and fascinating interview that Cunningham gave to Mark Bozek, the film's director, back in 1994. As Cunningham talked about his life before he ever started taking pictures, the movie took us back into Cunningham's days breaking into the world of fashion and his early life as a milliner. One thing led to another and Cunningham became obsessed with taking pictures, with documenting the world of fashion, and eventually landed the Times job.

When the movie ended, I told Debbie that the world of fashion is near the bottom of my interests in life, but that I could listen to Bill Cunningham tell stories, offer his insights, and look at his arresting pictures any day. I loved this movie. The Cunningham interview, around which the movie is structured, is fascinating. Cunningham is an irrepressibly animated and generous man, full of verve and humility. His love for New York City (and Paris) is bottomless. The story of his life compelled me to hang on his every word.

Soon, I hope Debbie and I will watch the 2011 movie, Bill Cunningham New York. I watched it not long after it was released, loved it, and am eager to see it again.

By the way, as I always say, I don't recommend movies or books. I enjoy writing about what I enjoy, but I never presume that my often private eccentric pleasures will be anyone else's. I know that watching a movie about an old guy who lives a Spartan life in a cramped studio apartment with a bicycle, a collection of cameras, numerous file cabinets crammed with negatives, piles of notebooks and memorabilia he's collected over the years documenting the history of fashion (and, in turn, the history of New York City [and, to a degree, Paris]), and who is obsessed with how people dress and taking their pictures probably doesn't sound that interesting to many people.

I love these movies, though, and I enjoy letting anyone know so who is willing to read what I have to say!

3. The documentary ended. I was in the mood for some George Dickel Rye Whiskey with bitters over ice. Debbie wasn't ready to hit the hay just yet. We didn't want to watch the news. So, we did what we love to do: we drank a couple of cocktails and, once again, viewed All the President's Men.

And you know what? 

It worked.


Thursday, May 28, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/27/20: Walking Our Bills, Esther Recovers, Marcella Hazan Returns

1. I wrote out some checks for bills today and took a walk to the mail box at the corner of Hill and Cameron and to the drop box at Avista to send them off.  I enjoyed getting my legs in action and getting my heart pumping a little bit -- that such an easy walk got my heart pumping told me, of course, that with the weather improving again, it's time to get out walking more.

2. In today's reading of Bleak House, Dickens continues to explore the impact the unnamed virus that kept Esther bedridden for several weeks has had on her appearance and her frame of mind. Her renewed appreciation of friends and the beauty of the natural world all but cancel out her dismay that she's lost aspects of her original appearance.  I enjoyed Dickens' description of Esther being outdoors again. She and Charley, her maid, make a two day trip to Mr. Boythorn's and Esther experiences the air, sunshine, smells of nature, and other delights of the outdoors as if she's been reborn, experiences them with a rapturous joy.

3. Debbie asked me to make us a dinner featuring Marcella Hazan's spaghetti sauce and I happily complied. I combined two 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes with an onion, peeled and cut into quarters, a dash or two of salt, and about 5-6 tablespoons of butter. I let this simmer for about 45 minutes, removed the onion pieces (we'll use them on Thursday in a separate soup), and we poured the sauce over he spaghetti I prepared. The sauce is the perfect combination of simple and delicious.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/26/20: (Photo Note) *Bleak House* Quarantine, Losing the Dorm Room, Bill Davie LIVE BONUS A Limerick by Stu

Yesterday, I wrote that, as soon as I secured a copy of it,  I would post a picture from our family burger feed on Sunday featuring Debbie, Paul, Christy, Carol, Zoe, and me wearing face coverings Debbie sewed. The picture is at the bottom of today's post. 

1. After a detour to a story involving, primarily, Mr. George and the greedy Grandfather Smallweed, Bleak House once again picked up the story of Esther's illness from a highly contagious virus.  Dickens writes an extended and insightful passage describing Esther's weeks of quarantine,  how the quarantine affects her psychologically, her very slow recovery, and her gradual reunion with those she loves and who care deeply for her as her health improves. 

2. We've been having some new things delivered to the house lately, including a table our Vizio can rest on in the living room. Today Debbie assembled the table. Our television no longer sits on a cardboard box. It meant giving up the dorm room look -- or the look of my apartment on Colfax Road in Spokane in 1982. Consequently, cardboard boxes, as well as some other recyclables, cluttered the garage more than I like, so I made a quick trip to the recycling bin across from the hospital and to the transfer station east of town and now our garage is a little more sleek again.

3. I put some golden raisins in the bottom of a cocktail glass, poured ice over them, added a blend of Meyer's dark rum and E & J brandy, and settled in my chair in the Vizio room for the next of Bill Davie's Tuesday night live hour long concerts from the second level of his and Diane's townhouse -- known as the Treehouse. 

I have tuned in to all eight concerts. I've decided not to send Bill requests. I like thinking of songs I'd like to hear and -- who knows why? -- when Bill plays songs I wish for in my imagination, it gives me a thrill beyond having him play any explicit request. For eight weeks, I've been hoping Bill would play "King of the Art" from his Phobia Robes album and tonight he did. After the concert ended, I joined Debbie in the living room, having refreshed my rum/brandy/golden raisin cocktail. I was unconsciously staring out the window and smiling. Debbie asked me, "What are you smiling about?" I snapped out of my reverie and told her that I was thinking about Bill's song, "King of the Art". I explained the story behind the song -- Bill getting knocked off an open mic by a self-absorbed fellow performer --, but I was also smiling because the song took me back to Bill performing a couple of house concerts at my place in Eugene (pre-Debbie) and, whether he played "King of the Art" or not, in my memory he did and tonight he played another of my favorite songs from that time around, oh, 1994-96, called "Radio On" and I thought of how, while Bill played in the living room at 940 Madison, I slipped into the kitchen, acting like, as host, I was getting food and drinks straightened out, but I really slipped out of sight to dance alone in front of the kitchen sink, reveling in the delight of Bill's songs. 

Here's another limerick by Stu:

Remember when “Boone’s” made a wine? 
Or “Green Springs” itself tasted fine. 
Or “Mad Dog” needs no glass, 
Take a swig and then pass. 
Early memories of fruit of the vine.

The thing I like most about this picture is that we didn't plan for it to look the way it does -- several people who've seen it think it looks like an album cover.  Christy wanted a picture of us wearing masks Debbie sewed. Zoe set the timer on the camera. Paul slid to the floor. Zoe stood near where she'd been sitting. The rest of us stayed in place and we accidentally ended up with this great picture. It was a moment of serendipity and good luck.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/25/20: Remembering, Family Burger Feed, Back Home BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. I don't know if others do this, but I'm simply following my lights. I spent many years under the tutelage of and working alongside men and women who worked in service to higher education. I've reached the age now where many of the professors whose classes I took and quite a few fellow professors and instructors at the places I taught have died. They were on my mind today, starting with instructors who were my teachers at NIC. I thought a lot about professors I knew at Whitworth and the U of Oregon, where I was both a student and an instructor. I also memorialized deceased fellow instructors I worked with at LCC, both in the department and the division I worked in, and college wide.

It grieved me to think of how many of these influential people are gone. At the same time, I reached back and once again felt the happiness I experienced with so many of them, whether in the classroom or in pursuing our shared mission together of doing the best we could to be of service to our students.

My memorializing thoughts and feelings were also focused on the animals I've lost over the years. We lost both of our corgis in May, Maggie in 2019 and Charly in 2020, and I thought back to my life with Snug and also fondly remembered the many cats I've lived with, although not recently.

I saw posts yesterday on Facebook warning readers that there would be people like me, people who apparently don't know what Memorial Day observes, making posts.

I know what Memorial Day observes. I prayed thanks today for fallen soldiers, especially my uncle, William Earl Woolum, who was killed on the USS Selfridge at the Battle of Vella Lavella in October, 1943.

But, my mind also moved elsewhere, to women and men I knew in person as teachers and to animals I lived with and loved. These teachers and these dogs and cats improved and enhanced many lives, not just mine, and I enjoyed their company today, enjoyed the memories, enjoyed how grateful I felt.

2. Carol and Paul hosted a burger fry on the grill today for Christy, Everett, Zoe, Debbie, and me. We'd planned to dine outside, but rain forced us inside. We are all doing our best to keep physical distance from each other and Carol and Paul's living room is spacious enough that we could do that, but is also intimate enough that we didn't have any problem conversing. Christy brought potato salad. Debbie made a fruit salad. Zoe made home baked hamburger buns (awesome!). Christy made a rhubarb dump cake for dessert.

Debbie has made all of us face coverings for when we go out into public places. Christy asked that we all bring them to today's get together for a picture. Zoe set the timer on her (or someone's) cell phone and snapped pictures of us scattered across the living room, the bottom half of our faces covered. Carol posted the picture in black and white. Debbie cropped Carol's version a bit in a way I really like. I don't have that version of the picture just yet, but when I have it, I'll post it. It's a really good, unplanned, unchoreographed picture and sort of accidentally turned out to be awesome.

3. Back home, I returned to Bleak House. Dickens left his readers hanging by departing from the virus story line and, instead, he took us to London where a most astonishing and unusual death occurred in the building Mr. Krook owns and lives in. A hubbub followed.

After a while, I put down the book and joined Debbie in the living room where we talked for a couple of hours or so about all sorts of things, bringing a very satisfying day to a perfect end.

Today is Sally Ride Day. She was born on May 26, 1951. Stu commemorates this day with a limerick.
Sally Ride died in 2012. May she rest in peace.

Her bravery cannot be denied.
 And her feat was broadcast far and wide.
With resolve on her face,
She shot up into Space.
And the nation responded with pride.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/24/20: *Bleak House* Virus, Zoom Time, On the Deck BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. As I wrapped up my time reading Bleak House today, a contagion, a virus was beginning to spread among characters, including Esther. I am eager to get back to reading today and see what turns out to be the impact of this virus.

2. At 2:00, it was Zoom time for Bill, Diane, Val, and me. We had a few people unable to make it today and we missed our absent friends. We talked for about two and half hours about all sorts of things: British television and movies, articles we've read in the past few weeks, our experiences with spirituality, our experiences with different Christian churches, the power of mythology, all sorts of great topics. Diane went to PLU and the rest of us went to Whitworth and now, these roughly four decades since college, we continue to love talking about subjects that grew out of our Christian liberal arts education and recalling those professors and teachers, then and now, who have influenced us and continue to.

It is fun and gratifying to talk together for many reasons. I'm especially happy that we all took our college education so seriously, that we were all eager learners in college, and that we continue to be curious, seek out teachers, and can talk with each other so eloquently about what's on our minds and what gives us hope.

3. Our stimulating Zoom call ended and when I emerged from the Vizio room, I discovered Christy and Riley were on our deck with Debbie. I joined them, poured myself some George Dickel Rye Whiskey, and, among other things, got some Kellogg Junior High School/Kellogg High School band history straightened out with Christy.

Once our conversation on the deck ended, Debbie made one of the best Caesar salads I've ever had, thanks to the dressing she made and the shrimp she added to the salad.

I hope she'll make this salad often, especially when the hot weather arrives. It was delicious and refreshing.

Stu wrote a limerick to commemorate Memorial Day:

Serving one’s Country’s a Call!
Anyone who has done it stand tall.
Without you we’d be lost,
Freedom comes with a cost.
So we honor the brave who did fall!

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/23/20: Curiouser, Broccoli Soup, Television Variety

1. It's dizzying. As I near the halfway point in Bleak House, characters who seemed to have nothing to do with each other meet. New story lines emerge. The pace quickens. Things get curiouser and curiouser.

2. Debbie combined broccoli, spinach, milk, cream cheese, onion, garlic, and maybe some other ingredients to make a superb cream soup for dinner.

3. This evening, I broke away from Bleak House and acrostic puzzle solving and Debbie and I watched the first episode of the first season of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, featuring the elastic Jeremy Brett as Holmes. We took a break from fiction and watched Friday night's news show Washington Week in Review. We also watched the Arctic/Antarctic episode of Nature, featuring the program's "spy in the wild" robots,  robots with cameras for eyes filming the activities of penguins, elephant seals, walruses, puffins, polar bears, and other animals roaming and flying at the top and the bottom of the earth.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/22/20: Journeys, Stew into Soup, 1940s Divisiveness BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. I know I'm repeating myself. The fact is, though, that reading Bleak House is the foremost fact of my life right now. Staying indoors has afforded me luxury reading time, afforded me time to rather slowly lope my way through this novel and stop, at times, to feel the pleasure of another eccentric character coming into the story or characters going on little journeys, whether joining Inspector Bucket and Mr. Snagsby as they plunge into the fictional London slum of Tom-All-Alone's in search of Little Jo or joining Esther, Ada, and others out in the country for a stay at Mr. Boythorn's. Time indoors flies. I'm stimulated and challenged by looking at life in the USA in 2020 from the perspective of life in London and England in the middle of the 19th century.

2. Debbie and I seem to have, without talking about it, fallen into a fun pattern in the kitchen. I'll make something -- like Thursday night's vegetarian Portuguese stew -- and, on the next day, Debbie will transform the leftovers into a different meal. This afternoon, from the kitchen,  I heard the sounds of chopping and the whoosh of a gas burner coming on and, before long, by adding cooked cabbage and chicken broth to Thursday's stew, Debbie made a very delicious soup.

3. After dinner, I read more Bleak House until around 8:30 or so and then we put the first episode of the fourth season of Foyle's War on. For me, one thing this series does is dismantle any idea we might have that people were more united in the 1940s or that people were more noble during WWII than we are today in the face of difficulties. Tonight's episode focused on Americans coming to the Hastings area to install an air field on a man's family farm. It explored not only the divisions and resentments between the allied Americans and the British, but also the divisions in the USA itself about whether the USA should be involved in the war.  The criminal investigations in this episode, for me, were almost secondary to these other matters of division and distrust. Foyle's War, in its low key, matter of fact way, underscores that, in so many ways, periods of time in history are very different from one another. I don't think history repeats itself. To me, the way humans think, feel, and behave continues. Generations come and go, but we humans carry what came before us forward.

Stu messaged me this morning with the good news that he wrote a limerick this week that he'd like to post here. Here it is:

There are people who're sick all around.
'Cause of that, jobs are lost; folks homebound.
So, for the vulnerable's sake,
We hope the guidelines they make.
Help business get up off the ground.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/21/20: *Bleak House* News, Vegetarian Memories, Creepy Crimes

1. I'm enjoying having hours and hours indoors to read. Because I'm reading Bleak  House electronically, I have no idea what page I'd be on if I were reading a hard copy version. Kindle tells me I'm about 20-25% finished, making me think that I'll be spending many more days with Esther, Lady Dedlock, John Jarndyce, Lawrence Boythorn, the Jellybys, Mr. Krook, the Neckett children, Miss Flite and the ever growing cast of characters populating this book. I swear, I'm experiencing reading Bleak House almost like reading a newspaper, returning to this novel every morning and reading continuing stories about people always in the news and reading other stories about previously unknown persons who pop up and have their own newsworthy stories get underway and then bearing witness to having the intrepid reporter, Charles Dickens, dig up ways that these characters' stories overlap and connect with each other.

As a bonus, the three books examining the Nixon presidency that I ordered last week at Better World Books arrived today. I took a break for a while from Dickens and peeked at passages from these arrivals. They are famous books, one by Dan Rather and the other two are Woodward and Bernstein's books on the subject. I have never read any of them.

2. Over the last, oh, forty years I've had stretches in my life when I didn't eat meat at all, others when I didn't eat meat at home, but gladly ate it at restaurants or in other people's homes, and other times when I was a complete omnivore. I enjoy vegetarian cooking and eating and right now Debbie and I are enjoying eating mostly vegetarian meals, but we aren't being strict.

It's fun. I especially enjoy referring back to cookbooks I used a lot during my graduate school days and on into my second, largely vegetarian, marriage -- books like, among many others, Laurel's Kitchen, The Moosewood Cookbook, and one that Christy gave me about thirty-five years ago, American Wholefoods Cuisine. I pulled out American Wholefoods Cuisine this afternoon, eager to remind myself what Nikki and David Goldbeck's book had in the world of tofu recipes.

I found one that fit in perfectly with a pattern of cooking and eating Debbie and I have been enjoying over the last couple of months. Normally, Portuguese Stew is a fish stew (and I was tempted to make it today using shrimp we have on hand), but the Goldbecks' recipe substitutes tofu for the fish. I'll admit, it's not a great substitute in terms of flavor, but, for me, and my care of my kidneys, a great protein substitute. It was simple to make -- all I had to do was cook some chunks of potatoes in boiling water until they were tender, cook chopped onion, garlic, and sweet pepper (I added a bit of chopped cabbage) until tender, pour cans of diced tomatoes over this, season this mixture, let it simmer for a while, and then fold in the potatoes and the block of tofu I'd cubed and simmer it some more.

I seasoned this stew with Cajun seasoning instead of paprika and I enjoyed the way the Cajun spices and the sweet diced tomatoes worked together. I enjoy the texture of tofu and the way it absorbs flavors. It had been quite a while since we'd eaten tofu and it made me very happy.

This meal was a throwback to the kind of cooking I did a lot of when I lived alone in a tiny basement apartment at 361W. Broadway in Eugene from 1984-87. As I enjoyed tonight's stew, the Dire Straits album Brothers in Arms played in my head, a frequent accompaniment to my dinners back in those years.

3. I hadn't watched A Touch of Frost for a while and tonight we viewed an unsettling episode from Season 11 featuring two stories, one involving the murder of a drunken, wife-beating man and the other the murder of a college-aged woman who worked for an escort service and, with forged passports, helped women from Poland sneak into England. She also became intimately involved with a good friend's father. Jack Frost's decision to join a gym provided some comic relief from the two creepy crime story lines. I purged the creepiness of this episode from my mind by going to bed and working another acrostic puzzle from my new book of ones based on American history and culture.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/20/20: Sprawling Along, Egg Stir Fry, *Shetland* Conclusion

1. Bleak House keeps sprawling along. More new characters, more episodes, some hints at ties between seemingly unrelated things -- I'm wondering what the connection is between Lady Dedlock and the deceased opium eater, for example. With each chapter, I become more and more absorbed.

2. We are trying to limit trips to Yoke's to about one every 7-10 days -- usually, I go when the half gallon of milk runs out. I made a trip today. When I returned home, I cooked some chopped onion, cabbage, and celery together in vegetable and sesame oil, boiled some broccoli until it was about three quarters done. I boiled a pot of sticky rice. I put the broccoli florets in the cast iron pan with the other stuff, added in the pot of rice, and broke four eggs over it all and added some soy sauce. I hoped this would go over all right -- it's one of those ways of preparing food that I enjoy a lot, but I'm unsure others would like. I didn't need to be concerned. Debbie and I both enjoyed this meal a lot.

3. We watched the conclusion of the Shetland murder story we started last night (Season 1, Episodes 1-2). As is often the case when I watch murder mysteries, I enjoyed the actors playing character roles, the relationships between characters, the back stories and history of the place (including arresting scenes from the island's fire festival, Up Helly Aa), and watching the inspector partnership between Perez and McIntosh develop more than I enjoyed or really cared about the solution to the case.

Let me add, I started today in an uplifting way. That Tuesday night hour long concert that Bill Davie played last night -- the one I gave up on trying to listen to live? I went back to Bill’s Facebook page and tried again listening to the concert. Success! And, as a bonus, Bill played three songs on a virtual open mic, hosted by The Black Dog coffeehouse in Snoqualmie. Bill’s short set was a joy and, as another bonus, the live stream worked beautifully this evening.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/19/20: Buffering Bill Davie LIVE!, Lurching with *Bleak House*, Chef Debbie and *Shetland*

1. My live chat with Cory at Ziply was educational and I'll see if I can find a channel on the router that improves the internet performance. For much of the day, the internet connection was pretty good, but, to my disappointment, it was crappy during Bill Davie's weekly Tuesday evening performance. Mostly I experienced buffering and not much Bill. Disappointing, but he'll post his performance on YouTube and I can listen to it soon. I'll miss not reading comments as they roll in and adding a few of my own.

2. So I'm reading along in Bleak House and all of sudden the story focuses for many pages on the death of an opium eater, caused by opium overdose, in Krook's dark and greasy flophouse and the coroner's hearing the next day.  Then, suddenly, the next chapter switches suddenly to the Dedlocks returning to their pastoral life at Chesney Wold after a holiday in Paris. I really enjoy Dickens' cross cutting from one world to another, often one narrator to another, in Bleak House. I'm eager to find out what the significance of the mysterious opium eater's death is in the larger picture of this mammoth novel's overall plot. I think it's going to be a while before the various threads of plot begin to weave together, though. I don't read very fast and I'm still in the early part of the novel.

3. Debbie made this awesome mixture of diced tomatoes, eggplant, and ground beef along with a pot of quinoa with a chopped, leafless, salad as a side. I asked Debbie, given the great dinners she's made the last couple of nights, if I should retire from cooking for us! Debbie is on a roll.

After dinner and a some news programming, Debbie introduced me to the first episode of the first season of Shetland, a series that not only features a crime investigative unit on the Scottish islands of Shetland, but also casts the landscape and seascape of the islands as a rough, gorgeous, unforgiving, and raw character as well. The first season features only two episodes. We'll watch the conclusion soon.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/18/20: American Acrostics, Dickens' Oddballs, Eggplant with a Side of R.M. Nixon and Sonnets

1. Ten days ago, or so, I ordered a couple of acrostic puzzle books and the second one arrived today. In the past, my acrostic puzzle book purchases have been limited to New York Times books, edited by Will Shortz. The book that arrived today is different. It's written by Cynthia Morris. It's a book of American-themed puzzles -- with clues, mostly involving American culture, leading to quotations having to do with the U.S.A. I completed two of them today and I'm happy to say that I did so without once consulting the World Wide Web. It's been a long time since it mattered that I know things like who wrote the Twice-Told Tales or that The Enormous Room was e e cummings' first published book. Ha! For once,outside of playing trivia in Spokane, some of that useless trivial knowledge wasn't so useless after all!

2. I also spent a lot of time relishing the episodes that Charles Dickens unfolds in Bleak House. If you've read much Dickens, I wonder if you also marvel at the oddball (and sometimes menacing) characters Dickens develops as his main characters venture out into the world. I met several such characters today as the story of the unworldly Esther Summerson continues. I don't always quite know what some of Esther's little adventures both within and outside the walls of Bleak House are contributing to the larger plot of the novel, nor do I really care. I love reading Dickens describe these characters who just pop up and love reading the words and speech patterns Dickens endows them with. I admit that I am always anxious as Esther encounters these characters. She's sweet. She's tender. She's charitable, trusting, and open. I keep worrying she's going to get hurt or taken advantage of or have her heart broken. I don't want anything bad to happen to her. But, my anxiety doesn't stop me from reading on.

3. Debbie roasted eggplant disks and made an awesome green salad and I made a pot of brown rice and each of us piled this food into a single bowl and it made a great dinner. I especially enjoyed flavoring my rice and eggplant with Bragg's Liquid Amminos.

Debbie and I settled into an evening of some television news programming and then listened to podcasts. We started by listening to the last episode about Watergate on Slow Burn which ended with R. M. Nixon firing Archibald Cox, the ensuing resignations at the Justice Dept., the appointment of a new Special Prosecutor, and, eventually, the Nixon administration releasing select tapes of secretly recorded White House conversations. The tapes doomed Richard Nixon.

For no good reason, I then played a podcast episode from Shakespeare Unlimited, a project of the Folger Shakespeare Library. It featured a very learned  professor from Roehampton University in London, Jane Kingsley-Smith. She discussed the history of the reception over the centuries of Shakespeare's sonnets. It's Episode 142 of the Shakespeare Unlimited series.

Debbie and I have been listening for years to bits by Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie and especially enjoy one of them in which Fry plays a self-consumed stereotypical British professor of language and linguistics appearing on a talk show that Laurie's character hosts. Almost immediately, even though Professor Kingsley-Smith's content was learned and insightful, Debbie and I seized on how much she sounded like a Stephen Fry creation. I alternated between being absorbed in what she had to say and laughing out loud at how she bordered, at times, on being a parody of her profession.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/17/20: Puzzles, On the Deck with Diane, Gifts and More Watergate

1. I spent much of the morning and early afternoon working acrostic puzzles, having to surrender to certain clues and going to Wikipedia or other online sources to find out where certain mountains are located or to look up names of tea rose species -- in addition, my ability to spell words has deteriorated over the years and so sometimes I know the answer, but I need help spelling. But, with patience and letting clues sink in for a while and as I work back and forth between the emerging quotation, its author and the title of the work it comes from as it is formed by the first letter of each clue answer, and as I figure out more answers to the clues themselves, over time, I solve the puzzle. It's a lot of fun.

2. I made a very quick dash to Yoke's and the liquor store to pick up a few things in preparation for Diane's visit late this afternoon. She has a roomy bag she can carry Chole's newborn puppies in and brought them, and Chloe, over. Then until the storm came, we sat on the back deck, getting to know our future puppy, Gibbs, better and having a good time yakking.

Stu has a friend who owns a vineyard near Etlan, VA, about 100 miles southwest of Alexandria, called DuCard Vineyard, and, a while back, Stu asked me if I'd like to be included in an order he was making. I did. I ordered a bottle of Rose (you know, pronounced Rozay) and we enjoyed it a lot. I often enjoy wines that sit more lightly on my tongue and this one did. It was also very pleasantly dry, as opposed to being very sweet at all.

Christy joined us after a bit and got to meet Gibbs and ooh and ah over the other puppies and, together, we enjoyed snacks, a cocktail or two, and a lot of great stories.

3. Christy returned to her house. Soon, a hail/rain storm drove Diane, Debbie, and me indoors. We visited for a while longer. Diane had brought Debbie and me a bag of homemade treats: sausage, pepper jam, dill pickles, pickled mushrooms, and salsa. (I hope I remembered everything!)  Debbie has been knitting one scarf after another while we've been lying low and thrilled Diane by asking her to choose one for herself. It brought a fun visit to a very happy conclusion.

We were all richer in treasure and in spirit for our time together. We also said good-bye to Gibbs, knowing he'll be moving in with us in about five weeks or so.

Debbie and I returned to the Slow Burn podcast and listened to more episodes about Watergate. We learned more about things happening behind the scenes of the Select Senate Committee hearings among the staff members and investigators working for the committee's members; the earthquake revelation that Pres. Nixon had a secret recording system in the White House; the perspectives of people in everyday life in 1972-74 who remained loyal to Nixon because largely what he represented to them was a strong leader whom they experienced as a fighter for law and order and a fighter against liberals, radicals, increasing civil rights, the growing feminist movement, and other developments these supporters felt threatened by; we also learned more about the conspiracy theories and stories that grew out of both the break-in and  a wide array of other occurrences that happened during this period: the plane crash that killed Dorothy Hunt (E. Howard Hunt's wife), the death of J. Edgar Hoover, ties between the CIA and the break-in, and others. These theories multiplied.

Honestly, by about 10:30 or 11:00, we'd had it. We have one episode left of Slow Burn. No doubt, we'll listen to it -- well, I will.  As fascinating as it is to listen to these episodes again, about two years after we heard them the first time, it's draining and disheartening and wearying.

It might be time to return to reruns of The Andy Griffith Show or Family Affair!


Sunday, May 17, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/16/20: Enjoying Dickens, Happy Hour, Back to *Bag Man* and *Slow Burn*

1. For many, many years in my life, when I read books, say, by Charles Dickens, my mind was always working not only on enjoying the book, but also on what I would write a paper on about that book or how I would present it to students in class. When I retired, I started doing all I could to read books non-professionally, without thinking about writing papers or how I would include the book in a syllabus.

I spent several hours today reading Dickens' Bleak House. I'm not very far into the novel, but already Dickens has introduced me to memorable descriptions of London, a handful of eccentric and indelible characters (with, by the way, the tastiest names: Mr. Krook, Lady Dedlock, Mrs. Jellyby, Harold Skimpole, Guppy, and others), and moments rich in both injustice and sentimentality as the progress of Esther Summerson's story gets underway. I'm reading the book slowly. I'm not preparing it. I don't have a deadline. I'm not under the influence of the professional demands that so much of my reading was under for much of my adult life.

This reading is bringing me great pleasure, making my decision to lie low and stay inside most of the time a restful and enjoyable one.

2. Christy and Everett hosted a 4:00 Happy Hour in their back yard today and I mixed myself a dry martini with three green almond-stuffed olives and, with Debbie, headed over for some snacks and to yak about different things while sitting a ways a part from the others.

3. Back home, Debbie and tuned back into the podcast, Bag Man. To refresh where we'd been last night, we listened once again to Episode 5 which covered the negotiations between the Justice Dept. and Spiro Agnew's attorneys as they worked out a way for Agnew to resign as vice-president but not spend any time in jail -- or as it turned out, not pay a fine or own up to most of the crimes he'd committed. The two sides reached agreement. Agnew resigned. We then listened to Episodes 6 and 7 and learned more about the widening rift that developed between Agnew and Nixon, some of the deep fears for his own safety Agnew felt, and, in the last episode, listened to one attorney from each side and a historian have a round table discussion with Rachel Maddow reflecting back on this remarkable development in the history of the U.S.A.

When Bag Man drew to its end, Debbie and I decided we weren't ready to stop listening to podcasts, so I put on the first season of Slate's Slow Burn, hosted by Leon Neyfakh, a jounalist in his late twenties/early thirties who put together an eight episode exploration of some of the obscure aspects of the Watergate story. Debbie and I listened to this podcast back in February of 2018, but one of the pleasures of old age is that as we listened again tonight, we'd forgotten most of what we'd heard before and listening tonight was a fresh experience.  We listened to Neyfakh's telling of the Martha Mitchell story and then we learned about the first Congressman, Texas' Wright Patman, to try to open a Congressional investigation of the break-in, soon after it happened, but could not get the Democratic majority of the House Committee on Banking and Currency he chaired to agree to issue subpoenas and this investigation, in the fall of 1972, never happened.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/15/20: Acrostic Puzzle Book Arrives, *Bleak House*, Curry Soup and *Bag Man*

1. The day flew by today. A while back I ordered a couple acrostic puzzle books and the first one arrived this morning and I got so absorbed in the book's first puzzle that I lost all sense of time. These puzzles are difficult for me. I go as long as I can without consulting the World Wide Web, but I inevitably reach a point where if I don't look things up, I can't progress. I spent several hours working this one out. It was fun and relaxing.

2. There's a second reason this day flew by. When I took breaks from working the acrostic puzzle, I started reading Bleak House by Charles Dickens, and kept at it after completing the puzzle.  I have started Bleak House several times, but not since I retired and definitely not while sheltering in place. Before, each time I started it, I got pulled away by other things in my life -- mainly work -- and never got back to it. Yesterday, after I finished The Secret Man, I thought to myself that this would be the perfect time to read a thick Dickens novel, especially because I'm in the reading habit right now. So I bought it as an e-book, printed myself a list of the novel's characters, got going, and I have a wee bit of confidence that I'll make it all the way through this time. I know I sure enjoyed every word I read today.

3. The evening also whizzed by. Debbie turned last night's curry sauce into a delicious soup by steaming broccoli in chicken bouillon, adding the broccoli and bouillon to the curry sauce, and adding the leftover rice from last night. It was superb.

After dinner, Debbie and I retired to the living room and resumed learning more about the history of the last 50-60 years. Almost a year ago to the day, I listened to Rachel Maddow's seven episode podcast chronicling Spiro Agnew's meteoric rise to national prominence as vice-president under Richard Nixon and his dizzying fall from power as his criminal deeds both in Maryland and as vice-president came under investigation and he was indicted. The podcast is called Bag Man. We made it through five episodes this evening and will finish it out before long.

As a footnote, I hadn't thought much about it until this week, but the investigations that uncovered the criminal activity in the Nixon Administration was spearheaded by guys in their late twenties and early thirties. The three assistant U.S. Attorneys who dug into the Maryland corruption, and, eventually, Spiro Agnew, were all just 30-32 years old and their boss, George Beall, was 35. Woodward and Bernstein were also around 30 years old. Young guys. Lots of energy. Lots of stamina. Idealistic. Hungry. Like I said, a footnote. It might not mean much, but it struck me as interesting.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/14/20: Trip to the Dentist, Finishing *The Secret Man*, Red Curry

1. I live just a block west of the dentists' office and, with a spring in my step, I waltzed down the street, and, at 8:00, Kathy carefully and deliberately polished and cleaned my teeth and told me my home dental care routine was working. So, after getting a good report earlier in the month from the kidney doctor and my primary care doctor, I was happy that things are, for the time being, in pretty good shape, especially if I can bring down my blood pressure a little bit more.

Because I've been keeping a record in this blog of my response to the pandemic, I'll put the following down for the sake of one day looking back. I wore a face covering once inside the dentists' office. I know Kathy to be a conscientious professional and I trusted that she would be keeping her work area as clean and disinfected as possible.  She did, throughout my visit. Once she was done with my teeth, I covered my face again, paid my bill, used the hand sanitizer available at the counter and washed my hands, and strolled home.

2. I finished reading Bob Woodward's book, The Secret Man. Ultimately, Woodward's emphasis was on whether Woodward could, in good conscience and in accordance with general journalistic ethics, reveal the identity of Deep Throat. Mark Felt, in his late 80s and early 90s, was suffering from dementia, and was slowly outing himself to family members and to his attorney, John O'Connor. In the July, 2005 issue of Vanity Fair, O'Connor wrote an article that revealed Mark Felt as Deep Throat, forcing Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to decide whether they would confirm the story. They did. The whole situation was very trying for Bob Woodward and he explains how and why in The Secret Man.

3. Tonight, I broke out a container of red curry paste. I might be wrong, but I'm under the impression that red curry carries the most heat (note to myself: look this up). So, I was judicious in the amount of paste I put in this sauce. I'm very happy that I remembered that we have fresh ginger in the freezer and I thawed a thumb-sized chunk, peeled it, chopped it, and heated it up with the paste before I added the coconut milk, fish sauce, soy sauce, and brown sugar to the paste and ginger.

I chopped an onion, chopped up some baby potatoes, and cooked them in the curry sauce until they were tender. When they were, Debbie added some frozen spinach to the sauce. I had made a pot of rice and we both thought this curry sauce over the rice was one of our best curries to date. Neither of us care for our Thai curry to be particularly hot -- we prefer mild to medium heat -- and this sauce was just about right, a hint of heat, but mostly creamy and the flavors of the spices were not dominated by the paste's peppers.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/13/20: Woodward's *The Secret Man*, *All the President's Men* Again!, Monthly Costco Delivery

1. Having completed Mark (Deep Throat) Felt's book about his career in the F.B.I., I decided to purchase Bob Woodward's book about Felt, entitled, The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate's Deep Throat. In it, Woodward tells the story of how he and Felt met, in 1969, while Woodward was still in the Navy, before going to work for the Washington Post. Both men were making deliveries to the White House. Both were stuck in a waiting area together and, to pass time, Woodward introduced himself, Felt returned the favor, and at the end of their conversation, Felt gave Woodward his phone number. The two kept in touch. Woodward looked to Felt for advice about what to do after his time was up in the Navy and, once Woodward went to work at the Post, he consulted with Felt about different stories. In other words, Felt and Woodward had a relationship for two or three years before Woodward started covering the break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters, before their clandestine early morning meetings in the lower level of a concrete parking garage just across the Francis Scott Key Memorial Bridge in Rosslyn, Virginia. (That parking garage has since been demolished.)

Woodward's work on the Watergate story and the publication of All the President's Men complicated Felt's and Woodward's relationship and Woodward works to sort out these complications in The Secret Man. I've read about half of it.

2. I got to gabbing with Debbie about Woodward's and Felt's books and suddenly we decided to watch the movie, All the President's Men again for about the 800th time. It once again secured itself as one of my favorite movies ever made.

3. Carol and Paul made their about once a month trip to the Cd'A Costco and went to Safeway. I am very happy that we have restocked our supply of mineral water, feta cheese, eggplant, broccoli, tofu, and French roast coffee beans (ground). I am also very grateful that Paul and Carol volunteer to shop for us when they make their monthly trip.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/12/20: Guilt and Mark Felt, Face the Weather Underground, Bill Davie Live!

1. I'm shaking it off, but I still have this nagging sense of guilt when I sit in the Vizio room reading a book instead of doing work outside or around the house. I prefer sitting and reading to yard work, gardening, or household chores, but it seems like when I was growing up and when I returned to Kellogg to visit as an adult, I felt pressure not to sit around and read, but to get things done. When I would read instead, guilt crept in.

Well, today, the rain helped me feel all right about sitting and reading all day. I never get any pressure from Debbie to do tasks on any timetable of hers. We pretty much know what needs to be done and we eventually get around to doing it -- but, I have to admit, when I'm sitting here writing or reading, it's easier for me if Debbie is also sitting and reading and knitting at the same time. That age old nagging guilt still creeps in, no matter how much I resist it.

So, on this rainy, chilly Tuesday, I finished reading the book, Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House. In this book, Mark Felt tells the story of his long career in the F.B.I. He gives fairly equal treatment to every stage of his career and so, although the title might suggest otherwise, he doesn't give any special attention to his relationship to Bob Woodward (Felt was Deep Throat) nor does he present himself as having brought down the White House, or its president. He does outline his rationale for helping Woodward with the story about what was happening in the Nixon Administration while Woodward and Bernstein were trying to sort it all out. But, in Felt's telling of it, his primary concern is that the with the death of Hoover, the F.B.I.'s independence was eroding, the appointment of L. Patrick Gray as acting director was a political appointment (Nixon and his administration wanted a director they could influence), and morale in the F.B.I. was flagging.

I was most interested, as I finished this book, in exploring Mark Felt's role in ordering unwarranted searches into apartments and other residences of members of groups like the Weather Underground. In Federal Court, after his retirement from the F.B.I., Felt was indicted, found guilty, and fined for having sanctioned these searches and other extralegal investigations into the Weather Underground. About a year later, in 1981, President Ronald Reagan pardoned him.

2. I wanted to look into this part of Mark Felt's story more. With a little bit of searching of the World Wide Web, I found a recording of Felt's August 30, 1976 appearance on CBS's Face the Nation. Felt had not yet been indicted for ordering the extralegal searches of Weather Underground residences and other places, but on this program he was absolutely forthcoming and candid about having ordered them, why he did, and that he hoped legislation would one day be passed to make such law enforcement actions legal.

I was very impressed by the tone of this Face the Nation half hour -- the panel asked direct and tough questions in calm voices and, just as calmly, Mark Felt answered them. He wasn't combative. He wasn't defensive. He spoke with calm conviction about his commitment to the safety of the USA and that he determined that the bombings carried out by the Weather Underground had to be investigated as they were being planned, not after they happened. Not once did he try to dodge the fact that he had given orders that were outside the letter of the law.

So, I still wanted to learn more. With a little bit more searching, I discovered an Academy Award nominated documentary, released in 2002, entitled, The Weather Underground. Debbie and I watched it and learned more about the Weather Underground's stances toward the uses of violence, how and why the Weather Underground eventually collapsed, and saw much evidence of why this group had the full attention of Mark Felt and the F.B.I.

Thus, Debbie and I continued our ongoing project of learning more about the history of those years when we were in our late teens and in our twenties and our attention was on all sorts of personal things going on, but not focused very sharply or deeply on current events.

3. Thankfully, I did not spend every minute of every hour of this wet day digging into the anti-war movement, the violent protests of the Weather Underground, and Mark Felt's and the F.B.I.'s response and their attempts to stop this domestic violence.

After all, it was Tuesday, the day, as Bill Davie sings before his concert begins, "that time forgot".

Yes. Starting at seven, Bill gave another live performance for an hour on Facebook from his upstairs study/studio.

It was a superb hour. Bill sang songs from his latest recording and also took us into the past and sang some golden oldies, including his opening song this evening, a longtime favorite of mine, "Learn to Say Goodbye" and another favorite, "The Wheel". Bill takes requests and he fulfilled some of them and explained how, right now, he just can't perform others, especially songs from his early days that he doesn't really feel any longer.

Twice, Bill put down his guitar and, in commemoration of Gary Snyder's recent 90th birthday, read some Snyder poetry. The Mt. St. Helen's poems Bill read were riveting. They brought to life the majesty of the mountain and the images of the eruption called to mind the many images I have stored in my memory from 40 years ago.  I really enjoyed Bill's reading of Snyder's longish poem, "Walking the New York Bedrock", exploring Snyder's observations decades ago of wandering the streets of Manhattan. The Manhattan poem brought to mind the Brooklyn poet, Walt Whitman, and Snyder's contemporary, Alan Ginsberg.  I loved listening to the poem's varied line lengths, free lines, a catalog of impressions and insights woven together to vivify Manhattan's urban ecosystem, the brilliant detail, the copious variety of sounds, and the poem's exuberant affirmation of the pulsing vitality of New York City. 

I never know if Bill is going to perform songs by other artists he's covered over the years. Tonight he apologized to those who requested "Castles in the Air" and "Country Roads" and others, saying that he just doesn't have it in him these days to perform those any longer, as much as he loves them.

I sat here in Kellogg, wishing inside myself that he might sing one of my favorite of his covers, "Life's a Long Song" by Jethro Tull (Ian Anderson).

And, WOW!, as his next to last song of the night he announced that he would perform a cover.

It was "Life's a Long Song" and I loved hearing him perform it again and I enjoyed the memories of Bill performing in my house in Eugene, of listening to him at Smith Family Books on Willamette during the Eugene Celebration, of going to Henny's in Spokane to hear Bill -- I mean this song called up the long song of my friendship with Bill over the last 43 years and I gladly indulged every image that popped in my mind as he performed this song, of memorable times we've spent together, often with great friends, and more recently with Diane, whether in Eugene, Ashland, La Push, Corvallis, Yachats, Seattle, Spokane, or that memorable weekend on the bank of the Kalama River. 

Time might have forgotten Tuesdays, but I don't! Bill is enjoying these Tuesday evening gigs and it looks like he'll keep performing them for at least as long as the pandemic makes performing live an impossibility for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/11/20: Errands, Retrieving Charly's Ashes, Casserole and a Brandy Sidecar

1. It had been about a week since I'd shopped at Yoke's and Debbie had some parcels to mail, so I covered my face and headed out to the Post Office and then to the store. I liked my shopping list. The items were located in about four spots in the store and I moved as quickly as I could to each spot, slowed down only by the slight amount of time it takes to open produce bags and pop in the items I bought. For fun, I like to note how many others covered their faces. While I was shopping, I was alone. Two people were entering the store as I left with masks on. So far, not a single case of COVID-19 has been reported in Shoshone County.

2. I made one other trip today. We'd received a call from the vet this morning. Charly's ashes were ready to be picked up. I parked in front of Kellogg Pet Medical Center's office and called from my car, knowing that the people working in the office were offering curbside service. Nikki brought out the urn, we transacted my payment, and, before I started up the Sube, Charly's life flashed before my eyes. I remembered her many years of vigor and vitality.  I then pictured how determined and brave she was as her mobility diminished over the last several months and how much closer together we grew over the last year.

3. As a gift several years ago, Adrienne gave me a cookbook called Bean by Bean. I wondered if I might turn our leftover vegetarian chili from Sunday into something promising and I found a recipe for a casserole that simply required putting a layer of cornbread over any kind of bean/vegetable/grain mixture a person might have on hand.

I whipped up another batch of vegetarian chili. Last night I used pinto beans. Today I used black beans. I also chopped up two sweet potatoes and cooked them in butter with a moderate amount of cinnamon. I folded the leftover chili and the sweet potatoes into the new batch of chili and once it was cooked and heated through, I topped it with the cornbread batter I had mixed. I kept it all in the Dutch oven, baked it for about 20 minutes or so until the cornbread was golden, and the result was a success. As a compliment to this casserole, Debbie made one of her superb cabbage salads.

As a nightcap this evening, I tried something new for me. I've been mixing gin with triple sec and lemon juice. It's a Chelsea Sidecar. A traditional sidecar is made with cognac or bourbon. I don't have any cognac on hand, so I experimented. I put a small amount of sugar in the bottom of a small glass and mixed it with a few splashes of orange bitters. I put ice in the glass and mixed together brandy and triple sec and stirred it. It was, I suppose, a quasi-Sidecar. At first I thought it was a little too sweet, but as some of the ice melted in the glass and as I drank a little more of it, I enjoyed it more. I think I'll keep fooling around with this cocktail and some variations -- after all, it was, if nothing else, fun.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/10/20: Vegetarian Chili, Zoomin', George H. W. Bush

1. Back about thirty years ago, I used to make a vegetarian chili. The recipe came from Laurel's Kitchen, or a similar cookbook, and at some point Mom copied out that recipe on to a note card that's been magneted to our refrigerator for a while. Today, I perused that recipe and realized that the recipe is incomplete -- she must have carried copying that recipe over to a second card.

Well, I jumped on to Pinterest and, before long, I found a similar recipe. All I had to do was cook up a chopped onion and garlic for about seven minutes, add a half cup of bulgur and chili powder, oregano, and cumin to it, let that cook a while, and then add 28 oz of diced tomatoes, a can of pinto beans, and about 2 1/2 cups of chicken stock. I let that simmer uncovered for about ten minutes, put the lid on and let it simmer for another twelve minutes or so. The bulgur was tender. The flavors had combined. Everything was suitably medium hot and this chili was great.

I don't remember the last time I made vegetarian chili, but I'm really happy it's back in our rotation of meals.

2. Bill, Diane, Colette, and I had a superb time for over two hours this afternoon talking together on Zoom. Colette is currently working on an MFA at Eastern Oregon University. She's loving it. She is especially happy with the tone and spirit of the program and with her professors' dedication to sharing their passion for stories and poems and their constructive ways of teaching and leading workshops. Her experience got us talking about what we find admirable in teachers and about egotistical, cutthroat, competitive stuff we are disheartened to know happens in too many educational settings, especially graduate programs. None of us who went there experienced this negative stuff at Whitworth nor did Diane at Pacific Lutheran University. Talking about academic bullies got us talking about bullies when we were kids and this got us talking about what kind of kids we were in high school and what we enjoyed.

I talked about how I was involved in all kinds of activities: band, choir, basketball, theater, declamation, golf, and other activities away from school, how I was what is known of as a jack of all trades and a master of none. I loved doing all those things, but all through high school I was, at best, average at all of them -- not a great horn player, an average singer, a mediocre bench warmer in basketball, a player of small parts in theater, and I hardly ever made the traveling team in golf. I mostly enjoyed the social aspect of all my activities.  I secretly enjoyed feeling like I was a little different and explained to my friends today this private love I had from the eighth grade on for George Gershwin. I loved either being in the house alone or taking the record player into my room and playing Rhapsody in Blue and An American in Paris repeatedly. I also loved to play a record we had of marches by John Philip Sousa and, when home alone, I pretended to conduct the band while listening to those marches.

3. This evening, Debbie and I watched the second and concluding episode of George H. W. Bush. It's a part of the PBS series, American Experience. If nothing else, watching this biography of the elder President Bush helped reinforce in my mind the way events during Bush's administration (1989-93) and his own party's response to them contributed to the polarizing divisions in politics that continue into the 2020's. Bush was vulnerable to the polarizing tactics of opponents because he wasn't particularly polarizing himself. Bush was a moderate. His instincts and temperament moved him toward bipartisanship, working to build coalitions, and away from strict ideological responses to things. His instincts also moved him to abhor hardball politics and negative campaigning. When he did campaign negatively, it was out of character, done because his aides, especially Lee Atwater, persuaded him it was a necessity.

Members of the Republican Party who drew harder lines regarding taxes and government spending and who were outraged by Bush's 1990 budget agreement to raise taxes, in part to fund his legislative commitment to clean air, to helping the disabled, and to clean up the savings and loans crisis that was well underway when he was elected, created factions in the G.O.P. that Bush could never come to terms with. Temperamentally, Bush wasn't a knee-capper. He wasn't good at playing rough. He governed best from above the fray by employing his conciliatory negotiating abilities and working to bring people together. What to Bush (and others who were inclined this way) was regarded a great strength was, by his opponents, turned into a weakness.

In the long run, knee capping, polarization, negative campaigning, and playing rough have won the day. Many voters regard only negative talk as being genuine and see hitting hard and counter punching harder as signs of strength in politicians and leaders.

Bush didn't.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/09/20: Mark Felt's Story, Little Gibbs, Time with Diane BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1.  It wasn't long today before I returned to reading Mark Felt's story, as told by Mark Felt (a.k.a. Deep Throat). Felt deeply admired J. Edgar Hoover. As Felt tells the stories about different times, especially in the Kennedy/Johnson/Nixon first term, that J. Edgar Hoover and the F.B.I. came under criticism from writers and activists, Felt is quick to defend Hoover, making his story almost as much an apology for J. Edgar Hoover as it is Mark Felt's story. As Felt rises in the ranks of the F.B.I. bureaucracy, his story becomes more and more intertwined with Hoover's. In this book, Mark Felt writes to put the most favorable light on himself and his career, so it's understandable that he would do the same for Hoover.

When I resume my reading, I will re-enter Mark Felt's story as things unfolded in 1972. Hoover died on May 2, 1972. Hoover's associate director, Clyde Tolson, retired from the F.B.I. on May 4th, leaving a vacuum in the bureau's leadership and countless questions about how the F.B.I. would move forward as an organization, especially in relation to the Nixon Administration. Police apprehended five burglars at the Democratic National Headquarters, housed in the Watergate Complex, on June 17, 1972. The F.B.I.'s mission and its independence would be tested mightily in the months and years to come. I look forward to reading how Mark Felt experienced and thought about those days after the burglary. 

2. Debbie and Diane Trecker agreed that Debbie and I would visit Diane in the late afternoon today for some drinks and to gauge our interest in picking out a puppy from Chloe's (Diane's dog) recent litter. Well, as good fortune would have it, Debbie was immediately drawn to the very puppy Diane had hoped we'd one day bring into our household. The decision didn't take long and some time late in June, we'll have a new dog in our household. He's currently named Marley, but we will call him Gibbs. He's a Mal-shi -- a combination of Maltese and Shih Tzu.

3. I've been very cautious about socializing over the last 7-8 weeks. I was happy that Diane, Debbie, and I began our time together on Diane's patio where I sat at a distance from Debbie and Diane. Once we moved inside, because Diane's living room is roomy, we could keep our distance inside, too.
We had a superb visit with Diane. She mixed us very tasty margaritas, served corn chips accompanied by her homemade salsa, and we enjoyed another snack later on. The three of us had a lot to talk about -- our lives as relative newcomers to Kellogg, family matters and family history, our thoughts about the pandemic, and all sorts of other things. It was a splendid evening.

I have an announcement to make: Stu decided a couple of days ago to take a break from having me post his limericks.  If he decides he wants to post them again, kelloggbloggin will always be here for him to do so.

Over the last months several of you have sent me emails praising Stu's limericks. Others of you have  expressed your enjoyment of them in comments on my Facebook page. Every day, I have passed your comments on to Stu and he is very appreciative of your feedback and your kindness. He asked me to relay his gratitude for all the positive things you have written over the last month.

I can't say if or when Stu will resume posting limericks here.

But, until he does, here's a limerick written by Stu:

In life, there's no dodging sorrow.
You don't "KEEP" time it's just there to borrow.
So, handle trials as they're given,
When knocked down, keep on livin'!
'Cause you don't know what's in store for tomorrow!

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/08/20: E-Books Are Fine!, Back to Bush, Popcorn and *Peter Gunn* BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. For some reason, I had it in my thick head that I didn't like reading books through Kindle on my electronic tablet. Then, for some reason, today I decided to buy an e-book copy of Mark Felt's memoir, co-authored by John O'Connor, entitled Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House. I started reading it and, lo and behold, I remembered other books I'd read as e-books, remembered doing fine reading them, and found myself enjoying reading this book.

I had forgotten that Mark Felt (better known by the nickname he detested, Deep Throat) was an Idaho native and a University of Idaho graduate. By the time he went to George Washington University law school, went to the FBI Academy, and was sworn in as a member of the FBI, his Idaho connections seem to have disappeared. Up the point where I ended my reading last night, Mark Felt worked in field offices throughout the USA -- Houston, San Antonio, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Kansas City, and others. When I put the story down, though, he had settled into the offices in Washington, D. C. and I'm about to read about the tensions between J. Edgar Hoover and the Kennedy brothers, John and Robert.

2. I put the book down late in the afternoon, joined Debbie for a delicious salmon burger, roasted potatoes, and green salad dinner.

I mixed us each a sidecar and we returned to the episode of American Experience entitled George H. W. Bush and finished watching it. Part II awaits us. Tonight's episode ended with Bush's diplomatic efforts as the Berlin Wall fell and as Eastern European countries were coming out from under the thumb of Soviet domination. I was struck my G. W. H. Bush's refusal to go to Berlin and exploit the fall of the wall as an opportunity for what would have been priceless publicity. By not, as some put it, "dancing on the falling wall", Bush did not humiliate Gorbachev and his reserve helped make future negotiations with Gorbachev about the future of a united Germany go much more smoothly.

3. As Part I of the George W. H. Bush story concluded, both Debbie and I had had all the history and biography we could take in for one night. So, to end our evening in a less mentally challenging way, I popped us some popcorn and we ended the night with another episode of Peter Gunn.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

I feel sorry for those folks I'm addressing.
Who're stuck in their house only guessing.
Can we go to the beach,
Is that store out of reach?
Sometimes rural life is a blessing.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/07/20: Boxes and Filters, Level 3 Chowder, GOP/US History BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. We've had nice things come into our house lately -- some curtains, bedspreads, kitchenware, and a few other things. Most of these nice things came in boxes. Debbie and I decided which of the boxes she might use to continue mailing out items she's been knitting and other gifts she'll send out. I like to keep empty boxes moving along, so, once we decided which boxes to keep, I took a quick trip to the transfer station and dumped a load of cardboard boxes and a bunch of plastic bottles into the proper bins.

I also made a quick stop at Ace Hardware and bought a couple furnace filters and replaced the used one when I got home.

Is it a sign of getting old that I find such satisfaction in keeping the garage uncluttered with cardboard boxes and am so happy to have a clean filter in the furnace?

2. Debbie took that vegetable chowder on Tuesday to a third level this afternoon. She took it to a second level on Wednesday by adding a can of diced tomatoes to it. Today, she added in leftover eggplant tomato sauce that we ate over pasta one night and over quinoa another. So, tonight we enjoyed a eggplant vegetable tomato chowder with quinoa. It was awesome. This chowder just got better with each new permutation.

3. Debbie and I had a good party tonight. I mixed and poured sidecars -- gin, triple sec, and lemon juice -- and we revisited the Nixon presidency by watching the movie, Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House. I enjoyed watching the events of 1972-74 unfold from the point of view of Mark Felt and to see him as more than the guy in the Roslyn, Virginia parking garage dropping bread crumbs to Bob Woodward. I left the movie wanting to read the book the movie was based on. I enjoyed this movie as historical fiction (much like All the President's Men is historical fiction), but I'd also like to read more about Mark Felt's story in the book he and John D. O'Connor wrote. It has the same title as this movie.

The movie ended. Debbie and I talked about it for a bit and then Debbie wondered out loud if there were a documentary available about Gerald Ford.

Turns out we found one. It is a National Geographic production, Gerald R. Ford: A Test of Character.

We thoroughly enjoyed it. I think we both knew from the outset that this treatment of Gerald R. Ford was going to be a favorable one, not a critical treatment of his life and his governmental service. Once I realized this, I gave myself completely over to the movie's positive portrayal. I actually imagined I was in the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library in Ann Arbor, MI and that this was the film they played for visitors. I had seen the LBJ film at his library in Austin, TX and it was similar as a positive portrayal of LBJ.

As much as anything, I enjoyed reliving the years of the Ford presidency and his unsuccessful run for the presidency in 1976. Ford's presidency and my two years as a student at Whitworth occurred at the same time. I especially enjoyed reliving memories of the 20th Century History Theme Dorm I lived in during the spring semester of '76, under the guidance of Prof. Jim Hunt, and how our class, which was our dorm, gathered to watch the evening news together on a TV in the dorm's common room and we discussed the Reagan vs Ford GOP primary and tried to make sense out of the emergence of Jimmy Carter. It was one of the most stimulating experiences I had in college. I loved the other students. I loved working with Jim Hunt. I loved our discussions and how they poured over into hallway conversations. I did not want that spring semester at Whitworth to ever end.

After the Ford documentary ended, Debbie wondered what we could find on our Smarty Pants TV about George H. W. Bush. We discovered with a little looking around that he was featured in an episode of PBS's American Experience series. We watched it for a little while, surrendered to our sleepiness, and vowed to pick up Bush's story later, probably during our next party. 

Here's a limerick by Stu:

It's a shame in so many ways.
As the virus requires home stays.
Missing out on Spring school.
Is particularly cruel.
And they'll never get back those lost days.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/07/20: Doctor Visits, Cocktail Hour, *Mark Twain* BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. My visits to see the nephrologist, Dr. Bieber, and my primary care giver, Dr. Herold, were both a relief. Dr. Bieber and I had the same response to my blood work. It denotes stability. In fact, Dr. Bieber told me that unless I'm offered a really good organ, he advises that if I'm offered a kidney for transplant, I decline. I have been thinking the same way. I feel really good. I'm not displaying symptoms. We agree, especially if I'm offered a marginal organ, that right now I don't need to go through the surgery and the rigors of recovery when I'm doing well. I am especially wary, to be honest, about having my immune system greatly reduced, which a transplant requires, during this pandemic.

At this moment in time, I have two concerns that I hope hiking on the Wellness Trail and elsewhere will help me address: I don't like my blood pressure numbers (neither did either doctor) and I don't like how much I weigh. Neither doctor mentioned my weight, but they didn't need to. I know I'd like to weigh less. If, with home monitoring, my blood pressure doesn't come down in the next month, the doctors might increase my medication a bit. That was the main point I took away from my second appointment of the day with Dr. Herold.

2. Back home, Debbie and I had a cocktail hour with George Dickel and talked about my two appointments. Debbie put a can of diced tomatoes in the vegetable chowder I made yesterday. It was a great call, a great addition. We are getting quite a bit of mileage out of that chowder. It's provided two nights of dinner and we still have a quart left over.

3. Debbie and I spent a couple of hours this evening watching the first part of Ken Burns' two part documentary, Mark Twain. I took Prof. Clark Griffith's Mark Twain seminar back in the spring of 1980. I don't know what I expected when I enrolled in that course, but we explored Mark Twain's dark view of things, especially his philosophical determinism. In the spring of 1980, I was unsettled by Mark Twain's dark outlook, about his deep doubts regarding free will, and his dim view of human nature and the human condition. When part one of this documentary ended tonight, Mark Twain was turning fifty years old and was at the height of his powers and success, but this episode ended with a warning that Mark Twain's life over the next twenty-four years would involve misery he had never imagined. I'm wondering if part two might explore some of the dimensions of Mark Twain's thinking and writing that I found so unsettling in that graduate seminar forty years ago. 

There's nothing dark or unsettling in this limerick that Stu wrote!

Of course, there's always the "Y"!
Had a tramp and a pool, that's no lie.
Crazy walls that were slimy,
Bottled pop costs a dimey.
Will remember those days 'til we die!

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/05/20: Gratitude, Out and About, Chowder BONUS Bill Davie Performed and A Limerick by Stu

1. I deeply appreciate how all through the day on Tuesday, both by email and through Facebook, friends sent expressions of sympathy, support, encouragement, condolence, and remembrances upon learning that Charly died. I spent much of the day responding to these kind words, but didn't finish. I'll return to it today.

2. Christy and Everett invited Debbie, Zoe, Carol, Paul, and me to their back yard for some chips and salsa and guacamole and we could spend some time together. We all brought our own beverages. It was fun. Zoe had news about her continuing studies. Christy, Carol, and Paul have been getting a lot of yard work and gardening done.  Paul has been working for Christy, for Debbie and me, and at home.

I'd been to Yoke's and the liquor store earlier in the day and took a drive around town. At Yoke's and Dave Smith Motor Services, many people seemed happy that restrictions have been loosened and were talking while standing close to each other without any face covering. (I was one of two people in Yoke's with a covered face.) I saw people shaking hands and touching one another in big, friendly ways. I moved as briskly as I could through Yoke's and left as quickly as possible. I was the only customer at the liquor store, but I didn't lollygag around there either. I sanitized my hands in the car and scrubbed them when I returned home.

I joked after our family get together that I had sat in Smelterville while we were together -- it was just a way of saying that I sat quite far away from the table and stayed pretty far away from everyone as we enjoyed our time together. I will be relieved if one day I learn I didn't have to be so cautious, but my rational mind is wary, in part because of my own vulnerable medical condition, but mostly I'm wary of this virus' unpredictability, the lag time between when the virus has entered a community and when a community knows it's arrived, the virus' novel nature, and my concern with infecting others should I contract it.  I'm playing it as safely as I can. My caution and my patience with staying inside so much is consistent with my general temperament.

3. I had a lot of fun preparing dinner today. I wanted to use some of our generous supply of crab stock, but I didn't want to fix a fish chowder or soup. I read some recipes and decided to make a vegetable chowder with the crab stock (the recipe called for chicken stock).  I chopped up baby potatoes, broccoli florets, onion, carrots, and celery and got out a package of frozen corn. Once the vegetables got tender in the bubbling crab stock, I added in a mixture of butter, flour, and milk I'd made in a separate saucepan and added some half and half to it all. I cooked this for a while and once the vegetables were no longer crunchy, Debbie and I fixed ourselves steaming bowls of soup and enjoyed them a lot. (The recipe called for shredded cheese, but I declined -- I thought with the crab stock, milk, and half and half, the chowder was rich enough.)

Later, we decided that on Wednesday, we'd add diced tomatoes to the leftovers and see how that tasted. I have high hopes for this being a solid move.


Today's Beautiful Things runneth over.

After dinner, at 7:00, I jumped online, went to Bill Davie's Facebook page, and listened to the next of his Tuesday night hour long performances from his home. It was awesome. Bill performed songs from throughout his catalog, including one he wrote very recently about his life during the pandemic.
Once again, some longtime friends were in the virtual room: Colette, Val, Jeff, Kathy, Loras, and maybe others I missed. It's become the highlight of my week to put in the earbuds and listen to Bill play every Tuesday. His music connects me to so much that I've enjoyed in my life: time spent with Bill -- and, in the last ten years, Diane, times with Bill I cherish back in Spokane, starting in 1977, his visits to Eugene, and the one time I traveled to Seattle to hear him perform and spend time at his house. My history with Bill is a mighty river with many might tributaries. They flood my mind with priceless memories.

Here's a limerick, written by Stu:

You wish it'd not muss up your hair.
In extreme can cause massive despair.
But enjoyed on hot nights,
Sailing boats, flying kites.
Plus, Beaufort Scale measures wind if you care.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/04/20: RIP Charly, No More Beard, Remembering Charly BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1.  Debbie brought Charly home to Eugene back in 2006 and, over the next fourteen years, she lived an enviable life. She crisscrossed the United States, both by car and by jet plane. She lived in Oregon, New York, Virginia, Maryland, and Idaho. For about thirteen years of her life, she was what I guess we'd call a beta dog, taking her cues from her older half sister, Maggie, as to when to be on guard,  to bark, to jump on the couch, lie down and rest, or when to go to bed -- almost everything.

We lost Maggie just over a year ago, on April 15th, when Debbie and I decided she'd battled cancer long enough, decided that the disease had robbed her of too much of her comfort, dignity, and energy.

A year ago, Charly also showed signs of decline as she was gradually losing the use of her hind legs. It wasn't long until she could no longer get to the back yard by herself. Charly and I forged a new relationship, one that centered on her dependence on me to carry her out to the yard and back in the house again. Debbie joined in helping Charly get in and out when she was back in Kellogg. But, for most of the last year, while Debbie was away teaching and helping care for Ellie, Charly asked me to adapt the rhythms of my life to the rhythms of hers. I happily complied.

This past fall, almost every night, anywhere from midnight to 4 a.m., Charly woke me up. She cried for food and often needed to go outside. We grew closer. By this time, she had stopped sleeping with me, but made it clear, from our living room, when she needed to eat or needed help to go outside.

I marveled at Charly's strength and courage. Often, even in the cold and dark of the late fall and through the winter months, even with snow on the ground, Charly dragged herself across the yard, seeking out those spots in the back where she loved the scents, and, when, during the day, it was sunny, Charly often loved the luxury of the sunshine and soaked it up, her body crippled but her face content, and sometimes, as if she wanted me to know the Corgi life force was alive in her, she'd just bark, not to come in, not because anything was going on, but just because she still could.

I can't remember when Charly stopped barking indoors at people going by or at other disturbances outside the house. Maybe she stopped when Maggie stopped, when Maggie had grown too tired to respond to the world that, in her younger days, had caused her so much concern, that she was so determined to warn us about and protect us from.

But, outside, Charly barked, until in the last few months, she stopped. She called to me, and upon her return to Kellogg, in mid-March, to Debbie, with high-pitched cries that she was ready to come in. I'd say it was about six weeks ago, maybe longer, that she quit exploring the yard and confined herself to dragging herself only about twelve feet or so into the yard to do her business.

Her appetite remained strong. Her spirit remained strong. Her mobility all but vanished.  Charly's life had become confined to lying on the living room rug on a blanket, struggling to get comfortable, enjoying our company, crying for comfort food, and crying to go outside to relieve herself.

Then, she couldn't let us know she needed to go outside. She soaked her blanket.

Debbie and I decided to relieve Charly of this indignity and of her growing struggle to even move about.

Dr. Cook arrived at our house soon after 5:30 and I carried Charly out to the back yard so she could spend her last minutes of life in this place she loved.

Dr. Cook sedated Charly, then, after about ten minutes, administered the drug that made everything stop.  Charly was at peace.

I carried Charly out to Dr. Cook's car and laid her to rest on a comfortable spot he'd made for her. I said good bye.

2. I decided, once and for all, this afternoon, that I didn't like the beard I'd let start to grow while lying low here at home. I shaved it off, gladly.

3. After Dr. Cook left with Charly, Debbie and I reflected back on Charly's life and talked about her and Maggie. We realized that for the last sixteen years we'd had one or two Corgis in our life and relived memories and expressed our grief that now they were gone.

Many people say that when a pet dies, it crosses over a rainbow bridge. Coincidentally, yesterday, not knowing we were letting go of Charly, Stu offered up this limerick to be posted today:

There are Primary Colors you know.
Mixing together the tertiaries show.
Just a glorious sight,
In sunshine so bright.
To gaze up and behold a rainbow.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/03/20: Slow and Easy Going, Superb Dinner, Yakkin' with Debbie BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. I relaxed all day. I wrote a little bit. I worked several crossword puzzles. I melted taco cheese on a flour tortilla, put two scrambled eggs on top of that, sprinkled some feta cheese on the eggs, and rolled it up. I ate it. Somehow, such a slow and easy day fits almost perfectly with my temperament, which, I guess, is also pretty slow and easy going.

2. I love to cook, but over the last several days, Debbie has been on a roll in the kitchen. We still had some of that eggplant, white bean, onion, and garlic tomato sauce left and Debbie sauteed some mixed greens (kale, spinach, etc.)and folded them into the sauce. She split a spaghetti squash in half, baked the halves, and served the sauce over each half and made another awesome green salad.

Thanks to this delicious dinner, my contentment today grew.

3. While Debbie taught in Eugene and then helped out in New York with the arrival of Ellie, our newborn granddaughter, we lived apart for most of the time between September of 2018 and March of 2020. During that time, I figured out all sorts of ways to enjoy my life alone in the house and worked all the time to try out new ways of enjoying living on my own: cooking, eating Sunday dinners with Christy, Everett, Paul, and Carol, going to Spokane for concerts, playing trivia in Spokane with Kathy, Mary, and Linda, hiking with Byrdman, Friday breakfasts with the guys at Sam's, other outings, often with Ed, to Montana or Worley, watching movies, messaging with Stu in the mornings, watching a ton of men's college basketball, going to basketball games at the high school, watching every game I could played by the Ducks' women's team, diving back into Shakespeare, and other things. I documented it all in my blog over those months.

I had almost forgotten how much I enjoy shooting the breeze with Debbie. Tonight, Debbie talked with her music mates and close friends, Laura and Peter -- they are in Eugene -- and, when she got done, Debbie and I sat up for a while. I fixed myself a small pour of George Dickel Rye Whiskey with a few shakes of bitters and we gabbed about all kinds of things, but a lot of our yakkin' was about personal temperament and how temperament informs so much of what we all do, how we all respond to things, and how we make our way through our lives.

I'm not ready to write much more about this right now. I mightily enjoyed talking with Debbie about this subject.

I can say that.

It's Teacher Appreciation Week, and Stu wrote this limerick:

Before this strange time of home schoolin'.
Thinkin' teachers had it easy class rulin'!
Now with History and Math,
And earning your wrath.
You ask yourself, who were ya foolin'?

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 05/02/20: S. Mukherjee, Huey Long, Easy Livin' Next Door and at Home BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. I've been told that sometimes things I write about on this blog under the title of Three Beautiful Things don't seem beautiful.

I agree. They don't seem beautiful. Sometimes the beauty lies in learning more about difficulties, whether by reading or watching films or through discussions with others.

Case in point: today, in the May 4, 2020 issue of The New Yorker, I read Siddhartha Mukherjee's article "What the Coronavirus Reveals About American Medicine". If you are interested in reading it, it's here. You might hit a paywall if you don't subscribe to the magazine.

To put it briefly and to possibly over simplify it, Mukerjee examines how our medical system, because it operates as a business, is ill suited to respond to crisis. I'll leave it at that. I found his analysis disheartening and, after reading it, I spent the rest of the day occupying my time and mind, mostly, with things not having to do with the pandemic. I needed to give that subject a rest.

2. For example, Debbie and I watched an episode from Ken Burns' series, America, that explored the life and political career of Huey "Kingfish" Long. It was first broadcast in 1985 and is entitled, simply, Huey Long. It's a compelling study of the ways Huey Long accrued power and crushed opponents in Louisiana, first as governor and then as a U. S. senator. Long mastered the art of populism, gaining popularity among poor and working people by improving their lives to a degree and through his divisive, name-calling and nickname creating, pie in the sky rhetoric. He started Share the Wealth societies and underscored his promises with a song he composed, "Every Man a King".

The documentary interviews supporters of Huey Long who overlooked the corrupt means by which he got things done and generously lined his pockets and were grateful for his accomplishments. We also hear from people who opposed and distrusted him, admitting that, indeed, he did get roads and bridges built and free books into the hands of school children, but found his means of doing so corrupt.  Long was a meteor whose political career whizzed in a short time to dizzying heights of power, influence, intimidation, and (unshared) wealth until he was gunned down at forty-two years old in the Louisiana State Capitol building on September 10, 1935.

3. Debbie, with a glass of red wine, and I, with a rum and Coke, joined Christy and Everett in their back yard for a visit. We had a fun time talking about spring projects, our yards and gardens, cleaning and sorting out possessions, and how we are getting on these days. Everett has been inside a lot over the winter and early spring and it was good to see him enjoying the sun and being in good spirits. Christy has had a lot on her plate recently and seemed very happy to enjoy some red beer and take a break from all she's been working on and dealing with.

Back home, Debbie turned the eggplant, tomato, bean, onion, and garlic sauce she made the other night into a spaghetti sauce and, I swear, I enjoyed this sauce over the pasta more than I've enjoyed any pasta dish. We ate our dinner outside and then moved the party indoors and relaxed with episodes of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends, The Andy Griffith Show, and Peter Gunn.

It was a late afternoon and evening of easy livin'.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

Look in the mirror at your hair.
If not bald, there's a lot more up there.
For the Seventies it's great.
But it's now out of date.
Just an unruly mop I declare.